Friday, February 27, 2009

Settlers of Catan Life Analogy of the Week

In the sports calendar, February is akin to when the robber gets placed on your best spot. Of course, July is when you can't even get a game going.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lessons Learned From Binh Nguyen

As I write this, the final 19 players in the LAPC are in order of chip count:

Mike Sowers
Chris Ferguson
Payman Arjang
Binh Nguyen
Nick Schulman
Xuan Nguyen
Blake Cahail
Jeremy Kottler
Mark Bryan
Zach Hyman
Dan Lu
Chris Karagulleyan
Pat Walsh
Matt Woodward
Tam Ly
Peter Feldman
Teddy Monroe
Donnie D'Auria
Cornel Andrew Cimpan

696 players entered this year including most of the tour superstars. It was a loaded field. But if you look at this final nineteen, most are "unknowns." The ratio of stars to unknowns is smaller than it was at the start of the tournament.

I've been watching the WSOP Europe on ESPN lately, and I watched last year's as well. Last year the final table consisted of

Annette Obrestad
John Tabatabai
Matthew McCullough
Oyvind Riisem
Johannes Korsar
Dominic Kay
Magnus Persson
Theo Jorgensen
James Keys

This was lauded as the "toughest field ever" yet no one who reached the final table had recorded a million dollars in live tournament earnings before reaching that final table. The dozens of million-dollar winners all fell short.

The 2009 Aussie Millions main event final table:

Stewart Scott
Peter Rho
Elliot Smith
Raj Ramakrishnan
Sam Capra
Zachary Gruneberg
Richard Ashby
Barny Boatman
Zachary Fellows

We see this sort of pattern at all the biggest poker tournaments - the WPT Championship, the EPT Championship, the PCA, the FTOPS 5k, the WSOP ME, and even the 50k HORSE. I can't quantify the data but it seems to me that "unknowns" are making final tables at the same ratio as the superstars based on their percentage of the starting field.

What does this mean?

To me it means two things:
  1. Most "unknowns" can play as well as the "knowns." A Binh Nguyen or Jeremy Kottler may not have millions in live tournament earnings but that doesn't mean they're any worse at the game than a Chris Ferguson or Nick Schulman. There are always Ivan Demidovs and Alexander Kostritsins lurking, ready to explode. People who enter big tournaments usually know how to play.
  2. Success in poker tournaments is largely based on...surprise...LUCK. Good players will show long-term profit, great players will show a large long-term profit, weaker players will lose money in the long-term...but there is so much money and variance in poker tournaments that weak players could be lifetime winners and above-average players could potentially be losers over the course of a decade of live tournaments. Even Daniel Negreanu can lose money playing live tournaments over the course of a year.
It is easy to get carried away over short-term results. Mark Seif or Scott Fischman can win two bracelets in a week, but does this really mean anything? It probably means they are at least decent tournament players, and it also means they hit an incredibly improbable streak of good luck. We always have to consider poker tournament results, good or bad, with a grain of salt.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Night

Yesterday I played some online tournaments and ended the day with an $18 profit. To me this was like booking a five-figure win – Sundays almost always end with red eyes, a headache, and a loss of roughly $1000. I’ve been thinking about little other than poker tournaments for the last 36 hours and I am very excited to play tonight.

I felt I may have started to turn a corner yesterday. I actually got a hold of the chiplead in the Stars $500 near the bubble, hitting a few hands but also opening it up and taking a lot of chips I normally wouldn’t. I have been studying some of the better tournament players online looking for ways to get chips and then use those chips and have learned a few things.

I have also been virtual railing the LAPC, following text messages and I played in the LAPC the last two years and wish I was there right now. The reason I am not is financial. I do not have the bankroll to play as many $10k tournaments as I would like to. I used to play a lot of them knowing I could quickly make the money back on partypoker but that comfort is gone. Now I try to get some money squared away for the year before risking it on tournaments. If I am going to get back to playing 10k events I will have to earn it. Whether that is through tournaments, cash games, or both I don’t know. It will take a lot of hard work and some luck. I am motivated right now to improve my game, make some money, and put it into play in Vegas this summer where the fields are still manageable.


Raise Q9s on the button the second hand. The small blind wants a piece. The board of AA883 is checked down the whole way and I win. The SB called a raise out of position with T9o and never tried to buy the pot.

I recognize The_Dean221 (across the table), GhettoFabolous to my right, and martand three to my left. Dean plays pretty tight I think, and Ghetto more standard/aggressive for the online tournament pro.

The Fleet Foxes supply our first music of the night. Their self-titled album has gotten a lot of hype. I’m lukewarm on it. We’ll see if anything changes tonight.

The cutoff makes it 50, the button calls, and then Ghetto makes it 220 in the SB. I think pretty hard about 4-betting with K8o but fold.

The T9o guy to my left has quickly identified himself as the target, splashing around in a lot of pots in a nonprofessional manner.

From the small blind I call an early position raise after another call with 66. I check-dump on A72.

Martand raises UTG to 60 and gets a call. I call on the button with 55 and then the big blind makes it 360. Martand calls, the first guy folds, and I call on a pure setmine. Flop Q44 the guy bets half pot and we both fold.


I raise A9o and Mr. T9o (Vishnu) calls. Flop J96r I check-call 150. Turn 7 not my favorite card I check-call 360. River 7 check-check he has 98 I outkick and win.

Next hand I raise QTs Vishnu calls and so does the BB. Flop 552 I bet they both fold.

Vishnu raises UTG and gets two calls. I call in the BB with JTo, not an auto-call but looking to play with Vishnu. The flop comes T22 with two hearts. Vishnu checks, martand bets small, a guy named TAKETHECAN0LLIS calls, and I smoothcall too. The turn is another 2. Now I lead for about a third of the pot…and both call. Martand I have on some sort of medium pair below the ten. I dunno what Canollis is rocking. Would he call a bet here with say, two overs? It was a small bet. The river is the dreaded ace. I think a long time about some weak bet but decide to check. Martand checks also, and then Canollis bets 1085 into 1800. I go deep into the tank here. Did he really call a bet on the turn with an ace in his hand? Like AhJh or something? Could he have TT? AT? Although it seemed like a bluff spot, it didn’t feel like a bluff; I just feel there are so few hands he would call the turn with and then bet the river that don’t contain an ace. I finally fold, hoping Martand will call – and he does with 77, and loses to CANOLLIS ATo.


Dean raises and I call with KQs. The BB calls also. The flop comes K32 rainbow and they all check to me. I check on a half deception, half pot control play. Turn 7 now they check to me again, I bet 2/3 pot and both fold? Kinda funky, I was expecting at least a little action there.

The best of this album appears to be “Your Protector.” This is the only song that has gotten me excited so far.

I raise KQo MP, Vishnu calls, martand calls on the button, big blind calls. Flop Ks6d2s big blind checks, I decide to check top pair again, it’s checked around. Turn 5h checked to me I bet 3/5 pot and Vishnu calls. I decide he probably has a draw here so I check the Td river. He bets 60% of pot, I call immediately and he surprises me with KJo (I win).

I raise T7s from the cutoff. Vishnu calls. Flop TT9 I bet 200 into 300 vishnu calls. Turn 6 I bet 2/3 pot he calls quickly again. River T giving me quads, I set him allin for a pot bet and he folds quickly.

From middle position I limp 88 and a tight player makes a 5x raise. I call. Flop J43 I check not sure if I am calling a bet. He bets almost pot so I fold.


Ghetto raises UTG and I pop him 3x in next position with AQo. He quickly calls when it gets back to him. Flop Jh6s2h he checks I bet something regular he calls. Turn Qh check check. River 9s he checks, I bet pretty big and he goes into the tank. When he types “this is sick” I have a bad feeling I made too thin of a value bet. With his time bank running down he calls with KK and takes the 4k pot. Back to starting stack.

Raise ATs from the button to 150 and Vishnu makes a reraise to 450 from the small blind. He has 1k behind and hasn’t reraised preflop before this. I eventually decide to call which is not standard. Flop KJ6 with one of my suit he checks and I decide to take the free card worried that he will call allin if he has QQ or might be slowplaying KK or JJ. Turn x he fires most of his stack and I fold.

Fold A7s second position.


Dean limps and I limp KTo from the button. Vishnu calls in small blind and then the Russian in the BB, who has been tight, makes a huge raise. All fold.

Another spin of the Fleet Foxes didn’t do much more for me than it had before. I put on “I Am The Cosmos” from Chris Bell, a fringe classic rock album from the 70s. This is the kind of desperate stuff you go to once you’ve covered all the classics. I am trying to see if that nine dollar purchase was worth it.

Fold T6s MP.


I limp 64s in the SB. Vishnu raises it 3x and I call. Flop Q65 I check-call a half-pot bet. Turn K I check-fold to a large bet. This sort of hand used to plague me in the past; I am working on cleaning it up. Against a good player it is probably a bad idea to play hands in this manner but against Vishnu I think it was okay.

A guy who has played almost no hands raises 3x in mid-early position and I look down at AQo. I think about raising or folding but call, and then Vishnu makes a 4x reraise. We both fold.

Play in LA has slowed to a crawl as they near the money bubble.

I give Vishnu a walk with J3o.

Ghetto raises and I call on the button with 98s. The flop comes 996 rainbow. He bets big and I just call trying to act like I have ace high or a small pair. Turn 8 he checks. I think about checking it back, I have a boat after all, but decide to think a bit and then bet 700 (half pot), leaving myself with 1700. He doesn’t take the bait and dumps. Disappointing, I thought I might double up there.


I have 4000 chips.

I open-fold 44 in second position. Neither limping nor raising seemed worth it.

Paul is at a table in LA with Nick Schulman, Mike Sowers, Antonio Esfandiari, Erica Schoenberg, Hoyt Corkins, and maybe one or two other big names. 10k events in LA or Vegas are not the greatest investment for a mediocre player like me. I might have slipped to negative EV with the fields the way they are these days. One of the few unknowns is this guy Dan O’Brien, who has played these hands according to

Level 15: 1,200-2,400, 400 ante

Dan O'Brien raises from the button to 6,000, Antonio Esfandiari reraises from the small blind to 21,500, O'Brien reraises to 50,000, and Antonio folds. O'Brien takes the pot.

Dan O'Brien - 424,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 212,000

Dan O'Brien and Antonio Esfandiari continue to clash at Table #33, with both players reraising each other back and forth.

Paul Wasicka raises from middle position to 8,000, Dan O'Brien reraises from the cutoff to 23,000, and Antonio Esfandiari reraises to 71,000, leaving himself 165,000 behind. O'Brien five-bets by moving all in for a total of 410,000, and Antonio tanks for a while before he folds in frustration. Dan O'Brien takes the pot.

Dan O'Brien - 520,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 165,000

The problem is everyone can play nowadays. Players that used to stink are competent, players that used to be decent are now excellent, and top-notch players play as well as anyone has ever played the game. The Dan O’Briens of the world may not have a million in live earnings yet, but almost anyone who signs up for a 10k event these days knows how to play the game.

I get AA on the button and everyone folds to me. I make a weak-looking raise to 267 and Vishnu calls in the SB. The flop comes AQ7 with two diamonds. He checks, I bet, he folds. Why is it that I only seem to flop sets with AA and KK?

I raise KTs in third position and win uncontested.

Fold A3s UTG.


A short stack jams for 1145, I jam in the SB with AKs and beat his T6s.

Raise KQ third position no one is interested.

Raise ATs UTG Canollis reraises I fold. Canollis is showing quite a bit of game, wouldn’t be shocked if he wasn’t too strong there.

Raise Q8o on the button Vishnu calls in SB. Flop 6s6c2s he bets a miniscule 240 into me I call. Turn 5h he bets 720 I make it 1832 he instaships I instafold.

Raise the hijack with something Squirrely1 reraises I have to fold.


Down to 2700, go through the blinds down to 2444.

Fold KJo second position. The “accumulator” mode has passed, now I am in “wait for the blinds and antes to get big then hope to get lucky” mode.

The cutoff raises to 480, I jam for 2444 on the button with 77 and get called by QQ. Admittedly that guy had been real tight but I have to shove the 77 right?

My friend Brooks has potentially his last hockey game of the season tonight so I am gonna check that out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #59

Annie - Heartbeat

Nothing gets me fired up to go out quite like this song...the simmering intro...the drums kicking it up a notch 45 seconds in...and then that perfect core groove which finally hits a minute in.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More For Moore

Congrats to Chris "Toph" Moore for taking second place in the LAPC $10k Heads Up event for $190k.

Toph doesn't play a ton of tournaments but he "gets it."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Settlers of Catan Life Analogy of the Week

It's easy to become obsessed with the cultivation of one particular resource, such as brick. But once that resource is finally harvested, you're reminded that the key to the game is balance. You need all the resources to win the game.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Here is a nice article from "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis on Shane Battier, a player who is so likable that I didn't mind it when Duke won the national championship his senior season.
I really enjoyed this article, because it delves into a lot of the same concepts we explore while betting the NFL this season. We try to stay ahead of the statistical curve and use the right stats, much like Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

I watch replays of all the NFL games and try to determine who is playing well and who is not. It is pretty easy to judge the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, but most games are determined by the lines. The quality of the defensive tackles, one of the most important positions in football, is very hard to quantify. Some of the best DTs show almost no impact in a box score. The statistical void for the defensive tackle is the most glaring in football, but it exists in every position. Wide receiver blocking is essential and unmeasured. A running back's blitz pickups are one of his most critical jobs. And there are always anomalys like Ben Roethlisberger, who some feel is the third best quarterback in the league despite below-average stats.

A few other reasons why I enjoyed the article: it highlights my biggest weakness as a sports analyst: overvaluing offensive capabilities and undervaluing defensive efficiency; it makes a nice juxtaposition of the virtuous Battier and the Evil Black Mamba; and it's exactly the kind of article I would like to write for a living - digging deep, telling a statistical story along with a character sketch, using both the left and right sides of the brain.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Night

I looked forward to Monday night during the Fall because of Monday Night Football. Now football is gone, but I have Full Tilt's 1k Monday to replace it. The 1k Monday is my favorite online tournament. It's on Full Tilt, my favorite site, it provides a chance to make real money quickly, it has an optimal field size (for me), and it's on Monday night when I'm usually looking for something to do. Whenever I play the 1k Monday, I never play any other tournaments or cash tables. I just focus on the one tournament, and this really helps me play well.

Recently I have been very frustrated with my tournament play. I don't seem to make a lot of good plays. It seems time and again, I fold myself to a short stack and then hope for the best. I've been studying some of the top online players looking for methods I can use to pick up some more chips. Tonight, in an effort to improve to my tourney game, I decided to write down everything I was seeing, thinking, and doing while playing the 1k Monday.

I’m in a better than average mood tonight because
a) I took an engaging run this afternoon in fifty-plus degree weather which included a section of the Mesa Trail I’d never seen before
b) The Pitt Panthers went to Hartford and downed the top-ranked UConn Huskies behind monster games from DeJuan Blair and Sam Young. It was Pitt’s first-ever win over a #1 ranked team and will go a long ways towards their quest for a #1 seed in March.
c) If I bust early, there will likely be a game of Puerto Rico later in the evening

10-20, 5000 chips to start

The table looks excellent. I recognize only one name (toetagu, who I know nothing about) which is unheard of for this tournament.

It folds to me in the small blind where I have the ten-three of clubs. I throw it away. The next hand folds to me on the button and I fold eight-four offsuit. Really I’m not interested in getting involved at all until I learn some more about these players.

The first music selection is Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac, which has delivered on Pete Gartrell’s promise. It’s old man music, but it’s mostly about hating women – something men of all ages can relate to.

In consecutive hands I fold K9 offsuit, 32 suited, and 43 suited. No one at the table is up to any shenanigans, which is standard for the first hour of the 1k Monday.

I get ace-king offsuit in second position and decide to limp. I don’t usually do this but with the blinds so low I have no wish to raise and pick them up, or raise and get called by someone in position. A player named Doctor_Fun raises to 80, toetagu calls from the small blind, and I make a large reraise to 400. They both fold.


“Walk Through the Bottomland” comes on. Great song. I google to check if that is indeed Emmylou Harris singing along with Lyle. It is.

A guy named bigtonyk123 minraises in early position and gets a call from middle position. I call 30 more from the blind with J6s. I don’t always call here but bigtony seems a bit fishy. He has been potting a lot of boards. I kinda doubt he can get away from a hand. I’m hoping to hit something and win a big pot. The flop comes T87 with two diamonds – it’s checked around. The turn is the 9d. I check, tony bets pot, the other guy folds, and I call. The river is a blank and it goes check-check. Tony has pocket sevens; I win.

I raise 3x in third position with the 65 of diamonds. The small blind calls. The flop is K22 with one diamond. The small blind checks and calls a 2/3 pot bet, which is what I expected. He probably has a medium pair. I am planning on double and possibly triple barreling this hand. The turn is a 4d, a great card. The small blind checks and I make a pretty big bet. He folds.

The very next hand I get pocket aces and raise 3x again. Bigtony calls and so does the big blind. The flop comes 9s7c2c. The small blind leads out 180. After some time thinking, I make it 510. Bigtony coldcalls, and the big blind calls also. I think I have the best hand still. The turn is the Jc. Now it is unlikely I have the best hand, but I have the Ac. The small blind checks and I decide to check. Bigtony bets the pot, 1815. The problem with my check is that bigtony has been potting it so frequently in this situation. By checking, I might price myself out of the hand, and I’d like to get to the river. The big blind folds, and I am in a quandary. I eventually fold.

A couple guys limp and I do nothing with my J2s on the button. This might have been a good opportunity to raise in position.


A guy who has been playing tight raises 3x UTG. I call from the cutoff with 77, then the button, small blind, and big blind all call. The flop comes 962 with a flush draw and it’s checked to me. I check. The button bets 350 into 600 and everyone folds to me. I fold also.

“Simple Song” comes on. This one should crack the February Top 15.

In a limped pot, bigtony pots the flop, turn and river with 72 on a board of 8429A. Perhaps I should have check-jammed that AA hand on the turn.

A guy raises UTG and I call with 7d6d in 3rd position. The button calls, but not before dipping into his time bank. Pretty strange. The flop comes KhJh4c. UTG checks, which I take as a sign of weakness. Still, I check. The button bets it hard and gets called by UTG. I fold. The button takes it with a large bet on a 8c turn.

The cutoff raises to 140 and I make it 440 in the small blind with AQo. He calls. Flop K32 I bet 500 (only a little more than half pot) and he folds.


Pontiac ends and I throw on Rock N Roll from Ryan Adams. This could be his worst album but he might be the most talented songwriter in the world right now.

I raise from the hijack with AJo. Doctor_Fun calls from the small blind. The flop comes Q84 rainbow and he checks. I check it back. On the turn 4 he bets 2/3 pot and I fold. I don’t think many world-class players would play it like this. Hands like this are part of where I can improve.

The guy to my left scottythefish plays a hand very nicely extracting maximum value with TT on a board of Q8532. He might be a player.

A glance at the lobby shows a field of 355 players and a first-place prize of $88,750. This is small for the 1k Monday, I think. Smaller than when I won it, I know that.

The elephant two to my right keeps raising, check-calling once, then folding the turn.

I open from the cutoff with Q7s and take the blinds.


Toetagu raises in early position and the next guy calls. I have Ac6c and think about calling or raising. But I fold.

During a lull in the action I check in on Wayner’s Movie Musings.

The small blind opens 3x and I fold T6o in the BB.

I open J9o 3x in the SB and scottyfish defends. The board of AQ9xx is checked all the way down and I win against his JTo.

Toetagu raises 3x and the cutoff calls. I smell a squeeze opportunity with my J9o on the button but I fold. Toetagu had a pretty good shove stack if I reraised. It would be better to put the pressure on others, I think.

The elephant opens for 210 and I make it 540 with AA. A lot of times I would flatcall here but the table hasn’t been reraising much. Also, I recently reraised this guy so I am hoping for a vindictive play. Everyone else folds but he calls. The flop comes KJJ. He checks and I check. The turn is a 6 and he bets 2/3 pot. I call. The river is a 7 and he now bets 3333, an overbet of the pot. This is uncharacteristic for this player. I am pretty sure I am folding. What does he have? Obviously he is trying to tell me has a huge hand, 66, 77, or a jack. Could he be valuebetting a king? It doesn’t look like I have much. I give these guys so much rope, sometimes I need to make a stand remembering how I’ve misrepresented my hand. I have already folded AA once today. This will cripple me but I throw in a call. I know it’s a bad call because after I hit the call button, I am just looking at his hand wondering which one is it, the jack-ten, the 77, or the 66. But it’s queen-ten offsuit and I win a huge pot.

Immediately get moved to a new table. There are two FTOPS main event winners here, fkscreennames on my direct left and cheesemonster across the table, as well as another player I’ve heard of called Wildman75. Cheesemonster is Keith Lehr, a strong nuisance-type player. He is constantly foraging in pots in a really bothersome manner. Fkscreennames I watched win his jersey and he played phenomenally. Maybe he had help – hopefully he’s not always that good.


Cheesemonster doubles up with 99 against KK all-in preflop. This is bad news.

Orion_sharp raises 3x UTG with a 4k stack. I have TT in next position and smoothcall. Everyone else gets out of the way. The flop comes 975 and he checks. I bet half pot and he folds.

Fkscreennames raises 3x UTG. Everyone folds to my T7s in the BB and I fold too.

Cheesemonster minraises and I have Q9s in the small blind. I will almost always play this hand for a minraise but I have no interest in playing pots out of position vs Lehr.

I raise a hand with KJo in late position. Looks like fk is going to reraise me but he folds and so does everyone else.

Two players limp. I have 75s in the cutoff and think about jacking it up big, but I don’t know these players. I limp and fk makes a huge raise. Everyone folds.

I limp 55 UTG. The button limps and the blinds check. The flop comes AK3 all clubs. I have a club. It is checked to me and I decide to check. The button checks also. The turn is the Qc. Again we check to the button, who pots it. This is a bit strange. I know nothing about this player and decide to fold.

A 7k stack raises to 300 in early position and Lehr makes it 900 with less than a 5k stack. I make it 2533 in the big blind with AKo and both fold quickly.


There is a big stack two to my left who doesn’t appear to enjoy folding once he puts chips into a pot. Hopefully I can nail him.

I open-fold 85s from the hijack. I don’t like my seat at all.

After an early position raise to 275 and a call, the big blind moves in for a ridiculous 4680. Far more ridiculous, the flatcaller ends up calling this bet with A5s, which loses to the big blind’s AKs. Once again, when it looks and smells like AK, it usually is.

The A5s nutjob minraises in early position. Two guys call as do I with 44 on the button. The BB calls, the flop comes 776, and everyone folds to nutjob’s half-pot bet.

Cheesemonster limps, Wildman makes it 360, and I call with 86s. The big blind calls, but then cheese makes a big reraise that appears to be pot-committing. We all fold.

I raise AQo in late position to 300 and that big stack makes it 960 on the button. He is from Sweden. His earlier reraise was shown down to be AK. Just yesterday I was in a discussion with a friend about how the big stack reraise of the big stack applies so much pressure. Here I am with AQ but what am I supposed to do? Make it 2600 and fold to a jam? Make it 2600 and call a jam? Make a gigantic shove? Call out of position? Or fold, like I did. Someone help me out here.

Next album: Travis’s new one, Ode to J Smith. The worst album of their career but still pretty solid.


Guy makes it 400 in late position. I have QsJs in the BB and think I am going to reraise, but finally decide to call cause it is so playable and reraising here is a bit transparent. Flop Ks5d3s I check, he bets 460, I make it 1237, he folds.

That psycho limps early on a short stack. I make it 600 on the button with A9o. Fk flatcalls from the small blind which is strange. The psycho folds. The flop comes Js9s6h and fk leads out for 1120, a pretty big bet. I think about folding, briefly consider raising, and end up calling. This doesn’t smell right or good. The turn comes Jh and fk goes allin for over the pot. I fold immediately. Smells like AA. Preflop was strange, I thought he would reraise for sure.

Fold KJo early position. Fold 64s UTG.

Cheesemonster has won some pots and now has me covered with over 10k. I have 9200 (down from a high of 11,200). Fk has 8600 and the Swede to his left has 23k after busting Wildman in a huge pot AA vs QQ. Average is 7k.


Here’s a cheesemonster hand:
NITRO A posts the small blind of 100
cheesemonster posts the big blind of 200
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to GnightMoon [Td 9c]
0vash0rk folds
IamBloo folds
DevilTruck folds
GnightMoon folds
fkscreennames raises to 600
Ahvall folds
p2ryan2003 folds
NITRO A has 15 seconds left to act
NITRO A folds
cheesemonster calls 400
*** FLOP *** [Kc 5d As]
cheesemonster checks
fkscreennames has 15 seconds left to act
fkscreennames bets 800
cheesemonster has 15 seconds left to act
cheesemonster raises to 1,851
fkscreennames has 15 seconds left to act
fkscreennames calls 1,051
*** TURN *** [Kc 5d As] [Ks]
cheesemonster has 15 seconds left to act
cheesemonster bets 4,000
fkscreennames folds
Uncalled bet of 4,000 returned to cheesemonster
cheesemonster shows [9s Qd] a pair of Kings
cheesemonster wins the pot (5,002)

I open-fold 44 in third position.

The cutoff makes it 600 and I make it 1625 on the button with ATo. This felt pretty transparent and he had a great shove stack. I was half-expecting him to jam and was thinking of maybe calling 4k more but he did fold.

Raise 66 to 512 in second position. Thought about folding. Cheese calls on the button and I feel sick already. Flop Jh7c3c. If I bet, he will call or raise. If I check, he will bet. I decide a bet is pointless, unless I want to bet and check-jam the turn. I could checkraise. I check, he bets, I think and fold. Someone please teach me how to play.


The thing about this tournament is this jump, from 100-200 to 120-240 25 ante. Many players including me play tight and then let the gambling begin now.

The cutoff makes a small raise. I have K9o in the BB. Usually I fold here. I think about reraising but that would lock me into the hand. I eventually call. The flop comes K96 with two clubs and a spade. I check and he checks. The turn is the 5s. I bet out 1147 and he jams for 6735. I call quickly; he has 55 and I am crippled down to 1700 in the small blind.

I send out a couple texts trying to get that Puerto Rico game going.

A couple hands later I make a normal raise from the cutoff with K4s. I’ve found that raising normal on the short stack (obviously you will call all-in if forced) is a little more effective than jamming it in.

The Swede makes a small raise in early position. I have T9o in the BB. I could call here and jam if I pick up anything. But I fold.


Folded to me in the cutoff and I fold 75o on a 1500 stack.

Next hand folds to me in the hijack and I fold J7o. Really on the fence about that one, maybe two years ago it was a push but everyone calls these shoves so light now. Still, maybe it is a jam. I mean the blinds are coming quickly and I am anteing 25 a pop. I can’t afford to go through the blinds without getting it in.

Next hand I make that funky raise with 55 and everyone folds.

Lehr reraises half his stack and timeout folds preflop, then explains he was typing in the chat box and timed out. He then shoves the next hand on my big blind for about 10 BBs, then shoves the next hand. I have KTo in the small blind and about 1500 chips if I fold. Lehr could be jamming just about anything here I feel like; he likes to have chips to play his game, he’s tilting, etc. If I fold I am going to be in desperation shove mode. I will have an orbit to pick something up. I eventually decide to call to try to get back into the game. Plus if I call and win, I have a big enough stack to shove over an open the next orbit with fold equity. Fk calls from the BB with 22, which I don’t really like. Cheese has A5o and I lose to both.

Puerto Rico fell through so I made a solo voyage to Westminster to see Slumdog Millionaire.

My 100 Favorite Songs: #60

Todd Rundgren - Bang the Drum All Day

This used to be much higher up the list, but recently I have developed a vague interest in being productive.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #61

Pure Prairie League - Falling In And Out of Love/Amie

Best together with both songs; I could only find clips of Amie.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Settlers of Catan Life Analogy of the Week

A couple weeks ago I met a girl who I genuinely liked. This is a rather rare occurrence. When I asked her out, she said she had recently started dating someone else and would have to pass. This was like surrounding a brick "3" with two cities, waiting 25 turns for a "3" to get rolled, then having the dude to your right play a monopoly on brick.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This was the weirdest and toughest hand I've played in a while. A few things to consider:

USCPhildo is one of the better tournament players, but not known as a cash player. I'd never seen him play cash before, and his presence was one of the reasons I decided to sit at an otherwise tough table. Generally speaking, the tournament players are known for overplaying hands. He was very active throughout the session and involved in lots of big pots.

Checkmate is a strong regular with a strong regular style.
RolandThetrault is one of the best players I have ever seen at 10-20.

Throughout this session I had not reraised a single time preflop. The hand before I had shown down a smoothcalled AK after winning a big pot vs Phildo's KQ on KT33x.

Full Tilt Poker Game #10561733407: Table Suzy (deep 6) - $10/$20 - No Limit Hold'em - 1:27:39 ET - 2009/02/11
Seat 1: Checkmate824 ($9,091)
Seat 2: klickitat ($1,980)
Seat 3: USCphildo ($3,877)
Seat 4: RolandThetrault ($3,247)
Seat 5: GnightMoon ($6,711)
Seat 6: Cutie Pie12 ($2,945)
klickitat posts the small blind of $10
USCphildo posts the big blind of $20
The button is in seat #1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to GnightMoon [Qh Qd]
RolandThetrault raises to $70
GnightMoon calls $70
USCphildo: nh
Cutie Pie12 has 15 seconds left to act
Cutie Pie12 folds
GnightMoon: ty
Checkmate824 raises to $310
klickitat folds
USCphildo has 15 seconds left to act
Checkmate824: shove
USCphildo calls $290
RolandThetrault has 15 seconds left to act
RolandThetrault calls $240
GnightMoon has 15 seconds left to act
GnightMoon has requested TIME
GnightMoon calls $240
*** FLOP *** [3d 2c 3h]
USCphildo has 15 seconds left to act
USCphildo checks
RolandThetrault has 15 seconds left to act
RolandThetrault checks
GnightMoon checks
Checkmate824 has 15 seconds left to act
Checkmate824 bets $840
USCphildo has 15 seconds left to act
USCphildo raises to $3,567, and is all in
RolandThetrault folds
GnightMoon has 15 seconds left to act
GnightMoon has requested TIME
GnightMoon folds
Checkmate824 folds
Uncalled bet of $2,727 returned to USCphildo
USCphildo mucks
USCphildo wins the pot ($2,927)
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $2,930 | Rake $3
Board: [3d 2c 3h]
Seat 1: Checkmate824 (button) folded on the Flop
Seat 2: klickitat (small blind) folded before the Flop
Seat 3: USCphildo (big blind) collected ($2,927), mucked
Seat 4: RolandThetrault folded on the Flop
Seat 5: GnightMoon folded on the Flop
Seat 6: Cutie Pie12 didn't bet (folded)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #62

Rogue Wave - Temporary

The guitar solo halfway through is pure heaven.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lessons Learned From Rafael Nadal

The final match of the Australian Open was a five-setter between #1 Rafael Nadal and #2 Roger Federer, but the match of the tournament was two days earlier when Nadal beat fellow Spanish lefthander Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4. The battle royale lasted five hours and fourteen minutes, the longest tennis match ever played at the Australian Open.

Before watching that match, I had never been much of a Nadal fan. He does not play a particularly exciting brand of tennis. He tracks down balls about as well as anyone, but the rest of his game is fairly unspectacular. He is just a very well-rounded player with minimal weaknesses.

Verdasco, a stylish baseliner, played just about as well as you can play the game and still lose. He played aggressively from the start and dictated the play. Most points were decided by Verdasco, not Nadal. Verdasco hit an astounding 95 winners compared to Nadal’s 52, and out-aced Nadal 20 to 12. He hung in for over five hours against Nadal, who is generally considered to be one of the fittest players on tour. Verdasco hit some of the best shots I have ever seen, and maintained his accurate aggression the entire match.

But it wasn’t enough. Nadal let Verdasco dictate the play, doubting he could keep up that high level of tennis throughout the match. Verdasco made 76 unforced errors while Nadal made only 25. There is no way a tennis player can play as aggressively as Verdasco was playing and not make a lot of unforced errors. Nadal sent back as much as he could in play, and hit his own fair share of winners. Most importantly, he never cracked. Nadal just doesn’t screw up. He just keeps plugging away, never gets angry or frustrated, never throws away games.

Watching the match you could see Nadal trying to wait him out. He was probably surprised Verdasco hung so tough, especially after losing the second set and a third set tiebreaker, but that didn’t affect his play. It was all business.

Up 5-4 on Verdasco’s serve in the fifth set, Nadal was able to scratch out the first two points to put Verdasco in a 0-30 hole. Verdasco then double faulted to give Nadal three match points. Incredibly, that was only Verdasco’s third double fault of the match. Verdasco then won the next two points to get back to 30-40, then double faulted on match point. It took five hours and ten minutes, but Verdasco finally cracked and lost the match. Nadal waited him out.

I have ripped off a nice winning streak of cash game sessions over the last month. Most of it has been at 5-10, where the players are often a step behind the higher limits. The usual session consists of me bleeding off money in drips and drabs before catching someone in a mistake and making a score. My adversaries pound away with relentless aggression but I don’t crack. It is very difficult to stack GnightMoon. They hit more winners than me, but I almost never make an unforced error. Eventually, even if my opponents are on their game, they will crack.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #63

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Moon Rising

Look a couple inches up and to the left.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Settlers of Catan Life Analogy of the Week

If my life were a hand in Settlers of Catan, it would be seven wood, four ore, three sheep, no wheat, no brick, no ports, and no development cards.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

2010 Super Bowl Odds

Odds To Win Super Bowl XLIV on (my picks in bold, my anti-picks in italics):

New England Patriots 8/1 Best coach & quarterback, defense should be better
Dallas Cowboys 9/1
New York Giants 10/1 Osi Umenyiora, best player on the team, back for '09
Pittsburgh Steelers 10/1 Seems low for a defending champ returning every key piece
Indianapolis Colts 12/1
San Diego Chargers 12/1
Baltimore Ravens 14/1
Tennessee Titans 16/1 Too low for the best team of '08; they need to resign Haynesworth
Carolina Panthers 18/1 History of boom & bust, likely losing Peppers, QB and WR issues
Philadelphia Eagles 18/1
New Orleans Saints 20/1 Just a couple defensive players away
Atlanta Falcons 25/1
Denver Broncos 25/1 See Saints, New Orleans
Green Bay Packers 25/1 The Unluckiest Team of '08
Jacksonville Jaguars 25/1
Minnesota Vikings 25/1
New York Jets 25/1 No quarterback, no cap room to get better, aging O-line
Arizona Cardinals 30/1 Dangerous as long as they have Warner, Fitz, Boldin
Chicago Bears 30/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30/1 No offensive talent, aging defense
Buffalo Bills 35/1
Houston Texans 35/1 See Broncos, Denver
Miami Dolphins 35/1
Washington Redskins 35/1 Could see a great progression from Jason Campbell
Seattle Seahawks 50/1 Decimated by injuries in '08, play in weak division
Cleveland Browns 55/1
Cincinnati Bengals 60/1 The return of Carson Palmer and an up & coming defense
San Francisco 49ers 60/1
Oakland Raiders 75/1 Worst quarterback, worst coach, and actually losing key pieces
St. Louis Rams 75/1
Detroit Lions 100/1
Kansas City Chiefs 100/1

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

January Top 15

15. David Bowie - Suffragette City
14. The Killers - Human
13. Matthew Sweet - So Far
12. The Offspring - It'll Be A Long Time
11. Cracker - Happy Birthday

10. Travis - As You Are
9. Pink Floyd - Echoes
8. Travis - Writing To Reach You
7. Travis - Love Will Come Through
6. Matthew Sweet - Sick of Myself

5. The Killers - Losing Touch
4. The Offspring - Self Esteem
3. Live - The Dolphin's Cry
2. U2 - Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of

Song of the Month: Live - Pain Lies On the Riverside

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Game of Inches

"It hurts so bad to be so close to being a champion," Fitzgerald said after the game. "You got to tip your hat to them."

There were a lot of big plays in Super Bowl XLIII, but none was more significant than James Harrison's 100 yard interception return for a touchdown to end the first half. I studied the play tonight, watching it about 80 times trying to figure out
  • How did Pittsburgh manage to confuse Kurt Warner, who played at such a high level throughout the playoffs, into throwing an interception at the two yard line on first and goal?
  • How did James Harrison, a linebacker, roughly the tenth-fastest player on the field, manage to run the length of the field without getting tackled? Full-length pick-sixes happen all the time, but generally they come from defensive backs. A linebacker should not be able to outrun the entire team the length of the field.
  • Who should be blamed for this and who should get the credit?
Let's start with the play-call. First and goal from the two, 18 seconds left, no timeouts. Zona put Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin out left, had Fitz run a decoy route and threw a slant to Boldin. I thought this was the perfect play call.

But then I watched NBC's halftime show. Cris Collinsworth noted that the Cards had Tim Hightower move across the formation to block, rather than sending him out to receive as they had been doing for most of the game. Collinsworth said "When he did that, that's what allowed Harrison to drop back underneath. Had they done what they'd been doing the entire half, which is put that back in motion to dictate coverage to the Pittsburgh Steelers, I don't think [Harrison] would have been there." So maybe there is some blood on the hands of Ken Whisenhunt and/or Todd Haley.

Mike Holmgren also noted that the Cards had three downs to work with, so Warner shouldn't have thrown the pass unless he "saw it clearly." I counted the time from when the snap hit Warner's hands to when the ball left his hands, and it was less than it takes me to say "one-one-thousand." I don't think Warner, who played a brilliant game and should have been named MVP in a losing effort, should be blamed as much as Dick LeBeau should be lauded.

Pittsburgh ran a zone blitz, as they're wont to do. Tony Dungy called it an "unbelievable job by Dick LeBeau. They set it up to make it look like an all-out blitz, but James Harrison's not coming - and it fooled Warner." Harrison, more known for sacking quarterbacks than intercepting passes, dropped into coverage while defensive backs and linebackers blitzed. Harrison watched Warner's eyes, made a good read, jumped the route, caught the ball, and then ran it back 100 yards, avoiding just about every Cardinal en route.

Studying the play the first thing I noticed was that Cardinals left tackle Mike Gandy got confused. He looked to block Harrison, but Harrison didn't rush. Too late Gandy tried to stop a blitzing Lawrence Timmons, who got most of the way to Kurt Warner and may have affected the throw. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is known for masterminding these sort of zone blitz plays which allow linebackers like Timmons and Harrison to make plays on the quarterback and the ball. Gandy was the pawn this time. He chose the wrong guy to block. The player he wanted to block went back into pass coverage while another linebacker sprinted past him.

After the ball was intercepted, Gandy turned and ran down the field pursuing Harrison.
He ran hard and never gave up on the play, eventually coming within inches of knocking Harrison out of bounds inside the Arizona ten yard line.
But there was a brief moment around midfield where Gandy was not sprinting 100%.

The next player I found culpable was Leonard Pope. Pope's role in this play is an interesting story in itself, as he is not Arizona's primary tight end. Their starting tight end throughout the season was Stephen Spach, but he was injured during Arizona's wild-card playoff victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Since Spach's injury, the Cards have played both Pope and Ben Patrick (who scored Zona's first touchdown in the Super Bowl) at tight end.

On this play Pope lined up on the right edge of the line. He appeared confused as to whether he was supposed to block or run a pattern and didn't really do either. But perhaps that was actually what he was supposed to do, to provide an emergency outlet if Warner needed him on the right side. After the ball was intercepted, Pope ran hard after Harrison. But he took a bad angle and wound up behind Harrison. If he had gone more diagonally, he would have had a chance to catch him from the side. He nearly caught up to Harrison at the 45 yard line, but executed his tackle very poorly. He wound up tackling Kurt Warner, who was fighting through a Deshea Townsend block, and inadvertently shot Harrison forward. Would Stephen Spach have been able to make a play and save the touchdown? We'll never know. But this play shows how an injury to a little-known starter like Spach can make a difference in winning and losing games. Players like Spach do not show up much in the stat sheet, but they have impact nonetheless. Every injury matters.

Gandy and Pope are not the guys you are counting on to make a tackle in this situation, however. You can't expect them to chase down prey on a 100-yard dead sprint. The players you'd expect to get to Harrison eventually are the receivers and running backs. So I watched each of them to see where they fell short.

Steve Breaston was lined up on the right side of the field. He ran a short pattern, saw the ball was intercepted, then ran all the way across both sides of the field before contacting Harrison at the two yard line and knocking him into the end zone. He tackled Harrison while propelling him into the end zone. Larry Fitzgerald was also trying to tackle Harrison when Breaston arrived, but it didn't appear he was going to be able to get Harrison down before the end zone. Breaston was out of view for most of NBC's shot of the play, so I don't know what kind of (mis)adventures he may have had during that diagonal journey across the field.Anquan Boldin, the intended receiver of Warner's pass, got into a protracted battle with James Farrior and was essentially taken out of the play.

Rookie running back Tim Hightower, the bottom of the barrel at his position in the NFL, got owned by LaMarr Woodley. Hightower got blocked two different times on the runback by Woodley, once around the Pittsburgh 43 yard line and again at the Arizona 31. The second block was critical. Hightower didn't necessarily need to tackle Harrison at this point, but slowing him down would have allowed Hightower's teammates to get to Harrison before the goal line. Harrison had to jump over Woodley, who was sprawled out making his block, and this slowed him down. But not quite enough. Perhaps most interestingly, Woodley's block was borderline illegal. He easily could have been flagged for an illegal block in the back, negating the touchdown.

The most fascinating player to watch on the play was Larry Fitzgerald, who set playoff records for catches, yards, and touchdowns in a single postseason. Statistically no wide receiver has ever had a playoffs as productive as Fitzgerald did this year. But he could have been better.

On the play, Fitzgerald ran about 110 yards down the field before finally catching up to Harrison inside the five yard line. He and Breaston actually appeared to bring Harrison down inches short of the goal line,
but Harrison's knee and elbow touched Fitzgerald's leg instead of the grass.
Fitz fought through a Troy Polamalu block at midfield (another borderline illegal block), stayed on his feet, and sprinted past Deshea Townsend.

Then it got really interesting. At the Arizona 35 yard line, Lawrence Timmons got a bit of a block on Cardinals offensive lineman Reggie Wells (who had already been flagged for a facemask earlier in the play). Wells was blocked into Fitzgerald's way, and Larry was forced to run about four yards out of bounds in order to avoid Wells. He then ran smack into Antrel Rolle.

Antrel Rolle is a cornerback for the Cardinals. He was watching the play from the sidelines, oblivious to Harrison's pursuers. Rolle was standing closer to the field than any of the other Cardinals players or coaches, and he never saw Fitz coming. Their collision knocked Fitzgerald back and slowed him down. There is no doubt that Fitzgerald would have caught Harrison if he had not collided with Rolle.

Fitzgerald ran down Harrison with determination reminiscent of Don Beebe's chase of Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII. But you can see that he was just a bit lethargic starting the chase, especially when juxtaposed with his effort near its end. It was as if he was expecting Harrison to be tackled, and just going through the motions after the INT. If he had gone all-out from the beginning, he likely would have tracked him down before it was too late.This game was so close. It's amazing to think the Cardinals had a fourteen point swing go against them on this play and still almost won the game. It's even more amazing to think about how close they were to tackling Harrison and how they probably would have won the game if they had. If Larry Fitzgerald had gone 100% for 100% of the play instead of 95% of it. If Tim Hightower was just a little bit faster. If the Cards had stuck him on the bench where he belongs. If Leonard Pope was just a little bit smarter. If Mike Gandy had sprinted the entire play. If Antrel Rolle had taken his head out of his ass.

Or you can look at it from Pittsburgh's perspective. If Troy Polamalu hadn't gotten a piece of Fitzgerald, if LaMarr Woodley hadn't blocked Tim Hightower twice, if Lawrence Timmons hadn't disrupted the pass and blocked Reggie Wells, if Deshea Townsend hadn't blocked Kurt Warner, if James Farrior hadn't blocked Anquan Boldin, if Dick LeBeau hadn't called that play...and of course, if James Harrison, chosen as the league's best defensive player this season, hadn't made that interception and runback, then it's likely Pittsburgh would have lost and the Arizona Cardinals would be world champions.