Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Story That Just Won't Go Away

Just bask in the greatness that this story could turn into. It seems that A-Rod is painted in a far less than flattering light in the upcoming book "A-Rod" by Selena Roberts, the Sports Illustrated writer who outed Alex Rodriguez as having failed major league baseball's drug screening tests in 2003 for use of testosterone and hyperbolin, an injected anabolic steroid.

Some of my favorite highlights from the article:

-- After A-Rod suddenly gained 15 pounds in the offseason between the 2004 and 2005 Yankee campaigns, Yankee teammates nicknamed him "Bitch Tits" in 2005 after he seemed to develop round pectorals, a condition called gynecomastia that can be caused by anabolic steroids.

-- An "unnamed major leaguer" as quoted as having seen Kevin Brown and A-Rod together with Human Growth Hormone in 2004.

-- Jose Canseco -- formerly thought to be no more credible than these ridiculous "unnamed major leaguer" sources, but who since has proven to be highly prescient in his beliefs and predictions about steroid use in baseball -- believes Rodriguez was using steroids in high school in Miami. Apparently, A-Rod put on 25 pounds of muscle between his sophomore and junior years, and "word was that his connection was a dog kennel owner". Various members of his high school team and relations to the coaching staff also allege the team knew of Rodriguez's use of steroids during his time on the high school team.

And then there is this one, by far my own personal favorite, which I'm just going to quote directly from the article because it's just too crazy to believe otherwise:

"In one shocking disclosure, the book accuses A-Rod of "pitch tipping" when he was with the Rangers - letting a friendly opponent at the plate know which pitch was coming in lopsided games. Rodriguez expected players he helped would do the same for him when he was having an off night and needed to get his batting average up and it wouldn't affect the outcome of the game."

Let's put aside the fact that A-Rod is going to have ten or eleven new assholes ripped for him all throughout this season, both inside and outside of New York, if he is shown to have lied again about steroids in claiming he only injected them from 2001-2003 in Texas, when in reality he may have been on the juice since his teenage years. The fact that he may have used both steroids in 2004 and 2005, and HGH in at least 2004, would be particularly damning in New York after Alex's insistence earlier this year that his Yankee years have all been clean (which I have never believed). But let's put all that aside for a minute here. If it's true that A-Rod (1) was so concerned about his own batting average late in meaningless games that have already been decided to even consider doing this, and (2) actually tipped pitches to opposing batters like that, I swear there are going to be some serious more fireworks still to come here in the Bronx.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Full Tilt Update

As happens regularly from time to time, when I went to fire up my full tilt to play some stud hi-lo with bloggers on Tuesday night, I got the message that a new version of the poker client was available on the full tilt servers. I dutifully clicked over and got the update over with, expecting as usual to not even notice the changes but to be able to play. But for the first time in a long time, two changes jumped out at me, both of which I think are very positive overall, one of which, frankly, things I can't believe I never thought about myself, and the other which everyone has thought of but it looks like a major online poker site has finally executed on.

The first cool change in the new ftp update is that all mtt's now have their break at the same time, at 5 minutes before the hour, every hour. This is starkly different from how full tilt has been for years, which is that every mtt has a break every hour, 60 minutes from the end of the last break. The old system made sense, in that you sat down to a tournament, played 60 minutes, and then got a break every 60 minutes to be able to go to the bathroom, grab a snack, hit some Wii baseball home runs, whatever it is you like to do during your online mtt breaks.

But that was also exactly the problem with the old break system -- for anyone who plays more than one mtt at a time, ever, then you don't typically get that 5-minute break period to do all those breaky things. If I sit down and play the Skillz game at 9:30pm ET, the $14 token frenzy or whatever it's called at 9:45pm ET and the 28k at 10pm ET (which Chad won again the other night btw, for only the sixth time though), then that means I get a 5-minute break in the Skillz at 10:30, but I'm still playing through my other two tournaments at that point. At 10:35 the Skillz resumes, and then at 10:45 comes the break for the token frenzy, which ends at 10:50, and then ten minutes later comes the break for the 28k. So that is three 5-minute breaks in the span of 30 minutes, butfor all practical purposes, I have gotten no real break at all, because there was never even one second where I could actually get up and pee like I've had to for a good 30, 40 minutes now.

Well now, with the new change, this will no longer be an issue. Now all mtts will take their break at 5 minutes before the hour. So on Tuesday, for the first time ever, I was able to take a true break while multi-tabling a turbo FTOPS satellite and the Skills event at the same time, at 10:55pm ET. Good stuff, and a good change. Like I said above, I can't believe nobody has thought of that before now.

The other change I noticed as part of the new full tilt update is that they now offer cash no-limit games with antes for the first time. This one is not particularly relevant to my own online poker experience, in that I haven't focused much on cash games for the past year or two, but still it is surely an improvement to have such games available. For the Real Men out there who recognize full ring cash poker as the slow, boring time-passer that is is, the real action junkies who play shorthanded or even heads-up cash just to avoid the incessant folding that can basically guarantee you a very small but fairly easy-to-scratch-out profit, adding antes to the structure is a very welcome turn of events for sho.

I am so into the idea of online nlh cash play with antes that I've been toying with the notion of starting some formal or informal challenge to get myself back into no-limit cash game play after a long time away. As I think I've mentioned previously, somehow, some way, a switch was flipped a couple of months back, and I just stopped being interested in playing the large multi-table tournaments like I had focused on for the previous year and more. It was definitely nothing specific that happened, not some kind of bad mtt run or something, but if anything I think it was probably health-related in that I contracted a cold or flu virus, and for a few weeks solid I was really unable to maintain my focus anywhere near late enough to make even a mediocre run in an mtt. Honestly I bet if I search my stats I won't see a single true mtt played by me in at least two months. No 50-50, no 32k, no 28k, no 35k, no stars 70k, no UB and no bodog multi table tournaments. It's just something I have gotten away from as I do from time to time, and I'm sure I'll be back in mtt land soon enough. But for right now, playing some nlh cash with antes sounds like it could be right up my alley.

Maybe I can convince some of you diggheads to join me and donate to the cause?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time to Cash Out

I know I mentioned recently here that I was just finishing up Moneyball, Michael Lewis's best seller about how the Oakland A's changed the way that teams were built to win in Major League Baseball, and that before that, I had read Tom Verducci and Joe Torre's The Yankee Years. Well, the funny thing about my reading those two books just recently is that now, unlike what I used to think about the guy before this year, I can't stop thinking on an almost daily basis how Yankees GM Brian "Cash" Cashman really needs to be fired. I mean, like so many on the Yankee championship teams during Joe Torre's tenure, Cashman deserves some of the credit for bringing in guys like Clemens, David Wells and a few others who were able to contribute so well to the team's amazing run from 1996-2000. But since 2000, the bottom line that has been made clear to me for the first time by reading these two books -- and enforced almost every single day these days out on the field it seems -- that Cashman has been consistently and clearly out-GM'd by the guys out there choosing players simply using better, more refined and more useful criteria than what Cashman has obviously been doing over the past decade from his office at Yankee Stadium.

Take the pitching situation, for example. While teams like the Red Sox went out and nabbed Curt Schilling to provide some veteran leadership from the mound, and young Josh Beckett from the firesaleing Marlins, Dice-K Matsusaka from Japan and many others, just look at the roll of embarrassing pitchers that have been paraded into the Bronx during Cashman's tenure. Roger Clemens for his second return to New York, now the subject of major steroids speculation, and someone who simply could not be relied upon during most of his last two seasons with the Yanks, including some less than good playoff appearances in his final starts in the city. Carl Pavano, who was paid over $40 million by the Yankees to make a grand total of I think 9 starts in New York. Javier Vazquez, who was brought in from the struggling Expos but who could never seem to make it work in the Big Apple and was gone after one disastrous season at Yankee Stadium. Estaban Loiza. Jose Contreras. Randy Johnson. The list just goes on and on and on of the pitchers who Cashman has paid huge, huge money to bring in here, and yet who could not hack it in New York.

So the Red Sox go to Arizona and get Schilling, who ends up dominating for them and contributing greatly to that franchise's first two world titles in almost 90 years, while the Yankees chose Schilling's teammate Randy Johnson, who failed miserably in three seasons with the Bombers and never returned to his prior unhittable form as he was clearly just not comfortable in New York. The Sox turn to former Marlins upstart Josh Beckett, with tremendous success over several years now in both the regular and post-season, while the Yankees go to his former teammate in Florida, AJ Burnett who has so far pitched to just so-so results when the Yankees really needed him. The Sox bid outrageous money to wrestle Dice-K away from the Yankees, who has ended up being another solid contributor, while the Yankees spend their huge money on a foreigner to bring in Contreras, who was also gone in under two years to the White Sox after it was determined that he just cannot pitch well in New York. All those other pitchers I mentioned above, all paraded in here one after the other, and all unable to achieve their previous success once putting on the pinstripes, while the Red Sox and other teams have found a way to bring guys in who can make immediate, substantive contributions to their teams.

And this trend has continued right on in to 2009, as Cashman hit the free agent markets in a big way last offseason, nabbing prized free agent CC Sabathia from the Brewers along with former Marlin AJ Burnett to solidify the Yanks' troubling rotation, and just look at the results so far as we head into the end of the first month of the baseball season: After Monday night's loss to the Tigers, Sabathia, sporting a $15.7 million price tag this year, will end April with a 1-2 record in five starts, including 15 walks in 32 innings pitched and a 4.73 ERA. Burnett, who is making $16.5 million in 2009, has just two wins in his first four starts, posting an even loftier 5.47 ERA and, most importantly, coming up real small against the Red Sox this past weekend as the Yankees were swept by their arch enemies in the teams' first of many meetings during the 2009 regular season.

On offense, it is really more of the same as far as Cashman's performance over the past several years. While the Red Sox went out and acquired players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Bill Mueller and Manny Ramirez in winning two world titles in the past five seasons, who are the big free agent signings on offense for the Yankees since the 2000 season? Jason Giambi -- a $20 million a year steroids user, oft-injured and old, a shell of his former self almost the entirety of his time as a Yankee. Alex Rodriguez -- another known steroid user, making a whopping $33 million+ this season who also recorded his best three-year stretch as a pro prior to joining the team in the Bronx, and who has been a consummate loser since signing on with the team after the union killed a deal that would have altered the course of baseball history by sending A-Roid to the Red Sox. Aaron Boone, yet another steroid head who had one huge home run but otherwise dragged this team down every step of the way during his two-year stretch in the infield with the team. Johnny Damon came on during the 2005-2006 offseason, after he too had experienced his best years as a major leaguer in Kansas City and Boston. And the latest addition to this long line of losers at the plate -- Mark Texiera , who comes to the Yankees making $20.6 million this year and yet who so far is hitting a whopping .220 through 16 games of the 2009 season.

Face it, it is time for Brian Cashman to go. Although the team obviously was doing something right in the mid 90s as it built the greatest baseball dynasty in at least 20 years, the days of John Wetteland, Paul O'Neil, Scott Brosius, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez are all over with. After that down-home and largely homegrown core of players slowly departed the Bronx as the last millennium drew to a close, the guys Cash has brought in to replace and replenish both the lineup and the starting rotation in New York have performed woefully poorly. And this during a time when other teams in the league, even in the Yanks' own division, were picking up the Schillings, Becketts and Dice-Ks, and their cross-town rivals the Mets nabbed Johann Santana (probably the best pitcher in baseball at the moment). Whatever the reason, the movement based on sabremetrics that has been so successful for teams like the Red Sox, the As and the Blue Jays over the past ten years has more or less completely passed Brian Cashman by. After defending the guy in my head for several years, I just can't escape the conclusion anymore than Cash has ultimately failed, being primarily responsible for the roughly $2 billion spent on this team over the past nine seasons, with absolutely zippo to show for it in terms of the only thing that matters to Yankees fans here and around the country -- World Series championships.

Oh, and the Hornets lost in the playoffs 121-63 to the Nuggets last night. At home! 121-63!! I mean, what do you even say? What's next? Waffles winning an entire month of the BBT? Give me a break!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Vegas in New York, and Vegas in Vegas

Wow. It's kinda like the weather this weekend in New York City might be some oddly delayed reenactment of hell freezing over following my winning of the Mookie a couple of weeks back and then last week tying the record (I think) for being the longest-reigning Mookie champion when last week's tournament got voided thanks to full tilt's servers last week with 7 runners left. I mean, can we really live in a world where I am the reigning Mookie champion for two weeks running? I think I remember Miami Don doing this once before -- the real way, by actually winning back to back as I recall -- but I'm pretty much positive no one has won this thing 3 straight weeks. Well, all I know is that, after suffering through a springless Spring so far where the highs in New York have stayed roughly in the 40s and 50s without so much as barely touching the 60s, suddenly on Saturday it was upper 60s, and then on Sunday -- whoooosh! -- 92 degrees in Central Park.

I spent the day in the city with my kids and had a great time, but it was hard to explain to the little ones exactly where all this heat came from. The best I could do was explain the science of the seasons, and how the tilt of the earth leads the northeastern U.S. to be more heads-on directly facing the sun for about half the year, and that it is significantly warmer during that period regardless of what other more localized weather pattern is currently affecting the area during the mid-year months. Not that that does anything to help them to understand why it goes from 50s to 90s in basically a two-day span, but hey, it's a good lesson for them about the unpredictability of the weather in general. So it's down to a "mild" 82 degrees here on Monday, but then Tuesday is slated to be up near 90 once again as we make one more run for the recordbooks in what has otherwise been a far cooler than normal spring where I live. All I know is, Sunday didn't just set a new record for high temperatures all around the nyc area -- it absolutely obliterated the old records. I'm talking by like 10, 12 degrees in many cases over the previous all-time highs, generally set more than 50 years ago.

So anyways, standing outside all day on Sunday really got me thinking about the one place I frequent where that weather wouldn't have been the least bit out of the ordinary for much of the year -- Vegas. In fact, it got me thinking about it so much that I ended up talking to a bunch of people, firming up my plans, and buying my tickets for my annual pilgrimage this summer. Being that I will already be away with my family at the beach, I won't be flying my usual direct JetBlue flight out of New York with the extra legroom, leather seats and the DirecTV, which is a bummer. In fact, the only airport within a three-hour drive of where we will be at the beach is one of those tiny, commuter-style airports that reports on doors instead of gates for the planes that fly out of there, and none of them are direct flights to anywhere worth going to. So the downside is that I will be connecting both ways in Charlotte, North Carolina, although the layover in both directions is not more than an hour so it shouldn't be too bad:

Thursday, June 25, 2009
US Airways # 383

Charlotte Douglas (CLT) to Las Vegas Mccarran Intl (LAS)
Departure (CLT): June 25, 7:55 PM EDT (evening)
Arrival (LAS): June 25, 9:28 PM PDT (evening)

It's Economy Class, but I did manage to snag me some emergency exit row seats for both legs of my flight, in both directions. And not just any emergency exit row seats -- the one with no seat at all in front of it, so this should be a nice substitute for my extra-legroom JetBlue seat that I am always happy to pay the extra $25 for.

As of now I have a flight scheduled back to Charlotte and then to the beach for Monday morning, June 29 at 11:30am Pacific time. I say "as of now", because the plan as I have mentioned previously is to play in my fourth consecutive World Series of Poker while I am in Sin City, and of course if one of those events runs over into Monday, I will need to make the big switch, but will of course be more than happy to do so if it means I am still hanging on in a big-time poker tournament. So, looking at the WSOP schedule, here is what will be on the slate during the time I will be in Las Vegas:

Thu, Jun 25th 12:00 PM
Event 48: $1500 PLO8

Fri, Jun 26th 12:00 PM
Event 49: 50k HORSE

Fri, Jun 26th 5:00 PM
Event 50: $1500 LHE Shootout

Sat, Jun 27th 12:00 PM
Event 51: $1500 NLH

Sun, Jun 28th 12:00 PM
Event 52: $3000 Triple Chance No-Limit Hold’em

Sun, Jun 28th 5:00 PM
Event 53: $1500 Stud Hi-lo

Event 48 would be great, I love to play pot-limit O8 and I believe I could do more or less as well in a $1500 O8 event as I could in a correspondingly-sized no-limit tournament. But I simply can't get myself into Vegas in time for the noon start. Even if I wanted to try to push up my flight a bit earlier, I have commitments in the morning on Thursday, June 25 that will prevent me from being in town anywhere near the noon PT start time for Event 48. So that one is out. And, since I like money, Event 49 is out as well. Event 50 is limit holdem, and a shootout at that, and that is just gross so no way on that one either. Event 51, at $1500 is right in my wheelhouse as far as the buyin I am looking for, and the timing is good except that it will (hopefully!) prevent me from hanging out much on my only Saturday night in Vegas. Still, I think that's a chance I have to be willing to take, because Event 52 on Sunday is "triple chance no-limit, which I have no idea what that even is, and then Event 53 is another doable one for me, $1500 hilo, but the timing on Sunday at 5pm ET is just so bad that I would basically likely have to be out in Vegas for a couple of extra days, and that just doesn't seem like the best idea as a result.

So the end result I think has to be that Event 51 is it, the $1500 no-limit holdem tournament starting at noon PT on Saturday, June 27. Unless things change for me, that's gonna be the plan. Feel free to stop by my table in the Amazon room at the Rio that afternoon to kick me in the balls for daring to introduce some drama (I love it!) into the BBT4 after several weeks of quietude on that front.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

A-List / B-List

It's an unfair advantage....Why?....

Because it's the friggin "Tournament of Champions" people, that's why. It's not the "Tournament of Champions and Dealmakers"....Imagine how LJ must feel after getting so close so many times or anyone else who finished 2nd for that matter. They just weren't fortunate enough i guess.

-- $mokkee, April 17, 2008

Congratz to Hoyazo* for the early Christmas gift. It must be fun to be given a seat instead of earning it like everyone else.

-- Waffles, April 17,2008

"I'm with StB on this... the seat wasn't won. IF they want to chop for money, do so. The seat should have gone to the winner. Shameful."

Comment posted by Luckbox 12:37 PM April 17, 2008 on STB's blog.

"If i get HU in another one of these and someone wants to chop and take 1st for the seat, i would consider taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd place money.........then say no

win it like a man."

Comment posted by $mokkee : 12:50 PM April 17, 2008 on STB's blog..

"I would really hate it though if the person who chopped in to the TOC ends up winning the TOC..."

Comment posted by RecessRampage : 12:50 PM April 29, 2008 on Schaubs's blog..

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Lost Tidbit, and Mookie Crash

No time for a proper post today, but I wanted to mention that we actually did get a little tidbit on the Lost clip-show on Wednesday night. The narrator -- who would never lie to us -- stated very matter of factly out of nowhere that it was Charles Widmore who set up the fake salvage of the airline hull at the bottom of the ocean, with supposedly every body on board and accounted for. This was stated by the narrator, and was done very matter-of-factly, to the point that I don't think it's debatable anymore whether that was Widmore, Ben, or perhaps the Ileana "shadow of the statue" clan. With the way it was presented to us this week, it's official: Widmore did it. Lost would never reneg on that, after telling us factually this week that it was in fact Charles Widmore. Heroes, on the other hand, would reneg on this, hard. Heroes would reneg all over its face in fact. But not Lost. I'm not saying the fact that this was Widmore is any huge deal or anything, but it's the truth now and you Lost analyzers can build this fact into the mythology as if it is gospel at this point.

Now, how on earth they ended up finding the Oceanic 6, and yet nobody ever took the time to question how "every body was accounted for" in that previous salvage setup of the fake Flight 815, is completely beyond me.

Gotta run -- I heard the Mookie ended when full tilt crashed when down to 7 players remaining on Wednesday night. God dam, can you imagine if that had been my week to win, and then that happened, when I had a big chip lead and everything? I seem to recall us having an issue with a full tilt crash previously during the BBT, so I'm sure Al and the powers that be will have a good resolution as far as who gets the ToC seat from last night's Mookie. Didn't we end up replaying the entire tournament the last time this happened, even with the people who had previously been busted out at the time of the crash? What a mess.

On the good news front, I guess this means I get to remain the reigning Mookie champion for one more week, right?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Profile Is Up, and Woe is the Mets

Well, my magic touch this week continued in a big way on Tuesday. First, recall that on Monday I was just writing that Vinnay is among the best players not to have won the Mookie, and then just hours later he went out and won the Monday night riverchasers game to nab his seat in the BBT4 Tournament of Champions. Then, on Tuesday I mentioned 7 or 8 players who I expected to win ToC seats during the second half of the BBT4, one of whom was longtime blonkament player Columbo. Just hours later, columbo went out and won the Tuesday night Skillz game in Razz to capture his seat. Just call me King Midas, and hope I pick you to win the Mookie tonight.

So speaking of the Mookie, I will admit that I can't believe how quickly my reign as Mookie champion is coming to an end here. Feels like it was just a day or two ago that I became enshrined with the greatest names in the history of online poker by taking down the most elusive (for me) of all the private blogger tournaments. In that vein, my long-awaited Mookie profile is now up on Mookie's blog. I can't describe how long I have waited to see that profile posted and to take my rightful place among the all-time poker greats who have been profiled there before little old me. I tried to answer all the questions as well as I could and hopefully put an interesting new spin on a few of them.

In other news, the Mets continued their slide with another disturbing 6-4 loss on Tuesday in what is becoming increasingly obvious is the same type of team with all the same type of problems as in the past couple of seasons. For the life of me I am sure that eventually this is all going to fall at the feet of the manager, Jerry Manuel, who continues to oversee a team that feels no personal responsibility, no accountability, for their actions. To wit:

Stuck in a 4-4 tie with the Cardinals on Tuesday, the Mets' high-priced slugger Carlos Beltran led off the 8th inning with a walk, quickly advancing to second on a sac bunt. When next batter Ramon Castro flew out to right field, Beltran tagged up and went to third, but when the right fielder's throw bounced away from Cardinals' third baseman Joe Thurston, Beltran broke for home. Thurston picked up the ball and threw to catcher Yadier Molina, who was able to tag out Beltran, because Carlos Beltran did not slide. You can click here to view the play in the video embedded on It's worth watching, because (1) it is truly inexplicable why Beltran failed to slide, and (2) it's pretty obvious that Beltran would have beaten the tag if he had just applied even a modicum of effort. Asked why his slugger didn't slide, manager Jerry Manuel said only "I don't know the reason why he didn't slide."

Said Beltran: "I was running and looking at the ball. I didn't realize how close I was from home plate. [Third base coach] Razor Shines pointed to the ball, and I didn't react right away. It took time for me to react. If I would have reacted right away, I would have made it. That's how it goes."

That's how it goes? You don't slide, your manager just says he doesn't know why you didn't slide, and your excuse is that the plate was too close when you looked at it? Huh? When are you not looking at home plate once you make the decision to break from third base, Carlos? That's how it goes? I think not.

Making matters worse, Beltran's failure to break the tie by sliding into home plate in the top of the 8th inning meant that Mets' first-year Met Daniel Murphy misplayed stayed in the game for the bottom half of the inning rather than being removed for a defensive replacement (Murphy already cost the Mets a win earlier this season at the Florida Marlins with a dropped fly in the outfield). Instead, the Cardinals' Brendan Ryan's lined a shot to Murphy in the bottom of the 8th, and after starting in about ten steps, Murphy was unable to readjust and get back in time to prevent the ball from sailing over his head for a triple on his second blatant misplay to cost his team a late lead in this short season. Ryan later scored the winning run to break the 4-4 tie in the 8th after Murphy's gaffe in left field. But once again, Murphy's post-game comments about the play show just how little accountability there really is on this team right now.

"Actually I feel like I did everything right on the ball," Murphy said. "I slipped, and I went down."

You did what? You did everything right on the ball? So running in ten steps before realizing that you've horribly misplayed a key hit in a crucial spot that is now heading far over your head is now "doing everything right on the ball"? Jeezus Christopher guys.

How about this: either the Mets players start playing like a team of individuals who are each expected to do their jobs well, or they need to get rid of the greatest vestige of the previous regime in town which as a rule tolerated a whole team full of guys who just don't seem to care and don't seem to get it. Jerry Manuel, you are officially on notice. Shape your team up in the little things, the fundamentals, or you're going to find yourself out of a job much quicker than you seem to understand.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BBT4: Midway Review

Just look at that. Not even half a day after I call the man out for never winning the Mookie, Vinnay turns around and wins his BBT4 Tournament of Champions seat in the weekly Monday night RC/PPI game. I played in this one, as I will continue to try to do with the other weekday BBT events because, frankly, I like money. But as hard as I find it to play in these blogger tournaments when the BBT is running generally, with everyone all screwed down and trying extra hard for the big win, it is about 85 times harder for me when I've already won my ToC seat. Try as I might, I just can't really find that extreme will to win that is necessary for anyone looking to make a deep run in any of the private blogger tournaments.

Normally I could still be pushing hard for a top leaderboard spot, but given the structure of the series this year, I simply cannot play in a full fifth of the events that run, since they occur on Sundays, and in the afternoon at that. And given that the leaderboard prizes are all based on cumulative points only, and with no prize for the best points-per-event or something that would otherwise even out the disparities in events played among the participants, it just doesn't make sense for me to play "for the points" or to even play in any event where I don't think I have a decent shot at making some cash. Playing 20% fewer tournaments that everyone else at the top of the leaderboard is a handicap that I'm not interested in even trying to overcome. I have two investors in me for the BBT4, and both of them are fully comfortable with my decision not to kill it to try to play the Sunday tournaments. Those just don't work for me and in the end my investors already got what they wanted -- a nice profit on the series itself, and a ToC seat with a chance and some large buckos.

So here just past the midway point of the BBT, I thought I would take stock of what I'm looking at so far. There have been 32 events total, of which I have been able to play in 23. It looks like we've got one person who has played in every single event so far, and another three or four who've played them all but one. That is quite a feat, in particular again with a Sunday 4pm ET regular weekly event running this year for the first time. In my 23 BBT4 tournaments, I have 8 "in the points" finishes in the top 25%, 5 times in the money, and 4 final tables. More immportantly, one of those final tables was the Mookie last week, which I won for my first time ever, nabbing me the poker achievement of a lifetime in addition to my seat in the BBT4 Tournament of Champions coming up sometime in June I suppose.

So ok, I got the most important part out of the way, I am already in the ToC. But how am I really doing as compared to the other people who are playing in the series? My four BBT4 final tables is fewer final tables than just about anyone else in the top 25 of the BBT4 overall leaderboard through 31 events, so that's not necessarily so good. 1Queensup1 leads that category with an amazing 10 final tables in 27 events before this week's RC event. That right there is pure domination. In ITM finishes, my 5 top 25% runs again have me below just about everyone ahead of me on the leaderboard, indicating once again that I am not consistently cashing the points in these things like many others are. Once again, 1Queensup1 is killing the field in this stat, cashing in 33% of the BBT4 tournaments he has played with 9 ITM runs.

Taking a slightly more macro view, let's look at total "in the BBT points" finishes, where once again I have recorded 8 in 23 tournaments. Top 25% of the field basically 35% of the time I play, which is not bad, but nothing to write home about given the fields involved in these events. Again, the Man so far is clearly 1Queensup1, who has finished in the top 25% an astonishing 13 times in 27 tries. Obviously I am nowhere near that. Sure I have played fewer than 75% of the BBT4 events, but really the bigger issue for me on this stat is that I simply never spend one second thinking about making the points. I just don't play that way, and it shows in my results. I'm sure at least a few of my mid-tournament bustouts could have been turned into BBT-points-limpins if I had chosen to forego any realistic chance of winning in favor of fold-fold-folding, but why? For 38.5 measly BBT points? Nah, that's just not me. But then I don't win BBTs like some of you out there, do I?

So, all this is good for me sitting in 11th place overall out of nearly 300 players who have suited up for at least one tournament in the BBT4, and about 45 who have played in at least 20 events thus far through the series. 11th place is a good if not great showing, one that I have to be pleased with I think since I don't think I've been playing particularly well, and since again I am missing more than 25% of the events so far. If I really want to how I am playing relative to my peers given the BBT points structure, points per event is probably a better overall judge than cumulative points, which will automatically adjust for the greater or fewer number of events that different people have played. I have long been a fan of the points per event stat in the BBT, and in fact have long felt that something should be awarded to the leader in this stat at the end of the BBT, with a solid minimum of events played of course. In BBT4 points per event, I am at 28.5, which I don't know anything about on its own but which is good for 7th place overall so far among those with at least 20 tournaments or at least 2/3 of the total events run so far in the BBT4. 7th place overall sounds very solid and tells me I'm doing a good job in what I am trying to do with the BBT4.

But if you've read here for a long time, then you know the number I am, as always, most focused on in these things, and in poker in general for that matter: dollars and cents. And in this statistic, with $994.36 won in 23 events, I am in 5th place on the moneyboard so far for the BBT4, and at a point that is well into the realm of profitability even if I played and failed to cash in every single remaining BBT tournament, which I won't be playing in anyways. Of my 23 events played, that includes two Big Games for a total spend of $75 and $78 or $153. Eight RC's for $26 or a total of $208 in buyins. Six Skillz events for $66, and seven Mookies for another $66. That's a grand total in BBT4 buyins for me of right around $493 or so. So I am up about 5 hundy for the series, plus the BBT seat, and of course not even counting any massive $1 bounties on Skills game knockouts (there haven't been many, trust me). So overall, I have played 23 of 32 events, am in 11th place on the cumulative points leaderboard and 7th in points per event. I am in 5th in money earned, and my ROI for the series is about 102%. And of course the ToC seat. I don't know how I can't be happy with that overall. Here's hoping that the second half of the BBT4 goes even better than the first for me. I swear I've got another two or three Mookie wins in me just waiting to bubble out now that the seal has been broken.

Real quick, I also wanted to take a brief look at who has already qualified for the BBT4 Tournament of Champions, which has got a loooooot of strong players already at first blush. There is of course March leaderboard winner 1Queensup1 and current April leaderboard leader Shabazz Jenkins, as well as Heffmike and Tuscaloosa John, the only two guys with multiple wins so far in the BBT4. Lucko and Chad are also already awaiting the rest of the Toc participants, which is always a scary thought for any blonkament players. We've also got longtime bloggers Bone Daddy, Jordan, jjok, Joanne, Miami Don, StB and BDR host Buddydank, who among them have won a ton of blogger tournaments over the recent past. Former WPBT live tournament winner F-Train has a BBT4 ToC seat. Former Bodonkey regular season champion smokkee is in there as well, along with a handful of other qualifiers so far who have all demonstrated their ability to win a tournament against a bunch of other bloggers all looking to scratch and claw their way to victory.

Who to look for to win ToC seats in the second half of the BBT4? I like NewinNov to nab a seat, as he always seems to be hanging around late in these things and has the game to get it done, and is playing well so far in BBT4. Twoblackaces is also a pretty good bet to be in the TOC come series-end is my guess, based on his very solid record of blonkament wins over a relatively short period of time. Evil Wonka is also a good bet to win his way in, and I would add PirateLawyer to the list as well, especially given the existence of the weekly Skillz event and Mookie where PL tends to excel the most. I could see Columbo finding his way in to the ToC sometime in the next month and a half despite a rough beginning for him to 2009, and I would not be surprised if NumbBono also finds his way in after winning 50 Mookies and several other blonkaments over the past year or so if I recall correctly. JD Schellnut is another guy who seems to find a way to win the big blonkaments just often enough to get in to the ToC, and I would say the same thing about Astin who often likes to sneak in late to the series-ending blowout tournaments, often with the help of his Ace-changing machine that can change any hole card to an Ace with one click of a button on his ftp poker client. Lastly, I would guess that at least one of LJ and Bayne, two players with little BBT4 success to show for several tournaments played in so far, will end up in the ToC. LJ alone has probably won the most cash outside of the BBT out of anyone who has entered even one tournament since the BBT4 began, and it is likely only a matter of time before she busts out with a big BBT win of her own this time around.

Whoever is in it, the next 6 weeks should be a fun ride for all who participate. Especially given the shrinking fields as we enter into the second half of the tournament series, it is now easier than ever -- literally -- to win your ToC seat in the BBT4. So far in three events this week, we've had two in the mid-30s and then Monday night with 42 runners. This is without a doubt the best shot anyone has ever had of getting into the ToC quickly and easily, so don't go wastin' it!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Ten Best Players Never to Win a Mookie

With me finally finding my way off the schneid in the Mookie last week, I spent some time for you all today reviewing that lofty list of all-time Mookie winners. One thing I was focusing on was, with me at long last out of the picture, who is left on the list of "accomplished" blonkament players, with enough time playing this thing to count, who have not yet won the greatest of all blogger tournaments? Here is the list I came up with, in no particular order:

mookie. Of course, no Mookie list can start without the host, and in Mookie's case -- like with me -- he's been in mostly every Mookie ever run over a three-year timespan. Now, in Mookie's defense, he did actually win one of the earliest Mookie tournaments, back on March 1, 2006, but that was just the fourth Mookie ever run on full tilt, and as Mookie himself has explained to me in the chat, it was not a particularly big field nor was the tournament itself nearly what it has turned into today. So I can't count Mookie totally on this list, but not totally off it either I guess.

Jeciimd. I guess on one level this one did not surprise me too much, as I do not necessarily recall jec winning outright a ton of blonkaments in his day, but I also recall what this guy did to the BBT2 in winning his incredible trip to Oz to play in Gus Hansen's wheelhouse for a couple of days before having his aces cracked in most unceremonious fashion. I specifically recall jec burning his way through the entire field in the second BBT series, and doing so consistently in all of the major blogger tournaments running, so I know he has had some degree of lifetime success in the Mookie. But per the results of my search, it looks like jec never nabbed that elusive Mookie crown, either during that incredible hot streak or otherwise, and is thus still seeking the lifetime of fame and notoriety that goes along with being a Champion.

Shabazz Jenkins. Shabazz hasn't been playing the blonkaments for all that long, but it's been the better part of a year or so probably at this point. And with the way some people come in and win their very first career Mookie tournament, especially lately, and the tournament skills that Shabazz has, I figured for sure he had taken down one of these badboys sometime in 2008. But, alas, I was wrong, and your current April BBT4 leader is also still in search of his first donkey title.

1Queensup1. While we're on the topic of BBT4 leaderboard heavies, your March BBT4 winner and current overall BBT4 frontrunner 1Queensup1 also does not appears on the list of lifetime Mookie winners. Again I figured for sure that Brian had taken down a Mookie somewhere in his incredible April that saw him final table some sick number of BBT events (9 maybe?), but nope. Final tabling a blonkament is one thing, but winning it outright, particularly in a Mookie, against the talent always packed tight into that field, is a whole different ball game for sho.

Chad. This one I will absolutely never get. Chad has had tournament success on all fronts for a long time now. He has crushed the blonkaments on occasion, with highlights including winning the Bodonkey II Tournament of Champions, and absolutely crushing the original WPBT when that first ran some three years ago now. He's won thousands and thousands of dollars in tournaments on each of Full Tilt, Bodog, Ultimate Bet, Cake, Mansion, Absolute, Pokerstars and I'm sure others. The guy is about as consistent a poker tournament performer as there is in our group, if not the single most consistent. And yet, no Mookie victory. I mean, Chad's had what, seven blogs for chrissakes? If that's not a sign of extreme poker prowess, then I don't know what is.

Columbo. This was another one that surprised me a little bit, as I know columbo has had some decent blonkament success over time. I figured as I set out on my review of the previous winners that a guy like columbo, who's been playing the blonkaments at least as long as I have, would have taken home a Mookie title at some point during 2007 or 2008, but it appears that my intuition was incorrect on that one as well. Columbo is a threat any week to win, so his days on this particular list are likely numbered, but for now he remains one of the great mysteries of long-term blonkament failures when it comes to the all-hallowed Mookie.

Joanne, another longtime blogger tournament afficionado, has also never won a Mookie. There was definitely a time in 2008 when I didn't see Joanne in too too many blonkaments for a long stretch, but in general I know I've played in several Mookies with the gal over the past year or two, and to no success for either her or myself. So Joanne hasn't always consistently been at the forefront of blonkament success, but she's won her share of tournaments and I believe has finished in front for one or more BBT tournaments in the past as well. Just no Mookie as it turns out.

Vinnay. Vinnay is on this list because, like columbo and Mike Maloney before him, he's been playing in the private blogger tournaments for quite a while at this point. Me, it must have taken me a good 150 attempts to finally get my Mookie victory, and there's no way in hike Vinnay is anywhere close to there. But Vinnay's a guy who actually has some tournament skill, and yet somehow he has never climbed the poker blogiverse's loftiest mountain to date.

Drizz. This is another one that really surprises me too. I don't often see Drizz in the blogger tournaments these days, not nearly as often as I used to anyways, but I imagine Drizz has played in his fair share of Mookies over the years. And he's won his fair share of blonkaments over time as well. I had to run my search twice to make sure drizz's name was in fact missing from the list, but it appears that over several years of playing, drizzle too has never tasted the delectable honey from Mookie's nest.

Blinders. Can there be any bigger surprise than this? I mean, it feels like I've read what, 5 or 6 writeups on Mookie strategy over at his blog over time, including a striking piece just recently that sounded a whole lot to me like Folding To The Points. I was expecting to see 5 or 6 Mookie wins from the guy given what I've read on his blog over the years. I figured for sure my "find on this page" feature was broken or somehow malfunctioning, so I did a manual search but, somehow, blinders' name still did not come up. It appears that, despite all of his tremendous success in poker tournaments generally in an extended career of poker greatness, somehow blinders has never added a Mookie championship to his unending list of poker achievements. Go figure!

Here's hoping that all ten of the above players find their way off of this list sometime in 2009. Surely each has shown enough poker tournament and blonkament skill to find a way to win the Mookie, still the blonkament to beat all other blonkaments as far as this blogger is concerned. The better question is: can I win two before any of them ever win their first?

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Moving On, and More on NY Baseball

Well, my first day as a Mookie Champion was surprisingly just like every other day before it. I got to my office and waited at the door for about 5 full minutes for someone to come out, roll out a red carpet and hold open the door for me. But no one. And there was no brass band welcoming me, not even one of those pianist types with the tuxedo and the white gloves, nobody. I suppose it's possible that they just don't know about the Feat I accomplished on Wednesday night, but I mean, word travels, right? I mean, how could they not know?

Otherwise, life has just kinda moved on since The Feat. I still had to go to the bathroom when I woke up on Thursday, I still have to wipe my ass like the rest of you, and I'm still in the end just another working stiff that's part of the rat race here in the biggest city in the country. Much to my surprise, having won the Mookie really hasn't had any impact at all on my day-to-day. Well, I mean, other than the smugness. Previously thought to be impossible, you should see the increased level of derision I have been bringing to all of my dealings, both at home and at the office, these past couple of days. I mean, within minutes of me arriving at the office on Thursday, some clown had the temerity to schedule me for a 5pm meeting on Thursday afternoon. Now of course the old me woulda just accepted the invitation and moved on with my day, but now that I'm a Mookie winner? Puh-lease. I may not know all the details of what being a Mookie champion entails, but I'm quite sure members of such an exclusive group do not take 5pm meetings the day after their most respected of victories. I could not have taken more than, oh, 5 seconds before sending along the "decline" via Outlook, citing simply "previous engagements" as the culprit, a personal favorite excuse of mine. And, why, just this morning my 3-year-old asked me if I would read her her favorite book before I left for work today, and I was like "What? You cannot really expect me, a winner of the Mookie, to actually sit down and recite single-syllable words to a mere child? Why, Mookie winners have personal assistants and live-in nannies for that sort of thing! Now run along, child, and find someone like that nice lady over there asleep in bed who seem more worthy of such a request." As you can see I am focused on not letting this get to my head. It's hard sometimes though, just after fulfilling your lifelong dream and all.

Speaking of that, a number of you have asked based on things I have said in the past, but no the blog is not going away now that I have won the Mookie. There was a time not too long ago where I was very clear with anyone who would listen that I would immediately be shutting down the blog if I won the Mookie. I said it back then, and I meant it too. Some time ago I was really dissatisfied with the blog and the kinds of attention it had brought me over three years of near daily posting. I mean, it's one thing to have yourself be a prominent subject of three or four other people's blogs out there, that kind of thing can be almost flattering in its own way even when the things being said about you are less than complimentary. But when I've got people impersonating me over email and blog comments, representing that I have said and done things which I did not, and people registering eerily similar IM, facebook and twitter IDs to mine and then bogusly contacting people in ways I would never do, it really makes a guy think "Why the hell am I doing this again?" So several months ago, before I changed some things up about my focus in life as well as on the blog, I really was looking for an exit strategy, and winning the Mookie was going to be it. If I ever won the Mookie, I knew exactly what I would do, which would be make one final post, decrying anything and everything about what has changed in this group of poker bloggers over the past four years or so, and then hang em up. Just like that.

But over the past many months, things have really changed. The bottom fell out of the economy in 2008, and with it I went through an incredibly stressful and tumultuous time of my own. A whole lot changed in my life during 2008, most of it in a semi rushed, semi frantic fashion, and with some of those more tangible changes came also a different outlook on my life and on the things in it that tend to contribute positively or negatively to my degree of happiness at any given time. One of the many lesser effects of all this was my somewhat abrupt change here on the focus of this here blog. What had previously been largely a daily diary of my poker-related thoughts became much more broad, frankly, because that's what I wanted to write about at the time. That's what I needed to be writing about at the time. So I did. And you know what? It's turned out A-ok with me. As I said, writing about poker all the time for several years ended up bringing me a significantly outsized proportion of grief and negativity as compared to the positives, so I just stopped writing about poker all the time. Lately, as I am quite aware, there has been very little poker here on the blog, and I'm ok with that too. I expect to focus more on poker over the balance of this year, but the changes from an all-poker, all-the-time focus here are probably gone. The downside of that of course is that you poker strategy hounds will not be as satisfied as you maybe once were with the content of my daily musings. But the upside is not only a broader, and I think more interesting range of topics (certainly from my perspective), but more generally, it buys my happiness, and my satisfaction with the direction this blog is headed.

So no, I'm not taking the blog anywhere despite the fact that I have finally, mercifully won a Mookie tournament. Some of you will no doubt be very disappointed by this, but it turns out I won the Mookie about a year or two too late for it to be the cause of blogicide. If this was 18 months ago, I tell you you all would have had a whole lot fewer words to have read over that time, because I would have happily been gone. But instead, now I think you're still stuck with me here for a while. And incidentally, I have some interesting poker-related stuff in the works over the near term, as I actually find myself missing writing about poker as much as I used to, so I look forward to getting back to that over the near term, in addition to making some of the changes to the blog's appearance and structure that I had written about as part of my New Year's goals posts for 2009.

In other news, the Yankees and Mets just continue to frustrate, with both teams managing to lose their respective home openers to ruin the debuts of each team's brand new stadium, and providing the best imaginable fodder for me to listen to on sports radio all day long. The Mets began the fun by losing 6-5 to the lowly Padres on Monday this week, in what was supposed to be a setup game to the Mets to steamroll the worst team in the National League in their home opener, and my favorite part about that was Padres leadoff man Jody Gerut smacking the first pitch of the day from the Mets' Mike Pelfrey over the left field wall, thereby getting himself and the Padres into the stadium record books with the first hit, run, home run and RBI in Citi Field history rather than some random Met player.

The Yankees fared slightly better in their own home opener on Thursday night, as they too gave up their new stadium's first run and RBI to an Indians player, but they did at least manage to record the new Yankee stadium's first ever hit from Johnny Damon in the first, and its first home run when the ageless Jorge Posada put one over the wall in the 5th inning. And then the Yankees promptly gave up 9 runs in the 7th, and got killed 10-2 to open their own stadium in style. So sweeeeeeeeet.

So the Yankees fell to 5-5, 2.5 games behind the upstart Blue Jays, through ten games so far in the 2009 season, which may not sound so bad given their starts in recent seasons, but which is certainly viewed as unacceptable by ownership who has once again provided manager Joe Girardi with far and away the greatest team money can buy, from a pure talent perspective. CC Sabathia's line from last night in the Yankees' loss? 122 pitches thrown in 5.2 innings pitched, giving up 5 hits, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts and just one earned run. So it wasn't a terrible start, but you have to wonder where the 5 walks in 5 innings comes from, or the 122 pitches that caused the Yanks' ace to be pulled from the game in the 6th and leaving its bullpen out there to eventually throw the game down the toilet. So far over three starts, Sabathia's stats are 19 hits, 10 walks, 10 strikeouts and 7 earned runs allowed in 17.2 innings pitched, providing an ERA of 3.57 and a WHIP of 1.68 that is not exactly encouraging for the guy the Yankees need to perform like the best pitcher in the American League. Add up Sabathia's and Chien-Ming Wang's stats so far this young season, and you're looking at a 1-3 record and 22.1 innings pitched featuring 34 hits, 16 walks, 11 strikeouts and 22 earned runs allowed. That's half of the Yankees' starting rotation right there. Thank God AJ Burnett has been the real deal so far for the Yankees, or they would be in serious trouble. But you've never heard the rabid Yankee fans calling for A-Rod to return to the team so quickly, I'll tell you that.

The Mets, meanwhile, currently sit at 4-5, a full 4 games behind the surging Marlins already, and the fans and announcers are just tearing their hair out all over the radio trying to figure out what is wrong with this team. I know exactly what it is, and it ain't exactly rocket science. So far in two starts, Mike Pelfrey, who like Sabathia and Wang for the Yanks was being relied on as steady consistent pitchers for the 2009 season to go as planned, has had a horrible beginning, pitching 10 innings and giving up 13 hits, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts and 9 earned runs, including 3 home runs already in just two starts. #2 man in the rotation John Maine has also pitched 10 innings, giving up 9 hits, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts and 8 earned runs. #4 starter Oliver Perez's line looks eerily similar, with 10.1 innings pitched over two starts, and giving up 8 hits, 7 walks, 11 strikeouts and 9 earned runs. When 75% of your starting rotation has a combined ERA of over 8, I don't think you have to look far to understand just what is wrong with the team.

OK before I go, I just wanted to remind everyone that this coming Sunday night at 9:30pm ET is the latest of Miami Don's Big Games, but this time with a twist. Instead of the usual $75 buyin for the Big Game, also part of the BBT4 which begins the second half of its run on Sunday, this Sunday will feature a $26 buyin, and will be a 1-rebuy, 1-addon tournament instead of its usual freezeout format. So the game is still no-limit holdem and all, but it's $26 to play, and you get one $26 rebuy anytime during the first two levels, followed by a $26 addon as well for a maximum contribution by any one entrant of $78, but giving the possibility of someone winning their way in with just one $26 investment. This may be the first time a blonkament has been played with a 1r+1a format like this, and I think it should make for a fun time and a nice break from the regular nlh freezeouts we seem to play most other days of the week. Me, I plan to be there and to play a game befitting of someone who just won the Mookie, who regularly crushes the Big Game, and who has some money to burn. So keep your eyes peeled for that on Sunday night, and of course for my Mookie profile when it gets up, probably sometime next week over on Mookie's blog, and for my own blog, which will be back here and better than ever on Monday and not gone dark like some of you had feared (or looked forward to).

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mookin' to the TOC

Is this the real life? Or is it just fantasy?

This one is gonna take a while to really hit me. I woke up this morning after a scant three hours of sleep, and I had to check the computer screen to make sure it wasn't all just some elaborate beer-fueled fantasy, but it appears to be genuine and official:

I am now a Mookie winner.

That's right. On Wednesday night (well into Thursday morning, actually), I took my place among the most hallowed names of all of poker bloggerdom. Nay, the most venerated names of all time. The name "Hoyazo" has now been etched in stone in Mookie's Hall of Champions, forever more right up alongside such lofty legends as rbledj494 way back on July 23, 2006 -- not to be confused with rmbj494 who won his Mookie on December 13, 2006.

Ahhh but you say, that was 2006, back when the Mookie was still a brand new thing, very different from what it is has become. Look to the next year, when the BBT was started and the word really started getting out about the Mookie, check out all the big names to nab Mookie victories in 2007. Ok then, so my name is now alongside the likes of mtnrider81 (March 21, 2007) and, of course, how could you forget NomeyMyHomey (May 2, 2007), and of course Julius_Goat on September 12, 2007. And of course 2008 as well, with another voraciously-attended BBT series, has contributed its own set of awe-inspiring Mookie champions, names like Jasper6294 on June 4, Roberto55 on November 11 and 777GMoney on November 26 to name a few. Shit, any tournament which can boast the likes of numbbono, waffles, evil wonka and piratelawyer all as three-time champions, I mean what more do you need to know. So to become a part of this group, enshrined, hallowed for ever among the greatest names to ever play this game, it's hard to put into words how I feel right now. Again, I still haven't even begun to really get my head around the accomplishment and the notion that I will be permanently etched in that kind of company, forever.

I knew things were going my way in the Mookie this week when, of the 68 runners who came out to play, my erstwhile prop bet opponent Mookie himself was a no-show, as was everyone's favorite chip dumper. So that was two obstacles out of my way just like that. Then, when I saw that Blinders was the first one out on the night, I knew my path to the final table was clear with the Master of the Mookie and the King of Expected Value out of the way.

On a whole, I got what I would describe as fair cards for me for a Mookie. In the end, through nearly 300 hands I received no AA and one KK, which I doubled with. I also got dealt JJ three times, and QQ and TT two times apiece, with AK twice and AQ twice as well. As I said, the way I won my first Mookie was not with superior starting cards so much as with superior luck in my big hands holding up. In a nutshell, I got in dominating or otherwise way ahead (I'm not talking races, or even "waffles races", which for those who don't know are hands favored to win about 65% of the time) several times on the night, and for the first time in as long as I can ever remember in a Mookie, I didn't lose a single 80% or better shot on the entire night. In this way I was able to take advantage of most of the big cards I was dealt, even though it wasn't really a particularly common occurrence compared to what is to be expected. In fact, I don't think I got sucked out on at all the entire night, other than when I called pushmonkey's shove with 10 left in the tournament with my A4 versus his K7o and he promptly flopped top two pairs, which is barely a suckout at all ultimately so much as a 40% hand winning in a given instance. And I can affirmatively say that I did not suck out on anyone else myself either all the way through, which is amazing given the total crap I was seeing hold up and suck out and win again and again all around me from basically start to finish on the night.

My strategy for the night was simple: bet and raise like crazy, as usual before the flop, but also on the flop and even on the turn as well. With the big fields and the silliness of the BBT, this is the way I've been approaching most of these blogger tournaments, and it has worked fairly well, with me squarely in the top 20 overall so far for the BBT, which just on Wednesday reached the midpoint of its 13-week run. In the Mookie on Wednesday, I played one of my most aggro games of all time. I raised relentlessly preflop, and I bet out on the flop and turn more often than my usual, to mostly good success start to finish, buoyed by the twelve hands I was dealt in the range of AQ+ or TT+ during the tournament. Purely from stealing alone, I had grown my 3000-chip starting stack to 3600 chips by the end of the first hour, good for 25th place of 51 remaining at the first break.

Here was my first big hand of the tournament:

Here, there were four limpers in front of me in the big blind for 120 chips apiece, and I looked down to find the Ladies in my hand. Those of you who know how I feel about pocket Queens know there is no way in hike I would consider limping along there, so I went for an outsized raise-the-limpers-move sort of raise to 700. Hacker59, a former Mookie winner himself, pushed and I insta-called. My 82% hand held, the start of that big trend on the night for me, and I had managed to near-double with my first big hand of the night early in Hour 2. For the balance of Hour 2, I bet, raised and stole my way to maintain the stack I had amassed from the Queens, sneaking my way into 6th place with 35 runners left as we neared the end of the hour.

Just before the second hour completed, I got into my second big hand of the night, this time with my only KK of the evening:

I played this one just slow enough before the flop, opting not to put in the reraise that would have committed sophie2002 to the pot to call, such that by the time she c-bet the flop after my check, she was committed to calling my check-raise on the flop with just the AK unimproved. Once again, an opponent with just four outs twice failed to hit, and my 82% hand once again prevailed, surging me up to 3rd of 32 left, where I stayed through most of the next hour thanks again mostly to some seriously aggro betting from me on all streets which repeatedly took me down many pots, big and small. This period included three of the five hammers I won pots with on the night, getting me as high as 2nd place with 19 left around midway through the third hour of the tournament.

Late in Hour 3, Carmen pushed her short stack into my pocket Jacks with her 7s -- yet again, an 81% hand holds up for me -- representing yet another instance where I was able to get serious value out of the relatively small number of strong hands I was dealt on the night:

This hand gave me my first chip lead of the night, in 1st place of 16 remaining:

Now it's nice to be in first place -- rather be there than in any other spot at least, obviously -- but it's not like I haven't been there before. I have been final table chip leader at the Mookie three or four times in the past year or so, all four of which ended in disaster of course, including once already earlier this year. I know how these things tend to go with me, so 1st of 16 left was nothing to get excited about in the least.

Here was also the point where I took the first screenshot of my ftp stats for the night. It seemed to me that for nearly three hours I had been taking down a lot of pots. A lot of em, even for me. So I checked it out, and you can see it for yourself, my stats through 179 hands of the Mookie this week, just short of the third break:

That statistic that I had won 22% of the total hands dealt at my table, at a full ring table over nearly 3 hours is utterly disgusting. I tend to push that number higher than most people when I'm playing well due to my preflop aggression factor, but 22% in a full ring tournament over three hours? That is unheard of, plain and simple. At 9-handed tables like I had been playing at for basically the entirety of the three hours so far, the math dictates that everyone should be picking up roughly 11% of the pots. To perform at twice that rate over such a long period of time in relative terms, well, it really just goes to show evidence of just how aggro and relentless I was in my approach to the tournament on Wednesday evening.

As the third break hit, I was in 2nd place of 12 players remaining. I got back into 1st of 11 after I made a steal on the flop with a donk bet into an 8000-chip pot against two other players on relatively short stacks who I figured were more interested in waiting for the final table than in calling off here on the bubble. And then here with 11 left is where I made the call with my A4s against pushmonkey's K7o and he doubled through me for my worst loss on the night as far as getting it in when ahead, but as I mentioned even this was what, a 57% favorite for me or something? The key for me was all of my significant favorite hands held up, from start to finish, for the first time maybe ever. But here, the pushmonkey hand suddenly dropped me to 5th place with 10 remaining. When the final table bubble burst a few hands later, I had stolen my way back to 3rd of 9, but still with a lot of work to do in my second consecutive Mookie final table.

Through 221 hands as the final table began, here I am still having won 21% of the total hands dealt at my table all night, seeing 18% of flops in the process:

Early at the final table, I had the hand that set up the run I ended up making for the roses. I'm sitting in the small blind, and pushmonkey, who had been living up to his name in a sick, ridiculous way all throughout this tournament, put in the button steal raise, which I immediately read for weak. I know I had just Q6o in my own hand, but looking at the stack sizes, I saw that I could push here with ATC and face pushmonkey with having to call off a quarter of his remaining stack with what I felt strongly was not a good hand. So I went for it:

I thought this would be an easy fold if pushmonkey was actually weak like I thought. But I guess I was wrong:

And, mind you, this call happened so fast, it was like he was already clicking the empty space on his screen where the "call" button was going to pop up when it became his turn. Well, here I was again with yet another 75-80% favorite with the money allin, a spot where I have gotten screwed in this tournament so many phucking times it's sick, but once again as you can see, my dominator held, and I was back in business near the top of the leaderboard at the Mookie final table.

At the fourth break, I was in 1st place of 7 remaining at the final table:

Obviously it's good to be final table chip leader anytime any way, and I had a nice chip lead over second place at the time as well, which is always good and another nice testament to my aggression even as the final table wore on. But I did have Chad sitting right behind me so I knew I had to keep my eye on that fucker if no one else. Through 251 hands, and still only 7-handed at the final table, I was still winning an utterly sick percentage of total hands dealt at my table:

My next large hand occurred about 20 minutes into Hour 5, and it was one of those hands that had to tell anyone familiar with my history in the Mookie, on full tilt, and in online poker in general that perhaps that night could be my night. I limped for 1200 into a 7500-chip pot from the small blind with 92s, based purely on pot odds and nothing else:

After the flop checked around, I led out on the turn after I picked up a runner flush draw and given the weakness shown on the flop:

And I got called by one player, not Chad thankfully. When my flush filled on the river, I debated how to best get paid off on the hand at this point. I had the sense from my opponent's call on the turn that he could have been on a draw, or holding something beatable but strong like two pairs, and with the flush having come runner-runner, I figured I had a decent opportunity for an overbet for value. The idea is that, since it's going to be so hard for me to get paid off anyways on that river, I can just pretend the guy made a straight on the river or flopped trip 7s, hope that is correct, and make as big of a bet as I think he will call if holding one of those hands. I quickly determined that that size was allin, so I pushed for the large overbet to the pot:

and somehow, he called and lost:

And check out the hand he lost with:

Bloooom. What can I say? After all the countless times I've been donked out of a tournament, sng, blonkament, cash table, you name it by losing with flushes -- runner-runner flush over flush being my preferred way of losing in terms of how many times it's happened -- to finally get to be on the winning end of one of those situations was about as sick as it could be for me. Not sure if you call that "luck" right there given the fact that I think I played the hand very well on all streets, but dam if that wasn't a sign right there that perhaps something different was in the air tonight. Instead of running AQ into AK or AQ into AA down to four-handed like happened to me twice in the Mookie during the BBT3, here I am with 5 players left flush over flushing someone in runner-runner fashion to vault to a solid 5-handed chip lead.

Unfortunately, shortly after this point, Chad's JTs fell to pushmonkey's KQs allin preflop, and pushmonkey once again nabbed the big chip lead against just myself and MaggieO, with push holding more than twice as many chips as myself and nearly 4x Maggie's stack:

I made a few of my most key decisions in the tournament during this 3-handed phase, which lasted about 15 minutes I would estimate. First, I struggled hard with this one to Maggie, before laying it down:

Then a few minutes later I was faced with a similar situation, but this time against pushmonkey who again had been flipping up utter garbage with regularity all through the previous couple of hours, to the point that a preflop raise from him almost meant nothing better than ATC:

Again I laid this one down, despite feeling I was likely ahead as I had been earlier when I had made the decision to call pm down with my A4 and then lost my 57% favorite hand to his K7o. I just kept thinking that if I could just hold out for a slightly better spot I might be able to make a huge move based on a mistake by one of my opponents. Not 5 minutes later, I got my chance. I was dealt my third and final JJ on the night, and I raised the 3000-chip big blind to 9000 from the button. Just pushmonkey called, and when the flop came down K87 rainbow, pushmonkey led out with the donk-bet despite my being the raiser preflop:

I figured the odds of me being ahead with my JJ were substantial, especially given the way pm had been playing on the night, and if I was going to lose JJ to K4 in 3-handed play then so be it, it is the Mookie after all and I am cursed, right? Anyways, I think I should like my hand here, so I'm all in:

Pushmonkey pretty much instacalled me again here, just as he had earlier on the night when he held just 76o preflop on a pretty large pot. When he called so quick I knew I had to be beat by a King-rag type of hand, but then I saw this:

There are no words.

My 75%+ favorite held up yet again here, giving me an 82k - 63k - 58k lead in what turned out to be a close matchup in three-handed play, but gave me my first Mookie chiplead with as few as three players left in at least two full years.

Again, despite being fairly sure I was ahead here, I once again figured I had to be able to find a better spot to play, so I folded another chance to knock out the pushmonkeying pushmonkey himself here:

and again here:

By the time Maggie called my very suckbetty river bet here with just A5 unimproved in her hand:

I had her pegged for feeling a little too over-aggressive and a little under-trusting of me, so when I made my inside straight on the turn a few hands later:

I checked, expecting her to bet so I could get her allin, but instead Maggie failed to take the bait. Then when the river made a higher straight possible, I decided to go with the math and the odds that I was ahead and try to get the rest of her chips right there:

Maggie called, and I won. Turns out she called me with this hand:

Now I know she was short in this spot, but T3o? Now that's what I call a lack of respect. I mean she's gonna lose to any A, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 or any pocket pair in my hand, and some of the 3s I might play as well. But such it is, she was very short at the time, and I had been betting and raising like a maniac all night, showing hammers and just generally being way aggro even for myself, and this is the kind of thing that can happen if it breaks just right for you in that kind of situation.

So here I was, heads-up in the Mookie for only the second time in my lifetime of playing Mookies -- it's gotta be at least 150 of them I've played now -- and I had a 122k to 82k chip lead. It was a nice chip lead, but nothing even close to prohibitive. Whoever would win the next allin pot would likely win the tournament, no matter which of us it was. Fortunately, pushmonkey, who had already sucked out on me allin preflop once during the tournament but then had also gifted me a huge stack of chips by calling allin when dominated by me not once but twice in the final 10 players left, and I could not have played more than four or five hands of heaqds-up play I don't think before this happened:

I was dealt K8o, a better than average hand in heads-up play, and pm started the action by raising the 4k blinds to 10k. I called for another 6k into a 15k pot with what I figured was likely -- but by no means definitely -- the best hand, given pm's shorter stack and erratic play I had seen so far on the night. The flop came King-high, giving me top pair, and of course I checked to pushmonkey since he had been the preflop raiser, but again he scrwed up my plans by checking behind. When the turn then brought a raggy 2, which was also the third heart on the board (I held the 8 of hearts), I sensed an opportunity to get in my checkraise there, since I had been surprised as it was that pm failed to c-bet the flop, but now with the three hearts I figured it would be a good bluffing opportunity that pushmonkey was not likely to miss. So I checked it to him again:

This time he did lead out, betting just 9k into the 21k pot, a decidedly smallish bet that could either mean extreme strength or extreme tentativeness. I quickly followed through with my plan to checkraise big, determined to go with my top pair decent kicker against an uncertain range in my opponent, especially given the weakness I had showed on the flop and the turn already in the hand:

PM called quickly and turned up:

And there I was. The whole word went silent. The buzzing of the little fan on my laptop, gone. The sounds of "Live Free or Die Hard" on the tv, faded to nothing. Even the crickets outside, I heard none of it. Instead, my entire Mookie life flashed before my eyes. I saw myself losing heads-up to Surf a couple of years ago when I had outflopped him and had just two cards to fade 2 outs to nab the Mookie title. I saw myself losing AA to KK down to a scant two tables left during the BBT2. Me pushing AQ into AA when 4-handed in the BBT3, and then not a three weeks later once again pushing AQ into AK, also 4-handed. It all cycled right through my vision, all in a split second, as I raised my hands in the air in silent celebration. I wanted to make sure I enjoyed the moment before the river fell, because with three Aces and four Queens, 7 outs once would still give pushmonkey a roughly 15% chance to suck out and further my Mookie Curse forever.

This was it: the moment of truth. Who am I gonna be? The Red Sox, who finally bust through the worst curse in sports history to win a World Series in 2004? Or the Cubbies, who Bartman'd away their best shot at the World Series and furthered their own curse with another tale for fans to tell their children and grandchildren? Winner or loser? Champion or runner-up? TOC or nada? Red Sox or Cubs?

It's the Red Sox, folks!

I write this today from the computer of a Mookie winner. And nobody can ever take that away from me.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

R.I.P Harry Kalas

So what if I'm a full two days late with this? Work is once again crushing my ass, and I haven't even had the time to get this post up despite having mostly put it together sometime on Monday night. But, I figure, better late than never, right? It's not like Harry Kalas is urgently waiting for me to post this thing. What's he got to be rushing for at this point, right?

So, Long Live Harry Kalas, legendary Phillies announcer from 1971 to 2009:

And while we're on the subject of baseball, did anybody happen to catch Chien-Ming Wang's line from his second start of the season earlier this week? How's about 8 runs in 1.0 innings pitched for the two-time 19-game winner and someone who the team is counting on to contribute similar numbers again this season? With all the question marks surrounding CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte, Wang has been viewed by the Yankees brass and Yankees fans in New York as somewhat of a foregone conclusion for the 2009 baseball season, and yet so far he has been anything but that. So far in two starts, Wang has pitched a total of 4.2 innings, which right there alone is enough to tell you his whole story, but throw in the 15 earned runs he has given up in those 4.2 innings, along with 15 hits, 6 walks and just one strikeout in those 4.2 innings. It's not good. At all. Wang's ERA currently sits at 28.93, and his WHIP is a lofty 4.50. 4.5 walks and hits given up per inning pitched is definitely not gonna cut it in New York, or really anywhere in the major leagues at this point. So far the Yankees are off to a 4-4 start, but the only real bright spot to the team has been newly-acquired starting pitcher AJ Burnett, who so far has busted out with two stellar starts -- both wins -- in pitching 13.1 innings while recording 15 strikeouts and just one walk. Now that's how to come to New York and make some friends in a hurry. But at 4-4 though, sports talk radio is once again my best friend these days, as you simply cannot imagine without living here how much fun it is to listen to the pussy New Yorkers calling in and complaining about their baseball teams, and not actually caring at all since my team are the current World Champions of baseball.

And speaking of whining, pussified fans in New York, the Yankee fans don't even come close to where the Mets fans have sunk so far this year. Despite the city spending mostly public funds to build an $800+ million stadium for the Mets -- bearing the name of Citi, no less -- the sports talk callers cannot stop bitching about how crappy the new stadium is. The complaints range from it being a drab, nondescript and "convention-like" edifice, to having green seats and grey walls but none of the Mets' traditional blue colors, and that the stadium itself is more of an homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers -- the favorite team of Mets owner Fred Wilpon as a boy growing up in the area -- with little mention of the Mets and their team history, including two world titles in 1969 and 1986. But far and away the most common complaint being voiced all over the airwaves and newspapers in New York these days about Citi Field is the apparently large number of seats from which you actually cannot see the ball in play. With one of the largest outfield areas in the league, and with seats that are said to be lower to the field than in most older parks, there are as many as a few thousand seats in the new Citi field from which a viewer cannot see the ball in play if it is hit to the corners of the outfield, on either side. Sheer brilliance. And with the Mets already starting off at a 3-4 clip, it's like sheer heaven getting to listen to the whiners dialing in all day long to air their grievances about their favorite local baseball team.

Here's hoping we're at the start of the second straight Major League Baseball season without any New York teams in the playoffs.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Baseball Preview 2009

One of the fun things about having a regularly-updated blog that I don't plan to shut down anytime soon is that I can make lots of predictions about upcoming events or items, and then I can go back later and check the actual post to see how I ended up faring. I know I'm about a week late on this, but today I'm going to post my thoughts on some of the perceived better teams in Major League Baseball, as far as how their season is going to go. As I said, I recognize that we're already a little over a week into the 2009 baseball season, but (1) I'm not looking at any stats or records from any teams so far as I write this, and (2) anyone who bases their over-under on wins through a 162-game schedule on what happens in the first 5 games is a moron and doesn't deserve to be read anyways. So without further adieu, first here are the over-under win totals on all 30 major league baseball teams, plus my comments on each, where I have any:

Boston Red Sox 94.5. The Red Sox are obviously a great team and they are going to post a solid number of wins this year like they do every year. Something tells me though, that without Manny for the entire season, and with Big Papi a year older, etc., they might come in just under 95 wins. I would take the under here, although not by much.

New York Yankees 94.5. Gotta go under here. So far Joe Girardi does not look like he has figured out how to manage in New York, and despite the stellar pitching staff (on paper) assembled by GM Brian Cashman in the offseason, I also think the Yankees are likely to come in just short of 95 wins. I bet both Boston and New York end up besting 90 victories on the season, but 95 is a bit much for a team with a thousand distractions and a million egos, so I again would take the under here.

Chicago Cubs 92.5. The Cubs are likely to be a very strong team again this year (in the regular season anyways, cough cough), and with Lou Piniella back at the helm there is no reason to expect the team to have any trouble running away with its division again in 2009. 92.5 is a great number, and I would stay away from this line because I think it is very close. You make me pick, and I will take the over.

New York Mets 89. Is there any more interesting story heading into 2009 than the New York Mets? 89 wins is a solid number, and with the Mets' very dubious pitching behind ace Johann Santana, this one could end up going either way. Even though heading into the season, the only story with this team really is how will they hold up in late August and especially in September as the playoff races heat up after two consecutive epic collapses to miss the playoffs the past two years. This Mets team is very solid on offense once again, and they finally cleaned up their bullpen mess in the offseason. With the threat from the Phillies and Jimmy Rollins' preseason guarantee now extinguished somewhat, I'm going to take the over on the Mets, thinking they should be able to finish the season with 90 or more victories.

Tampa Bay Rays 89. The Rays are another awesome story heading into the 2009 season, after the unknown manager and bunch of young players steamrolled over the best teams in the American League on their way to their worst-to-first pennant in 2008 before losing to Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Rays already had the youngest pitching staff in the league, and their offensive stars are also all young players, so the team is at a place in its development where an extra year should help their effectiveness due to experience, not hurt it due to age. That said, the AL East is once again setting up to be the toughest division in baseball, and with so many games against the Red Sox and the improved Yankees, winning 90 games is going to be tough. Add to that the fact that the Rays will no longer sneak up on anybody in the league, and I will take the under given this high number for the upstart young team from Tampa.

Philadelphia Phillies 88. 88 wins. So Vegas is already picking the Mets to win the NL East by one game after last year's World Championship for the Phillies. Personally, I think this is redonkulous to pick the Mets to win by one game after seeing the Mets collapse like little bitches in each of the last couple of seasons, but I suppose that's what you get when you have the books in Vegas trying no to set lines that will be 100% accurate so much as ones that will equate the betting roughly on both sides of the line. I think it is highly unlikely that the Mets win a close division race this year, given the mentality on that team and the epic failure of the GM and the manager over the past couple of seasons; I have high confidence that if the Mets and Phils come down to the wire again in 2009, the Mets will crumble once again like the pansies that they are. All that being said, I mentioned this some months ago after the Phils won the World Series in 2008, but I just don't think the Phils are going to be there at the end again this year. 88 wins isn't insanely high, but something tells me that now, with the pressure completely and totally off of this team, and with the fans not really giving two craps if the team wins any games in 2009 (trust me on that one, I would know), the Phils are going to step down just a bit and end up ceding the division to the Mets earlier in the summer than in the past couple of years. I am looking for 85-88 wins for the Phillies in 2009, so I would go under on this line.

Los Angeles Angels 87.5. The Angels are always good, and the AL West is usually not so much, so something in the mid to upper 80s is probably a good bet for the Angels. I have a ton of respect for their head coach Mike Scoscia, and of course Vlad Guerrero hits the cover off the ball when he's healthy, and as I mentioned the division is not as formidable as it was 5 or 6 years ago when the Angels started really winning with regularity. I am going to take a stab at the under here, expecting something more like 85 or 86 wins for Anaheim in 2009.

Arizona Diamondbacks 86. Arizona is once again a deceptively good team that few people know a whole lot about other than Randy Johnson on the mound. That said, I think this year will likely see a few more wins for the Dodgers and a few less for teams like the Diamondbacks in the NL West, and as such I have to take the under here as well.

Cleveland Indians 85.5. I have to confess, I don't know a whole lot about the 2009 Cleveland Indians, and I'm far too lazy to go and look up their roster right now. I'm taking the under.

Los Angeles Dodgers 85. Here is one that I like the over for. Maybe it's related to having just read "The Yankee Years" about Dodger manager Joe Torre's time in pinstripes, or maybe it is sheer awe of Manny Ramirez's hitting prowess, but something tells me that with a full year of Joe and Manny, the Dodgers will be able to overcome the loss of Derek Lowe and string together something more than 85 wins on the season.

Atlanta Braves 84.5. The Braves are another team that few people really know much about, but they have quietly put together a formidable team once again heading into 2009. 84.5 wins is pretty on the mark in my book, but I will go ahead and take the under purely as an homage to just how god awful Tom Glavine was when he was up in New York and pitching for the Mets a few years ago.

St Louis Cardinals 83.5. Once we get down to this level, through more than the top third of teams in the league, I'm not going to think too much about things other than just to make a pick, or comment where I think a line is particularly off the mark. For the Cardinals, I will go over 83.5.

Minnesota Twins 83. Over.

Oakland Athletics 82. Under.

Milwaukee Brewers 81.5. Under. Losing CC Sabathia for the full season to the Yankees is going to hurt a bit more than I think the books in Vegas think right now for the Brewers. I expect a slightly under .500 season this year, so it's gotta be under.

Detroit Tigers 81.5. Over. Jimmy Leyland, no real powerhouses in their division, and a tremendous sports aura following through from the NFL season in that city. I say over .500 for the Tigers.

San Francisco Giants 79. Under.

Cincinnati Reds 78.5. Under.

Toronto Blue Jays 77.5. Over.

Chicago White Sox 77.5. Over.

Kansas City Royals 77. Under. Wish I could understand why this team is so high up on the list of bad teams in this year's baseball season.

Colorado Rockies 76.5. Under.

Florida Marlins 75.5. Over. I know the Marlins play in the very tough NL East, but this really is a solid team with a number of great players on it, both in the lineup as well as in the rotation. I'm not saying they're going to win 88 games or anything, but at 75.5 I think this is one of the better picks in this entire list.

Texas Rangers 74.5. Over. This Rangers team has a very solid lineup and just generally is better than 74.5 wins in my view.

Seattle Mariners 73. Over. Ken Griffey back where it all began? Gotta go over.

Baltimore Orioles 72.5. Under. I saw this team play the Marlins during the preseason down in West Palm Beach, and their lineup is pretty dam horrible. Let's just say that Adam Eaton, formerly of Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, is the Orioles' #3 starter. Yeeesh. Combine that with playing so many games against the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees and Rays, and I think Baltimore is in for a world of hurt in 2009.

Washington Nationals 72.5. Under. The Nats stink, and the Mets, Phillies and Marlins are likely to feast on them early and often in 2009.

Houston Astros 72.5. Over. No real reason, I don't even know who is on the Astros these days anymore (Nolan Ryan? Mike Scott?). But I'll pick them to win at least 73 games this year.

San Diego Padres 71. Under. These guys are gonna be really bad this year, and I expect the Dodgers and D-Backs to steal a couple more wins from them than in years past.

Pittsburgh Pirates 69. Over. It is hard for me to pick Under on any team that is picked to go just 69-93 on the season, even though there is once again little to be excited about on either side of the ball for the Pirates. When does this team finally get contracted like it probably should?

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