January 30, 2009

I found a couple of other blogs about people and their trek to learn the guitar. I thought that it may be helpful for me to keep motivated for practice if I put up a little something here from time to time. This is the first one, I know it kind of sucks, but I will hopefully improve as I do some more of them.


The video is basically just an finger exercise I thought is pretty good for improving your fret hand accuracy and dexterity especially for the all important pinky finger (4th). Usually your 3rd finger, at least in my experience, gets a pretty good workout but lately I've found my 4th finger lagging behind in skill. The following is a good way to improve accuracy with your 4th finger especially as you move this exercise to thinner strings.



Here is the tab to go along with the exercise.

Any String (6th and 1st used in the song)

Remember these are tripelets and the 5 and the 4 respectively fall on each of the 4 beats of each measure.

More Blackjack Tips and Tricks

January 27, 2009

There are a few more tips I can pass along to newer blackjack players that you can only learn from experience. Most of this has to deal with the types of blackjack games you will encounter in different casinos and different types of players. Other players is a big part of the game and can have a great affect on your blackjack experience.


Game Types

Standard blackjack games don't have any other special bets on the table. In general these games can be played with regular blackjack rules, but you should avoid the special bets as they are what are termed as "sucker bets". Usually they involve some kind of side bet that if you match the dealers up card or you get dealt a certain pair of cards you win a large amount of money because the odds are very high. The reason the odds are so high is because it rarely ever happens, and for it to be useful you'd need to place that bet every hand and thus it's just a waste of money. The exception to this rule is Spanish 21 which is a blackjack variation that has all of the 10 cards removed (face cards become the only 10 value cards in the deck).


General Table Etiquette

Always remember that people are there to have a good time and hopefully make a little money doing it. If you find a table where someone is playing all by themselves, ask if you may join them. Some players prefer to play with the dealer one on one. If they do invite you to sit down, wait until the next shuffle before you start playing. Same rules apply if you find a couple at a table or two or more individuals that look to be a group of friends. The only time you don't have to worry about this is if the casino is packed, the dealers will be trying to fill the vacant seats at the table. As a rule, don't tell people how to play a hand, even if you know better than they do, they usually won't like the help unless they ask for it. I've found that most newer players will explain they are new at some point while they play and may ask for advice from the dealer, at this point you can offer some help but don't feel offended if it's not taken too heart. If it starts affecting your hands, it's best to find a new table. A way to keep the atmosphere fun at the table is to congratulate those who get a natural blackjack, I've found this almost always gets the table cheering after a few more rounds and makes it a lot more fun to play.


Other Players

I've encountered several different blackjack personalities over the years and I wanted to put some tips out for who to play with and who to avoid. You will run into these people at various times of play depending on when you choose to go to a casino. Newer casinos on Friday and Saturday evenings tend to have the least experienced players while off-popular times tend to have the more regular experienced players. This doesn't mean you can't have fun with the inexperienced players, but depending on what you are looking for you may want to avoid playing at certain times.


The "I'm here to pick up chicks" guy

The way to spot this player is usually pretty easy. I just recently encountered this type of player along with his friend. The give away on this guy is if you see someone with a large stack of chips in front of him, but only betting a small amount of money per hand, for example the guy I saw had about $2500 worth of $25 chips in front of him, but each hand he was only betting $10. It would have made more sense for him to color up the large stacks, but he wanted them there for show, draw in the females displaying he had lots of cash to throw around. There isn't any real reason this player should be avoided unless you are female because he will probably try and hit on you.


The "I know how to play blackjack, but really don't" guy

These players are easy to spot, obnoxious to play with, and generally should be avoided unless you are looking for a funny story to tell your blackjack buddies. Watching a few hands at a table should instantly point these players out, just watch their play, do they split 10s? Do they not double on 11? Did he split Aces or 8s? Worse yet, do they make a bad play and think it was correct because they won anyway? What usually makes these guys obnoxious to play with is they can be loud, spitting out incorrect advice on how to play a hand to other players at the table when not even asked.


The "I'm upset that someone took my card" guy

This is almost two kinds of player and also similar to the person who doesn't really know how to play but thinks they do. This person will get upset at a player who is in front of them in the deal rotation for taking a card that would have made their hand better. Now if the person didn't need the card (sitting with a 16 while the dealer has a 6 showing for example), this is a legitimate complaint. Now if the card was needed, say the player had a 8 instead of the 16, and the player is still upset then these are players to be avoided. Generally this will make for an un-fun table because less experienced players will start to second guess their play worried they may upset this player. Also related is someone who is sitting in the last position and is afraid of taking the dealer's bust card. You should never sacrifice your hand for the good of the table, no one knows the next card from the deck so you can easily make a case for when you hit and should've stayed as much as staying when you should've hit. You are always better off playing the proper strategy for the hand. Those players who don't know this can actually ruin hands for you more often than not.


Final Thoughts

To re-iterate yesterdays post, the most important thing in playing blackjack is the preparation. Learning how to watch a table and weeding out the personalities listed above can greatly improve the amount of fun you have while playing. Remember that win or lose, it's just a game and should be played for fun. Never gamble with more money than you can afford to lose and remember the old adage, if you are unlucky with cards, then you're lucky with love.


January 26, 2009

blackjack I don't have many vices, but I do enjoy playing blackjack at a casino. I used to think I was pretty good at the game, but to be honest at that time I was really just lucky and didn't play the correct strategy all the time and once in a while made some stupid plays that looking back make me shake my head. In the past year, I've tried to get a bit better at this very popular casino game. You can always find blackjack in any casino you visit and there are usually lots of variations and deck configurations you can play. To be successful at the game of blackjack you have to get yourself into a certain mind set before you even play a single hand. The prep before you play is without a doubt the most important part of sitting down at a blackjack table.



1.) Determine the amount of money you feel comfortable losing.

No matter what, gambling is luck based. There is no sure fire win system that will have you beating the house every time. The odds are stacked against your favor, it's the nature of the game. When I play I bring $200 of session money.

2.) Only bring the amount of money you are comfortable with losing. Don't bring means of additional funds like credit/debit cards with you.

This can help take the edge off wanting to toss more money away if you happen to lose your session money at a table. Losing is a part of the game, at least have fun if you happen to run a streak of bad luck. Better to end there than return with more money to lose.

3.) Similar to 1 and 2, know when to stop playing. Set yourself a small easily attainable goal and walk away as soon as you reach that goal.

The easiest way to win at blackjack is over small periods of time. The longer you sit at a table, the greater the chance you will hit a streak of bad luck and lose your session money. When I play with $200 of session money, my goal is about $90, once I hit that, I walk away.

4.) Choose carefully the table you want to play. There are lots of tables, different minimums, different numbers of decks involved, and most important different table feels.

I usually will look for a double-deck game of blackjack as my preferred game because the house has a lower edge and I've found the deck to be less streaky for wins and losses. Table feel is something you can only get by watching a table for a few rounds, are people there friendly? Are they winning/losing? If there is a good vibe, sit down and enjoy, otherwise keep looking.

5. Play perfect strategy.

Most important, you should play strategy correctly to ensure you keep the house's edge at a minimum. There are some exceptions of course, however, you won't learn when to adjust the strategy in your favor until you've had  a lot of experience and can employ some rudimentary card counting scheme.

6. Practice makes perfect!

If you are serious about getting better at blackjack there are some very easy ways to improve your game. At home you can play online for free at Bodog Casino or use a blackjack trainer to teach you strategy. Playing for real has a bit of a different feel, so I suggest you find a local casino that offers a weekly or monthly blackjack tournament which gives you the opportunity to play for real but with a small cash buy in (usually about $20-30).

How to bet in Blackjack

Whew! Look at all that prep before we even talk about the game itself. I can't tell you how important it is. There have been a few times where I just plopped down at a table with a few bucks and quickly was relieved of all of it in just a few hands. When I make a conscience effort to plan ahead, I always make a few dollars at the tables, and have a fun time doing it as well.

The basic strategy I use to control my betting is based on my previous hand. I start with my base bet of $5, if I win, I continue to bet $5 (doubling and splitting as the cards permit). Unfortunately you never just continually win hand to hand. When I lose, I double my bet up to 4 times ($10, $20, $40). If I haven't won by 4 hands, then I go back to the base $5 bet. Once I win again, then I bet 40-50% of what I'm down in total. If I win, I go back to starting at the beginning, if I lose then I go back to $5 bets until I win and I can try to re-coop some of the debt.

The point of betting this way is to win back the money you lost on the previous bet when you lose. If you continue to only ever bet $5 then you will never recover your losses. But this system has one fault, and that is the back to back win happening when you go into loss recovery mode. This one crux is why the preparation steps are so important, and also why if you find your table taking a turn for the worse in luck, it's best to find a new table.



This method works for whatever you want to use as your base bet. You can bet $10 as a base, just double the values I listed for $5 and have $400 with you as your session money.


It's easy to think that $5 isn't a lot of money per hand to bet with, however, you may possibly bet $80 in a single hand while using this method. You need to be comfortable betting this much on a single hand. If you are more adventurous you can go the big $25 route but that will require session money of $1200 and your maximum recovery bet would be $200 in a single hand.

Legend of the Seeker

January 15, 2009


So you may have seen this show if you are a fan of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I started reading the books a few years ago and thoroughly enjoy the series. When I heard in November that ABC studios was doing a show based on the Sword of Truth series I was both excited and afraid at the same time. As with most book adaptations it seems they fall into either one of two categories. Amazingly awful that you want to rip your eyes out of your head and are sorry you ever watched or they manage to do a decent job of only butchering the story somewhat.


Unfortunately, so far the Legend of the Seeker series seems to have done the best it could at butchering the original story. My question is "Why?". During the shows opening, it explains that the show is based on the Sword of Truth series, it should be changed to say "Based extremely loosely on the Sword of Truth series", as the show takes bits and pieces from seemingly wherever from any of the books at will and decides to make an episode. On top of that, some episodes are completely made up as if there isn't enough material in the books to make episodes. As a fan of the books I would have been much happier if they just retold the first book more or less as it was without all the unnecessary fabrication. They are doing an episodic series, which gives them the ability to provide back story to fill in a new audience about the world in which Richard, Kahlan, and Zedd reside.


Why in the hell didn't they take advantage of that? Movies often fall short because you can't make a 10 hour long epic that explains every little detail so book adaptations almost always disappoint because they can't simply include everything. A TV series doesn't have to sacrifice as much, but for some reason the shows writers decided to completely wipe out some major plot points in the first couple of episodes for no reason. When watching the show it's almost like you can feel the writers/directors fighting about which direction to move the series. On the one hand, there are a few of the early episodes that were completely created out of nothingness. It's as if they wanted to treat the series as the old "Kung Fu" with David Carradine, one single man who moves from town to town solving problems except he has a fancy sword. Then suddenly, they throw the plot of the first book back into the mix, like "Oh yeah, we were going to go stop this Darken Rahl guy... totally forgot about that, my bad. Wait, why are we against him? He is bad, but who cares... oh yeah he wants this box of Orden thingy, yet we don't know why that is bad."  Anyone care to explain to me why it took to get to episode 7 before we find the plot of the first book, except they don't even fully explain why the 3 boxes of Orden are important?


Now that the series seems to be ending it's first season which looks like it will culminate loosely with the end of the first book, at least the episodes aren't completely off topic but they aren't that close to the mark either. I can't help but shake my head when certain things happen for no reason like in the last episode "Denna". Even though Kahlan is the last of her kind and Mother Confessor, let's just have another Confessor hiding out in a town not far away who has confessed all of the townspeople. I mean what the hell is the point of that? Instead this episode should have been split into two areas, Richard getting trapped by Denna and experiencing the TV-PG version of his Mord-Sith training while the rest of the episode could have explored the castle in which the 3rd box of Orden was hidden by the wizard Giller and Rahl's attempts at finding it. Totally setting up what looks to be the conclusion of that in the very next episode. Instead they for some reason decide to make a point of showing that Richard can use the magic of the sword to turn the blade white to kill Denna, but have Kahlan there to rescue him? And then on top of that Denna comes back to life? They hardly explore the fact that Denna falls in love with Richard and wants to be free of her Mord-Sith life knowing that Richard is her only way out. They briefly mention Richard partitioning his mind, which essentially is one of his most important skills, but these trivial references which have major impact on the plot of the book are basically useless to the direction the TV series has taken.


Despite these faults, I still have my Tivo set to record the episodes, I figure I'll ride out the rest of this first season and see if they manage to make it any better, but it's fast becoming the show I love to hate. Maybe it's worth taking a shot of whiskey every time there is another inconsistency in the plot of the series. I can't see many fans of the books being happy with they direction they have taken the show so far. I have a feeling the show will be canceled after this single painful season, in fact it would have to be since they can't do the 2nd book of the series. Episode 5 ruined the entire plot of the 2nd book.


In other recent news, another of my favorite series "The Wheel of Time" by Robert Jordan has been licensed for an MMO video game and they plan on making movies of all the novels. Again I find myself anxious and dreadful at the same time. Hopefully they will fair a bit better in their exploits with that series than ABC's studios venture "Legend of the Seeker".