Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Buddy and the BBT -- Again

Wow is it ever fun playing in the BBT when you are lucky enough to nab a ToC seat early! In exchange for all the incredible free money and prizes available from Full Tilt via the BBT5 tournament series, we definitely have our nerves ratcheted up quite a bit for each of these weekly private tournaments, and it's just awesome not to really care if I bust on a given hand or not because I know I've already done what needs to be done to play for the big money in the end. Of course, my own competitive spirit still basically requires me to try hard to win and to be disappointed when I bust, but come on these are not only no-limit poker tournaments, but ones with 10-minute blind levels, and with only a $10 buyin open to anybody with internet access. It just takes a bunch of run-good to win one of these things, there is no doubt about it. Like I said earlier this week, the trick I think is just to come out for these 24 tournaments and try to play well in all of them, in the hopes that the one or two times the math runs your way, you can be in position to grab the seat.

I mentioned this as well earlier in the week, but I will say it again after playing in the Buddy last night -- a lot of people out there whose game I have come to know and understand very well are simply not playing their game so far through several BBT5 events. Guys I have sat and watched play a generally very tight style of poker for years -- the style they still play in that $8 token sng they run in during the Buddy each week -- seem to be repeatedly busting out early, stacking off for many many big blinds with just top pair mediocre kicker against obvious strength, etc. People who have proven over time in the private blogger tournaments as well as in prior BBT series that they have the patience to stick around and wait for the good spots are instead pushing way too hard with marginal hands and taking huge hits early.

I was thinking maybe it's due to the BBT5 being far shorter than our previous tournament series, and as a result people quite rightly feel the pressure to get their win as quickly as possible or something, but obviously pushing marginal hands too hard against a crowd like this -- especially in the Buddy of all the BBT5 tournaments -- is not the way to do it. I know all about what I speak of here because as my longtime readers know, I have typically started off these BBT tournament series very slow, often playing too aggressively early, even for weeks on end before finally finding my groove. Let this post be a lesson to all of you out there who are struggling with that same feeling now -- and I've played all the events, I've seen it everywhere -- don't take 4 or 5 weeks figuring out that you have to play a tight-aggressive game and that you have to respect the fact that bloggers will call with many hands that might not warrant a call outside of a tournament like the Buddy. In the BBT5, 4 or 5 weeks of goofing is too long to give yourself a chance. Like I said above, everyone is tied to the same rule ultimately -- you have to play every single tournament smart and just hope you are around for the one or two times in the entire series when fortune will smile on you enough to give you a chance to win.

And speaking of bloggers calling, I value bet like a monster on Wednesday night and played my way right into a tournament-leading stack for most of the second hour of the Buddy on the night. I'm not sure I've ever consistently made and succeeded in getting paid with such thin value bets, which of course all comes down to making the right reads on your opponents' hands. Multiple times I had guys call me down at the river for 70% of the pot with just one pip lower than my kicker. I got 2nd pair top kicker to call down my top pair crap kicker on a couple of occasions, and I even got a few players to call at the river when I had turned or rivered monsters like when I turned a set (muhahahahahah!) in the second hour or when I rivered an inside straight with pocket 8s in the first. I didn't win any big pots with big pairs or AK on the night, but I amassed over 13k in chips at one point during Hour 2 just by winning a lot of hands without showdowns, and getting people to call me at the river with slightly worse hands than my own, even when nowhere near the nuts. It was awesome, and I was just beginning to think I might be able to crack out another final table run.

Then late in Hour 2 I got moved to one of the sickest, silliest tables I've ever sat at in a blonkament, one featuring myself, Chad, Lucko and LJ all within the span of five or six seats at the table. As we all had pretty large stacks in front of us, it was only a matter of time before somebody was gonna tussle. I went first when my read failed me on Lucko, as I open-raised from the button with pocket 4s, Lucko quickly reraised me from the big blind, and my read told me he acted too quick to really want action, so I pushed for another 4x his raise or so. He called quickly, at which point I was actually happy to see he had AK (as opposed to any pair) when we flipped our cards, but although I flopped good he hit a King on the turn and I quickly went from a nice stack with around half the field left to out of the tournament, and Lucko's stack swelled to frightening proportions.

Right before deciding to push in on the preflop reraise there, I specifically thought to myself "I should fold here. I did fold in this spot several times the other day when I won. If I did not have my ToC seat wrapped up already I would fold here." So I called, went with the aggressive play, and it turned out to be one that was the correct move given Lucko's holding, but I can't complain about the result when I knowingly, willingly took on that race and knew it was a more volatile move than necessary in that spot and still with a nice chip stack behind. Basically, with a ToC seat already in my back pocket, I took a gamble here on a 50-50 shot (52-48 in my favor, to be exact) that if I won, I would have a massive stack and a very good chance of smashing through this field, but that if I lost, my big stack would be gone and I would be done. Frankly, it's a bad move in a tournament like this as I can surely wait for a better spot than with the 4s where any hand Lucko calls with (and I figured he would call with overs) is basically racing against me, but I chose to do it and I almost held on for the big win. Instead I was out and as I mentioned, the specter of Big Stack Lucko really started to emerge.

Lucko's stack got even stoopider when Chad ended up reraising a preflop raiser and a caller with Chad's hammer, and ended up pushing that into both pocket Jacks and Lucko's pocket Queens, all allin preflop. Chad could not hold up despite flopping five outs to win, and before anyone knew it, Lucko had 50k in chips -- way too early in the Buddy for that kind of a stack -- when second place had just over 12k. And if you're like me, you were ready to call it for Lucko right then and there, with still like 30 runners left. Nobody plays that big stack in a blonkament like Lucko does, that has been demonstrated time and time again.

Although I was gone for most of the next hour, I did manage to log in to the final table and see that Lucko was gone and that Poker Meister (I think that's who KeepFloppin is or whateverhisnameis) had amassed the prohibitively large stack near the beginning, and in the end it looks like he's the guy who took it down and nabbed the last BBT5 ToC seat for this week. That has got to be the most significant blogger tournament win Meister has ever had, so congratulations to him for apparently playing very well and pretty much dominating the entire final table from beginning to end.

Six of the 24 seats in the BBT5 Tournament of Champions have now been awarded. This coming Sunday night, two more lucky run-gooders will claim their spot at the table in the Invitational freeroll. I'll be there, once again with my aggression hat on, waiting to make you call me light on the river by picking just the right amount that you simply cannot resist.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BBT ToC is Me (Redux)

"Like I said, I am playing some really solid tournament poker lately, across all my poker playing including the BBT5. I just haven't yet had the opportunity to hold up where I need to along the way in the series. A lot of the old standbys from the private blogger tournaments, guys who have made appearances in prior BBT Tournament of Champions, seem to be playing overly aggressively or otherwise somehow not on their game so far four tournaments into the 24-event series, which should help my cause all the more. Hopefully 24 total chances at the ToC is enough for the math to work in my favor one time, because I'm confident I will be right there and still alive when it's my turn for the luck to even out in this thing."

-- Me, yesterday afternoon

Funny how things work sometimes. Here I was about six hours prior to the Poker From the Rail tournament as the open events of the BBT5 resume this week, and I was feeling good about my game although severely wanting as far as my results thus far in the BBT5. I wrote a whole post describing my opinion of my play -- aggressive, solid, hardly any mistakes, folding when necessary -- and I ended with exactly what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote the post on Monday afternoon: just give me a little run-good and hold up where I need it, and I will be there with the stack and the mentality to take advantage.

And that's pretty much just the way it happened.

Unfortunately, the Under is going to win in a landslide today, because I just don't have time to do a full recap post, though I am hoping to find the time one night this week for that. But the last I heard, the line was set on BuddyDankRadio at 70,000 words for my post today. I just don't have any time today, so I'll try to keep it under 40k if at all possible.

The really abridged version of my Poker From the Rail win on Monday night is that I got an early double-up with slow-played pocket Aces, then basically sat around for about two full hours in the 4k-8k range, hovering around the middle of the pack but unable to break out and unwilling to let myself get too low without aggressing my way back to respectability. I played my usual aggressive game from the getgo, and I was able to withstand an early suckout with AQ vs AJ allin preflop for about a third of my stack thanks to the early double with Aces.

But despite the early pocket Aces (I would see them, as well as pocket Kings, one more time apiece in the latter half of the tournament), in the end my biggest pots of the night were generally won with crappy cards. One hand comes to mind when I got allin with 74s and rivered a straight against pocket Jacks, and another with 76s when I pushed allin on a resteal preflop against katiemother and won a key 40-60 shot against her overcards. I recall winning at least one key pot at the final table with one pair with 96o for that matter. I played a very wide range of hands on the night overall, and played them extremely aggressively from the very start to the very finish, and I ran just good enough along the way to make it happen.

And don't get me wrong, this was not one of those tournaments like I've definitely had from time to time where I luckflonked my way to the title. Far from it -- I would say without a doubt that I played the best tournament poker of anybody in the tournament last night. I just happened to run good a little bit along the way. But I got what I would describe as good starting cards -- far from deck-slappage, but as I mentioned I saw AA twice and KK once which is unusual for me, plus a bunch of AK's that I recall out of nearly 400 total hands on the night. And even though I mentioned the couple of key spots where I activated the run-good and survived in what I thought were good spots to make the moves I was making, I also survived two absolutely brutal bad beats when 3-handed and heads-up allin preflop and dominating -- in addition to winning the biggest pot of the entire tournament with my ATs vs Troublecat's TT allin preflop during heads-up play. So overall it was a smattering of some good luck and some bad luck, some good starting cards and plenty of bad, and overall some seriously great poker tournament play from me along the way, among the best I can recall playing in a blonkament.

Although I do hope to get more into this later in the week, I should mention the heads-up battle that saw me come in with more than a 3:1 chip deficit thanks to a major suckout one hand before heads-up. I was up against Troublecat, who many of you may know as the guy who won an event at the LAPC some years ago back when poker blogging was in its nascence, and he and I battled it out hard core to nab the seat. I think he said the heads-up match eventually lasted 72 hands, nearly half of the hands seen on the entire final table, and it was definitely one of those epic heads-up battles that happen once in a long while in the big blonkaments. It was fun but frustrating, as I played a significantly more aggressive game than Ryan did, as I must have won a good 65% of the hands we played heads-up. Much of this was due to the fact that Ryan played very passive with the big chip lead for almost the entire time while I played aggressive like a jackass and just hoped not to get called, or to suckout or win a 40-60 if I did, and once again that's exactly what happened when he reraised me and I called with ATs against Ryan's TT. The flop brought not one but two Aces, and suddenly it was I with the 3:1 chip lead. I played the chip lead far more aggressively than Ryan had, and after one more allin where I lost a 60-40 shot to end it, I finally vanquished Troublecat after about 50 minutes of heads-up play shortly after 2am ET when we both got in with top pair but my kicker was just a couple of pips ahead of his.

My overall impressions of the night: I played awesome tournament poker, especially heads-up where I refused to give up despite playing about 65 of the 72 hands from a significant chip deficit. Especially in a ToC-driven BBT series, I can't say I am any kind of a fan of the structure being such that really from the final two tables it was almost all preflop push-n-pray poker. I don't mind that and frankly most online mtt's end up playing out that way, but when you have to outright win an event in order to make it in to play for the big prizes in the ToC, it just feels wrong that Ryan doesn't get a seat in addition to some others who got sucked out on at the final table if that happens multiple times in a short BBT series like this.

And most of all, I ran well when I needed it, just like I was saying yesterday.

ToC here I come!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Bittersweet BBT

Four events so far in the BBT5. I don't really count The Buddy last week because I was gone for a little more than the first hour and ended up pushing allin real quick to try for an insta-double after raising about 75% of the first several hands I saw in the middle of Hour 2 with a short stack. But otherwise I've played in three of them, and I am playing really good poker. In stark contrast to how I usually seem to feel at the beginning of these long tournament series, I'm basically playing some of the best poker I ever play. I just haven't been able to withstand the barrage yet and my number seems to keep coming up over and over.

In the first Invitational tournament a little more than a week ago, with two runners out of just 79 entrants (more like 70 when you strike those who did not show) slated to nab BBT5 ToC seats, I was active from the getgo as always, but I had to make two big folds early on, one to Tripjax and one to Fuel. With Fuel I laid down top pair third kicker and was pretty sure I was behind when he raised me on the turn (seeing what he has gotten allin with in the BBT tournament so far has left me thinking likely otherwise). Against Trip, who is a little tighter, I laid down top pair 2nd kicker and an open-ended straight draw to his turn raise which also made a flush possible, and that one left me with under 1000 chips from the 3k starting stack not more than 20 or 30 minutes in. From there though I fought back, playing a smart, aggressive game and using my entire short stack as needed to keep people at bay, which also helped me to double up a couple of times in pretty easy spots where I knew I was ahead and figured I would be able to get my opponent's full stack. Down to around 20 remaining, with me solidly in the middle of the field, and two ToC seats on the line, I found QQ preflop in the small blind and reraised a big stack allin. He instacalled with AKo and IGH when the Ace flops. First card out of the deck.

One week ago today was the first Poker From the Rail tournament of the BBT5. In that one I once again slipped a bit in the earlygoing, but again there I quickly turned things around, won a ton of pots, mostly without showdowns, and really started to climb. I was in the top ten in chips for a while around the midpoint, but once again more than halfway through the field and with a nice stack going, I ran 99 into a big stack's 77 preflop, and lost when the 7 flopped to send me home before the deep part of the tournament.

I did not really play in last Wednesday's Buddy as I mentioned, but this weekend was the second of the Invitational tournaments, this time with 108 runners, much more than the field of the first week's which will prove to have been easily the best chance anyone will get to play for the big prizes in the ToC. Once again I slipped early, when I made a monster flop of T65 with two clubs while I was holding AT of clubs in my hand, against a guy who had called my preflop raise from the blinds. I led out on this flop, and he called. The turn brought an offsuit 7, which I wanted to make sure to bet at again given the three to a straight now on the board, and my opponent smooth called once again after some pause. The river brought the scary-looking 9 (offsuit) for a final board of T5679, but I figured there's no way I'm putting this guy on an 8 given the way this board played out (what was he calling on the flop with?), so I moved in on the reverse hoy for his last 600 chips into what was probably a 4500-chip pot already at this point. And he showed me 76 for the turned two pairs I definitely did not see coming and once again a sub-1000 stack very early on in this thing.

From there though, I fought back and once again used my short stack to my extreme advantage. I won about 25% of the total pots at my table preflop for the remainder of the first hour, and when someone finally doubled me up with their top pair fifth kicker early in Hour 2, I was back above the starting stack and looking to move even higher. I chased people off of hands like it was my job, and I busted at least four guys along the way to amassing over 10k in chips and another appearance in the top 10 of the leaderboard for a good long while. Eventually I open-raised for the umpteenth time from the button, this time with a deceptively strong JJ given how ridiculously I had stolen for the past couple of hours, and the small blind, a known tight player, reraised allin for a little over twice my raise. I knew this guy was tight but I also figured he could be in there with a slightly lower pair than mine, and he certainly could be in there with AK or maybe even AQs (and he figures I play like a maniac, so his range could be even a bit wider than normal), and the pot odds I was getting were simply far too good to fold given that I figured I was somewhere north of 50% to win the hand against his range. I called, he showed AK, and the Ace on the river erased half of my stack just like that in a hand that I could not have played any other way.

I picked up a couple of pots with now a short stack once again in the bottom ten of the 30-some players remaining out of the field of 108, and then never fear, I pick up QQ on the button, and the action folds to me. I did the standard raise of 3x to 900 chips (about a fifth of my stack at this point), and the big stack in the big blind waits maybe two seconds before moving allin. Of course I am calling here, he flips up KTo, and the King on the river sends me home. Gulp. I went to run some errands and when I come back maybe 25 minutes later to check on the leaderboard, that guy is already completely out despite using the suckout to jump to 3rd or 4th in chips of around 36 or 37 remaining at the time.

Like I said, I am playing some really solid tournament poker lately, across all my poker playing including the BBT5. I just haven't yet had the opportunity to hold up where I need to along the way in the series. A lot of the old standbys from the private blogger tournaments, guys who have made appearances in prior BBT Tournament of Champions, seem to be playing overly aggressively or otherwise somehow not on their game so far four tournaments into the 24-event series, which should help my cause all the more. Hopefully 24 total chances at the ToC is enough for the math to work in my favor one time, because I'm confident I will be right there and still alive when it's my turn for the luck to even out in this thing.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Dilemma at the River

Well, so much for my plan to evoke historical memories of Las Vegas every week here leading up to my trip back to the desert in early June. Today instead I have a hand post that I wrote most of last week after playing in a home game I have frequented several times before downtown in Manhattan midway through last week. For a change we opted to play straight 1-2 no-limit cash, and there were maybe 7 or 8 of us around the table for most of the night. These were mostly people I have played with before, although in some cases it has been a good long while for some of the individuals. Others I have a very strong read on and have played with enough, and enough recently, that I felt like I would know where I was at with them from the way they played their hands.

Around 90 minutes or so into our game, I was down to about three-quarters of my starting stack of 100 chips, having raised preflop a couple of times but then laid down to preflop reraises or to a raise on the flop. I looked down to find AQs in early position and put in my standard low-limit live poker raise of 4x the big blind to $8. Everyone folded except for the tight player across the table from me on the button, who called my raise. Although I am generally a tight player and had not shown a single poor hand down through this entire session, I know that to this crowd I am known as a hyper aggressive player, so I can't necessarily ever put anybody really on a monster when they call a preflop raise from me, especially in position, but at the same time as I mentioned this guy has been a tight player who likes to hold on to his money in the couple of times I have played with him in the past.

The flop came down AA9 with two hearts, and I figure I have got to be hopelessly ahead here. I figure if I bet this flop and confirm my preflop raise with an Ace, tighty across the way will just fold, so I check. I had not been c-betting hardly at all (hard to c-bet when you see very few flops and don't hit any of them), and the one time I had in the entire session I had folded to a raise, so I figured not c-betting here would not be giving away too much about the nature of my hand at all. My opponent checked behind, and we saw a turn of an offsuit 8. On this street, I figured I had begun the story of me not having an Ace in my hand with my failure to c-bet the flop, so I had already determined that I would check again on the turn, despite the drawish board, to try to stimulate some action from my opponent that I could either just call and risk a scary river, or that I could raise and take down the pot right then and there. Even as the dealer burned and turned the 8 on the turn, I was already loudly announcing my check, deliberately checking basically in the dark as I tried to send the message loud and clear that I was not holding an Ace and did not want to put any more money into this pot. This time my opponent seemed to get the message a little bit, as he bet out $12 into the $19 pot. I considered my options, decided that this guy has played fairly tight, and maybe he has a hand like a medium pocket pair that he assumes his ahead given the two Aces on the flop and my unwillingness to bet on either street so far since the community cards hit the board. I liked the thought of that, and I know I can fold when I think I am beat, so I decided to again tempt fate by just calling. I made sure to delay a bit, such that I am sure basically no one around the table believed I actually held an Ace in my hand.

There was $43 in the pot as the dealer burned and turned the river card, peeling over a black 5, making the final board AA985 with no flush possibility. As I looked up to get a read on my opponent, he was looking at the board and sneering -- literally, sneering, so hard core in fact, that it felt painfully obvious that the guy wanted to be seen doing it. He was acting like he hated that river card more than anything he'd ever seen in his life. Which made me, of course, think he somehow liked it. Still, though, with the way I played my flopped trips this hand so slow heading into this street on the river, I figured the odds were very good that my trips-and-second-kicker was ahead, and that my opponent would call a reasonable bet from me with a worse hand since I had tried so hard to act like I was not holding an Ace. Even though I wanted some value here, I hated the face he had made at the river card -- it was just too, too glaring and overt as I mentioned -- so I literally said out loud to the table as I motioned for some chips, "Well, despite the face you just made at that river, I will lead out for $20." I didn't like the face, but when you play your hand slow you need to "own" that decision for the rest of the hand, and in this case I felt like if I checked and my opponent just checked behind, then I was really not getting value out of the hand the way I had played it. So I led out for $20, right around half the pot.

My opponent took his time, and I became increasingly sure I was ahead since he obviously had to take his time deciding whether or not to call my roughly half-pot bet. After maybe a full minute, replete with more agonized-looking face-twisting, I was shocked to see the guy slide the rest of his chips into the middle and announce he was all in.

Whaaaaa? That face he'd made really did mean strength, didn't it?

My opponent had me covered, so the bet was basically another $40 to me to win $83.

Are you sure enough to call here?

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Buddy and the BBT

Well, tonight is Event #3 of the BBT5, and I'm sad to say I'm not going to be there to join in the festivities. Or rather, my buyin will be there, and my avatar will be there, but I won't be. I have plans tonight that will keep me out until after the last of my stack is likely blinded away this evening when the first Mookie tournament of the latest BBT goes off at 10pm ET on full tilt, but I figure it is only fair for me to contribute my $10 to whoever has the sack to take me down.

And while we're on the topic, ever since I discovered several weeks back that it was now BuddyDank who has taken over organizing and running the Mookie, while Mookie has basically withdrawn from blogging, playing poker and from being involved with his old tournament, I've been referring to this tournament as what it really is: The Buddy. So that up there was the last time you will hear me refer to the Buddy as the Mookie, when talking about it from this point forward. Sure, when we reminisce about what this tournament once was for our group back in the day, it's the Mookie. I'm not trying to rewrite history here. But I'm also not for continuing to call a tournament by the name of its former organizer when that guy is no longer a contributing member of our group, and while another guy who is a contributing member of the group in a big, huge way is now hosting and running it. And broadcasting live on the radio via internet during it!

So that's it. The Wednesday night tournament is "the Buddy" in Hoy's world and has been for some time. The Mookie had an awesome run, but just like the new Monday night Poker From the Rail tournament isn't called the Hoy or the MATH anymore, the Buddy shouldn't still be called the Mookie either.

So tonight is the Buddy, the first Buddy of the BBT5. It should be a blast. With the new PFTR tournament on Monday getting what, mid-80s for participation, the Buddy tonight ought probably to get over 100, maybe even solidly so? It's always hard to tell with these things but I mean if 85 or whatever ponied up the $26 the other day for a brand new tournament, then a long-running tournament with a new name (the Buddy FTW!) ought to draw in considerably more than that in these BBT times, one would think.

The BBT has been fun so far, and I think there are several things that combine to make this easily the best conceived and best structured BBT ever. First off, unlike the FTOPS which seems to be going on in one of its many forms almost every few weeks at this point on full tilt, the BBT has smartly been reduced to a once a year thing. When it's been 11 months since we last geared up for a series like this, it feels a whole lot better to get into the grind than when we just did it four or five months earlier. By the time Al announced the BBT5 a few weeks back, the blogging public was rip-roaring ready for it, and the fact that it was such a surprise to have back at all really added to that.

Secondly, the grind that is a tournament series like the BBT has been significantly and smartly reduced this time around. When we first started the BBT, I think we used to run somewhere around 55 events over a three-month period, and frankly, to me that did not seem like too long of a time. In fact, back then were it up to me, we could have run the BBT like the WPBT and just kept score over the entire calendar year, and I would have been down with that. At first, the prospect of getting some friendly competition going and seeing who can do the best in the private games was an awesome one, and like I said, personally I would have loved to have seen it last all year long.

But once we ran these 55-event series a few times, we all seemed to realize the same thing: we like our private blogger tournaments to just be relaxing, enjoyable times to chat and donk around sometimes, without the pressure that comes along with everybody playing for big, big prizes and a shot at serious cashish. After three months straight of every blogger tournament, every week, full of pressure-cooker situations, dirty chat and a lot of hard feelings and jealousy for thirteen straight weeks, most of us had really had enough. It became a serious grind, one where you felt like you didn't want to miss any of the events, so you end up getting all worked up to play four or five nights a week and you feel like you can't skip it, and it just feeds off itself and in the end it just felt too long to most people it seems.

The BBT5 fixes this in that the whole series lasts just six weeks. Now, that will also make it correspondingly more difficult to get in to the series-ending Tournament of Champions, since there will be a maximum of only 24 chances to get in instead of more than twice that many as we have had in past years. But you gotta give a little to get a little. And on the good front, the whole series takes up just six weeks of our lives. I think that is a major improvement that I imagine most of the participants appreciate as well.

In addition to helping make the series less of a grind by making it last a shorter number of weeks, another smart move from Al and full tilt this time around was including fewer tournaments per week in the series. This year we are just looking at the new PFTR tournament on Monday nights at 10pm ET and the Buddy on Wednesday nights at 10pm ET. For those in the Invitational tournament, that is a third tournament each week, on Sunday nights at 7pm ET. So for most players out there, the BBT5 is just two tourneys a week, and some of us a third as well, which is much better than back in the day when we had the Big Game every Sunday night, the MATH on Mondays, the Skills on Tuesdays and the Mookie (remember when it was called the Mookie?) on Wednesdays? I know the Riverchasers was in there on Thursdays for some time as well, but I don't think we ever had a 5-nights-a-week BBT, but I know we've had multiple weeks with four tournaments week in and week out. And again, especially once we shifted over to a Tournament of Champions-based structure for the final tournament, it was hard to let yourself miss many of these tournaments if you really wanted to play for the big prizes, so in the end we would spend 13 straight weeks each getting it up four nights in a row every single week, and it all really contributed to the grind in a big way.

Nowadays, the BBT5 is just twice a week for the open events, and once more early on Sunday nights for the Invitational. And the whole thing lasts six weeks to determine the winners. This is a much kinder, gentler, and far more user-friendly BBT than we have ever had before, and yet as far as I can tell prizes are better than ever before, including three WSOP ME seats if I recall correctly. That is some sick shizznit right there.

Oh, I should also mention the other thing I love about the Invitational part of the BBT5 is that it awards ToC seats to the top two finishers, not just the overall winner. I know as well as anyone how hard it is to win a tournament -- I do play 999 mtt's a night and often go months and months without any scores as I know you know -- and to me it is a significant difference to award seats to the top two instead of just to #1. For one thing, with around 80 runners invited to each event, that absolutely gives each one of us twice as good of a chance of getting in to the ToC. I'm not saying everybody in the Invitational field has the exact same mathematical odds of making the ToC, which I'm sure is not the case, but no matter what your odds are, they are going to basically double when we add a second seat to each Invitational tournament, plain and simple. Without a doubt in my mind it is significant easier to finish second or first, than just to finish first in any tournament field, and this consideration can even have a definite effect on proper strategy at the final table in these events depending on stack sizes, which is an area where I feel good skill players can really excel.

Oh -- and the fact that there is no buyin and a $2000 prize pool for each of these Invitational freerolls ain't bad either!

So I won't be at the Buddy tonight, but you definitely should be. It's at 10pm ET on full tilt, password as always is "vegas1". I'm looking for well into triple-digits in participants, with the winner nabbing some nice cash in addition to a seat in the BBT5-ending Tournament of Champions in late May. And if you're lucky you might even be at my table when I arrive home at 11:40pm and insta-push my last 200 chips into the middle with that 72o preflop.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's True

This past weekend, I had the biggest party at my house that I've had since I moved away from Boston ten years ago. Hammer Wife and I had about 50 people over -- almost 40 adults and 12 or so kids -- to celebrate my brother in law's 40th birthday -- and I have to say, this was just about the best grown-up house party I've been to in as long as I can remember.

And I didn't do squat to plan for it. I mean nothing. Like, I had no idea what people were going to do, where people were going to sit, what people were going to eat or drink. Cake for the birthday boy? Never thought of that. Invitations to go out? Never considered it.

Here it was, the party was just starting on Saturday afternoon, and I'm sitting in my chair in the living room entertaining the first of our guests, when out our front window I see a strange sight. It was Joanne, the woman who runs the store in town where my kids go from time to time to do arts and crafts and hang out with their friends, and she was walking right up my street. I've never seen this woman before in my life except inside her store in town, and here she is practically turning up my driveway as my brother in law's party begins.

"Hammer Wife!" I yelled (no, I don't really care her Hammer Wife at home), "You're not going to believe this. Joanne from Kid's Corner is walking right up our driveway right now."

And then came back the answer that let me know this party was actually in good hands all along. "Of course I believe it. I hired her to do face painting and arts and crafts on the porch for the kids," explained Hammer Wife in her all-knowing, all-planning splendor.

I actually had face painting, balloons, and arts and crafts for a bunch of kids at a party for several families at my house this past weekend! Instead of running around donking my way through a half-assed attempt at a party, slaving over food and desperately trying to find things for the children to do since the weather was surprisingly chilly and rainy, everything had been taken care of, down to the finest details of posting countless photographs all over our house of the birthday boy from the '70s and '80s at various points in his life, the fine catered food delivered to our door at the perfect time and in copious amounts, extra seating brought in in the form of benches, tables and fold-away chairs on the porch and in the back yard, and the giant-size gourmet birthday cake in my brother in law's favorite flavors. And all with the delicate touch and style that only Hammer Wife could muster.

This weekend I got to host a party that I know the attendees and their kids will be talking about for some time. Most of the kids literally cried when told they had to leave, and several of the families stayed well into the evening hours just hanging out and having a great time. And I didn't have to spend more than fifteen minutes planning the event or even thinking about what we wanted to have. Somehow, the same person who not only watches the three Hammer Kids all day but ferries them around from one school to the library to the other school to softball practice, to ballet class and then back home every single day, also found the time to single-handedly plan a kick-balls party all whilst exhibiting no dropoff whatsoever with all of her other daily trials and tribulations.

It's true what they say about poker bloggers marrying up.

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Monday, April 19, 2010


I should mention that upon my return to my home pc late in the day on Monday, I was pleased to discover that twoblackaces was in fact supposed to be included in the BBT5 Invitational, which is great news for a guy who as I said earlier today really deserves to be involved. I heard late on Monday about how Miami Don, Tripjax and a few others including TBA had not been contacted in time for Sunday night's Event #1 due to faulty or old email addresses or various other logistical problems. As I understand it, those parties have been contacted by this point and the full list of invitational members should be in place shortly if not already. But like I said that is great news for TBA and great news for the BBT5 as well as one of its most deserving members will now be around in the Sunday Invitational events where twice as many ToC seats are available.

Of course, this is a -EV move for the rest of us currently in the Invitational portion of the tournament series. But right is right and here I am happy to be able to report that I jumped the gun earlier today and that the guys I mentioned above should be in the future Invitational tournaments in the upcoming weeks.

Now it's time to go kick some blogger butt in my old MATH time slot and my old MATH buyin.

Or get sucked out on by a donkey insta-calling alling with AK unimproved on the flop.

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BBT Five Alive

And so the BBT has resumed for one more romp in the sand, this time with some $50,000 of prizes to be awarded, including I believe not one, not two but three WSOP Main Event seats for this year. And it was nice to see that the first event of BBT5 was won by one of the good guys. Congrats to JJ, one of last year's winners of the BBT4 WSOP Main Event packages, who as of Sunday afternoon was not even included on the list of players registered for the Sunday night invitational freeroll tournament.

I was glad to see full tilt rectify that situation shortly before go time on Sunday night with the first event of BBT5, and with the addition of some of the other late names it seems that most of the people I had originally been very surprised to see omitted from the list had found their way in as well by the 7pm ET start time on Sunday night. I remain extremely surprised by some of the names of the people who are on the list for the invitational, but as Al described yesterday on Buddy Dank radio, full tilt went through Al's list of everybody who ever blogged about poker or who ever participated in any of the BBT tournament series, and full tilt picked that initial batch of 50 "have to have's" from the master list. As I mentioned it surprises me greatly that full tilt had actual interest in a number of the people on the initial 50 list in playing in the BBT5 series, but I suppose that is a testament to the value that full tilt sees in bloggers and in potentially funding some people who have written about poker publicly in the past to play some events at this year's World Series of Poker.

The late additions, however, do leave I think one painfully glaring omission from the invitational invitee list, and that is TwoBlackAces. If there is one guy who deserves to be in the invitational and yet who (I think) is still not in there, it's got to be TBA. Not only has TBA been an integral participant in the last few BBT series, playing many if not most of the events, but TBA has also been a fairly prolific poker blogger, especially by today's poker blogger standards. He has fostered a good sense of the community that is left among our group over the past few years, and another important factor is that TBA has demonstrated repeatedly that he can cash in real-life MTTs as well as just about any other blogger out there, so he could stand a reasonable chance of making us all look good should he nab one of the WSOP prize packages available to the BBT5 winners. And lastly, and maybe most importantly, TBA is one of the very few guys in our group who has been consistently out there, not only pimping but even himself playing in all the regular blogger tournaments, even in the past year of all-time low blonkament support following the end of BBT4 last spring. For the past year, every time the Skillz Game had only 6 or 7 entries, TBA was there. When the Mookie had under 20 runners for weeks and weeks on end late in 2009 and early in 2010? TBA was always in there. Whether it's been extolling the virtues of the regular private games on his blog, or showing his support by making an appearance and having a go at the weekly title, twoblackaces has been pretty much as close to a model poker-blogging and poker-playing citizen as we have in our group, and I was very sad to see him not included even in the once-updated or twice-updated list of players in the BBT5 Invitational Sunday night tournament.

Which is why I want to officially offer right here and right now, I would like to offer up three of my five remaining entries into the Invitational tournaments to twoblackaces. Al, or full tilt, if you're out there, if you can't get TBA into the Invitational where he so clearly belongs now because you can't add anyone new at this point to the competition, then I would like to offer up my entry in half of the Invitational tournaments to TBA so that justice can be served. You could actually enter TBA in place of me into those three Invitational events, or for all I am concerned I would happily allow TBA to log into my account and play under my name for those tournaments, with full tilt's blessing of course. But to be perfectly honest, TBA deserves this spot even more than me, and I am more than happy to make the sacrifice myself to make things right.

Someone let me know how to effect this and I am happy to put my money where my mouth is, please.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Prelude to Vegas -- T Minus Six Weeks

I've decided that in an attempt to share my psyched-ness about going to Vegas and to the WSOP in early June again this year, I am going to try to take some time each week and post something that gets me all worked up just thinking about the great times I have had in the desert in years past. Some of these may be specific memories, they may be links to old posts I did here, and they may be stories or new information that I've never explicitly discussed here before. The theme again is just things that for whatever reason get me psyched up for Vegas.

For my first "Prelude to Vegas" post this year, I thought I would do a fun game, which I am basing on the gossip game that Howard Stern loves to play with the National Enquirer guy once a week who presents four items of gossip, and the game is to try to pick out the one gossip story that is totally made up. I'm going to try out the same game here, only mine is going to be for the readers to pick which of the four stories below is not true. So, to be clear, three of the following four Vegas Fun Facts are in fact 100% stone cold accurate, and one of them is completely made-up. See if you can spot the fake one:

1. On my way out to play in my first WPBT live tournament during the summer gathering back in 2006, I was walking to the front door of the Excalibur to hop in a cap over to Caesar's, and in front of me were four prominent poker bloggers also waiting in the cab line, guys who know a lot about how Vegas works and who had spent time in the city previously for sure. After the bellman went out of his way to find them a quick cab, hoisted a couple of bags into the trunk (I guess someone was leaving straight from Caesar's?) and opened the door for them, they all left him standing there with his white glove out, empty-handed and tipless. As he had clearly gone a little above and beyond in getting them their cab, and given my understanding of how much tipping makes Las Vegas go, I was sure to give the guy two tips and made sure he knew that the first one was for the guys in front of me, who I told him were a part of my party.

2. A friend of mine once went to Vegas with me and had a near-death experience, culminating in him passing out, claiming to me in a weak, frail voice that his heart was stopping, and begging me to "tell my wife that I love her....and I'm sorry." And then he collapsed to the ground in the MGM casino.

3. I once contributed craps winnings to partially fund two "ladies of the night" to come up to a suite full of several other male friends of mine and show them a good time. One of the ladies we later found out was actually a gentleman.

4. I once partied and slapped five's with Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing on Superbowl Sunday in Vegas in the Mandalay Bay sports book.

Can you spot the fake?

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

W T F Criminal Justice System

How the hell did Ben Roethlisberger not get charged with sexual assault?

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Lost Sucks

Back for this week's version of Why Lost Sucks. The writers have now taken to explaining away significant questions or tying up significant loose ends in just about the most pat way imaginable, almost like they are running for the exits as the series winds down its six-year run with nary a whimper.

I mean, did you ever wonder what happened to Libby? Yes, you remember Libby, Tailie during season two who was shot and killed by Michael shortly after taking a liking to Hurley, and one show after we saw a flashback of Libby living in the same mental institution (and looking really effed up, at that) as Hurley had been shortly before coming to the island. And then, that was it. No more Libby, for four years later, the story all but forgotten.

Michael's son, Walt? Also gone since leaving the island in Season 2. But never fear, inquisitive Lost fan! Last season, we saw Locke inexplicably go to visit Walt, for no apparent reason, before Locke was killed by Ben off-island, where absolutely nothing of any significance whatsoever was done or said between the two. But hey, now the Walt story has been all finished up! They've explained everything, haven't they? Walt's strange visions, his ability to control the minds of animals, the telepathy, all of it, explained away because Locke went to see him last year and they shared a meaningless five-minute conversation about nothing.

And now, we finally know the story of Libby. In one fell swoop, the writers have now sewn up probably their most embarrassing gaffe of the entire series -- starting up a whole flashback with Libby and Hurley, but then literally dropping it on a dime and never picking it up again -- by simply showing Libby in Sideways world, also living voluntarily in the same mental institution, but this time she plays an integral part in Sideways Hurley realizing that he needs to go back to the island reality to make things right. So I guess now we know why Libby was in the mental institution with Hurley in the real world prior to Oceanic Flight 815 in her flashback, right? Once again, the writers have explained everything coherently and with integrity to the original story lines they presented to us years ago. Thanks so much for the respect, Lost.

And the worst example of all of this, also from this week's episode? For everyone who has spent the better part of six years wondering where the hell all these whispers on the island are coming from, now we know! Michael explained it very succinctly to Hurley in this week's show: "We're the ones who can't move on."

Of course! They're the ones who can't move on! Why didn't I think of that? It's so obvious now that Michael has explained it for us.

And for those of you who will spend countless hours this week pondering the meaning and significance of Michael's cryptic comment -- about whether it supports the theory of the island as a purgatory of some kind or even hell itself -- I have just one message for you as you wait with baited breath to figure out just what this all means:

Don't hold you breath.

I solemnly guarantee you, loyal, let-down Lost fans that Michael's final statement about the nature of the island whisperers will be the last thing you ever hear about them. Period. The writers of Heroes Lost now think they have sufficiently explained the existence of the weird whispers on the island. Why, they're the voices of the people who can't move on, of course! Now we know exactly what that means! Next week they'll probably move on to explaining away something else that's been at issue for years on Lost -- maybe the polar bears, maybe the identity of the skeletons in the central cave.

What will we learn next about the island's great mysteries? The little blond boy who keeps appearing to Flocke this season is actually just a kid from suburban Chicago who was left alone on the island after his family accidentally returned from a tropical vacation without him? Or no, that the ash ring around Jacob's cabin is really magical pixie dust that spewed from the tail of Mr. Eko's brother Yemey's plane when it crash landed on the island back in the 1970s.

Anything is poossible if you keep makin it up as you go along, guys. Clearly it's been working these past couple of seasons.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Read 'Em And Reap

So I finally got around to buying (thank you!) and reading the poker tells book "Read 'Em and Reap", which is sort of co-written by Phil Hellmuth and a well-known FBI interrogator type who teaches the reader all about things like high confidence mannerisms, pacifying behaviors and limbic responses as applied to reading people in live poker games. I actually feel about it very similarly to how I feel about Mike Caro's Big Book of Poker Tells, in that both were very interesting reads and each presents a ton of information that, at least theoretically, should be useable at the poker table by just about everyone. The problem I end up having with even the truly good poker tells books out on the market today is that ultimately I feel like they present tells in a far too recognizable way, making them largely inapplicable in actual practice IMO.

For example, "Read 'Em and Reap" has a great discussion of micro-movements, which the author explains as automatic and fairly immediate responses hardwired into the human brain's limbic systems, which generally cause human beings to flee from bad events, while silmutaneously causing us to physically get closer to good ones. Thus, when the flop is turned up and a player's eyes immediately are averted for a millisecond before returning to the table, this player generally was not helped by the flop. Whereas, the guy who immediately becomes more alert and even starts leaning ever so slightly more forward, towards the middle of the table, is the guy to be afraid of on that flop. This all makes good sense and the discussion of the genesis of this automatic human response is pretty good in the book I think, but ultimately my issue with this -- and with many of the tells touched on specifically in this book as well as Caro's -- is how often do people at the poker table really exhibit this tell? Theoretically it sounds great and all, but does it work more in interrogations because of the pressure situations, or maybe I'm just not seeing as well as I should or something, but I barely ever see this particular tell exhibited in practice, nor do I believe I myself am micro-gazing away from the table every time I see a bad flop. I would tend to put this in the category of very rarely seen, although I do believe in the reliability of this particular tell.

Shortly after reading this particular passage of the book, I was actually at a casino playing in a live poker tournament, and I literally saw this look-away move happen in live practice (but it's probably the only time I've recognized it a great many live sessions). It was early in the Foxwoods $1500 buyin event I played last month, and the player two seats to my left open-raised preflop from middle position, getting called by the calling station in the small blind. The flop came raggy -- 973 or something, no flush or straight draws worth worrying about -- and the initial raiser to my left bet out around 2/3 the size of the pot. The station -- of course -- quickly called. The turn was an offsuit 6, and the guy to my left led out again for around 2/3 the size of the current pot. The small blind hesitated briefly, and then called again. When the river brought a non-threatening Queen, the guy to my left very clearly looked clear to the left side of his vision for a second as soon as the Queen fell, and then he quickly regained his composure and led out again for a nice big bet. The station called him down with pocket Jacks and took the pot, with the initial raiser showing AK. I figured as soon as I saw that look-away that this guy was weak, and I surely knew Mr. Station didn't have it in him to fold to another river bet, and when the guy bet out I knew I would have called him down with a medium pair in that spot. So I have definitely seen this one in practice and I tend to believe it if it is immediate and quick -- as described in the book, this is the way the human limbic system works -- whereas a longer or slower look-away tends to be more likely acting and likely indicative of a stronger rather than weaker hand.

"Read 'Em and Reap" does not spend the long period of time focusing on "weak means strong, and strong means weak" like Mike Caro (absolutely correctly) does, because it's just not quite that kind of book. Instead, the discussion in this book focuses more on physical tells, like the one I mentioned above, although the author covers bodily tells literally from head to toe. Another interesting point made in the book is that the trustworthiness of a particular physical tell generally decreases as you get closer to the head. So, for example, the author argues that foot tells are the most reliable there are. Then he gives examples like if the feet go to a "ready" position, or suddenly start bouncing or are elevated in any way after something happens (the flop falls, a player looks at his hole cards, etc.), the player likely has a good hand. Similarly, if the player makes a bet but then hooks his feet around the legs of his chair, he may be bluffing. After foot tells, the next most reliable body parts are the leg -- bouncing, stretching, etc. -- followed by the hands and the arms. The face, argues the author, is simultaneous the most richly expressive and yet the least reliable part of the body when it comes to trusting in physical tells that you may pick up.

In all, "Read 'Em and Reap" was in my view a pretty interesting book and I'm not unhappy I read it. Whereas Mike Caro focuses mainly on example after example in support of his "Strong means weak, weak means strong" overarching theory of tells, this author's overarching theory is more the hardwiring of the evolved human brain and the many, many things it makes us do when we become either highly confident or very unconfident about something. The examples are robust, and just like Caro they come with specific photo illustrations of each type of movement being discussed, but ultimately I still believe that both books are really of limited actual poker application. I find many of those tells to be fairly reliable ones -- mostly because I believe in the overarching theory of both authors of the two poker tells books I have mentioned in this post -- that most physical tells you see at a poker table are either hardwired autoresponses that are largely involuntary, or acting designed to get you to do exactly what your opponent wants you to do. But in the end, and despite my one example above from Foxwoods, I just don't tend to see these sorts of physical mannerisms nearly so often in actual practice to make it a significant part of what I do when I play live poker. Sure, I get tells all the time whenever I play live poker from everybody around me. But my tells are more of the empathic type I have mentioned here previously -- trying to get in the other person's head, discerning the timing of their bets, the size of their bets, their betting patterns, and their general demeanor during the hand to figure out exactly what they're thinking. And I suspect ultimately this is what most other successful poker players do as well, despite "Read 'Em and Reap" being an enjoyable read.

Just skip every single shaded box where Phil Hellmuth weighs in with a story, each of which is a complete and total waste of time, each its own self-serving made-up brag post. It would be difficult to imagine a bigger horse's ass than the Poker Brat.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

New York Sports Fans

This is another of those really fun times to be a NY sports hater in New York City. The NBA season is coming to a close and the Knicks are a raging embarrassment, currently sitting at 28-52 and 22 games out of first place in the Atlantic under second-year head coach Mike D'Antoni. The NHL regular season ended this past weekend, with the Islanders finishing 2010 in 13th place out of 15 teams in the East, and with the Flyers eliminating the Rangers as well from playoff contention on Sunday in both teams' final regular season game and in most agonizing fashion as they won a shootout at home in a game where the winner would go to the playoffs and the loser would go home for the offseason. How both New York teams can fail to make the postseason in hockey of all sports -- where almost any five guys who can skate can qualify for the playoffs given the bloated post-season structure of the sport -- is just mind boggling, especially given the blank check at least the Rangers are given year in and year out to go out and acquire top talent.

And then there is baseball, the only other major team sport we have going on right now, and of course the Yankees are the Yankees, off to another hot start after signing all the best players in the game over the past few years and beginning their sleepwalk back to the 2010 World Series.

And then, my friends, there are the Mets.

Sunday night was just awesome as a Philly sports fan stuck in New York. Seriously, I took the extra long route home from the gym at night just to add to my minutes listening to the local sports radio stations so I could hear whining, crying pussyfans lamenting how the Rangers could suck so bad, how could they beat the Flyers on Friday and then still lose when it counted on Sunday? How could the NHL allow an entire season, and whether or not a team goes to the playoffs or goes home, to come down to stupid penalty shots? A shootout? The horrors.

And then the Mets fans began calling in, and this is what had me making that left onto Main Street instead of the right, and taking the long long way home. While your two-time defending NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies went 5-1 on the road in their first week of play -- albeit against subpar competition in the Nationals and the Astros -- the Mets have started off a much less promising 2-4 through their first six games. And unlike some of the teams out there, the Mets have also benefited from a largely weakass schedule so far in 2010, playing all six games at home so far, and against the Florida Marlins -- who are predicted to finish just under .500 this season -- and then the lowly Washington Nationals, who won all of 57 games last season. So against the projected two worst teams in the NL East this season, playing three-game series against both at home, the Mets just went and lost not one but both series at home to start their year.

And from what I heard on Sunday and again this morning on the way into work, the Met fans are smart enough to have given up on the year already. They can see it -- a team that plays with this much no-heart on a nightly basis isn't worthy of anyone's optimism or hope or even their attention. But even though I can see it myself and in fact anyone who's read here for a while knows that I've known this would happen for two full seasons already, it is still so effing fun to listen to these no-heart fans calling in to decry their no-heart team, here sitting just 6 games into a 162-game season.

Ironically, the Mets' badness is actually going to be a negative for the Phillies this season I would say, as the Mets' bungling GM Omar Minaya will surely be fired by season's end for his inability to build anything that resembles a winner despite spending $150 million a season for the game's second-highest payroll year after year, and the team's manager Jerry Manuel -- without a doubt one of the least intelligent, least aware, and just generally head-in-the-sand head guys in the game today -- will also clearly be shown the door, I imagine sometime long before season's end in fact. And just given the dedication and love these two clowns have shown for no-heart loser players over the past several seasons, changing from these two management guys to virtually any other two randoms off the street would have to be an improvement for the Mets, and will therefore make the longer-term success of the Mets' divisional opponents that much harder to attain.

So here's to enjoying our last season of total and utter ineptitude and embarrassment out of the New York Mets. When are those guys gonna break down and just go rehire Bobby Valentine already?

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Another Nice Score on UB

I'm several days late in posting this one, but last weekend I once again played that nightly 25k guaranteed sniper tournament on UB, the same tournament I won back on March 15, and:

The $4000 prize for second place came in addition to 11 bounties along the way, once again paying my entire buyin just with the bounties and making the 4k my net on the tournament. I was in third place when the final table started, where I managed to hold on to my stack well, playing a great final table. I made a few awesome reraises with very little but reads if weakness on my opponents and a number of well-timed plays, and managed to fight my way to the chip lead with five players remaining. I held on to that chip lead, eliminating the #4 player for my 11th bounty and taking most of the #3 player's stack as well before the guy across the table swooped in to claim that bounty, but I still had a nice chip lead when we got down to three. With me up around 240k - 160k - 160k three-handed, this happened:

They got it allin, and:

So the guy across the way flops a set of 6s against KJ on K hi flop. Note that this 9pm ET sniper toutnament is not the 8pm nightly deep stack event, and even though this tournament does add some levels and has a more advantageous structure than the nightly majors on the other big sites, it's just not that deep that most people can get away from top pair decent kicker at a 3-handed table unless it's made very, very obvious that your opponent has a better hand. KJ on Jack-hi board is gonna be hard to lay no matter how you slice it at these levels, and in this case my opponent got extremely lucky to flop a set of 6s in this spot against a guy with two broadway cards in the hole and who pairs one of them. It's a very unusual and exceedingly helpful thing to happen to a guy when 3-handed at a chip deficit at the final table with thousands of dollars at stake is all I'm saying.

Oh yeah, and then 4 hands later:

Now that really Must Be Nice. Flop two sets of 6s against flopped top pair against the last two guys in a big tournament with fairly shallow online-size stacks, all within the span of four hands. That guy has sure got a good idea of how to win at heads-up play, I am definitely gonna have to ask him about that one. Maybe he can write a book or something?

Anwyays 4 large is 4 large and I'm not going to complain, but with my focus this year really honed in on turning my final tables into tournament victories, this one stings a little bit. Of course I did not need to push with top pair and a 2 kicker in heads-up play, but the guy had been raising stoopidly since we got down to 3 or 4 players left, and when you know for a fact that someone's range is that wide, it becomes very difficult to believe them when you flop top pair and they raise you on the flop.

And did I hear correctly that there is talk of a BBT5 starting up sometime soon?

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Lost Rant

I promised myself I was not going to do this on the blog. But after this week's Lost episode, I just can't contain myself anymore.

Lost sucks. It sucks. It's sucked for at least two full years now. Season 5 was just about the worst abomination of a cool story that could possibly have been done, with the characters randomly flashing through time thoroughly confusing the viewers and leading hundreds of thousands of viewers to just tune out. Now they are back with Desmond this week, with the random time flashing, with his "constant". My god that shit is so stupid I want to scream out in pain every time I see it. And now Season 6 is following right in its foosteps.

The Lost writers have clearly made a crucial miscalculation with respect to the public's interest in the ending of the show, which ABC is obviously counting on to market several new series to take the place of Lost starting next year. These writers actually think we care about the plot of the story anymore. They really think I care about Sawyer's plan to get the Losties off the island. They think I stay up at night wondering what will become of Claire's relationship with Kate. They think I honestly care whether Jack's son likes him in Sideways World. In fact, they actually think I care anything about Sideways World.

And that's where they're wrong. We don't care about Sawyer, or Kate, or Sideways World at all. Three years ago, now then I cared a lot about getting these people off the island. But now? They already got off the island, most of them anyways. And then they willingly chose to go back (most of them, anyways). They were home, and then they decided on their own to go back. And now Lost thinks I care how they get off? Again? Come on. The mystery of escaping the island is dead to all but the most plot-blind of viewers, and the writers should have figured this out a long time ago.

Similarly, and more problematic for this season, nobody actually cares about Sideways World. What the hell do I care if Kate is a fugitive or not, if Charlie died from his overdose or lives to sing at Eloise Widmore's party. So much of this season has been worthless drivel filler to add to the roughly 2 hours worth of the only thing anyone cares a whit about on Lost anymore -- the mythology.

The mythology. That's the only reason anyone watches anymore, isn't it? We want to know what is the island? Who is Jacob? What is MIB's name, and what is his relationship to Jacob? How did these people all get here, and who put them on the island in the first place? What are the "rules" of Jacob and MIB's battle? And who made those rules? Why?

Bottom line, this is all we care about anymore on Lost. The story the writers have come up with these past few seasons since bringing the Oceanic 6 off the island have forced them into this corner, and now they keep trying desperately to fill up 45 minutes out of every show (or, more accurately, 60 minutes on 3 straight shows, and then one show almost entirely about the mythology) with filler story that nobody actually cares about.

So what gimmick have the writers resorted to in this latest episode to try to make somebody give a crap about the Sideways story? They actually believe that they can just put something in a random episode with Desmond flashing randomly through time with absolutely no explanation whatsoever (other then merely stating as fact that Desmond is "special"), and that the fans will accept it. That we will like it. It's unthinkable, really. So in Sideways world, the Widmores are married, and Charles likes Desmond, who works for him. OMG!!! My heart is palpitating at the thought. And guess what else? Wait for it...wait for it....

Desmond is flashing through time! Again!!!!!!!

[Cue heart attack....Just...too...crazy}]

I haven't been this flat out bored by an episode of Lost since Hurley found the bus. Eff you, Lost. Like apprixmately 98% of the people who religiously watched your show four years ago now, I no longer give a shit. I'm just waiting for your little story to end so I can move on to other things.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

MLB Over / Unders 2010

OK so as promised I am back today with my over-under predictions for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. For those of you who have been with me for a while, I did this last year and ended up having quite a strong run, ending up I think 18-11-1 with my picks, despite devoting much less time to detailed research and analysis than I have for many other endeavors, including my football picks which bombed so miserably in the end. So here are the over/under lines direct from Bodog for each major league baseball team in 2010:

Arizona Diamondbacks 82.5. I am going to go under on this one. Although the Padres are bad, and Dodgers and the Giants should be just strong enough I think to keep the D-Backs under .500 on the season.

Atlanta Braves 85.5. Wow is everybody hot on the Braves this season. They have a good quality staff of young pitchers, and the lineup is as strong as it's been in years. I think 85.5 is a tough number to hit in an NL East where basically every team improved compared to last season, but I am going to go out on a limb and go just barely over on this one.

Baltimore Orioles 74.5. Same as it ever was with this team, which seemingly hasn't been good in a decade. The AL East is once again stacked, and even with the Blue Jays being worse, I am going to pick slightly under this number for the O's.

Boston Red Sox 94.5. Now this is a huge number for a team that plays in the same division as the Yankees and the Rays. The Red Sox should clearly be an improved team in 2010, with one of the (if not the) best starting rotations in the sport today, and they are going to pile on teams like the Orioles and Blue Jays all season long. As high as that number is, I guess I'm going to join the crowd and take the over on the Sox for 2010.

Chicago Cubs 83.5. Wow has this team fallen since being predicted to win the division as recently as a year ago. When manager Lou Piniella loses his players and they stop listening to his message, though, things are not likely to turn around quick in my book. I'll take the under here despite the Cubs playing in a very lackluster division once again this year.

Chicago White Sox 82.5. This number seems low to me for a White Sox team that I expect to compete for the AL Central crown after the Twins' Joe Nathan's season-ending Tommy John surgery last week. It is likely that the winner of this division takes the title with fewer than 90 wins, but still the Sox should be able to get over this number by season's end.

Cincinnati Reds 79.5. The Reds are another team that everybody is talking about being on the upswing in 2010, but in this case I am not really seeing what makes them stand out in the NL Central. They might improve on last year's win total of 78, though, in what again is likely to be a division featuring a battle of several mediocre teams, so I will take the over here although I do not expect the Reds to get much above the .500 mark by September.

Cleveland Indians 74.5. The Indians are an easy pick for a perennial under, and this year is no exception in my book, in particular with how much younger the team got thanks to some trades made last year and during the offseason.

Colorado Rockies 84.5. Now here is another team that everybody loves in 2010 but whose train I am jumping right on to as well. The NL West is open for the taking in my opinion, and nobody played better in the last two-thirds of the season in 2009 than the Rockies. I'll take the over as I expect this team to get to the upper 80s if they can continue last season's momentum.

Detroit Tigers 80.5. I like the Tigers ok this year, and think they should get over this number. Detroit has a very good, proven manager in Jimmy Leyland, their starting pitching is young and hard-throwing, and the addition of Johnny Damon so far by all counts is going as smoothly as could be hoped. I look for this team to clear .500 and be in the race in what I think is a wide-open AL Central in 2010.

Florida Marlins 80.5. I don't really know what to do with the Marlins, who have some great talent on both offense and defense, but who seem to be the only team in the NL East who did not appreciably improve their squad since 2009. Just under .500 is probably more or less spot-on so this is a tough line to pick for me, but I'll go against the grain and take the under for Florida this year after correctly picking them as an easy "over" pick in 2009.

Houston Astros 74.5. Houston is going to be terrible again in 2010 as they have little going for them on either side of the ball these days. It's a low number but I'll still take the under and hope for the worst as the season
rolls on.

Kansas City Royals 71. Here is another really tough team to pick. The Royals are within a game or so of the lowest over-under total for the 2010 season, and they're going to end up one of the worst-record teams in the league by the time all is said and done. 71 is such a tough number to go "under", but other than Zack Grienke there is really nothing else much to speak of on this team either in the lineup or in the rotation. I will take the under here but I can't be the least bit surprised if they end up "surging" to 73 or 74 wins on the year.

Los Angeles Angels 84.5. This is without a doubt the lowest number the Angels have had heading into the season in about a decade, and they have rarely disappointed, finishing with at least 89 wins in every year since the team won the World Series back in 2002. Despite losing their #1 starter to the Red Sox in the offseason, I am going to go with Mike Scoscia, clearly one of the top two or three managers in the game today, to find a way to steer his team to over 84 wins once again in 2010.

Los Angeles Dodgers 84.5. This is also the lowest number the Dodgers have had in a few years, and represents 12 wins fewer than the team's 96 wins in 2009. My guess is that this reflects some expected resurgence in the Colorado Rockies and perhaps some expected further dilution in the talents of one Manny Ramirez after last year's post-season slump and now a full year off of his female fertility hormone pills. I buy into that, but I have tremendous faith in Joe Torre as a manager, and while I am not positive the Dodgers will win the division for a third straight season, I think they can get over 84 wins by September.

Milwaukee Brewers 80.5. Milwaukee is a team that a lot of people like heading into the 2010 baseball season, and that line at 80.5 simply means if they finish .500, the "over" wins the bet. I'll take the over and expect to clear this one in the final week of the regular season.

Minnesota Twins 84.5. This would have been the easiest "over" in the world before closer Joe Nathan injured his elbow and was announced recently to be missing the entire 2010 regular season. That's a big blow to a team that has perhaps the best manager in the AL today along with Angels' head man Mike Scoscia. Without Nathan I think the Twins will come in very close to this 84/85 wins, but once again I will put my money with the head coach and go with a very close over here.

New York Mets 81.5. This is actually I think a very good number for the Mets' 2010 season, as they should be significantly improved from last season's 67 win total. Fewer injuries should combine with the addition of Jason Bay on offense to get this team back near the .500 mark by the end of the year in my expectation. That said, this Mets squad under abject losers Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya has so much no-heart that I would be remiss if I did not go with the under and take my chances that we're looking at another stupendous Mets collapse in 2010.

New York Yankees 95.5. The highest over-under number of 2010 clearly belongs to the World Champion Yankees, and even though the loss of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon will clearly impact this team, as will the improvement of the Red Sox just up Route 95, they should still have little trouble making it over the mid-90s in wins. As we saw last season, $250 million a year just buys you way too much talent to do otherwise.

Oakland Athletics 79.5. I'm not impressed with almost anyone on the A's staff or in the A's lineup these days, and for the second straight year I think the team is giving too much respect to the A's front office with their over-under line. I'll go under and expect more of a mid-70s performance out of Oakland this season.

Philadelphia Phillies 92.5. The Phillies are clearly the team to beat in the National League heading into 2010, and this line requires the team to equal or better 2009's season win total of 93. Although the Phils themselves look to have improved with the addition of Placido Polanco at 3rd base and swapping out Cliff Lee for the consistent domination of Roy Halladay, the Mets, Braves and even the Nationals all look stronger heading into this season, and I think that could leave the Phillies just under this number for 2010 in their bid to become the first NL team to appear in three consecutive World Series since the Cardinals in the 1940's.

Pittsburgh Pirates 69.5. Once again the Pirates are looking at the lowest number in the majors, but this once is just a tad too low to me. I'll take the over for the Pirates and look for them to post a number in the low 70s by the time September has come and gone.

San Diego Padres 71.5. The Padres will be one of the worst teams in baseball for the second straight season, and this year I'm expecting them to win under even the pathetic 71.5 games they are predicted to take.

San Francisco Giants 82.5. The Giants' starting rotation remains one of the best in baseball, and this alone ought to keep the team around the .500 mark despite having some major troubles on offense once again in 2010. With the Dodgers and Rockies both looking to start out strong and stay strong during this season, however, I am going to pick the Giants to finish ever so slightly under 82.5 wins on the year.

Seattle Mariners 83.5. The Mariners are another team where I do think the crowd is spot-on in betting the over. Things have not started out as great as hoped for this team after making a number of major moves over the past several months, with Cliff Lee already beginning the season on the DL, but in the end I expect solid hitting and a very strong starting rotation to help the Mariners to eke out just over 83.5 wins in the 2010 regular season.

St. Louis Cardinals 88.5. The Cardinals continue to have probably the best one-two punch among starting pitchers in the league with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and they also have probably the best one-two hitting combination in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. I see this team winning over 88.5 games as the one great team in an otherwise generally mediocre division once again.

Tampa Bay Rays 89.5. People are hot on the Rays this year as this appears to be this particular nucleus of players' last chance to capitalize before this group's window is closed. They've got great hitting and very solid pitching as we've seen the last two seasons, but with the Yankees and Red Sox running as hot as I'm sure they will this season, I simply cannot expect 90 wins from a third team in the division as well. I'll go under here and look for a number more in the mid to upper 80s for the 2010 Rays.

Texas Rangers 84.5. Once again I will take the over with the Rangers, who I think have a good little team on both sides of the ball and should be able to win mid-80s for a second consecutive season. Even if their manager is a cokehead.

Toronto Blue Jays 70.5. Under. I suspect the Blue Jays will make a concerted run as the majors' worst team in 2010 as former GM Larry Ricciardi really left the organization in a shambles upon his firing after last season and the team also got younger thanks to some key moves during this past off-season.

Washington Nationals 70.5. Lastly, last year's NL-worst Nationals are expected to do a little better this season, and I suppose that could happen since the team won just 59 games in their 2009 campaign. But I just can't pick them to improve by 12 games in a division where the Phillies got better, the Braves got better and the Mets will have far more talent on the field with regularity than they did last year. This one has got to be an under for me.

So there you have it. 15 overs and 15 unders. The symmetry is just sickening.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Goodbye Donnie Mac

Wow. What a weekend. So much news and very little time to devote to it all these days as things at work have picked up to the sickest degree I can ever recall experiencing. I don't know how much value there is to this anecdotal evidence, but all signs point to business being as brisk right now for my company as it has been at any time in the past couple of years, so you economy-watchers should take that for what you will. Anyways, of all the stuff I have to write about this week (I've got five posts in draft form already half-written, ranging from my 2010 MLB over-unders in team win totals, to another nice tournament score for me, to the NCAA tournament, you name it and I've started a post about it), the biggest and most timely news has got to be my beloved Eagles' surprise trade of Donovan McNabb to the hated Washington Redskins.

Who knew that two weeks back in the middle the 2009 NFL season would end up meaning so much to the Philadelphia Eagles? Remember when Donovan McNabb went down with a broken rib in Week 2 of last year's season, causing him to miss two games heading into the team's bye week? Well, what you may not recall is McNabb's 25-year-old backup Kevin Kolb filling in more than amply in McNabb's absence, going an impressive 55 for 85 in completions, racking up a huge 718 yards passing whole throwing for four touchdowns vs three interceptions in those two starts, becoming the first player to throw for 300+ yards in his first two NFL starts in league history. Well, all that has come to roost now, as not even a year later, McNabb is now gone, traded to a division rival at that, and now it's officially become the Kevin Kolb show in Philadelphia. Eek.

How did this happen? It's business, as usual. McNabb remains under contract for one more season with the Eagles, but next year he will be 34 years old -- especially concerning for a guy who's missed a few games in each of the last few seasons and who has traditionally made so much of his big plays using his athleticism -- and he will become at that time an unrestricted free agent. And McNabb has already made it clear that he wants / expects a long-term deal after next season in order to lead a team's offense going forward. Now the Eagles, ever the spendthrifts, already know they are not going to pay McNabb the likely 15-20 million dollars in guaranteed money that they would be required to pay him next year if his contract talks go similarly to those of the other, say, top 5 or 6 quarterbacks in the league today. So, the thinking goes, if the Eagles are going to lose McNabb after next season for sure, and get nothing in return, then why not trade him today instead, and take back from Washington the 37th pick in the 2010 NFL draft as well as a 3rd or 4th round pick -- let's just say roughly the 100th pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

So that's what it comes down to for Donovan McNabb for Philly, huh? A 37th pick and a future 100th pick in the draft. This still stuns me. After leading the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and five NFC East championships in his 11 years in Philadelphia, during which time he and head coach Andy Reid became the longest-tenured pairing of quarterback and coach in some 20 years, and the 6th-longest tenured pair in history. After being a 6-time pro-bowler, and probably deserving of being there even more than that. During his 11 years in Philly, only the Colts and the Patriots have won more games, and no other team in the NFC. McNabb leaves the Eagles as the all-time franchise leader in completions, attempts, completion percentage, passing yards, passing tds and total wins. And for what? A 37th pick and a future 100th pick in the draft. Sheesh.

The big question right now I think is how will the city of Philadelphia respond to this move? For starters, the fans of Philadelphia -- notoriously difficult to satisfy as they are -- are well aware of all the great stats above about McNabb's career. Almost every seat in the house at the Linc is purchased by a season ticket holder, and those guys are there for every game, and have been there for every game McNabb had started since he was drafted back in 1999 to the boos and jeers of Philly fans who wanted the team to draft resident stoner Ricky Williams. If Kolb comes in and sucks up the joint, those fans are going to be disgusted to a degree worse than I am sure even Eagles management can envision. They know how prolific of an NFL quarterback McNabb has been over the years. Who else has won five NFC East titles in 11 years? Nobody. Ever. He's won a lot of games in this town, and he's had a number of incredible plays that display his unique brand of athleticism:

That being said, the Philly fans are all also painfully aware of McNabb's only one win in five NFC Championship games, including two of those games where the Eagles were the higher seed and I believe three of them where the Eagles were favored to win the game, including in 2009 against the Arizona Cardinals. And let's not forget the one NFC Championship game that McNabb won back in 2004, what happened then? He went to the Superbowl, and promptly barfed through his football mask during the 4th quarter after starting off classically slow and really being largely inaccurate and ineffective during most of the first three quarters of the game. Of course by this point it is common knowledge that the Patriots used cameras to illegally record the Eagles' practices, signal calls and game calls for that game, so obviously that has to be factored in to the equation, but in the end taken with McNabb's overall big game performance, and the fans in Philly I am pretty sure will not have too much trouble with the decision to move in a different direction.

But trading McNabb within the Eagles' division is very telling, and I think this is the point that is going to give Eagles fans the most heartache about this deal. My first thought -- and the one that I still believe, ultimately -- was that this was obviously the best deal the Eagles could find, or why else would they send this guy to a hated division rival? I heard Andy Reid inexplicably state in the press conference on Sunday night that they took great pains to trade McNabb to a team he wanted to play for, and that he was not "willing" to play for Buffalo or Oakland but expressed a willingness to play for Mike Shanahan in DC. If that's what the Eagles did, then they are the biggest chumps of all time. But I doubt it. I think in the end, a 37th pick and a future 100th pick is the best offer the Eagles could get for McNabb at this point in his career. Which is still really amazing to me.

One thing the Eagles have certainly done with this intra-divisional trade is given everybody in their fan base -- those who like McNabb and those who dislike him -- a reason to be unhappy about this deal. And now we will likely get to be reminded of those reasons twice a year for the foreseeable future too.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Another Ingenious Idea

And this one I dare anyone out there to tell me it isn't sheer brilliance.

So most of you have probably heard by now that the NCAA plans to expand the NCAA college basketball tournament from the current field of 64/65 teams out to 96 teams, most likely giving the top 32 seeds first-round byes, while the middle 32 seeds would compete with the bottom 32 seeds in a new round of play that would likely happen on Tuesday-Wednesday of the first week of the tournament prior to the resuming the regular 64-team format we are used to starting on Thursday of that week.

There will be many effects to this, most of which are in my view not good for the sport of college basketball. But of course one of the effects will be more games, which means more games televised on tv, which ultimately means more money for the NCAA as part of the highly lucrative broadcast deal it has secured for decades now for March Madness. But one other effect not talked about much right now is that expanding this field to 96 teams will effectively kill the NIT Tournament.

Now, I'm not someone who actually care about the NIT Tournament. It already means next to nothing, and when you thin out the talent on the teams involved such that we're looking at teams that are not in the top 100 teams nationally, I can't imagine anybody giving even the one crap that they might care about the NIT as currently constituted. No, if when the NCAA officially approves expansion of March Madness to 96 teams, the NIT Tournament as we know it will be done, finito, vamoose.

And this is where my ingenious idea comes in. Remember a few years ago when the ACC raided the Big East, stealing Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech in a football-focused money grab, totally throwing a wrench into the entire conference system in organized Division I college athletics today? What did the Big East do? Did they sit around and mope about this admittedly greedy and piggish behavior coming out of the littledicks in the ACC? Did they cry to mommy about how unfair life is and what a poor hand had been dealt to them? No. Instead, they stepped right outside of the box and shook things up more than ever by basically raiding other conferences, thereby in the span of just a few weeks building the greatest basketball conference this country has ever seen, and now the Big East is every year the best conference in basketball while the ACC -- let's be honest -- sucks the big one. In both football and basketball, lately.

I think the NIT needs to take a page out of the Big East's book. The NCAA Tournament is about to effectively kill the NIT Tournament once and for all. But for whoever the stakeholders are in the NIT brand, I have the best idea ever for them, one that will change the face of college sports forever and which could enable the NIT to snatch tremendous victory right from the jaws of defeat much like the Big East did in the face of adversity a few years back. The NIT should affirmatively cancel the annual NIT Tournament, but instead announce right along with that cancellation announcement the formation of a new national invitation-only college football tournament, to be played right after the BCS bowl games are finished every year.

That's right. The NIT College Football tournament. It's invitation-only, but unlike in basketball where the best teams already go play in the NCAAs, there is no college football tournament yet to speak of in college. The NIT could fill that void. They can wait until after the bowl games are done, after the BCS, and then they can invite the 8 best teams in the country -- using a committee comprised of university officials and NCAA and football experts to help make the tough choices, of course -- and finally we can have a national champion in that sport.

The NIT has a chance to take a huge step in the face of what is otherwise tremendous adversity. Now is the time.

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