Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Poker Barrister is Dead

I'm making changes.  And I'm starting by rebranding this blog. 
Let's face it, the Poker Barrister was a fraud.  "Tales of Poker, the Law and Degeneracy"?  He only rarely played poker; and even then, usually poorly.  His skills as a barrister too were up for debate.  And, finally, let's be honest, filets and cabernets do not qualify as "degeneracy."  Perhaps the Poker Barrister just got old.  Regardless, as a result, the content of this blog suffered.  Updates of late were scarce, largely because of lack of interesting topics.  In short, the purpose of this internet space had been thwarted.  
But fear not; alas, this blog shall live on, albeit in a slightly different, broader and, hopefully, improved, basis.
There will still be poker and gambling content.  There may even still be the occasional work-related rant.  But there will be more.  As the new subtitle suggests, this blog will touch on other things as well.  Travel.  Sports.  Politics.  Health.  My endeavor is to improve both the quality of the content and the writing.  In the meantime, I'm going to leave the old posts hanging around.
If you followed The Poker Barrister, I hope you'll mourn him briefly, then subscribe here and stick around. 

Moving Forward

I'm trying to move on; trying to accept our reality.  Really, I am.  But he's making it so difficult.
The day after the election, I re-listened to Trump's victory speech.  He sounded Presidential.  He struck the correct tone; his message was on point.  I was hopeful to make the best of what I considered a bad situation.  Maybe his campaign bluster was all an act....
But it's been several weeks, and Trump without a speech writer is still the asshole he was during the campaign.  Putting aside potential appointments like Rudy Gulliani and Stephen Bannon, Trump continues to display the temperament and discipline of a high school bully.  He's spent the past day-and-a-half Tweeting about election fraud, trying to justify his overwhelming loss of the popular vote. 
To what end?  Does he not have more important things to focus on?   Why would a rational adult question the legitimacy of an election he won?  Shouldn't a President have a less fragile ego?  Shouldn't the leader of the free world act less petty?  And why the hell has no-one taken control of his Twitter account
While I want to be optimistic, the President-Elect is making it difficult.  It's hard to have confidence in the President's decision-making when he continues to act like an antagonistic social media bully.  If I were a betting man, I'd wager we, as a country, are pretty fucked . . .

Monday, November 21, 2016

Wheeling and Dealing (and Two Hands of Poker)

I've been driving a G37x for the past 5 years.  I bought it in March 2011.  Before that, I had another G37, sans AWD.  I really loved Infiniti.  Fun to drive; and no issues in nearly a decade.  The maintenance costs sort of sucked, but that's a whole different issue . . .  While I loved the car, due in large part to frequent trips to Atlantic City and Jets games during NFL season, the G37x had just shy of 100,000 miles on it.  Although the note had just been paid off in April, and I was enjoying the absence of a monthly car payment, I figured it was time to look into a new ride.
I had several requirements in purchasing a new car.  First, I did not want to finance it.  I had been saving up loose change for some time, and just wanted to drop a sack of quarters and nickels off at the dealership and be done with it.  This had me leaning towards something far less costly than another Infiniti.  Hell, I wasn't even sure if the Infiniti dealer would even accept change as a form of payment.  My other two requirements were (a) some power; and (b) all wheel drive.  I had gotten use to 300 HP+ and wasn't sure I could deal with a lack of torque.  And, living in D.C., which gets a fair amount of snow, AWD was important. 
I spent several months reading on-line reviews and watching YouTube videos, trying to narrow down my choices.  I considered a Ford Mustang Ecoboost; but the lack of AWD was bothersome.  I considered a Mazda 6; but besides looking cool, it offered neither power nor AWD.  I considered a Honda Accord V6 and a Ford Fusion Sport; but the reviews were not up to snuff.  Eventually, I started focusing in on the Audi A4 and the Acura TLX.  Both checked all the boxes; but were above my target price range, although the Acura only slightly so.  I weighed both for several weeks, and got estimates.  The A4 was clearly the better reviewed car, and had a ton of technology options the Acura did not have.  Eventually, I reached the point of: " . . . what's another $xxxx.xx . . ."  So, I made an appointment to test drive the Audi Saturday, with the intention of dropping off my sack of change if things went well and the price was reasonable.    
In preparation, I left work early Friday and made a trip to the DMV to turn in the lien release on my G37 to get clear title to trade in the car.  To my chagrin, they took my title and promised to send me a "clear" one in the mail within 6 days.  So, despite trying to make sure I had all necessary documentation to pull of a clean transaction over the weekend, I found myself in a worse spot than if I had done nothing.  The 2.5 hours I spent at the DMV waiting was just an added kick to the balls.  Friday evening, with no title in hand, I decided to at least get an appraisal at the local CarMax and see whether they would buy without a title in hand.  The process was easy.  CarMax lived up to its no-hassle billing.  Within 40 minutes, I had an offer in hand, good for 7 days.  And it was at the high end of KBB's estimate for the car.  Unfortunately, they would not buy without the title.  I left, but fully expected to return in a week to (get a new appraisal and) sell.
Saturday morning, I left the Mansion at 8:50 for the appointment at Audi.   I chose the location in Frederick, Maryland over Rockville (which is closer to D.C.).  I figured I might get a better price further out from D.C.; also, the roads in Frederick would provide a better opportunity to open the car up than the congested street's of Rockville.  I hate the car buying process, and was not looking forward to the morning.  I was also anxious to get out to Charles Town to play some poker in the evening.  Nevertheless, everything went smooth, despite the salesman's reluctance, for whatever reason, to actually offer me a price.  He kept quoting the MRSP on the various cars with various options, and would not directly respond with an actual number to my question - "well, how much off MSRP can you offer."  I had done the best due diligence I could.  Unfortunately, there were no Audi dealerships participating on Truecar.com, so I could not get a price evaluation from the site.  And Edmunds "fair price" was only marginally helpful.  The only reasonable piece of information I had was a "sonic, no haggle" price on a similar car from the Rockville Audi Dealership which I was using as a base.  But, since options vary so much car to car on this type of vehicle, even that was only of so much use.
When we got back from the test drive, the manager came over to give me an actual price.  I had a number in mind.  He came back EXACTLY on my number.  I have no feel for how much wiggle room a dealer like Audi actually has; and how much they will really negotiate.  I have a friend in Chicago who has owned two Q5's, and, in his experience, the dealer offered a take-it-or-leave-it offer both times he bought.  So, I countered $500 less; and the offered was quickly accepted.  I said, "damn, you agreed too quickly . . . I left money on the table, huh?"; to which he replied, "well, you offered a fair price, so I accepted . . ."  Who knows.  I'm sure I could have done better; but by how much?  I lacked the inclination to haggle over a few hundred dollars; but, if it were a few thousand, that would suck.  I'll never know...
And that left the matter of my G37.  I figured I'd have to drive it home 30 miles, Uber back to the dealer, and deal with selling it to CarMax after the holidays.  But, to my surprise, the manager said he's take it without title so long as I agreed to mail it in once received.  And, while I was expecting a low-ball offer, Audi came in only $500 less than CarMax - an amount I was not going to spend time worrying about.         
The paperwork was easy since there was no financing, and, after a 40 minute tutorial about the car's features, I was out the door and heading to play some poker.

As for poker . . . Yuk.  It was my first session in about a month.  I started out by chipping up to $330 or so, when the following hand happened:
I call $5 with 75x on the button, and we go 4 to the flop.  Everyone has about $300+ behind.  Flop is 4(c)  6(c)  8(h).  First to act makes it $15.  Second to act raises to like $75.  Third to act tanks, complains, and then calls.  I shove.  Call.  Call.  Call.  $1,200+ pot.  I figure 3rd to act is on a draw, given his tank-call.  Turn is a club.  Sure enough, he hits his flush.  The other two were set over set, bemoaning their misfortune.  I silently rebought, and moved on.
About 30 minutes later, I flopped another straight with 98 against a short stack ($120 or so).  He tables K(c) K(s) . . . flop brings two spades . . . turn is a spade . . . river is a spade.  Flush takes it.  I add on another $100.
Ultimately, I played 6.5 hours until 4:00 am.  At one point, I was in for $800 and felt like The Trooper.... I ended up taking a $230 hit to the roll when I cashed out.  Not the result I was looking for, but I felt I played well, and just got hit by the wrong side of variance.  The poker gods owe me next time out.
Happy Holidays,


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Wagering on Our Reputation

As a twenty year old, I was somewhat politically involved.  I was a full-time college student at SUNY Stony Brook, and a part-time super market employee (I spent Friday and Saturday nights stocking the dairy aisle of the local Waldbaum's for spending money).  I was a political science major; the duly elected President of the Stony Brook chapter of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law "Fraternity" (yes, sadly, that is a real thing); and a proud member of the College Republicans (this last one may come as a surprise to people who know P3 now).  Despite all this, I still had friends and, for a time, even a girlfriend.  But I digress . . .
Suffice it to say, I was motivated; I was excited for the future; I had goals and ambitions, many of which were centered on law and politics.  As President of the pre-law fraternity, I often organized campus-wide speaking events involving local politicians.  As a member of the college republicans, we campaigned for Republicans running for local and state wide office.  I remember hanging out with actual Congressmen and, as a twenty year old, feeling like I was a part of something important.  I spent several election nights at the local Republican watch party (or, whatever it was called), hanging out with other like-minded people, waiting for the results to come in and the candidates to take the stage for their speeches.  Looking back now, twenty-three years later, I sort of hate my old self.  Or, at the very least, I shake my head in disdain at my naiveté.
Upon graduation, I moved down to Washington, D.C. for law school at George Washington University.  You'd think this would have been a fantastic fit -- law school in the center of the political universe.  Indeed, after my first year, I nearly spent the summer interning for the House of Representatives.  But, ultimately, a minor detail known as "money" sent me back home to Long Island to spend the summer working at the Suffolk County District Attorneys' Office, while living, yet again, with my parents.
I graduated law school in 1998.  Along with my new-found legal knowledge, I graduated with $100,000+ in debt - an almost unreal number for a twenty-four year old (of course, nowadays, I believe a JD from GW costs nearly three times as much).  I spent two years "clerking" for a judge in D.C., making, if I recall, $32,000 a year.  It was hard to live in D.C. on that salary.  And, by the time my clerkship ended, I had added nearly $40,000 in credit card debt to my financial profile.  By that point, any notion of public service was pretty much dead.  And so I did what many young lawyers do - I sold my soul in 2000 and went to work for a big law firm. 
Within two years, I was debt free.  Also, within that relatively short time, my perspective on many things had changed.  I had relatively little motivation to "succeed" professionally; in fact, my only motivations were to bill hours to secure the best bonus; and to have as much fun as humanly possible when I was not working.  My perspective on politics was likewise drastically altered during this period.
I spent only eight months at my first post-clerkship job.  I joined the D.C. office of a national firm head-quartered in Cleveland, Ohio.  It was, pretty much, a sinking ship from the moment I stepped through the door.  One of the D.C. "rainmakers" was a lobbyist and close friend of George W. Bush, and I recall supporting Bush throughout that election process on the thought that, if Bush won the presidency, our office would likely benefit.  The thought of an actual Bush presidency was a minor aside.
But I was gone from that first firm before the election ever took place.  I jumped ship with two partners and one other associate, and we headed across town to join the D.C. office of the one of the biggest firms in the world.  There too, we had somewhat of a horse in the Bush vs. Gore debacle, as one of the Shareholders from the Tallahassee office represented Bush in the post-election litigation.  But, more notably, it was there that I worked in the same office as Jack Abramoff and his team of "lobbyists."  Frankly, I don't even recall personally meeting Jack, aside from seeing him around the office on rare occasions.  But I did get to experience the benefits of our association, as did most of the firm's lawyers.  Jack had a luxury suite at Camden Yards.  Not the law firm; Jack.  Jack had his own suite.  It was behind home plate, and directly adjacent to the Washington Post's suite.  It was one of the various places he and his team would take those in positions of access and power to wield their influence.  Several times a summer, a bus, filled with booze, would take us associates to a game.  It was awesome . . . so long as you did not think too deeply about the basis of this perk.  More often, we'd run into one of Jack's underlings in the lobby at the end of the evening, and they'd invite us out for drinks. They always paid; it wasn't their money.  They always had a "client" to bill the evening to.  I'd be treated to free beers and drunken stories about what these guys did for a living.  The only cost to me -- whatever little optimism I still possessed about this country's political system was crushed.
Now, twenty-plus years after watching election night with the candidates at Republican County Headquarters, I consider myself about as apolitical as a person can be.  At least a few times a month, I'll be on the phone with attorneys from somewhere far away waiting for a conference call to start, and the small talk will inevitably lead to, "so, what's going on in D.C. these days?"  I never know.  I simply don't care.  What's the point?  The system is utterly fucked.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I have not voted in the past two elections, in part because I now consider myself a Democrat and Maryland always goes blue as a matter of course, regardless whether or not I vote.  But more so because of my disillusion with the entire political process.
This year, however, will be different.  I re-registered to vote; and, this afternoon, I'll leave work early to cast a ballot.  Don't misunderstand - my disdain for the process has not changed.  Quite the contrary.  I sit back and think -- "how the fuck did we get to this place?"  As a Democrat, I wonder - "HRC?  This is the best the Party could come up with?"  I'm by no means excited to cast a Clinton vote tonight.  But, I will.  Because, like, the alternative?  What. The. Fuck!    
Given our political system, and the nature of its checks-and-balances, the President is, for the most part, constrained in the impact -- good or bad -- that s/he can have.  President Obama said it best during his (fairly) recent visit to Marc Maron's podcast; to paraphrase, "the best you can hope to achieve is some incremental change . . . to move the needle just a bit."  I'm not as worried as some about the impact a Trump Presidency would have on our country.  Rather, I'm more just embarrassed that it has come to this.  There's not much that can be said about Donald Trump than what has already been said countless times.  In my view, he's a disgrace of a human being.  I don't even get to his policies (assuming he actually has policies).  He's an asshole of a person and that, in my view, should eliminate someone from holding the highest, most prestigious office in the world.  I mean, is Donald Trump the guy you want as this Country's international representative?  Is this what we as a nation have come to?
Obviously, there are many people who disagree.  I'm not sure what Trump supporters base their decisions on.  I'm sure many simply refuse to vote for Clinton, either because she's a woman or because of the supposed crimes she's committed by maintaining work emails on a private server.  Many others, I'm sure, are simply fed up with the establishment's status quo and think that Trump will somehow be a welcome change.  There are, apparently, people who think that eight years of Obama have been a bad thing.  I'm not sure what these folks think Trump is going to do to improve their lives, but, if I were to guess, I'd wager it somehow involves guns, the notion that "all lives matter," and repealing "Obama Care" . . .  And, finally, others likely find accord with Trump's message - he says the things they think.  These are clearly the most frightening lot of the bunch.  I guess everyone is entitled to their voice.  At least these folks are readily identifiable and can be more easily avoided. 

It's no secret that Trump's base is largely comprised of uneducated men.  When it comes to deciding a President, this can't be a good thing.  In a related note, it's also been shocking to witness the role of social media in this campaign season, specifically, the amount of false-information being disseminated across platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  This too plays right in to Trump's base -- people who are unable, or refuse, to look behind the meme and base decisions on fact rather than spin.  Frankly, what I've witnessed on social media these past few months, even from friends and relatives, has been embarrassing.   
I'm going to vote today.  Then I'm going to stay up, nervously, awaiting the election results.  Regardless of the outcome, I'm not sure there will be any real winners among us.  If Clinton wins; cool.  I'm fine with four more years of the same.  And if the misogynistic, egomaniac and likely, mentally ill, former host of Celebrity Apprentice wins this thing, I'll still be fine.  Hell, my consolation prize will likely be more money in my pocket, which is nice.  But if Trump does somehow win this election, I'll spend the next four years living in shame of what we as a country did on this day.