Archive for the 'Diary' Category

Whirly Word and 7 Little Words offer smartphone word-search fun

March 31, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 31, 2018

It’s time for another entry in my irregular and infrequent series of app reviews — and this time, it’s a twofer!

I have two word games on my smartphone, neither of which are Scrabble or the popular knockoff Words with Friends.

Some years ago, I downloaded Whirly Word, which challenges the user to make as may words as possible out of the six letters on offer. The letters are arrayed around a sort of dial, the center of which serves as an “enter button” when the player is finished selecting letters. A panel labeled “whirl” moves the letters into a new arrangement, which can be useful when a player feels stuck.

Unlike some word-search apps, Whirly Word lets the user put in every valid word based on the available letters — not just a select few, as is the case with Word Cookies. I’m currently on RABBIT, which makes such rather obscure words as AIT (a small island) and RAI (a type of Algerian music).

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The ultimate hand: Part 3 of a very limited series

February 16, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 16, 2018

The very first royal flush that I was ever dealt was by far the most dramatic and rewarding.

I was playing in a friendly game sometime at the tail end of 2010 (I think). It was a small tournament, maybe seven to nine players in all. My hole cards this particular hand were either the ace and queen of diamonds or the ace and jack of diamonds. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say I had AQ.

The flop was almost as good as it gets given my hole cards: king of hearts, jack of diamonds, 10 of diamonds. When I took stock of the situation, I realized that I had Broadway, a straight to the ace, and that I was just one card away from a royal flush.

A bunch of people were involved in the pot. I don’t remember the exact sequence, but someone (possibly me?) bet on the flop. I think it’s also likely that someone else raised. Obviously, I hung in there.

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The ultimate hand — interrupted! Part 2.5 of a very limited series

February 15, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 15, 2018

I interrupt my series on royal flushes to offer a short primer on sorting all-in pots. (The reason for this will become apparent in part 3 of my very limited series.)

When three or more players go all in, multiple pots are typically formed. This isn’t always the case: If all but one of the participants have exactly the same amount of chips and the last participant has more chips, there would only be one pot. Be that as it may…

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The ultimate hand: Part 2 of a very limited series

February 12, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 12, 2018

The second of the three royal flushes that I’ve ever gotten was the least lucrative.

I think this happened sometime in the middle of 2016, though I could be off by a season or two…and by a year or so. I am certain that this hand was dealt in the same venue where I had a nasty late-game crack-up a few Junes back. (It’s possible that bad beat was the very same evening, and perhaps the very same tournament, as what I’m about to relate. But again, I can’t say for sure.)

We were at a table of probably six or seven people, with maybe three or four calling pre-flop. I think. It was early in the contest, and blinds were low — 300–600, I think.

I have a weakness for suited connectors, and I’m also overly fond of jack-10 whether or not they’re suited. I started this particular hand with jack-10, although I couldn’t tell you whether one or both of them were clubs.

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The ultimate hand: Part 1 of a very limited series

February 11, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 11, 2018

I’ve had three royal flushes in my lifetime. The most recent of them nearly escaped my attention.

The NCAA Division I FBS football championship was played on Monday, Jan. 8, and I wanted to watch the game. As noted previously, I (still) don’t have a television at home, and I generally don’t like streaming live video. (Before you ask — and I know you’re oh so curious — I have no particular reason for this preference.)

But rather than just go to a bar and watch the game, I decided to go to a bar and play poker and watch the game. So it was that for the first time in about seven months, I drove to a Cary, N.C., sports bar on a Monday evening to participate in a pair of World Tavern Poker events.

The early poker tournament that evening wasn’t memorable in any way. However, I wound up making a deep run in the second tournament, which had 28 players.

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The ultimate hand: A preface and primer

February 10, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 10, 2018

Most Americans are obsessed with the best of the best. For decades, children have been encouraged to dream big: Growing up to become president, for instance, or the richest person in the world. Some of our most successful movies involve people striving to become — and succeeding at being — the most accomplished or powerful person in a given arena. The GodfatherTop GunThe Lion King, the Star Wars and James Bond and Harry Potter franchises, just about any superhero feature — the list goes on.

A lot of poker players revere the straight flush. This is the best hand in Texas holdem, consisting of five cards of the same suit in order. It’s the kind of thing players dream of hitting, and many movies with poker scenes cater to this fantasy. The high-stakes poker sequence in the 2006 movie Casino Royale, for example, shows James Bond hitting a straight flush and collecting a massive pot against incredible odds.

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Tales from the free poker postseason

February 8, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 8, 2018

Author’s note: This post includes a brief reference to criminal activity that may upset some readers. I’ve placed a trigger warning to mark the relevant text. MEM

It’s been nearly nine months since I last wrote about poker. But my experience Tuesday night makes it time to revisit the topic.

For the season that concludes this week, World Tavern Poker retooled one of the various contests that it runs at each venue, replacing Big Spender with Best Customer. There are some similarities: Then and now, for each game, a tournament director awards a point to one or two players.

Previously, though, people were selected for (as the name states) spending the most money at the venue. Now, people are selected for making positive contributions to the competition. You can get a Best Customer point for bringing new players to the game, being friendly to other players, helping the tournament director or the servers at the venue or, as before, spending the most at the restaurant or bar.

There’s another change. Previously, a tavern’s Big Spender prize — a medallion — was handed to the person who accumulated the most points at that venue over the course of the season. Now, the top eight to 10 point-getters at the bar or restaurant face off in a short tournament. The winner receives the Best Customer hardware.

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Late-bird event, games 4–5, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, Jan. 15, 2018

February 4, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 4, 2018

My third-round victory in the late-bird tournament left multiple players with two wins and one loss. Due to the spread tie-breaker, K— remained atop the table at plus-263; I was second at plus-22; the tournament organizer, my friend D—, was third at minus-18; and C— was fourth at minus-142.

Game 4 saw me face AZ, the Canadian player whom I’d beaten twice in the main event. She was in fifth place in the six-player division, having just defeated J— in round 3 to go to 1-2. (Poor J— fell to 0-3.)

AZ, playing second, took a 93-23 lead in turn 2 on the strength of a fantastic bingo, UNTINTED. This formation used an N from my opening move to swing a rare double-double. Because the play used two double-word-score bonuses at once, the total base value of the tiles (nine points) was multiplied by four instead of two — hence, 9 points × 4 = 36, which when combined with the 50-point bingo bonus yields a handsome sum of 86 points.

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Late-bird event, games 1–3, Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament, Jan. 15, 2018

February 3, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 3, 2018

After finishing third in the two-day main event, I played in the five-game “late bird” event that closed out the Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament.

My first opponent was C—, a young man whom I’d defeated in both of our previous meetings. Entering turn 3, I held AEEIISU and trailed, 46-24; I traded out everything but the S, but instead of getting a balanced rack, I wound up with one that contained no vowels: DFNSTTV.

I was able to begin creeping back into contention with my sixth move, BEAST/FINDS 35, which left me trailing, 93-83. But I fell even further behind when C— responded to my ONO 9 with EX/NE/OX 38. The score was 150-92 at that point.

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Duke Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program benefit Scrabble tournament: Session 4, Jan. 14, 2018

January 22, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 22, 2018

I started the second and final afternoon session of the Duke PBMT benefit Scrabble tournament with a chance to hand a loss to C—, the division’s top seed and leader.

C— and I swapped leads through the first five turns of the 13th game, with the biggest play being my second move, HuRT/EDH 41. I hadn’t wanted to use the blank for a relatively modest play, but I was desperate to prevent C— from hooking an -S onto ED and exploiting the available triple-word-score bonus spot near there. I was on top, 139-115, entering turn 6.

That’s when C— sprang what would turn out to be the biggest play of the game: LUNARIA*/FA, a 64-point bingo. I considered challenging, and in fact C— later confessed that he was unsure if the word was valid; unfortunately for me, I didn’t, and it isn’t. That left my opponent with a 179-139 lead.

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