Friday, October 31, 2008

The Art of Poker - Chapter 5

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Chapter 5 of The Art of War is titled "Energy".

Sun Tzu opens by discussion how the control of a large force is no different than control of a small one. The control of a large force is achieved by breaking it into multiple small forces, and controlling those through officers, uniform signals, and experience.

He then speaks of using manoeuvres both "direct and indirect". There is some debate as to what is meant by this, but people seem to have settled on the "direct" meaning the standard, by-the-book methods, where the "indirect" are the unexpected, outside-the-box moves. The science of knowing where the weak and strong points of enemy are is key to being dominant.

The direct method is used to enter battle, but its the indirect attacks that will ensure victory. An experienced and smart general will have a limitless supply of indirect tactics at their disposal. Comparisons are drawn to the fact there are only five primary colours (red, green, blue, black, and white), but a spectrum of combinations. There are only 5 tastes, yet more flavours than we can ever experience. Similarly, there are only the 2 methods of attack, yet unending combinations of them.

12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course.

13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.

The good fighter will be quick to attack, and be able to instinctively time his changes in tactic. Energy is like a cocked bow, and decision the release of the arrow. Potential vs kinetic energy.

The appearance of disorder and fear may actually be evidence of the exact opposite.

17. Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline,
simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness
postulates strength.

Sound familiar? From here the text discusses how deception is key to manipulating your enemy. You can dictate their decisions and actions by showing what you want them to believe. A show of strength from a weak opponent can keep your enemy at bay. A show of weakness when you are superior can draw them in. Sacrificing something as bait to gain a greater victory is common.

Finally, a common practice is to use the greater of your force to achieve the bulk of the work, while utilizing specialized groups to put you over the top. Think of an advancing army with only a handful of well-placed snipers in proper position, taking out the right targets. Using the natural strengths and training of your men to support the force of your army will result in great energy being released. Even a stone, when dropped from a great height, can do much damage.


So, the main problem with reconciling this chapter to poker is, once again, the definition of an "army" in poker terms. This ain't a team sport. I believe I've previously likened the army to the tools at your disposal. As a general grows in experience, so too does his ability to manage larger numbers. The same holds true for a poker player. As you become more experienced, you add more weapons to your arsenal, and your ability to manage this increasing number grows.

For example, I often tell my friends who are just starting out on the long, dark road of poker not to bluff. I tell them that once they're comfortable with ABC play, then one day they'll try hiding the strength of their hand. From there, they'll start reading others and eventually take a stab at pot with a mediocre hand. Full-on bluffing will eventually become natural for them, as will the timing of when to use it.

The same holds true for any other number of moves we use. Check-raises, re-raises, hollywood, angle-shooting, table-talk, false tells, level 3 thinking, etc.. As our experience grows, so too does our army. The truly great players can use all their tools at once to wage battle, controlling when each one gets used in a similar manner to sending out a strike force or positioning snipers.

But nobody uses strictly level 3 thinking or tries to dazzle everyone with their brilliant play. A consistently unorthodox game is exactly that - consistent. In the end, we all have an underlying ABC game that drives most of our decisions. The differences that come into play are when we apply the "indirect" attacks. If I've been showing a TAG style all night, and suddenly go through a period where my style changes dramatically, it causes confusion. If I haven't raised a hand preflop yet and all of sudden come in for 5x the BB, most people will fold. If I do it 3 hands in a row, people get suspicious. If I play 2nd pair like the nuts, people might think I have the nuts. Mixing it up is where the money is made.

Poker breaks down to 3 buttons on your screen - check/fold, bet/call, and raise, but there are limitless ways of combining these simple ideas. A pause before clicking could means something, a re-raise could be a squeeze or a hand that is afraid of draws, a call could mean anything, and sometimes a fold can pay massive dividends down the line.

Timing these moves is the key to victory. Been playing loose and aggressive all night? When you get the aces, it's time to use that image to extract value. Been weak-tight? Lure the LAG in. Unleashing your tactics at the wrong time can be disasterous... nobody likes bluffing into the nuts.

As for that fold - it's one of my favourite methods for extracting value down the line. If I can throw away a mediocre hand for minimal loss against a player who I put on nothing but aggression, it shows weakness on my part. I'm automatically tagged as either someone who folds to pressure, or someone who CAN fold less than the nuts. This controls their behaviour later on, when the chips matter more. I can often get that same player to once again try and scare me off a hand, allowing me to come back over the top. Regardless of my holdings, this player has already pegged me as either weak or smart, and will likely fold anything that isn't premium, assuming I have them beat. For if I am weak, then I'm not lying about my strength, but if I am smart, then I'm obviously going with strong-means-weak-means-strong. That small sacrifice earlier on ensured a victory later.

For one thing Sun Tzu keeps referring to is the directed ancestor of "weak means strong and strong means weak". Deception is the key to victory in his book. The trick is in convincingly achieving this deception.

Finally, using proper tactics can help even those in the weakest circumstance achieve victories. If you've been folding away your chips as the blinds grow, and people have noticed, then a sudden all-in at the RIGHT TIME can work very well. If it's with a strong hand, then you want it to appear weak, and vice versa. In fact, the full-steam-ahead method of short-stack play I often see usually ends in tears. However, if spots are chosen, and the right moves are made, a small stack can build up quickly and improve a table image tremendously.

In the end, the smarter, and more unpredictable your play is, the more likely your chance of success.

As an aside, while reading this chapter, an anecdote was relayed to illustrate the point of controlling your enemy through your appearance. I'll paraphrase:

Sun Pin is at war with P'ang Chuan. Pin, knowing that his country has a reputation for cowardice, devised a plan where the fires of his army would decrease each night, dropping from 100,000 to 50,000, to 20,000. Chuan, seeing this, assumed that the cowards of this army had already fled from his superior force. Chuan led an attack as Pin retreated. In a narrow defile, Pin had a tree felled across the pass, and he carved the message "Under this tree shall P`ang Chuan die." He then set up a series of archers and gave them orders to fire upon seeing a light. Chuan arrived in the defile that night and when he came up on the tree, noticed the writing. He struck a match to read it, and was struck down by the arrows of the archers.

I found this a fantastic piece that was obviously analogous to using table image to lure in and destroy an overconfident opponent.

Good Booze and Bad Poker

I don't believe my booze collection was actually seen at Eh-Vegas this past February, so none may actually know its largesse. I've stated before that it puts many bars to shame, and I should really take inventory some time. Regardless, I collect. There are those who worry I have a "problem", but they often miss the mark. My problem is that I have a hard time not buying interesting liquors, not the drinking of them.

So naturally, I've decided that I'll pick up the Canadian Club 30 year-old Canadian Whisky. From all accounts, it's a rich, full-bodied option never before seen in our native drink (funnily enough, CC was actually started in Detroit until prohibition forced Hiram Walker to move his operations across the border and found Walkerville). It's a limited edition (only 3000 bottles made) celebrating their 150th. You only turn 150 once you know. I'm almost tempted to buy 2, one for drinking and one for keeping.

As for poker, I forgot a sad consequence of having no roll - the levels you play at increase the terrible play by an order of magnitude. I decided to spend a wee bit of time playing a $2 SnG on Tilt and watched terrible play after terrible play, the likes of which I hadn't seen since the early days of the Wheatie. The scary part is that if I actually made the "wrong" decision in a few places, I'd have been crushing the game. It's scary how much bad play is rewarded. When I have a roll again, I might try an extended expriment on making the wrong call in borderline situations and see how well I do.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back In The Saddle Again

And falling out of it of course. So, in my quest for bankroll management, I put $11 into The Mookie, $5.50 into The Dookie, shipped $5 in a pushfest, and put $1.25 into a turbo SnG. I came in the 3rd in the SnG for my only cash... a whopping $0.55 profit! WOOHOO!

So my roll is now less than half of what it was when I started. I never said it would be GOOD bankroll management. The challenge now is to win a Mookie buy-in for next week. This could be tricky since I plan to go see a movie tonight, along with picking up a costume for tomorrow night's Halloween party. Saturday I'm either heading west to a friend's birthday, or north to a Tuckfard game (if such a thing occurs). It's a tough call since I've seen the Tuckfards more recently than this friend. Sunday is craps day! Likely the last craps outing before Vegas. So that doesn't leave much time to play poker. Good.

Actually, last night was fun. Some good chatter going at the tables and IM, standard donkish plays and amazing suckouts... the usual. The highlight of the night though? Cracking open this:

Lagavulin single malt, Distiller's Edition. 17 years old, double distilled. Damn is it tasty. Not the liquid smoke of the 16 year (good as that is), but milder, and just as complex, and still good and peaty. Especially served in this:

The first ever Canadian whisky glass (based on scotch tasting glasses, and made by Glencairn, who has a similar version). The description talks about concentrating the vapours in the neck, with the rim gently pouring the whiskey on the tongue. I'll be damned if they aren't telling the truth. My first sip was met with a nose full of scotch smells, and it was like butter in my mouth. Now I'm upset I didn't listen to myself and buy TWO glasses. I might just have to swing by my local LCBO and pick up a bottle of something else to get the $4 discount on the glass :).

Hell, take a gander over here at Taste T.O. for a rundown of the current Whisky Legends promotion at the LCBO. It's a better writeup than the press releases. I'm tempted to pick up the 30 year-old Canadian Club, but $180 is a bit steep for a Canadian Whisky. Anybody try it? Maybe the Robbie Burns Scotch for $50. I'm sure BamBam has already picked up The Glenlivet Archive 21 year. Maybe a rare rum or cognac is in order. Ah damn, I'm getting all mature in my booze tastes, and I haven't even mentioned the selection of ancient Scottish ales and small English beers I picked up. Not to mention how thrilled I am that Innis & Gunn is readily available now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Day N

Today marks two weeks since I decided to take a fortnight from poker. My return depends on when exactly I told Full Tilt to ban me from playing for 14 days. It could be in time for The Mookie, or it could not be. Regardless, here's what I've learned from two weeks away:

1.- I spend too much time playing poker.

I was constantly amazed when I was sitting on the couch with laundry running, cat chores done, food made and eaten, and some e-mail and web surfing done and it was only 8:30. I was far more productive without poker.

2.- Spare time is boring as shit without poker.

So it was 8:30 and I had nothing that needed doing. There was nothing good on TV, and none of my games seemed appealing. I could read, but I'm usually tired weeknights, and it would put me to sleep. I could watch a movie, but I didn't feel like it. I'd stare at the computer wondering what I did with a dual core processor OTHER than poker. It's funny, because when I DID play, I'd have 15 other things going on in the background, but when I'm not playing, I had zero desire to do anything.

3.- I'll stay up too late regardless of poker.

Still in bed around 1am or so every night. I'm not about to miss The Daily Show or Colbert Report dammit. Poker has nothing to do with my sleep schedule.

4.- I blow through too much online BR.

Not watching my bankroll dwindle daily for two weeks was a nice change of pace. I still only have $40 (and tens of thousands of FT points) on Tilt, but I care less.

5.- I spend too much time playing poker.

See #1

So, I'll be back at the virtual felt soon, but it will be as something to do to fill in the empty times instead of all the times. It turns out I have a pretty nice place, and I should spend more time in rooms other than the office. Of course, I could have realized this before dropping a grand on a new desk chair. At least I didn't buy the 30" monitor (yet).

It's still over a month before I'll redeposit on Tilt, and I can't deposit on Stars, so it will be 30 some-odd days to see how good my bankroll responsibility is. Dropping 1/4 of it on the Mookie might not be the wisest of decisions.

Now if only I had a convenient live venue. Any of you locals up for a home game in the future?

I'll be in Niagara on Sunday, but it'll be to throw dice, not bluffs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So, I want the Phillies to win the World Series because (a) I hate Tampa, as they've always had the Jay's number, even when the Jays were good and Tampa sucked balls, and (b) because it increases chances of Pat Gillick returning to Toronto next season, in my mind at least.

BUT, if Tampa wins, the rants from Hoy, and Riggs, and maybe even Al would be ones for the ages and make for incredibly entertaining reading. Especially after the "tie it up and suspend" game last night. So there's value there.

I don't think Hoy realizes that the umps won't get fired or talked to, but commended and get BIG bonuses for extending the series and adding "drama", thereby making MLB more money. Basically, Philly has to come out and DEMOLISH the Rays with home runs to dead center so the umps can't have a say in the matter.

But let's be honest, nobody wants to see the Series end with a 6-inning rain out. The Phillies would be seen as chumps if they won the series without winning 4 FULL games.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quote of the Day

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
- Herm Albright

Friday, October 24, 2008

A True Story

About a week and a half ago, I related the bad beat that ended my poker playing for a fortnight. Here's another tale from that night, of the exact opposite.

My first table had the usual range of players. Some guys I knew, others I vaguely recognized, and others I'd never seen before. The club is popular, and I don't go very often, so not knowing people isn't uncommon.

Despite the energy drink I'd downed earlier, I was tired. I came close to dozing off a couple times before I shook it off and started playing. During my folding-stage (ie.- not a damned thing worth playing, and that table wouldn't lay down to anything short of an all-in), I was watching the guys I didn't know. I pegged their styles, their tendencies, their tells. Then one of them did something that caught my attention and woke me right up.

He re-raised me preflop. It was the second hand I'd been involved in all night, and re-raised me. I had something like JT, and after his re-raise there were callers. I folded and watched, curious what he had. The flop comes down A-high with two medium cards, EP bets, he calls, and everyone else folds. Turn isn't exciting, EP bets, he raises, EP goes all-in, this guy thinks for a while and calls. Cards come over and it's AT vs 77??? This guy re-raised pre with 77, and stayed in the hand, with at least 3 overcards to his 77 by the turn. He looked mildly ashamed, and was shocked when he still had chips left after everything was counted. He had a beer that I hadn't paid attention to before and seemed to be a bit drunk. A lot of things seemed wrong here and I started really watching him.

He wasn't drunk, he was acting, he was a big guy and we'd only been playing for about 30 minutes, and that was the only beer he'd had in front of him. And nobody at the club is so bad they play the hand that way. In fact, he was in pretty good shape too, big arms, short hair. He was embarrassed by the "bad play", and eventually put his chips in with 22 or something and was done. There was something else "wrong" about him that was giving me bad vibes. Someone walked over, they chatted briefly about his hand, he downed his beer, and he left.

My mind was screaming "NARC" at me. His actions and look made me think of an article about a bust from a year or so ago somewhere else. The descriptions in a forum of their narc's actions matched the M.O. here. I put it aside, but kept it in mind. The club had overstayed its welcome at the current location (having moved regularly before this), and they'd never been busier. More people means more risk, and means looser locks. Then I got my bad beat, and instead of staying to play cash as planned, I walked away. I had taken out enough 20's to play for a while if I wanted, to the point where before I got there I thought about moving some of it to another place in case of a robbery or something. I pushed that aside, because that shit never happens in Toronto.

Then this week I got an odd e-mail from the club. It got me thinking, and I mentioned to a buddy that I thought something was up. I mentioned my narc concerns and he said, "Yah, I won't be going there for a while, thanks for the heads-up."

Today, I found out that the club had been busted THAT VERY NIGHT. If my AK had held up, or I stuck around to play cash, I'd have been charged with being found in a common gambling house. Instead, it seems someone was looking out for me and bad beat my ass out the door just in time.

I don't know if the guy I pegged was the inside man or not, but I learned long before I started playing poker that my reads are usually good.

The Art of Poker - Chapter 4

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

"Tactical Dispositions" is Sun Tzu's title for this chapter. This can be defined as the determination of the tactics and strategy of the enemy. The skilled general will alter tactics so as to hide the true strategy and condition of his army.

Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

We hold the ability to keep ourselves from being defeated, but the enemy provides the means of their defeat. So the good fighter can make sure they cannot be beaten, but cannot be certain of defeating their enemy. "One may KNOW how to conquer, without being able to DO it." Defense keeps us from being defeated, but offense is what allows us to defeat our enemy. But taking a defensive stance indicates weakness, while attacking shows a "superabundance" of strength.

The skilled defensive general will hide his numbers and conceal everything. The skilled offensive general will attack without warning, not giving the enemy a chance to defend.

Sun Tzu returns to the concept of bloodless war here as the idea of ultimate victory. Seeing a victory after it happens is no great ability, you must see the victory before you attack - ie.- you must be prepared and plan. Nor is it a great victory if everyone says it is, for this means that your plans and motions were not secret, but blunt and visible to all.

To lift the lightest of weights (an "autumn hair") doesn't display strength. Seeing the sun and moon doesn't mean you have great eyesight. Hearing thunder says nothing about your ability to hear. The clever fighter is one who excels at winning with ease. His victories will bring him no great acclaim, for he wins simply by making no mistakes. In short - the great fighters are those who make it look so easy, that nobody gives them credit for their work. Making no mistakes ensures victory. Thus, the ideal strategist only fights after victory has already been achieved. The foolish one attacks first, and then seeks victory.

Since the great general controls moral law (see Ch 1), he controls the tools for success.

Here, Sun Tzu provides the military method:

1.- Measurement
2.- Estimation of quantity
3.- Calculation
4.- Balancing of chances
5.- Victory

These are then interconnected:

- Measurement owes its existence to Earth (see Ch 1)
- Estimation of quantity owes its existence to measurement
- Calculation owes its existence to estimation of quantity
- Balancing of chances owes its existence to calculation
- Victory owes its existence to balancing of chances

These need to be explained. Measurement is surveying the area, the enemy, those conditions you CAN measure and control. From measurement you can estimate the strength of your enemy and other factors that will come into play when you calculate and divine your chances, putting strength and strategy to bear where it will be most useful. This, of course, will lead to victory.

A victorious army becomes even stronger, and combined with the demoralization of a losing, opposing army, makes the victorious army nearly unstoppable. Like a dam bursting into a deep chasm.


Again, there are very obvious parallels to poker strategy here. I imagine the great generals of history would be top-tier poker pros today if they wanted to be.

In poker, all we can really do is play our own game and minimize mistakes. In this way, we can defend ourselves from defeat, but at a table of similarly skilled opponents, we have to wait for our opportunities to secure victory. It's often said that winning is achieved by making less mistakes than your opponent.

But by simply trying not to lose, we show weakness. If we are to be truly defensive, we need to conceal our plans and our abilities. The appearance of weakness should be only that - an appearance. It should be used to draw the enemy in. If we are going to be aggressive and offensive, we need to strike quickly and decisively. In other words, BE AGGRESSIVE, not a minraising, blind-stealing pansy, but raining down on your opponent when they're off guard and ill-prepared to fight back. Resteal, fire multiple bullets, strike fear into them.

But make it seem effortless. Let people say things like "what a cardrack" or "guy's been catching all night long" when they don't even know what your cards are. It's easy to say "nice hand" after the board is laid out and your flopped boat is shown over your opponent's turned flush. It's not as easy for you to know you're going to win the next hand by representing a boat and forcing your opponent to fold their flush. Plan ahead, know your enemy's weaknesses and your strengths, and pit the two against each other. In the end, let people call you a luckbox as your string together a run of victories. Eventually, the right people will recognize your skill, subtle as it is.

Make no mistakes, and you'll win. Plan your victory before you battle, and you'll win. Decided to play a hand "just because" and getting trips over two pair isn't good poker, it's dumb luck.

You know your skills, and it is up to you to remain disciplined in their use. You, and you alone, hold the key to your victory.

Could Sun Tzu's military method be any better suited to poker?

MEASUREMENT of your opponents skills, position, stacks, tells, attitudes, and every other factor that comes into play allows you to ESTIMATE their ability to play in different situations. This allows you to CALCULATE when you can beat them, and how you can force mistakes on their part. Once you've BALANCED your chances, you will be able to find victory by appplying all you have learned.

And as we all know, winning begets winning. Keep trouncing your opponents by hiding your strength and attacking without remorse and they will become demoralized. Your image and strength will only grow, making victory that much easier. Imagine if you're on the third month of the worst losing streak of your life, and Phil Ivey sits down at the table across from you after he's just won his third straight WPT event and cleaned out a huge cash game. Would you even be ABLE to play a hand against him? Would you not just want to get up and walk away right then? By showing you know how to win, and more importantly, that you know how to make others lose, you can be viewed as unstoppable.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


My foray into the Toronto After Dark Film Festival continues. Last night saw me watching The Mutant Chronicles, starring Thomas Jane and Ron Perlman. Devon Aoki (Miho from Sin City) and John Malkovich were in there too.

First though, the short that preceeded it - Laser Ghosts 2: Return to Laser Cove. Done in faux-trailer style, it was about 10 types of awesome. You can watch it here. It's ultra-low budget, punny as hell, and ridiculous to the nth degree. They take every cheapo early 90's sci-fi concept and use it in 9 minutes. Mucho laughter.

The same cannot be said about The Mutant Chronicles. Based on a pen-and-paper RPG (and tabletop game, and comic books), it couldn't have been more derivative. As my buddy said, "they tried to be 7 different movies." A steampunk/WWII/sci-fi backdrop set 700 years in the future. The world is controlled by 4 corporations, constantly at war. An alien machine once turned a lot of humans into mutants, some guy sealed the machine, and now thousands of years later, war has broken the seal. The order of monks who know of the machine assemble a small team to go and destroy it. World is in danger, team gets assembled, violence ensues.

Except they didn't quite know what they wanted to do. A full half of the movie is spent showing the war, the recruitment, and the explanation. Then they head off, head into a ruined city, talk about faith, and then enter the tunnels. At this point I'm thinking "how long is this movie? It's 90 minutes in and they haven't reached the underground part yet." Then they cut to what seems to be the home stretch, people die, a battle is fought. Then they're at the machine, there are random fire spurts from random moving platforms, and more fighting. The end.

Here's the thing. Each piece individually was pretty well done, but they didn't work well together. They tried to cram too much in. The film was visually interesting - think Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with colour and a brown overtone to make it post-apocalyptic and steampunk-futurish. There were odd anachronisms like coal-powered spaceships. 700 years, massive corporations constantly at war, and they're at the same level of technology we are except for the space travel thing, which is powered by guys in a furnace room?? Okay then.

Tonight is Tokyo Gore Police, a BLOODY, violent, ridiculous piece of Japan gore that promises to be at least amusing. Wish me luck.

Missing a Rebuy

The NumbBlowMe $0.10 rebuy is tonight, but I won't be there. Why? Because I'm in week #2 of my two-week hiatus from all forms of poker. Bad timing on my part perhaps, but knowing my love of cheap rebuys, I'd probably blow my last $40 on FT on this one. Okay, 400 hands in an hour is... unlikely.

So have fun those who aren't not playing poker.

Interestingly, my last game of poker was at the club. Now things seem to be afoot there, but I'm not supposed to talk about it. It's probably a good thing though, for various reasons.

Vegas is looking to be a far more expensive proposition for me come December. My flight's been booked for nearly a month, but I haven't gotten around to booking a hotel yet (I figure I should see some more deals thrown my way come November), or a rental car. The problem is the damned dollar. The Loonie is down to $0.79 vs the USD, which means a 25% premium on everything that's in American dollars. Think about that, that's 1/4 more. I have some US cash handy already, but might need more. I'm debating on going downstairs today to get it, since I think there's still some drop left. But $160 hotel room is now $200 for me. A $5 craps bet is $6.25. A $200 1/2 buy-in is $250. These things add up. Stupid commodity-based economy and deflationary pressures. The flipside is that anything I win is worth 25% more! It'll likely be closer to 30% when I'm there, which would actually cover any withholding taxes... that's pretty sweet. So the plan is to win... lots. Screw all those non-gambling activities like eating, I'll be rolling hard eights and hitting midnight bets like it's my motherfucking job. Oh, and winning at poker too I guess.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Art of Poker - Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Chapter 3 of The Art of War is "Attack by Stratagem". This concerns using knowledge of the size of both your and your enemy's armies, and how to deal with the disparities. It also covers the mistakes that can be made by a leader and the essentials of victory.

Sun Tzu starts by offering that the greatest victory is to take a country whole, without shattering or destroying it. It follows from there that it is better to take an army whole, a regiment whole, a detachment, or a company whole instead of destroying and dividing them. In short - simply crushing your enemy is not "supreme excellence", but to defeat them without bloodshed, to bring them to your way without destroying them, is the best form of victory.

A descending ranking of general results follows this. From "balking" the enemy's plans (translated more accurately as foiling your enemy's plans via attack and counterattack instead of simply defending yourself), isolating your enemy, attacking the enemy in the field, and finally, worst of all, laying seige to a walled city.

Laying seige to a walled city involved months of preparation at the gates. Assembling and building engines and weapons of war, seeking weak spots in the walls, building mounds to the walls in order to attack them. It was a long and tiring method, best to be avoided. An impatient general would attack prematurely, losing a good part of his army in a futile attempt to breach the walls. This is likened to ants swarming.

Thus, the best solution is a leader who can conquer without fighting. Take cities without laying seige. If successful at this, he would have a complete victory and have undisputed mastery of the empire.

If your army outnumbers your enemy ten-to-one, surround him; if five-to-one, attack immediately; if two-to-one, flank; if matched, offer battle; if slightly outnumbered, avoid and observe for advantage; if greatly outmatched, flee. A small force can be a pain, but will ultimately be captured.

The general is the main defense of a country, and through him the strength of the state is determined. Sun Tzu lists how a general can lose:

1.- By ordering the army to do something it cannot. Something that would happen only if he was not involved with the battle itself. Ie.- attacking or retreating when such an action would be impossible.

2.- By treating the military as he would the civilian. Allowing a lack of discipline, not being hard with the troops. This would cause a restlessness among the soldiers. The army ain't the country.

3.- By ignorantly and haphazardly delegating his officers, not putting them where their strengths are best utilized.

Showing ignorance shakes the soldiers' confidence. This will lead to anarchy in the ranks and the army will tear itself apart. Your enemies will know this and assist in the destruction.

The chapter finishes with:

17. Thus we may know that there are five essentials
for victory:
(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when
not to fight.
(2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior
and inferior forces.
(3) He will win whose army is animated by the same
spirit throughout all its ranks.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take
the enemy unprepared.
(5) He will win who has military capacity and is
not interfered with by the sovereign.

18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy
and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a
hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.


This chapter should pretty much write itself. Although I was torn on the first section when relating it to our game. First, how does one define bloodshed in a poker game, when your goal is to take all the chips? I've settled on bloodshed in this instance being equivalent to a showdown. Ideally, you want to win without showing your cards. Aggressive, positional, situational play where you exploit your table image and the weaknesses of your opponents is ideal play in poker. After all, poker is a betting game of chicken, the cards just settle the debate when someone can't fold their losing hand. Would you not be impressed if someone won a tournament or walked away from a cash game with huge pile of chips and then turned to you and said, "I played the whole thing blind"?

After this comes constantly keeping your opponent off-base by being aggressive, and decisive when you react to his attacks. Isolating an opponent is always good practice, but in this instance, I believe this could be better compared to "playing the player, not the cards" -- isolating him from his weapons, his chips, his cards, making them unable to factor in his play. If you fail at these preferable methods, then you may, in fact, have to meet him in battle with your cards. The beautiful thing, though, is that due to your aggressive play to this point, when you DO have the nuts, your opponents won't know it, and won't believe you.

Finally, and least preferable, is battling a "walled city". I would tie this to the "rock". No matter how aggressive you are, how cagey, how great a "player" you are, if someone won't put chips in the middle, you can't beat them. Laying seige against a tight player, especially if they have some form of leverage (stack size, position, etc.), can be a frustrating, tiring, and LONG effort. If there's a full table, and one of the people is a nut-peddler, why would you focus on them when there's so much more money for the taking? Take your time and build your bulwarks, your catapults, your arsenal for a seige by taking them from your other enemies as they fall. Spend this time analyzing the play of the rock, looking for a tell, a leak, anything you can exploit. It may be that he's the last obstacle to total victory, but there's a better chance someone easier to beat will barrel into him and suckout on his aces for you.

Use your chips to your advantage. If you have a monster stack, abuse people with it, be fearless. If your stack is still the biggest, but not huge, fear not the bad beats as you attack with superior numbers and the ability to absorb losses. If you have but double the stack of your opponent, be strategic. If he calls your bluffs, crush him with a trap. If he avoids your traps, bluff him away. If even in chips, apply the pressure to him when you believe you have an advantage, he may back down. If slightly behind, look for advantages and pick your spots. If greatly outchipped, avoid confrontations if at all possible. For smallstacks can be a pain, but eventually will find their chips in the hands of the bigger stacks.

You can lose in various ways:

1.- By not being aware of the details of the hand. Deciding you have a flush when it's not possible based on the hand so far is deadly. Bluffing a calling station is foolish. Missing the fact the river gave you the nuts and folding will kill you. Be in the game, and be aware of what you can and cannot successfully do at all times.

2.- A real game of poker isn't your home game. Bill the drunk isn't going to berate you for chasing that inside straight draw, because he's drinking your beer. Bill the 40 year-old table captain tourist at the Venetian will. That guy with the trucker cap in Caesars could be a pro for all you know, not your dumb-ass friend with too much money and not enough brains. Do NOT lose discipline when playing "for real". Poker with your buddies is wargames, poker with strangers is war.

3.- Apply your skills and tools appropriately. Mix up your game. Bluff the rocks, trap the LAGs, fold to the TAGs, and tell stories to those who are able to fold when you make your "flush".

If you fail at these, you will lose, it will shake your confidence and interest. You'll grow restless. Your opponents will see this and take advantage of it. Eventually, you'll self-destruct at the table and walk home dejected and broke.

Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:

(1) He will win who knows when to raise and when to fold.
(2) He will win who knows how to beat the bigstacks and smallstacks, the different player types, and how to leverage his advantages against all.
(3) He will win who is involved and disciplined and focused on the game.
(4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
(5) He will win who has experience and knowledge and doesn't let outside factors overrule his good judgement. Alternately - he/she will win who doesn't let his wife/husband near him when he/she's at the table.

18. Hence the saying: If you know the enemy
and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a
hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy,
for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Art of Poker - Chapter 2

Sun Tzu's second chapter is entitled "Waging War", but is, in reality, about the economic costs of war, not the actual battles being fought.

Unlike the first chapter, this one can be summed up more succinctly - The longer the war, the greater the cost.

The initial cost is great for men, chariots, supplies, and sundries. Then the cost continues as they travel, and as time wears on, their weapons become dull, as does their ardor. Eventually, a long campaign can bankrupt the state that funds it. While a war waged too quickly can be full of stupidity, nobody gets rewarded in a long one.

As the war drags on, the economic costs to those at home increase. The budget of the army changes increasingly towards upkeep and maintenance of weapons and armour.

Only a seasoned General can truly understand the importance of rapidity. Experience leads to minimal resupplies, and not turning back for help once committed. Sun Tzu advocates foraging from your enemy, as "One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own...", and the cost equivalently so, for it costs more to send the supplies from afar than use what is at hand.

These spoils of war should be used to reward your soliders to spur them to continue fighting. Your flags should be substituted over the enemy's to raise morale and stir anger. But captured enemy soldiers should be treated with dignity and kindness.

In the end, your goal is victory, not a prolonged campaign. In the General's hands lies his nation's fate, both military and economic.


It would be SO easy to tie this to the current economic-political situation in the US, but this series is about poker.

At first glance, there may be a problem fitting the message of this chapter to poker. After all, isn't poker all one long game? Perhaps, but there are breaks between the battles, and each hand is a skirmish unto itself.

No, there is much to be found in here. This is a chapter about bankroll management and keeping the game interesting over the long haul. A well-prepared, and experienced player will go to war with the proper bankroll for the levels they're playing. They will augment this bankroll with money won from their opponents instead of depleting their own savings. You shouldn't use rent money to finance your bankroll, and vice-versa.

But the longer you play, the more your weapons and ardor are dulled. Fatigue sets in, boredom, and even disenfranchisement about the game as a whole over the long haul. This is why the pros have a dozen prop bets going during games and a dozen horses playing with their money. This is why Pauly and Otis go lime-tossing during the WSOP, because you can only watch so many blinds get passed around. Be sure to end your sessions. The pros often see playing as their job. Eight hours a day, then full stop until tomorrow. Two days off every week. Make sure you can walk away.

You must reward yourself to keep the interest going. Have a great night at the tables? Go buy yourself something frilly. Win ten buy-ins? Use the first one on a really great dinner. Win twenty? Go on vacation. Make sure you know there's a reason you do this other than your love of getting kicked in the junk. Be king shit for one night. When you next sit down, you'll be refreshed, and looking forward to the next time you can reward yourself.

And always, ALWAYS be nice to those whose money you take. Be they fish or sharp, you want them to stick around. If you mock their play, belittle their call, or just jump around like a bufoon after taking down the biggest pot of your life, you'll turn them off playing with you. You want them, and their money, to stay. You want them to walk away from the table broke, but not hating you for it. Plus, if you are gracious in victory, you not only keep them happy, but keep the rest of the table from wanting to bust your arrogant ass. Angering the opposing army and creating allies for them will cause your treasury to deplete its funds very quickly.

Underlying all of this, is that your goal isn't to deplete your bankroll by playing losing or break-even poker forever, but to achieve victory and profit. Don't play games you can't afford. Don't pull money from your savings to keep your bankroll steady. Instead, lower your limits to accomodate your roll, and maintain that roll with your winnings. Eventually, you will have won enough battles to afford waging larger ones, with even greater spoils to be found.

And of course, winning that money quickly is preferable to slogging it out for the same gain. $1000 today is worth more than $100 a week for ten weeks. Much like in war though, a rapid victory can often be peppered with mistakes and stupidity. It's easy to win a big pot when you suck out. If Moneymaker played for 6 years and won $2.5 million, he'd be worse off than he is now, after that one big win and not much else. If you played for 6 years and had only a small gain, then your other expenses and missed opportunities will have easily wiped that out, not to mention the mental and physical drain you've experienced.

No, the goal is victory. It's up to you to define what victory is.

Economic Quickie

Well, from my side, but some good-sized reads on the other.

First - Mike Shedlock covers the shortfall states are seeing. This is where it starts to hit home for people. Next comes the municipal level.

Second - Frank Shostak has a great article about the difference between "good" and "bad" credit (hint - the bailout is bad credit, which is being used to help people who were giving out the bad credit that created this mess)

Third - It's made the rounds in the news, and the blogs, and wherever else they cover this stuff. Warren Buffett's article on "buying American" provides a silver lining and positive outlook.

All worthwhile reading if you care about this sort of thing.

Going Down Down Down...

The trickle is already starting, a touch earlier than expected.

Linens 'N Things is seeking to liquidate here in Canada after getting permission in the States. The Canadian operations are actually profitable, but with the parent company shutting down in the US and credit hard to come by for the competition to buy them up, this could be their only route. There was talk of HBC or Bed Bath and Beyond buying the Canadian stores, but that seems to have fallen through. I wouldn't be surprised if BBB swept in and picked up the store leases though.

And now word comes that Circuit City is looking to close stores and layoff employees to stave off bankruptcy before the holiday season. Why? Because they're afraid that if they declared before then, nobody would shop at their stores for Christmas out of fear that extended warranties and gift cards wouldn't be honoured. They're right. Personally, IF we had Circuit City in Canada (we have "The Source by Circuit City", which is just Radio Shack, and generally useless), I wouldn't shop there unless they had a hell of a deal on. This has been one of the most horrendously managed tech stores I've ever seen. Stock's trading around $0.35 anyway, and every time I see them in the news, I'm shocked they still exist.

Now, LnT filed for Chapter 11 a while ago, and CC has been in trouble for a long time, but with accesible credit drying up, they're the first of what will be many casualities in the retail sphere. Most of that damage will come post-holidays though, as consumer confidence is at record lows. This will have the "trickle-down" effect of seriously hurting commercial real estate like those giant big-box plazas that pop up overnight. Any potential buy-outs will come at the tail-end of desperation, when the purchase price of the company will be at rock-bottom, and something makes the purchase worthwhile (prime real estate, brand-affiliations, etc..)

What does this mean? In broad economic terms, it's not good in the short-term. For the consumer, it means waves of sales as companies either try to stay afloat or liquidate as they go down.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Poker as War

Since I've still got over a week to go before I let myself play poker again (and I may choose to extend this depending how I feel), it might be a good time to explore something I've been meaning to for a while. If nothing else, it might get my head screwed on straight for this game again.

I'm sure it's been done before (if it hasn't I'd be surprised), but applying the words of Sun Tzu's Art of War (NOT the Wesley Snipes movie) to poker could be an interesting experience. There are 13 chapters, so perhaps there will be 13 posts. I'm reading as I go here, so there's a chance this could all dwindle off as a failed experiment, or that some chapters won't be applicable. I doubt this though.

If you want the full text of the classic work, it's very easy to find out on the interwebs.

Chapter 1.- Laying Plans

Sun Tzu saw war as vitally important to the state, and broke it down to five governing factors. These are:

1.- The Moral Law - A concept of harmony, not necessarily rules of morality. Think of the endless drills of soldiers so that they act as one unit and follow orders without question. An army cannot function if the brain doesn't have complete control of the body. One could see it as martial law, but that suggests a forced, instead of developed, harmony.

2.- Heaven - No, not clouds and angels, but the forces of nature and the unstoppable, inevitablities of life. Seasons, weather, night and day, temperature, etc.. In other words, those things controlled by the "gods".

3.- Earth - The Earth. The distances between places, the geography and dangers encountered, life and death.

4.- The Commander - "... the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness."

5.- Method and Discipline - Organization of the army, and development and upkeep of infrastructure such as roads and supply lines, in order to ensure efficiency.

Sun Tzu states that by being cognizant of these five factors, one can ensure victory. He further states that by examining how well two factions (with emphasis on their leader) follow these precepts, he can determine who will be victorious.

From there, he then states that while these are guiding principles, one must be flexible and able to adjust their strategies and plans as dictated by conditions. You can't walk into a war with a fixed battle plan, because you only control half the field, and without knowing your enemy's intentions, you cannot formulate a complete plan.

Then comes one of the most famous lines of the work: "All warfare is based on deception."

The rest works just fine verbatim:

19. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;
when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we
are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;
when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

20. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder,
and crush him.

21. If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him.
If he is in superior strength, evade him.

22. If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to
irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

23. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.
If his forces are united, separate them.

24. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where
you are not expected.

25. These military devices, leading to victory,
must not be divulged beforehand.

26. Now the general who wins a battle makes many
calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.
The general who loses a battle makes but few
calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations
lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat:
how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention
to this point that I can foresee who is likely to win or lose.

Thus ends chapter 1, and it should be obvious how well this connects with our little game.


Poker is war. While we are technically playing against eight or more opponents at a full table, most of the battles are against one or two other players. Walking into a game without any strategy or plan is a good way to find yourself on the rail early. Let's look at the five factors under that dim poker room light.

1.- The Moral Law - Can be seen as practice, practice, practice. We are alone in this war. Our army is our instincts, studies, reads, hands, chips, tells, and the countless other aspects we have worked on over time to make our play seem natural no matter what the situation.

2.- Heaven - Those things we cannot control or avoid. In poker, the greatest of these is luck - in all its forms. Be it us catching that draw, or our opponent catching the two-outer, or another player unable to give up the second nuts to your stone-cold nuts. There are other things we can't control as well - the rake, the other players (moreso in tournaments where you can't change tables), the dealer, the environment of the room, etc..

3.- Earth - Those things we can control to some extent, or at least plan around. In cash games these include the players, the table, or the stakes. In tournaments these can be the structure, the buy-in, the tournament itself. For instance, an ongoing discussion is if The Venetian or Caesars offers a better structure for their deepstack tournaments. Both are similar, but the Venetian has autoshufflers, where Caeasars doesn't. This means you can see more hands per hour. But perhaps there are other factors at Caesars that appeal to one person over another. In both cash and tournament, things such as the type of players, our health, bankroll, or temperment would fall under this.

4.- The Commander - This is us. Wisdom - reads, knowledge, plans, attitude, everything we have learned so far. Sincerity - Honesty with ourselves. Are we playing our best? Are we on tilt? Are we beat? If there's no fish at the table, then are we the fish? Benevolence - There's no room for benevolence in poker, right? Well, not quite. We have to know not to beat ourselves up for a good play that went wrong. Sometimes your opponent won't let go of the flush draw no matter how hard you bet. It's not your fault. Courage - Bold, risky moves can bring great reward. The all-in with air can push the set off the flush board for instance. At the same time, it often takes great courage to lay down that set yourself. Strictness - Stick with your plans. Adjust as necessary, but don't start throwing away chips because you aren't seeing any strong hands and everyone is a calling station and catching anyway. You've worked too hard on your game to throw it away when things don't go how YOU want them to. Poker owes you nothing.

5.- Method and Discipline - This should be obvious. We constantly learn as we play. As our game advances, we need to make sure the road behind us doesn't collapse, causing us to forget the fundamentals that supply our strategies. We must not become overconfident and lazy, or we'll discover we're losing far too late. In many ways, this ties back the Moral Law of the first factor.

Now that these are in poker terms, it becomes easy to see how one could pick a winner based on these observations. Hellmuth vs Johnny from your home game? Hellmuth. Negreanu vs Ivey? Who has come better prepared? Who is more disciplined today? Who's got the luck?

And of course, as touched on in "strictness", we must adjust our game to the conditions presented to us. We're facing off against 8 opponents, and at any given time we will need to change our strategy accordingly. If we're against the LAGtard, we let them give us chips. If we're against the rock, we retreat to fight again later. The weak player can be pushed off when the calling station cannot. If our strategy has been discovered, we mix it up to confuse.

If any form of warfare is based on deception, it is, without a doubt, poker.

Hell, let's look at each one:

19. Weak means strong and strong means weak. If we're drawing, look like we've made our hand, if we've made our hand, look like we're drawing.

20. Sucker him with the nuts

21. If he's better than you, be ready for it. If you're beat, fold.

22. Table talk to tilt him. If he's aggressive, look weak and he'll hand you chips.

23. If he's weak, attack relentlessly. If he's got his shit together, divide it - mix it up, tilt him, lay a bad beat.

24. Find his weakness and exploit it. Stay under the radar and nail him with a hidden hand.

25. Don't give off tells or talk about your game. Keep your strategy to yourself.

26. The better prepared player will almost certainly defeat the less prepared. Be it through knowledge, instinct, reads, or awareness of how the "Heaven" and "Earth" of the game affects play.


Yah, this could prove to be an interesting series. For me at least.

Withdrawal or Boredom?

So I'm 4 1/2 days into my two weeks sans poker, and the weekend was interesting for it. While I was busy Friday night and Saturday during the day, I found myself home by 9pm on Saturday with nothing to do. My first instinct was to fire up some games, maybe the 50-50, and spend time that way. But that would hardly be 2 weeks without poker, so I didn't load up anything. Granted, I couldn't play anything but play money on Full Tilt anyway (yay responsible gaming option), but Stars, Mansion, and even Absolute still have money on them (Absolute is something like $10 they gave me free a year ago, like I'd deposit another penny on that site). But nope, didn't play any of them.

Same thing Sunday, when I had zero plans. I instead filled my time with DVDs, video games, and food. I have to be careful about the food, as I tend to snack when I'm bored and could easily gain 10 lbs. I didn't realize how much of a time-filler poker was until this weekend. I've never considered myself addicted, because poker's always fallen low on the priority list. If I have any other plans, they come first, but if I've got nothing to do, poker becomes the default option. This break will definitely be a good thing.

Saw a low-budget Chilean martial arts film on Saturday, as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. MirageMan was pretty much as expected. Low budget with a tongue firmly planted in its cheek, moments of visual comedy, and a whole boatload of unchoreographed ass-kickery. It's what happens when you get a stuntman and his stunt crew together to do a martial-arts movie. No pulled punches, no wires, no CG, and lots of fun.

It was preceeded by a Canadian short film called Hydro-Levesque, which was nominally about Rene Levesque and Winnipeg and Quebec and a nun. I would have SWORN it was by Guy Maddin as I watched it, but it was actually by Matthew Rankin, who obviously is a big fan of Guy's. Black and white with plenty of shadows, Winnipeg featured prominently, jerky cuts, and strange comedy, with odd technologies in play and a nods to Canadiana. The only non-Maddinesque thing was that it was all in French. Then again, Rankin is a founder of The Atelier in Winnipeg, and has been doing low-budget experimental films for a few years now, so it's no wonder Maddin is a big influence. One could call this an homage.

I've got Mutant Chronicles and Tokyo Gore Police coming up this week, both of which should be... interesting. Repo! The Genetic Opera was on Saturday as well, and the line stretched around the block. I'll wait until its "wide" release on Nov 7th to see it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As Predicted...

Presidential debate recap coming up. It's just a lot of reading. I did watch the whole thing, but as always, the transcript makes for interesting reading. In the mean time, Canadian politics.

Reports are that Stephane Dion is planning to quit as Liberal leader. He'll stick around until they elect a replacement, but after leading the party to their worst showing ever, he really has no choice. The Daily Show covered the Canadian election briefly last night, mocking Dion's French accent. Not in the way we mock a French accent (ie.- we mock terrible ones), just that he had one. Then again, saying our Conservatives were the equivalent to the "Gay Nader Fans for Peace" party in the States was pretty damned funny.

Which of couse has everyone clamouring to Rae and Ignatieff, neither of whom SHOULD be leading the party, but one of whom likely will. See, Rae led the Ontario NDP party when they ran the province... and ran the province into the ground. I like Bob Rae, but I hated that party. He was always a Liberal in NDP clothing. He's a smart guy, a good speaker, but a bit of a dork. His time as Premier of Ontario would likely hurt the party in this province, and provide tons of ammunition for opponents. Ignatieff just comes off as skeezy, and is still seen as an ivory-tower douche who was dropped into a "safe" Liberal riding as a celebrity candidate. He's a smart guy, but screams elitist and alienates a lot of people - he would likely destroy the party's chances in the west, and possibly the east as well. Either of them could out-debate Harper though and would be less likely to have the gaffes of Dion.

Then there's Gerard Kennedy, but he won his riding by such a slim margin, even after the exposure of his last leadership run, that I doubt he'll have enough support.

As I said in my comments yesterday, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ken Dryden take a run, and I think he'd be a decent choice. A bona fide celebrity here in Canada (hall of fame goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, former president of the Toronto Maple Leafs), who has a reputation of having a functioning brain and wouldn't be an embarrassment when speaking in public. Whoever it is will just be keeping the seat warm for Justin Trudeau, but his stint as leader is probably round 8-10 years off, as 36 is a bit young, and just winning his first election makes him a touch inexperienced, despite the Trudeau pedigree.

If I was the Liberals (and the NDP for that matter), I'd spend the next 4 years making life difficult, but not impossible for the Harper Conservatives. People don't believe your campaign if you've never done anything to back up your claims or promises. As Jack Layton pointed out repeatedly, Dion's Liberals balked at every opportunity to stand up to Harper, and talked a lot of talk without so much as taking a step of the walk. That needs to change. They need to be willing to make Harper back down, with the NDP at their side (it's the only way to be effective with how few seats they have). They need to be vocal, and less worried about politics than the people the represent. They need to fight as if they have nothing to lose, instead of desperately holding on to what little they have left. They need to shame the Bloc into not voting with Harper simply because he promises more money for Quebec. Hell, they need to shame Harper into not bribing the Bloc with money for Quebec, since it's obviously done nothing for his standing in that province.

And I don't even like the Liberals.

A Fortnight Without Poker

After determining last night that live poker is also rigged (I've had more 2-outers hit against me in the last month than the last 3 years), I've decided to take 2 weeks off all forms of poker. No online, no live, nothing. This is on top of my moratorium on deposits at Full Tilt until December.

I have a feeling this will be a good thing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've got me a full hate on for Full Tilt these days. It seems I'm on the doom switch rotation for the last couple months. I won't bore with (more) details, but I'll be damned if I redeposit on the site until December. So the $40 I have left will either have to make some money or I'll be playing on points or not at all.

I'd think I just sucked (I do, but not THIS much), except that I'm (very) slowly growing my unreloadable roll on Stars. I was so used to the runner-runner and 2-outer beats on Tilt that I still cringe every time I'm in that spot on Stars... but then it doesn't happen. I'm shocked! I thought that was Riverstars I was playing on. What the hell is going on?

So to alleviate all this online poker stress, I've decided to go play live tonight at the club. I realize I may miss the debate because of it, but one of those two options has to be less frustrating than the other.

If I'm home in time (ie.- knocked out of the tournament and in no mood to play cash), I might donate 1/4 of my roll to The Mookie, or I might not and just opt to get some sleep. Or maybe finish off Max Payne 2 (replaying the games since the movie is coming out this weekend), which is way more fun these days.

Oh, and it doesn't help that my chair, which I've had for years, has collapsed to the point of being unusable. One of the metal bars sheared right off, and another popped out for the umpteenth time. Sitting on a bar-height dining room chair is NOT an ideal situation for anything. It's time to invest in a real desk chair... maybe this one.

OK Blue Jays!

Paul Beeston is back as the president of the Jays. Cito as the manager, Tenace as the hitting coach, Leyva coaching 3rd... hey! It's 1992!

Hey Philly, once you win the Series, we're taking Gillick, just so you know. I have just about ZERO doubt in my mind about this.

Jays = World Series champs 2010!

And they're probably still a better hockey team than the Leafs this year.

Twirling Towards Freedom!

"We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." - Kang as Bill Clin-ton.

This is about as cromulent a statement as what's been coming out of the Fed and Treasury of late.

One day, I'll talk about poker again, I promise. But nobody's interested in how much I hate Full Tilt these days.

Dow's down 340 points right now, TSX down 316. Wow, that upswing lasted an even shorter time than I expected. Oh wait, I never thought it was an upswing, I thought it was pure volatility and knee-jerk reactionism. Not that the stock markets are any real indication of the economy as a whole.

Here's the breakdown for the bailouts that have been proposed... well, everywhere (except maybe Canada, which, incidentally, now has the strongest banking system in the world and is best-positioned to weather this storm). There's the e-mail about monkeys, and the Sinfest comic with transforming ATMs (can't view Sinfest at work... grrr). Basically, the taxpayers are being forced to bail out private corporations in the HOPE that these banks will then LOAN the money back to the taxpayers. Yes, if performance improves, then these bailouts will actually make money for the government, but do you really think that will be returned in the form of a tax credits? $10 TRILLION national debt? I don't think so.

What really bugs me though is the manner this latest bailout of $250 billion worked. Paulson brought in 9 big bank heads and FORCED them to sign an agreement that sold the government preferred shares with defined terms. No choice. The head of Wells Fargo (Richard Kovacevich) apparently protested, saying his bank didn't need the help... but in the end, they all signed. There was no option to say no. It took 3 hours, but in the end, Paulson got what he wanted.

They claim it's "voluntary", but that's just not the case. Maybe if you're a small bank, but not a big one apparently.

How can this not sit terribly with anyone? On top of that, it doesn't force anyone to LEND a dime. So they're forced to take money, but not forced to give it back. Honestly? They shouldn't be lending anything... leverage, credit, loans, and government interference is what caused this mess, how does more of the same fix it?

The rhetoric about helping the housing market, increasing liquidity, restarting credit flow, economic expansion.... it makes me sick. I'd have never thought any administration could do this much damage at the VERY end of a Presidential term.

Bernanke is blabbering now... and everything about him screams "I don't know a damned thing right now, here's what I've been told to say." He's tired, haggard, and full of shit.

Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est la Même Chose

And so ends our election. At the end of the day - pretty much the same story as the day before.

Conservative minority government, Liberals as the official opposition, followed by the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP. The Greens lost their only MP, and there are 2 independent winners.

Harper's Conservatives gained 16 seats, the Liberals lost 19, the NDP gained 7, and I'll guess the Bloc lost the remaining 4. Oh, there's 308 total.

So what's it all mean? Well, it means Harper gets to talk about Canadians giving him a "mandate" with his whopping 37.4% of the vote. The biggest winners? Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff. Who? You non-Canadians ask. Why, they'll be the two people fighting for the Liberal leadership when Stephane Dion is eventually forced to step down after leading the Liberals to their weakest showing ever. He might make some argument about a record low voter turnout (59.1%), but that just means that NONE of our leaders inspired anyone. Once again, the most impressive campaigners were Gilles Duceppe, whose party's goal is to get Quebec out of the country, and Jack Layton, who leads the NDP - and its goal seems to be to bankrupt the country through expensive social programs and union kowtowing. Although I have to give Stephen Harper (reluctant) respect - his victory speech was all class and hand-extending. It was probably the most eloquent thing I've heard him say.

I've got to believe that this this minority government might last a full 4-5 years before the next election. We're fatigued with these federal elections - 4 in 6 years. The Liberals have obviously shown that we're increasingly tired with their do-nothing stance (141 years is enough riding on coat-tails and avoiding responsibility) and they have to know it's time to regroup and build a strong leader and platform.

And with the NDP gain of seats, they might actually be a relevant voice in parliament again. Layton's shown a willingness to work with whoever is in power, so perhaps the Tories can reach out and put a little bit of humanity back in their plans with NDP help. Yah, I'd hate the NDP in power, but like them as a swing vote.

Interesting times? Nope. Same old shit. Harper will have some time with this victory, but in the end, I doubt he'll do anything different with it. Toronto will probably be fucked once again. Likely all the other major cities that aren't in Alberta as well, because we don't vote for the Conservatives these days. Being the polished turd of the Reform party might have something to do with it.

The last US Presidential debate is tonight - now THAT should be entertaining. McCain's got to go all-in here to stand a chance - does he have the balls? No, I'm not talking racism, fear-mongering, or guilt-by-association prattling, but actually NAILING Obama with policy, experience, platforms, and hammering him for substance over style. He's got to drop this genial old-man bit and be the fucking war hero he claims to be if he wants to possibly have a shot at the White House. If, as I suspect, the GOP is actually going to wait out the current economic crisis and let the Dems take the heat for 4 or so years, then he won't do anything of the sort tonight. You know his "new" stump speech is practically a verbatim copy of his RNC speech, right? THAT'S phoning it in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Giving Thanks

I'd only been to the house once since wrapping up after the funeral nearly two years ago. In fact, that one time was after another funeral. It had gone through some sibling battles amongst my senior generation in that time, but in the end had ended up where it was intended - in my mother's hands. Plans were made, scrapped, and made again. The Will had divided up some of the contents, and most of those have made their way to their intended recipients. What is left, including the ghosts, belongs to us.

But the pool is being redone, and some manual labour was required, so the family made the trek, turkey in tow, to have one more Thanksgiving at Bobi & Gigi's house. On the way, we stopped and paid our respects. It was the first time I'd been in that cemetery with the sun shining and the air warm. They appreciated the visit, even if I had to make a joke about the Saucier family next door providing some excellent gravies (and my brother then noticing the Chunkos to the south might fight them for it... we're twisted that way). It's coming up on 10 years since he left, and 2 for her. Before that, they'd been married for 62 years, an unfathomable number today.

Walking in that side door has barely changed in 31 years. I remember when the bells weren't hanging off the back, and the remote sensor didn't ding in the distance, but I was much shorter then. That cartoon face-hook was always there, as was the stove, fridge, tables, chairs, and that footstool from Hawaii. The smell hasn't changed, and I'm not sure it ever will. I'd never want it to. It's still incredibly odd to not have my grandmother lying on the couch when we walk in, and I still half expect my grandfather to be asleep on the easy chair downstairs, snorting awake as we come down and say hi, with the TV on something he wasn't watching when he fell asleep. They're still there, just not in their usual places or level of visibility. They built the house, raised 3 kids in it, and had countless visits, swims, sleepovers, Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, and birthdays from 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. If Bobi was still here, there would have been the first great-great-grandchild through those doors, and 2 more great-grandchildren for her to fawn over. Then again, these days they're likely spoiling 2 grandsons who never had the chance to visit.

But they were there. If we argued, you could hear the chastising, and in the silence you could hear the whisper of happiness at our just being there. If that wasn't enough, as I sat in that easy chair, I noticed a nearly 20-year old magazine on the coffee table that I hadn't noticed before. I flipped through it, smiling at the bad hair, when a letter fell out. It was addressed to my grandparents, but the handwriting was undeniably familiar... as it was signed by my other grandmother all those years ago. In that moment, my most direct family was all together in the same house for the first time in decades, and I knew we'd have to make room at the table.

Welcome Back Me

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
- John Kenneth Galbraith

Aaaaand I'm back at work. And the Toronto market moved over 1600 points higher (currently around 1000). DOW was up over 900 points yesterday. Yup, news obviously got out that my vacation was done.

I'm so glad everything that was wrong is totally fixed now and that we'll never see a market crash again. Yay!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! I kill me sometimes. The market is so fucked. This incredible volatility just means we've got another crash coming up. Everybody's all smiles and high-fives because they won't get fired this week.

I'm not sure when the market will take back what it has given these past couple days, but it's coming. Just wait until it really hits consumers this holiday season. I fully expect retail numbers in the new year to suck and we'll see consumer-related sectors get hit come February-March. Then we might actually hit the bottom.

But if you're a hyperactive trader, you're loving this market right now. If you're an investor, you're probably giving a "meh" and not worrying, or thinking about buying something. If you're about to retire, you're kicking yourself for not reducing your risk profile.

The US attempts are comical. They keep changing gears every week, and might now FINALLY have it partially right. Except for reports that the preferred purchases aren't voluntary and come with a cap to executive compensation. Despite Bush's protestations to the contrary, this is mighty socialist of them. It constantly amazes me how this administration (and the Fed and Treasury) keep missing the mark. I can't believe these clowns still have jobs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Something's Happening Here

But what it is ain't exactly clear...

Severe lack of poker posts of late, but that's because you can only type "2 outer on the river" so many times before you get sick of it. Ie.- I just made a great call with a pocket pair against someone who only had A-high on the flop, and the board QUADED by the river. I give up. Also, I suck at poker.

So we'll talk higher stakes with the markets. I'm not sure quite what's going on today. The Canadian dollar is down HUGE (almost 3 cents) today against the US. This would be good news from an export standpoint if the US economy wasn't in the shitter.

But today once again had HUGE intraday volatility. With a decent upswing at the end of the day. This sort of uncertainty makes me think we'll see some up markets soon. Will it be the end of the down cycle? I don't think so (I think there's one more good multi-day downswing left), but it could be some short-term gain. Also, my vacation ends today, so I'll be back at work on Tuesday (Monday is Thanksgiving here). Expect the markets to recover with my return.

Oh, and the Canadian government just said they'll buy $25 billion of mortgage-backed securities from the banks. There's some speculation that this is tied to the banks refusing to match the central bank's drop in interest rates the other day, since many of them matched after the announcement. I think it's retarded. It's not a liquidity problem... it's a lack of capital since everyone's so fucking over-leveraged. Buy stock, or just hand them $25 billion, don't follow the US's asinine idiocy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Friggin' Kat and Riggs and Waffles

You Scored as II - The High Priestess

The High Priestess is a card of intuition, instinct and hidden knowledge. She knows all your secrets, you can hide nothing from her. Yet you will never know the secrets she herself protects.If well aspected in a Tarot spread, this card can indicate the use of intuition to solve problems; trust to your instincts. If badly aspected, it can mean suppression and ignoring of such instincts - following your head at the expense of your heart.

Although I tied with the Tower, which is apparently all about upheaval and destruction and new beginnings.

You are The Hierophant

Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.

All things relating to education, patience, help from superiors.The Hierophant is often considered to be a Guardian Angel.

The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Haven't watched the town-hall debate yet, but it sounds like Obama won according the pundits on both sides. Best I've heard from a Republican (not those paid by the McCain campaign) is a tie, which translates to "aw shit."

Anyway, I have to figure out who I'm voting for north of the border next Tuesday. I'm getting the calls and telling the parties I don't support to fuck off in the nicest ways possible.

Economy! Man, I don't remember the last time I talked about it. See, I'm on vacation, but I'm still watching the business networks and news networks like they're Teletubbies for an acid freak. (Let me tell you, CNN International? WAY more entertaining when there are British accents.) It appears the markets didn't quite support the most braindead bailout plan ever. Whoops. You know who else won't support it? The voters who told their congressmen and senators to vote AGAINST it. Look for some serious turnover. It ain't good for McCain either, who is trying his damnedest to distance his campaign from the current administration with everything short of changing the party name. Of course, when you crow about how instrumental you were to getting the bailout approved...

Before I go any further, although I don't think I've ever said what I do for a living, or who I do it for in this forum, anything I say here ever is PURELY my opinion and doesn't reflect on my employer in any way, shape, or form. Hell, I'm on vacation right now, so I'm not even near my desk. I figure I should put that out there just in case.

Hoy's got a few lengthy posts about this subject up too. I've got a couple lengthy comments in his posts. In short, I pretty much agree with him, although his understanding of how preferred shares work is fundamentally wrong. Adjust the plan he describes slightly to actually mirror Warren Buffett's moves (preferreds + rights to purchase shares), with a slight alteration (non-voting share rights, or an agreement to exercise and immediately sell) to preserve independence of the banks, then it's not a bad one. Some changes to tax law to encourage long-term investment would be a nice touch too.

Oh, and don't get comfy, because the floor is a long way down still. The Nikkei 225 is currently down nearly 10% today, the Hang Seng down 5.55% almost 7%, and the rest of Asia in similar shape (Jakarta just suspended trading). Remember - these are the indices that Sony, Toyota, Nintendo, Honda, etc, etc, all call home. Oh, and the British government is stepping in with 90-100 billion (pounds likely) for their banks... but they'll be buying STAKES in the banks, not the crap on their books. Of course, this is raising cries of nationalization of the banks, and other cries of "so what you poofter? you got a better idea? blimey!"

**ADDENDUM: Moscow market drops 14%. London's opening down 2.5%, and that's after the bailout was announced, which it turns out is two tranches of 25 billion pounds and some "special liquidity" thing. Paris and Germany down 4-5% as well.

**ADDENDUM 2: The main Moscow index is shut down until Friday. FTSE is down 5%, Paris 8%, and Germany %6. Middle East markets also down comparatively. Man, it could be an ugly day on this side of the pond. I'm going shopping.

No, this bailout helps nobody but the banks. It won't guarantee credit liquidity, and if history has proven anything, it's that if you let the financial world get away with something, they'll keep doing it. This is exactly what they're doing. $700 billion (a sliding window, by the way... it's $700 billion at ANY GIVEN TIME, so once that drops to $650 billion, they have $50 billion to play around with again) of bad debt off their books at inflated prices means they can show a better bottom line at the end of their fiscal year (this month for many) and pay everyone slightly less-terrible-than-expected bonuses. Yah, it won't open up a drop of liquidity, change a single mind that matters, create a single job, save a single home, or do anything else positive. It's a disaster.

Now, I'm not necessarily a contrarian, but when markets make large moves, there are opportunities everywhere. If your advisor hasn't called you recently (even just to say "hi, everything's cool... don't panic", fire them and find someone who knows what they're doing and can help you take advantage. It's easy to be a genius when everyone's making money. I don't have any specific advice, but the strong companies tend to come out of these things even stronger than when they went in. Hell, mirror Buffett if you want. If that's not your thing, look for exchange-traded funds. The biggest gains are right after the bottom, and most people get in way after those gains have been made. Is this the bottom? I don't think so, but we're getting closer with this panic selling. If you have the money, and balls, to risk some short-term loss, your long-term gains could be fantastic.

Of course, me being a procrastinating, lazy donkey, I probably won't do a damned thing one way or the other. Maybe I should look into a managed account and pay the exorbitant fees...

Monday, October 06, 2008

VP Debate Continued

Okay, I'm reseted, caffeinated, took a weekend off, and am back.

Q8.- Do you support same-sex benefits to couples?

Biden - "Absolutely." No distinction from a constitutional standpoint. Should be able to visit hospitals, jointly own property, life insurance, etc..

Palin - "Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage..." But I'm totally tolerant and have a "diverse family and group of friends". But we wouldn't "...prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed...". But I straight up (nice pun) don't support redefining marriage.

Me - Oh boy. The question avoided the "redefinition of marriage" aspect, and Biden unconditionally said that he supports same-sex couples having the same rights as hetero couples. Palin never actually says she's does, but stumbles all over the place about making sure everyone knows she's totally not going to "redefine marriage" and then offers a weak-ass repetition of Biden's specific examples, but stops short of a blanket promise to provide equal rights. I get it, the "base" doesn't support gay marriage and she can't risk alienating that base. I can't say I know if she actually supports the idea or not. Her "diverse family and friends" is laughable - why not just say "Hey, I have nothing against the gays, I totally even have gay friends!" Except I can't see her keeping any of them if she doesn't believe in them having equal rights...

Moderator - Do you support gay marriage?

Biden - No. Obama nor I " redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage." Leave it to the faiths. I'll expand Palin's response to take it that she supports equal civil rights for gay couples, even though she didn't necessarily say that.

Moderator - Is that what you said?

Palin - "Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not."

Moderator - "Wonderful. You agree."

Me - FUCK ME WITH A CHAINSAW. Okay folks, my blog, my opinion - please SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT THE REDEFINITION OF MARRIAGE! It's a fucking WORD. There's a 50% divorce rate, spousal abuse, spousal rape, children with broken homes and fighting parents, disposable 1-day marriages, and countless other things about "traditional" marriages that are so fucked up that the word is useless. I'm 31 years old and have seen 3 friends go through marriage and divorce, and one of them remarried since. Gay people getting married won't change a damned thing about YOUR straight marriage. It won't affect the "institution" of marriage AT ALL. Drop your atomically thin veil of homophobia and shut the fuck up. If gay people want to be as miserable as every other married couple, more power to them. Calling it a "civil union" is idiotic. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, looks like a duck, it's a FUCKING DUCK. Faith has NOTHING to do with this. If you can go to city hall and get married, or get a secular justice of the peace to marry you wherever you want, then religion is OUT OF THE PICTURE. The government can't dictate what a religion does, but it can damned well call two people standing in front of a judge and making vows a MARRIAGE regardless of their sex. Why is this so hard to understand? You're gay and want to get married? Go to a judge. You want it in a church? Tough shit, that's the church's decision, not the state's. /rant

Back to the debate - Biden putting words in Obama's mouth (I don't know if he has publicly stated this or not) could be terrible for them in terms of the gay vote. Palin then clumsily dodges the question of her agreement and everyone smiles and goes on like she said "sure I do!" Why put this question in there if you don't have the balls to follow through?

Q9.- You both of sons who are/will be in Iraq. Palin, you've said you'd like a plan for an exit, what would that be?

Palin - We have a good plan, and the surge has worked, general Petraeus is a hero, and so is McCain. Obama/Biden opposed the surge and opposed troop funding. Obama voted against it, and Biden called him out, good on you Biden. We have a withdrawal plan. Can't leave Iraq early, because we'd lose and have to win. We can put more troops in Afghanistan now that the surge has died down, and we need to grow our military, can't lose to al Qaeda, etc..

Biden - I didn't hear a plan. Obama offered a clear plan. Shift responsibility to the Iraqis over the next 16 months, draw down our troops... same plan Maliki and Bush are negotiating. McCain's the only one not behind this. McCain voted the same was as Obama in the vote. We spend $10 billion/month and Iraq has an $80 billion surplus. Let them spend their own money and use their 400k troops we've trained. We see an end, McCain doesn't.

Me - Biden's right - Palin didn't say shit about a plan in her response. Lots of rah-rah and "we can't lose". Calling out Obama on a vote that McCain voted the same way on (not the first time this debate) is poorly thought out. Empty speak from her once again when she doesn't understand what's going on. Biden laid out an actual plan. If you agree with it or not is another question, but it was there and plays well. I'm sure all the recalled soldiers will be thrilled to hear how they might get called back for the umpteenth time to fight in Afghanistan again. Oh, and the surge working is debatable at best.

Palin - Your plan is a white flag, and not what the troops need to hear. The surge worked. The surge worked. The surge worked. We'll know we're finished when the Iraqi government can govern and it's forces can manage on their own. Our commanders will tell us when that is. Biden said he wanted to run on McCain's ticket he supported his war effort so much, and that Obama isn't ready to be commander-in-chief. Biden is awesome and has all my respect for his past war stance even though he supports Obama now.

Biden - McCain voted to cut off troop funding. McCain voted to cut off troop funding. McCain voted to cut off troop funding. I told McCain and Cheney that Iraq would be a disaster, but they didn't listen. McCain said all the Sunni and Shia get along fine, and there'd be plenty of oil. I love John McCain, but he was wrong. Obama was right.

Me - So you don't support gay marriage Joe, but you love John McCain? WHO THE FUCK SAYS THEY LOVE THE PERSON THEY'RE RUNNING AGAINST? The Dems need to grow a big fucking pair. Of course, Palin bent over backwards to say how much respected Biden here too. I'm so very confused. Palin basically says just what Biden did, but doesn't put a timeline on it.

Q10.- Greater threat - nuclear Iran or unstable Afghanistan? Why?

Biden - Both are dangerous. Focused on Pakistan. Pakistan already has nukes and can hit Israel. Iran getting nukes would be bad. Both are dangerous. John keeps telling us terror is in Iraq, but it's not, it's in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that's where we'll be attacked from. Pakistan needs a stable government. We should build schools in Pakistan to compete for the hearts and minds of those kids going to madrasses.

Palin - Both are dangerous. Petraeus and al Qaeda dubbed Iraq as the central war on terror. Nuclear Iran is very dangerous. Israel in danger when you've got Ahmadinejad as Iran's leader. Him, Kim Jong Il, the Castro Brothers, who Obama said he's willing to meet with are all dangerous dictators. That's beyond naivete and poor judgment - it's dangerous.

Me - Okay, so both are dangerous. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Obvious. Now Israel gets brought in. "The Castro Brothers?" Really? Sounds like a 50's sugarpop group... and if you think CUBA is a threat these days... wow. What's Fidel gonna do? Weakly throw a mean look north? Neither person says much here, but both get their digs in against the opposing candidates.

Moderator - Baker, Kissinger, and Powell have advocated engagement with enemies, do you think they're wrong?

Palin - I just talked with Kissinger! He's very passionate about diplomacy. McCain and I would engage in that. But the really bad guys can't just be sat down with like Obama wants to do. Diplomacy first, but it's really hard and serious, and having backup and sanctions and stuff.

Biden - Obama didn't say he'd sit down with Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad (damn that' long to type)doesn't control Iranian security, that's the theocracy, not him. Five secretaries of state said we should sit down and talk. Our friends and allies have said to sit down and talk. McCain said he'd go with an agreement, but wouldn't sit down and talk. How do you get the former without doing the latter? Bush is finally trying to sit down and talk... everyone wants to sit down and talk except McCain, who won't even talk to Spain.

Me - Everyone's for diplomacy it seems. Except that Palin says they are and then says they aren't... or only for selective diplomacy. So if you guys are against, say, France, you'll talk? Biden nicely singles out McCain as a maverick of the worst kind in this case, and Palin doesn't respond.

Moderator - You support Israel. (not really a question)

Palin - Yes.

Q11.- What's the administration done right or wrong about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Is a two-state solution the solution?

Palin - A two-state solution is the solution. Condi's been meeting with both sides even now and is trying to forge peace. It's a top of the agenda item for us too. Israel is our strongest ally and he have to assure them there won't be another Holocaust despite what Iran and others threaten. We support Israel, who has forged peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.

Biden - Joe Biden is Israel's BFF. This administration has failed miserably with Israel though, but Condi's trying her best now... just a bit late. Bush insisted on West Bank elections, I said Hamas will win. Hamas won. We booted Hezbollah out of Lebanon, Bush didn't put in troops, now Hezbollah is legitimized there. Iran has more power under Bush's watch. Bush has blown in regards to Israel.

Me - Everyone loves the Jews. Good on ya. A second Holocaust would be bad. The obvious twins strike again. Biden seems to support more direct involvement, while Palin seems to be happy with letting Israel get along on its own unless they want help. I think somewhere in the middle is a good line.

Palin - The administration's policy hasn't been a disaster. Glad we both love Israel, I respect your position on having the same opinion as me. Stop looking backwards at Bush. There have been huge blunders, and there always are. But if you want change, you have to stop pointing fingers and looking backwards. Reform is-a-comin'! We'll learn from past mistakes. Government back on the side of the people, McCain is a maverick, yadda, yadda.

Biden - "Past is prologue." Is McCain's policy different than Bush's? I don't know.

Me - "Stop looking backwards?" Here's a quote for you "Those who fail to learn from history..." I'm sorry, but this attitude SCREAMS ignorance and the same blindness that Bush has shown for his entire administration. Then you say you'll learn from past mistakes while chastising those who look back at them? Huh? Biden sums it up with 3 words, and then proceeds to say nothing.

Q12.- What's the trigger for nuclear weapons use?

Palin - "Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period." But we use them as a deterrant, which is the right way to use them. Hey, can I "talk about Afghanistan real quick, also, though?" McCain's policy being the same as Bush's isn't accurate. Surge principles need to be used in Afghanistan, and that's perhaps different than Bush. Obama says mean things about us in Afghanistan that aren't true if you reword them differently and add some stuff.

Biden - Or Afghanistan general today said a surge wouldn't work. We need more troops and government-building and infrastructure. We spend more in 3 weeks in Iraq than we have in 7 years in Afghanistan. McCain's voted against nuclear test treaties. Obama's superfly.

Palin - McClellan (general in Afghanistan)didn't say that definitively. But, uh, yah, it's different there, but the counterinsurgency stuff COULD work, he didn't say anything about the counterinsurgency stuff... yah, what Biden said about building infrastructure.

Biden - Yah, he did say that definitively. But McCain's said that Afghanistan has succeeded and we're done with it. Obama's saying we need more troops there.

Me - And Palin goes back to verbal diarrhea and talking about things unrelated to the question at hand right off that bat. Then she gets the Afghanistan argument wrong enough that Biden can knock down her argument, forcing her to stumble as she tries to recover by saying exactly what Biden just said.

Q13.- Biden - you're an interventionist. Bosnia, Iraq, Darfur... can Americans stomach this?

Biden - I think so. My recommendations for Bosnia saved tens of thousands of lives. McCain opposed it. I opposed going to war in Iraq, but thought Bush would just use the powers for good. No stomach for genocide in Darfur, but now we can enforce a no-fly zone and lead NATO, I've been to Chad and seen the camps.

Palin - I'm such a Washington outsider who doesn't get it! You voted for the war and now you oppose it? That's flip-floppy! Americans want straight talk. You supported McCain's war strategies until this campaign and opposed Obama's until now. I agree on Darfur though. Since Alaska has so much money, I did.. umm.. well, I don't say what I did with it to help Darfur, but I did call for legislation to make sure our money in Sudan wasn't helping the bad guys.

Me - Biden comes off as a politician here. He makes good points, but the "I though Bush would only use the powers for sanctions" bit is a stretch. Palin nails him, but unfortunately does it with the "Washington outsider" preface, which will play VERY well with some people, but turns me off. Guess that's a win for her. She also talks around the Darfur bit well, but it doesn't hold up to scrutiny when being read.

Moderator - Is there a line to be drawn?

Biden - Absolutely.

Moderator - What is it?

Biden - Do we have the capacity to do anything? Also, when you start committing genocide, or harbouring terrorists, you lose your right to say we can't intervene in your country. Obama agrees. Oh, and I never supported McCain's war strategy. I said if we went, we wouldn't be greeted as liberators, but McCain said the opposite - he was lockstep with Cheney. He's been wrong from the start.

Palin - I beg to disagree. You're saying this a month out, but we listened to the debates. Tomorrow the pundits will find the truth and debate who said what. McCain knows how to win a awar and knows what evil is. He knows how to learn from the mistakes and blunders in Iraq. He will know how to implement strategies, he'll know how to win a war.

Me - An interesting stance from Biden on the right to intervene. It's kind of hard to disagree with the idea of stepping in when a genocide is going on outside of a slippery-slop argument. As for Palin - wow, what a load of bull on this one. She once again avoids the question (a pretty easy one this time) and pushes McCain. He knows how to win a war? When did he show this? When he crashed twice in Vietnam? Remember, the States lost that one. There's a lot of "he WILL know" and other assumptive statements that don't read or sound good. She also stumbles on being confident about Biden's voting record and dumps it on the "pundits" tomorrow to figure out if she's right or not. Considering Biden's argument was that McCain's been wrong all along, saying he'll know how to learn from mistakes looks doubly bad - 1.- he's made mistakes, 2.- he hasn't shown that he can learn from them.

Q14.- If the president dies and you take over, how would your administration be different since you disagree on things?

Biden - It would be a national tragedy if that happened, God forbid it. But if it did, I'd carry out Obama's policy. Bring back the middle class, a fair break, affordable health insurance, tax breaks, kids in college, etc.. (basically restates the platform). Would reject the Bush Doctrine. I agree with all his major initiatives.

Palin - Heaven forbid that would ever happen with either party. As for disagreeing with McCain - well duh! We're a team of mavericks and won't agree on 100% of everything. I'll keep pushing him on ANWR, and he's never asked me to check my opinions at the door. I'd continue the good work he is committed to of putting government on the side of the people and getting rid of greed, corruption on Wall Street and Washington. A bit or reality from Main Street Wasilla. Every-day Americans telling the government to get out of my way. Choose your ticket - create jobs or increase taxes.

Me - Biden recites the platform. I guess it's as good a place as any, and how do you answer the question in any other way? Palin launches another maverickbomb and recites the shortened buzz-word version of the platform. Same difference from both of 'em. The Biden "Bush Doctrine" jab was almost too easy.

Biden - I'm a small town guy too, and ask the people in MY town if the policies of the last 8 years have been any good. Ask them if McCain's any different. Obama will change things for the better.

Palin - "Say it ain't so, Joe..." Pointing backwards again, doggone it. Your wife's a teacher, her reward is in heaven. More focus on education and funding of schools. My family was all teachers. Shout out to 3rd graders at Gladys Woods Elementary - extra credit! No Child Left Behind isn't working - it needs flexibility.

Me - Biden playing small town is perhaps not inaccurate, but hard to swallow for a 29 year senator. Palin quoting John Sayles made my stomach turn. She crammed more "folksy" in this part than the whole debate. It almost gave me a cavity. Also, once again Biden used education in one small part of a list in a sentence and Palin dedicates rambling paragraphs on it as a "response".

Q15.- What do you think the VP is worth now since you've both made cracks about it in the past? (Palin - what does a VP do? Biden - I would never be VP)

Palin - It was a lame attempt at a joke, and I think Biden's was too I guess, but nobody got it. Of course we know what a VP does.

Biden - They didn't get yours or mine? Which one?

Palin - Of course we know what a VP does... it's not only to preside over the Senate, and will take that position very seriously. Constitution allows a bit more authority for the VP if they want it in working with the Senate and being supportive of the President. McCain and I have had good conversations about his agenda. I'd be all over energy independence and government reform, and then working with families of special needs kids. McCain's already said he wants me there.

Biden - I hope we get back to education because I don't know of any program McCain has. I assume we can get back to that. As for VP - I have a history of getting things done, and had a long talk with Barack. Obama wants me to help him govern, but I don't want a portfolio, so I'll be in the room giving my advice for everything to the president. He wanted someone who wasn't afraid to disagree with him.

Me - Awkward moment to start this one, quickly brushed aside. I got a bit of a kick out of Biden not just laughing along and putting Palin on the spot. Whoops! We're not friends. Palin recites grade 2 knowledge of the VP and then brings in Cheney-like interpretations. Scary. McCain gives her 2 jobs that won't see fruition until 3 terms from now and a pet project? Yup, she'll be marginalized if the GOP wins. Sure, they SOUND big, but they're long-term goals. Biden takes another jab with the "I don't want a portfolio, I want to be involved in everything" bit. He also sounded way more capable of stepping into the presidency if need be. (God/Heaven forbid of course).

Q16.- Do you interpret the VP position the same way Cheney does?

Palin - Well, our founding fathers were very wise in allowing flexibility in the office of VP. We'll do what's best for Americans. Yeah, I do agree with him. My executive experience is key.

Biden - Cheney's been the most dangerous VP in American history. He doesn't realize Article I of the Constitution defines the VP as part of the executive, not legislative branch. Everyone should understand that. Primary role is to support the President, offer advice when sought, and settle ties in the Senate - it is explicit. No power relative to Congress, Cheney invented the bizarre notion of being part of the Legislative branch.

Me - And Palin gets creamed. Does anybody like Cheney? Has anybody SEEN ol' Dick in months? It's been pretty generally recognized tat Cheney's overstepped his boundaries as VP tremendously, and Palin AGREES with him? Oof.

Q17.- Palin - conventional wisdom is that your Achilles heel lack experience. Biden - you lack discipline. What is it really?

Palin - I have executive experience - mayor, business owner, oil & gas regulator, governor of a huge state. But that wasn't all that was tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland, and being a mom, with a son at war, and special needs child, and kids going to college, and paying tuition. Todd and I didn't have health insurance once, and we know others worry about that. I share McCain's world view, America is a nation of exceptionalism, and we're a shining city on a hill, like Reagan said, beacon of hope. We're not perfect, but we represent a perfect ideal. blah, blah, rah.

Biden - Very kind to suggest my only Achilles heel is my lack of discipline. Others talk about my excessive passion, and that's not going to change. I'll put my record of change, and Obama's, against McCain or anyone any day. I know what being a single parent is like. When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravelly injured, I know what it's like wondering if your kids will make it. I understand what it's like to tell your kids you have to go find a job and they can join you when you have money. I'm better off than most Americans now, but I understand what it's like. The notion that because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone... [voice crack here]. I know people need help.

Me - Umm... Governor Palin? You were asked a question about what your weakness was. It's pretty standard in a job interview. You avoided it entirely and went on some rah-rah tangent about how much you connect with everyday people and invoked the name or Reagan (Biden beat you to it an hour ago). Joe gave the standard response of "Oh, I'm too passionate", but at least he ANSWERED THE QUESTION. Then was possibly his most brilliant move of the night - the voice crack when talking about his family, and being a single parent, and going through tough times. It humanized him after being a politician all night. And then Palin follows up that emotional moment with...

Palin - People aren't looking for more of the same. They're looking for change. McCain's a maverick. He's taken shots from everyone because he's taken on his own party. I've also done that. McCain's a maverick, look at his diverse group of supporters. Got to win wars, economy, greed and corruption, etc.. McCain is a leader of change.

Me - HUH? What the fuck does this have to do with anything? Did you realize it had been 5 minutes since you said this EXACT SAME THING?

Biden - Let's talk about the Maverick McCain. I love him. He's been a maverick on some things, but not on the important stuff. He voted 4/5 times with Bush's debt-inducing budget. He's not a maverick when it comes to health care, or education, or war, or helping those in need. No, he's not a maverick when it counts.

Me - Translation - "shut the fuck up about the maverick crap." He provides brief evidence on each of his points, making Palin and McCain look like tools with the maverick speak.

Q18. (the end)- Can you think of a single issue where you were forced to change your long-held view in order to accommodate changed circumstances?

Biden - Yup. Back when I was on the Judiciary Committee, I though that all that mattered in picking a judge was that they had a judicial temperment and hadn't committed a crime of moral turpitude and had been a good student. Then I realized that the ideology of the candidate was important too, otherwise they act in their own interest and not that of the American people.

Palin - When I was mayor and governor, I caved on some budgets because we had to progress the agenda. But I haven't compromised on major principal things. We work together in Alaska, and we'll do that in Washington.

Me - Pretty minor concessions on both sides. Biden takes a jab at the Bush appointees, and Palin pushes bipartisanship.

Q18a.- How do you change the partisan tone in DC as VP?

Biden - McCain would agree with me here - I've been able to work across the aisle a bunch of times and change my party's mind. Here's a story about my first year in the senate when I felt like a jerk and learned a lesson. I no longer question anyone's motive, just their judgment.

Palin - You appoint people regardless of affiliation. Diverse family, lots of views. You get to vote for a party that creates jobs or increases taxes.

Me - Well, neither answered the question... AGAIN. Biden pretty much gave the same response as at the start with a nice story added. Palin gave a response that has NOTHING to do with being VP, and hammered the "jobs vs taxes" point for the umpteenth time, even though its placement here is in DIRECT contrast to a question about partisanship. Glad we're wrapping up.

Closing statements

Palin - Thanks everyone, nice to finally meet Biden. I like answering these tough questions without the media telling people what they just heard. McCain and I will fight for American, for the middle class, average every-day families. I've been there, I know the challenges and joys. We'll fight for our freedoms, economic and national security. Reagan quote. Don't want to be telling our children and children's children about when we were free in America. We'll fight for it.

Me - Irony is lost. I love the Republicans always playing the champion of the middle class when they've shown they are the champions of the rich and powerful for years now. Fighting for freedoms? The Bush administration has curtailed more freedoms and liberty than any US government in history! You AREN'T FREE, so you'll already be telling your kids and their kids about the days when you could travel without fear of unnecessary search and harassment, or when there weren't x-rays at the airport, or people weren't arrested for taking pictures, or protests happened without plants from the cops to stir up trouble. Ugh.

Biden - Thanks everyone. Most important election you've ever voted in. The last 8 years have been crap. Obama and I measure success on if someone can pay their mortgage or sends kid to college, or other parts of our platform. I grew up in a neighbourhood. Hard work pays off. If you get knocked down, get back up America. "May God bless all of you, and most of all, for both of us, selfishly, may God protect our troops."

Me - Pretty vanilla closing statements from Biden. Nothing new or different. The "selfishly" in the final sentence made no sense to me and sits VERY wrong politically. I guess he was talking about his and Palin's sons, but it came off as being selfish to ask for protection of their troops?

And that's it. Biden CREAMED Palin in the second half. He found his footing and took a few surgical jabs to knock her off balance. She kept dodging, and he kept answering. Honestly? He went easy on her. He could have raked her over the coals and called her out on every dodge, every empty statement, and every unfounded accusation. The problem with her strategy of only talking about talking points and repeating the same thing over and over again is that it made her seem... well.. inexperienced. She couldn't have attacked him nearly as much because she didn't give the impression that she had a strong depth of knowledge.

That said, Palin still did better than expected, and without reflection would have seemed folksy (read: annoying if you're me), but capable. Sadly, if you spend any time analyzing what was said, the emperor is lacking some clothes.

Biden seemed the polished debater and politician, with a touch of small town story and one moment of seemingly REAL emotion. If not for those latter touches, he would have still won, but not done anything to change the image of old-school... not that he did much anyway.

One thing that wasn't in the transcript was a sigh that Biden let loose at the start of one of Palin's responses. It was CLASSIC and I loved it. It probably seemed petty though to those on the fence.