Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Denver Nuggets Autopsy

The key to Denver's first round series against the Utah Jazz was the ability of Deron Williams to exploit Chauncey Billups off the dribble. Williams repeatedly broke Billups down, creating easy shots for everyone on the Jazz including himself. Chauncey struggled down the stretch. The last couple months he was not the player he had been since the Nuggets acquired him for Allen Iverson at the beginning of last season.

The other key to this series was the injuries to Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur. While skilled, these big men are precisely the type of players the Nuggets feast off. The Nuggets struggle with powerful, bruising type players. With Kirilenko and Okur in street clothes, the Jazz were forced to give more minutes to Paul Millsap and Kyrylo Fesenko. Fesenko has laughable weaknesses, but the Jazz are not a team that needs scoring from the center position. Fesenko merely took up space in the middle, creating room for Williams and Boozer to work the pick and roll unmolested by rolling Nuggets.

Meanwhile, Millsap was hunting down every rebound and loose ball in sight and usually immediately tossing it back into the net. Millsap is exactly the kind of player the Nuggets need, a hardnosed bruiser with a proclivity for contact. He killed the Nuggets in this series, scoring loot like a fox in a henhouse. A healthy Kenyon Martin might have been able to balance him out, but K-Mart was closer to cadaver than equalizer in this series. The Artist Formerly Known as the Birdman was also a non-factor, and is now "just a guy."

Throw in some horrific officiating and a Witness Protection Programmed J.R. Smith, and it's actually impressive the Nuggets were able to extend this series as long as they did. Smith, always the X-Factor, exploded for five minutes in game one and then disappeared into thin air.

It's always tempting to cast Carmelo Anthony as the scapegoat, especially after an anemic Game 6 performance, but the truth is Melo played the best basketball of his life this season and postseason right up to the last game of the year. It is a bit disconcerting that the secondary Nuggets, albeit in brief stretches, seem to play better when Carmelo is not dominating the game.

It is easier to identify the Nuggets' problems than it is to solve them. I certainly don't have answers. Neither does Adrian Dantley, obviously. We can only wonder if George Karl would have been able to solve the riddle that was the 2010 Denver Nuggets.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Peak of the Online Poker Season

Gamblegambel and I were talking online today and he asked me what my biggest downswing in tournament play has been. I realized I really don't know, as I have only been a real "tournament" player - as opposed to cash or mix - for about a year now. I do know that I am on a downswing of some sort, having failed to post a significant result since the NAPT Venetian in February and having lost money during that time. Many tournaments I have played have followed a familiar pattern: subsist on an inconsequential stack until three quarters of the field is gone, then quietly expire. There have been a couple flirtations with big money, but nothing worth noting. This FTOPS, usually a source of revenue and inspiration, has been a rather dismal affair thus far.

None of this really matters a whole lot, as it has had little effect on my disposition or bankroll. Most importantly, the heavy action is just getting going. There are big FTOPS events the next three days, the SCOOP kicks off Monday, and of course the WSOP is now just a month away. If anyone has PokerStars $$ to trade for Full Tilt $$, let me know. I would like to play quite a few of the major SCOOP events, including the $10k.

Congrats to Shannon Shorr, who won the 6-max $300 rebuy FTOPS AKA "The Bankroll Breaker" for $213k late Wednesday night. Shannon has been a friend and foe (only at the tables) since the PartyPoker days. He plays the opposite of the "smallball" style I typically advocate, but there is no denying that it works for him.

Speaking of smallball, the current All In Magazine (with Annie Duke on the cover) has some sort of feature on me and smallball stemming from a Cash Plays interview I did with Jeremiah Smith a while back.

My 100 Favorite Songs: #19

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy

So I'm back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Slam Dunk

Congrats to grtwhitehoop aka Seth Fischer on scoring about $154k in last night's $1k 6-max FTOPS!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

NAPT Venetian TV Premiere

Once identified as a professional poker player, you receive two standard questions. "Can you really make a living doing that?" and "Have you ever been on TV?"

The answer to the first question is of course, "yes." For the second, I have been using a somewhat cumbersome "well, I've been on TV in Europe" for the last couple years.

Monday night ESPN2 will air the final table of the $5k North American Poker Tour event at 11 PM EST, and I will have a simpler answer to that second question. My appearance will likely be rather limited, but it is an exciting thing to be on national TV.

I was running on fumes on day two of the tournament before my pair of fives outran Bill Chen's queen-ten. Then I picked up a few hands, made a big call against Michael Kamran, picked up a few more hands, picked up a few more hands against a steaming Jon Turner, and ended day two amongst the chip leaders. I ran really hot again on day three, winning huge pots with hands like seven-four suited, king-three suited, and ten-eight offsuit. Day four was not as smooth, but I doubled through chipleader Sam Stein on the TV bubble and went into the final table of eight second in chips to Stein.

With my stack and position (to Stein's left) entering the final table, I felt he and I were the two favorites to take down the $827k first prize. The other players ranged from solid to excellent. I was particularly wary of Thomas Marchese, and told anyone who would listen to watch out for him. He did not have a ton of chips starting the final table, but I knew him to be an extremely skilled and fearless player.

My interview with ESPN was somewhat awkward, as the interviewer kept asking about the subject matter of my book. I answered candidly, and am somewhat scared of the jokes Norman Chad may have in store. I will be an easy target if chosen for that role.

I wish I had gotten a haircut.

After the interview was kind of an odd period, as there were a couple hours to kill before the final table and my crew of friends flying in hadn't arrived quite yet. I idly drove west from the Venetian, stopped at a 7-Eleven for a snack bar and deodorant, then drove back to the Strip and ate crepes with the crew. As expected it took a while for the final table to get started. A woman involved with Pokerstars told me I needed to remove my Victory Poker patch, which didn't come as a surprise. It takes a while for everyone to get mic'd up, there are various production issues that need to be ironed out, the players and crowd need to be situated properly, etc. When we finally got started I raised the first hand with a respectable jack-ten suited, only to see Miami John come over the top for most of his stack.

The final table went rather poorly. I lost small pot after small pot. I made some minor mistakes in a couple of these hands. ESPN could show one or two of these hands. But more likely they will just show my bustout hand, and I may be relegated to the brief clip where they say something like "while we were away, Thomas Fuller was eliminated with a pair of jacks against Daniel Clemente's pocket queens."

If this is the case, no worries. It won't be the last time I'm on TV for poker.

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Official Position the same as it was last year: Josh McDaniels knows more about football than you or me, and drafts should never be judged before the players get on the field.

I will say that last year's draft is not off to a promising start.

Monday, April 19, 2010

2010 Denver Nuggets Playoff Drinking Game

1 drink
Carmelo made 20+ foot two point jumper
Carmelo fouled on a jump shot
Nene dunk
Birdman blocked shot
Arron Afflalo made 3-pointer from the wing

2 drinks
K-Mart brick from the key or elbow
K-mart technical or flagrant foul
Announcers mention K-mart popcorn in car April Fool's joke
Chauncey Billups 4th quarter 3-pointer
Chauncey Billups missed free throw
Ty Lawson outruns opponent on fast break

3 drinks
JR Smith passes up open shot
JR Smith hand gesture
Carmelo scores 30 points

5-second chug
Johan Petro made basket
Renaldo Balkman made basket
Anthony Carter blocked shot
Birdman flaps wings
Any Nugget not named Carmelo scores 30 points
Carmelo scores 40 points
JR Smith three consecutive made 3-pointers

Finish your drink
Any Nugget posts a triple-double
Carmelo scores 50 points
Any Nugget not named Carmelo scores 40 points
Ty Lawson dunk

One shot of liquor
Carmelo scores 60 points
Any Nugget not named Carmelo scores 50 points
3-pointer by Birdman, Nene, or Petro

Friday, April 16, 2010

On The Home Again

After an epic journey home involving copious lightning, mud, and stirring conversation, I rolled into Boulder a little after 4 AM this morning. I am playing the Heartland Poker Tour tonight, embarking on another (one day, beer-fueled) journey tomorrow, then kicking back and watching a lot of playoff basketball and hockey for the next week. I will also be purchasing a new computer and hope to finally crank out some pages for the book. There will be no WPT Championship for me this year, though there is still a slim chance I will enter a $25k event later this year.

Once again, I have returned home from the road feeling like a bigger and better person than the day I left.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

St. Louis 5k Day Two

I busted with AKs against KK after not playing a big pot with AK (or any other hand) the whole tournament. The tournaments did not work out here in St. Louis but I am confident strong results will come if I play like I did out here.

St. Louis 5k Day One

I consider today the best day of tournament poker I have ever played. I did not finish the day with a whole lot of chips but I am very proud and excited to be moving on to day two of the event. I am due for a huge rush of cards tomorrow and am looking forward to amassing a stack for the final table.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

St. Louis 1.5k

I felt like I played pretty well today, but I couldn't outrun the structure. In this field I think I would be unstoppable if the game was shorthanded, but ten-handed you do need to pick up some cards.

The 5k main event, which has a nice structure, is on Tuesday.

St. Louis 1k

I spent the day thinking about how I was such a better player than everyone around me, but in the end I got outplayed by the same guy in two pots and busted not too far from the money.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

On The Road Again

Friday the kwickchick, Bailey and I are driving to St. Louis for the tail end of the WSOP Circuit events there. Several of my best friends will be there and the weather should be sublime. I have been looking forward to this trip for the last few weeks. It is time for me to win a live tournament.

Monday, April 05, 2010

It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)

Tonight Butler plays Duke for the NCAA basketball national championship. The potential is there for an unforgettable, galvanizing, anything is possible, where-were-you-when-that-happened Upset. The prospect of this almighty upset has me quaking with anticipation.

Championship Monday has always been, for me, the official first day of spring. The end of one sports season and the start of another. In Boulder March is the snowiest month of the year; April and May have the best weather.

The first quarter of 2010 is in the books. It has been a revolutionary start of the year for me. I am in such a better place now than I was three months ago. I look back at that version of myself with pity and disgust, and chuckle at some of the things I believed, some of the choices I made. I can feel powers rising within me, powers I never knew I possessed.

But I don't pretend to know it all. The most significant things I have learned are how little I do know about myself and about others, how confusing and challenging this life is, how difficult the journey will be. There are no quick fixes; there is no such thing as a free lunch. I am nowhere close to the man I aspire to be.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

March Top 15

15. Kings of Leon - Dusty
14. Aerosmith - Love In An Elevator
13. Brendan Benson - Feel Like Myself
12. Amy Macdonald - This Is The Life
11. AC/DC - Highway To Hell

10. The Kings - This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide
9. John Mayer - Who Says
8. Ida Maria - I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked
7. Ween - What Deaner Was Talkin' About
6. Them Crooked Vultures - No One Loves Me & Neither Do I

5. Them Crooked Vultures - Gunman
4. Ida Maria - Oh My God
3. Them Crooked Vultures - Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up
2. Old Crow Medicine Show - Highway Halo

Song of the Month: Exile - Kiss You All Over