Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Baseball Musings and Random Thoughts

While I don't agree with most of the moves the Stros have made over the past 5 or so years it sure seems like letting Carlos Beltran walk was a great decision. In the past five seasons with the Mets Beltran has hit an average of .280 with 25 homers and 19 steals per season. That's nothing to sneeze at but 7 years, $119M was way too much money.

And, of course Beltran is on the DL right now for the Mets. With New York being out of the race I would have expected Beltran to shut it down for the season. According to him that's not going to happen. After taking outfield practice yesterday Beltran said that his knee bothered him twice, but with much less pain than before....

“I think it’s progress because I didn’t feel it all the time,” he said “and I ran in the pool today, like six miles per hour, and I didn’t feel anything. It’s getting better little by little.”

Beltran ran 6 mph in a pool? Was the pool f*#@ing empty? I'm going to have to blow the whistle and throw out my bullshit flag on that one. I may not be as fast as I once was but I would have trouble running 6 miles an hour on flat ground for an extended period of time. On a side note, wouldn't this be a sweet reality show? Out of shape radio hosts vs. elite athletes in different competitions. The only catch is that we give the athletes major handicaps. I think this could work. When I'm the head of my own studio I'm going to have lots of sweet shows to work on....and one kick-ass movie.

* The Astros called up Bud Norris last week and he made his first start over the weekend. The kid was an absolute beast as he took a no-hitter into the 6th and finished with a line of 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 5 Ks, 4 BBs. It's an outstanding debut but let's temper our expectations for this guy. The walks were a problem in the minors and you can't continue to walk a batter every other inning in the majors and get away with it. Unless, of course, you are 2008 Daisuke Matsuzaka....I wrote 5 cheesy Budweiser lines but then thought the better of it and erased them. You can thank me later.

* I sat for the GMAT over the weekend - nice to get that out of the way. Now I have to fill out applications which is even less fun then taking a standardized test.

* The other day I found this website It's not as cool as it seems - you just make up lies about the bottled water industry. I think we need to start websites like this for everyone though. - did you know Bill Brasky once shared a bath with Bruce Jenner?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Astros Screw Me Again

I went out to Minute Maid Park this Sunday to catch a little of the Astros/Mets game. I had talked to the producers of SportsCenter Sunday on ESPN Radio and they wanted me to give live 30 second updates from the game. They guessed that I would probably give an update every 20-30 minutes. I was pretty pumped about doing updates on over 400 ESPN Radio affiliates across the country. Well, the Astros got down early and suddenly the game wasn't that important anymore. I ended up getting bumped completely. After 1986 and 2005 I promised myself I'd never be taken in by the Astros again. I guess I was wrong.

Other Random Thoughts:

* When I was a kid I always wanted to have designer clothes like all the cool kids. I was a spoiled punk and I would bitch and moan if my mom ever tried to buy me clothes from a discount store. Well, my last 4 pairs of jeans have come from Target. I am equally proud and ashamed of myself.

* The World Series of Poker starts airing tonight on ESPN starting at 7 CST. I'm pretty excited to watch some new episodes. I can only watch poor Jean-Robert Bellande get beat on the river so many times.

* Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Michael Vick yesterday. Amazingly, no one seems to know exactly what that means. Vick could play as early as week one but Goodell could also choose to rescind his reinstatement. Personally, I think Goodell is just trying to screw with everyone. I think he's sitting at home laughing his ass while everyone tries to figure out what the hell is going on. For the record, I seriously doubt Vick plays any meaningful snaps at QB this season.

* Texans' wideout David Anderson stopped by the Dukes show yesterday. He is an extremely funny dude. Anderson relayed a story where he was out with some of his teammates when an attractive young lady came by. Upon learning the guys were members of the Houston Texans she asked everyone what position they played. When she got to DA she asked him what he did. I guess she didn't believe that a relatively short white guy could play professional football. Anderson responded that he plays the piano at Nordstroms. That's funny for so many reasons. If that was me I would be telling everyone within earshot that I was a pro football player but I guess those guys get so much action that they need a challenge.

* BTW, Anderson called her while on the radio show and asked her out. When she questioned why he sounded weird he said he was on speaker phone. She later said she would go out with him.

* My friend has one of those Garmin Nuvi things. There are so many possibilities for this device. I imagine an advanced edition sometime in the future that actually imparts advice to the driver. This can be a good thing but there is also a possibility for disaster. Here's an example:

You decide to take your family to a water park one weekend. On your way past a gentleman's club your Garmin Nuvi 9000 chimes in, "Mr. Dean, I think you missed your turn. 87% of the time you turn left. Crystal shows up for her set in 20 minutes."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

To Win or To Survive...

You can't win the tournament on the first day but you sure can lose it
- Every Poker Player

You've no doubt heard that phrase or something similar if you play big time tournament poker. It's a popular phrase mainly because it's true. In a big tournament like the WSOP Main Event it can take up to 100 hours if you are lucky enough to win the tournament. On the flip side you could be knocked out on the very first hand.

So, the question then becomes - when do you quit trying to just survive and when do you go for the win? It's an odd question with no real answer but I think it's worth discussing now as the November Nine may be asking themselves the same thing.

Many of you may be thinking, "I always play to win." To an extent that's probably true. No one plays the World Series Main Event without dreaming of winning the first place prize money and bracelet (not to mention the fame). But, the fact remains that survival is vital in tournaments with huge fields like the Main Event.

From personal experience I'd say that usually once I made the final table of a tournament my mind set changed. This isn't always the case - I've played to win with 15-25 players left and in one tournament I waited until we were heads up before going for the kill. There are a lot of factors to take into account when deciding whether to lay back or to pounce.

* Prize Money - Some would argue that strategically this shouldn't matter. Those people are wrong. Players should always be aware of pay increases especially in tournaments like the Main Event where the money can potentially change your life. Even if you don't pay attention to the prize money you should know that your opponents likely will. As a general rule, players probably play tighter when the prize money gets larger. But, as we saw at this year's Main Event, when amateur players get to a certain pay level they often play with 'nothing to lose' and loosen up a bit.

* Stucture - The blinds and antes will obviously influence everything you do at the poker table. The structures of WSOP Final Tables are usually slower than those of WPT Final Tables. Players usually play faster and with more gamble when the structure is faster. Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule but it helps to think of extreme conditions. If you have 10,000 BBs at a final table you would be dumb to get all in without the nuts. Conversly, if you only have one round before you go broke you should look to get your chips in the middle quickly before blinding out.

* Your Opponents - You're fooling yourself if you think all eyes won't be on Phil Ivey when the Main Event resumes in November despite the fact that he's only 7th in chips. Again, thinking of extreme examples, if you are at a final table with 8 chimps you should probably wait until you have an absolute lock hand before committing your chips. If you are at a final table with 8 pros you may figure that they are waiting for you to go broke. Gambling it up could prove to be your best option in that scenario. The fact that pros would rather not gamble with unpredictable players was encapsulated in David Sklansky's fabulous book Tournament Poker for Advanced Players.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to just survive or to go for the kill. Of course, this may be a gradual progression. Rarely does a specific event cause a player to immediately flip the switch. Also, there are some players who probably disagree with most of what I just said. Michael Mizrachi is one player who plays to win from the first hand of a tournament. He likes to attack the big stacks hoping they will make big mistakes.

I am intrigued by this subject because I've had my fair share of disappointing final tables. I often wonder if it's my decision to flip the switch which has doomed me at final tables. Truth be told if I never showed up at my 7 final tables I'd almost certainly have more career prize money than I do right now. Sometimes you see the light at the end of the tunnel and it temporarily blinds you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Dream

Man did I have a weird dream the other night. I know that I shouldn't share information this embarrassing but what else is a blog for. Here goes...

Okay, so in my dream my friend Joel pops up - I haven't seen this guy in 10 years in real life but apparently in my dream I really want to be his friend. How bad do I want to be his friend? Bad enough to go on a game show where Joel is going to choose someone out of 20 contestants to be his best friend.

A couple of things: 1) I realize that if Joel reads this he could/should file a restraining order against me just based on this dream and 2) This dream game show sounds shockingly similar to that crappy Paris Hilton show.

Anyways, on the show there's this kid named Corbin. I don't know anyone named Corbin nor do I know whose face it was in the dream. Corbin's mom apparently has cancer and his one wish was that pictures of her didn't get out in the public. It's never revealed why.

Anyways, everyone has to tell Joel why they should be his best friend and in the dream I spend a painstakingly long amount of time trying to convince him. I take so long in fact that he rolls his eyes and walks off. I'm not even cool in my own dreams. This is a new low.

At the end of the dream everyone stands on a diving board. 19 of us get to jump in the pool but one person gets kicked off the show (this was actually kind of cool - a reality show should adopt this concept). Luckily I survive the cut and get to jump in the pool.

Corbin was not so lucky. He had to pack his bags and didn't get to jump off the diving board. Guess what? Pictures of his mom got put on the internet also. We all felt bad and consoled him. Then I woke up. Dreams are stupid.

Other Random Thoughts

* My wife called me up today to tell me she's signed up for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I was skeptical and after some prodding she told me she's going to walk instead of 'race'. I quipped that by walking she's sending a bad message. Sure, she wants to find a cure for breast cancer but she's not exactly in a hurry to do it. To ensure that I don't go directly to hell I also signed up. The Houston event is October 3rd - do your good deed for the year and sign up here.

* TMZ is going to release the Lebron Dunk video tonight. Can I just say that TMZ is the absolute BALLS. I used to think this site was for chicks but they've been on fire over the last few months. They dominated the Jon & Kate + 8 stuff, broke Michael Jackson's death, and now this?!

* I'm taking the GMAT in 10 days. I really thought my days of taking standardized tests were over. I'm absolutely fascinated with the GMAT. You take this test on a computer and the computer adapts to your ability. If you are doing well the questions get harder and vice versa. It's very humbling. I'll be applying to business schools in the fall but wouldn't attend until fall of 2010 at the earliest.

* I went to Chick-fil-a the other day and the lady at the counter called me 'Buffalo Sauce Guy'. I guess she knew my order down cold since I go there so often. I wasn't even remotely offended. Chick-fil-a rocks. Just think what she'd know about me if they were open on Sundays.

* I went to Austin last weekend for a buddy's wedding (not Joel). I got lots of great recommendations for places to eat. I ended up dining at Trudy's and Mellow Mushroom but thanks to all my Twitter peeps for recommending great places. Sorry to my Austin friends - I didn't get much time to hang out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Random Thoughts

UFC 100 was a great card but I'm not sure if it is going to convert as many new fans as they had hoped. I thought the fights were for the most part excellent (the Fitch fight notwithstanding) but the UFC and MMA will most likely to continue to grow at a steady rate. Any thoughts of MMA quickly becoming the 4th most popular sport in this country should probably be put on the back burner at this point.

* With that being said, I do have an idea to spice up the action. Why don't we have those useless ring girls actually do something? I think having ring girls ride a mini zamboni-type machine that cleans up the blood between fights is a genius idea. I can't think of any downside to this.

* Sports betting in Delaware is almost a done deal. The NFL is none too pleased and they are trying to stop it in the Delaware Supreme Court but by all accounts it's probably going to happen. 3 other states currently have sports betting. Give yourself 1 bonus point each if you guessed Montana, Oregon, and Nevada. Subtract 5 bonus points if you thought Las Vegas was a state.

* Wayne's World isn't often brought up when talking about the classic comedies of the 90's but it still holds a place in my heart. All this Delaware talk made me nostalgic.

* Tony Romo allegedly broke up with Jessica Simpson. Reports placed Romo at a club just days later surrounded by a bunch of dudes. Don't get too excited Cowboys fans - I still think Romo will be in a relationship within 2 months. Romo is just like Vince's sensitive manager Eric ('E') on Entourage. The guy can't enjoy being single - he has to be in a relationship. Someone needs to shake Romo and let him know he's an NFL quarterback!!!!! I vote for Matt Leinart.

* While we're on the subject - who's next on Romo's Hit List? First Carrie Underwood, then Jessica Simpson. I'm taking Kristen Bell from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I'm going away from the music theme but she's small and blond and way too good for him. I'll be taking suggestions in the comments.

* The MLB All-Star Game is tonight. Count me in the minority of those who think playing for home-field advantage in the World Series is a good idea. Did you know that before 2002 the way they determined home-field in the World Series was by whether the year was odd or even? Seriously, in odd-numbered years (1991, 93, 95...) the American League got home-field and the National League got it in even-numbered years (1990, 92, 94...). Give yourself a bonus point if you knew that.

* A quick point on Albert Pujols. I'm not so irresponsible to say he's on steroids. But...the dude has legs the size of tree trunks. He was the 402nd overall pick in the major leagues in 1999. That means major league teams thought there were 400 better baseball players. Not overall. But THAT YEAR!!! That would put him as somewhere around the 3,000th ranked baseball player in 1999. By 2001 he was the Rookie of the Year and now he's by far the best player in the game. We're supposed to believe he went from the 3000th best baseball player in the world to the 1st without any help? Count me skeptical.

* My wife suggested that we order Domino's pizza the other night. I can't understand why you'd want that cardboard trash when there are so many better pizzas out there. I thought maybe that it's because Domino's Pizza is cheap. Nope, Pizza Hut is almost the exact same price for a 14 inch cheese pizza. My argument isn't that Domino's is bad. Pizza is rarely bad. But, why wouldn't you want to order pizza that is actually good? While we're on the subject I want to throw a random shout-out to Steel City Pizza and Greek Tony's Pizza in Spring - both are amazing.

* Almost 6,500 players began the WSOP Main Event and just 64 remain. There are plenty of pros left but I'm rooting hardest for Phil Ivey who already has racked up 2 bracelets so far in the WSOP. I think it would be great for poker if a 'brand-name' professional won the tournament. As for me, I haven't played a major tournament in over a year but that may change in August. Stay tuned, more details to follow.

* I won a $30 gift certificate to Glennz Shirts the other day. I know the days of the 'funny' t-shirt have come to a close but the creator (Glenn Jones) is really talented. My favorite shirt is Prize Catch but it's out of stock in my size. Bad Luck.

* My Streak For the Cash is at 3 and I got a lucky break today when I picked the wrong women's tennis match. The Streakmaster didn't 'lock' the game so you could have changed your pick all the way until the match was over. I picked the wrong player AND I wasn't smart enough to change my pick but ESPN stepped in an canceled the pick for everybody. I'm going with President Obama getting the ball to Pujols tonight at the All-Star Game. Don't let me down Obama!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How to turn down $5 Million

Yesterday, World Series of Poker Commisioner Jeffery Pollack and the rest of the WSOP powers that be managed to turn down five million dollars. An estimated 500 poker players were turned away from the World Series of Poker Main Event yesterday as the tournament reached its capacity. About 500 amateurs and pros alike (Patrick Antonius and Ted Forrest to name a couple) weren't allowed to pay $10,000 to be a part of the largest poker tournament in the world.

To be fair, most of those 500 players had an opportunity to sign up early and chose not to. 2,500 players got seats yesterday compared to only 873 players on Saturday. Still, that's not the point. To turn away 500 potential players is another black mark on a game (sport?) that has had enough black marks over a past few years.

Maybe it's the nature of the beast but poker is disorganized. No other sport or game would allow this to happen. At the very minimum you could set up an entry deadline for players who don't satellite into the tournament. Even most local marathons have an entry deadline.

Make no mistake, the World Series of Poker Main Event is a marathon in it's own right. It's a tournament that lasts 2 weeks - then breaks - then 9 players return 4 months later. It's a tournament that requires a lot of coordination and I commend those who work to pull it off. With that being said, any tournament that pays out $8.5M to its winner should care more about organization than pleasing its players.

The bottom line is that by allowing players to choose what day they play the tournament prize pool is now short about $5 million dollars. I can think of about 10 solutions to this problem off the top of my head. No doubt, some of these solutions would cause more problems than they solve and its always easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback but it doesn't take a genius to have foreseen a rush of players on Day 1D. Turning away 500 poker players has to be the absolute last option.

Without going through what Jeffery Pollack and company could have done months in advance I want to talk about what they could have done in the last few days. For starters, why not call up another casino? Logistically this would have been a disaster but I can't see it being any worse than turning away $5 million. The Rio, Harrah's, and Ceasar's are all owned and operated by Harrah's Entertainment. I would think that by Sunday tournament officials could have predicted an overflow of participants and could have made some calls.

A second solution would be to add a fifth day to the Main Event. Are there some problems with putting players at a competitive disadvantage? Absolutely. But by letting players pick their playing day the WSOP Main Event obvioulsy has pushed aside those concerns anyways. I would think the backlash from a Day 1E would be a lot more palatable than the backlash from turning away T.J. Cloutier, Brandon Adams, Mickey Appleman (who had played in 30 main events), and about 497 other poker players.

Poker needs leadership. In my opinion poker needs a pro tour. I know the PPT failed but without a professional tour I think the game will stagnate. There needs to be official rules, official tournaments, official cards, official start times, official tour dealers, etc. To be honest, I'm surprised something like this hasn't happened before. Poker grew exponentially in the mid-2000s and the game has been slow to react. Perhaps this snafu is just what the game needs to right the ship.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Workout Curse

If you are a guy somewhere in the vicinity of 30 years old then this post may be all too familiar for you. When I was a kid I was in great shape. Even in the era of Nintendo I was outside most days after school and nearly every day in the summer. I was always playing some kind of sport and I even remember thinking that there was no way I'd ever get fat. Well, if that day hasn't come yet it's getting pretty close. At the minimum, I am way out of shape. I went to the gym today and jogged for 20 minutes and my body is currently revolting. Just 3 months ago I was hitting the gym 6 times a week and jogging for an hour. One day it all stopped and now here I am typing a blog while I gasp for air. Right now my goddamn fingers are cramping up. Where did things go wrong for me? I trace everything back to the workout curse.

You've all known someone who has bitched and moaned about how hard it is to workout. That person may have even been you. The response usually given goes something like this, "It gets easier the more you do it!". And, while I can do without the cheerful exclamation point, that is generally correct. The more you workout, the easier your workout gets. The problem, what I like to call the workout curse, is that the exact opposite is also true. The less you workout the harder it gets. And therein lies the rub.

If you are confused right now you are forgiven. I haven't even gotten rolling yet. To explain the workout curse let's use a hypothetical gentleman to help explain things. Let's say Mark is a 30 year old guy who used to be in decent physical shape until he quit sports in college and learned to drink (damn you vodka redbull!). Mark gets married and finds a job and before he knows it working out gets thrown to the wayside a bit. At some point our hero decides, "Enough with this! I'm going to start working out."

At first, the workouts are predictably tough. Mark's body aches in places he didn't know existed. 20 minutes feels like a lifetime. Mark does some rough calculations and sees that he burned about 250 calories. Sure, it doesn't seem like a lot but that's 2 beers! As time goes on the prognosticators were right, working out does get easier! Mark builds his workouts to 30 and then 40 minutes per day. He begins to get into a routine and even starts to hit the gym 3-4 times per week. One strange side effect is that he starts to eat healthier despite himself. Every time he goes to grab for a beer or a slice of pizza he calculates how many minutes it would take to burn that off and often decides against it. 3 months after his initial foray into working out Mark has lost 10 pounds and feels great. He's going to the gym 5-6 times per week and burning at least 800 calories each time he's there. Where's the problem?

The problem comes the first time Mark gets sick, or misses a day, or has an appointment, or goes out of town. Not working out probably is a shock to his system but a part of him likes it. Whether Mark wants to admit it or not, this little break from working out is nice. I mean, he's been busting his ass for 3 months! The dude could use a break, hell, he deserves a break! Mark thinks, if I'm not going to workout then why not eat some decent food. Watching all those calories means he hasn't had fast food in over a month! That needs to be remedied quickly. Bring on the sausage croissanwich!

Only after this little 'workout break' is over comes the dreaded realization that a much tougher workout awaits. Sure, when Mark first started working out 20 minutes and burning 250 calories was acceptable, but now? That almost seems pathetic. So what does Mark do? Does he suck it up and start back at the beginning or even somewhere in the middle? No! He thinks to himself, I'll wait until Monday and then I'll get back into my routine. Yes! That's perfect, I'll start the week refreshed and rededicate myself.

Of course, we know what happens. The expectations Mark set of going to gym 5-6 times per week for an hour at a time seem like a distant memory. It's just too hard now that he's taken some time off. He should step down a level but pride gets in the way and time moves on. The less you workout the harder it gets. It's the workout curse.

3 months later and those 10 pounds are back and they may have even brought some friends. Mark eventually gets back to that point he was in way back when 20 minutes at the gym and 250 calories burned sounds like a lot of work. But, he decides to suck it up and start all over again. Now he's gasping for air while his fingers cramp up.