Friday, May 29, 2009

Last Call for the ToC!

So this is it, folks. Sunday will be your last two chances to get in to the BBT4 Tournament of Champions, with the afternoon tournament that's lately been under 30 registrants to award a ToC seat for a mind-numbing $5 buyin, and then culminating in Sunday night's $75 buyin Big Game at 9:30pm ET on full tilt. Even if you're already in the ToC, it's still worth playing (1) for the cash and (2) for the chance to keep someone else out of the ToC. With two WSOP ME packages being awarded, and two more 2k WSOP prize packages on the line, that means the top 4 finishers will get paid, and right now there have been 12 multiple victories as part of the BBT4, more than any other series we have run previously. So, that means that, with two tournaments still left to play in the BBT4, we are looking at I think 42 total runners, with the chance for two more to be added to that list. That sounds like between a 9 and 10 percent chance of winning a World Series prize package for those who are in the ToC, not to mention the roughly 5% chance of winning one of the two big prizes, and that's assuming equal skill and luck for everyone. So for my money it's definitely in anyone's interest to play this Sunday, whether you're in the ToC already or still hoping to get in.

I also note that, as of heading into the weekend, I am seeing 1Queensup1 with 656 BBT points for the month of May, and Jordan running a close second with 636 points. I am quite sure that both players will at this point show up for both tournaments on Sunday, but believe me when I say, especially with the Big Game's increased prize pool, that this thing is going to end up turning on what happens to each player in Sunday night's Big Game, with a 2k WSOP prize package to be awarded to the overall May monthly winner. Similarly, for the overall BBT4 points title, 1Queensup1 sits in first there as well with 1742 BBT points, while Tuscaloosa Johnny is also a close second at 1672 points. So there as well we are looking at anybody's game, to win both the May BBT title and the overall BBT4 points crown. So a lot of people have a lot to play for in both tournaments on Sunday, and hopefully you will be there to exert your impact on that situation.

And while you're at it, don't forget to also register for the Big Game Mulligan that Chad has set up to run starting one hour after the beginning of the Big Game itself, which means the Mulligan will go off at 10:30pm ET. The buyin is a somewhat more affordable $40 + $4, so enough to get a decent prize pool going but not so much to clean out most of your full tilt accounts out there (I hope). You'll already be online anyways for the Big Game on Sunday night, so why not pass the time donking it up with some fellow friends in the Big Game Mulligan, with no BBT points and no ToC seats to worry about to boot? I'm already in there and I hope to see you as well for what should be a nice cash prize to play for.

I also wanted to remind everyone one more time that Chad, Miami Don, Scotty Mc and myself will be hosting Buddydank Radio on Sunday night, starting with the beginning of the Big Game at 9:30pm ET. One thing I am looking forward to discussing most with the crew is the BBT in general, the BBT4, and the upcoming Tournament of Champions. As with the previous BBT series we have run, there's been a lot to talk about over the past several weeks, including some truly incredible performances. The top five guys in the BBT4, for example, are absolutely crushing the field when you really look at it. The top four have all played in roughly 50 of the 54 events, and each has amassed over 1500 BBT points and over $1250 cash while averaging more than 30 points per event and winning a whopping ten of 54 events they have run in as a group, truly all incredible feats in their own right. Then in 5th place overall is Jordan, who has individually won another 4 BBT4 tournaments all by himself, the leader of the whole field in that category, and who has won over $1600 cash money in doing so, all while playing in just 29 BBT tournaments! That's at least as sick as the rest of the top 5, and together talking about just what those five competitors alone have done this spring could fill an entire show on BDR. I look forward to giving credit where credit is due on the radio show, and to making some predictions about how the upcoming BBT4 Tournament of Champions is likely to go down, in addition to some other fun stuff the crew has cooking for you guys. So tune in to BDR on Sunday at 9:30pm ET if you're a regular, and even if you're not, now is a great Sunday to start -- remember, just go to, click on "Tune In!", and select Windows Media or ghey Mac bullshit, and sit back and listen.

Have a great weekend, and here's hoping we get some new faces down to the final few players in our final two BBT4 tournaments on Sunday on full tilt!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Guy Seriously Has No Class, and Back to BDR

So I'm watching Baseball Tonight Wednesday night on ESPN, and Rick Sutcliffe is doing some analysis of the Yankees' 9-2 pounding of the Rangers in Texas. As Sutcliffe discusses how , Mark Teixeira slamming a home run deep down the left field line by turning early on an inside fastball, almost like he knew exactly where the pitch was coming. But of course, that's not possible. Right?

Cue A-Rod. Not only is A-Rod providing the vital protection to the previously slumping Teixeira simply by virtue of batting behind him, but he helps Tex from his perch in the on-deck circle in other ways as well. As Sutcliffe shows the replay of the pitch where Tex hit his left field blast, he points out -- and you can distinctly hear it yourself -- a sharp whistle coming from just off camera to the right as the pitch comes in to Tex. In a split second Tex has turned on the pitch and slammed it into the left field seats. Although Sutcliffe could not be sure, he said he was fairly certain that the whistle was A-Rod, making the previously agreed sound to let Teixeira know that the catcher had moved to his set-up too early, and the pitch was coming inside. After the play, the ESPN cameras showed A-Rod and Tex talking in the dugout, and although nothing could be heard and no lips could be read, it definitely seemed like something fishy was going on there.

Remember that shit about a month about how A-Rod would tip pitches to opposing batters late in blowout games, in an attempt to get them to do the same for him when all that matters was getting his own offensive numbers up at the plate? So there's the rampant steroid use, admitted by A-Rod from 2001-2003 (only after he got caught of course) and suspected through his Yankee years when his teammates called him "bitch tits" due to the surprisingly fast growth of his muscles as well as all the way back to his high school days in Miami. Then the guy tips pitches, throwing his own pitchers under the bus, just to pad his own individual stats. And now he also throws the opposing pitchers under the bus in a sense, but signalling to his teammate what pitch is coming in when he is in the on-deck circle. Which, I solemnly guarantee you, is only being done in the hopes that someone will do it for him in return -- to help pad his individual stats. Guaranteed.

Is there any rule that this guy won't break in the name of furthering his own selfish, egocentric agenda? A-Rod is quickly becoming one of the biggest actual losers in all of sports, regardless of how much money he has in the bank.

Update: Speaking of guys with no class whatsoever, it looks like it's official: this coming Sunday night, when the BBT4 ends with everyone's last chance to get in to the upcoming Tournament of Champions in Miami Don's Big Game, the Asshat Frat Crew will be taking over Buddydank Radio for the first time in over a year. We will plan to start around the start of the Big Game at 9:30pm ET on full tilt, and then make sure you register for Chad's Big Game Mulligan that he has set up for exactly one hour after the start of the Big Game, at 10:30pm ET, with a password of "vegas". That I believe is a $40 buyin nlh tournament that should give everyone something fun to play during (or after) your time in the Big Game.

With the loose lips of the Crew members on the radio, I definitely suggest you tune in to BDR to hear the stuff we'll be saying. To do that, all you gotta do is go to, click on "Tune In!", and then choose Windows Media Player (or be ghey and choose the Apple option). It's that simple. And then you'll get to hear us all give updates on the poker we've been playing this year, our thoughts on the Big Game and the Big Game Mulligan as they go on, and especially we plan to talk all about the BBT4. Who's lucky, who's good, and who has the best chances of winning their way into the 2009 World Series of Poker in the June 7 BBT4 Tournament of Champions. You won't want to miss the show, so be sure to be there at BDR on Sunday, and play in the Big Game at 9:30pm ET as well as the Big Game Mulligan at 10:30pm ET on full tilt!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation sucked.

OK, let me take a step back here. I think most movies suck, I really do. I'm probably the harshest movie critic I know. Most of the drivel the studios who control the system put out these days are not designed to be great. They're designed to sell great. Shit like Titanic, Armageddon, Music and Lyrics, it's all based on a formula that the major movie studios just repeat again and again and again, because experience and time have told them that it works. I won't even go to see that crap, I don't care how many billions of dollars in worldwide sales the thing generates. That just means they hit the formula precisely right this time, not that the movie is actually great. I probably don't see more than one or two movies a year that I actually think of as "really good" movies.

And Terminator Salvation was definitely not one of them.

I like a movie that makes me think, that tells me a great story, or that moves me in some other way. You show me Shawshank Redemption and I won't turn it off, no matter where you are in the story. I've probably watched Castaway 50 or 60 times by now because whenever it runs through the cable channels I am all over that shit, whenever I see it. I'll even watch Pulp Fiction on TBS, with literally every other word bleeped out of all the best scenes in the entire flick. But there was just nothing in the fourth installment of the now officially defunct Terminator franchise that did any of this for me, like any truly good movie has to do.

What Terminator Salvation comes down to is simply a string of scenes of running away from the machines' attempts to kill them, and large explosions when the humans managed to achieve a small victory here and there. There's almost no actual plot to the movie other than that. I'm going to give a spoiler below about the plot to make my point a little clearer, so if you're planning to see this movie then you will want to skip down until the big spaces are done below.

OK, so one of my biggest complaints about this movie is the plot, or lack thereof. They try to tell a story that the machines have created a new kind of Terminator, one that is a real human on the outside and a real machine on the inside, such that even the terminator itself does not know it is anything other than human. Then they program this terminator to trick John Connor to meeting him inside Skynet's headquarters, where of course they are waiting to immediately kill him on sight. And the whole thing works, all the way up to the part about them killing him. But the guy does manage to convince John Connor (played very unenthusiastically by Batman star Christian Bale) to come to Skynet, but then of course the machines' plans to murder him do not go exactly as planned from there. I'll leave the ending to those brave souls who go to see this movie anyways just because of how undeniably awesome Terminator II was.

The main problem with this plot is that, when you actually watch the movie, you realize that there are holes so big that only a writer of Heroes could actually be responsible for them. I mean, this guy befriends John Connor, and yet he is all the while unknowingly programmed to trick Connor into meeting him inside Skynet, because killing John Connor is crucial to the machines' victory in the war. But obviously, if the machines had "control" over this new terminator all along via its programming, then they would surely have programmed it to trick Connor to returning to Skynet, or to kill him on sight if given the opportunity. And boy did this terminator have the opportunity. He went out of his way to save John Connor's life, at least once if not twice. It's so stupid if all the machines wanted was Connor dead, that they would program a terminator to go and specifically not kill him but instead to bring him alive somewhere else where he can then be killed.

One other big problem with Terminator Salvation was that at some point they have this big "reveal" scene in the movie when they finally show you, the viewer, that this human-looking helpful guy is actually a machine underneath, which they discover when he sustains an injury and they try to treat him. But the scene, which was portrayed with the shooting and the music and the suspense as some great, amazing reveal, #1 happens only about 30 minutes into the movie, and #2 is totally telegraphed on purpose earlier on in the movie. I mean, they start off showing how this murder about to be put to death agrees in his jail cell that his organs can be donated for reuse in Cyberdyne's science labs, and then they show the humans discovering some plans in a Machines-run facility for this new kind of terminator that is half human, half machine. Then as they show the picture of what this thing will look like in the Machines' plans, they immediately fade to the actual character's face in our story. So they deliberately indicate to you early on that this is the new terminator guy, then they show us him be nice to John Connor for maybe 15 minutes, and then they "reveal" to us in a very dramatically-shot scene that he is in fact, the half human half machine new style of terminator. But it actually reveals nothing, and the whole scene -- shot to be the most dramatic in the entire movie -- really falls flat on its face as a result.

OK that's it for the spoilers for now.

I'll also tell you the other major problem with the Terminator franchise over the last several years. Try as they might, both with the girl terminatrix and all those other terminator models at Cyberdyne in in T3, and here again with some of the machines they come up with in Terminator Salvation, in the end the best, baddest bad guy they ever came up with was now a full 18 years ago, in Terminator 2. The liquid metal terminator played by Robert Patrick would ultimately have whipped up on the Terminatrix, and even though in the latest movie they constructed some very large, at-at looking terminators (for you Star Wars geeks out there), in the end these guys are still not as cool or as badass as Robert Patrick was, plain and simple. Unfortunately, this four-film movie series peaked three whole movies ago, that's the bottom line.

As I mentioned, Christian Bale, who I thought did a good job in the last Batman movie other than the ridiculous voice of course, did nothing for me whatsoever in this film. He didn't have anything to act -- nobody did. As I said, basically all this movie called for was just blowing some shit up, running away a lot, and throwing in a couple of deadpan lines along the way. Some people have given some acting credit to the guy who plays the human terminator combo. I say big whoop. He just got to act really pissed when he finally realized what he actually was. Anyone who thinks this was some kind of an ocsar performance doesn't know what they're talking about. The movie was boring, the story was ultimately ridiculous, and at the end of the day it failed to advance the story of the Terminator series even one little bit. It didn't try to advance anything, there was no real conflict, no real resolution, and no real attempt at a story that made good sense. I guess we'll never know if this was the fault of the original writers or of Christian Bale himself who insisted on several changes to the script prior to filming, but ultimately it sounds like both versions pretty much sucked. If you want to see some airplane-looking terminators, some transformers-looking terminators, and a cute 2-minute "digital cameo" by the 1980's version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, then this movie could be for you. Otherwise, I'd say skip it.

Hoy rating: 3 out of 10.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Stadium

What A Weekend. The unofficial beginning of summer hit New York City in force this weekend, with three awesome days of 75-85 degrees and sun despite some pessimistic weatherasses predicting otherwise. For me it was one of the best weekends in recent memory, as I felt for the first time like I was really living the suburban lifestyle as I played in the new sprinkler toy that Hammer Wife bought the kids and grilled up all kinds and meats and vegetables almost non-stop over the three day weekend. Throw in a trip to the zoo, a visit from family and getting my girls together with their two best friends from back when we lived in the city and it was really a superb weekend with an a amazing number of fun memories baked in to a relatively short period of time.

But one thing stuck out for me that I wanted to cover here from the weekend -- my initial trip to the new Yankee Stadium to see Your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies come to town for the beginning of interleague play 2009. I went to the game on Saturday, and the fans were already plenty angry after having their 9-game win streak snapped the night before by the Phillies who hit 5 home runs while Brett Myers mowed down the Bombers and never let the Yankees into the game. I got to see the Phils trounce all over the Yankees again, before leaving in the 9th inning and then having to watch in horror on my phone as Phillies closer Brad Lidge gave up 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to lose a heartbreaker, but what can I say, I got to see a great game and lots of good pitching and hitting from the Champs. Of course on Sunday Lidge blew another save -- his 5th in just 13 opportunities so far in 2009 after going a perfect 47 for 47 in the 2008 campaign -- but the Phils pulled it out in 11, taking two of three in a great performance that really wowed the Yankees and their fans to just what it takes to be the Champions of the World.

Which gets me to my main point about the new Yankee Stadium itself -- the fans. Or should I say, the lack thereof. This has been all over the news in New York for weeks already of course, but for those who don't know, the ticket prices in Yankee Stadium are absurd, even moreso than in previous years, and as a result, unlike in previous years, the team is nowhere near being able to fill up all the seats. Well, even though I had heard this discussed all over the place on sports radio for a while, actually being at a brand new stadium in New York -- for the Evil Empire no less -- and seeing what had to be a good 20% of the seats empty, it was just surreal. And what's more -- of the 80% of the seats that were filled on Saturday, a good half of them had to be Phillies fans. When you looked into the outfield stands, you saw huge streaks of red shirts and hats, not the typical black and white pinstripes of the home team. When A-Rod hit into a double play in a crucial spot, you heard more cheering than boos. When Derek Jeter hit a home run to finally get the Yankees on the board, it was more boos than cheering. I couldn't believe it. From radio reports it sounds like this phenomenon is similar to what happened in several other venues around the country, and it seems like it is here to stay for a while while the economy is as bad as it is and people have the need to get cash for their season tickets, but as someone who has been to Yankee Stadium at least a few teams over each of the past 7 or 8 years, I could hardly believe my ears and eyes just looking around at all the empty seats and the sea of red in the stands.

As for the stadium itself, I really don't have much to report. Frankly, other than walking right by the old Yankee stadium to get from the train station to the new structure, it almost felt exactly like sitting in old Yankee stadium once you were inside. The field looks the same, the advertisements, the structure itself, they are look more or less the same from the insider. There was some cool homage to the old classic Yankee players and teams around the stadium, but then, the Yankees' old home had a similar feature. The bathrooms, the concessions, the shopping and other similar features were clearly upgraded and modernized, but as far as sitting and watching the actual baseball game, this is just not the big change that a place like Citizens Bank Park has ushered in in Philadelphia. The seats at the new Yankees home were still too narrow and hard to really be comfortable, although unlike the Mets' new stadium across town, every seat in the new Yankee Stadium appears to have a great view of the action. One of the most characteristic features of the new stadium has to be the incredible wind tunnel action going on at various points of the hallways all around the structure. It's common knowledge that home runs are being hit at the new stadium at a better than 50% clip above 2008's pace in the old stadium, and now having been there I have no doubt why that is. The wind whips around that place like it's going out of style, so much so that walking from the concession stands to your seats can be quite difficult without having some random mustard packet or napkins being blown right off your tray. And while I'm at it, the food at the stadium was good, although not superb, and in my view no better than what was already available at the old Yankee stadium. No one is ever going to touch the french fries from old Veterans Stadium in Philly during the Eagles games, I'll tell you that right now, and the fries at the new Yankee field are a far cry from those to be sure, although I did hit up some good sausage and peppers and the burger was pretty solid as far as sports arenas go.

In all it was a good place to visit, and I had fun walking around the new stadium. It was certainly fun being on the "good" side of the clear divide at the Stadium between the "cheap seats" and the super expensive ones, as my brother had tickets through his company that were on the corporate box level, although I can see how many would complain about the super-strict segregation of the haves and the have-nots at the new stadium, even compared to other new baseball arenas in the country. But the stadium itself is very nice, everything is new and modern, and the product on the field has certainly been sparked by the return of multiple-time MVP and admitted steroid dickhead Alex Rodriguez. I mean, the Yankees have still won 10 of 12 even after dropping 2.9 out of 3 games to my boys over the weekend. And it's not like you can really blame the Yanks for not being able to handle the offensive onslaught from the Phillies over the weekend. We are the World Champions, after all.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Fun

So it's 90 degrees here again in New York City, I'm getting out of work early today, and I just can't wait to get started on a sweet 3-day holiday weekend here at the blog, so today I'm just not in a working mood. Since I've got nothing for ya here today, I thought I would just provide you with one of my favorite sites to waste time. Not my favorite, mind you, but certainly one of them.

Here is the link. The game is called bubble spinner, and it is effing addictive, I warn you now. For those of you who get good at the game and think you might be the best of all time, you can email me separately or leave me a comment and I will tell you my high score. It blows yours away, in case you're wondering.

Enjoy, and have a great holiday weekend everyone. I may or may not be back with a post on Monday, but definitely I'll be back and better than ever on Tuesday. Until then, I will be trying to figure out how the hell my new Weber grill works. Suburbanite that I am and all.

Happy Memorial Day!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Aura of Losing

I heard something pretty telling about one of the very worst franchises in all of sports on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio this morning, and I just had to go search the web for the actual quote. Here it is, from Los Angeles Clippers Assistant GM Neil Olshey, right up at the top of that link in discussion of his team having nabbed the NBA draft's coveted first pick in Wednesday night's draft lottery. To make it easy I am going to reproduce the first four lines of the story here:

The Los Angeles Clippers didn’t need time after the draft lottery to decide who to take with the No. 1 pick.

They settled on Blake Griffin long ago.

“I’d say we made the decision June 2008,” assistant general manager Neil Olshey said Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in Playa Vista. “When he decided to go back to Oklahoma, that if we got the No. 1 pick in ’09, he’d be the guy.”

The Clippers earned the right to select the All-American forward in the June 25 draft Tuesday when they won the lottery, moving up from the third-best chance.

Now just think about that quote up there for a minute. This is the assistant GM of the team here, not some yokel Lakers fan who loves hating as much as they do out there in southern Cali. And he's talking about June of last year, back before the Great Recession began and before the Lehman brothers debacle and before AIG tried to pay itself $600 million of bonuses for a job well done. June of 2008, so we're talking about right around the NBA finals last year. So there we were, with the Celtics and the Lakers bashing heads in a clash of former league titans, while you can bet there were plenty of coaches and assistants already hard at work on scouting new players, drawing up new plays and looking for keys to beating their opponents in preparation for the 2009 season. And what is the Clippers brass talking about while everyone else is focusing on winning in 2008 or how they plan to win in 2009?

Who they'll pick if they get the #1 selection in next year's draft.

It's unbelievable, really. I mean, I'm sure the guy wasn't literally thinking that he already expected his team to have the literal worst record in the NBA, get the best shot in the lottery and then win the first pick in the draft. To read it that way would be unfair, especially in light of the fact that the ping pong balls are set such that even the worst team in the league only has a 25% chance of winning #1, a fact of which the assistant GM of the Clippers is surely aware, so it would make no sense whatsoever to tank an entire season just for a one-in-four chance of landing a guy who may or may not prove to be a great player. Sadly I don't seem to suck out nearly as much as many of you clowns out there, but for me a 25-75 shot isn't worth throwing an entire season over.

So I don't think he's sitting there planning on having the NBA's worst record in 2009. But I'll tell you what the Clips' assistant GM is thinking when he makes that statement: that he does not view his team as having a realistic chance of being any good at all in 2009. And that, given that fully half the league makes the playoffs in the NBA every year and is thus excluded from that year's NBA draft, is absolutely pathetic in my book. The 2008 season isn't even over yet -- there's a whole summer, fall and part of winter still to come, there's the then-upcoming NBA draft lottery back in late June 2008. There's months and months where the GM could pull off a big deal or land a big free agent signing. And yet, already way back in June, the LA Clippers' GM's office is thinking ahead to what the team will do in the next year's NBA draft. Planning, already, knowing in fact, that they will not even be in the top half of the league next season. Knowing that no changes are possibly in the works to help the team to get better, to possibly fuel a run to 8th place in the West. 8th place. No GM change, no coaching change, no strong draft, no free agent moves, no players on their own team getting better, nothing.

Imagine this. Phil Jackson of the Lakers and Doc Rivers of the Celtics are sitting around having dinner one night shortly after their teams are eliminated in their respective Conference Finals series. Doc Rivers asks Phil what his plans are for the 2009 season. And Phil Jackson responds to him, "Well if I get the #1 pick in the draft, I'm picking Blake Griffin!"

Or take it to another sport. Bill Belichik of the Cheatriots is having a friendly conversation here in the offseason with his buddy the ManGenius out in Cleveland. Mangini asks Belichick if he's planning anything big for the upcoming NFL season. And Belichik responds with who he plans to pick if his team gets the #1 pick in the draft after the upcoming season is over? Would ManGina or any other real NFL coach outside of Detroit ever say such a thing?

Winners -- teams and management teams with a true chance to win -- never think of losing in this way. Ever. To do so would be abhorrent, and counter to everything that makes them so successful every place they go. I solemnly guarantee you that there has never been a season in Bill Parcells' career where, four months before the season even begins, he is already planning on who his team will pick if they are the worst team in the league in the upcoming season. I guarantee it. Even when he went to the 1-15 Miami Dolphins just a couple of years ago. I guarantee you he never once had that thought, and you know I'm right. That's because Bill Parcells is a winner, and the people in charge of the hapless LA Clippers are abject losers.

Clippers, you have let losing become a habit. It's time for a change at the very top, plain and simple.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BBT4 Almost Done

OK so we've got tonight's Mookie, then next Sunday's Brit thing, the Big Game, Monday's Riverchasers, Tuesday's "skillz" event and then the final Mookie a week from tonight left in the BBT4. That is what, six events left before the BBT4 Tournament of Champions which is scheduled for Sunday, June 7. That's six more tries for all of you out there without ToC seats to nab yours at the last minute here, six more tries for Jordan to win yet another BBT4 title, and six more tries for those of you who have already claimed ToC seats to do whatever you can to keep other good players out of the series-ending tournament where two WSOP Main Event packages will be awarded in addition to I believe two more 2k WSOP prize packages.

The last time I took stock of the BBT4, it was just over halfway through the challenge. In that post, I took some time to review who I thought had a good chance of winning seats into the Tournament of Champions during the second half of the tournament series. Here's what I wrote, back on April 21:

Who to look for to win ToC seats in the second half of the BBT4? I like NewinNov to nab a seat, as he always seems to be hanging around late in these things and has the game to get it done, and is playing well so far in BBT4. Twoblackaces is also a pretty good bet to be in the TOC come series-end is my guess, based on his very solid record of blonkament wins over a relatively short period of time. Evil Wonka is also a good bet to win his way in, and I would add PirateLawyer to the list as well, especially given the existence of the weekly Skillz event and Mookie where PL tends to excel the most. I could see Columbo finding his way in to the ToC sometime in the next month and a half despite a rough beginning for him to 2009, and I would not be surprised if NumbBono also finds his way in after winning 50 Mookies and several other blonkaments over the past year or so if I recall correctly. JD Schellnut is another guy who seems to find a way to win the big blonkaments just often enough to get in to the ToC, and I would say the same thing about Astin who often likes to sneak in late to the series-ending blowout tournaments, often with the help of his Ace-changing machine that can change any hole card to an Ace with one click of a button on his ftp poker client. Lastly, I would guess that at least one of LJ and Bayne, two players with little BBT4 success to show for several tournaments played in so far, will end up in the ToC. LJ alone has probably won the most cash outside of the BBT out of anyone who has entered even one tournament since the BBT4 began, and it is likely only a matter of time before she busts out with a big BBT win of her own this time around.

So let's see how I did, shall we? Of the people I named in that April 21 post, only two have gone on to nab their ToC seats thus far -- Columbo, about five seconds after I posted to that effect, and then LJ who took down the limit holdem Skillz event this week in what can only be described as a total donk-a-thon, with nothing but push and pray poker for the entire final 90 minutes at least. I got sucked out on by some clown allin on four separate occasions on the night, and I laid a couple of nasty ones myself, which there is just no way to avoid when the structure and the low Ms mean just about every hand is allin preflop or at least on the flop by the time we're down to the final two tables. So LJ and Columbo are already in, and with six events left, I figured I would go out on a limb and make some more predictions about those upcoming half-dozen events.

The guy I have my eye on most to win one of these final six events is twoblackaces. TBA doesn't have a win yet in this BBT series, but he's played almost every event so you know he will make himself available in these last few shots to get in. And despite being an accomplished blonkament player and winner in general over just a year, year and a half of playing regularly with this group, TBA is also currently in 27th place on the BBT4 leaderboard, so he's stringing some good runs together. Of course predicting that anyone will win a tournament in just six tries is a stretch to say the least, but I say TBA has as good a chance as anyone of finding his way in somewhere during these last handful of BBT4 tournaments.

Next, I'm going to mention another guy who was already included in my earlier list -- NewinNov. Newin has crushed the Bodonkey regularly and has played his way into 9th place on the current BBT4 leaderboard, while also posting nearly perfect attendance at the BBT4 events so far, so he has got to be right at the top of the list for these last six upcoming events. Newin always seems to be hanging around at the midpoint of these things, so he plays with the kind of tightness early that most of us understand is necessary to win the BBT events, and as I said I expect him to be ready and willing for all or most of the remaining tournaments, so I look for Newin to make some noise here in the final couple weeks of play.

Anybody who doesn't think Tuscaloosa Johnny or 1Queensup1 can't win another of the final few events simply hasn't been paying attention throughout this series. Those two guys have utterly crushed the field so far in the BBT4, and each has posted 12 in-the-money finishes in just 44 or 45 events, so they're lasting well into the final table at a better than 1-in-4 pace. Each of them will be around near the end of at least one more of the six remaining events, of that I am fairly certain.

And speaking of BBT4 world beaters, I would be remiss if I did not bring up the aforementioned Jordan, who has done nothing in the BBT but win four events in just 24 attempts. Now, while 24 tournaments is certainly enough to draw some conclusions, if I, personally, were ranking the players, I would put a minimum events played of probably 30 or 35 out of the 55 total tournaments in order to do a fair comparison and make sure we are dealing with statistically significant sample sizes. Despite that, however, 4 wins in 24 attempts is what it is, and what it is is simply amazing. I do not foresee Jordan's good run continuing with a 5th BBT4 tournament victory though in the past two weeks here, but to suggest it isn't highly possible is sheer folly. The same can be said about heffmike, who has also won three events in this challenge and has shown a knack for hanging around to the end of the tournaments in the series.

Other players who I have a feeling could make some late noise in the BBT4 and find their way into the ToC include Ddionysus, cracknKK who has been showing up more and more lately, and fellow asshat frat crew member Scottymc.

With six shots to go, and the fields seemingly bottomed out at around the 40 range in most of the week's events, there's a good chance for just about anyone who wants a seat to get in. All you need to do is survive for two hours, then once you're in Push and Pray time, just push. And pray. Whoever's luck holds out the longest, wins. And I'm betting at least one of those winners will be from among the people listed right here in this post. And lord knows I will be there to try to donate to the cause when they suck out on me along the way.

Oh, one more thing: Tuesday night, another game with A-Rod batting behind him, and another home run for Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. That's 9-2 now in the 11 games since A-Rod returned from steroid punishment book embarrassment hip surgery. Who would have ever thought this team would need Alex Rodriguez as badly as they obviously do? Joe Girardi might just have saved his ass with A-Rod coming back, and Tex could be on his way to a powerful first season in New York after all despite his slowass start in the batter's box.

See you all tonight for the Mookie.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Bad News Mets, and a Little Protection in Baseball

Well, the Mets committed five errors, including two in the field in the bottom of the 11th inning to lose 3-2 to the Manny-less L.A. Dodgers on Monday night, or should I say Tuesday morning after 1:30am ET as any tired-looking diehard Mets fan will tell you this morning. The Mets started off the 11th inning by breaking the tie with two outs and scoring the go ahead run to make it 3-2, but then error-prone Ryan Church was amazingly called out for missing third base after the Dodgers appealed the call at the base, a call which Church has not disputed. Then in the bottom of the inning the Mets quickly let some guys on base and then a throwing error allowed the walkoff run to score for the Dodgers, who won 3-2. That's about as hard a way to lose a game as there is, don't you think? Five errors. Five. Two in one inning in extra innings, after a redonkulous baserunning error already cost your team the lead in the top half of that same inning? That's seriously ludicrous. I've been screaming this all season, but where is the accountability on this team?

Said Ryan Church on somehow missing third base for the crucial third run of the game: "I mean, touching the bag is a simple thing to do. But obviously, I didn't....As for me missing third just wasn't meant to be." I heard the interview with him in the locker room on sports radio today and I was just floored. I nearly crashed my damn car. It wasn't meant to be? So some higher power decided tonight was not Ryan Church's night to touch all the bases on the field? How many times is a Met player (or coach) going to not take responsibility for their mistakes before someone does something about it? Do they honestly not see the connection between the total lack of accountability on this team, and the September choke-jobs that this team has by now become famous for? It's unreal to a third-party observer to see how what is obvious to some, others can be completely oblivious to.

But the real thing that got my attention today was the Yankees, and specifically what Alex Rodriguez has been able to do by protecting Mark Teixeira in the batting order. Before A-Rod's return to the Yankees lineup 10 games ago, huge first baseman free agent signing Mark Teixiera's struggles were public knowledge. The guy was hitting .191 as of the day A-Rod returned from hip surgery, and by all counts Tex's acquisition by the Bronx Bombers was heralded as an abject failure to that point. New Yorkers were starting to wonder if Tex fits squarely in to the hole that so many others have fallen into when signed from other cities, particularly smaller markets. It's not just the size of New York that creates problems for people not used to big city life -- it's really the size and the character of the media in town that gets most of these guys. Just having to listen to what gets said about you on any one of four or five sports radio stations now available to New Yorkers thanks to the proliferation of satellite radio, every time you strike out in a big spot turns into a 12-hour trashfest focused primarily on you. Mark Teixeira was heading right down that path, the same path of Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez and so many other free agent signings during the past several years have gone -- just not fitting in in New York.

But then cue Alex Rodriguez. Although Alex struggled early in his return from surgery, hitting below .200 through his first 6 games of the 2009 season, A-Rod has now hit three home runs in three nights and things are definitely looking up for the American League's best steroid user home run hitter. But the effect on Mark Teixeira has been even more striking. I don't have all of the exact stats in front of me here, but in the 10 games since A-Rod returned to the starting lineup, where he bats one spot after Tex, Tex's batting average has soared to .340, close to double what he hit in the 25 games prior to that. With pitchers suddenly unable for the first time all season to pitch around Tex for fear that A-Rod will come up next and roid-rage one right over the already tinderbox walls of the new Yankee Stadium, Tex has also pounded five home runs over the last 10 games after he hit just five home runs in those previous 25 games sans A-Rod. And with just 15 RBIs in his first 28 games, since A-Rod's return Teixeira has knocked in an additional 13 runs in those 10 games. .191, 5 homers and 15 RBIs over 25 games without A-Rod, and now .340, 5 homers and 13 RBIs in 10 games since The Roided One's return.

What a difference a little protection makes.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Too Many Poker Tournaments?

This was a post I wrote shortly after returning from Atlantic City a couple of weeks back after placing 3rd in the Bally's nightly no-limit holdem tournament. I had a great time playing live for the first time since my WSOP performance in 2008, and one of the lessons I am constantly reminded about on the night occurred early in hour 2, when I went from about half of the starting stack to the tournament chip leader over the span of a couple of big hands.

If you recall from my post, I lost half of my starting stack shortly before the end of the first hour to a young girl a couple of seats to my right, who had been playing very tight and passive as far as the number of hands she was playing, and the times she raised or bet vs just calling. As I mentioned in my post, after she had raises it up under the gun, I made the probably ill-advised move to reraise big to isolate her when I picked up pocket Jacks from middle position. We got to heads up, she flipped up AA and promptly dropped me to around 8k left from the starting stack of 15k.

During the break which occurred one or two hands after the hand I described above, I came back from a smoke session at the bar and chatted briefly with her, congratulating her and asking her isn't that so awesome when you have AA and someone else at the table is raising you big? She agreed and started telling me how she was "sooooo nervous", she was sweating, she "knows she has the worst poker face" and she "was just dying inside, about to explode if the hand had taken even five more seconds than it did." Essentially, she was freaking out having been dealt pocket Aces and looking at the prospect of playing a big pot early in the tournament.

Now fast forward only a few hands into hour 2, and if you recall I flopped J44 with my JJ, while I checked and let the aggromonkey across the table bet me 75% of his stack through bets on the flop, turn and river, with me just pause-calling every time. After I raked in a massive pot to give me the sudden chip lead in the tournament, the young girl turns to me and says something along the lines of "Well wow look at your stack after that pot, nice hand! That must have been one of those situations where you were sweating bullets, with the heart thumping in your stomach and all, huh?"

At which point I gave it a moment's real thought, and then I told her, with 100% honesty, that I hadn't felt a thing. Nothing at all, at least in terms of what she was talking about.

And this is where it hit me: I've played wayyyyyy too much poker for that at this point in my life. I mean, sure I was gonna get paid by the fonkey I had been specifically targeting for the past hour, I was gonna make a big stack back after losing half my chips in the first hour. I had flopped the overfull, a veritable monster, and was just check-calling my way to donk-kickery. I can still remember when I used to play in AC as a teenager or even when I started playing home games in New York several years ago, making a big big hand and feeling sure that others could see the thumping in my chest or the sweat in my brow. But, at that very moment when the tight-passive girl asked me the question about me freaking out to be being bet at so large when I flopped the overfull, I realized for the first time just how much my wealth of poker tournament experience, my familiarity with the game and the various situations it throws at you, has changed me from that wide-eyed novice of some years ago.

Nowadays, really, big whoop? It's a $120 buyin event with a total of 34 runners, and $1400 to first place, a $3400 prize pool overall. How many tournaments larger than "3.4k guaranteed" do I play on a given night or in a given week? Or maybe the better question is, how many tournaments do I play that are smaller than a 3.4k guarantee in a given week? Other than blonkaments, the answer is a resounding zero. Frankly, other than blonkaments or some other special circumstances, I won't usually play anything that doesn't guarantee at least 25k in the prize pool. Having won several tournaments in my day, I know that, at least for me, it's just not even close to worth it to go through the trials and tribulations it takes to win a large poker tournament, fade all the 14-outers, survive through all the races, win every single time you get it in dominated, all just to win what, a lousy grand? No way, that's bullshit.

For live poker sometimes you just have to deal with that, you get what you get, right? But through the widespread availability and popularity of online play I have gotten myself to the point where a big flop that leads me to a big stack with 28 players left out of 34 runners in a $3.4k guaranteed tournament, doesn't make me sweat. It doesn't even make me flinch or even stop to think. The strangest thing about this girl's question was that, when I honestly thought about it, I realized that the "bigness" of the situation in that spot hadn't even registered with me at all.

It's just another hand, and this is a game where you have to take the good with the bad. It's almost zen in a way -- poker zen. To me, with thousands of hours of poker tournament play under my belt, with millions of hands seen in poker tournaments, those kinds of massive flops in against donkeys who hand you their entire stack blind have become, ultimately, nothing more than the counter-balance in the equation, the other side of which contains all those bad beats I take on a frighteningly regular basis, every time I ran KK into AA allin preflop in a big spot in a tournamen, and all those times I had the big chip lead with few players remaining and then ran AQ into AK 3-handed, or JJ into QQ, etc. Sitting at Bally's in Atlantic City last weekend, I really realized for the first time that a hand went down that totally excited the inexperienced players at the table, but didn't even register at all for me with any kind of emotional or competitive resonance.

That's how many poker tournaments I've played in over the years at this point.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

L O S T -- Redux

This show is just so aptly named, isn't it? Because that's just what we all are, every time we sit down and watch an episode. And it seems, the bigger the episode, the more "reveals" we are given by the fanbois who insist that Season V has been all about revealing all this information we've been seeking, the more the mystery just grows larger.

I'm torn because I want to write a bit about the Lost finale here today, but I don't want to spoil too much for those of you who did not stay up till 11 to watch it last night. I will give it a try without spoiling too much, but we'll have to see how far I am willing to push it on that front. To be safe, if you haven't seen the Lost finale yet, and do not want anything ruined for you, then don't read this post until you've had a chance to view the finale episode that ran this Wednesday night.

First impressions (because that's all anyone can have at this point, having only had time to see the episode once at most since its airing from 9-11pm on Wednesday):

1. The Goat informs me that Richard's reply to Ilana's question translates to "he who will save us all." Thank you to Goat for that one. I won't go into more specifics on that at this point.

2. Kudos to me on my guesses yesterday as to the final scene of the finale, huh? I swear I should be writing for these clowns.

3. Is it me, or over the last two weeks, and then especially when Richard knocked out Eloise to protect "their leader" from danger, does he not seem to be a wee bit overprotective of Eloise, in particular of her pregnant state? For the first time last night as Jack prepared to take the bomb's plutonium core to the Swan station, I got the first indication that maybe Richard could be the father of Eloise's baby. Likely that is Daniel Faraday, but keep in mind they've never even told us if that is the case. Daniel could be a baby on the island already in 1977, and Eloise is carrying Richard's baby, which could for that matter be someone we know already, or a whole new character. Who knows.

4. And now the big one: Jacob. Well that one threw us all for a loop. huh? So Jacob is not one of the Losties, not an incorporeal form of someone who's been semi-reincarnated due to the island's magical properties. What he is, however, is a matter of extreme debate. I'm going to go ahead and give my working theory here for now, so skip this paragraph if you don't wanna know. I've spent about 4 or 5 hours sitting and thinking about the meat of the information we got about Jacob -- which really consists of the first scene of the finale, and the last scene. In the middle is just a bunch of examples showing that Jacob has been involved in the lives of each of the characters on the island, at key crucial points. He obviously knew Locke was going to be pushed out of that window, but did nothing to prevent it. Depending on your point of view, he either saved Sayid from being killed by a car, or caused Sayid's wife to get crushed by it. He helped Jack when Jack's confidence was at rock-bottom and his father issues were in full bloom. He made sure little Sawyer had a brand new pen to write his famous letter to the real con man Sawyer, he kept Kate out of trouble, he helped convince Hurley to return to the island, and presumably lots of other little things along the way.

It's unclear exactly what Jacob's motivation has been for all of these little interventions, but my working theory is that each and every one of them was designed in some small (or not so small way) to result in each and every one of the original survivors of Oceanic flight 815 to get on that plane and end up on the island. Without placing the fan of doubt in Jack's mind, maybe he never comes to the island in the first place. Without his wife murdered, there is little doubt that Sayid would never have returned. Hurley was not close to going back to the island once he found out Ben wanted him to, until Jacob came long.

One thing that's interesting is that Jacob appears to know everything that is going to happen in these people's lives, before it happens. And more than that, he can transport himself there, easily. Remember, he was there when Kate shoplifted as a child. Locke when he was pushed from the building as a young old man. Hurley in 2007. Sayid in 2004. And like Richard Alpert, Jacob never seems to age. He looked exactly the same back in Kate's childhood that he did when Locke and Ben went to see him at the end of the finale.

What kind of a being can appear as himself in any random time it chooses, and is completely omniscient about minor details in the lives of other people, and does not show any signs of age? I just can't escape the fact that Jacob, like I had originally theorized here about the smoke monster itself earlier this season, is some kind of a god. It could be the god, or just a god -- one of many in Egyptian mythology, for example -- or he could be a demigod of some kind. The point is, this guy has extra-human powers and existence for sure. He functions essentially as a good as compared to the Losties we have been following for the past five years of our lives.

That conversation at the beginning of the show I think is really the key to the whole big "reveal" of the finale. Jacob is hanging out, presumably on the island, and we see that he still uses a semi-primitive fish catch, and has to fillet and cook the fish, and that he still eats. So he's not a god in the sense that many of us might think of such a being. But he appears to be basically just chillaxing on the island, and then this other guy comes up, someone we presumably know nothing about so far, but who appears to be speaking with Jacob as an equal, so perhaps another demi-god of some kind. Let's call him Esau, for lack of a better name. Jacob is out watching a ship drifting closer and closer to the island -- presumably the Black Rock -- and Esau refers to Jacob having "drawn" them to the island. Jacob seems hopeful, like he has promise for the people on the Black Rock, but Esau seems very dark about their prospects on the island. In fact, Esau seems dark about all people's prospects, making some kind of a statement as I recall that "they always end up in-fighting, succumbing to greed", etc. or something like that. Jacob has apparently summoned to the island some humans, perhaps to test them and see if his more optimistic view of them might be right compared to Esau's fatalistic viewpoint.

At one point, one of the weirdest parts of an admittedly very weird story comes when Esau basically asks Jacob if Jacob knows how badly Esau would like to kill him. Jacob acknowledges it, along with the fact that Esau cannot kill Jacob right now, and then says he imagines that at some point in the future Esau will "find a loophole" and manage to off Jacob once and for all. Obviously this is very cryptic and we have not been given the information or tools to deduce what he is talking about just yet, but again my working theory is that the limits on Jacob's and Esau's demi-goddery include the fact that they cannot be killed by other similar demi-gods. Perhaps the "rules", such as they are, indicate that the only way one of these demi-gods can be killed is if a human does the killing at the direction of another of the demi-gods, or something like that. This fits well with the scene at the end of the finale, when Locke and Ben show up at Jacob's abode and Jacob says something like "Well, I can't believe you found me, I see you've found your loophole". So Esau seemingly has used the body/soul/spirit/likeness/aura/something of Locke to convince Ben to kill Jacob, and seemingly this works as we see Jacob bleeding all over the place and spilling to the ground.

I'm going to guess here that another of the rules of these demi-god types is that they can inhabit the bodies, or turn themselves into, anyone who has already died. This would explain the various times we have seen the smoke monster take the form of Christian Shepherd, Claire, Horace, Charlie, Alexandra, and various other dead people we have run into reincarnated for a time during the previous five seasons of the show. The working theory now is that the black smoke is behind all of those apparitions. Could Esau be the human appearance of what is otherwise known to us as the black smoke?

Taking the whole thing a step further, didn't Jacob seem to be sort of a nice guy in the whole story we were presented yesterday? I mean, clearly he has his own interests in mind as he "draws" people to the island, and presumably he does that "drawing" by simply jumping into the lives of the people he wishes to draw to the island, and uses that whole omniscience and omnipotence thing to do whatever he has to do in their lives -- without their knowledge or understanding of course -- to "convince" them that they want to come to the island on their own free will. But Jacob always apologized to each of the Losties whenever he was there and bad things happened to them (Locke's 6-story fall, Jack's problems at the operating table, etc.), and to me those apologies seemed genuine -- Jacob was sad for those victims. Similarly, Jacob had a couple of lines about free will, and how everyone (Hurley before he returned to the island, Ben before he killed Jacob) has a choice in waht they do. Try as I might, I just can't escape the conclusion that these aspects of Jacob make him seem kind of like god -- like, the god, the supreme force of good watching over these people.

Along those same lines, Esau just seemed bad, didn't he? He was the one talking about killing Jacob at the beginning, and then seemingly putting in place an elaborate lie and plan to ultimately cause the killing of Jacob. He seemed totally pessimistic about humanity in general with his comments at the beginning while Jacob was summoning the Black Rock to the island, and I just generally got a feeling of "darkness" about him, as compared with the "light" of Jacob. I know this is kind of out there, but it would not be surprising if Esau and the black smoke are related, if not one and the same.

The bigger question is, are the Lost writers going to do something rligious and grand, like make Jacob and Esau into Good vs Evil, the Egyptian god of life vs the Egyptian god of death, God vs Satan, or something similar? Haven't Ben, Charles and Eloise repeatdly referred to the ultimate struggle of good vs evil coming on the island, and how the Losties are a crucial part of that whole story? They certainly planted a nice seed in the finale this week that Bernard and Rose could prove to be the "Adam and Eve" skeletons that the Losties found near their camp in the first season of the show....But could Bernard and Rose prove to be theactual Adam and Eve? Would the Lost writers really try to pull something like that off? Could Jacob and Esau be the real Jacob and Esau from the bible, somehow empowered with the powers of god(s) themselves? They sorta seemed like brothers in their own way, one good and the other evil, and they did seemingly purposefully decline to give us Esau's name at all. My working theory right now involves some sort of answer like this, which we will have to wait until 2010 to find out. Grrrrr.

5. One other area to mention deals with the whole Jack / Eloise / Faraday plan to change the future. Despite some disagreement with some people on the girly on this point, it seems to me that the Incident was not in fact caused by Jack and his little hydrogen bomb, as I had suspected it might be heading into the finale. In other words, they drilled too far into the Swan station, hit the pocket of energy, and then Jack threw the bomb down the shaft. But it did not detonate. It just sat there, and meanwhile, where the bomb was not in effect, the drill tunnel in the Swan had that major electromagnetic malfunction, sucking the drill and all other metal objects along with it right down the shaft. They had some scary sounds, not unlike the purple-sky event after Desmond failed to push the button in the Swan a few years ago, and Dr. Chang's arm got mauled by the drill rig as it collapsed right down into the shaft itself, just like we knew Chang had lost an arm in the Incident originally from one of those videos we saw a year or two ago. And who knows what other effects that burst of electromagnetism would have had on the island and its inhabitants. But to me, that was the Incident. And only then did the bomb go off. So my working theory there is that the Losties have in fact succeeded in changing the past to some extent, by introducing the exploding H-bomb into the Incident after it was not originally supposed to be there.

Who knows what the ramifications will be of that bomb. In reality I feel such an explosion would destroy the island, but it's entirely possible that they decide to go a different route entirely and say that is just destroyed the tunnels, which would explain why there seems to be no mention whatsoever of any tunnels when the Losties first crashed on the island in 2004.

I will do some more on this later, after I have had the chance to watch the show at least one more time in its entirety, converse with others and read some of the other theories out there. But that's my take on where we stand now with the Lost story arc. I'd love to hear any different theories that are out there in the comments.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009


There's just so much to talk about today. I could write about the incredible run of suckouts I have been experiencing over the past few weeks, one of the worst of my career. I could write about the hot streak I have been on over the past couple of days, even despite being unable to get out of my own way as my favorites have had trouble holding up. I've been thinking more about the BBT and have some thoughts on that. MLB fined White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks a whopping $750 for admitting he intentionally threw behind an opposing batter while on the mound, that's worthy of some mention. And then there's always the stock market, which hasn't been at the forefront of the news so much recently but which has quietly staged one of the most impressive rallies of all time, in context of course. Believe me when I say I've got a ton of thoughts about all that swirling around as well.

But then every couple minutes, I remember: tonight is the Lost finale. And then I forget everything else I was thinking about previously.

Anybody who's a Lost fan who claims that today is just another regular day is full of it. If you're like me, even early in the morning it's all you can do to keep yourself from jumping out of your chair to get out of here and get ready for the show. A helpful commenter informed me that it is apparently a clip recap show from 8-9pm ET, followed by a two-hour season finale. Come to think of it, they've done that before as I recall, maybe last year. And for once, I don't care. You'll find me, eyes glued to the tv, tonight at 8pm to watch all the clips they want to show me. It's not so much that I don't know what's going on in the show, but rather that I enjoy using that time to just get into the flow of Lost, to let the whole experience of another crazy Lost finale wash over me advance of the real fireworks beginning at 9.

All I know is, I'm going to get the heck out of the office as early as possible today, to get myself at my home base and set up for what I expect to be a really fun night on the boob tube, which is not something you hear me saying much anymore these days. I definitely think it's a good assumption that sheer craziness is going to happen in tonight's finale, which is the show's last best opportunity for an insane cliffhanger show, as next season's season finale will also be the series finale, with nothing left to cliff-hang to. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am hoping that we're going to see some of the characters we have known for the past six years "die" tonight, only to remain present on the island in the future in Jacobian incorporeal form. I definitely expect one way or the other to understand after tonight's finale what Richard meant last week when he said he just watched all of Locke's people die. I also expect to get to hear the inside of that hidden conversation on the beach between Eloise and Charles Widmore just before she announced that she was buying into Jack's little plan (the DPAT, don't forget), although I don't see that as a particularly moving thing anymore since most people already suspect Eloise to be pregnant with Daniel at that very time, and whether she is or isn't, the point is, Daniel is either a young boy, or not quite born yet in 1977.

Other questions that would be nice to get at least some information about tonight:

Who or what actually is Richard Alpert? What is his connection to the black smoke?

What does lie in the shadow of the statue?

What ever happened to Iliana and the crazy statue-shadow talking crew back in 2007? We haven't seen them for a few weeks all of a sudden.

Can anyone actually change the past?

I'm also wondering, anybody wanna take a guess in the comments as to what the final scene of the finale is going to be tonight? Some possible suggestions I had:

A true major character dying?

The island blowing up and going down into the water?

The castaways hurtling randomly through time by the explosion from the Jughead?

Locke gets to Jacob, and sees that Jacob is actually ???? Jack? Christian? Walt? Himself? Someone else entirely?

Any other good ideas for the finale of tonight's Lost finale?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ford FTW!

Just a week after rival automaker Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors, and with industry titan General Motors teetering this week on the edge of its own similar filing, I found this little tidbit coming out of #2 American car company Ford to be seriously refreshing, so much so that I have been looking forward to mentioning it here.

Take a look at the stats on that Ford Fusion Hybrid, Ford's newly-redesigned 2010 midsize sedan model.

The Fusion Hybrid uses a combination of gasoline engine and electric battery-driven motor, switching quickly to batter power whenever gasoline is not required to power the vehicle, including when coasting and in between pumping the gas while driving on the highway. Although the base model Fusion gets a much more ordinary mileage, the hybrid version costs just $3,200 more and gets nearly 50% better fuel economy: 41 mpg highway/36 mpg city. Take a look at those numbers up there again. 41 miles per gallon on the highway. Truth be told, that is probably just about twice as much as most of you out there are getting out of a gallon of gas, and for some of you like Hammer Wife who drives a larger crossover SUV, it's a lot more than twice as fuel-efficient. Even other similar hybrid vehicles nowadays generally come in closer to 25 mpg than the 36 that the new Fusion is said to get even during the start-and-stop of city driving.

The 2010 Hybrid Fusion operates up to 67 mph in electric mode, and is expected to have a driving range of 700 miles on a 17.6-gallon tank of gas. I know that my Accord gets under 300 miles to a tank, and it's not like I'm driving some kind of truck over here. 700 miles on one tank of gas. It's so significant that you can start to do the math of how much you would save in gas almost right from the getgo -- figure I would need to get gas in my car somewhere around 45% as often as with my current car, and figure for sake of argument I am putting in $40 of gas each week in driving a normal commute to and from the office Monday through Friday. That would equate to savings of about $22 a week, or somewhere around $1000 a year. So choosing the hybrid option would pay for itself over just a few years of owning and driving the car with any regularity, and that's at current gasoline prices which are much lower than a year ago, not to mention the pleasure and the convenience of not needing to head to the Mobil or the Citgo every week like I end up having to do, either at night when all I want to do is get home, or in the morning when I'm trying to beat the traffic into the office.

My point is, I am really proud of Ford for creating a car like this, one that clearly stands out compared to the competition in an aspect that the American car companies as a rule have been woefully behind in -- fuel efficiency. It still very much remains to be seen whether or not Americans are really ready and willing to embrace fuel-efficient, hybrid-type of cars en masse, but with more and more options like the 2010 Ford Fusion hitting the market, demand for such types of vehicles is sure to continue to increase. Selling at around $30,000, the midsize Fusion is already a hit: Ford sold 18,321 during the month of April, a record for the company for any type of vehicle, all-time. Even without President Obama doing what I believe he should have done and requiring these companies to produce a majority of fuel-efficient and hybrid-technology vehicles within a few years as a condition to the provision of federal aid, it is refreshing to see one of our own taking aim at the Japanese and trying to claim back a slice of the cost-conscious, green-conscious American consumer out there. Here's hoping there is more news to come in the near future like word of the new Fusion coming out of Ford Motor Company.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Lost and the Dumbest Plan of All Time

So, about Lost.

First off, why do people not seem to be complaining more about The Dumbest Plan of All Time (DPAT) being hatched and inexplicably agreed to by Jack, Sayid, Eloise and Richard Alpert? I mean, it sounds cute and all, don't get me wrong. But Jack wants to "avoid all the suffering of his past three years", by doing what exactly? By killing himself in 1977. So even if his plan works -- which is a ludicrous leap of faith that you and I both know the character we learned to accept as "Jack" over the past six years of our lives would never, ever, ever be willing to make -- he will avoid all that three years of suffering, by surely killing himself now. Be standing right next to a frigging H-bomb when it detonates.

And yet you read around on the intertubes, talk to people, and this isn't bothersome to anyone? I mean, I get it, Jack has changed, Jack is now the "man of faith". But come on people. I'm having the same kind of moment here that I was having when Jack explained to the rest of the Oceanic 6 on Penny's boat why they had to lie and claim that no one else survived the crash. He's sitting there explaining how everyone will come searching for their friends and trying to find the island and how awful that will be, and I'm just sitting there thinking "Idiot! I just watched the island -- blip! -- disappear out of thin air, and you're worrying about other people finding it? That you have to lie, or people will know what? No one else knows about the island, and there's that little thing that it just up and vanished like a fart in the wind, right before our eyes." Well, that's me again now. Jack wants to save his last three years of suffering, by ending his life entirely back in 1977. That is just to really, really hopelessly dumb and not believable, that I just don't have a clue what to do with it.

And then Eloise goes along with it. Eloise, who believes as much as (or more than) anyone in the magic, the specialness of the island. Eloise who seemingly conceived her baby with Charles Widmore on the island. Who spent some indeterminate but not insignificant period of her youth living on the island. She loves that place, and she has seemingly devoted her entire life to studying it and doing things related to it. But now, in 1977, it takes how long for Jack to convince her to blow the whole place up, pursuant to the DPAT? Two minutes? Three? It's ridiculous.

Richard Alpert I might give a little bit of a pass to in going along with that plan, but only because he is magic and I'm betting he either (1) already knows what's going to happen here, and/or (2) knows that the island will not be destroyed by this move. But there is no way what we know about Richard would be ready and willing to go along with a plan that would be sure to destroy the island in 1977. And make no mistake, no matter what flavor of reality the Lost writers are going to try to foist upon us in this week's finale, the real truth is that a hydrogen bomb detonated as close to the surface as it took these four human beings to swim through, would completely destroy the island and surely sink it right into the water. But I'm betting Richard knows that isn't what's going to happen here, or he would be trying to stop the DPAT rather than going right along with it.

Sayid is obviously being a jackass in going along with this plan, but Sayid might just be desperate enough and sick and sad enough to do it. He's lost his life's one love, he's been betrayed by Ben into becoming a serial murderer several times over for no real purpose at all, he's just tried (and learned that he failed at) killing Ben back when Ben was a child, and he's recently been drugged and tortured by the Dharma Initiative as he has now been forced to relive his shadow of a life back 30 years before his time. It's dumb as fike, but maybe I'll give Sayid a pass too, on the theory that he knows how dumb this is, but he just doesn't care. Jack and Eloise, though, the writers get an "F" for convincing me this week that either one of those characters would actually go through with the attempted destruction of the island like this.

So what's going to happen ? Well, a few things.

First, I don't know. I mean, I have no effing clue whatsoever. How could you? They've taken this show in so many new and unpredictable directions just this year, that I wouldn't put anything past the writers of the show, in particular heading in to their last shot at a truly mind-blowing, last-you-another-nine-months season finale where I betcha they really try to knock our socks off.

I do think it is likely that the foursome now standing at the base of the Jughead warhead will find some way to detonate the device in furtherance of the DPAT. With the way the Lost season finales have gone in the past, they're not usually introducing a whole new plot line one show before the finale, only to have it be abandoned the very next week. Especially considering what a horrible job the writers did of creating a believable, sensible, logical (even for this show) story line to get us to the point where the people we know are going to try to blow up the island, I say there is just no way they go through all that trouble just to not have it play a major part in this week's ending to Season 6. So they're going to do something with that bomb, you heard it here 182,356th.

I highly doubt the bomb ends up going off at full blast, though. They could go down that route, make the island destroyed back in 1977, and then I guess just focus next year on the future (2004/2007) timelines where I suppose the island could still be in existence, on some different branch on the space time continuum ($5 on the over/under as to whether or not the word "continuum" is used at all during Season 7?). But I don't think that's as likely as the notion that the four of them figure out some way to release some of the energy stored inside that warhead, and probably do some solid damage to somebody or some thing as a result. At this point I just don't know how I can ignore anymore the fact that the Jughead is already buried underground, that we know there was an incident in this spot on the timeline that caused major fallout on the island, took Marvin Candle's arm and much other badness, and we also know that in 2004, there was this button that had to be pushed every couple of hours or else we saw the very bad,and very real, results that ensued. I can't help but connect the dots here. I think it's likely that this week we will see the four DPAT characters collaborate to move the bomb through the tunnels to under the Swan station, and then somehow do something with it to set it off in some way. Exactly what happens to intervene and cause the bomb not to unleash its full destruction on the island remains to be seen. Maybe Richard does something to protect the island. Maybe the island does it itself. Maybe there is a way for the island to "freeze" time over the explosion of the Jughead and allow the tremendous energy released by the detonation to be "leaked" out every 108 minutes by the push of a button that somehow releases such bursts in amounts not lethal to the island's remaining inhabitants? Who knows. And how it happens isn't as important, really, as the fact that it does happen. I think there's a high likelihood that the bomb gets moved under the Swan, and ends up being the very incident that keeps being referred to over the past several weeks.

All this said, they've been dropping hints for a while now that Jack might not survive this trip, and I don't foresee him surviving next week's show, at least not in the form we know him. Ben was very clear to Jack when they returned together to the island Ajira airlines that this would be Jack's last trip to the island, and that he would not be returning. Even Jack has seemed to accept that this is where his story ends, not back in 2004 where he truly has no one and nothing of real value. So I'm guessing that Jack perishes next week, at least in the meaning of that word in island terms. Eloise should not die, as we've seen her repeatedly as an old woman in the future, and we know Richard is around in the 2000s. Sayid, I don't know, and frankly I'm not sure if it matters if he is alive or dead at this point, does it? But my guess is that Jack dies in the Season 6 finale coming this Wednesday night.

A few quotes I keep thinking back to as I look ahead to the end of this season, which people don't seem to me to be making a big enough deal about. First, last week, 2007-Richard walks into the area with Locke, Sun and the rest of the Others and says something like "Whoa! I just saw all of your [1907s] people die." I've seen and heard theories over the past week that this wasn't that important, or that Richard might be lying, or flat-out mistaken. I don't get it. We've seen Richard about a hundred times on this show now, and while I won't deny that he may be opportunistic -- independently suggesting to Locke that he have Sawyer kill Locke's father, for example -- I don't think we've seen him lie or be in any way disingenuous with anyone of the Losties yet. Take it from me -- and this is something I imagine we will see clarified this week -- Richard is not lying when he says he just watched all of the 1970's Losties die. I betcha he did. I bet it's related again to the fallout from The Incident, that is likely going to be the direct result of the DPAT detonation of the Jughead under the Swan station. Maybe all the people at or near the bomb die from the radiation or other fallout from whatever detonation they do manage to set off. Maybe they find a way to direct the radiation in a certain direction or to certain people. Maybe the detonation throws everyone within close range hurtling through to various points in time during the island's history -- Locke back to Egyptian times where Richard came from, eventually leading to the Egyptians building the four-toed of him way back when, Jack to 1996 when he serves as one of these Christian-type reincarnated apparitions with increased awareness of the island and its secrets, and Richard forward to 2007 where he is with Locke, Sun and the Others. I don't know the details, but I believe Richard 100% when he says he just say the 1970's Losties die, and I bet that sight plays a major part near the end of this week's Season finale.

The other quote that keeps coming back to me as I look ahead to Season 7 is back earlier this season, when they flashed back to when Naomi first recruited Miles to join the freighter expedition to the island. He's like "Why me?", and she pauses before explaining in very matter-of-fact terms that "there are a number of deceased persons living on the island we will need your assistance with" or something to that effect. Deceased persons living on the island? And a number of them? I mean, we have long suspected that Jacob is some sort of non-corporeal spirit, perhaps of someone who was formerly alive. Christian we are told was dead as of the pilot episode, but has shown up every season in some form, talking to people, helping them along their way. So we know of at least one and potentially two "dead people living on the island". But a number of them, and living there back in 2004 when the freighter was first sent to find the island?

To me this strongly suggests that we're going to get one or more people island-dying on the island back in the 1970s, and potentially still there as similar such incorporeal spirits for the future. Jack is the most likely candidate, as they have written his character more or less out of the story here in Season 6, and making him alive as a spirit on the island in 2004 with some foreknowledge of things and working with Ben and the Others would certainly be a way to make him interesting again. And try as you might, you just can't ignore the Jack - Jacob name tie, can you? Sayid is another person who could be island-dying here along with the Jughead incident in 1977. Like Jack, we don't see him playing any major role in the future back on the earth other than being tricked into coming back to the island in 2007, where the ultimate future could lie for the former torturer, a murderer many times over with also no ties to anyone, no family or friends that we know of. Richard and Eloise seems to have major contributions still in the future as people with actual bodies, so somehow I suspect they do not suffer this fate, but I'm thinking the Jughead / Swan Incident is going to island-kill some of the Losties this week and lead to some serious clarification regarding people like Jacob and others like him for the final season next year.

Also, they could not have been clearer in the scenes from the finale that Sawyer is right there on the island with his friends, so since he ended last week's episode in the sub, some shit's surely gonna go down with him in short order next week. My guess is that he knows the sub stops at the Looking Glass station when it departs, and he will plan to bust up out of there at that time. Hopefully when he does he will find a way to do it without letting Kate or Juliette disembark, thereby saving the two women he loves from the horrors of the Incident, and also sparing me from having to see one more sad-scared-jealous look from Juliette's annoying mug and any more of the strained relations between Sawyer and his beloved Freckles. But Sawyer will be back on-island for the Incident as well, which could always prove to create some fireworks depending on what his plan is. If anybody might know about the tunnels, the temple, the Swan and where the Jughead is, it could certainly be the former head of Dharma Security for the past three years, so if Sawyer wants to he might be able to get himself damn close to the action underground when the DPAT comes to its much-awaited conclusion this Wednesday night.

Oh yeah and one more thing, I was speaking with someone this weekend who pointed out that they said in the scenes for the finale that "the action starts at 8pm ET", not specifically that the finale begins at that hour. So with Lost, you never know what that means. Originally I thought "oh cool, a two-hour finale next week!", but the more I think about it, the more likely I think it may be that we're in for a 1-hour finale from 9-10 ET, preceded by one of those famous Lost moves -- either the feared "Lost for Dummies" clip show, or maybe a "Pop-Up Lost" for all those people who haven't watched the past 102 episodes and want to know everythhing that's going on heading into the finale and only have about 42 minutes of actual television time to learn it all.

Good luck on that one.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Et Tu, Manny?

With Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez now banned for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's substance abuse and treatment policy, let the subterfuge and deception begin. For Manny's part, here was his statement to just put the whole thing behind him and move on:

"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."

Mmm hmmm.

OK, let's see, what else do we know about this situation? Oh yeah -- it turns out that testing by Major League Baseball showed that Ramirez had artificial testosterone in his body, in addition to the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG.

I see. So what's that, Manny? Your doctor accidentally prescribed you a female fertility drug. I guess youR "personal health issue" involved you telling your doctor you were just curious to see if you could get pregnant? Develop bitch tits? Grow you some ovaries?

Give me a break. It's common knowledge that hCG is typically used in conjunction with steroids to restart the body's natural testosterone production at the end of a steroid cycle. Those of you familiar with fertility treatments will note that hCG is very similar to Clomid, the drug that Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and others used as clients of BALCO.

I was just thinking, who are the best hitters of the current generation? I'm talking about the best pure producers at the plate. Let me just throw out some names here: Barry Bonds. Alex Rodriguez. Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa. And now Manny Ramirez.

If you have a son, or a daughter who is heavily into baseball, there is no doubt that he or she has identified with, purchased the jersey of, and/or wanted to be one or more of the above five baseball players over the past 10 years of their life. And you know what? Those guys are all scumbag cheating liars. They are no better than the New England Cheatriots in football, or the multi-accounters who create multiple accounts on full tilt to get rakeback and profit at the expense of those who follow the rules. They are cheating the game, cheating the fans, and cheating themselves.

And anybody -- and I do mean anybody -- who still thinks Albert Pujols is clean? I say you are a fucking idiot. Flat out, you're an ass. And when Pujols hears this kind of stuff in the media, on the internet, whispered among friends, he's an even bigger ass if he gets mad at those people for saying these things without proof. Pujols should be mad -- but not at me. He should be pissed -- furious -- at his fellow players. They're the ones who have created this situation where now Pujols isn't just suspected of using -- he used, plain and simple.

Deny it if you want, but this is no court of law. I don't have to follow any rules when I accuse someone of something, and I don't need to treat anyone as innocent until proven guilty. In my book, I don't need to see him, I don't need to talk to him, and I don't need to hear any arguments. Pujols is as dirty as the rest of em.

And I wonder: who's the best "clean" hitter in baseball today?

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mookie Crash n Burn

Last night I had my earliest exit yet from any BBT4 event,as I was the 5th one out in the Mookie. Although it does feel comfortable knowing that my luck in the Mookie has returned to its normal self, I had a pretty gheyass run if I don't say so myself. The hand that tilted me out of this thing happened just 5 minutes in, when I called from late position and saw a 6-way flop with my pocket 2s***. Obviously, just looking to set mine with this shittiest of pocket pairs, or I'm not gonna play any further.

Well, the flop comes down A82. At first I am psyched, as I just flopped my first set since the first Bush was president, but soon I realized that the flop had also come all-suited in clubs. Not good. Now my set is either already behind in this 6-handed pot, or at least it's threatened by several draws to the flush (I had no clubs in my hand). The action checks around to me, and I bet out around 2/3 of the pot, knowing of course that I'm going to get instacalled by the lone Ace♣ and the lone King♣ and probably some other garbage as well. I get called I think in three places. Oh goody. Then the turn brings an offsuit 9. A player in middle position this time bets out a reasonably small bet, too big to be a blocking bet, but too small to be a bluff. The size of the bet told me this was some kind of a big hand. Better than my set of 2s? Possibly.

Before I can figure how to react to this bet, the player just before me raises, and a minimum raise at that. Now, the flop had three clubs, a guy check-called and then led out smallish on the turn, and you're min-raising here? Shit, that's too obvious to even have been a flopped flush, so right away the bells started ringing that this was a set. I didn't think he had played the flop as if he had made a set, but in the end it didn't matter which card on the board matched the pocket pair this second guy had, because my set of 2s was behind it. Wayyyyyy behind. To think that I seem to flop sets about 1 time for every 25 pocket pairs I take to the flop, and now here I am about to get flush-over-set-over-setted, I was just furious. I think I committed a bit of a poker faux pas by typing into the chat what both of the other players had (set and a flush) before the original flop bettor had decided what to do with the raise, and for that I apologize (not that it mattered in the outcome of the hand).

End result? The original flop bettor called, eventually showing 99 for the turned set, which lost to the flop raiser's flopped flush. I flop a set five minutes in to the Mookie, and I'm already in second place on the flop, slipping to third on the turn. So ghey. The fact that I managed to lose only 500 chips on the hand should have made me happy, but of course it just tilted me like crazy instead. I shot off a few tilty IMs to the guys on the girly who I know always appreciate it the most, and then three hands later I picked up QQ and saw a flop heads-up against a guy who had limped and then called my raise preflop. The flop came K54. With two Queens in my hand, the odds of him having KQs there are low. AK of course was a possibility, but he had just limped originally before the flop, which is not normally consistent with AK, so in the end I decided to take my short stack and ram it down this guy's throat. Of course he instacalled with AK and IGH, just like that.

I heard this morning that Tuscaloosa Johnny won the Mook again in the end on Wednesday night. Shit, that guy is embarrassing us all in the BBT4, just like he did in the BBT3.

***Obviously the details of this hand are completely made up.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Favre: The Return III

So, in some bizzaro form of year-after-year deja vu, word is out that former Packers and Jets quarterback Brett Favre is meeting on Wednesday evening with Vikings coach Brad Childress about a possible comeback next season. Now, obviously in my view it is anyone's right to play professional sports for as long as he or she damn well pleases, I think that is quite clear in objective terms. And I think Favre is smoking rock if he honestly believes the Vikings have genuine superbowl aspirtations with him at the helm in 2009-2010. But I don't begrudge him his right to come back and play and try to show the world that 2009 was just a fluke caused by his injured arm and not the level of Favre's actual skill at this point in his career.

But it's the lying that I just can't fucking stand.

I heard Chris Mortensen today describing Brett Favre admiringly as being guilty of "flip-flopping" with regards to whether or not he wants to continue playing in the NFL. But you know what? Within the past week, Favre's agent Bus Cook requested his formal release from the New York Jets, the second time Favre has made such request since the end of the 2008-2009 season, and when pressed Cook only gave the reason of possibly signing a one-day contract with his former team since apparently Brett Favre "wanted to retire a Packer." Now it's been what, three days since his release, and here he is meeting with the Vikings head coach about coming back to play?

That's not a flip flop, Mort. That's what we call a lie.

Minnesota, I hope enjoy your season with Brett, in all his greatness. And to Chris Mortensen, Peter King, John Madden and all the other Favre lovers out there, open your fucking eyes. You can love the guy if you wanna, but stop acting like Brett hasn't made an annual habit of telling whatever lies and shooting whatever angles he can to get himself where he wants to be playing that year. This guy is about as Machiavellian as it gets.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Atlantic City Tournament Report

Despite a driving rain that threatened to sap my will to drive for 3 hours each way to play a poker tournament in Atlantic City this weekend, I decided to press on with my decision to go on Saturday night, both out of my wanting to play live for the first time in a long time, and out of a real desire to get in at least one session of live poker play in between my two annual trips to the WSOP last summer and then coming up this June 25. Of course, getting the kids ready for the nighttime with Hammer Wife before I left took longer than expected, and on top of that I guess I had underestimated by about 15 miles how exactly far away AC was from my new house, so I ended up having to speed quite a bit just to get to the poker room on the 6th floor of Bally's with about 10 minutes to spare before the 8pm start time. Thankfully unlike many of the other rooms in AC, Bally's did not require me to present a Total Rewards card in order to register, which I would never have been able to procure in time for the tourney. Of course I am a Total Rewards member, having played in the WSOP for the past three years at Rio, another Harrah's property, but those cards are buried somewhere in my desk drawer and certainly not something I have at my easy disposal.

The last time I played a live tournament in Atlantic City, it was the Friday night event at the Taj Mahal sometime in the spring of 2008, which is admittedly a larger poker room than that at Bally's. But I have to admit, for $120 ($100 + $20) to buy in, I was completely shocked that only a grand total of 34 runners showed up to play. Even more shocking and disappointing was that Bally's decided to start us 34 runners on a grand total of just three tables. That's right -- they literally packed us in to three starting tables, playing 11-handed, 11-handed and 12-handed if you can believe that. Starting stacks were 15k, blind levels were 20 minutes, and blinds were 25-50 to start, basically doubling almost every round, with an ante kicking in for Round 4, with a break every hour. This setup is designed to have the tournament be entirely done by 12:30am or so, including choosing a structure that all but assures nothing but all-in preflop moves throughout the final table, with very few eliminations occuring during the first hour or so when blinds are tiny compared to the starting stacks, but then the last half of the field all getting knocked out over the span of about an hour as blinds climb in hours 3 and 4 to 1000-2000, then 2000-4000, 3000-6000 and 4000-8000 with average stacks of only ten times that or less as the final table hits.

I know I say this (to myself, and here in the blog) every single time I venture out to play live poker, but what the heck I'll just say it again here -- it is truly crazy how you can read people so much better at live poker as compared to online. And don't get me wrong, I always get a good chuckle from those people who say it's impossible to make reads in online poker, which of course is not only possible but an absolutely critical part of my and many of your online games out there. But when I'm playing live, it almost seems unfair, like there is too much information at my fingertips, being displayed too obviously for me to not notice and make use of. It doesn't take 15 or 20 minutes for me to start to form an idea of what each individual player around my table's profile is: tight or loose, weak or aggressive, skilled or unskilled, novice or old pro, etc. I just put everyone at the table into these categories very early when I sit down to play in a live event, and although of course I have to be open to revising my classifications based on new information as it comes in, for the most part those general reads do a very good job of dictating how I will play those people going forward.

So, for example, 15 minutes in to this tournament, with the big blind at 50 and 15k start stacks -- so an M of roughly 200 for each of the players around the table -- the old white-haired guy with the dark glasses across the way pushed allin on massive overbet on the flop, I immediately classified him as unskilled, willing to move allin with less than the nuts, and just generally impatient as far as his poker play goes. Everyone had folded to his raise so I never got to see exactly what he had, but it was a poor move no matter what he had, and I just filed that away to make use of hopefully in the right situation later at the table. A couple seats away from him was a guy in a hat, with the hebrew word "Torah" tatooed into his right forearm, who I don't think played a single hand for the first 30 or 40 minutes of this fast-paced tournament, so I basically knew he was a foldfoldfoldy type who would hold on to his chips like they were the last money on earth, and hoped I could take advantage of that with some big bluffs later on. And on the other side of the old white-haired guy was a young, internet-looking donkey who started off raising almost every hand and then betting the flop and the turn quickly and confidently, and we all kept folding. Early on I raised 65 suited from UTG (a favorite move of mine, in particular when the stacks are huge relative to the blinds), and he min-reraised from late position, which I just called along with one other played. The flop came down 932 with two diamonds, giving me the flush draw and the inside straight draw. I checked, and the young aggrodonk immediately bet the pot again. I considered calling or even raising with my big draw and a completely hidden hand since I had raised UTG, but from his behavior I had to put him on Aces or Kings. Even knowing that I had at least 12 outs, I figured I had close to zero fold equity given the way he was acting, so I folded to his aggression there, losing about 10% of my stack in the process. Not two hands later, this same young aggrodonk got called down on the turn and again the river by the guy two seats to my right in the hat and the hood, iPod in ear, bopping his head all night, and all the aggrodonk had was A4 unimproved. That was when I realized I was probably wrong to have folded my 12 out hand earlier, that the guy surely did not have Aces or Kings like he had been acting in that spot, but from that time on, once again the aggrodonk was marked by me as well as a guy I really wanted to get mixed up with again.

After dropping down to around 13,000 chips early on that hand with the aggrodonk, I stayed roughly in that same spot through rest of first hour, which was three rounds, through 100-200 blinds already. Maybe 2 or 3 hands before end of hour 1, I get JJ in early position. UTG, a chick who seemed very inexperienced and hadn't raised more than once all hour and who was sitting on a short stack of around 5000 chips at that point, bumped it up 3x. I figured my JJ was likely ahead of her range there (a questionable decision I think in retrospect), and I wanted that short stack of hers, so I took a chance and reraised to 5000 chips just to isolate here right there. My isolation worked, but she flipped up AA, and I had suddenly lost a big pot, leaving me at 8700 and near the bottom of the pack at the end of Hour 1, with 22 runners left of 34 who started at the end of three rounds. Time for a smoke break in the bar area.

It musta been the 2nd hand of Hour 2, out of nowhere I found the opportunity to play out the dream scenario back to back, two great hands against guys I just knew were itching to spew off some chips. First was a hand against the aggrodonk kid, who somehow had lucked himself into a nice stack again after leaving my table for a bit before returning just previously. I raised it up preflop with JJ from UTG, and the uberdonk called my raise out of late position (he called everything, with the plan to just push push push and get everyone else to fold), as did the small blind. The flop came down J high, and a dryass flop too, J73r I think, giving me the awesome top set on a totally not threatening board. The small blind checked. I thought about the aggrodonk and how much I have been waiting to get into a hand with him to let him bluff me off his chips and I went for the check as well. Aggrodonk obliged and bet out 2k into a roughly 3k pot at the time. The small blind folded, and I opted to just call after considering for a bit, remembering how readily and instantly the aggrodonk had led out on repeated streets earlier in the tournament, with what proved to be nothing more than Ace high in the past. The turn brought another 7, givin me the killer top boat, and this time I checked again, quickly, and the aggrodonk bet again, quickly, another 3k or so, a smaller bet proportionally this time. I thought for a longer time this time, debated raising, but ended up just calling again as I could just not see him failing to be the river as well based on what I had already observed during the first hour of play with him at my table. The river brought an ace, which I loved in that I hoped he had been playing another Ax type of hand, and I made my best dont-catch-me-looking-disgusted look before checking quickly again. This is one of my favorite spots in poker, when you have a big hand out of position, and you need to know whether it makes sense to lead out or to tie your opponent to the hand by letting him bet for you. In most situations, I will usually bet out here, given that I had already called his bet on the flop and the turn, and most people are not betting out again with less than the nuts on the river, but with this player, this is exactly what I had been waiting for since I had sat down and watched how this guy rolls, and I wasn't taking the easy way out here. I checked it, and he pretty quick threw another pile of chips out there, 6k this time, and I instacalled for my stack with the nuts except vs. quad 7s. I never even saw what the fonkey had, but I raked in a big pot and finally had the stack I was looking for just minutes in to Hour #2.

On the very next hand, I am now a very large stack at the table, and I was dealt T8suited in the big blind. Midway around the other side of the table, the old whitehaired guy minraised it to open. The action folded around to me, and I figure of coruse I'll call with suited semiconnectors here for just an idiotic minraise from a guy who's probably on a strong hand to be inviting action like that before the flop. The flop came down J99, giving me a nice hidden oesd, but the board was paired so I couldn't exactly be positive I was ahead, although I did feel that his preflop minraise indicated a strong hand preflop, either AA-QQ or maybe AK. There was maybe 4k in the pot, I checked to his action, and he led out for 2k, with us both having myabe 25k behind. Assuming the odds were in favor of him not already holding a set, I figured I had 8 outs to the straight, with implied odds through the roof given how silly-like this dude overpushed for his entire 200 big blind stack during the first level of this tournament already. I thought briefly and just called his 2k bet. The turn brought a 7, completing my straight. Now the thought process changes. I want to stack this old bastard, he's shown himself to be overpushy already with his whole stack as leverage, and I think he might have a big pocket pair. I considered the option of checking to him and letting him bet, but I wanted him to be willing to get allin with me here and even a normal raise of his turn bet would not quite have gotten me allin in that spot, so instead I decided to lead out there like I had AJ or something and try to get him to overpush again. So I slid out 4000 chips into a 5k pot or so. And lo and behold, old whitehair insta-alins me. And I do mean insta. I had to wait to get clarification from the dealer before calling and flipping up my straight. Of course the guy did have AA of course (minraise preflop FTW, as I would fold my T8s for sho to any real-sized raise there). Suddenly I had about 35k and was chip leader or very close to it of the entire tournament, just two hands after sitting at close to a third of average.

I stayed around this level for quite a while. I played great poker, stole a number of nice pots, in particular from the tighty mctightlestein across the way who I knew was determined to fold his way to the final table and hope to get lucky like so many of the tightydonks in the poker world love to do. And I made some great decisions along the way with my big stack, including folding AK to a raise and a reraise preflop ahead of me, because I didn't feel like risking my whole stack with a one-pair type of hand when I knew I could be up against Kings or Aces already. Given the increasingly fast pace of the tournament during the second and third hours with respect to the Ms around the table, and given the big stack I had managed to amass early in Hour 2, I was able to coast fairly easily to the final table, my second straight live poker final table in Atlantic City, after failing to final table in probably my first 5 or 6 ever live casino poker tournaments.

I mentioned that earlier I had had the misfortune of pushing my JJ into a short stack's AA earlier in the event. This sort of stuff happened to me a few times at the final table and really hampered my ability to run over everyone else, which I surely would have done if my favored hands had held up throughout this thing. Players dropped out at the final table almost every single hand given the extremely small stacks compared to the blinds at that point in the event, and as I mentioned pretty much every elimination was occurring with two or more players allin before the flop. When down to six players, for example, I called the table shorty's allin with my AQo vs his T9s, and he promptly hit a Ten on the flop to take a nice chunk out of what had been a sizeable stack heading into the final 10 players. A short while later, down to five remaining, I also managed to iso-reraise the euro asshole at the other end of the final table, getting him to fold his hand preflop and leaving me heads-up against the super tightydonk guy who at that point (of course) was the table short stack with my A7s vs. his 65o. Again a 6 on the turn and I could not capitalize. Eventually I raised from middle position with 4 left and me holding 22 up against the same tightydonk again, who had about 25% of his stack in the pot with the antes and his big blind, and he surprised me by calling me down with his K7s. Again this effer promptly flopped a King, but for once while I was lamenting my poor luck with favorites at the final table, I spiked a 2 on the turn to stay alive instead of being severely short-stacked with 4 to play.

Down to three players remaining, I made far and away my worst decision of the tournament, and I'm still struggling to figure out quite why I did it. At this point, even after eliminating the short-stacked tightmaster a few hands earlier, those two 60-some percent favorites of mine that had failed to hold up at the final table still left me short stacked compared to the chip leader, with the euro dickhead across the way holding slightly more than my stack as well. So the euro dickhead, who is also therefore quite short compared to the chip leader, pushes allin for about 8 big blinds from the button, and I look down at A5o. Normally, I'm going to fold here. The top five spots in the tournament paid, so I was already in the money, and here there is just too great a chance that I am dominated or facing a pair higher than 5s where I too am in bad shape, and I know I should be folding this cheese in this spot. But nonetheless, I let the fact that he had been being quite a penis to the others at the final table, yelling and berating several other players while unknowingly making the exact same bone-headed plays himself at every turn, combine with the illogical thought that I was bound to win a 60-40 hand somewhere along the way here after losing a few in a row, and I managed to talk myself into believing that he has nothing, maybe just 2 decent cards, but likely not an Ace. Had I thought more clearly about it, I would have realized that, even if I had "caught" him pushing with a hand like KQo, or better yet, K7o, I still would be calling off my stack and a shot at first prize money ($1400 and change) on what could not possibly be more than a 60% or so favorite even if the guy held exactly what I was hoping he held. That's a bad call in my book and I wish I had folded there and lived to fight another day. But instead, on this night I called off my stack with my A5o, and of course the euro donkey who had shown bluffs and pushed with nothing all night long turns up AJo against me three-handed. I did not spike the 5 or the straight that would have so set this anus off, and IGH in 3rd place for a tidy $510 profit and change for about 4 1/2 hours of work.

In all, it was a very successful foray for my return to live casino poker tournaments. As I mentioned this leaves me now 2 for 2 in cashes and final tables in my last two casino poker tournaments, after never being able to reach the money in any poker tournament in a casino for a few years prior to last year's runner-up finish and $800-some win at the Taj. But most importantly, I had a fucking good time playing me some live poker, and I really excelled at reading my opponents and, up until we were 3-handed, in making good decisions all throughout the night. The whole experience has me super excited to head out to Vegas next month, even giving me solid expectations to perform well there for the third time in a row. After busting in two hours at the hands of a Joe Hachem river 9-outer suckout
in my first WSOP, the second year saw me cash in the shorthanded holdem event, and then last year I failed to cash, but lasted through about 80% of the field before finally succumbing to the pressure of the blinds and antes about 150 players before the money positions. Here's hoping the fourth time's the charm at the WSOP for me this year. If I play there like I did this weekend at Bally's, you just might be seeing me on tv yet one of these days. I'll be the dickhead with the mirrored glasses and the pornographic t-shirt turning up the hammer and creating waves early.

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