Friday, February 26, 2010

Lost Thoughts -- Episode 5

Tired of waiting for the Goat's writeup, it's time for me to get up my own thoughts on Episode 5 of Lost, another fun episode that had some interesting reveals, although as per usual for this show even the reveals still leave a lot of questions to be answered. Rather than summarize the episode and walk through everthing that happened -- which is available on various websites out there already -- I will once again keep my post limited to the few most interesting items or thoughts I noticed as I watched the show. Again I have waited until watching the episode for a second time amidst another major snowstorm in the New York area to formulate these thoughts, and again they are at best just guesses as to what is going on, but I think educated guesses if nothing else.

I will just start by mentioning once again how much of a manipulator Jacob is. Although there was about five seconds when I thought that Jacob might actually be the bad guy during this week's episode, that feeling quickly subsided and I was once again left thinking that this guy really could be Jacob, the Jacob from the Bible. Not only does he manipulate everyone for his own gain, but he really seems to enjoy doing the manipulating doesn't he? And more than that, just like the biblical Jacob, our Jacob really seems to have a knack for finding out people's vulnerabilities and then using those vulnerabilities for maximum bang for his buck in terms of the manipulation he is able to foist upon people. Using the "you have what it takes" line on Jack, playing upon his ultimate childhood insecurity in a very direct and overt way, was sheer genius and is not all that different from Bible Jacob waiting until Esau was desperately hungry after a long day in the hunt to get Esau to agree to give up his birthright in exchange for some soup. I still say it's more likely than anything else that we're looking at the real Jacob from the Bible here.

After manipulating Jack to make it up the lighthouse -- the structure they've never managed to see or hear about before, in a rare Heroes-like silliness of plot for Lost -- they have that cool scene with the magical mirror and the wheel with everyone's name on it. Much has been made of the fact that Jacob's instructions to Hurley were for Hurley to turn the wheel to the number 108, which lostpedia quickly posted in picture corresponded to the crossed-off name of "Wallace". Not only do we not know anything about anyone named Wallace, but the fact that this name was crossed off adds to my feeling that the identity of Wallace is not going to be germane to our story. Yes, I quickly realized that 108 also equals the sum of the Lost numbers -- 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 -- and that just adds to my feeling that Jacob merely picked the number 108 as a ruse, knowing only that a nice high number like that would require Hurley to make several pulls of the chain and several spins of the wheel. This I think was done by Jacob to ensure that Jack would have a good long while of staring at the mirror while it cycled by other names on the wheel, making sure that Jack would notice the abnormalities of the wheel and eventually flip out and destroy it all. So I'm not spending any time trying to theorize about this "Wallace" character, as I don't think he or she matters to the arc at this point in time. What might matter is that the wheel seems to be completely full of names, but almost all of them crossed off at this point except for our last four or five "candidates". Perhaps the fact that just about every spot on that wheel attached to the magical mirror has already been filled in and crossed out adds to the importance of our special group of Losties, and to the notion that some great, final battle is coming that will put an end to the need for magical mirrors pulled by mysterious wheels going forward.

The most interesting aspect to me of the whole magic mirror thing is not so much that Jacob was able to manipulate Jack into destroying it, but why Jacob would want to do such a thing. Let's posit some things about Jacob and his presence on the island, shall we? We saw this week in that scene between Dogen and Hurley deep within the Temple that Hurley can see Jacob, but Dogen (and seemingly just about everyone else) cannot. Just as we have assumed in the past about Christian Shepherd in his many appearances during the six seasons of Lost, I think it's a safe bet that Jacob is a "ghost", at least in the sense that he does not have a corporeal body here on the island. My guess is that he can't lift things, he can't open doors, and frankly if someone tried to bump into him right now you would walk right the hell through him. This seems to fit everything we've seen this year about Jacob -- pretty much everything we've seen about Jacob on the island all through the show -- and more than that is also helps to explain just why Hurley's presence is so crucial on the island. Hurley has always been the guy who can see ghosts, who can talk to the dead. Not only does not whole notion not freak him out because he's alreayd done it before, but perhaps it's also that Hurley's mind is "opened" such that he can accept the apparitions he sees for what they are. In a very real way on this island, Hurley can serve as Jacob's go-between, the way for ghost Jacob to appear and communicate with the Losties who need to work for him, and to get messages to the other Losties whose minds are not ready for whatever reason to see him.

So, my thinking is that having Jack destroy the mirrors is a little too grandiose and extreme of an action to just be done in order to "show Jack how important he is", as Jacob tried to explain to Hurley at the end of the episode. Jacob could have accomplished "wowing" Jack in any number of ways that did not involve destruction of the physical structure that seemingly enables Jacob to carry out his manipulations of the Losties' lives. No, I think there was likely more to it than that. My guess, given what we saw of the mirror contraption above in the lighthouse, is that the magical mirror is more than just a "window" for Jacob to observe the Losties in secret. I would venture to guess that the mirrors also enable Jacob to travel to the times and places he can see next to each candidate's name on the wheel. I would guess that he turned the wheel to Sawyer at his parents' funeral before being able to appear at the funeral to touch young Sawyer, and I would guess that the wheel is what Jacob used to be able to go back in time and place to each of the other Losties who he touched over time.

So to me, the mirror is more than a window. It's a time travel device. And now that Jacob has been killed on the island, he can only appear as a ghost on the island and is unable to use his time travel machine anymore since he has no corporeal body to use it with. But MIB, on the other hand, we have seen turning more and more into John Locke every week. Ileana revealed in last week's episode that MIB can no longer leave Locke's body, and my sense is that, for whatever reason, since Jacob's death the MIB is experiencing the exact opposite of what his counterpart Jacob is going through -- after years of living as an apparition of sorts on the island, MIB is finally starting to turn into a real man with a real body -- John Locke, of the "Don't tell me what I can't do!" sentiment. And in my theory, this means that, perhaps for the first time since the two have been on the island, MIB might actually be able to access the lighthouse and the mirror travel device. And that is something that Jacob cannot have, given his need to win the ultimate war of good vs. evil. So, my theory is that, once Jacob lost his ability to use the mirrors, he need them to be destroyed before Flocke could find his way there and use them to go back in time and affect other changes in history that could change the balance in advance of the ultimate fight that is coming this season. Not having a body of his own to use, Jacob could not destroy the mirrors himself, so he had to convince someone on the island who does have a body to do it, and they had to do it of their own free will as with so many of the things involving Jacob and MIB this year and last. So Jacob used his go-between in Hurley to give Jack the information he needed to ensure that Jack would see the strange properties of the mirrors and eventually choose to destroy them, thereby protecting the island from MIB being able to make nefarious use of the magical mirrors ever again.

The bigger question is what is Jack's big thing he has to figure out that he now has to do? Jacob told Hurley that's why Jack is here, but assuming it is true I really don't have much of an idea about what this is gonna be. Making Jack think Jacob is a manipulator, has been pulling Jack's strings ever since his young childhood, is designed to make Jack do something, but what would that be? Given what we (and Jacob) know about Jack, the only thing I can think of is that this knowledge about Jacob is going to make Jack want to check out, want to do whatever he can not to help this guy who Jack has just learned has been meddling in his life ever since he was born. That's what the Jack that I know would do upon learning he's been manipulated like this for year and had his life affected in some major way. He would do whatever he can do to remove himself from the entire situation and to fight against whatever it was that Jacob had planned for Jack's "destiny". How that plays itself out over the coming weeks is anybody's guess.

On an unrelated note, I found it very conspicuous that they never told us the identity or even the name of Jack's ex wife in the alternate reality timeline. Jack has this son, the whole story of which frankly I found forced and a little bit ridiculous, but they never told us who the kid's mother was, and I found the lack of detail on that point a little too conspicuous to have been an accident. My guess is that Jack was married to -- and had a kid with -- one of our females from among the Losties, and the smart money would have to be on either Kate or Juliet. Since Kate is currently still a fugitive from the law in that timeline, that would seem to vault Juliet to the forefront of the list, but I'm thinking there has got to be more to the story for the reason that they went so out of their way not to reveal even the name of David's mother. More on that to come I am sure.

My last big thought was inspired by Flocke's appearance at the end of the episode as Claire's "friend" who told her that the Others took Aaron from her. Basically, Dogen told Jack last week that Claire was infected by the same infection that is now growing within Sayid -- the same infection which Dogen planned to "treat" with his real-life poison pill, presumably to kill him off before the infection really took hold. And yet, the writers of Lost I think went out of their way not to present Claire as someone with a physical infection, don't you think? If anything, she was portrayed as someone who has been manipulated like so many others on the island, by MIB who apparently has appeared to her as both Christian (her father) and now as Locke to tell her the baldfaced lie that the Others stole her baby, when in reality Kate saved Aaron and took him off the island three years ago when the Oceanic Six first escaped from the island. But Claire does not seem "infected" to me, not by anything that can be fixed by a pill anyways. Emotionally infected by MIB's lies and deception, sure. But not with some disease. And all of this begs the question -- could Dogen and Weird Al Yankovic in the Temple be wrong about the nature of this "infection"? Could their idea to just administer poison and kill the "infected" patient in fact be some ancient Egyptian view of medicine without the benefit of modern-day technology and understanding of mental maladies? Could Dogen's attempt to kill Sayid with the poison green pill -- the pill that Jack straight-up saved Sayid from ever taking -- be a completely misguided attempt to cure a physical ailment that is not even a physical ailment at all? Could Jack really have saved Sayid from a certain, and yet totally needless, death?

There was a lot more in this episode but these are my main ideas after taking another view of the show. Love to know anyone's thoughts on the above or predictions for what is to come over the next several weeks on Lost.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Poker Blogger at Major Live Final Table

I had a decent post all ready just needing to be reviewed for today, but then something happened that for me is reminiscent of Iggy's amazing run in the WSOP Main Event a couple of years back. I am literally having trouble focusing all day today just knowing about it. Poker blogger (and a damn good read) gnightmoon yesterday made the final table of the inaugural NAPT event at the Venetian.

After starting off the final table in 2nd place of 8 remaining players, Tom's twitter indicates that he busted in 6th place after a few hours of play. So while Tom's dreams of winning his biggest ever live event are dashed for now, don't feel too bad for him. After all, he did just win $144,639!

NAPT Payouts:

1 $827,648.00
2 $522,306.00
3 $309,366.00
4 $241,064.00
5 $184,816.00
6 $144,639.00
7 $104,461.00
8 $60,266.00

I've been reading Tom's blog for the better part of a year now, and he is not only an interesting writer but he is obviously a damn good poker tournament guy in addition to his intense interests in sports and music to name a few. To know he will be starting 2nd of 8 at this televised final table this afternoon is basically making it impossible for me to think about anything else. So go click on over to his blog and congratulate him, and maybe stop and read awhile if you're interested. I know I am.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Presenting Your 2031 WSOP Main Event Champion

That there is my daughter M, now 6 years old, playing poker with me and her little sister K, who is 4. After years of hearing me talk about playing poker tournaments and watching them on tv from time to time, M has finally reached the age this year where she has started actively asking me to teach her how to play poker. And she is so smart, and competitive, and just generally like her daddy, that I've decided I'm not holding back. So I've cracked out my chip set that I won in a poker tournament in New York City a couple of years back, and pretty much every weekend day or other chance I get to be home with the girls while they're not at school or doing their homework over the past month or so, poker has amazingly replaced the Wii as the girls' preferred leisure time activity with me. If you click the picture above you can see the larger version of M's picture which she drew for me last week, which is us sitting in our family room, under our ceiling fan, playing 3-handed poker.

If you count the cards you will see five in each of our hands in that picture, which means we are playing K's favorite game so far, 5-card stud. Unlike M, K does not quite have that same competitive fire, and she is therefore happy to call down almost any size bet all the way to the end, even if she can't even beat what she can see on her opponents' board. But at her age M is starting off already really picking up the game, and she's willing to fold her bad hands early if it means she can see all the chips she gets to keep from losing by chasing bad hands.

That said, M's favorite poker game so far? Omaha.

Please god don't let me have a chasedonkey for a daughter. Please.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Lost Thoughts and Predictions

So I watched that awesome fourth episode of Lost this season again this past weekend, and I think I have a clearer understanding of some of the issues presented by this show than much of what I am reading in the vast amounts of speculation and explanation available on the intertubes.

For starters, we have seen many times over that what qualifies as a fatal injury or lethal situation off the island out in the real world often does not really qualify as such when on the island. Such is I believe the case even with Jacob, whoever (or whatever) he may be. Because when Ben stabbed Jacob's ass repeatedly in the abdomen inside the statute in the finale of Season 5, at this point I don't think that Jacob actually died from those injuries. Sure, Jacob was incapacitated and on the ground, but again on this island, that is a farrrr cry from death.

Jacob might have died -- in the sense that he (or "it") can die on the island -- there in the statue, but I don't think it was Ben and his little stabby stabby that did it. I think what "killed" Jacob was when Flocke kicked his incapacitated body into the roaring fire in the middle of that room inside the statue. I have several reasons for this belief, not the least of which is that when Ben recounts to Ileana in this past week's episode what happened, when Ileana asks who killed Jacob, Ben responds that Flocke did by kicking his body into the fire. They even show us Flocke rolling Jacob's bloodied body into the fire as Ben describes what killed Jacob. Now, to be sure Ben is a lying liar who tells lies and may even believe that it was he (Ben) who did the actual killing of Jacob. But I think the producers are trying to give us a clue here with that recollection scene of Ben's, that it was in fact technically Flocke's burning of Jacob's body that "killed" him, not Ben's stabbings. I also think the very existence of that big fire in the middle of the room inside the statue -- when otherwise there would be no particular reason or need for such a fire, here on a tropical island in a room where some sort of deity is living -- suggests that there is some meaning to the fire being there, some purpose other than just looking hot and yellow. My guess is that the fire was put there specifically for Flocke to make use of to officially "kill" Jacob. So I don't think Ben is guilty of killing Jacob, I think it was Flocke who officially did the deed.

Why is this an important distinction? I think it may prove to be very important, possibly even the fatal flaw in Flocke's whole plan to eradicate Jacob on his way to getting himself out of his island prison that he's been stuck in for time immemorial. Which leads me to my second "prediction" as to the explanation of what we saw on last week's episode: the young boy who appeared to Flocke in the forest was probably a young version of the next protector of the island after Jacob(presumably one of our Losties "candidates"). Here's my thinking: in five seasons of Lost we've never seen this kid before, nor have we even been hinted at his existence, and yet he shows up for the first time within minutes / days of Jacob being killed. And as I mention above, I believe Jacob was killed officially by Flocke, not by Ben. So when the kid shows up for the first time and says to Flocke reproachingly "You can't kill him", I think he is making a direct reference to Flocke having killed Jacob by burning him in the fire inside the statue, perhaps the only true way to kill someone given the magic of the island. It is amusing as heck for me to read all the conjecture and hypothesizing in the intertubes about everything with this show, and in particular on this point it's people saying he is referring to Sawyer, or to Locke, or someone else on the show. While obviously anything is possible (with this show in particular), it just seems more likely than anything else to me that the kid is referring to the guy we just saw Flocke kill. I think this would be completely obvious if in fact it was made obvious that it was Flocke -- and not Ben -- who "killed" Jacob inside the statue, but since that was presented to us in a way that made us think Jacob wasn't killed by Flocke, the conjecturing is going full-on across the internets that the kid is referring to someone else. Also, people seem to have glommed on to the tense of the kid's admonition -- "You can't kill him" -- as if the kid must be referring to someone who hasn't been killed yet by Flocke. But think about it -- if the kid were referring to Flocke just having killed Jacob by burning his body in the fire, wouldn't he use that exact same phraseology, that exact same verb tense? Of course he would. He shakes his head reproachingly at Flocke and says "You can't kill him." As if Flocke just broke the rules by killing Jacob, which Flocke himself admitted in the Season Five finale he is not permitted to do but rather needs to find a loophole which obviously requires getting someone else on the island to use his or her own free will to kill Jacob, as Flocke attempted to do via manipulation of Ben Linus.

One of the big reasons I believe this interpretation of what happened with the appearance of the kid is the look on Locke's face when he sees the kid for the very first time. Flocke is surprised to see him, sure, but he's more than just surprised. He's concerned. He's borderline angry, from the look on Flocke's face. It's almost like he knows in some small way what the sudden appearance of the kid means -- and in my view, it means that Flocke broke the rules in killing Jacob. Flocke thought he had his loophole by getting Ben to use his own free will to kill Jacob -- that much I think is obvious at this point after the last four of five Lost episodes -- but seeing that kid seems almost to immediately have alerted Flocke to the fact that there might be some problem with his whole little loophole plan.

Incidentally, I would be convinced that the kid is a young Jacob -- and he still obviously could be, Jacob come back to life to start anew as the island's protector since Flocke could not succeed in killing him himself by kicking Jacob's body into the fire -- if not for the fact that the kid said "You can't kill him." Not "You can't kill me", but you can't kill him. That suggests to me, absent any further information to the contrary, that the child is not Jacob, but someone else. I still think the kid is probably someone playing the same role that Jacob serves on the island -- to protect it, most likely to protect it from Flocke escaping the island and wreaking the havoc he wants to wreak on the world and the people living in it -- but if I had to venture a guess I would say it is likely not Jacob himself as a boy due to the words they deliberately had him use when Flocke had the chance to speak with him during last week's episode. He could easily be the young version of whoever the next candidate for island protector is, but my guess is that it's not Jacob himself based solely on how they presented his appearance and his limited direct interaction with Flocke. That kid's face said it all though I think in episode 4, the way he shook his head and frowned disapprovingly at Flocke. I just can't shake the fact that Flocke went and broke the rules after all in killing Jacob by burning his body in the fire, I'm sure done out of greed and out of Flocke's insatiable desire to be freed of his island prison, and this kid knows it. And Flocke, by virtue of having seen the kid in the first place and now speaking with him as well, is starting to know it too. Flocke fucked up, he didn't get his loophole after all, but at this point it seems he has had enough and is going to go forward with his plan to get off the island anyways while he thinks he might have a window due to the death of Jacob in the statue and the next candidate is still being determined.

I also thought it was very curious the way that Flocke so readily walked right up and crossed off Locke's name from the Cave of Names near the end of the episode with Sawyer. If that cave was really Jacob's and Jacob's alone, the way that Flocke portrayed it to be in his conversation there with Sawyer, then I would not expect Flocke to just walk right up and cross any names off. In fact, although I do not yet understand how Locke could be reborn after having clearly been killed by Ben two seasons ago back off-island, my guess is either that (i) the cave is Jacob's alone, in which case Flocke's crossing off of Locke's name from the cave ceiling would not be effective, and Locke is therefore still a potential "candidate" to replace Jacob, or (ii) the cave is not Jacob's, or at least not only Jacob's, and that Flocke himself also has some role in the writing of the names, as well as their removal from the ceiling. Obviously everything that Flocke says to Sawyer about the cave (and everything else, for that matter) is suspect at best, but his claim that those names were written just by Jacob without any influence from or contribution by Flocke seems totally not believable to me. I mean, if this is really just Jacob's cave where he writes the names of potential candidates on the ceiling, why would Flocke walk right up and cross off Locke's name? He made that cross-out as if he were entitled to do it, and as if he had done plenty of other cross-outs of those names before. Why would Flocke even care about crossing out one of Jacob's names from the ceiling, if Flocke himself did not have something to do with the names being there (or being crossed out) in the first place? Obviously, everyone knows there is more to the story about that whole cave, but my feeling is that we have not been told at all the truth about the nature or genesis of those names in the first place. And here's hoping the numbers have some cool significance after all in the overall scheme of things -- I'm quite sure it is a lot more than the silly "Jacob had a thing for numbers" excuse that Flocke offered Sawyer when he asked.

The last thing I wanted to mention was an overarching prediction regarding the true identity of Flocke. Obviously there are any number of possibilities, and given the way this show has gone and how ludicrously off even the best-known pundits' (Doc Jensen, Darkufo and the other main Lost bloggers chief among them) predictions have been all the way through the entire arc, anybody who claims to know these answers is more or less completely full of crap, and no one prediction out there about Flocke's story has more than maybe a 1% chance of actually being correct, but I cannot escape the conclusion right now that the most likely scenario -- not more than or even close to 50% likely, mind you, but still the best fitting what I've seen so far -- is that Jacob's nemesis is actually Esau. As in, Jacob's evil twin brother Esau. Yes, from the Bible. First and foremost, look at the way the Lost writers have gone absolutely out of their way to conceal Flocke's true name. And of course, when I write about Flocke in this post, I am generally referring to the Man in Black from the Season 5 finale -- the Black Smoke -- who this season has clearly taken the shape of Locke's body after manipulating Ben into killing Locke and bringing the dead body to the island in Season 5 so that the Man in Black could assume the shape of Locke's body.

Anyways, we've been hearing about this mysterious man named Jacob since what, Season 3? Season 2 even maybe? Jacob has been referred to by name ever since the first time he was mentioned, and we've seen Jacob appear and refer to himself as Jacob on several occasions over the past couple of seasons as well. But the Man in Black ("MIB", for lack of a better term) never said his name when we saw him in the finale last season, and the writers went out of their way not to have Jacob refer to him by his name either during that crucial scene at the beginning of Season 5's last episode. This year as well, with MIB taking center stage in the form of Locke's body, still no reference whatsoever to an actual name, although he does claim to have once been a man, someone who loved and lost just like Sawyer and other regular people. Even when Sawyer asked him last week who he was, Flocke just smiled and did not reveal his name. Why would the writers do this? Getting into their heads a little bit, I think the most rational assumption is that revealing his actual name would tell us more about his character and his nature than they want to reveal at this point in time. I mean, think about this for a minute -- if Flocke were to have responded last week to Sawyer's question with something like "My name is Brian" or whatever, would that have mattered at all to anyone? Of course not. So then why wouldn't they have just told us his name, like they've told us with every other character on the show bar none over five-plus seasons? There is a logical leap involved here to be sure, but again living in the realm of the most rational explanations, I think it is more likely than anything else that revealing MIB's actual name would give away too much for right now. And if we accept that hypothesis as true, there's only a few people I can think of right now who would fit that bill and everything else we've seen so far about MIB in the show. The serpent from the garden of Eden? That could be. But Esau keeps coming to mind as well.

More than just the insistence on not revealing MIB's name lead me to this conclusion. For starters, for those familiar with the bible story of Jacob, Jacob was always someone who attempted to intervene and even deceive others in order to get what he wanted. In fact, his very name "Yaakov" is translated to mean "leg-puller" as his entire early life Jacob was out to manipulate others for his own purposes. You may be familiar with the story of his struggles with his twin brother Esau, which essentially amounted to using Esau's hunger and desire for bodily pleasures to trick Esau into giving Jacob the birthright that Esau was entitled to as the older of the two twins. Then Jacob and his mother Rebekah again conspired to trick Jacob's father Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of to Esau, with the latter having always been Isaac's favorite. Until later in his life when he was finally tamed and taught correct by God himself, Jacob's entire life was one subterfuge and ploy after another to get what he wanted. I just can't get away from how similar this is to the way our Lost character Jacob has acted, apparently appearing at various points in the Losties' lives -- when they were young, upset, and at their most vulnerable, according to Flocke last week, and influencing them at those points in time to do his bidding. Think of Sawyer, who Jacob appeared to in his moment of deepest grief, at his parents' funeral. Or Locke himself, to whom Jacob appeared only moments after Locke's own father had deliberately pushed him out of an 8th-floor window and possibly even killed until Jacob came along to seemingly resurrect him. To Kate, Jacob appeared when she was about to get prosecuted for shoplifting. To Jack, when he was in desperate need of sustenance -- both physical and emotional -- during his ordeal to save his future wife from lifetime paralysis. To Sayid, Jacob appeared just moments before the love of his life was killed by a car hurtling down the street. Clearly, our Jacob is someone who uses the vulnerabilities in others' lives to his own advantage, and that is pretty much the definition of the Jacob we read about in the Bible.

There is less in the Bible about Esau, but we do know that the biblical story has the two as fraternal twins. And as I think back to the repartee between the two in the Season 5 finale, don't they just seem like brothers? I may be reading into this a little bit, but that really seems to fit the bill to me. Esau is depicted in the Bible as fighting with Jacob for his entire life, even from when the two were in Rebeka's womb, where it was said that Jacob tried to come out every time Rebekah passed a house of worship, while Esau tried to get out every time she passed a house of idolatry. Esau is also depicted as a "man of the field", preferring the outdoor life, and a great hunter, as opposed to the quiet, introverted Jacob. This seems to fit all too well with Esau's presence on the island as the black smoke, the ultimate hunter and predator among all others on the island, and as someone who lives and travels regularly across all the land of the island, unlike Jacob who clearly plays the role of the kinder, gentler of the two characters. And lastly, the book of Genesis is full of accounts of Esau's promises to kill Jacob, in particular after Jacob's deception at Esau's expense, but even before the two were born to Rebekah she received a prophecy that the two would be fighting all their lives just as they were in the womb.

Obviously, all this sounds more than a little like interpretations of the two characters we have been presented with in the last couple seasons of Lost. As I said above, I'm not in any way trying to say that I actually know this to be correct, or even that it is more likely than not to be correct. But as I read all the crazy theories out there on the intertubes about who Jacob and MIB really are, I simply cannot escape the conclusion that the real Jacob and the real Esau is the most likely of all the various possibilities out there.

Lastly, I think there are two other interesting things to note about the Jacob - Esau connection. First, it should be noted that the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible eventually ends with a reconciliation. Esau, who had been planning to attack and kill Jacob with an army of 400 men, is eventually appeased by the many lavish gifts that Jacob sends to Esau in advance of their meeting, and upon Jacob's arrival, Esau shows forgiveness and reconciliation. The two are said to have had an emotional reconciliation, and they lived on as friends afterwards according to the biblical story, burying their father together upon his death.

Which leads to my last point -- upon Jacob's death (at the age of 147, not all that old according to biblical standards), his son Joseph had Jacob's remains transported back to Canaan, with Jacob's twelve total sons carrying their father's coffin and many Egyptian officials accompanying them, and Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah, which Jacob's grandfather Abraham had bought, and in which Jacob's grandparents, parents, and Jacob's first wife Leah were buried. I don't see the parallels here to any of these other characters from the Bible story, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to immediately perking up at the mention of taking Jacob's remains to a cave to be buried. Ileana surprised I think many of us by immediately scooping up Jacob's white ashes from the fire pit inside the statue the moment that Ben told her that's where he had been burned by Flocke, and putting them into a bag to take with her somewhere. Having not only seen that but also being introduced to the Cave of Names last week, I just couldn't not see the connection. For all we know, those two "Adam and Eve" skeletons in the original cave the survivors found in Season 1 could include Jacob, or technically could even be Jacob and Esau.

Who know where all this will lead. But right now I will stand by my position that the above theory represents the most likely of all the many possible explanations for what we have seen over the past several episodes of Lost. For those of you who are rankled at the very thought of a biblical type of outcome for what has gone down on this show, you might want to start accepting the real possibility as I now am.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Playin' High

Although that could also apply to some portion of the poker I've played in my day, the title of this post actually does not refer to my mental state when I'm playing this game lately. No, instead, it refers to something I think I figured out about myself and my poker play at some point on Thursday evening.

I've been playing too high lately.

It's not a financial wherewithal thing. What I mean is, I've never even considered playing poker at levels that would actually have a demonstrable effect on my financial condition. I know some people do that, in fact I know plenty of people who kind of rely on doing that just to get that "rush" to satisfy their gamblor urge, but personally that could never be me. Gambling of any kind would immediately cease to be enjoyable for me whatsoever if I knew that losing in a particular game would mean actual financial pain to me. I don't mind pushing the limit and moving up or even taking a stab a little higher than I might otherwise have been playing of late, getting out of my comfort zone, yaddayaddayadda, but never ever close to the point where I would have any semblance of a financial issue if I lost. You'll never find me playing at that level, it would not fill any kind of a need in me, and in fact I would seriously hate it. I'm shuddering here just thinking about playing that way. So it's not like I've been risking my family's financial situation or anything resembling that of late with my poker play.

That said, I'm not totally blind to the amounts I'm playing for either. And lately, I think I've been playing a bit too high.

As I mentioned yesterday, recently I've been going through another one of those rippingly horrible streaks of luck. I could not begin to count the number of suckouts I have taken lately at the tables. Probably more than 100,000 per week if I had to count them all up. It's been disgusting, it's happened before, and it'll happen again. And again. And again. It's just something I've always had to deal with. I get in ahead when the money goes in a lot, and the inevitable result is that, while I win a lot as well, I lose in that situation more than you could probably imagine, and more than many people could handle. Even me it seems, as the past couple of weeks have seen me flipping out in the chatbox at random dickheads at an alarming rate. I mean, I just haven't been able to keep my mouth shut after taking my fifth or sixth 80% hand for a suckout-elimination midway through an mtt in the span of an hour after some nutmonkey just had to call my allin reraise for 10 times his preflop raise with his 22 and then runner-runners the wheel to beat my pocket Kings. I've called people all kinds of names, I've wished ill on them, I've invented hundreds of new and often highlarious ways of insulting their play. I mean, I haven't just tapped on the glass, guys. I've taken a sledgehammer to it, shattered it into a million pieces and let the fish pour out all over the floor to flop breathlessly and die like we're watching a "Faith No More" video or something. I'm totally embarrassed about my behavior, and yet at the same time I can totally understand it as well. No matter who you are or how calm or unaffected you think you are, you would have to withstand the string of beats that I have in order to know how you would really react in my situation, and while I am quite sure many of you would not lose your cool as much as I have, I'm equally sure that most of you would lose your cool a heck of a lot more than you think.

Anyways, I've spent more and more time trying to figure out why I keep doing this lately even though I know the suckouts are inevitable and nobody is making me play the game at all let alone play it as much as I do. And the answer, it finally occurred to me yesterday, is the level at which I'm playing. I was thinking it over, and while I haven't exactly been pleased with my nightly donkeyfucking in the $26 buyin 35k guaranteed mtt on full tilt or the $27 25k guaranteed mtt on stars, the bottom line is that those beats simply don't set me off nearly as much as when I get 1-outted in the $100 buyin 1-rebuy 1-addon tournament, and certainly not like when some masturbator monkeypusher button-mashing window-licking assclown dicksniffer sucks out like a little bitch in a $220 heads-up sng as I enjoy playing from time to time. And it occurs to me that it's the money involved that's the difference.

Like I said, none of the amounts I'm playing for are going to bankrupt me or my family, or ultimately have any real financial significance to me at all, and I wouldn't play anywhere near that level under any circumstances. Shit, I go out yearly to the WSOP and drop a couple large on just one poker tournament, and I don't care financially if I lose that one either, so a hundy here and two hundy there really isn't a drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of things, especially after the hugely profitable last several months I've had playing this game. But it has dawned on me this week that losing my buyins at a $200 and $300 per game clip, and getting monkeysucked out on to do it, definitely pisses me the hell off. A whole heck of a lot more than those $26 and $28 suckouts. And I have finally decided to do something about it.

So on Thursday night, I didn't play that 33k guaranteed tournament at 7:30pm ET nightly on full tilt -- the $100 1 rebuy 1 addon event I've been killing lately until the inevitable suckmonkey 20-80's me and then finishes me off by calling my preflop allin with his 76o and 40-60'ing me to send me home. And I didn't play either of the $200 nightly satellites into the $2500 FTOPS tournament coming up on Saturday, a satellite I have had significant success winning in the recent past. I also didn't let myself get talked into playing the $216 stud FTOPS tournament at 9pm ET, even though I am highly confident that I play stud better than pretty much everyone in that tournament given the action I watched go down over and over and over again last night in that event. And I stayed away from the higher-buyin sng's as well, which have probably been the source of my best ability lately to get in hopelessly ahead and yet end up unbelievably behind. Instead I stuck to the $26 and $27.50 buyin mtt's at 8pm ET on full tilt and pokerstars, and the highest I played on the night was the $30 rebuy that I've played so profitably over the past few months on full tilt.

The result? I still got monkeyfucked, so gheyley it's hard to even describe. In the 25k on stars, I busted about two-thirds of the way through the field when I raised preflop with 87s, flopped two pairs, bet and got called, and proceeded to turn a boat which also completed the flush draw that was present on the flop. I strung my intelligent, kind opponent along like the nice little man that he was, got him all in, only to find he held overpair Kings, which was great until a third King hit the river to give this nice, nice man a higher boat courtesy of that 5% shot that I have come to know all too well. I busted early from the 35k on full tilt after chasing two unfoldable straight-flush draws early at good odds and missing them both. And in the $30 rebuy I destroyed the field redonkulously to the point that I was in 3rd place out of 200 some runners at the end of rebuy hour, only to see half of my stack disappear halfway through the starting field when my pocket Queens got called allin preflop by pocket 7s and the cute little guy across the table flopped a set of 7s, a blow I could never recover from as I busted about 50 players from the money. It was a brutal night of poker to say the least, and in reality no different from what's been happening to me almost nightly lately, other than again the level of buyin I was playing at.

But you know what? I didn't wish brutal, painful death on any of my opponents -- in front of other family members or otherwise -- and I'm pretty sure I didn't even swear at anybody in the chatbox at all as I recall. No doubt I couldn't resist commenting on a couple of these people's play in the chatbox -- you gotta give me some time to come back down off the ledge, especially given some of the stuff I saw on the night -- but it wasn't the same that it has been lately for me, and for the most part I didn't do or say anything that most of you out there would not have done either. So I think I learned a good lesson about myself after a couple of weeks of playing higher than my true comfort zone. Just because I know I'm better than the regular caliber of players at a certain level doesn't mean I should automatically play regularly at that level. If my psyche -- for whatever reason -- can't handle the regular swings and in particular the inevitable downswings, suckouts and just general horrifyingly poor play, then my job needs to be to move down to the point where I can.

Guess I'll see you in the $1 mtts on stars tonight!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Quick Hits

Lots on my mind today, and not a ton of time to spend blogging, so here we go in the "quick hits" format once again.

First, I was actually interested in watching the Winter Olympics for the first time this week on Wednesday night, even though Hammer Wife basically has the NBC coverage on the tv in the room with me all night every night this week. For whatever reason, I just don't find most of the winter Olympics to be fun to watch. I mean, of course I -- like the rest of the free world outside of the U.S. of A. -- don't take silly hobbies like snowboarding seriously as an Olympic sport, as America only lobbied for these to become Olympic competitions over the past couple of Olympics since we figured we could stuff the ballots with some free gold medals in those hobbies since we are after all the country that spawned the X Games and which otherwise has the money and the free time to pursue such newfangled activities. The figure skating does not particularly interest me, and basically any sport that relies on judges to subjectively decide who wins a medal -- judges who time and time again, mind you, have proven themselves to vote with their eyes closed based on biases wholly unrelated to who the best skaters are on that given day -- are more or less dead to me. I watched an hour or so of the ski jumping earlier in the week, but come on that is about as bad of television as there is. It's basically just a guy skiing motionless down a pre-dug track on a hill, and then pushing off with his legs while he stands, motionless, in the air for maybe five seconds as he floats to the ground. I'm not saying I could or would go and do that myself right now, but if you had to invent a boring, absolutely-no-action tv sport, that would pretty much be it. That, or the luge, which basically amounts to someone lying on their back for 80 seconds and trying to remain as motionless and flat as possible. I also saw some of the mogul freestyle skiing a couple of days back, but how many times can I watch someone break their knees over and over again by just bumping up and down in a way that deliberately impedes their pace and keeps the action slow and boring?

But then came the ladies' downhill skiing on Wednesday night, and I have to admit this was really pretty cool. Not being a skier myself, I am always amazed at how quickly these people move and how sharply they take these turns back and forth. What was cool on Wednesday night was that -- and I don't know if this was due to track conditions or what -- these skiers were completely and totally out of control from the moment they left the gate until their either face-planted or somehow finished the race still upright. Without exception every single one of these downhill skiers had absolutely no control whatsoever, and basically they each experienced the most terrifying minute and a half of their lives as they hurtled at 75 miles per hour back and forth down a track with a hugely steep downhill slope and much sharper cuts and curves than most other downhill tracks in the world, and you could just tell that each and every one of them was just praying to hold on for dear life. It was pretty amazing, and the complete franticness of the pace combined with quite a few entertaining face plants made for the first interesting watch of the entire Olympics in my view.

Oh and while I'm on the topic, I've seen several people mention in blogs or elsewhere how much they enjoy the speed skating. Really? At least in the head-to-head battles on the large course, there are some nice straightaways for the skill people to have the chance to power ahead and maybe even pass somebody due to their incredible leg strength and drive to win. But most of the speed skating they've shown so far is this ridiculous short-track kind, which I cannot understand how people can enjoy. There is no straightaway to speak of at all in this thing, and one lap takes all of maybe 7 seconds, 6.8 of which are all curves as the skaters are by design too busy crossing-over their skates on the curves to even think about actually racing. It's more like WWE skating than actual speed skating in any event, and I don't care if Apollo Ohno wins gold medals at it for America. In fact, I'm sure the silly short-track is just another format pushed into the Olympics by the Americans because we think we can win the gold in it with more regularity than the old, more pure speed skating of days past. At least with the heads-to-head skating races on the large rinks, there is some actual time and opportunity for those with the most actual speed skating skill to come out in front. Short-track speed skating is like the super-turbo version of a classic Winter Olympics sport, just a push-and-pray donkey's dream of someone who grew up watching real speed skating in the real Olympics, back when they used to only come around every four years instead of every two years nowadays. I think of the short-track speed skating as the Rush Poker of the Winter Olympics, which might sound like a compliment to many of you who have extolled the virtues of the Rush on your blogs but who are actually just unknowingly shilling for full tilt as they further bastardize poker in the name of the almighty dollar.

On an unrelated sports note, does anybody know why is Tiger Woods having another "press conference" on Friday at the PGA headquarters in Florida? And why on earth are these jackmonkeys on the radio saying he better say he's sorry so he can move on with his life? He already said he's sorry. About five different times. And I have news for you -- unless you are Elin Woods and happen to be reading this blog (I'm sure she is a big fan), Tiger never owed you any apology for what he did. Period. You're not married to him. He never made any promises to you regarding his off-the-course activities or his fidelity to his wife. And he certainly doesn't owe you five different apologies. So get up off the guy's back please. What Tiger did is despicable to say the least, and if I'm his wife I wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near him, not for any amount of money (even $300 million). But this lemming-like insistence across the media and the country that Tiger had better apologize (again!) on Friday in front of the cameras is just that -- lemming behavior. Newsflash: for the most part, the media in this country are the least intelligent, least integrity-having, and least honest or "good" group of people out there. Mindlessly following what they tell you to think to serve their own selfish agendas makes you closer to a 1930's Nazi than a 2010's American. So wake up and give the guy a god damn break.

Lost was effing awesome this week as any true Lost fan knows. So much left unanswered, but we probably got as much information in this show as in any episode in the series's history. That Flocke is "recruiting". That Jacob touching the six people he touched (Sawyer, Hugo, Jack, Sayid, Locke and either Sun or Jin) allegedly is what set them up to eventually end up at the island, as had been assumed. That strangely the other of Sun / Jin, Claire, Charlie, Rose, Bernard, and especially Kate were not touched by Jacob and were not drawn to the island by him in that way. That the mysterious numbers from the first couple of seasons are somehow connected to the selection of these six people. That Jacob is looking for "candidates" to replace him as guardian of the island. That Ileana scooped up Jacob's ashes and put them into a bag to take with her to the temple presumably for some purpose. That there is some kind of a "referee" in the battle between Jacob and Flocke in the weirdo blond kid who showed up out of nowhere a couple of times in this episode. That Sawyer was able to see the kid, while Richard Alpert of all people was not. How much of what Flocke told and showed Sawyer is actually true though? And is Sawyer really going to fight for Flocke, or as Doc Jensen of EW surprised me with in his column this week, is Sawyer running one final con, against the doer of evil, the Man In Black. Can Sawyer even fool Flocke like that, is that even possible to do? We'll have to wait and see. I'm just glad Kate wasn't featured this week again, for that I am eternally thankful. And WTF is up with the alternate reality storyline? The more they show of that story line, the less likely it seems to become to me that this is actually just a final flash forward to the end of the series when the Losties finally get it right. Although I will still say that it is obvious to me that the writers will find a way to bring the two story lines back together, as there is just no way that they are going to keep these two realities separate without tying the two together in some way.

Ahh, and of course, there is always poker. Lovely, fair, poker. Mother fucking dickshitting poker. Poker is destroying me right now. After all my talk of playing less after a great 2009, I have broken my own rule between double guarantees week and now the FTOPS and am instead playing a lot, which would be great if not for the Sick Ass Beats I take about 10 to 15 times every single night. Last night's standout hands include my KK vs TT on a KTx flop, allin, and then another Ten on the turn (that's not something you see every day!) in the $100 1-rebuy tournament on full tilt, and the flickaflonk in a $220 heads-up nlh sng who called my preflop raise with KK with his K6s, flopped 457 and called an allin from me for twice the pot on the flop, and then of course turned the 3 to bury me. I've been such a dick in the chatbox to these monkeys over the past several weeks of just plain brutal suckouts that it's a wonder my chat hasn't been perma-banned. I know I can play profitably in most of the games I play, but withstanding the kinds of suckout streaks I have seen over the past month-plus is more than any human can take. Rest assured that if most of you had to play my hands for even one night, your heads would fucking explode and we'd be cleaning up your brains off the walls for weeks. Clearly, I need a break from this shitgame right now. When you run like I do, too much poker can definitely be detrimental to my world view.

OK back to the grind. Working for the man sucks almost 1/1000th as much as playing poker does!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Woe is the FTOPS

What the hell did full tilt do to the FTOPS this time around? I mean, I guess it's inevitable that they would screw something up after running 850 of these series over the past couple of years, but damn sometimes I just cannot understand why people insist on fixing things that ain't broke.

Now, I'm too lazy to go back and look up the last several FTOPS schedules. But here's what I do know about FTOPS 1,000,000,000,000,000 that is currently running right now: there's barely anything for the good, hard-working American poker lovers to play. And that has most definitely never happened before.

Again without bothering to go and look up the details, I know I have played in upwards of 6 or 7 events in the FTOPS in prior runs of the tournament series. I specifically recall one of the FTOPS runs probably a good two years ago or so where I received four FTOPS baseball caps for cashing in four separate events. And I definitely recall other FTOPS series where I was debating playing in that night's event almost every single night, be it the $240 PLO knockout, $216 PLO8 freezeout, or even stud hi-lo on occasion as I recall.

And yet, somehow, this time around, I am going to play in a grand total of one FTOPS tournament. That's it. Granted, I missed Event #1 this time around due to fatigue, and that was my own choice and not something of course that I could ever blame on full tilt. But otherwise, how is it that I am playing online poker almost every night during the entire FTOPS series, but cannot for the life of me find a single event to play other than Tuesday night's $216 turbo mtt? Event #1 was last Wednesday night, the standard FTOPS-opening $216 nlh mtt, which as I mentioned I missed. But then Thursday night was a $500 shootout. $500 shootout? That's the best you can come up with over at full tilt, guys? Because -- and I don't care if you're a poker blogger, if you're me, or if you're Phil fuggin Ivey -- large mtt shootouts are not profitable poker. Period. Sure, somebody wins it every time you play it. But, unlike a general mtt where you can make some decent coin for finishing in, say, the top 50 or 100 spots in the field, in a shootout, you need to absolutely straight-out win your entire table, and then you have to sit at a new table comprised solely of people who were good enough to have just won their entire tables, and you have to win that table as well, just to make it to the final table where the real money begins, where you then get to face a full table of people who were good enough to win not only their starting table, but then their second table full of all people who also won their own starting tables. To the inexperienced winning three consecutive one-table sitngos may seem a lot easier than navigating your way through a field of 3000 donkeys in a regular nlh mtt. But take it from me, it's harder. Much, much harder. Even given all of the above, I still might've given it a shot, if the buyin wasn't $500. A $500 shootout for FTOPS Event #3? Major error.

Then they followed this up with last Friday night's limit holdem tournament. Just what I'm looking for -- a chasefest. And don't get me wrong, I understand that they have other events in the afternoons on those days, but for us working stiffs in the U.S. those are of course not doable, and ultimately in the past I always played the FTOPS on at least one if not both of those second and third nights of the series. This time around, I wouldn't consider it. And I know that $500 shootout is a new event for the FTOPS, a big mistake in my view. I didn't play over the weekend as I never do, and of course as usual FTOPS misses out on an opportunity to get the "family men" active on the weekend nights when they probably have the best opportunity of all for big fields. Why not just run a regular $100 or $200 nlh event? What about a $100 rebuy or something? Can I get anything on the weekend nights?

Then here starts Week 2 of the FTOPS, and I don't even remember what Monday night's event was, but I do recall that it blew. Tuesday night was the usual $216 turbo mtt, which I played but busted early from when my pocket 9s of course ran into pocket Queens from a guy who had raised at least 17 of the previous 5 hands before the flop. And then before logging off, I went ahead and looked with anticipation to see which other FTOPS events I would be playing this week. And you know what? It's none of them None! Wednesday night is the $322 rebuy, which at that buyin level just plain sucks for 99% of full tilt's user base. Thursday is I think Stud Hi. What a joke -- no "chase to two pairs" for me. Friday is the usual Razz event, which full tilt for some reason insists on carrying an increased buyin of $322 instead of the standard $216. And since I'm not a masochist chasemonkey peabrain who tires of getting dealt rolled up Kings in the only situation where I want nothing to do with them, you won't find me razzing it up either. And then that's it, just like that, FTOPS is over.

What the hell happened to the $216 O8 event that was in the evening early in the second week for the past umpteen hundred FTOPS series? Why is there not a $100 or even a $200 rebuy tournament, instead of this insistence on making that a $322 buyin? Why is there no knockout tournament anywhere in the evenings during the entire series?

I know that pokerstars has completely given the middle finger to Americans with their WCOOP, making every single event start in the middle of the afternoon New York time, which effectively shuts out the working-guy Americans entirely and unfortunately for pokerstars simply means that what they're really running is the WCOEP since the whole thing is primarily played by Euros. But in the past full tilt has distinguished itself among all other online poker sites by offering up a very attractive mix of games available in the weekday evenings four times a year, at buyin levels and at times that are actually accessible to the average, day job-having Americans who make up a big slice of their user base. This time around, full tilt seriously dropped the ball.

Now, in addition to offering far and away the best nightly tournament structures available anywhere in online poker, thanks to full tilt we can now look to UltimateBet as the site that also offers the best regular online poker series for normal red-blooded Americans with their UBOC. And if I'm full tilt, that is the saddest part of the whole debacle known as FTOPS MCMXLVIII.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WSOP 2010

I've been strategizing about this for going on eight months now. Ever since chopping out the prize pool in the Venetian Deep Stack event last summer in Las Vegas, I've been pondering my chances of making my next poker trip to the desert in 2010. Having had a new baby a couple of months after last summer, I knew the odds were low that Hammer Wife would be readily willing to see me off again on my way to a weekend of gambling, smoking, drinking and other vices while she plays the unenviable role of single mom for half a week. As the months have ticked by, eventually rolling on into 2010, I knew it was getting close to time for me to start thinking about either shitting or getting off the pot, as my life is not such that I can just pack up and head out to Vegas on a whim one Friday like those of you on the West Coast and/or with unemcumbered family and other life circumstances. As I said, I've thought about it about a million times since then, but I just haven't had the nerve yet to bring it up to Hammer Wife, fearing not the severity of the reaction but more just the swiftness and the finality of knowing that I might not be visiting the land of the sand and sun for the first year since my initial foray at the WSOP back in 2006. The longer I didn't mention it, the longer I could go on believing that I might still actually be in Las Vegas this June, making another run at a five-figure score and partying like it's 1999 yet one more time.

And then a strange thing happened this weekend. We were talking about our plans for the annual Hammer family trip to the beaches of the Delmarva penninsula when, out of nowhere, Hammer Wife asked me "Are you going to go to Vegas again this summer?"

I was floored. I mean, she didn't have to bring it up at all, opting to take the same tack that I've been taking so far of just putting off the conversation for another day. At the least, I would've bet you dollars to donuts that if Hammer Wife were the one to first broach the subject, it would have been phrased more like "I hope your heart wasn't set on going to Vegas again this year", or at least "You weren't thinking of going to Vegas again this summer, were you?" or something like that. And I wouldn't have blamed her, really, given our family situation and the fact that I've been out in the desert the past four years running while my wife takes no similar trip herself (though it's been offered to her, many times). But instead, she said it just like I wrote it above. "Are you going to go to Vegas again this summer?" I could not believe it. And with that, the subject had been raised, and more than that, I already knew the outcome of the discussion given the way Hammer Wife phrased it to me from the beginning.

Amazingly, Hammer Wife is cool with me going to Las Vegas this year. I dare say even that she wants me to go.

I guess winning 50 large in Las Vegas last summer has its perks.

So the planning is just starting today, but I've already taken a quick look at the 2010 WSOP schedule to start focusing on a couple of dates. I've put a call in to my brother to try to convince him to join me for the third straight year, which hopefully he will do as having that guy around always makes a Vegas weekend about 100 times more fun and luxurious. Not having spoken with my brother or any other possible companions yet, my initial reaction is that the first week of June is looking like the early frontrunner, at least for me, World Series-wise. Check out this six-day stretch near the beginning of this year's WSOP schedule:

Wed, Jun 2nd
12:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #8: No-Limit Hold’em
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $1,500

Thu, Jun 3rd
12:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #9: Pot-Limit Hold'em
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $1,500

Thu, Jun 3rd
5:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #10: Seven Card Stud Championship
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $10,000

Fri, Jun 4th
12:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #11: No-Limit Hold'em
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $1,500

Fri, Jun 4th
5:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #12: Limit Hold’em
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $1,500

Sat, Jun 5th
12:00 PM
4-Day Event Event #13: No-Limit Hold’em
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now

This event may take 4 playing days & 5 calendar days to complete depending on field size. $1,000

Sat, Jun 5th
5:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #14: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit)
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $1,500

Sun, Jun 6th
5:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #15: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $10,000

Mon, Jun 7th
12:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #16: No-Limit Hold’em / Six Handed
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $1,500

Tue, Jun 8th
12:00 PM
3-Day Event Event #17: No-Limit Hold'em
Structure Sheet Pre-Register Now $5,000

I could see playing in Event #8, #9, #11, #13 or #17, all of which go off during that same one-week stretch. Clearly I will not be in Vegas for a full week, but I can probably pick almost any four-day stretch in that window and make it happen. There are plenty of other tournaments during the Series that I could play in, and I haven't even looked at the Deep Stack Extravaganza schedule for the Venetian to see when that is running during the WSOP as well.

Anybody else planning to be in Las Vegas during World Series time in June?

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Friday, February 12, 2010

FTOPS Profit

The last couple of nights, I have turned a nice profit from Events #1 and #3 of the FTOPS on full tilt. And I didn't play either event.

See, on Wednesday night I did play a little poker, which consisted mainly of me getting suckout-eliminated from four separate tournaments in the early part of the night. But one thing I noticed -- other than my inability to hold in any big pot when I was ahead when the money got in -- was that I was tired. Although he is growing like a champion, I still have a young baby at home, and that means I don't always get nearly as much sleep as I would like to get, and I guess the night before was a late one because my eyes were definitely drooping, even by as early as 8 or 9pm New York time.

At some point, I saw a system broadcast on full tilt that indicated that FTOPS Event #1 was about to start. My first thought -- after thinking "What? FTOPS is back already again?" -- was that I should play. The first event of the FTOPS is always a $216 buyin straight nlh tournament, and I've cashed in it several times over the 774 FTOPS series full tilt has run over the past several years. As I opened the tournament and gazed upon the more than 5000 entrants piling in for their shot at the elusive gold jersey, I found myself thinking about the time it was going to take to outlast that field, if the poker gods would even see fit to permit me another deep mtt run in this. I remembered how much I needed sleep just then as well. And then I did something I never used to do.

I closed the tournament without registering. Back in the old days, I would never take this kind of cue from my body, and I never listened when in my heart of hearts I knew I was not in the mental state required to navigate a large mtt effectively on a given night. And I've thrown away a lot of money that way -- thousands, I am sure -- when I never really had a chance to make a big score right from even before the first hand was dealt. But not this time. I saved myself a sure loss of $216 on Wednesday by not playing FTOPS #1, money I would surely have thrown away needlessly a couple of years ago. I did the same thing on Thursday night, when I toyed with the idea of playing the $500 nlh shootout in FTOPS Event #3, especially since I hadn't played in Event #1 the night before. But once again, cooler heads prevailed. I wasn't too tired this time around, but you know what? I really hate shootouts. This thing maxed out at 729 players, and I would need to win outright against 8 other $500 buyin players at my table in order to win anything, and even then it would be only a min cash of less than the buyin to the event. Bottom line is, it is about 100x easier to finish in the top 81 out of 729 runners in a regular mtt than it ever is to be one of the final 81 players in a 729-person shootout, because there it's only one person per table who can cash at all, and the big winners have to win their entire table twice just to be in line for the big money. And yet, despite my dislike for the shootout format in mtt's, I still held the registration window open for the better part of an hour, kicking around the idea of giving it a go. But once again, I opted to avoid what I knew would be a waste of time and money for me, and I let the FTOPS go for yet another day.

Today I have $751 extra in my full tilt account thanks to the FTOPS. And I haven't even played in the series yet.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lost in Kate

Kind of a boring second episode of Lost on Tuesday night. Not necessarily a bad one per se, but much less exhilarating than the season premiere last week which really was one of the best Lost episodes in years.

In short, this was another Kate-centric episode, and like almost every other Kate-centric viewpoint we got, it was very frustrating for the audience. After all the idiot things Kate has done, be it in flashbacks, flash forwards, or real-time on the island, and all the idiot reactions we have seen others have to her, this week's episode has got to take the cake. Sure she dumped all over Jack 85 times and he still wants her back. Sure they have made a mockery of the "air marshall" escorting her on Flight 815 as she has now escaped from him what, three separate times, all in pretty ludicrous fashion. But don't try to tell me you were not laughing -- and I don't mean laughing in a Chris Rock kind of way, but more of a Heroes kind of way, if you get me -- when Kate proceeded to cut the taxi line at LAX, try to steal Claire's cab, hijack the taxi driver at gunpoint, threaten Claire with physical harm if she tried to leave the cab, clearly elude law enforcement trying to stop the cab, and then eventually take over driving the cab, still brandishing the gun, and then essentially kick pregnant Claire out of the cab, without her stuff, her money, anything, and then after all those fun things, Claire accepted a ride from Kate to Brentwood to visit someone she had never seen before. Then upon arriving at Brentwood, she even asked Kate to accompany her into the house! Because, you know, whenever I meet a stranger for the first time, I always look to find some kind of mass murderer / carjacker escapee from the Law -- who just recently waved a pistol in my face and tried to carjack me in fact -- to come with me. You know, just in case.

What a joke. Before you know it, Claire has invited murderer Kate into the hospital room with her, then unsolicited Claire is lying for Kate to the cops, and even offering up her credit card for Kate to just use willy nilly as she goes back on the lam. Oh and of course let's not forget Kate's insinuation that she was innocent to Claire. Innocent? Are we still carrying on about that? Did Kate not burn her mother's house to the ground, with her father in it? Did Kate not screw her fiance over, kill cops and rob a bank among various other infractions along the way? Has she not pulled guns on about 15 or 20 occasions on various members in and out of law enforcement? She's about as innocent as Waffles is heterosexual.

And as an aside, could there be two worse, less diligent policemen and women anywhere on the planet than these two clowns who came to question Claire about Kate's whereabouts? What kind of an interview was that? Kate was last seen in the hospital, with Claire in her room in fact, and these two geniuses don't even attempt to look around the room she was last seen in? I mean, I know the door said "Authorized Personnel Only", but is it really that easy to hide from the cops when you re -- you know -- an escaped murderer an carjacker? Gosh. Imagine if she had hidden in the room with the "Janitor" sign on it -- she coulda basically moved in, they would have never ever looked for her in there!

What a joke. Anyways yeah, every time Kate is on an episode, that show pretty much sucks it up big time, and this one was no exception. Putting all the annoying Kate stuff aside, there was a little bit of new information but really not much from the Temple scenes, mostly because no matter what you read out there on the various Lost blogs we all know you love to read, we have no idea whether we can trust Dogan and Weird Al Yankovic and that new crew. They could be bad guys, they could be good guys who think the Losties are bad guys. They might think Sayid is doing better and are trying to hurt him with the green pill, or they might honestly want to kill his "infection" and be trying to help him. I thought they pulled off the scene well where Jack ate the pill and Dogan flipped out on him and Heimliched it out onto the ground, but otherwise this episode was light on the "reveal" front and really gave us very little new information to work with.

Three episodes down, 13 more to go until we'll know absolutely everything about this mysterious island and its inhabitants. Yeah right.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Quick Hits

OK so Superbowl XLIV is over, and the New Orleans Saints nabbed their first ever league crown, removing another team from the list of franchises that have still never won the trophy, making more room for my Eagles on that ignominious roster of historical ineptitude. For most guys -- including me -- the superbowl is always bittersweet, because while it is a great, exciting game in most cases, once it is over, well, there's a void.

A serious void. If for some reason you still play fantasy football, and especially if you obsess over it like I once did back when it was cool, then that void is even larger. Sometimes it can seem unthinkable that you won't be watching any more football on tv until late in the summer. That's six looooooong months of no football, and the prospect can be a bit daunting to be sure.

So for those of you, I will start with some parting thoughts today as Superbowl XLV has officially come and gone. With a day or two to think things over and let things crystallize in my mind, it is clear to me now that both head coaches really puckered up like they were drinking pure lemon juice in the first half of that superbowl. I already mentioned how unforgivably hideous Sean Payton's play-calling was on 3rd and 4th and goal from the 1-yard line late in the first half. To call two straight running plays just off tackle there with all the offensive weapons on that team is simply unthinkable, and Payton showed that he was not ready for prime time at that point in the game, a mistake which he soon corrected with the onsides kick to start the second half of the big game. But Colts head coach Peyton Manning Jim Caldwell also made a very similar error just after that huge goal-line stop by his Colts, opting to run three consecutive running plays after a quick first down, basically right up the middle, none of which worked even remotely well. To not attempt to mount a real drive there at a point when all the momentum was going the Colts' way, was just inexcusable, and as is often the case, this mistake really hurt the Colts as it led to the Saints getting the field goal right back that they gave up by opting to go for it and then running a horrible play on 4th and goal from the 1, and it completely switched the momentum that to that point was all weighing in favor of the Saints.

In the second half, as I mentioned Sean Payton really deserves a lot of credit for the ballsy onsides kick call, which obviously would make him the goat of the superbowl if the Saints don't pull that play off. But it was a brilliant play and one which was executed flawlessly by the Saints, and I give Payton a lot of credit for deciding during halftime to stop being a pussy and start trying to find a way to go and win the game. As I mentioned previously I think the kind of reckless playcalling that Payton exhibited a few times yesterday is probably above the level I would think of as optimum risk-taking -- I mean think about it. Honestly, do you think Bill Parcells would have opened the 2nd half in that spot with an onsides kick? Bill Bellichik, yes, sure he would have. But he's never won shit when he hasn't been proven cheating on every single play. Andy Reid would have done the onsides kick there too. But, well, he's Andy Reid and his record in big games is beyond laughable. But would Parcells? Bill Cowher? No, I don't think they would have, not in that particular spot. Because if you miss this roughly 50% chance of getting the ball back, your team is more or less finished in the superbowl given the way things were going. I'm not so sure I want my coach deciding with 30 minutes of football left in the biggest game in franchise history that he's going to willingly take a 50-50 gamble that will result in surely losing the game if he's wrong, and may or may not lead to victory if he is right and his play works. But I do give Payton credit for coming out and trying to grab the win instead of waiting around, and especially for his team obviously being more than ready to run that play to perfection.

I also give Sean Payton a lot of credit for what the Saints did defensively to confuse Peyton Manning. Now sure, nobody actually ever confuses Peyton -- you can just watch him at the line for a few plays to see that he always knows what's going down better than anyone else on the field for the most part -- but the Saints did as good a job as anybody in holding Manning and the Colts to just 17 total points on offense. They moved the ball well and outgained the Saints by around a hundred yards in the game, but despite that, Peyton never really seemed to get into that rhythm where he is a few steps ahead of the defense and can basically isolate the coverage mismatches and throw quick-strike bombs to penetrate the weaknesses. The Saints deserve a lot of credit for the way that they kept changing up their defenses, encouraging the Colts to run the ball early in the game and then taking away the run in the second half once the Saints got ahead on the scoreboard. The Saints not only changed their looks but they actively rotated different defensive packagesm, alternating between a 3-4, a 4-3, the nickel and various other formations which clearly helped to keep Peyton Manning off of his best game. The Saints rarely showed their full blitz package prior to Manning hiking the ball, and the result again was that Peyton was never really able to get on a roll and just pick apart the defense like he usually has been so adept at doing. Kudos to the Saints on defense, and to Drew Brees on offense, in what was truly an amazing run. Like I said yesterday, it's very rare that we get a true #1 vs #2 matchup, in football or in any sport really for that matter, and this one did not disappoint.

Also interesting this year in the NFL is that the NFC has finally caught up and seemingly passed their AFC counterparts after several years of AFC superiority. This year the Colts were awesome, but the Saints were better start to finish. And I think most people would agree after the playoffs that the Vikings were the next best team in the NFL as well. The Chargers looked good, the Jets had their moments, but the bottom line is that the best teams in football no longer reside in the AFC. If recent history is any guide, this could be the start of a long period of NFC success, as the conferences have tended to run in cycles of 10-15 years in duration with one conference having the clear advantage over the other.

It's also worth mentioning that, at least in my view, the superbowl loss has real significance in the career of Peyton Manning. I myself proclaimed that with the win in this year's superbowl, Peyton would already be well on his way to being the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Well, Peyton didn't win on Sunday, and I am revoking my statement as a result. The bottom line is, Peyton's number are sickeningly great, and his performance on the field is even so much greater than just what his number show, but in the end -- for quarterbacks more than almost anyone else in sports -- champions equate with all-time greatness. You simply need to have multiple superbowl titles to be considered one of the all-time greats in my book. It doesn't mean you have to win four or five superbowls -- too much of that is tied up in what specific team you happen to be drafted for and at what specific time -- but one is not enough to be grouped alongside the Montanas, the Elways, the Aikmans et al. By losing on Sunday, Peyton still has work to do all over again in order to ascend to "elite of the elite" status in the eyes of most knowledgeable football fans. Peyton's numbers by the time he is done with this league are going to speak for themselves as to how great he really is, and his one superbowl is enough to cement him a top-10 spot already for sure. But he can call all the plays at the line of scrimmage all he wants -- there are still other quarterbacks out there who did less playcalling and audibling at the line, but who had more overall success than Peyton in playing the position the way they know best. So Peyton's still going to have to win a second title to get the historical credit we all know he deserves in the eyes of many a football fan after losing his bid for a second superbowl title in Miami this past weekend.

Before closing the book on the 2009-2010 NFL season and commencing the huge wait until next season ramps up, I figured it's never too early to start thinking about next year already in the sports books. Courtesy of our personal information-disclosing friends at Bodog, I present to you, in alphabetical order, the hot-off-the-presses futures odds to win the 2011 championship in Superbowl XLV:

Arizona Cardinals - 35/1
Atlanta Falcons - 30/1
Baltimore Ravens - 20/1
Buffalo Bills - 100/1
Carolina Panthers - 40/1
Chicago Bears - 35/1
Cincinnati Bengals - 30/1
Cleveland Browns - 100/1
Dallas Cowboys - 12/1
Denver Broncos - 50/1
Detroit Lions - 100/1
Green Bay Packers - 12/1
Houston Texans - 35/1
Indianapolis Colts - 13/2
Jacksonville Jaguars - 50/1
Kansas City Chiefs - 100/1
Miami Dolphins - 45/1
Minnesota Vikings - 12/1
New England Patriots - 10/1
New Orleans Saints - 10/1
New York Giants - 20/1
New York Jets - 25/1
Oakland Raiders - 100/1
Philadelphia Eagles - 16/1
Pittsburgh Steelers - 11/1
San Diego Chargers - 8/1
San Francisco 49ers - 45/1
Seattle Seahawks - 45/1
St.Louis Rams - 100/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 100/1
Tennessee Titans - 25/1
Washington Redskins - 50/1

Looking at the above list, a couple of names jump out at me as potentially representing some decent value. The Steelers are 11-1, and we all know that they have the personnel on both offense and defense to get back to the big game. I don't think the Eagles have the personnel to make it there, but the Jets at 25-1 are also worth a look given that we know they will have the defense again, and they managed to make their way to the conference finals this season already. The Minnesota Favres are at 12-1 right now, placing them in a three-way tie for sixth-highest on the board, but I imagine that as soon as Brett Favre makes official his obvious desire to return next season, that number probably climbs up to 10-1 or 19-2, so there may be an opportunity to get in early on that one before Favre makes his decision official. The Denver Broncos at 50-1 are also intriguing, only because the team was 6-0 and looking unstoppable a few months ago, and those are some long odds that could really pay off a small fortune if you have a hundy to drop on a few teams in advance of the 2010 NFL season commencing late this coming summer.

Now, enough about football, bring on the pause and some time to focus on March Madness as we roll into the home stretch in conference play in the NCAAs. And, of course, some time to focus on Lost! I watched last week's episode again on Monday evening, and I have to say without reservations that that was one cool episode. They've given us some solid more information that we never had before, introduced us to a new group of characters at a final station on the island heretofore never seen, and they've given some solid clues as to what makes certain people on the island immortal. As someone who was generally underwhelemed by the silly over-complexity of Season 5, the first episode of Season 6 seemed like it harkened back to the old days of this show, which is a welcome change to me to say the least. I realized yesterday while at the gym that I am genuinely looking forward to Lost tonight -- have been for several days, really -- for the first time in almost two years. I mean, I really can't go even 15 minutes without thinking about Jacob, the Japanese guy, and what's going to happen next. With just one episode this year, Lost has already grabbed me totally back in, which is a very good sign I think heading into the series conclusion just 15 episodes from now. Some people have heard tonight's episode is going to be crazy, and some have heard the really crazy one is next week's, but suffice it to say that Lost is really back with a vengeance, and is captivating its viewers like it hasn't for many of us in a long, long time. And nobody is happier about that fact than me.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Superbowl Redux and NFL Recap (Costanza FTW Again!)

Yep, George Costanza did it for me again. I thought the Colts would win. I thought it was pretty obvious in fact that Peyton Manning was going to lead his team to victory and cement his legacy as perhaps the single greatest all-around quarterback in NFL history. Even at 5 points I thought there was room in that line for the greatness of Peyton to win and cover. By halftime, according to Tony Dungy, who apparently is no better a picker of NFL games than he is a head coach.

Anyways, I was so sure the Colts would win and cover the 5 point spread, that I went ahead and picked the Saints using the Costanza opposite method that lifted me to 2-0 last week after a dismal 6-23 stretch prior to recognizing the strengths of the Costanza system. And look what happened. 3-0 to end the season, which I guess makes the rest of my NFL pick performance during 2009-2010 a tiny bit better. In the end I had a great first three-quarters of the season, followed by as bad of a final quarter as is humanly possible. Recognizing that I could do nothing but pick losers, I made the switch to Costanza for the conference championships and then the Superbowl, and I won 'em all. I had a fun time picking the games on the blog this year and will plan to do it again next year, but next time I resolve to rely less on what the "experts" like Tony Dungy say and more on what I myself believe will happen.

Moving on to the game itself, it was a pretty good superbowl that was competitive until late in the 4th quarter. My first thought it basically that the best team won. In fact, this was the first time in a long time that we have had pretty much the undisputed two best teams in the NFL meeting up to crown the season's champion. It was the Saints, the clear winners from the NFC after they bested the Minnesota Favres in both the regular season and in the postseason, against the Colts, clearly the only great team in the AFC this year. This was the matchup that had been fixing to go off all year, pitting the 13-0 Saints before their late-season slide against the 14-0 Colts before they pulled their starters and lost a couple of games. In fact, the Colts not only had the best quarterback in the league but they did not lose a single game all season long in which they actually played their starters enough to be really trying to win. I don't remember that ever happening before since the undefeated Dolphins team in 1972, excluding of course teams that were later found to be cheating on every single goddam play during the season in question. So this was the great matchup to decide who would be the champion from among the clear best team in each conference during this season.

And like I said, the best team won. Peyton Manning and the Colts looked good on offense. Peyton threw for well over 300 yards and they ran for just a hair under a buck on the ground as well. The Colts moved the ball enough to win the game. They just did not capitalize well enough when they needed to. The Saints did a great job of taking away the big-play, quick-strike capability that we saw Manning and the Colts unleash several times on national tv this season, and the result was that the Colts just couldn't get it into the end zone enough times to win.

And I'll tell you something else about this superbowl -- not only did the best team win, but the best quarterback won on Sunday as well. Manning's body of work is obviously head and shoulders above Drew Brees right now -- nobody sane would argue that -- but on Sunday it was clear that MVP Drew Brees was the better player. Peyton finished the day 31 of 45 for 333 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 costly interception at the end of the game (final qb rating of 88.8). Drew Brees, on the other hand, was simply amazing, throwing for a hyper-efficient 32 of 39 for 288 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly zero picks on the day. Brees' final qb rating in his first superbowl? 114.5. Absolutely stellar.

In fact, the numbers indicate that Drew Brees flat outperformed Peyton Manning not just on Sunday, but in the entire post-season. In fact in fact, the numbers indicate that Drew Brees was -- for the second straight year, to be honest -- the best quarterback in the NFL all season long in 2009-2010. Just look at this. In the 2009-2010 post-season, each of the Colts and the Saints played three games. Over those three games, Peyton Manning went 2-1, throwing 87 for 128 passes for a 68% completion rate. In the three playoff games, Peyton had 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, including the late pick to Tracy Porter in Superbowl XLIV. His average qb rating over the three playoff games this year was a lofty 100. Impressive numbers by any measure.

But now take a look at Drew Brees's postseason. Brees finished the playoffs 3-0, a game better than Manning, on 72-102 passing for a completion percentage of 70.5%, also higher than Manning's already impressive 67% clip. And in the Saints' three post-season games -- all wins for his team, again -- Brees threw 8 touchdowns (two more than Manning), and zero picks. Yep, that's right, 8 touchdowns and no picks in the three biggest games of Drew Brees' career and life, all in succession. Even Brees's average quarterback rating over the three wins bests Peyton Manning's triple-digit score, coming in at an incredible 115.5 over the post-season on his way to his city's first-ever Superbowl and his own personal Superbowl MVP honors.

As I mentioned, even over the entire regular season this year, Brees's performance compares very favorably with Manning's. Peyton finished with 4500 yards, 33 touchdowns and 16 picks in 2009, for a qb rating of 99.9, while Brees finished the year with 4388 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 picks and a qb rating of 109.6. Both sets of numbers are really, really strong, but in direct comparison between the two, it's not close. And nor are the 2010 playoff numbers.

Oh, and while I'm at it, let's just look reallllly quick at the 2008-2009 regular season numbers as well. Peyton Manning: 4002 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 picks, qb rating of 95.0. Drew Brees in 2008: 5069 yards (!!), 34 touchdowns, 17 picks, qb rating of 96.2.

Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFL today. Hands down, after Sunday night.

I also wanted to mention the performance of the biggest Payton in the superbowl this year, Sean Payton. His handling of the 4th down play late in the second quarter wasn't just bad. It was legendary. I mean, Andy Reid musta had pangs of jealousy watching Payton pucker his anus up just like big Andy would have in that big a game. I was already writing the post here in my head about how Sean Payton stepped down in a huge spot and basically pulled an Andy Reid on the country. Going for it on 4th down in that spot was probably the wrong decision -- the game was so close at the time, the 3 points instead of 0 could have made a big difference with the way the game was going -- but I wouldn't kill the guy for deciding to go for it there given the percentages and where they were on the field even if they missed. But running it up the middle just off the right tackle on 3rd and then again on 4th down? With Drew Brees, the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL two years running now? With Meachem, and Shockey, and Thomas, and Reggie Bush, etc etc etc? And the best you can do is go for it instead of taking the guaranteed 3 points in a close game against a very powerful foe who already has the lead on you, and then run it up the middle again and again and get stopped every time. That is just pathetic.

One of the things that helps me to be successful long-term at poker is that I don't get caught up in results-oriented thinking. Ever. In this case, the Saints missed the first down and failed to score at all in a spot where it is obvious to me that they really needed to get something out of their drive. Those that point out that the Saints ended up getting a field goal before half anyways miss the point of course, since again it's not so much the decision to go for it -- probably the wrong one as I discussed above, but not clearly wrong -- but that decision combined with the play that was chosen that make it such a horrible, horrible move by Payton. His ass tightened up in a tough spot and he made a horrendous, hideous call, and I don't care how the play ended up. It was a brashly wrong decision at a key time for his team, and he let them down badly.

And then somehow, Sean Payton goes into the locker room, knowing in his heart of hearts that he had just made a horrendous coaching blunder that was going to be talked about for weeks on the airwaves, on ESPN, at water coolers, etc., and this guy somehow has the testicular fortitude to come out to open the second half and risk giving the potent Colts offense a short field by attempting on onsides kick to open the half. And I'll be damned if it didn't work. The Colts weren't even thinking of considering such a move, they were taken completely by surprise, the Saints executed it perfectly, and they got the ball back. This clearly swung all the momentum in the game in the opposite direction towards the Saints, and by the time they punched it in a few plays later the entire game had taken on a different feel, one I am sure the players on both teams were well aware of. This onsides kick decision was another dubious one by Payton, as if it does not work, Payton has just compounded his national embarrassment from the first half with a mega blunder that gives Peyton Manning only half the field or less to get back into the end zone and make it a two-touchdown game. You won't hear hardly anyone say this today, again because so many people in the world of poker and in the world at large are results-oriented, but Payton has got to have some massive brass gondalas to make that kind of a dubious call in that spot. He clearly put his team at risk of falling far behind an offensive powerhouse due to his own stupidity, but in this case you have to give him and his team credit for pulling that play off, I'm sure practicing it hard all week long, and getting it done there. But Payton, who coached a very good game otherwise, definitely has me wondering after those two big calls that were each highly dubious ones in their own right, and even worse when combined together over just three or four minutes of game time in the biggest game of the year and the biggest game his team's franchise had ever played in.

I mean, can you imagine what people would be saying about Sean Payton today if that onsides kick didn't work?

Big, huge, brass balls I tells ya.

It's also pretty amazing isn't it that the same guy who intercepted Brett Favre to end the last-minute threat against the Favres last week is also the one who intercepted Peyton Manning in the superbowl with under four minutes to go in a 7-point game? That kind of karma is hard to come by around these parts. Truly amazing, I seriously hope Tracy Porter got one hell of a hummer from somebody last night.

But more than anything else, what I really, really hope is that all these clowns can find a way through the current labor issues that are leading all parties to claim now that a lockout by the owners before the start of the 2011 NFL season is all but a certainty. Letting things get off-track with the NFL at the heights at which it is currently perched would be a massive donkoff by the league's owners and players that would make Sean Payton's playcalling in the second quarter on 4th and 1 look like the second coming of Vince Lombardi.

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