Monday, August 30, 2010

Live Tournament Recap

So on a whim I got a late-night text from some friends on Friday night and decided to head down to Atlantic City on Saturday night for the $65 turbo tournament at Caesar's, a tournament I played in one other time earlier this year as well. When I played this event this past spring, it was all of one table, a 10-person sitngo with a turbo structure that paid out just the top two finishers. So of course I head out to play that same tournament again this weekend, and this time it finally ended with 19 runners for two starting tables.

We started the tournament with 10,000 in starting chips, and blinds of 25-50 that, like with any good turbo tournament, quickly escalated to 50-100, then 100-200 with s 25 ante, and then on to 200-400-50, so don't be fooled by everyone starting out with 200 big blinds -- within 45 minutes even if you haven't lost a single chip, that 10k starting stack will only be 25 big blinds and your M will be less than 10 already. So this is truly a tournament that is made to be played fast and aggressively, and if you think you're going to sit around with that blinds schedule and 15-minute rounds and wait for pocket Aces or Big Slick, your chances of success in this event are as good as your chances of being dealt those types of hands 7 or 8 times in a 3-hour live event. Damn near nil, in other words.

In any event, I won the first hand of the tournament when we were just 5-handed with a c-bet with K5s when I failed to connect on the flop, as pretty much all four of the other players at my table seemed to be quite tight and pretty easy to read, and nobody seemed to have connected with the flop from the looks on their faces. I stayed aggressive and chipped up a bit more over the first blind round, probably getting out to a small chip lead at the table but not having to show a single hand as my aggressive betting basically cleared the way through the early pots for me for the most part.

I had the opportunity to have what I call a "Chad hand" early on about 20, 25 minutes in to the tournament, which is what I call it when you win a big pot and get to show down utter and complete crap in doing so, simultaneously destroying your image but also causing people to talk about you at and around the table like you are some kind of hardened maniac. It's fun and it's not something I get to do very often, unlike Chad who seems to have this effect on at least a couple of occasions every time I have ever sat down at a cash table with him. But basically, as I mentioned I had been betting and raising fairly aggressively, and when the action folded around to me in middle position preflop, I put in a standard live-game raise of 4x the big blind to 400 with 64o. Of course, my cards were irrelevant at this point as I was solely playing my position and continuing with the aggressive image I had built up, but there I was raising with 64o from late position, and the very readable, fairly tight woman across the way called me down from the cutoff. The flop came down JT4 rainbow, a flop which I figured does poorly against the expected holding of someone who calls a preflop raise, but since I did make a tiny third pair on the flop, I figured I should keep the ruse going and I fired out 650 into the 850-chip pot. The lady across the way paused very briefly and then slid it 650 chips into the pot for another call, clearly indicating that she had probably at least a Jack, or maybe a Ten with a decent kicker, but my read was that really it could not be much other than that.

When the turn sent out a miracle 4, giving me the most hidden of hidden trips, I put this horrible look on my face and disgustedly checked to my opponent, pretending to cede control of the hand and trying to look as dejected as I could while doing it. She took my cues and led out for 2000 chips into what was already a 2100-chip pot. I had observed her making very large bets on both the flop and the turn already a few times in the tournament, so I did not read too much into her betting out almost the full amount of the pot here, but I figured she was likely on a solid top pair or maybe even two-pair hand, and probably did not believe much in my betting given my aggression so far at the table and my act prior to her bet on the turn, which I have to admit was a fine bit of hollywooding if I don't say so myself. So after thinking and thinking and going out of my way to look like I was agonizing here, I slid out two pink $1000 chips for what I tried hard to make look like a crying call, and then I completed the ruse by quickly checking out the river as well after a harmless 8♥ fell on fifth street, and my opponent did exactly as I had hoped and bet out another 3k, which left me with only about 4k or so behind in chips. I stared at the pile of chips she had bet for a few moments, and then I resignedly announced "allin" and piled out the rest of my stack. And I then assumed the position, which when I actually want a call generally means freezing, unbreathing, and starting at a fixed point in space as if I am bluffing and do not want to be caught. My opponent was not happy with my raise after I had just called on the flop and looked so disgusted doing it, but after what felt like a couple of minutes she eventually called for most of the rest of her stack. I then had the wonderful Chad moment of getting to flip up 64 offsuit and show the table what I had raised preflop with and then led out with on the JT4 flop as well. My opponent never showed her cards, but threw her hand face down on the table and did not stop muttering to herself and the others on her end of the table for quite some time about me playing 64 offsuit, how can that guy play that hand, what a joke, etc.

Of course, with my image being totally and completely shot for the rest of the tournament after this hand, I had to tighten it down a bit after that and try to play better hands, in particular after the flop, because I knew I would be getting called down a lot more than I had been thus far. Which made it so great when I picked up pocket Queens maybe 15 minutes later or so, and the aggro Asian guy to seats to my right open-raised ahead of me. I just smooth called him, and we saw a heads-up flop of J65 rainbow, to which my opponent fired out his standard c-bet as he had every single other time he had aggro-raised preflop over the previous hour. I just called, not wanting to scare him away with a raise on this particularly raggy board since it was so unlikely that he actually connected with a flop like J65 given that he had open-raised from fairly early position before the flop. The turn was another rag, an offsuit 2, and my aggropponent, never one to give up with just one barrel fired, immediately shot out another bet of around 2/3 the size of the pot. At this point I figured I almost surely had him with my overpair, but once again I figured I might lose him with a raise here, and in case he did have AJ or KJ, etc., I wanted him to be comfortable leading out again on the river, or at least calling a bet from me, so I just flat called him again on the turn card. The river brought the ugliest Ace I had ever seen, and when this time aggroboy shot out a huge bet -- more than three times the size of his bet on the turn -- the warning bells went off in my head and I just knew I had just been rivered. I folded very quickly in complete and utter disgust -- why do those bitchy Queens hate me so fucking much?! -- and my opponent flashed the table AJ for the two pairs he knew he was ahead with all along. Little did I let anyone know that I had just made a big laydown after getting rivered hard despite convincing an opponent to move in about 40% of his stack before the river card when he was drawing to just about 6 outs. Ahh, poker.

So this hand took me back down near my starting stack after calling two sizeable bets from this guy when ahead on the flop and the turn. As sick as my river fold was, I kept telling myself, it would have been 10 times sicker if I had raised the flop or the turn, which a super aggro guy like this opponent would never have laid down his TPTK to especially considering my own image at the table at the time, and then I had sat there and watched him 6-outer me at the river to grab 80% of my stack, so at least I had that to be thankful for. I just hate getting involved in huge hands with just an overpair, and just Queens at that, but here was one instance where a raise would have been better since I was well ahead of this guy's top pair top kicker at the time.

Just a few hands later, still somewhere in Round 4 of the tournament with blinds now up to 200-400 and an ante of 50, I picked up AKs in 2nd position, and I watched in enjoyment as the utg player, a repeated preflop limper with subpar cards, limped in once again from utg for 400 chips. Given the aggression of several other players after me in the hand, I opted to just limp along as well (even though I would have raised here if the action had not already been opened utg in front of me) on the thinking that there was a decent chance that somebody would go for the squeeze in which case I could really win some chips in this spot. So I limped behhind for 600, and we got one more limper as well before the small blind a young blond kid who had not played in too many big pots to this point -- kicked it up again, but only to 1000. Now, when playing against good, experienced and sophisticated opponents, a reraise that small with two other players already in the hand does not look a whole lot to me like a squeeze play. The preflop squeezer wants you both to fold and wants it hard, so that raise would generally not be anywhere near as small as just 2.5x the original bet, which with two other limpers in there as well, is almost impossible to fold to from purely a pot odds perspective. But in this case, I didn't know what to make of the raise but I was not scared of its small size like I might be against someone whose game I actually respected.

So the utg player, the calling station chick to my right, called for 1000 more, and at this point I decided to kick it up to 5000, purposefully clearly committing myself as well as anyone at the table who opted to call me. The other preflop limper folded, the original preflop raiser in the small blind called, and even my calling station friend to my right thought it over long and hard before finally folding before committing what would have been all of her short stack before the flop. The flop comes down KT5, giving me top pair top kicker and with the King instead of the Ace, which I like more because you never know when someone is in there with A5s or something and flops two pair when you flop a pair of Aces with big slick, but the chances of someone being in there with a suited King are far less and thus I actually prefer to hit the King than the Ace most of the time when I am playing big slick to see a flop. The small blind checked to me, and I paused a few seconds for effect before announcing "all in". It was only another 5k or so chips into what at this point was already a pot with more than 12,000 chips in it, easily enough such that the winner would be the tournament chip leader with 15 or 16 runners left immediately upon winning this pot.

The young kid across the way thought it over for all of maybe 20 seconds, and after requesting a quick count of my bet he went ahead and announced that he was calling. He flipped up KQ on the KT5 board, and immediately looked sick when I tabled my AK for the higher kicker. I had just looked up at the tv screen to figure out how much I was going to win in this tournament with my bigass stack when the dealer peeled off a Queen and placed it down for the turn card. The river brought no re-suck for me, and I was crippled, down to under 2k in chips from the 10k starting stack. It's happened a million times before to me and to every one of you out there, but with the flip of what turned out to be a 2-outer (one of the other players had folded a Queen before the flop as well), the turn card made a 9% underdog hand into an almost insurmountable favorite, and IGH a few hands later when the same guy called me down with pocket 6s preflop and then outran my KJs of course.

The moral of all this? Live poker is fun, and can be extremely easy when you play at a table where clearly your opponents are simply not sophisticated poker players. I'm not sure I've ever sat and a table and been this in-tune with my reads over a concerted period of time, and yet there I was not lasting even to the first break in this thing despite my superior play. Given the very low buyin for this tournament ($80 total, including the vig) for a live casino event, and especially considering that this is a turbo which makes it even more luck-based than your average daily casino tournament, people simply will not lay down top pair with any kind of reasonable kicker, and such was the case in the hand of my demise as well on the day at Caesar's. And the most important lesson of all from all this?

Live poker is rigged.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Random Thoughts

I've been utterly swamped over these past few days with issues both personal and work-related, but I've got about a gillion random thoughts in my head that I thought I would get into a post here in no particular order while I have a minute to come up for air.

Check out Tiger Woods. Divorced for all of one day, and comes out and fires his best round of the year. Nice media coverage while Tiger was hitting rock bottom right in front of our eyes just a few weeks ago, where nary a single reporter, news outlet, blogger or anything else I saw managed to make the connection or even to mention at the time that Tiger was just finalizing his divorce. That weekend Tiger shot +18 and finished in second-to-last place in the tournament, the guy was literally probably having knock-down, drag-out screaming fights with his soon to be ex-wife about money, where to live, what to do with the kids, etc. If you ever doubted that golf was mostly a mental game, what Tiger did on Thursday after the year he has had on the links pretty much puts that question to rest.

And then check out the Philadelphia Phillies. In a crucial four-day period that sees the NL East-leading Braves going to play a tough Colorado team on the road, we have the NL-worst Astros coming in to our house for a 4-game set where we should be able to pick up a couple of games and basically be tied with the Braves for the divisional lead, heading into the last 35-40 games of the 2010 regular season. Instead, the Phils get their asses swept at home by the lowly Astros, missing four chances to pick up games in the postseason race, and leaving themselves a full 3 games back in the division and already out of the wildcard lead as we head into our second west coast trip of the season, where we traditionally have fared horribly. That is as pathetic a performance as this team has come up with in the past few years. As I've said all season long, this team just seems to have lost that "eye of the tiger" that they clearly have had the past couple of seasons. The Roy Oswalt trade was another stroke of genius for this team and GM Ruben Amaro, but it seems less and less like their year in 2010 with every passing week of games in the books.

Does anybody remember what the end of August used to be like when we were kids? I do. It was hot. Effing steamy, sweaty, muggy hot. Every year, all of August was basically hot as hell in the northeast, you could count on it as surely as the sun coming up each day. Well, nowadays have you noticed how the summer is basically over in the northeastern U.S. by the middle of August? Anybody who makes beach plans for the last couple of weeks before Labor Day these days better pack their sweaters and some windbreakers, cuz once again we are looking at 70-degree high days and lows in the evenings dropping into the 50s. Global warming my ass.

This week I had one of the biggest morons I work for -- a guy who is so clueless at what we do that I must have had 50 or 60 conversations with others about how inept and unskilled he is at this job over the past year or so -- advise me "don't ever let yourself think that I am infallible" when he found an error he had made in something that I had not commented on previously. Of course, the first 185 times I found similar errors in his work, I did point it out to him, and 185 times I got a predictably unintelligible response justifying why his language was better than my suggestion, even when pointing out things like obvious typos and blatant problems in syntax with some language in his agreements. But then he finds an error and now I should always remember that he isn't infallible. I'll have to try to remember that. Maybe I'll tie a string around my finger so every time I see it it will remind me that this clown is not infallible. It's just so rich.

While I'm on the topic, we had our annual review process at work a month or two ago, and I really cannot imagine anyone being worse at administering this process than my current employers. These people seem to view the reviews as their opportunity to mention every single specific mistake you've made over the past year, instead of focusing on the way you did your job overall for the past 12 months. I mean, if I respond to every request within 10 minutes, maybe three or four hundred times over a year, but then exactly one time I miss an email and do not respond to one request for two hours, am I supposed to show up at my review and hear all about that one fuckup and how I need to set more realistic deadlines for my work? Or should I hear how great a job I did at setting deadlines and responding promptly to requests over hundreds of instances over a 12-month period? I know I have my own experiences in conducting reviews and others' viewpoints may not necessarily agree with my own, but I feel like this is a very clear answer, and yet the powers that be at my job simply do not get that. I mean, when you've got 24 different people reviewing your performance, and 23 of you know with total confidence that you are a certain way, but then one outlier jackass reviewer makes a negative comment that the other 23 powers that be know is simply not an accurate reflection of how you actually performed, how does that one outlier comment find its way into the review? Can people really be that clueless about how the annual review process is supposed to work?

I guess that's all for now. I've got a million things going on and it's a good bet you'll get to read about most of them in the coming weeks right here on the blog. For now, enjoy what is likely to be the last 90-degree day of the year in the NY area on Sunday and try to get in your last bits of fun before summer officially departs us once again.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Live Poker Hand -- What are the Odds?

So here's an interesting poker problem I ran into recently when I was playing a no-limit holdem tournament at a live casino. The guy to my left had been raising and betting pretty actively early on, including in a couple of hands where I felt fairly sure that he had nothing more than a drawing hand. Contributing to my image of him as a reckless, super-active player, I won't lie that his face definitely had the look of a euro, and, well, if you play at all during the day on the major online sites then you can imagine what my generalization is as to the euros out there. Anyways, suffice it to say that I had this guy pegged as a loose, maniac style of player, and I could not wait to get involved in a pot with him.

I got my chance maybe an hour in to the tournament, with blinds of 100-200 and average stacks of around 14k (10k to start), when I open-raised to 750 from middle position with Q9 suited, and Mr. Euro quickly called my preflop raise to my left. The flop came down a juicy-looking TJQ rainbow, giving me top pair plus the bottom end of the open ended straight draw, and moreover I figured I was likely ahead of whatever my opponent had since he had quickly called my preflop raise. AK of course was a scary possibility with this board, but in the end he had called quite fast preflop, and AK is not a hand that I find many people act quickly with before the flop when it has already been raised up ahead of their action. So I figured my top pair might not be good, but my draw together with top pair likely was. And, since my opponent had called a preflop raise, I figured there was a good chance he hit this board in some way as well with a high card or two.

Figuring therefore that my opponent was likely fairly strong but that I was ahead with two cards to come, I led out on the flop for 1200 into the 1800 chips already in the pot, and Mr. Euro did his usual move of a very quick smallish raise, only up to 2700 total, just barely more than the minimum allowable raise. I had around 8k left in my stack at the time, and I pretty quickly pushed allin, figuring that this guy was making another Euromove and was probably himself either bluffing or drawing, given what I'd seen him do so far in this tournament. My opponent sat for a while, clearly struggling with what to do, which made me really want him to fold since I figured he probably had a King (for the higher oesd than mine) plus one of the other cards on the board. But alas, eventually he called. The Euro tabled JTo for flopped 2nd and 3rd pairs, and he happily yelled "come on, HOLD!" as the dealer burned and turned a rag, and then burned a turned the river, the 9 of diamonds to give me the hand with a higher two pairs.

When that 9 hit the river, you would not believe the ruckus that this guy made at the table. He slammed his hand down hard on the felt, so hard that everyone's chips jumped a little bit, and he kind of screamed out "I cannot believe that suckout!!" As he had had me outchipped by a little bit, he was then forced to sit there and continue muttering about his luck and how he could lose that hand after flopping the two pairs for the next 20-30 minutes until he was finally eliminated from contention. As he left he made some kind of nasty comment under his breath to how I got my money in as "an 80% underdog", which did not sound right to me given where I thought I was in the hand.

So the question is, off the top of your head (of course any monkey could look this up on a holdem odds calculator, like I did after I returned from the casino), what does your gut tell you his and my equity were in the hand in question? Again, I held Q9 and he held JT on a QJT rainbow board. I knew for certain that his estimate that he had 80% equity in the pot was a gross overstatement, but my instincts were telling me at the table that this was about a 60-40 shot. I actually guessed out loud to the guy who was on the other side of Mr. Euro that I was maybe a 42-58 dog in the hand, whereas he was estimating that I was maybe a 38-62 dog, but we both figured this hand to be somewhere around 60-40 given all the outs I felt I had.

So, again with no cheating by looking this up, what does your gut tell you in terms of my and my opponent's equity in the hand in question?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Baseball is Trivial But This is Not

I'm going to take a position here that surprises me a little bit how much I seem to be in the minority on, but I've felt this way for a long time and frankly I've always been a little perplexed that more people don't see this my way. I've heard about a gillion people say since Thursday afternoon how ridiculous it is that Congress can't find anything better to do with their time than to prosecute a baseball player like Roger Clemens related to his use of performance enhancing drugs. With all the shiat going on in the country and in the world right now, so the argument goes, the fact that our elected officials in Washington are spending their time investigating Clemens and now are going to devote time to trying this guy and, if convicted as I expect he will be if he actually goes forward with the trial, sending him to jail for a year or more is I suppose some kind of gross abuse of discretion.

Well, I'm here to tell you once and for all that that is just not the right way of looking at this issue. This is farrrrr from an insignificant trifle, prosecuting Roger Clemens for lying under oath. Oh sure, the people who are closet Rocket fans will tell you that our national government is spending their time worrying about baseball. About a sport, a game, that is played purely for entertainment purposes and nothing more. That they are focusing on this one individual and what he may or may not have said under oath before Congress some 2 1/2 years ago, instead of on cutting the deficit, defending our country from terrorists, on the moral hazard involved with continuing to bail out every banker, oil company, home builder, airline, auto manufacturer and basically every other industry in this country, etc. There is so much wrong with America, goes the argument, that for our Congressmen and Congresswomen to be taking even a small part of their time focusing just on Roger Clemens -- a retired baseball pitcher, for crying out loud -- is an abuse of discretion that amounts to sheer lunacy.

But then this is exactly where those people miss the whole point. This whole brouhahah with Clemens isn't just about baseball -- in fact, it's hardly about baseball at all. Contrary to what many people out there would have you believe, Roger Clemens is most decidedly not being prosecuted for taking steroids, or for using, receiving, buying or possessing HGH or any other illegal substance he is alleged to have used. For the Congress to be involving themselves in such dalliances would even to me be pretty petty and silly when it comes right down to it.

But no, this case is not actually about baseball, or steroids, or HGH, or anything of the sort that Roger Clemens did or did not do -- this case is about lying. Specifically, lying under oath. Before Congress. It's about perjury, and it's about obstruction of justice. All things that are not the trivial items that baseball and steroids might seem to be in the eyes of our elected officials in Washington.

And here is where my view tends to diverge from most of the others' viewpoints that I have been hearing and reading these past 24 hours or so. When someone goes to Washington, DC, and swears in under oath to tell the truth to a committee comprised solely of the highest level of elected officials in our country, that is not to me a minor thing. The fact that Clemens was all over national television giving his testimony only makes his transgressions all the more serious in my view. I mean, Roger Clemens is a literal hero, an idol who is worshipped, by how many kids in America and around the world these days? 5 million kids? 10 million? 25 million? This guy is the ultimate role model to so many people in this country and internationally, to mostly young, impressionable kids who are clearly impacted tremendously by what they see their idols wear, how they cut their hair, how they talk, and the actions they take. The way I see it, when Roger Clemens goes on tv and states directly under oath to Congress that he never took steroids or HGH, that he never even discussed steroids with anyone prior to this hearing, and that his former trainer is lying to try to ruin Clemens' legacy, but then it slowly but surely comes out that he was quite obviously lying through his scumbag teeth the whole way through, it is imperative that we do something about it. Not about the steroids, and not about the cheating of the entire sport of baseball and all of its fans, and not by the way about the lying per se. It's the lying under oath, to Congress, that simply cannot be ignored if we expect our system to continue to work as currently designed.

I don't know about you, but it is painfully obvious to me that there is zero chance of us expecting our kids -- and, frankly, most of our grownups as well -- to even bother thinking about telling the truth, when their very idols, the people they look up to and want to emulate the most, not only blatantly lie, but do so under oath and in a very public manner. The next time someone hits you with their car because they're too busy texting to pay attention to the road, and you find yourself in court for her testimony, do you want her to testify under oath that she was paying total attention but that she clearly saw you on your cell phone and that this is obviously what caused the accident? Or the next time some big insurance company denies some sick child benefits that they clearly should be owing to her, do you want the insurance guys under oath up on the stand telling the truth, or instead making up lie after lie to find any way possible to weasel out of their insurance obligations? Say what you want because you like Roger Clemens, but I just don't see how the whole system keeps moving forward if we blatantly allow well-known people to make a public spectacle of themselves lying through their teeth while under oath to Congress.

It was bad enough when we let out own fricking president a few years ago tell obvious lie after obvious lie in his sworn deposition testimony, videotaped and shown to Americans and to others all around the world, and never even ended up doing anything real about it to him. I knew it then and it is still clear as day now what a tragically and horrifyingly negative effect showing the kids of the world that it's ok for the effing leader of the free world to lie when it suits him, would end up having on the morals of the country for literally years to come, and I would classify all this bullshit with the steroid hearings -- be it Clemens's or Barry Bonds's obvious lies, or be it Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger at Congress and flat denying ever using banned substances less than a year before failing a drug test for those very items, or be it Sammy Sosa suddenly forgetting how to speak English -- as clear results of our decision as a country to let Bill Clinton off without making him truly pay for what he did. That was another great example where the doofuses were all out saying "Aw come on guys, he lied but he's only lying about having an affair, not about some matter of national security!" as if that somehow absolves the man of anything. Bill Clinton didn't get in trouble for trying to get his knob polished, or for cigar-poking an intern a day. He got in trouble because he lied about it, under oath, publicly, and everybody on the earth saw it. Never mind the fact for a minute that the president spent 8 years chasing blowies in the oval office instead of attacking Osama Bin Laden while he built up an army in the Sudan. The guy lied under oath. The President of the United States (and also a lawyer, by the way), lying through his teeth under oath and being televised for hours and hours on end to people all around the planet, and in the end, that's what did him in to the extent that he was impeached, etc.

When you start letting people disregard the most basic tenet of our legal system, and do so in a very public, almost flaunting kind of way, the entire system starts to break down whether you can perceive it or not. We made a huge mistake as a country in letting Bill Clinton get away with downright and known perjury in the end, but that of course is the worst argument imaginable for now letting Clemens get away with it too. I was totally in favor of people getting off Clemens's back for the whole PED thing once he retired, but after he went before Congress on national television and flagrantly and deliberately broke the most sacred and basic law of our legal system, he crossed the line and simply had to be dealt with.

I look at all the bailouts that our elected "representatives" have spent their time passing over the past couple of years. All the UIGEA stuff. All the ridiculous and economically senseless "gadgets" like the tax-rebates-in-cash, the housing credit and cash-for-clunkers that have shown themselves very quickly to be the abject failures everyone with a sense of economics always knew they would be. I see the ludicrous spending that got utterly out of hand under W and that now has been increased seemingly a hundredfold by our current president. The stimulus bill that was not designed to bring nearly as much actual stimulus to the economy as it was to deliver pork to Obama's friends. The healthcare legislation of the past year that nobody but Obama and some illegal aliens wanted. I look at all this stuff that Congress is doing, and you expect me to believe that prosecuting Roger Clemens for lying to Congress under oath is the biggest joke they've put time into? I got news for you guys: this prosecution is pretty much the most important thing this Congress has done as far as I'm concerned. And I can't wait to see Clemens admit guilt and settle, or better yet, go to jail for a year or two which is most likely where this really is going to end up.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

For My Teammates

Really, Brett Favre? You're just doing this for your teammates, huh?

I guess that extra $4 million in guaranteed money that you wrangled out of your head coach and GM last week by first tweeting to some players that you were hanging 'em up, that was also for your teammates then too, right? Like, maybe getting the team to pay you more money would translate indirectly to higher salaries for all of your teammates? Or was it that after paying you that extra money, you've been planning all along to distribute the wealth among your offensive linemen behind the scenes?

Oh, and while we're doing all this great stuff for our teammates, I guess ditching out on training camp for what, the fourth consecutive season, that was to help your teammates too, right? Make them more independent, teach them how to win games without any real player leading the offense? Help the defense learn to take over games when they know Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels is just waiting on the sidelines to give the ball right back to the bad guys?

The fact that Favre retired two weeks ago and now this is basically comical. Two years ago it was a selfish, dick move and totally self-centered. Last year it was pretty much unbelievable given Favre's recent previous history with his time in the league. This year? It has to be being done on purpose. I mean, the guy went and did that electronics commercial where he can't make a decision about buying a tv. And even though every single person in America with two neurons to rub together between their ears has known since the moment Favre ruined the Vikings' 2009-2010 campaign with the late pick while in range to tie the game with a field goal with under two minutes to go in the NFC Championship that Favre would surely be returning for another season with the Vikes in 2010-2011, Favre still went and tweeted about retiring not two weeks ago. Then he got another 4 mil plus incentives, and now he's back just like that.

Oh, and last year the escort he required was from head coach Brad Childress to leave practice and come to pick Favre up at the airport. This year? Three teammates left practice for two days and flew down to Favre's home in Mississippi, stayed overnight, and only then did Favre agree to return to Minnesota with them to plan out how he is going to play again this year. So I guess it's not enough that he misses practice, but he also needs to make his coaches and teammates miss practice as well.

Anything to be the center of attention. Anything to get the talking heads at ESPN waxing poetic again about the man, the myth, the legend (all in his own mind).

Is there anybody in America (ok, outside the state of Minnesota) who is not actively rooting for this guy to get injured and miss many games early in the 2010 season?

Just make sure you realllllly take in and appreciate every single game Favre plays this year, because he has already made it known that this will be his final year in the NFL.

Uh huh.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

BBT, Can It Be?

Did I hear correctly this weekend that all three people who won the WSOP Main Event prize package in the BBT5 this past spring all took the $T on full tilt instead of playing in the Main Event?

Do people even want there to be more BBTs and more free stuff for us?

I mean, can this even be possible?

The best part about this is that people blew their effing tops for days on end when Al first announced earlier this year that the BBT Invitational was going to be just that -- an invitational -- extended only to those people that full tilt felt were a good gamble to actually use the money they graciously hand out to ungrateful bloggers every year to actually play in the actual World Series of Poker. Full tilt wanted the invitational because in the past people just would not use full tilt's funds to play in poker tournaments. They also wouldn't blog about the tournaments, even the few times when past BBT winners did actually play in the events they won prize packages to in the BBT.

One of the things I always try to teach my kids and the others around me is ownership of your decisions. If I decide to take a big risk and willingly don't use my seat belt whenever I drive 5 miles or less from my house, then you won't hear me complaining that my car was unsafe when I do get into an accident close to home and suffer worse injuries than I would have if I had chosen to wear the belt. If I decide I'm going to make a bunch of flagrantly racist or homophobic remarks in front of mixed company, then you won't hear me getting mad at someone who gives me legitimate crap for what I said being hateful and bigoted. And it's just as true in a poker context by the way -- if I decide I'm going to try to get it allin preflop automatically any time I find a pocket pair 66 or higher, and I do just that by pushing in 100 big blinds early in a big tournament and I lose a race to AK or AQ, you won't hear me complaining. I make a decision, and then I own that decision, for better or worse. This notion of personal responsibility is one of my defining qualities and something I focus on regularly, be it at the poker table or the table of life.

All of you people who gave Al endless, interminable shit for what was originally I think only around 50-60 players in the first BBT5 Invitational, you as a group need to learn to own your own decisions. It's gone on for years at this point, and I personally cannot believe it. We're bloggers for crying out loud, and the only reason full tilt ever came to us with prizes the first time around was for the marketing possibilities of paying for bloggers to play in and write about the biggest poker tournaments in the world. Instead, we as a group have repeatedly, consistently -- for several years now, amazingly -- given a huge, fat middle finger to full tilt and made them sorrier and sorrier each year about the money they have largely wasted on the BBT winners. Shit, bloggers have even won the money from full tilt in the BBT, and gone to Vegas and played with that money, and they still don't blog about it, not one whit! And don't get me wrong, I'm not judging anyone for any decisions they have made with respect to money won from full tilt or any online poker site -- but you're damn right I am judging those people for not using the money they won, and then for complaining to Al that they were not included in the Invitational the next time the BBT comes around.

Own. Your. Decisions.

If there is ever another BBT tournament series, full tilt should definitely, obviously, undeniably use an invitational format, at least for a big part of the determination of who wins the WSOP prize packages. And most of the hypocritical whining we'll inevitably see about it don't even deserve the time of day. Dickheads will post on their blog about not being included in the Invitiational like it's their job, but damn when they actually win the money, they and their blogs just vanish like a fart in the wind.

Without a doubt this is one of the most pathetic aspects of poker bloggers today.

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Friday, August 13, 2010


It's really amazing what full tilt has done with the FTOPS. I know ultimately this post is going to read an awful lot like at least one or two other posts I have done here either 3 months, 6 months, 9 months or exactly a year ago, but what can I say. Full tilt keeps making the same mistake, and I keep suffering as a result, so you read about it here.

Go back just about a week right here and you can read all about how I was looking forward to sitting down to play some FTOPS tournaments for the first time in at least a year. I haven't been playing hardly any mtt's recently and the upcoming FTOPS seemed like as good a chance as any I would have to get back into the thick of things and to play for some real money. I was amazed in that post because I literally hadn't been looking forward to the FTOPS this much in a long, long time, maybe a few years even, and at the time if you had asked me how many events would I play in the series, I would have probably guessed somewhere around 7 or 8 tournaments total.

Instead, here we are on Friday, nearing the end of the entire tournament series, and how many events have I played in total? Just one. How pathetic is that? And it's not pathetic of me -- it's pathetic of full tilt, as usual. I mean, it's not like I ran out of money or "broke even" one too many times. And it's not like I've been too busy, or just haven't been interested in playing poker after all on these days. Much the opposite -- I've sat at my pc probably all but one or two of the last nine nights since FTOPS XVII began and played in poker tournaments. Some of them with buyins as large or larger than the corresponding FTOPS event that night! The FTOPS tournaments, on an almost nightly basis, just do not stack up to what else is available out there for the mtt player to partake in.

It's almost like full tilt is going out of their way to make the nighttime events bad, and/or to put the good events at times when Americans with day jobs cannot make the games. I mean, the very first event of FTOPS XVII was the standard series-opening $216 nlh event, which I played that same night as my FTOPS post referred to above. I lasted not more than 90 minutes or so, at which point I managed to run 15 outs into top set that turned into a boat before I knew what hit me. It was a fine time, I enjoyed playing for some big money, and although I did not at all appreciate the setup hand I took it in stride and moved on to bigger and better things that night.

But since then? Look at the events at night so far after FTOPS Event #1:

There was Event #4 on Thursday night, the $535 HORSE event hosted by Svetlana Gromenkova, truly one of the top five worst HORSE players I have ever bumped into on my travels in online poker. I mean, you can't get it in behind more frequently and make poorer poker decisions than this biatch seems to do all the time, be it in sitngos, FTOPS or anywhere else I happen to run into her. Anyways, I tried one quick satellite to this event -- Gromenoka sucked me out like the horse that she is on the bubble -- but I've had my blood boiling several times previously in this event over the regoddamdiculous play even for $535, so I did not make much of an effort as the combination of the donkey game with the large buyin just makes this not all that attractive for a guy with my game to play.

Then Event #7 on Friday night? Stud-8. Again, I've been playing hi-lo longer than any other poker game out there, but the thought of chipping in $216 to a pool for a bunch of chasedonkeys to go nutso when they only have a decent draw at a decent hand for one-half the pot, and then counterfeit me and win, it's enough to make my eyes bulge out of their sockets. And let's not forget, host Aaron Bartley is perhaps the only numbskull on full tilt that even gives the lovely Svetlana a run for her money in terms of cluelessness. So that one was a no-go.

As usual, the geniuses at ftp did not run any events on Saturday or Sunday night -- far and away the prime time to play for anyone in the United States -- even though they have increased their FTOPS schedule to include not one, not two but three FTOPS events on each weekend day. And yet still nothing later than 6pm ET. Sheer brilliance. That's strikes through five days and 13 events of FTOPS, with only one tournament I actually attended to show for it -- me, a guy who has the money and the desire to play, was actually looking forward and anticipating FTOPS this time around, and who has played and won in every single poker game FTOPS spreads. It's unreal.

Then on to this week, where Monday started with the 1k buyin nlh event, a format which I again attempted exactly one time to satellite in to, but which otherwise is just not worth the buyin for a guy like me to play against some of the best competition on the site. Plus, I knew there would always be Tuesday night this week, which was? A $535 shootout tournament. 3-way shootout in fact. Something that only a true and total moron would ever pony up his hard earned money for. If I won $160 million in the lottery I wouldn't bother playing a 729-runner shootout at $535 a clip. No way no how, that's got to be the worst nighttime tournament in a whole schedule chock full of horrific events.

Finally this past Wednesday night saw FTOPS Event #22, which I had already seen was holdem and thus I figured finally I would get to play another event. Or not. Turns out it was a $322 rebuy. I mean, come on guys!! I'm the best rebuy tournament player I know bar none, and I would not even consider ponying up what it would likely cost to buy a fair chance in that event. Of course I logged in Thursday night as well, and of course it was $216 stud hi. One of the donkiest, most cards-driven games there is, a game where I know for a fact any fuckhole with any two pairs will call down through the river regardless of what any other board is showing or the action from the other players. Not even considering it, sorry.

And here we are. Before I am home tonight, FTOPS Event #27 will be underway. 27 events in to the FTOPS, again an FTOPS that I was anticipating highly and looking forward to participating in. And boooom, one event I've played, way back in Event #1. And on tap for tonight at 9pm ET? Razz. $322 a pop. What a fuckajoke.

And for all you smartasses out there who want to critique my willingness to play such a broad smattering of games, let's be clear about one thing: I would play a regular nlh tournament at almost any buyin below the 1k. I would play a 6-max nlh event at the same levels. I would play any pot-limit Omaha format of any kind -- hi-low or PLO -- at almost any buyin. I would play any rush version of nl or omaha in the formats I mentioned above. I would play any heads-up event in almost any game at almost any buyin level. I would play a knockout event of any of these games at almost any buyin below 1k. I would even play that shorthanded limit holdem event they've run several times as part of FTOPS in the recent past. Basically, there's only 7 or 8 types of tournaments I wouldn't participate in as part of the FTOPS, and they've managed to screw us Americans so badly that those 7 or 8 events are basically the nightly FTOPS schedule over the past week and a half. It's just unreal.

It's no wonder really that everyone on the planet already agrees that full tilt has utterly butchered their FTOPS brand. The powers that be with the FTOPS are Just Plain Clueless.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

More on Tiger, and Another Poll

Interestingly, a little over half of those who voted in the poll earlier this week indicated that they still believe that Tiger Woods will end his career with the all-time lead in major championships won, meaning that he would have to win at least five more majors in his still-young career.

While that number may sound high to many of you out there, to me it illustrates the the stark change in the public's perception of Tiger's golf abilities after the past couple of months. Obviously, if you had asked this question in a poll sometime in the summer of 2009, before Tiger's Thanksgiving night crash into a fire hydrant and all the shitstorm that ensued, the results would probably have come in around 95% of respondents believing Tiger would break all the time record for major championships in professional golf. That surprises no one. But what is a little surprising is that if you had asked this poll question just a few months back, after Tiger had been busted with all the cheating and the disgustery, after his scripted press conference just preceding his return to the game, and after he had announced that he would be coming back before the 2010 Masters, I still think you would have had probably 85-90% of voters who believed that Tiger's game would not be affected, or at least not be affected much, or not for very long.

What we've gotten instead, however, is a truncated season full of almost's and not-quites from Tiger Woods this year, with a few horrifying performances thrown in for good measure. After last weekend's debacle, the only question left for this season it seems is:

How will Tiger Woods fare at the PGA Championship this weekend?
Let's see how smart my reading audience is:

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tiger Poll

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Taming the Tiger

The top three signs that Tiger Woods is completely and totally off his game.

1. Scores. Tiger Woods finished this weekend's tournament at WGC-Bridgestone at +18, a full 30 shots off of the lead, and ended the tournament in 78th place out of 80 players in the weekend's tournament. This marks Tiger's worst score in any golf tournament as a professional player, and his worst four-round tournament at Firestone in his career, a course where he has previously failed to finish in worse than 4th place at any time in his professional career. This weekend saw Tiger shoot all four rounds over par at a golf tournament for the first time in nearly eight years, and only the fourth time in his 15-year career, the first time outside of one of the sport's four major championships.

2. The Goatee. Those who watched Tiger or saw this highlights this weeknend noted that the goatee is back for the first time in a few years. Although Tiger has done this before, I felt like I could tell from watching him this weekend that this time the goatee was there with a real purpose: to spark a comeback, a rebirth. To convince the others he was playing against, to convince the fans, and, I sense, most of all to convince himself that something has palpably changed from his play over most of the rest of this year, which has already seen some of Tiger's most human-looking performances in an otherwise glorious professional golfing career. As I looked at Tiger's scruff around his mouth this weekend, I could not help but think back to when Michael Jordan cracked out the goatee when he returned to the NBA in Washington and tried to help make the Wizards a champion or at least a contender. At some point when the greats who never thought they could lose it, suddenly feel like they've lost it, they turn to a cosmetic change like facial hair, haircut, their clothes or uniform, etc. as if that is actually going to have some positive impact on their sports performance. And, as was the case with MJ a decade ago, it rarely ever works.

3. Attitude. More than just reading the box scores on Monday morning, if you actually watched Tiger Woods play this weekend, then you saw a guy who is wholly different from the golfer we have watched so many times step up in the clutch, whack the ball down the middle of the fairway 25 yards further than anyone else, and just blow away the field on Sunday, if not on Thursday. Tiger simply did not exhibit one whit of the perserverance, of the concentration, and most of all of that absolute focus and insistence on winning, that has made people like him, Michael Jordan, etc. so successful over their careers. For the first time that I can recall, Tiger was walking up to the ball on Saturday and especially on Sunday, barely taking any time to prepare, make a read, take some practice swings or anything, and just hauling off and wailing the ball. Most often into the crowd, off some trees, or wherever it may land. In many many years of watching Tiger do his thing, this is the first and only time I have seen him looking so vulnerable, and just generally so damned human.

It was almost enough to actually make me sad for the guy.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Oops He Did It Again

As far as manipulators go, Brett Favre is proving himself to be one of the all-time best. I mean, this is a guy who single-handedly ruined the offseason of his last few teams with the Packers, and now two years running with the Vikings as well. A guy who hasn't been to training camp in a good 3+ years even though he's started every single regular season game of all three seasons. A guy who talked the Jets into releasing him halfway through a two-year contract a couple of years back, just so (as he claimed) he could re-sign with the Packers and then retire in the yellow and gold, and then not two weeks later was talking about signing a new deal with the Vikings. So we are dealing with a manipulator extraordinaire here. But, if you can get past the way Favre continues to manipulate things to all work just the way he wants them, the selfishness, the pomp and circumstance involved in everything Brett Favre does all year long, what he just did over the past two days with the Vikings is actually pretty damn smart.

Think about it: Brett Favre knows he wants to play again, but he also knows that he has zero chance of even considering going to camp. He knows that decision is not and would not be taken lightly by his teammates, who are out there busting their humps doing twoadays every day in the heat starting this month. It's frowned upon by everyone in the NFL to skip out on camp and then arrive for the season to start. And, on top of his long-seen desire to avoid training camp, Favre also knows that his recently-operated-on ankle is still hurting him.

So what does Favre really want to do? Favre wants to tell Brad Childress that he would like to play football in 2010, but that he isn't sure if he'll be able to play on his injured foot this season, and even if so, exactly when he'll be able to play. The problem is, even John Madden would have to take Favre's schlong out of his mouth for a few minutes to say what a dick move that would be for Favre to do to the Vikings, basically telling them, "I'm the best quarterback in the NFC if I play, but I don't know if or when I can play this year. But don't necessarily go get someone else (as if it isn't too late for them to do that already), because I really would like to play this year and I hope that I can." Given the way Favre has handled his future in the NFL over each of the past five or six seasons at this point (the last few with the Pack, the Jets season, and now two with Minnesota at least), for him to bust out with that kind of a put-off and totally eff up the Vikings' entire 2010 season hands-down like that would be just terrible, and Favre knows it and knows that even his fading teflon image would not withstand that kind of a middle finger to his team.

So what can Favre to do to get what he wants, and yet not be ridden out of town for doing it? How can he get the people of Minnesota, the fans, Brad Childress and the rest of the Vikes' coaching staff, and his teammates all to allow him to just come back to the Vikes whenever the hell he wants and not even be mad at him for doing it? Is there even a possible way to get that outcome?

Sure is: Retire first.

That's right. Don't make it too official or anything, but send some text messages to a few choice players that imply that you're hanging it up. Make Brad Childress deal for 24 hours with the thought of a 2010 season with Tavaris Jackson at quarterback instead of Brett Favre. Make each and every one of his teammates face the reality of busting ass this year for likely a crappy team with no one with the chops to lead on the offense. Force every Vikings fan in Minnesota and around the country to accept that this nucleus's window is closed, their run is over, and the team will go back immediately to being an afterthought and an also-ran in the NFC playoff picture. Then you come back a day later and tell them that you are willing to play after all (after the team offered him $7 million in guarantees and incentives on top of the $13 million Favre was already slated to earn in 2010), but that you just don't know when yet, and suddenly the guy goes from being a goat to being an absolute hero to everyone associated with the Minnesota Vikings organization.

It's the oldest trick in the book, really. Get everyone's expectations so totally beaten down, their hopes to hopelessly crushed, and then you can spring on them the news that is still the same exact horrible thing you're doing to the team, but only now it will seem like an improvement instead of a rooking. In fact, play your cards just right, scare 'em enough with your retirement talk, and those people will suddenly think your 2010 plan is just plain awesome.

So you gotta hand it to Favre. Sure, his arrogance and his egotism are unrivaled by basically anyone in his sport. Maybe all sports in general even. But the guy just showed us all again that when he is truly willing to pull out all the stops, Favre knows how to get what he wants as good as anyone in the spotlight today.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

For Reals?

Does anybody out there really believe that we won't see Brett Favre donning a Minnesota Vikings uniform at some point during the 2010 NFL regular season?

The only thing I can say is that, while I know some perfectly nice Vikings fans myself, it is only fair that Minny fans have to deal now for two seasons with what Green Bay fans had to deal with for what, Favre's last four seasons with the Packers? I mean sure, he only officially "retired" two other times, but how many other years did he tell the team he didn't know if he would play next year, and then go on to string Packers management along for months on end?

Odds in my view are:

25% Favre is retired. For good.

50% Favre returns to quarterback the Vikings in mid-season, with the team's offense non-existent and the season on the line, once his ankle is feeling better.

25% Favre announces this week that he will return to the Vikings once the team offers him more money, more prestige, and most of all after he gets his name all over Sportscenter for another couple of days.

So, 3 to 1 that Favre comes back to the Vikes this year at some point. Some retirement.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

FTOPS Cometh

You know what? For the first time in a long, long time, I am actually mildly excited about the FTOPS. FTOPS XVII we're up to already, and I believe it starts this week, on Wednesday night August 4 to be exact. The opening event is as usual a standard $216 buyin no-limit tournament that you are likely to see me sitting in on Wednesday evening.

In the past, I've spent many a night trying to outlast my opponents in full tilt's quarterly mtt series. I've had FTOPS series where I've managed to participate in 9 or 10 of the events, which back when I started playing used to constitute around 2/3 of the total events in the series. I specifically recall cashing in five FTOPS events in one series way back when, which I am still reminded of whenever I bump into my stack of identical black FTOPS hats that full tilt sent me during that series, which was probably a good three full years ago or more by now.

As the FTOPS has expanded, however, and as it continues to arrive every three months and thus cheapen somewhat the value of the FTOPS franchise in my eyes, I have found myself playing in the FTOPS less and less. This decision of course is not meant to injure anybody or designed to be done in protest or anything, but rather I have just not been nearly as interested as the FTOPS has become more and more accessible to everyone, and as running into a gold jersey at my table on full tilt has become more and more commonplace at the limits I play. And most of all, full tilt has not done what I would call a good job in updating the tournaments that comprise the FTOPS. Over the past few quarterly series, I have found myself only interested in playing in two or three of the 25+ events in the entire series, either because the timing is off (as my longtime readers know I will only play in the nighttime events), or because it's not exactly my dream when I wake up in the morning to play razz for a $322 buyin with a bunch of shizzheads who can't even spell "razz" and that only has a 150k guarantee, or to play a $216 limit holdem chasemonkeydonklefest with a 250k guarantee and that will slowly deteriorate into effectively push-and-pray no-limit play with very low Ms by the time the final table rolls around. Meanwhile, there's still no high-buyin heads-up tournament as part of FTOPS, the site that lets you "play with the pros"? No $500 heads-up event or something? Come on, full tilt.

Anyways, this is not a post to slam on full tilt for what has gone down with the FTOPS. Rather, this is to say that I might actually have some interest in playing in some FTOPS events over the next couple of weeks, which is the first time I have said that in at least this year, if not longer. I cannot have participated in more than one or two total FTOPS tournaments so far out of about 60 this year spread over two series, and yet, this time around, I'm actually looking forward to getting involved and might even be willing to play an off-game in order to get my mtt junkie fix.

You see, for those few of you who don't already secretly watch every table I ever play at online, I really have not been playing mtt's lately. For a good long while, actually. I mean, of course out in Vegas in early June I was Mr. MTT. I played mtts for probably about 60% of my total time awake in Las Vegas over four days, and another 20% was spent playing cash poker as well. But as I've written about a couple of times since returning from the desert earlier this year, even though I had some great success at mtt's while out in Sin City, since then I have had a lot of trouble getting mentally up for playing in tournaments. And don't get me wrong -- I've still been playing a fair amount of online poker. Not nearly as much as when I am on a major mtt bender like seems to have been the case over maybe 60-70% of the time over the past few years, but I've been playing a fair amount of poker despite what has been an extremely hectic life both personally and professionally. Basically given all the things going on with me right now, I have been limiting myself to very short stints, things like brief cash sessions, or most commonly recently, turbo and even super turbo sngs. I've done this before, gone through a period where I am burned out on mtt's for a time, and I always come back to the good old fashioned large-field mtt, which will always be the most challenging form of poker to excel at in my book. But lately I just haven't been feeling it, and I bet I haven't played in 10 true mtt's over the past two full months if I had to guess.

But when I saw this week that FTOPS is back, something stirred inside me that I haven't felt for a few months now. A twinge, an urge. Nothing more than an inkling really, but the feeling was there and it was real. The beast is coming out of his slumber. I am pretty sure he wants to play in some of these FTOPS tournaments.

And what kind of a degenerate poker player would I be if I didn't let the beast have what he wants?

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Monday, August 02, 2010

Failed Inception

Oooooof. Don't let the mainstream media fool you -- this was not a good weekend for "Inception". Sure, by Sunday night "Inception" had barely edged out Steve Carrell's "Dinner for Schmucks" -- another movie I can't even believe somebody made -- for its third straight week of the top movie of the week honors. And yes, after three weekends the flick has grossed over $190 million worldwide, meaning that Chris Nolan and everybody else involved with the film is pretty much happy from a financial perspective. This thing has made back the studio's investment in it and then some, and there is something to be said for that regardless of the actual quality of the underlying film.

But, back to this past week's performance for the movie, the truth behind the spin you're seeing is how close that battle this week really was for "Inception" to hold on to the top spot for one more week, after less than three weeks of release so far in the U.S. After busting out with just a shade over $100 million in sales in its first week of release, Inception's box office dropped by more than a third in its second week to $65.6 million, reflecting the less than stellar word of mouth for the incomprehensible pyschodrama. But it was this third week -- once all the diehard fans who already knew they would see this movie no matter what have by now gotten out there and seen it -- when the real dropoff occurred. By Week 3, this is when you're basically looking at a few stragglers who haven't had any free time yet to get to the theater, but mostly otherwise it is a word-of-mouth audience. Third- and fourth-weekers are mostly comprised of people seeing a movie for the second or third time (who would ever pay $12 more than once to be confused by a blithering idiot?), and people who might have skipped this like most films but instead heard from someone they trust that it was worth seeing. Word of mouth is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to a movie either becoming an icon of pop culture, or being forgotten in a few months when the next "blockbuster" hits theaters. And on that front, "Inception" is, of course, failing fast. In its third week, the movie took in just over $27 million in gross receipts, reflecting a drop of around 60% since week 2 and now nearly 75% since its first-week gross.

Now I know there are you smart-alecks out there who are going to try to insist that this is a very typical performance for a great movie, I don't know what I'm talking about, etc etc etc. So let's just back this up with some facts as always, and then you can go on your merry way blowing the movie, mmmmkay?

Let's start with "The Matrix". I'm picking this movie because it is one I have heard compared to "Inception" several times by several people, and even the movie's creators have cited "The Matrix" as a critical inspriation for much of the filming and the direction. "The Matrix" opened to a paltry $10 million gross in its shortened first week of release, but then exploded by over 330% to over $41 million in Week 2 as people started talking about how this movie changed their world view forever. By Week 3 there was of course a dropoff, but only of 26% compared to Week 2 as "The Matrix" raked in over $30 million in its third week of release, as word of mouth was incredibly strong for the sci-fi thriller. The dropoff in Week 4, again mostly a word-of-mouth audience -- was even smaller, just 22% from Week 3's take to $23.4 million. While "Inception" saw its audience tumble nearly 60% from Week 2 to Week 3 as the have-to-see-it crowd ran out of steam and the word-of-mouthers avoided this thing like the plague, "The Matrix" continued to roll on strong, never seeing a weekly drop of over 31% in a non-holiday week until Week 16, and never once in its entire run in theaters recording a week-to-week drop in gross receipts of greater than 51%. So people kept talking up "The Matrix" no matter how long it was out, no matter how many times they had seen it, until they took it out of the theater for good, period. Nobody, meanwhile, is talking up "Inception" in macro terms, and sales are plummeting fast after just three weeks in theaters.

Now let's compare "Inception"'s early run to another summer blockbuster from this year, Despicable Me. This is a kids' movie, and a decent one I would say (I saw it with K and M a couple of weeks back), and so far after three full weeks of release this film has grossed almost the exact same amount as Inception so far in around $190 million, so it seems as good a comparison as any. In Week 1, "Despicable Me" took in $85 million, and in Week 2, $54 million, for a total dropoff of 39%, actually a little better than "Inception"'s dropoff from Week 1 to Week 2. But, move to Week 3 when word-of-mouth takes on an increasingly key role, and Despicable Me still made $37 million, far more than Inception in Week 3, and more than that, a dropoff from Week 2 of only 28.4%. "Inception"'s 60% plunge from Week 2 to Week 3 looks more and more telling the more you compare this to other similar films' box office performance. People just don't like this movie as much as the entertainment media would have you believe.

Let's also look at a few other similar-genre movies to "Inception" over the past several years, in addition to The Matrix. "Minority Report" from Summer 2002? 37% drop from Week 1 to Week 2, 44% dropoff from Week 2 to Week 3, 42% drop to Week 4, 38% drop to Week 5, and just a 30% drop between Weeks 5 and 6, as once again you can see the power of word of mouth and its impact on movie grosses after the first couple of weeks. Now, "Inception" hasn't had four or five weeks of data to cull yet, but let's just say that after plummeting 59% from Week 2 to Week 3, sophisticated watchers of movie trends know what this means, and it ain't that sales are going to double in Week 4. And what about "Vanilla Sky", a movie I never saw but which is also often mentioned as a similar type of movie to Inception? Now, "Vanilla Sky" only grossed just over $100 million total in the U.S., but looking at its weekly receipts, once again there was a 33% dropoff from Week 1 to Week 2, but then only a 14% drop from Week 2 to Week 3, and there was never any weekly dropoff of greater than 57% in the film's entire 18-week release run in the U.S.

So it is clear to see that, no matter what the studio or the entertainment media will try to throw at you this week, those out there calling "Inception" the movie of the year simply don't have the backing of, you know, the people who decide on such things. Sure plenty of people saw this movie based purely on the trailer, the stars and the advance summary as always during the first couple weeks of release, and yes the studio has made its profit and is happy with the film from that perspective. But once those blind moviegoers had paid their penance and made their sacrifice to the movie gods in paying to see the movie in the first couple of weeks, the dropoff this week has been dramatic by almost any movie's standards. 60% fewer people seeing "Inception" in Week 3 than in Week 2 is not good news no matter how you slice it, and it belies the fact that people are objectively not running home in droves and telling all their friends that they have to see this new movie, it's so amazing, etc. They're just not. Instead, moreso than any similar movie in recent memory, the weekly gross figures indicate that audience members are strongly rating this flick a "skip" in talking with family and friends once they've seen it.

Oh, and by the way, "Avatar"? Over $137 million in gross in Week 1, and then amazingly up 7% in Week 2 to over $145 million. Avatar didn't drop below "Inception"'s Week 3 take of $27 million until the middle of the third month after its release, and the week after that its gross dropped only 7% between Weeks 10 and 11 if you can believe that. An amazing 6 of its 32 weeks have seen weekly gross increases from the prior week's viewing, and the film didn't lose more than 30% of the prior week's number of viewers for two consecutive weeks (like "Inception" in Weeks 2 and 3) until Weeks 14 and 15 after release. When a movie is truly great, the people will continue to see it over and over again and to tell their friends to do the same, and you can really see it in the numbers.

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