Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Drop me in the water

Posted by Melissa

The Baumgart's hosted the last poker night of May this past Sunday.  And like another lyric to the song I have been humming when it comes to my blog post titles of late, "And I'm comin' on the biggest fool of them all."  See, when it comes to poker, I feel like a winner.  I sit at the table and everything about how I feel when I get my cards and put my chips in, or even when I fold...everything just says winner in my head.  But I lose.  I have not won a singe game since poker month started.

I do feel like I have learned more about the game and the strategy, and therefor, I have found myself being second in line to the big money the last two games.  But still, like Jerry Seinfeld said in one his sitcom episodes, "Who wants to come in second?  Who wants the Silver medal? It's like you get to tell everyone, I was the best loser.  Of all the losers, I came in first." 

What did you do, Alex?
Sunday night's game was as fun as any this month.  Like I said before, I am smitten with this Texas Hold 'Em kind of poker and that is what we played again all night.  The good hands were making their way around the table and believe it or not, Bob, one of our usual winners, lost all his chips as there was one more hour to play.  Our house rules say you can buy back in, and so Bob did.

I was sitting pretty with a couple big wins under my belt and thought I was in the clear as far as Bob went.  That winner feeling I carry was starting to read more like a non-fiction short story and less like the romance novel in my head.

The last hand was dealt.  I had two aces in the hole...sweet. I was still keeping my poker face on though.  The river gets dealt and guess what?  It is another ace!  
"Holy shit!" I am thinking  "I am finally going to win."  
I dream of how perfect it all is, the last game, all my poker studying paying off, something really good to blog about.

I bet big, I got this.  

In the end, I think it was just me and Karyn that hadn't folded.  Bob did, even though his pile of chips was getting big yet again...but that was fine with me, because after this win, I had it all.  Time for the showdown.

Karyn flipped her cards and announced with a huge smile, "I got a flush."

"A flush!  A fucking flush!"  I sink inwardly as I mumble to myself.  

"That beats three of a kind.  Even three aces."  I say out loud.

And now, not to sound all non-evil, cause like Karyn said to me that night across the poker table, "I love that you're evil."  But seeing her smile from that win, after all of her threes and queens in the hole all night, gave me that winner feeling all over again.  

We'll have other poker nights.  Maybe I'll win.  Maybe I won't.  I still can't say I have let go of the intense winner feeling, or the desire to make it a reality.  I am thinking monthly games.  And maybe a bigger buy-in...if I get better.

This must have been after Karyn's big last hand of the night.  With Bob smiling right along since her win that hand cinched the overall win for himself.  (yet again)
Here's to all the winners, real and imagined.  And the losers too.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Take me to the River

posted by Melissa
This was the biggest money pot we had so far, $70.00 going to the winner.  The cream puffs weren't too bad either.  

We played Texas Hold 'Em for the first time.  At this point "the flop" was out on the table, the first three of the five shared cards that every player get to use in their hand.  

Carol gathering her chips after a big winning hand.  Carol is always a good poker player, no matter what game we play.

Here is Bob, with his signature lined-up stacks of chips.

These are the cards after "the turn" has been laid down, the fourth of the five shared cards in Hold 'Em.  The last one, not shown here is called "the river."  From those five cards, along with the two cards that you have "in the hole" (the two you got at the beginning, face down)   you make the best five card hand and hope you win.

Count 'em up.
Matt, seated to my right, walked away the big winner that night.  It was a close game after the last hand, which is what typically happens at our poker games.  By the last few hands, people start betting it all and the chips move dramatically from player to player.  Carol had been winning, and then after the last hand it was between me and Matt.  

Someone was holding a lot of chips at this point.  Probably me, sadly they were mostly the whites and blues, which were the lowest values, $1 and $5 respectively.

There you have it, one of our last poker nights.  I really enjoyed Texas Hold 'Em, and likely will host monthly poker nights playing the game.  Who's in?


Sunday, May 29, 2011

if anyone wants to know

Posted by Amy Baranski

I lost all my money at poker. Then, I went to the bar and lost more money. I did not go to yoga. Should I play again tonight?

Friday, May 27, 2011

yeah yeah it's been awhile

So i lapsed on blogging. I was playing poker then i stopped. But I'm committed to 2night. Troof is that i've been FN busy with other shiz. And that's juz the whey it iz. But 2night im'a playin wit my 10 bones in hand. And melissa thinks she's gonna pull one over on me with her famous mixed drinks. After i WIN this game ima chug some water and get ready (greaty) for some bikram 8am style 2morrow. Watch it. Live it. Love it. WINNING.
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Friendly Poker Game Ends in Violence.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Location, location, location

Yes, I do think this setting makes everything easier.

I am sure you are all asking yourselves the same question...."How is the bet between Jamie and Melissa going?  Is it really better than therapy?"

The answer is..."Yes!  It is better than therapy, so far."

The update:  So far Jamie has had his two weeks, wherein we live in our marital bliss by his standards.  I would have to say it has gone very well.  Considering that the weeks prior were spent arguing talking about our relationship at every given free moment, having two weeks of relatively "talk" free bliss was heaven.  Now is the fist day of my two weeks, and all I can say is let the Princessing (as I have coined my two weeks) begin.  

It could have made it easy for me to be the one to give in and let things go my spouse's way, given that we spent the last week in the Bahamas.  Yes, we were taken to the beautiful resort called Atlantis on Paradise island.  It was so fun and sunny, lots of swimming and time spent looking at the unbelievably blue water.   Why did we move to Seattle????

Dianne scooping up her chips!
And we did get a game or two of poker in while we were away.  Jamie, me and his Mom, Dianne, all sat down for a night of poker.  She shared a lot of stories about how her and her friends used to get together and play poker quite a bit.  I really enjoyed listening to her and thinking of how generations can enjoy the same things, I bet her parents had poker nights too.  What I did not enjoy though, was the fact that I was the big loser again.  Dianne took the pot that night, but luckily we didn't play for money.  And lucky for me, I was the big winner anyway, just for being able to be there on vacation with everyone.  Thanks, Pete and Dianne!

We have a couple more poker nights coming up this weekend, so stay tuned....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who needs therapy when you've got poker?

Poker: Winner for 'Best Couples Therapy'.
Poker has infused the Baumgart home in many ways.  Not only have we been hosting the somewhat weekly poker nights, but we have taken to using gambling on poker games as a way of solving family quarrels.

Last night, after  years of arguing over some relationship issues, Jamie proposed a new plan of attack:

"How about this?  Why don't we play poker and whoever wins gets to have things their way for two weeks first.  Then the other person gets to have things their way for two weeks."
"Hmmmm," I reply.  "Sounds good to me.  We both get what we want, but who has to give in first?  I can play for that. "
"Totally.  And then we'll just keep going like that, two weeks on, two weeks off."  He says somewhat assured of some success in the endeavour.  "I mean, therapy didn't work, but maybe poker will."
We set up the chips and started playing.  We called an hour limit to the game.  And I knew I was going to win.

I didn't.

Today started day one of my two week, things go Jamie's way lifestyle.  So far, it ain't so bad.  And now we can be pretty much guaranteed four weeks of not arguing.  We have to at least honor the poker table.  I actually think that this is going to be great.  We get to get our way, without fighting about it, and maybe...just maybe we will see the beauty that is held within the other's needs and desires.

Next up, was another hour long game...but this time with the kids, the older ones.  The stakes: the apartment building chore.  We live in a community oriented building where every apartment has a monthly chose.  This month our is cleaning the back stairwell.  Vacuuming, dusting, sweeping.  With three minutes left to play, and one more hand of poker, Levi (in the losing seat at this point) decides he is out.  He wants to stop playing, and therefore, not be held to his wager.

That's my boy.  He whined and negotiated and tried to talk his way out of it.  In the end, his big sister, you know "the good one", she stood up and took it on.  Today she did the chore, and somehow got Tallulah to help her.  And while I still want Levi to get that he needs to follow through on his word, I am pleased to see how one of my kids stood up and took care of the other in what seemed to be a place of utter pain.  Being faced with a chore.

So, you see, poker just might be the solution to many dilemmas here at the Baumgart home.

And some people say it is unhealthy to gamble.  We'll just see about that!

Tonight we are hosting a Mother's day edition of Poker Night.  I say house rules are: You better let the Mama of the house win!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

unpredictable Highs & lows

Bob, our teacher.
Our neighbor, also Amy's husband, Bob, taught us a new game of poker last night.  It is called High Low.  Or at least that is what he called it.  We started the night with five card draw, simple, straight forward.  It was much like the simple five card stud and seven card stud we played the prior poker nights.  High Low on the other hand, is dynamic and unpredictable.

We played it like five card draw, only at the end the player with the highest hand and the player with the lowest hand split the pot.  And those pots were huge.  I guess because people knew their odds were greater, or because you could win with a losing hand, or it was the fact that the night was nearly ending; something definitely upped the ante, so to speak, in that game.  The pots were at least triple what they had been earlier in the evening.

Every player gets five cards dealt face down, with a round of betting following. Then you get to trade in up to three cards, after which you have to choose whether you are going to be trying to a "high" hand to win or a "low" hand to win.  When you choose, you need to mark your choice at that point, so there is no cheating/changing minds at the end of the game.  We used a chip, and either held it in our hand or put it under our leg on our chair.

So, now the big betting begins.  You place your cards in the order of your choosing and sit them in a stack in front of you.  The order is important because, if you are actually going low, you may want to psyche out your opponents by putting some higher cards in the same suit first...maybe they'll think you have a high flush and bet more for their low hand.  Also, a big factor is that aces can be high or low, a big game changer. (and how I won my one hand last night)

So, with every player having chosen their goal, high or low, and having their cards in a stack in front of them; we start the revealing.  Starting to the left of the dealer, you flip up your first card.  A round of betting ensues.  This continues with each of the five cards, and at our house, with lots of raising.  The pot grows and grows.

Finally the last card is revealed.  And after all the hands are inspected, who's suspected to be high?  and who is low?  Then we show what our intention was...was it what everyone thought?

The pot is then split between the person with the highest hand that was going for the "high" and the person with the lowest hand that was going for the "low."  Hands reach in and start grabbing, in an orderly fashion, of course!

Amy showed up late, so she didn't get to join in the big people poker game, and opted for a little penny ante five card draw with Tallulah.  I never did hear who won that game.  Amy?  Did you let her win?  Or did you get beat?

If you read my prior post, you already know that Carol was the winner last night.  She pretty much swept up the chips, all night.  Although Bob did give her a run for her money.  Karyn had a few big wins towards the end once we started the high/low game.  Pete had a few good hands, although I think the words most often heard when he showed a hand was, "I got nothing."  And Jamie and I were simply, well, the biggest losers.

I wonder how tomorrow night's game will turn out.  We are going to add in a few new variations to the five card draw.  Also, every time we learn a new game, that gets added into the mix and the dealer can then call a game from those we know for each hand.

It's getting exciting, folks.  And between now and tomorrow, I'll be reading up on poker strategy.  So, watch out.


"They call it poker, because the word f*#k was taken"

"Nice to beat you, er, I mean meet you."  Says Carol to Karyn.

posted by Melissa
I didn't win again last night.  Let's just get that out there in the open at the beginning.  Our neighbor, Carol, was the big winner.  Here she is grabbing all her money.  My money.  I really, really wanted to win.

It is interesting to notice the thoughts as I play along throughout the night.  When I start the evening, I am very hopeful, the faith that I will be a winner swells in my chest.  And then the first hand, I lose.  Second hand, I lose again.  "Hahahaha.  Isn't this fun?"  I say out loud.
While inside, I am deflating.

Then after a few more losing hands, I start to give up.  But wait, it's a good thing.  I am neither high, nor low, but now able to just have a good time.  Perhaps I can practice some of what I learned throughout yoga, and meditation month, and breathe in and out right from the beginning of the game and remain unattached to some outcome. (*winning*)  Just be in each hand.

"Let the chips fall where they may." This phrase comes to mind when I contemplate the above situation.  A mantra to not be so attached, so high on the outcome of winning.

It is a cliche in our vernacular,  and I always assumed it originated from the game of poker.  I decided to look it up online and it appears that it actually came from wood carvers.  Letting the wood chips fall "where they may" as they carved and chopped wood, hewing is a word they used for the art of turning a log into a squared piece of wood for building.

So, there must be some good poker phrases that have stood the test of time.  Any ones you all can think of?  Here are some quotes about poker that I dug up.  Not that I have heard of any of them, but some are a bit funny:
  • There are few things that are so unpardonably neglected in our country as poker. The upper class knows very little about it. Now and then you find ambassadors who have sort of a general knowledge of the game, but the ignorance of the people is fearful. Why, I have known clergymen, good men, kind-hearted, liberal, sincere and all that, who did not know the meaning of a flush. It is enough to make one ashamed of the species.  Mark Twain
  • They called it Poker because the word 'F*#k!' was taken.  ~Phil Hellmuth
  • I guess if there weren't luck involved, I'd win every time.   ~Phil Hellmuth
  • If, after the first twenty minutes, you don't know who the sucker at the table is, it's you.  ~David Levien and Brian Koppelman, Rounders
  • Poker is the game closest to the western conception of life, where life and thought are recognized as intimately combined, where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or of chance, where men are considered moral agents and where - at least in the short run - the important thing is not what happens but what people think happens.  ~John Luckacs
  • The poker player learns that sometimes both science and common sense are wrong; that the bumblebee can fly; that, perhaps, one should never trust an expert; that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by those with an academic bent.  ~David Mamet
  • Industry executives and analysts often mistakenly talk about strategy as if it were some kind of chess match.  But in chess, you have just two opponents, each with identical resources, and with luck playing a minimal role.  The real world is much more like a poker game, with multiple players trying to make the best of whatever hand fortune has dealt them.  In our industry, Bill Gates owns the table until someone proves otherwise.  ~David Moschella
  • Most of the money you'll win at poker comes not from the brilliance of your own play, but from the ineptitude of your opponents.  ~Lou Krieger
So, perhaps I am inviting the wrong crowd.  Or that I don't have inept friends.  Great for friendship and life, bad for winning poker.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Five year old beats Mom at poker, this and other news.

posted by Melissa
Tonight is another poker night.
"Let the chips fall where they may."  (please be in my pile!)

So far, it has been super fun to learn, or re-learn, poker.  We start out with five card stud.  We learned it from a book aptly named, The Big Book of Poker, by Ken Warren.  We didn't try any of the variations, just trying to get the basics down at this point.  In five card stud you start by putting in the ante, a forced contribution to the pot required by every player that wants to be dealt in for that hand.  Next every player that's in gets dealt on card down and one card up.  At this point there is a round of betting.  Next everyone gets another card face up, and consequently after each new card that is dealt face up, there is another round of betting.  This goes until everyone has a total of five cards.  After the betting is finished, everyone that is still "in" (i.e. didn't "fold" their cards and drop out of the hand) shows their cards and the winner is called.  The winner gets everything that was bet during that hand.

The way you win at poker is to have the highest hand, or combination, of all five cards.  Here is a list of the rankings, as learned from the aforementioned book.  Listed from highest to lowest.

  • Royal Flush  This is a straight, all the cards in sequence and in the same suit, and being the 10, jack, queen, king and ace.  If four players were to have a straight flush (ha!) then the suit ranking is spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts.
  • Straight Flush  This is a straight, all cards in sequence, and in the same suit.
  • Four-of-a-Kind   Like it says, four cards of the same face value.
  • Full House  Three-of-a-Kind and One Pair.
  • Flush  All five cards are of the same suit. (do not need to be on any order)
  • Straight  All five cards in sequence, but are of different suits.
  • Three-of-a-Kind  Three cards of the same face value.
  • Two Pair  Two cards of the same face value and two other cards of the same face value, for a total of four cards.  The fifth card could serve as a tie breaker.
  • One Pair  Two cards of the same faec value.  The three other cards can serve as tie breakers.
  • High Card  If no one has any of the above rankings, then the player with the highest card wins.
The next poker night we had we played seven card stud.  It is very similar to five card stud, and yes, like you guessed, with seven cards.  You get dealt two cards face down, a round of betting, then four cards face up with a round of betting after each card.  The last card is dealt face down.  There is a final round of betting and then all players that have not folded how their hands.  Same rankings apply.  

Amy came down one night this week and we played some penny poker to learn how to play five card draw, the game we will be playing tonight.  The kids joined us, and while it was fun at time, we also had to deal with pre-adolescent upset at times.  wow.

Then yesterday, while waiting for Lily and Levi to get their cavity filled teeth worked on at the dentist, Tallulah and I played some five card draw in the waiting room.  It kept her focused for the whole 2 hours, without asking for treats.  If you knew Tallulah, you would know what a miracle that is.  Maybe it was because she was winning most of the time.  So, if I don't win any money this month, at least maybe I found something that entertains my kids.

(Note - We did't gamble with money at the dentist.  The other moms maybe thought we were playing an innocent game like War.)

I remember loving poker as a kid.  Maybe that's why I picked it.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

poker night: take 2

getting ready for seven card stud. 
ante in.

the stakes, while low, add some excitement.

"You see, Jamie, my royal flush beats your four-of-a-kind aces."

Snacks thoughtfully provided by apartment 4.

And again...Bob was the big winner.  I think I need to improve my strategy.  Or maybe try a new game, perhaps five card draw?  Or Texas hold 'em?


Monday, May 2, 2011

Who's in? Welcome to Poker Month!

Here are some highlights from May's first poker night.  

The book we used for reference.
Matt brought his chips.  Pretty sweet.

Matt is quite serious about his poker.  Too bad he lost.
Bob, the big winner, a secret poker expert.  Who knew?
Looking forward to more games, and hopefully being one of the winners...
Melissa and Amy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the last (mushroom) supper

posted by Melissa

I had dreams all month of hosting a huge mushroom potluck on the last weekend in April.  It would be my family, Amy and Bob, other people from our apartment building, lots of new friends we made at the mushroom ID class, maybe even that guy we ran into while hunting for mushrooms in Interlaken Park.  I can be known to dream big, I guess even when it comes to mushroom potlucks.

For what happened in reality, given busy schedules, school, bee season, and life; is that it was pretty much me, Amy and Jamie.  And my kids having plain pasta while watching a movie in the living room.  But that we did it at all, which makes me happy.  Earlier in the day I was so tired from having allergies all day that all I wanted to was go to bed.  Sometimes just showing up, even if it isn't in the most grand way, means a lot.

I scoured my favorite online food website, Tastespotting, for mushroom recipes.  I decided on this one for a  chantrelle mushroom linguine.    But it was running a tight race with this recipe for a bacon polenta topped with mushrooms.  The pasta won, only because it seemed easier.  Because, come on, bacon polenta?  wow.

Chanterelle linguine with snap peas
I am not eating dairy these days, in hopes to lessen my allergies and put out the itchiness of a skin rash I recently developed on my elbows and shins.  I know, don't talk about skin rashes and food at the same times, sorry.  So, that is all to say, I used a soy creamer for my mushroom linguine.  Bad idea.  It was awful.  Even if it looked kinda pretty.

criminis ready for roasting
I also made some roasted mushrooms with pearl onions and zucchini.  I cooked those too long and they were burnt.

Amy on the other hand, had a stellar evening of cooking.  She made chicken breasts stuffed with wild mushrooms, spinach and gruyere cheese.  She also made bruchetta with an olive tapenade and a red pepper tapenade, so, no mushrooms, but totally delicious.

I am hoping that mushroom month stays with me in some ways, getting me outdoors more often.  Even if it is just a short afternoon trip to the park down the street to have a look around.  And i totally think it is going to add to our hiking and backpacking month, now that we know what we are looking for, and not looking for in safety's sake.

And now onto Poker.  We are having our first poker night this evening and I can't wait to tell you all about it.

So, here's to mushrooms, you were great!  Cheers!

(expect one last mushroom post from me later to fill you in on the last mushroom ID class, it was a fun one)

Keep the Guns. Take the whiskey. Pt.1

Posted by Amy Baranski
While installing some beehive stands
I found some mushrooms!

Add caption
I know, I know, it's now poker month but I'm not done espousing the virtues of mushroom hunting. Actually, there's a few things I'd love to share but I have to do this in parts becuase I'm on my way out to install 18 beehive packages around Seattle with my husband (who started Urban Bee Co.) Yesterday we set up ten beehive stands. So today is going to be enormous and enormously fun. Although I love this blog, and all the opportunities it's generating, I am very thankful to be physically untethered from it this month.

In fact, trying out mushroom foraging has drawn me away from the computer and on beautiful walks in the local parks, where I saw georgous signs of spring. See, you can search for mushrooms anywhere. We found mushrooms, and fungi of sorts, all over the city. Even at the Arboretum just when it seemed like we wouldn't find anything. Fifteen minutes after we turned the hunt into a game, where first prize was winner's choice under $5, Tallulah found a grouping of adorably gilled mushrooms. Man, was she pleased with herself.
First Place Winner,
2011 Arboretum mushroom hunt.
See more pictures of our hunt here.

Mushroom foraging is a great way to encourage yourself to be outside. It's hunting except without the guns. And April is the perfect month to start. Even though there aren't too many edible varieties fruiting this month on our side of the country, there are some, and there's much to learn about identificaiton or mushroom habitat. I wish I kept a lot of how many hours I spent outside this month versus last month. It's been fantastic, and it hasn't been all mushroom hunting. Even though Spring seems late this year, I've continued gardening, and we are now in honeybee "go time".

Speaking of which I have to run, but I have much more to share about this month including my recent foray on Tiger Mountain with local forager/foodie, Langdon Cook. I'll try to hop back on the computer during our lunch break if possible. So....to be continued.