Fantasy football... Sometimes you win and sometimes you get into the playoffs as the number three seed only to see your pretty-boy quarterback do absolutely nothing for you and then your star wide receiver on monday goes nuts for 2 td's but you still lose by less than a point because your opponent had steven jackson and he caught two balls in a garbage time last-minute drive. And then you feel bad. Awesome.
i don't spend too much time criticizing the bad behavior of professional athletes. i never considered them role models, even when i was young. i always had my grandfather for that.
as a result, i always find myself pleasantly surprised when a star athlete is actually all of the qualities that you would want to impress upon your children: confident, humble, gracious, kind, and pleasant.
i just watched ladainian tomlinson (LT) on leno and was struck (again) by how genuine of a person he seems to be. when you've listened to as many sports radio shows and interviews as i have, picking out the athletes who pretend to be modest and kind (shane battier, shaun alexander, curt schilling, jerry rice, mark mcgwire) from those who are actually humble (elton brand, grant hill, derek jeter) becomes fairly easy. LT is certainly representative of the latter.
it's hard to not root for a guy that great. go chargers, i guess...
bear in mind, i don't have allegiances to any of these teams involved (except for loving the fact that usc and notre dame both missed out on the national title game. i'm entirely excited to see their fan bases lose out), but unless you went to michigan or are related to charles woodson, you have to know that florida deserves to play in the national title game. i think mark schlabach makes the case pretty well.
i hate the arguments that i've been hearing from random sportswriters the past few weeks: "well, ohio state and michigan are clearly the two best teams in the country." oh really? i guess that means you're capable of comparing teams that have never played each other before just by thinking really hard. heck, maybe they shouldn't even play the games, since you can tell us who the best teams are.
let's face it: nobody knows who's better between michigan and florida. but anyone with two eyes and some football understanding saw that ohio state is definitely better than michigan. and if we already know that we don't need to see them prove it again, especially when florida has gone 12-1 in the toughest conference in college football (statistically and subjectively).
it'll be a sad day for college football if michigan's playing ohio state again, this time for the national title. the one positive will be that, if florida's president's initial comments are any indication, the SEC presidents will start screaming their heads off and determining a national champion will finally be about something other than money.
the best way to finish up the longest work day you've ever had? DEFINITELY getting out to your car and seeing that you have a flat, because the thing you really want to do at 9pm is put your spare on.
i was plugging away on the treadmill at work just now, watching a little wsop coverage on espn. they were showing phil hellmuth at the featured table of the first day of the main event, when i saw some young kid in seat seven squeeze four chips into the pot in the MOST familiar way. when i saw his last name pop up next to his cards i did a double-take: he's a guy that i played with in a bunch of homegames while at school. i came home and checked up his name on cardplayer.com, finding him in the player database with four recent tournament cashes...
these moments always give me pause. as i spent my time at the company gym, trying to work off thanksgiving turkey, he was probably sitting behind deep stacks in a nice cash game somewhere. strange the routes that our lives take us.
is he envious of me? i'm envious of him...
back when i was working at oracle, i used to have a real commute (note: i say that because i do not have a real commute now, as 1.9 miles doesn't count). after working at oracle for a few weeks, and making the drive back up to san francisco, i started noticing something funny about the traffic: as i approached oracle from the north, there would be a horrific traffic backup every day at the ralston exit, but it wouldn't actually start at the exit, it would start just after the hillsdale exit, which is one north.
while heading north home, there would always be a hellacious backup from oracle all the way to the bend left on 101 around burlingame. i started paying attention, as i couldn't figure out why there were these tiny little jams, when there was never an accident.
what i discovered one day driving to work early is that there was no traffic around the hillsdale exit until around 8am, when inevitably one idiot merging onto 101 from hillsdale would do something stupid, like slowing to 15mph so he could merge, causing a cavalcade of brake lights behind him. on the same day, i left early for home and realized that the traffic jam from oracle to the burlingame veer left happens because every day (EVERY DAY) some number of morons gets freaked out by this slight left turn and slows down to like 20mph. suddenly everyone thinks king kong is hiding around the corner and they slow down too. an hour later? that moron's mistake turns into me waiting for 20 minutes to get onto the highway.
so what's the point? well i started trying to FIGHT the traffic slowdowns by driving slower than other people, but just driving consistently (not hitting the brake lights). i'd have huge gaps in front of me, but intuitively it would help since people behind me would never freak out by seeing red brake lights in front of them, so they wouldn't propagate the "wave." i had no idea if this worked, but i did it every day anyway.
well, to my surprise, i saw the following link on reddit.com (great site by the way, as long as you're a little geeky) today: Traffic Wave Experiments. apparently it actually works! awesome... just thought i'd share. if you've got an ugly commute, you might want to try it. it won't help you, but it'll help those poor saps behind you...
as a good google employee, i've decided to stick my google reader "shared items" in a clip on my blog (over on the write. look!).
i use google reader to subscribe to a dizzying variety of blogs, including: a random law school student in chicago, a myspace blog for a poker radio show, a well-read web 2.0 blog, a wine blog, and countless sportswriters. if you haven't tried out an rss reader, go take a look at google reader; it's a really nice reader now that i used even before i started at the big g.
anyhow, sticking the clip on my blog is really simple and hopefully you'll find some of the random links interesting. if i remember to tag things to share, you'll get an idea of the random unconnected nature of my interests :).
so just got back from booking a nice win at garden city. i arrived around 8:30pm and found a ridiculous list on every game but 6-12, so i was quickly sitting at (seriously) one of the BEST limit hold'em tables i've ever seen. anyhow, rather than regale you with silly stories of donkey players, i'll just recount one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me at a poker table (good story, even for non-poker players):
about 90 minutes into the session, a young asian guy (YAG) sits down to my left. i can pretty much tell right away that he's at least a pretty good player, just by the way he handles his chips. well, no matter, because the other 7 at the table are all TERRIBLE with deep pockets and we can both pick on them. yet somehow, YAG has some bizarre alpha male syndrome, where he resents all other decent players at the table. very strange. he's constantly re-raising me and trying to bully me, which i just decide to let happen for a while.
anyhow, in one key hand, he sucks out on my QdQs by hitting a pair of aces on the turn (with A5 after re-raising me preflop and calling two bets on the flop). when i re-suck out on the river by hitting a flush to win a monster pot, he starts mouthing off about how lucky i got. whatever, i'll take the pot and he can talk more. but wait, that's not the GOOD part.
so if you read my post on "ship it!", you'll know how much i detest the phrase. anyhow, we get caught up in a pot. i make it three bets on the button with AhJh and he calls out of the small blind, (as do like twenty other players, many of whom run from other tables just to call me). the flop comes Kh2hTs, probably as good as a flop as i can get without hitting a pair. after it gets checked around to me and i bet, YAG's the only caller. the turn is a blank (6c), he checks, i bet, he calls. at this point i'm pretty sure he has a shit hand, but he thinks that i've been on steal the whole way and is going to call me down no matter what. the Th comes on the river which is a gin card since it makes me the nut flush and he might've even improved his shit hand. he checks, i put on the full slow pause and act like i'm thinking about bluffing one last bullet. finally i bet and he insta-calls. i flip up the nut flush and the dealer says "he's got the ace-high."
at this point, YAG proceeds to proudly flip up his Ac2s (ragged pair of deuces), standing up and screaming "sorry, BUDDY (sarcastic)... ship it!" he yells it so loud that people from other tables come over to see what happened. in fact, he even starts to reach for the chips in the middle until the dealer grabs his wrist and says, "i'm sorry sir, but he has the ace-high FLUSH." at this point YAG looks at the board with pure bewilderment on his face. i look at him, smiling while some of the onlookers laugh, and mutter "nice call." hilarious.
moral of the story: never use the phrase "ship it!" you might look like an ass.
the truth of the matter is that games billed this large (with their own ESPN pages, in fact) rarely ever live up to the hype. that doesn't stop sports fans from getting excited though.
i've got no allegiances today, so i'm just hoping for a good game. still, i wish i DID have some allegiances. anyone who has ever been watching a game of that magnitude while rooting for one of the teams knows how tense and exciting it can be and, ultimately, awesome or disappointing. maybe i should have put some money on it...
of all the heinous things to say at a poker table, by FAR the most obnoxious/asshole-like is the phrase: "ship it!"
for those of you that have never sat at a live poker table (and don't realize how mean-spirited this phrase is), let me explain:
literally, the phrase "ship it!" is an order to an opponent and/or the dealer to 'ship' the chips in the player's direction. seems pretty harmless, right? when would you use a term like this instead of saying, "excuse me sir, would you please graciously pass me the chips that i have just won from you?" well let me tell you:
THE SUCK OUT: you're sitting in a no limit hold'em game (cash game, tournament, doesn't matter), and the meathead down across the table with the cut-off t-shirt, jersey accent, and body odor is annoying everyone at the table. you finally get him to stick all his money in as a huge underdog, and he hits a suckout of epic proportions. maybe he hits a straight-flush against your boat, drawing to one card. you're slightly stunned, and then he says it: "ship it, baby!"
THE FEUD: you've been verbally sparring with another player for about an hour. he's a real jerk and won't get over the argument. he also happens to have a yankees hat on his head, a duke basketball sweatshirt on his torso, bright yellow lakers sweats on his legs, and a 2cm penis above his peanut balls. you get involved in a hand against him and he comes out victorious. to needle you, he slow-rolls you while flipping over the nuts and, with a dirty smirk on his face, says the words "ship it!" while motioning with both hands towards himself.
THE ASSHOLE FRIEND (less frequent): one of the above two morons (Moron) does not actually use the term "ship it!" himself. instead, one of his drunk idiot friends is standing behind him and has been bragging to the entire poker room for the past ten minutes about how he just made out with a really hot chick at the club. Moron wins a pot and drunk guy stands behind him yelling out the phrase while Moron rakes in the chips.
it's pretty much guaranteed that anytime you hear the phrase "ship it!" at a poker table, the words will be uttered by someone who is a) angry at his opponent in the hand, or b) a complete asshole.
so what's the best way to deal with a "ship it" guy? after all, getting pissed (because you will) really doesn't solve the problem, as you'll either a) go on tilt and dump off all your chips to the rest of the table, or b) jump across the table and try to strangle "ship it!" guy (don't laugh, i've seen at least five people get kicked out of high-class poker rooms for this exact scenario). i've developed a method for online play that is so ridiculous that it is failsafe (and yes, this did happen an hour ago, verbatim):
flop comes AcJhQd, i have JsQh, my opponent (aka Moron) has Ah9d. we get all the money in the middle. final board: AcJhQd5s5d. i lose about $85. and then this occurs in the chatbox:
Moron: ship it!
Moron: yeah baby
smallchou: great! i'm so happy for you!
Moron: are you talking to me?
smallchou: yeah! you're awesome. i just wanted you to know that. that's why i shipped the chips to you!
Moron: ok buddy, whatever [edit: for dane cook fans, you will recognize that "buddy"]
smallchou: "whatever"! you're a genius!
smallchou: i love playing poker with you!
Moron: shut up
smallchou: oh sorry, i thought you were really excited about sucking out on me. i just wanted to be excited with you.
Other Player 1: lol
Other Player 2: hilarious
Moron: go fck yourself
first of all, doing this usually gets me into a really good mood again, if i felt like the beat was actually going to get on my nerves. this particular Moron was of the angry variety, but sometimes you can actually get the moron to laugh and say he's sorry for the suckout. the angry ones are the funniest though, because suddenly THEY actually get on tilt. then maybe YOU will be the one with the chance to say "ship it!" back. while this option will feel remarkably satisfying, i encourage you to take the high road and just smile. don't be the "ship it!" guy...
one of the those strange things that you can only ponder after 11pm on a weekday, but i wonder why i never got into sportswriting. or sports writing.
when i was a freshman in college, i was deadset on taking some time to figure out what program i wanted to major in. my first quarter i took math, ihum (humanities course), econ 1, and a class called 'the jet engine' because it sounded fucking sweet. a pretty good start to "being open-minded about my major," yeah? yet somewhere along the line, i swerved sharply technical and ended up with a degree in computer systems engineering. it's true, i did enjoy a large amount of the CSE coursework (notably computer architecture, digital design, and the HCI business), but i don't think i've ever gotten over that feeling that maybe i just fell into CSE because it was "easy". not easy in a logistical sense, but easy in a personal and mental sense.
i just finished reading a beautiful old piece by gay talese called 'The Silent Season of a Hero' in this collection The Best American Sports Writing of the Century. originally printed in esquire, the magazine piece is a short peep into the world of joe dimaggio, post-baseball, including his love for marilyn monroe. it's very subtle and it's a great bit about a famously-private man, showing so much with a careful frugality of words. emotions evoked: admiration and jealousy (of talese) at the same time.
and i guess i don't have much more to say beyond, "i sort of wish i had written something so good that it had that kind of impact on someone else." and why couldn't i have gotten into writing about sports? after all, do any of these sportswriters love the games more than i do? probably not. did they learn how to conjugate verbs better than me? probably not.
i'm not disappointed by the path i chose, but i just wonder why these thoughts never crossed my mind when i was 17 and spending 30 hours a week reading about, watching, and playing sports. strange, isn't it...
so first my oakland a's decide it's time to hang out in fremont [editor's note: FREMONT?!], and now my 49ers have decided to run from famous candlestick point to the glorious urban center of santa clara? what a week for bay area sports!
in all seriousness though, what the HELL is going on? as much as i enjoy both of my favorite professional sports teams moving closer to me geographically, i'm wondering how we've come to this. simple answers...
oakland athletics: oakland doesn't deserve a professional baseball team. i'm sorry, but it had to be said. this is, after all, a team that has gone to the playoffs multiple times in the past few years with absolutely zero home-field advantage in the second-most decrepit (more on that later) professional sports venue in the entire country. honestly, it has been pitiful. would i have rather seen the a's go to a city like san jose, a large city that has already proved an ability to support a team (the sharks! it's hockey for christ's sake.)? yeah. but you know what, fremont is a nice-enough place and games will be close by. i just hope they don't actually call themselves the fremont a's. yech.
san francisco 49ers: network associates (oakland) coliseum is the second-worst professional sports venue because monster park at candlestick point is THE worst. have you ever gone to a game there and tried to exit the parking lot? stoops and i once finished watching the niners-browns game, got to his car, threw a football around for an hour and a half, drank a couple of beers apiece, and THEN sat in traffic for an hour (true story!). and that doesn't even touch on the horrific nature of the stadium itself. honestly? i'm happy that the niners are leaving, because i don't think they would have ever gotten the stadium done in the city. yes, it makes me sad to actually agree with john york, but i'll do it just once. i'm just happy that they're sticking with the name "san francisco 49ers."
so there you have it. all in all, i'm pretty happy about the whole thing (surprisingly). after all, finding asian food before baseball games just got ten times easier.
i just watched an entire one-hour show on the food channel about fried chicken. now i didn't really watch and listen to the whole thing, but it was on tv while i was been sitting here doing other things. they showed plate after plate of delicious-looking, golden brown poultry that left me actually hungry. i now have a ridiculous craving for some good fried chicken, but i really can't think of a place that will actually live up to what i've been seeing on television. where can i get some good fried chicken around here?
i just returned home after the usc-stanford drubbing at stanford stadium. it was, as all stanford games have been this year, an extremely sobering experience.
there was a time when we were actually competitive on the field. stanford fans today now refer to the tyrone willingham years as "the good years". we may have lost some games back then, but we NEVER got embarrassed. but these years under buddy teevens and walt harris have been truly debilitating as a stanford fan. it has been so atrocious, that a column in the san jose mercury news this week suggested that it's a good thing because it's SO bad that our administration will need to consider relaxing admissions standards.
in any other situation, such a column would make me respond in a heated email to the writer, but this season has been so painful that the column actually made me pause for thought. after all, i used to resort to the same silly comebacks that stanford fans tend to use when we lose any sort of game. choose one of the following:
1. we're smarter than you
2. you're winning because you let mentally deficient "student"-athletes into your school
3. you'll work for me one day
4. you're attending one of our safety schools
these spiteful remarks are simply a result of frustration most years. just stupid comments that come from the pain of losing. but this year's football team has been so embarrassing that stanford fans look like complete jackasses when they say these things, no longer just frustrated and disappointed fans. we're not competitive. we're not frustrated because we lost the game. it is way beyond frustration. it's just pure embarrassment.
our team is so embarrassing that, for any reasonable stanford fan, it outweighs any director's cup trophy that we win for the umpteenth year. i want my football team to win games, i don't want to tell people how we have "the best overall sports program in the country," because i honestly don't give a shit about that anymore. actually, scratch that, i just want my football team to be decent enough that i actually want to defend them when someone rags on them. i want them to be decent enough that i don't wish i hadn't spent $90 (a tiny amount) on season tickets. most of all? i want them to be decent enough that i don't feel like a +23 point spread is a lock for the other team, every week.
so what should we do, as a school. open up our academic floodgates like so many other schools, as wilner suggested in the mercury column? no thank you. i still enjoy being able to laugh when ignorant sportscasters talk about how notre dame and stanford are on the same academic level (as tyrone said WHILE he was coaching the irish, that is preposterous). but i don't think it's unreasonable to have a competitive team without giving up academic standards. after all, didn't we go to a few bowl games just a few years ago?
i'm tired of trying to come up with excuses for the pitiful nature of our football team. every game looks worse and every season looks more disappointing. i just want a decent team. not even a good team (right now), just a decent one. otherwise we might as well join the ivy league. stanford football: stop making me sick.
edit: just as i finished this post, the stanford-usc lowlights came on abc. i turned off the tv.
i finished up the book high fidelity while i was on the plane last night. it's actually rather remarkable that i had never read the novel, considering how i've had many people (who know me pretty well) over the years tell me how much i would enjoy nick hornby's work. so high fidelity was number two on my list of hornby novels, the first being about a boy.
first of all, i'll start by saying that the movie version of high fidelity, starring john cusack, has absolutely no chance at providing an accurate reproduction of the novel. there's just too much introspective and masculine mumbling to properly transfer to the hollywood visual medium. the reason that's important is that the book is great, while the movie is, depending on who you ask, good or garbage.
i never really put much stock in comments like, "he writes men/women very well," but somehow i found myself saying that while i read high fidelity. hornby has a frank and honest male voice, filled with all of its truthful inadequacies and asshole qualities. it's the kind of narrative that i would hear in my own head if i was, er, more of a jerk and much more bitter. he's not complicated, but he's so perfectly expressive.
which brings me to why i find people like nick hornby amazing. whenever i jot something on paper (or in this case: bits), i find it hard to transfer pure honesty and self-reflection into writing. people like nick hornby humble me because i can read what he writes and find myself saying, "man, his writing is exactly how i would feel there." it's inspiring, and maybe that's why i'm gonna start writing here more often again. promise.
oh, one more note: when i got to the end of the novel, i finally saw a picture of hornby and was shocked to see a very plain-looking bald english man. not sure what i was expecting, but that wasn't it. i guess i expected someone who knew me so well to share SOMETHING in common with me. ah well...
Prohibition II: Good Grief
When government restricts Americans' choices, ostensibly for their own good, someone is going to profit from the paternalism.
By George F. Will Newsweek Oct. 23, 2006 issue -
Perhaps Prohibition II is being launched because Prohibition I worked so well at getting rid of gin. Or maybe the point is to reassure social conservatives that Republicans remain resolved to purify Americans' behavior. Incorrigible cynics will say Prohibition II is being undertaken because someone stands to make money from interfering with other people making money.
For whatever reason, last Friday the president signed into law Prohibition II. You almost have to admire the government's plucky refusal to heed history's warnings about the probable futility of this adventure. This time the government is prohibiting Internet gambling by making it illegal for banks or credit-card companies to process payments to online gambling operations on a list the government will prepare.
Last year about 12 million Americans wagered $6 billion online. But after Congress, 32 minutes before adjourning, passed its ban, the stock of the largest online-gambling business, Gibraltar-based PartyGaming, which gets 85 percent of its $1 billion annual revenue from Americans, declined 58 percent in one day, wiping out about $5 billion in market value. The stock of a British company, World Gaming PLC, which gets about 95 percent of its revenue from Americans, plunged 88 percent. The industry, which has some 2,300 Web sites and did half of its business last year with Americans, has lost $8 billion in market value because of the new law. And you thought the 109th Congress did not accomplish anything.
Supporters of the new law say it merely strengthens enforcement; they claim that Internet gambling is illegal under the Wire Act enacted in 1961, before Al Gore, who was then 13, had invented the Internet. But not all courts agree. Supporters of the new law say online gambling sends billions of dollars overseas. But the way to keep the money here is to decriminalize the activity.
The number of online American gamblers, although just one sixth the number of Americans who visit real casinos annually, doubled in the last year. This competition alarms the nation's biggest gambling interests-state governments.
It is an iron law: When government uses laws, tariffs and regulations to restrict the choices of Americans, ostensibly for their own good, someone is going to make money from the paternalism. One of the big winners from the government's action against online gambling will be the state governments that are America's most relentless promoters of gambling. Forty-eight states (all but Hawaii and Utah) have some form of legalized gambling. Forty-two states have lottery monopolies. Thirty-four states rake in part of the take from casino gambling, slot machines or video poker.
The new law actually legalizes online betting on horse racing, Internet state lotteries and some fantasy sports. The horse-racing industry is a powerful interest. The solidarity of the political class prevents the federal officials from interfering with state officials' lucrative gambling. And woe unto the politicians who get between a sports fan and his fun.
In the private sector, where realism prevails, casino operators are not hot for criminalizing Internet gambling. This is so for two reasons: It is not in their interest for government to wax censorious. And online gambling might whet the appetites of millions for the real casino experience.
Granted, some people gamble too much. And some people eat too many cheeseburgers. But who wants to live in a society that protects the weak-willed by criminalizing cheeseburgers? Besides, the problems-frequently exaggerated-of criminal involvement in gambling, and of underage and addictive gamblers, can be best dealt with by legalization and regulation utilizing new software solutions. Furthermore, taxation of online poker and other gambling could generate billions for governments.
Prohibition I was a porous wall between Americans and their martinis, giving rise to bad gin supplied by bad people. Prohibition II will provoke imaginative evasions as the market supplies what gamblers will demand-payment methods beyond the reach of Congress.
But governments and sundry busybodies seem affronted by the Internet, as they are by any unregulated sphere of life. The speech police are itching to bring bloggers under campaign-finance laws that control the quantity, content and timing of political discourse. And now, by banning a particular behavior-the entertainment some people choose, using their own money-government has advanced its mother-hen agenda of putting a saddle and bridle on the Internet.
my name is jack. i have a blog that, like, ten of my friends read. i almost forgot about it
anyhow, sorry for the lack of updates lately. things have been moving fast and it feels good. one of the underrated experiences in the world is being busy and booked enough to feel full. i think that's a good way to say it. for some reason i was never the type of person to feel stressed about things. it was always, "ok, let's get organized and pack my schedule in a little tighter." that always felt good and "right" to me. it sounds kind of sick, but in high school i was always invigorated by returning home late (7pm) after basketball practice and needing to finish hours and hours of homework before heading to bed. it made me feel accomplished and 'in motion'. i can only remember once when i felt truly overwhelmed, but that's when i was a freshman in college and on medication. we'll write it off to those two reasons.
i'm heading to las vegas on friday, for actually only the fourth time this year. this comes after a 2005 in which i went around eight or nine times (that's a lot). interestingly enough, this'll also probably be the last large-scale vegas soiree that i try to direct. by now i generally have an idea of who actually enjoys going to vegas, who doesn't, and who doesn't but thinks he does. like chris noted the other day, "you shouldn't have to CONVINCE people to go to las vegas." he's right: vegas sucks if you don't have the right interests. there's no need to try to pull those people in. for degenerate gamblers like myself it's awesome :).
seeing a lot of wsop coverage on espn the last few weeks has been jogging my memory back to july when, if you don't recall, i parked my ass at harrah's on the strip for an entire week and did nothing but play poker. i think the biggest overriding lesson (besides "Tell Better Stories", "A Healthy Disregard for Money", and "Poker is Tiring") is that i could never play poker for a living for a lifetime-significant period of time. the reason i use that wording is that i could imagine doing it for a constrained period of time (and i imagine i will at some point). but honestly? there are a lot of things to do in the world and i'd be unfulfilled playing poker every day for the rest of my life. i think that's a message that has needed a few months of reflection to properly drill into my head, but it's there now. i'm glad i know.
but for now, i'll be happy to do my weekend trips 4-8 times a year and perhaps take a week off in the summer to play a bit of the wsop every year. i think that's enough for me. playing poker for a living? mm, no thanks...
on that note: vegas, here i come...
i always get the sense that sports non-fans have trouble understanding why we sports fans care so much. in fact, sometimes i even forget why we care so much. but occasionally, a sports moment is so special that you immediately remember what it is that we love so much about sports.
i was at old pro (we're gonna start calling it OP from now) this afternoon, watching the end of the detroit and new york american league division series (that's baseball for any of you non-fans). now certainly everyone knows who new york's american league team is (the yankees), but you'll certainly be excused if you don't actually know that detroit's team is called the 'tigers.' that's because, for the past twenty years or so, the tigers have been crap. at times, much worse than crap. in fact, for the past ten years, seeing one of your fantasy baseball pitchers ready to face detroit has meant comfort and relief. the tigers have been so bad that they turned a once-proud baseball town into a baseball graveyard.
that's until this year, when jim leyland (baseball's grandfatherly tough nice guy, one of the most respected managers in the game) came to town, just as the tigers' 20-year rebuilding process was ready to come to fruition. mix in a few nice free agent pickups, and voila! playoff and (now) ALCS appearance. and they're not done yet.
but why is this worth writing about? because anyone who watched the postgame celebration by the tigers couldn't help but feel great for them. i've had about ten skin-tingling sports moments in my life (the first definitely being john taylor's super bowl winning catch and the latest being tiger woods' sobbing british open victory this year) and today, sitting at the OP, watching the postgame (with no audio, mind you) was the latest.
first came the eruption of elation by the entire bar as the yankees were knocked out (that's standard in any sports bar outside of new york city). but it was much more than the usual "goodbye yankees" cheers. the group of true tigers fans in the bar screamed and hugged each other as if they had just been released from prison. and on the screen? a postgame scene unlike any other for an anti-climactic 3-1 division series victory. every fan stayed standing at his seat, deliriously cheering, screaming, and singing even as the tigers players ran into the lockerroom to spray champagne on one another. but the fans were not disappointed, because soon the entire team had returned to the field, champagne bottles in hand, to spray on the fans themselves. kenny rogers, he of the embarrassing camera incident a few years ago, snuck out of the dugout with three bottles, passing them out to fans and dumping the third on a uniformed security guard. groups of detroit players literally skipped down along the field walls, slapping hands with the fans and sharing a special sports moment. i cheered for the tigers this series precisely because i knew detroit would enjoy it more, but even i was surprised by the celebration. it was great and i loved it.
and off on the side, the camera caught an emotional moment. pudge rodriguez stood celebrating with another player, as leyland came up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. they exchanged a quick nod and a genuine smile, and hugged each other. no words, just the respectful and fatherly acknowledgement of a great manager with a great player.
that is why we watch sports, for moments like today. congratulations to detroit the city, detroit the fans, and detroit the team. i hope you lose in seven :).
so sad day for the online poker world today. apparently the us senate decided to stick a little provision into the defense bill that aims to stop online gambling. it is yet to be seen how this will actually affect online poker, but one the world's largest online poker site (party poker) has already said that they'll stop operations if/when bush signs the bill into law. full tilt published a little bit more contentious of a response today on their blog.
you probably know where i stand on the question of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance (there's chance involved, but anyone who believes it is solely gambling wasn't sitting at the same stud eight-or-better table as me tonight). but let's not even get into that. let's get into how ridiculous it is to outlaw online gambling, when i can walk down to garden city today and chuck hundreds of dollars into live poker games or (even worse) california blackjack.
i guess the only good thing is that banning online poker might drive a lot of these online players into real cardrooms on real felt. that should prove pretty lucrative for those of us who play live regularly for a while. i can't wait to see the numerous beginners' tells i'll get to see at garden city in the next few months...
whew! i'm back. it took two weeks, but i feel like i really got a sense of what australia (specifically new south wales and queensland) has to offer. some things i learned about or while in australia:
:: sydney is most definitely a beautiful and mature international city. the harbor is gorgeous. it's clean and crisp and sophisticated. really unlike any harbor or wharf that i've ever seen in a big city. the opera house really is one of those architectural marvels that you need to see for yourself. the streets are bustling at waking hours, but strangely quiet on crisp sunday mornings. a coworker described it a few weeks ago as "a cleaner san francisco, fused with los angeles beach culture." i think that's very accurate, though i don't think it has the vibrancy and diversity of san francisco. it's casual and formal at the same time. oh, and the food is fantastic, as one would expect from such a modern city surrounded by eclectic nations of diverse tastes. some quick photos:
:: australians, despite their insistence on being part of a "great beer-drinking nation," have no idea what good beer is. i tried nearly every australian beer that i could get my hands on, playing havoc on my weight (more on that later), and i found only two that were even worth thinking about drinking again. unlike other enthusiastic beer-consuming countries (belgium, ireland, germany...), australia's beers taste like ass. my theory is that australians adopt the american attitude of, "i'm gonna drink a lot of it, so might as well make sure it goes down easy." when i got to the country, i laughed about how no one there actually drank foster's. by the time i left i was wishing that i could find a foster's.
:: i always thought lists like "the world's top 10 beaches" were stupid. i mean, what could be so spectacular? then i went to whitehaven beach in the whitsunday islands. i'll give you a few pictures, but suffice it to say that i will no longer doubt the worth of such lists (which mostly seem to include whitehaven). spectacular? incredible? a dream? the sand was supposedly silica, but it felt more like soft flour spread over 6 kilometers where the jungle met water. absolutely insane:
:: i was reminded on this trip how loved and incredible of a city san francisco is. yeah, you read that right. EVERY australian who mentioned visiting the united states raved about how much he/she loved our own city by the bay. even our b&b owners in port douglas, who talked about how unimpressed they were by america ("i don't think people who live in new york are tough, i think they're stupid to live in a place so beastly," and "america's so BORING. except for little pockets, it all looks the same"), praised san francisco top to bottom. i don't know if they were correct, but they were certainly objective compared to americans. if nothing else: australians love san francisco.
:: the great barrier reef sounds so cliche, but you're a fool if you don't go see it for yourself. i've never snorkeled before, but moments after overcoming the initial panic of "holy shit, i'm in the middle of the fucking ocean and these waves are enormous," i was able to calm down and take a look around. when you cross the water level, it's like dipping into a whole different world of brilliant colors and plentiful marine life. i'm hoping some of my underwater camera pictures come out, but i have a feeling that my wounded duck swimming technique might have left something to be desired. we'll see. but whether or not the photos come out, just know that it was one of the most remarkable sights of my life. go see it, you won't be disappointed.
:: and lastly, i was reminded of how good it can actually feel to come home. yes my (new) room still looks like a disaster area, but it's slowly coming together and it's good to be in my own place. i'm not, by nature, a traveler. at some level, i find myself needing to emerge from my comfort zone just to immerse myself in a new and different place. my travel shyness means that i'm always a little relieved to come home to comfort, but it also means that i forever appreciate even short jaunts to new worlds. i'm lucky to have the means to travel.
like our rain forest guide said on wednesday, "when you're heading home all you can think about is how nice it will be. but once you get home all you can think about is where to go to next."
so where to next? i'm open for ideas :)
so i had some interesting little tidbits to share from my trip so far, but they were all overshadowed by this story:
ivy and i were sitting in this old pub in The Rocks here in sydney. i decided to order another pint of guinness and, as i was finishing up the drink, i saw a couple of pretty big guys walking in on the other side of the bar. as i put my drink down, i couldn't help noticing that the one facing me had one of those cool Ricky Bobby Wonderbread hats on. "cool," i thought. "i wonder how he got one of those." then i slowly realized that the guy looked a LOT like the real ricky bobby himself. as i blinked a few times and looked again, i tapped ivy on the shoulder and said, "hey, doesn't that guy look a lot like will ferrell?" as we both looked back at him, his friend turned around and we knew that, yes, it was in fact will ferrell because the other guy was very clearly john c. reilly!
the tagline for sydney tourism should be: "Sydney, where Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly can go to have a beer without people bothering them." we did score a sweet picture of the four of us though. awesome...
i'm excited because tomorrow i'm jumping on a long-ass plane flight Down Under. i don't really plan on having absurd adventures while i'm down there, but hey, you never know.
i think that when i'm at work and in the grind, i tend to lose focus on some of the more important aspects of being 24 with some financial freedom. for instance, i feel like seeing as much of the world as i can before i have real responsibilities is probably a really fantastic idea. when i think about it, there will be decades to work on a career, and only years to pack up and fly away to random places for indeterminate amounts of time. i need to remember to make that a priority more often.
so in the theme of "tell better stories," i think that someday i'll remember spending two weeks in australia much more than i'll remember sitting in a cubicle plugging on my keyboard to earn some extra cash. i think. and for that i'm willing to invest: time, money, and my life.
9/15: fly out of sfo to sydney
9/22: fly out of sydney to cairns
9/29: fly back to sfo
there are lots of things in the middle there, but we'll start with that and fill in the details later.
i've been using the yahoo! launchcast radio while i'm powering through stuff at work. the application creates a "radio station" for you based on your musical preferences. everytime you hear a song, you rate it and the system is supposed to come up with some new stuff for you to listen to (yes, i know, there are better services out there for this).
anyhow, i was listening along, plugging away when a song came on.
(in my head) "wait. who is that? is that who i think it is?"
yes, folks. yahoo!'s musical algorithm told me that i should be a kevin federline fan. i think launchcast just made fun of me... web 2.0 sucks.
five years ago today, i was a 19-year old college student still reeling (perhaps alcohol-induced) from my freshman year of college. i was in kotzebue building some websites for maniilaq association and a few other organizations in the rural alaskan town. in other words, i was pretty much as far away (both in distance and culture) from new york city as i could be within the united states. i remember the summer well, spent with the johns (lincoln and stoops) doing various ridiculous things that could only make sense to 19-year old college kids or residents of kotzebue.
on the morning of september 11, i was fast asleep in the bottom bunk of john lincoln's room at his family's house. there was a family room with a tv just a step outside the door. stoops was sleeping on the top bunk and lincoln across the room in his bed. i can remember somewhat groggily listening to mrs. lincoln burst into the room, frantically talking about twin towers and airplanes and crashes. as i came to consciousness and mrs. lincoln left the room, lincoln muttered the words, "wait, they CRASHED into the buildings?" i think, even today, that's a perfectly succinct way to phrase the immediate response of most anyone. the three of us stumbled out of our beds and stood watching the television coverage. i was planted there completely shocked for a good 20 minutes, staring at the craziest television images i had ever seen, mouthing words like "oh my god...", and clothed by just a pair of boxer shorts. i remember it all vividly, like a painting seared into my brain...
it was, of course, the singular "where were you when..." moment of our generation. it's obviously not important, but i wonder whether 9/11 will come to replace president kennedy's assassination as the event standard by which all "where were you when..." moments are compared.
i took ivy to the airport last night, as she headed out to sydney and then adelaide. as i watched her slowly make her way through the careful security process, i couldn't help but think about how different airplane travel is today because of this day five years ago. and who can even count the other things that have changed...
so where were you when you heard, five years ago today?
chuck klosterman's team usa proposal is not only entertaining, but also (honestly) pretty damn intriguing as a real option for our national basketball team. what i see when i watch our guys out on the court (in the world championships or anywhere else) is a group of players that are playing scared to fail. if dwyane wade, lebron, and company go off and win the olympics, the collective response from americans will be, "about damn time! sheesh, when were those greedy players ever going to get off their asses to not embarrass us?" if they lose at the olympics, the collective response from americans will be, "again? when will those greedy players ever get off their asses to not embarrass us?" in case you've never played sports, this is what we call a "no-win situation"
=========main event chips fiasco: somehow, at the main event of the world series of poker this year, two million random chips were thrown into the prize pool at some point. let me repeat that: two million random chips showed up between day one and the end of the tournament. i'm glad that the writers figured out where those came from. now we just have to figure out how harrah's can stop screwing things up. of course television has been integral in the poker boom, but just as important were the rise of honest card rooms, tournaments, and internet sites that let people play the game without feeling like they might get cheated...
businessweek wrote an article on the best places to launch a career and i almost puked on myself (even though my new employer made the list, though since i didn't start my career there i'm completely screwed). lists like this are so absurd that i can't don't even want to start getting into the utter uselessness of them. how exactly do you judge the best places to launch a career? here are the criteria, in their words:
With this ranking, BusinessWeek has put together a guide to the employers that really shine. Unlike other such rankings, BusinessWeek's incorporates feedback from three different sources. First we surveyed directors of undergraduate career services to find out which employers were creating buzz on campus. Next we asked those finalists to complete a questionnaire about pay, benefits, retention, and training programs, which we then compared with other employers in the same industry. Finally we asked Universum Communications to supply data from its survey of more than 37,000 U.S. undergrads about the finalists at the top of their list of most desirable employers.
great. so 2/3 of your feedback is going to come from people who are students (who haven't even started a career), from people who listen to what those students tell them, and from the companies themselves. shouldn't they rename the article to "places that college students most want to work at"? i guess that wouldn't have the same ring...
honestly, i think we'd be better off getting life and career advice from people like gene weingarten at the washington post. i especially like number five, about how using the bathroom will eventually become more satisfying for me than using the bedroom. great. looking forward to it...
you're crazy if you thought i wasn't going to at least MENTION opening weekend of the nfl season. the niners looked ok which, believe me, is an enormous step up from the vomit that built up every time i thought about them last year. one of these years, i'm going to actually fulfill a life dream of finding some way to watch every single nfl game in real-time on the first day of the season. it'll be a complicated plan that will involve getting all of my friends to bring over their own tv's while i configure an intricate wiring scheme to turn the directv signal into ten separate games, all at the same time. hopefully my niners'll be winning again by then...
a few months ago, i wrote a post entitled Short stack is power? in which i discussed a theory that i had involving the power of a short stack (i.e. 40-50x the big blind) in a no limit hold'em cash game. in my experience up to that point, playing with a short stack in a no limit cash game had been profitable and i concluded that having a short stack in a no limit cash game, where blinds are non-escalating and create no additional pressure on the players, is the optimal way to play.
interestingly enough, over the past few months as i've built greater discipline and self-reflection in my poker game, i've come to realize that the short stack approach is, in fact, not always optimal. like everything in poker, there are situations at the table where starting with a substantial stack is truly beneficial for cash game play. let's take a quick example hand from my week-long vegas trip in july.
i was playing in a $5-$10 no limit game and was sitting with around my starting stack at the table. i had bought in for $400 and had lost a small pot to leave me with $370. certainly 37 big blinds fell well within my range of 'small stack cash game play', so i was fine.
in late position, i picked up AcJs behind an extremely loose player who had raised to $30. he had me covered by a lot and i felt that i had a good read on his style of play. i called in position and the big blind called as well. the flop came down Jc-3d-4h. a great flop with me, with no flush draw and no real straight draws. after the big blind checked, the loose player put out a bet of $90. i was certain that i had the best hand given the player's style and figured that i was looking at a J with a worse kicker. the big blind looked as though he was ready to fold.
in thinking over the situation, i debated between calling his bet of $90 (leaving me with $250 behind) or raising him immediately. i elected to call, wanting to make sure that i got all my money in against his probable 2- or 3-outter. this is, in fact, the small stack approach: find places to double through other players at the table. when the turn came with a blank and he stuck a bet of $150, i moved in for $100 more and he quickly called. he did, in fact, have J9 and i doubled up. hooray, right?
a couple of weeks later, as i thought about the play of the hand, i started to realize where the 'small stack cash game' approach fails. in the hand described above, i had a great read on the player and the amount of money that i won was capped only by the size of my stack. if i had started the hand with $500, i probably would also have been able to double through him. in fact, even if i had started the hand with $800, i might have been able to double through him. my edge over him was substantial, but i had handcuffed myself by limiting my own value in the hand by having a small stack.
at the same time, the opposite is also true. if my opponent had held a hand like QQ, leaving my stack size at $350 would have limited my loss in the hand. but when you have great positive EV in a game or against a player, why would you be interested in limiting the magnitude of your wins?
as i thought back on my no limit cash game play from the week, the first things i remembered were the horrific bad beats. but as i reviewed the play further, i came to realize that the size of those bad beats were huge because i didn't always get full value out of other hands where i was certain to be a huge favorite. poker's a difficult game with lots of ambiguity. in the cases where you know and like where you stand, wouldn't it make sense to get as much of your money out there as possible?
playing with a large stack takes careful understanding of the intricacies of hands. it's substantially more difficult than playing a small stack in a cash game. but if you're comfortable with your standing in the game, buying in for a substantial stack can make more sense because of the added value from your winning hands. at the end of the day, it depends. the size of your buy-in for a cash game is contingent upon not just the size of the blinds, but on your playing style, your edge in the game, and your ability to skirt past tricky hands. there are many factors to consider and i was wrong: a short stack is not always power...
i'll occasionally link to my friends' blogs, but i almost never outright TELL people, "go read this stuff." i think will's new blog is probably worth your time though, so you should go take a look. it's not really a blog, as much as it will be insightful glimpses into his trek through south america.
the short background is that, having finished two years teaching in the new york public school system, will decided to take, oh, at least a half year to travel all of those countries to the south, accompanied by his backpack. i'm excited for him and proud that he has the balls to go travel in such a way. he's much braver than i am, in countless ways.
so far, he's taken a 30-hour bus ride from atlanta, georgia to el paso, texas, before jumping (not literally) the border into mexico. so set your bookmarks, rss readers, or whatever. it should be at least interesting. oh yeah, and he doesn't know spanish.
be safe, will. and write often.
it's late, er, early and i can't sleep. time to do some writing instead, since i've been neglecting all of you out in reader land:
firefox 2 beta 2 - mozilla firefox 2 is finally in a decently-stable beta form and 700 tech nerds spread out all over the bay area are rejoicing. in all honesty though, there are some nice things about the beta. for one, they finally got the closing of tabs right. also, subscribing to rss feeds is now a seamless user experience (big win). oh, and it looks nice. i'm still waiting for some really new sizeable innovations, but it's a nice upgrade from firefox 1. and... now that i've written this, i'm not sure how it's actually important to your life. but hey, it's 4am so you should be happy you're getting anything legible.
moving again - i'm moving. again. it seems like i've spent the last six years of my life carting things around from place to place. you would think that doing so much moving would make me pack lightly, but you would be oh so wrong. somehow, such choice items as my dead ikea wall clock and a busted electric toothbrush have continued to make the cut every move. this time i'll be taking residence in a nice 4-bedroom house in mountain view. each room has its own shade of nice new paint (i'm staring down the barrel of green, blue, or red) and there's a quiet patio out back, perfect for barbeques. anyone who enjoys lifting heavy things should contact me soon :).
financial nerdiness - i think one sign that you've become a personal finance nerd is if you actually think the following sentence to yourself when reviewing your new employer's benefits: "oh sweet, we offer a roth 401(k). this is so fucking bomb." note to self: describing a roth 401(k) as 'fucking bomb' is not only strange, but also probably inaccurate. i'm not sure where that tidbit was going, but hey, it's 4:17am.
poker's easy. sometimes. - i was playing in a 45-person sit-and-go to kill some time this afternoon, when i found 3d3h on the button with two limpers in front of me. i limped, the small blind called, and the big blind checked. as i looked back at the table a few seconds later, i did a double-take as i saw the flop 3c-2s-3s. yahtzee! but all four player checked to me. i tossed in a bet of about 1/4 of the pot to get the action going and had three callers. as i worried about how to get all of the money into the middle (we were pretty deep-stacked and i had all three players covered), the As rolled off on the turn, putting three spades on the board. before i even had a chance to act, the small blind pushed all-in (for about 3 times the pot), and the next two players also pushed all of their money into the pot. after i paused to make sure i wasn't seeing things, i called and saw them flip over (in succession) KsQs, 2d2c, AdAc. amazing. sometimes poker's so easy :).
filed under 'cool': flickr geotagging - i know that it's officially part of the enemy, but i'm still a flickr user. and, as a flickr user, i have to admit that i think the new 'geo-tagging' functionality is, for lack of a better word, 'cool'. i just happen to hate the name (geo-tagging? can't there be a better name than that?). i'd tell you what it is, but maybe it's easier to just show you my photo map. note that not all my photos are geo-tagged yet, but i think it's pretty neat anyway. it's not going to change anybody's life, but (as you all know) i love visualizing information in clever ways. this would qualify.
australia, here i come! - and i'll leave you with this sobering news article. yes, i am actually going to be in port douglas in, oh, about three weeks. really good for the worry-meter there...
one thing that i've learned in the first few days of work is that i'll be needing to make copious use of the gym facilities here. remember when you got to school freshman year and suddenly all of the food was prepaid and all-you-can-eat? and you summarily packed on 10 pounds chewing on rubbery chicken tenders and sucking down beer by the gallon? well, my new job is like that, but there are no nightly keggers and the food is really good. in other words: food budget down, new balance running shoe budget up.
so i haven't discussed it on here yet, but in a few weeks i'll be trekking to australia to visit for the first time. it should be a really great experience and i'm excited about it. the itinerary for me? sydney (described by my new cubemate as a cleaner version of san francisco, fused with socal beach culture) and then cairns (only as a pitstop to the whitsunday islands and port douglas). my fourth continent and my first real travels since europe (no, walking from the venetian to paris on the strip doesn't count). time to get my camera ready...
not much to report on the poker front. i've been playing low-limit omaha-8 and stud-8 online. i'll also be instituting a new evening for garden city trips (wednesdays are now shot), which should be easier now that i'm closer. this sunday i'll probably make a run to the good old gc, or maybe a jaunt up for the 6pm no limit hold'em tournament at artichoke joe's. i haven't played in that tourney in a while. in any case, time to get back at it this weekend. as with all returns to the felt, i'll be instituting my "play four orbits, take a one orbit break" rule to keep focused. eventually, i think i want to get up to that 20-40 game at gc. first stop back: the 8-16 w/ half kill...
more writing to come this weekend... maybe.
just happened upon a set of old photos from senior formal in 2004, which was held at the sfmoma in san francisco. for some reason i had never stuck these online.
i saw this particular picture and started laughing. the backstory to the picture was will, ankur, and me driving throughout san francisco for an entire day perusing every thrift store in the city to procure them digs for miami vice-like outfits. it's interesting how simple images can drive many memories.
if you think about it, there are only a handful of times in your life that you sit down and sign a document called "At-Will Employment Agreement." this is one of those nights.
a few months ago, i came to the realization that i needed a change. more precisely, i needed to affect change, which is something that is related but different. one of the frustrations that i always felt at oracle was an inability to truly influence things. working at an organization like oracle always feels like you're riding in a tour bus. it's going somewhere and it's going to get there, whether you contribute or not. it's not going to get there any faster if you bust your ass and, even worse, it's not going to arrive any slower if you scrape by every day. accurate or not, that's how i felt.
don't get me wrong, i'll be eternally grateful to oracle and my two years there. i met and worked with some tremendous people. i learned lessons small and large. i grew more comfortable in my own skin. and, most of all, i got my feet soaking wet in the working world. in reality, it was a helluva better choice than many other jobs i almost chose. but i think, all along, i sort of knew that it wasn't really the place for me.
tomorrow i'm going to start finding out if google is the kind of place that i'm looking for. i want to learn and i want to enjoy myself. but most of all, i want to feel that i'm affecting change that is proportional to my effort. that sounds very boring, but it's simple: i want to make a difference. i don't think it's too much to ask.
i realized just now that i'm still young enough to care too much.
this whole week, i've been hammering away at a mountain of work that i NEED to finish. my (soon to be ex-) coworkers are all amazed that i'm working so hard in my last few days. when i told one dev manager yesterday that i was working on a piece of documentation and asked him a few questions, he looked at me like i was crazy. with a bewildered expression on his face, he said:
"when's your last day? friday? this friday? and you're working on this? i wouldn't."
i took it as a good sign that i was still willing to pour in so much effort three days from departure, but just now i realized it might be depressing to care so much sometimes.
i was downstairs on a conference call with someone who'll be starting here and moving to the bay area soon. considering that we weren't going to have any time overlap, i thought it'd be great for the company and my team if i spent a few hours in a web conference with him, getting him prepared and excited. i spent a solid hour beforehand digging up old slide decks and outlining all of the various ongoings. after briefing him on the current projects, giving him tidbits on the new exciting features in the pipeline, and advising him to stay out of the tenderloin when looking for housing, i was rewarded with a heartfelt 'thank you' and many kind words. awesome! i came upstairs, practically bouncing from the good deed and genuine appreciation. sound great, right?
with just an hour or so left before 5, i was ready to plug away at some work and call it a day (i mean, it IS wednesday on my last week of work). i was greeted with sobering news: due to circumstances completely out of my control, a project that i had been working on for many moons had been shelved. organizationally, the move makes complete sense and i support it wholeheartedly. but like so many things in the big corporate world, the news on the ground looks a lot worse than it does in the air.
and now i just feel disappointed. i've got two more days left at work here. i'll probably never work at this company again. i'll probably never work in this industry again. and yet i'm crushed that this piece of code isn't going out the door. is this strange? i'm thinking i just care too much...
the wsop main event final table is today and jamie gold, the chipleader, is apparently quite the winning personality. every time i've read a cardplayer hand history, it's been some ridiculous hand like 'jamie gold calls off a bunch of chips with 78 and flops a straight.' that's the thing about poker though: sometimes you just out-flop people... for eight days straight...
i think anyone who follows poker is probably rooting for allen cunningham. espn did a nice feature story on cunningham a few days ago, but people who follow poker already knew him to be one of the best players in the world, adept at every game and experienced in every situation. it'd also be great to see such a seemingly nice guy and quiet personality win the main event, after seeing how many asshole poker players are out there these days (check out shane schleger's post for an example). it'd be nice to see a good guy like cunningham win.
so if you're a little confused about how i went from the statement that 'my whole trip was this amazing experience that i haven't digested yet' to 'the two lessons i learned from my trip are that poker is tiring and you need to not care about money,' then this post is for you.
between my week spent in chicago catching up with the stoopsons (stoops, will, pseudostoops, and baby stoops) and my week spent in las vegas, i had a host of small experiences that made me realize one thing: i'm way too young to be doing things that i don't want to do. i think this was really driven home when stoops told me about a man we'll call 'father of pseudostoops'. most notably i was startled to find out that, before becoming a very successful business man, 'father of pseudostoops' played several years of beach volleyball for a living. i'm not quite sure why i was so stunned by that fact, though i have a theory. somewhere in my life i became convinced that if i wanted a 'successful career,' i had better get my ass out there right out of the gate. i never really argued this fact in my head; i just took it as fact. considering that being a professional beach volleyball player is probably not 'career-advancing' for anyone besides beach volleyball players, i suddenly found myself thinking about things differently. i mean, if pseudostoops' dad could play beach volleyball for several years before launching into a wildly successful professional career, what exactly did that say about the necessity of getting on the corporate ladder as soon as possible?
what does that have to do with a week of poker? a few months ago, i had a conversation with a few friends where i noted that i hadn't done very many 'notable things' (actual words) since i left school. i felt like i could count the number of such events on one hand. as you can imagine, that was in fact the conversation that sparked my plan to live in las vegas for a week, and it worked. twenty years from now, i'll look back on the week that i spent living out of a suitcase in harrah's as a great experience. i'll fondly recount the time that i got all my chips into a huge pot as a 9:1 favorite and subsequently got crushed. well, maybe not fondly, but you know what i mean. i'm glad i spent that week because i was doing something notable (in my own mind) that i loved. sure i was in a rush to win chips, but it's more that i was in a rush to do something that i wanted to do. i'm pretty sure 'father of pseudostoops' didn't think he'd be playing beach volleyball for his whole life, but it was something he wanted to do.
now all of that is great, but what's the actual implication for me? well, i used to at least believe in the idea of a Deferred Life plan. 'save now so you can enjoy it later.' 'put in time at work now while you're young.' 'get started on your career early.' 'work here for a few years until you're ready to go to business school. THEN you can do whatever it is you want.' actually pretty much anything that starts with 'do this for a few _______ until you ______.' all of these ideas are some variant of a Deferred Life plan. and i now think they are all bullshit. working in a job that you don't like for some kind of other benefit (money, ladder-climbing, early retirement, etc.)? that's bullshit. when i'm 60 years old, i'm not really interested in sitting around sunning myself in my huge mansion, happy that i saved so much money in my 20's. i'm not into Deferred Life plans anymore. money is far less important than not wasting time. the tagline i like the most? Tell Better Stories.
so what am i planning in the next couple of months to not let that time slip away?
taking a new job (more on that later)
visiting a new continent
playing more poker
there'll be a time in my life when i'll have to do lots of things that i don't want to do. there'll be time for compromises and sacrifices. i'm 24, that time's not now. i'm way too young to be doing things that i don't want to do.
oh! i almost forgot about the best hand of the week last week, when my own girlfriend busted me in a big $3-$6 pot. i thought i should write about this since you would all find it so amusing.
ivy wanted to get started in poker, so she sat down in the 1 seat of a $3-$6 game and i sat in seat 2, giving her advice on hands to play. i told her i wasn't going to soft-play her in hands, since she needed to learn, so when i picked up AhQh on the button, i raised her limp. the two blinds called and she called. $24 in the pot.
the flop came 8-8-3, with one heart. everyone checked to me and i made a standard bet with position. all the players called. $36 in the pot.
the turn came with the A of spades. gin! i thought i probably had the best hand even on the flop, but i'd find out now for sure. the blinds checked and ivy checked. i, of course, bet and got one caller from the blinds and ivy sneakily flat-called me. $54 in the pot.
on the river came a 9. clearly i was going to bet here for value when it inevitably checked around to me... until ivy bet INTO me. what the hell? i looked at her trying to see if she had slowplayed an 8. i thought i told her not to play most hands with an 8 or lower in it. could she have 99 and hit a boat? maybe a worse A? she bum-rushed me into calling by laughing at me (clearly a sophisticated reverse tell) and dragged the $66 pot when she showed me the stone-cold cooler of A8.
phil ivey said on the circuit yesterday that, "if you're not willing to take a thousand dollars out of your wallet right now and set it on fire, then you shouldn't even consider playing poker." while this is being said by a guy that plays $4000-$8000 every day, meaning that the exact sum is probably not applicable to players at lower limits, the point is valid: you need a disregard for the amount of money you're playing for to be successful.
it's actually rather ironic when you think about it: poker players spend all day pursuing large amounts of money, it would seem that the money is important to them. in fact, at the table, the opposite is true. to play effectively and play un-scared, a poker player needs to have a disregard for the amount of money he has on the table. it's meaningful only in terms of acquiring more chips. now this is something i read about in numerous books, but i didn't really understand it until last week.
i sat down at a $5-$10 NL cash game last tuesday at the wynn, and immediately the difference from 2-5 was evident. guys were sitting at the table with mounds of chips, and 3-inch thick wads of 100's behind them. i asked one player how much he had back there, and he absentmindedly replied, "about 25." that's not 25 hundred (incidentally, i realized quickly that my 'short-stack' thoughts on cash games is slightly incorrect. i'd write on this, but you'd be bored).
in the first hand i watched, i got some insight into what ivey meant. two players raised and re-raised each other before the flop and saw an AKQ flop. the first player, clearly a high-action asian guy of about 21, pushed in for about $900 into a $600 pot and the other player (an older tight guy) called instantly. i was positive that they would be flipping over set vs. set, or at the very least AK, which is in fact what the tight player showed. i jumped out of my chair when the asian guy flipped over 9T and rivered a J. he justified the play by saying, "i thought he had jacks or tens," while he nonchalantly stacked about $2000 in chips.
now i'm not saying that 9T guy made a good play that will be profitable in the long run. he made a play at a pot with four outs. it was reckless and he got lucky. but he made a play at a pot without fear, based purely on a (very incorrect) read. is it a much more reasonable play with a flop like 673? probably. but his disregard for $1200 of his own money was telling.
after a few hours, i was finally comfortable at the stakes. but in retrospect, comfortable isn't the right word. it's just that i had "forgotten" the stakes that were in play. i know it sounds weird, but once you've been in the game for a few hours, you no longer worry about how much you bought in for. you just play poker. i'm not sure if that's the disregard for money that phil ivey was talking about, but i think it might be.
the first thing i learned from last week is that being a full-time poker player is tiring. really tiring. sure, it's not in a physical sense (because, after all, i sat around a table all day), but it is in a type of mental exhaustion that i've never felt before. i can remember spending hours studying for a class while in school and never feeling NEARLY as zombie-like as i felt every day last week after playing 10+ hours of poker. you can ask skratch, but when i got up from the table each night i could barely focus on talking about anything. part of that may have been the taxing emotional bad beats that i took (for personally disturbing amounts of money), but i think most of that was all of the time spent THINKING. why did he bet that much? what kind of hand would play that way? how should i play this hand? how much is in the pot? how little should i bet? who's this new guy? how does that person play? when you sit at a table for ten hours a day thinking through all of these decisions in your head non-stop, you start getting tired, even when you don't know it.
on wednesday i played at caesar's. i spent about three hours trying to set up this over-aggressive player who would overcall lots of hand. this guy was so hellbent on getting broke with one pair that i just needed to find the right spot. i eventually got a sizeable stack (about $450) into the pot very good against him and he sucked out on me HARD. so hard that even the dealer said, "wow, that's pretty rough." it's fine. it happens. but in thinking back on the day, i was sick about what happened AFTER the hand.
about twenty minutes later, with another reasonable stack, i re-raised the hyper-aggressive norwegian guy on my right (Norway, for short) to $65 with KK, after he had raised to $20 with (probably) a shit hand. i knew Norway was an idiot and was glad to play my whole stack against him when (i imagined) he would inevitably push me in for $200. but things changed when the solid player in the SB (Solid, for short) re-raised to $250 even in the easiest motion i had ever seen. as Norway decided whether or not to call with KcTc (by the way kids, KT is a crap hand), i studied Solid, trying to figure out if he was strong or just trying to re-steal (since i very well could have been stealing from the donkey). he looked very strong.
because this is a story about how being tired can affect your play, you obviously know what happened. Norway laid down his monster two-card royal flush draw and i stuck my chips in the pot senselessly as a heavy dog. if there was ever a time to lay down kings before the flop, this was it. given a fresh brain with my read on the situation, KK is a tough but sensible fold. given a tired brain twenty minutes after a sick beat, KK is unfortunately an instant call. and subsequently an instant loss. i actually knew even before my chips got into the pot: poker is tiring and i can never get kings to catch up on aces.
i've started this post five times and ended up stumped each time on what to say. in other words, i'm still digesting my week in las vegas. it was a tremendous eye-opening experience to peer into the life of a professional poker player. much of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was just surprising. when i'm done processing everything that happened, i'll probably have something insightful to say about it, but for now i'm just sort of still confused not to be sitting at a table. i'll just say that it was a great experience with lots of interesting tidbits to mull over. and in reflection, it's not out of the question as a temporary profession.
that reminds me: if anyone is interested in starting up a weekly home game in the area, let me know. stakes are entirely negotiable. the catch? the game MUST be a mixed game, with at least five different games if hold'em is in the mix. the most fun i had playing poker the entire trip was playing a $6-$12 mixed game of Razz, Badugi, Stud Hi, 2-7 Triple Draw, Omaha Eight-or-Better, Hold'em, and Stud Eight-or-Better for six hours. hit me up if you're interested.
if this past week taught me one thing, it's that there are some really interesting ways to make a living out in this world. i'm not just talking about poker players and dealers either. as ivy and i stood in the taxi line at the venetian last night, we realized that the Taxi Dude (guy opening the doors) makes BANK. at a clip of around 3 cars per minute, he was being tipped around $240/hour. yeah, you read that right. not to mention that he was being paid to stare intently into female, um, eyes to ask questions as insightful as "can i take your bag?" and "where are you headed today, miss?"
so let's make that lesson #1 from vegas: if you're a single guy out there, you might want to pursue the taxi door-opening opportunities in las vegas. at best you can sneak in a smile. at worst you're cashing over $200/hour.
i might not have mentioned this, but i'm currently on vacation. i flew out to chicago yesterday (tuesday) and immediately attended the cubs game at wrigley. that's kicking off about five days in the second city, where i will thoroughly attempt to answer the question: "why is chicago the most unhealthy city in the country?" the list of things consumed so far:
shawarma sandwich (near wrigley)
three bud lights at the sports bar across sheffield from wrigley
two 'old style' beers at one of the country's most beautiful ballparks
a 'wrigley dog'
three hoegaarden's at jonny o'hagan's in wrigleyville
a two-piece chicken meal at 'Harold's Chicken Shack'
what's left on the list? a nice corn-fed dry-aged rib eye. chicago-style stuffed pizza. a dining experience at some place called Mr. Beef. a trip to this mythical Wiener Circle...
and i wonder why chicago seems to have a larger percentage of overweight people than anywhere else i've been in the world.
after chicago, i'm heading to las vegas on monday morning. i'll be camped out in the city of sin playing LOTS of poker and generally trying out 'the life'. i'll sleep at a decent hotel, eat as cheaply as i can, write often (lucky you!), and try to have some fun. more writing and pictures later. talk to you soon...
somewhere off in the upper reaches of this company, some power-that-be decided he wanted to do a live in-studio presentation at 8:30am pacific time today. he called down to the oracle studios and told the technician to get a room ready for 8:30am sharp.
why does this matter? well the technician (we'll call him technician A) then promptly bumped the 8am presentation recording that was supposed to happen in the studio. by 'bumped', i mean 'cancelled'. nevermind that the 8am presenter had scheduled this particular timeslot a month ago because he's leaving for vacation next tuesday and needs to get this recorded before then. the result was this:
jack: "hi *shake hands*, i'm a product manager with customer data management. i'm doing a recording at 8am."
technician B: "hi *looks confused*, i don't actually see you on the schedule. lemme call someone to ask.... (he calls larry, or president bush, or the olsen twins, or someone equally important). sorry, i don't see you on here. i think your recording got cancelled and no one told you. sorry about that."
jack: "that's awesome. i love my life."
technician B: "great."
and that is why i'm sitting in my cube at 8:15 writing instead of speaking into an oversized microphone.
i'm honestly not irritated, though i probably will be when i realize at 4pm that i'm insanely tired. when you work at a large LARGE company, sometimes strange things will happen and there will be no justification beyond a shrug and a smile. maybe sipping this green tea will help.
much more irritating however, was wednesday afternoon, when i jetted out of work at 5:10 sharp to head home and make the 6pm $69+$6 full tilt tournament (still trying to win a seat to a bracelet event). i've discovered lately that the traffic on 101 south seems to be getting worse, which is of course why i left myself a whole 50 minutes to get home. clearly you know how this story ends. as i walked in my apartment door at 6:03pm, i was able to take solace in the fact that in just a few hours i would get to dust off my chips in the 9pm $200+$16 tournament and then take a bad beat for a LOT of chips in a cash game. awesome!
i think the particular bad beat story is worth telling not for the sympathy that it will garner from scores of kind souls (because no one ever cares about bad beat stories), but just to note how ridiculous the hand was:
on the button, i found KhKc. as two players had limped around to me, i raised to 3x the BB. this might look like a tiny raise that isn't sufficient to drive out limpers, but i always raise to 3x the BB, whether i have KK or 97 suited. the small blind folded and the big blind IMMEDIATELY moved all-in for 50x the big blind. yes, 50. that's about 8x the entire pot.
it was pretty clear that the player had a medium-sized pair that he was afraid to play after the flop out of position. he probably also thought that my button raise was a steal (a huge mistake by online tournament players when playing cash games). figuring he has the best hand, he doesn't want to get played off of it when an overcard hits the flop. it turned out he had ThTs.
as i waited for the two limpers to fold so i could call, i considered how ridiculous this play was.
- he hadn't seen me play five hands, so he really couldn't have an idea of how i played.
- by raising to 50x the BB, he was forcing out every single hand that he was a big favorite over. i certainly wouldn't call 50x with 99 or 88.
- by raising to 50x the BB, he was going to get called only by hands that dominated or raced with his tens (AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ, JJ).
- there's no way i could actually be stealing in that position. with two limpers in front of me, how could i be trying to steal the blinds with a raise to 3x the BB?
as i watched the inevitable T spike on the turn, followed by a very kind exclamation in the chatbox ("send it!" which is roughly equivalent to those cheating, flopping italian soccer players), i couldn't help noticing that all the money would have gone in on the flop anyway. with a 7-high flop, there was no possible way either player would get away from the hand. i just wonder whether the other guy knows how insanely he played the hand. judging by his response, i would guess not.
one play that i've tried to introduce into my play is the idea of inducing bluffs. 'inducing a bluff' means that you find a way to encourage a player to bluff at a pot when you're fairly certain that you have the best hand. it's another way to extract value out of a hand.
layne flack (clearly a greatly superior poker player to me) wrote an interesting tip about the idea of inducing a bluff in this full tilt poker tip, but reading the article didn't necessarily help me much because what he is really talking about is inducing a bluff when you have a monster. the example he gives (flopping the K-high flush and extracting chips) is so rare that it's hard to incorporate it consistently into your game.
lately though, i've noticed online that there are many situations to induce a bluff out of a reckless opponent (of which there are certainly MANY online) when you have just a semi-strong hand. last night i observed the following hand in a $1-$2 NLH game on full tilt:
player A was a reckless maniac on the big blind. the kind of player who makes huge bets at unreasonable pots, playing hyper-aggressively. he had shown little ability to slow himself down. he had about $150 in front of him. player B seemed to me to be a solid player who was making good decisions and playing tightly. he was on the button and had about $250.
all the players folded around to player B, who raised to $6. a standard play from the button, he really could be raising with many hands. even for a player as tight as he was, i could imagine a raise with any decent ace, KQ, JT, etc. and any pair larger than 66. (it turned out that he had AcTc)
player A was the only caller. as i noted, being a maniac means that he would defend his blind with a call with really any hand. he would re-raise with most any decent pair or overcards (maybe even all-in), because (of course) he is a maniac. also, player B could be fairly certain that the maniac would throw out a huge overbet of the pot after the flop no matter what. it turned out that he had 8h5h. it's important to note right here that defending his blind with a hand like this is really not all THAT unreasonable, even against a tight player on the button. it's very likely that he has two live cards and the pot is laying him better than 2:1. what he did next, though, IS unreasonable.
the flop came AsKs2c, and player A immediately bet out $27. now leading out with a $27 bet into a $13 pot should really never happen. against hands that can't call, a $10-$13 bet would accomplish the same thing. against hands that can call or raise, you're just giving away money. it's also idiotic because the flop hit so many hands that player B could have.
now the natural reaction if i was player B, would be to raise. the only hands that i could imagine the maniac having to beat me right now are A2, 22, and K2, none of which he would bet that way. considering that information against the flush draw on board, i would be inclined to raise.
but there are a couple of factors to weigh here:
- if he has a flush draw, he's a maniac and will either call without pot odds or re-raise all-in, putting me at a tricky decision. and while the odds would probably dictate a call, who likes to gamble against a flush draw? against a maniac you can still make a lot of money (on this hand or later hands)
- there are lots of hands much worse than mine that he would fold or re-raise all-in with.
when you add all of these things up, it makes a lot of sense to just call and control the pot size. it also adds some deception to your hand. this is exactly what player B did.
on the turn, the 3h came off the deck. and player A checked. now here's where player B induced the bluff. after calling on the flop, he checks behind on the turn. a normal player would probably then put player B (as a tight player) on a weak ace hoping to check the pot down, but certainly willing to call a maniac. the maniac sees this as a chance to rip at the pot. and when the 6c falls on the river, player A puts in an overbet of $100. player B makes a relatively easy call, given the action and has successfully induced a ridiculous bluff by the maniac.
now i don't know whether this method of inducing bluffs is really the correct way to play. the majority of the time i would prefer to raise on the flop and take the pot down with a hand like AT. but it certainly turned out to be the perfect play for player B in this particular hand and it deserves some thinking over. instead of gambling with the maniac, he was able to control the size of the pot until he was fairly certain he had the best hand and induce a bluff out of the maniac player with no outs. that sounds like a pretty good way to play poker to me...