Monday, March 23, 2009

How to Miss A Week of Poker

...and not care more than one or two whits about it? Here's how:

Okay, his name isn't "how", it's Yorvie. So here's Yorvie.

The Good Doctor Mondo and I adopted him from a local shelter this past Tuesday, and he's been pretty much 95% angel with a welcome 5% devil thrown in. Quite bright, too. However, I haven't yet managed to teach him how to sling chips like the dogs in classic velvet paintings. Now has he figured out the difference in outs between an OESD with two overs, versus a naked nut flush draw. But he's only two, so there's plenty of time.

I have to admit, I'm now itching to play some. It's going to be tough making time for 4-5 hour (or more) MTTs with this little fella, but I'd like to think I can start getting back to some turbo 180s. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CD Review - The Vox Jaguars - The Vox Jaguars EP

The Vox Jaguars
The Vox Jaguars EP
Anodyne Records

The Kids Are Alright. When Pete Townshend first wrote those iconic words, he may have been referring to the disaffected youth of 1960s London, but the words ring true today, at least as it pertains to the future of rock and roll. The kids are indeed alright, or at least the four young rockers making up the cast of The Vox Jaguars are. As of this writing, at the time of release of their debut self-titled EP, half the members of the band are still in high school (the other half of the band is barely out). The Vox Jaguars do not let that stand in the way of bringing forth some of the freshest, yet most timeless, garage rock to come down the pike in quite some time.

The record starts off with a bang, the appropriately named “Swagger” bursting forth with a level of grime and sweat expected of bands much further out of the basement. Vocalist Jordan Toph shows off some positively Jaggeresque qualities to his voice, and the old school overdrive captured in the recorded vocal only adds to the effect. The track is accented with vintage combo organ, most likely the eponymous Vox Jaguar, from which the band has taken its name. The overall sound here is reminiscent of recent garage rock revivalists The Agenda, but to label the band as garage punkers would be an oversimplification.

Although a steady undercurrent of garage rock influence and sonic characteristics serve as underpinnings throughout the EP, the rest of the material on the record seems to nod its head toward bands as diverse as The Jam and Mission of Burma, as heard in the second track, “Wild Orphan”. Even the dance-oriented new wave rock of Berlin or Arctic Monkeys seems to color the sound of closing tune “Homesick”, whether a conscious influence or not. All of these influences meld together into a fresh sound that should find a natural appeal across the spectrum of people who take their music without any artificial flavors or colors, and unadorned of any form of false affectation.

It can be difficult to truly assess the nature and character of a band when presented only with a scant four songs. Obviously, the future remains largely unknown for this lot. A full length album is apparently on the horizon, though it is unknown how many However, current evidence indicates The Vox Jaguars may have the underpinnings of a band with real potential to drive the easily distracted youth of today away from the slick overproduced shenanigans of whatever flavor of the month poseur tripe Disney is pushing, and back to honest to goodness rock and roll.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hands Can Make You Think

Yeah, no wonder I don't play online much anymore. Too many exit hands are trying to convince me of shenanigans over at JokerStars, or of whatever bullshit compels people to call 4-bet shoves with nothing more than 86o. It's because they know preflop they'll flop open-ended, and they know they'll straighten up on the river. No matter that 86o from the BB is likely wayyyy behind any hand a 4-bet shover might hold.

My last three tournament exits have been on hands like that. The kind of hand where I have AA, KK, or QQ on the bubble or in the cutoff. Invariably, I'll open 2.5x or 3x, and a blind will reraise to 2-3x my original raise. I'll end up shoving, and the last three times, my shove has been called down by 86o, T8o, and 53 sooooted. And each time, the caller caught on the river. As if they *knew* it was coming. And in each case, they had me covered by a little bit.

The worst was today in the $200k, because it was the 2nd time in four hands that I had KK, and had to make a hero fold the first time to a BB who shoved on the A52 rainbow flop. (I'd actually let out for about 60% of the pot.) And it cost me my tournament life because of a player who is just too terrible a player to fold 86o to 4-bet preflop aggression.

Basically, online poker is fucking me up the ass hardcore again. It doesn't matter the site. It doesn't matter the buy-in. And it doesn't matter the stage of the tournament. If there is a single solitary way the cards can fuck me over, it will happen 1000% guaranteed. So, why would I possibly want to play? Rationally, I know the game is not fixed. I know that. But when it continues to play as if it is, why would I possibly choose to continue to participate??

It's one thing to get your money in bad, more often than not. But I don't. In fact, it's very rare that I am behind when the money's all in the middle. Obviously, race-type situations will end up being kinda close to 50/50 over the long term.

Also as invariably, when I do decide to actually play the hand and not unnecessarily get it all in preflop, villian manages to catch his 2 outer on the river. Which is, of course, how T3o can beat JJ, when villian calls a nice flop bet with his mighty 3, followed by the river two outer. Why would I give the crooks any more money? More importantly, why should I?

Hell, even if the software itself is not broken or rigged, the game's rife with enough multiaccounting cheaters, that I no longer have the requisite confidence to believe I'm always playing in a clean game.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CD Review - The Ettes - Look At Life Again Soon

The Ettes
Look at Life Again Soon
Take Root Records

Sometimes, a band hits upon just the right alchemic mixture of the correct lineup, the right studio, a spot on engineer, and impeccable timing. When this happens, and all of the elements come together just right, the results can be explosive. The Ettes’ recent second album, Look at Life Again Soon, is one of these instances.

The Ettes, a trio of mono-monikered retro beat punkers, chose to record their new record at world “famous”, all analog, Toe Rag Studios, in England, with the truly legendary (if rather obscure) producer Liam Watson. Toe Rag has been the birthplace of a lengthy history of outstanding purist rock and roll recordings by the likes of The White Stripes, Eddie Angel (of Los Straitjackets), Billy Childish, Holly Golightly, and many others. And with Look at Life Again Soon, both Liam Watson and the Ettes have managed to carry on in that tradition with great aplomb.

Look at Life Again Soon is a platter full of stompers and raveups, fuzzed out bass, echo-y vocals, and plenty of grit and gumption. From the opening thrust of bass and drums of “I Get Mine”, all the way through closing track Particular highlights are “Pay Up” and “To Arms, “Two Shakes”, and the aforementioned “I Get Mine”. In each instance, singer Coco’s voice belies a woman who’s seductive yet sharp, as likely to switchblade you as she is to kiss you. The rhythm section is thundering and boomy, without stepping over the overdriven, yet understated guitar.

If there’s a criticism to be had, it is only that there is not a lot of breadth to be found across the album, and most of the songs are somewhat interchangeable with others. One notable exception is closing song “Where Your Loyalties Lie”, which has a more spacious sound, and sets a rather nicer departure mood. The end result is that the album is inherently a ballsy kick in the pants for a run of any four or five tracks, but after that, it becomes easy to want to spin something else just to change up the auditory recipe. However, the sound that this album is built upon is one that I’ve found extremely easy to keep coming back to.

The songs are spartan, yet uniformly convey a sense of impending violence bubbling just underneath the surface. In fact, this record would make the perfect soundtrack for a viewing of Death Proof, with the dialogue turned off. This song, and this band, is a chick habit to be relished, just don’t take your eyes off the nearest exit, because you never know where the next scooter gang riot’s going to erupt.

For those at all familiar with any previous Toe Rag work, feel free to compare this record to The Bristols, or any of Fabienne Delsol’s work, as there are a lot of similarities with The Ettes, particularly where vocals are concerned. All in all, Look at Life Again Soon makes a strong argument for a return of authenticity to rock and roll, and a trip back to days of teenage rebellion, late night transgressions, and morning regrets.

A Heaping Helping Of Hope

Check out this video -- it was submitted as part of an AARP contest called U@50, and was ultimately the second place video. It's really quite clever, and less than two minutes long:

Do I think it will really come to pass? At the individual level, I surely hope so. At the macro level? Unlikely, but it's nice to see the positivity.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Good Thing I'm Almost Broke, and an Update streak of non-cashes in tourneys is now up to 32 in a row (or at least something very close)**. The latest was a $12+1 180-man turbo on JokerStars, where on a T74 flop, and me holding QQ, I bet out 70% of the pot, and the button overshoves. Of course, I call. Oh yeah, almost forget, I had 3-bet preflop, and he called. He showed JT offsuit. LOL, really? He called a 3-bet and a call preflop with JTo. Naturally, the J fell on the turn, and I was out.

Oh yeah, and having TPTK go down to a naked flush draw that hit on the river. (Naturally, the donk overshoved on the turn with no pair, but 4 to a flush.)

The Skillz game truly sucked for me. I went out the last hand before break. At least 6-7 times, I had three wheel cards by 3rd street, and 4 low cards by 4th street, only to catch high cards on 5th, 6th, and 7th streets. If it seemed like I saw too many 4th and 5th streets (and I did, nearly 50%), it's only because I really did have some strong low draws. My two biggest lost pots, though, were having two pair go down to baby trips, and losing to a boat.

So my roll's down to about 1/3 of it's previous high, and I'm going broke. So my online poker career may be over in a few weeks, because I'm simply not interested in re-depositing in an environment where retarded poker play wins as often as it does.

After all, the live limits are going up soon in Colorado, and clearly, if I can go 9 days without playing a single hand, poker's taken a back seat anyway.

UPDATE: Why the asterisks? Well, after still taking a ton of abuse all over the place in any $12, $20, etc., buyins, I actually managed to take down an 18 player No Limit O8 SNG, and cash in one of those new fangled $7.70/180s. Of course, the tourney I win is a $1.50 buy-in, with a 1st prize of...drumroll...$10.80. But hell, I can't recall the last time I ever actually won anything, so it feels good.

CD Review - Dressy Bessy - Holler and Stomp

A full week has gone by...9 days, actually, since I've played a single hand of poker. Of course, the BBT4 has started, but while I sit most of it out, I've been working on more CD reviews for Hybrid Magazine. This time, I actually got to cover one of my favorite Denver bands, Dressy Bessy. However, as you'll see, this outing wasn't quite what I was hoping for...

On occasion, a given assignment to review a particular CD requires some self-disclosure, and this is one of these occasions. I am a Dressy Bessy fanboy, and have been for quite a while, and I am quite unabashed in my admiration for this band. That said, I do not consider Holler and Stomp to be among the band’s best recorded output. In fact, it has to rate as a slight disappointment.

In many ways, Holler and Stomp is not dissimilar to the music coming out of Dressy Bessy camp over the last five years. The record is chock full of powerpop tunes, replete with chunky guitars, pounding rhythms, occasional slight dissonance between vocals and lead parts (e.g., the somewhat Pixies-ish song craft of verses during “Ease Me Down”), and even the odd cowbell or well-placed sound affect. Musicianship is uniformly excellent, as is production. The rhythm section, in particular, seems to be in peak form and Tammy Ealom and John Hill’s guitar tones blend with each other near perfectly. In those respects, Holler and Stomp isn’t really all that different than either of the band’s previous two albums, Electrified or Dressy Bessy.

However, the album ultimately comes across a little bit tired at times. Tammy’s voice has taken on a bit of a world weary character in parts of this record, and, while the compositions themselves range from fair to good, very little of the material reaches the songwriting heights of the triumvirate of “Side 2”, “Stop Foolin’”, and “Electrified”, which combined to make Electrified no less than one of the most entertaining albums of 2005.

The above notwithstanding, Holler and Stomp is still a pretty good album, and a worthy starting point for listeners unfamiliar with the band. Dressy Bessy have been able to crank out the type of fun pop confections in the vein of “Automatic” or “Ten Million Stars” in their sleep, with the level of ease that it takes to pull out a fresh pan of Tollhouse cookies from the Easy Bake Oven. Album closer “Sindy Says” is a delightful number, and a throwback to the band’s more twee-sounding past. I’ve managed to hear the band play around half of the songs on this record in concert, and the songs do take on a bit more urgency and vibrancy in that environment.

If anything, Holler and Stomp really only suffers in comparison to the great heights achieved by Electrified. Nevertheless, repeated listening has done little to alter my perception of a follow-up that can’t quite fill the estimable boots of its predecessor.