Monday, September 26, 2011

What I do believe

I often feel that I spend so much time explaining why I don't believe in a god, that I never get a chance to share what I do believe. What follows are two of my favorite ideas in all of science.

"We are all Africans"...

 ...and "The stars died for us"...

Making us all African Stardust. I've gone into more detail about what I believe previously (you can find it here), but I can't get these two particular ideas out of my head. They are truly beautiful.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Recycled Words

I have discovered something over the month or so that I have been writing my book, "Too Stupid To Be an Atheist". It's not easy to write a book! I have no shortage of words and ideas, I just have no clue how to organize them into something coherent. It's a I am enjoying, even though it is frustrating at times. Anyway, I haven't added anything new to this blog for almost three weeks now. That is basically not going to change, because other than this opening paragraph, the words that follow are nothing more than articles I wrote a few years back for a poker training website called Pro Poker School (I wrote them under my PokerStars account homage to Raymond Chandler's fictional detective Phillip Marlowe). I don't play much poker anymore (although I do miss it). Maybe rereading these articles will get me back in the mood...although I spend most of my non-work, non-family time writing my book, so I don't really see that happening.

One other note before the regurgitated articles. I am attempting to create (and sell) a new line of t-shirts soon (OK..I'm not spending ALL my time writing).  I'll put something up about that in the next few days. All I'll say about it right now is that as an atheist, I spend a lot of time talking about what I don't believe in. With these shirts I want to highlight what I DO believe. I think people will like it (or I hope so anyway).  Okay, until are the poker articles:


I guess I should start off with a short bio. My name is Joe Swam and I live in Belcamp, Maryland. I am married and also the proud parent of an eight year old son (Jeffery). There are no casinos in Maryland, so I play poker almost exclusively online, save for the occasional trip to Atlantic City. I also made a trip to Las Vegas this summer. As far as my poker experience goes, I have been playing since the early part of 2006. I missed the whole "Moneymaker" boom, and really got turned on to poker by Celebrity Poker Showdown that aired on Bravo (how metro is that?). Anyway I began playing on PokerStars towards the end of 2007. I made a few deposits and really didn't have alot of success initially. Then in February of this year (2008) I won an $11 buy-in Razz tournament for $188. It was a few days after that I would have my biggest poker achievement to date. My wife controls the finances in our house (this should sound familiar to any married guy reading this) and for whatever reason, she has banned the internet. This could be for several reasons, but for the sake of decency will say that she believes I would do nothing but play poker online (and, she's almost right). This fact forces me to play poker online at my parent's house (did I mention that I am 34?) Anyway...a few nights after my razz win, I was at my parent's house for a "visit". The weather was pretty rough that night. An ice storm had caused my parents driveway to resemble a hockey rink. Instead of leaving when I had planned (around 8PM), i was FORCED to stay longer and decided to play some more poker (darn!). I entered an $11 buy in no limit hold'em tournament. It was about five hours later when my K 5 off suit beat the J 5 off suit of the only other player remaining at the final table. The first place finish (with a field of 1314 players) was good for a $3,022 pay day, alot of which made my trip to Vegas possible (I wish I would have left more of it on Stars...oh well). This is my favorite poker memory, not just for the obvious reasons (winning a big field tourney, the cash, etc.), but also because had it not been for my parents driveway, I would have never played. I think the fact that I couldn't go anywhere anyway, caused me to relax and focus on playing solid poker (something I have not always done since). I would like to make some new poker memories in the coming months, hopefully including winning a seat to next year's WSOP main event. I think that would be an incredible experience. I also think it is an attainable goal with the help of


NOTE: I didn't win a seat to that year's WSOP main event (or any other year's for that matter).

Freedom for Poker

I have not played much poker online since the final tournament of the Gank Open. The reason is a combination of a promise I made to my wife to not be quite so obsessed with poker, and a change in my job that has forced me to make some sacrifices in my “downtime”. I don’t currently have money on any of the sites that I play at, so I figured with the second season of the Gank Open starting up this weekend, that it was time to reload on Stars, and also make my first deposit on Lock Poker (that is after all where this season’s tournaments will be held). My preferred method of deposit has been the prepaid Visa gift cards that seem to be in every store that you bother to walk in. However, over the past few weeks, I have not been able to find any of the All Access Visa cards that I was buying. They have all been replaced by a new type of Visa card that specifically states “not for ATM or gambling” on the back. Of course I failed to see this on the first card that I bought, and was very frustrated when PokerStars kept rejecting it. I haven’t scoured the state or anything like that, I have only gone to a handful of places actually, and I am confident that eventually I will find one of the cards that work. But the whole ordeal has me frustrated with the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) and even the way in which people are showing their opposition to the Act.

Poker Is a Game of Skill

On the PPA (Poker Players Alliance) website, they list several studies stating that poker is a game of skill, not chance. The UIGEA deems a “bet or wager” to be the risking of something of value on “the outcome of contest of others, a sporting event, or a game subject to chance…”. It goes further to exclude fantasy sports leagues from this definition because “All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominately by accumulated statistical results..”. I would never argue that poker is not a game of skill. However, while skill may be the largest factor in success in poker or fantasy football, chance does in fact play a role. This is what the “nanny state” types are trying to “protect” us from. The human mind has difficulty accepting as fact events that take a “longer than observable” length of time to prove (think Evolution..), and the truth is, that in the short term, luck can play a significant factor in success at poker.

True Freedom is the Freedom to Make Mistakes

I think that a better way to fight against the UIGEA is with a moral argument. We shouldn’t try to differentiate poker from other table games or slot machines. We should instead insist that we be given the freedoms that are granted to us by our Constitution. In order to be truly free, people need to be allowed to make choices about how they spend their time and money. This will lead to some people making the wrong choices. That’s okay, it’s how we learn. Providing a big umbrella of protection creates larger problems for society by eliminating the need for people to take responsibility for their own actions. This is what our country is turning into. There are several states that have proposed “sin taxes” on video games and television equipment, one state (Louisiana) has even considered calling their version “No Child Left Inside”. We shouldn’t have to fight to make our own decisions, but we must if we wish to remain a “free” country. Today it’s internet poker and Grand Theft Auto, but what will it be tomorrow?

Poker Books No Help

Since I have gotten married, my level of fitness has been dropping like the stock market. In an effort to reverse the trend, I have been spending the last two months exercising a minimum of two times a day. I have also been eating much better. However, the other day at work, I pulled a muscle in my back while bending down. This has put a stop to the working out for the last week. I was forced into bed to rest my back. With the Million Dollar Turbo Takedown looming this weekend on Stars, I thought that this would be a great time to catch up and read some of the books that I have collected in my poker library. I made it through three this week alone. "Every Hand Revealed" by Gus Hansen, "Tournament Poker for Advanced Players" by David Sklansky, and I reread "SuperSystem" by Doyle Brunson.
Much to my surprise, when I woke up this morning (Sunday), my back felt good enough that I decided to go for my usual walk (approx. 4 miles). With an improved back and all the poker information I'd taken in throughout the week, I was ready for my first shot at the Turbo Takedown. I played pretty tight through the first levels, took down a few pots (mostly small, one big) and cruised in to the first payout level. Then just before the next payout level, well, I'll let you read for yourself...

PokerStars Game #21517691654: Tournament #200801026, 5000FPP Hold'em No Limit - Level XI (500/1000) - 2008/10/26 17:05:20 ET
Table '200801026 85' 9-max Seat #1 is the button
Seat 1: AWice (17985 in chips)
Seat 2: rickettz (20482 in chips)
Seat 3: dav63302 (5350 in chips)
Seat 4: marlowe1974 (6200 in chips)
Seat 5: youplay2bad (4785 in chips)
Seat 6: hmay111 (11998 in chips)
Seat 7: ZockerClaud (8685 in chips)
Seat 9: Russian-fish (8975 in chips)
AWice: posts the ante 100
rickettz: posts the ante 100
dav63302: posts the ante 100
marlowe1974: posts the ante 100
youplay2bad: posts the ante 100
hmay111: posts the ante 100
ZockerClaud: posts the ante 100
Russian-fish: posts the ante 100
rickettz: posts small blind 500
dav63302: posts big blind 1000
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to marlowe1974 [Js Jd]
marlowe1974: raises 5100 to 6100 and is all-in
youplay2bad: folds
slowik444 is connected
hmay111: folds
ZockerClaud: folds
Russian-fish: folds
AWice: folds
rickettz: calls 5600
dav63302: folds
*** FLOP *** [8c Qh 9d]
*** TURN *** [8c Qh 9d] [2h]
*** RIVER *** [8c Qh 9d 2h] [Qc]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
rickettz: shows [9c 9h] (a full house, Nines full of Queens)
marlowe1974: shows [Js Jd] (two pair, Queens and Jacks)
rickettz collected 14000 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 14000 / Rake 0
Board [8c Qh 9d 2h Qc]
Seat 1: AWice (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: rickettz (small blind) showed [9c 9h] and won (14000) with a full house, Nines full of Queens
Seat 3: dav63302 (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 4: marlowe1974 showed [Js Jd] and lost with two pair, Queens and Jacks
Seat 5: youplay2bad folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: hmay111 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 7: ZockerClaud folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 9: Russian-fish folded before Flop (didn't bet)

I guess I am supposed to take solace in the fact that I had the best hand when all the money went in. I guess no matter how many books you read, you can't avoid some bad luck. Oh well, back to the drawing board. And work.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Two Really Good Flicks!!

This will be short, but I had a few things whirling around inside of my I wanted to share them. I watched two great movies this past weekend.  I don't know if you call what follows a review, but I have a thought or two about each that I wanted to share.

The first was "The Tillman Story", a documentary about former NFL star, turned national hero Pat Tillman. The military lied to Tillman's family about how he died (he died of fratricide...or "friendly" fire).  The film is about the family's search for the truth and their attempt to get the government to admit the cover up (SPOILER...the government doesn't).  Two thoughts.  First, watching this story made me want to be a better person.  Not a better American or a better Atheist (it seems that Tillman was an atheist), but a better person!  Tillman seems to have been an honest, heroic guy who loved life and lived it to the fullest.  The other thought I had about the movie was that conspiracies and lies are so hard to cover up.  This was a story about one family exposing a military cover up of the death of one guy (albeit, a famous guy) and they completely busted them on it.  Towards the middle of the movie, they receive an internal document from an anonymous source that gives "new life" to their investigation.  The government is made up of so many people and it's extremely difficult to get that many people to keep a secret.  It's just one more reason to laugh at Area 51 cranks and moon landing deniers.  Somebody would have come out with credible evidence if either one of these groups had a leg to stand on. Anyway, it's a great it!!

The second movie was "Red State" by Kevin Smith.  I'm a big fan of Kevin Smith's films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, etc).  This is a story about a very fundamentalist Christian family who make the Westboro Baptist people look tame. There's a kidnapping and a stand off with the's crazy!!  The movie is great and a real departure from Smith's other movies.  Red State is a movie made by a moderate Christian (Smith) calling out the extremist whacko Christians (you know, the ones who shoot people outside of abortion clinics and protest military funerals).  It's exactly what you don't see happening in the Muslim world, where so many (including non-Muslims in our country) always seem to be apologizing for them.  Smith does anything but that here...the movie is awesome!!

I watched both of these movies twice this weekend (really working hard on that book, huh?).  Do yourself a favor and check them both out.  You won't be sorry.  Like I said at the beginning, this is a short post...but it's all I have right now. Okay, back to that book...