Monday, January 31, 2011

Begone with the Double Guarantees

Well, Double Guarantee week has mercifully come and gone on full tilt, and I for one will be looking forward to getting back to the regular number of donkeys running in the nightly mtts instead of everything featuring hugely inflated fields with many players running up to four different entries at once in each tournament. I mean, don't get me wrong -- I loved the chance to play for hundreds of thousands of dollar prize pools any night of the week for not a crazy amount of buyin, and I took full advantage, playing tournaments like the nightly 75k -- 8pm ET with a $165 buyin -- that I do not usually participate in due to my bankroll restraints just to get a few shots at what was a 300k+ prize pool basically every night of the week.

But, given my analysis before the week began and the nice work of CK and some other bloggers who ran across the multi-entry mtt feature in their travels last week, I stuck to my guns and never bought in more than twice to any of the multi-entry double-guarantee events over the last week. In fact, I actually never multi-entried them at any time, as I only used the multi-entry feature (when I did use it at all) as a rebuy option instead, on two or three occasions buying back in to a tournament after an early elimination. As a result, I did not fall victim to what probably a great number of players in these events did, as their ROI plummeted due to the multiple buyins, turning their couple of min-cashes from net profits to net losses in the tournament as a result. This is one of the most insidiously deleterious effects pointed out about multi-entry tournaments in general, although I would argue that in the hands of the right player -- say, a Shaun Deeb for example -- having the ability to run four entries in a single mtt is over the long haul a profitable as opposed to a losing proposition. But for the vast majority of mtt participants on full tilt out there, multi entries will just equate to multiple buyins lost when you are not one of the lucky ones to make it to the final two or three tables out of the 2000+ and 3000+ person fields commonly out there all this past week on full tilt.

That said, by playing only one entry at a time in these vast-field multi-entry events, without a doubt I put myself at a huge disadvantage in terms of being able to make deep runs. Not only was much of the competition in these tournaments playing four times as many entries as I was, but even in comparing individual entries, you can "play them off of each other" when you have more than one simultaneous entry in much the same way you can play two adjacent blackjack hands off each other to derive an extra benefit on each merely from the fact that you are playing two hands against the same dealer and the same dealer's cards at the exact same time -- if one entry has already amassed a big stack, you can play faster and looser with the other(s), and vice versa. And my insistence on playing at this level of a disadvantage -- not wanting to hack away at any chance at a net profit by ponying up three or four buyins just to sit at a table in a 3000+ person mtt -- really showed in my results, and in general in the results of those people that I follow who play full tilt mtts with any regularity. Twoblackaces had a nice four-digit score in a $2 multi-entry Rush poker tournament early in the week, but other than that, I don't know anyone I pay any real attention to who exactly killed it this week, or really had any big cashes at all. Personally, I posted mediocre cashes in the 40k/80k twice over Double Guarantees week, once in the 75k/150k, and once in the 35k/70k, but none of them were deep enough to make it worth my while, or ultimately even to get all that exciting to be honest. Even though none of these were min-cashes and I managed to get through roughly a third or a half of the field of ITM players in each instance, in the end I was barely picking up a full buyin of net profit on the deal, making it nothing worth noting as far as actual tournament success goes. I was very, very close to making a nice run to a cash in the 150k two other times this week -- running QQ into AA and JJ into KK both near the cash bubble in this big tournament that featured around a 350k prize pool all week long -- and I also survived about 85% of the field in Sunday's 1.5M guaranteed multi-entry tournament, before slamming headfirst with AK into AA on a predictably Ace-high board in a heads-up pot. But that is exactly the kind of thing that makes surviving these massive donkeyfields to get into the final few tables so difficult in the first place. With that many people to outlast and outplay, it is just that much harder to avoid running into that inevitable pocket Aces, or to get donked by some poo-flinger, in particular by one of his poo-flinging entries that he is purposefully playing fast and loose with because he's already amassed a top-25 stack with one of his other entries in that same tournament.

I enjoyed Double Guarantees week on full tilt. But a week was more than enough exposure for me to Multiple Entry Land. I am confident that my ROI will be better with single-entries for most of these tournaments, and now I'm just left hoping the site doesn't read a mandate into the extreme popularity of their tournaments last week basically from start to finish, and start making some of my favorite nightly mtts multi-entry for good.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

WSOP 2011 Schedule

As most of you probably know by now, this week Harrah's officially release the schedule of events for the 2011 World Series of Poker, to be held once again at the Rio Suites and Casino in Las Vegas, starting on May 31 of this year. We are up to 58 events in this series, as Harrah's just keeps chasing the extra rake at the expense of whittling away at the value of winning a World Series bracelet a little bit at a time, year after year after year, and once again we've got the one big buyin (25k) heads-up event in the earlygoing of this year's Series, we've got the 50k Poker Players Championship event near the end in early July, and peppered throughout once again are the regular bracelet events, and the "Championship" events, each of which sports a $10,000 buyin, including the well-known no-limit holdem Main Event that will start this year with Day 1A on Tuesday, July 7. Due to some time constraints, I am basically looking at mid to late June as the best time for me to be making my pilgrimage to the desert this coming summer, so I have highlighted in red those events below that I have some interest in playing as I look to plan this year's poker trip:

Tue, May 31st, 12:00 PM, 2-Day Event Event #1: Casino Employees NLH $500
Tue, May 31st, 5:00 PM, 4-Day Event Event #2: Heads Up NLH Championship(256 Max)
Wed, Jun 1st, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #3: Omaha Hi-Low $1,500
Thu, Jun 2nd, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #4: NLH $5,000
Thu, Jun 2nd, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #5: Seven Card Stud $1,500
Fri, Jun 3rd, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #6: Limit Hold'em $1,500
Fri, Jun 3rd, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #7: PLH Championship $10,000
Sat, Jun 4th, 12:00 PM, 5-Day Event Event #8: NLH $1000 -- This event has 2 starting days. Day 1A on Saturday, June 4 and Day 1B on Sunday June 5, both at 12pm.
Sat, Jun 4th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #9: 2-7 NL Draw Lowball $1,500
Mon, Jun 6th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #10: NLH / 6max $1,500
Mon, Jun 6th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #11: Omaha Hi-Low Championship $10,000
Tue, Jun 7th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #12: Triple Chance NLH $1,500
Wed, Jun 8th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #13: NLH Shootout (2,000 Max) $1,500
Wed, Jun 8th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #14: Limit Hold'em $3,000
Thu, Jun 9th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #15: Pot Limit Hold'em $1,500
Thu, Jun 9th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #16: NL 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship
Fri, Jun 10th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #17: H.O.R.S.E. $1,500
Sat, Jun 11th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #18: NLH $1,500
Sat, Jun 11th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #19: Limit Hold'em / 6max $2,500
Sun, Jun 12th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #20: NLH $1,000
Sun, Jun 12th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #21: Seven Card Stud Championship
Mon, Jun 13th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #22: Pot-Limit Omaha $1,500
Mon, Jun 13th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #23: Eight Game Mix $2,500
Tue, Jun 14th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #24: NLH Shootout (2,000 Max) $5,000
Tue, Jun 14th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #25: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low $1,500
Wed, Jun 15th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #26: NLH / 6max $2,500
Wed, Jun 15th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #27: Limit Hold'em Championship $10,000
Thu, Jun 16th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #28: NLH $1,500
Thu, Jun 16th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #29: 10-Game Mix / 6max (NLH, Razz, Limit Hold'em, Badugi (Limit), Seven Card Stud, NL 2-7 Draw Lowball, Omaha Hi-Low Split, Pot-Limit Omaha, 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit), and Seven Card Stud Hi-Low) $2,500
Fri, Jun 17th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #30: Seniors (50 or older) NLH $1000
Fri, Jun 17th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #31: Pot-Limit Omaha $3,000
Sat, Jun 18th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #32: NLH $1,500
Sat, Jun 18th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #33: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Championship $10,000
Sun, Jun 19th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #34: NLH $1,000
Mon, Jun 20th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #35: Pot-Limit Omaha / 6max $5,000
Tue, Jun 21st, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #36: NLH $2,500
Tue, Jun 21st, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #37: H.O.R.S.E. Championship $10,000
Wed, Jun 22nd, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #38: NLH $1,500
Wed, Jun 22nd 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #39: Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha $2,500
Thu, Jun 23rd, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #40: NLH / 6max $5,000
Fri, Jun 24th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #41: Limit Hold’em Shootout $1,500
Fri, Jun 24th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #42: PLO Championship $10,000
Sat, Jun 25th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #43: NLH $1,500
Sat, Jun 25th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #44: Seven Card Razz $2,500
Sun, Jun 26th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #45: NLH $1,000
Mon, Jun 27th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #46: NLH / 6max Championship $10,000
Mon, Jun 27th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #47: Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Low $2,500
Tue, Jun 28th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #48: NLH $1,500
Tue, Jun 28th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #49: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit)
Wed, Jun 29th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #50: Triple Chance NLH $5,000
Thu, Jun 30th, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #51: Pot Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better $1,500
Thu, Jun 30th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #52: Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit)
Fri, Jul 1st, 12:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #53: Ladies NLH $1,000
Sat, Jul 2nd, 12:00 PM, 5-Day Event Event #54: NLH $1000 -- This event has 2 starting days. Day 1A on Saturday, July 2 and Day 1B on Sunday July 3, both at 12pm.
Sat, Jul 2nd, 5:00 PM, 5-Day Event Event #55: The Poker Player's Championship (Limit Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, Seven Card Razz , Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, NLH, Pot-Limit Omaha, 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball) $50,000
Tue, Jul 5th, 12:00 PM ,3-Day Event Event #56: NLH $1,500
Tue, Jul 5th, 5:00 PM, 3-Day Event Event #57: Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low $5,000
Thu, Jul 7th, 12:00 PM, 13-Day Event Event #58: NLH Main Event $10,000

So preliminarily it seems like I am looking at a trip out to Vegas sometime between Thursday, June 16 and Sunday June 26 -- which could mean I would need to stay out for another couple of days if all goes perfectly. Based on past experience, I would probably end up being out in the desert for somewhere around half of that window -- four or five days, with the possibility of tacking on an extra day or two at the end if necessary. Now, for the past two years, I have ended up playing just the one WSOP event (two years ago, no WSOP event actually -- long story), and then at least one other tournament elsewhere in town among the many tournament series that now proliferate while the donkey masses swarm into town for the WSOP. The Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza looks like it does not have its summer schedule posted yet, but suffice it to say that I am confident based on past experience that they will have more than enough appropriately-sized buyin nlh events on hand while I am there to make that a realistic option.

For some reason, that Event #34, the Sunday 1k buyin nlh tournament looks like a good option to me -- it is right in the middle of my window, it's a cheap buyin and yet will only give me barely a worse chance than in the $1500 buyin tournaments to get lucky early and make a little run. And the best 1-2 combination of events on successive days is that Saturday and Sunday, June 18-19, with the $1500 nlh event on Saturday at noon, and then the 1k I mentioned above scheduled for Sunday. Both are three day events, and for a total of $2500 I could play if I so choose in two WSOP events for the minimal amount possible on consecutive days. But as I mentioned above, with the Venetian DSE -- a tournament series that will always have a soft spot in my heart for obvious reasons -- as well as various other casinos' tournament series likely in full swing that entire time I am looking at above, playing one WSOP event that I really like is probably just as good as aiming for that one period when I can spend more money than I otherwise would just to buy in to two separate WSOP tournaments.

Anybody else out there reading this planning on being out in Vegas between June 16 and June 25? As always I would love to meet up with readers and especially fellow WSOP participants who read this corner of the Internets.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

UBOC vs FTOPS: It's Not Even Close

Well, apparently the art of putting together a kickass online poker tournament series has not been lost entirely -- it's only pokerstars and full tilt who either can't figure out or don't care about the needs of their U.S.-based poker customers. On pokerstars' side, it appears to be the latter, as the real issues with the annual WCOOP on pokerstars are the start times, which -- all being in the early afternoon east coast time -- make it more or less impossible for any U.S. player who works a job or is not either a professional poker player or unemployed to play in them.

But, as I have written about here several times over, in full tilt's case the problem is far worse. Full tilt seems to have adopted a hybrid approach to the U.S. - Euro issue, offering a number of events in the afternoons (prime Eurodonk time) as well as a U.S.-facing event almost every evening during the quarterly FTOPS tournament series they run. But what's so horrible about full tilt is that, while three or four years ago I looked forward with baited breath to playing in the myriad attractive events they had to offer in the FTOPS, nowadays they have slowly but surely eaten away at all of the good events, leaving in place just a small handful of pretty much bullshit tournaments in their FTOPS tournament series.

Ultimate Bet, on the other hand, has really got it going on. I imagine some of this stems from the site's past problems, and the resulting need / desire to really cater to their players, but why on earth is catering to the players such a lost art these days? In the land where full tilt has almost no good FTOPS tournaments anymore, and does whatever they can to promote gimmicks like Rush poker and the new multi-entry tournaments that are straight-up designed to hurt the customer base at the expense of the poker site's rake coffers, the UBOC has come around this year and I cannot tell you how exciting almost every night's tournament is. It is like night and day compared to the FTOPS, which leaves me asking why the shike can't full tilt offer the customers what we want?

Let me show you exactly what I mean. Here is a comparison of the current UBOC VI schedule of tournaments, and the upcoming FTOPS XIX series scheduled for next month. After each event on the list, I'm going to put a rating (scale from 1-10, 10 being most attractive and 1 being least attractive to play), indicating how attractive that tournament is to me to want to try to play in, being that I am basically these sites' exact demographic among U.S. players for their periodic tournament series -- my ratings will take into account the game being played, the structure, the buyin, and the gimmicks involved. And to keep things as short as possible, I'm only going to list the tournaments that are in prime evening time on the weeknights (say, after 7pm ET New York time) -- so none of the afternoon events in the east coast. Take a look at the below and you tell me who knows how to satisfy their U.S. poker tournament customers, and who simply just doesn't give a shit:


1/17/11 20:05 UBOC 4 NLH 4-MAX $300+20 $100K guaranteed Rating: 5
1/17/11 20:05 UBOC 5 NLH ($200 Rock Star Bounty) $200+15 $100K guaranteed Rating: 10
1/18/11 20:05 UBOC 6 PLO 6-MAX $200+15 $50K guaranteed Rating: 9
1/18/11 20:05 UBOC 7 NLH Deep Stack $300+20 $100K guaranteed Rating: 9
1/19/11 20:05 UBOC 9 PLO 1 rebuy + 1 add on $200+15 $100K guaranteed Rating: 8
1/19/11 20:05 UBOC 10 NLH Deep Stack 6-MAX $500+30 $250K guaranteed Rating: 6
1/20/11 20:05 UBOC 11 NLH Deep Stack $150+12 $75K guaranteed Rating: 10
1/21/11 20:05 UBOC 12 Sniper NLH Deep Stack ($15 bounty) $150+12 $75K guaranteed Rating: 10
1/24/11 20:05 UBOC 18 NLH 1 rebuy + 1 add on $200+15 $150K guaranteed Rating: 8
1/24/11 20:05 UBOC 19 8 Game Mix (HORSE+PLO, PLH, PLO8) $200+15 $50K guaranteed Rating: 8
1/25/11 20:05 UBOC 20 Sniper NLH Deep Stack ($20 bounty) $200+15 $100K guaranteed Rating: 10
1/25/11 20:05 UBOC 21 NLH/PLO Mix $200+15 $50K guaranteed Rating: 9
1/26/11 20:05 UBOC 23 PLO8 $200+15 $75K guaranteed Rating: 7
1/26/11 20:05 UBOC 24 NLH Deep Stack (antes from the start) $300+20 $100K guaranteed Rating: 10
1/27/11 20:05 UBOC 25 NLH ($200 Centerfold Bounty) $150+12 $75K guaranteed Rating: 10
1/28/11 20:05 UBOC 26 NLH Deep Stack $150+12 $75K guaranteed Rating: 10

So, in UBOV VI, there are 16 nighttime events, perfect for primetime U.S. players, and of those 16 events, seven score a perfect 10, another three events score a 9, and still another three tournament score an 8 on my 1-10 scale of how much I would like to play in these tournaments. The buyin levels are generally good -- $200 or so -- there's not a ton of gimmicks, and there's certainly not a ton of shitty games or tournaments with so many bells and whistles that are designed to benefit the flonkeys at the expense of the skilled players. Even when they offer rebuys -- which I think is an essential part of any real tournament series for sho -- they generally limit those to 1 rebuy and 1 addon. This is still a lot of money to put into one big tournament, but it just doesn't compare to a straight-up unlimited rebuy, where you have no idea how much you might have to buy in to compete with the others in there whose bankrolls might otherwise allow them to play incredibly loose over a number of different buyins a la Daniel Negreanu in the WSOP rebuy a few years back. In all, out of 16 events designed for U.S. players, fully 13 of them are the kind of tournaments I am really interested in playing, and as a result, I've played in many of the UBOC tournaments and really find myself looking forward to the series almost every night of the week while it's running.

Now let's flip over to full tilt, who again is scheduled to run FTOPS XIX starting in just a couple short weeks once again on their site, where once again I will provide the schedule, stripping out the afternoon events, and putting an attractiveness rating 1-10 next to each event:


2/7/11 21:00 ftops #4 NLH 6-MAX $1000+60 1M guaranteed Rating: 1
2/8/11 21:00 ftops #7 HORSE $200+16 100k guaranteed Rating: 6
2/9/11 21:00 ftops #10 NLH 6-MAX Rebuy $100+9 500k guaranteed Rating: 5
2/10/11 21:00 ftops #13 7-Stud Hi/Lo $200+16 100k guaranteed Rating: 3
2/11/11 21:00 ftops #16 Razz $300+22 100k guaranteed Rating: 1
2/12/11 21:00 ftops #21 2-7 Triple Draw $300+22 6-max 100k guaranteed Rating: 1
2/14/11 21:00 ftops #27 NLH Multi-Entry $1000+60 750k guaranteed Rating: 1
2/15/11 21:00 ftops #30 9-game 6-MAX Multi-Entry $500+35 200k guaranteed Rating: 1
2/16/11 21:00 ftops #33 NLH 6-MAX Rebuy $300+22 1M guaranteed Rating: 1
2/17/11 21:00 ftops #36 7-Stud $200+16 100k guaranteed Rating: 1
2/18/11 21:00 ftops #39 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo $200+16 150k guaranteed Rating: 1
2/19/11 21:00 ftops #43 Badugi $200+22 50k guaranteed Rating: 1

O. M. M. F. G. Look at that embarrassment up there. After seeing UB go out of their way to satisfy what they U.S. customers want at the times when the U.S. customers can play the most when it comes to their annual UBOC series, just look at the filth that the FTOPS has become. Of the 12 weeknight events in New York prime time, one of them is a 6 (being generous -- HORSE), one a 5 and one a 4, and the other nine U.S.-accessible tournaments are all 1's on my scale. Flat-out 1's. And frankly, a lot of them should really be more like negative 100's -- in that I would not play them even if someone else offered to front me the full buyin and to keep 90% of what I win -- because going through the motions of actually playing such a shitty game would bother me a heck of a lot more than the price of the buyin.

It's pretty unbelievable really if you think about it. Every single one of the 16 UBOC nighttime tournaments on Ultimate Bet scores higher in terms of attractiveness to me, than every single one of the 12 nighttime FTOPS events on full tilt. How can that be? There's not a single exception -- the very best of the FTOPS weeknight tournaments -- a $200 limit HORSE event -- is less attractive to me to play than the very worst of the UBOC tournaments, which was the 4-max $300 buyin nlh event. Think about that!!

It's just another example -- right along with Rush poker and Multi-Entry tournaments and the like -- of full tilt not having the customers' best interests in at the front of its mind, or really as a consideration anywhere in its mind at all. Whereas UB is actively looking to excite their U.S. fan base and create tournaments that we actually want to play in.

And people actually wonder why I continue to play at UB despite their past problems.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Massive Prizes in Multi-Entry Double Guarantees Week on Full Tilt

Holy shipe! What's the opposite of overlay? Underlay? Whatever it is, that's the one word to best describe what happened on Monday night on full tilt, for the start of the site's Double Guarantees Week. As part of the introduction of the new multi-entry tournaments I wrote about last week, full tilt is running a promotion all this week in which every one of the nightly guaranteed prize pool mtts on the site is, for this week only, a multi-entry event, and the guaranteed prize pool is doubled from what it usually is to reflect the larger number of expected entrants into these tournaments as a result of the whole multi-entry thang.

And it looks like full tilt might have slightly underestimated the interest in checking out what the multi-entries are all about. Check out just the tournaments I regularly look into playing on a nightly basis these days on full tilt during the early evening hours east coast time:

6pm ET: The $26 buyin, 32k guaranteed is this week a 64k guaranteed. This tournament usually features around 1700, 1800 runners. On Monday night, with multi-entries in effect? 3,747 runners (entries). Total prize pool: $89,928. But this was just the beginning of the effect, as us east coasters weren't quite home from work enough yet to really start jumping in and fluffing up the prize pools.

7pm ET: This is where it starts to get good. The $75 buyin 40k guaranteed is this week an 80k guaranteed. This tournament usually features between 600 and 700 runners. On Monday night, it got 2,101 runners (entries), for a total prize pool of 144,969! $75 buyin, and a shot at a 145k prize pool. I would say you can't beat that in terms of value, but look at some of the other tournaments below and you might beg to differ. I was in this tournament, and actually ran pretty deep, surviving over 90% of the field despite being dealt zero pocket pairs, and having to fold JJ and TT preflop each once during the night, before I ran into Aces -- my specialty lately -- and busted in 96th place. It was a crazy tournament, far fuller than I've ever seen it even come close to before, with nearly three times the normal number of entries, which really showed in how this thing played out. It was a pushfest from about the second hour on, and I was lucky to last as long as I did.

8pm ET: Here was another incredible value. The $150 buyin 8pm ET tournament is usually a 75k guarantee, and this week is a 150k. Instead of the usual 500 or so runners that this tournament brings in, Monday night saw it attract 2,302 entrants with multi-entries in effect, for a total prize pool of $345,300! Again, if you're looking to play for a shot at a massive prize pool -- first prize in this thing was something like 80 grand -- for a relatively small buyin, this was as good a value as you almost ever see in online poker outside of the massive annual or quarterly tournament series.

Also at 8pm ET is the $26 buyin, 35k guaranteed that is this week a 70k guaranteed. Normally this tournament ends up with somewhere around 2000 runners, but on Monday night, it had 4,333 runners. This made for an awesome prize pool of $103,992, all for a $26 buyin. Again, if you don't like to play too big but love the thought of making a run at a 20k+ first prize, this was your chance.

Now, if you do like to play big, Monday night also featured one of the most amazing values I've ever seen in a regular nightly event. The 9pm ET Monday 1k ($1000 buyin) mtt, which usually features a 300k guarantee these days was bumped up to a 600k guarantee with multi-entries in effect. While attracting around 300-400 runners on a normal night, Monday night saw this behemoth tournament lure in 1,454 entries, for a whopping prize pool of $1,454,000! I'm not generally into buying in to one of the toughest tournaments available anywhere, for a grand a pop at that, but if I were such a person, my lord a 1.5M prize pool on a normal Monday night? This is like what the FTOPS ME used to be just a few years ago, and now it's the regular Monday night 1k tournament's prize pool? Simply incredible.

Lastly, I will mention the 50-50, which is a $50 buyin tournament that runs at 9:30pm ET on full tilt, and typically attracts somewhere around 1100 or so runners a pop. On Monday night, it swelled to 2,045 entries with the multi-entries in effect. This made for a lofty prize pool of $147,500! Again, a nearly 150k tournament for a $50 buyin? That's really awesome value if you're looking to make a nice bang for your buck.

And these were just the guarantee tournaments on display during the regular times when I am normally looking to play online poker in the evenings nyc time. I imagine it was much of the same throughout the day and night on the site, as everyone and their mother seemed to be flocking to full tilt to see what all the multi-entry hubbub was about. Now, don't get me wrong -- these prize pools were huge, but you were playing against a bunch of guys with up to four entries into each tournament, so if like me you only played the usual one entry for one buyin, you were at a massive disadvantage in terms of running deep. And also, the play in these things was looser than usual, in particular in the earlygoing, as players played them -- predictably -- much like monkey hour in the standard online rebuy events, and while loose play early might sound good to someone like me in terms of making it easier than usual to double up (which I did), it also makes it far more likely than usual that some poo-flinger will pick you off early (I did that too). Please don't read this post as me taking back any of what I said in my post on Friday about this new multi-entry phenomenon -- I'm not a fan, and I hope they don't make the multi-entry feature a widespread thing on full tilt going forward, because it doubtlessly bastardizes the game and turns these tournaments into more of a poker gimmick than they already are as a rule. But damn, if you're looking for some excellent bang for your tournament buyin buck, a week of these things here may be right up your alley. You're certainly not going to find much better value than these anywhere on the planet in terms of low-buyin, high prize pool tournaments.

I am hoping to play some actual multiple entries myself in these one or two nights this week just to see how that all plays out -- that 8pm ET with a $96 buyin for four entries, giving four shots at winning a piece of a 100k+ prize pool looks particularly compelling to me -- but for now I will probably continue taking my one shot in a few of these while I play some more of the UBOC events on the side as well. But double guarantees week on full tilt will certainly spice up the excitement a bit, and if nothing else it keeps me off of pokerstars for the week. Suddenly a $27.50 buyin with a "mere" 30k guarantee on pokerstars just doesn't seem all that exciting at 8pm ET, even if I have taken more than 10 grand out of that mtt just this month so far.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

In Poker, So Hot and Yet So, So Cold

Ever wonder why I tend to get kind of short when people talk about how "bad they run"? Why I openly chuckle when I read about someone quitting poker because of how bad they got the Mookie last night? Or why I don't have the pitying reaction you're looking for when I read your story about your brutal loss in the first hour of that 1500-person mtt you like to run on occasion?

This weekend of online poker for me had all the answers and then some. I should start by saying that I played some of the best poker of my entire life over the past four nights (I was home from work on Friday, so this was like a four-day weekend for me in terms of being able to stay up late and make some deep runs without having to worry about being up at the crack of dawn to get to the office). But while playing a bunch of really awesome tournament poker enabled me to make deep run after deep run over the weekend -- some of it in some pretty damn big tournaments -- something always seemed to just get in the way to prevent me from making the real big money on the weekend. And the stuff that "just got in the way" this weekend was enough to make most of you yak in your shoes, especially when you consider how much actual cash money I left on the table over the past few days.

So here was this weekend in a nutshell for me.

On Thursday night, I didn't do much in a few of the other tournaments I played, but I made an awesome run in the nightly 25k guaranteed sniper (bounty) on UB. After nearly five hours of play, I'm in 6th place out of 17 remaining. I've spent hours building up a solid image and playing absolutely, positively mistake-free tournament poker to get to this point, and I find JJ in mid-late position and open-raise it up preflop. The guy to my immediate left calls, who had played fairly tight over the past couple of hours at the table with me and the flop comes the almost best possible flop I could imagine:

I mean, sure, everyone wants to flop top set, but when you think about it, when you're this close to the final table and are looking to build an insurmountable stack, and your preflop raise without an Ace gets called, you're almost rather looking to flop second set with an Ace on board so you can feel confident you're going to get paid off by someone holding a big Ace of some kind. I had played with this guy for hours and I was quite sure he does not just call my preflop raise with pocket Aces, so needless to say I was thrilled with my situation there on the flop, and I could begin to smell the 6k+ first prize as I prepared my bet on the flop. I bet around half the flop, wanting to seem a little weak and encourage a raise from a guy with an Ace, and was overjoyed when the guy pushed allin on me without even a moment's deliberation:

Of course I can't fall over myself fast enough to call, and my opponent flips up QTd -- not even an Ace -- for a Queen-high flush draw and an inside straight draw to boot. With my set on the flop, plus all the redraws to a boat even if my opponent makes his straight of flush, I am a 66% favorite here, or 2-1 to amass a monstrous stack and be comfortably in second place of the 17 runners remaining. But then check out the turn (and the river!):

He made his 2-to-1 shot on the turn, and then made it again on the river for good measure, and of course no resuck for me. First prize in this tournament was a little over 6k. I bust in 17th place for a paltry $420 instead after playing absolutely perfect poker and flopping a set on pretty much the most favorable flop for me that I could realistically have imagined.

Moving on to Friday, I should mention that I finished in 22nd out of 1227 players in that same nightly 30k guaranteed tournament on pokerstars that I took 2nd place and 1st place in earlier this month:

My exit here wasn't bad, really. After losing a big race with 77 vs AQ, I was in 18th place out of 22 left when I obviously open-pushed allin with A8o from the hijack, and the cutoff woke up with AK. IGH in 22nd place -- netting under $100 cash in the process as opposed to the first prize of around 6k -- but at least it wasn't a suckout or bad beat that did me in.

Unfortunately, I can't say that about the rest of my weekend's big eliminations.

Also on Friday, I busted from the nightly $75 buyin, 7pm ET 40k guaranteed tournament on full tilt in 26th place, my second-deepest ever run in this tournament, and this one was another of those eliminations that I just cannot deal with very easily. A middle position player who's been highly aggro for hours open-raises it up preflop, and I call from late position holding pocket 7s, feeling pretty confident based on this guy's history that I am ahead here of what is likely a couple of big calls. The flop comes T88, and my opponent insta-pushes allin for the rest of his stack without waiting even half a second after seeing the flop hit the felt, the classic sign that a donkey has missed the flop with two overs, and I think for just a few seconds before calling him down, and I am shown AQ unimproved. I'm in line to have a top-3 stack with fewer than three tables left, but no sooner can I begin to enjoy having outplayed another guy in a huge spot in a big tournament, that the turn comes a Queen:

First prize in this one was around 10k. I bust in 26th place for $220. Who knows how much more Tournament EV I left on the table there, but with a 3rd-place stack and 25 players left, several thousand was entirely likely for me, a heck of a lot better than a measly $220 for my efforts.

Also on Friday night -- a "great" night of poker for me that featured three really deep runs in the same evening -- was UBOC Event #12, the $150 buyin, 75k guaranteed sniper tournament that is right up my alley. I absolutely crushed in this one, taking advantage of two AA's and a KK during the second hour of play to build up a massive stack early, after which I coasted for a good couple of hours before taking advantage of countless Harringbots on my way to another deep run in UB's annual poker tournament championship series. I made so many great plays in this thing, never missing a read and always keeping my aggro in check despite being in the top 10 in chips pretty much from early in the second hour all the way to the 7th hour. I managed to bust 16 people along the way, which I know because you get one of those little bounty windows (and a $15 bounty prize) with every elimination in these sniper events on UB, and I was an absolute terrorist from start to finish through the field of 573 runners who came out to play UBOC #12.

Unfortunately, "finish" for me in this ended up being in 15th place, when I held a 4th place stack and ran KK into the 5th place stack's AA:

KK into AA, with less than two full tables left in one of the annual majors on UB. It is just so sick, especially since I didn't even reraise allin preflop with my Kings, opting instead to wait to see if an Ace fell to give me a way to get off the hand, but the Q22 flop did me no good as it it just about the least scary flop imaginable for a guy holding KK. But alas, this one was in the cards (pun intended) from literally seven hours earlier, and IGH two hands later in 15th place with just $570 to show for my efforts, plus of course the sixteen $15 bounties I picked up along the way. First prize in this tournament was 18k, and I had been in 4th place of 15 left, and was dealt KK to boot. From 18k to $571, with one flip of the cards. In light of all the other stupidity I ran into late in mtt's this weekend, this KK into AA might have been the biggest sickness of them all.

Not to be outdone, on Saturday night I final tabled full tilt's nightly $26, 8pm ET 35k guaranteed tourney for the second time this month, powering my way through more than 1200 runners despite having nothing going on for the first two hours in the event. So we're down to 8 runners left, with me in 6th place of those 8 remaining. The tournament short stack raises the 24k big blind to 72k from early position, and I push my own short stack of 390k allin from the big blind with pocket 7s. I am of course instacalled by AQs. The flop is clean, and the turn is cleaner, and I am just one card away from sitting solidly in 2nd place of 7 remaining in the 35k:

And then, putting a delicious capper on a weekend that was so hot, and yet so, so cold on the virtual felt:

Seven hands later, I'm out in 8th place, for a wonderful consolation prize of $761. Now, 29 buyins is 29 buyins to be sure. But, first prize in this tournament was $8800, and I was one card away from a 2nd-place stack with 7 players remaining. From $8800 to $761, it's hard for me to feel anything but queasy about it even when I re-read this a couple of days later.

I played consistently the best poker I've played over a whole weekend in my entire poker-playing life over the past few days. And while I probably netted around 2k overall over the period, realistically I've got to guess I left what, 15 to 20k in Tournament EV on the table in very real terms over the entire weekend.

So forgive me if I don't necessarily share your opinion that you "run so bad" because of how that $10 90-person sitngo ended for you the other night.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Multi-Entry Tournaments at Full Tilt

I really can't believe these new "Multi-Entry Tournaments" at full tilt poker. I suppose my opinion could change after I have some time to see these things in action, but I am really, really surprised at some of the decisions involved in enabling such a feature on the site.

For starters, it looks like each multi-entry mtt will have its own limit on the number of multi-entries you can have in the event, but in the example they show on their FAQ page for this new feature, the drop-down menu goes to what looks like 30. Now, they are clear that you can never have more entries than there are tables remaining in a tournament -- for obvious reasons, since it is unfathomable that the same person can sit at the same table as themself -- but otherwise, is there really a need to allow people to buy into the same tournament 25 or 30 times? What is that accomplishing, really, other than of course dramatically increasing full tilt's rake from these tournaments? Yeah, they can tell themselves that it "gives people a second chance" if they bust early for some reason, but any seasoned tournament guy -- in particular one who often plays rebuys -- can tell you with confidence what's going to happen here: it's going to change the way these people play. When a guy knows he's got two entries, let alone four -- and I don't even want to think about when he's got 16 or 20 entries -- they're going to play these tournaments like aggrodonkeys.

These tournaments are going to play at least as bad as a standard rebuy, only probably worse, since multiple-entrants can be playing 15 or 20 entries simultaneously, instead of just knowing they will have to start over with a fresh buyin stack if they lose. Think about it -- once one of these clowns amasses one top-25 stack with one of his 20 entries early in some 2000-person field, he's going to play like an absolute maniac with his other 19 entries for the most part. There's definitely an incentive to, anyways. Whereas, in a rebuy if you're lucky enough to amass that big stack early, the better strategy is going to be to play it smart and try to make that stack last through monkey hour. Much like my feelings about Rush poker, I just can't see this as being anything but a negative development for the players in the games overall, and it will surely make me not want to play them just as much as you won't find me often in a Rush poker tournament unless I feel like donking around. I mean, would it have been so hard for full tilt to limit multiple-entry tournaments to, say, two or three entries per person? Did they have to go and let people play 20 different seats in one event?

The other aspect of the multi-entry tournaments that I read about on full tilt's FAQ page that I just can't quite accept is what they do when a player is left with more entries remaining in a tournament than there are tables remaining in that tournament. Since nobody can sit at the same table as themself for obvious reasons, full tilt's patent-pending program will automatically merge two of your entries in such a situation. But in so merging, they will literally "combine" the entry from the table being broken with the smallest stack you have remaining in your other entries in the tournament. And in so "combining" the stacks, they will actually add the chips from the two entries together for the new, merged entry! While it's smart I suppose to combine with the smallest remaining stack, I can see this creating a number of scenarios that could be really frustrating and just generally unfair (in my opinion), or more accurately, just wrong the way I see it. It's wrong in much the same way that I think stalling the final table of the WSOP ME for four months before resuming after seven solid days of hardcore playing in the summer to reach that point -- it's just not natural, and it's not right to someone who really understands what winning large-field mtt's is all about.

Think about this scenario. You've been sitting at the same table for the last 2 1/2 hours of a big-field online tournament. You're well into the money positions now, say there are four tables left with 9 players at each table, out of 2200 who started some 6 or 7 hours ago. You've waited patiently while the guy to your immediate right has slowly but surely whittled his stack away, you've reraised him a few times when he's been going for a steal, and otherwise you've literally sat next to him and waited for the right hand to take his stack when he inevitably pushed allin due to his short stack. You've got say 50,000 chips and he is now down to 9k, his lowest in hours, with blinds of 800-1600. Clearly, he is finally down to push and pray mode, and you are set to benefit from your patience these last couple of hours as you know he basically has to push allin any time the action folds around to him before the flop, with basically any two cards. It's a great situation for you.

Then, just before his big blind, something strange happens. All of a sudden the word "MERGE" appears over his name, and the next thing you know, his 9k stack -- the one that you have patiently waited out and made some thoughtful folds to over the past 200 hands or so next to him -- suddenly becomes 109k. Why? All because on some other table where he had a 100k stack has just broken, and this 9k stack is his smallest stack of the entries he has remaining in the event. Suddenly all of your patience has been for nought, and why? I mean, sure this happens all the time in poker tournaments, someone new moves to your table, or you get moved to a new table, and while you were a pretty big stack at the old table, suddenly you are stuck sitting with a bunch of huge stacks. But the difference there is that it's not the same exact guy at the table, who was not eliminated. There's just something unnatural about it, something wrong, and I'm willing to guess that most seasoned mtt players who are accustomed to making deep runs would agree with me, just like I'm sure they do about the whole WSOP Main Event delay thing.

Ultimately, other than promotional weeks like next week's upcoming "double guarantees" week when full tilt is going to turn every single one of its weekly guarantees into a multi-entry tournament to see just how high they can make the prize pools, this won't really affect me much. Why? Because you won't find me playing these sorry excuses for "poker tournaments". But it just bothers me that every time full tilt invents a new and original structure for online poker -- and markets it as such to us players -- what it really seems to come down to over and over again is just another greedy money grab.

But it's all about the rake, baby. It's not about poker, and it's certainly not about the customer. It's all about the rake.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

NFL -- Conference Championship Picks

The NFL never ceases to amaze. It is far and away the hardest sport to predict anything in, as the league gets it the most "right" in my opinion of all the major sports in the world today as far as their focus on parity. The good teams get the worst draft picks every year, the worst teams get the easiest schedule the next year every year, the divisions play each other in packs to promote similar schedules among competing teams, and there are even little things like the minimum age requirement that help prevent the weakest teams from making huge mistakes in the draft by bringing in some 16-year-old whiz kid who never pans out. All this makes for hands down the most entertaining sport to watch in the world today -- despite being on the decline as the popularity of fantasy football is definitely off from its peak, and with the new Commissioner routinely taking actions and making changes that seem deliberately intended to whittle away his sport's prominence today -- but from a bettor's perspective, the league can be a real nightmare. I heard everyone and their mother last week was taking the Under on the Pittsburgh - Baltimore game last weekend, reasoning that there was no way this game would play out to more than 37.5 points, and what happens? It's 28 points by the half, and by early in the third quarter we are well over 40 points scored by two teams that pretty much always play to great defensive struggles. Similarly, who in America wasn't positive that the Cheatriots were going to cream the Jets on Sunday night? No offense, but only a monkey or a Jets fan was predicting a Jets victory in that game, and lo and behold, the Jets don't just win the game, but they basically stick it to the Cheatriots and never really even let them get close after the Cheats kicked an early field goal to take their only lead of the day. It's just so hard to predict anything in this league, even at this point down to the end of the season with only good, solid, balanced teams left playing, and that is most definitely part of what makes the NFL so awesome, but it can wreak havoc on anybody looking to make some money betting on these games.

Which is all a round-about way of excusing myself for going 1-3 in last week's Divisional round games, a week after a ho-hum 2-2 showing in the Wildcard round. I of course bombed out on the Cheatriots like the rest of thinking America, and I also put too much stock in Atlanta -- they of the 14-2 regular season record, and the 20-1 lifetime record at home for Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan -- as the Packers completely crushed the Falcons on the road just a month after the Pack lost 7-3 on the road to the Detroit Lions in a crucial, must-win game. I did manage to pick the Bears beating down on the lowly Seahawks correctly, but my big disappointment of the weekend had to be my call on the Ravens-Steelers game. I mean, how many fucking times do I have to tell myself to never ever ever bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers? I blogged this at least twice last year, at least once the year before that, and at least once or twice this year as well: Never ever ever bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And yet time and time again, I go ahead and pick teams to cover against the Steelers, when it is so fucking obvious that either Roger Gooddell is fucking some hot piece of ass who is a bigtime Steeler fan, or Steelers owner Dan Rooney has pictures of Gooddell or the head of NFL officiating doing some seriously unholy stuff. As I sat and watched the Ravens run back a kick in the fourth quarter last week that would basically have iced the win for Baltimore, I knew just what was coming. There were no obvious fouls visible during the live runback, but when that late flag came out, of course I wasn't surprised, not in the least. Sure, on the replay it was a legal block, a total housing of the guy actually that landed the Steeler special teamsman on his ass but it wasn't even close to a hold under the rules of the NFL. But what does that matter, when the Steelers are involved in a close game? Holding on the return team, take back the touchdown that had just buried the Steelers and ruined their incredible comeback (and the Ravens' shocking third-quarter collapse), and fast forward five more minutes and the Steelers are going to the umpteenth AFC Championship game under the tutelage of one Big Ben Roethlisberger. You just Never ever ever bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So with all that in mind, my picks for this weekend's game are really short and sweet:

1. In the early game on Sunday, it's the Packers at the Bears, with the 6-seeded Pack favored by 4 points over 2nd-seeded Chicago. So let me see, I've got the better team, playing at home, far and away the best defense this ferocious Packers' offense has faced thus far in the playoffs, and I'm getting more than a field goal to boot? It's great how much the lemmings suffer from this same affliction every week, every year in the NFL. See a team blow someone out in one week, and the line for the next week's game suddenly swells. Guys, the Falcons had the 17th-ranked team defense in the NFL on the year, and while I give the Packers nothing but credit for the beating they administered in Atlanta last Saturday night, this Bears squad isn't going to give up no 45 points to Aaron Rodgers et al. In games decided by a touchdown or more, the Packers went 8-0 in the 2010-2011 regular season. Meanwhile, in games decided by four points or less this season, the Packers finished the regular season at 2-5. With the Bears defense being what it is, and with the Packers' running game still not something I can believe in despite the emergence of rookie James Starks here in the post-season thus far, I'm expecting more of a close game than a blowout at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon. The Pack could easily beat this Bears team -- everyone knows that Jay Cutler is just one sack or one bad pick away of self-destruction at any time here -- but again you're offering me the better team, the better defense, playing at home, and an inflated four points to boot all because their opponents blew out the NFC's best last week in Atlanta? The value here is not close. Take the Bears and take the points.

2. After that phantom holding call against the Ravens on the kick runback in the fourth quarter, I took out a knife and etched deeply into my arm the mantra, so that I never forget it again: Never ever ever bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And then I lit a torch and cauterized myself to effect immediate scabbing. Now all I have to do is take one look down at the underside of my arm to know what to do with the Steelers - Jets game on Sunday night: Take the Steelers and lay the 4 points against the Jets. For the record it does not feel to me like the Steelers are 4 points better than the Jets right now, even on their home field. But the referees will find a way. (Looks down at arm.) Never ever ever bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Best of luck if your team is still in it, or if you're playing the lottery betting either of the games this weekend.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Donkey Island Poker

After about a year of anticipation after the first dribs and drabs were leaked to the poker blogger press, finally "Donkey Island" poker has been officially announced. The brainchild of none other than Julius Goat, Goat and BuddyDank are teaming up to offer this unique combination of blogger tournament and Survivor -- a show I've never watched -- in what is without a doubt the most original and unique blonkament series that this our group has ever experienced.

I'm not much for restating someone else's rules and someone else's game, so I'm just going to link to Goat's post announcing Donkey Poker here, and encourage every one of you reading this to head over to Goat's site and check it out. Goat has the description of the game -- essentially a 16-person prop bet over a series of tournaments over eight weeks starting in February -- and the basic rules of how things will go. I tend to agree with Goat that there may be several angles no one has really thought of to this beyond just what is addressed on Goat's blog right now, but then I tend to think that is going to be part of the fun with this whole thing.

A couple of other quick points before I sign off, thanks to work utterly kicking my ass these past few days. First, I just wanted to commend Goat and Buddy not only for their originality, but just for taking a step to do something to reinvigorate and reignite interest in our weekly blogger tournaments that has waned so much over the past few years. I have no doubt that we're never going to get back to the mystique and the popularity that existed back in the WWdN days -- for a lot of different reasons -- but the weekly games are always fun and, save for those who routinely let their anger get the best of them, they are always some of the most fun you can have any week when you stop by and check out the action with your favorite fake internet friends. It's a great chance for us old-timers to catch up with our old blogging friends, and an even better opportunity for the newer readers to sit down and play poker with some great players and even better writers who you may feel like you've "known" for years from reading their blogs without ever having had any kind of a one-on-one interaction with them.

I also wanted to mention that I understand from some girly chats with Buddy that he is finally doing the obvious thing -- something I've railed about for more than a year now -- and changing the name of "the Mookie" to the more appropriate "The Dank". For those who don't know, Mookie -- who for the record is and always has been an awesome guy -- has not been setting up or really associated with the weekly Wednesday night Mookie tournament for the better part of what, two years now? Buddy has taken on administration of this tournament for a long time now, and he has set the standard for blonkatainment -- yes that's a new word I just made up right now to combine "blonkament" and "entertainment" -- by broadcasting live on BuddyDank Radio almost every Wednesday night during the Mookie festivities. This thing has been Buddy's tournament as clear as day for literally years now, and I have long since thought and publicly claimed that having Mookie's name associated with it at this point is not the right idea from a marketing perspective, given Mookie's lack of involvement with the group or his blog anymore in any public way. Changing the name of the Mookie to the Dank is long overdue in my book, and associating the tournament with the new Donkey Island poker extravaganza is a great way to help stimulate action and interest in our weekly games, something that has been more or less totally lacking for going on three years or more now at this point.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that it is not lost on me how utterly hopeless it is for me to try to succeed at any poker series that involves needing the votes of others in order to survive. Although I routinely destroy you all in pure poker, I am well aware that I have no possible shot in this particular setup. But that's ok. Anything that (1) Goat spearheads, (2) Buddy is into on the radio, or (3) helps generate interest in our weekly games is a-ok and a good time in my book. And something tells me this one is going to lead to more than a few interesting blog posts along the way as well, another thing a shizz-stirrer like me is obviously well into.

So one again, click on over to Goat's post today to read all about Donkey Island poker. I am already confirmed as one of the players, and although I can't confirm this, I believe that there may still be spots available as I write this post. Follow the directions in Goat's post if you are interested in participating, and I'll see you at the games starting in February, including Goat's newly-hosted tournament on Sunday nights at 9:30pm ET when that time comes. And in the meantime, why not stop by "the Dank" tonight at 10pm ET (password as always is "vegas1") and get your groove on, and start get re-acclimated to the donkeyrific pokerings of your fake internet friends. And for those of you so inclined, perhaps to start laying the groundwork for your many fiendish alliances and backroom deals in advance of Donkey Island's official beginning in a few weeks. I plan to be there tonight -- maybe you can too.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

NFL -- Divisional Round Picks

So in a suite of four tough games with four tough lines last weekend, I went a ho-hum 2-2, winning with my picks of the underdog Packers and Jets on the road, but incorrectly taking the points with the Chiefs at home, who got blown out by the Ravens, and missing as well my pick on the Saints who not only did not win by 11 points, but who got blown out defensively and lost the game outright to the worst playoff team in NFL post-season history.

Which leads us to this weekend's game, the Divisional Round of the 2010-2011 NFL playoffs. Just like last week, I will suspend my regular-season rules and go out of my way to make a prediction on all four of the games, which I will cover now in chronological order of when they will be played. As with my picks all season, I will provide my picks against the Vegas spread as posted on Yahoo! Sports as of this morning, along with a brief commentary on my thoughts on why I am picking the game the way that I am.

First, we have the Ravens visiting the Steelers in the early-late game (4:30pm ET) on Saturday afternoon, in a repeat of what is basically the most defensive-oriented, tough-nosed, smashmouth matchup of any two teams of the season each time it is played these days, and the Vegas oddsmakers are just throwing up their hands here, awarding a 3-point line to the home-team Steelers in line with their usual 3 points awarded in every game for home-field advantage. The Ravens took the Steelers in the first matchup in Pittsburgh, a game before Ben Roethlisberger returned from his early season suspension related his (second) sexual assault allegations. The Ravens played the Steelers really tough in their second matchup in Baltimore closer to the middle of the regular season this year, but then an amazing defensive effort by Troy Polamalu to sack Ravens qb Joe Flacco and cause a fumble led the Steelers to a victory in the final minutes to even the season series at one win apiece. This one really is too close to call, as the Steelers have won six straight matchups with the Ravens with Ben Roth at the helm, and with them sitting on homefield advantage here, but yet this is easily the best Ravens squad of the past few years, in particular on offense with the emergence of Ray Rice on the ground and the addition of Anquan Boldin to the receiving corps to help move the ball. When it's so close like this, I have no choice but to just go with the numbers -- five of the last seven meetings between these teams have been decided by 3 points or less, and when I'm getting three points to go with the Ravens -- who already won outright by a field goal in Pittsburgh earlier this year -- I think the value lies barely on the Baltimore side of the equation here. So I will take the Ravens and the points and really look forward to watching this game on Saturday.

The late game on Saturday night features the 10-6 Packers visiting the 14-2 Falcons in a matchup of the NFC's 6 seed vs. the 1 seed, and yet for some reason I cannot entirely understand, this game has the smallest line of any of the weekend's matchups at just 2.5 points in favor of Atlanta. I wrote about this a bit earlier this week already, but apparently I am the only NFL fan outside in the country that does not think the Packers are all that. My objective look at this team says that they have a solid offense and a solid defense no doubt, but for whatever reason when you put them together, the team has had trouble making a great showing on the scoreboard as a result. Much like this year's San Diego Chargers, who finished the 2010 regular season ranked #1 in both total offense and total defense but who ended up 9-7 and not even in the post-season, the Packers clearly have a great quarterback and clearly have a very solid defensive line that I enjoy watching, but their coach is a monkey and does not inspire me much after I watched this team drop a crucial game to the Detroit Lions of all teams in Week 15 on the road, nor was I particularly inspired watching the Packers' play last week in Philadelphia, in a game that felt like a blowout but had to rely on a couple of truly freak occurrences to prevent them from losing in the final minutes nonetheless. If I knew GB rookie James Starks was going to go off for 125 yards like he did against the Eagles' porous sieve of a defense, I would definitely be tempted to go with the Packers and the points here. But instead, I see an Atlanta team that more or less does not lose games at home, with worse team stats numbers but with I think a quarterback who has proven he has what it takes to come back and win a tough game in the fourth quarter if needed. I do not expect Atlanta to blow out here by any means, but I do think they will win by a little bit more than the 2.5 points Vegas is giving to the Packers. So in this one I will go against basically everyone else on the earth today and take the favorites to win by more than a field goal.

Sunday's early matchup is the most unlikely pairing of the Divisional Round games, as 7-9 Seattle visits the NFC's #2 seeded Bears who finished the year at 11-5. Seattle is not a good team overall on either side of the ball, and one thing I can assure you is that the tenacious Bears' defense will not allow Matt Hasselbeck to float up after bomb after bomb after bomb about 80 yards straight up in the air and yet still manage to leave a receiver wide open downfield about 45 seconds later when the ball comes back down, unlike the Saints last week who looked like a bunch of midgets little people trying to defend the pass in utterly embarrassing themselves against the Seahawks' 28th-ranked offense last week. And although I like most people am just waiting to see Jay Cutler get flustered by somebody and punched out of the playoffs like we all know is coming, Seattle, the league's 27th ranked defense and 19th-ranked against the pass, is not likely to be the ones to achieve that ever-achievable feat. As much as I hate having to give double-digits to any team in the playoffs, unlike last week when Seattle was playing at home, I'm going to take the Bears and lay the 10 points Vegas is requiring here. It will make me have to hold my breath for a while here, but I expect by the end of the game that Chicago will find a way to win this one by a couple of scores and move on to where they belong, the NFC Championship game next Sunday.

And lastly is perhaps the most hotly-anticipated matchup of the weekend on Sunday late afternoon, the 11-5 Jets at the 14-2 Cheatriots in a rematch of Week 12 which saw the Cheats drop a 45-3 smackdown on Rex Ryan's squad that, if you watched the game, truly was not even that close. This time around, I fully do not expect the Jets to get destroyed that badly, and in fact I look for the Jets to put up a decent fight for at least the first part of this game, unlike the last time the teams met at Gillette Stadium. However, as much as I would like to take the 9 points -- a ridiculous line I think to be laid on a Jets team with a solid defense and a lot to prove this weekend -- for me the key here is Ryan Sanchez, who if you've watched these last several games has pretty much been goddam atrocious lately, even in the Jets' recent wins. The quarterback disparity here is about as wide as you're ever going to find in an NFL post-season game, and Sanchise is easily the worst quarterback of all those playing in the playoffs in 2011, and he'll be playing in very hostile territory, in the freezing fucking cold that he hates, and in the place where he threw what, 85 interceptions the last time around? Although as I said I do think this line is too big, even at 9 points I think I will take the Cheatriots and assume they will find a way to take this one by a couple of scores by the time the whistle blows on the season.

So it's Ravens +3, Falcons -2.5, Bears -10 and Cheatriots -10 for me this weekend, three favorites here in the Divisional Round just a week after I took three underdogs in the Wildcard Round. Hopefully we'll see some better results with these picks than last week's 2-2 performance. Best of luck to all those whose teams are playing in these games, and to those who are betting what are I think all very tough lines again this weekend as well.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pit in the Stomach

Today, I am in mourning.

Wednesday night was one of those nights on the virtual felt. You know, one where I had a nice score in my grasp but then I let it all slip away, needlessly. Shit, I didn't let it slip away, I threw it away. It's one of those rare mornings where I woke up and it was still the first thing I thought about, kind of hoping it was all a dream while simultaneously knowing it was not.

Wednesday night is always my favorite online poker night of the week, mostly because it's the closest thing to the Sunday majors this side of, well, Sundays. As you know if you've read this blog for any extended period of time, I don't ever play online poker during the daylight hours on the weekends. I work far too much during the week, and I see my wife and especially my kids far too little, and on the weekends that time is all about my family. Sure, I'll play poker on the weekend evenings -- frankly, most of my best scores have occurred on the weekends because I can play more tournaments a little later in the night because I know I won't have to get up early the next morning to beat the rush hour traffic into the city -- but things like the Sunday majors are totally out of the picture for me. I think I've played the big weekly guarantee on Stars and Full Tilt maybe one time each in my entire life, and even those were several years ago, before I realized how run-of-the-mill these tournaments were, and how utterly chock full of flonkeys they are to even think a single shot here and there could ever lead to the kind of score I would be interested in.

Anyways, so I never play those huge tournaments on Sundays, but after Sunday, Wednesday night is where it's at. Full tilt runs a $100 rebuy at 9pm ET with a 100k guarantee every Wednesday night. Pokerstars more than doubles its nightly 100k and $162 buyin, to a $320 buyin nlh tournament with a 250k guarantee, only on Wednesdays. And UB follows suit as well, turning its $120 buyin 9pm ET nightly 25k guaranteed sniper (knockout) tourney into a $216 buyin, 80k guarantee flonkfest with some of the silliest, softest play you'll ever see, only on Wednesday nights every week. While I don't often play the Wednesday $100 rebuy on full tilt, I busted from the Stars 250k in the first hour last night, when I ran QQ into KK, AK into KK, and then finally JJ into KK all in the span of maybe 40 minutes. And that's some fun times right there, let me tell you. But it was in the 80k on UB that I really took my lumps yesterday.

It was a tough slog, but I managed to bump along with an average stack for most of the first few hours as I would start to amass some chips, but then I ran AA into 88 and the 8s did not even flop but turn a set. Then I amassed another nice stack, only to see my AKo lose a large pot allin preflop to AKs (always a fun one). Then I somehow once again put together a nice pile of chips, and before I knew it my JJ was running smack into 75o on an 864 rainbow flop. It would be funny, if it wasn't so freaking annoying. Eventually the Harringbots gave me the usual fuel for a late run as they got short and starting pushing with anything, and I was able to find myself in some good spots to capitalize and nab a few crucial near-double-ups to get right into the thick of things as the money bubble burst at 45 runners out of the I think 397 who entered.

Once the bubble burst, I was never able to get into the top third or so of the field, but I was also solidly in the middle, never really short at any point and in fact I was managing to slowly crawl my way up the leaderboard. With 45 left at the bubble, I was 24th in chips. With 40 left, I was up to 17th. When we got down to 35 players remaining, I was back down to the dead middle at 17th place. First place in this mega monster -- which had fallen just a hair short of its 80k guarantee -- was 18k, second place 12k, and third place 8k, so we were talking about a lot of money here, and I really wanted to get a nice piece of it, instead of the few hundy being paid out to the first people to bust once we reached the ITM positions. I had played smart, withstood a number of truly idiotic beats along the way, and here I was right smack in the middle with about 30 runners remaining in one of the largest weekly tournaments I ever play in.

And then out of nowhere I totally lost my cool.

I really don't know what happened, and I really don't know why. I was tired, it was late (after 1am ET), but to be honest we had a snow day in NY metro on Wednesday so I had stayed home and even got in a short nap late in the day, so I was plenty awake and alert enough to make a go of it. There I was, telling myself how important it was to follow my usual late-game strategy of conserving when I have the stack to do so -- the very same strategy I have written about here with pretty solid consistency for the better part of six years now -- and then I watched the same big-stack clown make the same preflop steal-raise from the button of the same size, for at least the sixth time in just the previous hour of playing together, and in my big blind I opted to call for once, with 98o. It's a weak holding, but deceptive, and for one bet that isn't going to break me either way I don't mind seeing a flop with it once in a while, in particular when the other guy could just as easily be on 42o as far as I'm concerned. The flop came down A84, I checked and when my opponent led out, I opted to smooth call, just as I would if I actually held an Ace and thought he had been stealing. Now about a fifth of my stack was in the pot, and I knew I was going to have to take this pot away on the turn or risk facing a decision for all my chips on the river. So when the turn card brought a Ten -- a card I was not overly concerned with given the action thus far in the hand -- I led out again, this time for again a little over half the pot, meaning that about half of my stack was in the pot at this point in the hand, even though I held nothing more than a pair of 8s, with a crappy kicker to boot. My opponent thought this one over for some time, letting his time bank get almost all the way down to zero before finally opting to call with just a second left to act. The river then brought a harmless 5, and I figured, I had gone this far, I did not at all think he had an Ace to begin with given his tendency to steal-raise before the flop from the button with anything, and so I did the only thing that made sense to me in the moment: I pushed.

And he insta-called. With AK for TPTK. And IGH in 30th place. With all of about $400 profit to show for my efforts.

I mean, I broke every freaking rule I have when it comes to late in a big tournament like this. I had just been sitting there reminding myself to take it easy and not give up my stack without a big hand, and to try to wait for the right spot or maybe a premium hand or something to get a big slice of my stack into the pot. It's one thing if I busted there with QQ vs AK allin pre or something, or even with AA against a flopped set of 3s or something. At least there I had a justifiably good reason to get my chips into the middle, even if I was actually behind at the time unbeknownst to me. That kind of thing happens all the time in poker tournaments, and you just have to deal with it happening to you as much as it happens to everyone else.

But last night didn't have to happen at all. I forced the whole situation right from the getgo. I decided before even seeing a flop that my opponent was stealing and therefore weak. When he called my flop bet, rather than assess what that truly meant, I made the completely amateurish mistake of molding his actions to the read I had already established before seeing the flop in the first place. He was floating me, I told myself. My 98 had to be good, or at least he was surely weak enough to fold to more action on the turn. When the turn card did not scare me particularly -- even though it represented another card above the shitty pair I had in my own hand -- I foolishly slid out another large bet of around half of my stack, and if that wasn't bad enough -- this is as far as any possible misplay by me should ever have gotten -- when he called again, letting his time bank run all the way down first, I should have heard those little bells in my head that have won me so much money in poker tournaments in my day, my instincts, telling me he obviously had something, and would not have twice now called off a total of half of his own big stack at this point in this tournament on an Ace-high flop after raising preflop if he didn't have an Ace or hit the flop in some meaningful way. How could he ever be floating me in this spot? He's top 10 in chips, 30 players left in the biggest nightly tournament of the week on a major poker site, and he called me on the flop, and again on the turn, for half of that ginormous stack?

What did I think he had?

Nonetheless, I stubbornly stuck with that idiot preflop read of mine, slid in my last 22k in chips at the river, and saw exactly what I should have seen coming at the end. As I said above, I played this hand just about as much like a rank amateur as it could ever possibly be played. After dodging these monkeys and their unbelievably bad plays for more than four hours, I literally took close to 40k in chips with an average of close to 30k, picked them all up, and dumped them right into the trash can, along with my chances of making a run at a very nice payout-laden final table, including a first prize of 18 grand. And I still can't believe I did it this morning.

Opportunities like this only come along once in a fairly long while in poker tournaments, even for the best of players. Coming up with the luck you need to outlast all the brutal suckouts, win sufficient numbers of races, and to avoid second best hands, running into pocket Aces, flopped sets, etc. is just such a long shot, that even if you play really well for a long period of time, a run like mine in the 80k last night is still a very rare thing. Such that, when you finally run good enough to make a serious run, you absolutely positively must make it count. Sure, someone's gotta bust in 20th place, and in 15th, and in 10th right on the final table bubble, and sometimes it's going to be you. But for me to ensure that I don't make it that far, by willingly and single-handledly just dumping my entire big stack of chips into the garbage like that? That's not hoyazo play, and it cost me who knows how much cold, hard cash last night as a result.

I really can't stand these times when I wake up in the morning and still have that sick, empty pit-in-the-stomach feeling like I do today. But I have no choice but to move on, and to learn from it. The next time I find myself in a similar situation, will I donk off all my chips like those spewmonkeys who I usually laugh my ass off at while I'm making a deep mtt run? Or will I play smart tournament poker, the way I know I should, and wait for the right spot to commit my chips at the time when they are worth the most in the tournament to that point? Hopefully, if nothing else, the memory of this disgusting feeling in my gut today will serve as a reminder. If I'm going to throw away my entire stack for no good reason whatsoever even on those occasions when I do manage to run deep, then there is absolutely zero reason to play the game at all in the first place.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Philadelphia Eagles in Review

Well, it was another great regular season for Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the emphasis on the word "regular".

Once again, Andy Reid pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the 2010 regular season, in a year in which he traded away his longtime starting quarterback -- within the division no less, for nothing but a couple of middle-round draft picks -- and then saw his new Quarterback of the Future go down with an injury in the first half of the first game of the season this year. Fastg forward four months, though, and the Eagles had finished the year 10-6, not trying or playing most of the starters in the meaningless last game of the season as it is, and claiming the team's first NFC East title in four years, but the sixth divisional crown in Andy Reid's 12-year tenure as the head man in Philadelphia (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010). Six titles in 12 years in the toughest division in football is an amazing feat if you think about it, and the job Reid did in the regular season this year given the way things started off is right up there with the best performances of his head coaching career the way I see it.

There were a couple of specific highlights to the 2010 regular season in Philadelphia. First and foremost of course is Mike Vick, whose resurgence became clear to all this year as he put up 3000 yards, a 62% completion percentage, 21 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions over just 12 games. If you extend that out to a full season, it looks like a 4000-yard year with 28 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions. It was a great year for Vick, who came back from the depths to become in my view the second-best quarterback in the league all things considered. Sure a guy like Manning is a better pure thrower, Phillip Rivers was more productive through the air, but those guys just did not strap their teams on their back and lead them to victory quite like Mike Vick did in 2010. Combined with all that passing production, Vick also rushed for 676 yards in those 12 games, and tacked on another nine touchdowns on the ground. Again, you extend these figures out to a full season, and Vick would be looking at over 4000 yards passing, 900 more yards rushing, 28 passing touchdowns, 8 inteceptions, and 12 rushing touchdowns on top. 4900 yards of production plus 40 touchdowns on the season, and only 8 picks. Of course it's never as easy as just extrapolating from 12 games to 16, and certainly Vick's numbers trailed off a bit as the season wore to an end, but the point is, this was a truly remarkable season for Mike Vick, one that many people don't seem to grasp. But you wonder why he's going to finish in second in the league's MVP voting, over guys like Manning and Rivers whose pure passing numbers exceeded Vick's own? Those total production numbers above are why. Rivers' final 2010 numbers were a nearly identical 101 passer rating, 4700 yards passing, 52 yards rushing, 30 total touchdowns (all passing), 13 INTs, and his team was inconsistent and missed the playoffs, going 8-8 overall. Rivers is an awesome quarterback, but Vick's year was better when you look at everything as a whole. And Manning's 2010 numbers tell a similar story: Qb rating of 91.8, 4700 yards passing and just 18 yards and zero td's on the ground, 33 passing touchdowns, and 17 costly interceptions, and his team also had a down year just like the Chargers. You give me the choice, and I'll take Vick's season over either of those guys hands down. Vick is not close to Tom Brady (111 QB rating, 3600 yards, 37 touchdowns -- one of them rushing -- and just 4 interceptions, in 16 games), but otherwise, Vick's performance in 2010 was the highlight of the Eagles' season bar none, and the guy is hands-down deserving of 2nd place in the MVP voting based on the above.

The other extreme highlight of the Eagles' 2010 season -- unfortunately the high point for the year for the Iggles -- was the incredible comeback against the hated Giants in Week 15. Down 31-10 with under 8 minutes to go in the game, Mike Vick not only led the Eagles to tie the game over about six minutes of play with three beautiful drives, but the team even managed to win in regulation when DeSean Jackson took the final-seconds punt from the Giants back 60-some yards for the last-second touchdown and a 38-31 victory in what turned out to be the single biggest game of either team's regular season. As exciting as that game was itself, and the amazing comeback and even more amazing last-second runback, the reason this proved to be such a big highlight for the Eagles' regular season -- other than how poorly we performed in the post-season -- was that this game proved to utterly crush the spirit of the Giants and completely ruin what was at that point on its way to looking like a great year for New York. Coming in to that game, the Giants were 9-4, looking in good shape to win the East with the game being at their home stadium in New Jersey York, and easily in position to nab the first wildcard spot as they were the only team not from Atlanta with fewer than five losses on the season at the time. But after DeSean Jackson ran back that touchdown to complete the miraculous, inexplicable comeback in Week 13, the next week saw the Giants face off against the Packers -- the team that would go on to steal the Giants' playoff spot, which they knew coming in to that game -- and the Giants just laid down like girls, giving up 45 points and getting absolutely crushed by the superior Green Bay squad on the road. From there the season was suddenly over, and even a final-week victory over the hapless Redskins could not get the Giants back into the playoffs. So, while it's sad that the Eagles have to look to regular season games which enabled them to keep their rivals out of the post-season for their own highlights on the year, that Giants win proved to be far and away the most memorable single moment of the year for Philadelphia, and is probably not something that will be forgotten for a long time to come by the fans in the city of brotherly shove.

Unfortunately, that's all the good there is to say about this team's 2010 season, and the rest of the recap of the year is pretty much all negative. It has to be mentioned that Andy Reid took another higher-seeded team and lost to a 6-seed in the playoffs this year, playing another key post-season game at home against a team he was favored to beat, and lost. It's become an annual ritual in Philadelphia since the time Reid has been here, with Reid's career post-season record now sitting at an uninspiring 10-9, especially when you consider that the team has entered the playoffs as a division winner -- and not a wildcard -- in six of Reid's nine years in the post-season. In 2002 the team lost to the Buccaneers at home as the higher seeded team in the NFC Championship, a feat Reid equalled in 2003 at home against the Carolina Panthers. In 2008 the Eagles once again lost to a team they were favored to beat, falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game on the Cards' way to a tough Superbowl loss to the Steelers, and now here again in 2010, the loss to the packers as a 3-point favorite marks the fourth time in six playoff runs that Reid's Eagles teams have ended the season by losing to a team deemed inferior by the guys who are paid to really know such things. There was a lot of talk this year about how great this Packers team is, but come on now. The Pack had to scramble their way to a 10-6 record on the year, they had absolutely zero running game to speak of until they ran into the Eagles' porous defense in the playoffs (more on that in a minute), and this is a team that lost at Detroit 7-3 in an absolutely crucial game that team knew they needed to win in Week 14. But the Eagles sure made the team look good on Sunday night, didn't they? It's a story that Eagles fans just know all too well with Andy Reid's team at this point, and as long as Reid keeps performing in the regular season, it seems there is just never going to be an end to it in Philly.

And about that playoff game the other day for a minute, it's actually pretty amazing if you watched the game that the Eagles were in position to win it in the end. I mean, I watched every snap and it felt to me like the Eagles pretty much got beat down on, but look at what really happened. Philly lost by five points, 21-16, and were driving and within the Packers' 40-yard line in the final minute to try to pick up a late touchdown for the victory. And think about what happened in the game to get the teams to that point. For starters, idiot Eagles kicker David Akers, after a pretty fabulous regular season inj 2010, missed a barely-forgivable 41-yard field goal into the wind in the first quarter, but then compounded his epic failure by missing a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter with the wind at his back that I could have probably put through the uprights without too much trouble. Let's just chuck that first miss, which was a tougher kick than many people realize with the wind swirling as it was in that direction early in the game, but if Akers had just not choked and made the 34-yarder, then the Eagles would have been down 21-19, and with almost a full minute left and already inside the Packers' 40 at the end of the game, the Eagles would have had an easy field goal kick for Akers to win the matchup and advance. So even despite how poorly the Eagles played overall in the game, I would be remiss if I did not mention that those two missed field goals -- neither of them longer than 41 yards -- would have given the Eagles the outright victory in points scored at 22-21, and getting back even just the shorter, easier of the two kicks would have put the Eagles in position where they would have won the game 22-21 anyways in the final minutes, as Mike Vick would never have even considered throwing his ill-advised pass that got intercepted in the final seconds since he would have had no need whatsoever to even look at the end zone, instead of knowing that he needed a touchdown to win. Taking it a step further than that even, if Eagles' tight end Brent Celek does not idiotically step out of bounds before Mike Vick threw him the ball in the Eagles' two-point conversion after scoring their fourth-quarter touchdown, meaning that his nice catch on the conversion and his skill in landing both of his feet in bounds would have counted, then even then the score would have been 21-18 on that final drive, and once again Vick would not possibly have even looked to the end zone once already in field goal range to tie that game and send it in to overtime. So, while the Eagles -- typically for the Andy Reid era -- did not play a good game at all on Sunday against the Pack in their biggest game of the season, they were nothing more than just a few freak occurrences away from tying or putting that game into overtime. And this isn't me doing the stupid woulda-coulda-shoulda thing like saying "If only Jason Avant had caught that ball" or "if only Vick had seen DeSean Jackson wide open downfield on that one play", etc. This is about a guy whose heel inadvertently stepped out of bounds before the ball was thrown and before he caught the ball and landed both of his feet in bounds, and about a kicker who missed just two field goals all season long out of 31 attempts of 41 yards or less, missing two out of three such attempts in the game in easily the worst game he has had in a few seasons in Philadelphia. If he makes either one of those kicks as he did all season long, or if Celek doesn't touch the base line of the end zone with his heel before catching that 2-point conversion in bounds, the Eagles are advancing and I'm not writing this post for another week until we let the Falcons or Bears pass and run all over us to move to the NFC Championship game.

Which leads me to my final few points about this 2010 Eagles team: even if we had beaten the Packers if these freak occurrences had not in fact occurred, this team was simply not Superbowl bound this year, as many had hypothesized about halfway through the season when Vick mania was just heating up. By the second half of the season, the Vikings (1 time) and the Giants (1.875 times) showed that they had figured out pretty clearly how to beat Mike Vick. Pressure, pressure and more pressure, take him out of his comfort zone, and make him roll to the right, and he is just not that great of a quarterback. After the Vikings blitzed Vick about 850 times in Week 15 and the Eagles made absolutely zero attempt to stop it or to provide additional protection in the backfield for Vick, and then the Packers brought a corner blitz and dropped Vick on the very first play of the Packers game, Eagles fans all threw up in their mouths a little bit. It's just so Andy Reid to be that kind of unprepared to fall victim to the exact same play that the Vikings and Giants used to neutralize Vick over 2.875 different games in the final weeks of the season, and it is really symptomatic of everything the Philly fans have come to dread about Andy Reid's teams once playoff time comes around. Once the Giants pretty much shut down Vick down for 112 minutes and 40 seconds of football, and the Vikings echoed the Giants' strategy in spades to a similar effect, a good deal of the steam was let out of this team's sails, and no good coach worth his salt was going to let a great team get beaten at home by the Eagles even if we did advance to play the truly good teams in the NFC in later rounds of the playoffs.

And one more point about the Eagles' inability to defend against the blitz. How many times have you ever seen Mike Vick read the defense at the line of scrimmage and make adjustments to get himself the protection he needs as a result? Zippo, that's exactly right. You watch Tom Brady or Peyton Manning quarterback their teams, and pretty much every single time they get to the line, they first stand up straight and look out at the defense. They look at the formation, and they look at who is leaning where, which linebackers are advancing towards the line of scrimmage, etc., and then they make adjustments. They call an audible. They tap their center and point to the guy they want him to pick up on a likely blitz. They move their runningback to the other side of their own offensive formation to be there to pick up the corner blitz. The truly smart quarterbacks assess the defense on every single play, then they adjust, and only then do they run their play, when they have changed things up adequately such that they have the confidence that they will be able to get their chosen play off in time to accomplish what their play is looking to accomplish. No, they don't get that first down or score a touchdown on every single play. But they're always going through the process of assessing and adjusting before every single play, and all the great, smart quarterbacks today do this the same way. But not Vick. I honestly do not ever recall seeing Vick point to a potential blitzer and ask his linemen to pick it up, not one single time all through the 2010 season. In fact, I'm not sure I can ever recall Vick really looking at the defense and trying to make any kind of a read at all prior to just hiking the ball and attempting to run the play that has been called. Vick just doesn't seem to have that kind of smarts, and frankly you could really see over the second half of the season this year how much that hurt him. The better the opponents you face, the more crucial it becomes to read a defense and adjust your play or at least your protection to counter what is coming at you. Vick simply does not do this, and with both him and Andy Reid being utterly powerless to adjust to the defenses on individual plays, this team was simply not going to go far in the playoffs even if they had beaten the Packers if the freak occurrences I mentioned above had not gone down.

Lastly, no recap of the Eagles' season would be complete without mentioned the team's defense. The Eagles' defense is utterly deplorable. There are just no other words to describe the shit that they string together and call a team defense. Even before our former defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson died of cancer a couple of years ago, the pass defense had become pretty well porous, but since he passed away and was replaced with Sean McDermott, the Philly defense has pretty much been a goddam sieve. And that's probably being kind. The Eagles cannot stop anyone on defense, in particular when it counts, and you could see it against the Giants in those crucial games this year, against the Vikings early in the team's Week 16 loss this year, and most definitely against the Packers in the wildcard game this past weekend that ended the team's 2010 campaign. They put up pretty much the sickest stat imaginable during the Packers game for all the viewers to see -- during 2010, despite scoring the most points in the NFC, the Eagles gave up more points than any team that had ever reached the Superbowl in NFL history. What's worse, on the year the Eagles were also dead last in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing opposing teams to score touchdowns in 47 out of 57 appearances in the red zone, including the playoff game. How sick is that? All you have to do is make it to the 20-yard line against the Eagles, and you're basically going score, almost every single time. And Aaron Rodgers showed the world just how it works, as on each of the two occasions when they managed to get inside the Eagles' red zone, he took exactly one play to punch it in, in both cases actually to absolutely wide fucking open receivers who made it look like they were completely forgotten by the Eagles players trying to make a stop. And let's not even mention the fact that the Eagles haven't had a real pass rusher on this team since the days of Reggie White and Jerome Brown, which amazingly was an entire generation ago at this point. Mike Mammula? O M G.

If there is one lesson the Eagles need to learn from the 2010 season, other than of course than Andy Reid simply cannot help but get out-coached in the post-season, even by another moron coach like Mike McCarthy -- it's that we need to fire our defensive coordinator, and just get a whole new defensive scheme in place in Philadelphia. With Mike Vick at the helm, and with the incredible young talent the team has all over the offense between Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, this offense is primed to be the best in the NFC for years to come. But while offense may get you to the post-season, just like everyone else we will need to have a strong defense if we expect to go far in the playoffs. It's nice to have beaten the Giants six times in a row now -- and don't get me wrong, it really is -- but it's time that this team and Andy Reid start to focus on building a team that can run deep in the playoffs, and not just win the NFC East every other year as it has during Reid's 12 years as head coach. Reid's incredible six divisional titles in this division in just twelve years at the helm is nothing at all to sneeze at, but when you're ending every one of those years by losing a game instead of winning -- most of the time to an inferior team on your home field -- then it's time to start figuring out what needs to be done to change things up and reverse that trend. Right now, that means getting an entirely new defensive scheme in place before the 2011 regular season, and working diligently with Mike Vick between now and then to teach him how to read defenses, and more importantly, how to react to them.

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