Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Washington Donkery Rant

Sheer craziness. The House of Representatives wowed the nation and the world on Monday by voting down President Bush's bailout bill, sending U.S. stocks reeling in a sickening shockwave that saw the Dow Industrials drop by some 450 points over the span of 3 or 4 minutes around 1:30pm ET on Monday. I can't say that I've never seen anything like that happen before, but you really only do get to see that happen maybe once or twice in a generation, that kind of sickening, panic selling where it's obvious you have millions of people just selling anything they hold, with no regard whatsoever to the price of those holdings. The selloff, which ended up being a record one-day point drop for the Dow of over 777 points and nearly 10% in the major indices as a whole, underscores the delicacy of the situation the U.S. financial system is currently in, which poses an absolutely unique pickle for lawmakers, investors and consumers in the U.S. economy.

On the one hand, it is obvious that the American financial system needs something to be done, and fast. It probably needs to be something dramatic, and it is likely going to require some kind of an unprecedented move given the state of shock that the credit markets in this country are in. There are things happening in the bond and other credit markets that have not been seen in any of our lifetimes. In just the past month basically, Fannie and Freddie, the two largest owners of mortgages in the world, have falled and needed to be completely taken over by the U.S. government. Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, following in the footsteps of fellow investment bank Bear Stearns earlier this year. AIG, the world's largest insurance company, essentially failed and needed a loan of 85 billion dollars from the government just to manage to stay afloat for a short while as it ponders how to return to some stability. Merrill Lynch, the third-largest of the five independent investment banks that existed some nine months ago, was basically a day away from filing for bankruptcy, and the federal government orchestrated its sale to Bank of America to save the system from that happening. WaMu, the nation's largest savings bank with deposits of some $350 billion, failed and was seized late last week, sold for peanuts to banking titan J.P. Morgan Chase. And now on Monday this week, Wachovia Bank, another former banking giant in this country, also essentially failed, with the government having to step in to orchestrate its sale to Citigroup, also basically for peanuts, with the FDIC agreeing Bear Stearns-style to backstop the vast majority of potential losses on Wachovia's $600-some billion portfolio of troubled mortgages.

So the banks in this country are failing, left and right and left again. Failing, as in, gone. Forever. And I don't just mean smaller regional banks like IndyMac which went bust a few months back. I mean big dogs, the Bears and the Lehmans and the WaMus and Wachovias. And now we're beginning to see some of the largest banks outside of the U.S. crumble as well. The system is quaking in the knees, has been for a good few months now, and I am in agreement with President Bush that something does need to be done. More than all the failures, it's a cold hard fact that most average-joe consumers in the U.S. economy have no insight into or understanding of that credit between banks has frozen to barely a trickle. We've seen interbank lending rates -- the interest rate that banks charge to one another for short-term loans that happen -- or more accurately that used to happen every single day as a matter of course -- triple, quadruple and even quintuple just over the past few weeks as banks fear never being repaid by their counterparts in other parts of the country or the world. The yield on short-term Treasury Bills -- considered to be essentially the safest investments in the world today as they are backed by the U.S. Treasury -- has dropped so hard in just the past few days that it is truly frightening. Basically after the past few days, people are willing to take very close to 0% return over three months and even over a full year, just to ensure that their money does not lose its principal while the rest of the investments out there seem so unsafe. As I said above, things are happening in the world of finance that you simply never ever see otuside of just now and maybe once in a generation or three. So on the one hand, it is obvious that something dramatic clearly needs to be done, and fast.

On the other hand, though, I have to admit I am proud as hell of the House of Representatives. After all, even with the changes made over the weekend that clearly make the Bush bailut bill more pallateable -- or let's say, less unpallateable -- it is still a shitty bill. Highly shitty. I mean, the bottom line is that there is absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the How of this bill, or even the Why. Yes, I know something needs to be done, for sure. But Bush and his cronies at Treasury and the Fed have put forth a $700 billion package to buy up all the crappy mortgages held by the banks of this country as the only choice as to how to address the serious problems facing the banks right now. But is that really the only option? It would seem that the answer is obviously not. Republicans in the Senate tried to push over the weekend a proposal that would allow the banks to purchase insurance on their bad debts from the Fed instead of the government outright buying that debt. Others have suggested increasing deposit insurance limits, injecting more cash into the system, lowering interest rates, or even some bills which aim to bail out the consumers in this country instead of going directly to the banks and helping them. Frankly, I'm not trying to suggest that I know the answer. I love these clowns who love to say "Well, you can't think of anything better, so we have to do this bailout right now!" You know what, bozo? I'm not an economist. I'm not in the government, I'm not a politician, and I don't work in finance. Just because I can't think of a better answer than simply buying $700 billion worth of bad investments carelessly made by Wall Street, does not in the least mean that this is the only workable plan. The mere suggestion that I, or you, or any individual reading this is somehow oblgiated to think of a better plan or else we must believe that the one put forth by the former co-CEO of Goldman Sachs is the best plan imaginable is the height ot stoopidity, to the point that it's not even worth addressing.

The bottom line is, this bailout is a shit-filled idea, and everybody knows it. But what went on in the House yesterday is truly mind-boggling when you think about it. The Senate spent all weekend wrangling with the administration as well as political opponents to come up with a bill that compromised enough that they believed it could pass through Congress. Amazingly, those donkeys didn't even include the right people to reach an actual consensus that could actually get approved! It is unreal how redonkulous these people are. Stay up late working for 72 straight hours to reach accord on something, and in the end you never even had the right people there in the first place. Hard to believe.

But more than that, looking closer at the votes in the House is really what shocks me the most. This bill, remember, is a Republican bill, coming from the President himself along with his Treasury Secretary and Fed Chairman. But even though it was put forth by the Republican president, just look at what happened on the floor of the House. The Democrats in the House voted about 140-90 in favor of the bill. Not exactly overwhelming approval, but surely enough to contribute to a victory in a majority-wins vote. But among the Republicans in the House, the bill went down about 133 to 65. Just think about that. More than two-thirds of the President's own party voted against a bill that not only he brought to the table, but that he went on tv last week to explain how utterly and completely urgent it was to pass. I mean, this guy laid it all on the line with this bill, and less than a third of his own party voted for it in the end. Less than a third!! I am still trying to get my arms around that fact, in that it is something I can never recall happening with a key piece of legislation like this in my entire life. Torpedoed by his own party. It just goes to show how little credibility this guy really does have these days. I wrote about it last week, but the Republicans in Congress are truly sick and tired of hearing Bush's unending pleas for emergency this and emergency that, only to be proven time and time again that the man is full of shit.

And those of you who are inexplicably taking the "pissed off at Congress" take on this, let me just point out that it is Bush, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who is to blame for the entire selloff yesterday in the stock market. Two weeks ago nobody had ever heard anything of no $700 billion bailout package. It was a stoopid, shitty idea from the moment it was first suggested to the President, and he took the odd and obviously unspeakably foolish approach of going straight to the Congress and then to the American public with it in the most mass-media ways he could. More than that, and this is also something I mentioned last week, but when this guy went on television, he gave without a doubt the most doomsday speech given by any President in the last generation at least. He could not have been clearer that the country was perched on the precipice of financial disaster. He told everyone in no unclear terms that we unequivocally need this bailout package, and that if we don't get it, we are all deeply and profoundly fucked. Now, in case any of you are President of this wonderful country someday, take a lesson from this as to exactly why you don't say this kind of thing on tv. Because look at what happened -- Bush did not get his bill passed yesterday, and the very people who he deliberately scared the pants off of in a political attempt to get what he wanted, they all went and immediately called their brokers, sold everything they had and ran for the hills. After all, the President directly told them they were all screwed for years to come if this bill didn't pass, the truth of which, like all the other times Bush has cried wolf, is highly suspect.

But don't worry, there was Bush just minutes after the failed vote yesterday, chiding Congress for failing to act and directly blaming them for the huge selloff in the stock market that resulted. Republicans blamed Democrats, Democrats blamed Republicans, McCain blamed Obama, Obama blamed McCain, you name it and someone was pointing the finger in that direction. Meanwhile, in reality there probably should never even have been a mention of this shitty bailout plan a few weeks ago with so little of the details worked out or even thought of. There definitely should not have been this sky-is-falling speech on national tv from the President. Then there would have been no vote on Monday at all, and if there had, people would never have freaked out like they did when it failed to pass. But Bush will never see it that way. That man has obviously lost all credibility with the legislators in this country, and with the people now as well. Personally, I don't think either one of the current candidates for President seems like the type to be able to gain any widespread bipartisan support at all -- be it because of their beliefs and platform, their attitude and demeanor, or both -- but clearly the current adminiistration has lost all effectiveness here with nearly four months left in the current term.

The bottom line is, notwithstanding a bunch of socialists trying to say otherwise, this bailout from the getgo has been designed to bail out the banks, not the people, and the American people are fucking sick of it, in particular at having to foot the $700 billion pricetag to do so. If the government wanted to bail out the people, they could amazingly easily be doing so. Give everyone who owns a home a $100,000 cash rebate with that $700 billion that is proposed to be given to the banks instead. Or more realistically, take the $700 billion and create a massive fund to help troubled borrowers who are in danger of defaulting on their homes. Use that money to encourage banks to rewrite distressed mortgages rather than foreclose on them. It cannot rationally be argued that the bailout is designed to help struggling Americans, and if people didn't fear for their portfolio values or their jobs or their homes, they wouldn't be trying to make this ludicrous argument. Clearly, from its core, the plan is designed to target banks and to help unclog the credit markets, not to directly help the U.S. consumer. Which shouldn't surprise anyone, since it was conceived and drafted solely by a guy who is the former co-CEO of Goldman Sachs in Hank Paulson. It's a banks' bill drafted by a banker in consultation from all his banker friends, which could easily be aimed at helping the people directly, but instead is solely aimed at helping free up banks, under some trickle-down sort of theory that this will help consumers in the long run.

What's more, you have got to love all these donkeys printing headlines Monday afternoon and on Tuesday like "Bailout Failure to Crush U.S. Economy" and "Congress Chooses Politics Over Economy" and the like. Even the suggestion that somehow the U.S. economy, which has been worsening and this year seems clearly destined for a solid recession that has obviously been a long time coming from even a cursory look at history, is only now going into a recession just because the Congress didn't pass this bill, is ridiculously integrity-less journalism to say the least, and biased politicism and unabashed stoopidity to be more honest about it. As I said, it's been almost a year now that the economy has been heading for a recession, and frankly if you exclude a few key areas we've already been in a recession for going on three quarters now. So you have got to be a brainless, clueless donkey to suddenly blame Congress standing up for its beliefs in the face of a universally-hated bailout bill here in late September 2008 as the thing that causes a recession. Why don't you just print instead the headline "I Am a Socialist", which is the exact same thing blaming the House of Representatives' failure to vote this bill through for the flagging U.S. economy, which has been fading fast ever since the financial leaders of our country all got burned nearly a year and a half ago now when their unbridled greed and complete lack of foresight finally caught up to them after nearly a decade of donkery. Reeeeeal smart right there.

And lastly, I can't help but end today by asking myself repeatedly wtf is up with all these people in Congress afraid to vote for the bailout because they're afraid of losing their seats come the November elections? This is something I will never understand about the U.S. system. If people think their consistuencies are so against this bailout, that them voting in favor it is going to cost them their jobs, then why the fuck is there any doubt at all about which way to vote on this thing? I don't get it. The past month's government interventions notwithstanding, this country is supposed to feature a government "of the people, by the people, for the people". As a member of Congress, if your people are so against this bill that you're going to lose your seat by voting in favor of it, then your people want you to vote against it! Get off your fucking ass and vote Nay already then! What is the god dam decision here? The people of this country largely hate this fucking bill, which is more than understandable since it is not designed to help them when it easily and obviously could be. So vote the dam thing down and do it confidently. It's your fucking job to do that, diggheads!

/end rant

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Can Someone Bail the Mets Out, Please?

Oy vey. Where to begin after a weekend like this. The stock market is tanking early on Monday once again after a weekend full of poiltical wrangling and negotiating on the largest intervention in U.S. financial markets since the great depression. It looks like the Reps and the Dems in charge have agreed on a package which is at least marginally better than the bailout plan originally presented to Congress last week that would have essentially anointed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson the King of America, with all the money and all the power in the country. The new plan, which will be voted on in the House of Representatives this week, has I think three distinct advantages over last week's flavor of this bill.

First, the new bailout plan diminshes the unchecked nature of Paulson's power with the bailout. As much as I am very much not in favor of increased government involvement and increased bureaucracy in this country, I have to admit a certain sense of relief that the Congress has instituted in this new bill several oversight committees and other checks and balances to ensure that Treasury is not spending our money frivolously, helping some people or companies more than others or some who do not deserve the help, and just generally making sure there is someone watching over what Paulson is doing with the hundreds of billions of dollars that are being printed and thrown at his doorstep. Compared to the plan as presented by Paulson, Bernanke and Bush last week, where Paulson would have had completely unfettered discretion to do whatever the hell he wanted with $700 billion of our money, this new plan is a significant improvement, and one that we all can be thankful for. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, we've all seen that time and time again over the past several years, and the last thing this country needs right now is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs being given $700 billion cash money to spend on whatever he wants, with no executive, legislative or even judicial review of his actions. So that's a very good thing.

The second thing about the new bill that I am a huge fan of is that it in fact breaks down the $700 billion into three tranches, which may or may not end up needing to be spent. Given that this money is going to come directly from the taxpayers, I am a big fan of this change in addition to the first one mentioned above. As I understand it, under the new proposal this week, Treasury would be given a "mere" $300 billion in cash right away to spend buying up idiot banks' distressed mortgage portfolios, instead of straight-up $700 billion right up front. Now there will be an additional $100 billion to be authorized by the President himself at his discretion, which of course with the current President or with Barack Obama will be an absolutely foregone conclusion, but just breaking it up like this at all is at least a sign that some people with some fiscal responsibility were able to prevail in this weekend's negotiations. And lastly, Congress is permitted to authorize up to another $300 billion -- or, more accurately, the new bill has Congress already authorizing this amount, but Congress can act to un-authorize that amount before it is spent if they see fit. This also is probably a somewhat unlikely outcome, but the simple fact is, right now as between the monkey President and the monkey Congress, it seems clear that Congress's interests are more aligned with my own as far as this bailout goes. So to me giving the President control over $100 billion and Congress control over $300 billion of the total $700 billion bailout package is a huge win for us, as taxpayers who are to foot the bill for this emergency measure intended to save the U.S. financial system from collapse. Like I said, even if all $700 billion ends up being authorized and spent helping save the banks from their own greed and short-sightedness, just the fact that they're not just throwing $700 bil of cash at Treasury's feet is a big improvement in my eyes.

Lastly but not least, I am also overjoyed to find that the Democrats in Congress did not prevail on one of their big suggestions for this bill from last week -- namely, that bankruptcy judges should be given broad discretion to rewrite mortgages of homeowners who are unable to meet their mortgage payments. Now, do I feel this way because I am a cold, heartless bastard? No, not at all. But I'll tell you a quick story of exactly why I feel this is a highly inappropriate action to take.

For those of you who have experienced pregnancy yourselves or through your significant others in life, one of the key changes that happens to women early in their term is what the books refer to as the "nesting instinct". Basically, this is when the newly-pregnant female of our species becomes psychologically obsessed with creating a "nest" for her coming newborn. In Hammer Wife's case, this has translated to dragging me up to Westchester or the other suburbs of New York City to look into buying a home in the suburbs five years ago when she was pregnant with M, and again three years ago when she was pregnant with K. Most recently when this happened, three years ago, we were smack in the midst of the greed and excess and short-sightedness of this whole mortgage mess, and thus Hammer Wife went ahead and got us pre-approved for a mortgage in advance of what we then though would be us purchasing a home in the 'burbs. Now let me tell you, this bank had never heard of us before, and was not even asking for proof of any of our income, our assets, our liabilities, anything. Nothing at all. Apparently Hammer Wife just filled out some online forms, allowed a credit check to be run, and poof! Hundreds of thousands of dollars, preapproved to be loaned to us, no questions asked.

First off, right then and there I knew there was a problem with the system. Nowadays these are the "liar loans" you hear referenced in the news if you've been following the mortgage crisis at all, where borrowers basically had the ability to lie through their teeth on mortgage applications, and banks would just loan the money because interest rates were so low, real estate prices were jumping 25% a year, and defaults were simply not being considered for anyone at the time, regardless of the credit worthiness of the borrowers. Credit risk? What credit risk? So anyways, Hammer Wife was all gung ho about us buying a mansion in the NYC suburbs, but then I had to break the sad news to her: we could not possibly afford the mortgage we had been pre-approved for, no questions asked. "What do you mean?" she replied, "They already approved us!" To which I had to explain that, just because a bank was willing to lend us this obscene amount of money to buy a home, that did not absolve us from having to actually come up with the actual money to pay those monthly payments. Nesting as she was, Hammer Wife was unconvinced until I sat down with her, pulling up our family budget on Excel, and went over how much money comes in every month and how much money we were spending on things other than our home. By the time that conversation was finished, a dejected Hammer Wife was incredulous. "But how could the bank possibly be willing to lend us that kind of money?" To this I had no response, other than to point out that something was clearly wrong and that surely many of these banks were in for a rude awakening at some point. How little we realized at the time how right we were.

Anwyays, so there we went on renting a tiny apartment in Manhattan for the next several years, and in fact to this day even in the suburbs we are renting a house, because in a nutshell, especially given the uncertain nature of the economy right now, we still don't really see ourselves as wanting to take on the obligation to be forced to afford the monthly payments on a house we would actually want to buy. All this while, we had several friends who went ahead and took out ridiculous mortgages on houses they really could not afford. Balloon payments, pick-a-payment plans, two-year ARMs -- I mean, by hundreds of thousands of dollars, these people could not truly afford the mortgages they were taking on if things turned even the slightest bit south. And yet, the banks were willing to lend, so they went ahead and did it anyways, getting all the wonderful benefits of home ownership, most of all including getting to watch their investments increase by a good 25-50% over the past few years up until sometime in 2006-2007. All meanwhile my family has continued renting a small apartment in the city, not getting the benefit of seeing our investment gain so much value, all because we were the ones not willing to buy something we couldn't actually afford over time.

So then the Democrats in Congress were talking last week about having bankruptcy judges let these very people out of their mortgage troubles by simply adjusting the terms, to make their shit easier for them to pay for. No fucking way. If that were going to be available, I would have bought me a house five years ago. Shit, forget five years ago, I should have just bought a house straight out of law school. Give me some kind of ten-year interest-only plan or something with a ginormous payment due at the end, and I could have made do until now. But allowing these irresponsible people -- literally millions of them in this country -- to continue to own their homes while I rent, rewarding them for their irresponsibility and lack of foresight and poor judgment and poor financial understanding, that is simply unacceptable to me on the most basic of levels. So I am absolutely thrilled that this sort of action was not included in the plan. Even though I am well aware that not directly helping troubled homeowners will hurt many people that I know, personally. But what's right is right, and what's sick and wrong is sick and wrong. So once again I am shocked to hear myself saying it, but I am thankful for the Republicans in Congress. Write it down, you won't hear me saying that again ever I would think.

Meanwhile, not sure if you noticed, but last Friday, WaMu, the largest savings back in the country, failed and was seized by federal regulators, and a sale was orchestrated to J.P. Morgan Chase for under $2 billion. Talk about a bank that has picked up huge businesses at firesale prices this year, dayummmm. That is Bear Stearns and now WaMu, both folded into JPM this year, all for a grand total of just over $2 billion. These probably would have cost $150 billion together if purchased a year ago. That's the strength of being one of the few long-term surviving banks right now. And then not to be outdone, Monday morning saw Wachovia essentially fail as well, although the FDIC doesn't want to admit it was a failure. But both WaMu and Wachovia stocks dropped 90+% on the day of their takeovers, with Wachovia plummetting to under a dollar in pre-market action on Monday from a close around $10 a share on Friday afternoon, with this time Citigroup stepping in and picking up the pieces for what can only be described as firesale prices. And once again, there is the government backstopping Citi's losses beyond some $42 billion that it has agreed to take on.

God, remember the days $42 billion seemed like a big number? All this bailout mess this year kinda makes A-Rod's ludicrously overpriced contract seem a lot more in line, doesn't it? Actually, no. He's still overpaid for the uselessness that he brings to the Yankees, even for all his statistics.

Which brings me once again to the highlight of the weekend for me. The New York Mets completed a second straight season of futility, this year giving up a 3.5 game lead on September 7 over the Phillies, after last year losing a 7-game lead on September 7 to my same Phils. It is sick (and highlarious) what the Mets have done, and it is worth repeating here. In 2007, the team was up by 7 games on the Phillies with 17 games remaining, and they blew it on the last day of the season when Tom Glavine came out for them and gave up seven runs in the first inning to the Florida Marlins. This year, the team once again lost two of three to end the season against the hated Marlins, who openly and obviously rejoiced in the chance to ruin the Mets' playoff chances for the second consecutive year. I had been out to dinner with my family during the latter part of the Mets game, leaving when the Mets had just tied it up 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth, and when I got to the ice cream shop in town with the kids for dessert, on the tv was the post-game tribute to Shea Stadium as this was the final game to be played in the storied arena before giving way to the new Citi Field starting in 2009. And there they are, happily announcing all the old-time Mets players who contributed to the history of Shea Stadium, and the fans are cheering loudly for all these guys, and I just knew then and there that the Mets must have won. Little did I know until checking my phone a few minutes later that not only had the Mets bullpen blew yet another game for them in the 8th, but that the Brewers had come back to beat the Cubs and the Mets were officially eliminated from the playoffs.

See, that's the difference right there between Phillies and Mets fans. If that were Philly, if the Phillies had just completed blowing that 3.5 game lead int he division with 17 games to play, one year after blowing a 7-game lead with 17 games to play against the exact same team, there wouldn't have been anyone left in the stands. No one. And what few people were still there, I can assure you would not have been cheering. Throwing batteries, spitting and tossing garbage onto the field, maybe. But not fucking cheering. What a sickening performance by the Mets over the past two seasons. At least you figure someone will be answering for these back to back meltdowns, right?

Wrong. GM Omar Minaya, who brought and/or has fostered players like Beltran, Glavine, Reyes, Wright, Pedro, and the list goes on and on, reportedly has reached agreement to be extended for another four fucking years just last week, in the midst of this year's version of meltdown being completed. And then this morning I see this story as well on ESPN, dealing with the future of interim Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "'Jerry did a very good job coming into a very difficult situation,' general manager Omar Minaya said. 'I was very pleased.' Before the game, Mets owner Fred Wilpon praised Manuel and Minaya."

Oh. My. God. Mets fans, you get what you deserve, that's all I have to say. I can only hope you keep this same management in place for the foreseeable future. What a pleasure to play in the same division with this bunch of abject losers, led by the biggest losers of them all in Manuel/Randolph, Minaya, and of course Mets ownership. What a raging joke.

Can someone please bail out the New York Mets?

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Friday, September 26, 2008

The Financial Crisis Continues

So this financial crisis in the country continues to go in new and unanticipated directions. The latest of course is Mr. President going on tv this week to try to scare the crap out of the American people and get us all to freak out, call our Congress-person and try to compel them to support signing this socialist bullshit bailout bill right away. I still can't believe the scare tactics from that speech the other day.

Several years ago this guy told America and Americans that it was an abject emergency, we absolutely had to invade Iraq immediately or risk imminent threat to the safety of Americans and the rest of the free* world. We believed him, being the President and all, and we committed a "mere" few hundred billions dollars, several thousand American lives lost, and for what? Turns out Bushie Boy was lying through his fucking teeth. No WMDs, no real emergency, no reason for all the deaths of American men and women.

Some months ago we were told by a pleading George W. that we absolutely, positively had to send these ludicrous rebate checks -- up to $600 or more per family as I understand it -- to people for doing nothing, just to help stimulate the economy. Bushie assured us that this unprecedented move was absolutely necessary to avoid the economy slipping into the depths, and that the checks would do just that: stimulate spending and keep us from the abyss of financial crisis. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Guess that was $120 billion down the drain, huh? More bullshit, fear tactics to trick Americans into doing what he wants because he thinks it will make people like him and his beloved party.

Well now here we are again, some $500 billion later, and this time here comes Bushie again taking up prime time television time to scare the fudge out of all of us, talking about economic and financial crisis, that we are on the brink of a "severe downturn" in the economy that will have dire consequences, etc. and that we have to approve this $700 billion expenditure because (1) it will work, and (2) if we don't, the shit is all going to crumble around us.

Well you know what, Mr. Bush? This time, I'm calling bullshit. We've all read the story of the boy who cried wolf. Bush has made a habit over his glorious 8 years as president of lying to the American people whenever it suits him, or claiming he knows things he doesn't, whatever you want to call it. He has spent $500 billion on his fake "emergencies" and "urgent situations" which he has gotten by nothing other than outright lying to the people, to the government, to whomever he has to to get what he wants. I mean, this is a Republican for crying out loud, and he's spending like this! It is unheard of. Which is why there was so much uproar against his little bailout bill in Congress this week, and why as of Friday morning, the thing is at a standstill. His own fucking party is stalling out this bill. And for once -- and you won't hear me say this very often -- I'm actually proud of the Republicans. Good on them for standing up to this spendaholic liar idiot. He's already shown that he will happily spend hundreds of billions and throw thousands of American lives away based on nothing but pure lies. Now we're supposed to give him another $700 billion just because he once again says we "need" it? I don't think so.

Now fear not, all you secret socialists out there. A bailout bill of some kind is basically a done deal at this point. Sure, they can say it's stalled out today, but give it another day or so and something will be signed. Bushie will get some more money from us victimized taxpayers and throw it at the banks that contributed greatly to all this mess in the first place. All the pussies in Congress are far too scared of the wrath of their consistuencies if the economy does continue turning south -- which is basically a guarantee at this point, bailout or no bailout, mind you -- to not vote for a bailout at this point. But you know what, thank god for the Republicans pushing back on their leader who has so turned his back on most of the principles that his party (and good, sound judgment) would support. If they can get this thing limited or at least clarified wherever they can, at least for starters, then we're all in much better shape.

Maybe they can get this thing knocked down to throwing a mere $200 billion at this problem first, and see how that works, and consider giving more if needed. Me having to chip in my taxes towards "only" $200 billion to help the banks get out of the mess they created on their own accord, at this point that sounds an awful lot like I just saved 500 billion dollars, sadly enough.

Maybe we can get some of the absolutist, authoritarian powers given to the Treasury by this bill taken away, or at least institute some solid checks and balances there. Because this bill as originally proposed this week basically hands over seven hundred thousand piles of a million dollars each in cash to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former co-CEO of Goldman Sachs, for him to spend as he sees fit on troubled assets of financial institutions. No one else to answer to, no rules or guidelines for him to stay within, just nothing. So if we can get that ridiculous situation toned down and controlled better, then once again, that is awesome compared to the current bill as proposed.

Maybe they can ensure that the government doesn't overpay for these distressed assets they're going to buy from the banks, which would be a huge coup. As of now, Paulson and Bernanke have been very clear, even over Congressional objections, that they don't plan to buy the banks' shitty mortgages at their current market value, which Paulson insists are "firesale" prices. So if they're selling for 35 cents on the dollar now, Bernanke and Paulson want the government to pay the banks 70 cents on the dollar for the assets. Why? To help the fucking banks, of course! There are so many problems with this approach it is hard to begin. Let's just say in a nutshell that if the taxpayers want any chance of this bailout not costing us the full $700 billion, then the government needs to pay fair market value for these assets now, so that when the market for mortgages recovers in god knows how long, we can sell them back to the market at that 70 cents on the dollar level and actually make a profit on the deal. No I highly doubt we'll get those profits back in the form of rebate checks, but if taxes get lowered, or at least don't have to get raised (sorry, Barack) in the future because of that profit, then awesome. If we get more services, or pay down the deficit with those profits, then, again, awesome.

But the biggest clusterfuck of all about the Paulson-Bernanke-Bush plan is that they want to pay more than the current market value for these loans, which in itself is an abomination. Look at billionaire investor Warren Buffett -- just the other day he announced an investment of at least $5 billion in shares of large investment bank Goldman Sachs. I say "at least", because not only did Buffet get preferred shares that pay a 10% dividend per year, but he also purchased warrants, or the right to buy up to another $5 billion of Goldman stock anytime in the next five years for $115 a share. This, with the stock sitting at around $128 a share on the night he announced his deal. See what he just did there? Even though a year ago Goldman shares traded as high as $250 a share, Buffett didn't just pay the current market value for them, he is paying less than the current market value. That right there is called a good investment, something which Paulson and Bernanke and Bush obviously know nothing about. They want to do the equivalent of paying the $250, because that's a lot closer to what the banks' books say these troubled mortgage assets are worth. Even though this will clearly mean a far less chance of the government actually getting a good deal or making a good investment with our $700 billion. And even though the loans have a value in the market right now of the 35 cents on the dollar. If you or I wanted to buy some of these troubled mortgages, we would have to pay 35 cents on the dollar. So why would the government pay 70 cents again? With our money! How asinine. And scary.

Warren Buffett, who staunchly supports the bailout btw, has been very clear that paying anything other then the current market price for these assets is insane and reckless. The government in this country needs to turn to a real-life capitalist -- an ever-shrinking breed by the day in this country nowadays -- and take a cue from his advice on how to work the bailout that the administration claims is such a necessary thing right now. That's the way this should work, if they insist on doing it at all. It's a shame, because I don't have any problem per se with the government helping the economy when needed -- that is part of why we have a government to begin with, to protect us, to help us, to act on interest rates and liquidity when needed, etc. and I have no problem at all with that. But the way the administration is trying to go about this particular intrusion intervention is truly scary, especially this administration with this track record of spending big on bullshit items that end up doing nothing but costing Americans money and, in many cases, American lives.

As far as I'm concerned, this election and the swearing-in of a new president cannot come fast enough. What a horrible thing to have a major financial crisis occur just months before this clown gets out of office. Talk about the bad beat of the century.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Prop Bet and the Mets

Wow, 94 runners in the Mookie this week! That was awesome. I mean, the blogger "community" as such is clearly dead, has been for a loooooong time, but it was nice to see us do something as a group for the first time in quite a while. Very awesome. I wish someone could figure out a way to bring what's left of the "group" together like this more often, in a way that isn't designed to bring monetary profit to someone, that is. Oh well, one can always dream.

Congrats to Texas April this morning for taking down the biggest non-BBT Mookie tournament in I bet a couple years at least. Good times and a great run for April in a huge field that showed up to help give Waffles a chance in his prop bet to outcash LJ. Who knew a guy like Waffles could actually bring this group back together like he did? I'm really amazed about it still, but happy.

Anyways, about the prop bet. Now that it's over, let's tell it like it is: it was a dumb bet. I mean, Waffles historically has had some success in the blonkaments, but with the emphasis on some. He's proven beyond a doubt that his skills have improved -- in particular when he puts himself out there with a bet or challenge like this -- but to give oneself only a small handful of chances to make up a large dollar deficit like he was facing, in a raging minefield tournament like the Mookie, well that is just a lost cause. I'm not saying it was literally impossible, but let's just say that I made out like a bandit betting against this thing right from the getgo. Then Waffles got hot and recorded a couple of near-the-top cashes, and that's when I really cashed in. I was able to make bets giving less than 10 to 1 odds against Waffles winning essentially a nearly impossible bet to more than a few bloggers and blogger watchers for what I viewed as basically free cash. And liking the guy like I do, nothing would have made me happier than having to pay out on those bets if Waffles managed to win, which I was really rooting for even down to the last day on Wednesday night. And when I keep saying it was an impossible bet, this is not meant as a slam on Waffles at all. Phil Ivey couldn't come in to the Mookie and win enough money over 8 tournaments or whatever it was to pass LJ with more than a one or two percent shot in my view. The Mookie just is what it is, and winning it, let's just say that it takes something less than optimal poker skill to take this badboy down.

Truth be told, and I know this is something a lot of people have been thinking whether they admit it or not, but there is no way you can't be impressed with what Waffles has done lately. My only real comment about it is that it shouldn't take him putting himself out there like he has to much success recently in order to play this well. Given his strong performances once he has issued a public challenge this year, it is obvious that Waffles has actual tournament skill buried somewhere deep, deeeeeeep inside that head of his. But there is something wrong with this picture to need to issue public proclamations and promises of success in order to bring it out. Hopefully he will take this latest Mookie escapade as a good chance to learn that lesson. That's why, earlier this year when the guy went completely off the deep end and challenged me to an mtt contest event though he's never won a large mtt of any size whatsoever, I failed to respond. I like Waffles quite a bit, and I don't want to be part of his need to challenge himself publicly in order to get him to play his best. Rather, I want to be part of him realizing that he obviously has it in himself to play this way all the time, without the need to force himself to up the stakes like he has with the Mookie bet, his BBT3 prop bet with Bayne, and some others.

And of course he would have had no chance against me in a large-field mtt bet anyways, who am I kidding.

Anyways, even though Waffles failed in his bet, it was in truth about a 100-to-1 shot to win the kind of challenge he came up with, and most other, more reasonable prop bets about the Mookie would have seen him win them with how well he played over the past couple of months. So I for one congratulate the guy on a job well done. But like I said, it's not finished yet. The real victory for Waffles will be if he takes this tremendous opportunity to realize that he can play this way every night, that he can win a large-field mtt someday soon without the need to shame himself in public if he doesn't. There's no way I believe that Waffles is the worst poker player except when he has issued a public challenge on his blog. Obviously he has the skillz, now is just the time for the guy to step up to the next level and make it happen without the need for any external reason other than just that he's sitting down to play some poker tonight. That should be all it takes. So anyways, congratulations to Waffles for a job very well done yet again in this challenge, despite the outcome not working out the way we all would have liked.

And pay up, all you deadbeats. You know who you are. Full tilt transfers will do just fine, thank you.

Even with the Waffles action last night in the Mook, that was nowhere near the highlight of my night. That honor rests squarely with, once again, the New York Mets. I wrote about them the other day and have several times in the recent past, but Wednesday night was pretty much a microcosm for how I feel about the Mets over the entirety of the past two seasons. So they're obviously locked smack in the middle of a major playoff race -- entering the action on the night they were 2.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and 1 game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers with just 4 games to play on the season. So this was a huge, huge game for them, and they are up against the Chicago Cubs, pretty much the best team in the Major Leagues this year. They go down a bit early, but they rally back to a nice lead thanks to a 5-run third inning, only to give up five runs late and need a late-game miracle to get back in it. Which is exactly what they get, scoring a key run to tie it up in the 8th, and as we move to the bottom of the 9th inning, with the hometown fans going crazy, they lead off the 6-6 game with a triple. So there's a guy on third, nobody out, 6-6 game against the best team in the league in a huge spot, and to boot the Mets have Wright, Delgado and Beltran coming up on deck. This has to figure to be what, 98, 99% that they're going to win here? And yet somehow this team full of chokers cannot bring the guy in. Rather than walk him, Lou Piniella embarrassingly decides to pitch to Mets "poster boy" David Wright, who promptly goes up in the count 3-0. Amazingly, he swings at the next pitch, missing it. Fast forward a few more pitches and there is Wright striking out on a high fastball, well out of the strike zone. Cough cough!! Wright, what a step-down artist in September. Then the Cubs wisely walk the next two guys to load the bases, only to see the Mets ground out weakly on a fielder's choice to home, and then they nab the third out as well and move to the 10th. The fans, as you can imagine, are crushed, many of them leaving the stadium after the team failed to take down this crucial game in the 9th. And naturally, before most of those fans are even off the stadium grounds in their cars, the Mets bullpen gives up not one, not two but three big runs in the top of the 10th, and the team goes whimpering into the night with yet another crushing defeat.

And on the same day, the Mets brass announces that hapless jackmonkey GM Omar Minaya is getting a four-year contract extension!! That franchise is too funny. The guy way overpays Carlos Beltran who has disappointed since the day he showed up here and everyone in baseball knows it, he way overpays choker Pedro Martinez who has been horrible basically since the second year of the well overpaying 4-year contract Minaya signed him to, he won't give up on that bum Reyes even though the guy gets worse and worse every year, he couldn't bring himself to fire Willie Randolph until it was far too late in the season, and then fired him very unceremoniously and without any class at all, the list just goes on and on. Extending Minaya right now -- really, doing anything but firing him at this point -- is no different when it comes down to it than all these Wall Street CEOs getting huge severance packages after running their firms into the ground. Minaya had his chance, and he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's a chump, a guy who will overpay anyone to bring him to New York even though everyone else passed on him for the money the Mets offered him because he clearly isn't worth it, and the Mets go and extend the guy for four more years just as the team is in the middle of completing yet another late-season collapse orchestrated almost entirely by the very players Minaya has brought in here over the past few years. Like I said, that team is too funny. That game last night was absolutely classic to watch, as a Mets hater like I am. Between the Mookie and the Mets, and throw in those juicy 1-2 PL O8 tables on full tilt and I had a really great night on Wednesday.

Maybe I will come out and win the Riverchasers again tonight, or maybe not. But it's at 9pm ET, password of "riverchasers" if you want to try your hand at the tournament I pwn for one night tonight on full tilt.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Einhorn the Whippersnapper, and Exploring the Stop and Go

Watching this Tuesday's WSOP coverage on ESPN -- only the second time I have done so this year btw since televised poker became so ungodly boring -- I was cracked up a bit by Mr. David Einhorn, who was at one of the featured tables with two other well-known pros. I forget their names, I wasn't watching that closely, but one guy was the hispanic guy with the same name as his father, and I think the other pro there was none other than Chris Moneymaker himself. Anyways if you can't tell, I wasn't that interested in the coverage itself -- which to me is at its absolute low point ever as far as substance goes and has really degenerated into just showing some allins and not even any interesting hands anymore -- but I was very interested in seeing this David Einhorn for the first time. Although I knew he had finished in the final two tables of the WSOP Main Event a couple of years ago, I had never actually seen what he looks like before, and I have a bit of personal involvement with Mr. Einhorn.

You see, David Einhorn runs hedge fun Greenlight Capital, and has been very successful for some 10 years at that. Late last November, Einhorn spoke at the Third Annual Value Investing Congress in New York, and in his speech, he mentioned out of nowhere really that he thought Lehman Brothers was a good short sell candidate. Mind you, this was with the stock trading just over $60 a share. Many people at Lehman paid no attention to this, or didn't notice it at all -- despite being a large global investment bank, one of the funny things I always throught about working there is that once you leave the trading floor, most of the employees don't know (or want to know) the first thing about finance or investing -- but I saw the story and read it with interest, mostly because I thought this guy was some kind of dick. Back then I still believed confidently in Lehman management, and when they told me Einhorn's claims were the baseless, self-interested whines of just another short-seller, I took them at their word.

As the months wore on, though, Lehman shares continued to weaken, then Bear Stearns collapsed, and all the while this little prick David Einhorn kept shelling LEH shares every chance he could get in the media. After a while, the head-butting between Einhorn and Lehman senior management became quite well known, and by this past summer, even the New York Times was reporting on the story. Obviously there is a picture of him right there in that article online, but I don't recall seeing this picture when I read up on what he had to say then. In my mind's eye, I pictured an old, stodgy man with white hair and a red hankie sticking out of the breast pocket of his blue pinstripe suit. Anyways, suffice it to say, most Lehman Brothers employees over the past year or so came to really hate David Einhorn, and I can't say that I was any different, even once I had accepted much of what he had been saying as true, which I am happy to say happened for me long before it happened for most Lehman employees.

Anwyays so there I am on Tuesday night, I'm flipping through the tv on my way to watch the Mets hopefully blow another game (they won actually, now only one game behind the Phillies in the loss column), and I see the WSOP coverage so I stop for a minute. And before I even know what's going on, there is Lon McEachern introducing David Einhorn at this featured table. And I'll be damned if that guy isn't some little kid. I mean, a young whippersnapper like that is the guy that hurt Lehman shares this year more than any single other individual (other than maybe Lehman CEO Dick Fuld himself, but that's another story)? I watched in amazement, hoping to see him get his child-looking ass busted out on some donkey play just to make myself feel good, but alas it was not meant to be. He was behind and drawing dead on a couple of occasions in this Tuesday night's episode, most notably a hand where he had a flush draw and two middle cards on a raggy-looking flop against Chris Moneymaker, but both times he managed to sniff out the situation and get out with a minimal loss. I may actually have to tune in next week just to see if they'll show me his bustout hand, although my sense is that the likelihood of seeing him again is probably fairly low, and given how boring the tv coverage is these days, I doubt I'll be back. But actually getting to see what a young guy he is -- he is just a kid, really -- was quite an eye-opener. To think that someone who looks like that could see through the opaqueness of Lehman Brothers' books and their strategies so easily, and so long ago at that, is really a telling statement about a lot of things I think. I still think there is a special place in hell for these guys who go around shorting stocks and then talking them down as much as they possibly can after taking a large short position -- probably somewhere on the same level of hell as the Don't Pass bettors at the craps table -- but I guess I have to give the little boy some credit for being able to figure this out and for sticking his neck out there and going public with his convictions long before anyone else in the marketplace was saying boo about Lehman or any of the other large investment banks.

So on to today's topic, which is maybe a simple point but one which I am writing down here because it's something I know I need to focus on better myself in the poker tournaments I play. Arnold Snyder is a big fan of the stop and go, a move which I rarely if ever use in my own tournament play. Snyder basically explains that a preflop allin move from a shortish stack is actually perceived by many larger stacks as a fairly weak move, and one that they are often likely to call with a somewhat wide range of hands. Snyder far and away favors the stop and go, where you just call preflop when you have a shortish stack, and then push allin on the flop no matter what falls.

Now, it's not like the stop and go is some new move that Arnold Snyder has thought up all on his own. Of course it's been written about and talked about and used by successful poker players for years and years. Centuries even, maybe. But, it's not something which I myself have incorporated into my game at all. And I know I need to. Because I've seen several successful tournament players use this ploy on tv to much success, Arnold Snyder believes in it as well, and I personally know at least one or two guys I play with somehwat regularly myself who swear by the stop and go, in the right spot at the right time.

Snyder himself gives a very convincing argument for the stop and go, especially from out of position, essentially arguing that sometimes you are actually "giving free cards" to your big-stacked opponent when you reraise his preflop raise allin and you are not on a particularly large stack. Say you have a hand like pocket Tens or AK, you have 50k in chips late in a large-field mtt where the average stack is more like 100 to 150k. So you're pretty short, and a guy with 200k in chips raises a standard amount -- say to 18k or something -- from middle position, and you're in the small blind. If you push allin now, it will be 32k more for this big stack to call into a pot with 74k in chips in it, assuming 3k-6k blinds at this point in the event, so he is probably going to call with almost any hand that he would have put in that first raise with before the flop. And now the guy is going to have five cards with which to hit his AK or his set of 6s against your TT.

Now think about what would happen if you just flat called his 18k raise preflop. Yet this only leaves you with 32k behind into a pot of 45k. but say the flop comes down Q94 with two to a suit, a fairly standard flop. Now you push allin from the small blind, and even though this player has a nice stack of still around 180k, does he really want to call off another 32k -- more than a sixth of his remaining stack -- with just pocket 6s, or AK? Probably not. And that right there is the strength of the stop and go play. When you push (on just about any flop, mind you), he is likely to lay down most hands in this spot, and your stack will grow from 50k to 92k. That right there is a huge move for you, getting you much closer to average in a spot where you really need to add to your stack pretty desperately, and you did it in a spot where had you pushed allin before the flop, you would have gotten called and given the 66 or AK a much better chance to draw out on you.

As I said, I don't mean to suggest that this is anything earth-shattering at all, as I know it's not, but it is something which I personally do not use nearly enough in my own game. I am much more apt to push in that spot before the flop, get called, and then go to sleep muttering about my bad luck of losing a race or, if I'm playing on pokerstars especially, getting 2-outered at the river to lose to a set. In reality, I can probably increase my chances of survival and of chipping up in spots where I really need to chip up if I raise a little less and call a little more before the flop when I do not hold a big pair, and then just push in more or less blind on any flop that falls. Snyder considers the preflop push here giving up your post-flop utility in a hand, and in his eyes doing so is almost always a mistake. Giving your opponent a chance to fold after the flop where there is very little chance he will fold before the flop is the much smarter, more effective move from a chip utility perspective in many cases.

This is something you can expect to see me do tonight at the final table of the Mookie. For those of you who do not know, tonight is the last night for Waffles to make good on his self-challenge to surpass LJ in annual Mookie winnings, and although Waffles has made a good go of it, in order to be able to catch LJ at all tonight, he is going to need something like 80 people to play in the Mookie. 80 people. It's doable of course, but absent the BBT this is not a number we have seen too many times even for the greatest blogger event of the week. So what I'm hoping to see tonight -- and frankly I would enjoy an 80-person Mookie in its own right probably as much as I would enjoy Waffles having one more longshot of a chance to win his bet -- is as many of you as possible come out to donate your $10 to the Give-Waffles-a-Chance prize pool for the Mookie. Maybe you have never played a blogger event before and have been reading here for a while and have always kicked around the idea. Maybe you've played many times but have kinda gotten away from the blogger events since the last BBT ended. Maybe you think you might miss the first 20 or 30 minutes due to work or whatever but otherwise wouldn't mind playing with your blogger friends tonight. Whatever the situation, I urge you to come out tonight and get that field size up as high as we can to Give Peace Waffles a Chance. As always, the Mookie is on full tilt at 10pm ET, under the "Tournament" and then "Private" tabs, and the password as always is "vegas1". For $11 you can know you made a difference in the life of one of the game's great ambassadors, and the Mookie is basically always guaranteed to bring fun and enjoyment to everyone's life to boot. So please come out if you can. I know I will be there.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The past several days have been a week of realizations for me. Some profound, and some borderline meaningless. But I thought I would take a break from poker again today and write about what's been swirling around in my head lately.

First things first: the Jets suck. It's official. It's over, they just plain suck. If you're a Jets fan, I'm sorry for you. But if you couldn't see how much that was the Exact Same Schtunk Brett Favre on Monday night, then you'll never see it. He threw interceptions like the government bails out financial companies -- blindly and plentifully. And I would love to at least be able to say that he was under pressure all night, but that simply isn't the case. That's what was so quinessentially Favre about his performance -- he throws picks when he's not under too much pressure. He just can't throw the ball with consistent accuracy anymore. He throws every pass about 150 miles an hour, the majority of them off the mark, and in multiple cases on Monday, smack into double or triple coverage with basically no chance of being caught (by his team, anyways), and quite often directly to the other team with none of his receivers even around. They might have started off 2-0 or whatever, but this team is simply not good. Start facing it now. And I'm not some hater -- I actually enjoy the Jets, and being a Philly guy they are easily the only likeable football team in this city, and over his career I've been a huge Favre fan as well. But let's face facts -- the guy has been an interception machine for a good three or four seasons now. He should not have come back, Green Bay was right to want to get him out of town at this point, and he stizzinks. Some of those throws last night were so awful, it's enough to make you wonder if he was accepting a bribe to throw the game. But then, sadly, you realize that he would never be that obvious if he were throwing the game. No, unfortunately for Brett, he just sucks at this point in his career. It pains me to say it, but it's the inescapable truth.

OK, what else. Well, while we're on the topic of sports and of Favre and the Jets showing their true colors last night, the baseball race is heating up and we're seeing the Mets once again show their true colors as well in September. Last year they lost what? A 7 game lead with 17 to play in September? Well just about two weeks ago, we were already about a week in September and the Mets once again found themselves with a comfortable 3.5 game lead over the flagging Phillies in the NL East, with probably no more than 17 games left again in the season. Now fast forward two weeks, and the Mets find themselves 2.5 games back of the Phils -- 2 back in the loss column -- with 6 games left to play (5 for the Phillies). The Mets have lost 6 of their last 9 games -- including 5 out of 8 to the Braves and Nationals who are a combined 50.5 games out of first -- and now sit just one game ahead of the fading Brewers for the wildcard lead. This team has already done what it can to blow another comfortable September lead in the division, one year after the most historic September choke in MLB history, and like with Brett Favre above, it gives a great insight into the character of this team right now. They are chokers, and they do not have what it takes to win. Every single player is stepping down here in September, for the second year in a row. David Wright? Choker. Carlos Beltran? Choker. Pedro Martinez? Huge choker. Jose Reyes? Chok -- no wait. He just plain sucks. Name your favorite Mets bullpen pitcher? All fantastic chokers. Obviously I would fire the shit out of Jerry Manuel if this team fails to make the playoffs, and frankly I would fire him anyways given this year's final-month collapse and bring in someone fiery who won't allow this to happen again. And when is someone finally going to get rid of Omar Menaya, huh? Let's face it -- he has not delivered and in fact consistently seems to make poor personnel decisions with guys like Pedro and Beltran who everybody else but him seems to recognize for the overpaid, under-performing players that they are. You keep shitty management around for long enough, and your team starts playing shitty, year in and year out. Believe me, I know -- I'm from Philly.

Speaking of which, what a time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. The Eagles look legit, with perhaps the greatest defense in the NFL this year, and the Phillies are getting close to mathematically locking up a playoff berth for the second year in a row. If they win the NL East again this year -- which is not set in stone by a long shot yet, but with 5 games to play and a 2 game lead in the loss column, and with all home games left, two against the Braves and three against the last-place Nats, things are looking good -- but if they do win the East it will be the first time since I grew up that the Phils win the division back to back. I know they won several consecutive NL East crowns in the late 70s, but since then it's been fits and starts at best for the world's losingest professional sports franchise. But this is a good little team here, with great balance between a decent starting pitching corps and a great bullpen on the one side, and a very solid, if a bit inconsistent, lineup that includes the greatest home run and RBI guy in the game today and the last two years' league MVPs.

And getting back to the Eagles for a minute, it's a shame that Dallas looks to be the early favorite to walk to the Superbowl, because the Eagles are looking strong. They are also playing a bit inconsistent so far, with two great offensive performances until getting more or less shut down by Pittsburgh at home this past Sunday, and two great defensive performances as well, other than last Monday night's defensive debacle in Dallas. And now with McNabb starting his injuries early with last week's abdomen issue that saw him miss a few series, and with Westbrook obviously an injury waiting to happen every single year and now weighing in with the sprained (?) ankle that caused him to miss most of this week's game as well, you have to figure the Eagles for second-best in the division, if not third. Remember, we play in the NFC East, which has quite literally been the best division in football for a good two decades straight now, and once again is clearly this year, with the 3-0 Cowboys, 3-0 Superbowl champion Giants, 2-1 Eagles and the upstart 2-1 Redkins. Amazingly, this season early indications are that the three best teams in the entire NFC are all in the NFC East, with teams like Arizona and San Francisco (!!) leading the West, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Atlanta (!!) leading the South, and with the NFC North, as always, not even worth mentioning. So the Eagles have their work cut out for them this year with 6 games against the 'Boys, Giants and Redskins, although our out-of-conference schedule this year is decidedly weak which is good given the toughness of those games coming up against the division later in the year.

One other realization I have come to over the past few days while I've watched this truly historic time in the stock market is that I am very close to deciding to get out there and do what I can to vote out of office anybody who votes in favor of this ridiculous trillion-dollar "bailout" package for Wall Street. Because that's exactly what it is -- it's for Wall Street. Sure, Hank Paulson and George Bush can say it's for taxpayers, for investors, whatever, but that's all a steaming pile of crap. It's for Wall Street, for the bankers and the traders and the CEOs who selfishly and without foresight hawked any kind of mortgage they could to any kind of borrower, often without any look at that borrower's actual ability or likelihood of repaying the debt, and then packaged up all those mortgages into securities and sold those to even more naive clients for even more money. And I can live with that btw, I really can, because we live in America, a free market with a free market, capitalistic economy where nobody forces the banks to offer these products, and nobody forces the customers to come along and buy them and trade them. But what I cannot live with is these same bankers and traders, who didn't share a dime of the wealth that these ridiculous securitizations of mortgages brought them over the past seven or eight years or so, who went out and bought huge homes in Hamptons, drove up apartment prices in Manhattan to the stratospheric levels they are at today, helped prop up the recockulous price of private schools in the city to today's impressive $33,000 a year for a 4-year-old to get a decent education, etc. etc. etc. These guys consumed, consumed and consumed some more with all that wealth they made over the past several years hawking these absurd mortgages products to the world, but now when it has all turned around because the real estate prices underlying all these securitized oblgiations have fallen just 15% or so from their highs, now we taxpayers have to pay a trillion dollars to buy these bad loans off these bankers' books? That's the part where you've lost me.

The stock market pundits are largely right that, without this silly bailout business as announced late last week and soon to be finalized by Congress, the Dow would have probably dropped another 2500 points from where it was early last week. I don't think there's any doubt about that. But you know what? Just like I said a week or two ago when Lehman Brothers and AIG were teetering on the edge, that 25% drop would have been the right thing to happen. Sure, I am heavily invested in the stock market, and in the short-term that would have crushed my portfolio value. As a relatively young man with a young family and some excess fundage, I invest primarily in an aggressive but diversified portfolio of equities and some other securities. But here I am, living proof of someone who actually believes in free market forces, and who actually believes in capitalism through and through. If circumstances as they existed a week ago lead people to want to sell the market down 25% from current levels, because it becomes obvious that much of the gains of the past several years were illusory and are all now coming back to roost, then so be it. Because I truly believe in capitalism and the free market, I am willing to take my medicine and lose 25% of my investment holdings in the short-term in order to get the market back to where it actually belongs given the current state of things.

But that right there is the rub. The current administration -- and once again, that includes the chimp in the white house in addition to the baboons in Congress -- is not willing to let the market be where it belongs right now. They stepped in once with Bear Stearns, two more times with Fannie and Freddie, once again in forcing the buyout of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, and yet again with a massive $85 billion bridge loan to keep AIG afloat. And now here they are again with a trillion dollar package to form a fund to buy all the shitty mortgages from the banks. And don't worry, the Democrats in Congress are now insisting that they also be able to buy credit card debts and car loans too! These clowns will do anything to control the markets, to keep them artificially and externally propped up far above the levels everyone and their mother knows they would drop to immediately if this latest government bailout package were to suddenly disappear. They fear what would happen if free market forces allowed stocks to fall until they reached the level where the buyers once again equalled the sellers. They fear the effect on the market, they fear the effect on personal wealth, and they fear the effect on the economy at large. These fuckheads actually fear letting the free markets work to create their own equilibrium.

We as a society have a name for people who believe in capitalism only when the economy and the stock market are doing well, but who favor taking control of the economy and the market when things turn south. People who say they believe in the free market as long as it is working for them, but when the inevitable slowdown threatens, they manipulate the market, printing money to throw at private companies to prevent them from further hurting the economy as it grapples with its natural forces that always inexorably lead to contraction and expansion, contraction and expansion. You know what we call those people? Communists. Plain and simple.

I have no problem with people who support Communism. I really don't, I mean that. It's one option, and there have been literally billions of people over time who have grown up and lived their entire lives under Communist regimes. But unlike many of those people, I don't believe in Communism. I prefer true capitalism, and because I am a true capitalist -- not a bullshit one like our current government -- I put my money where my mouth is. As much pain as it will cause in the short-term, I am absolutely willing to watch my portfolio lose 25% of its value this month, when it turns out that the 40% gains over the past five years were all bullshit based on assumptions which have now proven to be utterly and completely false. What can I say? I'm a true free market guy, right down to my core. That's what capitalism is supposed to be all about when it comes right down to it. Obviously, our government needs more people who understand what true capitalism is.

So watch out, you pig-headed politicians. I'm going to look and see which one of you assheads votes for this trillion-dollar subsidy to the financial institutions who greedily abused unknowing consumers and naively took on massive risks all hinging on the notion that real estate prices woud literally never decline again. And if you vote for this plan, I'm going to be out there, lurking, working in my own ways to get you voted out on your fat ass this November. And next November, and every November after that. I'll give up 25% of my money if that's what the free market economy says I have to do. But being forced by you to pay it out as taxes to save the rich bastards who ran up 8-digit bank accounts over the past seven years by being greedy and having no foresight at all? Nope. I live in America because here we're not supposed to do that. Here the free market is supposed to reign.

It is just amazing and embarrassing how quickly so many people in this country are willing to completely trash our basic fucking economic precepts just because a little number at the bottom of their portfolio statement starts dropping from the obviously over-inflated levels it has been at for the past few years.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

The Problem With M

So on Wednesday I was writing about Arnold Snyder's view on how the tight style of play espoused by Dan Harrington's seminal books on Holdem tournament play actually is far too tight to give oneself the best possible chance in poker tournaments. Actually, first let me get to the comments I received.

I should not have to keep pointing this out, but this is my blog. It's a journal. I write whatever I am thinking about and want to write about with the game of poker, or otherwise. You don't have to read here if you don't like what I have to say, or if you don't think I know my ass from first base about the game, or if you don't like the mix of poker and non-poker topics I write about here. I can see that it is so difficult for some of you to stay away regardless of your feelings about what I have to say, but I will suggest that you read this blog for what it is: my thoughts on poker. It's not your thoughts; it's my thoughts. It's not my suggestions for how you play the game; it's just my thoughts about the game. So the next time you are tempted to spout off in the comments how stupid it would be for you play the way I'm writing about, please check yourself. No one ever said you should play the way I write about, or even believe what I'm saying at all. If you find it hard to think of what you read here in this way, perhaps you might want to take some time away from this blog and try to calm it down. Now that's a suggestion for how you act, one of the few times you'll get those little tidbits to live by here.

Oh I should also point out that Arnold Snyder makes a specific point -- and I agree with this statement as well -- that Dan Harrington himself is not a Harringbot. So pointing out the amount of Harrington's lifetime mtt cashes does not actually address the point Snyder makes about the style espoused in Harrington's books. Harrington's books espouse a tight style of play, that much is not debatable, and he does not advocate opening things up in his writings until one's M falls below 20 at any point in a tournament, regardless of the structure. An M above 20 puts you in the green zone, and while Harrington may support making a move here or there in particular when first in the pot, I hope it is obvious to those that have read his tournament books that the approach Harrington suggests is quite the tight style of play. For those who did not get that from Harrington's books, hmmmmmmm. I don't really know what to say about that I guess. But it is what the rest of the goddam free world I took from his books, and they are and I imagine always will be considered among the very best tournament holdem books ever written.

But, getting back to today's topic of my thoughts on my blog, Harrington's calculation of M does include a potentially very serious flaw. Harrington describes "M" again as "the number of rounds of the table that you can survive before being blinded off, assuming you play no pots in the meantime". Thus, if your M is 11, you can sit at the table for 11 more rounds of play without playing a hand and still survive. So at a 10-handed table, you would have approximately 110 hands of poker left to sit and not play a hand and still survive in the tournament. That's M, in a nutshell, using Harrington's own words from his books.

The flaw with M, as pointed out quite correctly by Arnold Snyder, is that is completely ignores the crucial aspect of tournament structure in making its calculation. A few sample tournament situations I think make this crystal clear. Again, keep in mind that on page 126 of HOH II, Harrington himself defines M as "the number of rounds of the table that you can survive before being blinded off, assuming you play no pots in the meantime". So let's assume for purposes of illustration that you are roughly halfway through the field in a 1000-person mtt. You have 30,000 in chips, and blinds are 500-1000 with no ante. Thus, according to Harrington's formula, the cost of one round of folding is 1500 chips, and thus your M equals 20. So according to Harrington, you could sit at this table for 20 more rounds -- 200 hands if you're playing 10-handed -- and still survive in the tournament.

But now let's think about the structure of our hypothetical tournament above. Let's say you're playing one of the deep-stack live tournaments out there -- let's just say it's the WSOP Main Event with its 120-minute blinds, and you're just at the beginning of the 500-1000 blinds round, so you've got the full 120 minutes left at this level. In 120 minutes -- let's call that 60 hands at 2 minutes per hand just for ease of calculation here -- the blinds will go up to 600-1200. Then in another 120 minutes (60 more hands) they will be 800-1600. 60 hands later they will go up to 1000-2000 with a 50-chip ante. So, in reality, in this 120-minute blind-round tournament, 200 hands is not actually "the number of rounds of the table that you can survive before being blinded off, assuming you play no pots in the meantime" (Harrington's exact words). In reality, assuming again you are right at the beginning of the latest round of blinds, after 60 hands you will have blinded away 6 rounds' worth of blinds at 1500 chips per round for a total of 9000 chips, so you're down to 21,000 when the blinds bump up to 600-1200. So, after hands 60-120, you blind away another 6 rounds worth at 1800 chips per round, subtracting another 10,800 chips from your stack and leaving you with just 10,200 chips remaining. Then starting with hand #121, the blinds go up to 800-1600, making the cost per round at your 10-handed table 2400 chips. This means that, with 10,200 chips at the start of this third round, you're barely going to last 4 more rounds, depending on your position at the beginning of the round. Let's just pick 40 hands (four full rounds) left of survival as a good average outcome there.

So, you can see what the tournament structure did to Harrington's analysis that with 30,000 chips and 500-1000 blinds, you could sit for 20 more rounds at that table without playing a pot and stil be alive in the tournament. In reality, factoring in the tournament structure, you could only actually survive without playing a pot for 60 hands at 500-1000, 60 hands at 600-1200, and then 40 hands at 800-1600. That's only 160 hands, not the 200 Harrington's M calculation indicated.

Now you may be sitting there thinking "So what?" Harrington's M calculation ends up being a little off as the blinds go up, big deal? And there's some validity in my view to that comment. But I purposefully started with the slowest tournament structure known to man up there -- the 120-minute blind rounds -- to illustrate the method Snyder uses to make his point. Now let's get a little more realistic, as probably 1% or less of you out there reading this have ever actually played in a tournament with 120-minute blinds. Let's take the more standard live casino tournament structure like what I've played several times in Atlantic City, with the blind rounds are much shorter, say at 30 minutes. Same situation otherwise -- halway through the field, 30,000 chips in your stack, blinds of 500-1000, with no ante until the 1000-2000 blind level. Again, Harrington's M formula indicates that you have an M of 20, and that thus you can sit without playing a pot for 200 hands and still survive in the tournament. But look -- after 30 minutes (15 hands), you've played an average of 1.5 rounds, and you've paid an average of 2250 in blinds (your chipstack is down to 27,750). Then the blinds then become 600-1200, where over the next 15 hands you will play another 1.5 rounds on average and ante another 2700 in chips on average, bringing your stack down to 25,050. Then another 15 hands of 800-1600 play, anteing an average of 3200 and bringing your stack down to 21,850. Then another 15 hands at 1000-2000 plus the 50-chip ante, costing 3500 chips at a 10-handed table, and leading to an average blinds + antes of 5250, dropping your stack down to 16,600. Then let's say the next round is 1200-2400 with a 100-chip ante, making the total cost per round 4600 chips and costing you an average of 6900 chips to fold through a round and a half for another 15 minutes. This leaves your chip stack down at 9700. Next 15 hands is 1500-3000 with a 150-chip ante, costing 6000 chips per round, and you are basically done after this round costs you an average of 9000 chips.

So let's count that up. You played 15 hands at 500-1000, 15 hands at 600-1200, 15 hands at 800-1600, 15 hands at 1000-2000-50, 15 hands at 1200-2400-100, and 15 hands at 1500-3000-150. Let's throw in another 5 hands or so to take up the last few chips you have in the following round, and how many total hands did you get to play in that 30-minute-blinds tournament? That my friends is 95 hands. A far cry from the 200 hands Harrington's M formula said you could sit and fold through. In fact, his number was more than 100% higher than the true number of hands you could sit and fold in.

And now let's kick it up a notch again, but not to anything unrealistic. Let's just look at the standard online tournament, like "the" nightly 28k for example. 10-minute blind rounds. Otherwise, same situation. At a hand a minute (quicker since it's online instead of live play), that is one orbit per blind round. This would be the same calculation for a live tournament with 20-minute blind rounds, just like the daily tournaments at the Taj Mahal and some other places in AC. Now you're playing only 10 hands per round (instead of 15 in the immediately preceding example), so you pay 1500 in chips at the 500-1000 level (down to 28,500 chips), you pay 1800 chips at the 600-1200 level (26,700 left), 2400 chips at the 800-1600 level (24,300 left), 3500 chips at the 1000-2000-50 level (20,800 left), 4600 chips at the 1200-2400-100 level (16,200 chips), 6000 chips at the 1500-3000-150 level (10,200 chips left), and then at then next level, let's call it 2000-4000 with a 200 ante, that's another 8000 chips again, leaving you with just 2,200 chips left and not even enough to put up the small blind when the next round begins. We can call that on average another 5 hands in the next round before you're out. So with the 10-minute online levels (or 20-minute live blind levels like at the Taj), you played 75 hands. An even further cry from the 200 hands Harrington's formula said you could sit and fold through while still surviving in the tournament.

And this is exactly the point made by Snyder all through his book. Harrington's approach as espoused in his books is about survival more than anything else. But the problem is, the survival numbers that Harrington's M formula calculates are in most cases more than twice as high as the actual number of rounds that a player can expect to survive by folding. This is why Harrington's strategies, including his general approach of not opening up one's game much with an M of more than 20, do not lead to many final table runs and big scores, but rather lead the Harringbots to pushing allin on medium to small stacks halfway through the field of the large-field mtts. Because when your M according to Harrington is 20, that doesn't really mean you have 20 more rounds to sit and fold. You typically have fewer than 10 rounds left or survival once you take into account the tournament's structure. The third example I gave above is sadly by far the most common and certainly the most realistic for anyone who likes to play online mtts. If you've played a lot of online mtts and haven't had the success you would like, and you're playing some form of Dan Harrington's strategy from his HOH books, then this could be why. When Harrington says your M is 20, your "Real M" is really more like 6 or 7 in most cases. And you don't even want to see the "Real M" calculations with the turbo tournaments or just the "regular" online mtts with blind rounds of less than 10 minutes, or the widely-prevalent live tournaments nowadays with 15-minute blind rounds. Then Harrington is overestimating your "Real M" by usually a factor of three or four, or more.

If you knew when your Harrington M was 20 that your "Real M" was 5 or 6, wouldn't you play a lot looser? Wouldn't you see your situation for what it is -- far more desperate than Harrington's "Green Zone" M of 20 indicates? This is one of the huge secrets that the world's great multi-table tournament players understand better than everyone else. And it's why the Harringbots -- which again, Dan Harrington himself is clearly not one of -- are usually such easy pickings for the guys who are playing big, opening up their games when their "Real M" is getting low, the guys muscling and bullying everyone at the table.

Chew on that one for the weekend, and I'll be back next week with more of my poker thoughts inspired by the great book The Poker Tournament Formula II.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Snyder vs. Harrington

OK so much for having a proper poker post up on Tuesday. What can I say....I'm a lawyer, remember? That might make me a better poker player than most other people out there, but it also makes me a liar, right?

Truth be told, I am in a new job here as you know, and my number 1 priority these days has to be kicking that new job in a tuchas. Which is exactly what I'm doing. But some days at the new place I am gonna be extremely busy, and that, combined with the longer commute in the mornings and evenings, makes it difficult sometimes to find the time to finish these posts up. Nonetheless, I'm back now and ready to talk some pokah.

But first I just have to say, this country is becoming more and more like China or Russia every day isn't it? As of right now our government suddenly owns the two largest mortgage owners in the world in Fannie and Freddie, the largest insurance company in the world in AIG, and pretty soon the largest savings bank in the country as well in WaMu when they get their bailout that is almost surely on its way. And you wonder why I laugh so hard when I read bloggers and others referring to Barack Obama as a "socialist". We're living amidst socialism right here and right now guys! And that is not a debatable point anymore. To think of the government's involvement and control over formerly private/publicly owned companies in major positions in major industries like this even just a year or two ago would have caused ripples all through the people and the current administration in this country. Now it's already happened. Crazy times.

OK back to poker like I promised way back when. So when we last were talking about poker, I was focusing on Arnold Snyder's concept of chip utility in tournaments. I wrote a lot about the concept a week ago, and the general idea I had been writing the latest post about before it got delayed by a little blip called the entire financial system in this country almost collapsing and still teetering on the edge, was that Snyder, an accomplished tournament player in his own right, believes the "utility odds" are the more relevant calculus to use in poker tournament call-or-fold decisions than the traditional pot odds and implied odds approaches favored by most poker authorities out there. In general, his argument is that, if your chip utility is significantly below full utility -- defined again as 100 big blinds or more -- then it often makes sense for a skilled tournament player to take a chance at less than the correct mathematical odds in exchange for the increased chances of making a big score that amassing an early stack (replete with plenty of chip utility) can bring to that skilled player. So as I had written about a week ago, Snyder favors a super-skilled guy like Men the Master or David Pham calling an allin at even-money odds early in a large-field WSOP event with just a flush draw and maybe three overcard outs, if his utility before the hand started is already down somewhere in the 50-60 big blinds range. Yes the pure math does not quite add up on making that call for even money, but what compensates for that shortcoming in the pot odds is the increased chance that a guy like Nguyen or Pham can turn his full-utility stack (if he wins that pot) into a monster stack and eventually into a nice score in the tournament if he can just get himself up to full utility and therefore open up his game to be able to use all the weapons and all the different types of poker moves that a really skilled player has in his arsenal.

Today I wanted to write about another point Snyder makes in his book, which again is closely related to his theory of chip utiltiy. Snyder writes quite a bit about the "Harringbots", which are the masses of players who have read and studied Dan Harrington's truly seminal books on poker tournament play. Harrington introduced the idea of "M" to the masses in his texts, along with his theory which says that you should play pretty much super-tight poker early in tournaments, and only loosen up as you are forced to because your "M" drops below certain defined thresholds.

First, a quick primer on "M" for those of you who don't know it (and you are insane if you read here but you don't know from "M"). Harrington defines a player's M as the number of rounds of big blinds plus small blinds plus antes that a player has remaining in his stack at any given time. So, if the blinds are 1000-2000 and there is a 200-chip ante 2/3 of the way through a large event, and you have 8 players at your table, if your stack size is 98,000 chips, then your M is 18,000 chips divided by (1000+2000+1600) which is 98000/4600 or an M of just over 21. This would qualify as the Green Zone according to Harrington, who would therefore have you just be continuing to play basically only premium hands in the right spots, not worrying at all about the blinds and antes at this point in the event. After all, using Harrington's M formula, you could survive just over 21 more rounds at this table at the current level of blinds and antes, if you never bet into another pot and just folded your cards for the next couple of hours.

In a nutshell, Arnold Snyder loves the Harringbots. And I have to agree with him on that one. All the good tournament players who are accustomed to running deep in mtt's will know exactly what I'm talking about too. Somewhere around halfway or maybe 60% of the way through the field in every large-field mtt out there, the Harringbots are the fuel for basically every deep run I've ever made in a big mtt. Here's what happens. The Harringbots -- and believe me, there are millions of them out there -- are all playing super-tight so far in the event, because that's the way that Harrington teaches them to play. As a result of this overly tight early tournament play, the few of them -- let's say 5% or less -- who have been hit with the deck have decent stacks. Almost never huge stacks, mind you, because the Harringbots don't know from bullying other players at their table. Even when they luck into large stacks early, they just sit around, continuing to play their cards and their cards alone, and as a result they never seem to amass the ridiculous stacks that can carry them to a final table run by the middle of the tournament. We all know bloggers who play basically just like this -- they manage to hang around with some frequency until the halfway point or even 60-70% of the way through decent-field mtts, but just about never with big stacks. They're always sitting on a half-of-average stack by the time the blinds get too big for them, and then they bust close to the cash by pushing a medium pair or AK into AK or a higher pair who had raised from early position. With some of the bloggers, it is like clockwork watching them in action, same story with every dam tournament. But there are millions of them out there, and they're all basically Harringbots as Snyder likes to call them.

But that is only maybe 5% of the lucky Harringbots in any tournament. The other 95% who have not been smacked in the face with the deck are short by the time 60% of the field is gone. They've been playing tight Harrington-style poker for far too long, relying on their M calculations according to Harrington's books, and suddenly the blinds are up again and they realize they are being absolutely smushed by the big stacks at their table, who aren't playing Harrington-style poker at all. Every time the Harringbots raise, they are reraised allin and don't like their hand enough to call. Every time it's folded to them with a middling Ace in middle position, they fold because there could easily face a big reraise behind them. Take my M example above -- that guy believes his M is more than 20, so he has 21 rounds he could just sit and fold at that table, so he has plenty of time to wait for big cards still.

Well, eventually, those 95% of the Harringbots out there get short, and that's when they start pushing. Once they move into Harrington's yellow (M of 10-20), orange (M of 6-10) and eventually red (M of 1-5) zones, they are instructed to start pushing their chips allin on raises and reraises --usually before the flop -- often with less than premium cards. They have allowed themselves to get farrrr too short compared to the escalating blinds and antes, and suddenly they are forced to, for example, push allin with A8s against a preflop raiser from middle position with a bigger stack. That guy in middle position with the bigger stack is usually me, and I usually am going to call you with my AQ or JJ or some hand better than A8s. And I'm often going to knock you out and add your chips to my stack just like that. Similarly, the Harringbots who are now in the yellow zone or below will raise from early position with a medium pair, I will reraise them allin with my AK from late position, and they will look at their dwindling stack, consider for about 3 seconds and then call allin with pocket 8s or pocket 9s. Half the time, I add their chips to my stack with very little trouble and very little thought involved.

The truly good tournament players prey upon the Harringbots in the middle stages of big mtts. Harringbots simply play too-tight poker for tournaments for too long, and then they follow their instructor's advice and push allin with desperate type of hands because they have allowed themselves in fact to get desperate with their chip stack. Harringbots have essentially no concept of chip utility, and what little conception of it they do have, is based on, at least according to Arnold Snyder, a truly faulty mathematical calculation of M. Harrington's formula for computing "the number of rounds you can survive at a table without playing any cards" in tournaments fails to include in the calculation one absolutely essential piece of information, and one which can lead to some truly effed up conclusions about just how desperate one really is at a given time in a given tournament.

More on that in tomorrow's post. For today, I'm looking forward to playing in the Mookie this evening at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1"). It's the grandpappy of all blogger tournaments these days, and plus there is always the fun of watching Waffles in his race to overtake LJ in 2008 Mookie profits, where I believe he has either one or two Mookie's left to make his mark.

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