How I Met Jerry Coleman

jerry coleman baseball cardJerry Coleman died today. Seven decades in baseball. World Series MVP as a player. Broadcaster. Manager.

I met Jerry in the late 70s. I was working in Philadelphia radio and our helicopter traffic guy, Walt McDonald, knew Jerry from San Diego. Could he arrange for me to watch a Phillies/Padres game from the broadcast booth as Jerry did play-by-play?


I headed to the Vet a few Saturdays later and was escorted into the booth directly behind home plate. I was a little overwhelmed. Jerry Coleman was a big deal former major leaguer with a very distinctive voice. There was no mistaking whose hand I was shaking. He didn’t pass unnoticed in a baseball stadium.

The Padres took an early lead, but between innings Coleman explained how the Phillies looked like they’d figured out the Padres pitcher, who was beginning to tire. I saw none of this, but nodded anyway.

Next inning the Phillies blew it open! The Padres pitcher was chased, just as Coleman predicted and when he predicted it.

Both Jerry Coleman and his broadcast partner, Dave Campbell, were gracious that afternoon. It was my own personal reality show to take in and remember.

Over 35 years later, I still remember. It still makes me smile. I am one of many who will not forget Jerry Coleman.

Vegas Roundup

OK–this is a little nuts. I’m not that good a player. No one is. I’ve had nine winning sessions in a row including last night’s tournament win. I am seeing Benjamin Franklin in my sleep.

palazzo-slot-machines.jpgWe leave in the morning for Palm Springs, California. Vegas will be done for us. Stef left this afternoon. She slept her way cross country with an entire row to herself!

I played a little poker this afternoon and again tonight. Both times it was $1-2 no limit hold’em and both times I came home a winner!

OK–this is a little nuts. I’m not that good a player. No one is. I’ve had nine winning sessions in a row including last night’s tournament win. I am seeing Benjamin Franklin’s etched face in my sleep.

My friend Rick said I came with a positive attitude and that made me a more confident player. Others might have sniffed that confidence and moved away when I threw my chips around. Who knows?

frozen-hot-chocolate.jpgHelaine and I did take a little walk this afternoon and had dinner at Serendipity. This restaurant is an offshoot of the New York City original. After we both had our meals we shared the specialty of the house–Frozen Hot Chocolate. Good choice.

Before we leave a few words about this hotel: The Palazzo. It is spectacular. There are probably nicer hotels somewhere. I’ve never stayed in one.

This room–all the rooms– are suites. There is a sitting room a few steps down from the bedroom. There’s no wall, but the spaces are separate.

The bathroom is large enough for a bus terminal.

There are three flat screen TVs hung on various walls in the suite including one in the aforementioned bathroom.

Most spectacular is the huge area covered by windows. We’re looking west toward the mountains with a little peek up and down the Strip.

south-side-las-vegas-blvd.jpgThere are hotels and there is gambling elsewhere. There is no other Las Vegas. It is built on hospitality. It never fails in that regard.

Vegas is down on its luck right now. Hopefully it and all of us will recover before long.

The plan for Wednesday takes us from McCarren to Ontario Airport in California. Wheels up time probably under 30 minutes. Then it’s a 70 mile east through the desert to Palm Springs. We should be there around sunset.

Poker: It Really Helps To Be Lucky… And I Was!

My Aces held and at the end of the first hand I had three times the chips of any other player!

No tease here. Straight to the conclusion. I won last night’s 7:00 PM poker tournament at the Venetian. it took until 1:00 AM, but I outlasted around 70 others.

If you’ve watched poker on television (and what a sad little life that exposes) you’ve seen the type of tournament I played. The big difference is money. At the World Series of Poker there are thousands of entrants at $10,000 apiece. My entry fee was around 1% of that.

The exact amount I won is unimportant (and won’t be divulged here). It was enough to keep my interest.

As the headline says,”it really helps to be lucky.” I was. There were two hands which were pivotal to my win.

venetian-poker-room.jpgThe tournament is played at tables of ten. As players are busted the tables thin until the poker manager shuts one down and redistributes the players bringing everyone back to ten.

At the end ‘final table’ has ten players which shrinks as they get tapped out. In this tournament the final nine players got paid on a sliding scale. I won nearly ten times what the ninth finisher got.

I got very lucky, very early.

On the first hand I had ‘the button&#185.’ One player called the blinds, another made a bet which I then raised substantially. The first player in called and the original player declared “all-in.”

OK–let’s step back a second. This is the first hand. We haven’t seen any of the common cards. All we know is what’s in our own hand. Going all-in means this player is putting all his chips on the line. He’s risking the entire tournament in the first thirty seconds!

I called. The original small caller called.

No flop and there were three players all-in. Two would soon walk.

We turned over our cards. The player who went all-in first had Queens. The other had an Ace and Eight suited (what was he thinking?). I had two Aces.

My Aces held and at the end of the first hand I had three times the chips of any other player!

We continued to play an hour and a half until the first break. I checked my chips and had a few thousand less than I did after the first hand. That first hand allowed me to be very cautious. It also scared other players from picking a fight because I had enough chips to end their night. I probably wasn’t the chip leader but I was up there.

For the next few hours I played well. My stack grew and I stayed at or near the lead.

Flash forward a few hours. With around 20 players left I was dealt a pair of Kings. I made a substantial bet which was answered by an all-in from the only player at my table with more chips. I called and he turned over two Aces.

Yes, Aces beat Kings… except there were five common cards to come. The flop was dealt and there was another King! Now I had a ‘set.’ It held and I won a monster hand crippling my biggest opponent.

The odds were against me. The most likely scenario was my being busted out by the guy with Aces. I got lucky.

By the time we got to the final nine I was in either eighth or ninth place. It’s tough to say. You can ask for a count of an opponents chips while you’re in a hand, but mostly you just eyeball them and guess.

I continued to play ‘tight aggressive’ and it worked. Slowly I ate away at the other stacks. I also watched as other players battled it out. One-by-one they went away.

At the very end it was me an another player–he a high school athletic director from Muncie, Indiana. My stack was around three times his.

I asked if he wanted to make a deal for the pot?

The poker manager awarded us both second place money then divided what was left (the extra that would go for first) proportionally by chip stack. He got a little more than second place money. I won a little less than first. It was a good deal for both of us.

We played around six hours. Yes, I was very lucky. There is always some luck in a long tournament. I also played really well. That gave me the ability to be there to get lucky!

I’ll probably play cards again today, but I really don’t have to. My goal was to face major league pitching and do well. I did.

&#185 – The button player moves last which is a strategic advantage. The button itself moves after each hand.

A Night Of Poker When It All Went Right

If my math is right there was about a one in a thousand chance he’d catch the only two cards in the deck that would beat me. My pulse quickened and I held my breath.

I played poker last night. Though I favor tournaments, this was a ‘live’ ring game. It was one of those magical evenings when I played well and was rewarded. There’s enough luck in poker that those two don’t always go together.

For any poker fans reading I was dealt two 7s from the small blind, had two callers to the flop which came 667. I checked my full house which led to a sizable bet from the next player. I wanted him to fold so I moved all-in.

He spent a long time thinking and talking. He thought he knew what I had, but he was totally off.

I still wanted him to fold. I’d be happy to collect what was in the pot without chancing a ‘suck out.’

Instead, he called. I flipped my cards over. “Shit,” was his only response.

Though I was a prohibitive favorite, it wasn’t a lock. If my math is right there was about a one in a thousand chance he’d catch the only two cards in the deck that would beat me. My pulse quickened and I held my breath.

I played for three hours. The difference between me winning or losing was just big two hands. Aside from those I basically played even.

Geoff Fox Action News Promo – Circa 1985

While in California my secretive friend in the San Fernando Valley pulled out a videocassette and popped it in a player. Good grief I haven’t seen this stuff in nearly 25 years.

It’s a good friend who saves your memories!

A Day Of Poker In Paradise

I guess the dressing room for the “dolls” is behind the poker room because every half hour or so two well built and scantily clad girls walked by with a fully dressed female chaperon.

When I am in Las Vegas I play poker. I am a decent poker player in a city of excellent ones. It’s a challenge which is my fun. I’ve been playing in tournaments because you can get a lot of play with relatively little money at risk.

I played the noon tourney at Caesars and was doing really well until I got a pair of Aces dealt to me. That’s the best starting hand you can get. Unfortunately, another player at the table got lucky and ‘cracked’ them. I was gone.

I went back and found Helaine here at Palazzo. We had an early dinner at the Mirage Buffet. Vey nice. I could easily weigh 600 pounds.

More poker this evening. I headed back to Caesars where there are tournaments every three hours. The 9:00 PM tournament is a bounty tourney. I’d never been in one of those before. The prize pool was split between bounties for knocking other players out and the more cash for the final three of the 27 entered.

I won one bounty and held on until we were down to six. At that point I asked if anyone was interested in a deal. Amazingly everyone was amenable and we chopped the pot into four smaller and two larger shares. I was quite happy walking away with some cash.

This was a really fun table with people from all over the country and two men from Holland who deal at a casino in Amsterdam. No arguments. Everyone was very, very nice with good chitchat and stories.

Meanwhile, the Caesars poker room is adjacent to their “Pure” nightclub and Pussycat Dolls blackjack area. I guess the dressing room for the “dolls” is behind the poker room because every half hour or so two well built and scantily clad girls walked by with a fully dressed female chaperon.

I complained to the floor manager they were stalking me. That got a good laugh.

Pussycat Dolls at Caesars poker room

Netflix Scores With Streaming

The Fox Family subscribes to Netflix, the DVD rental service. We are on their “Wow you’re cheap” plan, getting a single DVD at a time. It’s perfectly suited for our needs.

Last night, I read about their new program where you can watch movies or TV shows on-line at no additional cost. I had to try.

I went on the Netflix site, logged in, got scolded because I was using Firefox and switched to Internet Explorer.

Please, let me choose my broswer Netflix. Don’t force me to use a Microsoft browser on a Microsoft platform.

I downloaded the player and then waited as it gauged my Internet connection speed. Within a few seconds, my movie was playing.

The quality was excellent – somewhere between VHS and a DVD. Playing back on my laptop, which was on my lap, and filling the full screen, it was as good as watching a large screen TV across the room.

Playback was flawless. I’m very impressed technically. I’m not impressed with the program selection.

I’m a documentary fan, so I chose “Helvetica,” a documentary about the Helvetica typeface. It was actually a movie I wanted to see.

Yeah, I hear you. It doesn’t seem like there should be enough going on with Helvetica to fill an entire movie. You’re right! The movie was a disappointment. That’s not Netflix’s fault.

Unfortunately, the rest of their catalogue was pretty thin, to be kind. The movies were mainly third rate. The documentaries were mainly obscure. None of the TV shows interested me.

I’m sure the problem is with rights acquisition. It’s always tough to convince content owners to embrace a new technology, especially when it hasn’t yet been established whether users of that technology can rip-off your product.

If and when Netflix improves their selection, this will be a powerful business. My guess is, they already see the writing on the wall for their current business.

Out Of Bandwidth

In England, the BBC has just started streaming TV shows through a proprietary program call iPlayer. People must be watching because the ISPs (the companies that deliver the Internet to you) are worried.

From DownloadSquad: iPlayer is causing all sorts of other trouble for ISPs. The player, built for viewing and downloading popular television shows onto computers through the special application is taking a toll on the ISPs bandwidth. So much so that they are looking for compensation from the BBC, threatening to initiate traffic shaping that would slow down service and render the player unusable if they don’t pay up.

I had been thinking about this on my own before the British scare. Internet bandwidth isn’t infinite. There are choke points all over the place that can get swamped with traffic. High quality video is about the most bandwidth intensive you can run!

I wasn’t too concerned about the BBC originally. My worry is closer to home. Imagine the traffic for NBC and the Olympics.

The Final Table

As poker playing goes, I’ve had better stretches. I still enjoy the game. Still play all the time. I’m just not playing as well as I have.

This time of year card playing gets increased attention because of the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is a series of 55 poker tournaments, all played in Las Vegas. There are different games played at different stakes, but the big daddy is the “$10,000 No Limit Texas Hold’em Tournament.”

It’s called the World Poker Championship. No dispute there.

In Hold’em, each player gets two cards. He tries to make the best five card poker hand using a combination of those two and five common cards, shared by everyone at the table.

No limit means any player, at any time, can push in all his chips. That’s a gutsy, risky move, that’s sometimes worthwhile.

This isn’t like a bad Western. No one has to put up the deed to the ranch to stay in the game. You are only on the hook for what you’ve got on the table.

Hold’em is interesting because it’s a betting game more than a card game. Yes, luck enters into it, but the really good players consistently show up at final tables. There is more than a little skill at work.

My friend Rick, probably more poker obsessed than I am, invited me to stop by his place after work. He was buying the pay-per-view broadcast of the final table and planned to watch until there was only one man standing.

The fact that there’s a pay-per-view broadcast (cable, satellite and online) of this event is testament to how hot poker has become. It’s also moved from a game played by old guys to one played by loads of twenty somethings.

I showed up around 11:50 pm and was ushered down to the basement. The ‘game’ was on one computer monitor while Rick played cards on the other. This was poker player Nirvanna.

What had started as a 6,358 players was down to four. Over $40 million in prize money had already been handed out, but the big payouts were still to come. No one left would win less than $1.8 million and one of them would head home with over $8 million!

Unlike ESPN’s after-the-fact edited coverage, the live broadcast didn’t reveal all. There were no hole card cameras to show the player’s secrets. I found it difficult to follow the live action with the same enthusiasm I’ll have watching later.

Rick cashed a small win in a 45 player tournament and signed off his account as I took over, losing two nine person tournaments. Grrrrrr.

By 3:00 AM I was ready to call it a night.

In the three hours I spent in the basement, no players were knocked out. In fact, as I write this (with even less compelling audio coverage on in the background) the same four players are at the table!

There are no time limits in effect. They could be done in a few minutes or play on into Wednesday. The forced bets, or blinds, keep going up. That guarantees the game can’t last forever, but nothing’s being forced right now.

I think I’d like to go in Vegas to play in the World Series. $10,000 is too rich for me (especially since I’m likely to be ‘dead money’ against this competition), but there are other cheaper games played in the weeks leading up to the big show.

It seems a little decadent. It seems very exciting.

MLB – I’m Talking To You

As part of her… uhh… 21st birthday, I gave Helaine a subscription to Major League Baseball’s video service. She watches the Phillies and I think the service is a good deal.

Often, I go to the site MLB maintains for the Phillies and that’s where my complaint begins. The site loads and then a few seconds later, while you’re engaged in what you’re doing, a video commercial starts playing – LOUDLY.

I work in commercial TV. I understand commercials. But MLB offers no functionality to quiet this beast on its page. In fact, once the commercial starts playing, you’re stuck closing your web browser or suffering.

Again, I work in commercial TV. I understand the utility of commercials.

Here’s the problem. I will check the Phillies site while my wife is sleeping… or from the studio at work. If they’re going to play their commercial LOUDLY and give me no way to stop it, I’m going to stop coming.

MLB will tell you, there’s the ability to click on the player before the video starts, which stops the whole process – and that’s true. But, since the commercial loads after the rest of the page, that countdown to LOUD sneaks in while you’re looking elsewhere. And, again, there’s no way to stop it or quiet it once it begins.

A friend at work says the Minnesota Twins site does the same thing.

This is not a page from “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”

Scary Multimedia

As I type this entry, I’m playing poker and watching 60 Minutes, all on my laptop. I’m in the family room, but I could be anywhere in the house or nearby.

Until a few minutes ago, we had been using an 802.11b Wifi wireless network. The pipe wasn’t wide enough to pass high quality video. Now it’s 802.11g.

Simply, I increased the network capacity a factor of five just by substituting one piece of hardware for another. The additional investment was under $50. The practical implication is, my DVR&#185 can now push high quality, full motion video over our in-house wireless network.

When I put the original wired/wireless network in, there was no hint it might not produce enough bandwidth. In fact, when that original network went in, my connection to the outside world was through a dial-up modem.

Now, I realize, this new network is just an interim step in a never ending search for unlimited bandwidth. I will constantly need more bandwidth in-house and more bandwidth from the outside world. There will be more reasons to push bits around the house.

Some of those reasons, like video, I understand. Other reasons probably don’t yet exist.

Here’s how more bandwidth changes my DVR. Until recently, if I wanted to look at a recorded show without sitting in front of the actual DVR computer, I copied the whole file, machine-to-machine, across the network.

Even on the fastest in-house connections, computers that are wired not wireless, it took a few minutes to move a file to the playback machine (my typical video file runs approximately 2 Gb per hour). Now I can stream to the playback machine, moving only the bits needed when they’re needed. Playback starts instantly.

This little hardware switch also allows me to use a new piece of software, the MythTV Player. I’m watching 60 Minutes using it right now.

There’s nothing about this player that looks any different as it sits on my computer desktop. What it does do is read markers produced as my DVR records shows. They point to the beginning and end of commercial breaks. This player automatically removes the commercial breaks as you watch a show… and it’s been very effective so far.

As you might imagine, this is pretty scary to over-the-air and cable television stations, which make their money selling commercials. That’s how my employer pays my salary.

Luckily for me, the immediate nature of TV news makes it relatively DVR proof. That’s not true for most entertainment programming. Viewers should understand – no one will pay for big budget programming unless there are big budget returns.

This technology is changing the landscape of television. Some of the changes will be very good. Other aspects are sad. Without revenue, highly produced programming will disappear.

What good is having unfettered access, if there’s nothing to access?

&#185 – My DVR is a homebuilt computer running MythTV software on top of Ubuntu Linux. The guts of the computer were being thrown away. I added a $75 card and extra hard drive. My only other cost was time and a modicum of grief.

Poker At The MGM

I have been playing a lot of poker since we arrived. I’ve played a few tournaments with the remainder $1/$2 no limit Hold’em.

Don’t let the declared stakes fool you. $1/$2 can easily become an expensive game.

At the moment, playing lots of hours since Wednesday, I’m up $28! That’s less than one winning hand separating me from being a net loser.

The dealers and cocktail waitresses at the tables have made more from my play than I have. I tip the dealer on every winning hand and the waitress with every drink (mainly water and coffee) delivered.

I have never played where the cocktail waitresses came to each table as often as they do here. I haven’t heard anyone have to ask for drink service! That’s very, very unusual. No, actually, that’s unheard of.

I like the poker room at the MGM a lot. The tables have a hard surface between the felt and rail. It’s much better for stacking chips and helps better delineate the playing area.

The dealers here are also very good. I’ve had no ‘losers’ dealing. Most are friendly and often engage in conversation.

Earlier today I had a dealer I recognized from years at the Mirage – Daryl. He is also known by his nickname, Razzo.

Razzo was the first person I know of to bring poker to the Internet. This was long before online poker sites and the like. His has been online since 1995.

I said hello and he said he recognized me. Maybe… though who knows. He’s dealt to tens of thousands of tourists.

The poker room is squirreled into a curved space, almost like a warped dumbbell. The two ends are larger than the middle. There are twenty two tables, each with automatic shufflers.

MGM’s poker room has the best automation set-up I’ve seen. As you sit down, the dealer logs you in (if you’ve got a player’s card, he just swipes that). The poker room floor people know how many people are at a table, who needs to buy chips, who has left. It’s super efficient, which is good because I want to play at full tables.

MGM runs some sit and goes (single table tournaments) and larger tournaments. I don’t like the blind structure, which goes too high too quickly. That favors gamblers and penalizes more analytical players.

When I started playing poker in Las Vegas, the average player was in his sixties. Most tables dealt limit 7-card stud. Today, the average player is in his twenties and (at least this afternoon) the room was 100% Hold’em, mainly no limit.

It’s still called poker, but it’s a totally different game.

Poker – Even I Don’t Understand

I’m home from work. My tie is off. I’m on the sofa in the family room. I’m playing poker.

I haven’t written about poker in a while.

I’ve had my ups and downs, even moved sites. After being online for a few years, I’m playing about even.

With recent changes to the US law, I’m not even sure I will ever be able to retrieve my stake Somehow, that’s not very important. I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

Here’s the weirder part. While playing poker, I’m watching poker. I’ve got the 2006 World Series of Poker on ESPN.

If you’re not a poker player, you should know, the WSOP has been over for months. Jamie Gold won. He has not been a sparklingly pristine champ.

I know the result of the tournament. I know who Gold steamed through to win. It makes no difference. It is just fascinating to watch the game progress.

Poker is not a simple game of luck.

I’m not even sure it’s correct to characterize it as a card game. I see it as a betting game. Within reason, how you bet is more important than the cards you get. You can win a lot on mediocre cards and very little with the nuts.

Conversely, you’re most likely to lose the most when your hand is good.

Watching how the game is bet, especially on TV where the hole cards are revealed, is an amazing education. There are lots of people who play stupid, even late in a very expensive tournament. Not that I could pass such a test every single time.

In these tournaments, it’s easy to look at the chips stacked in front of each player in a linear fashion. My theory of poker says that’s wrong.

If one player has $6,000 in chips and another has $2,000, they are only separated by one potential hand! That’s why I feel it’s important to not change the way you play, even when you’re behind. You’re never as far behind as the chips make it seem.

The difference in hands is best considered in terms of logarithms. Well, it is to me.

Back to the tournament on TV. They’re down to the final table and each of these players is winning a few million dollars or more. Yet, to a man, as they stand to walk away after losing, they’re unhappy.

That is so weird.

Rubbing Players The Right Way

From lv friday

I almost forgot to post this. While I was playing the noon poker tournament at Caesars, I witnessed a first for me. A player requested a masseuse and received a massage, all while playing cards.

I don’t know how much it cost, but it wasn’t free.

The Sky Is Blue

Yes, I know Nevada can be excruciatingly hot during the summer, but right now, it’s heaven. Temperatures have been in the 70s during the day with zero cloudiness!

What’s not to like?

My poker playing continues my head’s still above water. I decided to try the afternoon tournament at Caesars Palace.

When I first came to Las Vegas in 1975, Caesars is where I stayed. The original buildings are still there somewhere, but not in a form recognizable by me.

Back then a parking lot sat between the hotel and Las Vegas Blvd. Over the years, more and more has been built in that space and every other space.

The poker room at Caesars is new, spacious and nicely furnished. More important for me, the structure of the poker tournament is excellent. You get a lot of chips and the blinds increase slowly. That benefits a more conservative player, like me.

I still lost my $130 buy-in, placing well back in the pack.

I headed back to the Mirage to nap. A ‘wrong number’ to my home phone, which is begin forwarded to my cell phone, woke me after 30 minutes. Nap over.

I called Helaine and found she had walked dow the block to the Bellagio. I headed out to meet her. In our opinion, Bellagio’s buffet is the best on the Strip. We decided we’d have a buffet dinner there.

Meanwhile, it was early for dinner, so I sat down in Bellagio’s poker room. It was jammed. Actually, it was too jammed!

The poker tables and seats are much too close together for my liking. The room is pretty with a beautiful ceiling, but I’m not on the ceiling. It just wasn’t a particularly comfortable place to play.

I won back around $40. That was Bellagio’s saving grace.

Our nighttime plans took us to the Flamingo Hotel for Second City. Second City is an improv comedy troupe. It is named for, and has its base in, Chicago.

The show was very good… very funny. The theater is fairly small, so even though we sat in the back, the sight lines and sound were good.

I know Second City claims to be improv, and maybe these routines were originally improvised, but there seemed to be very little improvising going on last night. I’m not disappointed, just puzzled.

Before bed, I decided to play some more poker. I found a table at the Mirage which was a miniature United Nations. There was a Chinese man, Laotian woman, and at least two other accents I didn’t recognize. This at a table of nine players.

For the first time on this trip, I thought I played poorly and quickly dug a hole for myself. I was too interested in playing hands – that’s bad. By the time I righted myself, a stack and a half of the chips in front of me had been distributed to other players.

I bore down and scraped back. I was getting closer to even, when I was dealt two Aces. This table was so aggressive, I was able to bet strongly at each stage of the game without scaring everyone away.

The Aces held against another player’s Jacks, and I walked away up $29.

I continue to be ahead at the poker tables on this trip. I’m not up a lot. More importantly, I’m not down.