April 25, 2005

Not to beat a dead poker horse, but....

I got second in a poker tournament last night (which puts me on a bigtime hot streak, and man do I wish this was for money). It was easily the best tournament I've played from beginning to end, but there was easily one hand that stuck out that pretty much made my night.

There were seven of us at the table, and I was in second position with pocket 7's, so I doubled the big blind and got two callers. At this point, I was the big stack with around 16,000 in chips, but the two callers I got were only behind by 1,000 chips or so. Flop comes out King-Queen-7, and I have trip 7's. I'm thinking about how to slow play my 7's when the fella next to me goes all-in for 15,000. It takes me a while to call, because I know I'm sunk if he has Pocket Queens or Kings, but I called, because a set's a set, right? Turns out the other guy goes all-in as well, and we were pretty even in chips as I mentioned, so this was big for all of us. I had them both covered by 1500 chips, so even if I lost, I was still in it. The last caller had the fewest chips to go in, so there were two pots, a side pot of 1,000 chips and a HUGE pot of over 50,000 chips.

Turns out the other guys had a king, one with an ace kicker, and the other with a rag (9 or lower), so I was in control, but a king would sink me. They were both hollering for a king, so I non-chalantly mentioned to the dealer that he could throw out a seven if wanted to. Then he flipped over the turn.


I couldn't believe it -- I'd become the tournament chip leader (there were still a couple other tables open) in in hand, and no one on my table had anything close to what I did, so I could pick my battles until we condensed to a final table. I played well up until the end, where I made a couple bad calls, but lasted until I made it to head's up (one-on-one) play when I lost. Honestly, placing that well was a fitting end, and this time my wife was home to celebrate it with me, and that made the perfect ending to a great weekend.

April 24, 2005

What a weekend

Normally, a weekend isn't that big of a deal for me -- I work retail, so I usually have to work either Saturday or Sunday (if not both), and I did have to work yesterday, and a 1-9 shift at that. Normally, that's not an enviable shift, but I actually switched with someone to get it. I'm not crazy -- I just knew that I wouldn't up to be at work at 9 on Saturday.

Especially after playing a midnight poker game. I'm in a free Texas Hold'Em league here in Indy, and there's a pub down south that hold games Friday night, one of them at midnight. Normally, I can't play the midnight game, not only because I'd come home to Meagan REALLY late, but because I'd be REALLY smoky, and Meagan doesn't like that. But Friday night, Meagan was in Nashville, enjoying Rites of Spring, and I was at The Mirage, enjoying some free poker.

(If you don't like poker, skip the next paragraph)

I actually didn't get that many good hands. Sometimes I didn't catch even when I did. In the first game I played (which was actually the second that night), I'd been blinded to about 3000 chips (we start with 5000), and the larger stacks at my table were around 15,000. There were eight people at the table, and I was in the small blind with Aces -- good ol' pocket rockets. Four people called the big blind, and I went all in. Everyone folded to nice little ol' lady (who had actually won the first game of the night) who was the tall stack at the table. She called and showed K-Q of spades. I flipped over my aces (both red), and she started to count her chips to match my bet. The first card in the flop was the ace of clubs, and I had my set. I though I was sitting pretty until the ten of spades and five of spades came out, giving her both straight and flush draws, with two cards to catch either and beat me. The turn was a blank, but the river came up a spade and she had her flush. But for me, it was the prettiest card in the deck. It was the Ace of Spades and I had quad Aces for the second time in two weeks. I was ecstatic, but went out a few rounds later after the same woman hit another flush (this time with 4 cards on the board) and beat my set of 2's.

So I got something to eat and a Killian's cause I had another hour or so until the next game, and started to read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, after picking up a very, very nice leather bound edition of the entire five-book trilogy from the store. It was hard to eat through all the laughing that I did -- it's quite possibly one of the funniest books I've read, and I'm only 60 pages into it.

Here was the coolest part of the night. I won the midnight tournament.

(One more poker paragraph)

I'd been to a lot of final tables lately, but still hadn't won, which was ok with me cause I've been playing for only a month. But this was my night, even though I'd lost a good amount of chips about halfway, I finally started to catch cards on the board, even if I was just in the blind with 9-10, I'd catch a couple tens on the board and double up. When we made the final table, I had about 16,000 chips (which was about average) and hit pocket tens in the small blind. The chip leader, a big ol' bald guy who got second in the second game and leads the state in points for the month, bet 16,000 chips, which I called, and I'm all-in again. He's got K-Q suited, and I knew it was pretty much a coin flip. Flop came Jack, Ace, three, none in his suit, giving him a straight draw, but I've still got the better hand, though now if I trip up, he gets the straight. Turns comes another Jack, which at first looked alarmingly like a queen. So now he needs a King, Queen, or Ten to knock me out. Flop comes a three, and I had three pair to his none, and had around 40,000 in chips putting me second at the table. I caught great hands the rest of the way -- I called an all-in with Ace five (he was severely short-stacked and I was already the big blind). He had pocket queens, but I sucked him out with an Ace on the river. I caught pairs by calling all-ins until there were only two of us -- the guy I'd been sitting next to all night. He had had the chip lead for a while after brilliantly playing quad 7's early in the game (three 7's came on the board, but he checked until he had two people go all-in, both with full houses, before he showed the last 7 and got a HUGE pot). Most of the time, he caught a good hand and I didn't, or vice versa, so we basically traded blinds until he went all in. I had 10-9 suited and figured I might as well call (My stack had grown to about twice his by then), and did. He'd try to bluff with 10-5 off suit, so as long as he didn't get a five, I'd won. I caught my nine on the flop and knocked him out, winning the tourney.

I stayed composed until I got to the car, at which time I screamed, whooped and hollered all at once. I called Meagan and left a message on her phone (it was 2:30 by then, but I had to at least leave a message). Then I went home and watched TV until I fell asleep. But while I was watching TV, I realized that this was probably the worst time to win a tourney, because I had no one to share it with other than the people I'd just beaten. When I won, I'd thought it was better than watching the VU women's basketball team beat UT in Memphis, but after I got home, I figured out that part of what made it so special was celebrating with the rest of the band, whereas now I had Fred and Eliot, who were more concerned about their water dish than pocket tens.

So it was a great week-end. I won a poker tourney, started a great book, and found out something important. No matter what success you reach, it's only as fulfilling as the people with whom you can celebrate it. Meagan come home tonight, and hopefully when she does, and I get back from my game, we'll have another win to celebrate, but if not, it'll just be good to see her and tell her all this in person. That'll make it one of the best weekends ever.

April 20, 2005

Question my loyalty???

It has come to my attention that my loyalty to one Atlanta Braves baseball team has been questioned. To this, I say: :P

I still proudly wear my Braves cap whenever I can, especially to any poker games I can make. I've not given up hope on the season (as I understand that the season is a marathon and not a sprint), and will continue to support the team even if they somehow do not win the division.

My previous blog was in no way a dig against the entire team, merely against the general manager, whose job it is to put the right people on the field. I think that he made the wrong move, esp. considering that Marcus Giles gets injured whenever the wind blows over 6 mph. We could really use a good utility infielder, even as a backup, for those situations, but Mr. Schuerholz decided to let him go.

By way, Marcus Giles has 0 home runs in 29 at bats. Mark DeRosa has 1 in 5. Who's the better second baseman? Hmmmm....

April 19, 2005

Story numero two

All right, the assignment for this week was to write about a trip home by plane, car or train -- NO planes! Also, the main character has to being home to either rekindle a lost love, commit a murder, or reveal a secret to the town, be it one they don't know about or one that they've been trying to conceal. See if you can find out which one I chose. ;-)

It’s the kind of day where you’d have to be crazy not to own a convertible. Unfortunately, that’s where I find myself – strapped into a battleship grey Sentra with the windows down as the only air conditioning. Not quite the Thunderbird I’d seen myself in for this reunion, but it’ll do, I suppose. After all, this is the one of those rare trips when the destination turns out to be much more important than the journey itself.
I haven’t seen Samantha in nine months, though the months seem like decades now. Cliché as it may sound, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her, and the drive home isn’t helping. It’s a long way to Seaside Gardens, FL, and the lack of air conditioning isn’t the only thing making time crawl by. Every Podunk town or Mom and Pop store seems to rekindle a memory of her, which somehow makes the ride quicker and longer at the same time.
Take Shirley’s Ice Cream Shack over there. I met Samantha there as I was working one summer. She ordered a double scoop – Mint Chocolate Chip with Cookies ‘n’ Cream in a waffle cone. “That’s a lot of chocolate,” I told her as I handed her the cone.
“I know, but I think I can handle it,” she said with a smile. It was that smile that made me fall in love with her. I don’t know if it was the wink that came with it or just the way her dimples flared, but I knew at that moment who I was going to marry and spend the rest of my days with.
I can’t help but hum along to the radio as the miles go by. So many memories along this stretch of highway, but I can’t seem to escape the ones that deal with Samantha. Throughout high school we were with each other, not just in a relationship sense, but actually side-by-side. I can’t help but smile wider as I pass Ocean View College, home of the Sea Gulls and our alma mater. We spent a lot of time together there, either in class, studying, or even just hanging out. I really don’t think college would’ve been the same without her – she not only helped me with the work I didn’t quite understand, but she also supported me through the rough stretches when I thought I was going to go nuts. After four years, we stood by each other, degrees in hand and ready, but a little scared, to face the real world. We knew we had an advantage that our classmates didn’t have; we had each other.
I remember the drive from school to her home being a lot longer, but here I am, pulling up in front of her house. As many memories as we had at school, we have threefold as many here. As I step out of the car, I can’t help but walk around the house before going in. I don’t think she’ll mind – even though it’s dark, I’m sure she’ll know that I’m not just some looney walking around in the middle of the night.
Walking into the front yard brings memories of birthday parties and sitting in the sun for hours. We spent of lot of time here, either studying over the week-end or just getting away from the hustle and bustle that college kids create on Friday and Saturday nights. Not that we didn’t create any of our own while we were on campus, but it was so much more special when we were away from it all.
Waves sweep over my senses as I walk behind the house, filling my ears with the roar of the water pounding into the sand. The beach, which was the entirety of Samantha’s backyard, was our special place. I can see our beach chairs where we would watch the sun set over the ocean. We had our first kiss at dusk while standing at the edge of the water as she leaned back while wrapped in my arms.
I flip off my shoes and wade an inch or two into the water, trying to remember the exact spot. I can’t quite find the exact spot, but it’s close enough to soak in the love I feel on this beach. I can see the house from here, point out each room and remember hours of special times we had in each one. Outside, though, was where the most special moment happened, where we made love, right here on the beach. Afterwards, we held each other for hours, whispering sweet nothings, and she told me that I was the one for her and no one else could have her. It was in that moment where we both knew we’d be together forever, and had no idea if anything could ever tear us apart.
But now I know – it’s a restraining order. A legal document stating that I couldn’t be within 50 feet of the woman I love. I tried so many times asking her why, why she was doing this to me – to our love, but she kept running away. Then the men came to take me to court, and I sat there listening to her say that she hadn’t met me, that I hadn’t even been to Ocean View University – just because I can’t find the diploma doesn’t mean I didn’t go! Then that woman in white sat down and said that I had PDS – pervasive delusion syndrome, where daydreams and fantasies become so engrained that I perceive them as reality. After that everyone thought I was crazy, and they sent me to Shore Line Treatment Center, where for eight months they tried to “cure” me by telling me that none of it ever happened. I still don’t know why they wanted me to lie about it, but it was the only way out, so I did.
And here I am, in front of her house. I know I’m not crazy – could a crazy person have driven all this way? Could a crazy person have found the unlocked door into her house? And who would’ve sold a crazy person this gun in my hand from the back of their truck? It adds up, doesn’t it? I can’t be crazy.
But Samantha said I was – she lied to all those people, and they sent me away. But I’m not upset about that. What upsets me the most is that she won’t talk to me or even look without running away. She won’t even acknowledge the love that we once shared, and the love that I still feel. That’s why I’m here in her bedroom. She used to stay up past 1 AM, but I guess she decided not to tonight. I bump into her dresser, and she wakes up with a start. As she opens her eyes, I raise my gun and tell her that I love her. Even though I can hear her scream for help, I can see in her eyes that she knows I’m holding her to promise – that if I can’t have her, no one can.

(This isn't a part of the story, I just want to note that I'm NOT a lunatic, and not that creepy in real life. Honest.)

Attention, Douchebag -- I mean, Mr. Schuerholz

By hitting a two-run homer last night, Texas Ranger Mark DeRosa has driven in as many runs in one swing as your entire team has in the the past TWENTY-TWO INNINGS!!!


April 17, 2005

Funny thing, weddings

I was fortunate enough to get to travel this weekend to Tennessee, first to Jackson, and then to Nashville. A surprise party for my grandfather took me to Jackson, and it was an incredible night. Sam was completely shocked by having all of his friends and most of his family there to wish him well (and to wish he and Grammy a happy 5th anniversary), and Meagan and I got to meet what must have been 75% percent of the population of Jackson. We saw/met some old friends of the family, and I got to meet and hear secrets from a published writer, which really encouraged me as I plug along through the course I'm currently taking. I also got to meet Charles, the gentleman who Mom has talked so much about and is teaching her how to play poker and golf (which are two definite pluses in my book). There was so much love in the room that night, and we were very lucky to have been a part of it.

On Saturday we attended the wedding of a friend of mine from college, someone I had roomed with for three years and one of my first friends at school. We were officers in Tau Beta Sigma together, as well as members of the band for each year we were in school. It was a nice ceremony, and so many of our mutual friends showed up that it was almost a band reunion. Meagan and I saw folks we hadn't seen since she or I graduated, and some for even longer.

My friend Jay was the best man at the ceremony, and part of the toast he gave mentioned that some relationships had come and gone in the time that the bride and groom's had, and I really thought it struck a chord with my entire weekend. See, one of my grandmother's best friends, C.J., had moved away from Jackson to Tupelo, MS eight years ago for a new job. She recently retired and is now moving in to the house across the street from them. C.J. was at the party, and she and Grammy acted like she hadn't skipped a beat. Eight years and they were still carrying on as if Tupelo was ten minutes away.

Then I looked at Meagan and me. In the past three years we've been through so much and we're still going strong (aside from the occasional spat over driving directions of course). Of course, I'm completely sucking up to my wife when I say, but I can't think of anyone else I'd rather be married to, and somehow that feeling gets stronger with every day that passes by.

I thought it was going to be a hard weekend, and there were a couple times when it was. All in all, though, it really taught me something. Not every strong friendship or relationship is meant to last for any number of reasons or outside influences, but that's the way it goes. I realized that that's what makes the ones that do last that much more special, and to enjoy them and keep them strong. It was so good to see everyone again, and I'm really going to try my hardest to keep up with everyone that I can, even folks I didn't get to see over the weekend.

And if you're reading this, you're one of those people. I know I say this a lot, but this time I really mean it -- shoot me an email at michaelponeill2003(at)yahoo.com and tell me how you're doing. I want to stop losing touch with people and keep up to date with what's going on. I promise my next post won't be this melodramatic, just think I had to get it off my chest.

April 12, 2005

It begins!

Allow me to present the first story written for my Creative Writing class. Our assignment was to write a three-page story about finding something in the backyard. Enjoy. Or mock, whichever you're more comfortable doing....

May 7
All I can remember clearly is the doorbell ringing. Everything else is fuzzy – the two men in the doorway, the glances they made behind me, and the blinding pain in the back of my head. Actually, thanks to the welt, that memory’s pretty clear itself. Next thing I remember is lying in the back seat of a car; my hands behind my back, my mouth covered by a rag, and my head racked with agony.

I had very little idea what was going on, and it was hard to gather my thoughts. Through the pain, I connected the men at the door to the ones that had been setting up the pool in my backyard. My next door neighbor set me up with the service. “Yo, summer’s coming, man, and you’re gonna need something to keep cool. That or something to get the chicks over and keep warm, am I right?” What a jackass. It wasn’t a bad idea, though – it added a lot of value to the house. Plus, well… I guess I wouldn’t mind the whole chick thing. So, he set me up with, as it turns out, the people that were driving the car I was lying in, prone and confused.

But why? Not that I think my own neighbor wanted to see me carted off (though I’m sure it looked somewhat amusing), but why were the pool people the ones to do it? I’ve never done anything illegal, I’m sure as hell not a dangerous guy, and I can’t think of anyone that I’ve offended badly enough to find myself in this position. The only odd thing that I can think of was last Friday – come to think of it, they stopped working in the middle of the day. They had all gathered around something they’d found in the hole they were digging for the pool, but I couldn’t see from the window, and I didn’t think it was any big deal. As the foreman, or whatever he’s called, was telling me they were stopping early, I saw them carry something away in a long, black bag. He told me they’d gotten about seven or eight feet done in a week, which is pretty good, so they were going to save me some money and not charge for the hours they weren’t working. At the time, it sounded like a bad excuse to head to the bars early, but now I’m not so sure.

May 8

Funny how the better my head feels, the clearer my thinking. Though I should’ve realized this sooner, I’m pretty sure that a dead body was found in my backyard. It should’ve been the body bag I saw on the Friday, or even the fact that they’d dug just over six feet into the ground, but no. It actually didn’t click until I heard the guys (my captors, if you will) talking outside the small room I’ve been kept in. Every time they talk about what was in the bag, they always refer to it as “him.” I still don’t get why I’m in here, though – even if they found a body in my backyard, why would they need to take me anywhere? It’s not like I knew anything about it, and I’ve only lived in the house a few years. They would’ve asked questions if they thought I knew who it was, but they didn’t. Hell, they didn’t even ask me any questions before they knocked me out.

Oh. Oh, shit.

Maybe they don’t need me to tell them who it is cause they already know. What the hell – who the hell was buried in my backyard that could be so big that they’d take me out of my home and stick me in a cell with no windows for days at a time?


Now I’m really scared. I’d just finished writing those questions when two of the captors walked into my cell (which is really what this room is) and let me know a little of what was happening. Both men were huge and wore suits to make sure I knew it. They told me the kidnapping wasn’t personal, they just had to protect something they’d found. I told them I knew nothing about it, and they just agreed, adding that they wanted to make sure it stayed that way. The taller of the two even apologized for the bump on my head. The only thing keeping my retort for leaving my mouth was the large magazine of the pistol sticking out from his coat pocket.

They left after a while, but I could still hear them in the other room. It seems that someone on the inside (Frankie, I think they called him) was trying to make himself some money and let the discovery leak to the press. I don’t know what the papers would want with the knowledge that some dead guy had been buried in my backyard, but my guards were very concerned. They said someone had to “get to” Frankie before word got out.

May 9

Someone got to Frankie, but not in time for me. The two guys walked into my cell and slapped down a copy of the Globe on the floor in front of me. I still can’t believe the headline. Turns out, it’s the only paper Frankie got to before he was got to himself. Since the Globe isn’t the most reliable of sources, they’ve dodged a major bullet.

Not me, though. I’ve seen the headline, as well as the body, so I know the truth. I’m also the only person (aside from the goons in the other room and whomever they work for) that knows just how accurate the Globe is in this instance.

I’m really scared. They said they’d take me back home soon, but I’m not so sure. I don’t think they know about this journal, but I’m tucking the headline inside, hoping that if I don’t make it back, someone who can put two and two together will know the truth. Really, at this point, I think it’s all I have left.

The following were excerpts of the final pages of a journal found tucked in the pocket of a coat worn by Jacob Millerman. Tucked behind the front cover of the journal was a ripped out headline reading JIMMY HOFFA’S BODY FOUND IN MAN’S BACKYARD.