Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Question Nobody Wants to Ask

So with all the fallout from last Friday's online poker ban in the U.S. still working its way through the collective psyche of poker players and enthusiasts everywhere, one question seems to be looming out there, growing ever larger by the day as online poker players in America get further and further away from the days when we could toil away at our pc's accumulating valuable hand experience at a rate several times faster than any live grinder could ever hope to achieve. And yet, for some reason, I haven't seen anyone writing about this question, or what its ramifications are in the longer-term for this game we all know and love, or for live, televised poker in general:

What's going to happen to the WSOP Main Event this summer in Las Vegas?

With online poker firmly cemented into the offices, studies, living rooms, dens and bedrooms of Americans, the question hasn't needed to be asked for years, not since 2006 when the specter of the UIGEA first reared its ugly head and threatened to stop the long-term growth cycle in the largest televised poker tournaments around. Despite that UIGEA-inspired dropoff in 2007, the Main Event resumed it climb in attendance in 2008, and it has grown in each of the years since then, vaulting back over 7300 entrants in 2010 as the field in the massive 10k-buyin tournament last summer in Las Vegas proved to be the second-largest ever in WSOP history, second only to the 2006 Main Event just before the UIGEA was passed in the United States. I recall a few short years ago that pokerstars alone had sent over 3000 online qualifiers to the Main Event, and lord knows full tilt, UB and the other major poker sites out there all chipped in with solid contributions of their own to these swelling fields in the biggest buyin nlh tournaments around the world.

But with pokerstars, full tilt and UB now all blocked from serving U.S. players, and with anyone who plays on any other site having to be an damn fool to put anything more than a trifling amount into that site (and knowing it may be next to impossible to get anything out of the site even if one does win), it's a safe bet that WSOP attendance in general is going to take a huge hit this year. Just how big is anyone's guess, but 2010 saw total WSOP attendance jump nearly 17% just from 2009, and over 22% over just the past two years. With more or less no U.S. players able to qualify for the WSOP Main Event via online satellite tournaments, and with U.S. players' poker bankrolls in general under attack, unable to grow from online poker play between now and the WSOP, and in many cases stuck in limbo in the cashier somewhere of full tilt, UB or otherwise, one can only assume that we will be looking at a much smaller number than 2009's 7,310 runners in the ME.

How much smaller is anyone's guess. Personally, I'm thinking we're probably looking at closer to 3000 runners than 7000. Maybe less. But then, I bet the satellite room in the back of the Rio is gonna be rockin, pretty much dawn to duskdawn for the next couple of months.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Feels So Good

So, what have you all been doing with your newfound free time that you might otherwise have spent playing online poker?

As I mentioned last week, online poker was far from all positive for me, and in fact I think there is a very strong argument that the net effect on my life was somewhat negative overall. And this despite me winning a modest amount of dough from poker tournaments over the past five years -- nothing earth-shattering by any stretch, but a solid profit nonetheless to show for my efforts. And given the dubious benefit to me from having played as much online poker as I did over the past several years, I have been determined to spend the time that I would have spent playing online poker, doing something more productive for my life than that particular endeavor has been. To that end, I've been to the gym every weekend night and one weekday night as well already since the DOJ's actions a week and a half ago, which is definitely more than I had been going prior to last Friday. I've even been helping clean up around the house in the evenings far more than I ever have before. But you know what I've been doing far and away the most during those late-night hours that used to be spent wiling away the hours in front of my laptop screen?


That's right -- I've been fucking sleeping. And it's been awesome. I mean, I was a 4-hours-a-night guy basically for what, the past five years-plus straight of my life? And now, suddenly, you know what? If I'm tired and falling asleep in my comfy "daddy chair" in the family room at 9:15, do I fight through it, find myself asleep and timed out a few times over an hour, go run and chug some coke or scarf down some chips or something to wake myself up, and force myself to power through it until my body wakes up as usually does happen if I fight the sleepiness hard enough? No. Now when I'm feeling sleepy and literally snoozing in my chair, I go to fucking sleep. No matter when the 50-50 starts, or how many chips I have amassed with still 500 runners left in the 35k guaranteed. Suddenly, these days when I'm tired in the nighttime after a long day of work, I drag my ass up to bed and I go to fucking sleep.

And doubling one's nightly sleeptime on a whim like this is vastly underrated, let me tell you.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

A Quarter to Vegas

The proper title for this post, which I started to write a month ago when it really was a full quarter until my trip to Vegas, would at this point more like "Sixth to Vegas", in that it is now just a sixth of a year until I will be heading out for my annual trip to the desert for my shot at poker immortality. Well let me take a step back.

I still have not made any reservations for the summer. But things are slowly but surely coming into focus. It is looking more and more like I will be targeting the latter part of June as opposed to what I previously had thought would be more around the middle of the month, and it is increasingly likely that I will be rolling into town around the weekend of June 24-25 or the weekend of July 1-2. With the July 4 holiday and the Hammer Family's annual Independence Day beach trip looming, I think that June 24 weekend is growing more and more likely to be The Weekend, plus another day or two on either end of the weekend. You know, to give me time to have my gold bracelet sized, sign some autographs, all that stuff. But the stars are aligning such that it looks like that last week of June will be the best time for me and my entourage to head to Sin City, which means it's time to take another look at that WSOP nlh tournament schedule. I mean after all, just because I'm not allowed to play any more poker online, that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to play any more poker, period.

So what does the WSOP have in store on those two weekends? As usual with the new 50+-event schedule, they've always got something. In particular, I am looking at Event #43, the $1500 buyin nlh tournament scheduled for noon on Saturday, June 25, as well as Event #45 the next day, on Sunday the 26th of June, which is a $1000 event. All things equal, I would probably prefer the Saturday tournament, for a few reasons. First, the extra 1500 starting chips should make a real difference, especially given that both of these tournaments will follow the WSOP's standard donkament structure for the low-buyin bracelet events. And secondly, the $1000 tournaments will bring in the lowest of the low, the donkest of the donk, the poorest of the poor among all poker players, and even the bump up to the $1500 buyin should make a difference when there is a 1k event that same weekend, and if you've read here for any extended period of time then you know how much I prefer not to be stuck playing against the chasemonkey asseater horsesassses at the bottom end of the spectrum. Even for $1000 or $1500 cash money, you simply would not believe how fucking horrible some of these assyshits are at this game, and how readily they plunk down a Large or more when their only conceivable chance of lasting even a few hours in this event -- let alone a few days -- is to get some serious AstinBaynage coming their way. Early and often AstinBaynage in fact.

If I wanted to come in the weekend of July 1, on Saturday the 2nd is also a $1000 donkament, but this has two Day 1s and will probably be the largest single tournament in the entire WSOP other than the main event. And with the two Day 1s, it's going to run straight into July 4 and I really don't want to have to be sitting at that final table and wondering if Hammer Wife and the kids are enjoying their fireworks. For a lot of reasons -- not the least of which is that it is seven days sooner -- I think July 24 is going to be The Weekend 2011. But my brother is in along with most of my usual annual trip crew, so we're just waiting to finalize until everyone confirms that that's going to be it.

WSOP event #43. Next I'll take a look at the Venetian DSE schedule again and see which of those tournaments I'm likely to look into. It's always fun returning to the scene of the crime.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Black D-Day Hate the Government Friday

That right there encompasses about 95% of the blog post titles I have seen coming out of anyone associated with our little corner of the internets over the past few days. Too many people have asked me in shock about my thoughts on this whole online poker mess, so I guess I'll bite the bullet and write a little bit about it here.

I have to say, the degree of shock out there about the events of last Friday is what is really shocking to me, much moreso than anything else involving the entire regulation of online poker in the U.S. I mean, what did you think the UIGEA meant, exactly, if not that at any time when the government decides to get off its ass, it can and will put a stop to these companies out there that are flagrantly violating this country's laws. This is not to say that the playing of online poker has been illegal by you and me over the past few years, but I do not and did not think at any point over the past few years now at least that the poker sites, and of course whatever methods they were using to transfer funds to and from my accounts to theirs, was anywhere even close to legal. And you know what?

Neither did you.

That's right, I said it. You knew since the moment the UIGEA was passed that it was no longer legal for any poker site to transfer funds to or from an account of a U.S.-based player. Oh, you might have blocked it out over time, or convinced yourself through the amazing power of denial that only the human brain is capable of, that the UIGEA had only been a farce, that it wasn't a "real law", or that somehow the lack of enforcement over the past few years meant that the government did not have any way or any desire to effectively enforce this particular statute. But unfortunately, that ain't the way the law works most of the time, and it turns out that wasn't what was happening here either. In fact, it appears from a quick read of the indictments that were handed out on Friday that the feds have actually -- and totally unsurprisingly -- been building their case against these guys going back to the time of passage of the UIGEA, and in some cases probably even earlier than that.

And let's not lose sight of those indictments here, either, by the way -- what these complaints allege is some pretty damn nasty behavior by the guys in charge at stars, full tilt and UB. I mean, without going into the boring details, this goes far beyond simply continuing to process financial transactions with U.S. players in violation of the UIGEA after it was passed. According to the indictments, these guys actually "bought" a few failing institutions in the wake of the financial crisis back in 2008 on the cheap -- in some cases for a $20 million or $30 million "investment" which saved the otherwise failing institution -- and then essentially kept these dying banks afloat, more or less expressly for the purpose of processing UIGEA-prohibited online poker funds transfers with U.S.-based players. I mean, think about that for a minute. These guys were having problems finding payment processors willing and able to give the middle finger to the U.S. government a few years ago in the wake of the UIGEA's passage, so what did they do? They created their own payment processors by "saving" banks that were otherwise about to fail, and then keeping them afloat for the primary purpose of effectuating their knowingly illegal transactions. That is some heavy duty shit right there, and my initial reaction is that, absent some more facts that I admittedly know nothing about, those allegations sound pretty damning to me, of the individuals involved, and of the poker sites in general who allowed such activities to be pursued in their names and in their interests.

So these guys sure sound guilty to me, and I can't really say that I am even a little bit surprised that there were illegal and/or dubious shenanigans going on at all times with these entities just to be able to have a constant way to thwart the authorities and the UIGEA for the better part of three or four years. And as I've said above, I don't really think anyone else out there for the most part thought this was all legal or legit either. We just didn't care. We, as a group, decided to take our chances. Sure, there were things we could do to help minimize the risk to us -- chief among them, never, ever ever keeping more than a small amount of funds on any online poker site at any time at any point ever again -- but ultimately, we were all taking a risk, one that we didn't just think might not be totally on the up-and-up, but one where we actually all knew beyond almost any shadow of a doubt that the principals involved were using shady and illegal means to circumvent the provisions of a law that every one of you out there reading this knew was passed just a few short years ago, and was aimed directly at this little online poker thing we all like to do from time to time.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is a couple of things. For starters, this day had to come. Had to. HAD TO. There was no way it wasn't ever going to come, and finally, this past weekend, it did. But there was in my mind already no way that we were just going to be able to keep on keepin' on, playing online poker, transferring money into and out of a system that itself pretty clearly violates the UIGEA, and where in fact as it turns out that the founders of such systems had deliberately spent money for the express purpose of acquiring the ability to violate the law in ongoing fashion, ad infinitum once the U.S. government passed a law specifically proscribing such activities. I laugh at anyone who says that poker is a game of skill and not "gambling" in some form -- the role of luck in this game, and probably even moreso in tournaments than in cash games, pretty much eliminates any ability in my book to possibly argue that the statute does not apply to online poker. So yeah, while others seem generally to be utterly shocked and appalled by what happened last Friday -- and many of you sound to be downright angry by the weekend's events, but don't count me among them. I am not surprised, this occurrence did not shock me in any way, and to the extent that there would be any anger on my part -- there isn't really -- that anger would have manifested itself three years ago upon the passage of the UIGEA. But there's no anger today, which just seems weird and misplaced to me. The online poker you've all been playing has been straight-up illegally run for the past three years, and there was never any doubt about that fact. Just because the government finally got around to enforcing this rule this week, that decision itself does not cause any increased anger coming from me. In a sick way, I actually support it. I mean, not having the freedom to decide to play online poker kinda sucks I guess, but once the government took the step of creating a law to prohibit such activities, I think not enforcing the laws we have on the books is pretty much the wrong answer for where our government should be.

One thing that I am utterly, hopelessly shocked about is the stories that are coming out of people having huge portions of their bankroll, their assets, or just generally large amounts of money in the U.S. locked up in the big online poker sites. It's been said elsewhere and there's no need to spend a lot of time working this up again here, but suffice it to say, I also can't find a lot of anger or sadness with respect to those people who are being affected by this weekend's big move by the DOJ. Did people learn nothing from the Neteller fiasco? I simply cannot even begin to fathom what goes into anyone in the U.S. making such a decision with respect to a big chunk of change. I've spoken to some people who argue that their specific account history on these sites enables them to, by not ever making a withdrawal to a specific address or account, retain some level of anonymity with respect to ever having engaged in online poker in the U.S. over the past few years, but ultimately I'm just not feeling that one, as anyone we know who the government really wanted to "prove" played online poker, I suppose they could do that pretty easily. And these sites already have your name, address and other information about you, so there's not really the kind of anonymity I think most people would like to think. And thirdly, I should mention, I see no reason at this point to be scared about the government trying to prosecute me, personally, for my actions with respect to online poker since the UIGEA was passed. So far as I can tell, the poker sites were flagrantly violating the UIGEA, and the financial institutions involved with them seem as if they were clearly in violation as well, but I still haven't seen anything to suggest that the act of playing online poker as a user over the past few years has been against the law. Anyways, all I'm trying to say here is that, not only do I feel a lack of surprise or pity for all those out there who got themselves into a situation where they are reliant on online poker for some major portion of their livelihood, but, try as I might, I just cannot find understanding of anyone who is now in a "Neteller II" situation with some big portion of their money or their poker bankroll now unable to be accessed, and I do not in any way think that those people somehow "got screwed" by the government. Those people might have screwed themselves at this point, but I can't pin that one on the government, as tempting as it might be. With all the work I have done to ensure that I have never, ever ever had more than a few hundy on any online poker site since the very moment that the government screwed us with the Neteller situation -- and most of you have no idea how difficult it has been to constantly be making tiny deposits and tiny withdrawals from the system for years on end for someone who plays the dollar volume that I have run through the major poker sites over the past few years -- anyone who chose to follow a different strategy, in my mind has done so at their own risk, and not a very informed or well thought-out risk at that.

One thing that occurred to me that I had to look into was how the big sites have had to completely change their guarantees on these mtts as a result of the huge drop in traffic stemming from this weekend's events. I don't recall what I saw on pokerstars, but for example I noted that the nightly 9:30pm ET 50-50 tournament which is so named because of its 50k guarantee to go along with just a $50 buyin, is now no longer the "50-50". Now it is simply "the 12.5k guaranteed". $12,500 guaranteed, from what used to be 50k guaranteed up to just a few days ago, and what managed to pull in over 200k in prizes during full tilt's recent "double guarantees" week, now down almost overnight to just 12.5k guaranteed. So that right there is a drop of roughly 75% in the guaranteed prize pools these sites are offering today, and I noted generally the same factor in most of full tilt's other tournaments. Suffice it to say, traffic at a site like full tilt has been absolutely devastated by the U.S. government actions. One thing I am very curious about is the upcoming FTOPS abillion that was scheduled to run this month -- I am wondering if those guarantees are staying the same as well? As of the other night, for example, the FTOPS Main Event was still listed on the poker client as $7.5 million guaranteed tournament as of right now. Hmmmmm. I know they have made this thing multi-entry, but 7.5M guaranteed? That's an awful lot of players for a 4pm ET tournament in a few weeks that cannot include any U.S.-based participants. Something tells me that full tilt's FTOPS guarantees are soon to fall as well, which will only further hurt the site that we as bloggers have come to love and use the most among the major online poker clients, but who probably stands to lose the most as well from the loss of U.S. players.

So I guess overall, it seems to me that my reaction to this whole business of the past weekend is far less severe, less concerned, and just generally less upset than most of the others I see out there. I think my objectivity and my certainty that this day would inevitably come from the moment the UIGEA was passed contributes to much of my ability to have this outlook on the online poker prohibition in the U.S., but I also think there is another aspect that also helps make this all seem much easier to handle to me -- online poker is a tremendous grind, if done correctly, and not one that is generally positive all the time, or even close to all the time. Frankly, as an mtt grinder, I have written here what, 8500 times over the past few years, about how frustrating this game is, about the ridiculous beat I took after running so deep and playing so well. How many times have I gone off on an insane rant because of some thoughtless play that some douchebag made against me and then got rewarded for? Or the unbelievable suckouts late in the game that knocked down my Tournament EV for a given mtt from 10k to just $800 or $1500 or something similarly undesirable to me. Or the unbelievable clown who cost me 8 grand by calling my preflop reraise with 75o and then flopping the stone nuts against my pocket Kings. Or the monkey-calling window lickers who chase at horribad pot odds at every flush they see or every inside straight they get. And what about all those late-tournament eliminations where I called down some loser with just his AK unimproved on the flop, only to see him nail his Ace on the river to steal thousands from right under my nose? Not even to mention all the KK into AA hands, all the dominating hands beaten repeatedly for huge pots allin preflop, all the stupid fucking bullshit that I and anyone who does what I do has run in to a million billion gillion times over over the past few years. Focusing on mtt's with rapidly increasing blinds and antes, as opposed to flat cash-game structures for the most part, only makes this frustration level all the worse, exponentially so I am sure, as people are constantly getting caught with their pants down, pushing in with short stacks and not even top pair to show for it.

I guess what I'm saying is, online poker hasn't exactly been all honky-dory for me as far as life experiences go. I mean, I've had some amazing, incredible life experiences that are sort of directly a result of my playing online poker, but those experiences -- going out for a trip to Vegas every year, trying to make a run at the WSOP, playing alongside all the pros I see on tv all the time every year -- I can continue to have whether or not I am permitted to log in to some obscure website hosted out of the Isle of Man in the evenings. But let's look at what other "benefits" online poker has brought me, that I am supposed to be so upset about it now being taken away from me by my government. It's been what, five or six years of constant heartache, annoyance, and anger. Repeated disappointment. Immeasurable frustration resulting from having so little absolute ability to control the outcome of my performance in these tournaments. And let's not forget, the countless hours -- literally, thousands, over the past few years -- of sitting in front of my laptop, all alone, late at night, hurting my back, getting out of shape, staying up too late, I could go on and on and on. Truth be told, I've gotten a lot out of playing online poker which is why I have continued to do so over the past several years -- mostly in the form of cash I have won, and the incredible feeling of personal achievement that comes only from a big poker tournament win that is really the reason why I play this game I think when it comes right down to it -- but the game as a whole, and its widespread availability to me thanks to the wonders of the internets, has brought along with those few positives about a thousand other negative outcomes for me along the way, ones that I have spent literally years writing about, venting about, and just generally going crazy with rage about, both in my blog, to my friends, and in the chatbox of just about every version of every poker client I've ever downloaded. And again, try as I might, I just can't feel very bad to have had what has been a generally annoying -- albeit profit-generating -- practice for me over several years now taken away from me. Yes, I made some money playing online poker to be sure, but at what cost? Becoming an angry, frustrating, bad beat-telling, jaded, pessimistic, out of shape, overtired night-owl loner? Choose me!

Something will probably come along sooner or later to replace the online poker options removed from all of us U.S. players a couple of days ago. Or maybe it won't.

Given the overall effect on my life from playing this game on the internet over the years, I just can't get all up in arms about this in any event. Online poker, you just weren't that good to me in the end.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011


BOOoooooooooooooooom online poker!!!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

As Busy as I've Ever Been

Yep, that's my mantra lately. I am literally as busy at my job as I have ever been, in my entire life. And as someone who always carries a heavy workload in comparison to my peers, believe you me: this is not fun. At all. I mean, it's one thing when the airhead across the way, for whom its all she can do to even show her face in the office for maybe 30, 32 hours a week, tops. You give her a bit of extra work, and even though she feels like she is falling off a cliff, I don't give a shit. She deserves it, in fact. Or the lazyshiat down the hall, who will complain all day about the hours he has to work but then somehow manages to "work from home" at least two days a week, when his IM shows him as being completely away from his pc for hours at a time during business hours. But when I get heaped on top of my pile another 25-50% more work than I am already carrying, that really means something, and frankly it takes me to a place where I literally cannot get anything else done in the day but work, work and more work.

Over the past few weeks, I am up at the absolute crack of dawn -- earlier even -- and I'm the first one into my office shortly after 7am, where I proceed to sit at my pc and bang out contracts, dial in to negotiations and participate in various and sundry meetings, conversations and strategy sessions, until around 7pm when the sun is already on its way back down for the night. This week will make a complete five-day work week where I was not even afforded the opportunity to go and grab a quick lunch, not from a deli and not even one of those carts that midtown Manhattan is so famous for. And as if it's not insult enough that I work 12 hours a day in my office when pretty much the entire rest of my colleagues show up for more like the usual 9 or 10 -- on a good day! -- lately, when I finally get home around 8 at night, I have to immediately fire up the laptop and am back working on that contract markup before my work shoes are even off, my lenses are out and often literally before I even sit down. That's just how much I have to get to, how much more than is possibly able to be done by a normal person in a normal day.

So if you've been wondering why you haven't seen me on the virtual tables almost at all in the past couple of weeks (or much here at the blog, either, for that matter), no I haven't changed my username to protect my anonymity, and no I didn't finally stick my head through my laptop screen after one too many 2-outers on the river. I just haven't even had the time to sit the fuck down and do something I want to do, even at night when I'm home after a long, long day in the office.

Here's hoping that Friday night will be my first night truly off from work in about 2 1/2 weeks thanks to a couple of marathon sessions over the past couple of weekends that had me sitting in my office for a full day all alone on Saturdays and Sundays. And if I haven't returned your emails this week, don't take it personally (well, you should take it personally, but the rest of you, please don't). This weekend I am desperately hoping to get that break to catch up on everything else in my life outside of work work work work work.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Hand That Kills

It's been a while since I did a post like this, but I've been meaning to write about this one for some time, as I often think to myself when I make a significant change in my poker tournament strategy generally, or any of the specific things I do in my tournament play to try to be as successful as possible.

Basically, I like to think that I can play pretty much any hand profitably in the right situation. Whatever hand people tell you to always fold from early position, I play it from early position from time to time. When people say you always raise with pocket Queens, you never limp from late position with pocket Aces, etc., I pretty much don't follow that rule. I mean, I do sometimes to be sure, but in general, I'm not a big fan of hard and fast rules in poker, at least when it comes to no-limit holdem, and especially when we're talking about preflop starting hand requirements, and generally what people do in nlh in small pots. I'm a firm believer in always being ready and willing to do the unexpected, and as a result there are almost zero starting hands worth mentioning that I will flat refuse to play under certain circumstances, even from early position.

That said, one hand has really been kicking my ass lately, and doing so in some kind of basic ways that have really got me making a change to a long-standing habit I have developed over the years in nlh tournaments. Yes, I am here today to talk about the dreaded King-Queen. Sooted or off. This is a hand that I've been playing pretty liberally for some time. Like, my whole poker-playing career. I simply treat it like all the other trouble hands out there, which means that I play it to try to hit something good, but I'm not going to lose a ton of chips with it unless I flop big to it. But I've always played KQ preflop, and frankly, I've done so generally from any position at the table, and never really given much thought to how things end up when I do.

Until this year. Along with my increased attention to my poker game in general and making the right decisions that will lead to tournament success in every game I play, I have also been making a concerted effort to try to locate other possible leaks in my game in general, and of course a big part of that is paying attention to whether certain hands or certain types of hands are causing me trouble when I decide to play them at all. And what I have found over the past few months of careful study of hand histories, screenshots and the like, is that when I am opening with KQ from anything resembling early position, I am simply not making a profitable play from a nlh tournament perspective. And it doesn't change if I raise or just limp preflop when I open -- if I am dealt KQ in an early position, and I do not fold it before the flop, I am losing more than I am making from that decision. It hurts me to admit that to myself -- as I said above, I like to think that I can play any hand profitably enough to see a flop and then trust myself to get away from it as needed.

But I just cannot play KQ profitably from early position. Although in a given hand here or there I can make money with it of course, in general I just do not play KQ from an early position to a profit in no-limit holdem tournaments. Strangely -- or perhaps not so much -- in limit holdem I seem to do fine with KQ, which is probably a better hand in limit than in no-limit due to the risky nature of the hand, but in nlh tournaments, KQ has officially been downgraded in my arsenal of starting hands to play, to the point that I have not been playing it from early or even early-middle position over the past couple of months, and I am generally the better off for it. Sure, when I get three callers of my preflop raise and then the flop comes down TJA, I am always glad to be in there and will surely make some nice coin. But for the myriad times when the flop comes raggy, or with a medium pair on the board, or even the most dangerous when a King or a Queen flops, I am simply finding myself losing more chips than I am winning when I'm getting in there before the flop with King-Queen.

So, no more KQ from early position for me. Bring on the 72o for sho. Just no KQ.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

2011 MLB Over Unders

So another Major League Baseball season is upon us, and once again I am late in posting my over-under predictions based on the Vegas line for all 30 MLB teams. Before the season gets too far away from me -- we are what, four or five games in to a 162-game season at this point -- I want to get my predictions up here to memorialize them in stone heading into what I am expecting to be a very interesting season in one of the only professional big-money sports we have left in this country that is not currently or very soon to undergo a work stoppage of one form or another.

Unlike in past years, I just don't have the time right now with work obligations and all to do a detailed write-up of my expectations for every team, so instead I am going to simply cut and paste the list of teams and the Vegas over-under for each, along with a "U" for me picking Under, or an "O" for me picking over this numnber of total wins on the season. If I have a one-sentence thought on the team I will add it below, but otherwise it's just the teams and my over-under wins pick this time around. And, given that I actually made these picks a week ago before the season started, some of my picks and explanations will already look and sound pretty stupid, as a few teams are already way off the pace I am predicting below, but what can I do, the truth is the truth:

ARI 85.5 U I have no idea why this team is expected to win 86 games but I am not seeing it.
ATL 82.5 O I have no idea why this team is only expected to barely break .500, but I think they will with an improved roster from 2010.
BAL 70.5 O Buck Showalter comes in and makes this team the winningest team in the vaunted AL East for the final third of the season last year, and now we're looking at 71 wins? I'm taking Buck and the Over here.
BOS 94.5 O This team improved dramatically in the offseason and the number is a very makeable 95 wins.
CHC 81.5 U Anything near .500 and I'll take under with a depleted Cubs squad.
CHW 82.5 O I think this line is really quite close but I will go with the crazy coach and predict just a win or two over the line here.
CIN 79.5 O Again, this team comes out and wins the NL Central out of nowhere last year, and this year they're picked to go under .500 again in a weak division? Easy over two years in a row for the Reds.
CLE 83.5 U And somehow the Indians of all teams are picked to finish over .500? These numbers must be wrong.
COL 80 O I'm not huge on the Rockies after they disappointed last season, but I'm game to predict them to finish the year .500 or better.
DET 80.5 U Something tells me that the Tigers are looking at a bit of a down year in 2011.
FLA 79.5 U Usually a perennial "over" target, I am thinking the Marlins will finish just a hair under 80 wins this year in an NL East where mostly every team improved in the offseason.
HOU 76.5 U The Astros are always an Under these days, especially when they stink and their line is somehow in the mid- to upper 70s.
KAN 74.5 U The Royals are another team that is basically always an Under pick, no matter how low the number gets. When they trade away their best pitcher in the offseason in exchange for prospects, this is only made all the more true.
LAA 87.5 U I'm almost flipping a coin here and just going Under with the Angels, even though I respect the hell out of their coach. 88 wins just seems a tad too high for this team playing in a tougher AL West than in recent seasons.
LAD 84.5 U Somehow the Dodgers are still showing as needing 85 wins this season to cover, even though the team seems to me to be in breakdown mode, and will probably be looking to be sellers and not buyers around the trade deadline as it is.
MIL 81 O I think this line is pretty decent at .500 for the season, but I will put stock in the team's offseason improevments -- mostly notably adding Royals starter Zack Greinke to the rotation -- and look for a slight Over here.
MIN 85.5 O Always take the Over with the Twins. Rod Gardenhire remains probably the best manager in baseball today, and he is playing in a division without another great team like his is.
NYM 89 U This one I am convinced cannot be right, as this Mets squad was a lot closer to winning 60 games than 90 games last year. Although the replacement of an idiot GM and loser coach will likely signal the end of the Mets as the doormat of the NL East, no way I am picking them to win 90 games this year even if they do bounce back a bit from last year's embarrassment.
NYY 96.5 U I was surprised to see the Yanks ahead of the Red Sox in terms of predicted wins, but then I remembered how New Yorkers tend to bet these things into the stratosphere and I think I have my answer. I like the Yankees to make a solid run this year, but I can't in good conscience pick them to win 97 games.
OAK O 81.5 I expect the As to take a very good pitching staff and finish over .500 on the 2011 season.
PHI 89.5 U Here is a line I referred to in a post a week or two ago, but I think the Phils' injury problems combined with an increasing vulnerability on offense to keep this team from winning 90 games this year, even with the addition of Cliff Lee and the best starting pitching rotation ever assembled.
PIT 68.5 U This line is so low that it is laughable, after 19 straight losing seasons out of the yellow and black. I'm still going Under for this season as well.
SDP 68.5 O Did we not learn anything from last season? Now I know the Padres fell eventually and ended up missing the playoffs entirely, but 69 wins? Come on.
SFG 79.5 O Here is another ridiculous line that I am convinced must be an error. The Giants look to me to be the team to beat in the National League this year, and I expect them to ride that pitching staff to an easily over-.500 record by the time the smoke clears on this season.
SEA 79.5 U I still cannot explain what made this team play so bad with Felix Hernandex and Cliff Lee in their rotation to start the 2010 season, but with Lee gone now I am more comfortable taking the Under and expecting a similar outcome here in 2011.
STL 84 U I can't quite put my finger on it, but something tells me the Cardinals are looking at a down year in 2011. 84 is a bit low and ultimately I think is probably very close to where this team finishes the season, but since I think the team will have an off year I will take my chances with another Under pick.
TAM 87.5 U Everyone loves the Rays this season, but with the Yankees looking strong, the Red Sox clearly improved, and the Orioles coming on, I will take a slight Under with this number and expect to squeak one out in the final week of the season this autumn.
TEX 77.5 O This may be the worst line in the entire list, as I think the Rangers are looking to post a very strong year on the back of one of the most potent offenses in the league. Even without Cliff Lee -- who only pitched mediocrely for the team in 2011 -- 78 wins should be a shoe-in for the best team in that division.
TOR 78.5 U Every year the Blue Jays are predicted to wallow in the uber-tough AL East, and many years they end up surprising on the upside. Not this year though with all the improvement in that division.
WAS 65.5 O I'll take the Over here against an impossibly low number, as the Nats added Jayson Werth who will win a few games both behind the plate and in the field, as well as Brice Harper from Vegas who should join with Steven Strasbourg to bring some much-needed excitement to our nation's capital.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

The Vote

Well, I just sent my vote in for the heads-up finale of Survivor Poker: Donkey Island. In the end, it came down to my fellow Fish-mates, veryjosie and smboatdrinks, both of whom in my view played a very strong game. All along I knew that, come the last vote, I would vote for the person who deserved it the most based on their play throughout the series. And I think I know who that person is.

First, let's start with Josie. Now, I'm not even going to try to say I was privy to a small fraction of all the inside shit going on on Donkey Island over these past few weeks. There are entire camps that I had no insight into whatsoever, obviously given some of my posts along the way. But all that said, I had access to some pretty solid intel at all points of the game, which was an unexpected surprise for me coming in. I had pretty regular conversations on strategy with a couple people on the Donkeys, and Josie and I emailed and chatted regularly pretty much start to finish about things. This worked out well for me because I actually got pretty well into the game, I ended up liking the whole thing far more than I ever thought, and, frankly, I know a lot of the guys in the contest pretty well all things considered. And I never had a single design about winning the series, or even lasting long at all, so I didn't have even the beginnings of hard feelings towards any of my teammates who had backstabbed me. I had no agenda to get revenge on any of those guys or anything like it, and frankly more than anything else, Josie and I had I think a symbiotic relationship. She fed my interest in the series and in strategizing and in all the inner workings and decisions and backstabbery, and in return I provided my thoughts, based on what I knew.

Anyways, this isn't a post about me and my run through Survivor Poker, right now I'm talking about Josie. My point was I had a lot of insight into what she was doing, and without going into specifics, often times Josie and my conversations involved specific offers or even specific emails she was sent by other participants in the game. And, as there's no point at all to not letting the cat out of the bag right now, Josie basically ran all the decisions, almost from the getgo. I read her post and she might be understating her involvement in the early decisions a little bit, but from the fourth or fifth tournament all the way straight to the end, Josie was calling the shots. Every single week, every single tournament, in the latter part of team play, and all the way through after the merger right up to the very end, if you got on her bad side, you were gone in a flash. Josie would snap her fingers, and you would just disappear, no matter who you were or which team you came from. And this is not to say that the other players weren't active doing their own things, setting shit up, allying and fake-allying and backstabbing others. I was privy to emails and such from a few different people along the way, and I am well aware that everyone had their own shit going on. But when it comes right down to it, most of those other alliances ended up not meaning shit in the end. Josie called the shots, Josie made the plans, and Josie spent literally hours strategizing, thinking through scenarios, considering who her biggest danger was right now, etc. etc. etc. Trust me, I know she did. You just can't say enough about what a good job Josie did from the beginning in planning this thing out, and it showed as in the end she was literally always two or three steps ahead of those who would have had her undoing.

And then there's Boat. And admittedly, Boat was not someone I spent much time emailing or chatting with during Survivor Poker -- at least not after he dipped his knife in acid and slipped it quietly between my second and third vertebrae to end me before my time on Donkey Island -- and like I said I know of an alliance or two he was involved in after the merger of the teams occurred roughly halfway through the series. So I know he was moving shit and he was shaking shit -- you don't last through 16 other blonkeys in this thing without making some shit happen for yourself. But the bottom line is -- boat and Josie aligned from Week 1, from Day 1 really, and more than anything else they simply did what was so damned impossible for everyone else on Donkey Island, over and over and over and over again -- they stuck together. And I don't say this lightly -- Boat did a really good job in this game, albeit in a more passive way than Josie who played much more the leadership role in the process. But Boat actually did two things very well in Survivor Poker, things that aren't nearly as easy as you might think. First, he chose his alliance well. Josie, obviously, was a great choice for Boat, and she stuck with him straight through to the bitter end just to prove it. Picking the right alliance isn't nearly as easy as it may seem -- just look at me, who was forced to try to ally with a couple of slimy weasels. Or look at Jordan, allying with Goat just so Goat could f him up. Or, likewise, Goat allying with Jamy. But Boat picked exceedingly well in whom he chose to ally with. And, I think it's fine to admit it now, there were a couple of moments there where Josie wasn't 100% sure. At one point Boat was working on something as some kind of a contingency plan with one of the final 5 or 6 players left, and Josie was getting nervous. He wasn't admitting it to her, but it was pretty obvious. So even that alliance had its moments -- I am sure on both sides -- but it was a very good choice for Boat. And that's the other thing that Boat did so well -- he actually stuck with his fucking choice despite all the temptation to do otherwise. We saw how hard this was for the Fish first when they were guaranteed passage to the merge if they just stuck with my plan, but then they turned around and voted me off, all but assuring themselves that their ranks would be cut in off over the ensuing month. We saw the same thing time and time again, and most flagrantly with the Donkeys who simply could not just vote together as a group by the time the merge happened and who literally gave it all away, every single one of them. Well, boat wasn't able to stick with the quasi-alliance he and I had, but he did a fabulous job of sticking with Josie, and it paid off. He played a great game of Survivor, and is fully deserving of being where he is here at the end.

There's another reason that I definitely considered voting for Boat in this, I should mention, and this has nothing to do with Boat to be honest. While I said all that up there that I thought Josie played a great game, the bottom line is, by the time we were down to maybe 8 players left, it was in my mind unbelievably obvious that Josie was the ringleader and needed to be taken out immediately. And yet, somehow, nobody ever did anything about it. With about 8 left, it was obvious. With about 7 or 6 left, people openly starting posting about it, which I chose not to do. But still, everyone knew, but nobody did anything about it. It was excruciating when I think about it, watching these monkeys repeatedly let Josie grow strong and stronger over like 5 or 6 tournaments in a row, literally eliminating her biggest perceived competition day after day after day after day, and nobody did anything. Josie undeniably played a great game, but this shit was also handed to her. Absolutely handed to her. I mean, not literally handed to her. But the Donkeys had Josie and the entire Fish team dead to rights, and then they fucked it up. They made a terrible decision like four straight weeks, and just stood there and let Josie's rise to power be consummated. Even among the Fish -- where, make no mistake, there were active attempts to unseat Josie brewing each and every week around the middle of Survivor Poker -- they simply could not get it together to eliminate the ringleader until it was too late. But watching how badly everyone played in the face of an obviously mounting threat from Josie -- and knowing the bloggers' general history of cowtowing to the new hot chick on the blog and then having to watch the same sad scene play out once again with Josie over and over again through this series, I can't deny that some small part of me definitely considered voting anti here and surprising in support of smboatdrinks just for that reason alone.

But in the end, I voted for the right person here to win Season 1 of Survivor Poker: VeryJosie. I have a lot of respek for what Boat did in the series, and as I said above there is little doubt in my mind that he is fully deserving of his top-two finish. He played the game very, very well, and I take nothing away from him for being more of a passive and less of an active participant in getting there. But I just didn't want to vote for the guy who ultimately in my view rode the coattails of the person who he is up against heads-up here. Boat did an awesome job picking and sticking with Josie, but Josie ultimately is the reason that Boat ended up here where he is.

I think to sum up my feelings, if Josie had gotten voted out in week 3, I think there is almost zero chance that Boat lasts to the final 2. But Boat could have gotten voted out in week 3, and I can't see how that would have changed Josie's chances of ending up here much at all. Boat deserves a lot of credit, but Josie is the reason that both of them are here ultimately, and for that she gets my vote.

Well played to both of you two, well played.

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