May 12, 2005


You know the drill by now ...

  • This year's World Series of Poker begins next month, which means I've been watching re-runs of the 2004 WSOP on ESPN for nearly an entire calendar year. I can't get enough of the episodes, watching each one multiple times and some probably at least a dozen times. Someone was even kind enough to send me an unaired copy of the Kansas City Lowball tournament, which I watched like the Zapruder Film.

    Anyway, I was watching Final Table With Fossilman, which is the last episode of the Main Event with some DVD-style commentary from champion Greg Raymer, for the third or fourth time Wednesday, and I heard something that shocked me. In telling a story about his early poker career, Raymer said something like, "When I was going to school in Minnesota ..."

    Sure enough, I did a little Yahooing (I think people say they "Googled" something even when they used another search engine, and that doesn't seem fair), and found the following on Raymer's Wikipedia page:

    A graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School ('92), he no longer works as a lawyer but still resides in Stonington, Connecticut with his wife and daughter.

    We've all heard that old cliche about how you learn something new every time you see/hear/read something, but how is it even remotely possible that I watched Raymer on TV dozens of times for an entire year, read dozens of articles about him, and saw dozens of interviews with him, and yet never heard that he went to school at the University of Minnesota until just now? Amazing. And then you know what happened? I quickly realized that I didn't really care all that much.

  • Sadly, if someone from the University of Minnesota is going to win the WSOP this year, it's not going to be me. I played in a "WSOP Qualifier" tournament the other night, where the winner of approximately 450 entrants would receive a paid entry into the $10,000 Main Event at the 2005 WSOP. It was long odds, but the entry fee was a large amount of my "frequent player points" rather than any actual money, and who knows what might happen, right?

    Normally I lay fairly low in the early going in tournaments, but this one was only giving a prize for first place, so I figured I would be aggressive from the very beginning and take risks in an effort to either build up a huge chip stack or get knocked out immediately. Well, my aggression was working, and I had built a pretty big stack by the time the field was narrowed to around 200 players. Then all hell broke loose.

    Twice in the span of 20 hands I was dealt pocket queens. Both times, there was a single raise in front of me, and both times I re-raised to a significant amount of chips. Facing a re-raise, my opponent pushed all-in both times and I, not being nearly good enough as a player to lay down queens pre-flop unless someone almost literally bashes me over the head and tells me they have aces, called. The first time my opponent turned over pocket aces. The second time my opponent turned over pocket kings.

    I went from being in the top dozen spots to having barely enough to cover the blinds for a round, all in the span of about 15 minutes. And that's how my dreams of playing in this year's WSOP ended. The funny thing is that before I went on a prolonged poker losing streak, I actually had thoughts of taking my winnings and simply buying into one of the lesser events. But after the losing streak (or during it, since it's not over by a long shot), I was stuck using my frequent player points to get into a 400-person crapshoot for a seat.

    I guess I'll have to wait another year to fulfill my lifelong dream of meeting Norman Chad.

  • Jay Lovinger, who writes incredibly disappointing poker columns on a marginally regular basis for, is seeking someone to back him for the $10,000 Main Event at the WSOP. Normally I would wonder why in the world someone would possibly back a player like Lovinger, who is certainly far from a good bet to "cash" in the tournament, but the fact is that if I thought I could get someone to back me I'd write an article trying to find that person too.
  • Bill Simmons returned from taking time off for the birth of his first child to do a "chat" on Wednesday. My favorite part:

    Ray (Boston): If there's a movie about the 2004-2005 NBA Playoffs, do you think Jim Carey would sign on to play rick carlisle? He would be the best casting job since Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.

    Bill Simmons: That's a good one. We could have Ron Jeremy as Stan Van Gundy, Tom Skeritt as Mike D'Antoni, Noah Emmerich as Greg Popovich, Jada Pinkett Smith as Avery Johnson and Corky from Life Goes On as Doc Rivers.

    Also, let me join the many devoted Simmons fans in saying to Bill that we are very happy about the birth of your daughter, but happier that you can now get back to pumping out 50,000 words a week for us to read on the toilet.

  • I am not a comic book fan in any way and I have never heard anything about Sin City that isn't related to the movie, but I finally watched it over the weekend and loved it. It is visually stunning, the ensemble cast is pretty amazing, and I wanted it to keep going when the final credits started to roll (which is the highest compliment someone can give a movie, I think). And, of course, it didn't hurt that it had Jessica Alba playing a stripper.

    My favorite line from the movie came from Bruce Willis' "Hartigan":

    Skinny little Nancy Callahan. She grew up. She filled out.

    Mickey Rourke was pretty incredible in a very unique role, although just slightly less incredible than the scene where we first meet Carla Gugino's "Lucille." If you've seen the movie, you surely know what I mean. And lest anyone think I'm a Johnny come lately, because I was on the Gugino bandwagon from way back.

  • The Daily Show had a hilarious feature the other night on blogs and their sudden popularity on cable "news" channels. My favorite line: "By reading the blogs on TV, the 24-hour cable channels have combined the visual pizzazz of a text file with the deep insight of a 90-second cable segment." Jeff Jarvis has a nice recap and a link to the video over at his blog, Buzz Machine.
  • And finally, some good articles to check out: Steve Rosenbloom (and Barry Greenstein) on how many truly "great" poker players there are ... Jason Whitlock on race and the NBA MVP vote ... Pat Borzi of the New York Times on Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau ... Rob Neyer on throwing strikes and the Minnesota pitching staff.
  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Snapshots: September 8, 1940 -- Fenway Park (by John Brattain)
    - Fantasy Report: 5/13/05 (by Ben Jacobs)

    Today's Picks (32-21, +$1,175):
    Texas (Drese) +130 over Minnesota (Mays)
    Boston (Gonzalez) -110 over Seattle (Pineiro)

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