Category Archives: Uncategorized

WSOP 2016 Adventure: Day 5

This was my final day in Las Vegas and had a rather slow start. I did not get to sleep until after 4 am from the previous night of intense excitement but still wanted to play the $150 tournament at the Golden Nugget at 1 pm. So I dragged myself out of bed by noon, got in my car and drove downtown again. Grabbed a coffee and some food at the Starbucks and went into the hotel and registered.

I did not make any money in this tournament but I did gather a few valuable insights. I had virtually no playable cards for the first 2 hours and anything I did play wound up being beaten by better hands. By around 3:30 – 4:00 I was down to under half of my stack.

To my left was a very talkative guy who turned out to be a bartender who worked in Henderson (a suburb of Las Vegas). He had a lot of great stories and entertained us for an hour or two. I like this social aspect of poker. At one point we had a female dealer who was quite pretty and in her mid to late 40s. She told us she had lived in Japan for 25 years and I will leave it to everyone’s imagination as to what she was doing there. Her math was terrible, so if anything complicated happened with the chips (e.g. raise and re-raise, or three people in a pot that needed to be divided at showdown) she just kind of laughed and let the players do all the chip counts. This was pretty unprofessional but, as I said in an earlier post, casinos in Vegas are desperate for dealers during the WSOP. Actually I did not find her that bad because her actual mechanics of shuffling and dealing were O.K. so the hands went fairly quickly. Unfortunately, she had this strange habit of asking people were they were from! After she was replaced by another dealer our friendly bartender said “you know, someone should point out to her that this is not Blackjack and she is not saving us money by stopping her dealing and asking us questions. We really do want to see as many hands as possible and do not want to talk about our home towns!”.

There was a point when I  had A2 in late position and I believe someone had raised the minimum and there were two or three callers. I was a bit distracted by the talkative bartender and frustrated by my lack of hands and folded the A2 despite getting about 5-1 odds for calling! On the flop there was an A and a 2! This was quite frustrating because I would have gone all in and probably been called by someone with an Ace and better kicker and I could have doubled up! But this is a good lesson and it taught me to “never give up”. Instead of listening so closely to our bartender friend, I should have been paying attention to the game a lot more and called since I was in late position and getting great pot odds.

In fact, I played a tournament at the Talking Stick in Phoenix in the fall of 2016 and lost about half my chips (down to 5,000 from 10,000) in the first 6 hands! My first hand was KK which lost to A9 and there were a few other “problem hands”. Anyway, I just dug in and was helped by the fact a lot of people were limping in for the first several rounds and I got to see many cheap flops. At one point I had Q,5. There was a min raise which had two or three callers. So I called as well since I had great pot odds. The flop came Q, 5, 3 (bingo!). I checked, a player on the other side of the table bet , I went all in and he called with Q, 10. A 10 never came so I doubled up! Eventually I made the final table and wound up chopping the prize money with several other people and I made a few hundred dollars. So my motto should always be “never give up and wait for your spots”.

At the Golden Nugget tournament I got knocked out around 5 pm. I had A,J and one person had raised and two others called when the action came to me. I had two options: raise or call. I did think of going “all in” and probably collecting all the money in the pot. But simply calling would disguise the strength of my hand. So I just called and the flop came A, 6, 8. One player bet, 2 folded and I re-raised all in. The initial bettor called and turned over A, 6! He won. If I had played more aggressively and gone all in I probably would have won the pot. Oh well.

I was not terrible disappointed to have gotten busted since I love walking along the strip and had hardly done much of that since landing in Vegas. I was going home the next day so I decided to walk over to New York, New York and take the tram down to Mandalay Bay which used to be my favourite casino.

I drove back to my hotel (Polo Towers, which was in the middle of the strip) and walked over to New York, New York which had a cool outdoor bar. I had a couple of craft beers and then took the tram down to Luxor and walked through the mall they built between it and Mandalay Bay. I wanted to eat at a nice Mexican place there but it was closed for a private party. I would up next door where they had an excellent vegan meatball sandwich and, guess what?, more craft beer! It was an excellent dinner.

As a side note, I realized I had not spent much on food because I’d been playing poker all the time and had very little opportunity to have a decent meal. The only times I’d deliberately set out to eat somewhere nice were this final night meal the the breakfast I’d had at the Claim Jumper.

Then I walked over to Mandalay Bay and got a seat at their cash game. I used to love this poker room because the casino is nice and roomy and they put poker right next to the Sports Betting instead of trying to hide it in the back. Since then many other casinos have created much better rooms and they do not have any decent tournaments but I felt some nostalgia for it. So I bought into the 1/2 no limit game for $200. In one of my first hands I had AA! One player raised it to $15 and I re-raised to $45 and the guy to my right calls, everyone else folds. The flop comes 9, Q, K. He checks, I bet $50 and he calls. Oops, I think he could easily have QQ or KK and flopped a set and is just going to take all my money! The turn is something like a 6 and he checks again and I bet another $50 (as a blocking bet if nothing else). He calls! I think “am I really going to lose my $200 in this one hand?”. I don’t remember the river but he checks and I just turn over my Aces and…..he folds! Whoa! I breathe a sigh of relief and he leaves the table a little later. Perhaps he had A, K? So I play for a couple of hours and am up about $100 at the end of it. Decent! So it was a nice ending to my five days of poker.

I head have to the hotel around 10 or 11 pm and pack up for my trip home tomorrow. It has been a fabulous 5 days!

Advertisements

Reading the Rolling Stones

I’ve recently started reading Keith Richards’ autobiography Life. This book was recommended to me by my friend Ian a couple of years ago and although I bought it then it sat around for a while. I read many of my books online but this is an actual physical copy. It’s big but then he had a big life!

life-richards

When I was growing up in Whitehorse I was more of a Beatles fan. In fact after I discovered the 62-66 and 67-70 anthologies I was blown away by their inventiveness and progression through styles over eight years. Seeing the  centre art for the records even now brings much excitement.

beatles62

I did have a few interactions with the Stones. My father was co-owner of a garage and salvage yard called Yukon Salvage. They were well known for their excellent repair work and they also bought most of the car wrecks off the insurance companies and stripped out the usable parts like engines, wheels, brake parts, transmissions etc. They sold these parts and used them in their own repair work. I worked there on weekends all through high school and a few summers as well (but that’s another story!).

What does Yukon Salvage have to do with the Rolling Stones you ask? No, the band did not travel through the Yukon and wind up crashing their car. But in many of the car wrecks people left behind their possessions like books, records and other personal effects. Most of the injured may have stayed a few days in the hospital and then flown back to wherever they came from in Canada or the USA. The insurance company would handle the costs and having a car accident usually put an end to the holiday.

Over the years I accumulated an Agfa Isolette camera, several record albums and a few books and music books. One of the albums I “salvaged” was Between The Buttons.

stones-buttonsCover

This is a great album. It has “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, “Ruby Tuesday” and “Miss Amanda Jones” among many other excellent songs. It also has deliberately quirky songs like “Something Happened To Me Yesterday”. So I listened to it many times perhaps around when I discovered the Beatles.

I also listened to other Stones songs but did not buy any of their albums for a few years until I purchased Exile on Main Street. I think I got that because a guitar player at the Courtenay Youth Music Camp I attended for two summer sessions told me it was a “great album”. I liked it, but not a whole lot. Much has been written on how messy the original mix was so I mainly listened to “Happy” and “Tumbling Dice”. I am re-listening to it now that a remixed version has been released and it is much better.

Over the years I heard lost of great Stones songs and bought their “best of” collection but I preferred the tighter harmonies of the Beatles (which also spurred my obsession with Harry Nilsson). And then I got into Bowie, Eno and many other artists.

So reading Life has been so informative and fascinating on a number of levels. I’ll expand below:

  1. For a while I called myself a bit of a “Beatles trivia expert” (though I admit to not remembering the name of the drummer who replaced Ringo for 1/3 of a world tour when he was ill). So I have read quite a bit about their rise, the clubs they played, the Ed Sullivan show and beyond. Reading Life is like reading about a parallel universe that shared the same history, had many of the same characters, but with a quite different take on it all. It is familiar and new at the same time.
  2. The Stones’ musical background is so much more rooted in the blues as Richards makes clear throughout the whole book. Although I knew this, it is great to listen to many of their songs with his background and stories in mind. It makes it all so much richer. The Beatles considered themselves a rhythm and blues band, but their songwriting has more of a pop foundation and even hearkens back to the English music hall. Bowie is like this as well. But the Stones started out just trying to bring American blues roots music to England and then became so successful they had to start writing their own songs!
  3. I released my own album, My Neighbourhood,  in 2015 and have been promoting it since then. I have received many comments on how certain songs sound like Neil Young or Joe Jackson. But my friend Glenn Buhr made an unusual comment when he rattled off the history of Beatles, Dylan and Stones and said my album had a lot of Rolling Stones feel behind it. And after listening to a few tracks like “Traveling Song” and “University Town” I have to agree. So perhaps they had much more of an influence on me than I suspected after all these years.

So do yourself and favour and read Life, it is a great ride through music and cultural history!

 

 

Album Release: “My Neighbourhood”

 

TedParkinsonCover1400

I spent four years (or more!) recording my first album release: “My Neighbourhood“. Prior to that I spent over twenty years writing the songs, performing them in folk festivals, coffee houses, porch parties and for friends.

Why release an album? Well I fancy myself a “songwriter” and have gone to several local songwriting groups. It is a fun way to enjoy music and get a reaction from like minded people who are -not- your family and friends. I needed to have a testament to all the work I have done, largely on my own and quietly, to produce these nuggets of words and melodies. I believe this is a “work of art” and that the songs sound about as good as they can get! I hired musicians to play bass, drums and some piano, trumpet and to do some background vocals. I played all the guitars, a fair amount of piano, some background harmonies and (on one song) bass and drums.

I hope to get some of these songs on tv shows or in a movie soundtrack. But my main motivation is to be able to listen to any of the songs and say “Yeah! That sounds great!”. And I hope others can have the same reaction to a few of the songs. If we can all clap our hands and save a few fairies from dying then it will have all been worthwhile!

Music background: I started playing saxophone in high school and also took up guitar. I studied saxophone at University of Victoria, Berklee College of Music and University of Toronto. I’ve played saxophone in various jazz bands in school, classical groups, saxophone quartets and my favorite experience was with a crazy Victoria group we called “Buncha Hardboiled Guys”. I have a cool example of our ‘style’ here.

I played guitar with a number of people and perhaps the weirdest example of that was the band Violence and the Sacred, an intense group of anarchists and post modern theorists, some of whom lived in a coop house and listened to a lot of Throbbing Gristle. I play on the Cathexis album and designed a cool Fripp-like guitar line you can listen to around 3/4 of the way down this page on the song Mary Brown.

For the past several years I’ve been playing at home and in a few porch parties in the Kitchener/Waterloo area. Evidence of this can be found here and here. I love my 1948 Gibson ES-125!

After spending a lot of time messing around with various recording technologies, including BOSS and Acid and Garage Band, I decided to get professional help in order to push the process along. Fred Smith was a great partner. He knows everything about recording, is quick to throw on a banjo track for you, can direct you and others on appropriate harmonies and has a beautiful studio he mainly built himself. It was a pleasure working with him and this project would not have gotten finished without his help.

Please buy my album! It is only $10 on iTunes (or CDBABY, or Amazon or EMusic etc).

Final Hand, Tuesday March 3rd, Talking Stick Casino, Phoenix AZ

First, a few words about the tournament. It is the 7pm tournament and has $145 buy in with 20 minute blinds. This is not my ideal tournament as it is set up to last about 5 hours. With only 20 minute blinks we are getting about one orbit of 10 players per round. The “luck” factor, or “variance” is fairly high. The casino has a better structured tournament on Saturday with 30 minute blinds but the entry fee is $330 which is a bit high. I’m here in Scottsdale with my wife on vacation and do not want to commit so much money to one tournament.

The starting stack is 10,000 chips and within the first half hour of the tournament I had won a few pots and was up to 14,000 in chips which was pretty good. Then I basically went card dead for a couple of hours which is deadly in this kind of structure.

So here is my final hand:

The blinds were 600 and 1200 and I had about 9,000 in chips, so 7.5 big blinds. I had been prepared to shove for several rounds but kept getting 9,2, 10,6 kinds of hands. Finally I’m dealt AJ, the best had I’ve seen in about 2 hours! I am in middle position at an 8 handed table. I have 2 options, either shove or call. I have only 9,000 in chips so the min raise is 2400 which is about 30% of my stack. With three more rounds of betting ahead (flop, turn, river) I’m essentially pot committed so I may as well shove. If I shove I have a good chance of winning 1800 chips which is about 20% of my stack. But with a hand like AJ I want to maximize my earnings. I need to double up or go home since 1800 chips will only give me one more round.

The big blind is fairly new to the table. He has a large stack (> 50 K) and has been somewhat aggressive. He has been raising a fair amount and I think his range is pretty wide, so I decide to just limp for 1200 hoping he raises and I’ll shove. At that point he will have enough equity and has a big enough stack that he will call and I will probably be ahead. In fact everyone else folds and the small blind completes for 1200. The BB thinks about it for a moment and then just checks. Dang.

The flop comes 10, J, 4. Bingo! The SB checks and the BB bets 2500. I shove all in for around 8,000 (another 5K approx) and the BB calls. I have TPTK and he turns over 89 for a straight draw. I’m ahead approximately 70% to 30% on this so I’m happy to have a decent chance of doubling up. However, the turn brings a 7 (!!) which gives him the straight and the river is no help so I’m out!

Ultimately, I think I played the hand perfectly, had a great flop and got unlucky, which happens.

Image

Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour

Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour

It stopped raining for an hour or two and I was able to take this photo on my last full day in Hong Kong.

My life with Blackberry and all that…..

I live in the Kitchener/Waterloo area and Blackberry (formerly RIM) has been a pretty big deal here for a long time. We hear about tech giants like Nortel, Nokia, Palm etc. eventually crashing and burning but it is different to experience it close up. Blackberry employs thousands of people in our area and there is a worry that house prices will fall and the local economy will suffer as more people are laid off. Many of the current 4,500 slated for layoffs will be from this area. 

Communitech is a local organization which is a cheerleader for the tech sector and their spokespeople have said how there are “1000” tech companies in our area and about 1,500 jobs available, so Blackberry does not have the overarching influence it used to exert. However, the staff reductions will still hurt us all, even as the best people contribute to other companies.

I thought I would write this post as one “tech consumer”. RIM has made me both excited and disappointed so my story is probably shared by many others. My own history with Blackberry began many years ago. In 1998 I applied for a technical writer position with RIM but wasn’t interviewed. OK, not so exciting. Then around 2000 I got my first Blackberry phone when I was working for another tech company. It was kind of magic that you could be walking along a trail somewhere and reply to an email. It was amazing that I would return my rental car to Avis and in the bus on the way back to the terminal I would get an emailed receipt! Those were exciting times and you really felt “the future is here now”.

My first model was one of the 6000 series with a monochrome screen and could surf very simple mobile websites. The email was very good and I had it for about 3 years until our IT department informed me they couldn’t update it to the current system. Then I had a colour screen that had basic web browsing and it was good too, but strangely the screen was smaller than my previous model and showed less text. Then I was very excited when the “Bold” was first announced. Its screen was higher resolution and the keyboard was sculpted to resemble a guitar fretboard and I play guitar, so it was the “must have” device. I did manage to upgrade to it at work and was thrilled when it arrived.

The first thing I noticed with the Bold was that despite an active marketing campaign, and many ads, the packaging it came in made no mention of the “Bold” brand. I thought it was pretty strange there was just some obscure number on the package and there was no clear indication on any RIM phone as to whether it was a Bold, Curve or whatever. Aren’t they supposed to promote their branding?

Anyway, the Bold was great for about a week until it froze on me while I was doing errands on a Saturday. I was quite surprised and there was no obvious fix. I researched it online and while there was a ‘hard reboot’ you could do with the correct combination of keys, it took a long time so the simplest ‘solution’ was to remove the battery and put it back in. The strangest time this happened was when I was flying for work and the command came to “turn off all electronic devices” and my Bold froze! So as the plane taxied down the runway, I pulled out the battery and dumped everything into the seat pocket in front of me and I was thinking “this is a great cutting edge technology”?

I was also surprised that when I brought up this major problem with the Bold people would say “oh yeah, it does freeze sometimes, doesn’t it?”. After a year they started saying “Oh yeah, that’s the first version. I have the new one and it’s better”. No one ever said “I have the new one and it never freezes”, they just said “It’s much better”. But I kept thinking that a $600 ‘smart phone’ should be working ALL the time.

The Bold’s email application was excellent and the keyboard was great as well. And I loved the “Word Mole” game with the trackball. It was perfect for killing time standing in lineups at airports and elsewhere. But it was a bit frustrating because the camera was not very good, its browser was slow, and it kept freezing every two weeks or so. About a year into my Bold period my wife got an iPhone 3gs and it was wonderful. Its camera was much better, it had tons of apps and when we both looked up something on the internet, the iPhone browser came up with the result page almost instantly while the Bold’s browser churned and churned. It was very frustrating.

Eventually, I upgraded from the Bold to an iPhone 4 which has been an amazing device. In 2.5 years it was frozen perhaps one time because of an app and I just rebooted it. It has been rock solid in all respects. The screen keyboard is ok and I can type pretty quickly. The email on Blackberry devices is better I think because the iPhone uses a web client, but it is pretty decent. Overall, the iPhone is just a far better device and continues to improve.

We bought an iPad (1st generation) and I have a Macbook Air so I’m a fanboy for sure. But the iPad is kind of large and I was intrigued when the Playbook came out a couple of years ago. I liked its size and that it came with an Office document editing suite. I bought one because it was a great size to travel with (and it had been discounted to around $200 which I thought was fair). In fact I lost one on a plane (ouch!) and bought a second one because I had a long trip to Singapore and Australia and needed to read work related material on the plane. I liked that you could read a PDF and then swipe to the side and get a “Word” app, and thumb type some notes. Very handy! Unfortunately, on the trip over my Playbook turned into a “brick” and I could not get it booted again. I found out on the internet this was a ‘known’ problem affecting many people, but one that RIM ignored. I also found out that for some reason RIM had decided that to charge the Playbook, you had to use the actual adaptor and, unlike pretty much every other tablet device, it did NOT charge just using the USB connection to the computer. Who made that ridiculous decision? Best Buy had a 2 week exchange period and I made it back from Australia with about 6 hours to spare (!) and got another one which has worked ok. 

However, I got the Playbook partially because it was promised that it would be updated with the BB10 OS at some point and be compatible with the apps for the phones. This never happened and a few months ago Blackberry essentially dropped support for the Playbook. It remains a good device with nice speakers and good video, but no apps. I cannot watch Netflix on it, nor listen to CBC radio and its DropBox client is not very good. And lately I cannot seem to even connect to “Blackberry World”. When I have the time I think I am going to turn it into an “Android” device.

Our son recently got a BB Z10 which he really likes (of course it helped that he got it at a _very_ discounted rate). It is a solid phone but as many have noted, it’s two years too late.

So my history with RIM/Blackberry has been checkered. Initially they produced revolutionary devices that business people loved. But as smart phones became a commodity other companies caught up and surpassed them. And the quality of their devices decreased, their appetite for innovation took a 2 year break which left them far behind.

I know a few people who worked at RIM/Blackberry and have heard many stories of convoluted reporting structures, the hubris of (relatively) young people in very important positions, chaotic processes implemented for no good reasons and many other problems. Remember this letter from a couple of years back that got so much attention? RIM invented an amazing product and it took off very quickly. It is extremely difficult to grow so fast because you are trying to match demand and create infrastructure while managing your employees. So you hire many brilliant people, many hard working people, but that is not enough. You hire people who have had very little experience, but they have a solid education and you need them. And everyone is making money and the devices are selling, so where is the problem? The Globe and Mail published an excellent in-depth story on how Blackberry failed and it turns out there were many problems.

The bottom line is that it is a tough industry and there are people who say Apple may ultimately fail (or shrink) in the face of the Android onslaught. Who knows? Blackberry still has so much talent, cash, patents and products that we all hope it survives and prospers as a smaller company. It has contributed so much to Canada and to the Kitchener/Waterloo area both from employed so many great people, to giving money towards institutions like the Perimeter Institute, CiGi and so many others. So we all hope for the best even as we open our iPhone and Andriod apps while waiting in line somewhere….

My book review of 419

419, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
Parts of the book were interesting. The author had done a lot of research into Nigeria and those sections were probably the most engaging. There were two elements that ruined the book. First was the fact it is based on the whole “I am a Nigerian businessman who would like to transfer money” scam. This is so well known, and used in so many jokes for such a long time, that the notion an educated Canadian retired teacher could be taken in by it is just not believable. I kept thinking “come on, it’s spam and a well known deceit”.

The second issue is that Laura, the mild mannered copy editor, is a pretty boring character. Yet we are supposed to imagine she undertakes a huge and dangerous adventure. This is also not believable. And in her adventure she does some nasty things that make her even less sympathetic. The Nigerian parts of the story are compelling but the majority of the novel is just not believable. Also, there is such an overall tone of dread and foreboding that I did not enjoy reading this. The end is is kind of predictable I guess, but also a let down. But I guess it is the only way the various loose ends can get resolved.

After reading the book I am mainly let wondering if the police inspector will get a cat? Or did he get one?

I am surprised this won the Giller prize, but so did Bloodletting, another mediocre book (although I think Bloodletting was better than 419). The Giller seems to go to writers for political reasons, more than for quality of writing.

<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/15284156-ted-parkinson”>View all my reviews</a>