Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bad Poker Rules, Iraq Style

Being a guest in Iraq means doing without a few things that I enjoy. My wife and beer come immediately to mind. Being a short timer here at the Liberty/Victory Camp Complex means I’m a guest of those long-timers who are here for a year or more. This comes into play with things like bunk selection and transportation. I just can’t front someone who is putting up with this lifestyle when I’ll be home in under two weeks (9 days now, but who’s counting).

It also comes into play at the poker table. Most of us players have been in the situation where we are the new person in a group of regulars. We are the guest and we should act like it. That means not talking too much about things that no one else has any interest in. It means being extra observant and polite about the rules of the house. Is everyone taking off their shoes? Can I go in the fridge? That sort of thing.

It also means not being a jerk about the rules of the game. They play a certain way so that’s the way I’ll play tonight. I’m having to do a lot of that playing here in Baghdad. Our regular home games are pretty serious about the rules of the game. All of us have played a lot of casino poker and we try to fashion our rules after theirs. After all, they developed those rules over many years for various reasons. I like to say, “We learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have enough time to make them all ourselves.”

But here in the desert, I get the feeling that most have not seen the inside of a casino and several kitchen table rules are in effect.

Two cards wins in Omaha. In every casino I’ve played in, if there is a showdown, the players must show all of their cards to win the hand. Not here. Actually they have started enforcing that rule for hold’em, but most of our hands are Omaha and winning players regularly show only the two cards they are playing. This has led to the comical grab for the face-down cards when the player realized he’s folded a winning low. Thankfully, those cards have been ruled dead and much laughter generally ensues.

String bets are out, but unannounced single-chip raises are fair game.

Announcing “there is a low” “there is a flush” “there is a straight”. Yep, talking about the hand when you are not involved is not only tolerated, it is encouraged. I cringe every time I hear it and I hear it on every hand. “There’s the low”, “There’s no low.” There’s the straight/flush/boat/whatever. Arrrrrrrggggggggggg. I just bite my lip and shake my head. It’s their game.

Dealing the turn and river after the flop. I saw and commented on this one last year. Usually, after the flop, the dealer will continue with a burn and the turn card face down and then another burn and the river face down. Some have even been known to deal the cards and then immediately deal the flop, turn and river, all face down. We almost had a hand killed when mucked cards hit the already dealt board. Do you think that put an end to the practice. Nope. I’ll admit that I’ve been able to pick up whether the down cards are face cards or not from time to time. If they are going to make it a part of the game, I’m playing.

There are apparently no cut cards in all of Iraq. I’ve seen the cards shuffled face up, turned over and sat in front of the cutter who just taps the deck. I generally know 3 or 4 cards on the bottom of the deck when the deal starts. If I miss it I just have to be patient because the bottom card will be flashed several times before all the cards are dealt. Since we are playing Omaha, those cards are likely hitting the board.

The worst one came last night. One fellow was having a really rough night. He was complaining about all of the bad play and suck-outs that he was enduring. We all know the drill. He had a really bad habit of holding his cards down on his lap under the table. This made me a bit nervous, but he was on my immediate right and I could see his cards so I doubt that anything dirty was going on. He finally sees a hand and a flop that he really likes and goes all-in. As play in the hand continues, he takes his cards with him to the fridge, to show the other table and all around the room. On the turn or river his high straight got counterfeited He got quartered and lost money again. I had no sympathy.

But like I said, I’m a guest and I don’t make many suggestions and they seem to respect the one’s I do make. Maybe I’ll try for cards on the table at all times tomorrow night. I’m afraid I’ll have to leave them with early dealing. I’ll call it a quaint local custom down at Huckleberry Farms.

And I lost $80 last night. So there.

The Boys are just Sick – Iraq Poker II

I played the local game again Wednesday night. It may have been the sickest game I’ve ever been involved in. It didn’t take any time at all (literally 2 or 3 hands) before guys were regularly pushing all-in preflop playing Omaha 8 or better. A-2-x-x Shove. That was the game. Most folks buy in for around $40. One guy got a little ill, stood up and threw $200 on the table stating “OK, if that’s the way you want to play, let’s go!” That just makes this rock smile from ear to ear. I got to say my favorite phrase 3 times this night - “I’ve got the nuts and there is no low.” Is that poetry, or what?

We also played so freaky games that I’m not sure I remember. We played 5 card double draw with 5s and 10 wild. I won one of those with K5K10 for quads. We played a couple of variations of stud with a chicago (low or high spade gets half). I took one pot when I got dealt the 2 of spades and pushed everyone off the pot. Cool. Before the night was over, I had dubbed this game “Huckleberry Farms” because there is ALWAYS a huckleberry around. I walked out a bit early with $202 more than I came with.

Here are a few random pictures from around the office:

Be careful what you put on your ‘Nilla Wafers:


Jeff is slaving away:


Our lifeline:


Let’s all learn some Microsoft stuff:



Friday, August 21, 2009

More Poker for Iraq

Last week, regular readers will recall, I took a pair of aces and drew three cards to get a full house (AAA55) on the only draw of the hand.  So what are the odds of that?  One of the two aces and two of the four 5s or three of the four 5s?  (4.3% * (8.7% * 6.7%)) + (8.5% * 6.5% * 4.4%) = .0493% or 1 in  2027.  I’m sure someone can get exact numbers.

Now what if I told you that we played another hand of draw tonight and the same thing happened.  This time it was KK and I drew K55.  That makes it twice in a row.  .0493% * .0493% = 1 in 4.1 million.  Live poker is so rigged.

The rest of the night was really dry.  The cards really ran against me and I still managed a profit of $36.  I love this game.

Otherwise, I’m learning a ton on this job and keeping things on track well enough.  That makes the time go quickly so all is good.  Thanks to my FB friends for their notes and well wishes.  That really helps, too.

Iraq – Poker and Pictures

Well wouldn’t you know it. I managed to find a juicy poker game here in Camp Victory. I suppose it is frowned upon by official sources, just like at home, but I think of it more as recreation. Besides, playing with some of these guys is not gambling at all.

The game is dealer’s choice. All games so far have been no limit and all players pay a quarter ante on every hand. There are no blinds. That is a first for me in hold’em and omaha, but it works. There is tons of action. I hesitate to say it, but I actually think it is looser than the Falstaff home game, even those nights when Nate the Elder and Jim the Knife are both attending. I’ve yet to find an amount that won’t draw 4 callers.

Last night in a hand of O8, there is very little action to the river when a third heart hits the board. I’m acting first and take a pot sized stab with 3 players to act behind. The first folds as does the second. The fish at the table calls me with a 4-3 as his low (no A or 2 on the board) and a pair of jacks for a high. Of course I got quartered because I was just making a play. I lost 3 or 4 bucks on that hand, but the information on that player made me 5 times that much before the night was done.

A big hand late in the evening had me catch a set of 8s to bust AKs with and K8x flop. Funny thing was that the flop was all diamonds. AK leads post-flop for $25. I’m 90% sure he didn’t hit his flush there and I’ve got a good shot at a boat so I go all in for the $36 more that he had. No improvement for either of us and I take the pot. That was one he could have gotten away from.

The we played one hand of 5 card draw (only one draw and two round of betting). I get a nice AAxxx hand. My bet only gets one call on my immediate left. I draw three and get A55 for a miracle boat. I bet $15 and my opponent calls and shows a high FLUSH. I still can’t believe he didn’t shove. If the cards are reversed, I go broke every time knowing that it is the right play.

We also played some Crazy Pineapple (called by the degen from NC). That was fun. I get a crap hand and keep 34. I really feel obligated to play since no one had ever played it before. The flop come J52. Now I’m interested. I bet and get two or three callers. Blank on the turn so I bet more and get called. The ace on the river gives me the nuts, a nice pot, and a rash of shit from my new ‘friends.’ Good stuff. I’m glad only one of them had a gun. (Hummm, just like the home game).

I’ve played two nights and netted about $180 so I’ll be back next week for sure.

We had a major dust storm yesterday, Here is a picture of the masque that I used as an air quality reference last year. This is what it didn’t look like yesterday.


See my posts from June 2008 to see what is supposed to be there. Dust gets on and in everything. Here are a couple expamples:



Here is a shot to give you an idea of how hot it get in Iraq in July/August. This is necessary for a south facing door:


Finally, a picture of my new wheels. I like having some personal transportation. It’s not a Boxster but this ain’t home:


Let me wrap this post up with a funny shirt that I saw in a store back in Kuwait. Take care, all. I know I’ll try.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yea, what he said.

Thank you, Spaceman, for putting into words much of what I’ve been thinking about the health care debate. Your post titled “

A Few Reasoned Thoughts From An Outraged Retard

Really hit the spot this morning.  No matter which side you are on, you should read this for some independent, reasoned thinking.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What am I doing here?

I’ve got a week to go here in this hot, dusty, hard, boring place known at Camp Liberty/Victory near Baghdad, Iraq.  I feel the need to assess my attitude and begin the push toward a strong finish of this project.  So forgive the navel gazing for this post.  This is an exercise in attitude self-adjustment.

So here are my reasons in roughly ascending order:

Number one, there is money involved.  It’s not a great deal of money, but it’s not trivial either.  It’s gap money.  It makes the gap between what is in the bank and what is owed every month a little wider and that’s not a bad thing.  It will also pay for my post-trip rehab (vacation with Dr. K).  For many of the contractors here, that is the reason heard most but those folks are doubling, or more, the amount they would make or save working a normal job in the states.  But for me, for just one month, there has to be more to it than just a little financial boost to make this a bigger reason to be here.

Number two is the adventure.  I’m a sucker for a reasonably safe adventure.  Coming to a hellish part of the world and testing myself against the discomfort and long working hours, lack of transportation, bland meals, second or third rate working conditions, and more, is something I have to do to myself to feel that I still measure up.  The stark difference between the life I have in the states and life here makes me all the more respectful of our military men and women and all the more thankful for the life I lead back home.  The saying goes “you don’t appreciate things until they are gone,” I come here to make sure I appreciate all that my life is and to put perspective around my disappointments.  I also need to press my limits here and there to see where they are now.  I can imagine the great explorers like Byrd, Livingston, and Shackleton thinking the same way on a much larger scale.  My job just offers a war zone and army life as a small scale testing ground for me.

The economy has something to do with it.  This is not the kind of economy that I want to be out in looking for a job.  My heart goes out to my friends who have been forced into that situation.  It is much tougher than just not having a much money as before.  No one has threatened my job nor have I been told I need to “pick it up.”  My billable hours were down for the FY one month in and there is nothing like 5 84 hour weeks to get that back in line.  But I also show myself to be a team player by taking assignment that others might not.  I know that some folks have situations that prevent them from these assignments, but I have a wife that understands some sacrifice for a career and we have no kids, so I do this to put a bit of a gap between me and the headhunters.  I’m not married to my employer, so I want to leave in my own time for my own reasons (I’ve been saying that for 15 years now).  This helps.

I’ve really enjoyed gaining and regaining new skills in the SQL Server product family.  I found out that I already know more than I give myself credit for, but I’ve not had a month of consistently working with Integration Services, Analysis Services and SharePoint as well as building servers and putting them into production.  I wanted to come here and hone my skills and I’ve gotten just that.

The biggest reason I’m here is that I support what is going on over here and I get a sense of pride out of giving of myself toward that end.  Now before you make any political assumptions about the meaning behind '’what is going on over here', please hear me out.  What I see here is a people with a chance at freedom.  They have a chance to make for themselves a place that is safe and strong.  A place that loads less of a burden of worry about the life of loved ones on their shoulders.

The debate about how this country got to this point has merit on both sides and I really don’t know if the ends have anything to do with the means.  But I can see what IS right now.  I can see what not finishing this job correctly will mean for this place.  I’d say the chances of this place finding anything close to the peace I describe as very slim (due as much from our political friends as our enemies), but that’s a far better situation than they had 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years ago.

I’m also very proud to be from the place that has produced the men and women that I’m working with, namely the officers and soldiers of the US Army.  These are not people who are interested in killing anyone.   They are committed to ending this thing the right way for the people of Iraq.  They talk of freedom often.  They understand the difference between a lawful and unlawful order and they have a cause and are committed to it.  Sure, there are outliers, those who don’t fit the above description for one reason or another.  But the average soldier here is smart and strong and noble.  This is a historic place and a historic event.  The boots on the ground here are the best ever.  It is what I believe our country is and should be – Smart and Strong, and Noble.  There are still patriots and some of them are here.  I’ll return home proud to have served their mission.

This is already a bit long, but I want to pass on a story that I received in email this morning that I really enjoyed.  I hope you do, too.

From a Chaplain in Iraq :

“I recently attended a showing of 'Superman 3' here at LSA Anaconda.  We have a large auditorium we use for movies, as well as memorial services and other large gatherings.

As is the custom back in the States, we stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through the National Anthem the music stopped.
Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments; and everyone would sit down and call for a movie. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.

Here, the 1,000 Soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again. The Soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped.

What would you expect to happen? Even here I would imagine laughter, as everyone finally sat down and expected the movie to start. But here, you could have heard a pin drop. Every Soldier continued to stand at attention.
Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off:

   "And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner
    yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

It was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq . I wanted you to know what kind of Soldiers are serving you here. Remember them as they fight for you!
Pass this along as a reminder to others to be ever in prayer for all our soldiers serving us here at home and abroad. For many have already paid the ultimate price.

Written by Chaplain Jim Higgins
LSA Anaconda was at the Ballad Airport in Iraq, north of Baghdad”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Publishers Note

I've taken a few posts down for a little while. I decided that there might be some risk to keeping them up, so I scheduled them for republishing upon my departure from Iraq.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise!

Apologies to Ted Geisel, but that is what I’m noticing about Iraq today.  This is one really loud place.  Sure, my bed is hard and a bit too short and every meal is in one of three mess halls nearby, and work is 12 hours a day, every day.  All of that adds to the grind, but noise never cuts a break.

We get a few low flying helicopters over our house back home.  The hospital is very close and sometimes the pilots take a bit of a shortcut overhead.  Those are little toys compared to the Blackhawk helicopters that are flying here day and night.  Those suckers fly low and loud and in noisy pairs.  When they come in over the trailer where I work, everything on the walls either rattles or flaps.  I feel it very clearly in my chest.  Is it bothersome?  Yes, but I still want to run outside and watch them fly by every time.

All of our power comes from generators on base.  Each one looks just like the kind shipping containers that you see unloading from cargo ships.  In fact, guess they are shipping containers.  They had to get here somehow.  Those monsters run on diesel and make a humming sound when you are indoors.  When outdoors, it sounds like you are riding on the front bumper of a tractor trailer truck.   Of course, they point the fumes sideways instead of straight up so we can enjoy the smell as well as the full effects of the sound.  The one that I hear the most is running the electricity in my workspace.  I know this because several times an hour, I’ll hear the generator engine slow down.  Two seconds later every computers battery backup will give off a single “BEEP”.  It’s like they are talking to each other.

Then there is the mess hall, or DFAC (Dee-Fak).  I know they had a competition in Spivey’s Corner, NC (home of the hollern’ world championships) to design a chair/floor combination that would maximize noise and irritation.  I hope no animals were harmed in the testing because if so, there are so mighty irritated swine in Eastern NC these days.  Those heavy metal chairs have a seat that percusses like rock drummer’s tom-tom.  Soldiers must be drilled in the methods of moving chairs without the chair ever leaving the floor.  I can see Lou Gossett yelling at Richard Gere now, “HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SIT IN THAT CHAIR WITH IT IN THE AIR BOY?  YOU GET THAT CHAIR OUT AND GIVE ME 20, MAY-O-NAISE, AND i DON’T WANT TO BE ABLE TO HEAR NOTHIN WHEN YOU ARE DONE!”  I promise you, Lou would be deaf as a stump after 20 reps.

Finally, the heat in this oasis has a noisy side-effect that is oh so American – the air conditioner.  They are everywhere and they are loud.  That make’s a lot of sense as they don’t get much of a break.  The heat here is just incredible.  First thing in the morning is just a little hot.  I’ll break a little sweat walking the 50 yards from the showers to my trailer.  When the sun finally comes up, then it’s really on.  A temperature of 110 (which happens often) means over 140 in the sunshine and boy houdy does the sun shine.  It’s a hot that you don’t get used to.  It just keeps coming and coming.  All you can do is get out of the way.  When you feel it, you really understand that this is dangerous heat.  Not taking it seriously means trouble, big trouble.  So the air conditioners are always under a heavy load.  I don’t even think a few of them have thermostats.  No need since they never catch up.

To top it all off, I got a real audio treat last night.  It was just short of midnight and I had a dream about riding in a car that had slammed on the breaks but wasn’t stopping and then I imagined that I was in my bed and a car was coming through the wall.  About then I woke up enough to realize that my AC unit had decided to throw a bearing and start the most awful metal-on-metal screeching sound I’ve heard in many years.  I little testing showed that the unit was on it’s last legs.  I turned it off and by 3 am the heat was too much.  I turned it back on and it did fine for about 10 degrees and 15 minutes and then Screeeeeeeech!  I made it through till morning with that.  If it’s not fixed tonight, I may be wishing for a bit more noise while I try to sweat and sleep.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The monkey tells it better

I admit, this is just down-right stupid.  I just can’t help myself.

No monkeys were injured in the posting of this clip.  More stories of Poker and/or Iraq in the works.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Thousand Words About Our President


Can you pick which two are friends?  Can you pick the racist?  Can you pick the one who is looking forward to the photo shoot?


Thanks StB.