[youtube link="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfSkvX_mlmM"]

Alternate longer and funnier video!

So after several months' hiatus, I am back playing poker and having a blast with it.  I've already got a few good stories from my November time at the tables (such as the hand where I went all-in pre-flop with , ended up heads-up against expecting a split pot, and then flopped for a royal flush), but those can wait.  Today, I want to tell you a bit about what I've been up to for the last four-plus months.

Anyone who read my last blog post back in May could probably make an educated guess about what I've been up to, and you'd probably have a good half of the story figured out right there.  I've already been there and written that post, though, so I'm going to talk about some of the good things that have been going on in my life outside the world of poker.

Dota 2

My favorite hero, the Keeper of the LightSome time in August I discovered the joys of Dota 2.  For those who aren't familiar with it, Dota 2 is the sequel to Defense of the Ancients, a mod for Warcraft 3 that became hugely popular and spawned a whole new genre of game, known as MOBAs, ARTS, or Dota-likes, depending on who you ask.  The most popular of these games today is League of Legends; others include Heroes of Newerth and Blizzard's recently renamed Heroes of the Storm.

In its most commonly played form, Dota has two teams of five players who each control a single hero, selected from a large pool of heroes (104 total in the current release of Dota 2).  The teams compete against each other on a standard map which has a base for each team and three lanes, each of which contains several towers which can attack and be attacked by the heroes on the opposing team.  Every thirty seconds, a wave of "creeps" spawns in each lane at each base and starts marching down the lane.  These creeps are controlled by the AI, and will attack enemy creeps, heroes, and towers as they encounter them.

A big part of the popularity of the game comes from the fact that each hero is unique and interacts with other heroes (both allies and enemies) differently.  With the number of possible combinations of 5 vs 5 heroes and the different strategies each hero and team can employ, every game is unique.  The game is fascinating both to play and to watch, although watching it is much better when you have some idea of what is going on!  This weekend I discovered how much fun it can be to play 1-2 tables of poker while watching a professionally-commentated game of Dota 2 on the side.  Watching the MLG Fall Championship games gave me something to do during the slow times at the table, but didn't distract me at all when I needed to pay attention.  I even found myself taking more than my usual amount notes on my opponents' hand selection and bet sizing habits!

Rocksmith 2014

Let me start with a little backstory.  Five years ago, I played Rock Band for the first time at a friend's bachelor party.  I discovered that I was terrible at playing the Rock Band guitar, and at one point I made an offhand comment that I might pick up a copy of the latest version of Guitar Hero and practice my "Rock Band guitar skills".  The guy on the drums (let's call him S.W.), who is an old friend and a very talented real-life musician, asked me, "But what about your REAL guitar skills?"  He knew that I had dabbled with the guitar on-and-off for years (he had even taught me a few things at one time).

That comment stuck with me.  It was brought to mind again a couple of years later when I first heard my brother play the drums while S.W. jammed on the guitar.  My brother had learned everything he knew from Rock Band, and he was AMAZING on the real drums.  This is because the Rock Band drums are played just like real drums, so all of the skills he developed while playing the game transferred directly across.  Unfortunately, the Rock Band guitar has practically no similarities to a real guitar, so I still had no good way to improve on the real guitar (other than paying for lessons, or just working really hard, which I definitely didn't want to do! )

Fast forward to this year, when I first learned about Rocksmith 2014.  I watched one preview video and I was hooked.  Here, at last, was a way for me to learn to play a real guitar with a gamified approach--something that will start me off easy and gradually ramp things up, let me slow things down and focus on tricky parts of songs when I need to, and reward my progress throughout--but still end up teaching me to play full songs, with all the details and advanced techniques in place.  I discussed it with my wife, and we agreed that her anniversary gift to me would be the Rocksmith 2014 package (including the Real Tone Cable) and a basic electric guitar (since I only owned an acoustic which can't be used with a patch cord).

I have practiced for close to an hour a day every day since Rocksmith arrived, and I am LOVING it.  There are even some details that I hadn't expected, like the fact that the software takes care of all relevant effects during each song (i.e. automatically switching distortion, etc. that the original artist would have switched with an effects pedal) and the inclusion of lessons and "Guitarcade" games which have helped me to learn and improve some of the more advanced techniques.

I think my favorite song so far has been Cherub Rock by The Smashing Pumpkins.  It has a lot of complex techniques and fast playing, but I've been able to play a lot of it fairly comfortably.  I'm especially pleased that this is the only track I own that didn't come with the base game--it was a bonus I got for pre-ordering the game, which I did the day before release--and I am very glad I did!  I've also really been enjoying Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard and Everlong by Foo Fighters, and have achieved a very high level of mastery on Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones (which is very fast, but relatively easy to play).

So there you have it--a little summary of the most interesting things I've been doing for the last several months.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Until next time, good luck at the tables!
-- CanuckMonkey