Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lessons From A Vegas Poker Table

I like The Venetian a lot, but they're a little over-zealous in promoting one of their in-house shows, "Phantom Of The Opera." They play its signature song, "Music Of The Night," over the PA about ten times a day. It's in the hallways, elevators, bathrooms, food court, and the casino. I have no interest in these sappy kinds of musicals in the first place (give me Rodgers and Hammerstein any day), but repeated exposure to that song makes me want to kill Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I'm spending the majority of my time on this trip in the poker room, where things get wilder as the hour gets later. I've seen one well-known poker pro so drunk that he was face down in his chips as the game continued. Another one came to my $5-10 pot-limit-Omaha table last night, also under the influence of alcohol. He raised every pot, ran over the game for a half-hour to amass a big stack of chips -- none of mine, though -- and then insisted that they open up a higher-limit game that he could play. Within minutes, they opened up a $25-50 PLO game for him, and several other players swooped in to take advantage of his condition, knowing they could exploit his wild drunken style. Less than an hour later, he was walking out unsteadily without a single chip left. I'd guess those 90 minutes cost him $15,000.

Here's another story from the tables. Monday night at about 4am, a young guy had just come back from a strip club and was sharing his exploits. He talked in great detail about the lap dances he enjoyed, and said he asked one stripper for her phone number so he could get together with her outside the club for, well, you know.

He said she was going to give him her number, but there was nothing to write it down with because -- get this -- strippers and other club employees are not allowed to have pens or pencils. It has to do with stopping exactly what this guy was attempting to arrange, particularly if money was going to change hands. Because in Sin City, a completely naked woman can charge a completely dressed guy hundreds of dollars to rub herself all over every part of his body inside the club, but if the physical/financial transaction moves to his room, that's over the line. And it's all because of a ballpoint pen.

The poker player laughed as he said, "So I just put her number right into my iPhone!" System defeated. Unfortunately, he complained, she gave him a bogus phone number.

I'm sure there are plenty of strippers who easily cross that thin moral line, but apparently she's not one of them, and in an effort to get guys to stop asking, she gives them a phony number and is done with them. Or it could have been worse. Perhaps she does do that kind of business outside the club, but didn't want to do it with this guy, for whatever reason.

As he continued telling the tale -- and there was no way to stop him -- he said that since she wouldn't fulfill his needs, he called one of those girls-to-your-room hotlines that are advertised throughout Vegas (including on cards handed to you on the sidewalk and on flat-panel trucks that roam the strip day and night, part of the town's commitment to a family-friendly atmosphere). In about 30 minutes, a woman showed up at his hotel room and greeted him by getting right down to business. He says she told him, "It's $300 for me to step into your room, and then everything is negotiable." She repeated the word "everything."

He told her he wanted to know the full package price right away, not after she got inside. She refused. I'm guessing it's like the meter on a taxi, where the profit comes from the initial flag drop, not the length of the ride, and she wouldn't move until the flag was dropped. She probably also wanted to make sure up front that the guy had a bunch of money, since her job really consists less of pleasing him than it does draining him of every possible dollar. In the end, he said, he sent her away, disillusioned by his first trip to Las Vegas because the city hadn't lived up to his image of it, sexually.

When he finished the story, I chimed in: "You should have asked her how much it would cost if she didn't enter the room but you got into it right there in the hallway." Although hearing that "Phantom" song on the PA would probably ruin the mood.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Final Table #56: NAPT & Kathy Liebert

Today on our poker radio show, The Final Table, we (Dennis Phillips, Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan and I) are in Las Vegas for the NAPT Main Event at The Venetian. All three of us played in this tournament, with 872 players and a prize pool of over $4,000,000, but unfortunately, we're not in it anymore.

We talked about our experience, some of the pros and celebrities we've played against, plus my one-on-one interview with Kathy Liebert, who I shared a table with for several hours. She was quite candid about why she thinks that, despite being the winningest female tournament player of all time, no online site has offered her a sponsorship. Kathy also had some harsh comments about Phil Hellmuth, who showed up late as always and sat down at our table. I'll also tell you about Hellmuth's vow to drop the Poker Brat image, and about Daniel Negreanu coming over to set the line for a bet between them about WSOP bracelets this summer.

Also on today's show:
  • Dennis has the remarkable numbers from PokerStars' Sunday Millions tournament;
  • Joe analyzes the effect younger hot shots had on this tournament;
  • my quick chat with comedian Brad Garrett, who played with Dennis (and Mark Wahlberg, Jason Alexander, Tony Hawk, Orel Hershiser, and many more) in a celebrity charity event the other night;
On future shows, you'll hear interviews we recorded here with Joe Hachem, Vanessa Rousso, Joe Cada, Tom McEvoy, and Greg Raymer.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's About Time

Brian Dalton has been creating Mr. Deity videos for about three years, and they're all very clever. Here's his latest -- and it's about time...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Politics On The Strip

President Obama is here in Vegas for a couple of Democratic fundraisers, but Mayor Oscar Goodman is still pissed at Obama for telling people not to blow the money they've saved for their kids' college education on a trip to Vegas. You should donate it to Harry Reid's re-election campaign instead.

That's the Sin City attitude -- try to get every last dollar out of you so multi-billion dollar corporations can over-build and pretend they run a "family vacation destination." After all, if you can't send your kid to college, she'll always have a career as a hotel housekeeper here.

Tiger Beat

Was I the only one who thought Tiger Woods' statement, with the bland backdrop, looked just like Michael Jackson's televised statement about 15 years ago? With the complaints about the paparazzi, the denial of violence, and begging for it to be left as a private matter, I flashed back to Jackson staring blankly into a camera from Neverland as he complained about being strip-searched after the child-molestation charges.

Lost in 1967

What if "Lost" wasn't a 21st-century TV show, but a 1967 cheapo action movie? The trailer might go like this...

[thanks to Denise Melton for the link]

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Press Your Weather

Here's a promo that WKYT/Lexington, Kentucky, is running for its weather team, based on the old game show "Press Your Luck"...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Final Table #55: Joe Sebok

Today on our poker radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I talked with Joe Sebok, the man behind Poker Road, about:
  • his sick prop bet with Gavin Smith and Jeff Madsen (it's a last-longer bet for the LA Poker Classic, where the loser gets a tattoo with the faces of the other two);
  • his online tournament, where the winner jumps out of a plane with him;
  • advice for you if the upcoming WSOP Circuit Event in St. Louis will be your first large-field tournament;
  • his weekly FSN show, "Poker 2Nite," which returns in March;
  • how he managed to attract over a million followers on Twitter;
We also talked with Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan about the first episode of "High Stakes Poker" season 6, which aired Sunday night and saw Phil Hellmuth involved in some questionable hands that ended with him losing all his money and leaving the table.

We also previewed the NAPT tournament that starts this Saturday at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Dennis and I will both be in that event, so we'll have a special show for you next week from that venue, including interviews with many other of the other pros who will take part.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Seat Belts

Here's a very effective public service ad from Sussex, England...

[thanks to Alan Light for the link]

Monday, February 15, 2010

Crazy Plot

I'm happy that Jeff Bridges is getting a lot of buzz for his Oscar-nominated role in "Crazy Heart," because I've always enjoyed his work. And any movie is better with Maggie Gyllenhall in it. Throw in a little Robert Duvall, and that makes three pros who can't give a bad performance, which is why I walked out of "Crazy Heart" with a smile on my face.

I recommend it, but two things bothered me about the movie.

First of all, I'd seen this template before. Duvall won an Academy Award for playing essentially the same role in "Tender Mercies," his 1983 film about a down-on-his-luck alcoholic former country star who finds love with a young single mom while he battles demons and ex-colleagues.

Second, there's nothing in "Crazy Heart" to explain Gyllenhall's attraction to Bridges. She's half his age, yet falls for this drunken slob with breath like an ashtray whose career is so far off the tracks that he has to work gigs in bowling alleys. Are there many American women looking to fall in love with a drunken loser like that, even if he's written a few good songs, or is this yet another Hollywood fantasy?

So why did I enjoy the movie? For T-Bone Burnett's music and the authenticity of scenes like the one where the leader of the local backup band shows up at Bridges' motel room to find out when they'd get to rehearse with him before that night's show. Bridges tells him they don't have to rehearse, then gives him a CD and some lead sheets and tells him to study those while Bridges returns to the room to climb further inside a bottle of whiskey.

It reminded me of the story Bruce Springsteen told in the Chuck Berry bio-pic "Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll." Before Bruce was a star, he and his group of local Jersey boys were hired to play behind Chuck Berry. When Chuck arrived just as the show was supposed to start, he got paid in cash in advance by the promoter, and then headed for the stage. That's when Bruce quickly introduced himself and asked what songs they were going to play. Without missing a step, the musical legend replied, "Why, Chuck Berry songs, of course!" With that, Chuck pulled his guitar out of its case and went right into the opening riff of "Johnny B. Goode," leaving Bruce and the band to wing it and play catch-up for the next hour.

Jeff Bridges is the odds-on favorite to win the Academy Award. After 4 previous nominations and losses, it's probably about time to give it to him. But like Martin Scorcese's win for "The Departed," this one will be recognition of a career's work -- "The Last Picture Show," "Starman," "Jagged Edge," "Tucker," "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "The Contender," "Seabiscuit" -- rather than for his lead role in "Crazy Heart."

A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything

Jamie Bell created this clever 3-minute piece of animation and says,

This is the final piece for my AS art course, a flipbook made entirely out of biro pens. It's something like 2100 pages long, and about 50 jotter books. I'd say I worked on and off it for roughly 3 weeks.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Doug Fieger, leader of The Knack, died today at 57 after a long battle with cancer. His band was known for only one song, "My Sharona," but that song seemed to be on every radio station in America every hour for the six weeks in spent at #1 in 1979. That debut album, "Get The Knack," showed them in Beatles-like poses, and they even played Carnegie Hall with an onstage setup that duplicated The Beatles' 1964 appearance right down to the skinny ties.

I took a bunch of listeners to that Knack concert and couldn't help smirking at the fans who screamed as if the Fab Four were performing. This was about the time The Knack's follow-up single, "Good Girls Don't," was moving up the charts -- we played it in high rotation at WRCN/Long Island -- but it only went to #11, and when their second album didn't generate any heat in 1980, The Knack phenomenon was over. As with many one-hit wonder bands, their biggest song still gets airplay 30 years later on classic hits stations, but that's about all you ever hear about them.

Feiger is stuck in my memory because of an on-air conversation we had a week before the Carnegie concert. I had the same experience with him that I did a few years later with Colin Hay of Men At Work, another flash-in-the-pan group that owned American radio for a couple of months. Unlike some established stars who only did radio interviews because the record company forced them to, both Feiger and Hay were thankful and clever and funny and understood how lucky they were to be run over by the locomotive that was musical fame, even if only momentarily.

Why I Hate Valentine's Day

Time to re-read the column I wrote on the subject in 2002.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Importance of Empathy

My friend Jamy Ian Swiss, one of the best sleight-of-hand magicians in the world, explains why empathy is one of the necessary job skills -- and not just for people in his line of work -- in this presentation from the 2009 GEL (Good Experience Live) Conference...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Need For Speed

The other day, I was talking on the air about the two guys from a high-end car dealer who were caught videotaping themselves as they drove around Chesterfield Valley in a Lamborghini at speeds approaching 150mph -- videos they then posted on YouTube. I know absolutely nothing about cars, nor do I care about them for much more than comfortable, reliable transporation, but I wondered why people buy these super-fast vehicles when they have no place to really open them up on the road. It's not like we have an Autobahn in the suburbs of St. Louis.

A listener named Jim S. then sent me this video of a man testing the Bugatti Veyron, supposedly the world's fastest car. This wasn't shot on an interstate highway here, but on a wide-open test track with enough room to let him try to get the car up to 250mph+...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tiger Search

With Google running its nice, simple, first-ever Super Bowl commercial a couple of days ago, here's a version that didn't air, centered around Tiger Woods' search history (by the people at Slate)...

[thanks to Trish Gazall for the link]

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Final Table #54: Super Bowl & Bernard Lee

Today on our poker radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I talked about his trip to Miami for Super Bowl week, including a stop at the Playboy Golf Tournament and Pool Party, a charity poker event with Jim Carrey, and a visit with Darvin Moon (2009 WSOP Main Event runner-up and huge New Orleans Saints fan).

Then Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan joined us as we replied to a listener who e-mailed his objection to the use of the phrase "That's poker!" when used to refer to someone sucking out with a one- or two-outer.

Next, we talked with poker pro Bernard Lee, host of's Inside Deal, who has just signed a unique deal with Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, making him the first poker player we know to get an endorsement contract from a brick-and-mortar casino. Bernard -- who has made over $1.35 million in tournaments, won 3 WPT titles, and finished 13th in the 2005 WSOP Main Event -- offered some advice for players who plan on taking part in the WSOP Circuit Event that's coming to St. Louis in April. If you've only played in tournaments with 30-60 players, you should pay attention to what he says about playing in the much larger fields that Circuit Events always draw.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Tweet XLIV

Here are some of the non-game-related tweets I posted on Twitter during tonight's Super Bowl broadcast.  I'll have a full post about the most outstanding commercial -- the Letterman/Leno/Oprah shocker -- a little later.

  • Steve Winwood doing "Higher Love" on SB pre-game proved he sounds a helluva lot better in the studio than in a parking lot. 
  • You can't go wrong with Betty White + Abe Vigoda in your commercial (Snickers)
  • The Super Bowl Shuffle spot made my 15-year-old daughter ask "What was that?" Hard to believe it's been 25 years.
  • Bud Light takes the lead with asteroid party, but Doritos is 0-2 with dog collar and Jalen's mom.
  • Imagine this pitch meeting: "I've got it. The beaver plays the violin!!"
  • Bridgestone scores w/the Hangover-like bachelor party whale, as does the Timothy Richmond spot for Wit wins. 
  • Wasn't that music from "Stripes" in the Budweiser bridge commercial?
  • Interesting adjacency: CareerBuilder's casual Friday underwear office followed by Dockers's "I wear no pants" chant.
  • Brett Favre showed a sense of humor poking fun at himself in his commercial, but what was it for?
  • More winners: Bud Light "Lost" parody, Dove for Men's life song. Thank god we finally have our own soap.
  • I don't want a Dodge Charger, so I won't carry my wife's lip balm.
  • We did NOT need a remix of My Generation by, but nice editing job. Will anyone remember FloTV a year from now?
  • Re: halftime.  Springsteen 2009: fun & entertaining. The Who 2010: neither. A medley of edited songs and no fans on the field mark the end of an era.
  • Chevy Chase proves yet again that he can over-act and over-sell any comedic moment in the Griswolds callback.
  • Did Christopher Guest direct his troupe in the census ads? Love his movies, but the spots don't work. I want my $2.5mil back. 
  • Google's love-in-Paris ad was as clean and simple as its search page. Nice to see high-tech go not-so-flashy.
  • Post-nipplegate SB halftime acts: McCartney, Stones, Prince, Petty, Springsteen, Who. When do bands that started after 1985 get that gig?
  • A local SB spot that aired in St. Louis promotes salads at QuikTrip. Because when you want a healthy lunch, you head to the gas station.
  • The obligatory post-game ad for Saints SB merchandise used The Who as soundtrack. Don't they know the Colts use Who music at their games?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

DJ and the JREF

I have long been a supporter of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Randi has appeared on my radio shows many times in the last quarter-century, and I have attended several of his annual Amazing Meetings, where hundreds of skeptics from around the country -- and world -- gather to share stories, listen to speakers, and bond with other reason-based thinkers. Plus, you get the meet cool people like Adam Savage of "Mythbusters," sleight-of-hand genius Jamy Ian Swiss, Penn & Teller, Richard Dawkins, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

As Randi approached his 80th birthday, many of his supporters wondered what would happen to the skeptical movement which he has led when the time comes that he's no longer with us. We had a scare in 2006 when he had to undergo a coronary bypass, and again last year when he was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. I'm happy to say he has survived both of those (not through prayer or supernatural means, but thanks to modern medicine), and he was recently back with me railing about the quackery behind some bogus bomb-detectors that were nothing more than dowsers.

Meanwhile, the JREF continues to flourish, with Dr. Phil Plait assuming the presidency last year. The organization is now headed by DJ Grothe, a magician and skeptic from St. Louis. I invited him to join me yesterday on KTRS/St. Louis to talk the JREF's Million Dollar Challenge, the skeptical movement in general, and Randi's health. DJ is also a member of the Skeptical Society of St. Louis, which will host another Skeptics In The Pub get-together next Friday, February 12th.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Watch What You Watch

There's an old rule in broadcasting that says you should always be careful about what you say and do whenever there's a microphone or camera present, because you never know when it's on, and you could get caught doing something you don't want the world to see.

For example, take the guy in the background of this rather boring business report on an Australian newscast. While the interviewee drones on in the foreground, watch the computer monitor behind his right ear and you'll see another employee checking out semi-nude shots of model Miranda Kerr. Some viewers called the TV outlet to complain (talk about having no life -- who are these people who take time out of their day to make that phone call?), and once footage of the newscast was posted on line, word got back to executives at the bank. They have reprimanded the employee; not for being caught inadvertently on camera, but for doing it on the company's time and equipment. The best part of this video is his reaction when he realizes the camera behind him is on and broadcasting live...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Constitutional Lawlessness

Tonight on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow ripped apart Republicans -- Senators Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, and Mitch McConnell -- who have been attacking the Obama administration for its handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the attempted Christmas day undie-bomber.

As Maddow pointed out to these lawmakers, the constitutional right to an attorney when arrested applies to everyone arrested in the USA -- not just to American citizens. It doesn't matter whether you're an Al-Qaeda terrorist trying to blow up a plane in Detroit or an Italian tourist trying to kill a stripper in Illinois or a Mexican drug lord trying to kill a US border guard in Texas. If you're accused of a crime here -- any crime -- you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, you have the right to everything else included in the Miranda warning.

That's one of the things that makes America great. While in other countries you can be held without bond or legal assistance or for any reason the authorities may claim, here in the USA we have a system that assumes you are innocent until proven guilty, the burden is on the government to prove you did what they claim you did, and you can't be forced to confess or give up information if you don't want to.

Imagine that you were traveling overseas and were arrested for an attempted criminal act, but the authorities there decided that you were a terrorist or a spy and thus locked you up without so much as a hearing in court or any other kind of legal defense. Remember the anti-North Korean sentiments expressed when that government sentenced Current TV journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling to 12 years of hard labor for accidentally crossing the border? Would any American accept the explanation that they weren't eligible for those protections because they were not a citizen of that foreign nation?

Don't get me wrong. I have no doubt at all that Abdulmutallab wanted to blow up Northwest 253, but the thing that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes -- one of the aspects of America that make us a shining example of freedom to the world -- is that we don't run a rigged system (or, at least, we're not supposed to).

Most importantly, the GOPers haven't paid attention to reports which say that Abdulmutallab has been voluntarily giving investigators valuable information about his training and contacts, even after having his rights read to him. They also have no memory of the Bush administration handling accused terrorists arrested here, like shoe bomber Richard Reid, in exactly the same Miranda-friendly manner. Nor do they seem to remember that when they took office, every member of Congress swore an oath to uphold the Constitution Of The United States, and I don't recall an asterisk or exception anywhere in there.

Judge Andrew Napolitano, the constitutional scholar who serves as senior judicial analyst for Fox News Channel, has repeatedly warned against the "constitutional horrors of allowing federal agents, even presidents, to decide to whom the constitution applies and to whom it does not apply." Today on his online TV show, "Freedom Watch," Napolitano made the case for why Abdulmutallab can't be denied those rights and should not face a military tribunal. Unfortunately, I can't embed that video, but you can watch it here.

Meanwhile, here's Maddow tonight, enumerating the ways Republican leaders have been dead wrong on the subject...

Bogus Anti-Vax Claims Retracted

I have blogged and posted interviews about the fight against anti-vaxxers, the science-deniers who have convinced far too many people that vaccines cause autism (listen to Dr. Phil Plait take on Jenny McCarthy). Much of this nonsense began when researcher Andrew Wakefield published a study in Lancet, the British medical journal, that showed a connection. That single piece, with no further evidence or any other research that confirmed it, was enough to cause vaccination rates to drop 30% in England and many other places in the world.

The problem was that it was completely bogus. As Dr. Art Caplan explained to me today on KTRS/St. Louis, Wakefield had pre-selected the 12 children he included in the study because they already had autism and he had an anti-vaccination agenda. Now, a dozen years later, Lancet has withdrawn the article as misleading and false.

Unfortunately, the damage has been hard to undo. Let me be clear: there is absolutely no proof that any vaccine has ever caused any child to become autistic. Whenever it comes down to large numbers of respected scientists vs. fringe Hollywood actresses and conspiracy theorists, you can always save time (and lives) by giving the scientists the benefit of the doubt.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

No Moon For You

When President Obama's budget was released on Monday, there was no money included to continue NASA's efforts to send Americans back to the moon, despite the billions of dollars already spent on the effort. I talked about this sad scientific news with Homer Hickam, the former NASA engineer whose life story became the book and movie "October Sky."

Hickam explained how this will allow other countries to pass the US when it comes to exploration of space and -- in an interesting argument I've not heard elsewhere -- why he thinks an American lunar effort would be a good way to fight terrorism.

We also talked about Hickam's new book, "My Dream of Stars," a biography of Iranian space pioneer Anousheh Ansari.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

For more from Homer Hickam, see his blog.

Lost Questions

Now that "Lost" has begun its 6th and final season, will we actually get answers to the many questions fans have, or will Lindelof and Cruse force us to ponder even more unexplained mysteries? I talked it over with David Lavery, co-author of "Lost's Buried Treasures: The Unofficial Guide to Everything Lost Fans Need To Know," which has just been updated to cover the first 5 seasons.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Final Table #53: Women-Only Tournaments

Dennis Phillips and I began the second year of our poker radio show The Final Table yesterday.

One of our topics of discussion was why, in a world where anyone of legal age can sit down at a poker table to play -- regardless of gender, race, or anything else -- there are still some tournaments for women only. Nolan Dalla, media director of the World Series Of Poker, joined us to share his thoughts from the perspective of someone who has kept an eye on the growth of those tournaments and the number of women who play poker in general.

Speaking of tournaments, we also talked about the innovative team-play format of the Caesar's Cup event that aired on ESPN Sunday night, and then Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan helped us analyze a hand e-mailed by a listener who wondered if he played too conservatively when he flopped a set on a flush-heavy board and folded when another player bet into him. We're always looking for interesting hands and scenarios to discuss, so send yours to

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Inspired Bicycling

For anyone who thought a bicycle was only good for horizontal movement (or for that matter, considered the seat an essential piece of bike equipment), take a look at Danny McCaskill in action...

[thanks to Ken Barker for the link]