I am naturally suspicious of people who use phrases like "call to action." It's one of those marketeer phrases that makes me cringe. That said, if you are a South Carolina poker player or one who travels here to play in some of the best home games around, you should be interested in this. Moreover, if you live in Greenville, South Carolina and don't join me on Monday night, you don't care about poker and your right to play it.
Monday March 30 at 5:30pm, South Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell will be holding two public hearings on a bill that would legalize home poker games and also expand charity gaming (including charity poker tournaments) in South Carolina.
I will be there and you should be, too.
Here's why.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Every Monday night I play in the best home game I've ever known. The action is great, the location is perfect, and the players are great people. The game has been running for years and shows no signs of dying off. There are games like it all over the state--friendly folks who just want to play cards in a safe environment.
Under South Carolina law, local law enforcement could come in at any time and cite every player for violating the state's gaming law. That we've never been raided is no great comfort. Even though this is a friendly game where the only rake goes to pay for drinks and snacks, it is still illegal. And if you think the local constabulary won't bust a game of this sort, you are sadly mistaken.
Last month I covered the trial of five people who were playing in a $20 max-buy no-limit hold'em game in Mt. Pleasant. The max rake on the game was 50 cents and the house owner, according to several people who testified, stopped taking rake the moment he had enough to cover the pizza and beer. The players were put on trial and, despite the magistrate's obvious distaste for the law, convicted. [See the April issue of Bluff Magazine for my article on the trial.]
A few years back, I held what was then my annual Bradoween poker tournament. It was not a huge affair. We had 43 people from around the country in town and crowded into my small house. The buy-in was insignificant and I charged no juice. People from other states laughed at me when I took the buy-in cash to my neighbor's house and left it there. They laughed harder when I programmed my police scanner to listen for a raid and put a couple friends outside to watch the door.
If I had watched myself that day, I might have laughed, too. It was ridiculous. It was a game among friends that wasn't even charging for the BBQ and sweet tea. Still, if the raid on a similar game in Greer (a nearby suburb) a couple months before was any indication, I stood an uncomfortable chance of getting busted. It had happened to one of my friends just weeks before. He'd been playing in a similar game and had been handcuffed in front of his wife and kids.
To people in less-antiquated states, this probably seems inconceivable. The simple fact i this: playing any game with cards or dice in South Carolina (read: Monopoly, bridge, poker, etc) is illegal.
President Pro Tempore Glenn F. McConnell, a Republican from Charleston County, wants to change that. His bill would decriminalize social gambling (including poker) in a private homes where no rake is taken. It would also allow for charity poker tournaments for churches and charities like the Lions and Elks Clubs.
Opponents of the bill suggest that opening the door to kitchen table poker is the equivalent of opening up the state border to the likes of MGM and Harrah's casinos. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You can read the full text of the bill HERE. The language is specific, more restrictive than even I would like, and would in no way allow for casinos in the Palmetto State.
All of the above is to say nothing of the rampant hypocrisy surrounding the debate. South Carolina is a lottery state. The South Carolina Education Lottery program is lauded by many of the same people who fight against decriminalizing home poker games. It's nearly impossible to go to a convenience store or turn on a TV without seeing an ad for South Carolina scratch-off tickets or Powerball jackpots. Make no mistake: South Carolina is, in fact, a gambling state, as long as the state is taking the rake.
McConnell held a hearing on his bill in Charleston last week. If news reports are to be believed, the pro-poker crowd outnumbered the anti-poker folks by 20-1. The Greenville hearing could be a lot different. The Upstate of South Carolina is a great deal more conservative than the Midlands and Low Country. In the past, I've seen giant protests over similar issues.
Even the legislators are worried about bringing the issue to Greenville. Said Senator Robert Ford to Charleston poker players, "Y'all get a couple of buses. I'm always afraid of Greenville on these kinds of issues."
It's my hope that we won't need Charleston poker players to defend our rights to play in Greenville. I know there are hundreds of poker enthusiasts in the Upstate who care about this issue. The question is, do you care enough to show your support in public? You don't have to speak. You don't even have to give your name. You only have to show up. It won't take but a couple hours out of your day.
I know poker is a solitary pursuit, but the battle to legalize it is not. Don't be the kind of player who complains but does nothing to remedy the situation. If you don't show up, don't complain about the law. When you finally have Republicans and Democrats agreeing something needs to be done about the antiquated South Carolina gambling laws, you know it's time to give just a little bit of yourself.
So, you coming?
Monday, March 30th
Greenville County Council Chambers
301 University Ridge
Greenville, SC 29601
The South Carolina Poker Players Alliance is trying to get a good idea on who might come. If you'd like to RSVP for the hearing, you can do so HERE.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or send them to my e-mail address: rapideyereality -- @ -- gmail dot com<-- Hide More
Message to the whiners: Who cares if there is no Cinderella?
In fact, I'll take it a step further. It's a good thing there's no Cinderella! It means the best teams are still playing. Sure, Cleveland St. and Western Kentucky were fun stories, but they're just not the same quality as the teams we have left. Instead, we have a selection of truly outstanding matchups:More in this Poker Blog! -->
#1 Louisville vs. #12 Arizona: Don't let the seeding fool you. I was dead wrong about Arizona. They are for real. Perhaps it's my west coast bias that made me discount them. The Wildcats beat both Kansas and Gonzaga this year as well as UCLA. They also have two NBA players (Wise and Hill) and four players who hit 38% or more of their 3-point shots. I ignored my own rules when I originally discounted them. Absent that late 4-game losing streak, they were probably worthy of a 6 seed. And as for Louisville? They're very, very good. This should be an interesting game, but the Cardinals will be too much.
#3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan St.: What's not to like about this matchup of traditional powers? Top coaches. Great talent on both sides. But I think this is clearly MSU's game to lose. They beat the Jayhawks by 13 at home in January. Kansas also has out of conference losses to Syracuse, UMass and Arizona. It'll be closer than it was in January, but the Spartans will move on.
#1 UConn vs. #5 Purdue: The Boilermakers are the only other party-crasher in the Sweet Sixteen. I'm still not a believer in Purdue. The lost 7 conference games in a Big 10 wrought with mediocrity. A bunch of good teams, but maybe only one great one (Michigan St.). UConn has silenced those that questioned their #1 seed by soundly thumping their first two opponents. I expect more of the same in the most lopsided game of the round.
#3 Missouri vs. #2 Memphis: You want a fun game to watch? This ought to be it. Missouri loves to press the tempo and extend the defense. It's what got them a lead over Marquette that was too much to overcome. After Memphis' slight scare in the first round, they played very well against Maryland. The Tigers have enough to give the Tigers a scare here, but the Tigers will end up winning. (I like Memphis in a close one.)
#1 Pittsburgh vs. #4 Xavier: I'm not sure why, but my pick to win it all (Pittsburgh) has made the first two rounds very interesting. Xavier, on the other hand, had little trouble getting here, and they're probably better than most people give them credit for (wins over Memphis, Missouri and LSU this year). However, it's the Musketeers' bad losses down the stretch (Duquesne, Dayton, Charlotte, Richmond) that make me believe they won't have enough for the Panthers.
#3 Villanova vs. #2 Duke: Another fabulous matchup. If you're a college basketball fan, you're excited about this matchup. These are two very good teams with solid NCAA histories. This has all the makings of being the closest game in the round, and I think Nova will have too much for a Duke team that lacks athleticism (apart from Henderson).
#1 UNC vs. #4 Gonzaga: It's everyone's favorite little guy from the Pacific Northwest against the most talented team in college basketball. The Tarheels future in this tourney comes down to the health of Ty Lawson's toe. I don't think the Zags will be able to exploit this potential weakness, so expect UNC to move on.
#3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma: It's clearly my favorite game of the round, but that's because I'm an Orange fan. However, I think even a casual basketball fan will find this game interesting. It's a matchup of the tourney's best remaining guard (SU's Johnny Flynn) vs. the best remaining big man (OU's Blake Griffin). If Syracuse can neutralize Griffin and hold their own on the boards, they should have the firepower to eke out a win. At least that's what I'm hoping!<-- Hide More
Okay, so perhaps that's a slight exaggeration in the headline. I'm guessing Johnny Cash merely rolled over in his grave when he heard Adam Lambert's bastardization of the classic "Ring of Fire." Had Jaoquin Phoenix not already gone crazy, maybe he would have rushed the stage to stop what millions of Americans witnessed last night.
Instead, we get one of the most horrifying performances in American Idol history. If you missed it, thank your lucky stars. If you saw it, I hope you've managed to block it from your mind.
I'll keep the rest of my American Idol thoughts short going into tonight's elimination. Looks like one of the ladies is leaving tonight. If it's Megan Joy Corker, so long. If it's either Alexis Grace or 16-year old Allison Iraheta, than the judges will have a difficult choice on whether to use their one save.
Matt Giraud continues as my favorite after another strong performance last night with Danny Gokey close behind. I was glad to see Anoop Desai bounce back like he did.
As you can guess, I'm fairly certain the men will extend their lead in American idol finalists. Thus far, there have been 8 male and 6 female finalists. When this season is over, it will be 10 male finalists... and the men will tie the women in total winners at 4 a piece.
The Poker Players Alliance has just sent out notice of a poker legalization hearing in Charleston and Greenville, SC this month.
From the e-mail:
Playing poker in the privacy of your own home is a crime in South Carolina thanks to a ridiculous outdated state law signed 209 years ago. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell will be holding two public hearings to discuss S535 a bill that would legalize home poker games and also expand charity gaming (including charity poker tournaments) in the state. The first public hearing will be March 23rd in North Charleston City Hall and the second on March 30th in the Greenville County Council Chambers, both start at 5:30pm.
I plan to attend the March 30 hearing in Greenville. The PPA is looking for a large turn-out of pro-poker folks.
Monday, March 30th
Greenville County Council Chambers
301 University Ridge
Greenville, SC 29601
I'll likely have more on the subject in the coming days. In the meantime, if you'd like to RSVP for the hearing, you can do so HERE.
To read the full text of the bill, click HERE.
If you're like 99% of the adult population in America, you're working on your NCAA bracket this week (due by Noon ET on Thursday). And if you get it just right, there might even be some money in it for you. Here are five rules for picking your bracket that will give you an advantage over anyone who hasn't read this:More in this Poker Blog! -->
Number 1: Don't trust the SEC.
Only three SEC teams made the Big Dance this year and only two of them were even worthy (Miss. St. won the SEC tourney to "earn" an automatic bid). Expect all three SEC teams to go out in the first round. MSU is terrible and lost to just about every out of conference opponent they faced. Tennessee has a nice out of conference win against Marquette, but that's it. They lost to Gonzaga twice, Temple, Kansas and Memphis. In conference, UT struggled against the "better" teams like Kentucky, LSU and Auburn. And LSU's out of conference schedule was a joke. The "big" win was against a mediocre Wash. St. team. They lost to Texas A&M, Utah and Xavier. Pathetic.
The SEC is terrible. I wish there was a stronger way to state this.
Number 2: Trust the Big East
They've been the strongest conference in college basketball all year long. There's a reason 9 Big East teams were ranked going into the conference schedule. It's because the Big East generally beat up on other conferences. Georgetown and Notre Dame were top 10 teams before they started facing other Big East teams.
Here's a look at some Big East out of conference wins:
Pittsburgh: Florida St., Siena
UCONN: Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Michigan
Syracuse: Memphis, Kansas, Florida
The Big East team I actually worry about is Louisville. Perhaps they figured out how to flip a switch because they were pretty bad early in the season with losses to Western Kentucky, Minnesota and UNLV. They're hot now, though, so it's hard to bet against them.
Number 3: The Hilltoppers are ready for an upset
They've already gotten a signature win over Louisville this year and have also tested themselves against teams like Georgia, Florida St. and Mississippi St. They won't be intimidated by Illinois. And the Illini will likely be without their best perimeter defender which is good news for guard-heavy Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers three guards all average more than 12 ppg and hit more than 36% of their 3-point shots. Illinois' only chance is to slow down the game and use their 7-footer. It won't work.
Number 4: Utah will not be upset by Arizona
Listen to the oddsmakers and a Wildcats win in this game wouldn't actually be an upset. For the life of me, I can't figure out why anyone would expect the Wildcats to win. They are far and away the worst at large team in the Big Dance. It took a win over a terrible Stanford team to close the regular season just to get to .500 in a relatively weak Pac 10. They were 11-8 on Jan. 21st and closed the season losing 5 out of 6. A seven game winning streak over mostly mediocre teams saved their season. The Utes' Luke Nevill will neutralize the Wildcats' best weapon, Jordan Hill. And Arizona will go home.
Number 5: The four #1 seeds won't make the Final Four, but they'll all be close
It's a lock. All four #1 seeds will make the Elite Eight. The bumps they'll encounter aren't nearly big enough to stop them. The only possible upset is Wake over Louisville. Other than that, it's a cakewalk.
The Final Four is a different story, however. Louisville faces a tough matchup with Michigan St. (the only legitimate Big 10 threat in the tourney). Pitt faces a tough matchup with Duke or even Nova, who beat Pitt by 10 in the regular season. UConn will be the most popular pick to fail because they have a run-in with Memphis planned. And I wouldn't want to be UNC looking at a matchup with Player of the Year Blake Griffin and Oklahoma or maybe even a strong Syracuse squad.
If you're looking for a repeat of last year's chalk, you'll be disappointed. I can't tell you which #1 (or #1s) will fail to get there (after all, I'm facing some of you in bracket challenges), but I can tell you the chalk ain't happening!<-- Hide More
Remember that time you four-bet pre-flop with aces, flopped your set, and got your opponent to get it all in? Remember when he shoved his chips in and then asked, "Do you have the ace?"
You probably thought, "What is this guy doing playing poker?"
We sometimes think the same thing about the search referrals we get here on the Up For Poker Blog.
Here are just a few recent questions that Google has thrown our way.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Q. Who is the High Stakes Poker guy who looks like Jabba the Hutt?
A. We here at Up For Poker are huge fans of both the Star Wars series and High Stakes Poker. So, when we saw this question come in, we wondered if we had missed a few episodes of HSP. After looking at the cast list from the past several seasons, we narrowed it down to two possibilities. The first is David Benyamine, for obvious reasons. The second is Doyle Brunson. Either way, that's just mean, and we'd dare whoever asked the question to call either of the above players Jabba to his face. And either way, if you're hoping to play poker and you don't know Brunson or Benyamine, you'd best stick to watching Return of the Jedi and pleasuring yourself to your Princess Leia action figure.
Q. Is an UTG limp raise always the nuts?
Yes. We polled every poker player in three countries. The results were staggering. No player in our millions of respondents has ever limp re-raised under the gun with anything other than the nuts. Every player indicated it would be irresponsible to play a hand in such a way that it led others to believe he might have aces instead when he actually held kings, queens, or 9c-7c. We suggest that if you are ever limp re-raised by a player under the gun, fold your kings immediately. You are behind and will never catch up.
Q. (From Sweden) How does WSOP poker works?
A. This is a tricky question and one not taken lightly. It assumes that WSOP poker (translated World Series of Poker poker) actually works. We are not ready to make that assumption. If we did, we might answer that the World Series of Poker poker takes a decades old tradition of poker mastery and devalues it by creating dozens of events that award dozens of bracelets and charges millions of dollars in juice to play tournaments with dubious structures. Of course, we wouldn't ever actually say that. We're just saying, if we made an assumption, we might think about saying something like that. In the meantime, if you're reading from Sweden, we like your women. How much for them?
Q. Suppose that you have played F five times but you don't yet know your wins and losses. Would you play the gamble a sixth time?
A. You just blew our mind, sir. We love you as a reader. We'd love for you to stay. However, we think you'd be better suited reading the "Handbook of the economics of finance" by George M. Constantinides, Milton Harris, René M. Stulz.
But to answer your question, we've played F several times. We've got a lot of experience in the world of F. We may not yet know our wins and losses, but you give us a sixth shot at F and we'll take it every day of the week. Twice on Sunday, in fact.
Would we gamble a sixth time? Silly question.
Q. Are cops allowed to bust poker games?
A. That all depends on where you live. If you live where we do, cops are allowed to bust poker games, take all the money, take all the cards, take all the chips, rummage through your house, make eyes at your girlfriend, and use your bathroom without flushing. You probably won't ever be officially prosecuted, but you'll sort of wish you had been. A real prosecution makes it feel less like a shakedown.
Q. Why is poker bad?
A. Poker is not inherently bad. It's naughty sometimes. Sometimes it's downright dirty, nasty, naughty little poker. It's not bad, though. Look at it this way: if poker was good all the time, you'd sit around wondering if you should've taken your shot at the game with the tattoos, nipple rings, and questionable grasp on hygiene.
Trust us on this one.<-- Hide More
Why wait for the tournament selection committee? I've got your 65 teams right here. Joe Lunardi may be ESPN's Bracketologist, but he's not the best in the biz.
I now present the 65 teams headed to the Big Dance courtesy my Dad. Here is his email to me in its entirety (I've updated with MSU's win):More in this Poker Blog! -->
"This may be my worst projection in the last 10 years. Why? Mediocrity! My process involves looking at data that allows me to almost compare blind resumes. So when I finish, I'm sometimes surprised at the outcome. This year I am devastated. Of the "bigs," the Big East is the class while the Big 10 is common. My dance card - 7 Big East teams and 8 Big Ten teams.
I refuse to put San Diego St in my bracket when their signature win out of conference is CSU-Northridge. So, here we go..."
AMERICAN EAST - Binghamton (14)
ACC - UNC (1), Duke (2), Wake (3), FSU (4), Clemson (6), Maryland (10), BC (11)
ATL. SUN - E Tenn St (15)
ATL 10 - Xavier (5), Dayton (8), Temple (12)
BIG EAST - Pitt (1), L-Ville (1), UConn (2), Nova (4), Syracuse (4), WVU (6), Marq (7)
BIG SKY - Portland St (14)
BIG South - Radford (15)
BIG 10 - Mich St (2), Purdue (5), Illinois (7), Ohio St (8), Michigan (9), Wisc (10), Minn (11)
BIG 12 - Okla (2), Missouri (3), Kansas (3), Okla St (5), Texas (7), Texas AM (9)
BIG WEST - CS Northridge/Pacific (16)
COLONIAL - VCU (12)
CONF USA - Memphis (1)
HORIZON - Butler (9), Cleve St (13)
IVY - Cornell (15)
MAAC - Sienna (12)
MAC - Buffalo/Akron (13)
MEAC - Morgan St/Norfolk St (16)
MVC - Creighton (10), N. Iowa (12)
MWC - Utah (4), BYU (9)
NORTHEAST - Bob Morris (15)
OVC - Morehead St (16)
PAC 10 - Wash (3), UCLA (6), Ariz St (6), Cal (8), USC (11)
PATRIOT - American U (14)
SEC - Tenn (5), LSU (8), Miss. St. (11)
SOUTHERN - UT Chat (17)
SOUTHLAND - St F Austin/UTSA (13)
SWAC - Ala St/Jackson St (17)
SUMMIT - N Dakota St (14)
SUN BELT - W. Kentucky (13)
WCC - Gonzaga (7)
WAC - Utah St/Nevada (10)
Luckbox's thoughts: UConn is a better #1 seed than Memphis. Who has Memphis beat this year? Coasting through Conference USA just doesn't compare to what the Huskies did in the Big East. Should Duke beat FSU, they could get the 4th #1 seed (along with UNC, Pitt and Louisville). Mich. St. and Oklahoma both played their way out of a #1 seed.
I also think Florida played its way out of the tourney by failing to make even the semis of the SEC tourney. The SEC gets juts two teams unless Miss. St. upsets Tennessee. That said, I haven't done enough checking myself to see who might be a better candidate. UPDATE: Miss. St. did, in fact, upset Tennessee so they're in and Florida is out.<-- Hide More
The man sat at the bar under a cloud of tight curly hair. It was as if the hair thunderhead had sprung a storm and the downpour produced a guy with bad pickup lines. Beside him sat a pretty woman. She wasn't drinking for fun. Her order--shots and beer--had purpose. The drunker she got, the more she wanted to run naked in the hair storm.
I'll be honest, Joe Reitman's hair has always freaked me out.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Reitman looked like was wearing make-up. He threw out some line like, "If I order you one drink, I get to talk to you for ten minutes. If I order you four drinks I get you for an hour and half. If I order you more, I get you all night."
That's not a direct quote. It wasn't recorded for posterity, because the next thing anyone knew Reitman's pants were around his ankles and he was humping the girl known as Gayle in the parking lot. His bad pick-up line wasn't as bad as it seemed. He probably didn't notice the girl was about to cry. But, be honest. If somebody was pumping on you and letting that hair bounce all around your head and shoulders, you'd probably cry, too.
When I saw it happen, I turned to my wife.
"I think that's Annie Duke's boyfriend!" I said.
My wife snored.
I guess I don't keep up with pop culture well enough to know the occupations of pro players' bed buddies. That is, I didn't know Reitman was an actor.
What I'd just seen was one of his breakout performances, this time as "Bar Customer" in the 2005/2006 Showtime series "Sleeper Cell." You might also have seen him in such roles as "Hippie boy," "Radio Station Manager" and "Regulator 2."
I don't say any of the above to poke fun at Reitman. He has been married to and presumably slept with Shannon Elizabeth. Just because he played "Freshman" on 90210 doesn't mean he isn't 100 times cooler than I am.
I only bring it up because I'd honestly forgotten Reitman's name. I'd seen him around Vegas and always with Duke. As I struggled in vain to remember the guy's real name, I wondered how Reitman would feel about me Googling him as "Annie Duke's boyfriend."
I had to know, though. I've recently been watching the new-to-me "Sleeper Cell" on DirecTv's 101 network. In this episode, the boozy bitch was about to turn on her boyfriend. That Retiman's "Bar Customer" sealed the deal was almost poetic. That is, he put his career on hold to make sure we would have Shannon Elizabeth as a star. He deserved a little somethin' somethin' for his time.
In fact, he also got Duke in the settlement and that should've been enough. I've heard no rumor of their break-up, so presumably they are happy. I think we all wish them the best.
I'm simply happy I now have Reitman's name locked permanently in my memory. Never again will I think of him as Shannon's ex or Annie's boyfriend. Now, he will be Joe. Or Joseph. Or Mr. Reitman. Or, after the 2009 release of "Radio Free Albemuth," as "Prisoner #1."<-- Hide More
I'm prone to hyperbole. And hyperbole in headlines helps bring readers. Was last night's six overtime marathon between Syracuse and Connecticut the greatest college basketball game ever played? Probably not. But let's take a closer look:More in this Poker Blog! -->
This is where this game is lacking. The quarterfinals of the Big East tournament just can't match the intensity of an NCAA tournament game. In this case, each team was guaranteed a spot in the Big Dance regardless of outcome.
For these teams, however, the stakes were high. It's a pretty intense rivalry and a prime-time game at Madison Square Garden is a big deal for these players. Also, UCONN had lost 4 straight openers in the Big East tourney and wanted this game badly. And Syracuse is working to improve its seeding.
It was big to these teams, but hardly matched the stakes of a National Championship game or even a game like Duke-Kentucky in the East Regional Finals of 1992.
Quality of Teams
UCONN is one of the top 4 teams in the country. They've been ranked #1 twice this year and, despite the loss, I think they'll still be a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney. Syracuse was ranked as high as 8th this year and have already beaten Big 12 champ Kansas, Top 5-ranked Memphis and Florida out of conference.
These are two very good teams playing in the nation's toughest conference. Again, are they Duke and Kentucky from 1992? Not quite. But they can match up with just about anyone in college basketball this season.
That's where this game has an advantage over most others. Only a 1981 game between Cincinnati and Bradley went longer (7 overtimes), but the final score in that game was just 75-73 because that was before the shot clock. Two games in the 1950s also went to 6 overtimes.
This game is more impressive than any of these because of the shot clock. That entire 7 OT game totaled 148 points. Syracuse and UCONN scored a combined 102 points in overtime alone (and 244 total). The shot clock changes everything. Before the shot clock, teams could rest on offense, milking the clock. Now, teams must continue moving, getting just 35 seconds per possession. This 6 OT game was significantly harder on the players than any previous college basketball game ever played.
Record for points scored in OT: 56 (Syracuse)
Record for total points scored in OT: 102
Minutes played by Johnny Flynn: 67 of a possible 70
Total FGs made-attempted: 82-209
Total FTs made-attempted: 64-93
Players who fould out: 8 (four for each team)
This game had it all. UCONN never lead by more than 4 points in regulation. Syracuse lead by 7 points with 4 minutes left, but UCONN came back to tie it with 4 seconds left. Syracuse then hit what appeared to be an amazing buzzer-beating 3 point shot, but after a long review, the refs waved it off.
In the first OT, UCONN lead by as many as four but Syracuse tied it on a dunk at the end. In the 2nd OT, UCONN never lead by more than 2 and just missed a half court shot at the buzzer. In the 3rd OT, lead by 6 with must 2 minutes remaining, but Syracuse hit a three pointer with 10 seconds left to tie it up. In the 4th OT, UCONN again never lead by more than 2 points. In the 5th OT, UCONN lead by three, but Syracuse again tied it.
In the 6th and final OT, Syracuse took the lead on a three pointer on the opening possession. It was their first lead since regulation. They had played 25 minutes of OT basketball without leading once. But after that three, they never looked back, winning by 10 points.
Is it greatest game ever played? Probably not. The closer you are to the game, the more likely you are to overstate it's importance. I doubt this game is remembered 15 years from now like the Duke-Kentucky game of 1992.
In fact, I'd site two other games involving Syracuse in the last 20 years that are more memorable to me. First, the 1996 game against Georgia in the NCAA tournament that included a buzzer-beater at the end of regulation to tie it and a John Wallace 3-pointer at the end of OT to win it. And second, the 2003 Finals when Carmelo Anthony lead my Orange to a title over Kansas.
It was a great, great game. One I will never forget and one that will stand in the record books for a long time. But it's not the greatest game ever.<-- Hide More
The biggest television juggernaut is back. Well, it's been back for weeks, but it only really counts when we get to the Top
12 13. It's been an unusual year so far with lots of changes. We started with 36 instead of 24. We had the judges fill out the final spots of the Top 13 on a wild card show. And this year, the judges will get to save one performer who they feel has been unfairly voted off (see: Hudson, Jennifer and Daughtry, Chris).
In the first week, we said goodbye to Puerto Rico's Jorge Nuñez and diva-in-training Jasmine Murray. Neither will be especially missed, but I was sorry to see Jorge go because he's a better singer than some of those remaining. He had no real chance of winning, though, so it doesn't matter.
So who's the odds-on favorite right now?More in this Poker Blog! -->
His wife died shortly before he decided to try out for Idol meaning that not even the blind guy has a better backstory going for him. On top of that, he's been likeable so far and, since it is a singing competition, the guy is really good. His performance of PYT (it was Michael Jackson week) was solid and Paula has already predicted he'll make the finals. If you can get 5-1 odds or better on this guy, get out the checkbook!
I hate this guy. Detest him. I prefer David Archuletta to this wannabe-punk-rocker-but-should-be-in-musical-theatre chump. I hate just about everything about him. From his shrieking "singing" to his Broadway style stage management. I can't wait for him to go. Have I mentioned I hate him? He seems to have a strong following already, but he's too polarizing to win. He'll last awhile, maybe even to the finals, but he'll rarely pick up the votes from those voted off. Oh, and he butchered Black and White... I had no idea it was possible to make that song worse.
She seems to be the best hope for the women, but I'm not sold. I'm not saying she's not good... because she is. She's definitely got a Mary J. Blige vibe going on, but she's just not dynamic enough. Maybe she will be, but she's not yet. She sang The Way You Make Me Feel and made it boring. I think Top 4 is her limit.
She's the real sleeper out of the women. She's already been much more interesting than Lil and I've liked her performances more. This week, she chose Dirty Diana. Not my favorite, but she mostly pulled it off. She's also a candidate for the Top 4.
I like the guy... but he's going to kill himself by picking bad songs. Beat It?!? Really!?!? Might as well have just taken Thriller and ruined that. It's not that he sang it poorly... it's that there's no way to win with a song like that. Despite the charade at the end of last night's show, I don't believe Anoop was among the lowest vote-getters and DialIdol.com seems to agree.
He, unfortunately, had to follow that jackass, Adam Lambert. And his amazing performance was overshadowed by Lambert's prancing and screaming. Giraud had, in my opinion, the best performance of the night. He's really good. He almost ruined his chance by trying to sing Coldplay in the preliminary round. This time, he crushed Human Nature at the piano. It was great. He won't come close to winning, though, and that's a shame.
He's blind. It doesn't matter how well or poorly he sings, he'll definitely last longer than someone who's better. He's VERY likeable. Even *I'm* rooting for him. But he's a little out of his depth compared to the people above him (except Adam Lambert, who blows). Maybe he'll surprise me, but I think he's pretty limited. His performance of Keep the Faith was okay.
DialIdol.com suggest she didn't do so well with the voters, but I thought she did a very nice job with Give In to Me. She's the most authentic rocker chic of the bunch and she's got great pipes. Oh, and the judges will mention she's 16 a half a million times until she's voted off. Her personality is extremely lacking and that will be her downfall.
Michael Sarver, Megan Joy Corkrey, Kris Allen
Who, who and who? Michael crooned You Are Not Alone. It was boring. He's lame. Megan sang, wait for it, Rockin' Robin. I'm serious. It was terrible. And Kris pulled out his acoustic guitar for Remember the Time. Huh? The guitar was a mistake. It made no sense. All three will be gone in due time, but at least one is likely to last longer than someone better. Maybe that's when the judges will decide to pull out their save card.<-- Hide More
I remember the long nights my father spent at the office, his tired face, and his hours of undone work that we helped him do in the middle of our living room floor. I remember the business trips, the budgets, and the work ethic. Most of all, I remember what he said when I questioned why he worked so hard.
"Making money takes hard work, son. No one can become a millionaire overnight."
Dad was wrong.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Vina del Mar, Chile is not the kind of place an American can get by with just a smile and the word cerveza. The resort communities in Central America have a ready staff of English speakers ready to help fleece American tourists of every dollar they have. Admittedly, the Hotel Del Mar in Vina is a resort just the same, but it's not a resort for Americans. It's where the elite of South America--the Brazilians, the Argentineans, the Colombians--come to relax and play. There's not much call for speaking English. To get by in Vina, I depended on my limited Spanish, the few people I found who spoke enough English to understand me, and, most importantly, a group of friends who are fluent.
Vina is a wondrous place. The Hotel Del Mar, despite being a 5-star resort, refuses to look over its nose at typical Americans like me. As I wrote to my wife upon my arrival, "It's a lot like the place in Monte Carlo without all the pretentious French bullshit."
As a stupid American, I neglected to bring a power adapter for the plugs in Chile. I walked down to the front desk to find a place I could buy one. They told me to go back up to my room. I barely had time to get back to room and close the door before a sweet young Chilean lady was standing there with a free adapter. Later in the week, a restaurant waiter went out of of his way to carry my leftover food back to my room for me. When my key card didn't work, he stood sentry by my sandwich while I went to the front desk and got a new key. It's the little things, you know?
It's the type of thing that can lull a guy--a stupid American with a less-than-stellar grasp on the exchange rate--into a sense of complacency. Add a couple of the local Cristal beers, and it becomes more a sense of "Well, when's the next time I'm going to be in Chile?"
That's how I ended up in the biggest cash game the casino had running.
I'd been trying out a new character in 2009. After several years of playing the tight-aggressive too-serious guy at the table, I'd grown bored and--let's be honest-- unprofitable. Around the underground games, at the friendly home games, and even on the road, I was seen as the guy who took himself too seriously, who took the game too seriously, and who was afraid to play anything but the nuts. It had grown old. I'd experimented with who I'd eventually start calling "Chile Otis" long before I got to Chile, but he was really born that night in Vina del Mar.
I was playing in a no-limit game. The poker room was packed. Only one table was unoccupied and the rest were teeming with crazy, drunk South Americans. We were playing in Chilean pesos, and I hadn't been on the ground long enough to fully understand how much I was playing for. It didn't matter. Based on the people in the game, I knew I wasn't going to get hurt too badly.
That's when a friend appeared over my shoulder.
"We're thinking about getting a bigger game going. You wanna play?" he asked.
Old Otis would've said, "Nah, it's late" and turned back to the table. Old Otis would've asked who was playing, what the stakes were, and whether the buy-in was capped. Chile Otis didn't care about any of these things. Chile Otis is a yes-man. Chile Otis was up and digging in his pockets before the dealer of the new game had even slid into the box.
I started pulling out American hundreds and counting out how much I had. I'd only bought a few hundred bucks worth of pesos when I arrived at the airport.
"No, no," someone said. "You're going to have to go get pesos."
An Aussie friend of mine who had also decided to join the game was in the same situation. He led me to an ATM where I blindly punched numbers until the machine spit out a bunch of bills. I thought I had a decent idea of how much I'd withdrawn, but I didn't take a lot of time to do the math. The game was about to go off and I wanted my seat.
I slid into the four-seat and realized the game was full. I looked around and recognized many of the faces. I slipped into character and slipped half of my pesos to the dealer.
If you've not yet met Chile Otis, you should know he is irresponsible. He raises light more than he should. He three-bets even lighter. He calls re-raises with impunity. He is the very definition of loose-aggressive. In short, he is a donkey. He is the player you are hoping to find at your cash game table at all times. His only redeeming quality is that he is generally a nice guy. For the people who know Old Otis, Chile Otis is frightening. It's as if someone tinkered with my frontal lobe and turned me into something frighteningly stupid and correspondingly dangerous. That is, I could be re-raising you on the river with the nuts or I could be three-barreling with air. Suffice to say, it's always a good idea to call me.
I was setting up the character when I looked two seats to my left.
I could only think, "What is Alex Brenes doing at this table?"
It took all of two orbits to establish myself as the "crazy one." I couldn't raise enough. I couldn't stop betting. I couldn't stop making loose calls. Before I knew it, the entire table was looking at me. Old Otis would've been exceptionally uncomfortable. Chile Otis was eating it up.
Despite it all, it was not lost on me that I was playing in a game in which I was blissfully unaware of the stakes. That I didn't know exactly how much I could be winning or losing was actually helping me play the LAG, a Brenes at the table or not.
After a bit, the dealer stopped pushing me chips and started pushing me what you see below.
The numbers were irrelevant. The fact that I was about to be riffling plaques was not.
After a bit, players started playing back at me and it got a bit tough. I was up so much, though, I was content continuing in the role.
When I came in for a raise with 2d-5d, I expected nothing out of the ordinary to happen. When Brenes re-raised me a fair amount, I didn't think twice about calling. When the flop came K-K-2, I felt like I'd struck gold. Don't ask why, because outside the fog of that room, it doesn't make sense. I just knew I had to bet into him. I did, and he raised all-in. I had him covered, but his stack wasn't insignificant.
I won't try to make this sound like more than it was. I won't try to say I spent five minutes analyzing the hand and pinpointing his range. I won't try to make myself sound like a good player, because I think we all know how quickly such an assertion could be defeated. Simply put, I felt like I was good.
"I call," I said and flipped over my little 2-5. Brenes smiled widely and said something in Spanish. He turned over A-Q off. No pair. He missed his outs and stood up. He turned to me, offered his fist for a bump, and walked out of the room.
I've always thought the Johnny Chan scene in Rounders represented less than the movie suggested. Mike McD bluffing the Orient Express in one hand was more indicative of ridiculous hubris than it was stellar poker play. As Brenes walked out of the room with a wave, I felt like I'd experienced something similar. The moment meant nothing.
And still, I smiled.
The last hand of the night is one I'm not proud of. I came in for a raise with pocket deuces. A frustrated player who had just about enough of Chile Otis' shit pushed all-in. Then my friend in the nine seat called all-in for less. I justified it several different ways in my head and then did what was expected. I called. My deuces were up against the re-raiser's pocket eight's and my friend's pocket sevens.
Deuce on the river.
The game broke, I carried my plaques to the cage, and went to bed.
When I got up the next morning, everybody I knew was ready to talk about the night.
"You!" they said. "I heard about you last night. Pocket deuces! Suck-out artist!"
It went on for the better part of four hours. I knew I had a giant wad of pesos in my pocket, but I had no idea how much it was worth. Out of an abundance of caution, I checked my bank account to see how many dollars I had pulled out the night before.
Five minutes later, I was on the line to my wife explaining that there would be a larger than usual withdrawal from our checking account (I never pull out house money to play). Good thing I did, because the bank called her later to ask what in the hell I was doing making that kind of run on the ATM in a foreign country.
I ran into a corner of the room and started counting my pesos. There were too many to count with any accuracy. Later, I went to my room and laid them all out on my bed. The final count...1.2 million.
I was a millionaire--in Chilean pesos.
Later that night, I actually did the math and realized that being a millionaire in Chile is the equivalent of being able to afford to eat in America. It took a bit of the luster off the giant wad in my pocket. In all, I had cashed out for around $2,000 American. The biggest game in the room in Chile was somewhere between 1/3 and 2/5.
That is, I'd just played the same game I'd play in a Vegas casino, but I'd done it in pesos.
I sort of miss Chile Otis. He's a fun cat, but he gets me in way too much trouble. I still let him poke his head out from time to time, but he has no place in my life. Then again, if you were to look in my pocket right now, you would find something wrapped around my American dollars.
It's a 1,000 peso note.
That, friends, is how a Chilean millionaire rolls.<-- Hide More
Is there better poker television than GSN's High Stakes Poker? If there is, I haven't seen it. While it may lack some of the flashy production value of ESPN's WSOP or the various incarnations of the WPT, it's still better than them all.
Here are 5 reasons why High Stakes Poker is the best poker show on television:More in this Poker Blog! -->
1. We don't know the outcome. When it comes to the WSOP and the WPT, we know who wins these events long before it ever reaches our television screen. Even with the November Nine experiment, I knew the winner a day before it was televised. There's something to be said for actual drama. Poker After Dark is the only other high-profile poker show where the result isn't always known beforehand, but it's no match for HSP.
2. It's real money, and it's big money. I know the WSOP Main Event offers the largest prize in poker, but it's not the same. It's just not the same as watching Barry Greenstein toss a $100,000 brick of cash into the pot. In fact, check out this hand:
It's a million dollar pot between Sam Farha and Patrik Antonius... and they run it FOUR times after getting all in. You just can't get this anywhere else.
3. It's full of big guns. Sure, the other shows and the tournaments get their taste of the top names, but High Stakes Poker features poker royalty: Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu. These are the people who regularly throw around hundreds of thousands of dollars in the world's biggest games, and they're ready to do it for the poker-viewing public. It's fabulous theatre.
4. It's got the best personalities. It's not just about the old guard, it's about the new guard, too. This season features guys like 2008 WSOP champ Peter Eastgate and internet poker and high stakes phenom Tom "Durrrrr" Dwan. In fact, Short-Stacked Shamus has a great post about a fascinating hand involving those two players and Barry Greenstein. No other show gives us a look at both the established pros and the top up-and-coming hot shots.
5. More poker, less other stuff. Very little time is spent doing anything other than showing us hands. It's all action, all the time. Plus, we get to hear an awful lot of the conversation between the players, talking about the hands, or talking about whatever. The announcers are there, but not nearly as intrusive as Norm Chad. Plus, Gabe Kaplan is about as good as they come, in my opinion. He knows the game and he's got a great sense of humor.<-- Hide More
In recent years, it's been pretty difficult to find a movie about Las Vegas that didn't suck. It was nice to luck into one on Netflix this weekend.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Hard Eight was originally called, Sydney and it was Paul Thomas Anderson's first film. Within a year after the film's release, Anderson was famous for his Boogie Nights. (If that's not your cup of tea, you might also recall Anderson's There Will Be Blood).
I went into the movie blind, and I think you should, too. By all means, don't start researching it. Wikipedia is one big spoiler.
Suffice to say, it is a decent flick. It has one of the best performances I've seen from John C. Reilly and Gwyneth Paltrow. Samuel L. Jackson takes a lot from his Jules Winnfield character, but is still pretty damned good. Oh, and it has a very early Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays a young, cocky craps player. Even in a bit part, he still steals the show.
The movie is from a pre-Rounders generation and draws more on the old Vegas we don't see much anymore. It's more about character than plot, but the plot is there and it's not bad at all.
The film has a little bit of poker in it, but barely enough to mention it. It's more about gamblers than gambling.
If you're looking for a decent gambling flick to get you through the crap Hollywood is putting out these days, check out Hard Eight.
(I should point out here... I'd just watched the first act of Appaloosa...which sucked so bad, I would've been happy watching reality TV instead)<-- Hide More
Watchmen opened this weekend. It's apparently a fanboy's dream. I never read the graphic novel (was too busy with baseball cards to get into comics), but I am looking forward to seeing it on the IMAX screen tomorrow morning. For some, Watchmen was was far and away the most anticipated movie of the year... but not for everyone.
Here's a few others I'm excited to see (in order of release):More in this Poker Blog! -->
March 20: I Love You Man
I think Paul Rudd is hilarious.
May 1st: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I may not have been a "big" comic fan, but I've read my fair share, and the X-Men comics were some of my favorites. I also think Hugh Jackman captured the comic spirit of Wolverine about as well as any actor has captured a comic role.
May 8: Star Trek
This one pretty much goes without saying, doesn't it?
May 21: Terminator Salvation
Christian Bale has grown into, perhaps, my favorite actor. It has a lot to do with his role as Batman, but also roles in movies like 3:10 to Yuma.
June 5: Year One
Harold Ramis and Judd Apatow get together to make a movie starring Jack Black? Sign me up!
June 24: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Once again, does this one really need much explanation?
August 7: G.I. Joe
Like Transformer, I grew up with the G.I. Joe cartoon. Although I've heard the liberal wimps have stripped the movie of gold ol' American flag-waving, I'm still excited to see how this turns out.
I'm sure there are some more out there that I'm missing, but this list is a good start of what I'll be watching these next few months. What about you?<-- Hide More
Legal, live poker just got about four or five hours closer to G-Vegas.
Last night, the Harrah's in Cherokee, NC opened up a brand new poker room.
But, wait! There's more. Because of the vagaries of North Carolina law, the room has no live dealers. All the games are played PokerTek automated tables. Of course, in an ideal world, live poker would be live poker, but after not having a legal room here forever, this will do for now.
Word on the street says the room currently has five tables with room for more. Early reports indicate low limit hold'em games running and 1/2 and 2/5 no-limit also going.
Current news can be found below.
Cherokee is a little more than two hours from Greenville, SC, if my memory serves me. Feel confident the G-Vegas boys will be making a run up there soon to check it out.
Now, if South Carolina could just get its head...
Nearly six years ago, we started blogging here as a way to write about our poker game. We played poker this past weekend, but the weekend was more about what you see in the video, as shot and edited by my brother, Dr. Jeff. In it, you will see rock and roll, mass debauchery, and gambling on rickshaw races. Not to mention degeneracy of the first, second, and third order. The video is posted here because everyone in the video and everybody else you don't see in the video met because of poker blogs.That is, in a word, sick. In another word...cool.
You wouldn't know it by reading here, but I am enjoying poker right now more than I have at any point in the past three years. I look forward to it. I play at every chance I give myself. I read poker blogs every day. I think about strategy and record every session in a nifty little iPhone app. My hourly rate is fantastic. In fact, I can look at my phone and see I have played 59 hours and 46 minutes since January 1.
Why so little?
I haven't played a hand of online poker since 2008.
More in this Poker Blog! -->
It seems odd, doesn't it? I'm a guy who has made his living largely off the online poker industry for more than four years. I should be shouting from the rooftops and telling everyone how great online poker is. And you know what? Online poker is great. It's a fantastic way to spend time and an even better way to make money if you're any good. I admire the people who have the time, talent, and determination it now takes to put in the required volume. I even respect the people who can play every once in a while and enjoy it.
Well, I started paying some attention to my playing habits last year. I realized that, while I was working a lot, I also had a couple hours everyday in which I was doing nothing. Guess what I did with those hours? Right on. I played online poker.
Now, this would all be well and good, except for the fact that's what I did with every unused moment. If I wasn't playing with my family or working for the man, I was playing online poker. It wasn't time to play tournaments, but it was time to put in some hours playing Razz. In short, I was killing time and paying rake for it. I also wasn't winning anymore. After four winning years, I couldn't put anything together. I was unfocused and generally not enjoying myself anymore. I had become a losing player and it was embarrassing.
Worst of all, I wasn't accomplishing anything. That was the biggest crime of all. I was losing 15-30 hours per week in an act of gambling masturbation that I wasn't even really enjoying anymore. I wasn't writing. I wasn't getting healthy. I wasn't working on a bunch of undone projects. I wasn't doing anything because I thought, "I don't have time."
And so I quit.
Not permanently, mind you. I love the game and online poker enough that I don't want to give it up forever. Thing is, when I play, I want to play for a reason. I want it to be fun or profitable or a lifestyle or something. I just want it to mean something. I want it to be worth something. Even if it's only recreational, I need it to be worthwhile.
So, my rule was this: until I finish two undone writing projects, I won't play one hand of online poker.
It's pretty amazing what the extra 15-30 hours a week can feel like. I have actually put a lot of work into both projects and accomplished a lot of other stuff I didn't even know I wanted to get done.
Even better, I'm playing live and loving it. I play a weekly game on Monday nights, an occasional home game when out-of-town bloggers come in, and when I'm on the road in South and Central America.
Yes, it's hard not to play online. I miss playing on Sundays and late nights after the wife is asleep. I've been sorely tempted a few times. So far, I've stayed true to my word.
What is going to happen? Who knows. For now, it's working and so am I. That's all I care about for now.
And so it begins. It's called "Up For Poker ...and More" for a reason. As the three of us spend a little less time playing poker and a little more time doing other things, it made sense not to constrain ourselves in a creative box.
Which brings me to Taken. My wife and I saw the Liam Neeson-fueled action flick on Saturday night and we'd recommend to anyone looking for some good old-fashioned movie fun.More in this Poker Blog! -->
Taken is a great example of a movie in which there is a clear difference between the critics and the movie-going public. It's not the first time it's happened, and it won't be the last.
Yahoo! Movies tells us the critics gave the movie a collective "C" while your normal movie watchers have given it an A-. The nearly 50,000 people who have rated the movie on IMDB.com have given it a solid 8 out of 10. While RottenTomatoes.com seems to fall right in the middle, saying the consensus is, "Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise."
That's fair, I suppose, although I give it a little more credit than that. Liam Neeson is very good, bringing a certain amount of gravitas to the role. The rest of the characters have small or even smaller roles, merely there as Neeson moves toward the movie's climax.
I've heard lots of complaints from critics about the preposterous plot and the lack of any real tension. Well, the plot is certainly more plausible than the critically-acclaimed Bourn franchise flicks (which I love) and the tension was enough to silence a mostly-full house for a late Saturday night showing until the final credits rolled.
We're not talking Oscars here. It's obviously not that good of a movie, but it's a lot of fun, and the word-of-mouth has helped carry this movie to the cusp of $100 million. I think Hollywood is a little surprised at that.<-- Hide More