Sunday, July 18, 2010

posted by James - 4:03 PM

July is over.

OK, there's two weeks left, but it always feels like it's over at the end of the World Series of Poker.

I would like to take this time to combat any feelings of 2010 of being a down year for poker. If you actually followed this WSOP, it's already been a year full of moments of controversy, achievement, surprise and heartache.

Now, I shall hit thee with a list. Mind you, this is just from the WSOP.

Tom "Durrrrr" Dwan went heads up for a bracelet and almost bankrupted the High Stakes community.

Phil Ivey did win a bracelet, for the second-straight year. I don't know how close HE got to bankrupting the high-stakes poker community, but Howard "the Professor" Lederer tweeted it best when he said, and I quote, "Gulp...".

* Ivey also final tabled a WPT event which ran the same time as the WSOP Main Event, but that's a different list. *

Shaun Deeb made a spectacle of himself by entering the yearly LADIES ONLY WSOP event and coming up with multiple, lame, hindsight excuses why he did it... while wearing a dress. His actions, and that of his fellow classless men who joined with him, ignited an unnecessary controversy in a time where players, fans and media should have better things to focus on.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi took down the Inaugural $50k Pro Player's Championship. He's now made two more WSOP Championship final tables. It's to my detriment I haven't mentioned Mizrachi before this, but there will be plenty more chances for Mizrachi sightings in this list.

Gavin Smith joined him in removing his name from the "Best Player Without a Bracelet" list, by winning his first in a mixed-limit Hold'em event. Not a dry eye in the house in a moment made even sweeter when his good friend Chris Bell joined him that very same week.

I can't talk about firsts without mention Phil Gordon taking down the Ante Up For Africa Charity Event for his first WSOP victory. I'm sure he'll tell you the chance to contribute to a great cause, as he did by donating 100% of his first place prize and continued support of the PreventCancer.org Bad Beat on Cancer Initiative, made up for winning a watch and not the bracelet, which still eludes him. On other news, he also celebrated his 40th birthday. Yeah, I'm going to move on before I ruin any chance of being his BFF.

John Juanda had several great results, and Allen Kessler almost broke the record for cashes in a single WSOP. Men "The Master" Nguyen, ever-controversial, won yet another bracelet and made a strong run at WSOP Player of the Year.

Huck Seed bested a stacked field to win the first Tournament of Champions voted on by the fans.

Annette Obrestad came away with a big ol' goose egg in her first WSOP.

Finally, the Main Event had several great story lines for those who followed it from the start. Kudos to the WSOP staff for avoiding last year's troubles with the final first day flight filling up. The numbers for most events were way up.

Among the most high-profile deep Main Event runs was Johnny "F'n" Chan, returning to the tournament that made him famous. He's also famously been absent from the WSOP the last few years while keeping his level of fame quite high. He didn't really need it, but his success in the Main and TOC voting should keep him among the elite when it comes to poker fans.

Several name pros flirted with a final table appearance including Alexander "PostFlopAction" Kostritsyn, Adam "Roothlus" Levy and Hasan Habib. Of course, Michael Mizrachi (one of four Mizrachi brothers to cash) made the final table with a decent-sized stack to make a run at the title in November.

The biggest story from the ME (unless John Racener or Mizrachi win) will be Matt Affleck. The 80th-place finisher from the 2009 ME made the final 2 tables of this year's event. Most notable will be the way he departed, building a $42million chip pot by the turn with AA vs his opponent's JJ that had only an overpair and an up-and-down straight draw filled by a dastardly 8 on the river.

When we finally see the emotion involved in the aftermath, that bustout will forever be part of WSOP lore. If he makes another deep run next year, his three-year stretch will be a historical ME accomplishment.

I didn't even mention yet Frank Kassela locking up the WSOP POY with a fantastic showing in Championship stud events. Well, locked up unless Mizrachi takes it down in 4 months.

There were plenty of great stories in this WSOP, and I'm looking forward to the ESPN broadcasts to see even more.

So, July is over... but that doesn't even mean the poker year is over.

There's still lots of WPT, NAPT, EPT and WSOP Europe action coming up. The WSOP Main Event Final Table in November. All the while, there will be several tournament grinders going after all of those Player of the Year races and flying all over the world to do so.

My advice: Don't ever let a year disappoint you until it's over.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

posted by James - 4:01 AM

Just read an article by up-and-coming online and live poker player Randy "NaNoNoko" Lew. Go read it and get to following him and learning from him. His article inspired me to the following insight I posted as a response and now here for your perusal.

I struggle very similarly with poker in this regard. As mostly a tournament player, I don’t think I play nearly the volume I should. These feelings you describe are a big reason when I look back on it. When I’m not getting wins (no matter what my ROI looks like), I’m not pleased (even worse when I completely bust)… always feels like a kick to the jewels. Even though I realize that’s standard, and you can’t really tell anything about your results from one tournament, or one session, or a month of sessions, really… I tend to shut it down if I make a horrendous decision or get bit by variance, rather than make the adjustments and put in the work.

When I pick up that big win, or even just a small win that gives me any sense of accomplishment, I tend to similarly shy away from returning to the tables. Even though a tournament win is hardly a new event for me, I still get that sense of euphoria and endorphine high from winning or reaching a new high in my bankroll. Afterwards, I look back and wish I had played more (I don't believe in rushes, but I do highly believe in environmental factors in poker that can effect your results - the way you're playing, the opponents available, your body chemistry).

I realize how irrational both of these are... but usually only after the moments have passed. I've been playing for three years now, and I still haven't broken this feeling (even though I believe it is progress that I realize it happens). I don't like losing... and like losing what I've won even less.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

posted by James - 10:47 PM

Another couple scores. Both in Absolute Poker freerolls sponsored by the No Deposit Bonus League. In the first one, got totally owned heads up... had a 50k to 13k lead. Villain had KK twice to my top pair and then suited ace... nothing left to do but cry after that.

Next up, got it in QQ vs 1010 and a 10 came on the flop, took me out on a "bubble" where I would have moved up at least another $1. I set myself up to win a lot more than that, either way.

Took a huge lead 4-handed in another tournament on Cake where 3 paid... and everybody started moving in on me and doubling through me when I had them. 77 vs AJs with the 7s on the flop and he turns the nut flush, and I didn't improve. AQ vs KQ, hits full house on river after we both hit trips on flop. A10 vs KQ and catches a K on the flop. I might post my bust hand on here and see if anybody thinks I should have done something different on the off case somebody would bust... 3rd place was a pretty monster payday with all the money added in the tournament.

Still, this was a very profitable day. I even made a pretty big score in Rush Poker on Full Tilt. Played .02/.05 for about 20 mins... turned about $6 with reloads into just over $20. I think it almost erased my losses from the other day, when i severely went on tilt after/during going 0-5 with and against KK. Boy did I run good though, cracking AA twice and chopping a couple pots I shouldn't have.

I know I sound like a noobfish who never makes money in a cash game (oh wait... that's exactly what I am), but I should have taken a screen cap of the dollar amount I had at that table. That made me really excited, and the $25 bonus I'll get from FullTilt's Take 2 promo AND the FTP Academy credits are cherries, man... cherries.

Here's a trick I picked up today... until I get my stack over the max buy-in, I make sure to click "sit out next hand"... that way I can reload. Even if it's a few cents, that's a few cents I'm not afraid of losing, but why not get the most possible if you double through someone?

I'd also like comments from anyone with experience playing Rush Poker... should have kept going when I was up? Should I have just rebooted my table and re-bought in with the max buy-in? Where should we place the threshold to re-buy? When our stack is doubled? tripled? What other factors should we consider when deciding whether to press on with our stack in Rush Poker? Should the average stack of the other "rushers" be a consideration?

Friday, April 09, 2010

posted by James - 9:47 PM

Made another run at a big guarantee on PowerPoker. This time, it was a $6 Bounty Tournament with a $2K guarantee. I avoided the final table bubble by taking 6th place out of 431, plus a couple bounties. I added $74 or so to the bankroll and also got a bunch of points for the leaderboard over at PokerBRB. In fact, I think I pretty much crushed it for the month, but it's still really early. I just don't think there's anybody else even playing the buy-ins that qualify, and you can't really make that many points through their freerolls.

Not complete without a bad beat story, right? Had 90k at the start of the hand at 3k/6k... short stack at the table stuck between two huge stacks who were just gobbling everybody up. KK on button, and I did something I never do... I limped. Didn't think I could get paid off if I open shipped or even just raised. I really wanted to have someone raise from the blinds and then ship it over the top of them. Big Blind made my wish come true and made it 36k to go... really odd given he didn't have much more than me and that was just a redonkulously huge raise. I shipped the 90k over the top, and he snap called with... wait for it... wait for it... QJo!

I'm really ok with him calling at that point because he's so wickedly crushed, but I just don't get it. Of course, in my bewilderment, I barely comprehend how a JJ4 flop comes out. Still ran pretty good today. Got caught in a steal twice... ok, maybe 4 times, but i don't count the times when I suck out on them anyway. In my opinion, they were trying to steal from me... they just didn't realize it at the time. I didn't play a lot of hands, but I made it count when I did.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

posted by James - 11:47 PM

Made a deep run in a $20k guarantee on PowerPoker. Out in 11th on the final table bubble. Really big ouch. I saw two all ins at second table... mid stack had AK, short stack had K7... so I pushed from sb with J8s to pick up blinds and antes (5k pot=more than 1/7th of my stack)... didn't think I'd get a caller. Big Blind had me covered by about 12k and woke up with 66, which I'm still even against. K7 pulled it out with 77 on flop and Ak caught his A too to stay in against big stack (didn't see what he had).

Still $360 is my biggest online score to date... for a tournament I got in at last second. Logged in to PowerPoker and saw I had a ticket for some tournament starting in 30 mins. Don't know where it came from or how I ended up with it. I wasn't really in the mood to play anymore after having just a breakeven session of rush poker on FTP, but I wasn't sure the ticket would be good for another time either. Then, I saw the value of the ticket was $162! I can't pass up a chance to play in a tournament like that. So, I bit the bullet and got in.

When I got in, it was a few short of the minimum to start, but it filled up a couple minutes before it started. Late Registration continued until the player pool swelled to 126, with a generous 25 players getting a payout.

I played really well early on, just keeping it very tight, since it was a deep stack starting at 5k in chips with 250 bb stacks. Now, they said it was a slow structure, but that was pretty much bupkus early on. It was the same jacked up structure every PowerPoker/Cake tournament has. I'm sorry, but going from 50 to 100 to 150 to 200 to 250 to 300 does not constitute a slow structure no matter how many blinds you give me to start. Methinks there's a few levels missing in there... I will say though the structure did get better later, which probably contributed quite a lot to my ability to stay patient through the middle stages.

After hovering around 8k or so, I dropped down to about 5k after getting value-towned when a big stack minraised my bb with AA and I had KQo, with a caller inbetween. The flop came Q-high with 2 clubs, and he curiously never raised me when I bet out on the flop, nor did he bet when I checked the turn, which completed the flush draw and paired the board. I had no idea what he had, but I didn't want him to just bluff me off the hand, so I made a smallish bet of 1200 into a 3300 chip pot. I'm pretty proud of that play, since I highly doubt he would have made it less than 1200. However, it is possible he might have not bet at all on a board with so many possibilities. I'm not sure I could have bet him off the hand with a bigger bet, but it's possible.

With blinds at 125/250 and the antes kicking in, I then started my string of double ups with, shall we say, less-than-premium holdings. I open raised to 750 from the button with A7s. The big blind reraised me to 2150, which I then shoved the rest of my 5k. He had plenty of chips to fold, but still decided to call with Q10d. An A on the turn ended any drama about my first double up to 10k.

I was moving my chips around pretty well at this point to keep myself afloat, but was still hovering around that 10k or just below. At 400/800 with a 75 ante, that meant going all in to have any chance at picking up chips. When I found 97h in the hijack, I pushed my 11 bbs in the middle. When the chip leader min raised from the button, I knew I was in trouble. However, I was relieved when he flipped over just AKo. lol Even though he had a heart, at least I was live and not up against a made hand. Of course a 7 came right on the flop with a 4 on the turn (THE JAMES!!!) to move me up to 19k.

Yeah, I can't say I really kept those long. Two hands later, I had A10o on the big blind, and the button shoved for just over 10 bbs. That could have easily been a steal with a weaker ace or two face cards, so I called it. He had 77, and I lost that race. I probably could have folded there, but I can't really say it's that bad of a call, even if the result knocked me back down to 10k.

Even though I was sure my image was shot by now, I just couldn't help myself. A few hands later, I had A3o and shoved my chips in from the hijack once again. The cutoff pretty much snap called me for half of his stack and everyone else folded.

If he was going to have a pair, he had the only one (other than deuces) I'd want him to have as he turns over pocket threes. The flop came down great for me with a pair of Kings and a 5, giving me 3 fives to go with my 3 aces. The A on the turn left him with only the one out to catch up to me, and up to 20k I went again! My opponent would lose the rest of his chips on the next hand with AJs against QQ, sealed by a Q on the flop.

The money bubble was fast approaching as the blinds went up to 500/1000 with a 100 ante.

As tight as I was playing and wanting so badly to cash, I still couldn't help but fast-play a couple of cowboys from the small blind even though the big stack at the table raised from the cutoff. I popped him up 3x his raise, and he folded. I picked up a nice 7100 chip pot for my efforts, while wondering if I could have extracted a little more value from my 17 bb stack.

With the bubble burst a few hands later, the push to solidify my stack into a final table possibility began. Picking up JJ from the big blind with no small blind didn't hurt... and a button 3x raise from the preceding blind stealer was superb medicine. I popped him another 3x up to 9k, which he then shoved over for 34k. With half of my stack already in, it was an easy call, and a delight when he turned over AJo. The board came out no sweat, and a 42k pot came my way.

Play really slowed down after that as there were mostly big stacks on my table and small stacks on our adjacent table. I think I played two hands until my eventual bust hand. I take absolutely no solace in the fact that my conqueror ended up winning the whole shebang. That's just not how I roll.

I am however pleased to continue my success and know if I keep getting this far, my big score will come.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

posted by James - 3:50 PM

I'll be playing the below event in honor of my Grandmother, who will go into surgery on February 24th to remove a cancerous tumor. If I win, I will donate a portion of the proceeds to the cause... and urge everyone to commit to the same.

Help Put a Bad Beat on Cancer!
On February 21st, 2010 the Twitter Poker Tour is teaming up with Bad Beat on Cancer to raise money to benefit the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Join the TPT and a host of Full Tilt Red Pro’s starting at 6PM ET on Sunday the 21st to raise money and awareness for cancer prevention!

For more information visit the Bad Beat on Cancer Charity Event page.

Monday, February 15, 2010

posted by James - 3:59 PM

Check out what FullTilt Pro and WSOP bracelet winner Eric Froehlich thinks about Cash Out tourneys here.

After reading this, I'm going to try a few, because his strategies about it make sense. How many times have you dominated a tournament and played like a champ, but then the only player with more chips than you busted your AA with 72o on the bubble and you win nooooothing?!?!?!

That sucks soooo bad. Well, this way, you can mitigate against this happening by cashing out to at least guarantee yourself break even or a little profit.

What I keep thinking about is how few times you as a player even make the final table, much less finish in the top 3 places. While this is the ultimate goal, it can't be the benchmark you judge yourself against. The only thing that matters is profit and return on your time (and honestly as long as you're profitable who cares how much time you waste getting there). So, it's possible you're sacrificing some value, but how often do you get that some of that value as an MTT player? It's the same concept to me as agreeing to pay some money back to a couple more places. It just cuts your variance way down, right?

Let's face it... most of us have had to work on our short stack games because of our bad plays... well this way you can work on it and make a profit at the same time!

I think maybe you shouldn't cash out if you're not pretty good with your reads on when to shove over the top of a light raiser when you have a short stack. There obviously still is great value in making the final table... but sometimes you have to be realistic as a player and realize you're just not going to get there most of the time, so take the value when you can get it.

Anyway... might be time to give this format a shot, when before I thought it was a horrible idea.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

posted by James - 10:05 AM

Well... PokerStars asked me to voice my concerns, so I did. Here was my submission to them about the ails of the ongoing WBCOOP.

Very upset... finished deep but out of the money both days. Horribly upset at the format. If they were going to do this ridiculous pre-registration, they should have made the tournaments buy-ins.

Yesterday, I was crippled and then knocked out by a player who shortly thereafter said, I gotta go and didn't return and was blinded out before the bubble. That is the lowest form of disrespect you can show another poker player.

I was expecting a better run series from PokerStars. I'm not going to bother promoting them for the rest of the series, regardless of the extra value I could be giving up. I won't be seriously playing them. They're just too much time invested for not enough return.

I'm more upset at PokerStars for promising an interesting series and then getting us all to promote not only PokerStars, but their upcoming SCOOP... and then not delivering on all of our efforts.

I know this is a freeroll, but my time is not free. Every second I spent and still am spending typing, blogging, tweeting, etc., about this and playing in these is valuable time I'm giving up. My time is much, much more valuable.

Extended pre-registration ruined these events. When I promoted this series and advocated to others they play as well, I was expecting a competition worth winning for more than just tickets... which also have absolutely no value unless you can win an event against the best in the world. Even with my track record, I don't expect to be able to do that.

This should have been a fun competition, with the winner feeling like he or she accomplished something. However, currently there are too many players for too few tickets, which isn't even the biggest problem.

There are players getting handed 9x and 10x stacks to start this tournament simply because they were placed on a table with a bunch of players who pre-registered and didn't show up. How is that equitable when other players have to grind it out? This is borne completely from the longer-than-necessary registration period.

"Luck of the draw", "To each his own"... I don't buy any of that. It in no way excuses PokerStars mishandling of the execution of what could have and should have been a great idea. An idea worth the time and effort to have so many people promoting PokerStars and SCOOP without any guaranteed tangible value whatsoever in return.

You might convince the players desperate for a freeroll. Unfortunately, you've run into somebody who doesn't take kindly to having his time wasted.

If you wanted to run a great competition with the extended pre-reg, you should have included a small buy-in for the event. Adding the 153 SCOOP tickets on top of the money, while still paying at least 10% of the field. This would have kept those who played interested in actually winning the event, and cut down on players registering and not showing up.

In the first event, I had a player knock me out and several others, while knowing he wasn't going to be around to see the event even to the bubble. Now, PokerStars can't be held responsible for someone's actions, but this is the lowest form of disrespect you can show a player.

However, a buy-in might have kept that player from registering for the tournament at all, or at least compelled the player to play like he actually cared about winning. He sent me a message the next day apologizing and saying it was ok because he left to go to a casino and win money.

The other thing you could do in a freeroll format is restrict the number of tickets each player has, so the player would only have so many chances to cash in on this opportunity. Maybe cashing in each event could give a player another WBCOOP entry.

I'm very disappointed by the lost opportunity to do something great for all of poker with this event, while also getting great promotion for PokerStars and SCOOP. This is just another freeroll for me, and there are better ones out there, even if they aren't as potentially-lucrative.

I have worked very hard over the year I've spent as an internet poker player to graduate from freerolls if I so choose and play for value instead of desperation.

PokerStars obviously can't fix the problems with this series now, so I will look elsewhere for the return in the investment of my even-more-valuable time. If the series shows improvement next time, I will consider rewarding PokerStars with the effort in promoting the site and the series. Thank you for reading this and good luck.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

posted by James - 11:37 PM

Very upset... finished deep but out of the money both days. Horribly upset at the format. If they were going to do this ridiculous pre-registration, they should have made the tournaments buy-ins.

Yesterday, I was crippled and then knocked out by a player who shortly thereafter said, I gotta go and didn't return and was blinded out before the bubble. That is the lowest form of disrespect you can show another poker player.

I was expecting a better-run series from PokerStars. I'm not going to bother promoting them for the rest of the series, regardless of the extra value I could be giving up. I won't be seriously playing them. They're just too much time invested for not enough return.

I'm more upset at PokerStars for promising an interesting series and then getting us all to promote not only PokerStars, but their upcoming SCOOP... and then not delivering on all of our efforts.

I know this is a freeroll, but my time is not free. Every second I spent and still am spending typing, blogging, tweeting, etc., about this and playing in these is valuable time I'm giving up. My time is much, much more valuable.

posted by James - 9:09 PM

Ben Sheets finally stepped up to the altar today and uttered those magic words... I sign, agreeing to a contract today with the Oakland Athletics for the 2010 season. The deal has a $10 million base with another $2 million in incentives, according to the Athletics official website.

This sounds like an astounding figure, but truth is the Athletics have had the money to spend... and very few takers for it.

This doesn't mean the Athletics haven't been active. In fact, they've been one of the more active teams over the winter.

They got their hands in the Cliff Lee blockbuster, acquiring Michael Taylor - a possible impact outfielder - for INF Brett Wallace, who they really didn't have a place for regardless of his potential hitting prowess.

They added Coco Crisp to their glut of defensive-minded, yet offensively competent outfielders. They also acquired Jake Fox and Kevin Kouzmanoff to give their team plenty of options in the infield and at DH.

They did all of their positional acquisitions without sacrificing any value from their current roster OR dipping much into their available money.

So they then turned to their very-young, potentially-explosive (in a good way) pitching staff. They re-signed two-time All-Star Justin Duchscherer to an extremely team-friendly, incentive-laden deal, leaving them with money to burn and nobody to spend it on.

...until Ben Sheets astounded all who watched in his throwing session last week. With rotation slots open in Chicago, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles (ok, every rotation could use him), Oakland GM Billy Beane put together a guaranteed offer no other team would... an offer born from Beane's previous frugal acquisitions. His owner gave him that $10 million to spend, so even in the lowest end of his value, which could happen with Sheets' injury history, the A's lose nothing.

If he's healthy in July and the A's are out of contention, Sheets becomes a valuable commodity to easily get back the cost of his acquisition. If the A's young rotation is as good and deep as possible, they could deal Sheets regardless of their place in the standing.

Beane sees an incredibly weak AL West. The Mariners are improving, but still flawed in the lineup. They should be the front-runners, but every game will be precious for them to win. Any team with an offense can beat them on every given night. Texas is young and improving, but also similarly counting on an injury-prone pitcher in Rich Harden and an overflowing-bucket of unproven youth. The Angels are so desperate to hold on to their past success, they're over-committing huge money to mediocre relievers for the second year in a row, and hoping Joel Pineiro isn't just another Dave Duncan special, while seeing their competitors successfully court away their organizational bedrock (Chone Figgins - Seattle, Vladimir Guerrero - Texas, John Lackey - Boston).

Beane combines his philosophies with opportunism, which is why his teams reach his goals more often than not.

Monday, January 25, 2010

posted by James - 1:08 AM

"retribution isn't always required, but sometimes offered because you understand a indescretion, forgiveness is peacefulness!"

A wise person said this to me... ok, so it was really a wacky Canadian degenerate poker player who tweeted it. I don't know where he got it from, but I would love to be offered retribution... restitution. It does make forgiving easier... but I'm still not sure about the last part. I'm not sure I want to be peaceful. I think there are too many out there that give up on fighting for themselves and continually roll over for others. I don't want to be that guy... anymore.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

posted by James - 9:01 AM

My Aunt Lolly's birthday would be today if she were still with us. I can't celebrate it with her, but I can sure celebrate her. I made sure the last song I sang tonight was U2 - One. I wanted to make it the first song after midnight, but I knew I would barely make it through the song as it is.I'm not the most religious man, but everyday I pray for her peace and the strength of the family she left behind, and happiness in a world that needs more people like her. Happy Birthday, Lolly. I miss you so much. I love you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

posted by James - 3:48 PM

There's a lot of discussion out there about what the Seattle Mariners should do with the rest of their offseason after signing ace Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal, which was pretty sweet for all sides. They've already been buZy, buZy beeZ (the capital Z is for Zduriencik) setting up their team to take another step in 2010, following a shocking improvement in 2009.

The team still needs help in the lineup, the bullpen (just for depth really and getting left-handed batters out) and the back of the rotation.

How much each area really NEEDS improvement is up for debate, but they have money to spend and a playoff-calibre team right now. Even marginal improvements over what they have would be worth the money spent.

Unlike some, I don't limit the Mariners potential options to what might "fit." Sure, you can treat a roster like a jigsaw puzzle... but you really can just jam the pieces in to a baseball team and make it work as long as you get the production you're looking for.

For example, common thinking has the Mariners needing more right-handed hitting in the outfield to platoon with Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley or Casey Kotchman at first base. I'm not looking past options such as Hank Blalock, because I'm not at all certain what the Mariners have at first base and DH to overlook a player that can help them where other options fail. He didn't play but one game at third base last year, but he has for most of his career and could help the Mariners there if they had to move Chone Figgins around to compensate for other injuries. Sure, it wouldn't be an ideal situation, but we're talking about the 24th roster spot (Junior Griffey is 25th, if we're going for full-blown honesty). It doesn't have to be ideal to be a good fit.

Johnny Damon is another left-handed hitter who would be a tough fit for the Mariners with Ichiro, Bradley, Langerhans and prospect Michael Saunders as left-handed outfielder options, but he is coming off his best offensive output in many seasons, would hit great in SafeCo Field and could come cheap with the Yankees spurning him after he led them to their first World series win in nine years. He's also not going to hurt the team if he were giving Franklin Gutierrez or Ichiro an occasional day off.

I'm not going to advocate signing just anybody just because he's the best offensive option regardless of handedness. If I were, Jim Thome is obviously that guy, but disaster would have to happen for them to have anywhere to play him.

A right-handed hitter would be the best fit for this team whether it's backing up the infield or part of a platoon in left. Former Yankee Xavier Nady could fit in a little of both.

He's coming off a lost 2009 season, but he made great strides offensively in the two seasons previous and has always hit left-handed pitching pretty good. He's played every outfield position and has experience at first base. He's probably the top of my list to complement Kotchman in a platoon at first base while getting time in the outfield and maybe DH, too. he wouldn't be too expensive, and the Mariners wouldn't miss him too much if he took a while to come all the way back from Tommy John surgery on his elbow.

Jermaine Dye has put up numbers I'd like to have on any team for a long while. Sure, he's benefited from playing at New Comiskey, but he's going to hit left-handed pitching where ever he plays. He's probably the worst defender of all the options, but he could really add punch to the middle of the lineup a few times per week and as a pinch hitter. He might even get some time at first base, if he was serious about getting more time on the field.

Miguel Tejada is also an interesting name when you consider the fragility of incumbent shortstop/defensive drool inducer Jack Wilson. Having him back up short and third (second even?) could prove invaluable, but I worry about his bat away from some of the comfier home parks he's had to hit in since he left Oakland. I would still want him the lineup far more than Josh Wilson if Jack Wilson were to continue his injury maladies.

Fernando Tatis has a strange career I won't really get into here. I suppose he could play more positions than Tejada (although probably not shortstop) and hit better at a fraction of the price, leaving more money to improve the pitching staff.

It's surprising there are still many starting pitching options out there worth committing a chunk of payroll to. But the Mariners now have a chunk of payroll to throw around, so they get to look at it where other teams can't.

Ben Sheets is getting a long look from some teams, and the only reason he doesn't have a contract already is his continuing health problems. He sure can pitch when he's healthy, though. He'd be a fool to not sign with the Mariners and take advantage of the deep rotation and pitcher-friendly environment and defense. If he can stay relatively healthy for a whole year, he'll be able to cash in next year.

Erik Bedard... ummm... moving right along.

No, seriously, nothing to see here. If they're even thinking of Bedard (for reasons other than having to take names off the backs of all those jerseys so they can sew someone else's name on it), they should just throw more money at Sheets and get that done.

Jarrod Washburn, Chien-Mien Wang, Jon Garland... I'm fine with all of these guys. They would all shine in SafeCo and in front of Gutierrez and Ichiro.

It's not that I think any of these guys would be much better than Ian Snell, Doug Fister, Jason Vargas or Luke French... but getting one of the above pitchers would open up your room for error greatly and provide a lot of depth should one or more of them go down with an injury.

I have absolutely no idea who they'd get to help their bullpen. I've heard Wil Ohman's name, but I don't have a great impression of him from his days with the Cubs. Just means he'll come to Seattle and be great.

Just in case you're wondering, I'm deliberately talking about the Mariners so I don't have to think about the Cubs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

posted by James - 9:45 PM

I do spend a lot of time railing the high-limit games. I've never asked a pro for money, nor will I ever. But when I want a break from my own grind, sometimes it's fun to watch them... and interact with some of them occasionally. My favorite two to rail are David Oppenheim and Gus "The Great Dane" Hansen. I often write down some of the quotes when they start in on each other, because they're priceless. Last night, I watched "Oppey" and "Gussy" go at it in a nosebleed 7-game mix heads-up match. David treated Gus pretty rudely in the time I watched them, at least as far as the money went... and here's the part that had me rolling.

David Oppenheim: does it bother you that im sitting in front of my comp
David Oppenheim: with a fat smug face
Gus Hansen: does it bother you that you are fat
David Oppenheim: not really
Gus Hansen: then we are good
Gus Hansen: I have had some problems lately, but when I see your fat face it just gets me going
Gus Hansen: kind'a tickles my balls
David Oppenheim: as does your bald strangely shaped head for me

posted by James - 9:29 PM

Today Full Tilt Poker debuted their newest patented poker innovation: Rush Poker. There's no doubt they created this game for players who love NASCAR races with all the wrecks but no caution flags; snowboarding down a mogul run with all the wicked jumps, but not having to lift back up to the top; and filming a blockbuster movie without ever having to say cut. Action! Action! Action!

You can click the above link to find out more, but quickly... It's a ring game set up (currently .05/.10c - .50c/$1.00 limits) where each hand you play starts at a new table with up to 8 new players (5 if you're playing the 6-max version). Every time you fold a hand, you're whisked away to a new table. If you can already tell you don't want to play the hand, you can click the "Quick Fold" button and you don't even have to wait for the action to be on you before you see the next hand you'll play. You pick the pool you want to play, and then can play up to four tables with the players in that pool.

It definitely can be a rush when you're flying from table to table looking for the hand you want to play. Some aren't feeling that rush though. Every time FTP does an update, players speak out about the features they rather would see and their favorite hot-button upgrades... usually, they just can't help accusing FTP of trying to jack up the rake on us poor, oft-abused low-limit players.

I don't really get that part, though. Rake is only paid by the players that play... and pay. Don't want to pay rake, don't play. It's pretty much that simple. When they're making a ton of rake off of us, just means players want to play that game/format/whatever. More players also means more bad players. Sure, an oppressive rake can take some or most of the profitability away. But if you can win enough to make it work for you, don't hate... just count your money. And if you can't, then pick a different game. Don't put down an idea just because FTP found a way to profit while adding a new wrinkle to the often robotic game of poker.

I did play it for a short while earlier this afternoon. After about 400 hands per table on two Rush tables in about an hour and a half (yes, you read that right), I was spinning and had to quit. However, I did make a profit... a few buy-ins, in fact. But boy was I on tilt at the end of it... and before I logged off I lost big pots on my last hands on both tables when I knew I should have folded.

I went back and looked at my hand histories for both "tables". The hands jump around a lot when you're rapidly quick folding. It's not too bad when you go to analyze your own play, but it makes real-time assessment fairly difficult... which reeks of awesomeness! HUDs and Data Miners can't keep up with you. This gives a huge advantage over just multi-tabling for us that don't like to cheat.

To expound on the advantage of Rush Poker over multi-tabling... The benefit of multi-tabling is increasing your win rate while not moving up stakes and risking more of your bankroll. You also cut down the wait time between hands while establishing an image you can exploit on as many tables as you can handle (Holdem Manager and PokerTracker users also cull stats on your play while they're off on one of their other 12 tables, but I've already established I consider that cheating).

However, it doesn't completely cut out your down time... at least it doesn't guarantee it. Rush Poker sure the heck does. While you've found the hand you want to play on one table, you can be "rushing" through the garbage on another looking for your spot. I haven't tried more than two tables yet, but I can't even fathom how many more hands you'd see than if you just had your normal complement of ring games open. You should never find yourself in a spot where you missed a hand on a table because you were too busy with another. If you end up with a connection hiccup or other computer malady, your hand never started... just start clicking and see another 50. You don't have to worry about losing the big blind you've been stealing constantly, making up most of your profit for the session.

As far as picking your spot goes, this transitions nicely to what might not be so great about this format... or at least what you lose. Just because you picked a spot... it doesn't mean you got the right one, and you'll have no way of knowing it until it is too late. You'll rarely know some key factors leading to your profitability in ring games. You won't know who you're raising/three-betting, etc., and they won't know you, for better or worse. You don't know how they got their stack, lost their stack, when they bought in, how many hands they're playing at the time, and so forth. You'll have no stats on the group of players as a whole... Table selection is totally out the window, and you can have many profitable sessions of poker based on that alone. You will see some of those players again on other tables, and there will be many, many times you'd wish you could see a hand play out after you've folded to a big bet. (Here's a tip I did pick up to help with that though. Anytime you think you're making a big lay down and want to see any action left before you zoom over to another table, click "sit out next hand" before you do so. You won't go on to another table until the hand is completely over.)

To get back to the good stuff... I'm obviously not an expert on this yet. I've only played one session. I don't really know how much more I'll play... but a couple things stand out to me.

There's a lack of embarrassment factor, and it goes both ways. You don't have to worry about your image or being embarrassed when you suck out (you shouldn't anyway) because a guy raised your steal from the button (and you should be doing so liberally) and you went with the hand anyway. You'll be at a new table with a new set of player in a nano-second anyway.

Similarly, be aware your opponent won't worry about embarrassment either. This means he'll most likely not care about pushing with a small pocket pair or AQ, maybe even less... so expect some weird hands at showdown when you have big hands... and relish in it. Sure, you'll be on the bad end of a cooler quite a bit, but it will be worth it for the amount you'll probably get paid off when you win.

I alluded to this before... steal from late position a lot. Heck, maybe even middle position. You will never, ever know who has "quick folded" behind you, or not. Most of the time you'll pick up their blinds, and be happy about it. And when they haven't "quick folded", you know they have a hand they want to play. When they haven't made it too expensive with a three-bet from the button or blinds, call with your small pocket pair and suited connectors and dump your easily-dominated hands. Stack the hell out of those over-playing fools!

They're going to over-play top pair-top kicker... they sure as heck won't be folding it. They're probably going to smooth call your continuation bets with big hands like a flopped set or two pair, even some monster draws. Take advantage of the fact that folding is easy. Find that fold button and use it liberally (good advice for any game, really), but if they're going to slow play their big hands, thank the poker gods for the bounty you're about to receive when you suck out on the river. Meaning make sure you have redraws against a monster when you continue past the turn.

I normally prescribe to the Ferguson and Gordon restrictions on my bankroll... even tighter in most cases. I haven't really got a good handle on what will work best for Rush Poker sessions. I could see a lot of games where you'd go through a few buy-ins at your normal level really quick before you even get going. I'm thinking you shouldn't buy-in for 1% of your bankroll with each rush "table" you play. That might be a little too tightwad for most, but there are going to be days where it's just not your day... and you don't want that to burn through most of what you've worked so hard for.

Also... I pay a lot of attention to how much of my bankroll I have out there in any one session... especially when I'm winning! There will be people who have been playing hours and have amassed ridiculously big stacks. Don't fall into that trap! You could lose a huge chunk of your profits, if not every dime. If you get above 10-15% of your entire bankroll (what you have in play included) on any one table, I'd cash that out. Sure, start another table up if you want, but don't risk too much trying out this format.

I'm a big advocate of the FTP Academy, as you know, but I still am not sure how playing Rush Games factors into the FTPA. I do know there are a lot of players out there racking up huge amounts of FTPs in extremely short amounts of time. If you've ever wanted to rack up some bonuses or complete an iron-man month, this is the perfect way to do it.

Of course, you can do this even easier if you're using my method of playing around 00:00 server time. This limits you to ~15 nights of playing good-sizes sessions of online poker, for those who have a life. I'm thinking you could clear most of your iron man goal with Rush Games about a half hour on either side of midnight (9 pm Pacific). Happy Hours will also be really good for this too.

This is only after a couple hours of play of course. If there are any other quirks to this new format, I'll make sure to keep everyone updated... and send all of your thoughts over to me. As always, good luck out there.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

posted by James - 7:24 PM

Go, read this article... here's my response:

I agree with Michael, and I agree with Nichole... and that drives me extremely crazy.

People... stop trying to equate online poker with "live" poker. It's just not the same thing. Unless they let you play in a different mask each week, you see your opponent. It doesn't matter what name he chooses to call himself each week. You see him. You know him. You know what he did last week. You know how comfortable/uncomfortable he looked last week. He was there saying it was his first tournament and playing all crazy, now he's at this other place the next day looking like a shark. He might not play the same, but if you can't adjust, that's your deficiency... and there are probably 8 other players at your table owning you.

If you wanted online poker to be like "live" poker, you'd want people to not be able to change their screen names. But, I'm betting the same people are using all the PokerTracker, HoldemManager, HUDs, PokerTableRatings, etc... while they're playing. That's definitely an advantage you won't get in a casino.

I guess I agree with Nicole more, because I only slightly care about my screen name. Sometimes, I think it gets me the right kind of action in the regular games I play where people have respect for me and are intimidated by my previous accomplishments... but usually I'm playing with people I've never played before, so having a screen name tied to my previous exploits just leaves me wide open to those who use software and databases.

I'm on record multiple times as considering their use cheating, at the very least dishonest. Poker shouldn't be about how much money you can spend on a program that will let you cull information on 20 tables without actually paying attention to all of them. If you can boil down someone's play to a pretty number or a letter grade, then go ahead and do that... on your own. I know these programs are "legal", well most of them, but if you dispute they're cheating, I dare you to inform players you are using one next time you play a ring game. See what happens, then come back and tell me how many players will play with you.

These enablers are killing the profitability of low and middle-stake games online. Progressing through the ranks takes forever since you never know when the last speed bump you hit was the cause of someone using an advantage like this and not just better play on their part. And when you give actually talented players access to this kind of info (i.e. Brian Hastings), watch out!

The money is always going to rise to the top of the food chain, I understand that and respect it. However, too much money is being siphoned off on the way by players who haven't earned their profitability.

I say ok to changing your names and down with cheating poker software.

Friday, January 08, 2010

posted by James - 6:09 PM

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 638568

posted by James - 3:04 PM

A projected look at the hall of fame and possible future voting...




Alomar, Blylevin, Larkin get in




Williams, Morris, Raines, Bagwell get in




Piazza, Biggio, Schilling, McGwire, Sosa get in




Maddux, Thomas, Glavine, Bonds get in




Clemens, Johnson, Martinez get in



Griffey, Thome

Griffey, Mussina, Kent get in




Thome, Palmeiro, Trammell, Smith

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

posted by James - 3:56 PM

I'd have to look but I think I've blogged about Andre "the Hawk" Dawson before, but recent events have me wanting to do it either way.

Andre Dawson was one of my first baseball heroes. His enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame is a shining moment for all Cubs fans from this era, who have suffered for a long time. Sandberg and Dawson are really all we have after Maddux left for Atlanta and Sosa left for insanity.

I’m very disappointed in the fans of other teams and players who didn’t get in. I support Blyleven and Edgar Martinez’s case above Dawson’s as much as I love him. And I am sad they did not get in, as well as Roberto Alomar, who is even a superior 2b to Sandberg.

But I am sickened by their fans bashing Dawson because their guy did not get in without even acknowledging and congratulating Dawson for his achievement and honor. It won’t affect what I think of the player, but it will affect what I think of their fans.

Congratulations, Hawk! Today was truly a great day that brought joy to my heart… much like getting to see you play.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

posted by James - 4:10 PM

I just got a potentially crazy idea. We're all accustomed to games where the two players to the left of the button are putting in money before they get to see their cards AND know what anybody else will do AND they'll have to act out of position on all streets after the flop is dealt. I'm not really trying to question the foundation of our poker games, but does that really make sense? That we load the situation against those two positions?

Wouldn't it be interesting to see the blinds reversed? Make the cutoff and button post the small and big blind respectively. Still start the hand under the gun and have the two players directly left of the button act last pre-flop after all other players and be able to fold their hands without investing anything and avoiding have to play from such horrible position post-flop. The "blinds" are automatically paying for their right to have such great position and anybody attempting to steal from them would have to factor in their advantage when doing so.

Again, this could be a completely crazy idea and may be better placed in a different forum, but I'm interested in your thoughts.