Thursday, October 31, 2013

Guys and Dolls

What's this?  Two posts in a single week?  Is JT feeling okay?  I feel fine.  It's just that I only get motivated to post when one of two things happen.

1.  I play poker


2.  Somebody pisses me off

As it happens both of those two things happened in the last 24 hours (unrelated to one another).

Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino hosts 3 or 4 no limit hold 'em poker tournaments each week. The structure in these tournaments is awful, but they're a fun and inexpensive diversion.  Depending on the tournament and its buy-in you get either 2,000 or 2,500 chips.  Blinds start at 25-50 and essentially double every 20 minutes.

The Wednesday night tournament started out as a ladies only event, but then ladies would often ask if their husband or boyfriend could play with them.  The fields for the ladies only event were only about 15-20 people which hardly makes it worth it for a $25+5 tournament, so they eventually opened it up to everyone and billed it as the "Guys and Dolls" tournament.  Corny, right?

My usual M.O. for these donkaments is to either bust by the first break or go very deep.  The blinds go up so fast that if you haven't chipped up by that first break you are already in shove or fold mode by level 4. 

On about the second or third hand I limped from UTG+1 with 66. I think 7 people saw the flop of 9-7-9 and it checked all the way around. The turn was another 9.  The blinds checked to me and I decided to donk bet my tiny boat.  I bet 200 into the pot of 350.  The older woman to my immediate left called and everyone else folded. my experience when the 65+ ladies at the table call or bet they usually have the nuts or pretty near to it, so I was none to happy that my only caller was a woman with some cobwebs on the old cooter. I figured she had to have a bigger pair than me for a better boat or maybe even quads.

The river was a jack. I checked and she bet another 200.  I should have gone with my gut instinct and folded, but I couldn't talk myself into laying it down to such a small bet. I called and she shows J-10.  She called my turn bet with just a gut shot and hit one of her 13 outs to beat or tie me.  I guess I'm supposed to be happy that she called my turn bet when I was like a 70-30 favorite in the hand, but I was only disgusted.  I hatched a plan right then to take this old biddy to value town the next time I had any kind of hand.

As it turned out the only time I saw two cards worth playing from then on was on my final hand.  There was one hand where I had Q9 suited in the cutoff, but a tight player made it 500 to go preflop and I didn't feel like putting in almost half my remaining stack with that hand.  It turns out I would have flopped two pair and turned a full house. The original raiser had pocket kings and his only caller flopped a straight with KJ. I would have tripled up had I played that one hand.  It's hard not to be results oriented.

There was one other interesting hand that I wasn't involved in.  I missed the preflop action because I folded my rags early and kind of disengaged.  Things kind of caught my attention when one of the more TAG regulars in seat 10 bet the flop of 4-Q-4 and the even older lady than the one from the first story in seat 1 called.  The turn was a 2 and he bet again and she called.  The river was another Q making the final board 4-Q-4-2-Q.  He shook his head and checked.  She made a very small bet for the size of the flop and he folded pocket 2's face up and said, "That queen counterfeited me."  The old woman showed pocket aces.  He definitely had a full house to her 3 pair and had laid down the winner to a bet that was like 1/15 the actual pot.

On my final hand I shoved my paltry 725 chips in the middle with JJ and got two callers. They both checked the low flop of like 9-6-4.  I knew I was sunk when a king fell on the turn and one of them shoved his whole stack in the middle. He rolled over KQ suited and I headed for the door halfway through level 3 without even uttering a "good luck" or "good game" to anybody at the table.

One other thing about this tournament. Prairie Meadows has on the whole one of the best crew of dealers around. They're generally experienced, fast, efficient, friendly, and accurate.  They rarely make mistakes.  During the recent HPT event they brought in table games dealers to supplement the poker dealer staff.  Most of those table games dealers are mediocre poker dealers at best.  If you had one of them at your table you could expect to get in about half as many hands and expect at least 1 or 2 errors per down.  Players were regularly helping them determine the amount for side pots and preventing them from pushing pots to the wrong player.

Since I only lasted part of 3 levels I only had two dealers.  The first was a regular dealer mechanically he was solid, but he never called out raises or bet amounts.  People were constantly asking him how much it was.  The second dealer that came to our table was a recruited table games dealer.  I thought once the HPT left town we wouldn't have to put up with them anymore, but here he was.

He looked bleary-eyed like he had just woken from a nap.  Somebody asked him how many entrants the tournament wound up with and he kind of angrily said, "I don't know I just got here.  I got called in on my day off."  His very first hand at the table he never reminded the blinds to put out their bets.  Three people to their left had folded when I pointed out to them that they needed to post their blinds.  From there he was just as bad as any of the other table games dealers.

And now for the angry rant portion of today's program.  I've started riding the bus to work.  Several years back I rode the bus to work and I actually really liked it. I can just zone out and listen to some music and even doze a little along the way.  Then my schedule changed and my start time was before the bus route could get me downtown.

I recently discovered that there is a route that runs from the mall near my house to downtown that has a stop right in front of my building.  It gets me here with about 10 minutes to spare.  I drive from my house to the mall and park near where the buses pick up and drop off.  There are two routes that run from the mall.  Most mornings when I arrive in my car both buses are already sitting there waiting for passengers.  Today when I arrived neither bus was there yet.  I checked the clock and saw that it was 5:32.  My bus is supposed to depart at 5:38.

I sat in my car dinking around with my phone listening to the wacky morning radio guys to kill the time. A bus approached the stop, but its sign still read "Bus Garage." Since I wasn't sure if it was my route or the other one I didn't immediately leap from my car.  Finally after a minute or two he changed the sign to display my route info and I got out of the car to walk over to the bus.  To my surprise he shut the doors and started to pull away while I was still 50 feet or so from the bus. I sprinted after him and was able to catch up as he turned out of the bus dropoff area.  He stopped when I knocked on one of the windows.  I checked my phone, saw that the time was only 5:36, and held it up for the driver to see. He just frowned and shrugged at me. to you again when I play poker or get angry. :-)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Heartland Poker Tour (Again)

The Heartland Poker Tour returned to my home base brick and mortar casino, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino over the past week or so.  I was unable to make it out on any of the days when they were running the super cheap single table satellites, but I wanted to take a stab at winning my way into the main event for cheap. I came agonizingly close to qualifying the last time they were here.

A quick look back at my blog archives shows that I never updated anybody on my attempt to qualify that time around. It's been 6 months, so I don't remember any specific hands except the last one. I bought into an $80 single table satellite. The top two finishers earned their way into a $330+30 qualifier where 1 in 5 players earned a seat in the $1,500+150 main event. 

I placed in the top two in my single table satellite and signed up for the $330+30 event that was starting just an hour or so later. I played patient and made my way through the majority of the way with about an average stack. I only got short as the bubble approached.  Enough players signed up for the tournament that 14 players would get entry into the main and 15th place would pocket about $1,300. It's been too long for me to remember stack sizes, but I remember that I was short enough that I would barely survive another orbit with the current blinds and antes. I shoved from the cutoff with AJ of hearts and the big blind woke up with pocket aces. I think the turn gave me a flush draw to add some sweat for the BB, but it didn't materialize on the river and it was buh-bye JT in 17th place.

So I went out last Friday night and the only qualifiers remaining were single table $330+30 satellites where the top 2 earned seats in the main and a $165+15 tourney where 1 in 10 would earn seats in the main.  I didn't really want to spend the $360 for the single table event, so I decided I would take a shot at the tourney. I arrived at the casino a little before 6:00 PM when I thought the tournament started and discovered it didn't really begin until 8:00.

I decided to jump into a cash game and see if I could reduce the cost of the tournament buy-in through the other poker players. I got seated at a new $1-2 no limit hold 'em table that was just opening. I bought in for $200 and buckled up for the ride. One of the players at my table was a regular in the $2-5 games there and was notorious for his wild style of play. True to form he was raising about 75% of the hands to like $17 preflop and then firing $40-50 continuation bets whether he hit or not. He was calling or raising if he got any part of a flop and was getting lucky, so he quickly doubled his $300 buy in.

About 20 minutes into the session I looked down at the old German Virgin, 99 (nein, nein...get it?), UTG. I still had about $195 of my original $200 buy-in.  Normally I'd make at least a modest raise there to like $8 or $10, but I figured there was a high likelihood Mr. Maniac would enter the pot for a raise, so I limped. Oddly he folded preflop and it limped around with 8 players seeing the flop. The flop was 4-9-10 with two diamonds (neither of my nines were a diamond).

I bet $8 and only got one caller. The turn was another 10. This time I bet out $20 and the only other remaining player popped it to $75 leaving only about $50 behind. I'm not folding a boat there, so I announced all-in and he snap called. Since it was limped around he really could have had any two cards, so I was really hoping not to see something like 10-4. Neither of us revealed our hands right away.

I don't remember the river card except that it was definitely a third diamond which puckered the old pooper a little bit. We both flipped our hands pretty much simultaneously. He had A-10 and he seemed shocked to see that he was beat.  If he hadn't lost about $100 to the maniac already I would have nearly doubled up. As it was I went from about $195 to somewhere around $340.  I wound up cashing out about $360 an hour or so later making my tournament buy-in $20 whole dollars out of my own pocket.

Not much to tell about the tournament.  There was lower turnout for it than I expected with only 27 runners. That meant that two seats were up for grabs with third place getting about $1,000.  I was the most card dead I can ever remember being in a tournament.  I think I saw like two pocket pairs the entire time and only 2-3 hands with two broadway cards.  On the final hand with the blinds at 800-400 with a 100 ante I shoved my stack of about $7,500 from the button with 10-8 of spades. I figured I had pretty good fold equity there and could really use the 1,900 in tournament chips sitting on the felt.

Just my luck the big blind had pocket aces. He called and I never even sniffed anything close to a  draw and that was all she wrote.  I was out in about 20th out of 27.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Poker Content for a Change

I’ve been playing quite a bit of poker in the last couple of months, but have neglected to write up any post session recaps here.  I’m not the type that takes notes on hands after I’ve played them so if they’re going to wind up in the blog it will be based on my admittedly fuzzy memory.
About a month and a half ago I took $600 out of my income tax refund and set it aside to try to start a poker bankroll.  I hadn’t regularly played no limit poker in quite a while.  The first few sessions were unremarkable. I generally either broke even or lost or won about $100 or so. The roll stayed pretty much right where it began for about a month. Then two weeks ago the variance pendulum swung in my favor.

I had a really good weekend when the Heartland Poker Tour was in town. All of the poker degenerates that follow that tournament paid off my TAG playing style and I profited about $1,200 in just that weekend. 

A week or so later I had one of those nights where it seemed like everything broke my way.  My big pocket pairs held up. My suited connectors turned into well-disguised rivered straights.  My middle pocket pairs turned into aces cracking sets. The game basically played itself. Yes I made a few big lay downs and stole a few pots, but most of my profits came from just good old-fashioned run good. I cashed out about $600 in profit from a session where I was up almost $800 at one point.

The following weekend I played both Friday and Saturday night. Friday night I had about $100 profit and Saturday night I had about $650 profit. I decided to take a day off from work and play a mid-week donkament to see if my run good worked in tournaments too.  

The donkament often fills up and the only way to ensure you get a seat is to play in a cash game in the 2-3 hours prior to the tournament. If you are in a cash game two hours before the tournament starts they give you a line pass that allows you to sign up for the tournament before tournament entry opens to everyone else. I should mention that the tournament structure is really terrible. You start with 1,500 tournament chips. It has 20 minute levels and blinds start at 25-50 and pretty much double each level with no antes.

I had bought into the pre-tournament cash game for $300 and my stack had dwindled to about $175 when the floor came over and told our dealer to deal one more hand before breaking the game to setup for the tournament. LAG player straddled and the player immediately to his left raised to $22 preflop. I’d only seen him raise that much one other time and at the showdown he showed two jacks which he had stubbornly played all the way to river with an ace on the board. (He lost that hand.)
I called from middle position with pocket eights.  I was set mining or looking for a chance to bluff him off his hand if a scary card hit the board. The straddler called, but I knew that was going to happen no matter what. The flop was 6-7-8 with two clubs. I had hit my set of eights, but it was a very wet board. I didn’t like it, but I decided I needed to play the hand aggressively to get rid of any drawing hands. It checked to me and I made a bet of $40. Straddler min-raised to $80. Original raiser shoved for about $200. I made the crying call for the remainder of my stack and the straddler also called. 

The board ran out without completing the club flush draw and we all revealed our hands. Original raiser had unimproved pocket kings. I had a set of eights. Straddler had called $18 more preflop with 4-5 off suit and flopped the eight high straight. I was less than pleased.

I made my exit to the hallway outside the poker room to wait for the tournament to start. I was sitting texting my bad beat story to my wife when the guy walked up to me and started trying to explain his call and re-hash the hand with me.  As politely as I could I told him to I wasn’t really in the mood to break down the hand where he had just taken my whole stack and suggested perhaps he should move along. I think my exact words were, “Dude! Not right now. I would just keep walking if I were you.”

The tournament didn’t go much better. I shoved with about 10 big blinds left in the fifth level with pocket aces and got called by pocket tens. Ten on the turn and buh-bye JT88Keys.

This past weekend I was only able to make it out to the poker room on Saturday night. I almost didn’t go, but boy am I glad I did. I got called for a set at table 4 about 5 minutes after putting my name on the list. I walked over to the table and started to set my chips down at the open seat when the dealer stopped me saying the gentleman in seat 1 was moving there after the current hand ended.  I was annoyed, but waited for the hand to play out and took my spot to the dealer’s left.

The very first hand I get dealt pocket jacks. I raised to $12 and got three callers. The board contained an ace and I folded when there was a bet and call ahead of me. Both players had aces, so no big deal and a pretty easy fold on the flop.  My stack is now down to $188 of the $200 I bought in for.

About 3 hands later I look down at two red aces. The hand was straddled, so I made a slightly larger than usual raise to $18 and wound up getting four callers. Add that to the couple of other limpers that folded and there is now a little over $100 in the pot and I get to play my aces against four opponents. Yippee!

I was right in the middle…two to act before me and two to act after me.  The flop was 8-6-3 with two diamonds. I bet $55. The next guy to act shoved for about $225. The next player to act folded and the one after that shoved for about $110. The next player folded and now it’s back to me. I thought for a minute or so. It felt to me like the guy that shoved may have hit a set, but it seemed equally as likely that he had some kind of combo straight/flush draw.

I didn’t like it, but I resigned myself to rebuying if I lost and made the call. Nobody revealed their hands and the board ran out with another 6 and another 8. At this point I’m thinking, “Great…one of these guys probably called with just top pair on the flop and just went runner-runner for a boat.” I turned over my aces and the other two revealed pocket nines and pocket kings. As I was staking my approximately $550 in chips one of the regulars at the end of the table said, “I’m guessing that turn and river put a scare into you.” I replied, “I’m not gonna lie…my butthole was firmly clenched.”

The next big hand I called a preflop raise to $12 on the button with AK of diamonds. There were five players in the hand. I hit the nut flush when a 2-4-10 of diamonds flopped. It checked to me and I bet out $20 into the approximately $60 pot. I got two calls from the SB and the player in the hijack. The turn card was an inconsequential card. It wasn’t another diamond and didn’t pair the board. The SB bet $25 and the player in the hijack just called. Now I had a decision to make. Do I pull the trigger on the big raise now or just call and try to get more value on the river. 

I opted to just call after thinking it over for a few seconds for dramatic effect. I fully expected the SB to bet the river blank, but he surprised me by only betting $20 into what was now a $235 pot. The hijack of course called. I raised it to $100. The SB shoved his remaining $50 or so and the hijack confirmed that it was $100 total and made the call. I flipped over my flopped nut flush. The SB mucked and the hijack showed A-10 of spades. I guess he thought his top pair, top kicker was good there.

The only other big hand I won was another with pocket aces. The guy who had originally had the one seat raised preflop to $12. He is a pretty active player who will raise with lots of different hands, but usually has at least a little something. I raised to $30 with my pocket aces. A younger Asian kid who had played relatively conservatively all night shoved for his last $91. The original raiser tanked for a minute or two before finally folding.  I confirmed I was the only person left to act and called while turning over my aces. He revealed pocket sixes. Neither of us improved and I won another $100 or so. The original raiser said he folded AQ of spades. I wish he had called. Knowing his very aggressive style he probably would have gotten it all in on the turn when the board was queen high.

I left pretty soon there after. The kid I busted who had the pocket sixes left along with two of his buddies that were also at our table. I didn’t feel like playing five handed against a bunch of regulars I didn’t feel I had much of a skill advantage over. I cashed out exactly $953. I tipped 3 bucks to the cage and left with $750 profit from my original $200 buy in. My goal is to run my poker bankroll up to around $5,000 by the end of the summer and then use a big chunk of it to book a Christmas cruise to the Caribbean for my family.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marriage Equality

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments for and against gay marriage.  I don't know all of the legal ins an outs they were considering or what the impact of their decision might mean for the broader future of the United States of America.  I'll leave that analysis to one of the many bloggers who also happen to be lawyers. 

I do know this. Even the fact that they are considering the case created a launching pad for discussions among my many friends throughout social media. Many of my friends on Facebook changed their profile picture to a giant equal sign and it led to an in depth discussion between me and my teenaged son.

As anyone that has read this blog in the past knows, I work with the show choir program at my local high school. I know this is going to sound like a broad generalization and those should probably be avoided when discussing something like civil rights and equality, but the performing arts does seem to draw more than its fair share of openly gay participants.  I don't know that the percentage of gay members is any higher or lower than any other activity.  I do think they feel more accepted in the performing arts community and as a result fewer of them feel the need to hide who they are.  (I think that's a good thing if you were wondering.)

Anyway...I got a little off track there.  All of that was just to say that I have lots of very close friends who also happen to be gay.  Politically I'm pretty conservative, but I fall firmly on the side of gay rights when it comes to marriage.  Why shouldn't two consenting adults be allowed to marry?  I seriously don't care what your sexual preference is.  Do you like to have clamps put on your nipples while getting spanked with a ping-pong paddle? Super.  Do you enjoy dressing up in a big furry rabbit costume and bumping your over-sized mascot heads together while bumping uglies?  Wonderful.  Do you prefer penis over vagina or vice versa? Awesome.  I don't care.  Enjoy it. 

I don't know every argument against gay marriage, but the two I hear the most are because it goes against tradition and the old biblical/religious argument against it.

Let me start with the tradition argument. I don't get how you can even make that argument with a straight face.  In business and life the "we've always done it this way" argument is the lamest of all.  Times change.  People evolve (hopefully).  You can keep your tradition while we start making new ones over here. 

As for the biblical/religious arguments...

I grew up in a staunchly Christan family. We attended Southern Baptist churches from the time I was born until I was in my twenties. These were the epitome of strict conservative social values. Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't dance. Don't gamble. And for God's sake, don't associate wtih people who do.  All of those commands really led me to try, and decide I liked, almost all of those things.  I smoked, drank, danced, and gambled my way through most of my adult life.

The Bible thumpers refer to "the scriptures" when arguing against homosexuality, but it cracks me up when they reference the book of Leviticus and its condemnation of "men laying down with other men." They love to cherry pick the scripture and choose the passages they like while overlooking the rest. Maybe if they were strictly adhering to all of the laws put forth in the Old Testament I could take them seriously, but I don't recall ever seeing one of the women from the church walking around shouting "UNCLEAN" when they were menstruating. I also recall a couple of their daughters getting pregnant while they were unmarried, but I don't remember them getting stoned to death over it.

So guess what? All of the laws of Leviticus are archaic and out of place with modern society. All of them...

Here's where the discussion went with my teenage son last night.  Christians argue that gay marriage will degrade the institution of marriage and they hold up their religion as the defining reason why it shouldn't be allowed.  Our church has never come right out and said one way or another where they stand on this issue. They talk a lot about inclusion in general, but I don't expect them to start performing or recognizing gay marriages in the church. And nobody is trying to tell them they have to as far as I know.

Many churches may not believe that gay marriage fits with their beliefs and they're allowed to believe whatever they want when it comes to their religion.  They aren't allowed, however, to foist their beliefs onto the rest of society by trying to make it law for everyone. Jews and Muslims don't believe in eating pork, but I don't see them trying to get a law passed outlawing sales of pork products.

So if your church wants to allow gay people to marry and another doesn't...great. This country was founded by people seeking religious freedom.  You're free to believe whatever you want. Just don't try to force the rest of us to believe it with you.

All of that to say that I fully support the right to marry for everyone.  If you're a consenting adult I don't care what happens in your bedroom.  If you love one another you should be allowed to make it official in every state in the nation. I'm proud that my state has already made it legal and I look forward to the day when that's the case in all 50 states.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Oh wait...I just thought of another argument against allowing gay marriage.  I heard this one yesterday on the evening news.  Apparently one of the aguments against was that the point of marriage was to produce children. I think it was Justice Kagan who then asked something like "If that's the case should we deny marriage to couples who are both over the age of fifty or sixty?"  I wondered sort of the same thing.  Should we give fertility tests to poeple who apply for a marriage license and deny them to the infertile?  So dumb...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My First Call as an EMT

This is the tale of my very first call as a fully registered and licensed Emergency Medical  Technician.  I had literally received my certification in the mail the day before this call occurred. 

On the volunteer fire department we were discouraged from responding directly to the scene of the call. Usually the local PD would respond and arrive to assess the situation before the FD got there.  It didn't make sense in most instances for somebody to go to the scene without all of the equipment and supplies on the ambulance or fire trucks.  The only exception was if it was on the direct route between your home and the fire station or was one of your immediate neighbors.

It was around 4:30 in the afternoon and I had just gotten home from my boring office job.  I hadn't even changed out of my business casual attire of cheap Dockers and button down shirt when my FD pager went off announcing a possible heart problem in the apartment building right next door to mine.  I figured I could at least get a history and record the patient's vital signs so when the ambulance arrived they could just package them up and head to the hospital.  Besides, like 80% of these possible heart calls turned out to be bad bologna and not a real cardiac issue.

I grabbed my sphygmomanometer (fancy name for a blood pressure cuff I was forced to learn in my EMT training) stethoscope, badge and identification and headed next door on foot.  I arrived at exactly the same time as the police officer.  We were greeted by a 70+ year old woman who informed us that she thought her elderly aunt was suffering a heart attack.  I asked where the patient was and she directed me to the bathroom.

I discovered her 90+ year old aunt lying on the floor with her pants still around her knees. I introduced myself as being from the fire department and told her I was just going to check her pulse and blood pressure.  She was very disoriented and barely acknowledged my presence.  Her pulse was rapid (150) and very thready.  I slapped the BP cuff on her and started to inflate it and before I could even begin to deflate it she let out the most awful gasping breath that lasted about 10 seconds and then ceased respirations.  I jabbed two fingers onto her carotid artery and confirmed what I already feared.  Her heart was no longer beating.

I hooked my hands under her arms and dragged her frail 100 pound frame out into the living room and shouted at the cop, "Get on the radio and tell the ambulance to step it up because we are starting CPR!"  The cop did as he was told and then told me he would do respirations since he had his one way valve mask with him.  I started compressions and felt two or three ribs crack on the very first set of 5.  It was only about 2-3 minutes later when the ambulance crew arrived and packaged her up and headed for the hospital. 

I wish I could tell you that being there to initiate CPR right away saved her, but she didn't make it.  It doesn't haunt me or anything because at 90 something it was just her time.  In the course of my service as an EMT I saw multiple dead bodies and worked on people who were alive, but died soon after we treated them.  This was the one and only time in my life that I have witnessed somebody drawing their very last breath and I will never forget it.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tales from the FD

Wow...I haven't written anything here in almost as long as Very Josie.  The other day I was chatting with some friends when a turn in the conversation led to my revelation that I used to be a volunteer firefighter and EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) back in the late 80's and early 90's.  I quit when my oldest son was born because it takes a lot of time and commitment to do it right and I didn't want to miss his childhood. 

As you can guess I have a treasure trove of stories from my time on the FD.  I'll tell a few of the better stories here and if you're interested I can always share more.

"What is the Grossest Thing You've Ever Seen?"

Without fail the first thing people ask when they find out you were an EMT is, "What is the grossest thing you've ever seen?" There are lots of stories that fit under the gross category, but I don't even have to think about this one.  One story stands out above all others. 

I was a very green rookie and had only had my EMT certification for maybe 6 months when the call came in.  The police department was asking for assistance.  They had discovered a body in a mobile home and needed us to come verify they were dead.  The police never declare somebody dead and even though this guy was very obviously dead they needed us to confirm it.  It wasn't a good sign when they told us we should probably bring along some of the fire air packs. 

Did I mention that it was the middle of July and the mobile home wasn't air-conditioned?  Did I also mention that the reason the cops were called was because the occupant hadn't been seen by his neighbors for several days and a foul odor was emanating from the residence?  Yeah...we already knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but hoped the air packs would at least spare our olfactory nerves.

There are only three times when an EMT can declare somebody dead in the field.

1.  If rigor mortis has set in. Rigor mortis can occur shortly after death, but will eventually subside.

2.  If the body is dismembered.  E.G. the head is missing or something.

3.  If lividity has occurred. Lividity is what happens when your body stops circulating the blood and gravity causes it to pool anywhere the body is touching the ground.  It looks like a big bruise and the blood will even ooze out of the pores in the skin if you press on it.

In this case we were checking for number 3.  We arrived on the ambulance and the experienced paramedic turned to me and said, "Suit up, rookie, you're going in with me."  We donned our air packs and made our way into the dimly lit mobile home.  The poor bastard was lying on his back just in front of his couch.  I felt a twinge of sadness that somebody could spend nearly a week without somebody missing them. 

We positioned ourselves on either side of the body and prepared to pull him forward at the waist so we could check his back for lividity.   He was a pretty big dude who looked even bigger because he was a tiny bit bloated.  The paramedic counted to 3 and we pulled on his upper arms to lift him.  He came about 2 inches off the floor when....well....

Have you ever had roast chicken?  You know how the skin on a roast bird just kind of slides off the meat?  Yeah...that happened.  With a sickening smacking sound his skin separated at each shoulder and started to slide down his arms.  We both immediately dropped him and the paramedic jumped up and said, "Yep he's dead. Lets get out of here until the coroner arrives."  I high-tailed it outside and ripped off my mask.  I was sweating not just because the mobile home was an oven, but because I was on the verge of purging the contents of my stomach.  Swear to God, but the coroner strolled in without any air pack eating a fucking sandwich when he got there.

The stories aren't all as gross as that one.  Some are sad.  Others are inspirational.  Still others are scary.  Want to hear more?  Ask me anything in the comments and I'll write up more stories if you're interested.