Monday, August 29, 2011

NFL 2011

For the 2011 season my content will be published at Football Nation. My first article, which would be known on this blog as NFL Preview Part One: The Fantasy Value Theory, can be found here. There are incentives for article views and comments, so help me out if you like what you see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Too Much

A few weeks ago I was at a strip club as part of a friend's bachelor party. At some point I got bored and went to the bathroom to take a crap. I was thinking about how much time I've spent in strip clubs the last few years, even though I've never once wanted to go to a strip club. It got me thinking about all the things I've spent too much time doing in recent years. I jotted down as many things as I could while sitting in the stall. Here is that list, unedited:

Strip clubs
Stroking the one eyed monkey
S loop
Dr. Mario
Thursday Night Football
China Men
Pursuing hot chicks
Lat pulldown
Waiting for encores
Resetting the wireless router
Looking for WSOP lodging
Putting the blankets on the couch
Questioning my social skills
Target fitting room
Words With Friends
Hearing "Don't Stop Believing"
Evaluating my looks
Short Cuts
Cleaning contact lens cases with q-tips
Chasing unattainable girls
The Colorado Buffaloes Men's Basketball Team
Black Hawk, CO
Giving Dave Matthews second, third, & fourth chances
Thinking about myself
Driving the I-15
Making lists
Driving up and down Lehigh St
Second base
Tagging mp3s
Wearing old socks
Scraping snow off the windshield
Waiting for the fly machine to open up at 24 hr fitness
Driving to 24 hr fitness

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Throwing Up

The period after the WSOP is always one of the worst times of the year, a listless, godforsaken chunk of time best traversed as quickly as possible. It's impossible not to feel hungover from the WSOP, impossible to reproduce the same drive, purpose, and enthusiasm for life without those million dollar carrots dangling in your peripherals. This year's late summer has been particularly difficult, thrust directly into the harsh reality of Life without any more illusions it might be avoided.

Though there have been some nice times, there have only been four things I have consistently enjoyed since the WSOP:
  1. The smell of rain
  2. Exercise
  3. Funny People
  4. This youtube clip

Just a few months ago I was cruising along in a fairly pleasant but unsustainable situation. I decided to cut my own arms off in hopes of climbing to a higher place, even knowing how miserable the gaping, bleeding holes from those cuts were going to be and how hard the climb was going to be without those arms. At some point I may have become addicted to putting myself into deep dark holes just to see if I could dig out of them. Digging out of the last one was so rewarding and exhilarating sometimes I wonder if I was secretly hoping to fall back in. Like Aron Ralston or Shaniac in November 2010, I know that I put myself in this position voluntarily, though perhaps not consciously.

Now I do everything I can to get out of the hole. I'm going nowhere fast but I try. Every morning I wake up early and get out of bed. Even if I want to sleep late, I can't past 9. I work hard during the days on my book and other vague ventures. I'm still not sure what I will do if I can't be a writer, but intriguing possibilities are emerging. I do something athletic every day. I think I am past my athletic peak. But my body looks better than ever. At night I find myself in random social experiences. I never say no. I have to learn to get better. Rarely are these experiences relaxing. But they're not supposed to be. Now is not the time for relaxation. Men, children, and animals seem to be slightly magnetized by my presence. Women seem to be slightly repulsed by it. I get to spend a few minutes with the best dog in the world before bed. I fall asleep right away.

This is the hardest part of my adult life, so far - but, so far, it has not been the worst. I have been experiencing consistent and unprecedented rejection in all aspects of life over the last month but have not seen much of a drop in my disposition or self-esteem. I have been trying so hard in so many different areas and just keep failing, but it hasn't made me want to stop trying. I feel like I am walking a tightrope above an abyss of depression but despite several shoves I haven't lost my footing. I really have no idea what is going on for me emotionally. Maybe I have dug out of so many holes digging out of this one is automatic. Maybe I finally realized how silly it was to feel sorry for myself. Maybe it's the Vitamin D.

Vomiting is the most abhorrent of bodily functions. Everyone is terrified of it. It's horribly unpleasant, disgusting, painful. But vomiting is actually a wonderful thing, one of the best things a human can do. Vomiting gets the poison out, resets the system. Sometimes vomiting is a necessary action for a healthy mind and body. I'm puking my guts out right now. It's not so bad.

Monday, August 08, 2011

WSOP Recap Part Two: Grades

Bon Iver: B+

Bon Iver’s Bon Iver is a canoe ride / rocket ship of contradiction. Half of it is cutting-edge indie, half seems to have been unearthed from a time capsule from 1985. A sparse indie rock record populated with horns. Music for the dead of winter cut loose in the heat of the summer (which is why I am saving the new Fleet Foxes for November at the earliest). A deeply emotional and affecting album with incomprehensible lyrics, a timeless relic of unquestionable modernity.

Bridesmaids: D+

Sex and the City, the worst show in the history of television, began this inane crusade. Apparently treating men like shit is part of being a powerful woman. This is the opposite of feminism. How did this happen? How is it socially accepted? The perpetuation of protagonists like Kristen Wiig’s Annie - selfish, man-hating bitches who destroy men to inflate their flagging egos - is one of the most sickening developments in recent American pop-culture.

Cake: C

Showroom of Compassion, while still passable Vegas summertime music, is the weakest Cake effort in seventeen years.

Cosmopolitan: B+

The prototype for the future of the Vegas casino/hotel/resort/experience – classic and modern, voluminous yet sleek, contemporary but comprehensive.

Dallas Mavericks: A

Sometimes good does triumph over evil, sometimes years of pain and sacrifice do end in glory, sometimes teams do beat individuals, sometimes experience trumps talent, sometimes hard work does pay off, sometimes dreams really do come true.

Dr. Mario: B

It is amazing how much time and energy adult humans can spend repetitively pushing left, right, down, A, and B buttons, with nothing tangible or memorial to show for it.

ESPN WSOP Coverage: A

The live coverage of the WSOP Main Event on the ESPNs was the most entertaining and insightful poker programming ever made. The canvas was so broad, the analysis so sharp – this was the single most illuminating learning tool the game has ever seen. Olivier Busquet’s analysis was dumbfoundingly delicious, Antonio Esfandiari’s was nearly as sharp, and even Phil Hellmuth leant a cinematic air of excitement and immediacy to the broadcasts. It was such a pleasure to watch the final nine navigate their way to November, to see just how they were able to traverse that impossible voyage – and to see why and how the others fell by the wayside.

Game of Thrones: A-

There was genuine sadness at the conclusion of the compelling first season, facing ten months without George R.R. Martin’s mesmerizing Westeros, ten months without Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens, ten months without Valyrian Steel or the Knight’s Watch. Only the most exceptional entertainment can create that sadness, that feeling like a small part of life is lost without it. As intricate and rewarding as the books are, A Song of Ice and Fire may have found its ceiling adapted into the most expensive television show ever made.

The Hangover Part II: C-

The punchless retread it was doomed to be from the start, lazy, languid, and uninspired. Special demerit for cutting corners on the Thai-American characters – the simple Asian bride, the overbearing Asian father, and the cello prodigy Asian kid brother, who somehow emerges from the night happy with the fact he just lost a finger and spent 24 hrs roasting in an elevator shaft.

Harrah’s, LLC: C

They seem to run this monstrosity more efficiently every year. The flaws are shrinking every year, the complaints becoming more and more peripheral. The Harrah’s version of the WSOP will always taste sterile, but it goes down the gullet without incident.

House of Tame: B

Three final tables, a bracelet, two Main Event cashes, three Dr. Mario tie-game photo finishes, a dozen morning house runs on the blacktop, thirty some odd bags of recycled containers, zero foreclosed houses, zero punches to the face. Overall, a successful sojourn for one of the longest-running groups in WSOP house-renting history.

Las Vegas: C+

A full letter grade docked here due to the omnipresent, maladroit, static road construction found all over the city. None of this construction ever seems to get done – the signs, the cones, the delays just seem to grow without anyone or anything ever actually appearing on site. It all climaxes in the I-15, AKA The Highway To Hell, a racing video game level rife with wrecks, maniacs, drunks, speeders, motorbikes, unpredictable and unmarked construction and treacherous exits built right through incoming merges.

Lotus of Siam: B+

Spoiled by one inexplicably arduous meal near the tail end of the WSOP. Still atop Moon’s Vegas Restaurant Power Rankings (especially with the saddening departure of Rosemary’s), but teetering.

MrBigQueso: A-

MrBigQueso AKA Jim Collopy did not have a strong WSOP, cashing just once. But his enormous, ever-present smile never left his face. Every time you see the kid, he’s laughing and giggling. MrBigQueso was a constant reminder of how we should all view the WSOP: the best summer camp ever, a seven-week haven amongst the only people in the world who won’t judge you for being yourself.

My Play: B+

Typically Moonish, with few big mistakes or outstanding moves.

Super 8: C

Having missed the first five minutes and looking to plug the plot gaps, post-viewing research of Super 8 discovered its lead actress, Elle Fanning, is thirteen years old. Thirteen. Amazingly, this was only the second-most shocking age revelation of the summer after learning that housemate Big Eric Schwartz was forty.

Words With Friends: C

“Bugs With Friends” might just be the most awful line of coding ever written, but the iPhone is the perfect vessel for Scrabble, much like HBO television is the perfect medium for A Song of Ice and Fire, 2011 was the right time for the Dallas Mavericks, and Vegas is the only locale for the World Series of Poker.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

My Main Event - Day Four

I had reached the fourth day of a poker tournament just twice before: In 2007 at the EPT in Baden, which was the most important and exciting day of my poker career, and two Februaries ago at the NAPT Venetian where we played down to the final table of eight. Both of those tournaments were deep into the money, whereas in this one, we hadn’t even reached it. 852 players remained with the $19k bubble bursting at 693. As nervous as I was the day before about busting and embarking on a dangerous trip up Mount Rainier, day four was even more nervewracking. After bubbling so many big events in 2010 that I considered naming my book “Life on the Bubble”, it felt like that’s exactly where I was headed once again. The grossest part of it was that I was in exactly the situation I didn’t want to be in heading into day four, beginning the day with an uncomfortable stack of 142k with the blinds at 2000-4000-500.

The second hand of the day I raised AQ under the gun to 9500 and was met by a 3-bet to 25kish from the 850k stack on the button. I had done a little research on this young player, Dan Retallick, who appeared to be an aggressive online player who probably wouldn’t be making any big folds. I ended up folding this hand reluctantly, knowing he could be making a play but not really expecting it two minutes into the day vs a UTG raise.

I have been carefully considering this hand since it went down. Shortly after it happened I was reading Retallick’s twitter and saw that he had nothing that hand, and I was upset at myself for folding. After his 3-bet there is

9 X 500 = 4500 (antes) +

2000 + 4000 = 6000 (blinds) +

9500 (my raise) +

25200 (his reraise) = 45,200 in the pot

If I fold I have 132k, 33 BB, which is fine, but if I shove and he folds I have 177k which sure makes a lot of difference at this point in the tournament. When you factor in his position, his age, his stack, and how often AQ does win against AK, KK, JJ, I convinced myself that folding this hand was a mistake and I should have just taken a risk and piled it.

But then I was reading his twitter a couple days later and realized I misread, that he actually had AK in that hand, and I went back to questioning the whole thing, and really I have no idea what I should have done, though I do think calling the raise is the worst play of the three.

A few hands after that everyone folded to a different kid with a big stack on the button who raised and was called by the older guy in the big blind, who had a ton of chips organized into stacks of ten.

The flop came 744r and the older guy led out. The kid quickly called. The turn was a jack and the older guy checked, then made a 3x raise when the kid bet. Again, he was quickly called. The river was a 9 and the older guy checked again. The kid made a small bet and then, to everyone’s shock, the older guy raised again! The kid quickly called with T4o while the older guy turned over A9o. What a wild hand to see early on Day Four of the Main Event! I think everyone at that moment wondered how in the world that guy had gotten to this point, with a handsome stack to boot.

A few hands later I raised KQo to 9k UTG. When it got to that older guy in late position, he said “raise” and put in 9k, likely never having seen me open the pot. The old guy was forced to make a min-raise to 14k and everyone folded back to me. With 115k in chips I considered shoving but figured he would call spitefully with a lot of weak hands and saw no reason to jeopardize the stack preflop, so I called. The flop came Q74 and I checked it over to the guy, who bet like 18k or something. I tried to look as weak as I could knowing top pair was going to be unfoldable to this guy and then called. The turn was a ten and I checked. The old guy quickly announced all-in, covering me. I called after about fifteen seconds and almost burst out laughing when he turned over the A5 of hearts. Though my tournament could be one card away from coming to a tragic ending, I really found it amusing that this guy had run such a ridiculous all-in bluff with the A5 of hearts on that board just moments after blowing a pile on another comical bluff. No ace on the river and I doubled up to 245k.

The table broke and I was sent to a new table which was filled with young dudes who looked like pros, though I only recognized Justin Zaki a few slots to my left. Most of the players had reship stacks while only Zaki, the young guy to my right, the older guy to his right, and one other Minnesotan across the table had “comfort” stacks as we approached the bubble.

I raised one hand with pocket fours and couldn’t call the BB’s shove.

I raised another hand with pocket sixes from MP and Zaki reraised on the button. Right away I knew three things:

  1. His range was extremely wide
  2. Four-betting was out of the question since it would be so easy for him to 5-bet shove his covering stack and I certainly wasn’t gonna be calling it off with a pair of sixes at this stage.
  3. If I was to flop a set I thought I had a great shot at a double-up. I already had my line planned out: check-call, check-call, check-call. I felt like Zaki would likely keep firing with nothing or a hand he thought was best because of the bubble.

So I called. The flop came A54 and he checked it back, which meant he had something. This hand only would have been interesting if he bet the flop, which would have been more likely to be a bluff.

The turn was a 2 and again it went check-check. I checked the X river to him and he made a bet, which instantly sent my cards into the muck.

The last hand of the level, I raised AK under the gun. Everyone folded to the big stacked young guy in the BB, who called. The flop was 973 and he checked. I made a bet, he raised, and I folded. Since everyone had left the table, he decided to show me he’d flopped a set of sevens.

If I ever had a hand like an overpair in that spot, I would always check back the flop - to avoid busting on the bubble if he did outflop me, and to let him bluff off some chips thinking I had overs.

The bubble was not a pleasant experience. My stack was such that folding every hand would ensure a spot in the money, but also a pretty short stack once there. There wasn’t a whole lot to be done other than sitting back and waiting for it to be over. I did manage to steal one pot raising the 54s in early position but also lost an open on the literal bubble with a random ace when Zaki reraised me. This was basically a pure bubble hand where (once the guy to my right folded UTG) I knew that no one would mess with me EXCEPT for Zaki, who would be smart to reraise me with ATC, so the question was, would he? I thought that he might fold rags so I gave it a shot, and he did show an ace after I showed an ace and folded. That hand inspired some discussion about what hands I should be shoving with after that raise, and what hands he should be calling with – I eventually decided I should be shoving only pocket aces, which means he should only be calling the shove with aces – though you couldn’t fault him for calling with kings.

Right on the bubble the short-stacked but active guy to my left raised UTG and then to everyone’s shock the young and even shorter-stacked player to his left went all-in and then even more shockingly the first guy quickly called. They both turned over pocket kings, then had to wait two minutes for the cameras to come over. Sure enough, the covering stack flopped a backdoor flush draw, but the turn ended the suspense. Personally I thought the first guy should have folded pocket kings since I didn’t see the other guy shoving with worse than kings.

When the bubble finally ended I was down to 112k. Arrangements had been made for shots for the table, which everyone gratefully took once we hit the cash. In the maelstrom that followed, I folded most hands but picked up pocket kings in back to back hands: shoving the first over Zaki’s EP open from the SB (folds), and shoving the second over Zaki’s UTG raise and a call from an older guy in LP. This time the older guy (who had been very active) considered for a minute before laying down.

Shortly after dinner Zaki raised early to something like 14k and the same older guy called. Déjà vu struck as I found pocket kings once again in the small blind and shoved in for 100k more. Zaki folded but the older guy muttered that he was “so tired of it” and called with queen-ten suited! Nothing scary hit the board and I doubled back to 240k.

Less than an orbit later I raised ATs to 14k in early position. The vampiric Max Heinzelmann, who had recently shown up with over a million chips, called from late position. The older guy who had just doubled me up with the QTs called from the BB, but not before some hesitation which hinted that he didn’t have much. The flop came ten-high with two babies and the older guy led for something like 16k. I made it 45k pretty sure I was calling a shove, Heinzelmann folded, and the older guy called. The turn was a 9 and we both checked. The river card was something low and the older guy checked. I fired something like 78k and got looked up by “a worse kicker.” I felt like the really close decision on this hand was whether or not to bet the turn to set up an all-in river bet. There is some chance the ace-ten is no good (especially with the 9 coming on the turn). Checking the turn back ensures I won’t go broke on the hand and also increases the chances I get one more good street of value in. But I really didn’t think I was beat because of the preflop tell, and also thought this guy was tilting and might feel like doubling me up again. All things considered I think I should have bet like 64k on the turn and shoved the river if called again.

The very next hand I raised AK UTG with the guy to my left along with Heinzelmann calling. The kid on the button decided this was a good squeeze spot for some strange reason and did so, but small. I made sure the kid didn’t have me covered and then jammed, and everyone quickly folded. God that is so annoying when you flat a raise with something speculative and then some dumbass behind you ruins the party with an idiotic squeeze that obviously gets shoved on.

Just like that I was up to 430k and the Oasis song “Lyla” which I’ve been listening to at the WSOP since 2005 was going off in my head – “I waited for a thousand years for you to come and blow me out my mind…” My hands were shaking as I stacked the chips.

The old guy who had been my lifeline tilted off the rest of his stack and was replaced by another older guy named Thomas Grey who looked pretty straightforward. He raised a hand from early position and I called a couple behind him with AK. I think Heinzelmann or someone may have called as well. The flop came AK9 rainbow. For the second time and the first since day one I had flopped more than one pair. Grey led out for 20k and I felt like he had a piece. I raised it up to 52k which prompted a fold from the third party and a quick call from Grey. I felt like he probably had AQ or AJ and was looking forward to adding another wing to my growing castle of chips. The turn came a six and I bet 68k after Grey checked. He then raised to 200k and I threw up in my mouth. Suddenly it didn’t feel as much like AQ or AJ. He had another 100k behind which I moved in after a short tank and he called with a matching AK.

Another hand involving Grey came with Andrew Brokos raising early and Grey calling in late position, then calling down three big barrels on a Q55xx board and showing AQ after Brokos collected the pot with KK.

Grey busted my friend Joe calling a raise with Q6o big blind vs small, calling a bet on an 854 flop, then raising the 7 turn and getting it in vs Joe’s J4. I tell that story not to embarrass Joe, a skilled and manipulative player, but to provide context for the hand that ends this long story.

Incredibly my friend Chris Moore was moved in to the seat Joe vacated. Chris (Toph) and I were texting back and forth about the players when it occurred to me that Toph had about the same stack and we could swap some action. Although I generally try to swap a lot of action in the WSOP, I hadn’t asked Toph to swap before the tournament because he is such an incredible player that I believe asking him to swap is simply unfair, especially since he’s such a nice guy he might say yes. But at this point it seemed reasonable, so I asked him how many chips he had and he quickly proposed a 2% swap with more possibly at the end of the day.

I had folded about an hour’s worth of garbage and anted down to 360k when Heinzelmann raised a pot to 18k with Grey calling from the cutoff. I called with 22 from the SB and the BB folded. The door card was a deuce with offsuit 6 and 3 coming behind it. I checked, Heinzelmann checked, and Grey snap-checked. The turn was a ten, a second diamond. Again I checked, Heinzelmann now bet 35k, and Grey immediately slid in a twenty-stack of orange 5k chips making it 100k. I winced and stared at Grey (who had never given off anything physically perceptible), which is something I sometimes do when I have a strong hand but am genuinely concerned. I thought for a while and then shoved about 340k, Heinzelmann quickly folded, Grey called with a set of sixes, and I busted in 408th place for $30,974.

When you bust the Main Event putting the money in behind, inevitably you are going to torment yourself over the fatal hand, wondering if it could have been played any better. I’ve agonized over this one and concluded that my best play on the turn, once I checked it and Grey raised Heinzelmann’s bet, was to fold the hand. My second best option was to call the 100k and see what happened on the river. It was certainly a cooler hand and I would never have been able to get away from it had someone bet the flop, but as played, it was foldable.

Grey is not going to show up with an overpair or two pair in that situation. There are two hands that I wonder about: a flush draw (possibly with a gutshot, possibly with two overs), and a ten. I do not know for certain how he would play a strong flush draw, but my guess is that he would have called. It should also be noted that he instantly raised the bet.

To this day I wonder how he would have played a ten. I truly do not know, but I think there’s around 65% chance he would have just called (the AQ hand vs Brokos suggests this as well) with most tens and maybe even ace-ten. Having done this autopsy, I think a fold was certainly in order. The hands Grey is most likely to have will always call the shove and have me drawing to one out with one to come.

That hand obviously wasn’t the way I wanted my career as a professional poker player to end, but it was a wonderful and thrilling experience to finally make a run in the Main Event – and I will be back to play it again, hopefully every year for the rest of my life.

Monday, August 01, 2011

July Top 15

15. Bon Iver - Minnesota, WI
14. Pink Floyd - Welcome to the Machine
13. Bon Iver - Perth
12. The Naked and Famous - Young Blood
11. Cake - End of the Movie

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge
9. Bon Iver - Holocene
8. Loreena McKennitt - The Mummer's Dance
7. Loreena McKennitt - Skellig
6. Wilco - You Never Know

5. Griffin House - Lonely One
4. Green Day - J.A.R.
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
2. Metallica - The Unforgiven III

Song of the Month: Mark Knopfler - Border Reiver