|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, December 03, 2005
In my addled and pre-occupied head on Thursday, I think I screwed up some numbers on the horse racing post. 2-1 odds mean you get paid $3 for every $1 bet when you win, which means your expectation is that the horse will win 33 times out of 100, not 50 out of 100 as I stated. So adjust what I said to read "Even Money" instead of "2-1" and "3-2" instead of "5-2," and we're good. And I feel better. And I'm a retard anyway, so there you go.
Friday, December 02, 2005
· You know how spam emails will often have someone else's name in the subject line, as if this somehow personalizes the email just enough so we don't think it's spam? I got one this morning with a great dummy name in the subject, and I demand that everyone immediately address me by the following nickname from this point forward: ELWOOD KONG.
· Wicked Chops has an obituary for Oddjack up today. Chops my good man, I'll toast one to you tonight. Thanks for the support, and thanks for being one of the few who both "got it" and "linked it."
· I've decided I'm willing to accept further advertising on this blog from purveyors of the following products: American Spirit Cigarettes, Southern Comfort, Imported Cured Meats, the Veal Industry, Blue Note Records and any Las Vegas-based Casino. Not only will I accept a big fat fucking banner ad that blinks and puts spyware on your computer, but I'll do it for - in the words of Fat Sam in Fletch - "free junk." I'll even deep throat a Prosciutto hock on a web cam and turn it into an animated GIF if it's possible to convert just one more person to Parma's great gift to society. Oh, that's not what you meant by "food porn?"
· Ever get to that point where you've bought so many books that you're completely paralyzed as to what to read next? So instead of making a decision, you just continue to look at porn on the Internet? I know some of you know what I'm talking about.
· What's the better feeling? Walking in to your cube first thing and the voicemail light isn't lit? Or having plenty of time to sit quietly and type on a Friday afternoon because you haven't received an email in over two hours?
· I'm going to make it a goal to be published by one (semi-)legitimate horse racing publication in the next twelve months. And if not? I can still claim I'm published as a freelance writer thanks to Truckin'.
· I'm nearly done with Christmas shopping. My step-sister needs a gift, so does my dad. I have something for Bob I have to add to, and I think that's a wrap. I really hope there's still those "...and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" shops in Vegas.
· I work near a Human Resources recruiter who is trolling the waters for someone with a certification that is pronounced (but not spelled) exactly like my last name. Assuming Bobby Bracelet and I were issuing certifications, you'd have to pass a four-panel sarcasm test, prove you can play ego for humor, and take a family dinner from "good time had by all" to "little brother runs from room crying" in under eleven minutes. Seriously, who doesn't like fried calamari?
· Someone, for the love of god, explain to me how Arrested Development gets yanked from Fox. Actually, don't. Kind of like my "marriage," I'd like to think I didn't waste nearly two years of my life getting emotionally invested in something that everyone but me seemed to know was doomed from the jump.
· Matty and I are resurrecting the head-to-head last longer bet we had for the PokerStars (Bonus Code: TAOPOKER - and I'm totally unbiased when I say you should play there all the time) Blogger Championship. It's a best-of-seven bet that works like this: I'll propose a pairing, Matty will get the pick of the two (leaving me the other), and then he'll propose a pairing on which I'll take my pick. We each get three, the tiebreaker is our personal heads-up. The teams (my horses in bold and listed first):
Spaceman vs. Joe SpeakerThen, we each made three "win" bets, where if our horse comes in first, we're drinking free all day Sunday. Our picks:
The Quicker Picker Upper
I figured out what my bounty is going to be for next Saturday's tournament. Not an easy decision, mind you. Gracie suggested I go with food, since I love it so much. However, Prosciutto wasn't going to keep, and Zingermans gift certificates don't get you very far online. Daddy, among others, suggested a bottle of wine. I didn't want to carry one with me, so that's out.
So, you're getting some quality items for busting me on the final table bubble. From my archives:
Quincy Troupe was scheduled to lecture on campus that very afternoon.Yes, you're getting my autographed copy of Weather Reports, signed by an exasperated black poet in the face of an idiot white kid. You're also getting my favorite CD Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, as well as my favorite book, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I'll even sign the book if you want me to. I figure if you don't like the poetry, at least the story is marginally entertaining.
On a side note, I just clicked into the Amazon link for Troupe's book, and found the following review (caps lock is his problem, not mine):
I AM A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT WHO MET WITH Mr. Quincy Troupe ONEON ONE TODAY. I LOVE IN STAMFORD CONNECTICUT AND I GO TO WESTHILL HIGHSCHOOL. MR TROUPE CAME TO MY SCHOOL TO TELL US ABOUT HIS LIFE AND HIS ART. HE HAD A SPECIAL ATITUDE ABOUT HIM THAT I ENJOYED. HE WAS DOWN TO EARTH YET SO SPACY AND MYSTERIOUS. I REALLY ENJOYED HIS POEMS AND I HAVE RUN OUT TODAY AND BOUGHT HIS BOOKS. HE IS A VERY TALENTED MAN AND HAS A SPECIAL GIFTLooks like I'm not the only one that made an ass of himself in front of Q...
Topics I Really Meant To Blog Over My Oddjack-Induced Hiatus
· Ruminations on kicking the crutches out from under Daunte Culpepper after he ruined my fantasy team
· I really like this new sweater I bought
· Did I somehow catch leprosy? This girl I knew fifteen years ago acted kinda like I was contagious this weekend
· I still don't know what I'm doing with pocket Jacks
· You should be watching Kitchen Confidential and Arrested Development
· Only 93 more days until Vegas!
· In case you hadn't figured it out, "Langston" = "BG"
· I'm quitting Oddjack
· Wait, no I'm not
· Pancetta is overrated
· Why Gracie's boyfriend, two Manhattans, a brief ride in the car, and 105 degree heat in South Carolina don't mix
· Can I make a lane change without you attempting to pass me the instant I've moved?
· Seriously, can I have a bowl of ice cream in July without swallowing half a bottle of Immodium?
· I hit a home run in Little League once
· Only 47 more days until Vegas!
· Why isn't Shakira one of the five most famous women in entertainment?
· Crystal Bernard and Steve Guttenberg? Set your TiVo!
Ninety-Nine Problems, And An Ad Ain't One
First off, just a quick word of thanks to all my friends who offered a quick "that sucks" when OJ went under. I'll have more to say on this later (and none of it will be shitting on AJ or Gawker, this was a good experience), but seeing as I tried to quit in September, I consider October and November basically just free money, and December to now be the Month of BG. So that doesn't suck, right? On that note, those that mentioned that "at least I'll have more time to write to my own blog" get some thanks too. That's flattering, and yes I'll take advantage of that and try to rekindle the spark I've been missing for awhile now.
So today, I'm going old school. I'm at work, I've got Notepad up, and when I've got a few minutes to spare, I'll knock out a few sentences here and there. Deal?
One of the hallmarks of this poker blogger community is we've been thankfully (almost totally) free of bullshit attitudes and trollish behavior. Unfortunately, at this point we seem to have landed someone in our midst that might be our breakout dickhead.
I don't know where this behavior comes from, really. Maybe it's a natural outcropping of those early/mid twentysomethings who grew up in the message board culture where everyone's defensive and ready to assume the worst in people the moment something quirky flies across their radar. See, the thing is, in the message board culture you're going to find a half dozen people to scream the same criticisms you're shouting, and you're going to create enough noise to get your point across.
Not with us.
We're not above critical thinking and opinions that clash with the current groupthink. Hell, this is poker we're talking about. There's not usually a single right answer to any question you want to ask. Where we start to run into problems is not at all whatsoever with your opinions, just so we're straight on that. The problem is the underlying attitude and the slight undermining of trust you're engaging in prior to meeting all of us for the first time.
If you wanted to snipe at members of our group from the outside, feel free. Just don't expect to be embraced and play our little reindeer games. Where we start to run into issues with you is that you've signed up for WPBT events, and you complain. You book Vegas and want to play in our tournament, but are engaging in some sort of alienation campaign to make sure everyone knows ahead of time what a shitty time you'll have with an assorted group of hammer-dropping filthy shills you don't trust and won't read anyway. So fuck us then, right?
I was talking to someone last night who was wondering if we shouldn't just rescind the invite to the IP tournament next Saturday. I said "no." Let him play. If he comes and has a crappy time, whose fault is that? If he comes and makes no friends, whose fault is that? If he washes his own ass right the hell out of this accommodating and welcoming group of people, whose fault is that? He has pissed off the guy setting the whole thing up, true. But we've always been a community that embraces the new people. The Vegas trip never had a closed invitation list. Not last December, not this June, not now. If you want to be a part of what we're doing, just try not to shit where you eat, alright?
The latest gripe by this guy is pretty ludicrous, and reminds me of the one blogger on the periphery of our community with whom I have a beef (Pundit). As a matter of fact, it wouldn't shock me in the least if this guy is actually that guy, just under a new name. That's very likely not true, but there are some stylistic similarities. Like the high horse. Here's a quote from his anti-advertising rant:
Some poker bloggers are pretty bad about this, posting a lot of banners on their site and asking readers to wade through them to get to the content. Some even go as far as including ads in their RSS feeds. Many post messages talking about sites they play while including affiliate bonus codes — one can’t really get a good feel for honesty of reviews with these types of posts.Emphasis mine on the "weed out" comment. His blog roll currently contains Paul Phillips. Period. Some roll. Were he willing to link people up on a roll, I'd link him up here. Forget that though, you're not missing anything by not clicking in to his site.
His comments on that post feature BONUS CODE TN_SPACEMAN and AFFILIATE SHILL AL CAN'T HANG making their cases for the bloggers who accept ads. There's a salient point that's missing from both their arguments, however:
PART OF BEING PERSONAL AND INDIVIDUAL ON A BLOG IS ALLOWING YOUR BIAS AND OPINIONS TO PERMEATE YOUR WRITING.
Are we supposed to be journalists here? Do you really think that when you land on my page you'll get content devoid of opinion (My ex-wife is a lazy lying cheaty-cheater. Discuss.)? Is Instapundit impartial? He's one of the most well-known bloggers out there, does his having a blog mean that - in your book - he shouldn't fellate the President because he should be above that sort of shilling?
There are plenty of reasons to avoid certain blogs, and shameless shilling belongs on that list. But there's a fundamental difference between a spam-blog and a guy who is in a position to accept a couple of banner ads. Here's a thought - don't click an advertiser's link or sign up to a site using an affiliate code. Ever. Don't support the advertisers if you don't want to. But don't discount the content for those of us who have been approached and are in a position to scratch out a couple bucks a month with the support of an advertiser.
By the way, by your logic the following sites should now be Talibanned from your RSS aggregator, and should never be visited for their nefarious ad-based bias: ESPN, CardPlayer, CNN, your local newspaper, Weather.com, and every-fucking-other commercial website out there, including thousands of terrific and engaging blogs who take an ad or two.
My very first ad in the three plus years I've had a blog was for Full Tilt, which you'll see in my right-hand sidebar. I wouldn't accept a deal for five times the amount FTP is paying from Noble Poker or Titan or Empire for a few reasons. One, I don't play at those sites and don't believe you should be either. Two, I believe that if a poker site has their fingers on the pulse of what their players want, they'll pay attention and deliver. We've seen that with bloggers hired by FTP and PokerStars, both sites are rolling out new stuff that interests serious poker players. Three, I want Otis and Hank and Hanel and (yes, even) Rini to work for spots that are making money, to have long-term employment doing something they love, and I wish to do whatever I can to keep them in positions of influence with those companies. These guys will improve your online poker experience, period. If it's not with their blog content (which it is), it'll be with their suggestions to Lee Jones and Howard Lederer. These sites "get it," and I want a good experience playing online poker. To wit:
PartyPoker: We're the big boys on the block, we're just here to make money for our shareholdersI'm not the least bit impartial about all this. You should be playing at FTP. You should be playing at Stars. Period, point blank.
That statement, by your logic, means that I am a worthless shill who writes nothing worth listening to, so why bother? I may not have even a minimum of self-esteem most of the time, but on that point alone I know you're wrong. Fuck respecting your opinion on this one, you're dead-ass wrong, and I'm not interested at all in hearing a justification. Your opinion is valid, but it's dirt-fucking-dumb. On another (unrelated?) topic, Astroglide's on sale at Amazon today. Just FYI.
No one's asking you to love every poker blog out there. Hell, there are plenty that are patently unbearable. But no one's asking you to come play with us. You've got the same offer everyone else has - you're either going to be a valuable and contributing member of this community, or you should just stay on the outside looking in. Your choice.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Horse Racing Axioms
I'm flattered that a few of you are interested in playing some horses with me in Vegas. I'm not an expert at this stuff, but have done enough research and have enough real-world
· Every horse entered into a race has some chance of winning
That chance may, in fact, be zero. But the fundamental approach to handicapping is to decide what chance a horse has to win, how that compares with his current and expected price, and whether that difference represents a value play.
· Finding value likely means playing numbers that appear more slim than they are
Let's look at a couple of scenarios:
Assume you feel strongly about Poppa's Mustache in the third at Mountaineer. You believe that he deserves a fair price of 2-1 on the oddsline, which likely makes this horse a post-time favorite. You look at the odds near closing and they're steady at 5-2.
In the third, you're getting 2.5-1 instead of 2-1, while the spread on the fourth appears to be giving you ten points. It seems intuitive that you'd pass on Poppa's Mustache and jump all over Gloo Factory, but you'd be wrong.
If you believe Poppa's Mustache is a 2-1 shot, that means you believe he can win this race 50 times out of 100. 5-2 means the crowd thinks he's only going to win this race 40 times out of 100. That's basically a 10 race insurance policy at that price. Gloo Factory's 10-1 gives him ten wins out of 100, and the board price of 20-1 means that other bettors only want to give him credit for five wins. Your margin for error on this value judgement in the fourth is not only larger (by nature of playing a longshot in the first place), but skinnier at the same time.
If you feel good about your number of 2-1 on Poppa's Mustache, that extra .5-1 you're getting on the oddsline seems like an insignificant number, considering the win payout on your bet is only an extra dollar for every two you bet (as opposed to Gloo Factory paying an extra $20 for every two), but that ten race insurance policy is too good a deal to pass up. And an extra dollar is still an extra dollar.
· For every horse, there's an appropriate race that fits his skills
Kind of like boxing, horses enter races based on class. In every race, a horse is either running above, below, or right at the perceived level of his competition. The Daily Racing Form's past performances will clue you in. Look at a horse's last 12 months (or more) of racing. Based on the conditions of the race he's due to run, you'll be able to trace his path back to determine whether today's field is a good level of competition for him. For example, if a horse was running million dollar stakes races all across the country, and all of a sudden turned up at your shitty local track for a $50,000 Allowance race, you'd likely be right to assume that stakes horse is going to smoke the field. Rarely, however, do you see such a pronounced step in class. You'll see small steps up if a horse seems to be peaking, small steps down if he's on the decline, or maybe a long history of being competitive at the same level.
Class is important, but so is distance and surface. Sprinters don't usually do well in routes. Routers don't usually do well versus sprinters. A horse that's used to running on the grass should be discounted on the dirt, and vice versa. You've got to look at what the horse has been doing as a predictor to what he will do once the gates open. If you see a horse that's been tearing it up in $8,000 Claiming races at 1.25 miles on the turf, and all of a sudden he's running a $10K Claimer over five furlongs on the dirt? He's probably not primed to run his best race.
· For every horse, there's a scenario in which he is capable of delivering his best effort
Obviously, there are some easy scenarios to look for right away. Is the turf race being moved to the main track? Does the horse run well on sloppy surfaces? That's the simple stuff. Then there's pace handicapping.
Pace handicapping involves looking at the way the race is likely to shape up, and predicting how that will influence which horses have a good chance to win. For example, a couple of times this fall we've seen a trainer with a very good deep closer (back-of-the-pack runner who can turn it on late) enter a "rabbit" in a Stakes race in order to improve his closer's chances to win. The "rabbit" will jump out to a huge lead early and try to draw the other front-running horses into a blistering early pace they can't possibly maintain. As the front of the pack weakens, the deep closer should be able to come from the back of the pack to win.
Pace handicapping is fairly difficult, and full of assumptions, but at a minimum you should look to see how horses like to run and how the race sets up for them. If a horse is a strong speed horse, but draws post position ten, is there going to be too much inside speed for him to find the rail before the first turn? Does the speed set up for a deep closer, or does it almost rule that closer out? Horses don't run alone on the track timed by a stopwatch to see who's fastest. Sometimes the apparent fastest horse in the race is going to have a difficult time making the money, and it'll usually be a pace scenario that does him in.
· At the end of a race, it's either smart money feeding on the dumb, or lucky money feeding on the smart
When you cash a winning ticket, you're actually cashing into a piece of the betting pool for that wager on that race, less the (20%-ish) cut the track keeps for themselves. That means you're competing for the dollars of everyone playing that race across the country. You either need to be better than the average gambler (20%-ish better at that), or way luckier. Which leads me to my next point...
· The bigger the handle, the smarter the money
Generally speaking, the big boys play at the big tracks. They play the big races, and bet big money. What does that mean for you? A couple of things, really. If you're playing Churchill Downs' card on a Thursday, you're likely to face a higher percentage of professional horseplayer dollars than if you played Beulah on a Saturday. If you have to be smarter than the rest of the money by 20% just to break even, why do you want to play against better horseplayers than you? Also, with smarter money than you showing up at the windows, what are the chances you're going to find value? If the money is smarter, the prices should edge closer to actual odds, right? So if you're not smarter, and you're not finding value, why are you betting Aqueduct on a Thursday?
This is why I like to play the small tracks. There's still smart money out there, but the chances I'm going to find an opportunity worth chasing are exponentially higher.
· The morning line odds mean nothing
Morning line odds are nothing more than some guy's guess as to where the oddsline is going to fall once the horses spring from the starting gate. It is the biggest fallacy of the beginning horseplayer to assume these numbers mean anything at all. True, if you see a horse with a 3-1 morning line at 6-1 with two minutes to post and he manages to cross the line first, you're going to feel like you did something right - but that's not the case. The betting public has made that horse 6-1 for a reason. It's your job to figure out why, and to decide if that number represents value, accuracy, or an underlay.
· Exotic wagers are for gamblers, or strategic approaches to beating a favorite
There is nothing wrong with going to the track with the intent to gamble. Just don't expect to win. I've learned the hard way that Exactas and Trifectas are extremely difficult to hit, and are wagers that should generally be avoided unless you've got solid strategy behind them. Win bets, and win bets alone are the way to go for anyone trying to get their feet under them as a handicapper. Why? Because the oddsline is posted and updated on a moment-to-moment basis, and it's easier to handicap value comparing your odds to win versus the board, as opposed to trying to figure out mentally what sort of chance three horses out of twelve have to cross the line one-two-three, and if the price that pays makes any sense at all. Oh, and Show bets are for pussies.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Xmas Music Throwdown
I don't hate Christmas. Really. I just get a little grinchy about the music. Every two-bit "Lite Rock" station in the quad-county area started in on the all-Xmas all-the-time format as soon as the sun went down last Thursday, which is fine if you've been missing Nat King Cole for the last eleven months.
I haven't. I don't miss Jose Feliciano's goofy-ass Spanish warblings, I don't miss hearing my dad say - for the umpteenth time - how much he likes Bing and Bowie crooning together, and I sure as hell don't miss "Jingle Bell Rock."
Somewhere in my fourth ring of hell there'll be a Sisyphian driveway to shovel, an egg nog enema, mayonnaise finger sandwiches, and my iPod stuck on an endless "Jingle Bell Rock" loop. I deserve this fate, it's my destiny.
I don't hate Christmas. I hate the same three dozen songs over and over again for the next month.
So I've decided... I'm taking back the season. I have assembled an enviable collection of Christmas music, but music on my terms. I will load my iPod, I will bring my speakers, and I will shut Burl Fucking Ives up once and for all.
What constitutes an "enviable collection" of Christmas music? I've purchased somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen CDs to load in to the iPod, with a distinct focus on jazz and blues. I believe the content veers towards originality, as the song count contains less than 50% of what you'd recognize as "standards." And I think I've skillfully avoided both "Jingle Bell Rock," as well as its bastard cousin "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Here's a capsule look at some of the albums I've picked up:
· The Jethro Tull Christmas Album - It's about time. Have you ever had one of those where-have-you-been-my-whole-life sorts of feelings? I did yesterday, rummaging through the Xmas music at Barnes and Noble. Before you start snickering at me, this is "Fat Man" Tull. This is Songs From The Wood style folk-rock, heavy on the acoustic guitars and, of course, flute. Tull is the perfect rock band to pull off Xmas music, and I'm geeked I found this in the racks yesterday. Amazon's reviewers dig it too.
· The Alligator Blues Christmas Collection and Genuine Houserockin Christmas - You can't not love Chicago blues music, and Alligator Records waves the banner high. You get Chicago blues legends like Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, C.J. Chenier, and my favorite, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials. Across two discs you get two standards (Elvin Bishop's take on "Drummer Boy," and Charlie Musselwhite's "Silent Night"), and such classics as "Back Door Santa," and "Christmas on the Bayou." Screw that slow-ass crooner shit, this is music to get nogged to (if that's your bag, baby).
· Jingle Bell Jazz - The "standards" quotient is heavy here, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make for McCoy Tyner, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, and the one Xmas cut Miles Davis managed to do.
· Christmas '64 - Jimmy Smith and his funky-ass Hammond organ throw down on Xmas classics, and it's a groovier world because of it.
· A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra and The Sinatra Christmas Album - Surprisingly little crossover between the two albums, the Jolly album is regarded as his best Xmas effort, the other more a compilation. Good stuff, and you've got to mix in something that sounds closer to what the elderly are used to, or the WNIC (W-Nice!) bullshit gets put back on the radio.
Assuming I can commandeer the musical selection at the various family gatherings on the calendar, I think I just might be able to preserve my sanity. Maybe. Just a little.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Tell Me How Bad Of A Play This Is...
Late in a $6 two table SNG on FTP, top four get tournament chips. I'm second in chips with $3,800, chip leader has $5,500. Blinds are 150/300, eight players remain at the table. The chip leader is UTG and limps.
I've got AA UTG+2. I min raise to 600. There are five players between us, including four that have $1,800-$1,300 in chips. My reasoning for the min raise is to try to entice a player between us, who's desperate to chip up and sees some action, to do my raising for me.
No one does. Of course, he's got a low pocket pair, catches his set on the flop, and lets me hang myself.
How bad is that min raise? Is my logic terrible?
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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