Monday, August 30, 2010

You're Getting Older...

On Saturday I spent the whole day in Denver, playing volleyball at Wash Park and at the Green Day concert (both awesome). On the day I took in one glass of beer, no other alcohol, and no drugs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 NFL Preview Part One: Fantasy Primer

Draft Do's and Don'ts
Matthew Berry's 2010 Manifesto

Last year at this time I outlined “The Strategy” for fantasy football drafts. The Strategy was based on the disproportionate value of running backs in fantasy, their relative shortage, and the opportunity cost of selecting quarterbacks and wide receivers in place of them early in the draft.

Running back is still the crucial position in fantasy football, but the landscape of NFL running backs is changing quickly. Most teams used to feature one primary running back for most of their plays. Now most teams feature a two-headed monster or platoon. As a result, there are more running backs putting up decent fantasy numbers and fewer putting up big ones.

Meanwhile, the wide receiver position hasn’t changed much. Thus, many of the same second-tier WRs who used to be less valuable than the second-tier RBs are now more productive. The same goes for tight ends and QBs. No longer is “The Strategy” appropriate. You will be able to find serviceable running backs late in the draft or even add them off waivers during the season.

While the overarching strategy of fantasy football drafts may be dissipating, the importance of shrewd interior tactics is increasing. Drafting wisely is all about understanding the “bubbles” inherent in predicting fantasy results at the different positions. The “bubbles” are the gaps between tiers of predicted value of the players. For example, there are five “sure-thing” QBs entering the season:

Drew Brees
Peyton Manning
Aaron Rodgers
Tom Brady
Tony Romo

If you wind up with any of those guys, you’ll be feeling comfortable with your quarterback. After this, there is a bubble. If you don’t get one of the top five, you might get one of these two:

Matt Schaub
Philip Rivers

QBs who should put up big numbers but have asterisks attached. After this you are straight-up gambling on unknown quantities, and will go into the season feeling a little queasy about your quarterback situation.

Five guys who could be strong, but could flame out:

Brett Favre
Jay Cutler
Kevin Kolb
Donovan McNabb
Eli Manning

Five with potential who you wouldn’t feel comfortable with in your opening day lineup:

Joe Flacco
Carson Palmer
Matt Cassel
Kyle Orton
Matt Hasselbeck

Five young guns with sleeper potential:

Matt Ryan
Matt Leinart
Alex Smith
Vince Young
Jason Campbell

And one total asterisk:

Ben Roethlisberger

Everyone else should be avoided after this point, though a couple could emerge and serve as emergency starters as the season progresses.

At running back, there appear to be seven “sure-things” entering the season:

Adrian Peterson
Chris Johnson
Maurice Jones-Drew
Ray Rice
Frank Gore
Michael Turner
Steven Jackson

If you want to win your league, nabbing one of those seven would be a good place to start.

There are five other “feature backs” who could easily wind up with monster seasons:

Cedric Benson
Rashard Mendenhall
Shonn Greene
Ryan Matthews
Ryan Grant

And then a mysterious crew of guys who have potential but might wind up losing carries and touchdowns to teammates:

DeAngelo Williams
Matt Forte
Jamaal Charles
Beanie Wells
Joseph Addai
Pierre Thomas
Ronnie Brown
Jonathan Stewart
Felix Jones
Jahvid Best
Clinton Portis
Knowshon Moreno
Jerome Harrison
Steve Slaton
Arian Foster
LeSean McCoy
Justin Forsett
Michael Bush
Reggie Bush

There are just three “sure-thing” WRs – though some might argue Andre Johnson is the only guarantee here.

Andre Johnson
Greg Jennings
Roddy White

Then six guys who could easily wind up with the best numbers, but have some minor baggage attached:

Reggie Wayne
Calvin Johnson
Randy Moss
Larry Fitzgerald
Miles Austin
Marques Colston

With just nine Tier I and Tier II receivers on the board, their value becomes paramount. Not everyone in your league will have one of those top guys, and those who don’t will be gambling from the beginning.

After those first nine it again becomes muddled:

DeSean Jackson
Steve Smith (Panthers)
Steve Smith (Giants)
Brandon Marshall
Mike Sims-Walker
Michael Crabtree
Dwayne Bowe
Anquan Boldin
Chad Ochocinco
Donald Driver
Hines Ward
Pierre Garcon
Mike Wallace

I believe shrewd drafters should pick their tight end – and that is singular, you shouldn’t be drafting two tight ends – late in this year’s draft. The position is deep, particularly in the second tier. I will be happy to go into the season with a Miller or Carlson. There is no reason to get a tight end early – unless you go for Clark or Gates or think Vernon Davis is still improviing – when you can wait and get a Tier II guy late in the draft. I have TE broken down like this:

Tier I

Dallas Clark
Antonio Gates

Tier II

Vernon Davis
Brent Celek
Tony Gonzalez
Jermichael Finley
Jason Witten
Zach Miller
Kellen Winslow
Visanthe Shiancoe
John Carlson

Tier III

Chris Cooley
Owen Daniels
Dustin Keller
Heath Miller

If you pick a defense or kicker before the last two rounds, you are a fool. You have a better chance predicting Patriots running back totals than predicting defensive fantasy stats. Your mid-round energy is better spent mining sleepers. General rules for both defenses and kickers: pick them from good teams, and substitute liberally based on matchups during the season.

Preparing a spreadsheet for your fantasy draft will greatly aid you in the drafting process. You will be aware of how each roster is filling out, and in which position each drafter is deficient. This will help you estimate when each bubble is going to burst. You can then attack the bubbles before they dry up.

My spreadsheet has three pages. The first is a ranking of all relevant players “on my board”, broken into fourteen tiers. The second has four columns, QB, RB, WR, and TE. All the players on my board are ranked in these columns. The third is a blank roster for each of the teams in my league, with two QB slots, four for RB and WR, one for TE, DEF, and K, and three Other. As the draft progresses I will be crossing off names from the first two pages and filling them in on the third. The third page makes it easier to predict what position my opponents will be drafting; combined with the first two pages, it gives an idea of what sort of player will be available when my name next comes up in the draft.

Another link I will have open on draft day is a complete NFL schedule. You don’t want to obsess over this too much, but it can be helpful when making borderline decisions. Pay special attention to week one and whenever your league’s playoffs are scheduled. Santonio Holmes might be a tempting late-round grab, but he will be playing in Pittsburgh Week 15 and Chicago in Week 16. And anyone planning on “The Roethlisberger Strategy” – drafting Big Ben late and stopgapping in the meantime – should carefully study the first-month schedule of those prospective stopgaps.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My 100 Favorite Songs: Addendum

Two comments dominate these favorite songs posts. The first is, roughly, "Moon, we are so sick of this garbage, I want you to die, please post something else."

The second is "What happens if a song becomes one of your favorites during the time (it has now been over two years) it takes you to post the list?"

The answer, haters, is this.

The Killers - Losing Touch

Sunday, August 22, 2010

WPT Legends of Poker

The river was rather unkind to me today, and the turn wasn't much better. I had soft tables and playable cards, but my hands were rarely best by the time all five community cards were on the table. I busted in time to play the Sundays tomorrow and make my flight home Monday.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

WSOP Recap Part Three: The Poker

I love the World Series of Poker. I feel very comfortable playing in those cavernous rooms at the Rio. I love the huge, weak fields. I love getting up every day and playing in a massive poker tournament. Despite the relatively fast structures and shallow stacks, I really enjoy playing the “donkaments.” There is palpable energy at the World Series, the summertime mecca for thousands of poker players of different nationality, skill, and bankroll. I have a very high cash rate in the smaller buy-in tournaments over the last five years, and I know that if I keep playing them eventually I will make a final table along with the accompanying big score.

The higher stakes have never gone well for me at the WSOP. My first WSOP cash came in a 2006 $5k event in which I blew a shot at a massive score. I have not cashed a WSOP tournament of more than $2500 since. I have posted an embarrassing 0 of 6 record in the Main Event, and none of those were done in by particularly bad beats.

My failures in the bigger events have been a result of some ill-timed bluffs, weak play amidst tougher competition, but also lots of bad luck. I really revved up the engines for the 5k, 5k 6-max, and 3k this summer, but took some brutal beats in the 5ks and ran an impatient bluff in the 3k. After a disastrous Main Event, I rallied in the Venetian 5k before losing a critical postflop race to the eventual champion.

Overall I would give my play a C. I rarely played poorly, occasionally played very well, often ran badly, rarely ran super hot, and misplayed 5 to 10 hands I have no business misplaying at this stage of my career. Those mistakes turn my stomach, but I take some solace in the knowledge that many of the game’s best still make similar mistakes.

It’s no secret that I am an unspectacular tournament player, despite making tournaments my craft over the last couple years. I no longer harbor fantasies of one day being one of the best. But I know there are many, many pros (and amateurs) who have made almost incomprehensible scores in the blink of an eye. I follow results closely, probably too closely considering the variance attached. I take great inspiration (and frustration) from watching my friends and colleagues. My close friends Jason DeWitt and Joel Patchell both made six-figure scores, but the most inspirational score for me was when Jon “sketchy1” Eaton got heads up with Ryan Welch for the bracelet in the 3k Triple Chance.

Earlier in the year, as I was rebuilding my tournament game, so was the sketchy1. I spent some time traveling with Jon, Paul, and Matt Stout at the beginning of the year. I felt like all of us had rededicated ourselves to the game to start 2010, and we shared a common mission. Paul and I found success early on; Jon and Matt have been on fire over the last few months. Jon’s massive score in the 3k was a beacon, a sign that The Big Score will doubtlessly come to those who work hard and keep their nose to the grindstone.

Jon’s tournament results are an inspiration to me, as are many others. It is really something to consider some of these profiles, which highlight tournament variance in different ways. Some favorites:

10. Jonathan Little (dichotomous WPT/WSOP success)

9. Chris Overgard (4 consecutive main event cashes from a Boulderite I have never met)

8. Michael Martin (European domination)

7. Gavin Griffin (begs the question if he is a great "closer" or just lucky...much like the old argument in sports whether or not "clutch" exists)

6. Shaun Deeb (the poster boy for transition difficulties from online to live play)

5. Darvin Moon (lightning)

4. Liv Boeree
3. Jordan Smith
2. Ylon Schwartz
1. Joe Bartholdi
(the ultimate inspiration: longtime grinders who made The Big Score)

The trouble with this nose-to-the-grindstone theory is that I don't keep grinding hard all year long; after the WSOP I always find myself losing interest in poker, doing other things, and falling behind the ever-steepening curve. The game is getting tougher and tougher; at times I feel like a noose is tightening around my neck. I don't really have the passion to log a lot of hours playing no limit hold em (tournaments or cash) like I used to. In fact, the most fun I had playing poker at the WSOP was in the two non hold-em tournaments I played, the $1500 Deuce and the $1500 Stud/8. I have always felt my skills were better suited to the mixed games, but have never put in the time to really improve them. There is always so much more money in NLHE tournaments, it's hard to find a financial impetus to learn the mixed games. The WSOP, WCOOP, and SCOOP are really the only places you can find sizable mixed game tournaments. Still, I would like to put in a lot of time this fall practicing the mixed games, and already found two FTOPS cashes in non-NLHE events (out of three I played).

Still, there is nothing more appealing to me than traveling somewhere to play a big buy-in no limit hold em tournament. I am starting to plot an aggressive fall travel schedule which could include any of the following destinations: LA, Vegas, Berkeley, St. Louis, Louisville, Columbus, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, London, Vienna, Barcelona, and Prague. There is still some pop left in this bat. Tonight I am headed to L.A. for the $5k WPT Legends of Poker.

He's Heating Up

Today was even better.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Closer to Fine

Today was the best day I've had since a Vegas peak six weeks ago. The WSOP hangover may finally be over. Special thanks to Julie Viox, Griffin House, and the Manosaurus Ball Rippers for their help today!

You're Getting Older...

I hit the wall at 10 o'clock. The next two hours are hazy. By midnight I am done. Posting this blog took my last bit of energy. When I go to bed in two minutes I will fall asleep instantly.

But I wake up at sunrise and could get up then if I wanted - and maybe it is time I should.

This whole conversion is somewhat jarring. I have never been a morning person and assumed I never would be. The whole early to rise, early to bed thing is a microcosmic metaphor for getting older, as you find new powers and joy in things you never would have imagined while simultaneously losing the former pleasures and abilities you used to hang your hat on.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wise Words From The Indigo Girls

Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shores.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line.
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My 100 Favorite Songs: #11

The Rolling Stones - No Expectations

I think about these lyrics often in a variety of contexts:

Once I was a rich man
Now I am so poor
But never in my sweet short life
Have I felt like this before

Thursday, August 12, 2010

You're Getting Older...

1. Posting this blog is the last thing I do on this day.

2. I fantasize about waking up at 6 AM, going for a run, then making an omelette with spinach and chorizo.

3. See post below.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My 100 Favorite Songs: #12

LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends

Life lessons in a techno song.

Friday, August 06, 2010

WSOP Recap Part Two: Grades

It just seems to get more epic every year.

Albertson’s: A

This grade isn’t a reflection on Albertson’s so much as it is on their loaded potato salad – a dumbfoundingly delicious synthesis of potato, sour cream, cheese, bacon, and green onions. One of the ten tastiest dishes I have ever had.

Alcohol: C+

I can’t get over the opportunities alcohol can provide – and those it can take away. The end result of my relationship with alcohol will probably be a divorce – it’s just too destructive a substance – but that may not be for another ten, or twenty, or forty years.

Diego Forlan: A

Unquestionably the biggest badass of the summer.


The administration of “the world’s game” is laughable. I actually heard a theory on NPR that FIFA deliberately shies away from policing the game as well as they can in order to create headlines and court controversy. The officiating at the World Cup is so skewed and primitive one can only assume this is the case.

Firefly: B+

Tackling the entire tapas menu with four and a half guys was a little too ambitious. Firefly bridges a gap in the Vegas food canon, halfway between the swanky strip and the tacky strip malls.

Get Him To The Greek: C

Your evaluation of this movie basically comes down to your evaluation of Aldous Snow/Russell Brand as a comedic lead. I’m not a huge fan of the character. I wasn’t a huge fan of the insipid second half, either.

Harrah’s: C

The WSOP gets smoother and more efficient every year. The poker kitchen and bad beat bar are fully functional (overpriced unless you went with that outstanding salad bar). The bathroom situation is reasonable. The structures were good. The payouts (booth as well as structures) were well-organized. But this ten-handed thing has got to go. I can understand it for the $1ks and $1500s but when players are forking over $5k (including a crapload of juice) cramming them into a ten-handed table is unacceptable.

House of Masters: B

The trip started off disastrously as we were forced to sacrifice our first house and $9200, neither of which we will likely ever see again. But the crew rallied, PiMaster deftly found us another house within minutes, and the subsequent home was the best value we have ever stayed at.

Only one of five Masters was able to turn a profit on the Series, yet I would rate this year’s as the most successful WSOP since the landmark 2006 edition. The crew has grown comfortable with each other. The gambling (largely due to a putting green in the backyard) was consistent and amusing. The place somehow stayed fairly clean. Infighting was minimal. No one got punched in the face.

iPhone4: B+

I could write paragraphs about how cool my new iPhone is, but it’s my move on three different Words With Friends and two chess games. ttyl.

Iron Man 2: C

I don’t really remember what happened in this movie other than Scarlett Johahnsson only being in like two scenes, Mickey Rourke only being in three or four, Robert Downey Jr. clearly mailing it in compared to the first one, Don Cheadle forgetting how to act, and a bunch of robots buzzing around some weird landscapes.

Las Vegas, NV: B+

I can’t explain how or when this happened, but somehow the City of Sin – where Randall Flagg and the minions of evil gathered to take on Mother Abigail and the Boulder Free Zone – has started to feel like more of a home than the Republic of Boulder.

LCD Soundsystem: A-

This Is Happening could be the best LCD release yet – crisp, clean, and vigorous. James Murphy is a master at the height of his powers, one of the foremost pop musicians in the world.


Congratulations isn’t that bad an album – but it’s boring. A disappointment for a band coming off one of the most exciting albums of the decade.

No Limit Deuce to Seven Single Draw Lowball: A

This is an incredible game that highlights every aspect of what makes poker such a great game. Psychology, bluffing, pressure, position, physical reads, and tournament strategy all take on equal or more importance than they do in no limit hold ‘em. A couple gimmicks – no limping! Big antes! - spice things up even more. Easy to learn yet deeply complex, the Deuce is as good as it gets.

Sammy’s: B+

Open 24 hours!

Sleep: C-

There has never been a period in my life where I agreed with the adage “sleep is overrated” – until now. It has become obvious to me that the overachievers, the ambitious, the people living life to its fullest – the sort of people I want to emulate – are sleeping less and getting up earlier. Traditionally a 2 to 10:45 sort of guy, I have trimmed it to around 7.5-8 a night averaging a midnight-12:30 bedtime. Getting up before nine opens up a world of possibilities without taking much away.

I went all-out on a new super-comfortable bed. I am going to find a CD alarm clock. I am using the gamblegambel 9:59 AM stop-loss method. It remains to be seen if I can pull this off – it’s more difficult during the winter months and the late-night FTOPS and WCOOP loom – but it seems well worth it. Besides, Bailey likes it better this way.

Soccer: C-

At this point I’ve watched enough soccer to confidently declare that the most popular sport in the world is vastly inferior to the American standards football, basketball, and baseball. We know better than the rest of the world, we really do. While soccer affords plenty of rousing athletic highlights, it is severely lacking in strategy and dynamics. The answer to the age-old question “why isn’t soccer one of the major sports in America?” is this: it’s just not that good a game.

Tecate: B

The best bad beer on the market.

World Cup: B+

Despite the poor efforts of its governing body and the placidity of the game itself, the drama of a 32-team tournament featuring teams from six continents remains incredibly compelling. The World Cup is the finest international sporting event, more because of structure, scarcity, unity and passion than the actual quality of the game.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

You're Getting Older...

1. You walk into Bed Bath & Beyond
2. Your first thought: The Great Indoors totally crushes this place
3. Your second thought: This would be a great place to meet girls
4. Your third thought: Single girls don't shop at Bed Bath & Beyond, dumbass
5. You quietly return your duvet cover and bedskirt

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

July Top 15

15. The Chemical Brothers - Escape Velocity
14. Eminem - 'Till I Collapse
13. Cake - Comanche
12. Ben Kweller - Sundress
11. Metallica - Cyanide

10. The Chemical Brothers - Dissolve
9. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Let It Ride
8. The Dead Weather - The Difference Between Us
7. Kanye West feat. Jay-Z & J. Ivy - Never Let Me Down
6. Michael Nyman - The Heart Asks Pleasure First

5. B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams - Airplanes
4. Ray LaMontagne - Beg Steal or Borrow
3. Cake - Palm Of Your Hand
2. Metallica - The Unforgiven III

Song of the Month: Oasis - Keep The Dream Alive

Sunday, August 01, 2010

You're Getting Older...

...when you spend 45 minutes and $222 at a place called "The Container Store."