Thursday, May 24, 2007

L O S T, Hoyas and a Another NLH Tidbit


Wow. What an episode. I mean, even though the entire script had been basically released and known to all of the spoiler sites by the day or two preceding Wednesday night's airing of the Season III finale of Lost on ABC, the show itself still delivered to my expectations when I actually saw it all shake out. I'm not going to do a big rehash here in case anyone hasn't seen it or, more applicably, in case some of you somehow don't watch the best show of the last decade-plus and just aren't interested. But let me just provide this list of some of the interesting questions and issues left open or raised from this episode:

1. Whose funeral was this that Jack attended? Many of the blogs and other Lost sites out there are suggesting Kate's father in law, whom she burned in a previous lifetime, or maybe Sawyer or another member of the Losties' crew. I don't see how it could ever be Kate's father in law, as Jack knew nothing of the man and would not possibly have had the reaction that he did to reading the obituary in the newspaper. But I have no clue whose funeral that was, other than maybe that it could have been the funeral of another person who was on the island with them. Kate's visceral reaction ("Why would I ever go to the funeral, Jack?") suggests that it's not someone she was close with there, but I really don't know what that means, and I wish I did.

2. Who does Kate have to "get back to" at the end? Who is that who's going to wonder where she is? Again a number of outlets have suggested that this is maybe her father in law in some other time, or perhaps another U.S. Marshal sent to capture her. Again I don't really see these possibilities as realities since Kate would not say she has to get back to a Marshall (they would never have let her out to visit Jack like that anyways) and similarly would not have been speaking of her father in law in that way. I suppose it could be Sawyer, assuming Kate and he ended up together, but I've always been of the mind that Kate and Jack may end up together in some way, so I don't know that I believe that either. I don't even really know what to make of this question, or, frankly, if it is even important specifically who she has to get back to.

3. Why does Jack multiple times refer to his father being alive still, if this is truly Lost's first flash-forward after three seasons of flash-backs? In fact, why did Naomi tell the Losties just a few weeks ago that Oceanic Airlines went out of business a few weeks after the crash of Flight 815, and yet we see Jack flying on Oceanic at the beginning of the flash-forward, and he and Kate discuss the "golden passes" that Oceanic gave them for surviving the crash, and how Jack flies across the Pacific every single weekend in a blind attempt to get back to the island. I don't have any good explanation for this, other than two possibilities, one of which I bet is correct on some level. First, maybe Naomi has been lying, which is entirely possibly since she clearly is not who she says she is -- I don't see how or why Penny would lie and say she doesn't know Naomi -- in which case maybe Naomi made up everything about what happened in the Losties' original timeline after the crash, and thus there is nothing odd about Jack flying on Oceanic after being rescued from the island. But this does nothing to explain why Jack's father might be alive and a practicing physician again in the flash-forward. Which brings me to explanation #2, which is again that there is some kind of temporal or dimensional transport going on here.

4. Why would Ben tell his Other companions to only pretend shoot Jack's friends, instead of really shooting them? This seems minor compared to some of those larger issues above, but what was Ben's end game with that move? I don't get it.

Some cool theories or tidbits I've read out there on the Internets regarding the finale and information we learned in the finale:

1. The woman Jack killed by leaving his car on the bridge when he was about to kill himself is in fact the big mistake that Jack makes in his life, ultimately leading to his presence on the island in the first place, in another time period. There are a lot of holes to this theory that still need to be filled in, but basically it posits that all of the main characters on the island seem to have messed up somewhere, made some terrible decision, in their past lives before arriving at the island. On some level this has given rise to all the theories about the island really being heaven, or purgatory, or something like that, and that these people are here to atone for their sins in some form or another. Well, up to this finale we have been led to believe that Jack's big issue has been the bungled relationship with his father, or perhaps his infidelity to and ultimately split from his ex-wife. Now we see that perhaps killing this woman (they referred to her as the "Alden girl" a few times I believe, does that name ring a bell to anyone? It is not immediately familiar to me.)

2. The Losties are somehow caught in a temporal loop of some time, not to sound all TNG'ish on you. That is, they are each somehow caught in a loop where they are sent to this island, and continue to make mistakes rather than properly live out their right destinies on the island, and are thereby doomed to repeatedly be brought to the island, with no memory of their past lives and past trials there, in an attempt to "get it right". Again, this is really just a bare bones theory with a lot of details still to be filled in, but it appears to have a lot of support out there among the die-hard Lost fanbase. So, for example, Desmond is not really seeing the future with all of these premonitions. Instead, because of his proximity to the hatch and the button when the electromagnetism shot out and took down the Losties' plane originally, he is merely able to see some of the various "other" visits this group has all made to the island in past travels here, where many of the exact same decisions are made. Simlarly, those two skeletons sitting in the caves when the Losties first moved to the caves with the fresh running water back in season I, those two skeletons are actually Jack and Kate's skeletons, there from a prior visit by these same characters to the island in a previous attempt to correctly live out their destinies there, which also failed which is why the group is back there again for our viewing of the Lost series. Another nice aspect of this theory is that when the chica tells Charlie underwater in the finale this week that the code to the communications jamming equipment "was written by a musician", in reality that code was written by Charlie, in a previous, and yet unremembered, time at the island. In the same way, the whispering is Losties from other timelines, possibly trying to communicate with one another and help each other figure out what to change this time around.

3. This may all be a Dharma experiment. They are purposely guiding the Losties in this temporal or dimensional loop. Pressing the button kept them in the loop. It was all Dharma's doing. Once Desmond blew the hatch, he gained this power to see into the other timelines. Suddenly, he could change the future. He warned Charlie about his death, so Charlie got the marker and wrote the list. Because of this, Charlie has the pen in the looking glass station and was able to warn desmond it isn't Penny's boat. Maybe the future was changed in this episode as a result? Also, the hatch blast shot Desmond back to before he met Penny. This worried Dharma as their experiment can only go on with Desmond setting sail and crashing on the island to press the button. To this end, Dharma has sent agents traveling through time (such as the old woman from Desmond's 'ring' episode) to guide Desmond to meet Penny. The old woman might not be the only agent traveling in and out of timelines.

4. Staying on the alternate dimension theme I've been on for several weeks now, maybe being rescued by Naomi's people has led Jack and Kate (and others?) to be "returned", but returned to a different timeline, a different reality, than the one they came from (where they are already dead from the plane crash, per Naomi). In other words, Jack is thrust back into a world where his father is still alive and Oceanic Airlines is still in operation, and Kate is returned to a state where she is not currently under pursuit by U.S. Marshals for her crimes. In fact, the kicker of this theory is that the reason that Jack is so utterly depressed and hopeless after his rescue from the island is that he knows he is not in his "right" timeline. His father is alive and he feels completely out of place and lost (pun intended). Kate, on the other hand, is happier in her "new" place in the space-time continuum (I just had to work that phrase into this post somehow), as she is no longer being chased and at risk of going to jail, and thus she does not share Jack's desire to go back and make things right at the island.

I think that is all I'm going to get to today, but as always on Thursday mornings Mr. Goat is in da house with this take on the world, Lost-wise, so go check him out, always a great read when it comes to our favorite televsion series.

In other news relevant to me in Hammer Land, word is out as of Wednesday afternoon that star Georgetown forward and 2006-07 Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green will leave the school and begin selecting an agent immediately as he plans to remain in the NBA draft and forego his senior year of eligibility at Georgetown. That is too bad, but I think moreso for Jeff Green and less so for my alma mater. Jeff Green is not ready for the NBA yet (I doubt he will ever be), but his presence will be replaceable on this Georgetown team. I mean, Green had a nice career and a great junior season at Georgetown, but his game is not one that is overpowing in any aspect. He's a good scorer (14 ppg led the team this year), a good rebounder (6 rpg) and a decent passer (3 assists per game), but in college basketball these days, numbers like that are not irreplaceable. Especially when you've got the second part of Wednesday's big announcement out of the basketball team in the DC area -- 7-foot-2 big man center Roy Hibbert will, in fact, return to the Hoyas for his senior season. Now, to be sure Hibbert has got a lot of work to do and a lot of improvement to undergo if he expects to be NBA-ready after one more year of college ball. But, he will almost surely have his best year as a college player as a senior in 2007-08, and his presence should make the absence of Green under the boards feel more or less non-existent. Similarly, Jessie Sapp and Jonathan Wallace, both returning next season as well, basically averaged as many or more assists per game already than Green, so I really think the biggest deficit with the 2007-08 version of the Hoyas will be on the scoring front, and more than that, on the leadership front as Green really seemed to be the guy to take a lot of those must-have shots late in games during the Hoyas' late-season stretch run. Whether the team will actually be better next year remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain -- if Roy Hibbert has the game, and the guts, to be a real leader for this team in the coming season, not only will he personally go far in his quest to go at the top of the pecking order in the 2008 NBA draft, but the team is in for great things in the coming season as well.

Today before I go I thought I would throw in another little tidbit from David Sklansky's recent work on no-limit holdem, this one about preflop raise-sizing. Those of you who have read a lot of poker books will be familiar with the common views and strategies on sizing your preflop raises in nlh. The most common refrain on this point is to always use the same or similar size for any preflop raises, on the thinking that this way no one can ever glean any useful information about the quality of your starting hand from the way you bet it. This is a strategy that I have followed often, in particular in nlh tournaments. Then Phil Gordon's Little Green Book came along and changed my thinking somewhat on preflop raise-sizes. Gordon argued for a slightly modified approach, one where you also always raise the same amount in similar situations, but where you raise less from up front, an average amount (around 3x) from middle positions, and more, maybe as much as 3.5x to 4x) from late position. There is good logic to this preflop raising strategy as well, and many players I know of -- again, myself included on occasion -- have adopted this or a similar strategy based on different size raises not based on different quality hands so much as on different positions from which you are raising with those same hands.

In his no-limimt book, Sklansky turns this idea on its head by explaining that it is preposterous not to raise certain types of hands more or less than other types of hands based on the nature of the hand and their capacity to win big or small pots. Sklansky classifies starting hands with some promise as either "big pot" hands or "small pot" hands, referring to the likely size of the pot you can win with such a starting hand. For example, according to Sklansky, flopping a set is the classic "big pot" scenario, where you play 44 against a guy with AK on a flop of AK4, and you proceed to stack his ass from here to China in a large pot. In such a situation, when you are dealt a small or medium pocket pair, Sklanksy argues that your best chance of stacking someone in a large pot is going to be if you put in a significant raise preflop. Now, obviously you can't go around bumping it up 10x every time you see a pocket pair before the flop in no-limit holdem cash games, but at the same time Sklansky argues for a somewhat larger raise than "normal" with this sort of a hand under the right circumstances. He gives a good mathematical explanation for how even a $50 larger preflop raise can lead to a $200 larger flop bet, and $600 or more larger bets on the turn and river than if a small preflop raise is used instead, mostly because bets on later streets in deep stack nlh tend to be based on the current size of the pot, which of course includes all previous raises into that pot from before the flop came down.

Sklansky contrasts such a "big pot" hand like a pocket pair -- another fine example is a soooted Ace which can nail a big flush -- with a hand like AK, which Sklansky explains to be a classic "small pot" hand. He classifies AK in this way because, Sklansky argues, you can rarely win a big pot with a hand like AK, but your best chance for a profit is against a dominated hand like AQ or AJ, hands which are more likely to fold if you put in a large preflop raise. So with a "small pot" hand like AK, the argument goes, you are better off putting in a somewhat smaller than "normal" sized raise before the flop, than you are with some of the other hands mentioned above.

The net of all this is to say that Sklansky presents I think a very strong argument for actually varying your raise sizes in big-stack nlh cash games based on the strength of your hand preflop, much in contradiction to the advice provided in the vast majority of poker books in my experience (and I've basically read them all). Of course one must always be careful not to be too robotic in one's application of these rules, lest someone pick up on your preflop raise-sizing tendencies and be able to tell the nature of your starting hand by how much you raised it up preflop. Here Sklansky just makes the very correct observation that, if done correctly and at appropriate times, just a little bit of misdirection on this front -- raising larger with more typical "small pot" hands, and vice versa -- is enough to completely prevent your opponents from being able to get a good handle on the kinds of starting cards you hold in your hand.

Real quick, congrats to Willwonka (I hope that link is right since I never know which wonka is which) for taking down the Mookie last night. I did not play due to Lost, but this week's finale means that, starting next Wednesday, I will be back in the house in a big way and ready to take my shot at my first-ever Mookie title. Will I meet my goal of winning a Mookie sometime during 2007? Only time will tell.

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Blogger Blinders said...

Slansky is lost, and I am not sure why you even bother trying to figure that lost show out, when they are clearly making it up as they go (why it is so hard to figure out).

As for what Slansky suggests, he is very wrong which you should assume when someone goes so far against the grain. From a game theory perspective you are revealing your hand by varying the raise amount based on your actual hand. Next, sure you will win a bigger pot if you raise more preflop with 44 AND HIT, but that says nothing about if this is a +EV decision. It is nice to win big pots, but you extract the most value long term by limp/calling small to medium pairs vs. raising them up super large so everyone at the table can put you on your PP.

Cash games I like to raise 3.5x first-in everytime I raise, I will add some to the raise amount if there were limpers, but that is it. You have no idea what I have that way. Phil Gordon's approach is also solid that it also hides your hand, but I would also increase for limpers if I used his approach.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

Did you actually buy a book from Phil Gordon? What was it called, "how to play 640 WSOP event and not win a bracelet?" Nobody gets me going in the poker world more than this guy. He is a sure fire tournament loser long term. Listening to him on his poker radio show on ESPN is comical though. He made fun of Erick Lindgren and questioned his play on the air. Lindgren is 157X the player Gordon will ever be. Damn man, you put me on tilt for the day by saying something positive about Phil Gordon!!!

2:17 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...


2:36 AM  
Blogger Gnome said...

When I read those chapters in the "NLHE: T&P" book, it really seemed to me that it was written more in Ed Miller's voice than Sklansky's. But that's just my interpretation.
I agree with blinders for the most part. Varying your raises makes sense theoretically to extract more value from hands with big implied odds, but real-world poker play relies a bit more on deception.
I'm not convinced that larger raises with pocket pairs/suited connectors result in more profits, especially since mathematically, every additional dollar you put in preflop reduces your implied odds.
I respect Sklansky and Miller, but I don't trust no limit advice from people who don't play no limit.

3:12 AM  
Blogger lj said...

interesting theory on desmond/time warp, and charlie having written the song -- i also thought the emphasis on "musician" was some sort of clue.

as for who is in the casket, lots of theorists have posited that it seems too small to be a man, and others have said the first name in the newspaper starts w/ J, so maybe juliette? i was thinking locke, but i'm wondering if they'd ever get him off the island. though it would make sense cause jack would feel so guilty about it. he seemed to have a real connection w/ whoever it was, with his whole putting the hand on it thing.

i need to watch it again -- too much going on!

3:52 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I honestly liked the "Little Green Book" and I got several helpful tidbits from that book that I didn't get from any others. Now, the "Little Blue Book" from last year was pretty much shit, but the green book I actually thought was pretty good, if not a little simplistic.

Now watch what you say, Chad, or I may have to ban your chat on this blog.

4:06 AM  
Blogger change100 said...

1. I thought Jack's father was still dead in the flash-forward, and that Strung-Out Jack was writing his own prescription for the Oxys on dead dad's prescription pad.

2. Ben did tell the Others to shoot Sayid, Jin and Bernard. In the scene where it's revealed they are actually alive, Tom said something about shooting into the sand because they think Ben is crazy and has gone too far(I only watched it once, but that's what I took away from the scene).

3. I agree that Naomi totally could have been lying about Oceanic. Every fact she has revealed has to be taken with a grain of salt given Penny's reveal to Charlie.

I can't wait for next season, especially given the flash-forwards. I hope that stays in place as a structural shift in the series... seeing the characters on the island and also after they have found rescue.

4:30 AM  
Blogger Matt said...


According to other sites, the newspaper lists the last name of the deceased as something ending in "-antham". Based on the absence of anyone at the funeral, I would think that it's Ben in the casket - Jack shows up out of regret, but no one else cares. But the last name thing throws me off.

Also in the newspaper article is a mention of the Grand Avenue Project, which is still under construction in L.A. Makes you wonder just how far of a flash-forward it really was.

Part of me is a little bothered by the new direction of the show, with the supposed rescue and the flash-forward. There's still so much on the island that's unresolved. But, of course, that's also what makes this show so capitvating, and it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Such a long 8 months ahead.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Change, I am about 95% sure that Tom tells the other Other guy that they had to shoot into the sand instead of shooting Sayid et al because "it was an order and they had to follow it." Only after that line does Tom reply that Ben has lost it and that they didn't have to listen to that order.

Either way, I don't really get what happened there, and don't understand why not just kill those three guys after they had blown up 7 of the Others in the beach raid.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

"Why would Ben tell his Other companions to only pretend shoot Jack's friends, instead of really shooting them? This seems minor compared to some of those larger issues above, but what was Ben's end game with that move? I don't get it."

I think this is pretty key, actually, though I forgot to mention it in my post. Clearly, Ben is willing to kill whomever, in cold blood, as soon as it fits his particular needs.

He keeps Sayid & Co. alive, though. In fact, he's had plenty of changes to kill Lostaways and not taken them. Almost all the Others we've seen are now dead, but the Losties have 'Lost' very few.

Why? I think these people were all brought for a specific purpose, and I think Ben knows that purpose.

Blinders, it's pretty clear at this point that they are not making it up as they go. I'd elaborate, but eh, this is a pretty long comment.

5:33 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

How ever they end this thing it will not tie up cleanly. There will be so many discrepencies in plot lines it will be laughable. If they are really not making this up as they go, then it should all tie up real nice at the end. I doubt that will happen though.

What would be really funny is if they just ended the show and left all you losties hanging. That would make for a good laugh

6:30 AM  
Blogger jremotigue said...

I think it's Ben in the funeral home. My theory is Jack wished he were back on the island, and thought of Ben as someone who could help him back.

I don't think we've seen the end of the island - a lot of the loose ends should be tied up. There's probably a lot left to the story of the rescue, and they could do a shift where the flash-forward is the present, and the backstories are from things we never saw occur on the island.

9:07 AM  

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