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Month: November 2012

Thinking about the old poker school days…

The other morning (well is was afternoon by the time it finished) I was actually sitting here watching the final table of the World Series of Poker main event live on my tellybox. I mean how far has technology come that I can watch a live poker tournament – not just on some dodgy live internet stream but in glorious High Definition – amazing. Anyway it came down to two relative youngsters – both depressingly younger than me and they battled it out to win more money than I’ll ever have in my life (unless I win the EuroMillions tonight) *fingers crossed*

Anyway if you want to see the final hand of the final table then please view it below:

Away from me sulking that neither guy was me it took me back to the days when I actually played poker and was part of a very active poker school. It was mainly staged at my place and had a strong group of players who were all mates of mine from school. The school had a mainstay of five players who were Martin, Baz, Goldring, Beattie and myself. Other players like Hillman would play if around but he went straight to uni and didn’t gap year and Nick played every so often too.

The thing was we always sat in exactly the same place and therefore we always played behind the same player so you had a feel for how everyone would play. Goldring & Beattie would often go all in early and play aggressive because they decided they wanted a smoke so wanted to go out the back. No smoking in the hose was the rule you see. When both played properly they weren’t half bad players. Baz always wore sunglasses (like we all did – we saw the players do it on Late Night Poker so wanted to be like them) but Baz’s were the reflective kind so we could always see his cards. I don’t think he ever twigged – well unless he’s reading this now then he may well have done.

Martin was one of the more predictable players until he realised we all knew he didn’t bluff and went in big when actually had something good. Then he mixed it up a fair bit. I liked to play aggressive early and try to get the chip lead and then sit on it whilst everyone else duked it out until we went heads up. That is how I liked it as heads up I was always pretty wild and no-one knew what I’d do.

When I disappeared off to university alas we didn’t play a lot of poker. We played a little bit but not a lot. I went back to the Isle of Wight a few years later and there was a game on. The old poker school had moved to Goldring’s by then and had several new players who had never played against me before. By then they actually played for real money and not just a token prize of a bag of doughnuts or whatever. I sat with the three players who had never played for me directly behind me and I knew my game plan. Wild raises that shocked them all.

One of them screamed ‘that isn’t how we play’ and I replied that is how I play and I saw a couple of sniggers from the players who knew my style. It reminded me of Phil Hellmuth – who is by far my favourite player and his ways of talking and then blowing up. One of my favourite Phil blow ups is embedded at the end of this paragraph. The guy I was playing basically called me everything under the sun and I just said calmly that if he wanted to see what I had he’d have to pay up. He didn’t and I bluffed my way to a big haul of chips and on the very next hand I did it again – this time though I had the nuts and the guy behind wouldn’t be bullied. A huge chip lead was mine! Pretty quickly I had bullied my way into a large chip lead and would go on to win the table and in doing so actually paid for my train ticket down for the weekend – which was a nice bonus shall we say!

Seriously the way the table erupted when he showed the 10/4. Hilarity!

Apparently by this point the school had become really serious and league tables were kept for how everyone did. I think Hillman was top of the tree and that isn’t a shock as he was a pretty darn good player. I miss playing poker though not for the actual cards but for its general casualness of catching up with your mates and just relaxing. I haven’t lived on the Isle of Wight now for ten years (bar a couple of summers home from university in 2003 and 2004) and everything and everyone has moved on. People are married. People have kids and yet I have neither and would still thoroughly love to just play poker with the guys once a week just like old times.

Of course these days I can still get that poker fix online at sites like Fulltiltpoker which is great for the hardened poker player who is in the business just to make money. For me though it was more than that. As I’ve gotten older I have drifted away from those friends mainly because I don’t live there (or visit there in all honesty) any more and I miss the social side of things more. Having said that I’m not averse to lining my pockets with silver…I’m all in!

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Why I’m rooting for Obama tonight – and it isn’t just a Republicans are evil rant…

I woke up this morning knowing that by the time I did that again (well unless I have an afternoon nap obviously) that the self styled ‘leader of the free world’ could be a different man. The US electorate goes to the polls today (well actually around 30million have already voted) but the rest are going to the polls and they have a straight decision to make. Do they trust a man with no viable plan or do they trust a guy who hasn’t delivered all the hope that led him to sweep into power four years ago?

I’m trying to look at it from their point of view and not an outsiders point of view. If you aren’t in the States then you probably hope for an Obama victory because to do otherwise is tantamount to declaring your love for China being the new world leader. A victory for Mitt Romney will basically make the USA an unstable country financially and would certainly at best just widen the divide between rich and poor in a country where the gap is already astronomical.

This election will also be a precursor for us here in the UK as we have one candidate whose whole election campaign has made big claims that don’t add up financially but his motto is ‘I’m not that guy’ and that is what I fully expect to see in 2015 from Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. Do an electorate actually want a viable (if hard to swallow) plan or do they just think change will save the day?

My bias is pretty clear but it should be noted that I was very much a Hilary guy and continue to be so. I do not believe Barack Obama has been a great President of the United States of America but he has had his moments. ‘Obamacare’ as it has been dubbed is a wonderful piece of legislation and look he did authorise taking out his biggest issue on the terror front. That is something his predecessor failed to do despite starting two wars. However the problem Obama has he is promised too much and in the economic climate the world found itself in it was hard to deliver and with the collapse of Lehman Brothers just six weeks or so before the election then the talk should have changed to become more realistic.

For example when you are a kid and your mum says you are getting Chinese takeaway as a treat you get extremely excited but if she changes her mind and you get a home cooked curry you are slightly disappointed. On the other hand if you are told you are getting a home cooked curry when you get in from school then you are excited as your hopes had never reached Chinese food status. This is where Obama went wrong. He promised the Earth knowing that he couldn’t deliver and people remember that and can use it as a stick to beat him with.

If I was an undecided voter I’d struggle to believe Obama. I really would. However the rational part of my brain would also look at the world as a whole and the figures and I’d realise that Romney’s promises simply cannot be delivered and this time Obama’s goals seem far more realistic. I am (like most liberals) a Utopian at heart but a realist when it comes to my head. I know Obama has far more chance delivering what he says he can deliver than what Romney says he can. I also know that if Obama fails then America is in a bad place but if Romney fails then America is in a terrible place.

I won’t go as far as to say that Obama is the lesser of two evils as I think Obama is clearly the better man for the job but if I were an undecided voter then that is what the rational part of my brain would tell me. Obama is not as great as the hype told us. He hasn’t dealt very well with the economy but it could be argued ‘who would?’ considering what happened weeks before he was elected into office. Should the Republicans be given a pass for the Bush administrations decision to let Lehman Brothers collapse and not saving it at all costs? I don’t think that they should. It was one of the worst economical decisions the modern world has seen from a major power.

Hopefully Barack Obama holds on and becomes a two-term President but I am fearful that America will vote for change believing that change is better than the path they are on right now. The grass as they say is not always greener but I’ll tell you this. If Obama promised me that on his way home he’d bring me a battered sausage, saveloy, chips and a curry sauce from the chippy then I’d be happy and believe he could see it through. If Romney promised me that he’d swing by the Chinese and be bringing home from Crispy Seaweed, Special Curry (no mushrooms – extra water chestnuts), Singapore Fried Rice and a side order of Sween n Sour Chicken Balls then I’d be elated but I’d fear a Tesco Value microwave Shepherd’s Pie would be what he walked through the door with instead.

Obama is the choice if you don’t want to roll the dice on America’s future knowing that only two sixes will do. Romney is a huge risk and who wants huge risk in this climate? Not me that is for sure.

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Shenfield by-election on Dec 6 – a legit shot for a Lib Dem gain

Update December 6: Last night Liz Cohen won this by-election. You can all all about the result here

I’m a pessimist. I am. However I am also a realist (so at times these two differing viewpoints battle in out in my mind in a whirlwind fight to the death) but when it comes to political issues I often look at momentum and can see things from a third person perspective and in the case of the Shenfield by-election due to be held on December 6 the Lib Dems are in a great position to make a gain.

The outgoing Tory councillor (who actually defected from the Lib Dems to the Tories in 1996) is leaving to look after his ill wife which is an extremely admirable thing to do and I wish his wife the best in her recovery. On his way out of the door though he told the local paper ‘There is a lot of upset in the Conservative council group and I would not be surprised if one or two others go in the near future’.

In May Shenfield elected a Lib Dem in young Graeme Clark and with other gains in the borough including the return of popular (and sexy boots owner/wearer) Karen Chilvers it could easily be argued that the Brentwood Lib Dems are one of the best local groups around. They are popular on the ground and work hard and the decision to nominate local mum of two Liz Cohen as their candidate is a very good one. A local person who has campaigned on local issues before being nominated as the Lib Dem candidate shows that she just genuinely cares about the things that Brentwood Borough Council can act on.

She is someone who has worked hard on improving the safety crossing outside of a local school, getting footpaths cleared and waste bins for dog mess. These are basic issues but small ones that can actually make a difference. I often sit here and think blog about issues that it is very unlikely I’ll ever get a say in but could I help ensure pavements are fixed or that overgrown trees are trimmed? Yes I can. We all can but we often think someone else will sort it.

These are the types of things your councillors are for and I fully believe Liz Cohen will provide an excellent service as a councillor should she be elected on December 6 in the Shenfield by-election. If you live local and can help then please contact Liz either on twitter @ShenfieldLiz or get in touch with the Brentwood Lib Dems via their website or by e-mail – info@brentwood-ongarlibdems.org.uk

This isn’t one of those by-elections where victory is a long shot. This is a very real possibility of a LD gain and another LD councillor will be a very good thing. I can seriously see the Lib Dems in Brentwood making more inroads over the coming years so this is a very good time to help them out if you can. The Lib Dems are very much a progressive party and the Lib Dems in Brentwood are on the forefront of this.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.