Archive for June, 2010

Poker Chills

June 2, 2010

The people who know me know that I am a relatively serious poker player.  I’m not a pro or anything like that, but I do win more than I lose, and I’ve had a couple decent tournament results (including winning a $11,000 super satellite into the 2005 World Series Main Event); I like to call it a lucrative hobby.

Anyway, any semi-serious poker player is at least somewhat paying attention to the Rio Hotel and Casino in Vegas (if they aren’t already there) come Memorial Day every year–that’s when the biggest poker event of the year starts: the World Series of Poker.

While the casual ESPN observer only watches or cares about the $10,000 Main Event, in fact, it’s called the World *Series* because there’s an entire series of tournaments that take place for the entire month of June and the first week or so of July.  This year there are 57 events, culminating with the aforementioned Main Event starting July 5th.

The winner of each event receives as part of his prize, a bracelet, and despite the growing number of bracelets given out these days (the first World Series in 1970 elected one winner after a series of cash games, and the first Series to give out bracelets, in 1971, had five events) a World Series bracelet remains the most coveted prize in poker.  It’s also worth noting that the number of bracelets is still small compared to the number of players who participate each year, so a bracelet is still exceedingly difficult to win.

Which is why I got chills when Michael Mizrachi won his first bracelet in the second event of 2010.

Michael Mizrachi wins his first bracelet

Why?  Because at the same final table that Mizrachi defeated was his older brother Robert Mizrachi, who had previously won a bracelet of his own in 2007.  The Mizrachi’s were only the third family members to simultaneously make a final table in the 40 years of the World Series, and their 1st and 5th place finishes was by far the best result by family members.  And this gave me chills because I also have a younger brother who is an avid, and successful, poker player.  It has always been a dream of mine to play in the World Series alongside my brother, and perhaps even meet at the final table.  The Mizrachi’s give that dream a shred more possibility.

I should note that my brother just turned 25, and I am 30.  Michael Mizrachi is 29.  His brother, Robert, will be 32 this fall.  It seems my brother and I are only a little behind schedule.  It’s time for us to hit the felt and get the cards in the air.

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Growing Things

June 2, 2010

Once when I was 9 years old, I set a plastic flower box outside my bedroom window, filled it with soil, and planted some seeds that, most likely, had come in the mail as part of one of those garden-club-by-mail junk mail offers.  I grew leaf lettuce and garlic, both doing surprisingly well considering I almost certainly forgot to water them, and my only background in growing things was “planting” a bean in wet paper towels as a 4th grade science project.  And that was pretty much the extent of my green thumb–I did manage to keep alive a bonsai juniper for a few years–pretty much everything else I ever tried to grow ended up a brown wilted disaster.

It’s not that green thumbs aren’t known in my family; in fact, my mother’s kitchen window is perennially filled with all manner of hanging green vines, flowering cacti, and jars filled with rooting cuttings.  My father plowed a garden every spring that would produce beans, corn, tomatoes, and hundreds and hundreds of zucchini every summer.  And while I certainly enjoy smelling flowers, and eating fresh summer corn, I never caught the growing things bug.  Maybe it was a lack of patience, maybe it was a lack of organization, but whatever it was, beyond that singular flower box, I’ve never been a gardener…until now.

Seven months ago I moved to Las Vegas.  The move was for many reasons, but one of those reasons was *not* so I would be able to grow things.  And yet…my patio has been not-so-systematically covered with all manner of flowering shrub, green herb, and fruit-producing tree.  I have two palms, a pomegranate, a peach, and a key lime tree.  I have four bougainvilleas, a pot of cosmos, and just today I picked up two roses, two mandevillas, a red ground rose, and some pretty purple and pink things whose names I have already forgotten.  I also have a sage, a rosemary, some catnip, spearmint, and an oregano.  The growing things bug has also caught on indoors: I have a Christmas cactus and five orchids in my living room, and I have three rose cuttings taking root above my kitchen sink.

I bought two of these (mandevillas) at WalMart for $7.50...

So why this preoccupation with growing things?  I think first and foremost because, for the first time, the things I am growing are not simultaneously dying.  In New England the growing season is so short, that if you don’t time your plantings correctly, your plants never get the opportunity to flourish.  If you don’t properly protect them from the late frosts or the early snow, they die premature, black, deaths.  But in Las Vegas?  Plant whenever you like; it’ll grow!  I thought I was moving to a barren wasteland of a desert where only the heartiest cacti could eke out a meager existence, but it turns out I was wrong.  Las Vegas is in the desert, of course, but there is also water here–it’s why people moved here in the first place–and it turns out there are a LOT of plants that thrive with hot hot sun and dry dry weather.  There’s also a lot that love hot hot sun and the occasional hose down.  In other words, it’s easier here.

Secondly, because it turns out gardening is a relatively cheap hobby.  Now that June is upon us, every big box store that sells plants has put them all on mega sale.  WalMart was selling their roses for $4 today.  Sure they probably won’t bloom again for a year, but for $4, if I can keep them alive for a year, that’ll be $4 well spent.  Hobbies can be very expensive, even the supposedly “free” hobbies have unexpected costs.  By the time I paid for the new seat, helmet, and tune up, my bike ended up costing me well over $200.  To go hiking in the Valley of Fire was about 5 gallons of gas and an $8 admission fee, and since my old hiking boots bit the dust while I was there, if I want to go again, I’ll need to shell out at least $50 for a new pair.  Gyms have membership fees, most sports require some sort of equipment or clothing cost, and most hobbies in the home have some sort of material cost.  So, by comparison, my $4 rose bush is cheap for a hobby.  I like cheap hobbies.

And finally, it turns out that gardening is addicting.  As an HGTV junkie, it’s no surprise that I get a high from decorating and redecorating my house.  The most fun part about moving was staging the house for sale.  But when we moved to Las Vegas, we brought with us all of our matched living room and bedroom furniture, the same linens and wall hangings.  Decorating just isn’t that appealing when you don’t have new materials to work with.  The only “new” thing to decorate in the new house was the patio.  In Vegas, your patio can literally become an outdoor room; in fact one of the first pieces of furniture I bought for it was a white leatherette sofa from the clearance room at Ikea.  I know it’s not intended as an outdoor piece of furniture, but here it doesn’t matter, so why not?

To me the patio was a blank canvas just waiting for an artist’s brush strokes.  And my brush of choice has been plants.  And the best part is, since the plants actually grow and change shape and color and produce things like flowers, and fruit, and delicious smells, it’s nothing like decorating inside with our same old furniture.  The patio looks different from week to week.  Different plants flower at different times.  They grow taller, and they grow wider.  And someday, some of them might even produce things that I can eat!

The Promethean nature of growing things has me hooked; it’s exciting waiting to find out what will happen next.