WSOP Preview: Time is NOT of the essence in Poker

 

The best poker players in the world all have this one skill. It has nothing to do with the tactical aspects of the game. It has nothing to do with reading your opponent, playing position, betting correctly or grinding. That one skill that the best of the best all have is patience.

It is said patience is a virtue, it is also an acquired, learned and honed skill that can lead to some monster pay days. I have never seen a successful poker player say, “it’s time for me to force the action.” That just isn’t reality. As we sit here on the eve of the 2015 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, here is this little reminder on the virtues of patience courtesy of the ole BitOBaca.

The greats of the great can sit at a table for hours, whether in cash or tournament play and wait out their opponents. This patience serves two purposes. First, if you aren’t getting cards it allows you to nonchalantly throw them into the muck and live to fight another day. Second, it allows the real good players to get reads on their opponents. Being a novice, I have found great strategic value in this move. One can pin-point the weak players and stay out  of the way of the stronger ones. Remember, the more information you have about your opponent, the easier it will be to beat them straight up, regardless of the cards you hold in your hand.

Patience allows you survey the scene, analyze and make mental notes on your foes. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten into a game at the Bellagio or Aria and have heeded this patient approach. After a few hours of mucking hand after hand I come to the slow realization I am playing with pros.  These aren’t players to be messed with. If after an hour-and-a-half to two hours of play you can’t tell who the worst players at the table are, then YOU are the worst player. Attacking a table without knowing anything about your opponents is what loser’s do. You will be broke before you know it.

Some of the best feelings at a poker table are when you can clearly tell who the bad or suspect players are. When this happens you don’t throw your patient ways out the door. Instead, you wait. You pick your spot and then attack. Preferably in position, preferably when they might be on tilt. Notice I am not even mentioning cards. Cards don’t matter when you are playing a bad player. You can check/raise, raise or move them in with their marginal hand. Sometimes they will get lucky and hit a card on the turn or river. But, what you are looking for is an advantage, and the only way to ensure you have an advantage is whether you are holding the nuts, or whether you are playing someone who is just begging you to take their money. The only question left  is whether you have the patience to get to this point.

Good luck at the WSOP 2015 !

 

 

Up 2-0 Warriors have reason for concern….

 

Usually fans and media types will tell you how great-a-shape teams are in when they are up two games to-nothing in a series. Not me.

With the Golden State Warriors thrilling, heart-stopping 99-98 Game 2 win over the Houston Rockets they are two wins away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975. But, if the Warriors are going to advance to the biggest of stages they have several facets in their game that need to be tightened up.

First, figure out how to get Klay Thompson more involved offensively. To be fair Thompson is having to expend so much energy in guarding James Harden, one can argue he hardly has enough gas in the tank to perform up to his standards on the offensive end. But, the Warriors need Thompson to be a threat and the Rockets, as porous as they have been defensively, are doing a great job in taking Klay out of the mix. Certainly you don’t want Klay forcing the issue, but the Warriors will need his contributions when they head to Texas. They don’t need a 30 point explosion but they need his offensive presence. When Klay is cooking it really opens things up for Steph Curry and his other partners in crime Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes.

The Warriors need to take care of the ball. I read a twitter comment that read, “the Dubs need to stop it with the swag passes.” I couldn’t have said it better. The Warriors found themselves too many times in Game 2 jumping in the air with nowhere to go and trying to make the impossible pass. Carelessness with the ball has been a problem all year for the Warriors. When it rears its ugly head in the Conference Finals it can cost you games. The Warriors built up a 49-32 lead in the 2nd quarter of Game 2, the lead should have been 25-to-30. Houston’s defense in the 18 minutes of the game bordered on pathetic, but the Warriors reticence to value the ball cost them when they were building that big lead and it could have cost them the game.

When the series shifts to Houston the Rockets will find a comfort zone at home. I fully expect the whistles to go their way as well. As good as the Warriors defense is, the Rockets will become more aggressive, especially with James Harden’s dribble attacks. He hasn’t taken a ton of free throws in this series and he will be bound and determined to change that in Game 3. If the Warriors attack him defensively too aggressively they will make it easy for the officiating crew to put Harden at the stripe. The Warriors will have to live with Harden going off in this series. The key will be in containing Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones and Josh Smith. Ariza and Smith combined for 37 points in Game 1 but only 17 in Game 2. Ariza struggled Thursday in Oakland scoring only 7 points while Smith scored 10 on 6-of-18 shooting. Contain the complementary pieces and the Warriors give themselves a great chance to win in Houston. Easy to say, not easy to do as Houston has to feel pretty good in losing the first two games of this series by a total of five points.

Move the ball. The Warriors need to rely on what has led them to 77 wins in the regular and post-season this year, ball movement. The Warriors are at their best when the ball is a blur and everyone gets a touch. It is also their greatest strength. While Houston is doing a pretty good job at defending the high pick-and-roll with the switch, their back-side rotations are not very good. If the Warriors can run their sets to completion, they force the back side defenders to make decisions on dribble penetration. When the Warriors do that they have too many options for the Rockets to defend. And this, is when the Warriors slice your heart out. There hasn’t been enough patience on the offensive end. The Warriors need to make Houston play defense. The longer the play takes to develop, the better for Golden State.

While the “experts” will tell you the Warriors have a 94 percent chance of winning this series, it doesn’t feel that way to me. Houston has played a lot better than I expected and I think this is going to be a long, tough series. The Warriors have their hands full with Harden. Howard is a force, but still incredibly unlikable. Ariza and Josh Smith along with Jason Terry and Corey Brewer can get real hot and with their length can cause defensive problems for the Warriors, if they don’t show patience. The Warriors had the best road record in the league, they will need to call on that road toughness heading to Houston for Game 3.

 

Will Warriors fans regret pulling for Houston Rockets ?

 

Something happened as I was writing my Warriors preview for the Western Conference Finals versus the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers suffered one of the more epic hiccups in the history of NBA post-season basketball. The result is a match-up with the Houston Rockets for the right to play for the NBA title in two weeks.

This is a match-up that many Dubs fans were secretly hoping for. While the Warriors/Clippers match-up would have been more entertaining, I am not looking for entertaining. I want the Warriors to win. Their best chance for winning the West and advancing to the Finals is to play the Houston Rockets. Personnel wise the Warriors had several advantages, but the one player they didn’t have an answer for was Blake Griffin, and that would have been a serious problem. I still thought the Warriors would have beaten the Clippers, but the task would have been more difficult. It would have been a long and arduous series that could have hinged on just a few plays. In my mind too close for comfort, so I was pulling for Houston.

This sounds like I am denigrating the Houston Rockets and what they accomplished and that is not entirely true. But, I have considered Houston soft all season long. Not hotel mattress soft, we are talking Charmin toilet paper soft. Squeezably soft. That changed with the Rockets riveting Game 6 comeback last Thursday night when they came back from 19 down in the late 3rd quarter to beat the Clippers and send their series to a Game 7. Without James Harden on the floor the Rockets outscored Los Angeles 49-18 over the final 14 minutes to rescue their season. You learn a lot about a team when the ship is sinking and I learned the Rockets are not “squeezably soft.”  I saw their toughness on full display.

So now we have a match-up of the two top teams in terms of seeding in the Western Conference. We have two teams that had the top two candidates for the Most Valuable Player award with Warriors point guard Steph Curry easily out-distancing James Harden for the hardware. Houston feels their man was slighted, Harden told the media after their Game 7 win on Sunday that he has felt over-looked all season. It’s an intriguing match-up on so many levels.

Both teams like to shoot the three and both teams like an up-tempo pace. This should entertain the nation watching two teams that get up and down and are adept on the offensive end. The big difference between the two squads is on the defensive end. The Rockets play good defense is stretches, but if you really watch them they allow way too many blow-bys. The Rockets back-side rotations are not consistent. That lack of defensive predictability makes it hard to depend on them. They rely too much on having Dwight Howard behind them to clean up their messes, and unlike his years as Orlando’s center, he is not the same rotating defender. Howard does change shots. He also blocks his share, but his apathy and his unwillingness to “consistently” help his mates hurts this team. I would argue Howard is a good defensive player, but he could be so much better.

Statistically the Warriors are the best defensive teams in the league. They hold opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in the Association and it’s probably the biggest reason why they won 67 games. Their defense is also the biggest reason the Dubs ousted Memphis in the semi-finals, especially after falling behind 2 games-to-1. The Warriors commitment to defense was nurtured by former coach Mark Jackson and has now been developed and fully implemented by current head coach Steve Kerr.

Many Warriors fans are citing the Dubs season series sweep as the reason why they think Golden State will roll the Rockets. While those games give us insight into the match-up, they are also a bit deceiving. Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer did not play in any of the four-losses the Rockets had against the Warriors. Right now those two are pivotal pieces off of the Rockets bench. Josh Smith only played in one game for the Rockets against the Warriors because he was only released by the Pistons in January. Dwight Howard missed two of the games against Golden State because of his knee issues, which the Rockets smartly made him rest and recover from during the regular season. These are some key contributors that didn’t see the light of day when the Rockets and Warriors played four times before January 21st. If Warrior fans are hinging their hopes on “past performance is a precursor for future results.” Think again……

The Rockets have had some tough injuries this year and probably the guy they could least afford to lose defensively against the Warriors will not be suiting up. Patrick Beverley is a tenacious defender. He is a ball-hawking guard that disrupts, bothers and hinders opposing guards. In my opinion he was the Rockets best chance to try to contain and slow down Steph Curry. He tore a thumb ligament and has been on the shelf for more than two months. While there are rumblings that he may get his cast off and try to play, I wouldn’t bet on it. Even if he does take the floor he is nowhere near game shape and wouldn’t be the same defensive player we have become accustomed to.

I think the Warriors will win for several reasons but let me start with the obvious. The Warriors are simply better at the transition game than the Rockets. Harden is an incredible player. He is a prolific scorer, beating you from the perimeter and off-the-dribble. He takes a ridiculous amount of free-throws and gets bailed out with his floppiliciousness. But, he is a star and gets his team points. While he averaged 25 points a game against the Warriors this year he really struggled in terms of shooting percentage. Klay Thompson’s harassing defense kept him to 25 percent shooting from three-point range. Harden may get his points but he will have to be a volume shooter, and those are possessions that are empty trips for the Rockets. As we mentioned the Warriors hold NBA teams to the lowest field goal percentage in the NBA and the Rockets propensity to run-and-gun will be met with challenges by the Warriors lengthy perimeter defenders. Thompson and Andre Iguodala will make it difficult for the Trevor Ariza’s and Josh Smith’s to get free and open looks. The Warriors close-outs on jump shooters and ball pressure on Houston will stunt the Rockets cohesiveness.

The only team all season long that has been able to quell the Warriors running game is Memphis. Once the Warriors solved that riddle the series was over. After Sunday’s Game 7 win Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said his team will not change heading into the Warriors series. Let me repeat, he said his team will not change adding, “we are going to do what we do, if they prove to be better at it, then so be it.” Hmmmmmmm, interesting. Indications are that McHale and the Rockets feel comfortable running up and down the floor and trying to out-gun the Dubs. Good luck with that.

I think the Warriors have answers for everything that the Rockets will throw at them. Klay will check Harden. While “The Beard” will get his, it will take him a lot of shots to reach his average, and those are possessions where the Rockets aren’t scoring. Steph Curry is going to torch 38 year-old Jason Terry. Maybe 38 year-old Pablo Prigioni can use his guile to force a few turnovers, but the Rockets have a huge huge huge problem in trying to contain the league MVP. If Houston tries to switch a bigger player to Curry, he can use his quickness to get into the paint, and that will cause mis-matches elsewhere on the floor. The loss of Beverley is devastating at the point.

Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes are both playing at a high level and Green is simply a better and more consistent player than Josh Smith. They both can shoot the three, but Smith has a penchant for disappearing. To be fair, the Rockets don’t beat the Clippers without amazing performances by Smith in Games 5-thru-7. Barnes and Ariza will be a great match-up, but I like Barnes’ defensive prowess to shut-down or at least contain Ariza. Many will point to Smith and Ariza performing at high levels for the Rockets in the Clippers series, but I must highlight, look who was guard them. JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes ? Andre Iguodala, Green and Barnes are much better defenders. Ariza, Smith and even Terrence Jones will not be getting the same looks.

The center match-up is intriguing because Dwight Howard has his moments where he seems like an unstoppable force, then he has his moments where he looks like Mister Whipple, you know the Charmin guy ! Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard will probably get entangled more than once. We will see if Howard wants to mix it up.  I know the Warriors and Bogut want to get physical with Dwight. The M.O. on Howard is you can get in his grill and it can affect him. Howard will get his, but he is an atrocious free-throw shooter and the Dubs have 18 fouls between Bogut, Festus Ezeli and David Lee to hammer him and send him to the stripe. My advice, if you are going to foul him, hit him  hard across the arms. Make him feel every foul.

The Warriors are an amazing 43-3 on their home floor in the regular season and playoffs. They ALSO have the best road record in the NBA at 32-14 including the post-season. So, even if the Rockets get a game at Oracle. If the Dubs just win one in Houston, the Rockets would have to somehow beat the Warriors again at the Roaracle. I just don’t see it.

This series will be entertaining, high scoring and fun, it could also be short. The Rockets are good at what they do, the Warriors are just simply better at it. The Warriors have answers for the Rockets strengths. Houston has stop-gaps for the Warriors strengths.  The Dubs have a way of coming at teams in waves and when those waves become too much, adjustments are needed. McHale has already said, the “Rockets aren’t changing a thing.” That is a huge mistake. As confident as Houston has to feel after their improbable seven-game win over the Clippers, the Dubs feel just as confident after staring their own mortality in the eye, and emerging even better because of it against Memphis.

Warriors in 5

 

 

 

40 years ago today….the Warriors did THIS !

 

Bill King

40 years ago today was one of the most glorious days in the history of Golden State Warriors basketball in the Bay Area. Bill King describes the final few minutes of the Golden State Warriors glorious upset of the Chicago Bulls in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. This was a massive upset as the Bulls were the odds on favorites to advance to the Finals. The Bulls had Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Nate Thurmond and Tom Borwinkle. The Warriors had the great Rick Barry, two magnificent rookies in Jamaal Wilkes and Phil Smith and merry band of role players that led our beloved Dubs to an amazing upset.  Bill King has this amazing call as the Warriors won 83-79 in front of an insanely raucous crowd in Oakland…..

DubNation: Concerned but not Panicked

 

For the first time during this 2014-2015 NBA Basketball season the Golden State Warriors are facing their first bit of adversity. For the first time this year a team has thrown something at them that they are having a difficult time of deciphering. The result is a 2-1 deficit in their best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinal series against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Am I concerned ? Yes. The reason for concern is I do believe Memphis has the magic elixir that can work against the run-and-gun Dubs. Their ability to slow the pace, slow the tempo and not give in to the Warriors fast paced style is serving them well in this series. I don’t see that changing much, even if the Dubs are able to recover.

Memphis’ tenacious ball-hawking defense and their tremendous approach to the high-pick-and-roll has caused the Warriors mass confusion on the offensive end. The Grizzlies are attacking Steph Curry off the high screen-and-roll. It’s not a soft double. The Grizzlies are leaving the screener open and putting two guys on Curry 25-30 feet from the hole. If Curry passes the ball to Bogut, mission accomplished for the Grizzlies. If Curry passes the ball to Draymond Green, mission accomplished for the Grizzlies. They are the only team this year that has consistently been able to get the ball out of Curry’s hands. Because of this the Warriors are playing at a break-neck speed on the offensive end and it is causing them to play flustered, frenetic and out of control.

By Memphis controlling tempo they are also minimizing the number of possessions in the game. The Warriors rely on having an inordinate amount of possessions. Curry and company are so good and controlling tempo that when they commit 15-20 turnovers in the regular season, they have more than enough possessions to make up for the miscues. Not so in this series. Memphis’ ability to control tempo has made the Warriors 20 turnover tallies fatal and the Dubs don’t have enough chances to make up for their miscues. In Games 2 & 3 this has caused the Warriors to become rushed and hurried.

At first glance I was not happy with the Warriors defensive approach to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Warriors needed to double-team them a lot of more. I thought it took Steve Kerr a little too long to do it. And then, when it had worked and the Warriors had climbed back into the  game, the coaching staff thought Festus Ezeli could single-handedly stop Randolph in the late 3rd quarter and that is when the Grizzlies extended their lead again. I think the Warriors must make the Courtney Lee’s and Mike Conley’s of the world beat them from the perimeter. Get the ball out of Randolph and Gasol’s hands, make them passers instead of isolation attackers. The Warriors can not do this though, by going small. They need to put size on size and this becomes the Warriors dilemma. How much the Dubs react to what the Grizzlies are doing and forsaking what makes them a force on the offensive end ? It’s a delicate balance for Steve Kerr and staff and not an easy call.

I have many reasons to be optimistic as the Warriors head into this biggest of Game 4’s. First of all the Warriors won 67 games. They beat Memphis like a drum twice in the final month of the season and have yet to show in this series why they were the best team in the league. I just can’t believe they will go an entire series and not enforce THEIR will on this Grizzlies team. When the game has gotten hard for the Warriors they have exacerbated the problem by making it more difficult. The Dubs have shown all year they can beat you running, and they can beat you in the half-court. To do that they will need consistency from their three best offensive weapons. Curry needs to be better. He reticence to attack is a direct reflection of the outstanding Memphis defense. Taking ONLY one shot in 4th quarter of Game 3 is unacceptable and I doubt that will happen again. Klay Thompson has been neutralized by Tony Allen who has shut him down and has officially gotten into his head. Klay really needs to attack and get to the stripe. He can’t settle for the three-point shot if the Grizzlies close out is strong. Drive to the hole, make the Grizzlies pay for the aggressive close-out, if they rotate, pass the ball, move the ball. When the Warriors are at their best the ball moves and everyone gets a touch.

Contrary to what  the sky-is-falling crowd wants you to believe the Warriors have remedies and answers to this Memphis defense. They just need to employ them like they have all year. Pass the ball, move the ball, make the defense move, make them commit. Once they commit, lanes will open. Avenues will clear the offense should click. One on one hoops will not beat Memphis.

I expect Draymond Green to have a much better game tonight. He was a big bundle of mess on Saturday. Despite having a decent floor game, his offense was out of sorts. He is so good at the spot up  three and the dribble attack and dish. Tentativeness by Draymond leads to a stagnancy from everyone else. He is their heart and soul. They need him, and I expect him to respond.

Andrew Bogut needs to play more than 21 minutes. He is a fantastic passer and post defender. When the Warriors go ultra small Bogut sits and I don’t think that helps this team in this series. Bogut is vital at matching wits with Gasol. But, the Grizzlies center has been pulling Bogut out from under the hoop and I believe that has given the Warriors coaching staff pause. It shouldn’t. Let Gasol shoot 18 footers. Bogut needs to play 30-33 minutes.

Where is David Lee ? Tonight is the night we need to see Lee. Mareese Speights is out with a pulled calf and may even miss the rest of the series.  Lee did not play in Game 3, he may be rusty but I believe the Warriors can’t afford to let him languish on the bench. He needs to play. He is an energizer. He is a guy that will make hustle plays. While he will struggle defensively, remember he can score and is adept around the hoop. The Warriors problem hasn’t been defense, sure in isolated spots they have been over-matched, but for the most part its their offense and turnovers which are killing them.

The Warriors need to take care of the ball. If they are over 15 turnovers they could be in trouble. Ball possession is vital against a team that controls the tempo like Memphis. Careless and hurried possessions are what the Dubs can not afford. The Warriors forced Memphis into some turnovers the other night, they couldn’t score. The difference is when Memphis forces the Warriors into turnovers, they are lay-ups. That CAN’T happen.

I expect and I believe the Warriors will respond tonight. If they are a championship caliber squad they will show up tonight and even this series at 2-2. If they don’t, they may have run into the kryptonite that will render their 67-win season a mere footnote in NBA lore. A lot is riding on their next 48 minutes and I expect them to respond in a big way

Why the timing of Manny Pacquiao injury….matters

 

If Manny Pacquiao entered the ring with a torn rotator cuff and that injury was not disclosed to the public before the fight than boxing has another shiner.

News that the billed “Fight of the Century” may have been a fraud is resonating in the sports world today. Yesterday Pacquiao’s camp disclosed that the Phillipine-born fighter will need surgery to repair a badly torn rotator cuff and will need 9-12 months of recovery.

Pacquiao said after his 12-round loss to Floyd Mayweather that he had an injured shoulder and asked to take a pain-killer before his scheduled bout. The Nevada Gaming Commission refused to allow him to take the pain-killer and the result was an ineffective Pacquiao that was schooled by the undefeated Mayweather. My contention isn’t that Manny would have won the fight had he been allowed to take the pain killer. No, instead my contention is that a massive fraud was perpetrated on the buying public, believing that these two fighters were healthy and at the top of their games. If this injury was known before the bout, it should have been disclosed.

The reasons for not disclosing are many. First, a fight of this magnitude and with the unconscionable wait (5 years) that both fighters put the public through would have been a massive let-down.

Two, the promotion of the fight had become an entity unto itself. Power players in business, real estate, sports and politics had made plans surrounding THIS fight. To cancel at such a late date would have taken the steam out of a rescheduling of the fight.

Three, there is not a guarantee that Floyd Mayweather was going to fight after such a long lay-off. But, with that said, early this morning Mayweather sent a text to his media lackey Stephen A. Smith and said that he is willing to give Pacquiao a re-match once he fully heals from his shoulder surgery. This is an amazing about-face, but an understandable one.

Mayweather doesn’t want this win tainted in any way. He doesn’t mind people ripping on his style and his points oriented way of winning fights. That is the nature of the fight game and the criticisms it will draw. What Floyd does not want is this win being diminished in any way. Pacquiao’s injury diminishes the win. There is no doubt about it. Regardless of what you think about Mayweather’s personal failings, there is no argument when it comes to his boxing prowess. Of his 48 wins this was his biggest. This proved to the boxing and sports enthusiasts that he was the best pound-for-pound boxer of his time. The Pacquiao injury changes that because many will feel Floyd beat up and out-pointed and outmaneuvered an injured fighter. He will want the re-match as much as Pacquiao wants it.

The elephant in the room is the sanctions that Pacquiao could draw because he didn’t disclose his torn rotator cuff. How many people would have doled out 99.99 for a fight involving a guy who had a shredded shoulder. Not many…..

So, as we wait for possible sanctions against Manny, and as we wait for his shoulder to be repaired. Get ready for the promotion of Manny/Mayweather II