Thursday, September 28, 2006

The 2006 WSOP, Part Two: The Six Million Dollar Man

My friend Paul got second place in the World Series of Poker for 6.1 million dollars.

It actually happened. There are still times when I start thinking about that and just burst out laughing.

The money is so much. It’s staggering. It’s dizzying. I still can’t believe how much money it is. It’s two and a half times as much as Moneymaker won in ’04. It’s more than Raymer won. It’s more than Seidel, Ferguson, Forrest, Harrington, Grinder, Greenstein, and Goehring have won in tournaments. More than Erick Lindgren, Gavin Smith, Tuan Le, David Pham. More than Doyle Brunson. More than Johnny Fucking Chan.

How did this happen?

First off, it happened because he’s a gifted player. Paul is a juggernaut at the table. He has the complete package. His hand-reading abilities are superb. He’s fearless and will put it all in with nothing if he thinks that’s the best play. He knows how to manipulate bad players. He knows how to manipulate great players. He can play really tight. He can play really loose. He can be aggressive or passive. It’s still a bit hard to say for sure, but I do think he’s one of the top twenty or so deep-stack tournament players in the world.

He won six million because he’s really, really good, and he won six million because he got ridiculously lucky day after day after day. I don’t think most of his family and other friends less experienced with poker really understand just how incredibly lucky this was. I don’t think he realizes it himself, in fact. It wasn’t easy to see the luck, that’s the thing. Most of the time when he got all-in he had the best hand. He wasn’t in there beating aces with ace-jack or nailing two outers after the flop. It was just that he kept on picking up hands at just the right moment, and most importantly, he never took a bad beat for all or most of his chips.

Paul was always the unlucky one. He seemed to take more outrageous bad beats than anyone else. I always sort of wondered if he was unluckier than the rest of us, or if his personality just made the bad beats more conspicuous. In any case, it’s all forgotten. No matter what happens in the future, it’s almost impossible to ever imagine calling Paul unlucky in poker again. Even if he’s knocked out of his next thirty tournaments on one-outers, the luck scale will still be heavily weighted in his favor.

Think of all the players who made waves throughout the WSOP main event. Daniel Negreanu. Mark Vos. Shannon Shorr. Dmitri Nobles. David Chiu. Jon Lane. Jason Strasser. The kid who sucked out on Jason Strasser. Jeff Lisandro. William Thorsson. David Einhorn. Lee Kort. Richard Lee. Allen Cunningham. I’d look at those guys, and especially the stacks in front of them, and think, there’s someone who has a shot at really doing something huge here. With Paul I had those thoughts the first few days when he was near the top of the leaderboard, but not really afterwards.

It was so weird because after around day three or four, it never really seemed like Paul was a contender. We were just praying he would hold on and find a way to survive. I never really even thought about his chances of winning the thing until he made the final nine. Even then, I didn’t really think about him actually winning it until it got heads up. Even THEN it seemed pretty unlikely. There was just never that moment where I was like, WOW, he really has a shot at this thing! It was just touch and go, hopefully he picks up a hand soon and doubles up. And it was like that for hour after hour after hour, until he was sitting across from Gold and everyone else had vanished.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Paul did not play his best poker during the World Series of Poker Main Event. There were other tournaments, like the 5k shorthanded at the WSOP and the WPT Championship, where I thought he played quite a bit better. He made some mistakes at the end of the WPT Championship that he learned from – no question his WSOP finish does not happen without that experience at the Bellagio. It just seemed to me like he was picking up a lot more pots with the worst hand during those other tournaments, and his chips were gained more through skillful hand-reading than favorable situations. It’s mindboggling to me that someone can finish second in an 8,700 player tournament without playing their best poker.

There’s the old expression “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” It’s really true this time. Paul really is the nicest guy I know. Maybe this happened because he’s a good person. Maybe it happened because he is a man of faith. Maybe because of both.

One thing I know is it would not have happened without his friends and family, and it would not have happened without me. It was a pretty spectacular feeling watching him at the final table, and watching Paul and his family cry at the party the day after, knowing I had helped change lives.

Now a few thoughts on the final table:

I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the look on Erik Friberg’s face when he got knocked out. It was so clear that he, perhaps better than anyone playing at or watching the final table, really understood the significance of the moment. He knew he would probably never return to that table, and it had slipped through his fingers. It was a combination of awe, disappointment, and just a little bit of satisfaction from having competed his hardest at something he loved.

I’m really trying to figure out how Rhett Butler made it as far as he did, and spent a large portion of the tournament as a big stack. Maybe this guy made a lot of Dan Harrington type moves capitalizing on his image, and I should give him more credit. It just didn’t seem like he was capable of that though.

There seems to be this idea out there that Allen Cunningham didn’t play his best at the final table, maybe even “choked” a little bit. I don’t know about any of that. We didn’t get to see much of his cards. He never had a really favorable hand-over-hand situation at the final table. He had trips against Gold’s trips/higher kicker and didn’t lose that much. He lost a huge race against Gold that would have put him right back in the thick of it. Sure he got bluffed by Paul in one big pot, but it was a pretty sick bluff.

I seem to be the only one who has any respect for Jamie Gold’s game. Maybe because I seem to favor unpopular characters. Maybe it’s because he plays pretty similarly to how I do in the cash games. I don’t know, it just seemed to me like he had way the best hand in 80% of the big pots he got involved in. Gold was the luckiest player in the tournament. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play poker, and it doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to be the champion.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Return of GnightMoon

I had heard that once you leave an avatar, Party cancels that avatar forever. But I went ahead and gave GnightMoon a shot. And they let me have my old favorite. The very first hand I played with the new GnightMoon:

patrik14 posts small blind (25)
GnightMoon posts big blind (50)
** Dealing down cards **
Dealt to GnightMoon [ Kh, 7d ]
ingemars12 folds.
Pokerator___ folds.
PGunshot folds.
slowrolls folds.
Facial_Hair folds.
Shakezilla__ folds.
ongelukkig folds.
DongWrk4Yuda folds.
patrik14 folds.

I think this is what happens to Phil Ivey when he sits down in a cash game. Definitely a nice feeling to get the session started.

After that I picked up a number of monster hands, before and after the flop. Napoleon came over about a third of the way into the session and the dominance just increased. Although we lost a 10k pot with QQ vs AhKh on a Qhxhx flop, it still wound up as one of my best sessions ever.

Thinking and talking today I've decided that I am one of the very best players when it comes to milking big hands and getting paid off when I have something huge. I struggle a bit when it comes to bluffing and dealing with really aggressive good players. But when the tables are reasonably weak, and I pick up some hands, I tend to crush about as well as anyone could.

Tuesday night (25/50 with gamblegambel): 1.5 hrs, +7078/2 = +3539

Friday night (25/50, 25/50 with Napoleon): 3.5 hrs, +5003 + 20,299/2 = +10,149 = +15,152

Year to date: 171,084

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Battling the Best in the World

The 25-50 games on Party are a substantial step up from their old 10-20 games. There have been times when I struggled at 10-20, even times when I played in those games with negative EV. When the 10-20 NL first arrived 15 months ago, it was pretty tough. In January the games had gotten so ugly that I was panicking about my future and considered bailing from my typical high limit cash game bread and butter for greener pastures. Eventually I got better AND the games got quite a bit softer. Most of the time when I played 10-20, I considered myself one of the top three players at the table. Sometimes I was pretty sure I was the best, and losing was hard to imagine.

Most of the time the 25-50 NL plays way, way harder than the 10-20. I've only felt really comfortable with the table once or twice I've played. Idiots are few and far between. Usually the tables are about 90% pros. Some of these pros are only solid, but some are truly excellent. In fact, some of the very best no limit hold em players in the world play on these tables. I'm talking about top fifty in the world.

Game selection has become critical. Game selection has never really been a strength of mine (it's a weakness for most young online pros, I think). I think it's often a bad idea for me to sit down at these tables. It's not a lack of confidence, it's a mark of respect for players like ReadMyAvatar and queenkris. It's pretty hard to beat the game with players like that to your left when none of the other seven at the table can really be considered weak. There are times when I definitely have significant +EV in the games, and there are times when I may not.

I have something like eight winning sessions at 25-50, and only two losing ones. But of course one of the losses was a gargantuan, and I have yet to record a real big win at 25-50. Overall I am now up just a little more than one buy-in in around 30 hours of play. I know some other excellent players with similar results. The games are hard.

There are some players who are beating the 25-50 pretty substantially. In June, I was sort of starting to think I was one of the very best online NL cash players. I no longer think that, having taken my lumps from players I admit are better than me.

It's an interesting dilemma. I really have an ego about it. I don't know if I can play my best at stakes lower than 25-50. When I feel like playing online poker, I get on Party and I don't take a look at lower games. I immediately go for the top bar that says 25/50 NL without even considering anything else. I've played almost exclusively in the highest NL cash games on Party for over two years now, and I don't feel like playing anything else. I like extracting money from buffoons, but I also have grown to enjoy getting into wars with good players.

I'm still not sure where my future lies in online poker. I do know that if I continue to play 25-50, I will continue to get better. I remember watching a Cardplayer video interview of Jason Strasser during his run in the WSOP ME where they asked him how the competition was compared to his usual online games. And he laughed. And said something like, "Um, the players in the games I usually play are much, [pause], much better. These guys are much easier to beat."

I've felt the same way playing shorthanded with the Kwickfish against the likes of Bld, lolo, and Tizerd. You get better just by playing with them. Playing three or four hours of 25-50 or tough shorthanded 10-20 is probably more beneficial (in terms of improving one's game) than three or four weeks grinding the low limits. You learn so much about parts of the game that aren't really even considered lower down. It's good to be with the best. It would be better to beat the best.

The Fish figures to be on ESPN quite a bit tonight (Tuesday). I'm really excited to watch it (8 ET I believe). It's going to be so interesting (and important) to see how they portray him.

I played the $1k NL the day after busting from the main event here. I played like crap and deserved to lose, which I did. Matt Viox got 5th for 20k. A long overdue result for a very talented player. If not for three lost races and really high blinds at the final table, he would have won it. Big things are in his future, as they are for myself and just about everyone I hang out with in the poker world.

Borgata Main Event: -10,000
Borgata 1k: -1080

Saturday night (25-50): 3.5 hrs, +6,443
Monday night (25-50): 3 hrs, +2,032

Year to date: 152,393

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Big Bluff Gone Bad at Borgata

Today I felt as comfortable and in control of the table as I have since playing at Canterbury a year ago. I cruised up to 40k from our 25k starting stack without playing a big pot mixing in an array of calldowns, bluffs, slowplays, and value bets. Then I played a huge pot with Jd9d, electing to call a reraise of an initial raise that I had called. When the flop came 987 with two hearts and a diamond I quickly shoved in after my opponent bet, confident he would fold his overpair. What I didn't count on was that he had reraised a mid-early position raise with TT and had reason to call with his draw which had me crushed 4:1. About half an hour later I lost a coinflip with AKs vs JJ and went up to the room.

I do think I am playing the best poker of my life right now and I'm more confident than ever that a MAJOR breakthrough is going to happen SOON.

The Gambler finished the day with 58k and the Fish has 107k.

Friday, September 15, 2006


The long-anticipated fantasy football draft finally went down tonight. I kind of got the shaft drawing the last/first picks of the first and second rounds, and on throughout the draft. With ten managers in the league I got the 10th and 11th picks and then had to wait basically two rounds before drafting my next two guys. It was kind of an ugly spot as I had to draft for position rather than talent not knowing if decent positional players would still be available the next time I picked. My team wound up like this:

Steven Jackson (RB)
Steve Smith (WR)
Jake Delhomme (QB)
Santana Moss (WR)
Willis McGahee (RB)
Todd Heap (TE)
Pittsburgh Defense
Jay Feely (K) mistake, ran out of time and he was auto-selected
Joe Horn (WR)
Keenan McCardell (WR)
Mike Bell (RB)
Jake Plummer (QB)
Mike Anderson (RB)
Brandon Lloyd (WR)
Santonio Holmes (WR)

I don't think I have the best team on paper, and its fate rests on Steve Smith's hamstring. If that goes, my team goes.

The Gambler won a seat in tonight's super satellite and will be joining us in the main event. It was pretty damn funny to watch the thing wind down as the short stacks got pretty snippy with each other while Joel coasted into the seat.

Paul has set his chances of cashing in the main event at around 40%. I think I'm around 20% and can't wait to get it going. This is one of the five best tournaments of the year.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Survivor: California

Thirteen of the twenty "castaways" (that term always cracked me up) are from California this season. Nine are from the Los Angeles area. It looks like a pretty average cast overall with one or two especially intriguing personalities, the usual bland young good looking white guy and his alpha-male rival, the obligatory cop, the alleged wilderness guru who unsurprisingly works as a waiter, the hot chick, and of course, the token big black guy who might combust at any moment.

If it sounds like I'm growing weary of the same old charade every season...that's just not the case at all. I still fiend for this crap and I'm fired up to watch another season starting tonight. Let me know if you're interested in getting a pool going.

A Lesson Learned in the 5k

Basically today I played my butt off and played really good without much in terms of cards or favorable situations, and then I ended up check-calling my stack off with A6 against Chris Reslock's 53 on a board of A5253. I don't really have a problem with how I played the hand, though most of the money went in with me drawing to two outs and then on the river. The lesson I learned today is you can't play so tight that you have guys raising your big blind with 53 offsuit. If I had shown a little more tenacity in blind defense earlier in the day, I never would have been in the predicament.

At night I made the buy-in back (and then some) playing at some surprisingly weak 25-50 tables. Tomorrow will include sleeping in, perhaps a movie, a nice dinner, and the long awaited fantasy draft.

$1500 NL: +4775
$2500 NL: -2600
$5000 NL: -5200

Wednesday night (25-50 NL online): 3hrs, +8976

Year to date: 154,998

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Out - 5k Tomorrow

I got up as high as 55k without a showdown or suckout just by playing really good poker and then Barry Greenstein made it 7k in early position with the blinds at 1k-2k with a 300 ante. He was new to the table and possessed a gargantuan stack of 150k. I had a really tough decision with AQo in 4th position and a stack of around 50k. I ultimately decided to shove it in, no one picked up a hand behind me but he had AK and called, and busted me. At this point the table was the toughest I've ever played at, with Greenstein and his mountains, Mike Gracz calling all bluffs and accumulating a huge stack, Eric Froehlich with tons of chips, Chris Fargis, and a strong James English.

Tomorrow figures to be the toughest field I have ever played against, in the 5k NLHE.

Feelin' It

We started with 10k chips today in the $2500 NL. I got up to 12k after making a couple hands but then fell down to about 4k after a cold-deck/bad play and a lot of folding. Then I won two races and made a couple weird/nice plays. I have 27k at the dinner break but possibly the worst table draw of my life. Basically everyone there has a lot of talent, experience, and chips. I have a very tight table image and plan on maintaining it so my steals will continue to get respect. It's not going to be easy but once again I've got a shot at making some noise in a big tournament.

I've been making a lot of "feel" plays lately, laydowns and calls that don't really make sense analytically but I've been trusting my gut and for the most part it's been telling me the right things. 95% of hands are by the book of course but I think it's that 5% that separates a good player from a great player, and that's the level I'm seeking.

The Behemoth of American Sports

For a while it was college football, then college basketball, then pro basketball. Somewhere along the line pro football developed into my favorite sport to follow. There are a lot of reasons – a level of strategic complexity not found in the other major sports; speed, power and athleticism lending semi-comedic absurdity and jawdropping watchability to the game; the popularity and consistent competitiveness of the Denver Broncos, unmatched by the other local pro teams; the popularity of pro football amongst other professional poker players; and most importantly, the NFL’s week-to-week schedule that allows me to follow the league closely without putting in diehard hours.

So the NFL is my favorite. I’m fired up for the season. For the first time, I will be the proud owner of my very own fantasy team (more on that after our delayed draft later this week).

This was originally meant to be a season PREview published before the season started, but I wound up going deep in Saturday’s tournament with 75% of it written. You’ll have to trust me that all of these prognostications were formulated before Sunday. On to the rankings and playoff predictions:

32. Jets
Just to prove I really didn’t fabricate these rankings after the first week’s games.
31. Saints
See above. I like Bill Simmons’ comment about how Reggie Bush’s first season has no ceiling and no basement.
30. Texans
30th in the NFL in offense in ’05, 31st in defense, and for some reason I have them behind the
29. Niners
32nd (last) in the league in total offense AND total defense, as well as passing offense and passing defense. Pretty remarkable really.
28. Raiders
It really gives me pleasure to see the Raiders, Al Davis, and Randy Moss struggle. I’ve always been a fan of Aaron Brooks though, believe it or not. I think he could really kick ass on a good team, but sadly this is not it and he will continue to be remembered as a failure.
27. Titans
I still feel like Vince Young is like 90% of Mike Vick, and Vick hasn’t really proven himself as a top QB yet.
26. Vikings
The four quarterbacks on Monday Night Football tonight: Brad Johnson, Mark Brunell, Philip Rivers, Aaron Brooks. The announcers: Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theismann. And I assume Mike Patrick is involved in the other game. Needless to say I did not watch the games.

24. Lions
Jon Kitna is my fantasy sleeper. I could see a 4,000 yard season.
23. Packers
I thought they had a chance, due to a weak schedule, but now I don’t. This is just depressing.
22. Cardinals
Amazingly Arizona was the only team in the NFL to finish in the top ten in both offense and defense last year. They also had perhaps the greatest season in field goal kicking history from Neil Rackers (40/42 on FGs, 20/20 PATs) and still found a way to go 5-11. There are lessons to be learned here. First, running the ball is the most important thing in the NFL. The Cards were dead last in rushing last year (and first in passing). Second, red zone efficiency decides seasons. The Cards had the worst red zone O (because they couldn’t run the ball because of their crappy O-line) and the 24th red zone D last year. Finally, turnovers are the single most important statistic in winning and losing football games, and Arizona had a whopping 37 of them last year. Their defense was third in the NFL in takeaways and they still had a -11 turnover differential. Run the ball, stop the run, don’t give the ball away. That’s how you win in the NFL, and the Cardinals haven’t been doing it. And oh yeah, I’ve thought for years Edgerrin James is the most overrated player in the NFL.
21. Browns
Just a really boring team. Who’s their flashiest player, Braylon Edwards? Whatever happened to Dennis Northcutt?
20. Bills
In ’05 they had the 28th ranked offense, 29th ranked defense, and their quarterback is still J.P. Losman.

20. Bucs
I swear I had this category and these rankings before Sunday. And get it through your heads, people. Chris Simms sucks. He sucks. He has always sucked. He’s never been good. He never will be good. He is not a winner.
19. Chiefs
Dick Vermeil is the most underrated coach in football. Herm Edwards is one of the most overrated.

18. Giants
Right as I’m writing this I hear John Madden say: “You look at Peyton and he puts it right on your numbers, you look at Eli and...not so much.” Twenty seconds later he sailed one five feet over Amani Toomer’s head.
17. Cowboys
This team is two players – a better quarterback and one more playmaker on defense – from competing for a Super Bowl. In the NFL two players can make the difference between a champion and an also-ran.
16. Redskins
This team is two players – a better quarterback and one more playmaker on defense…
15. Jaguars
Apparently the Jags went 12-4 last year. It’s amazing how you can forget things like that, just like you can forget that teams without any skill position players better than Matt Jones don’t tend to have too much success.
14. Dolphins
Daunte Culpepper is a fumbler. He fumbles. I don’t mean metaphorically. He gets hit, he drops the ball, the other team gets it. Sometimes they pick it up and run down the field gleefully. Oh, and by the way, the defense was not in the top half of the NFL last year.
13. Falcons
Looking like the NFC’s Super Bowl representative after that Week One crushing of the Panthers.
12. Seahawks
@Detroit, Zona, NY Giants, @Chicago, Bye, @St. Louis, Minnesota, @KC, Oakland, St. Louis, @San Fran, Green Bay, @Denver, @Zona, San Fran, San Diego, @Tampa. Gonna be hard to miss the playoffs. Really not much reason to expect anything more than that.
11. Eagles
“Last year is buried in a casket, and the casket doesn’t need to be opened up for any DNA tets” – Brian Dawkins. Thanks for that, Brian. Some men were put on this earth to play football. This is not a team to wager on or against for at least six weeks.
10. Rams
A real good shot at winning their next four (@San Fran, @Zona, Detroit at home, @Green Bay) to get to 5-0 before a home clash with the Seahawks. And the season ends like this: San Fran, Zona, and Chicago at home in three consecutive weeks, then @Oakland, Washington at home, and @Minnesota to end. This could be an eleven win team even if they’re only okay.

9. Bengals
The NFL’s hardest schedule and a 28th ranked defense that doesn’t appear to have gotten much better. It won’t be easy to improve on last year.
8. Chargers
A possible sleeping giant. This team is absolutely loaded. I’ve always liked Philip Rivers and LT is #1 on my fantasy board.

7. Bears
Another team that deserves some more hype. Obviously a bit lacking in the offensive skill positions but the defense could be one of the best in NFL history.
6. Broncos
+ Javon Walker – Trevor Pryce – Mike Anderson + 1yr on Rod Smith’s legs = a negative number.
5. Ravens
Look at this lineup.

4. Panthers
As evidenced by week one, never, ever, never, bet on or against Carolina.
3. Steelers
Something just doesn’t feel right.
2. Colts
Amazing that I could have them this high without any semblance of a decent running back. There are college teams that have MULTIPLE running backs better than anyone playing for the Colts.
1. Patriots
Obviously the wide receiver position is questionable at best. But I think they are still the most complete team in the league, and both the running game and the defense should be much better than last year.

Playoff Predictions

Wild-Card Round:
(3)Patriots over (6)Chargers
(5)Ravens over (4)Broncos
(3)Rams over (6)Falcons
(4)Eagles over (5)Seahawks

(5)Ravens over (1)Steelers
(3)Patriots over (2)Colts
(1)Panthers over (4)Eagles
(2)Bears over (3)Rams

Championship Games:
(3)Patriots over (5)Ravens
(1)Panthers over (2)Bears

Super Bowl XLI:
Patriots 27, Panthers 19

Sunday, September 10, 2006

14th Place

Things went well with the short stack as my steals never ran into hands and I won the races when they did call me. I had it up to 200k with 14 left which was near average with the blinds at 6k-12k with a 2k ante. I decided to make a steal with 98o from the cutoff to 33k and the BB called me a bit hesitantly. The flop came K66 rainbow and I instachecked when he checked to me. On the 7 turn he bet 40k and I decided to make it 125k leaving myself with around 45k. I wanted him to know I would not fold if he pushed but didn't want to just shove in as that looks more like a bluff. After discussing the hand afterwards I actually think a shove may have been better than what I did. In any case I think a move like this is a pretty high percentage play to pick up a huge pot but this time it didn't work, he had K8o and put me in, I called for the rest and missed my eight-outer.

Although this was a pretty small result (only 4 buyins) it was good for my confidence and experience, as always, and another small notch on the tournament belt. The 2.5k is on Tuesday.

Deep Run at Borgata

Today was one of those days where guys kept moving all in when I had aces. I built a monster stack and was probably chip leader at the dinner break. After dinner my cards went a bit cold and I wound up finishing the day at 54k which figures to be one of the shorter stacks with 27 left. Shannon "BLUFFforRENT" Shorr put on an exhibition at my table all night and leads the field going into day two, which starts at 2 PM ET tomorrow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Borgata 1k

The structures here are fantastic, the facility is great, the players are pretty shitty, and I can already tell I'm playing great. Things are looking good.

There was only one notable hand I played today:

25-50 blinds (first level). We started with 7k and I have about 6.5k. Someone limped and I made it 300 with JJ in mid-late position. The guy on the button called with some table talk about how he "had to call me" or something despite my ultratight image which immediatly got me thinking about AQ. The limper called as well and the flop came KJdTd. The limper checked, I bet 700 and the button made it 2700 after some body language that made me think he had a huge hand. The limper folded and I thought for about four minutes. I talked to him, not something I usually do much of at the table, and he really convinced me he had AQ. Although there were obviously other hands he could have I was just convinced he had AQ. He even told me he had the nuts and would show it. I finally tossed the set of jacks into the muck and he showed AQ.

Tomorrow is the 1.5k NLHE.

1.5k WSOP event: -1500
1.5k WSOP event: -1500

Tuesday night (25-50 NL online): 3 hrs, +3,994

1k Borgata: -1080

Year to date:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The 2006 WSOP, Part One: Grades

This is the first portion of a four-part series about the 2006 WSOP and its aftermath. This part evaluates the experience as a whole, the second part will deal with Paul’s jaw-dropping breakthrough, the third will discuss that breakthrough’s ramifications for me personally, and the fourth will recap what I have been doing since the WSOP.

First, revisiting the over-unders I established before the WSOP:

# of WSOP events I play: 21
BARELY UNDER: (Actual - 20)

# of WSOP cashes I make: 3
OVER: (Actual – 5)

# of WSOP cashes from the house: 12
BARELY OVER (Actual – 13: Moon – 5, Fish – 3, PiMaster – 2, Gambler – 1, MasterJ – 1, Nappy – 1)

# of WSOP final tables reached by the house: 2
OVER: (Actual – 3: Fish – 1, PiMaster – 1, MasterJ – 1)

# of WSOP bracelets won by the house: 1
BARELY UNDER: (Actual – 0 despite three valiant attempts)

Without question, our house was the most dominant of the several WSOP houses featuring young online players. The Holla-Bolla or whatever Shannon Shorr-led house had a few nice results late and the Alex Jacob/Jason Strasser/Duke house performed well, but our overall results (and one ridiculous cash) crushed them all.

# of World Cup games I will watch: 7
UNDER: (Actual – 5)

# of World Cup games I will watch decided by terrible officiating: 6
UNDER: (Actual – 3)

# of times Jose's mom will break up the soccer game: 83
BARELY UNDER: (Actual – roughly 75)

# of times I hear "Pour Some Sugar on Me": 3

# of times I watch a full episode of "Yes, Dear": 0

# of times I watch a full episode of "Lost": 23
UNDER: (Actual – 6)

# of 100 degree days: 43

# of 110 degree days: 9

# of rainshowers: 1 (it has never rained while I have been in Vegas)
OVER: (Actual was something like 3, depending on your definition of “rainshower”

# of 200 games I will bowl: 1
UNDER: Bowling was shockingly non-existent throughout the trip. I'm not sure why.

# of 250 games the Gambler will bowl: 2

# of laptops found in the house at its peak: 11
UNDER – somehow MasterJ is an online pro poker player without a laptop

# of times the Gambler says "I hate my job": 49

# of times the Fish says "yet again": 74

# of times I use the phrase "incongruous romanticism" in a blog entry: 0

# of times I use the phrase "So the turn comes the Tc" in a blog entry: 3
WAY UNDER – Actual (0)

As for Wolf’s predictions:

# of times the nerdiness of the house is referenced/made fun of: 35
UNDER (but close)

# of times moon plays live NL above 10/20: 0

# of times Bag and I get wasted in vegas: 4 (for a 3 day trip)

# of times someone in the house gets ass: 5
Late in the trip MasterJ struck up a relationship with an exotic dancer. The determination of this over/under is based upon that relationship, the details of which I am not privy to.

# of times someone in the house get ass from a woman: 0

# of kleenex used from the 11 laptops all perusing porn sites: 432
UNDER – too many people in the house for “alone time.”

# of stupid/amusing prop bets made: 21
ROUGHLY CORRECT (with the Moon going approximately 7-0 and winning about a week’s worth of dinners and drinks from Victor and Paul).

# of times Moon asks Kwick to "pour some sugar on me": 3

And now the grades, in alphabetical order:

Bag: A
Three trips to Vegas, a monster run in the shorthanded tournament, making him 2 for 2 in WSOP cashes, and the decision to quit his job and become a poker pro! Pretty stunning stuff. However, the Bag once again failed to come over the top of Juanda.

Cake: A-
The perfect Vegas-in-the-summer soundtrack.

Clerks 2: C
It seems like everyone I talk to liked this movie quite a bit. I just don’t get it. It was so stale, the jokes were forced, nothing came naturally, it was like having the WSOP at the Rio instead of Binion’s.

Females: B+
I think this would have been a pretty miserable experience without a few girls coming through the house. I can only handle 100% Dudeness for so long. It was really comforting to have Andrea (Toph’s girlfriend) at the house. I just felt a lot more relaxed anytime a female was staying with us. Near the end of the stay, Mandy Baker added a female voice to the House of Pain fraternity. Lee and Laura’s visit provided a desperately-needed refresher for me halfway through the WSOP. I don’t think I would have made it through without a major meltdown if Laura had not visited.

And then there was the one girl who stayed throughout: Zoe. Although she
a) clawed a ton of damage in the upstairs carpet
b) had to be tackled by Paul milliseconds before exposing herself to the Landlord and getting us in a ton of trouble,
c) whored herself out, sleeping in multiple beds and flirting with just about everyone who walked into the house (and three German Shepherds on every one of our nightly walks),
Zoe may have been the most indispensable member of the house. It was such a great feeling to come home after a long day of sitting around a table with fat men and see the excitement on her face, then go outside and watch her glee explode into impulsive, aimless sprinting around the block.

Harrah’s: D+
The 2006 WSOP featured great disorganization, several major gaffes from the tournament staff, tasteless all-encompassing greed, and a general aura of corporate sleaze (not the “good old fashioned” sleaze of Vegas of old). It was pretty damn lame for PiMaster to make a WSOP final table and have it played in a sparse corner of the room with no monitors or crowd within thirty feet of the action. The payout structures were generally abysmal, with the early money finishers usually receiving about 1.2 buyins. The main event payout structure was one of the worst I have ever seen, though it was recently bottomed by the Legends of Poker main event. There was the NLHE shootout fiasco, when the tournament staff switched the format of the event at the last minute without telling anyone. A decision that particularly annoyed me was choosing to start some of the preliminary events 11-handed. Not only is this uncomfortable, I think it barely qualifies as poker.

The one saving grace: The main event featured one of the finest blind structures in poker history. Harrah’s did not compromise the quality of the structure one bit. They let the players play deep-stack poker the entire way. Surely this was one of the greatest poker tournaments ever played.

Heineken: C+
This has become the default beer for me at the casinos, as pretty much all of them have it and microbrews are pretty impossible to find on the Strip. A default flavor for a default beer.

Hollingol: A
Never in my life have I been this scared of another player, and we didn’t even play at the same table.

Housemates: B+
First the lowlights: The housemates putting in a combined 3000 hours of Starcraft; Gambler and Hostile One cranking up the chip sounds on Party Poker to deafening levels heard throughout the house at all hours of the day and night; the kitchen area becoming a wasteland, climaxing in MasterJ’s explanation that he didn’t throw away a particular piece of garbage because “the trash can was too full”; Lazypoo accidentally walking off with a pair of driving shoes from a Go-Kart business; Matt stumbling into the wrong room at the Rio the night after Paul’s 2nd place finish, sleeping on the floor despite an unclaimed couch, then snoring loudly, waking me up on the day I needed to drive to central Utah in the middle of the night; Gambler failing to read my WSOP 2005 playbook and plunging down a spiral of bad gambling and lifestyle, chasing good money with bad; the Hostile One failing to return to Vegas for Paul’s final table, offering up some sort of excuse involving horses.

Overall, however, I enjoyed the shit out of the house and everyone who was there. We had a lot of good times. I was a bit worried about how things would go, especially considering I had never met about half the guys who would be staying at the house, some for over a month. It was definitely a risk to invite some unknown dudes to live with me in Vegas for weeks at a time. Luckily they were all really cool guys. I can honestly say I hope each and every guy who stayed in the house is a friend for life, and I think some of them will be.

Landlord: D+
The antithesis to Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction. How this fellow manages to run a fairly significant business is beyond me.

Lost: A-
I only finished six episodes but this appears to be an absolute stalwart right up my alley. “This isn’t just a bear…it’s a POLAR bear” was probably one of the top ten moments of my life.

Miami Vice: C+
The pluses: Jamie Foxx, the delicious Gong Li, pretty sweet shots of things like Miami at night and boats traveling through the Caribbean, some solid villains, and some of the most entertaining violence ever put on film. The minuses: a who-cares plot, Crockett (a protagonist with basically zero character development), inconsistent direction from Michael Mann reminiscent of his mostly-unwatchable Ali. Basically this was a Bond movie with cooler action and less-cool everything else.

Moon: B+
This was a pretty good World Series for me. I cashed a very respectable five times. I learned to play the short stack extremely well, I think. I sacked up and made some plays. I limited the stupid spewing of chips with crap hands. I made some tremendous calls with weak hands. My tournament game came a long ways this summer and I feel pretty confident about taking the next step and making some big final tables in the next few months. Perhaps more importantly, though, I think I did a really good job of captaining the House of Pain. This was an unusual situation in which others relied on me. It’s somewhat rare for me to take on a role of leadership and I think I proved I can handle it.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: B
As my friend Dave pointed out in his blog, the original Pirates was an entertaining summer movie with creative performances from Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush. It was not a masterpiece, but it seems many remember it as just that while they forget their original expectations for the movie. Then the sequel comes out and everyone is expecting the best popcorn flick since Independence Day. While I disagree with Dave that this Pirates was better than the first (I think Depp mailed it in and they bit off a bit too much for one installment), it was still the most entertaining movie I saw all summer. One other note – bring a backpack with plenty of supplies for this one. Food, water, coffee, eye drops, an extra seat cushion, etc. I’ve seen longer movies but never one that felt so endless.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: B+
I’d probably give By the Way a 10/10, Californication a 9, and Stadium Arcadium an 8. Maybe not the most creative band on the planet but definitely one of the most dependable and functional. Rick Rubin’s production is excellent as always.

Rio: D
The Jose Cuervo of casinos.

The Squeeze Play: C+
The popularity of this move has gotten out of control. It became a virtual certainty that if a pot was raised by an aggressive player and then called by someone else, a third party would come over the top with a large reraise. Young, internet-trained players are busting out the squeeze with alarming frequency. It is just so devastatingly effective. Even if you think they’re doing it, it’s sort of hard to do anything about it without a hand. The squeeze has also gotten ridiculously common at the high-stakes no limit tables online. I’m currently devising counterstrategies for the squeeze. Frequent slowplaying may be the best way to slow down the squeezers.

Sun Chips Garden Salsa Flavor: A
The over/under on how long a bag would last in the house was in the minutes, not hours or days. Perhaps the top snack food on the market right now.

Superman Returns: C-
Seeing this movie in IMAX 3-D at the Palms salvaged a passing grade. There just wasn’t anything good about the movie really, and the Kate Bosworth casting/performance was just terrible.

TheGraveWolf: B
Two trips in one WSOP, a huge improvement from the ’05 debacle.

X3: C-
I’ve now seen three X-men movies and the only thing I can remember from any of them is “Do you know what happens to a toad when it gets struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.”

As always, there's no point in trying to follow up those words of wisdom.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

August Top 15

15. Maritime - Tearing Up the Oxygen
14. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
13. Maritime - Don't Say You Don't
12. Gillian Welch - Lowlands
11. The Shins - Pink Bullets

10. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - This is Us
9. Van Morrison - And it Stoned Me
8. Maritime - Parade of Punk Rock T-Shirts
7. Maritime - Twins
6. Kathleen Edwards - Back to Me

5. Oasis - Supersonic
4. Oasis - Columbia
3. The Cars - Bye Bye Love
2. Guster - Satellite

Song of the Month:
Oasis - Rock 'n' Roll Star