Friday, July 30, 2010


I saw "Inception" the other day, the hot new movie du jour starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Juno. This is a movie based on an interesting premise, that there are people who can chemically enter the dreams of a target and trick the person's subconscious into giving away crucial secrets that they would never give away if they were actually awake and consciously asked. The movie then goes on to ask, would it be possible to "plant" an idea in someone's mind that was not actually generated by them themselves, but yet is believed by the person to be their own idea, their own conclusion? Could you cause someone to make a key decision in their life at your will by getting inside their subconscious through a shared dream, and yet do it in such a way that they believe the idea was consciously generated by themself without ever recognizing the idea for the foreigner it would actually be while swimming amidst all the other original thoughts and ideas in the other person's brain?

Unfortunately, the premise was the only thing cool about this movie. "Inception", when it boils right down to it, was Chris Nolan (director of the last Batman movie, Memento and several other mediocrely-good films)'s half-assed attempt to create a big seller around nothing more than an interesting premise. Nolan and the writers really believed that nobody would pay attention to the story if they started with this interesting premise, and threw in a little Leonardo as eye candy. There is just no limit to how stupid Hollywood thinks we are. You, me, every single one of us out there right now, someone in Hollywood is scheming up about 10,000 new and inventive ways to trick you into giving them your money under false pretenses right now. And "Inception" was one of the biggest ploys so far this year.

The story in this movie was so unbelievably stupid that I heard they turned down the writers of Lost for being too focused on logical consistency. The Heroes writers were far too grounded for "Inception", believe me. The story is so full of holes it's almost like watching the "Kill Bill" movies for the first time -- you're not sure if this is intentionally trying to be comic-bookish or if it really just missed the mark. Unfortunately in the case of "Inception", they weren't trying to make a spook of a sci-fi action flick -- they were actually trying to make the sci-fi action flick itself.

But the similarities between this movie and all the problems of the last couple of seasons of Lost really are shocking in a way -- not in the story lines themselves, but in the way that logic and reason and continuity of storylines is just removed entirely as a consideration. The need for rational or even comprehensible explanations for almost anything is completely devoid in this movie. The movie never really explains how or what is actually being done when you hook a needle up to your arm and inject some chemical and some crazy machine in the middle immediately puts you all into the same shared dream. They do more or less nothing to describe or explain how on earth someone in the real world can "create" the dream which all the "extractors" and the target person are going to share. They merely posit that every fake dream has a creator, and then they go and find Juno and make it be her, and she just "creates" layer upon layer of dream. The similarity to Lost here is the way that the movie takes absolutely key plot points and simply leaves them out entirely, and acts like they aren't even doing anything out of the ordinary while they do it. What? This doesn't make even the least bit of sense? I guess you must not be smart enough to understand it then, ever think of that hmmmm? It's unreal.

But the biggest similarity of all to the last two seasons of Lost when it comes to "Inception", and ultimately the thing that will cost this movie any chance of having actual good buzz among its audience, is that the writers had such a huge ejaculation writing all the twists and turns of this movie, all the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream plot sequences, and all the and mind-fucks that everyone knew were coming since about 5 minutes in to the movie, that in the end what you're left with is a basically unintelligible story. And -- how do I say this while still retaining your respect -- let's just say that I'm pretty much the smartest person sitting in the theater whenever I go to the movies, so it's not like I just can't keep up or something. If I watch your movie, and 20 minutes in I don't even really know who is doing what and where and when even though I'm sitting right there watching it, then guess what? Did I suddenly turn into a legal idiot when the lights went dim? Or maybe does your movie just fucking suck balls?

There's not a person in America who wasn't thinking far before the halfway point in "Inception" that they were totally lost. And I don't mean the kind of "lost" that gets all cleared up with the big reveal at the end like in The Village or Sixth Sense or something. I mean the kind of lost like, well, like Lost, where they literally had to run a "pop up video" version of Lost on a rerun every single week for the final two seasons just so that the viewers had at least some clue of what the shuck was going on. Because the writers did that absentee of a job when it came to reeling themselves in and being sure to tell a clear, coherent story.

Ultimately, the writers of "Inception" and Lost suffered from the exact same fatal flaw: it is obvious that they themselves had no fucking clue what the shit their show was actually about. Forget us not being able to figure out what the hell was happening -- the fucking writers didn't even have any idea in the end. And the downfall of Lindlecuse (notice how already those two smug assfuckers have more or less disappeared into the limelight?) will likely go very similar now to that of Chris Nolan, who with this effort in "Inception" screamed out to everyone's face that Batman was just a lucky break where he got carried by one truly incredible performance from Heath Ledger. Just like with Lost, the hubris is just incredible of someone who actually thinks that they can fool the viewers by presenting not even a half-assed story and trying to pass it off as "arty" or "out of the box", whatever. That move has never worked, and I see no reason to believe it ever will.

Make a great movie, with a fabulous story top to bottom, and excel at all the little things, and people around the world will see it in droves for weeks and weeks and weeks as we saw recently with "Avatar". Make a shit movie and put a heartthrob fanboi star in it to sell to little girls, and people will see it for a week or two until everyone hears how truly stupid of a job you did.

Folks, "Inception" was definitely not even a 2 out of 10. I'll give it a 1.1 out of 10, without a doubt among the ten worst movies I have seen in the theater in the past decade.

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A Plan Destined to Fail

So after sitting quietly and alone on the sidelines for I'm sure many more months than he and his brilliant agent expected, and after recently surviving rumors that he would be forced to join the NFL's worst team in the St. Louis Rams, beleaguered wide receiver Terrell Owens announced this week that he will be playing for the Cincinnati Bengals. The announcement has come among much fanfare and speculation, with fellow Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco commenting that he gladly "hands over the reins as the team's #1 receiver" to TO, and also questioning how any defense in the NFL is going to even approach trying to cover the Bengals with their new-found passing offense.

To which I answer with one word: Easily.

Let me begin my pointing out, both to Ochocinco and to anyone else who might be experiencing temporal confusion: this is not 2003-2005. Back in those years, a young, brash wide receiver in Cincy averaged over 90 receptions, over 1300 yards and nearly 10 touchdowns a season over that three-year span. During those same three years, a young and equally brash wide receiver in San Francisco and Philadelphia named TO averaged, on a 16-game equivalent, over 90 catches, nearly 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns in his own right. At times over the past decade or so of NFL play, each of Johnson and TO has looked downright unstoppable, and either one of them could have laid as good a claim as anybody in the league to the title of the NFL's best wide receiver.

But that was a long, long time ago now. After being run out of San Francisco, run out of Philadelphia and then eventually run out of Dallas, TO spent 2009 playing all 16 games for the Buffalo Bills, posting just 55 catches for 825 yards and 5 touchdowns. Each of these key production figures for a wideout rated as TO's lowest in his previous ten years of full-season play. To say that TO dropped off a bit in Buffalo last year would be a tremendous understatement, especially given that he failed to catch more than four balls in all but three of the team's games last season, including ending his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception after TO busted out with a big bagel in a 20-point drubbing at home by the eventual Superbowl champion Saints in Week 3 of 2009.

Meanwhile, Ochocinco, who is working on just his tenth year in the NFL as opposed to TO's 14 years of service, has also seen his numbers drop off dramatically over the past couple of seasons. The past two years have basically seen career lows for Ochocinco in both receptions (53 and 72 in the past two seasons) and yards (540 and 1047). All of this is to say, make absolutely no mistake about this whatsoever, but these two guys are both on the downsides of their careers, probably well on the downsides given the trend in each's numbers.

And this is where my feeling comes from that this supposed "match made in heaven" is going to quickly look more like one made in hell than one made up high in the sky. I mean, starting with TO, as I mentioned above and as is common knowledge among any NFL fans out there, TO has ended up feuding and eventually splitting with every single quarterback he has ever played professional bar for. Every single one, period. That's just what he does. And does anyone out there think Carson Palmer is suddenly a guy with sufficient intestinal fortitude to stand up to the onslaught from TO? Did Donovan McNabb, a guy with far more NFL success than Carson Palmer? Did Tony Romo? Didn't think so. And neither is Carson Palmer, of that you can be assured.

Moreover, TO has never in his career played on a team with another big-name, big-talking wideout since back in the days with Jerry Rice in San Fran. And how did one work out? TO spent his last few years as a 49er complaining that Jerry Rice was overhyped, that Rice got too many balls thrown his way (mostly at TO's expense), and that Rice wasn't nearly as adept at the position overall at that point in their respective careers than was TO. So that one didn't work out. In Philly, TO was the only answer in the passing offense, and we all saw how that one ended up with TO doing push-ups in the driveway of his New Jersey home on Sundays instead of playing for the Eagles. In Dallas there also was no other big-name wideout, but TO couldn't even live with the specter of tight end Jason Witten, and again ended up causing a rift with the quarterback that led him out of Dallas and eventually to the frozen tundra of Buffalo, New York last year. So now I'm supposed to believe that TO is going to find a way to peacefully coexist with Chad Ochocinco, who himself has never been good at dealing with another big receiver on the team such as was the case back in 2008 when TJ Houshmahblahblah came out of the woodwork and essentially took the #1 receiver mantle away from Ochocino in that year? Come on. This whole move, especially on this scandal-ridden team, is custom made to be a disaster.

The other thing about the TO signing that gives me more than a little bit of concern is his contract, which has widely been reported at a $2 million base salary, with six different incentive payments each worth an additional third of a million dollars if TO attains them. Rather than focus on team wins and losses to trigger the incentive payments, or on the offense as a whole or even just on the passing offense of the whole team, the incentive payments in TO's contract will pay him 333k if he reaches 60 receptions in 2010, and another 333k for 100 catches. He will receive 333k if he scores 9 touchdowns on the season, and another 333k for 13 tds. TO will get 333k if he catches balls for 1000 yards on the year, and another 333k for 1300 yards receiving. All of these individual statistics, while in a vacuum all generally good indicators of a wideout having a solid season, are going to I predict cause problems and direct conflicts of interest with a guy who has time and time again proven himself to be self-focused and self-centered to an unbelievable degree.

I mean, can't you just see it now? TO is sitting at 50 catches in Week 12, he's got four games left in the regular season, and then Carson Palmer has a bad game and TO gets just one catch on the day. Suddenly he is still 9 receptions away from his 333 thou with three games to go. What do you think TO is gonna be doing all through that next week? When he's not yelling to the media about how he is under-utilized by his team, he's going to be right up there in Carson Palmer's ear, complaining about not getting the ball thrown his way enough and actively lobbying for more attention. When a guy has proven himself to be as selfish as TO has over his career, giving a guy like that an incentive-laden contract is just begging for him to return to his former self-aggrandizing ways.

Just don't let the Bengals come running to me to complain about how "there's no I in team" when TO starts squawking about not getting the ball thrown his way enough in 2010. By signing TO to join wideout Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati, the Bengals are making their bed with two of the most flammable, outspoken and trouble-makey figures in all of their sport. Now the Bengals will have to lie in it.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Sad Side

Here is a post I wrote around 8am morning after stumbling back to my room in a drunken stupor on the third night of my trip to Las Vegas last month. I had forgotten all about writing this post and really about this story until I was reading through my saved posts the other day, and when I saw it, it all came rushing back to me. This experience really weirded me out when it happened last month, and I remember being confused if I was just really drunk or if this guy was actually saying some effed up shizznot to me. Unfortunately, at this point I am pretty sure it was the latter.


Last night at some point when I went to check in the rest of the chips I had outstanding and get back cash, there was a hugely long line at the cashier's cage and of course it seemed like the dude in front of every single cashier line was getting a marker, redeeming some coupon, getting travelers checks cashed, etc., so none of the lines were really moving at all. I was pretty hammered and when I heard the guy behind me literally swear out loud, "GodDAMNit what the hell takes these fuckers so LONG?", I just had to turn around to ask him if he had a plane to catch or something.

When I turned around though, I saw this short old man, wearing a very obvious toupee and just generally looking very dishevelled, lowly, and just generally sad. Instead of the quippy line I had been all prepared to deliver, I just kinda shook my head at him like yeah, these lines suck what can you do. He then takes this immediately as an intro and starts talking to me about what assholes the MGM is for all the games they are running. I kinda laughed, since of course nobody is making him or anyone else play any of these games, and since people do things like smoke, play the lottery, etc. all the time that are basically really dumb decisions over the long-term but which people choose based on short-term gains, so really what's the difference anyways in the end. But he continued on, and this is where things started to get a little weird.

"These assholes", the old man commented to me, "they run these games that take your money, that ruin people's lives."

"No shit," I responded, "But then why do we keep playing?" My question was delivered lightly, jokingly, matching the tone I had read in the guy's first comment to me. But then he turns back to me, lowers his head like he's telling me a secret, and whispers to me very quietly, "I'm not kidding. I've been coming here for 18 years, and I've lost around $50,000, my house, my wife and my kids all because of the gambling."

"Hmmm. Fifty thousand?" I asked, hopefully. I mean, not that losing 50 grand at gambling -- or at anything, for that matter -- is cool or should be acceptable, but at the same time, 50 grand lost over 18 years of play, I mean that's only under 3 thousand a year, which is hardly enough to ruin someone's life, family, etc., and certainly should not necessarily be enough to cause someone to lose their home.

"No," he replied, "I said four hundred fifty thousand dollars."

"Wow. That's terrible" was all I could think to say. I was dumbfounded. Here was a guy, talking to a complete stranger in the literal middle of the night at a casino, and explaining just minutes after meeting me in line at the cashier that gambling has ruined his life. Literally. But then it got even worse.

He continued, "Now I have a marker, I owe MGM 8 or 10 grand now. After going through all that $450,000, after losing everything I had, now I had to borrow money from the casino, because of course I need to keep playing." That last part about needing to keep playing was uttered in a very matter-of-fact tone, as if it would make all the sense in the world to me why he wants to keep gambling after losing everything that mattered to him in the world. To me, it was one of the saddest things I could have ever learned about a perfect stranger.

"Anyways," he went on, "I have no way I'll ever pay MGM back the 10 grand I owe them now. I just got cleaned out again tonight, I don't have the money to satisfy my marker right now, so I'm going to clear outta here and head back home. If they let me borrow some more money, I'll keep chasing it for as long as I can, but as soon as they come for me, I know I'll never be able to pay back this money to the casino."

"So they why let yourself do it?" I asked, genuinely interested in the answer as, even though I love to play some poker and have spent hundreds of hours in casinos in my day playing any and every game they have to offer, I simply could not conceivably imagine of being in his situation and making these same decisions when faced with the choice.

"I got nothing else left," he told me solemnly. "This is all I have."

As I stood there, realizing maybe for the first time in the conversation just how dead serious this guy was, he went on with the most chilling part of the whole story, and the reason that I went right upstairs and made sure to write all this down, because it really spooked me.

"So when the MGM won't let me borrow any more money and eventually come for me to pay them back, I know exactly what I'm gonna do. I have a huge lake out back behind my house a ways, and I have the exact spot picked out where I'm gonna drive my truck right in, and end it all. I'll never let those bastards get one dime outta me after what they've done to my life. When the casino credit is gone, I'm gonna end my life and that will be that."

Now I know I was pretty sloppy, but I swear to you this guy was 100% serious. I could see it in his eyes. I'm not at all sure if he'll actually have the balls to do it when the time comes, but I am sure of two things: (1) the casino will stop giving him credit very soon, since has no means to ever pay them back, and (2) the guy definitely intended to kill himself to get out of his troubles once that happened, as he stood there in line at the casino cage at 3am on a random weekday late-night. He meant it, I assure you. He very calmly right into the eyes of a total stranger and matter-of-factly told me his plan to kill himself, one which he had actually put some real thought into and had been visualizing for some time.

As I mentioned I more or less blocked this whole conversation out of my head until being reminded of it when I read this half-written post the other day, so I thought I would get it out there while the memory is still fresh returning to my mind. It just boggles the mind that an activity like gambling that can bring as much joy as it does to as many people as enjoy it safely, can also be capable of leading to such fantastic and unbelievable ruination and despair in the hands of the wrong people or the wrong set of circumstances. Just how serious this guy was when push comes to shove, I suppose I'll never know. But I'll tell you one thing -- ever since I left Vegas, I've been afraid to look up news stories if anyone in the area recently drowned by driving their car into a lake, and I won't be performing that search anytime soon either.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Poker Rebound

No, this isn't a post about me bouncing back from a bad streak lately. The poker has been fine just lately actually, with a couple of winning days in a row after a few stinkers that I'd much rather forget ever happened. But no, the rebound I wanted to talk about today was in the popularity of poker in general in this country, and really around the world, which somehow to me seems to be flying largely under the radar out there in media land. Poker is back, baybeeeeee!

The World Series of Poker had a huge year in 2010 as far as I'm concerned, and yet for some reason nobody seems to be talking about it. I mean, as many people have mentioned whenever this topic comes up with respect to the WSOP, things in the world are not good right now, economically speaking. Way fewer people are employed, asset prices across the board have deflated dramatically over the last few years, and entire nations are preparing around the world for austerity measures that will dampen economic activity and put in a measurable crimp in growth for a long time to come.

And yet, in the midst of all of this economic and financial ugliness, the 2010 WSOP shattered participation records across the board. This year 41st annual WSOP crushed on its way to setting a new overall attendance record with just over 71,000 total entrants through all events including the Main Event. The previous record number of participants, set in 2009, was 60,875, so we are talking about an increase of more than 10,000 players, or close to 17% from just last year, which was itself a record. Seventeen percent! In one year! From an all-time record! In this economy!

Now, to be sure, comparing these records over long periods of time makes little sense since there were so, so far fewer events back in the day than there are today, and of course so, so far smaller a number of people actually played the game well enough to even consider competing for the big money. But I mean, how much better of a comparison can you get than the last few years? To be clear, what happened at the WSOP in 2010 has absolutely nothing to do with increasing the number of events. We had 56 bracelet events in 2010, 56 events in 2009, and 55 events in 2008, so the difference in number of events is hardly significant. But, across more or less the same number of events over the past three years, attendance at the poker world's greatest spectacle has quietly skyrocketed, surging from 58,250 in 2008 to 60,875 in 2009 and now to just over 71,000 in 2010.

WSOP attendance is up 22% over the past two years, we just put together the largest live poker tournament of all time other than the 2006 Main Event in the 2010 WSOP ME with 7319 entrants, and about three-quarters of the events on this year's WSOP scheduled attracted more participants than the corresponding events in last year's WSOP. And this, again, in the midst of one of the worst global economic outlooks perhaps of our lifetimes. The arrival of Tom Dwan on the scene seems to have re-energized interest in poker on tv -- in particular High Stakes Poker which really seems to be striking a chord with the poker-on-television audience out there -- and the passing of the regulations governing enforcement of the UIGEA this summer seems to have had no effect on the ability to get money into or out of the major online poker sites, which themselves are setting new records yearly in terms of annual participation and rake fees paid.

After a few-year hiatus to be sure after UIGEA was first passed, poker is booming once again. Wonder how long it will be before everyone else starts realizing it?

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tournament Chop Etiquette

I read a story the other day about chopping up the prize pool at the end of a big mtt, and it reminded me of something that I have been through a couple of times myself and which I've seen other bloggers address in their blogs from time to time as well: the bragadoccio that goes on in chopping negotiations at the end of big tournaments.

Let's go back a few years first, to the first time I won the 50-50 tournament on full tilt. I distinctly recall as we got down to the final 3 or 4 players remaining, discussions of a chop were raised by one of the players (possibly me), and a fairly active debate ensued before we ended up throwing in the towel and just playing on. One player in particular -- the guy who was a close second in chips at the time behind only myself -- was very difficult to get involved in any chop, because he simply was not willing to give up hardly anything from the top prize amount. Why, you may ask, since he was not even the chip leader at the time? Because, as he repeatedly explained it to everyone else still alive in the tournament, he was the best tournament player remaining and thus, despite his non-chip-leading stack, he actually had the best chance of winning the tournament outright.

To be honest, I dismissed this as the ranting of pompous-ass douchebag, opted to decline any further chop discussions shortly after I heard it, and went on to win the tournament and the 11k first prize. And to tell the truth, I didn't really think about it again. At the time I definitely remember being very taken aback by another player at the table trying to take advantage of the others remaining in the tournament by his unjustified claim of being "better", but that part of the story quickly faded from my memory as is often the case when you throw in 11k of cashish to help wash away the negative memories.

Fast forward now to last summer, at the final table of the $540 Venetian Deep Stack event where I recorded my largest ever poker tournament score. With eight players left at the final table, an older Asian guy a few seats to my right with the 5th place stack (admittedly, 3rd through 5th were all fairly close at the time) suggests we consider chopping, and then proceeds to be far and away the biggest barrier to getting a chop done because he insists on getting at least $35,000, which was roughly the average of 2nd and 3rd place money according to the payout schedule for the tournament. I calmly asked him how he can possibly expect to get nearly 2nd place money with a 5th place stack and eight players remaining in any tournament, and he just as calmly fires right back at me, "Because I'm the best player at this table." Immediately I heard those deja vu bells going dingalingaling in my head and I was immediately reminded of my experience when discussing the 50-50 chop a few years earlier.

Once we got down to six players left at the Venetian -- after the cocky Asian dude had busted in 6th place and stormed off in anger with his 9k payout -- we tried to chop, and once again we tried when five players were left, but at this point with angry Asian man gone, it was the chip leader who held up our chances of a chop, and he unabashedly informed us as he insisted on about 150% of the second place payout to agree to a chop that he has several five-figure scores this year online in poker tournaments and that he knows he is the best, most experienced player at the table and thus would not be willing to settle for something much less than the first-place payout which he in his own warped mind claims to know he is going to win anyways.

Every time I have heard someone say this in mtt chop discussions, my immediate reaction is total revilement. It's seriously repulsive to me for one person to tell three or four other guys who have just made it through 20+ hours of no-limit, one-mistake-and-you're-dead poker that he is definitively better than they are and that he therefore deserves the lion's share of the remaining prize pool. I mean, by definition everyone who is left in the final few spots of a large mtt has performed great over the course of the tournament and is clearly playing great poker. Poker tournaments are so much based on in-the-moment decision-making and trends that ultimately I don't even think there is much to be said for "overall tournament skill" in the context of discussions around chopping up the prize pool in a single particular tournament. Plus, and this is just my opinion here, but I think you come off sounding like a total and complete goofball, pompous, horse's ass if you tell a bunch of guys who've been battling it out in the same game and have survived with you for days on end that you are somehow "inherently" better than them and thus deserve more consideration. Does anyone ever fall for this line?

With me, ultimately the proof is in the pudding. Because, make no mistake about it, at every final table I have ever been at, ever -- including major online series like FTOPS and UBOC, $200 weekly online majors, nightly online events and otherwise, as well as several live events in casinos around the U.S. -- I haven't just thought I was the best player there, I've known I was the best player there. Every single time. And if you read here often then you know I am always willing to discuss a fair chop given how luck-based late final table can be in the largest mtt's. And yet, you won't have caught me dead ever even trying to argue to anyone that I deserve more than my fair share of the prize pool according to my chip stack, because I somehow have some extra skill advantage over everyone else. In a discussion about how much to chop a prize pool by, that just doesn't seem like a relevant consideration to me.

The bottom line from my viewpoint is simple: Perceived poker tournament skill differential can make a lot of sense in deciding not to chop and instead to play it out for all the marbles. If you think you're better than everyone else, then play the tournament out, and win it. Take the first prize money that you believe your superior skill will bring you at any final table. But once you've decided to entertain the thought of a chop, the larger stacks will simply need to give up money to the smaller stacks if they wish to secure one of the larger payouts, or the notion of a chop will never work no matter how good the individuals involved think they are. Something about trying to agree to a chop only if it steals money from others in favor of you because of your alleged superior overall poker "skill" just rubs me the wrong way.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

64 But I Need More

Wow I am on a miserable run lately on the online poker front. My live poker game is as good as it's ever been -- I've mentioned before here that I remember not all that long ago the first time I ever played one of those daily holdem tournaments in a casino, I was so nervous, I got bounced early on a race I didn't need to take on at the time, and I distinctly remember thinking at that time how I would be lucky to ever even make the top 20% of any live casino tournament in my life. Fast forward five years or so, and I've won some solid coin in live events in Vegas, and more than that, I've won three different daily casino tournaments while just goofing around so far this year. But online, the past week or so has been absolutely brutal.

It's happened to me before. More times than I can count, really. In fact, truth be told, this downswing isn't even close to as bad as the worst it's ever been. But for the past few weeks, I just can't win anything I play. I've barely touched the mtt's over the past couple of months -- not sure why, although I do seem to recall having a similar period after returning from Las Vegas last summer, so maybe I burn out a little playing so much poker over four days that I literally see pocket pairs and flop-turn-river whenever I blink my eyes, I don't know. But I've been mostly playing turbo sitngos lately, and damn the variance on those things is just sick. Especially when you play a lot of turbo heads-up.

Oh, and a lot of super turbos.

I can't help it sometimes. I realized a long time ago that online turbo tournaments are a style that I can play realllly well, and to this day it is clear whenever I play turbo events that at least half the people at the table -- be it sitngo or mtt -- honestly do not understand the kind of adjustment that needs to be made in order to have long-term success at this pace. Sitting around and waiting for a big pocket pair might work in this one instance if you get lucky, and sure it might make you some money for a week or two while you run good and get just the right situations just when you need them, but over time it's a far losing strategy in turbo tournaments, and quite simply you should not be playing turbo if that is the plan going in. Anyways, these guys might get lucky against me in a given event or three of course, but in general I am at a major skill advantage whenever I'm playing in a turbo tournament structure online.

Narrow that down to heads-up turbo sitngos, and the skill advantage is even more obvious. Now granted, in heads-up play, it is also concurrently harder to take advantage of that skill differential because the play can be so automatic throughout, but at the same time it is just painfully easy to see the deficiencies in the games of most heads-up players at the stakes I tend to play. It's just them and me, and no one else to focus on or to complicate the analysis and make it harder to make moves, etc. And amazingly, if you take it a step further and play the super turbo heads-up sitngos, it is sad how much almost every single person dumb enough to be playing in these rake machines is truly totally out of it when it comes to strategy for these things.

If you play turbo heads-up sitngos at anything above micro stakes, I'm sure you've noticed the autobots who automatically min-raise every single time they act first before the flop. From start to finish, without deviation, every single time. And never a real raise, always just a min-raise. It's such an exploitable strategy, and once I've noted them, I'll usually just kick it back up 4x their raise on a reraise with air right there, they will invariably fold, and then I will instantly show them my trash. These auto-minraisers are such clowns, I will steal their minraise 7, sometimes 8 or more times in one turbo sitngo that lasts 7 minutes. It's unbelievable the free chips that are available over the long run from these people who think they've figured out the way to beat the games. It's so awesome, really. But the best part of all is, even in the super turbo heads-up sitngos, there are idiots who still are out there min-raising every single pre-flop when they act first. Minimum raising, when starting with ten big blinds and with 3-minute blind rounds. How can you not love that?

So yes, as I'm sure the snarkers out there are thinking, why am I on here writing about this instead of playing those super turbo min-raising idiots right now this very second? The answer of course is that I've been playing the super turbo heads up sngs for hours a day over the past several weeks, and yet I don't have anything good to show for it. Lately the variance has just been on the ugly side over and over and over again. Yes I'm getting in ahead with the same consistency as always, but when you're playing in super-turbo land, getting allin pre with A7s vs K9s is not just commonplace -- it's around the best you can really realistically hope for if you're the A7s guy. That's why the variance is so sick in these things. Cuz you're really coming out there and just trying to get it allin preflop with a 60-70% advantage and hope you get your worth out of that situation over the long run. But 59-41 or 63-37 is just not all that favored to be able to avoid getting beat with some actual regularity when you actually play it out, something I've always known but which is so easy to forget until you go through one of those rough patches that mathematically have to happen if you play this game enough times over a long enough period of time.

Over the long run, I've performed fairly well in the turbo and super turbo sitngos that I have played. But lately, 64 percenters and even a few 80 percenters have just not been holding up their end of the bargain. And it's been probably the most annoying few weeks of poker that I've experienced in a year or more.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

I've Seen Some Stupid Moves in My Day

but this one has got to take the cake.

Is it really a wonder how the country's worst professional sports franchises get to be (and stay) the worst?

Billy King to the Nets. How the hell did that guy ever get a job again -- any job, in any industry -- after what he did in Philly?

Ed Wade to the Astros. How the hell did that guy ever get a job again -- any job, in any industry -- after what he did in Philly?

Unless you want to quickly become the literal worst franchise in your entire sport, stop hiring known, proven, unabashed losers who don't even acknowledge what losers they have been thus far in their careers. And for crying out loud, stop hiring people that even the stinkpile known as the Philly sports media has kicked to the curb!

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Don't Generally Believe in Public Hangings, But...

This guy definitely tempts my forgiving ass.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 MLB Over-Unders -- Revisited

OK so with the silliness of The Decision now behind us for another few months until the 2010-2011 NBA season kicks off, and with the major league home run derby set for Monday night this week, I thought now is a good time to revisit my 2010 Major League over-under picks that I posted back on uesday, April 6 of this year. Below is a list of each team in the majors along with my over-under prediction for that team's total wins in 2010, using the Vegas lines as of the start of the 2010 baseball season. For each team I will take a look at how my prediction is faring so far at the halfway point, and how many wins each team is projected to finish this season with.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Under 82.5. With 34 wins so far in 89 games, the D-Backs are on pace for around 62 wins on the season, and should easily come in Under the number as the rest of that division is just too good for the former expansion team.

Atlanta Braves: Over 85.5. Now here is one that I got right (so far) but I did not realize how much, as I figured the Braves to just barely clear the 85-win threshold. Instead they are dominating the NL East so far in 2010, on pace for 96 wins and an easy Over for the year.

Baltimore Orioles: Under 74.5. I knew the Orioles would be bad this year, but 29 wins in 88 games so far? That's on pace for 53 wins and a final record of 53-109. Easy win here for me on the Under.

Boston Red Sox: Over 94.5. I got sucked in and took the Over on this one despite it being a real high number, and the Sox have not quite performed to expectations yet this season. Still, with 51 wins so far, the team is on pace right now for a total of 94 wins, which makes this one wide open in the end despite technically a loser as of this moment in time.

Chicago Cubs: Under 83.5. I was not scared when I took the Under here, but Lou Piniella's team has been worse than I thought nonetheless so far this year. The Cubbies are on pace for 71 wins and another disappointing performance for the fans in Wrigleyville in 2010.

Chicago White Sox: Over 82.5. Here was one that I identified right away as a low number, and so far the team has won 49 out of 87 games, putting them on pace for a 91-win season and easily clearing the Vegas number for 2010.

Cincinnati Reds: Over 79.5. This was one of the fashionable out-of-nowhere picks before the 2010 season, and the Reds have not disappointed, currently being on track for 88 wins and currently leading the Cardinals in the NL Central, a division it looks more and more like the Reds will be claiming this year due to a very favorable second half schedule for Cincy.

Cleveland Indians: Under 74.5. I knew very little about the Indians in the pre-season this year, but I knew enough to take the Under even on a low number like this. The team is currently the second-worst in baseball, on track to nab a total of 62 wins in this year's campaign.

Colorado Rockies: Over 84.5. Here's a team that I also thought had too low of a number, although they started off slow but are coming on strongly of late in the very competitive NL West. The team is currently on pace for 90 wins and should surpass their Vegas number for the second straight season.

Detroit Tigers: Over 80.5. I thought the Tigers would make a good run in the wide-open AL Central, and so far they're holding their own and are on pace for another 90-win season.

Florida Marlins: Under 80.5. This was I thought one of the tougher picks heading into the 2010 season, but I opted to go slightly under since the rest of the NL East seemed to be improving this year. So far the Fish are on track for 77 wins and another close win for me with an Under pick.

Houston Astros: Under 74.5. This was another gut-check pick, with a known horrible team facing a terrible line, but something told me to still go with the Under. So far it is 36 wins in 89 games for the 'Stros, leading to a prediction for just 65 total wins and another easy Under victory.

Kansas City Royals: Under 71. Here is one that I really did not feel comfortable with, but I still went Under despite the Royals having the worst line in baseball heading in to the 2010 season. So far the team has 39 wins, putting them on track for a total of 71 wins, which for now will count as a win-push here at the halfway evaluation point.

Los Angeles Angels: Over 84.5. I had to go with the Over for the Angels who were facing their lowest expectations in about a decade in Vegas's eyes this past Spring. So far the team is right on track, with 47 wins by the halfway point and tracking for a 2010 win total of 84 wins. I'll count it as a loss for now but obviously this is another one that is wide open at the halfway point.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Over 84.5. Like their counterparts the Angels, I thought this number was just a bit too low for a Dodger team with a great manager and coming off two mid-90s seasons in a row. Trouble with the ownership and the breakdown of some of the best players has kept the Dodgers in the race through the halfway point, and so far the team is on track for 90 wins and another victory for me, although the team faces the worst second-half schedule in baseball and would not surprise me by making me sweat this one out in the end.

Milwaukee Brewers: Over 80.5. I took the over here, reasoning that the Brewers would find their way to finishing .500 by season's end. But so far that's not what's happenhing, as the team is currently on pace for just 73 wins and another disappointing season in Milwaukee.

Minnesota Twins: Over 84.5. The Joe Nathan injury shortly before this season began definitely threw a bit of a wrench into things for this team, but in the end I went with the best coach probably in the major leagues and took the Over in what I knew was gonna be a dogfight. So far after a bit of a hiccup heading into the all-start break, the Twinkies have won 46 out of 88 games, putting them on pace for a total of 85 wins and an ever-so-slight victory for my Over pick so far, despite clearly being another one that may come right down to the wire in late September.

New York Mets: Under 81.5. Although I thought a finish around the .500 mark was likely for this year's Mets team, I had to go with my heart and take the Under here. The Mets are going to beat this number, as they currently sit on track for 88 wins and a good shot at their first playoff appearance in 5000 years.

New York Yankees: Over 95.5. Despite the silly-high number, I took the Over with this year's Yankees squad, which has down well despite dealing with some early pitching woes that looked to possibly threaten this pick early on. As of the break the Yanks lead the majors with 56 wins, and are on pace to total 103 wins and fairly easily surpass the Vegas line again in 2010.

Oakland Athletics: Under 79.5. I went with the Under here back in April, expecting a mid-70s finish for a not-very-good As team in 2010, and so far the team has proven me right, heading for a 78-win year.

Philadelphia Phillies: Under 92.5. I picked the Under on the Phillies for the second straight year, and so far my concerns about the rest of the East's improvements are proving true. Still, the team is holding its own despite some annoying injury situations, tracking currently for 87 or 88 wins, but a bit under what it will take to make this number in 2010.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Over 69.5. I hate these picks, as they throw the worst number in the world at you and you end up doing what I did this year, picking a horrible team to go Over just because the number is so dumb. Then am I surprised when the Pirates are on pace for just 55 wins in 2010? Ugh.

San Diego Padres: Under 71.5. Along with the Mariners, here is probably my most spectacular f-up of my over-under picks for 2010, as the Padres have surprised everyone by leading the NL West pretty much wire to wire so far. With 51 wins already by the break, the Fathers are on track to win 94 games and post their best season in a while in San Diego.

San Francisco Giants: Under 82.5. I took the Under here based on my expectation that the Dodgers and Rockies would beat up on the rest of the division, but in the end the Giants are much closer to these teams and are tracking better than I expected. With 47 wins at the break, the team is currently looking at a 86-87 wins in the 2010 campaign and is a few games ahead of the pace to beat its number by season's end.

Seattle Mariners: Over 83.5. I will never understand how the team with Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez could be as bad as the Mariners have been so far in 2010, but despite my solid confidence that this team would finish Over, the Ms are tracking for an anemic 64 wins this year.

St. Louis Cardinals: Over 88.5. I took Over 88 wins for the 2010 Cardinals as I expected this team to run roughshod through its division, but in the end it is the emergence of the Reds that is hampering my Cards pick from being in good shape. With 47 wins at the break, this year's Cardinals are on pace for 86-87 wins, but they will need to pick up a couple of games on that pace to avoid going Under by season's end this year.

Tampa Bay Rays: Under 89.5. I liked the Rays for mid-80s in wins this season, but I had to take the Under since to go over would require this young team to post 90 wins in the division of the Yankees and the improved Red Sox. Instead, the Rays have been at or near the best team in baseball all season long, and are currently on pace to win 99 games and easily beat the Vegas line for the year.

Texas Rangers: Over 84.5. I immediately picked the Rangers as an Over candidate as I find this team to be consistently underrated by the Vegas sharps in season over-unders these past several years. Once again the team is looking solid -- on pace currently for 92 wins -- and with the trade for Cliff Lee last week, this one should be an easy lock for Over in 2010.

Toronto Blue Jays: Under 70.5. I got the Jays pretty much wrong also, although the team has been faltering of late and may well end up giving this line a run for its money. As of right now, though, the Jays are still on pace for 80 wins and way ahead of the 71 they will need to make the Over on the season.

Washington Nationals: Under 70.5. Despite all the buzz and everybody picking the Nats as on Over this year, I went with the Under on the thinking that the NL East would be better and they would have a hard time improving 14 games over their 2009 total win performance. So far at the break here in 2010, the Nats have 39 wins in 89 games, on track for 71 wins. So this one will count as a loss for now, but it's another that is going to come right down to the wire in my view.

So, after picking exactly 15 overs and 15 unders heading into the 2010 MLB season, here at the halfway point I am looking decent once again. By my count I currently win on 17 of my picks and lose on 13 of them, which is right around where I ended last season as well as I recall. But right, I count just two teams I am currently winning (Royals and Twins) which are close enough to realistically move to losses by season's end. Meanwhile, there are five teams I am currently losing but which I expect to be real close at the end -- Boston, Florida, the Angels, St. Louis and the Nats. If you figure I can pick up one or two net winners among those 7 wide open chases, then I'll be looking at another solid year of MLB over-unders here in 2010.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Guess I Just Don't Get It

For the life of me I am still trying to figure out why LeBron thought that narrowing his choice down to five teams, then the free agency magical mystery tour coming through Akron and Cleveland, and then the one-hour televsion special on national tv to announce his decision, were all the right way to handle his free agency decision in the end.

I mean, the more people look into it, the more it is coming out that these three players actually made this decision two years ago if not more, starting when they all agreed apparently back in 2006 to make sure their current contracts all expired at the same time after the 2009-2010 season. Then in the Summer Olympics in 2008, each of Wade, Bosh and LBJ agreed to try to play together -- likely either in New York or Miami -- in 2010 when they had all designed their contracts such that they would be simultaneous free agents.

Then a few weeks ago came the report that the three met up recently in Miami to discuss the possibility of playing together on the Miami Heat. That report was denied, of course, but here we are. A few days ago then, Wade and Bosh announced that they would sign with the Heat.

Are you going to try to tell me that LeBron did not already know what team he was going to play for? I mean, I'm sure there are always contract contingencies to be worked out, but the biggest one of those is pretty much always the money, and in the NBA that is not likely to really be a big sticking point given the fairly lockstep salary structures for the top players.

So I ask again, if LeBron knew two years ago or more that he would be heading to the Knicks or the Heat to play with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, then why did he stage this whole magic mystery free agency tour and include teams like the Nets, the Clippers, and even the Knicks at this point once he knew that team wasn't rich enough to sign all three players?

Wouldn't this just have been easier if he had just announced a month or two ago like a normal person that he has decided to sign with the Miami Heat for next season?

While I don't have much to question in LBJ's ultimate decision to join those two players in South Beach, I just can't shake the feeling that LeBron handled this whole thing in just about the worst, least intelligent and least strategic ways imaginable. Now, although they love him in South Beach, suddenly LeBron James is a largely hated figure in Cleveland and basically all through his home state, an amazingly in the three largest media markets in the country in New York (Knicks and Nets), L.A. (Clippers) and Chicago (Bulls) as well. Why do that to yourself?

Who is advising this kid on the decisions he is making?

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Thursday, July 08, 2010


That's the new nickname for LeBron James btw -- LBJ. It's better than The King or whatever, and frankly anything we can do to take that moniker away from the clown president of the 1960s is a good thing in my book.

So the LBJ business in an absolutely full swing here, as anyone could have predicted once LeBron announced that he would reveal his future plans during the first ten minutes of a nationally-televised program on ESPN at 9pm ET on Thursday night. It's an unprecedented step, and one that will certainly be a fitting end to the spectacle that has been the 2010 LBJ Free Agency Tour. With five teams officially in the running according to the James camp -- the Bulls, Heat, Cavaliers, Nets and Knicks -- and with the money essentially pre-determined in each case given the salary restrictions in the NBA, tonight's decision is expected to be mostly about where LeBron feels he can best win a title. Or make that titles. The thing is, with so much uncertainty still going in the NBA right now, it can be very difficult to really figure out exactly where that means he is going.

One thing is for sure in my mind, and as far as I can tell, I may be the only person on the earth who sees this so clearly: LeBron is straight up making clowns out of the media right now, and he (or his camp) is doing it on purpose. Right now anybody can click over to and see the top story that LeBron is leaning towards the Heat. There is little doubt that the whispers all through Thursday will be about LeBron going to Miami, heading right up to shortly after 9pm when all will be made known. But I listen to a good three hours of sports radio every day given my commuting situation, both local New York shows as well as national shows like ESPN Radio, Mad Dog Radio and Fox Sports Radio, and I can tell you that without a doubt, three days ago, the Bulls were said to be the clear frontrunners in this thing. Word was leaked that LeBron was very impressed with the Bulls' moves this offseason, including the hiring of the Celtics' longtime defensive coordinator as the new head coach, and now they have added Carlos Boozer as well this morning, and LeBron was said to absolutely believe that his best chance to win many titles lied in Chicago.

Then move ahead to Tuesday, just two days ago. After all indications from LBJ's camp on Monday pointed to the Bulls, suddenly we woke up on Tuesday morning, LeBron announced that he would have this 9pm media special on Thursday to announce his decision, and LeBron's camp leaked whispers that he would be broadcasting from within his home town of Akron, Ohio. Suddenly, it was obvious to everyone -- including mostly all of those same people reporting that Chicago was the frontrunner just a day earlier -- that LeBron was staying with the Cavs.

Then there was Wednesday, again just one more day later. Early in the day it was leaked by a couple sources close to LBJ that he was leaning towards the Knicks. Then LBJ's people let it be known that espn had booked the Boys and Girls club in Greenwich, Connecticut from 7-10pm ET for the press conference. So suddenly not only was LeBron not broadcasting from his home town or from Ohio at all, but he was coming to the New York City suburbs to make his announcement. Anyone who listens to sports radio like I do knows that on Wednesday, LBJ's camp made it such that all the whispers, all the gossip, all the signs were that he would be coming to New York.

So to review, on Monday LBJ's camp clearly indicated a lean towards Chicago. Then on Tuesday his people manipulated the facts around his media announced to clearly suggest a lean towards Cleveland. Then on Wednesday, additional facts were made known along with a few reports in well-placed New York sports media sources from sources close to LBJ that James was leaning towards the Knicks.

And now I'm supposed to believe that LBJ is leaning towards Miami on Thursday? Are you kidding me?

All these idiot reporters are showing is what mega effing pawns they are for the people who control them. You ever hear that old saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me?" Well here it is in action. LeBron's people clearly have spent this entire week making a new city the alleged favorite for LBJ to go to every different day of the week. They're laughing about it, right now they are, I guarantee you. They're probably sitting around a table in a plane somewhere drinking a bottle of Dom Perrignon, reading the homepage and watching SportsCenter over and over and over again. This week has been media manipulation at its silliest, and somehow, some way, the morons in big positions in sports media in this country don't see how plainly they are being played.

LeBron is most definitely not "leaning towards" Miami right now, not any more than he was "leaning towards" Chicago on Monday, Cleveland on Tuesday, or New York on Wednesday. Miami is a major attraction for LBJ just as those other three cities are, and he will be making his final decision probably up until late this afternoon or early evening if I had to guess. Here's a quick rundown of each city's chances given what I think I know:

1. The Nets. There is absolutely no reason for LBJ to ever go to the Nets. They are playing in Newark or some shit for the next few seasons, they have no real strong NBA history or tradition, and they'll always be the also-ran to the Knicks in New York, and about 7th or 8th down the list in popularity of sports teams in NY metro. And worst of all, while teams like the Heat, Bulls and Knicks have all signed some big free agents over the past few weeks to help attract LBJ to play there, the Nets have somehow managed to just sit around and sign nobody, while most of the big prizes have by now been claimed by other teams. In fact, just about the only possible reason to think LBJ might ever consider going to the Nets is that his people who have so blatantly clowned on the media this week have deliberately avoided any mention whatsoever of the Nets. By this point the Nets are such a clear fifth wheel in this race, that the only chance they could realistically have is if LeBron was always going to go there and just wanted to shock everybody by deliberately ignoring them all week just to throw off the scent.
Odds of LBJ to the Nets: 2%.

2. The New York Knicks. The big pro's for going to the Knicks in LeBron's eyes are first and foremost that he has always loved New York City, has secretly always dreamed of playing in Madison Square Garden on the country's biggest stage, and has even sort of told people over the years that he would love to play here someday. In addition, the team has been so bad for so long at this point, that even a modicum of success there would make LeBron the most loved athlete in a town that is getting close to losing its longtime sports icons in Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. If LBJ can win even a couple of titles in New York, he will basically be an all-time basketball legend for centuries, hands down. No other city can necessarily make that kind of a promise. Also, LeBron wanted the Cavs to bring Amare Stoudamire to Cleveland to play with him two seasons ago, but the Cavs would not despite LBJ's repeated expressions of his desire to play with the guy from Phoenix with the surgically-repaired knee. And make no mistake, the Knicks' just having signed Stoudamire this week to a 5-year, $100 million contract is at least as much to get LBJ as it is to get Stoudamire, and I am sure LeBron has not lost his desire to play with one of the best big men in the game today. The big con's for LeBron to come to New York, however, are that the team is pretty damn bad right now, and they have been run ineptly for a long, long time. The owner has shown a penchant for making poor decisions with respect to team management, and has shown absolutely no competence whatsoever for bringing in successful teams to run his franchise over time. Current Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni certainly has not wowed anybody during his two years at the helm either, leading two sets of crappy players to give up around the midway point two years in a row for the biggest embarrassment in all of the NBA.
Odds of LBJ to the Knicks: 28%.

3. The Chicago Bulls. The pro's of LBJ going to the Bulls are simple and obvious: Derrick Rose, more or less the best young point guard in the game today, plus now Carlos Boozer has been signed up for the next several years as well, meaning LeBron is guaranteed of a solid core of great NBA players for the foreseeable future. Throw in some of the young stars on this team as well and you have got arguably the best all-around team to give LBJ a shot to win a title right away. Some argue that the aura of Michael Jordan in Chicago might also be an attractive challenge for LeBron to try to return the title to the Windy City, but I think overall that has got to be seen as a negative by James if not by his camp in general. I mean, Chicago is pretty much the only city in America where Bron could go and average 33 points per game over the next two years and win back to back titles, and still not be considered the best player on that team in this generation. From one egomaniac to another, I say the recent success of Michael Jordan in Chicago is the big thing weighing against LBJ's decision to start the next phase of his NBA career there.
Odds of LBJ to the Bulls: 18%.

4. The Miami Heat. The Heat of course were the subject of that rumored, then struck down, and then reconfirmed story from last weekend on that reportedly had LBJ meeting in Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to discuss the three players uniting for a run at a few titles down in the land of South Beach. Obviously, the huge plus in LBJ's eyes of this move is getting to play with two bona fide NBA stars in Wade and Bosh, both of whom have indicated this week that they will sign with the Heat and would even consider signing for slightly less than the maximum to get all three players down there. Miami is ultimately the only team in America that has the financial wherewithal to sign three players like Bosh, Wade and LBJ -- thanks mostly to getting the Larry Bird exemption for Wade's contract -- and that along with the very real possibility of Pat Riley coming out of the owners' box and back down to the sidelines to coach this team are without a doubt a huge attraction for James and his camp. There are not many negatives to making this decision, as Miami is without a doubt one of the handful of funnest cities in the country, and a great place for LeBron to see and be seen. The two possible con's that come to mind are first, that the Heat will literally have only four players signed to contracts once they bring in Bosh, Wade, LeBron and get rid of Beasley (point guard Michael Chalmers is under contract for this year already). The rest of that team would have to be stocked with basically a bunch of NBA minimum guys in order to afford paying what these three stars would require, and that maybe a source of frustration at some point against other deep teams in the playoffs. And the other negative -- although not one that I bet LeBron would be willing to put much stock in sitting here right now up in his plane dousing himself in champagne -- could be that it may be more difficult than it seems for LeBron, Wade and Bosh to play together. It's not just about sharing the ball, although that could be a problem since Wade and LeBron in particular are both used to getting so many touches in every single game they play -- but also sharing the spotlight. Right now, the Miami Heat are Dwayne Wade's team, and they have been for some time. There's no way of knowing if LBJ would ever be able to break through that tradition and take over leadership of the team in the way that Wade has. LeBron may not deal with being second fiddle to Wade all the time, and Wade might not deal well with it if LeBron comes in and takes over as the clear leader of the team either. Ask yourself this: what's going to be going through LeBron's mind in the middle of next season if Wade is averaging 31 points per game while LeBron is averaging just 22? It's definitely something for LBJ to think about at least in making the most important decision of his career so far.
Odds of LBJ to the Heat: 31%.

5. The Cleveland Cavaliers. The argument to stay with the Cavs is as easy as any of those on this list: It's his hometown, and they are his team. They've always been his team, and LeBron is still at heart strongly an Ohio boy. Oh, and his team had the best record in thre regular season this past year in the East -- better than the Bulls, better than the Celtics, and better than the Magic. Better than everybody. With LeBron, the Cavaliers are already proven to be the best team in the East, it's his hometown team, and on top of all that they can pay him the most money under the Larry Bird salary cap exemption. So why leave? It is unclear if LeBron believes he can win under that ownership and management team anymore. LeBron clearly does not want to go through any more seasons like his last two in Cleveland, and I think it was clear to anybody who watched the 2010 NBA playoffs that by the end of the conference semis, LeBron had given up. You could see it on his face, and you could see it in the way he played in those last two games. LeBron has serious doubts about the Cavs as a franchise right now. On top of that, LBJ would not even return Tom Izzo's calls, even one time, when Izzo was considering taking over the team's "reins" (you assidiot) a few weeks ago, which in my eyes definitely signified a lean away from returning to his hometown team. Ultimately I think the Cavaliers are the easiest team to explain if LBJ decided to go that route, and it might also be the slight sentimental favorite among NBA fans who are not fans of the particular teams or cities involved.
Odds of LBJ to the Cavs: 21%.

We will know the answer tonight around 9:05pm ET on ESPN.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Vacation That Wasn't

I may have failed to mention this last week, but I figure by now you guys are used to the routine, as the Hammer Family has gone to the beach for the July 4 holiday at least ten straight years and hopefully will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. So that's where I've been for the past few days, although under different circumstances I probably would have posted a few times during the vacation, or at least mentioned here that I would be disappearing for a few days. In reality, however, my wife and I had a very sad thing happen in the family where a very, very close relative suffered a life-altering injury out of nowhere around the middle of last week.

I got the word when Hammer Wife called me in tears at my office, having heard the news via an emergency voicemail left by a friend of the family. Although (of course) my work made it impossible for me to extricate myself a day earlier than the vacation I already had planned, we basically dropped everything and left for the beach a day early (where the accident also coincidentally occurred). As I look back, I guess I didn't have time to post before breaking my balls at work for 24 hours straight and then jumping in the car for the solo ride down to the beach to meet my family who had arrived the day before.

In a nutshell, we spent the week in and out of the hospital, visiting, worrying and just generally helping out where we could, but it really made the normally festive and relaxing July 4 week not a fun one for anyone this time around. One interesting aspect of the weekend was how we handled it with the Hammer kids. M and K are at interesting ages with respect to this, as K, like the baby obviously, is just barely too young to really understand that the person may never be exactly the same again after the emergency last week. But M is pretty much just old enough to start to get it. Hammer Wife and I really went out of our way to keep the gory details from both kids, and even though they had to join us at the hospital on two separate days because of circumstances this week, in the end we decided not to bring them upstairs to the room, preferring for them not to experience the image of this person so different from how they have always seen them in the past. Only time will tell just how much M really understands and appreciates what exactly happened this week with one of her favorite people in the world.

So innocence was spared for some at least this weekend. But what about our feelings? The grown-ups, I mean, and not necessarily just the old ones. I mean, to be honest, the fact that this happened to a formerly-no-real-medical-problems, trim, incredibly healthy-eating person of course freaks all of us out. How could it not? I eat generally like crap and for sure don't have even one-tenth of the fake food that this person keeps at the house almost exclusively -- imitation butter, egg beaters, fake tofu cream cheese, fake turkey lite sausage, extra special light peanut butter that has literally zero taste at all, etc. -- and although I may be a bit younger, I don't exactly consider myself a spring chicken at this point in my life by a long shot. If this person can suffer such a horrifying accident, then it seems for sure it could happen to any of us. Myself? Without question. Probably, even.

Instead of a real vacation and a time to get away from the things that weigh on me, this past week turned out to be one of the first times I've been literally forced to sit and ponder my own mortality while also being deeply concerned about the mortality of a close family member. I always knew I've been lucky to be able to say I've gone this long and gotten this old without ever having to deal with something quite like this before, but now having been through just the beginning of this situation I realize for the first time just how incredibly lucky that is. Maybe it's ok that I must be about 50 or 60 percent below my long-term expected value results at poker -- between my family, my health, and the life I've been privileged to lead so far in my time on the earth, I'm still running way way good in the end.

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