Saturday, April 30, 2011

NBA Playoff Observations

1. The three best basketball players are Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. Interestingly, only one of these players survived round one.

2. The most likable team left is the Boston Celtics. No other team uses their talent as efficiently, and nobody else plays with more passion, desire, and wisdom.

3. Oklahoma City has been miscast as a heroic up and coming whippersnapper. The reality is the Thunder are the most talented team in the league. However, there is nothing they do which is endearing. Their players are simply superior, though they do not maximize their talent as well as the veteran squads. OKC should be the West's villainous powerhouse, the yin to Miami's yang, for many years to come.

4. Russell Westbrook has emerged as the league's second most odious superstar behind Kobe Bryant.

5. In the second round of the playoffs, OKC will beat Memphis in five games, LA will beat Dallas in six, Chicago will beat Atlanta in four or five and Boston will beat Miami in six.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 Denver Nuggets Playoff Drinking Game

1 drink
  • Nene dunk
  • JR Smith stepback 3
  • Gallo draws a blocking foul
  • Birdman block
  • Someone mentions "The Trade"

2 drinks
  • Ty Lawson steal off the inbounds pass
  • Wilson Chandler corner 3
  • Kenyon Martin makes an intimidating gesture
  • Raymond Felton reacts incredulously when called for a foul

3 drinks
  • Gary Forbes made basket
  • JR Smith hand gesture

5-second chug
  • Kenyon Martin made 3
  • Birdman flaps wings

Finish Your drink
  • Ty Lawson dunk
  • Nene or Birdman 3

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Black Friday

There are two ways to view Friday's exorcism of online poker in America. The initial reaction of many professional poker players is pure panic, as their way of life has been suddenly, irrevocably altered. The online poker professional has essentially been laid off and is now unemployed. In many cases, this extends to unprepared, uneducated, and unfit for the reality thrust forth on Black Friday.

The opposing viewpoint is that poker professionals became such because of their intrepid ingenuity, risk tolerance, and proclivity for the alternative. When you sign up to become a professional poker player, you do so knowing your future holds no guarantees. Losing your job, sadistically speaking, is part of the adventure. For many, the next adventure begins now - and those who danced most gracefully on chance's tightrope will be fit for the next set of challenges, whatever they may be.

Black Friday is an opportunity for many professional poker players, a mandated advancement to more substantial pursuits. There are more glorious endeavors in this life than plundering the game's spoils, which simultaneously serves as advice for those who seek to appropriate them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Night

Today I got up about 10:15, went outside with Bailey for a bit, ate a small breakfast, talked with an old friend on the phone for a while, played softball for a couple hours, then went to The Med Happy Hour with a couple friends, had tapas and a couple beers, then came home to play this tournament. It’s a nice life, that of a professional poker player, if you don’t consider the fact I’ve been hemorrhaging money for the last 13 months, have little identity, no security, and a future shrouded in doubt. In other words, it’s a great time to play the 1k Monday.



Table has Caio Pimenta across, someone named Shevmouse who I’ve played with before to my right, and ryanbluf to my left. Ryanbluf is a solid player but I owned him so thoroughly in the WSOP $5k 6-max last summer I have a psychological advantage, at least in my mind. All things considered this looks like a soft table relative to the average one in this era of the multi-entry 1k Monday Million, and I am excited to play.

Limp 88 EP. Everyone folds to BB. Flop JTx check check. Turn 7 he checks I bet the minimum he folds.

Very next hand I limp 99 in 2nd pos. Only the blinds come along. Flop K52 checked to me I bet 2/3 pot BB calls. Turn 6 he checks I bet 60% pot he folds.

Fold A5o in BB to a cutoff raise and a button call.

Fold Q9o on the button to Caio’s MP raise.

Walk Ryan with 94s.

Guy who has been real active raises UTG and 2nd pos calls, I fold KJo MP.

Music is KT Tunstall’s Tiger Suit. KT is 3/3 in my book, with this one being a single, the last one Drastic Fantastic being a double, and her debut smash Eye To The Telescope a triple in the gap.



Fold 74s UTG.

Walk Ryan again with J6o.

Fold Q3s cutoff to Shevmouse’s hijack raise.

Raise K9s to 85 Ryan calls Brazilian tilting maniac shoves for 1500 fold.

Shevmouse mins from the cutoff, I call with A9s on the button, Ryan calls in SB, BB squeezes huge, Shev folds. I check to see how many tables the BB is playing in this tournament (4) and fold.



Honestly it cracks me up how many players enter this thing four times. I mean where do they think the equity is coming from? Maybe I should stop laughing – maybe it’s from me.

I am very excited for my friend PiMaster, who currently has an average stack with 18 players left in the WSOP Circuit St Louis event. I was actually supposed to visit him and play in said event, but an unfortunate two-day no-cash worst case scenario jaunt up to Black Hawk for the Heartland Poker Tour put the kibosh on that. There are some friends you are jealous of and don’t quite root for 100%; PiMaster is a 100%er – as in, I would like to see him succeed just as much as myself. As excited as I am for him in this event, I'm more excited to re-post this picture.

Raise AK maniac shoves in BB for 1k I lose to 99.



Caio raises 3x I defend BB with A8s. Flop is 865 one of my suit I lead 200 into 350 he folds.

Maniac min-raises on a 30 BB stack I call with KJo in position. Normally this is a fold but this guy is going to hand me his stack on a J or K high flop with just about anything. BB squeezes huge, maniac shoves with KQs and sucks out on queens.

Fold 86s UTG.

How about that Vanessa Selbst? She will be cracking my “Twenty Players Most Likely To Win The Main Event” list in July, that’s for sure.

Maniac raises I defend with K3s in BB. Board of A5474 is checked to the river at which point he bets and I fold.

Shevmouse raises the button I 3x reraise with QJo from the SB he folds.



WacoKidd sits down at the table, striking fear into the hearts of no one.

Maniac misclick raises 20x then folds to a shove.

Fold T9o MP.

Raise KQ maniac calls in BB. Flop KT5 two spades he check-calls. Turn 6c he check-calls. River 5s he check-folds to my beefy bet.

UTG guy who has been reasonably active raises I 3bet T9o from the cutoff he folds.

Fold JTo MP.

Raise T9s on the maniac’s BB he defends. Flop is T92 two diamonds he check-calls a small bet, then calls another on a brick turn. River is an unfortunate Jd and he check-folds to my shove.



Throw on a little Kanye West, but don’t really feel like listening to a whole album.

Maniac raises I 3bet AK on the button he calls. Flop is 753 he checks and for the first time in my life I “induce” with no pair no draw by betting 440 into 1080 and snap-call his shove for 1542. He has 44 which I lose to.

Next hand raise 22 from the cutoff and win uncontested.

Next hand call Waco’s raise with 55 and fold on a KJ board in a 4 way pot.

Two hands later raise the maniac’s blind with another T9. Ryanbluf minraises right behind me which is either a misclick or a fake misclick. I four-bet when it gets back to me and he quickly folds.



Just sort of skimming through random songs and hit “The Gambler” from Kenny Rogers, song of the month back in September 2003.

After that I realize I don’t have “Islands in the Stream” - which was featured in perhaps the single greatest scene from The Office - and immediately buy it from the i-Tunes store.

Stiffrodd texts me proposing an online Dominion session later tonight, which is as exciting as a booty call from Scarlett Johansson would have been five years ago.

My good friend Seth “grtwhitehoop” Fischer sits down three to my left. Seth knows my game very well, though it is always evolving, and I know Seth’s game as well as I know anyone’s. When I started getting back into poker earlier this year I studied several of his hand histories. I won’t divulge his proclivities, except for one: a penchant for sucking out on overpairs in crucial spots.



Fold KTo to a Waco EP raise.

Defend a MP raise with J9hh and check fold on AdTdx.

Raise KQ from the cutoff. SB 3-bets and while I’m deciding whether to call or shove Seth four-bets from the BB and we both fold.

Raise 97s MP win.

Shev raises UTG I flat KK in 2nd pos on an awkward stack, some guy squeezes, I compliment myself on flatting this hand, high-five the dealer, ship after Shev folds, and lose to AA.

Dominion it is!

Honestly thought I played well tonight, lost three big pots with KK, AK, and AK but manufactured some chips with nothing so we’ll give it another shot next time. It has to turn eventually.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Break Up The Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets were coming off eight consecutive losing seasons when they drafted Carmelo Anthony with the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Led by the smooth young scorer out of Syracuse, The Nuggets won more games the next season than they had in the previous two combined and went to the playoffs. They would reach the playoffs in the burly Western Conference each of the next six seasons as well, making one run to the Conference Finals in 2009 but bowing out in round one each other time.

The 2010-2011 season was blemished by the impending departure of Anthony. The Nuggets weren’t going to get stuck in the same situation Cleveland was last offseason when their own 2003 savior decided to hit the road. Denver’s front office carefully explored all the options on the table for Anthony, eventually settling on a smorgasbord of Wilson Chandler, Ray Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Kostas Koufos, a first round draft pick, two second round draft picks, and three million dollars. The Nuggets also lost the heroic Denver native, point guard Chauncey Billups, in the February 21 trade.

The Ewing Theory, popularized by’s Bill Simmons, was consummated in 1999 when the longtime star center for the New York Knicks, Patrick Ewing, was injured during a playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks promptly won three out of four to reach the NBA Finals. The Ewing Theory refers to a situation in which a team shockingly improves after the departure of its biggest star. With all due respect to Ewing and Luke Harangody, it might be time to rename it “The Melo Theory."

To the amazement of just about everyone except beatific head coach George Karl, the Nuggets have won 15 of 20 games since The Trade, including rugged wins over the Celtics, Spurs, and Lakers. The five losses have come by a combined 22 points. Two months ago, Denver had two star players and zero hope of winning in the playoffs. Now they have zero stars, boatloads of confidence, a Mack truckload of momentum, and a bandwagon bursting at the seams.

There are two explanations – one simple and one more intricate – for Denver’s stunning success in the post-Melo era. First and foremost,

The Denver Nuggets have many very good basketball players

Losing a star player is meaningless if those who play in his place are up to the task, and that is certainly true in Denver’s situation. The men who get Carmelo and Chauncey’s minutes are not merely replacement-level players. The Nuggets play eleven players more than eleven minutes apiece, and at least nine of them are above-average NBA players.

Nene is arguably the most indispensable Nugget. Denver has stuck with the Brazilian Behemoth since drafting him 7th in the 2002 draft, the year before Carmelo Anthony arrived. Nene is a freak of nature: 6’-11”, 250 lbs, strong, athletic, adept with both hands, skilled at passing the ball, shooting it from short to medium range, and staunch in the post. After an injury-riddled early career, he has stayed healthy the last three years and blossomed into a stone cold beast. Nene’s 62% field goal shooting leads the NBA, while he is currently averaging a career high in points, free throw attempts, and free throw percentage (74%). Meanwhile, he posts a positive assist to turnover ratio – almost unheard of for a center, and better than that of Carmelo Anthony.

J.R. Smith is Denver’s most dangerous scorer in Melo’s absence. Smith is another longtime Nugget management had plenty of opportunity to unload – but wisely held onto. Smith’s scoring is actually down this season from the last four – but his defense, assist/turnover ratio, and rebounding are all up. Though it seems as if Smith has been in the NBA forever, he is still only 25 years old.

At 33, Kenyon Martin is playing the best basketball of his career. Slowly, at times painfully, Martin has morphed from an unlikable wannabe scorer into a wise, outstanding defensive-minded team player and leader. He now averages half the points he did in the “height” of his career, yet shoots a higher percentage while turning the ball over half as often. The Nuggets have stuck with Martin and his enormous contract through the injuries and the ineptitudes, and are finally reaping the benefits.

Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson both played point guard and won a national championship with coach Roy Williams at North Carolina. Now they both play point guard for George Karl and the Denver Nuggets. Like Williams, Karl prefers an attacking, fast-paced transition offense. In Felton and Lawson, the 1973 North Carolina grad has his muses. What they lack in height, Felton and Lawson make up in speed. Lawson is just about the fastest person you will ever see on a basketball court, and Felton’s right behind him. Both guards also share a disregard for extracurriculars – neither seems to care about anything other than winning basketball games.

Arron Afflalo was pegged as the “crunch-time scorer” after Melo’s departure, but doesn’t fit the profile. Afflalo isn’t a scorer so much as an all-around solid player, lacking weaknesses while excelling on defense and threes. Afflalo has been battling a hamstring the last few weeks, and should see limited action until the playoffs where he may be assigned shepherding duties on Kevin Durant.

Wilson Chandler is another balanced, egoless do-everything player. Chandler has been Denver’s most consistent player since The Trade, posting straightforward offensive numbers while vastly outperforming Melo as a defensive small forward.

The awkwardly agile 6’10” Italian Danilo Gallinari leads the Nuggets (who lead the NBA) in scoring, though he doesn’t crack the league’s top 50. Gallinari’s unique game sees him chuck a lot of three pointers, but also draw a lot of fouls. He really excels at the line – 88% on the season. It remains to be seen where Gallo’s game develops in the coming years, as he’s only 22 years old.

Crowd favorite Chris “Birdman” Andersen has been playing some inspired ball as of late. Perhaps because, as George Karl noted, there are some more foxes in the hen house. The trade seems to have lit a fire under the Bird, and he’s back to playing the fearless, maniacal style that helped ignite Denver’s 2009 run to the Western Conference Finals.

When asked which of the players the Nuggets picked up in The Trade has exceeded his expectations, GM Masai Ujiri says “all of them.” Still, the Nuggets are not more talented than they were with Anthony and Billups. They are clearly a better team, however.

The discharge of Anthony and Billups was akin to the removal of a clump of stones diverting a stream of water in an unnatural direction. Both score often and effortlessly, but with a more plodding, deliberate style. The new Nuggets run, drive, cut, and pass more than the old. Lawson is a better player when he doesn’t have to worry about feeding the alpha dog. Nene gets spoon-fed more balls in the post. The Birdman flies free. Felton epitomizes the essence of The Trade – devastated when he heard he was leaving a good situation, invigorated once he realized the new team was better than the old one.

The Nuggets are also better on defense than they ever were with Carmelo Anthony. Whether that is because Melo is a mediocre defensive player or because the new Nuggets play with the hunger of anonymity, the fervor of propulsion, and the revelation of resurrection is unclear. But there is no doubting the numbers – over 103 points per game surrendered before the trade, 94.8 after. Over 46% field goal shooting allowed before the trade, less than 44% afterwards.

This is the team Karl – a recent survivor of cancer and the frontrunner for NBA Coach of the Year – has always fantasized about coaching. No #1 option. No #2 option. Just a bunch of guys who can run and jump, guys who love playing defense, guys still climbing the mountain, guys whose careers are undefined, guys forced into the knowledge that winning basketball games is the best definition available for them.

As glorious as the season has been since The Trade, it could easily come to a hasty halt in the playoffs. The Nuggets are slated to play the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only team to beat them in Denver since The Trade, in round one of the playoffs. The Thunder have been on a trade-precipitated rush of their own after dealing Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins. The winner of what figures to be an epic series will have an excellent shot at beating (most likely) the sputtering Spurs in round two and advancing to the Conference Finals.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

March Top 15

15. John Mayer - Who Says
14. K.T. Tunstall - Fade Like A Shadow
13. Scissor Sisters - Sex and Violence
12. John Mayer - Assassin
11. Nine Inch Nails - All The Love In The World

10. Ben Kweller - Nothing Happening
9. Scissor Sisters - Invisible Light
8. The Decemberists - Rox In The Box
7. Tift Merritt - Tender Branch
6. Scissor Sisters - The Harder You Get

5. David Guetta feat. Kid Cudi - Memories
4. Billy Joel - Through The Long Night
3. Joan Jett - Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
2. Scissor Sisters - Running Out

Song of the Month: Steve Earle - Feel Alright