Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WSOP Recap Part Two: Grades

Five years at the WSOP. Five different experiences with little in common other than the oppressive heat. Three losing years and two winning ones. Three years spent in a house and two in hotels. Zero main event cashes. Dozens of near-death incidents on the I-15. It seems I always have a dry, bitter taste in my mouth lingering in my mouth this time of year, yet by the time May rolls around I can never wait to go back. Someday I may conquer the WSOP; until then, there will always be this post, more time to reflect on another disappointing six weeks in Vegas.

Ace-king: D+
I still haven’t figured out what to do with these two cards in a lot of situations. It seems like if you’re playing a big pot at the World Series with ace-king, especially at a nine or ten-handed table, you’re probably way behind. Big slick is a big hand for real loose-aggressive players. It’s a big hand when you have ten big blinds. It's usually a big hand in online donkaments. It’s a big hand blind on blind. It’s not a big hand for nits, it’s not a big hand when you get reraised by your standard WSOP participant, and it’s usually not a big hand to get all your chips in – at any stage of the hand.

Alcohol: D+
Hard to believe last year at this time I gave this poison a B+. I don’t seem to enjoy getting drunk anymore. I’d rather be sober than drunk, though halfway between isn’t bad. It’s the headaches that broke me. It’s not worth feeling like crap. The older I get, the more I want to just feel good. Alcohol doesn’t make me feel good.

All this and I’m a “good” drinker. I don’t do stupid things when I drink. I don’t become a different person. I don’t black out (I vomit). Basically, I don’t do things I wouldn’t do otherwise (except dance).

But so many people aren’t like this. So many people become stupid and annoying when they drink. So many do terrible, damaging things when they’re drunk. So many people can’t control alcohol, can’t use it appropriately. Alcohol is just such a powerful force, for better or for worse. There are too many things I like about the stuff to give it up completely, but “drinking to get drunk” will rarely be part of my future.

Away We Go: C-
I thought Sam Mendes & co. came out flat in this one, though someone I know thought it was one of the best.

Bruno: C
The elaborate setups and interviews weren’t bad, but the desperation humor wore thin. You can only squeeze so many drops of humor out of a penis.

Cake: A-
Cake seemingly provides the soundtrack for every situation one might encounter while spending a WSOP in Vegas:
Going out: Frank Sinatra
Stalled in traffic on the I-15: Long Line of Cars
Met a girl at the club last night: Love You Madly
Sunset: Alpha Beta Parking Lot
Hungover: No Phone
Upset with double standards: Pretty Pink Ribbon
Stalled in traffic on the 215: Carbon Monoxide
Betrayed: Friend Is A Four Letter Word
Golddigging: Italian Leather Sofa
Driving around in Henderson: Wheels
Stalled in traffic on the Strip: Race Car Ya-Yas
The last gasp: End of the Movie
Leaving town: Tougher Than It Is

Green Day: B+
Forget for a second that 21st Century Breakdown sounds like an inferior sequel to 2004’s American Idiot. At this point, who else is capable of streaking together eighteen quality tunes without a clunker? Has Green Day inherited the moniker of Best Band in the World?

The Hangover: B+
The best Vegas movie ever made? Encapsulates the full Vegas experience in a hundred minutes. Apparently a “Hangover 2” is already in the works – expect a C- grade in this post circa July 28, 2011.

Hibachi: B+
Anyone know a good place in the Boulder area?

Las Vegas, NV: C-
There are many times I am convinced this is the worst place in America, the most deplorable, unhealthy, wasteful, unnatural, ghastly, sickening, wretched city of the first world. There is so much to despise about this outlandish oasis. The heat. The dreadfully designed roads. The traffic. The dangerous drivers. The retarded traffic lights throughout the city, which don’t recognize cars waiting on red when no one is approaching the green. The lack of public transportation in a town made for public transpo. The omnipresent construction. The mobs of tourists. The lack of respect for humanity. The despicable characters scouring the town like leeches sniffing for blood. The vapid strip malls. The drug dealers, the scumbags, the whores. The horrible casinos. The processed air. The undrinkable water. The unbreathable air. The myriad illnesses drifting around. The waste. The stunning ineffiency of it all.

Yet Las Vegas will always have its redeeming qualities. If you like to eat and drink, there are few better places in the world to do so. I spent a week in Vegas after the WSOP bustout, doing nothing but eating and drinking and vacationing following the recommendations of Las Vegas residents. And you know what? It was a good week. Las Vegas remains the preeminent destination for two of my favorite things – poker and food.

M: A-
M is a new casino several miles south of South Point off the I-15/Las Vegas Boulevard. It looks great. The buffet could be the best in Vegas, and includes all-you-can-drink beer and wine. Veloce Cibo is the obligatory modern restaurant/nightclub elevated at the top of the building. It has an outdoor terrace which would be great nine months of the year, expansive views of the surrounding desert, and a strong modern menu. 32° features 96 different beers on tap. The Hostile Grape is a wine cellar with 160 different wines available for sampling 1, 3, or 5 oz at a time using a pre-paid card. An ideal spot for a first date – though if you are trying to start a relationship in Las Vegas, you should have your head examined.

My Play: B
I’m pleased with the style I’ve developed. I’m comfortable playing a stack of any size. I feel I need to get unlucky to get knocked out of a tournament. I don’t make many mistakes. The style I’m playing is not optimal, but it is the right style for me right now, it is low variance, and it is a winning style in almost any situation.

Palazzo: B-
I know a guy who refuses to eat at this casino because of the perfume smell pumped through the place along with the air conditioning, which encapsulates where the Palazzo goes wrong: it’s all meant to look elegant yet casual, but comes off as trying too hard without the innate class of the Bellagio or the Wynn. Despite that smell, Palazzo does boast some strong restaurants; Carnevino, First Food, and Dos Caminos are three I have come to enjoy.

P.F. Chang’s: B
The best chain restaurant?

Praying: B+
I started praying for people I know before I go to sleep. It’s a nice way to wrap up the day with some perspective. It puts the mind to ease.

So to recap: this summer I stopped binge drinking and started praying. Vegas, baby. Vegas.

The Red Square: B+
Russian restaurant/vodka bar, Mandalay Bay. Serves a great spicy bloody mary and a sneaky good key lime pie martini.

Rental Houses: C-
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that sharing a house with a bunch of gamblers – who invariably keep wild hours, usually have vastly different lifestyles, and generally have no regard for cleanliness – might not be the best recipe for a successful, low-stress six weeks in Vegas. Throw in the nagging landlord, the sterile, unequipped house, the pool which is never a reasonable temperature, the hassle of finding and paying for the place, the noncommittal residents, no pets, the obligatory internet problems, the charmless location, and the I-15 commute, and it’s enough to convince me to pursue different accomodations in 2010.

Star Trek: B
Solid entertainment start to finish. I’m still upset that J.J. Abrams is the captain of the 21st century Hollywood sci-fi revival, but we could be in worse hands.

Table Games: D+
I am embarrassed to report I logged several hours in the pit this summer. Some of that time was spent playing a table game which
a) may very well be beatable
b) is a lot of fun for poker players
c) may soon be the subject of Bringing Down the House 2

while the rest of that time was spent playing craps, a game which is
a) unbeatable
b) almost beatable
c) fun if you are winning
d) fun with a large group

Morally, I have unwavering qualms playing any game that is unbeatable. To me casinos are amongst the most loathsome, evil, duplicitous places on earth. Playing a game which you know you cannot win in the long term claws at my guts. I enjoy gambling right down to a 50% edge, but as soon as it crosses to negative expected value it becomes a service you are paying for and not a game you are playing. The whole reason I got into this business was because I love outplaying people. I find it absolutely disgusting that anyone, including many of the most talented poker players in the world, could enjoy a game which they are expected to lose.

Having said that…it’s exciting when you need a six to get rolled and it gets rolled…the casinos really hook you up with the comps…it’s really exciting when you need a four to get rolled and it gets rolled…free drinks…

Of course if you need to get off throwing dice, you can always play Catan.

Twitter: A-
There’s not much to dislike here. You can use it as much or as little as you want. It’s easy to use. You can follow your favorite friends, athletes, and celebrities. You can ignore it altogether. It’s forever part of poker and the industry’s better for it.

I’ll be back on twitter for the next big event of the year: the 2009 NFL season, starting September 10.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #37

The Presidents of the United States of America - Naked and Famous

There will always be a part of me that badly wants to be famous, even with the knowledge that likely wouldn't make me any happier.

Monday, July 20, 2009

WSOP Recap Part One: Lessons Learned From Party of Five

When I was in middle school, my family finally upgraded to a bigscreen tv and I got a hold of the old, tiny rabbit ears box we had been using and set it up on a wardrobe in my room. The antenna was broken so the set only got a fuzzy PBS and a generally clear FOX. The best show on FOX back then was Ally McBeal, and I also watched Frasier reruns as I tried to fall asleep. Somewhere in there I started watching Party of Five, probably because the show had Neve Campbell, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Lacey Chabert in it.

Party of Five also starred Matthew Fox, now Jack on Lost, one of the worst prominent actors working today. Fox's character, Charlie, had assumed patriarchal duties after the family's parents had been killed. Charlie was almost as devoid of personality as Lost's Jack. Much of the show was concerned with Charlie's battle with cancer. Finally, after years of battle, the cancer went into remission. Charlie went out to celebrate and impregnated a stripper.

That was the last I ever watched of the show. It was a soap opera, and I don't watch soap operas. I was disgusted that they would immediately bolt in with a fresh catastrophe the moment after the show's primary denouement had finally been reached. There was no down time, no chance to enjoy that epic victory, no moment in the sun. Just more drama.

There was a fleeting moment in May when I had found what I believed to be legitimate happiness. Then came Las Vegas.

Things were chugging along decently at the WSOP, certainly not glorious but not too troublesome. Then my cousin committed suicide. My cousin was a wonderful, effervescent man who brought happiness to others, but fortune was not on his side. My cousin's mother has had multiple sclerosis for many years. My cousin was diagnosed with MS himself. I believe his first-hand knowledge of the disease proved too oppressive a sentence.

Shortly after I returned to Vegas, something terrible happened. I was betrayed by people close to me. The memories of that awful incident have since receded, and I have forgiven the people involved. But it still reverberates in my head, a reminder of evolution's most horrifying property: people are not meant to be happy.

We are meant to grow, and age, and procreate, and care for each other. But nowhere in there is there any reason for enduring happiness. Evolution wants us to mate and raise healthy children, and these things may in fact bring us joy. But evolution doesn't require, or even ask for, anyone to be happy. Those other goals come first; happiness is an unnecessary byproduct.

This all must sound rather doom and gloom, yet that is not my disposition. The realization that I cannot expect prolonged contentment is somewhat of a relief. That was too lofty a goal. Life is more feasible with the knowledge that happiness is a side-effect, not an aspiration. There is always hope for happiness, and it will always exist in some form. But as Charlie found out, the light at the end of the tunnel might just be fairer shades of grey.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #38

Marcy Playground - Sex and Candy

Marcy Playground is a decent band, I promise. Some other good songs:

Saint Joe on the School Bus
The Shadow of Seattle
No One's Boy
Comin' Up From Behind

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My 100 Favorite Songs: #39

Badly Drawn Boy - You Were Right

Turning Madonna down and calling it your best move - the highest fantasy.

A Full Moon

Safe to say I am no longer the most prominent Moon in poker.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Midsummer in the City of Sin

Things that generally get bigger the longer you stay in Vegas:

The temperature
Your stomach
The line of cars moving up the I-15
Bad beat stories
That pile of dirty dishes
Your chances of dying in an automobile accident

Things that generally get smaller the longer you stay in Vegas:

Your bankroll
Your imagination
The value of the homes you drive by
Your vocabulary
Your self-esteem
Your willpower
Your lifespan

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Goodnight Moon

My World Series of Poker is over. I have no regrets on any hands I played in the main event. I just missed too many flops and draws.

I'm not sure how long I'll hang around Vegas. I don't plan to play the $15k WPT event at the Bellagio.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Main Event Day One

I spent most of the day stalling around waiting to set traps at an aggressive table, continually frustrated by my seat and cards. Then late in the night I caught a big break and doubled up against the big stack, and now head into day two (Wednesday) with a healthy 82,325 chips.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Twenty Players Most Likely To Win The Main Event

Okay - finally time for my favorite annual post. Gone from last year's list: Kenny Tran, Michael Binger, Patrik Antonius, Andy Black, Lee Watkinson, Dan Harrington.

20. Michael Mizrachi
Yeah, I know the Grinder just pulled off an inconceivable Golden Sombrero in WSOP prelims. I also know he's the most impressive player I have ever played with - both times in weak fields.

19. John Juanda
One of three players in the all-time top ten money list without a top ten WSOP main event finish.

18. Brandon Cantu
I heard some guys talking about how Cantu won the $1500 PLO8 even though "he has no idea how to play the game." I think they're missing the point. Cantu may not even know how to play no limit hold em, but he knows how to win tournaments in weak fields.

17. John Phan
Just to prove this list was compiled before the main event started.

16. Mike Matusow
Does anyone want it more?

15. Allen Cunningham
Though he has been rather quiet over the last year.

14. David Pham
Too maniacal for this structure?

13. Nam Le
Can't think of anything to say here...I will be playing day three (Sunday).

12. Carlos Mortensen
One of four former main event champions on this list.

11. Elky Grospellier
The hottest player on the circuit since the start of 2008.

10. Erik Seidel
Feel like this is the kind of guy that will be lurking unassumingly in the chip counts for three or four days, and then suddenly there will be 60 players left and he will be in the top half.

9. Scotty Nguyen
Overlooked far too often.

8. Erick Lindgren
One of the biggest losers of this WSOP, looking to recapture the magic of last year's Series.

7. Steve Sung
His results speak for themselves.

6. Chris Ferguson
The most underrated big name in the game.

5. Phil Hellmuth
May have finally found his game in the $5k six-handed this week.

4. Phil Ivey
It has now been six years since this dramatic hand went down - perhaps the most momentous hand in the game's history.

3. J.C. Tran
A main event final table is the only thing missing from J.C.'s sterling tournament resume.

2. Daniel Negreanu
You have to love Daniel's chances in the best-structured event of the year.

1. Gus Hansen
Gus only plays deepstacked events, and his results in them are unmatched. The original crazy Scandinavian, and still the best.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

June Top 15

15. The Avett Brothers - Pretty Girl From Chile
14. The White Stripes - 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outdoor Blues
13. Queens of the Stone Age - Gonna Leave You
12. The Waifs - How Many Miles
11. The White Stripes - A Martyr For My Love For You

10. George Thorogood and the Destroyers - One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
9. U2 - With Or Without You
8. The Avett Brothers - Shame
7. Frank Sinatra - This Town

6. Katy Perry - Hot 'N Cold
5. The Waifs - Goodbye
4. The Avett Brothers - Will You Return
3. Rogue Wave - Temporary
2. The Avett Brothers - I Would Be Sad

Song of the Month: The Avett Brothers - Die Die Die

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

One of the Best

So we have this joke in our house about how I am always saying so and so is "one of the best" players. I can say confidently that my friend Jason "TheMasterJ33" DeWitt is one of the best tournament players in poker today. He finished second in the $3k Triple Chance event Tuesday for $313k, the biggest take of his career so far.