Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Perspective

We buried my grandfather earlier today. Joe was 90 this year, a veteran of WWII and the first person that got me interested in cards. While we never played poker together, we played just about every other card game invented. I grew up playing Hearts, Spades, Euchre, Gin and many other card games around the kitchen table largely because of my grandfather's love of card games. He would have been a damn good poker player. He taught me how to finesse with cards and how to set-up future plays. While we did not see eye to eye on many things in life, we bonded through card games and I am grateful for that.

A funeral can really bring perspective into your life. It is a good time to step back and really assess where you are in your life and your relationships. On average we only have about 85 years on this planet and we really need to make each day count.

Thanks -- Grandpa Joe.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Has Integrity Really Died?

As many of you know I am an Illinois Alumni and a huge college basketball fan. With all Illini basketball fans, I am appalled and disappointed by Eric Gordon's decision today to decommit from Illinois in favor of Indiana.

My disappointment is not so much in losing a top recruit (although that does hurt), but the manner in which the decision was made. In college basketball a verbal commitment has always been sacred. Unless a coach was fired, I cannot remember another example of a recruit decommiting from a verbal at a top program.

By decommiting at this late date, Gordon has left Weber and the Illini with no possibility of finding a replacement. He mislead the coaching staff for 8 months that he remained committed to attending Illinois while other top recruits committed to other programs.

In the end, Weber is a class act and Illinois has a top basketball program and we will survive. However, what really bothers me is that this is symptomatic of where college basketball, and society in general, is heading.

It used to be that a person's word meant something -- that a person would defend their integrity with their actions. But that day is long gone. Today it seems "buzz" is all that is important. How can I gain the most publicity? Who or what I damage in the process -- be damned. Well, like TO -- the Gordon's were able to generate a lot of buzz and publicity by dragging this thing out for the past 8 months.

So what does this mean for college basketball, well I think the gloves are off now. No longer will a verbal commitment be sacred. I think that we are entering a new era, when top level recruits will now change verbal commitments more freely. We will see players begin to verbal to their second choice while they wait for their top choice. Many coaches will become more vicious and continue to recruit verballed players until the signing day. All coaches will have to continue to recruit other players at each position, even after they have verbal commitments from one player at that position, so that they will have a backstop if their verbal jumps ship.

It all sounds very messy to me. Frankly, I wish the NBA would re-open the draft to HS seniors because these 5 star recruits are more trouble than they are worth. I think many programs, hopefully including Illinois, will simply shift their focus to solid 3 and 4 star players that they have dreamed of playing at Illinois. These players will stay 3-4 years with the programs versuse the 5 stars that are off to the NBA after 1-2 years.

This coupled with the increasing influence of the shoe companies in college basketball and recruiting is a scary precedent. I hope we have not seen the end of innocence and integrity in college basketball -- only time will tell.

I am providing a post I read on Illiniboard.com, one of the message boards discussing Illini hoops. While most of the discussion was whining and sour grapes, I found this post to be highly relevant and insightful.

The following was taken from a post by VictoryIllinoisVarsity. The link is provided to the actual post here. Nice post VIV!!

" Everyone connected to this saga gets an absolute F.
Bruce Weber: F I've always been a big supporter of Bruce and the staff, but this was completely effing ridiculous. You needed to have this closed up months ago. There is no way you should have ever let this become a saga. You needed to press an ultimatum saying, "either you publicly come out and say you're not looking at IU at all anymore or you formally re-open your recruitment so I can continue to look for replacements should you leave." You played the nice guy and didn't have the stones in this case. Nice guys don't win recruiting battles, Coach. You blew this one, and you blew it big time.

Kelvin Sampson: F You're an absolute slimeball. Only a handful of coaches in the land would recruit another coach's verbal. You are one of them. The fact that the NCAA gave you the slap on the wrist that they did for your countless violations is a joke. I hope we beat your ass every year that you are at IU. Congratulations, you've woken up this rivalry. I hate IU again.

Eric Sr.: F You get an F because you've said all along you will do what will be best for your son and his career. Guess what, Mr. G, that ain't at IU with KS. If you really cared about your son's pro development, the choice was evident. Like Coach Weber, I backed you through this whole ordeal, saying Mr. Gordon is just looking out for his son's best interests, but it really seems like you were looking out for yourself and your son's best press. This whole thing stinks. You strung along the coaching staffs of two universities while your son continued to get headlines. I hope EJ progresses to the pros, I really do, I think he's a hell of a player, but you glory-hogged this thing to death, and I believe you chose the school for your son based on friendships rather than preparation.

Eric Jr.: F You are the toughest F to give, because you're just a kid, but you certainly deserve it. I keep telling myself this "just a kid" bit to justify this in my head, but honestly, "just a kid" is exactly how you acted throughout this whole thing. Instead of standing up and being a man, you told both sides exactly what they wanted to hear because it was the easy way out. There are many life lessons to go as you get older, two of them being "be true to your word" and "have a backbone." The first is obvious, you committed somewhere and backed out very late in the game, leaving the original committment high and dry. The second is, sometimes you have to stand up act like a man. When it became clear to everyone in the world that you were interested in IU, you kept saying, "I'm still committed to UI", because it was easier than telling the truth.

I'm very disappointed in everyone involved."


Another good story on the whole saga can be found here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Poker Forums

I have finally gotten back on track the last two weekends and made 3 final tables. Since I only play one night a week, those are pretty good results for me. More importantly, I am penetrating deep in a majority of the trouneys I am entering and I am very happy with my decision making. I credit the change on developing more patience late in tourneys, I had been playing overly aggressive and I would end up losing too many chips with marginal hands. While aggression is the key to winning tournament poker, it has to be selective aggression -- playing A9 like it is AK will simply send you to the rail.

This week I wanted to touch on a valuable training tool that everyone should be focused on using to improve their game; online poker forums. Pros like Greg Raymer and BodogAri credit much of their tournament success on the hand discussions that they have had with other players in online poker forums. If you are not using them to understand your trouble hands or trouble spots in tourney play, you need to check out this valuable tool.

Here are a few of the Poker Forums that I like:

CardsChat.com - This site has quickly becoming a large community in just over 18 months. The site has over 13,000 registered users. I find the hand analysis threads and poker strategy threads the most valuable. It is a user-friendly format that allows you to quickly scan through a topic thread. The site is primarily focused on Hold'em, both cash games and tournaments, but also has a limited number of threads on Omaha and Stud. There are also some good strategy articles on the strategy page.

Pocketfives - If you play tournaments online you will want to check out pocketfives. This is the primary forum and ranking site for online tournament players. The best part about the site is that some of the top online pros actually post in the hand advice section. It is fascinating to hear 4-5 top online pros discuss the different ways they would play hands at certain times in a tournament. Additionally, check out the strategy archives where the site has culled some of the most valuable strategy threads for members to view. However, for a good laugh check out the Off Topic, some budding comedians frequent these threads.

RecPoker - This site is the oldest poker forum and dates back to the days of newsgroup forums, when it was known as RGP (rec.gambling.poker). Many of the top pros, like Daniel Negraneau and Chris Ferguson, used to frequent this site. While you would rarely see top pros now, this is still a valuable forum for poker strategy. Unfortunately, the interface is maddening. There is no topic index so you really are left to do searches on the topic you want to discuss. The interface format is also not my favorite, similar to 2+2 threads, they come up and you have to click on each reply to view it. I much prefer the more standard thread format whereby the entire thread comes up when you click on it and you simply page down to read replies.

2 + 2 Forums - A few years ago this forum took the reigns from RecPoker as the key poker site for discussing strategy. This was the main site where Greg Raymer spent much of his time and you can still view many of his posts on this site. Many other top internet pros such as BodogAri and Gigabet frequent this site. This is a particularly good site if you are seeking info on some of the other games beside Hold'em. While most forum sites have lots of threads on NLHE, few can match the depth of threads on this site about other non-Hold'em poker games. Additionally their is a convenient thread index by type of game and/or other subject. However, their forum thread format is similar to RecPoker, so you must click on each reply to view it and what's worse is you actually have to double click and open the page instead of viewing it in a window. It is time consuming and frustrating.

United Poker Forum - This is another very large forum site that started several years ago. Like 2+2 they offer a nice thread index by major topic, but unlike that site their thread viewing is quick and easy to maneuver as all the replies to a thread show on one screen. This site is also moderated by poker pro, Dave Scharf. They have a deep thread base on my types of poker and a very large community base.

Here are the links to some other sites that have Poker Forums, but it is not their main focus. These sites typically are Poker Directories:

BlindBetPoker - This is a directory and strategy site that also has a poker forum. The user base is still relatively small at 1,900 but they have a wide variety of poker topics and thread index for easy navigation.

Cardplayer - Of course no poker discussion would be complete without Cardplayer mentioned. Its the number one poker magazine and its online site is a ezine, a directory, an odds calculator, a podcast, a play money poker site and a poker forum. They have over 80,000 members so the discussion threads are wide and deep.

LaunchPoker - Launch is a directory site that also offers a forum on a variety of poker topics. The site is still relatively new so the community base is not yet as large as other forum but it is growing with just over 1,700 forum members. The forum has a user friendly interface and a thread index for easy navigation.

PokerListings - PL is one of the oldest and largest poker directory sites on the web. Their poker forum is fairly active on a fairly wide variety of topics including staking others and tax and legal issues.

Poker Junkie - Pokerjunkie is a directory site that also has a deep forum member base with over 4,000 forum members. While the site has a thread index, most of its threads are posted in a general Poker Talk category, so naviagtion can be a bit frustrating. Otherwise it is a user friendly site with a wide variety of poker topics.

Pokersourceonline - Pokersourceonline is a unique site that offers several "gifts" to members that join certain partner poker sites. They have built a huge member base with over 90,000. This also has provided a deep community for its forum. While many of the threads are about PSO and its promotions, there is a deep Hand Analysis section and as well as other categories on poker play.

Tightpoker - TP is primarily a strategy site that also offers a directory and a forum section. Their forum site has about 1,700 members and a fairly deep variety of topics, including the always entertaining Conspiracy Theories. They offer a thread index for easy navigation.