Friday, February 29, 2008

February Top 15

15. The Black Crowes - Gone
14. The Avett Brothers - Die Die Die
13. The Killers - Romeo and Juliet
12. LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum
11. Liz Phair - Never Said

10. INXS - Don't Change
9. Social Distortion - Bad Luck
8. Bowling For Soup - High School Never Ends
7. The Dandy Warhols - Heroin Is So Passe
6. Toad the Wet Sprocket - Fall Down

5. Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats
4. Low Millions - Eleanor
3. Gavin DeGraw - I Don't Want To Be
2. Heart - Alone

Song of the Month: Al Stewart - Year of the Cat

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rays of Light Through the Lameness

February is almost over, which means I felt compelled to post the 2008 edition of the Lame Hall of Fame. But I’m in Boulder and the weather is spectacular, and I don’t hate life like I usually do in February, so maybe we’ll have to put that off till next year. Or at least for another few days, when it starts snowing again and DIA is a mess and I wonder why I came home instead of hanging loose in Vegas and California. Instead I decided to write about a couple exceedingly lame situations I found myself in where I was blindsided by something cool and unexpected.

The summer after my first year of college, I came home to Boulder and desperately searched for a job. I tried everything, and found nothing. The CU students beat me to the punch, and there weren’t many scraps left. Finally in June, when it seemed all options had been exhausted, I found a brand new Italian restaurant on Pearl Street called Trattoria Girasole. They were opening up that summer and needed a staff. I got hired as a busser.

The guy opening the place, Francesco, was a real asshole. He was Italian and hadn’t spent much time yet in the States. The restaurant was his baby, and he was overbearing. He put so much pressure on everyone, it made them constantly look over their shoulders in fear and loathing. It was a terrible place to work and everyone hated it.

When we started, the working situation was naturally very disorganized. These things happen when a restaurant opens. It was understandable but it sucked. We would come in to work, open the place, and then be overstaffed and eventually Francesco would send some of us home. Our wage was something like $4/hr (well below minimum wage) before tips, so often we would come in for three hours and walk with $12 because we wouldn’t get a share of the tips if we left before many customers arrived. I’m not sure about the legality of this. I am sure it pissed us all off.

By the end of the summer, I was the only busser out of the eight originally hired still standing. The others had all quit or been fired. I managed to carve out some dignity and sanity in that place, but I still despised every minute of work there. When I got there I worked efficiently but without passion. When I left I tried not to think about work again until the moment I got back.

Perhaps the worst thing about the job was that Francesco made the bussers clean and close the place down. Outside of the kitchen, we had to do all the cleaning at the end of the night – tables, exterior, bathrooms, etc. This isn’t standard, but Francesco wanted to squeeze every drop he could out of the lowly bussers. It was kind of a savvy business move, really.

At the end of each night, Francesco would stay to order the bussers around. He would tell us what to do and do some bookkeeping. This was how it was all summer. There was never any breathing room, never a chance to relax without his watchful eye boring down the back of your neck.

One August evening near the end of my time served at Girasole, Francesco and I got to talking about music during one of those cleanup closedowns. I’m not sure how the conversation started but eventually Francesco confided in me that he liked listening to Radiohead. I briefly mentioned that I preferred Oasis but some chef was hyping the talents of Genesis. Francesco started making fun of Genesis and I started laughing. Then Francesco asked me if I could guess what his favorite band was back in the day. He said they were the Radiohead of his generation. I assumed Pink Floyd but he shook that off. I threw out a couple more mystified guesses – maybe the Zombies, perhaps Yes? Finally Francesco ended the suspense: Deep Purple.

He was real fired up at this point. I had never seen him like this. He was bouncing around like an excited little boy and then went upstairs and blasted some old Deep Purple record over the restaurant’s speakers. It was halfway decent, not the progressive rock juggernaut Francesco was hyping but a reasonable 60s rock album and 8000 times as fun as the muzak blend of pop opera normally played in the restaurant. That was pretty cool.

Five weeks ago we flew from Melbourne, Australia to LAX on United Airlines. I have had a number of dreadful experiences involving United, and believe they are not only the worst major airline operating today, but possibly the worst large company in the world. My trip out to Australia was filled with hassles, too numerous to recount here. The return was less stressful, though not near as enjoyable as last year's jaunt on Qantas.

Every step of the way, the United personnel had been rude, unhelpful and incompetent. In Denver, the bitch at the ticket desk had insisted to me that I had no ticket nor visa before being forced to eat her words. On the return, the flight crew flight kept screaming out score updates from the NFC Championship game, which we were overoptimistically, tragically trying to avoid until we got home to watch it on DVR.

Before the flight home, I bet Joel 1% of FTOPS main event action that he wouldn’t get home without at least an hour delay. He did, but I still think it was a good bet – more than half of the flights I’ve been involved in with United have been delayed, and usually not for reasons out of their control.

When we walked off the plane in LAX, it was about 8 AM local time and we had been up all night and day on the 14 hour flight. We blearily trudged off and tried to navigate LAX.

There was a guy working the bag switch for United who greeted us. He was moving fast, jamming away on a computer, slapping tags on bags, tossing them on and off belts, talking with people. He asked where we were going. When I said Denver, he immediately asked if I wanted to catch an earlier flight. I was staring face to face at a miserable jetlagged four-hour layover, so obviously I was thrilled to catch a punctual flight. In just a moment, he had a new ticket to Denver in my hands. Joel then asked if he might be able to help him get to Atlanta any sooner. The guy jammed away on the computer for a couple minutes throwing out hypotheticals involving a dozen random cities, but there just was nothing to help Joel. He sure tried though.

Joel and I couldn't believe a United employee had gone out of his way to help us. We couldn't believe how well this guy was doing his job, and wondered what exactly that job was. Like Michael Clayton or Winston Wolf, he was just The Guy That Gets Things Done, we decided. What a job he did. For whatever reason, he was fired up to work and do the best job he could. I still can't believe he worked for United.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

LAPC Main Event Hands

Throughout the tournament I open-raised between 2.5 and 3x the BB, never more or less.


I arrive just in time to see a lady dust off 19k (400 big blinds) with AA on a board of J739 rainbow.

1 Daniel Quach
2 Vince Procopio
3 Bad young Asian player
4 Tight older guy, turned out to be pretty solid
5 That terrible lady, replaced by a weakish local cash player
6 Older guy who looks and acts like a complete fish but turned out to be tricky and aggressive. I never quite figured him out.
7 Mediocre local cash player
8 Older fellow, used his tight image pretty well but nothing scary
9 Me

Raise button with AQ. Vince calls in BB. Flop 863 check-check turn 3 he bets 200 I call river 4 he bets 350 I fold he shows an 8.

Limp 87s EP button calls blinds call. Flop J83 with a flush draw checked to me I bet 125 SB (6) calls. Turn T check check river J he bets 200 I call he shows J2.

Two players limp I complete with J7cc in the SB. Flop 752 two spades I bet 125 (6) calls. Turn 7 I bet 300 he folds.

Fold J8s EP.

Limp JTo cutoff SB limps BB raises 250 more I fold.

Raise 66 Quach calls board of 872KT is checked down I win.

Fold 53s UTG.

Vince raises EP (3) calls I casually call in BB with AQ. Flop Q96 with flush draw I check VP bets 300 (3) folds I call. Turn 4 check-check. River 4 I bet 825 he folds reluctantly.

Fold K8o button.

Limp 97s cutoff BB (3) checks. Flop 543 one of my suit he bets 100 I think about it but fold.

Fold A8o MP.

UTG limps I limp A6s BB raises 400 more UTG folds I fold.

Guy limps I limp 95s button VP checks. Flop Q53 they check to me I bet 100 VP calls. Turn 7 check-check. River A check-check amazingly I win VP says he has 62 which he obviously must have to be able to lose that pot to me.

Limp QTo hijack blinds check flop 852 with a flush draw checked around turn 4 SB fires we fold.



Couple of limps I fold Q9o hijack.

Two guys limp I check 96o BB. Board of 85444 is checked all the way down I should have picked this one up on the turn or river.

(3) raises UTG to 300 both old guys call I call on button with 32s VP calls in BB. Flop 9d8d2 checked around. Turn 3 UTG bets 700 old guys fold I make it 2000 he calls. River 7d he checks I bet 3000 he calls I confidently table the winner and he mucks. This theme of thin value betting would be a major one in this tournament, with less success than I had in this gorgeous hand.

Raise KQs LP win blinds.

Three guys limp I make it 550 on button with AK they all call. Flop A32 they check to me I bet 1200 they all fold and I show it.

UTG limps I limp K4cc late position the blinds check. Flop AsQsJc checked around. Turn comes gin the Tc. They check to me I bet 250 SB calls. This would have been fun if someone had raised, I would have moved all in for over 20,000! River 3h he check-folds to my 600 bet then depressingly tells me he had clubs.

Limp JTo blinds call. Flop Jh5h5d checked around. Turn 6d SB fires 300 BB folds I call. River Ad he bets big and I fold.

UTG limps I limp 55 next position one more limper and the blinds are in. Flop AK5 two spades they check to me I bet and all fold.

Folds to button who methodically puts 1300 (13x BB) in the pot. This guy is a fairly experienced player, maybe a pro. Obviously the bet seems like a misclick but the way he put the chips in it seemed like he did it on purpose. The SB very reluctantly folds and now I look down at AKo in the BB. What a weird spot. I would happily lose up to 10k in this spot but he has twice that. I really don’t know what to do, consider everything, and finally, at this easy table, I decide to just fold.

(6) raises (7) calls I call As9s in SB BB calls. Flop QQ7 I check-fold to a bet and a call.

(6) raises (7) calls I call with 88 the BB (3) calls. Flop 442 rainbow they check to me I make a dorky 200 bet into the 1450 pot only the BB calls. Turn A check-check river 2 check-check he wins with A3.

Fold ATo EP.

Old guy in SB raises to 350 I call with QhJ. Flop JT4 all hearts he bets 500 I call. Turn 5 he bets 1k confidently I don’t like it much but peel again. River 4 he bets 1k again now I shake my head and fold faceup. He doesn’t show but says “nice fold.” I befriended this guy throughout the day and he insisted he had me beat there.

Guy limps (8) goes to 400 I call with QJs all fold. Flop QQJ check-check. Turn 8 he checks I bet 600 he folds I show it.

Limp J7s cutoff blinds call board of A5342 is checked down we all split VP has KQhh in SB.



Three guys limp I limp 43cc button flop J74r no clubs all check to me I think about firing but check. Turn 5 is bet and raised I fold.

(7) limps I limp A4s Quach finally makes a raise first guy folds I fold.

(6) raises to 450 only I call with 64cc board of 993KA is checked to river he bets 500 I fold.

(6) raises to 650 I call in BB with 85s. Board of 9428Q is checked all the way I beat his A5o.

Two guys limp I complete from SB with 6h4s BB checks. Flop Q65 all hearts checked around turn 3 I bet 550 they all fold.

(5) limps I limp As7s button Quach folds SB VP checks in BB. Flop Q95 two spades VP checks (5) bets 400 I think about raising but just call and then VP calls in the BB. Turn 8 checked around. River 8 VP bets 1k we fold and he shows a queen.

Two guys limp I am thinking about bludgeoning from the button and of course I wake up with KK so I make it 850 only (5) calls. Flop KJ3 two hearts he check-calls 1200. Turn 5 he check-calls 2000. I have no idea what he has but I have the nuts. River Q he bets 5k I say “I have to call” and do he says “I have to muck” and does I show the KK.

Raise AK win blinds.

Raise QdQs to 525 (4) puts in 500 then very slowly the additional 25. It turned out he didn’t see me raise but I didn’t pick up on this. Flop 992 two diamonds I check-call 1k. Turn 5d I check-call 2k not really liking it. River 3 I check-fold to a 3k bet he shows me (but not the whole table) KTdd.

Fold 87o cutoff.

Limp 55 LP SB calls BB checks. Flop J86 SB bets we fold.

Fold A8o MP. Table is falling asleep.

Fold 85s UTG.

(5) raises to 700 I call in BB with jacks. Flop 8d6h5h I check he bets 800 I call. Turn T I check he shoves for 8k I think about it and fold.

(4) raises to 800 I call with JTdd on button. Flop K9d5 he checks I bet 1k he folds I lie and say I had KQs.

Limp QTs blinds call flop J88 they check to me I bet 350 BB calls. Turn 7 BB bets 500 I fold.

Limp ATs 6 way pot flop KKQ checked to VP he bets we all fold he shows KJ. This would have been an easy check-fold of AA vs VP.

Seat 4 limps I check 93o. Flop 432 I bet 300 he folds.

Couple guys limp the older guy on my right makes it 1k on the button I fold QJcc in the SB.

Guy raises I fold A9o.



(8) limps I limp K7s five of us take the flop of TT3 SB bets out fold.

Limp 55 EP no interest in AQJ six-way pot.

VP limps (5) makes it 1200 I flatcall TT in BB VP folds. Flop K53 I check he bets 1200 I decide to fold.

(4) raises to 800 I call with AQ on the button. Flop 977 he bets 1k I call. Turn Q he bets 1k I call. River 5 he bets 1k I raise to 3500 he calls with KK I lose.

21,300 at dinner.

Fold 95s UTG felt nitty doing it.

A few guys limp I bump it to 1300 in the BB with AQo all fold.

Limp QJs in SB DQ checks. Flop AJ6 all hearts check-check. Turn x I bet 400 he folds.

(6) raises UTG I call with KTo BB calls. Flop AJ7 with flush draw BB checks UTG fires we fold.

Raise J9o DQ reraises big I fold quickly.

Raise A8s 2nd pos win blinds.

Fold 95s UTG.

(3) raises to 500 I defend in BB with A2o. Flop AJT I check-call 1k turn 8 and river 7 are checked down I win.

Raise K5s hijack DQ calls on button. Flop T43 check-check turn 9 I check he bets 800 I fold.

Limp 66 UTG two others limp blinds complete. Flop KK5 blinds check I bet a miniscule 325 all fold.

Raise to 700 from SB DQ defends in BB. Board of A32TK is checked the whole way I win.

Fold K3s cutoff.

Raise A7s HJ BB (4) reraises 2k more I fold.

Fold A8o UTG.

Fold 54o cutoff.

Fold KTo to a raise.



Raise QJo 2nd pos nemesis (4) calls. Flop Jd8d8 I check he bets 1200 I call. Turn 6d check-check. River A I check he bets 2500 I quickly call – I mean I really figure to have the best hand here most of the time I think – but he has AJ.

Nemesis 4 limps I check BB with K7s. Flop Qh9h7s check-check. Turn Ks I check he bets 1500 (overpot) I am confused and think a while before calling. River 8h I hesitate a bit and then check. He checks and turns over KcTc, I win.

Limped pot I have K3s in SB flop 732 checked around. Turn 2 I maybe should fire but don’t – checked around. River 4 check-fold to a bet and raise.

Limp button 9s8s DQ calls VP raises 1k more in BB I call and DQ folds. Flop JJT VP bets 1500 not sure what my plan is I call. Turn Q check-check. River Q check-check he says “I play the board” so I win. This hand tilted him into raising with Q2s and then making a great call on a board of T762A when a flush draw missed and his pair of deuces was good.

Limp QTo Nemesis checks. Flop Axx two spades he checks hesitantly which goads me into a check. Turn and river are low cards we check it down he wins with Ks2s.

Raise 76s EP DQ reraises 4x I fold instantly.

Next hand fold 54s EP.

Two guys limp I limp K9o SB board of AKxxx checked down and I win.

Limp 33 button DQ and VP call in blinds. Flop 755 they check I bet 300 they fold.

MP limps I fold A3o hijack.

Fold K9o 2nd pos.

Looking for an excuse to raise but keep getting unsuited unconnecting unpainted 5-gappers.

Limp 33 SB DQ checks. Flop K88 I bet 325 he folds.

22,225 to end day one.

Day two the table looked like this:

1 Thomas Fuller 22,225
2 Michael Binger 12,750
3 David Levi 23,950
4 Henryk Leszkiewicz 8700
5 Patrick Sullivan 59,700
6 Matthew Max??? 13,700
7 Brian McCann 15,775
8 Ray Coburn 65,675
9 Emmanuelle Christian Choi 20,000


Sullivan is seat six from the day before. I really never figured him out.

I expected things to change around quickly and they did – Binger went broke pretty fast, Levi got ahold of some chips, and other guys’ stacks were swinging big.

Raise 88 2nd pos on the second hand of the day get three callers. Flop KT8 with a flush draw I fire 2600 all fold immediately. Wanted the double up but still a nice pot to start the day.

Fold K5s MP in a good steal position.

Raise AA BB calls. Flop 752 he check-calls my 1325. Turn 6 check-check. River 9 he checks I bet 2k he calls with 65s and wins. Just a terrible bet by me there on the end. The biggest mistake I have made in a long time.

Raise 86s MP win blinds and antes.

Rold A8o next hand.

Fold J9s next hand.

(5) limps I fold 94o in SB.

Limp ATo cutoff blinds call. Flop AdJd9s they check to me I bet 800 BB calls. Turn 9s he checks I think for about 40 seconds and then bet 2k he calls. River 5s he bets 2k I call he says “good call” and mucks.

Johnny Chan sits down in the 6 seat.

Couple guys limp and Coburn makes it 2k which could totally be a move – I fold QJo button. This is one of those spots where I feel a player like Negreanu might make a call and a player like David Pham might make a reraise or a call. I am getting better and better after the flop and looser before it but I’m not yet comfortable enough to make these calls with QJo profitable.

Fold 87o in position to a new stack’s 4x raise.

UTG limps I limp JTo it gets raised then UTG reraises. I now go all in – just kidding I fold.

Evelyn Ng sits down in the 4 seat.

Raise AJ UTG Sullivan calls and the BB calls. Flop AJ7 checked around. Turn 5d BB checks and I check again, but Sullivan checks again. Like I said I never figured him out. River Q BB checks I bet 2k both fold immediately, and the BB shows Td8d so I feel like a fool.

Fold A5s button to Chan’s EP raise.



Raise JTo LP to 1600. Chan calls in the BB. Flop A98 with two diamonds he checks I bet 2300 and he makes it 3500 more. I had it in my head that he might be on a complete bluff because it’s Johnny Chan and he can see through my soul and all that. I resist the temptation to pot-commit reraise, remembering it’s Chan and he’s actually quite tight. I decide he has a monster and I have odds or he has a bluff and I will win it later so I flat-call. Turn Qd completing a possible flush and my straight. He bets 10k and I really don’t think he has a flush, the small raise on the flop and big bet on the turn doesn’t really fit a flush profile. I move in for 8k more and Chan calls with 99. River Q and I’m out.

This was the only big pot I played the whole tournament so I was very disappointed to bust. I came in with a plan of playing a lot of small pots, playing conservatively but giving myself a chance to hit hands and outplay people postflop. I executed that gameplan, it basically worked and I was doing fine despite making a lot of second best hands and having all my big pairs lose. Then I get it in good in the first big pot and get sucked out on, so overall I’m pretty disappointed but happy with my play.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Out of LAPC

Johnny Chan busted me in a 53k pot with his 99 beating my JT on a board of A98Q, a decent amount going in on the flop and most on the turn. At least I can watch the Academy Awards tonight.

LAPC Day One

I had a real good table today, Daniel Quach and Vince Procopio being the only players I recognized. Both were to my direct left but both are quite tight so there was really no problem at all. I got up to 30k with absolutely no risk at all, then lost a big pot valuebetting the worst hand. I had a ton of second best hands all day but the blinds were low enough and the players nitty enough that I didn't lose too much in those spots. The last couple hours I had a cruddy run of cards but grinded well all day and finished with 22,225.

Blinds are a very manageable 200-400-50 to start tomorrow. I didn't expend much effort mentally so I figure to be on my best game tomorrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Moon's 2007 Movie Awards

In honor of being in LA and Sunday's Academy Awards...with apologies to Atonement, Charlie Wilson's War, Sweeney Todd, and a dozen other contenders I haven't seen...

Best Actor:
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"

Best Actress
Ellen Page, "Juno"

Best Supporting Actor
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Garner, "Juno"

Best Ensemble Cast

Best Director
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country For Old Men"

Best Original Song
"Grey in L.A.", Loudon Wainwright III, "Knocked Up"

Best Original Screenplay
Judd Apatow, "Knocked Up"

Worst Acting Performance
Drew Barrymore, "Lucky You"

Worst Movie
"Lucky You"

Top Ten Movies:

10. The Simpsons Movie
9. Breach
8. The Lookout
7. No Country For Old Men
6. American Gangster
5. Michael Clayton
4. Superbad
3. Juno
2. Knocked Up
1. Grindhouse

A True Hollywood Story

Today Paul, Truman and I went downtown to E! Studios and filmed a segment for an E! True Hollywood Story episode on gambling highs and lows that will air in June. I can't believe this actually happened, and can't wait to see the finished product in a few months.

I'm hoping to create my own true Hollywood story beginning tomorrow in the $10,000 main event of the LA Poker Classic.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Wind Beneath My Wings

I reluctantly decided to play the $1k event today at the LAPC. It was the best tournament I have ever played. Years of practice, hundreds of tournaments, hours and hours of playing live poker all came together on this dark, rainy night in Commerce, CA.

My bankroll is at a point where I can play these tournaments without concern for the money. Honestly, a $1k tourney with this structure isn't very good EV. Playing cash games downstairs or online would be a better way to make money. I played today for practice and for fun.

I could see everything before it happened. You play enough tournaments, you know what people are going to do before they do. I always think about how baseball players talk about how big the ball looks when they are hitting well. The ball is getting bigger and bigger for me.

The final table from yesterday's event included David Baker, Joe Tehan, and Michael Binger (the eventual champion). These guys always seem to get deep, they always seem to have chips, they're always at the final table. They don't run good. They play good. If you're smart enough, and you play enough tournaments, and you dedicate yourself to the game, eventually you get really good. It has taken me years to figure it out, to sharpen the sword. I'm finally at the point where I know how to play.

I was at a table with Feming Chan and Matt Stout, two excellent young players from Jersey. We're all in the same boat, guys that have been solid for a while and are now cresting, really figuring out the exact right way to play every hand. We discussed almost every hand we were in, knowing we were giving each other information but just being so interested in the game that we couldn't help but talk about it.

I took a bad beat and finished 35th for an inconsequential cash. I didn't care. It's not about money anymore, not as much anyways. It's about the game, enjoying it, treasuring it, mastering it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

There Was Blood

Yesterday was what Commerce Casino calls the 1455+45+85=$1585 No Limit Hold Hold'Em tournament. I built a massive stack early. In the first level I won a huge pot with two red queens against two black aces with most of the money going in on a king high all heart flop. After winning a bunch more pots I got moved to a table with Allen Cunningham to my left, Randy Holland to his left, John Hoang to his left, and Alex Bolotin to his left. I busted Cunningham in a strange and big race, my AQ making a broadway straight on the river against his pair of sevens. This came on the heels of busting his Full Tilt compatriots Erick Lindgren and Jonathan Little in the last week during the FTOPS. The other three monsters soon busted as well. It was really looking good.

Then, like the recent movie There Will Be Blood, the wheels just came off. Everything just went haywire and a promising start was derailed. I started slipping mentally. I was unfocused. There were a couple guys at the table in their forties, recreational players, that I just couldn't figure out. Normally these are the guys you get your chips from, but I just couldn't get a read. I spewed in a couple pots with pocket pairs where I probably made the right decisions, then lost The Big Obligatory Race with AK, then took a bad beat for the rest.

It felt like I was just going through the motions the last couple hours. I expected to lose those last two hands, and I didn't really care.

I think I'll probably take a break from the donkaments today and tomorrow in order to get fresh and clean for the main event on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Camp Lemmon

When I was a little kid, I would go down to my Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie's house in Tempe for about three weeks every summer. All the sons and daughters of the Lemmons (my uncles Jim, Jack, and John, my mother Melody, and my aunt Sandy) would go down there at different points. There were also exchange students and other visitors coming through there, so there were always plenty of kids around.

Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie are the nicest couple I know. We had so much fun, it was unreal. Nintendo. Miniature golf. Movies. Swimming pool. Waterskiing, which I never figured out, but other water-tugging sports at the Lake. Disneyland, Universal Studios, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde. I couldn't believe how much fun it was. I think those summer days in and around Arizona may have been the happiest days of my life.

When it was over, I would have to go home and I'd always go through a real depressing week of withdrawal, before I remembered it was summer at Bixby School and there was mini-connectos, dodgeball, and Oregon Trail.

Truman and I stayed with Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie the last five days. It was just like old times. A great vacation. Now I am a bit morose, but I can see Commerce Casino through the window of my hotel room.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Ship The FTOPS Bet

I lost $6516 playing the FTOPS the last two weeks. The rebuys were under control - little of the damage came from that. I just didn't hit a good score and failed to cash in the three big buyin events. I cashed four times in nineteen events - twice in PLO, once in stud, and just once in NLHE (today's main event, busted Jonathan Little, ship another t-shirt and hat).

However, the team of MasterJ, PiMaster, and I won the pocket 5s FTOPS bet for $10k apiece, meaning I was able to turn an overall profit for the FTOPS. I think we all lost money, but the way pocket 5s scoring is set up it really rewards cashes and we (especially Pi) were able to get a bunch of those.

I am glad it's over - mentally I am exhausted and looking forward to a day or two without an impending donkament. It's great timing as we're headed to LA in a couple days ago for the tail end of the LA Poker Classic, including the main event which starts Saturday.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

FTOPS $2500 Hands

I had a good opening table draw. The guy to my left turned out to be a ridiculous insane maniac and the guy to his left was extremely aggressive but not completely nuts. Dan Shak aka oiltrader was also at the table. He plays poorly but probably not as bad as his wife.

CO = cutoff (one before button)
HJ = hijack (two before button)
UTG = under the gun (first position)
EP = early position
MP = middle position
LP = late position

5000 chips to start


Raise very first hand KQ MP they fold.
Raise UTG AQ 2nd pos calls LP reraises huge fold.
Fold T7o in BB to a 3x EP raise.
EP limps I limp 63o in SB BB raises 4x EP calls I fold.
Raise AQ MP again guy to my left calls again it gets reraised huge again I fold.
Raise next hand A8cc BB calls flop K94 two hearts he checks I fire 2/3 pot he folds.
LP makes small raise SBRounder calls I call in SB with Ts8s flop QJ9 two hearts one spade I check LP bets Rounder calls I make a pretty big raise they both fold.
Limp 87o on button blinds complete flop 662 they check to me I bet small they fold.
Raise AcQs MP cre8ive who hasn’t played a hand yet calls on button. Flop K53 two clubs I fire she calls turn 2s I check and fold to a 2/3 pot bet I generally try to avoid playing hands like that.
Fold A5o cutoff.
Raise 64cc HJ the very bad player to my left makes a big (4x) reraise. This guy is the time bomb at the table and will stack off with an overpair or even worse so I call. Flop comes 876 with two diamonds. I check and call a decent sized bet. Turn 9 I check and fold to a bet.
Raise QTcc MP same guy makes that big reraise again I call out of position and check-fold on a raggedy board.
Raise T9o CO win blinds.

Folds to me in SB with the nut in the BB I raise KK 3x he instafolds.
UTG raises I call 88 on button flop JT4 she fires I fold.
Rounder raises I call with T9s Sergei Berezin (the real aggressive guy two to my left) squeezes huge we fold.
Limp 55 UTG blinds check flop T94 with a flush draw checked around turn K Rounder fires I fold.
Walk the nut with 84o.
Raise 64s MP they fold.
Raise KQ EP they fold.
Raise a red AK get reraised huge by the button then the SB (Shak but I don't yet know it's Shak) smoothcalls I make a 3x reraise of that the button folds but then Shak calls. Flop 9d5s3s check I decide to give up and check turn 8s he bets pot I fold.
EP raises I smooth with AK flop 553 he bets I call turn A he checks I bet 2/3 pot he calls river 3s providing a backdoor flush he checks I bet big he tanks a long time and folds.

Raise AQ UTG maniac calls flop comes T32 I check-fold to his 100% chance of betting. This brings up an interesting question, how am I supposed to play ace high here against a guy who a) has never once folded to a continuation bet b) has bet every time he has been checked to and c) will certainly bet all three streets with or without a hand if checked to.
Raise KK percy (the maniac) calls BB calls flop comes Qd6c5c BB checks I check percy bets BB folds I raise 3.3x percy folds instantly.
EP raises gets called I fold 74s in BB.
Sergei raises UTG I fold KQ in SB.
Raise AK on the button percy calls in SB flop 77h3 check check turn Jh check check river 6h he bets half pot I instacall he has K5s I win.
Raise K9ss MP percy calls flop A74 all diamonds I check-fold.
Raise KK, LP calls and BB calls. Flop J95r checked to me I bet LP folds BB calls. Turn 7s BB checks I fire 60% pot he quickly makes a barely more than min raise leaving himself 900 chips I fold.
Try to limp Q9o on button percy makes a 6x raise from the SB and Sergei calls in the BB I fold.
Fold K6s HJ.
Raise AJo percy calls and then Sergei makes his usual gigantic reraise. I feel like I have a few too many chips for AJ right now and the risk/reward ratio is bad so I fold even knowing Sergei might have shit. Percy calls and they check down a board of QJ63Q Sergei has A8o and percy wins with 76o.

Raise AK next hand the button (cre8ive) calls flop T73 check check turn K I fire she folds.
Guy limps I limp J8s on button percy makes a 7x raise from the SB guy calls I fold.
Fold A5s MP. 60x BB stack now.
UTG (very tight) raises I call in next position with 22 another calls flop A high UTG bets we fold.
Tight guy raises HJ I call cutoff with AJss. Flop J43r he bets 250 I call. Turn J he checks I bet 444 he calls. River 8 he checks I timebank and eventually bet 1432 he tanks a long time and finally calls with 99.
Cre8ive (who has been playing great) raises EP I defend BB with 8h7h and check-fold on QdTh3d.
Raise AQ LP Cre8ive makes a big reraise from the SB I maybe should just dump it against this player but I call. Flop AK2 she bets hard I don’t love my hand but call. Turn T check check river J she checks I bet 1777 in a similar fashion to the trip jacks hand a moment ago she uses all her time bank and finally folds. I think I got very lucky to win this hand.

Raise AJ HJ percy calls cre8ive calls. Flop KK4 checked around turn 3 checked to percy he bets quickly I am prepared to call two streets here but cre8ive calls I fold.
Fold KTo in BB to the CO’s raise – he is a solid player.
Limp J4s in SB percy raises 3x I call. Flop K83 I check-fold. Obviously a siphon there but percy could so easily double me up if I hit against him.
Raise KJs EP cre8ive calls and BB calls. Flop AJ3 BB checks I check cre8ive fires BB checkraises I fold. Would have casually called if BB folded and would have raised if BB called.
Guy min raises LP I call in BB with 9d8d. Flop JJd7d I bet 201 he makes it 700 I make it 1999 which is most of his stack he folds.
Sergei raises UTG I call in SB with AQ percy calls in BB. Flop 973 I check percy bets we both fold.
Fold A2s EP.
Cre8ive raises EP SB calls I call in BB with Tc8c. Flop Th7h6c checked around. Turn 3 SB checks I bet very small (1/3 pot) cre8ive folds SB calls. River J check check I win he has 99. Would definitely have launched a value bet on the river but the jack was a bad card.
Limp SB with KcTh percy checks. Flop Tc9h7c I check-call half pot. Turn 6c check check. River T check check he has J3 I win.

Fold 43s in BB to cre8ive’s raise.
Fold K7s on button after Shak limps.
Short stack raises I reraise with JJ he shoves I call he has QQ and wins.
Limp 86dd in SB percy raises in BB I call. Flop TcT6c I check-call a bet. Turn J check check. River 2 I check he bets big and fast I call he has AJ. Timing tells on this hand, particularly the turn where he instantly checked, need to be remembered.
Raise Ad9h on button percy calls in SB. Flop K54 all diamonds percy checks I bet 2/3 pot he raises I make a pot committing 3x reraise he shoves immediately I call he has K5hh the 9d falls on the river for a dramatic double up.
Fold T8s in pos to a short stack’s raise.
Raise AJ percy calls a new guy squeezes I fold.
Fold A6o HJ.
Raise 99 three guys call flop 552 I bet 60% pot they all fold.
LP raises I smoothcall in SB with AK percy makes a big reraise from the BB original raiser folds now I make a gigantic potcommitting reraise percy folds.
Fold QTo hijack.
Fold KTo to a raise.

Percy finally goes broke after losing 200 BBs in about fifteen hands, the last of it raising with Q5s, calling a reraise, and then check-jamming a 952 flop and running into Sergei's AA.
Button raises 2.2x I call in BB with J9o flop comes KdQsTs I bet out he calls turn As check check river 8 I bet 38% pot he calls with AA.
Raise AQ HJ they fold.
Fold K9s EP.
Raise JJ UTG LP calls Eric Froehlich calls in BB. Flop T73r BB checks I fire 2/3 pot LP thinks and calls Froehlich folds. Turn 4s I check LP bets pretty hard I think and min raise she instantly shoves in I fold.
EP limps I complete with A9. Flop A93 with a flush draw I check BB checks EP bets 300 (pot) I call. Turn 2 check check. River 4 I bet out pretty big he decides to look me up with 66.
Limp A3 on the button SB raises 4x with a shortish stack I fold.
EFro raises I call with 44 BB calls. Flop 643 with a flush draw they check to me I fire 2/3 pot they both fold quickly.
Fold KJo UTG.
EFro raises from SB I call in BB 98hh. Flop QJ7 all clubs he bets I fold.
EFro raises button I call in SB with AQ BB calls. Flop 883 two diamonds I check BB shoves for 1.3x the pot EFro folds I decide to call. BB has 96dd as suspected but hits a pair and then another to win it.

Limp 22 UTG. Sergei raises 4x I call and check-fold on a KQ3 flop.
Limp 55 on button Sergei checks. Flop AK9 two diamonds he bets out I fold.
Call an EP raise with JThh Shak calls in BB flop KQ6 two clubs they check to me I fire 2/3 pot they both fold.
EP limps I limp A7s in SB BB checks. Flop T33 one of my suit I check BB checks EP bets I fold. That one kinda felt bad.
Limp K9cc on button Sergei checks. Flop QJT all hearts he bets out pretty hard I just call. Turn x he bets out hard I just call. River Q he bets fairly hard I call again he has Q5s I win.
EP limps I limp KJo CO blinds check. Flop KJ9r Sergei leads right out into everyone pretty hard I think forever and just call. Turn 8d he bets out hard again I call. River Td making a backdoor flush he bets big yet again I can’t see how I’m possibly good here so I fold. Right line here I think is raise the flop and bet the turn hard and fold if ever reraised.
Raise QQ MP they fold.
Give a walk with 75o.
Limp button with Q9o blinds check. Flop AKQ checked around. Turn K checked around. River T they check to me I bet the minimum. The only reason I bet here was so I didn’t have to turn over the hand. Only reason at all.
Raise AThh EP one player calls. Flop J86 two diamonds one heart it goes check check. Turn 4 I check and fold.
Raise the next hand UTG with JTs they all fold.
Open-fold 63s CO I feel like I’ve been a little too active.
Open-fold A9o next hand.

Fold J9s 2nd pos.
Fold 43s in BB to Sergei’s EP raise.
CO raises I call in SB with AcJc BB calls. Flop 9s7s7c I check BB checks LP bets I decide to fold.
MP limps I raise 3.5x on button with AKcc he calls. Flop Ah9h3c he checks I check. Turn Kd he checks I bet half pot he calls. River 5c he leads half pot I think forever and then make a 2.5x raise he folds.
Fold Q8s HJ.
Raise 77 Sergei calls and Shak calls in SB. Flop AsTc4s checked around. Turn Ah Shak checks I bet the minimum (160) Sergei calls Shak folds. River 5d check check Sergei has QJs I win. It's amazing, I've employed this min bet strategy a few times now live and online, it totally freezes opponents and they have no idea what to do and it gives you a good read on what they got. No wonder Phil Hellmuth keeps winning those bracelets.
UTG limps I limp QTs EP blinds come along flop 87x blinds check UTG fires I jettison.
Raise JJ MP Shak calls in BB. Flop T98 check check. Turn 6 check check. River 6 he bets the minimum I think a long time and just call. He has K8 I win.

Fold 54s MP
Moved to a new table where I recognize no one except Nordberg without too many chips.
First pot is limped I have 33 in BB and check it comes high and drawy I have no interest of course.
UTG limps MP raises I fold ATo in SB.
Fold 64s in pos to Nordberg’s raise he doesn’t have much chips.
MP big stack raises and I fold ATo in BB.
Give walk with 74o next hand, then fold Q5s on button. Cultivating tight image for upcoming antes and observing new table.
Raise QQ MP BB calls. KJ9 flop check check. Turn Q he bets I call. River As backdoor flush hits he checks I tank and bet ¼ pot he folds instantly.
Fold T7s in BB to dapalma’s UTG raise, then walk him with 32o next hand, then fold 96o on button.
Raise QJhh 2nd pos win blinds.
Fold AJo UTG next hand.
EP limps and LP limps I check 44 in BB and have no interest in a Q high flop especially after it gets bet and shoved.
Raise A9s Nord calls in BB board of K537J is checked the whole way down and I beat his QT.
Raise the next hand with KQ and win uncontested.
Guy raises CO I call in BB with AJ. Flop K83r check check and now I am very suspicious. Guys always bet that damn flop. Turn A I check he bets kinda hard I call. River 6 I check he bets average I really really want to throw this one away I know this guy checked his damn set on the flop. I just don’t think I can fold though and I finally call but he has 88 as expected. I know I am reading guys great today I just wish I could have found the impossible fold there. Honestly this is the hand I regret the most from the whole day, I just "knew" he had it.

Raise ATs get reraised by the button and fold.
Raise next hand with KQo EP SB calls flop comes KK9 he check-folds to my 2/3 pot bet.
Raise next hand (three in a row) UTG with KQo SB calls. Flop 872 two hearts check check. Turn 6h he bets less than half pot I call. River 8 check check he wins with TT I am happy with how that hand played out.
Fold Q8s MP.
Raise AJo UTG win uncontested.
Raise QJo EP win blinds.
Raise A9s CO win blinds.
Raise QQ EP get no action.
Call a raise with 77 SB calls flop 332 two hearts they check to me I bet the minimum giving them 10:1 they both call turn 5 they check to me I bet 1/6 pot they both fold. Again that funny min bet strategy works, they don't know what to do and they never make moves at it. My friend Remmy is always telling me about these wacky strategies he stumbles upon by experimenting and trying new things. From time to time he finds one that seems to work real well in certain situations and that's how I feel about this min bet strategy - in the right situations it's a real neutralizer.

Raise J9s EP get reraised by next position and fold.
Button raises with short stack I fold Q3s in BB.
Raise K9o in SB dapalma folds BB.
Cutoff raises SB reraises kinda hard I have A9o in BB and just enough to get the SB to fold really thinking about making this move but I let it go.
Next hand button raises I fold JTo in SB.
Raise KJo MP win.
Fold JTo UTG.
Button raises SB reraises again a great spot for “TheMasterJ” 4-bet all-in uninvested but I fold 98o in BB.
Limp KQ in SB dapalma raises 3x I just call. Flop Q86r check check. Turn J I fire 2/3 pot he calls. River x I fire quickly and big he folds.
Fold J7s HJ.
Raise AQ EP a tight player reraises 4x I fold.
Raise A2s UTG win blinds.
Get walked next hand.
Guy who seems to raise every button raises I fold 54s in SB.

Raise KK no action.
Next hand raise 66 EP dapalma calls. Flop comes Q96 two hearts we both check. Turn 2 check check. River Ah third heart I fire 70% pot and get paid off by AJ.
Limp A8o SB dapalma checks. Flop K87 I check-call a small bet. Turn 6 I check-fold to a half pot bet.
Raise 55 button win.
Raise JTs EP no takers.
A tight player raises kinda big I call in the BB with QsJs. Flop J96 all clubs I check he bets hard I call. Turn 7d I check he tanks a long time then bets most of his stack I fold.
Next hand a tightish guy raises and I call in the SB with 33. Flop 872 I check he bets pretty hard I fold. Questionable line there, maybe I shouldn't call that preflop.
Raise 99 dapalma calls flop AK6 I check he bets I fold I think I can get away with a check-fold there cause I checked a monster to him last time.
Fold J8s next hand.
Raise AJo UTG a very tight player calls and then a guy reraises 4x I fold.
Raise KQ EP BB makes a big all-in shove I fold.
Limp KTo in SB dapalma checks in BB. Flop AKx check check. Turn I bet he folds.


This was a brutally card-dead period, I just never had anything at all or even a spot where someone raised in LP and I could think about moving it on a bluff.

Big stack raises to 1350 I fold JTs with 6.3k.
EP raises to 1350 gets called in two spots I fold A9s on button with 5.2k.
Raise half my stack cutoff with KJo get shoved on and then suck out against AK.
Raise 55 MP win the blinds.

Table has gotten very aggressive with most pots raised and reraised preflop. Switched the FTP background to jungle.
Fold J8s EP really ice cold cards the last hour.
Shove for 8.3k on button with KJs pick up the blinds.
Next hand make a very small raise from the cutoff with A8o the SB reraises and I fold.
Next hand UTG raises and I fold 33.
Next hand fold KTo.
Get a walk!
Raise small with two black queens CO for some reason both blinds just call and don’t reraise my short stack. Flop comes a horrifying Td8d7d. SB checks and BB leads out. I think I have to fold and I do.
Raise 99 UTG and win the blinds.
Shove on the button for 11x with A3 get called by AJ and lose.

Friday, February 15, 2008


After a five minute cruise through the town of Hatch, New Mexico, past the gas station and the majority of the chile stands, we were able to locate B & E Burritos. Truman had the combo plate and I had a burrito with red and green chile for $2.85. It was fantastic.

We took Highway 26 over one of the flattest sections of the Continental Divide and drove I-10 into Arizona and over to Tucson. We met Spencer and headed over to Charro’s “downtown.” Carne seca is beef dried on a pole for 24 hours. It’s the best meat I’ve eaten since the super premium jamon we procured at the market in Barcelona.

Spencer went to poker night and we went to the dive bar near his house he recommended. We rolled in about 9:30. When we arrived, there were about six rednecks sipping slowly on bottles of beer and just a couple college-aged kids. One, a girl wearing an Arizona jersey, fell off her stool with a mighty crash, busting bottle into shards behind her which she almost backed into.

There was one decent-looking girl in the place, a friend of the also decent-looking bartender. Truman and I played heads up shuffleboard and downed Rogue Dead Man Ales. During the match, the enchiladas he ate in Santa Fe, the combo plate from Hatch, and the carne seca relleno from Charro’s found their way back to the forefront of attention. Spicy. Truman managed to make his strongest statement just a couple seconds before the one attractive girl, bartender, and a couple others suddenly decided to head for a cigarette. The back door was conveniently located right next to the end of the shuffleboard table where we were shooting. They were milling about at that confluence for a moment right during the impact. I was lining up a shot, Truman was pretending to watch, and the rest of them were slowly heading out the door. The odor was overpowering and unmistakable. I’m sure it’s all anyone was thinking about.

When they finally got out the door, we both pretty much burst out laughing. I’m sure they did too, on the other side.

A bit later a recently broken-up couple came in and challenged us to a game of shuffleboard. The dude worked at a bar that had a shuffleboard table and the chick had what OK Go would call “a body like a battle axe.” Both these characteristics would play a role in the match, but Truman and I were able to eventually emerge with a best of three victory. Let it be known that I have never encountered talent equal to my own on the shuffleboard table.

We parted ways with Spencer the next morning and ate a great lunch over near the University of Arizona. The poor waitress spilled ketchup right on Truman’s groin. A metaphor for what’s going on his life right now, I suppose.

We walked around the campus area and adjoining commercial section after lunch, ambling by this store apparently opened by a Macalester ultimate Frisbee team player:

Then we headed west to Saguaro National Park.

After a very enjoyable jaunt through the Park, it was on to Phoenix.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Santa Fe

Leg one of the Great Western Road Trip was a success. Truman and I cruised down I-25 to Santa Fe. We ate some green chile enchiladas and burritos and then I played the $1k 6-max on FTOPS. I played real well and busted Erick Lindgren (winner of last night's gargantuan FTOPS) but lost the two key races and went out short of the money.

Tomorrow it's on to Tucson.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Full Moon Fever

Today I played two more FTOPS tournaments, the $535 PLO (co-coing with the Bag) and a juicy $100 rebuy. I busted on the bubble of the rebuy. Normally when an afternoon of online poker tournaments ends, I immediately leave my computer and go do something else. This afternoon I just kept on watching tables - watching friends, watching big names wielding big stacks, watching the final table of the PLO tournament, and watching Genius28 battle Phil Ivey in 300-600 NL. I had all these tables on Full Tilt tiled across the screen and was just staring at them slackjawed. I had a headache and felt nauseous. Eventually I did leave the house, but I kept on thinking about poker. Even while playing Settlers of Catan later in the night I kept thinking about poker tournaments.

I go through these periods from time to time where I don't care about anything but poker. I guess this means I'm still in the right business.

It's a lot of fun playing on Full Tilt. I love everything about Full Tilt. The software is so good. I just feel so comfortable playing there. I really commend Howard Lederer and the rest of em for building this empire the right way. I sometimes think about how satisfied this guy must be every day. He spent most of his life on the submissive end of the negative sum game that is poker, and now he's the one collecting the rake.

It's funny pouring in all this effort into these $150 and $200 tournaments considering how relatively low of stakes they are compared to $10-20 and $25-50 NL cash games - especially shorthanded. I am just more passionate about tournaments than cash games right now. Really I view most of the online "donkaments" as practice for the big live tournaments, where you can really make a score.

Having said that, the FTOPS really kicks into gear this next week with the massive $300 Sunday tomorrow, the $1k 6-max Monday, the "bankroll breaker" $300 6-max rebuy Wednesday, and the $2500 (the best tournament in online poker) next Saturday. Our team is in good shape in the $5k per team bet, but there is still a lot of poker to be played.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ten Favorite Movies

10. The Godfather
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark
8. L.A. Confidential
7. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
6. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
5. Groundhog Day
4. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
3. Erin Brockovich
2. The Shawshank Redemption
1. Rounders

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thoughts Inspired By FTOPS Event #2

I grinded a short stack for hours in the second FTOPS tournament, a $240 PLO knockout, winning about 94 all-in confrontations before finally busting in 26th place out of 1183 runners. I have better tournament results in PLO, O8, and limit hold em than I do in no limit, albeit with a small sample size. It's funny to think about that because I would be a losing cash player in each of those games at anything higher than low limits. In PLO I don't even know if I would be a winning 1-2 player, yet it might be my strongest tournament game. I can't wait to play these games at the WSOP this summer - they are all more fun than standard NLHE ring tourneys and will be a nice change of pace from the daily grind.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thoughts Inspired By Mystery Woman #22

The Wolf started this game on his blog where he puts up a picture of a woman and his readers try to be the quickest to identify her. I am incredibly good at this game. I even surprise myself sometimes. I have long thought I have a poor memory, but playing this game has shown I have a strong natural talent at remembering faces and connecting them with names.

My prowess in this game got me thinking a little more deeply about some things I've thought about in the past without really exploring. I play poker for a living, it's what "I do" or at least what I say when people ask me what "I do." Really what I do is hang out with friends, walk around in the mountains, go to the gym, play a lot of games (including poker), watch sports, travel a lot, drink a lot of beer, surf the net, watch a lot of movies, go to a lot of restaurants, watch television shows on DVD, and write. Although these are the things I do the most, they are not really the things I am best at. I do them because I enjoy them and I don't have anything "better" to do. I play poker because I enjoy it a lot and because I make more money doing it than anything else I could do right now.

I know, however, that I am not one of the best poker players in the world and never will be. My talent for poker is not as great as it is for the Mystery Woman game. I wonder if I should "do" something else, something that I have a chance to be the best at. I have always known I could be the greatest poker writer in the short history of the genre if I chose (no offense Jeremiah).

Although I have won more money playing poker the last eight months than any other period during my career, I feel these results are not necessarily sustainable. I have been running hot, as they say, particularly late in big tournaments. In the "good old days", it was much easier to make money. Party Poker was so reliable. Today, the 10-20 and 25-50 games are difficult. I am a much better player now than I was two years ago, but I don't win as consistently. A solid but unspectacular tournament player like myself cannot really count on the big scores needed to win on the tournament circuit - and now I can't really depend on the online cash games either.

I am looking to get out, eventually. A year ago I tried, sort of, but then got sucked back into the game. It was fortunate for me to get sucked back in, as I have managed to string together some nice results since the return. However, I still believe as I did then that I should try to find something else to "do" with my life. I have ideas, as I did a year ago, that I want to explore. Brewing and selling beer is still one of those ideas, and I know a lot more about it now than a year ago. Writing is another, though it is somewhat fanciful as I have never managed to complete a decent work of more than a few pages and never even got started on a big poker writing idea that has been kicked around for almost a year now.

But this is all a ways off. Tournament poker will be the focus from now until mid-summer, and it should be the most exciting period of my career. Tonight the FTOPS starts. PiMaster, MasterJ and I are on a team putting up $5k in a winner take all pool for FTOPS results on pocketfives. On Monday I will begin a month-long road trip that hits New Mexico, Arizona, LA (for the LAPC), San Jose for the Shooting Star, and Vegas for the main event at the Wynn. A similar road trip led to my retirement last year; I can't see that happening this time.

The period from mid-March to the beginning of the WSOP is murkier. The EPT San Remo and Monte Carlo back-to-back will get heavy consideration, as will late-May WPT sharkfests in Vegas. Another jaunt to Caesar's Indiana might be in the cards. If something crazy happens and I final table one of these 10k events the next month, then I may say screw it and go all out for the rest of 2008, Nam Le style.

One more thing is certain - the 2008 WSOP will be the wildest, most intense, most exciting time of my career. That begins the end of May and ends in mid July. After that, it will be time to reevaluate.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

My First First

I won the Full Tilt $1k Monday tournament for $98,750. This was the first time I have ever won a tournament of more than twenty players. My play was good and my luck was better. I feel great. Read my last blog, it's better.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Best Ever

The '07-'08 New England Patriots were the best football team I have ever seen. I believe they were the greatest team in NFL history. Archaic classics such as the '72 Dolphins and '85 Bears certainly would be no match athletically for modern NFL teams, and no recent team (with only possible exceptions the terrifying '98 Vikings and more well-rounded '98 Broncos) was nearly as dominant throughout the season. Only the '89 Niners compare favorably. They were just before my time.

The Patriots started the season with the ten following wins:
38-14 @ NY Jets
38-14 vs San Diego Chargers
38-7 vs Buffalo Bills
34-13 @ Cincinnati Bengals
34-17 vs Cleveland Browns
48-27 @ Dallas Cowboys
49-28 @ Miami Dolphins
52-7 vs Washington Redskins
24-20 @ Indianapolis Colts
56-10 @ Buffalo Bills

I watched some or all of most of these games, and have never been more impressed with a team. This wasn't domination; this was humiliation. The wins over the Redskins and Bills (both above-average squads) displayed a particular zeal for annihilation. These weren't merely executions - these were those particularly brutal murders where the victim is found riddled with bullet holes in the head and chest and they can barely identify the body.

As impressive as these wins were, they were even more heinous. I can remember the Pats going for it more than once on 4th down late in the 4th quarter up five touchdowns in that Redskins game. I remember Joe Gibbs's slack-jawed face - more shocked than appalled or disappointed. That's how it was for football fans as well - most hated the Pats, but watched every game just like people can't turn away from watching a car crash.

The turning point came the week after that Bills homicide, when Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson hatched a maniacal blitzfest and the Eagles came within a moronic A.J. Feely interception of pulling the biggest upset of the NFL season in Foxboro. That game provided a glimmer of hope, an idea that the Patriots offense might not be invincible and their defense could be overrun with mistake-free play.

The following week the 11-0 Patriots travelled to play disappointing Baltimore on Monday Night Football. The Pats snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a thrilling 27-24 triumph over the Ravens. It was the highest-rated program in the history of cable television.

After consecutive nail-biters over losing teams, the Patriots could no longer be considered invincible. But they blew out the contending Pittsburgh Steelers the next weekend, then casually peeled off wins against the AFC East cellar-dwelling Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Then came the season finale at the Giants in the most exciting "meaningless" game in NFL history, a 38-35 Patriots win. Although that game was close, it appeared the Giants had played a perfect game and still came up short at home.

The Patriots cruised to the Super Bowl on the strength of two boring playoff wins over the physical but unintelligent Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers. These were not like the massacres of the first half of the regular season, nor the close calls near its end. These were grinding, matter-of-fact wins featuring an increased reliance on tailback Laurence Maroney and little contribution from superstar wideout Randy Moss, who opposing defenses were now obsessing over.

It was so obvious that the only way a team could have a chance against the Pats was to get pressure on Tom Brady. I watched in disgust all season as teams sat back and tried to cover the Pats' formidable receivers. It led to 112 catches for Wes Welker, who had fewer his first three years in the NFL. I watched nauseously as Jacksonville repeatedly, meekly rushed four guys and Brady went 26-28. I watched all these teams refuse to throw the kitchen sink at Brady, even though they were getting torched and had nothing to lose.

Last night the Giants got pressure on Brady. They got it through their defensive line, the best pass rushing D-line in football. Justin Tuck, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora - these guys are the reason the Giants won the game. The combination of this talent and superb defensive coaching was reminiscent of recent Patriots teams - the teams that actually won the Super Bowl.

Pressure changes everything. It's the reason Peyton Manning has the same number of Super Bowl trophies as his brother. These top QBs, Brady and Manning (Palmer and Brees if you want to down the line a bit), they are not the same under pressure. They make the same bad throws the bad quarterbacks make. They don't get into rhythm like they usually do. They get happy feet and screwy mechanics even when the pressure isn't there, because it's in the back of their minds.

Last night Brady looked like an average quarterback. He looked like Jay Cutler or Rex Grossman or Peyton Manning against a good defense. Or, maybe you could say he looked like Eli Manning.

Now is the time when I inevitably try to relate all of this to my poker career, because that's what I do in this blog. It occurred to me watching that game that my career has been pretty similar to Eli Manning's. Eli hardly had a hiccup cruising to the NFL (picked #1 overall in the 2004 draft), though he didn't really do anything special while in college. He has been a decent young pro, but was known more for coming up short than anything else (until the last month). I have thought a lot about what it must be like for Eli around his brother, his family, or even everyday life. It is so painfully obvious that he is not as talented as his brother. It is so hard for anyone to even think of the name "Eli Manning" without disparagingly comparing him to his older brother, one of the greatest to ever play the position.

I heard a snatch of one postgame interview where a Giants player said they had just beaten "the best team ever." It made me think of poker, why I play the big tournaments. I know I am not the best out there. I know I will never be the best. I see these 18-year old kids hit the international circuit and in two months have more success than I have had in my career. I don't play to be the best in the world, but I do play to beat the best in the world. I play for that one moment where it finally all comes together, to stand alone on top of the world.

Friday, February 01, 2008

January Top 15

15. Al Stewart - Year of the Cat
14. The Eagles - How Long
13. Matchbox Twenty - How Far We've Come
12. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Snow
11. Gavin DeGraw - I Don't Want To Be

10. Manic Street Preachers - Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
9. K.T. Tunstall - Other Side of the World
8. Powderfinger - Sunsets
7. Simon and Garfunkel - Fakin' It
6. K.T. Tunstall - Suddenly I See

5. The Weakerthans - Sun In An Empty Room
4. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
3. Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness
2. Spoon - The Way We Get By

Song of the Month: Powderfinger - Love Your Way