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Speed Awareness Course Has Made Me Aware of My Speed

West Yorkshire Police offered me the chance to attend a speed awareness course in lieu of receiving three penalty points after I was caught travelling 57mph in a 50mph zone. My first reaction was that it was great not to have any points on my licence, my second was “fuck me, this’ll be four hours of my life I won’t get back.”

I was wrong.

Admittedly, I turned up to the speed awareness course with a negative mindset. It seemed like a waste of time and effort. My fears seemed to be confirmed when one of the instructors asked those seated at my table to look at some photos of roads, identify what the speed limit was on those roads and the speed limit we thought it should be.

Four hours of this shit was going to drive me insane. I was slightly hungover, having decided it would be a good idea to sink a bottle of red the night before, and certainly wasn’t in the mood for lectures.

My attitude changed within a few minutes of the mundane intro because the instructors were a great, fun double act. Their names elude me at the minute, which is a shame as they deserve some credit for making what is a boring subject fun and informative.

Much of the course could have been scrapped, although that would mean the course would have finished within 90-120 minutes instead of four hours. I get the feeling those who created the course made it four hours long as this was the optimal time that people’s concentration levels would still be OK while putting people out enough to make them think it was nothing but a slap on the wrist.

I have to admit that I didn’t think I was going to learn anything from the speed awareness course. After all, I’ve been driving almost 18-years, covering a few hundred thousand miles. What could they teach me that I didn’t already know?

What is a Built-Up Area?

Speed awareness street lights

My understanding of the definition of a built-up area was a residential or industrial area that had plenty of buildings and the like. Turns out the Highway Code’s definition of a built up area is one that has a sequence of three street lights.

This means you could be in the middle of the countryside, but it is considered a built up area if there are three street lights in sequence.

One mph Does Make All the Difference

We all know the ballpark figures for stopping distances, such as it being roughly six car lengths to stop when travelling at 30mph, but something the instructors told us on the speed awareness course resonated with me and has stopped me from breaking the speed limit even once since attending the course.

A car going 31mph will still be travelling at 7mph at the exact same spot a car travelling at 30mph has manged to come to a standstill. Even more scary is if you’re travelling at 80mph, you’d still be driving at 39mph at the same spot a car that was travelling at 70mph had stopped at. Almost 40mph, that’s fucking ridiculous.

Imagine smashing into the back of a stationary car at 39mph. Or finding a gap in the stopped traffic only to mow someone down who’d got out of their car and colliding with them at 39mph. They’d likely be dead.

I used to drive on the motorway at 80mph all the time, sometimes faster. Not anymore.

Speeding Doesn’t Make up Lost Time as Much as You Think

The course attendees agreed the most likely reason for them speeding would be because they’re running late. This is why I was on this course: I was late, put my foot down in the vain hope that I would catch up time.

One of the instructors showed us that if he was driving somewhere at 70mph and I was driving at 80mph, I would only be six seconds faster per mile. It’s fuck all. My drive to pick the smallest Pudding up is 37 miles. If I could do it all on the motorway at 80mph instead of 70mph, I’d get there 222 seconds, or 3.7 minutes, faster. I’d get their faster but I’d also run the risk of a speeding ticket and if the shit hit the fan, could be travelling at 39mph when everyone else had stopped.

Speeding is so fucking pointless.

We Control Smart Motorways

Smart Motorway speed awareness

This was another thing I learned on the course. I was always of the belief that there was a control room somewhere, monitoring cameras dotted along smart motorways and that a human flicked a switch to drop the speed from 70mph to 50mph etc.

Wrong.

Smart motorways are called such because they control themselves. These state-of-the-art roads have sensors in them that feed into a computer that runs an algorithm or five and that determines what the speed should be.

Drive like a dickhead, swapping lanes all the time, or speeding, or breaking heavily and the smart motorway will drop the speed for the next section of road. So the next time you’re moaning about the motorway being 50mph, consider if your own driving style has contributed to this happening.

I’m Now Aware of My Speed

I can’t say that I’ll never speed again because that would be an outright lie. You sometimes have to break the speed limit to overtake or avoid a situation, although I can honestly say I will not be deliberately breaking the speed limit and have stuck to it like glue since this course. Speeding just isn’t worth it, it really isn’t.

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Bird Box: When the Memes Are Better Than the Film

I’m not really one for watching television. I was late to the party to Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Dexter and Breaking Bad to mention just a quartet of big TV hits. Bird Box, however, was a film that I have watched almost as soon as it was released on Netflix.

My main issue with television is I am quite fussy. Spare time is a limited commodity for me. If I’m not working, have the kids around, or are out socialising, I like to play video games. It’s not that I don’t like watching TV, it’s just if something doesn’t immediately grab my attention and I don’t feel anything for any of the characters, ploughing through a box set or investing my spare time seems like a waste of energy.

Bird Box’s Star-Studded Cast

It was through memes that I first heard of Bird Box; some of them were quite funny despite me having not heard anything about the Netflix film. Discovering a cast including the likes of Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich and Trevante Rhodes peaked my interest a little and I made plans to watch Bird Box at some point.

Another issue with my television viewing is the Mrs is shit scared of horror and suspense programmes and movies, which rubs against the grain a little as these are among my favourite genres. I managed to convince her to watch Bird Box on Jan. 11, here are my thoughts about what is ultimately a great idea but one that is poorly executed.

Without giving too many spoilers away, the main plot of Bird Box is there is an unseen supernatural entity roaming the Earth. If anyone sees this entity, it somehow forces that person to commit suicide or force others to look at it, therefore resulting in huge numbers of the population dying.

The opening 20-minutes are intense and set the tone for what should be a great movie. Unfortunately, it become apparent towards the back end of the film that the producers blew most of their budget on hiring Bullock, Malkovich and having such an explosive opening section.

Starts Well, Dips in the Middle, Less Said About the End

Bird Box

Bird Box

It is a decent film for the most part. Having the cast wear a blindfold so they don’t succumb to the supernatural being creates a chilling atmosphere and one that is claustrophobic. Wondering if you will ever see this entity yourself – you don’t – makes you worry about casting eyes on it. The concept is a good one and it does make you think something similar could happen if there was ever a major chemical war or similar.

For an hour, possibly 90-minutes, the film bounds on at a decent pace and captivates you. Then the writers decide to throw every cliché in the book at you and the fact the film jumps across the timeline reveals that certain characters are going to die at some point.

A strong black male character sacrifices himself for love; bet you couldn’t see that coming. The mother with no maternal instinct at all suddenly decides to become a doting parent. All that was missing was a young blonde lass wondering around the garden or cellar in her smalls investigating a strange noise. It’s impossible to feel for a character when it has been revealed they are dying at some point, probably soon.

Bird Box’s main issue is that is become predictable early on and that removes all the uncertainty that would have made the film great. When a film’s main core is based around “what if” and not knowing how or when something is going to happen, you can’t deviate away from that concept and make it all predictable.

I got the feeling the writers and producers started Bird Box with good intentions, then realised they had no money left to finish the film properly; it all feels rushed towards the end, a lot like the dreadful end scene of Dexter.

Bird Box Leaves So Many Unanswered Questions

The film ends quite abruptly and leaves so many loose ends that a sequel is inevitable. Perhaps that was the producers’ intentions all along? Some of the main issues I had with Bird Box included:

  • There was no need for a love story. It’s a apocalyptic film, FFS
  • There’s no explanation to watch the supernatural being is
  • Bullock’s character is good for 90% of the film, then swings the opposite way in the last 10-minutes
  • It’s so cliché that it is a joke
  • They removed all uncertainty from a film based on not knowing, you know, uncertainty
  • Why are birds invulnerable to the entity, are other animals?
  • The ending is totally dogshit and leaves many unanswered questions, so much so that it completely ruins the film

Netflix claims 45 million people around the world have seen Bird Box, but what the streaming company doesn’t reveal is how many of those actually watched from start to finish. Nextflix’s figures are usually based on someone streaming a film for over 70 percent of its viewing time. Even if only 20 percent of those 45 million watched all the way through, it’s still an impressive nine million views, so Netflix will consider Bird Box a resounding success.

Here’s hoping they realise it was actually quite shit and they produce a sequel that ties up at least some of the loose ends, including how Bullock and Co. survived for five-years before embarking on a 42-hour journey down the river, why the entity can’t go inside buildings and how the sanctuary at the end hasn’t been overrun and pillaged and where they’ve got all their shit from for the past half-a-decade.

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I’m Forever Bursting Bubbles

Getting back playing poker regularly was one of the goals I set myself for 2019 and yesterday I played my first online poker tournament in as long as I can remember.

The tournament was never going to make me rich, a small $3.30 progressive knockout mix-max tournament at partypoker. I had a few quid in my partypoker account and thought I’d fire up a quick MTT to have on in the background while I worked.

Playing poker while working isn’t the best way to make money or to bring your A-game to the table because there are too many distractions. I wasn’t even using a HUD because I’ve not got around to setting Poker Tracker 4 up on my machine, so I was essentially flying blind.

Sucking Out On The River

I didn’t enjoy the best of starts. Being card dead is shit but being card dead and not being able to make many moves because you don’t have any reads on opponents is even worse. With my stack having dwindled to 18 big blinds, I three-bet shoved all-in over the top of a button raise with As8d from the small blind and found myself up against the dominating AsKs.

“FFS, Pud. Great timing,” I thought to myself, only to be redeemed by a beautiful snowman on the river.

That hand gave me some breathing room before I managed to improve to the nut flush and got my stack in against a guy holding two pair. They missed their full house and suddenly I’m sat with almost 100 big blinds and cruising along.

Late registration closed with 384-etries processed and, as it was a mix-max tournament, play switched from eight-handed tables to six-handed. Again, it’s not ideal playing six-max poker tournaments when you’re busy doing other shit.

First hand back after the break I found pocket kings. I won the blinds and antes. A pair of aces in the hole resulted in the same blinds and aces being won a few hands later.

Ace-king was then dealt to me and I bet you can guess what happened. That’s right, I won the blinds and antes.

Three powerhouse hands and I won the total of 14.4 big blinds and that included my own fucking raise!

Here Comes the Money Bubble

The bubble was now approaching, and I looked on course to sneak into the to 48 places where the prize money was divided up; I’d not managed to bust anyone so hadn’t picked up any bounty payments. A few hands cost me some chips and the rising blinds were eating into my stack. Something had to give eventually.

My exit hand was pretty straightforward, as they usually are in tournament poker. Down to around 26 big blinds, I opened to 2.3 big blinds with KcQc from middle position and the big stack to my immediate left flat-called. This guy was running hotter than the sun and had made some weird plays – I’d started paying a little more attention with the bubble looming – including isolating an all-in player with jack-four offsuit and getting there.

Anyway, it was heads-up to the 2hQs7d flop, a pretty good set of community cards for my hand. I bet around half-pot to leave myself a shade under 20 big blinds. Dude face to my left then clicked it back before insta-calling when I jammed all-in, as would you if you were sat there with AsAc! No king or queen on the turn or river and my run came to an end in 51st place with 48 spots paid. FFS.

It’s obviously disappointing not to cash when I was flying high for so long, but then again, I can’t be too pissed about it because I had next to no reads on anyone and my game is rustier than a 1970s Lada at the minute. Was good fun though and I still got that buzz of going deep in a tournament, even in a $3.30 bowl comp. I’ll definitely be playing some more tournaments when I get the chance, maybe this time I’ll try doing so without a raft of distractions.

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Oops I Did It Again: Caught Speeding

This isn’t a blog post detailing my love for Britney Spears and cheesy early year 2000 pop songs, don’t worry. It’s one detailing my stupidity behind the wheel.

My driving license was clean for the first few years after passing my test almost 18-years ago. Insuring my first car was expensive enough without the added costs of having penalty points to my name.

After three years of driving without a hitch, I was caught by a mobile speed copper doing 47mph in a 40mph zone. The daft thing was I had left my mobile phone charger at work on the Friday and knew the office was open until lunchtime on the Saturday, so got my foot down to pick my charger up before it was too late. Silly me didn’t see the speed camera van up the dual carriageway and three points and a then £60 fine were my reward; at least I got my charger though.

A Clean License, But Not For Long

Those penalty points came off a few years later only for me to pick up another three almost immediately after my licence was clean. My grandma was in a hospice with my dad holding a bedside vigil as we were told she would pass at any moment. Dad had been there all night and was both tired and hungry.

I decided to head over to the hospice and was going to take the old man some grub. Traffic on the motorway had ground to a halt and I’d been stuck in stationary traffic for three or four minutes.

“I know what I’ll do, I’ll text Dad and see if he wants some food bringing,” I said to myself.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

As luck would have it, a traffic cop passed me on the outside lane, and he must have had eyes like a shithouse rat because he immediately gestured to pull onto the hard shoulder. A stern telling off, a quick PNC check and me trying to first blag that I didn’t have a mobile phone then trying my luck to get off on a sympathy vote resulted in another £60 fine and three penalty points.

That was an age ago and I’ve been the proud owner of a clean license ever since those points expired. Not anymore, however, as it looks like I have been done for speeding twice in the last couple of months.

Hello There Penalty Points

speeding

A notice of prosecution letter came through the letterbox before Christmas stating I had been caught driving 57mph in a 50mph zone on a road known locally as “The Mad Mile.” I know exactly when it was because I was on my way to pick up the youngest Pudding, was running a little late and saw the speed camera van at the other side of the dual carriage way.

I’d always thought the van, which is in that spot regularly, was catching speeding drivers coming from the motorway and towards the built-up area a mile or so ahead. Obviously not this day judging by the four photographs I was supplied, one clearly showing me travelling at 57mph and the other three below 50mph when I must have stuck on the anchors.

The police offered me “driver retraining” in the form of a speed awareness course. This was booked yesterday at a cost of £84, but you complete these courses in lieu of receiving penalty points.

Delayed Prosecution

So why won’t my license be clean for long? Because another fucking notice of prosecution turned up yesterday.

Back on November 1st last year, I’d taken the eldest step-Pudding quad biking for his birthday. He said he wanted to pop into Leeds centre on the way home to spend some of his birthday money. Being 14:00 in the afternoon and the roads being relatively clear, I put my foot down while were recalling the quad biking activities only for me to spot a speed camera van on a bridge. When I say I spotted it, I did so as I passed under the bastard bridge so if his camera was turned on he’d caught me.

With nothing coming through the post I thought I’d gotten away with it and was pleased I’d had a bit of good fortune because I am sure I was doing well over the speed limit. Turns out that the DVLA never received the change of address form when I moved to a new house, so the car is still registered at my previous address hence the delay in processing the fine.

This latest one claims to have caught me driving 83mph in a 70mph zone, oops I did it again. As the timeframe for opting into the speed awareness course for the other speeding offence expired yesterday, I’ll have no choice but to take the £100 fine and three points and have the SP50 code on my license for the next four years.

While a pain in the balls and being £184 lighter, it’s my own stupid fault for not adhering to the speed limits. I’m not one of those who says police should be out catching proper criminals instead of targeting motorists. The speed limits are imposed for a reason, at the end of the day, and it was my decision to not pay attention to them and essentially break the law.

Lesson learned. If you spot a silver Ford S-Max driving around Leeds bang on the speed limit, it’ll be me so feel free to say hi.

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Cut-Price Horizon Zero Dawn is an Incredible Bargain

Giant robotic animals and dinosaurs that you can kill and control, unbelievable graphics, a captivating story and female lead character were four of the features that were pushed when Horizon Zero Dawn was first shown on TV.

I remember seeing a preview of Horizon Zero Dawn while watching a programme on GinxTV a few years ago and remarking it looked great. My main worry was that the finished game would be all wind and piss, or similar to a beautiful bimbo who looked great but had the personality of a flan. The latter would be proved wrong almost as soon as I began playing it.

Horizon Zero Dawn was released on March 1, 2017 and I bought it almost two months later on April 23rd. A month and two days of pure enjoyment followed before the Platinum trophy popped up thanks to me achieving 100% completion of what is one of the best video games I have ever played.

Horizon Zero Dawn Setting

Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloy

The story is set in the 31st century and the world as we know it has gone to shit. A major disaster has occurred. Humans have regressed into primitive tribes while robotic creatures roam and dominate the planet. These “machines”, as they are collectively known, and the surviving humans coexist in relative peace with the humans often hunting the machines for parts.

This peace is threatened by a phenomenon known as the “derangement” which is causing the machines to grow ever more aggressive towards humans and new, massive, deadly machines begin appearing.

You play the role of Aloy, who was cast out of the Nora tribe at birth. There’s not really much else I can tell you about the story without massive spoilers, nor would I want to because the Horizon Zero Dawn’s story is its strong point and is a masterpiece in video games’ terms.

Stories in video games are mostly weak as piss with the occasional work of genius thrown in; The Last Of Us is an example of the latter. Horizon Zero Dawn’s story hooked me from the second I picked up the DualShock 4 controller. I wanted to know more and read every piece of lore I found along the gorgeous landscapes.

Horizon Zero Dawn Positives

Horizon Zero Dawn

Guerrilla Games did a fine job in creating a game that had plenty of character development at your hands without making it an absolute chore to do. Aloy has a dozen of special moves she can make and a whole host of traps and weapons at her disposal that you can use to take down these robotic creatures.

Battling with Aloy’s staff feels solid and varied, an array of special arrows makes her bow deadly and fun to use, while the game’s stealth mechanic works quite well despite the game’s action-adventure roots. I reckon you could get through the majority of Horizon Zero Dawn without the need to fight all but the boss machines but doing so would vastly reduce your enjoyment as the combat element is a brilliant.

The amazing graphics and absorbing story are joys to behold and I can’t describe how much fun it is to track and hunt some of the bigger machines that frequent the lands later in the game. It’s great fund unlocking sections of the map by climbing and hacking the giant giraffe-like creatures, or taking control of a robotic horse and riding it to your next destination. It’s also great fun and challenging to take on some of the more hostile machines, which you eventually get to control.

Being able to upgrade Aloy and her weapons is easy and each upgrade feels like that, an upgrade, making Aloy more powerful as the machines around her also improve and become deadlier.

Oh, the musical score is phenomenal, and every scene has the perfect music to it.

Horizon Zero Dawn Negatives

Horizon Zero Dawn

Big T-Rex mother fucker

Horizon Zero Dawn isn’t without its negatives even if it is my favourite game on the PlayStation 4 to date. Firstly, the currency used to upgrade weapons etc in Horizon Zero Dawn sees difficult to come by and makes you want to hunt machines for more. Later in the game, less than halfway through if I remember correctly, you end up with so much “money” that you cannot do anything with it. You’ll have upgraded everything and still have tens of thousands scraps at your disposal that you don’t need or want.

Another gripe of mine was the although the machines are obviously technologically advanced and they do come looking for you if you make a noise within earshot or fail to kill them in a single blow etc, they quickly revert back to a predetermined course. This is the case even for the machines that are designed as pure killers. It would have been better, if very difficult to program, for the machines to stay on a higher state of alert or have several routes they could walk when they had been disturbed.

The third and final thing that had a negative effect on me playing Horizon Zero Dawn was partly down to my own inquisitiveness. I learned about some special armour in one of the many datapoints you find around the world and made it my mission to get my hands on it. I managed this after much exploring and found myself to be the owner of some armour that was extremely strong while allowing you to remain agile. Oh and it regenerated in a few seconds too if you managed to avoid taking damage.

This armour is so overpowered that combining it with my maxed-out weapons, there was no machine that I feared at all, even the vicious little bastards that are the equivalent of crocodiles and even the big mother-fucking T-Rex lookalikes towards the end of the game.

These negatives should not put you off buying Horizon Zero Dawn because it really is one of the best video games of all time, even more so that you can now get it for £22 or the Complete Edition that comes with the Frozen Wilds expansion for a couple of pennies under £30. For that price you’re going to get 50-60 hours, if not more, of pure enjoyment and that is a bargain in anyone’s eyes.

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Nothing Compares to Football

Football stirs up all kinds of emotions during a match. Elation. Disappointment. Exhilaration.The so-called beautiful game takes you on a rollercoaster during the 90-minutes of a typical game.

I’ve had some incredible moments supporting Leeds United. My favourite memory of watching Leeds came in September 2003 when Leeds took on Swindon Town in the second round of Capitol Cup. It was a nothing game to be honest, yet I was still pretty pissed when we were two-nil down and looking like we were being knocked out, once again, by lesser opposition.

England’s Number One!

Ian Harte then pulled a goal back before our goalkeeper Paul Robinson came up for a corner in the dying seconds and headed in the equaliser! I remember it going mental in the stands with myself, and mates Kev and Rich jumping around and hugging each other like a trio of lunatics who’d not taken their meds.

More was to come as the game eventually went to a penalty shootout and that man Robinson ended up saving a penalty that helped us progress to the third round.

“England’s number one, England’s England’s number one!” bellowed around a jubilant Elland Road. The three bouncing lunatics went off into the cold Leeds night beaming from ear to ear with a story that will stick with us if we manage to stave off Alzheimer’s.

Leeds produced another great memory on December 23rd this year when we came from being two goals down against Aston Villa to win 3-2, the winning goal coming in the last minute of injury time. But what happened on Boxing Day was nothing short of incredible and is probably my favourite Leeds United memory.

Two-One Down in Injury Time

We dominated Blackburn Rovers in the first half of the fixture and deservedly went into half-time leading by a goal to nil, an own goal scored by Derrick Williams. The second half was a bit scrappier and Rovers equalised via the penalty spot only two minutes after the restart.

“I can see us losing this one,” I said to my eldest lad.

Low and behold, in the last minute of the game, Charlie Mulgrew put the visitors 2-1 ahead with a cleverly taken long-range free kick. While Bailey Peacock-Farrell probably should have saved it, Mulgrew should be applauded for his goal as everyone in the ground, Peacock-Farrell obviously included, thought he was going to cross the ball in.

“Who are ya? Who are ya?” came the cries from the Rovers fans in the West Stand. My negative prediction looked to be coming true.

Central defender Pontus Jansson, who was superb throughout the game, jeered up the crowd, screaming at his team mates to go for the equaliser as there were four minutes of added time. Jansson played as a makeshift striker of sorts, almost score straight away before Kemar Roofe bundled the ball home in the 91st minute. Those “who are yas” were fired straight back at the Rovers fans!

GGGGOOOOAAAALLLL!!!!

Amazingly, in the last minute of injury time, Roofe got on the end of a Pablo Hernandez cross and placed his header into the corner of the net for his 13th goals of the campaign and what turned out to be a 94th minute winner! Fuck me sideways! Everyone went crazy.

We were jumping around, hugging and bouncing around with those around us. People falling over seats. It was pandemonium; I’ve never seen anything like it at Elland Road and it makes me smile like the village idiot just thinking about it!

Our manager and possible saviour Marcelo Bielsa said in his post-match interview “that is why nothing compares to football.” You’re not wrong Bielsa, literally nothing compares to this ridiculous game.

“We’re Leeds United, we’re top of the league!”

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Is Red Dead Redemption 2 The GOAT? Not Quite

Caution: Does contain some spoilers

The most ambitious Rockstar Studios game of all-time is how Red Dead Redemption 2 was billed in the build up to its October 26th launch and it delivered in that respect.

From the gorgeous scenery, to NPCs that remember your previous actions, to horses’ bollocks that shrink or grow depending on the current climate, the detail in Red Dead Redemption 2 is second to none.

Showing ambition is great, but you need to be able to deliver the end product. I showed ambition in my late teens, chasing leggy blondes with big tits and I got fuck all to show for it. Rockstar did deliver on their promise of a fantastic game, yet I feel that those people calling it the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) have been caught up in the marketing hype that surrounds AAA launches.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Positives

Red Dead Redemption 2

Let’s take a look at some of the many positives surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2. I’ve already mentioned that it is arguably the best-looking game I have seen on the PlayStation 4, rivalling, if not surpassing, the amazing graphics displayed in Horizon Zero Dawn, which is one of my favourite games of all-time.

The level of detail is astounding. One mission saw me visiting a shop that was hiding the dirty secret of being a front for slavers. I had to find a way to enter the basement of this shop to discover where the owners had been keeping the slaves chained to the walls. After the shopkeeper refused to give me any information, I set about him like a pissed Connor McGregor on the night bus home, beating him until he spilled the beans. When I returned to the same shop a few game days later, the owner was weary of me being there, referred to my previous dishing out of cowboy justice and was even sporting a bandage around his head.

The most ambitious Rockstar Studios game of all-time is how Red Dead Redemption 2 was billed in the build up to its October 26th launch and it delivered in that respect.

You’ll also find some genuinely hilarious moments throughout the game thanks to Rockstars’ ability to tell a story like no other. From the eccentric French artist, to the incestual rednecks who will bum you and sling you in a ditch, Rockstar keep the side missions and random encounters fun and a joy to complete.

Two of the Best Ever Video Game Characters

Red Dead Redemption 2

Then there’s the acting of the main characters. Arthur Morgan is a great character who you start to connect with. That’s an issue with many games, you just don’t connect with them so don’t give two fucks if they die a painful death or they conquer their goals and ride off into the sunset. When Arthur gets sick and eventually dies, I was genuinely pissed off because I wanted him to escape the life of an outlaw and make it out there on his own or with his love interest.

Dutch Van der Linde is another superbly portrayed character. Rockstar do an amazing job of portraying Dutch as a charismatic leader whose world starts tumbling down around him, becoming more desperate and unhinged as the story reaches a thrilling climax. It’s rare for me to be so heavily invested in more than one character of a video game, film or book.

You also have to admire the sheer size of the map and the number of things you can do if you wish. There are 178 different species of animal to study, hunt and kill, each going about their own business in the vast setting. Spending time tracking better specimens and skinning them allows you to upgrade Arthur’s satchels and outfits and even allows you to make special trinkets that give you boosts.

Rockstar have set dozens of challenges from being a bandit, to excelling as a gambler (you can play dominoes, blackjack and poker). I reckon it took me a solid 60 hours to complete the story mode and I didn’t even complete half of the challenges or study that many animals.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Negatives

Red Dead Redemption 2

Having to find 178 different animals, including tiny bastard bullfrogs, is a massive chore when the hunting mechanic gets boring after two or three attempts and the fishing is about as interesting as, well, fishing.

So if a game is massive, fun, detailed and has a Hollywood worthy cast of characters, why isn’t it the GOAT? Well, my friend, it is a victim of its own ambition. It’s chasing those elusive leggy blondes with big tits when it should probably have gone for a solid 7/10 instead and got its end away. As great as it is to have all these different tasks at your disposal, they don’t really serve a purpose in-game.

For example, I got through the entire game with no issues at all without the need to upgrade any of Arthur’s outfits or satchels. There wasn’t a single time that I wished I had more space in my inventory, I just didn’t need it.

Another issue regards hunting in that you don’t need to do it to survive. You obtain meat when you kill and skin the ark-filling selection of animals but there’s that much food dotted around the map that I think I only ate something I killed two or three times. Having to find 178 different animals, including tiny bastard bullfrogs, is a massive chore when the hunting mechanic gets boring after two or three attempts and the fishing is about as interesting as, well, fishing.

Which brings me onto the character maintenance aspect of the game. You’re meant to feed Arthur and your horse on a regular basis to keep them in optimal condition; you need to clean your horse regularly too. Problem is, it doesn’t fucking matter if you don’t. Rockstar claims being underweight improves your stamina but reduces the amount of damage you can take, but the game is that easy during combat – I died once in a gunfight in the entire game – that it wouldn’t matter if the enemy were firing foam Nerf bullets at you.

I Don’t Need No Money

Then you have the money in the game. Early doors, you’re as skint as a Big Issue seller and wondering how you are going to afford any ammunition for your revolver. Within a few hours, you’re dripping with cash, have 10 guns at your disposal and don’t need to loot or rob anyone or anything. I think I had just shy of $8,000 before Arthur died and once I’d acquired the pump action shotgun, I didn’t need any other firearm because it was so OP.

While I loved Arthur in the game, I already knew he was going to die at some point because he is never mentioned in the original Red Dead Redemption that this game is a prequel to. Arthur is a strong, worthy lead character, yet I get the feeling he is just another version of John Marston, the original game’s main protagonist.

Why didn’t Rockstar focus the story of this game on Dutch? Show how he formed the Van der Linde Gang. Allow us to experience his world falling apart and showing us what happened to him in the run up to being hunted down by John in Red Dead Redemption? Dutch is such an amazing character that he could have had this entire game to himself. Perhaps that will come in some DLC at a later date?

Don’t get me wrong, the above faults did piss me off a little and some of those negative points have stopped me from trying to earn the Platinum trophy, yet Red Dead Redemption 2 is still a game you simply have to play and is up there with the top five games of this console’s generation. The pacing is off a little with the first four chapters being quite slow before it erupts like acne on a teenagers cheeks for the last two chapters, which are ridiculously good and at a pace 10-times what the previous four were.

Get your hands on a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 and let yourself get lost in the hype. Just don’t expect to play the GOAT because while the game is superb and amazing value for money, it tries too hard to impress and that sometimes results in it being bucked off its horse and onto the dusty desert floor.

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Setting Goals for 2019

It is important to set yourself some goals and targets regardless of what walk of life you’re from as they give you something to aim or aspire to. New Year is the obvious time, the cliched time, to set goals because you have a clean slate and a full 12-months ahead of you.

First, sorry to my entire readership base of three for not updating this little corner of the internet since Nov. 17. You can blame the lack of content on the fact I’ve been balls deep in Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4. The game is nothing short of fantastic. I’m almost done with the story mode, so will be writing a review at some point next week all being well.

As for my goals for 2019, you’ll realise several of them are interlinked; completing one will likely achieve another. Without further ado, let’s look at what lies in store for 2019.

Stopping Smoking

Stopping smoking

This is the number one on my list and I won’t care one iota if I fail to hit the rest of my goals if I manage to achieve this. I’ve stopped smoking a handful of times before falling off the wagon and starting again.

There’s a history of cancer and dodgy hearts in my family so me smoking is even more stupid than it would be for anyone else. You also have to take into consideration the financial cost of smoking. The brand we smoke is around £8.60 a packet, which is fucking criminal, and I’ve loosely worked out I’m currently spending approximately £400 a month on cancer sticks. That’s £4,800 a year. £4,800 a year that could be spent on a family holiday or wiping a credit card, anything other than destroying my lungs.

The plan is to go cold turkey. I used an e-cig the last time I stopped, but it’s not going to be too long before we get told by the experts that these are just as bad for you as cigs. Putting anything other than air into your lungs is a bad idea if you think about it.

To help keep me on the straight and narrow, I’m going to transfer money daily to a savings account, meaning I can see the savings I’ve made. We can then use the money how we see fit every few months or so.

Improve My Fitness / Lose Weight

Another goal is to improve my fitness and lose some timber, which goes hand in hand with stopping smoking. I started 2018 by jogging regularly and was starting to get into it. Then I pulled my right calf muscle and took six weeks for it to stop hurting. By this time, I’d given up on jogging and essentially sat on my arse for the rest of the year.

I’m not getting any younger and have already done a shit ton of damage to my body so vastly improving my fitness and losing some weight/ body fat to give myself a fighting chance later in life seems like a good idea.

I’ve already drastically cut down on the amount of alcohol I drink and that should make this goal easier. I’d need to weigh myself on New Year’s Day and somehow measure my body fat percentage at the same time before setting a concrete target.

Take More Care of Myself

Again, this is loosely connected to the improving my fitness and losing weight. I’ve never been one for following fashion trends but I do sometimes see clothes I like but then never buy them because they won’t look right on me.

Also, working from home means that you don’t have to take as good care of your appearance as you would if you had to work in an office o rhad a customer facing job. This means tend to only shave when my growth makes me want to scratch my face off, and I only shave my hair when it’s got to the stage that it looks like I have a dandelion clock on my head; that’s an exaggeration but you catch my drift.

These couple of things are connected to my mental wellbeing, too. Despite being an opinionated twat, I actually have quite low self-esteem and confidence and the opinion of myself is rather low. I still have spells where the black dog pays a visit, and this exacerbates the above. Making a conscious effort to improve all areas of my life, especially myself, should see a happier, less anxious and paranoid 2019!

Read at Least 12 Books

Must read more books!

Reading is one of those things that is easy to fall out of the habit of doing. While I find it hard to put a book down once I have started it, it does take a while to get used to reading again. My concentration levels seem to drop when I try reading. I think the main reason for this is the fact I skim and scan hundreds of articles and websites each week rather than reading them properly. When I then come to read an actual book, I find myself skimming and scanning, missing chunks of the story and not getting into it properly.

Twelve books in a calendar year should be easily achievable as it’s only one a month. Substituting browsing the news websites and the like for a chapter of a book should make achieving this target a piece of piss.

Write at Least 50 Blog Posts

Again, this should be easy as it is an average of slightly less than once per week. If I managed to read 12 books, that is 12 entries right there, plus if I start playing poker regularly, I’m sure I’ll fill this blog with bad beat stories!

Get Back Playing Poker Regularly

Playing online poker at partypoker

There was a time when my entire life revolved around playing poker or improving at poker. I’d play online or sometimes visit my local casino for a small donkament or cash game. Large portions of my time were spent reading books, forums and watching videos about poker.

Playing poker and being so invested in this game led me to working in the poker industry, which in turn stopped me playing poker. I often use the excuse that writing about poker for 10 hour a day means I don’t want to play poker when I down tools at the end of the day.

While this is true, there’s also a fear factor to consider. Thinking about it, I’m a little scared that I won’t be able to win anymore. The game has progressed so much and I’ve not kept up with the latest trends and strategies. Being unable to beat the game would piss me off, even though I was never a big winner by any stretch of the imagination. Not to mention it doesn’t look good for a someone in my position to be a complete fish at poker!

Perhaps I’ll stick a small amount online, probably at partypoker, and see if I can grind that up playing nano-stakes cash games. We shall see.

Make £5,000 From Non-Work Activity

This goal could be linked to the above if I do eventually jump back into poker, but it may also spur me on to start at least one of the two websites that I bought the domains for around this time last year!

I purchased one domain that is going to be a gambling portal with things like sports betting, casino and poker site reviews. I’ll feature strategy for these markets, news too, maybe even transfer gossip and esports.

Most of the content in these markets is factual and quite dry. My plan, if I ever get the bastard off the ground, is to make them a little tongue-in-cheek and maybe even mildly offensive. Think Paddy Power and not The Guardian! Stick a few affiliate links in, fish read my shit, sign up to sites and viola: extra wonga.

The second domain is more fun but could lead to someadvertising revenue. It’s not a new idea, but I want to write a pisstake newspaper for Yorkshire folk. An old mate of mine, Simon Young, has a brilliantsite called the Suffolk Gazette that I love reading. I’d love to do something similar so look out for the Yorkshire Tribune coming to a screen near you soon, hopefully!

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Bad Luck On and Off The Tables

“If it wasn’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have any” is a phrase I’d often hear my mum say, usually after some household appliance broke / hours at work were cut / a big car repair bill loomed or similar. These financial hits usually came at the worst possible times, or seemed to know that we’d come into a little bit of cash and had planned to use it for something else.

The clutch and dual mass flywheel died on my car approximately 18-months ago. Having new parts fitted set me back £1,400, which stung a little. The bastard thing is back in the garage and a substantial repair bill is on the horizon, perfect timing with it being Christmas next month and the HMRC needing paying the month after.

It was my dad’s birthday on Nov. 13 and I set off to see him with a couple of the brats in tow. While on the motorway, I went to overtake a dawdling car in front and the revs went up, but the car didn’t accelerate. The gearstick had gone into neutral somehow. Strange, but I thought perhaps I’d done it by accident.

Car Begins to Die

We came off the motorway and as I was approaching a roundabout, I tried to change gear and simply couldn’t. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the car into any gear; it was like there was something physically blocking it. Thankfully, my dad’s house is only 0.25 miles from the motorway junction so after managing to select first gear, I could limp to his house.

The nice guys at RAC came out to me and he thought the clutch had gone. I told him that although I have the mechanical knowledge of a flan, it wasn’t the clutch because that had died 18-months ago and the symptoms were completely different, not to mention this new clutch had only done 34,000 miles, most of them on the motorway.

Mr RAC towed us to a garage near to our house then dropped us at home.

“It’s definitely your clutch and flywheel that have broken down,” the garage informed me the next day. “We can repair it for £1130.”

Like fuck mate. Not sure how he knew it was the clutch because he didn’t take anything apart and charged me £30 for the privilege of not having the work done with him! The Mrs’ boss told me about a garage his son had used for a repair on his van and said that he was not only good, he was also cheap, which makes him even better in my book. This new guy quoted me £520 to replace and fit the clutch and flywheel so I bit his hand off.

Fingers Crossed

After being towed by the Mrs boss to this new guy – that was an experience, being towed on a rope for the first time – the new mechanic said that it wasn’t the clutch! Turns out the clutch is fine, but the fucking gearbox is in pieces. New dude said that there’s no point putting a new one in and that he’ll try to find a second-hand one or a refurbished one t hat won’t break the bank. He also informed me that he needs to examine the clutch and flywheel closely when he strips it apart because they will need replacing if they have been contaminated with gearbox oil. Fuck my actual life.

Fingers crossed that it only needs a near gearbox and not all the other bits, although that’s unlikely because if it wasn’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have any.

In a vain attempt to claw in some extra funds, I jumped into a $2.20 buy-in Bounty Hunter tournament at partypoker. I only had like £5.90 on there s fired up a tournament while I worked on Wednesday.

This Is How I Run

Bad luck with 40 percent

What 40 percent of Hold’em hands looks like

It was a typical tournament where I was card dead for the first 10 levels, then picked up aces three times in like six hands and only won the blinds each time, before this hand sent me to the rail empty-handed.

The blinds were 2,300/4,600/495a. Villain is sat with 353,221 chips and I have 165,400. Villain is a complete fucking nutcase who has been raising, re-raising and making oversized bets for the past 30-40 hands. He opened to 9,200 from late position, I three-bet to 34,500 from the small blind and villain jammed all-in yet again. I called off the last of my stack with AdJs knowing I was getting around 1.6-to-1 so only needed 40 percent equity to call.

Forty-percent is a ton of hands, most of which I’m nicely ahead against. Villain showed As3c and it was no surprise that the flop fell 2h5c4h to gift him a wheel. The Th was followed by the 2d and I busted miles from the money places. That’s poker, folks.

Not sure if I’ll get to play any tournaments over the next week or so because I need to get some work done to try and pay for what will be a very costly couple of months. If anyone has a spare £20,000 knocking around, send them my way!

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Blogtober Never Really Happened

My plan of penning 25 blog entries during the month of October, known affectionately as Blogtober, fell flat on its arse with me only managing a paltry six posts.

Blogtober started well, dipped in the middle and the less said about the end the better. Three posts in the first four days of October stood me in good stead to achieve my goal, but only three more across the rest of the month saw my fail spectacularly.

Work kind of got in the way on more than one occasion, although that’s not a good excuse because work will, hopefully, always be there. Then there was some private family stuff that I’m not prepared to go into right now, but it took up a solid week and left me a little unmotivated to do anything at all if I am honest.

Shock, horror! Video games get in the way

Mass Effect Andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda

Just as I was about to jump back in the hotseat and attempt to make up for lost time, I found myself motivated more to piss about on the PlayStation 4. I managed to complete the Far Cry 4 campaign, a game I started four years ago when I first bought my trusty PS4 and decided to install Mass Effect: Andromeda.

The Mass Effect series of games are up there with my favourite video games of all time. I bought the original Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 probably around 10 years ago when I found it in the bargain bin of GAME for a few quid. It was a game I instantly fell in love with and spent an age completing.

Mass Effect 2 released in January 2010 and is to this day one of the all-time classics; it is a masterpiece. Again, I spent upwards of 30 hours exploring various galaxies and being immersed in a wonderful story that I didn’t want to end.

BioWare released Mass Effect 3 in March 2012 and it was one of the few games that I didn’t mind paying full price for; I usually wait for the price to come down unless the game looks set to become a classic. The game itself was decent, although the ending was total dogshit especially when you consider fans of the series had put in more than 100-120 hours into the Mass Effect trilogy. I won’t post spoilers, but it was bitterly disappointing, so much so that the developers had to release new endings after a backlash from the nerdiest of fans.

I wasn’t holding out too much hope for Mass Effect: Andromeda because various reviews of the game said it felt rushed, unfinished and had more than its fair share of bugs, some of them game-breaking in how bad they were.

Thankfully, with me waiting forever to get around to playing this game, several patches had been deployed and most of the bugs squashed. I probably logged 10 hours in the game, which could have been 10 or more blog entries, I know, before some kind-hearted person bought me the Red Dead Redemption 2.

I’ll probably write a separate entry about Red Dead Redemption 2 because I am nowhere near finished with it despite piling 20 or more hours into it so far. Yes, I am almost 38-years-old investing time into video games, but it’s so damned addictive.

Two poker freerolls

Plans to jump back into the poker world also took a back seat, as I am sure you have already figured out. No Monster Series tournaments were played at partypoker, not even one. I did find the time to play in another £1,000 freeroll at Grosvenor Poker and a £3,000 freeroll too.

The £1,000 freeroll saw me fail to get above starting stack at any stage. By the time the blinds had increased to 125/250/25a, I was armed with a 4,447 stack, or slightly more than 17 big blind. One guy min-raised from middle position and both the button and small blind called. I opted to jam all-in with 9h9s only to see the original raise re-shove plus the other two players call off their stacks!

A board reading 8dJc2hQcAd didn’t look too good for my lowly pocket nines, so it was not surprising when I busted in 41st place with 18 spots paid. The original raise has AcAh, the button had 8c7c and the small blind QhJh meaning I got my chips in with less than 15 percent equity. Nice one, Pud.

Cowboys shot down

Pocket kings

Pocket kings

Things went a little better in the £3,000 freeroll even though I failed to cash. I managed to hover around the average stack before a short spell of being card dead and not being in the right spots to steal or re-steal reduced my stack somewhat.

Again, it was the 125/250/25a level that saw me come unstuck and I was in the big blind for this hand like my exit hand in the £1,000 game. A player jammed all-in for 3,075 from the hijack and I had a simple call to make in the big blind with KsKh. Villain showed Ac9d so I am a decent favourite to almost double my stack and make a run towards the money; I think a min-cash was like £80 so not too shabby.

My kings stayed ahead on the TsQs4c flop and the Th turn only to be cracked by the motherfucking Ad on the river. This left me with 1,458 chips and they went into the middle when the action folded to me in the small blind. My jam with Jd9c was snapped off by the big blind’s KdKh and I busted despite flopping a nine, meh.

I quite enjoyed playing on Grosvenor Poker so I may see if I can somehow spin up the massive £15 bankroll I have on there from the first £1,000 freeroll. The only thing that pisses me off with the site is how some split pots result in you have fractions of chips. I’ve just seen a tournament taking place now where the chip leader had 10,762.54 chips. I mean, how the fuck can that happen?

Needless to say, I’m going to attempt to post more frequently and play more poker between now and the end of the year, that is if I can tear myself away from being a cowboy / outlaw whenever I get a little bit of downtime from work!