Some more random thoughts

Sunday, March 21st, 2004, 12:14 am

If I needed any more evidence that the life of a professional gambler is not for me, let me introduce my NCAA Tournament bracket into evidence. Everyone (i.e. the basketball intelligensia) picked Manhattan to beat underachieving Florida. I, taking the contrarian (i.e. stupid) view, thought that the Gators were about to make a surprise tournament run. So I picked them for the Elite Eight. And, of course, Manhattan made shoes and a very attractive attache case out of the Gators. Two hours into the tournament I was already screwed.

I picked Charlotte for the Sweet Sixteen. Ah, no, they got beat. Picked Michigan State to go just as far. They didn’t score the last 18 minutes of the second half (so it seemed) and got knocked out. So I’m toast. My yearly foray into the negative EV world of gambling has come and gone. Write the ten bucks off on my taxes.

Then again, lately poker has been a negative EV event. I’m in one of those free-fall variance troughs that makes me wonder when I’ll have a winning session again. My buddy Rick was over watching the games yesterday and I was playing cards at the same time, and I did OK, getting up around $10. We were about to go out to the bar to meet all our working-stiff friends, and before I could log off I was dealt KK. I was playing $1-2 limit, so I re-raised the original raiser and ended up getting re-raised. You can already guess where this is going, so I won’t prolong the story. He had AA and took about $16 off me in one hand. We couldn’t have left just five minutes earlier?

OK, let’s talk about the WPT a bit. I just got done watching the Bellagio tournament, and congrats to fellow-blogger Paul Phillips for winning the title and 1.1 million unimportant dollars. Well, unimportant to Paul, who said during both tournaments that he appeared in that the money didn’t matter to him. I think during the Bicycle tournament Paul said, “Half a million dollars won’t change my life”.

So why did he get together with Mel Judah and agree to chop the 1st and 2nd place money, as was reported in Sports Illustrated and presented on Iggy’s site? If the money didn’t mean anything to Paul, wouldn’t the difference between the first and second place payout conceivably affect Judah’s play? Mel might be too much the tournament veteran to be swayed by a couple hundred thousand dollars, but why take that chance? With the money chopped Judah would have the same goal as Phillips–to win the title, not the money. I’d think you’d want to keep as much pressure on the other guy as possible…unless the money did mean something after all. Don’t get me wrong–I’m sure even Bill Gates would prefer 500 grand to 200, and I’m sure Paul Phillips is a rational human being who likes more of a good thing than less of it. Still, seems a bit odd to me.

More about Mr. Phillips–he wrote that he was watching the Clash of Champions show and was surprised to see his wife in the audience rooting for Juha Helppi. They took some stock footage from another show and edited it into that broadcast, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see his wife (then fiancee) rooting for the Finn. I have to send Paul an email, because I have some friends who are getting married and I want to know what his wife charges to appear in wedding videos. You know, just a simple five-second bit, the bride and groom enter the reception hall, and there’s Kathleen clapping delightedly for the happy couple (heh heh). With all the cash her husband’s won I’m sure her rates are quite reasonable.

Still more about Paul Phillips. What wordsmith came up with his super-original nickname, “”? If I was Paul I’d demand a more creative sobriquet. And definitely not “Mini-Gus”, as Vince Van Patton dubbed him in the most recent show. That deserves a lawsuit, or a punch in the jaw. But “” is just pathetic. I mean, OK, he made a bundle at an Internet company. The best they can come up with is “”? Is isn’t like he invented the Internet (insert Al Gore joke here), it isn’t like he’s the only person on the poker circuit who made a ton of lucre with computers (see Phil Gordon). Phillips either needs to demand the WPT start calling him by his real name only or insist come up with a good nickame. Thing is, a nickname has to develop organically, you can’t just foist one on somebody and hope it sticks. Take me, for example. When your given name is Eugene you’re pretty much open to any other handle that comes along. And so I’m more than happy to be called Mean Gene, or Geno, or just about anything other than Eugene.

OK, North Carolina just lost, and I had them in the Final Four. So I’m righteously screwed. Of course, you pick Florida and Carolina to go far in the tournament you deserve to get squashed.

During the Foxwoods WPT show I was introduced to a new sensation–feeling sorry for Phil Hellmuth. Hoyt Corkins did torture our Philly, didn’t he? If you haven’t seen the show, there was one hand where Phil had J-9 and Hoyt had J-7. A nine popped on the flop, and when Phil bet Corkins raised, hoping to steal the pot. Phil of course called, and when a 7 came on the turn they both checked. Another 7 came on the river, giving Corkins trips and the hand. According to those little WPT popups the odds against runner-runner sevens was 314-1, and Phil got nailed. He bet, was raised, and he called the raise, and when Corkins turned over his hand Phil leapt to his feet, knocking over his chair, and went into a typical rant. I thought it was hilarious that Mike Sexton warned us that a serious whine was in the offing. Made me sit on the edge of my seat.

If you haven’t seen the show, Hoyt Corkins was about the coolest-looking player in WPT history. Big cowboy hat, neat shades…Vince was right, he did look like Yul Brynner in “Westworld”. Not that I remember the movie, but I remember that Yul was dressed all in black. Anyway, he looked cool. Sounded cool, with that lazy Alabama drawl. There was one hand where Hoyt made aces on the flop and Phil made kings, and a miracle king came on the turn, giving Phil a big lead. They both checked, Phil no doubt hoping to trap Hoyt…until a miracle ace hit the river. Phil had to call Hoyt down and lost the pot. Phil took it relatively well, no chairs toppling, and he made some comment that Corkins was really giving it to him (i.e. getting lucky out the ass). Corkins drawled, “You bet on the turn you take it away from me”. And the camera focuses close-up on Phil, his lips drawn in what I can only call a sneer of surprise, and he says nothing back. Good stuff.

Mohammed Ibrahim took second, and what I found odd was the fact that Daniel Negraneu and Ted Forrest were in the audience rooting like madmen. There’s nothing wrong with rooting for Ibrahim, who seems a very decent guy and a great player. No, what I found odd is that Mo and Danny and Ted play in high-stakes games against each other. I find it really weird that guys who spend much of their time trying to take large sums of money away from each other would be such buddies. Well, it’s possible Negraneu and Forrest wanted Ibrahim to win so he’d have a million dollars for them to extract during their cash games. That must be it. Greed > friendship.

OK, I’m tired, I think I’m going to bed. I’m going to try to post more, work on that poker short story I’m writing…just do more writing in general. But after two days of eating way too much, drinking way too much, sitting way too much, I’m exhausted. And it’s not the good kind of exhaustion, when your muscles feel worked and your blood is pumping. It’s the bad kind, when you know that you’ll need to work it off during the next six weeks. But that’s tomorrow. Lots more to write about, lots more to do. Tomorrow.

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