Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Boss rules.

I mentioned this in a Facebook post but it bears repeating. At the tender age of 43, I don't really know how many concerts I have seen in my life. Hundreds, for sure. In just the last 18 months, I have literally been witness to a who's-who lineup of rock and pop:

The Eagles
Britney Spears
Steve Miller
Kings of Leon
Peter Frampton
Katy Perry
Drive-by Truckers
Roger Daltry
Bryan Adams
Elton John
Collective Soul
Guns N Roses
Steve Winwood (once solo, once with Eric Clapton)

That's a pretty decent 18 months. There is no question, despite that wealth of talent, that I saw the best two shows of my life on back to back nights. Nothing will likely EVER be able to live up with Sunday's love-in with Paul McCartney. Last night, however, Bruce Springsteen came pretty damn close.

It took about 45 seconds to realize that Springsteen meant business. By the third song, Hungry Heart, he was out in the crowd, and in fact, returned to the stage BY CROWD SURFING atop a sea of outstretched arms.

Songs ranged from the classics (Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark) to the obscure (Red Headed Woman, which I have been told has been played in concert exactly TWICE since 1990), the old (Spirit of the Night, from his '73 debut) to the new (several tracks from his new album, Wrecking Ball). Oh, and let's not forget Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It wouldn't be a Springsteen concert without having a fan dressed as ol' Saint Nick pulled up onstage to sing along to a Xmas classic.

I had a pretty good excuse for having not had seen Paul McCartney before now; the last time he played here was 5 years before I was born. I have no such excuse for Springsteen, as he has been here many times. Not sure what kept me from going in the past; but after last night's show, I feel like a fucking moron. I will never miss another Springsteen show, you can take that to the bank.

The ultimate showman, Bruce spent as much time in the crowd (and I mean IN THE CROWD) as he did on stage; once taking a lady's coonskin cap (seriously, who wears a coonskin cap anyway???) and wearing it for the rest of the song, then passing it along to another fan in the front row. He pulled a young girl up on stage to help him sing one song (and she did very well) and during the encore, he helped an 80 year old lady up on stage to dance with him. Throw in Santa Claus and that's a lot of time spent directly interacting with fans (not to mention that he actually fell off the boards into the crowd at one point).

If I was amazed at the amount of energy the 70 year old McCartney had, the amazement was surpassed last night as Bruce, only 7 years McCartney's junior, put on a high-octane, full-on, ass kicking rock n' roll show, the likes I've never before witnessed.

Only one word can really sum it all up, and it's one we heard a lot from the crowd last night:


Monday, 26 November 2012

Sir Paul McCartney



There aren't really any words to describe the event that Tracey and I attended last night. Although our seats were just OK (I generally wouldn't sit that far back for anyone, but an exception is made for music Royalty), it was the best concert going experience of my life, by far.

McCartney created instant highlights with nods to John Lennon ("Here Today") and George Harrison ("Something", which started on ukulele and finished with a perfect electric rendition of this Beatles classic). He was polite and appreciative of the raucous Vancouver crowd (and I wouldn't use the term "raucous" to describe many crowds in Vancouver) and seemed to be genuinely moved by the constant standing ovations he was so rightfully given. I have never seen a performer, particularly one of such legendary status, seem so down-to-earth on stage.

He brought the house down, almost literally, during "Live and Let Die", with pyro and fireworks bouncing off the roof of BC Place. See for yourself.

The underappreciated Beatles masterpiece "A Day in the Life" actually brought a tear to my eye, and that isn't something I can ever remember happening at any concert.

 This was more than a concert, this was a chance for music fans from this city (and from any other city if they made the trek) to say "thank you" to arguably the greatest songwriter in history. Let's face it, at the age of 70, it's not all that likely he'll be back to our city. This was our one chance to see him live, and he sounded incredible. Much better than he sounded at the Olympics where it seemed as if his age might be finally getting to him. Not a single hint of that last night, apart from perhaps one or two less-than-perfect notes during the opening number. And kudos to the engineers who did yeoman's work on the new sound system at the refurbished BC Place. Other concerts I had seen there were near disasters; but the sound last night was crisp and clear.

Despite the fact that the radio-station-sponsored rumour of an appearance by Bruce Springsteen did not materialize, I doubt there was a single person who went home last night disappointed. After nearly three hours of classic after classic, and two encores (including one featuring the Delta RCMP marching band providing the bagpipes and percussion), there was no room for disappointment.

Mr. Springsteen has a lot to live up to at his show at Rogers Arena tonight. This won't be an easy concert to top.

From the moment that McCartney opened with Magical Mystery Tour, to the final number, the closing Abbey Road medley (Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End), the show lived up to the considerable hype. And it left McCartney's last words hanging there for all, as an echo of the Beatles' masterful swansong.

"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make".

Amen, sir.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Oh what a crazy week (or 10 days) it's been.....

Most of you know by now, I won a World Series of Poker Circuit event. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a series of poker tournaments run by the World Series of Poker, all over North America. It's related to the WSOP that you see on TV (where the winner gets around $8M), but on a much smaller scale, and as I said, it takes place all over North America, not just in Vegas which is where the actual WSOP takes place every year. This was the first time the WSOP had come to Canada, so I decided to play in one event. It was the only event I could actually play in, as I already had plans on the days that the previous events took place, and I was heading to Vegas on the same day that the "Main Event (with a $1675 buy-in)" started....so this was my only chance. Buy-in for this event was $580.

What an amazing feeling.

My win is a testament to what aggressive poker can do. I made it through the first day, in fact I was 5th in chips, without any cards to speak of. I had KK twice, and one of those I lost with (to QJ, if you can believe that; luckily that player was all-in without a ton of chips so I wasn't badly hurt by that), and I won a moderately big pot with 77 after turning a full house, but that's it. I just kept raising and re-raising with nothing, hoping my opponents wouldn't have much, and I guess they never did.

One hand I remember was 4-betting a very aggressive player with J4 offsuit. He folded, as I expected (and prayed). I had to accumulate some chips somehow, and since I couldn't get any decent hands, I had to manufacture pots. It's a solid strategy, but eventually one of your opponents is going to pick up a big hand and then you are screwed, so it's not generally a strategy that wins tournaments. It got me to day 2, at the very least.

Since it was around Midnight, I didn't want to drive home to Chilliwack so I stayed at River Rock. Took a sleeping pill to ensure I got a good rest but it didn't work, I only got about 5 hours sleep.

There were 41 players left in the tournament, and the top 36 got "in the money". Although I wasn't guaranteed to be in the money, I had enough chips that it was pretty unlikely I wouldn't make it, so I decided to phone the airlines and see if they had any First Class seats available for an upgrade. I figured at worst, I'd make enough money to cover the upgrade. They did, so I paid the extra $250 to upgrade my flight down. First Class rules, as I 'm sure any of you who have ever flown First Class would agree.

Day 2 began with me getting more good hands in the first 20 minutes than I did the entire 12 hours of day 1. Nothing huge, but reasonable hands, enough that I could continue to be aggressive and win a bunch of smaller pots. After the first half hour or so, the cards went back to crap, so I had to keep stealing as much as I could. Not long after we started, they announced that there were only 36 players left and we were in the money! This was the biggest cash I'd ever had in any live tournament so that was exciting, and I still had high hopes of going much higher. Not much exciting happened for a while; I kept stealing and re-stealing pots, without any cards. Then the following hand came up:

I raised from early position with A8o. Only the big blind called the raise. The flop came K42 with two diamonds. I had the Ace of diamonds. The big blind bet out about the size of the pot. Generally this means he has something, but not a big hand....I put him on a weak King (something like KT or maybe K9), and decided to put him to the test. I had about $250,000 chips, and he had about half of that. I thought about it for a minute, and raised "all-in". I figured he would fold hands like KT, K9, or medium pocket pairs, as I was representing a big hand like AA or AK (and I had raised pre-flop so they were certainly possible). Also, if he did call, I still had a couple of emergency backdoor "outs" to a flush or wheel. He thought about it for quite a while, and then made a very nice call with KQ. The turn card was a 5, giving me a wheel draw, but I still could only win the pot with a 3 or an Ace, just 7 cards in the deck would do it, but a beautiful Ace on the river sent him packing and built my chip stack up to a nice above average stack. Sometimes you have to "come from behind" to win tournaments, and I don't mind the play I made, as he was pretty close to folding the best hand (which was obviously my intent).

Not much else happened of any note until we were down to the final 4. I just kept raising and re-raising with nothing (hey, my opponents didn't know I had lousy cards) and picking up pots, staying alive and slowing building my chip stack. The guy to my immediate left, who was a big cash game player playing in his first big tourney, was the chip leader. As money at a poker tourney tends to go clockwise, you definitely do NOT want to have the biggest stack at the table directly on your left...but there wasn't much I could do about it. Eventually he lost a few pots and I was suddenly chip leader, and I eliminated him when I was in the small blind with 99, and he had AhJh, and all the chips went in. When the flop came Q99, I felt that maybe this was my tournament to win. Ironically, despite flopping quads, he wasn't drawing dead, as the Queen was the Qh, so he actually could have made a Royal Flush and beat me, but that didn't happen and he left in fourth place. I was now the chip leader, up against an older Asian gentleman named Carson who had been short stacked for hours, and a young Asian woman named Lily, who was down to only 8 big blinds earlier in the tournament but had stayed around and was actually the chip leader until I had won that last hand. Her game was excellent, and I had a great deal of respect for her. After we had moved some chips around a bit, the big hand of the tournament came up:

I am in the SB with AK, Lily was in the big blind. Carson had folded the button, so I raised to about $100K. She re-raised me to about $250. I re-raised to $400K, and she quickly moved all-in. As I had put about 30% of my stack in at that point, I couldn't possibly fold AK at this point, even though it was clear she must have had a pair....and she did, JJ. Still, the flop brought an Ace and a King, and that was the end for her, as I had her just slightly outchipped at that point. It turns out that she also cashed in the main event a couple days later, so she is definitely a player to watch.

The heads up battle for the title, and the ring, was no battle at all, as I held a 10-1 chip lead. It lasted all of two hands, before I picked up JJ and Carson had Ad9d. He actually flopped a flush draw, but it didn't come and I was the winner!!! What a feeling! The WSOP representative took my picture and did an interview with me, and I even got my picture taken with one of those huge cheques that Happy Gilmore loved so much :-)

Pretty cool experience. Since the boss (wife) has approved, I will be going to Vegas in mid-February to play in a WSOP Circuit event at Caesar's Palace. Not sure exactly which events I will play at this point, but I'm going to win another one. Count on it.

I was off to Vegas the next day, and I didn't play a lot of poker; the only tournament I played in was a $300 buy-in "Deep Stack" at the Venetian. I played the best I could, but again had very few hands. Ironically, the hand that knocked me out was one of the few good hands I actually had. I raised pre-flop with AK, and the flop was KcJc8h......my lone opponent, who was in the big blind, held 88, so that was that. She actually made quads on the turn. I only had about 20 big blinds at that point so I clearly couldn't fold a hand that big, but I was drawing nearly dead. I still beat a lot of people, finishing 89th (out of 262), but that was not close to making the money. My buddy Sanjay also played in the tournament and busted out (TWICE) before I did, though, so I should have had a "last longer" bet with him!!! He would have had to pay me twice :-)

That's all for now, hope you enjoyed the updates. I sure did! :-)