Friday, September 30, 2011

This is Just Precious

And the Curse of the Bambino lives on alive and well....

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 MLB Over Unders Revisited -- Final

After an absolutely crazy final month that saw both the Red Sox and the Braves give up nearly double-digit leads in September to miss the postseason for the first two times in major league history, and an even crazier final few days when the Braves couldn't win a single game out of three against the Phillies and the Sox could nab just one out of three against the lowly Orioles, including multiple extra-inning games on the final day of the season that had teams in four corners of the country staying up late glued to the tv in the clubhouse, the 2011 MLB regular season has come to a close once again. While it is fresh in everyone's mind, I thought I would take a look at my 2011 over-under predictions for every team in the majors, and see if I once again managed to go just slightly over .500 with a full league's slate of predictions at the start of the regular season.

ARI Under 85.5. That's a loss. New manager Kirk Gibson deserves a ton of credit for leading this team over the Giants and their amazing pitching in the NL West. I certainly did not see this season coming for Arizona.

ATL Over 82.5. I got this one right, even though the Braves' season ends up feeling like a total loss. Even with 19 losses in September, Atlanta still finished with 89 wins in a positive season for a team that was considered the NL's second best team almost from start to finish this year.

BAL Over 70.5. Another loss here. I put my faith in Buck Showalter after a very strong end to the 2010 regular season for Baltimore, but the Orioles proved to be among the worst teams in the AL and missed even this low number by one game by season's end, even taking 2 of 3 from the Sox to end the year and ruin the Sox's season.

BOS Over 94.5. This is another loss snatched away from the jaws of victory, as it took Boston losing 20 games for its worst September in history as a franchise to keep them under this number by the time game 162 was all done and a bow put on Boston's miserable 2011 regular season.

CHC Under 81.5. Easy win and never even in doubt. The Cubs are among the most mis-managed franchises in sports today.

CHW Over 82.5. My second loss due to going with a head coach who let me down this year. At 79 total wins the White Sox came close to their number, but it goes in the books as another loss in what proved to be Ozzie Guillen's last year at the helm in Chicago.

CIN Over 79.5. I still can't believe I lost this one, but the Reds lost to the Mets 3-0 on the last day of the season to finish with 79 wins, making them an Under this year by the hair on their chinny chinny chins.

CLE Under 83.5. Although the Indians fared better than I expected when I made this pick, they still finished the season just under .500, good for a win that was not necessarily looking good about two-thirds of the way through the season.

COL Over 80. This is another loss for me, as I went with the momentum one too many times with the Rockies, who failed to produce one of their patented second half runs this year and ended with just 73 wins on the season.

DET Under 80.5. One of my worst picks of 2011. I went with the White Sox in the AL Central, but Justin Verlander and the Tigers ran away with things, easily eclipsing their number for the year.

FLA Under 79.5. A precious win for me. I've picked Over more often than Under with the Marlins over time, but this year didn't seem like the year for the under-supported team from south Florida.

HOU Under 76.5. Easiest Under in the league, and the Astros dumped what little talent they had amassed before this year's trading deadline.

KAN Under 74.5. Another easy Under for one of those perennial non-spending, small-market teams that just may never reach the postseason again.

LAA Under 87.5. This is one I'm proud of as I picked this line as basically being spot-on but just went with the Under based on the rest of their division improving somewhat. Finishing with a total of 86 wins on the season, it's a squeak but a win is a win is a win.

LAD Under 84.5. I thought this would be an easy win, but Don Mattingly finished up strong and eked out an impressive 82 wins by season's end. Still, it's another win with good reasoning on my part for the year.

MIL Over 81. An easy win for a team that improved measurably since 2010 but whose line was just too low from the getgo at just .500 baseball.

MIN Over 85.5. Another of my biggest misses of the preseason predictions, as I went with the manager here but the Twins came out and shocked the world by losing 99 games in their 2011 campaign.

NYM Under 89. The Mets were basically right where I expected them to be in 2011, as they clearly improved from the loss of well-known idiots at both coach and GM from the past few seasons in Jerry Manuel and Omay Minaya. And they never had any chance of finishing significantly over .500 with that team, making this another of the easiest Unders on the slate this preseason.

NYY Under 96.5. Although I only lost this prediction by a measly half a game in the end, it is one that surprises me almost as much as any others on this list. The Yankees had a much better year than I expected, and would have had the best record in baseball if not for the historic season had by the Philadelphia Phillies.

OAK Over 81.5. This was another loss for me as the A's pitching staff failed to shine and the team's lack of talent was as apparent as ever, netting the team just 74 wins on the year.

PHI Under 89.5. What can I say, I figured 87-88 wins for the Phillies given the loss of Jayson Werth and an improved NL East across the board, and even though the division took a giant step up, the Phils still busted out with a franchise record 102 wins and were easily baseball's best team from start to finish in the 2011 regular season. It's a loss I'll take any day of the week.

PIT Under 68.5. This line was laughably low coming into the 2011 season, and I finally got burned by going back to the Under well one too many times with this team. 72 wins and a terrible second half made for another big disappointment for this year's Pirates, but not big enough to keep me out of loss column once again on this prediction.

SDP Over 68.5. I just could not believe how low this line was, and I ended up winning as the Padres amassed 71 wins on the season, even though the team was surely worse than I thought they would be.

SFG Over 79.5. I won this number easily, as the Giants rode their tremendous rotation to 86 wins in this regular season, despite missing the chance to defend their 2010 World Series title in finishing 8 games behind Arizona in the NL West.

SEA Under 79.5. Here was an easy win, as the undermanned Mariners managed just 66 wins on the year and were never really in doubt for this prediction in 2011.

STL Under 84. The Cardinals used another strong contribution from Albert Pujols and a late-season surge to post 90 wins on the season, making the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and leaving my prediction twisting in the wind about two weeks into the final month of play this year.

TAM Under 87.5. I thought with the Yankees and Red Sox improving this season, the Rays would struggle to reach 88 wins. In the end, the Rays used a 17-10 finish in September to finish with 91 wins, exactly as many as they needed to make sure they reached the postseason and stole the rival Red Sox' playoff berth along the way, but giving my prediction a loss in the process.

TEX Over 77.5. Another easy win for the American League's best offensive team by far outside of New York or Boston. The Rangers picked up 96 wins on the year, going 30 games over .500 for perhaps the easiest Over of the bunch in this year's preseason predictions.

TOR Under 78.5. The Blue Jays did better than I expected in a very tough AL East, managing to end the year at .500 and making their gain my loss this year in terms of my picks.

WAS Over 65.5. Here was another easy win as the Nationals banged out 80 wins in the best season of the franchise's young history thus far, especially given the strength in the NL East.

So there you have it. And the final count? 15 wins, 15 losses overall. Right around .500 once again with the preseason over-unders. What else is new?

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Incredible End to the MLB Season

Has this ever happened before?

With only Game 162 of the scheduled regular season remaining in Major League Baseball, we're sitting here with not one, not two, not three but four different teams, all of whom straight-up control their own destiny as far as nabbing the final two post-season spots, one in each league. I certainly cannot recall such an exciting finish to a baseball regular season in my recent memory, and while I know we've had some close calls before and certainly we've had several examples of one-game playoffs to determine who rolls on to the post-season and who heads home for the winter, I'm not sure it's ever happened quite like this. The fact that we're ending so excitingly in both the AL and the NL stands in stark contrast to what most of September shaped up to be in MLB -- the most boring September in years. With all six division races nicely tied up within just a week or two into the month, and with near double-digit leads for both the Braves in the NL and the Red Sox in the AL for their respective wildcard spots heading into the month, it seemed as though there would be little of interest to keep baseball fans glued to their tvs until the playoffs came around.

But then cue not just one but two concurrent historic collapses.

First, the Braves. Entering this month, the Braves were 80-55, well behind the Phillies in the division but way out in front in National League wildcard race, leading the Cardinals by 8.5 games in that category. But in September, the Braves' offense has all but disappeared, averaging just a hair over 3 runs per game in losing 17 out of 26 games, while the Cardinals have turned it on, winning 17 out of 25. Superstar Albert Pujols has put the Cardinals on his back this month, hitting .366 with 20 RBIs in 25 games, and star pitchers Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia have recovered to go a combined 7-0 with an ERA in the 2.4's over the past four weeks. Meanwhile, the Braves' perfect foil has been pitcher Derek Lowe, who went 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA in September of 2010, joining Tom Seaver in 1969 and Randy Johnson in 2002 as the only National League pitchers to pitch in at least five September games and win them all with an ERA that low, but who now in September 2011 has gone 0-5 with an ERA of 8.75, making him the first National League pitcher ever to pitch in at least five September games and lose them all with an ERA that high. And the Braves' slump has come over 26 games in September, 18 of which were against the non-playoff-bound Nationals, Marlins and Mets, so it's not like the schedule has been particularly cruel to Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the story in Boston is pretty much even worse. On September 3, the Red Sox were sitting at 84-54, a couple of games behind the Yankees in the AL East but holding an even more comfortable 9-game lead even later in the season than the Braves. Since then, the team has stunk out loud, going 7-19 overall in the month of September, while the Rays have simultaneously gone on a tear, rolling off a 16-10 record and giving up four or fewer runs in 8 of their last 12 games. The Red Sox's 19 losses in September (and counting) are the most by the team in this month in 59 years, since the Sox went 7-20 in 1952, a mark they could tie with a loss tonight to end the regularly scheduled regular season in Baltimore. And, like the Braves in the NL, the Red Sox do not have the schedule to blame, as September has seen them face off for six contest with out-of-it Toronto, and a total of seven games against the hopelessly horrible Orioles, in which so far the Sox have gone 4-8, with one final game against the O's tonight at Camden Yards for all the marbles.

With both leagues' wildcard races now tied with just one game remaining, the very real possibility exists of two one-game tiebreaker games on Thursday, which again I doubt has ever actually happened before. As far as those tiebreaker games go, MLB has announced this week that any one-game playoffs would be played on Thursday. First pitch for the American League tiebreaker between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. ET, if needed. The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves would start at 8:07 p.m. CT on Thursday night in St. Louis.

With both underdog teams having won the season series with their opponents, each of the Sox and the Braves have their work cut out for them tonight, which will be I think for both teams their last best chance to salvage a post-season run out of the 2011 regular season campaigns before having to go on the road to win a one-game playoff against a much hotter team rich in the belief that destiny is on their side. And the odds seem stacked in favor of us having a second team to the 1964 Cardinals as the only team ever to have overcome a deficit of at least 8.5 games in in September to reach the postseason in Major League Baseball.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

NFL Thoughts -- Week 3

What a wild week in the NFL.

I'm not sure which is the most embarrassing aspect of the start of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles regular season:

First, there's the o-line's complete inability to prevent quarterback Mike Vick from sustaining a different and serious injury every week of the season. I mean, I know this guy runs around like a maniac and I know he's kinda thin to be putting himself in some of the situations that he does, but let's face it: the Eagles' protection of the qb and the pocket has been laughable for many, many years.

Secondly, there is the team's woeful lack of preparedness for Vick's missing games, the most obvious outcome imaginable to most mere fans but yet somehow totally unforeseen by the Eagles brass, who for the second straight week have sent Mike "the Statue" Kafka out to the field to protect a lead. And then watched that lead quickly slip away as the Eagles offense -- which probably would be more productive if run by Franz Kafka than Mike Kafka -- cannot keep the opposition off the field for more than a minute or two of game time when it counts. The team went and signed Vince Young in the offseason to be Vick's backup, but where the shite is he? Get his ass on the field or get me a more viable option than Kafka for now 1/8 of our season, and counting as Mike Vick sustained a broken right (non-throwing) hand in the second half of this week's game against the Giants.

And then not to be outdone, let's not forget the Eagles' vaunted "dream team" pass defense. You remember, that incredible, historical collection of all-time great cornerbacks in Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Free-Agent-of-the-Year signing Nnamdi Asomugha, right? Well, how's eight passing touchdowns allowed in the past two games sound to you? Asomugha has convinced me already in several instances how athletic he is. Now he needs to show me that he can, you know, stop the people he's covering from scoring touchdowns. Until that starts happening, and until the team can find a way to protect Mike Vick, it's looking like it could be a long season in Philadelphia.

Elsewhere, although I may not be 100% sold on some of the real upstart teams so far through three games, I think we can start to make some credible generalizations about some of the teams expected to be among the league's best and the league's worst. For example, the Cheatriots are obviously a great team, but that defense just plain sucks. Again. It's been some years since there was a strong unit playing on that side of the ball at Gillette stadium, and this year certainly will not see an end to that streak. The Cheats are going to win a lot of games in the regular season like always, but they can't stop anybody, period, right now giving up by far the most yards in the NFL, more than 10% more than even the 31st place team defense in the NFL, and some 180% more than the current defensive yardage leaders in the Dallas Cowboys.

Speaking of teams with surprisingly not-good defenses, let's not forget about my Eagles -- in particularly, surprisingly, against the pass -- and also, what about those J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets? Currently slated around the middle of the pack in yards allowed through three games (against Dallas, the Jaguars, and the Raiders, two of those games at home), the Jets have been particularly vulnerable to the run, where they currently reside in 31st out of 32 teams in rush defense thus far through three games of the season, and the team continues not to look good, even when it wins big. We're going to find out real quick whether the Jets are improved from last year and ready for another playoff run, as the team's next six games are at Baltimore, at New England, vs. Miami, vs. San Diego, at Buffalo and vs. New England, which I would venture to say the team would go 1-5 in if they play equally as good as they have thus far in three games in 2011.

And let's turn our attention briefly to the reigning superbowl champions in Green Bay, who are happy at 3-0 right now but whose defense is looking downright porous in their own right. Through three games (one against offensive juggernaut New Orleans, but the other two against the much more tame Panthers and the Bears), the Pack has ceded the 4th most yards in the NFL, including allowing 1078 yards through the air, which is 15% above the 3rd-worst pass defense and just a couple of first downs behind the hapless Cheatriots in this department. The Packers have allowed the 10th most points scored in the league thus far, resulting in nearly 25 points allowed per game, which will still win the Packers a lot of games this season but which is not close to where this team should be or wants to be.

And I also think the Falcons are worth mentioning, who mostly everybody had picked for another post-season birth this year but who so far are damn lucky to be 1-2 through three games in 2011. If Mike Vick doesn't go down with a concussion and leave the game in the thoroughly unprepared hands of Eagles' third-stringer Mike Kafka in Week 2, the Eagles' 10-point 4th quarter lead at Atlanta almost surely holds and that team is looking at 0-3 right now. And yet still the team has lost both of its road games so far, both to teams they were expected to beat in the Bears and now most recently the Buccaneers. The Falcons have currently given up the 8th most points in the NFL through three games, and the passing offense is currently sitting in 18th in the NFL, and the rushing offense at 19th, both of which were expected to be well above average on the season. The Falcons better shape things up in a hurry or they might be looking at Detroit taking away their playoff spot right quick in 2011.

And on the other side of the coin, like I said I may not be totally sold on the Bills' greatness overall just yet, but the offense in Buffalo is certainly clicking on all cylinders to start the new season. The team is currently rushing for the fourth most yards in the NFL, while passing for the 11th most for a combination of gaining the 3rd most yards in the league (431 per game) and leading to the single highest-scoring team in the league at 37.7 points per game through three efforts thus far this year. While the first defeat of the Chiefs doesn't look like much, the Week 2 win over the Raiders is already looking all the more impressive for the Bills, and the way they managed to get Tom Brady to make mistake after mistake this past weekend says it all about where this team is at at this point in the young season.

And no discussion of the year's big positive stories so far in the NFL would be complete without mentioning the Detroit Lions, who are so obviously for real that I don't think you could find anyone who is actually watching these games who would ever disagree at this point. The team has probably the best defensive line in football, and although they have not been all that in defending against the pass, the overall team defense has given up just 46 points in three games, good for fourth-best in the league thus far in the young season. And let's not forget that young, high-powered passing offense that has scored the fourth-most points per game so far this season while seeing young quarterback Matthew Stafford produce to the tune of a 110.7 overall qb rating through three games. Things are shaping up for quite a race in the NFC North in 2011.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Full Tilt Disgust

Man I could ruminate on this full tilt business forever. This morning I have two quick thoughts I've been focusing on.

For starters, take a spin around the poker blogs you read these days, and you will still see a ton of people defending full tilt against the allegations that they were a ponzi scheme. I mean, I've seen or heard like five or six well known voices in the poker blogiverse saying that exact thing over the past 36 hours or so. Never mind the fact that, during the last year of its existence, full tilt operated at a massive shortfall in actual cash of some $130 million below the amount of funds in player accounts on their site, because the site was unable to find payment processors willing and able to transfer them the cash from depositors' accounts. They never told anyone this -- went out of their way to hide it in fact -- and spent the better part of their last year as an online poker site with again a 9-figure amount of "phantom funds" that were in play on full tilt's site, but which full tilt was never able to actually collect from its players' bank accounts. As a result, the last year consisted of full tilt funding player withdrawal requests out of other players' deposits (actually, out of what was left out of other players' deposits after the 19 owners and board members took their $5-10 million a month in distributions, that is), while only maintaining a small fraction of the total player poker funds available on the site in actual cash, resulting in the figures announced from Black Friday when full tilt had $390 million of player fund obligations, but only $60 million on hand with which to pay them. The whole thing was not designed as a ponzi scheme, no -- and the system has nothing to do with the traditional pyramid-style scheme that often many ponzi schemes take the form of -- but over the past year when funding player deposits became a huge challenge for tilt, the owners and those in control simply let those funding discrepancies linger, unnoticed and unannounced, and kept their business running in the hopes that no more than 15% or so of their players would make cashout requests at once which is all it would have taken for tilt not to be able to cover the withdrawals given the Black Friday figures. By June 2011 it would have taken just 2% of players to request withdrawals of their funds on full tilt for the company not to have had the money -- anywhere -- to pay their players out. This, my friends, is basically the textbook definition of a ponzi scheme, as asserted by US district attorney Preet Bharara in the amended complain filed earlier this week. And yet, I've read in several places in the poker media this week how it was wrong to use the term "ponzi scheme" to describe the site, that full tilt was just poorly-managed but not at all a ponzi scheme, that the district attorney is just trying to use the well-known and sensationalistic term in the media to gain the upper hand against the poor site being depicted falsely, etc.

Face it guys. Full tilt quickly became a way for the owners and founders to loot their players of our cash and live their extravagant lifestyles basically for free. But when things got out of control, the powers that be knowingly and willingly turned the site into a ginormous ponzi scheme scam, and when the events of April 15, 2011 caused massive withdrawal requests from U.S. players, the proverbial shit hit the fan and the jig was up, just like when Bernie Madoff could no longer meet his own fund's withdrawal requests and was forced to turn himself in. Pay withdrawals out of other people's deposits, and never actually have close to enough money to return everyone's investment near the end -- this is how ponzi schemes almost always end, and it's the essential nature of what makes them a ponzi scheme in the first place. But my question is: Is it seriously not time yet to stop defending these pieces of shit thieves just because you like to think of some of them as your friends? Stop posting that they're being mischaracterized (they aren't), stop posting that the district attorney is lying to get the media and the public on his side (he isn't), and stop saying that this was all just an innocent business enterprise gone wrong (it wasn't).

The other thing I just can't help thinking about these past several hours is the BBT. To be honest -- and frankly I wrote about this here a few times so this is no surprise to anybody -- but after those first couple of BBT series, I never really could understand how full tilt could willingly continue forking over 30 or 40 grand a pop for these BBT series, only to see the winners repeatedly pocketing the cash and not even playing in the WSOP with the winnings, or better yet, people taking the money and going out and playing, but then never blogging one whit about the experience in the first place. Several people commented on this over time on their blogs actually -- it just seemed odd that tilt would keep coming back and offering up more and more free prizes to us, when the BBT participants as a rule pretty much consistently fucked tilt off when tilt looked to get the benefit of their bargain by someone posting publicly about the experience that full tilt enabled them to win.

Well now we know how Full Tilt "had" the money to keep "spending" on "free" stuff for us in the various BBT tournament series, don't we? Full tilt "gave" us all this "free" stuff for the BBT series, over and over again, because in the end it was our money all along that they were just giving us back a small fraction of! I mean, when you're paying yourselves $443 million over a few years out of accounts into which players have deposited $390 million but which have only $60 million left as of Black Friday, what's $150,000 spread over four BBT series to help get a bunch of poker writers to write posts that are sure to bring at least some new players to the site, thereby generating more funds which the founders could pilfer for themselves? Why not give us the money and see how much we can generate in deposits? Since it was the deposits themselves that the full tilt owners were stealing -- and just not the rake from all the participants as we had all believed when the BBT series were going on -- what on earth would possibly make these people hesitate for a second in spending $150,000 of our money -- not theirs in any sense of the word -- on prizes for us, to try to generate more deposits to allow the company to keep its fraud going for just a little while longer. That $150,000 sure seemed like a huge amount of "free" "prizes" to be giving to little old us back in the day....Doesn't seem quite so large an amount anymore these days, does it?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Full Tilt Fully Sinking In

Wow. With a day to really absorb all the latest news from Wednesday's amended complaint by the New York attorney general in the online poker ban case that, among other things, adds Howard Lederer, Jesus Ferguson, Rafe Furst and Ray Bitar to the charges, it already feels like just an amazing revelation, one that is far and away the story in the history of online poker as we know it thus far.

Long story short, yknow that bunch of the biggest poker pros we all know and (used to) love from tv -- "the Professor", "Jesus", Phil Ivey and several others -- who started full tilt poker several years ago now? Well, guess what? Turns out they were actually literally stealing money out of your and my accounts -- yes, your and my money -- and paying it mostly to themselves over a several year period, while simultaneously running the entire poker site as a massive ponzi scheme. For real. I've seen some other bloggers arguing that ponzi is not really a fair description of what happened here, but I have to differ with that view, as I'll get to.

To provide some summary details for those not inclined to read all the various press reports about the amended complaint, or the new complaint itself (which you can read in full directly from the source right here, if you're interested), here's the basic gist, with quotes directly out of's front page coverage of this story on Tuesday, with the emphasis and brackets mine:

"The prosecutor said that, as of March 31 [2011], Full Tilt Poker owed about $390 million to players around the world, including $150 million to U.S. players. But the company only had $60 million in bank accounts to pay them back.

Full Tilt paid more than $443 million in player funds to the board of directors and other owners, with $41 million going to Bitar, $42 million going to Lederer, and nearly $12 million going to another board member, Rafael Furst.

The company paid $25 million to Ferguson, and said that it owed him another $62 million, according to the prosecutor's office, noting that much of the money was transferred to Swiss and overseas accounts."

So that's the basic gist of what happened. Over the past few years, full tilt paid 19 owners and board members more than $443 million, including 42M to the Professor, 41M to Ray Bitar, 12M to Rafe Furst, and owing over $87 million to Jesus Ferguson, having only paid out some 25M of that amount thus far. Forbes also reported that "another owner, described by the feds as a professional poker player, received at least $40 million in distributions, as well as millions of dollars more characterized as loans from Full Tilt that have only been partially repaid." This statement obviously refers to Phil Ivey, so that's another 40M+ guy to add to the list of beneficiaries of cash payouts from full tilt over the past few years.

And I'd like to call attention to the two passages above that I highlighted in bold. First is the statement directly out of the amended complaint itself that much of the money from these full tilt owners and board members was transferred to Swiss and overseas accounts. Not that this surprises me per se, but there it is pretty much right there in black and white -- these guys knew on some level what they were doing was illegal, or at least that the funds might be subject so seizure and return at some point in the future. While "blithely" (to use Preet Bharara's excellent choice of words) and repeatedly assuring players in the U.S. and around the world that our funds were "totally safe and secure" on their site, the owners of the site were busy shipping their money the fuck out of the country, to Swiss bank accounts and other countries where they felt the U.S. would have the most difficulty recovering the funds when the shit inevitably hit the fan like it turns out these guys pretty much all knew it would.

And secondly, I just want to note that the Forbes coverage refers to the $4 million in loans we've all heard about to Phil Ivey not as loans but as amounts "characterized as loans", suggesting that there is some question as to whether even that was a fair description or whether what we're really looking at is just another example of someone stealing funds to support I'm sure an excessive and certainly excessively gamblerific lifestyle, with no intention of ever actually repaying that money.

I also wanted to take a minute to discuss what really turned this from your typical run-of-the-mill corporate raiding story and into a true life poker ponzi scheme, as the US attorney alleges in the amended complaint. Read this passage, also from the CNN coverage, describing full tilt's response when over the past year or so it became increasingly difficult for full tilt to actually find payment processors willing and able to withdraw the funds from its depositors' bank accounts:

"In order to maintain its false image of financial security, Full Tilt continued to credit player accounts without disclosing its inability to fund those credits," the prosecutor said. "When players gambled with these phantom funds and lost to other players, a massive shortfall developed."

So there you have it. This happened to me multiple times by the way, where I made a small deposit onto full tilt during the final year or so it was in operation, played with those funds for several days, and then at some point a week, two weeks, even a month or so later I was informed that my deposit was never deducted from my account (which I confirmed, of course) and thus my balance was deducted for the amount I never really deposited into the site. But what if I had already lost all of that money? Where did it go? Answer: (1) into other players' accounts, and (2) into the owners' and board members' pockets. Plain and simple, that's what happened. For the better part of a year, full tilt was having massive trouble actually getting the cash from players' bank accounts, and yet it still allowed those players to deposit "phantom funds" onto the sites, play with it, and either win (and presumably withdraw it into real cash) or lose (and thus transfer their losses to other players' accounts, who then presumably would look to withdraw it and turn it into real cash). I mean, you could not make this stuff up. Every time you saw Howard Lederer or Jesus Ferguson or Phil Ivey on tv over the past several months before the U.S. online poker ban in April of this year, they knew behind that face that they were literally operating at a shortfall in their own players' funds available on the site, allowing gambling of fake funds.

Note as well that the complaint alleges that "this scheme continued even after the original complaint was filed and the criminal indictment unsealed in April." Recall that the complaint alleges that, as of March 31 [2011], Full Tilt Poker owed about $390 million to players around the world, including $150 million to U.S. players. But the company only had $60 million in bank accounts to pay them back. As also reported by CNN, "As time went on, the poker site had even less money to pay its customers. By June [so this is less than three months later], Full Tilt owed $300 million to players around the world but only had $6 million to pay them, according to the prosecutor's office." So even after the online poker ban went down on April 15, the company continued to draw down on its meager cash available for depositors, owners, for everyone, raiding the company's last remaining cash that could have conceivably been used to return at least some fraction of player funds, from $60 million down to a mere $6 million, while player fund liabilities dropped only from $390 million to still $300 million owed. What a fucking disaster.

The Forbes coverage also has some good tidbits to help elucidate some of the details of this amazing, eye-opening story (again, emphasis mine):

"Federal prosecutors claim that Full Tilt’s board members got rich because the company used player funds to pay them massive amounts of money that largely was transferred to their accounts in Switzerland and other overseas locations. Specifically, the feds allege that Bitar pocketed $41 million and Lederer got $42 million. Jesus Ferguson allegedly was allocated $87 million in distributions and received at least $25 million, federal prosecutors claim. Another owner [Ivey obv], described by the feds as a professional poker player, received at least $40 million in distributions, as well as millions of dollars more characterized as loans from Full Tilt that have only been partially repaid. The government claims Full Tilt continued to make payments to its owners of up to $10 million per month even after the company was insolvent."

[Note that Tuesday's Wall Street Journal coverage pegged this number at $5 million per month paid to the full tilt owners starting as far back as April 2007.]

And later in the Forbes article:

U.S. government lawyers believe that Full Tilt Poker started to face a growing cash crunch in 2010 because it could not collect funds from U.S. players due to the federal government’s efforts to disrupt the payment processors that facilitate the flow of funds in the online poker industry. Indeed, Bharara’s office says that by August 2010 Full Tilt’s payment processing network had been severely disrupted and that the company could no longer withdraw money from U.S. players’ bank accounts. So instead, the feds claim, Full Tilt continued to credit player accounts without disclosing its inability to fund those credits, letting players make online poker bets with $130 million of “phantom funds” that resulted in a massive shortfall when other players won the bogus money in poker games.

The management of Full Tilt Poker, the feds say, “operated Full Tilt Poker with the hope that only a small number of players would try to withdraw funds at any one time, and that Full Tilt Poker would regularly receive additional deposits in amounts greater than any withdrawal requests.”,

Now if that last paragraph right up there ain't ponzi, then I don't know what is. For a period of several months, the owners and operators of full tilt poker intentionally, knowingly and willingly ran their company as a ponzi scheme, paying out those who withdrew funds from the site with the deposits of others, knowing all too well that the company was facing a potentially 9-figure shortfall in amounts deposited and in action on its site but which it could not collect and had no plan to be able to collect at any point in the future. And just like any good ponzi scheme, it was all premised on never more than a small percent of the site's users actually demanding their own money back at any given time. As long as those withdrawl requests were tiny in relative terms, having $60 million of cash on hand while supposedly "holding" $390 million of your customers' money worked out just fine. But when the shizzle hit the fizzle over the past year, there was never close to enough money to make the players whole. Oh, and meanwhile, the owners and directors paid themselves some $440 million out of those exact same corporate accounts that by April of this year contained only $60 million, and just $6 million by June.

Look, these guys raided your funds. My funds. Our money. It's like the CEOs of Tyco, Adelphia, and any other number of large company executives who have been busted over the past several years for using their company's funds to support a life of personal excess in almost every conceivable way. Only, this is much, much worse even than those examples. When the Tyco CEO took corporate funds to spend on expensive New York City call girls on business trips, at least he was taking funds that belonged to his company, and that were generated as revenues in exchange for his company's goods and services provided to customers. In this case, the full tilt guys took our money, not theirs and not full tilt's. This was not revenue in any sense of the word for full tilt. They were like a bank, merely holding on to our funds so that we could use them as we saw fit on their internet site. That's it. So while Dennis Koslowski and others in corporate America diverted money from their companies to fund ridiculous, extravagant lifestyles, in this case, Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Jesus Ferguson et al stole cash directly from their customers to fund similar endeavors. There's just no other way to spin it.

Oh, and by the way. I mentioned this briefly yesterday, but there seems to me to be a good chance that some of the crew of Lederer / Ferguson / Bitar / Ivey end up doing some jail time from all this, given the recent revelations. The corporate CEO's go to jail, and trust me when I say what they did is not close to as bad as what the full tilt owners are alleged by name to have done in this case. Why shouldn't these fucking pigs go to jail for a long time? Because they play a game as their professional jobs that's been frought with lying, cheating and dishonesty for the past couple hundred years? Because Howard Lederer came and blew smoke up the poker bloggers' asses at Caesars' poker room in Las Vegas at the summer WPBT gathering back in 2006, all the while he was literally stealing our very cash right out of our bank accounts and living high off the hog off of it? Seven or eight years ago, I most definitely idolized each one of Ivey, Lederer and Ferguson to some degree, without a doubt. Right now, make no mistake, I would bang the gavel myself and order them each to serve 30 years in the mutha fuckin slammer. And I probably wouldn't hesitate to cast them down with the sodomites either.

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Unbelievable Full Tilt

Some of the details of the amended complaint are truly amazing, even given everything that has happened so far.

From Wicked Chops Poker (with my editorial commentary in blue font):

The Southern District of New York (SDNY) has amended its civil complaint against Full Tilt Poker, expanding the scope to include distribution payments to ownership totaling $443,860,529.89 and specifically naming Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Rafe Furst.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara went as far as to call Full Tilt Poker’s operations “…a massive Ponzi scheme against its own players.”

Bharara continued:

“Full Tilt was not a legitimate poker company, but a global Ponzi scheme. Full Tilt insiders lined their own pockets with funds picked from the pockets of their most loyal customers while blithely lying to both players and the public alike about the safety and security of the money deposited.” This pretty much says it all in a nutshell.

Key highlights from the complaint include:

■As of March 31, 2011, Tilt owed players from around the world over approximately $390,695,788 but had only approximately $59,579,413 in its bank accounts. (page 72)Yikes!
■Howard Lederer received approximately $37M in distributions as well as another $4M in profit sharing (page 72). What an asshole.
■Chris Ferguson received approximately $25M in distributions. (page 72)Asshole.
■Rafe Furst received approximately $11.7M. (page 73)Ass Hole!
■In all, it claims there are 19 owners of Full Tilt Poker. (page 73)
■An owner, named as “Player owner 1″ but clearly Phil Ivey, is alleged to have received at least $40M in distributions, “as well millions of dollars characterized as loans,” of which $4.4 million have not been repaid. (page 73)Perhaps the biggest asshole of the entire group, given how things have gone down.
■On that note, interestingly no other Full Tilt Poker owners where named in the amendment.
■Owners continued to receive approximately $10M/month even though beginning in the summer of 2010, management/the board of directors were aware of issues in collecting funds from U.S. players. (page 73) Assholes!
■Approximately $130M in U.S. player funds were never collected due to payment processing issues. (page 74)This is one of the most unbelievable statistics of the entire sordid full tilt affair, showing just how ineffectively run the company was. They had just $59 million in their accounts, and $395 million of players' funds, but failed to actually collect a staggering $130 million of that moneys. Unreal these clowns.
■The amendment claims that Tilt was “extremely insolvent” by March 2010, however owner distribution payments continued as late as April 1, 2011. (page 74)
■After 4/15, Tilt continued to accept funds although it had worldwide liabilities of over $300M. (page 75)Assholes.
■In an internal e-mail on June 12, 2011, Ray Bitar expressed concern that a company announcement regarding lay-offs and the Board (including himself) being replaced would be seen as bad news (which we find unbelievable–as most would’ve considered it great news), which in turn would cause a “new run on the bank,” adding that “it could be a huge run” and that “at this point we can’t even take a five million run.” (page 75)
■Any property, including money, used in [an illegal gambling business] may be
seized and forfeited to the United States–or better put–the accounts assets of Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar, and Rafe Furst would be gonzo. (page 77)

We can only hope these pigs all go to jail for a long, long time. Which sounds to me like a very distinct and realistic possibility given the above.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011 NFL Post-Season Predictions

Finally this past weekend I had time to put the finishing touches on this post, which for the record was written over the couple of weeks leading up to the start of the 2011 NFL regular season. And what a wild Week 1 it was, which will quickly become apparent when you see some of my picks for the postseason this year in the NFL.

NFC East: Eagles
NFC North: Packers
NFC South: Saints
NFC West: Cardinals

NFC Wildcard: Cowboys, Bears

NFC Almost's: Falcons, Lions, Rams

AFC East: Cheatriots
AFC North: Steelers
AFC South: Texans
AFC West: Chargers

AFC Wildcard: Jets, Ravens

AFC Almost's: Chiefs

So, that is a total of four new playoff teams I am predicting in 2011, two in the NFC (Cardinals and Cowboys, replacing the Seahawks and the Falcons), and two in the AFC (Texans and Chargers, replacing the Colts and the Chiefs). Four out of twelve ain't bad, but over the recent past that's still not as much annual turnover as the NFL has seen in its slate of post-season participants, so there are likely some more surprises to come this year. I just think the Seahawks have fallen behind both the Rams and the Cardinals given the moves of this past offseason, and for some reason I decided to hitch my prediction this offseason to Tony Romo, the greatest step-down-in-the-clutch artist in the NFL today, over Matty "Ice" Ryan. Pure. Genius. And in the AFC, I am expecting the Chiefs to impress again this year but they are going to have trouble winning their division again due to a much harder schedule and not being overlooked by their opponents this year, while the Colts are in my mind finished without Peyton Manning at the helm.

I'm not typically one for making detailed post-season predictions for later rounds here without even knowing who is playing who, who is injured, etc. But I will say that I think the Cheatriots look once again to be the class of the AFC if they stay healthy and are likely to show up in the superbowl again this year, while the picture in the NFC is a bit murkier, between the Eagles and the Packers. I'll take the Packers over the Cheatriots in the superbowl in a repeat for Green Bay. Since, just like the Red Sox over the Dirty Decade in Boston, the Cheatriots have never won a damn thing since they haven't been allowed to cheat.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

NFL Is Back and Just Like Before

Although I still have not posted my completed set of predictions for this year's twelve NFL playoff teams -- that should definitely be done within the next day or two -- I just had to mention a couple of things I noticed from the Week 1 games. It's amazing really, how much the more things change, the more they stay the same in a lot of ways, and the beginning to the 2011 NFL regular season so far rang very similar in a lot of ways to what we saw in 2010 in corresponding situations.

For starters, the Saints-Packers game last Thursday to start the 2011 NFL regular season, if that was not a continuation of 2010, I don't know what is -- in particular for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. But both quarterbacks and both offenses, really -- Rodgers went an extremely efficient 27 for 35 for 312 yards, 3 touchdowns and no picks, and Saints qb Drew Brees chipped in at 32 for 49 for 419 yards, also with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. If those two teams had played at the end of the 2010 regular season, we probably would have seen the exact same thing, with more or less the exact same outcome. But when Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees battle it out to a 132.1 and 112.5 qb rating, respectively, I'm definitely getting shades of last year all over again.

I should also mention along these same lines that that entire Cowboys / Jets game last night was like one big massive glitch in the matrix deja vu. I mean, the Jets pretty much got outplayed from start to finish. The Jets defense simply could not come up with the big play when they needed it through 58 minutes in the field, and they allowed the opposing offense to move the ball enough to grab and maintain a fairly comfortable lead. Jets qb Mark Sanchez made a couple of crucial mistakes and led the team on a couple of inept drives in huge spots, including late in the 4th quarter when the game should have been by all rights over. But then suddenly it's a ridiculously bad play leading to a touchdown runback for the Jets' defense late in the game, and then the opposition completely collapses again on offense in an unthinkable, Brett Favreian moment for Tony Romo. Even that pick by Romo, over to the sidelines, in the final minute of a game, with the game tied so that the only thing Romo cannot do is throw an interception, haven't we seen that exact thing not all that long ago our of the exact same quarterback in Romo, in that exact same, tie-game-final-minutes-drive spot? I definitely remember it, I think against the Giants a couple of seasons ago on a national game. So the Jets pull out a victory after sucking it up pretty much on both sides of the ball for 98% of the game, and Tony Romo steps down hugely and ridiculously in the biggest moment of the game. Sound familiar?

The Bears were another team that basically picked right up here in 2001 where they left off in 2010. As I wrote about last week, if there was ever a team with low expectations after making the NFC Championship game the year before, and basically losing nobody of real significance in the offseason, it is this year's Chicago Bears. And yet, despite once again being picked against by basically everybody this week with the Falcons coming to town -- just like we saw everyone doing last year whenever the Bears played in a big game, over and over again -- Jay Cutler did the same thing he did over and over again in 2010 that led his team to the conference finals in the first place -- he played great. Just as I felt watching Atlanta get drubbed out of the postseason at home by the Packers in the first round of the playoffs last year, it was clear right from the getgo that the Falcons were outmatched this weekend, and just like last year, it was Brain Urlacher and the Bears' ferocious defense making the big plays to make sure the team held on for the big victory.

Even the Eagles basically showed up in St. Louis for the start of the 2011 regular season the same way they played through most of 2010. Philadelphia fell behind early after the defense gave up a gaping hole and a nearly 50-yard run on the very first defensive play from scrimmage on the season -- with the big play being a constant problem for the Eagles; defense all through 2010 including especially in the postseason against the Packers -- but then the Eagles turned it on and basically blew out the Rams from then on. Michael Vick threw for 187 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions -- recall Vick's amazing touchdown to interception ratio in 2010 -- and Vick chipped in with 98 yards rushing as well on the day, joining with 122 yards on the ground and two total touchdowns from runningback LeSean McCoy, and 6 catches for 102 yards and a score from star wideout DeSean Jackson to create a three-headed onslaught on offense that no team could withstand.

And speaking of the Eagles, then there was Donovan McNabb, the aging, too-old-for-the-league veteran. D-Mac's line on the day with his new team in Minnesota? 7 for 15, for 39 yards, one touchdown and one pick, for a passer rating of 47.9. And this guy was behind center for every offensive snap for his team on the day, which mustered a total output of 28 yards in the air. 28 yards passing, with McNabb at the helm all the way through. This is like Washington from 2010 all over again for Donny Mac, isn't it? Only this time, we might need to rename the JaMarcus Russell award if things don't pick up in what could be a looong year for McNabb and the Vikings.

Of course, there were a few areas where things were completely different from 2010 as well, including the bitter blowout of the colts at the hands of the Oilers, and the Bills absolutely schmeistering Todd Haley and the Kansas City Chiefs. I was also surprisingly impressed by Rex Grossman and the Redskins, who took it to the New York Giants and called into question just how good the men in blue will be in the NFC East during 2011, what is likely to be head coach Tom Coughlin's last season in charge in the Big Apple. But for me, it was more the similarities than the differences that stood out about the Week 1 action this year as compared to my recent memories of a lot of these teams and a lot of the players making the big plays for them.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

2011 NFL Over-Under Predictions

Amazingly, it's already time for the NFL season to start up again, as we head into the second half of 2011 with great expectations for both the baseball and the football team among us Philadelphia sports fans. As I have done over the past few years -- never yet to a sub-.500 record, in any sport, I might add -- I am going to make my predictions using the Vegas over/under lines for the win totals for each team in the NFL. Given the small number of total games in the NFL regular season as compared to a sport like baseball, most of these lines are really difficult to pick, and sometimes a half a game makes all the difference in the world between a bettable and a not-bettable number, but as usual there are some of these that I think are pretty easy steals, for a lot of the same reasons as usual with respect to public perceptions about certain teams. So, without further adieu, in alphabetical order by team city:

2011 NFL Regular Season Win Totals:

Arizona Cardinals: Over 6.5 wins. This is one to start off with that I think is very easy. The Cardinals improved on several fronts in the offseason, they added Kevin Kolb at quarterback where they have had a huge, gaping hole ever since Kurt Warner retired, they have the best wide receiver alive today, a new runningback, and the worst divisional competition perhaps in NFL history. This should lead to at least 7 wins for the Cardinals, who I expect to challenge for the NFC West title in 2011.

Atlanta Falcons: Under 10.5 wins. This one was close enough that I really had to pore through the Falcons' 2011 schedule, but no matter how many times I go over it, I just don't come up with more than 10 wins. With games at the Bears, Colts, Texans Saints and Buccaneers on the schedule this year, plus home outings against the Eagles, Packers, Saints and Bucs, I'm thinking we're looking at more like 9-10 wins for Matt Ryan et al in the coming regular season.

Baltimore Ravens: Over 10.5 wins. The Ravens are an awesome team on both sides of the ball, and they should not be hurt too much by the departure of tight end Todd Heap to the Cardinals this offseason. Plus, their division plays the putrid NFC West, which should be enough to put the Ravens over the edge to 11 wins in their 2011 campaign.

Buffalo Bills: Under 5.5 wins. Buffalo will likely be one of the NFL's worst teams, and with uncertainty at quarterback, a worse wide receiver corps, and the Jets and Patriots to deal with within the division, I'm not quite seeing 6 wins in 2011.

Carolina Panthers: Under 4.5 wins. I'm a big Cam Newton guy in terms of his talent as I've written here before this year, but Carolina has got a ton of holes for a rookie qb to have to overcome in his first season in big leagues. 3-4 wins sounds about right to me for this team that plays in one of the toughest divisions in football in the NFC South.

Chicago Bears: Under 8.5 wins. This is one of those amazing NFL lines where a team that went to the NFC Championship in 2010, and really did not lose much in terms of its skill players, is predicted to go only .500 in 2011, making it look a lot to me like one of those "too good to be true" NFL lines that you almost have to play the opposite way of what is obvious. Although the defense was excellent in 2010, the offense was pretty horrible, and I've made no bones here about not being a Jay Cutler fan generally. With the Packers looking to repeat and the Lions on the come, I'll guess we're looking at more like a .500 season for the Bears this coming year.

Cincinnati Bengals: Under 5.5 wins. The Bungles are definitely in breakdown mode, having lost quarterback Carson Palmer to (bitter) retirement and wideouts Chad Johnson and TO to free agency for this coming season. Marvin Lewis has got to be in his final season of failure and ineptitude, but until that guy is gone, I'm not seeing this team winning 6 games in a division with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and an improving Browns squad as well.

Cleveland Browns: Under 6.5 wins. Although I think in reality it is likely that one of either the Bungles or the Browns goes over these two low numbers, I just can't see it as I look through the Browns' 2011 regular season schedule. For a team with no quarterback whatsoever to speak of, having to finish their season vs. Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, at Arizona, at Baltimore, and vs. Pittsburgh is enough for me to put the kibosh on the team nabbing 7 or more wins in 2011.

Dallas Cowboys: Over 9 wins. The Cowboys are going to be one of the biggest hit-or-miss stories of 2011 in the NFL, with new head coach Jason Garrett finally getting his shot to see what he can do with a full NFL regular season and a full season of Tony Romo at quarterback. The 'Boys play in a tough division, and in truth this one smells like a chop to me at 9 wins, but something tells me that weakened Redskins and Giants teams might enable Dallas to squeak into double digits in a nice comeback year for America's Team (for Douchebags).

Denver Broncos: Under 5.5 wins. This is maybe the most spot-on line of the entire league's worth of predictions for 2011 in my view, as the Broncos are going to struggle mightily without a set idea of who will play quarterback for them, even in a weak AFC West. The Chargers and Chiefs look superior to this Broncos team, however, and let's not forget the Raiders who went undefeated within the AFC West last year for the first time in more than a generation. I'm thinking 4-5 wins for Josh McDaniel's old team in the 2011 NFL regular season.

Detroit Lions: Over 7.5 wins. The Lions are suddenly one of the sexy picks heading into the 2011 regular season, with young quarterback Matthew Stafford teaming again with Calvin Johnson to spark the offense on a team that is clearly on the come this year. Even though the public is so in favor of the over here, I will still take it as well, as every time I walk through the Lions' 2011 regular season schedule, I always seem to come up with 8 wins, and that's being conservative about a couple of games that I could easily see Detroit pulling out to boot.

Green Bay Packers: Over 11.5 wins. It can be hard for some people to take an over when the line is 11.5 wins, but not for me. The Packers are the clear class of the NFC North, and really of the entire NFC along with perhaps the Eagles, and they have basically the best quarterback in the league right now. If this line were 12.5 I would surely not take the over due to the team's inconsistency over the past few regular seasons and their lack of skilled runningbacks on the roster, but at 11.5 wins for this team, I think they will manage to eke out a small victory by season's end.

Houston Texans: Over 8.5 wins. With Indy's Peyton Manning seemingly fixing to miss potentially many games in the AFC South this year, that puts this bet over the edge for me into an Over. Houston has not had a ton of success before this point, but this seems as good a year as any for Matt Schaub and his potent offense including Arian Foster and Andre Johnson to combine with an improving defense to nab a better than .500 record on the season. Perhaps could a division title even be in the works?

Indianapolis Colts: Under 9.5 wins. This one is purely a Peyton Manning pick. Replacing Peyton -- probably the quickest release of any qb in the NFL over the past generation or so -- with Kerry Collins who just loves to hold the ball for as long as possible, is I think going to be a disaster for this team that has won at least ten games for what, 85 years in a row? Unless Peyton comes back early in the season, which I'm just not feeling right now given the news we are hearing on an almost daily basis, I think the Colts will have a very hard time winning 10 games in 2011.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Under 6 wins. I'm not sure how they did it last year, but this number looks temptingly low to those who followed the Jags' .500 season closely in 2010. That said, when I look at the schedule for 2011, there is just a huge stretch of games in the middle of the season where the Jags could go winless, especially having just cut their former quarterback David Garrard within a week before the regular season begins. A push would not shock me here, but if the team is not going to tie their number, then I think they're going a game or two under.

Kansas City Chiefs: Over 7.5 wins. This is another sexy pick for 2011, in that most pundits out there look to be picking the Chiefs for a down year after the franchise broke out of the doldrums in 2010 by winning the AFC West hands-down. I'm going against the grain, and with head coach Todd Haley, and picking another year of at least .500 football in KC.

Miami Dolphins: Under 7.5 wins. Here is another team with another head coach that nobody respects, even though Tony Sparano has managed to win more games than expected in each of the past two years with a clearly undermanned Dolphins squad. After screwing Sparano over this past offseason by actively shopping his job while Sparano was still hired, I'm predicting this year Sparano responds with a slightly lesser performance and a sub-.500 record in an always-tough AFC East. Not having anybody to throw the ball isn't going to help much either.

Minnesota Vikings: Under 7 wins. I am not hesitating with this pick. Donovan McNabb is going to be in a world of hurt trying to make something happen in Minnesota without anyone on offense other than the great Adrian Peterson. Even despite Peterson's clear dominance, we have already seen in recent years what can happen to this team when they do not get competent quarterback play, and D-Mac is very unlikely to be the guy in my eyes to help this team out of the hole they have dug themselves in 2011.

New England Cheatriots: Over 11.5 wins. I'm not looking at the schedule. I am simply taking the over with the Cheats to win at least 12 games this year. You figure one loss to the Jets in the regular season, but otherwise it's going to be hard any week to look at the schedule and peg New England for a loss. Even if they won't be able to record and steal their opponents' play calls.

New Orleans Saints: Over 10 wins. I think the Saints are poised to rebound somewhat after a bit of a down year following their amazing 2009 superbowl run. With the Saints having to go 9-7 or worse on the year for me to lose this bet, I simply cannot avoid the value of the Over with this pick. Add just a tick to this line, and at 10.5 I would really have to think about things, but at 10 flat this seems like another obvious prediction to me.

New York Giants: Under 9.5 wins. I don't know. Something about this year's Giants just seems like the team is going to take a step backwards. Eli Manning is decently proficient moving the ball, but the team lost Steve Smith to the Eagles which should hurt his production a little, the runningbacks are getting older, and like I said just something about the way this team has run the past couple of years has me thinking pessimistically for 2011. At 9.5, the value on this line seems clearly Under in my view.

New York Jets: Over 10 wins. I was all set to pick the Jets to go under this year, but then I looked at their schedule and I actually think they might back their way into a solid regular season for a change. The team that has made a career these past couple of regular seasons of playing down to the level of their competition gets very lucky with the schedule this year, as the play the AFC West but managed to land the Chargers and Chiefs at home, while they travel to the lowly Broncos and Raiders fairly early in the season. They also play the tough NFC East, but although the Eagles game is in Philly near the end of the season, they otherwise also lucked out with both the Cowboys and the Giants at home. The favorable schedule seems to me to be destined to lead the Jets to double-digit victories in 2011.

Oakland Raiders: Under 6.5 wins. I looked hard to find 7 wins on the Raiders' 2011 schedule after the team ran roughshod through the AFC West in 2010, but try as I might, I'm just not seeing it for this team that is still questionable in a lot of the skill positions on both sides of the ball, and who probably got a little worse overall in the offseason. The kicker for me is the final stretch of the regular season, where Oakland faces off vs. Chicago, at Miami, at Green Bay, vs. Detroit, at Kansas City, and vs. San Diego to finish things off. Something tells me the Raiders won't survive that run of opponents with quite 7 wins overall.

Philadelphia Eagles: Over 10.5 wins. This line I don't even really understand. I mean, the Eagles basically win more than 10 games almost every year -- at least before they bench everyone at the end of the season when it really doesn't matter -- and this season saw the team improve dramatically in particular on the defensive side of the ball where the Eagles' clear weakness was in 2010. Although I have my doubts about Mike Vick's ability to remain on the field through the majority of another season given the way he plays and the team's still shaky offensive line, 11 wins should be very doable for this team that appears to be the cream of the NFC along with the Packers in 2011.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Over 10.5 wins. The Steelers might be getting a little old in their receiving corps, but otherwise Pittsburgh is as strong as ever -- they have an amazing gameday quarterback, a great running game, and always one of the league's best defenses to boot. 11 wins should be a cakewalk for the Steelers in 2011.

San Diego Chargers: Over 10 wins. I can't believe I'm picking the Over with a Norv Turner team, especially when I go through the schedule and I keep coming up with 9 or 10 wins. But the Chargers' defense was so, so solid last year, and Phillip Rivers is so, so solid with the ball in his hands on offense, I'm going to go with my gut here and expect at least a push by the time the dust clears in 2011.

San Francisco 49ers: Under 7.5 wins. I'm a big John Harbaugh fan, and I expect the Niners' new head coach to take this team places over the next several seasons. But probably not this year. As I look at the team's schedule -- and their paltry roster, in particular in the skill positions on offense -- I keep counting up and not getting over 7 wins, max. The final seven games back to back of vs. Arizona, at Baltimore, vs. St. Louis, at Arizona, vs. Pittsburgh, and then at Seattle and at St. Louis to end the season, looks to me to be a bit much to overcome for this already low-talent team to finish the season at .500.

Seattle Seahawks: Under 6.5 wins. Amazingly, last year's NFC West winner is predicted to go well under .500 this season, and yet I still think it is too optimistic. The Seahawks played over the heads to even back embarrassingly into the playoffs last year, and the loss of Matt Hasselbeck should be enough to tip this team over the edge into the 6 wins or fewer club in 2011.

St. Louis Rams: Over 7.5 wins. I'm going out on a limb here and picking the Rams to contend for the NFC West title along with the Cardinals in 2011. I don't think the Rams are necessarily winning 11 games or anything, but I loved the team's progress last season, I'm a huge fan of Sam Bradford and the St. Louis wide receivers, and I love generally head coach Steve Spagnuolo's approach, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. I think at least a .500 effort is forthcoming this year for the recently former worst team in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Over 8 wins. I was all set to go under again with the Bucs this year after last year's breakout performance, but the schedule simply does not support the team winning under 8 games. They play the AFC North, but they lucked out and have the Colts at home early in the season when Peyton will likely not be playing, and they also got Houston at home while they travel to play the lowly Titans. The Bucs also play the NFC North, but again they picked up the Lions and the Bears at home, while the late-season game at Green Bay was probably going to be a loss either way. And, unlike so many of the other teams on this list who end the 2011 season with a brutal stretch, check out the Buccaneers' last six games of the year: at Tennessee, vs. Carolina, at Jacksonville, vs. Dallas, at Carolina, and at Atlanta. I'm seeing another over-.500 season for Rahim Morris and his boys in Tampa Bay.

Tennessee Titans: Under 6.5 wins. No matter how I slice it, I keep coming up with no more than 6 wins as I walk through the Titans' 2011 regular season schedule. I have a lot of respect for Chris Johnson of course and the impact he can have on a football game, but this team is going to have its work cut out for it, playing the AFC North including the Ravens, Steelers and Browns all in the first five weeks (two of them on the road), and the NFC South including games at Atlanta and vs. the Saints in the second half of the season.

Washington Redskins: Under 6.5 wins. Like the Giants, I am predicting another down year for the hapless Redskins, probably the single worst franchise in the NFL over the past decade or so. Although getting rid of McNabb at qb should not hurt the team, being left with the choice of Rex Grossman over John Beck does not do much to inspire confidence in this NFL fan. With the Eagles and the Cowboys I think improving from a year ago, it's going to be tough times I think for the Skins to amass 7 wins in 2011.

So, that is 15 Overs and 17 Unders, for a slightly pessimistic take overall on the Vegas lines for 2011. Now, can anyone still bet sports online securely from a U.S. location?

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Just Desserts

What a one-two punch.

Einhorn's Investments Keep Losing Money

Einhorn's Mets Deal Off

Seems like the guy who is definitely on the top-five list of the most individually blameable for the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the concurrent shakeup in my own life, is finally beginning to get his just desserts in life. David Einhorn may have donated a couple hundy large of WSOP Main Event winnings to charity a few years ago in an orchestrated public showing of altruism, but behind the scenes those who know the markets in which Einhorn has played know him to be as ruthless and money-obsessed as they come, not only able but readily willing to destroy millions of lives if it means he can make a couple extra billion next year, and maybe get his face in the paper to boot.

If you've had a rough go of life at any point since since early 2008 -- and I know there's a lot of you out there who fit that bill -- you've probably never realized how much of that you probably would have avoided if David Einhorn hadn't played the role he played in the move to overtly sell short and eventually bankrupt the world's fourth-largest investment bank and directly spark the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression. Of course Lehman Brothers isn't the only company that Einhorn has set out to publicly destroy, but it has proven to be the most far-reaching and injurious of his countless money grabs over the last several years.

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