June 15, 2005

Quad Threes

See, yesterday's "San Francisco (Foppert) +260 over Minnesota (Santana)" pick doesn't look so silly now, does it? Of course, silly or not unfortunately it was wrong. Actually, what the hell am I saying? Fortunately it was wrong.

It was nice to see the Twins come up with a clutch hit in a close game for once, because it's been frustrating watching them come up empty in those spots over the last couple weeks. The only bad part about last night's 11-inning win is that Johan Santana got a no-decision. He was a little shaky early, but started cruising after the fourth inning and ended up with the following line for the game:

 IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR
8.0 6 3 3 2 7 1

I was a little surprised that Ron Gardenhire didn't let Santana come back out for the top of the ninth inning at 102 pitches, but I agree with his decision to turn things over to a rested bullpen at that point. And, as usual, the bullpen was great. Juan Rincon, Joe Nathan, and Jesse Crain combined for three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit, and Crain picked up the win when Shannon Stewart singled home Michael Cuddyer with the winning run.

Crain is now 6-0, despite pitching a total of just 26 innings in 28 appearances, and two of his wins have come when Santana started. The Twins are 11-3 with Santana on the mound, but Santana is "only" 7-2. Now, I'm the last person in the world to get worked up over wins and losses, especially when the team has won 80% of his starts, but the lack of wins will inevitably hurt Santana's Cy Young candidacy.

In fact, I saw a poll on ESPN.com the other day that asked, "Who will win the American League Cy Young?" The sad part was that there were five pitchers listed as choices and Santana wasn't even one of them. The idea that Santana hasn't been one of the top five pitchers in the AL this year is silly, of course, but that won't matter come voting time.

I'd hate to see Santana toss 230 innings with a 3.00 ERA and 270 strikeouts, and end up third in the voting because he has a dozen no-decisions and Crain has a dozen wins. On the other hand, Santana was just 4-4 with a 4.84 ERA after 14 starts last year, so it's probably safe to say he's not exactly out of the running.

Aside from Crain improving to 6-0, the most amazing stat from last night's game is that Joe Mauer stole his fourth base of the season. Despite being a catcher with the second-most-talked-about surgically repaired knee in baseball and a recent groin injury on top of it, he has more steals than Stewart and the same number as Lew Ford. To which I say ... STOP RUNNING JOE!

Now, for a report on yesterday's live poker outing ...

Every time I play live poker, I find myself wondering why exactly I am there, rather than just playing online. There are so many advantages to playing online that it seems silly not to, yet there is something continuously appealing to me about driving somewhere and waiting on a list for an hour to play at a slow pace with weird people.

After about two hours at the table and with a few callers in front of me, I limped in with pocket threes and saw a couple callers behind me. The flop came 3-3-5, giving me my first four-of-a-kind ever at a live game. It was checked around to me and I checked, figuring the five on the board didn't really give anyone a chance to make a decent hand that I could make some money from.

The turn was an eight, with no flush draws on the board. Again, not much chance for someone to think they made a decent hand, so I checked and hoped someone behind me would bet. They didn't, and the river bought an equally useless ten. I obviously had to stop checking at that point, so I bet out and watched everyone but one woman fold. She called, flipping over ace-high, and I sheepishly showed my quads.

I am convinced now that I played the hand horribly, because slow-playing in a multi-way pot with an extremely loose table is silly. Doing it on both the flop and the turn is just stupid. However, I am unsure if even the one caller would have come along had I bet out at any point, because part of the reason why she called with ace-high on the river was that no one had shown any sign of strength until that point.

No matter how I played it, I don't think I was going to get much more than a couple bets out of the table. That was basically the way the whole day went, as I got very few good cards and connected with even fewer flops. The rare times I did hit something, no one gave me any action. I spent the whole day floating between being about $25 up and $25 down. Then I found myself in a very interesting hand.

With the button in front of me and two limpers already in the pot, I limped with pocket eights. The small blind folded, the big blind checked, and we went four-handed to the flop. It came 3-3-8, giving me a full house, eights over threes. I played it slow on the flop, simply calling a bet in front of me, and then sprang into action with a raise when the turn brought a harmless six.

That narrowed the field down to me and an elderly gentleman sitting to my right who had been playing about 90% of the hands all day while complaining about his "bad luck." A seven came on the river, and we started raising and re-raising. When a pot is heads up on the river, the raises are unlimited. At some point, after re-raising him several times and being re-raised right back, I said, "Hold on, now I have to study this board."

I looked at it, and couldn't fathom what he was holding. He had limped in, simply called on the flop, called on the turn, and then called a re-raise on the turn. No sign of aggression at any point, even when re-raised on a street with "big" bets. It seemed like the seven on the river -- which didn't make a flush -- must have really helped him.

So, I figured he must have made a straight. Perhaps 9-10? Or maybe even 4-5? I mean, what else could he be raising and re-raising with on a 3-3-8-6-7 board? Maybe he even had pocket sevens, in which case he rivered himself into a lesser full house. Well, I found out after finally putting an end to the re-raising simply out of curiosity.

Pocket threes.

Those two hands are essentially yesterday's live poker experience in a nut shell. I limp in with pocket threes, flop quads, and make less than I wasted tipping dealers all day. The guy next to me limps in with pocket threes, flops quads, and makes a small fortune when the jackass to his left keeps re-raising into him with a full house.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Carrying The Load (by Craig Burley)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)

Today's Picks (54-49, +$245):
Cincinnati (Harang) +175 over Boston (Arroyo)

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