Monday, August 19, 2019

No baseball fan can tell me cricket is dull

I have a superpower. In my mind anyway. It's not like Hollywood is going to make a movie about it or anything. But if they do then they owe me big time.

It's the ability to sit down, drink beer and watch sports at virtually any time of day or night. I've set numerous alarms for stupid o'clock in the morning if there's a particular event I want to catch and I've even been known to have a few beers before breakfast whilst watching if I've got nothing responsible to do for the rest of the day. I was in Vegas once when my football (soccer with the round ball) team were playing an important game against their local rivals which necessitated a 4am on Saturday alarm call and about 6 beers whilst I screamed the place down cheering them on.

My superpower comes in handy as I travel a lot - I'm often on my own in cities for days or weeks on end and once I've done a couple of sightseeing things I get pretty bored. I'm actually a pretty bad tourist - but not as bad as the family who asked me take their picture outside McDonalds on the Las Vegas strip who were over the moon that they'd found their favourite restaurant. But anyway - I digress.

It's a warm but wet weekend afternoon and I'm sat in a bar enjoying a couple of beers and watching the sport - which happens to be baseball. Whilst I don't follow any particular team and wouldn't know who was good or bad at any time I quite enjoy the game. I probably don't get every intricacy but I understand the infield fly rule and can confidently explain how the pitching team can make a triple play without anyone other than the pitcher on the fielding team actually touching the ball.

A gent sits next to me and asks me about the game. I tell him it's scoreless in the 6th or 7th and the game is pretty dire as there have only been a couple of hits. He responds "ah - you're British". Well at least he hasn't thought I'm Australian so that's a good start. 

"You probably watch cricket rather than baseball - I couldn't watch that as it's so dull" he continues. His tone is jovial and I take an immediate liking to him when he offers to buy me a beer. We begin chatting about various sports and he's keen to know how US sports are perceived around the world - we get most major league US sports on UK TV but baseball is still a pretty fringe option. I'd say the UK interest would probably be ranked NFL, NBA, NHL then MLB with MLS gaining ground rapidly. 

After a while (and a few more beers) I ask him about his dislike for cricket - is it the fact you can play for 5 days and still end up with a drawn game? Yes - this is a real scenario for any non cricket fans out there but I've seen utterly thrilling games end like this, sometimes a team can be up against the wall and a draw effectively seems like a good result whereas any American would be aghast at this

He tells me there's not enough action. I almost spit my beer at this outrage. "So what's the point of baseball?" I ask. "Those fans have sat for over 3 hours and seen 2 runs and about 4 or 5 hits. Where's the action there?" He says that's true but that's probably not a typical game. I tell him about a recent cricket match that I'd watched (a one day rather than 5 day game though) that went from 11am to 7pm where over 750 runs were scored in a day and finish up with "I like baseball but no baseball fan can ever tell me cricket is dull". I tell him that it's a legitimate tactic for the bowler to aim at the batsman's body and head at speeds around 90mph - an Australian cricketer was tragically killed a couple of years ago when he was hit on the head during a game. 

I probably haven't changed his mind though and we go our separate ways after a very enjoyable afternoon spent chatting and drinking - now if only my superpowers included remembering which hotel I'm staying in today. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The best way to play pocket Jacks

I don't know a poker player who likes pocket Jacks. There is probably one weirdo out there who will profess his or her love for them but I'm yet to meet them. Jacks suck. There's no good way to play them. There's a more than 100% mathematical certainty of at least one overcard hitting the flop and at least one of your opponents flopping a set.

I might have made that last bit up just to emphasise how much I hate them but you get the drift.

But I had a session recently in which I had an epiphany on how to play them. I couldn't lose. It came to me in a flash the first time I was dealt them and I sat there wondering how it has taken me so long to realise this. If you're thinking I'm going to say fold them straight away you're sorely mistaken. There's only a few situations where I open fold a small pair preflop and that's not the answer we're looking for. Jacks, although rubbish, are too good for that.

So now to my session. I've only been sat down 15 minutes and am halfway through my second beer of the night and I've not played a hand when I'm dealt JJ under the gun. I raise and get given literally no respect by getting 6 callers. The flop is a wonderful J-9-9. I check and a guy from late position bets $25. I'm the only caller and we see a 2 on the turn. Again I check and the other player bets $50. Now should I call or raise? He only has $125 or so left so I decide to minraise, hoping he ships it all in. Oh joy - he does. Meaningless river and I take it down - I assume he had 9-x but he mucks as soon as he sees my cards. Now I've finished my beer just as the waitress is taking orders again. Super.

I've played about 4 hands in the next hour before getting JJ again - surely lightning can't strike twice can it? I bet from late position and we're 4 to a flop of J-A-x rainbow. I'm giddy. Although that might have something to do with my beer intake - it's been over a hundred degrees today so I'm determined to stay hydrated by turbo necking beer and the waitresses are doing a sterling job keeping me refreshed. I call a bet on the flop and turn before raising his bet on the river. He thinks for a bit before mucking and stating I must have his ace outkicked.

Now about 4 hours into the session I've not hit another set all night - I've had my share of pocket pairs and the only one I've won a pot with was Kings where I led preflop and everyone folded on the flop when I continued.

I'm only going to play for one more round and I'm in MP with JJ again. I raise and get 3 bet shoved from the button. It folds back to me and I don't really have much choice. He only has $60 or so and it's an easy call. He turns over Ad-Kd. The dealer shows a King in the window as he turns over the flop. But there's also a Jack. Lovely. I play round to my blinds and am quite happy to have racked up a $225 profit for the evening. Luckily the waitress has just been round again so I grab my beer for the drunken stumble back to my room.

So the best way to play pocket Jacks is simple - just flop a set every time you have them!!