Lucky Dog

Lucky Dog
by Mark Barrowcliffe
RATING: 7 out of 10 

I finally finished a book.

It’s been a long time since I finished a fun book. I’ve been reading a lot of church books lately and needed a break. Lucky Dog by Mark Barrowcliffe is a book I’ve had on my shelf for several months and one I’ve been looking forward to reading.

The book focuses on a British real estate agent named Dave Barker who happens upon a dog that starts to talk to him. At first glance, a talking dog seems like a bizarre way of telling a story. To be honest, there were times where the plot certainly unravelled a bit, but the one thing that was always right was Reg the Dog.

Reg provides great nuggets of wisdom throughout the book with an intelligent and witty, albeit decidedly dog-like countenance. Consider his stance on neckties:

“Every time you put it on you end up going somewhere you don’t want to. That’s what I call a leash.”

Lucky Dog suffers at the hands of its main character, unfortunately, who makes one bad decision after another. It is those bad decisions that ultimately put the book in a bad place for me – a place where Reg the Dog was absent for large stretches of the book.

Still, Lucky Dog is intriguing to someone like me because Barker fills his off-hours by playing poker. When the dog enters his life, he suddenly has a leg up on the competition, an animal instinct (if you will) for his opponents weaknesses, confidences, and nervous tics. Reg the Dog gives Dave access to almost subconscious tells he can sniff out.

Along the way, Dave manages to get himself involved in a variety of quandaries, from shady business dealings and fraud to girlfriend troubles and problems with some mobsters.

Barrowcliffe’s characters aren’t terribly interesting, save Reg the Dog, who made me wonder just what my own dog might say to me if he could talk. It’s sometimes fun to imagine. But the humans (or the ‘hellooos’ as Reg calls them) are just kind of droll.

Still, the story is fun. Despite having a talking dog as the main character, it’s a very grown-up story about figuring out what kind of person you want to be.

Alli’s Home!

Some people have the ability to take time away from their spouse in stride. Whether it’s business or pleasure, some couples don’t have a problem spending time apart. Some say it’s healthy for their relationships to take a break and others have jobs that require travel.

Me…I hate time away from Alli. All I do with my free time is watch bad movies (this week’s was Semi-Pro), spend PayPal money and try to win an entry into World Series of Poker on FullTiltPoker.com. Yeah…I’m that guy.

This week was one of those guaranteed times that we spend apart every year. It was the dreaded week of drill team camp, where Alli goes to Emporia State with her sister and the high school dance team that they coach and is basically incommunicado.

She got home today and it was like my body felt normal again. It’s amazing when you find that person who actually has a physical calming presence on you. When you find it, you don’t want to let it go. So I won’t.

A Pair of Normal Events

So, Emaw tagged me with this silly little Twilight Zone meme.

Recall and relate a time when you experienced a “paranormal event”
Explain it rationally if you can
Inflict this meme on 5 other people

Here’s the deal. Paranormal stuff doesn’t happen to me. I live a relatively simple life. It’s a great life, but a simple one. Wake up. Have breakfast. Pray with Alli. Go to work. Do marketing stuff. Sit in traffic. Eat. Watch TV. Sleep. Repeat. I love my life. I’m in a great marriage with a great woman. I have a good, stable job. I have an awesome family and a strong church.

Normal stuff happens to me, so instead of a “paranormal” event, I present to you a pair of normal events. I’ll try and make them interesting and hopefully, they’ll give you some insight into this Shane character that you are so enamored by on the Internets.

The Laugh Track

I was fortunate enough to enter college with my best friends in tow. I didn’t relate very well to my high school classmates. All my closest friends all came from different high schools. They were the clowns I had gone to church with since I was 6 years old and who I had played volleyball with since 7th grade. Most of those fools even read and comment on this blog. It doesn’t suck to have lifelong friends like that.

I loved college. Mike and I had a blast living together my freshman year. Every night we would know exactly when to go to sleep by the giant fart that Mike would blast right before bed. Our schedule looked a lot like this:

7:55 a.m. Get up and brush teeth.
8:00 a.m. Class
9:00 a.m. Breakfast
10:00 a.m. Class
11:00 a.m. Class
Noon Lunch
12:30 p.m. Nap
2:00 p.m. Gym
4:00 p.m. Homework, Hang out, Possible shower
6:00 p.m. Dinner
7:00 p.m. Homework, Hangout, Possible shower, unless it was a Wednesday…if so, we watched 90210
9:00 p.m. Get ready
10:00 p.m. Go out

Occasionally, there would be a small change in the schedule, but for the most part, that was how I spent the first 2 years of college while living in the dorms. It was a blast.

One weeknight, a bunch of us on our floor had procrastinated on several projects that we had due and so all of us committed to staying up all night and getting our work done. I laughed harder that night than I ever have in my life. I don’t remember the project. I doubt I did well on it. Likely because of the Laugh Track we created that night.

For 2 hours that night, probably around 3 in the morning, we recorded several different laughs into our friend Dan’s computer. And we played them back. Over. And over. And over. I’m certain that part of the reason it was so funny was the hour, and you really had to be there to see why it was so funny, but it was trust me.

(See, I told you my stories were pretty boring.)

“I have a 10”

Very rarely, either Alli or myself has to go out of town for one reason or another. Every summer since she’s been coaching dance, she goes to camp at Emporia State with all her girls for a few days. At least once during those times, I’ll go hang out with my boys and play poker all night long. Low stakes cash games are a lot of fun with a small amount of people around the table set out Jason’s deck with 105.1 Jack FM playing on the outside speakers.

One night last summer, Jason, Jeff, Darin and I started playing around 9 p.m. It started slowly as we mostly just talked and played casually. As the night went on, we began to see a trend. Tens were hitting the board like crazy. I’m not exaggerating when I say that at least one ten was a part of the community cards 60% of the night. I don’t remember who started it, but we got more and more vocal during each time around the table. We began sharing the types of hands that we had. Then, we started completely telling the truth, particularly if we had a ten in our hand.

We were being so honest with our cards that we were even showing our tens after the hand was over. Over time, we stopped showing hands, but were still telling the types of cards we had. “Honest poker” we called it. It turns out that when you get good cards and are dealt tens all night long, you can win at honest poker without bluffing or anything. I managed to walk away the winner that night and I was more honest than the others.

I suppose it pays to be honest at cards sometimes.

So my penance has been paid. The Twilight Zone meme dies with me.

Late Night, Early Morning

Last night, the boys and I got together at former New York Nationals star Jordan’s house for some poker.

Despite the fact that we started entirely too late and that my back (seriously, more on that later) was in shambles by the end of the night, it was a decent showing for me, considering I haven’t played in ages. I started off slow and dumped an early hand to the aforementioned Harlem Globetrotters nemesis. Then, I staged a pretty significant comeback.

It started when I was dealt [cards]9h 9s[/cards]. I was out of position, but with only seven relatively tight players (and perhaps the most aggressive to my right), I raised it just a little before the flop.

The flop was pretty good:

[cards]9d 9c Js[/cards]

It’s never a bad thing when you flop four of a kind. Everyone had been scared off by my sissy little raise except Josh. I wanted to keep him in the hand as long as possible. I checked, hoping he had maybe a pair of something or had caught the Jack. Next card out is an Ace and Josh bets it and I think to myself, “I’ve got this.” I raise his bet enough to get a call.

The final card is a blank, but I’ve got Josh on AJ, which puts me in a great position. He checks and I bet about 8 times the blind…about half the pot at this point. I want him to call me and he thinks about it for a while, then makes a move that would have been really difficult for me (and is an example of why I’m a bad poker player) — he folds the hand.

He shows me his AJ and for fun, I show him and the rest of the table the quads. That built my stack up considerably, which allowed me some freedom to play more aggressively than I typically do. I’m rolling right along as chip lead for most of the night until I run into a freight train driven by Josh.

I am dealt [cards]jh jc[/cards] under the gun. Jake has gone out by now so Josh is right behind me in the big blind and last to act. I limp in (my first mistake) and a couple other stragglers do as well.

The flop comes out [cards]4h 10h 4c[/cards], a great flop for me with my over pair. Small and big blind (Josh) both check to me and I bet out about 4 times the big blind (about the size of the pot). The two others in the hand fold behind me and Josh goes all in. I think back a moment to a time that Josh had smacked me in the face with A4, so I consider laying it down, but I can’t.

I call and am crippled when Josh turns over [cards]10d 4d[/cards]. Stupid big blind hand flops a full house. Ouch.

After that, I manage to play pretty close to the vest, doubling up a couple times where I shouldn’t have, but finally managing a 3rd place finish. I end up in the money, which is better than I expected before the night started. It was a decent night of poker, but one I am not anxious to repeat with the way my back felt when I finally got into bed around 12:30.

Why does my back hurt? you might ask. More on that later.

Follow Through

OK, so I realize I’m a bit behind on the blogging. But here’s something fun:

I beat my brother last night heads-up to win my first poker game in a long while. It was a good win, probably the best poker I’ve played in a long time and I was able to outlast 10 other guys in doing it. Not a bad night of poker.

I was chip lead for most of the evening, but once we combined our two tables, I lost a few hands and others picked up a couple big ones leaving me about 4th in chips. I had one huge takedown of Justin that nearly increased my chips by about 50% and then I lost a huge one to Jake when I called his all-in with [cards]Ah 8d[/cards] with my [cards]Ks Kc[/cards]. He caught an Ace on the river, which gave him a monster stack. Once Darin went out, it was brother vs. brother for the first time in…well…ever…I think.

After going back and forth a couple times, I beat Jake on a couple huge hands and I managed to catch top pair on the final hand flop. Jake called with middle pair and my pair of sixes held up and I won (crazy, I know!). Thanks go out to Darin and Jackie for hosting last night. Jackie provided the rice krispie treats, which as always were unbelievably good. Winning always makes you feel good.

Until next week, that is.