James Yates blog      Welcome to the personal blog of ChessandPoker.com founder James Yates. In an effort to gain a wider market share for our internationally-acclaimed website, James has pledged to go above and beyond, stretching his literary prowess to the fullest extent by posting up to THREE blog entries per year, eclipsing all previous yearly totals combined and likely setting some sort of interweb record for endurance. And when he is not hard at work fulfilling this goal, you'll often find him solving the Rubik's cube in his boxers and talking about how Tetris perpetually cheats him by only giving him the piece he needs after it's already too late. He also enjoys crafting multiple run-on sentences with way too many grammatical errors and commas to be aesthetically pleasing. You're welcome.

Chess and Poker Fridays

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Your humble narrator has randomly decided to start a new tradition here on the Chess and Poker blog that I think I’ll creatively be calling “Chess and Poker Fridays”. In an attempt to sharpen my scattered attention span I will post dual-content blogs that cover both Chess and Poker and will at the very least try to make them interesting. Please don’t notice, though, if I happen to post them on Thursdays or every third month etc etc :) First things first…I’ll start with Poker and one of my favorite online players,  the former #1 ranked online poker player in the world Chris Moorman.

chris-moormanFor those of you not well-versed in Poker forum traditions (aka normal “have a life” types) I’d like to introduce you to some of the most thought-provoking posts you’ll find there by way of “The Well” format. Occasionally, a top player will decided to participate in what is known as “The Well” which is a thread dedicated to the featured player where fellow forum members may ask them any question they like and reasonably expect an answer, especially if their questions concern Poker. I’ve enjoyed reading several “Wells” lately and would like to review some of the more memorable strategy-related answers given by some of the best players around, online or live. This first one reviews a Chris “Moorman1” Moorman Well from PocketFives.com with responses when asked about:

Standard lines based on stack size:

really tough question to give an accurate answer too as it really does depend on the table. I doubt I’d 3 bet fold 30bbs tbh, 4 bet shove stack is ideal between 30 and 40bbs, anything more doing it light would be spew unless you had a solid read. 10-20 bbs I dont care who you are its just wait for a hand/good reshove spot imo.

What separates him from the average-to-above average LAG (loose-agressive) player:

The main thing is experience. Also I feel like I’m pretty good at getting inside other peoples heads and knowing what their breaking point is.

How to stay focused with a big stack late in a tournament:

You can’t keep running people over, every1 has their breaking point. Know when your opponents have had enough and this time have it and hold….. easy game :)

What a common mistake for MTT players was:

Overvaluing overpairs early in tourneys

If it’s better to bet out big draws or check raise with them OOP (out of position?

prob bet out unless the natural sizing of the bet would be worthy of a check raise all in

How do I improve (from a top player)?

IMO you should try and make your opponents make more mistakes against you than you are making yourself rather than making yourself mistake free and relying on your opponents making non forced errors against you.

Three skills that set him apart:

Not sure on 3 skills that set me apart but I would say I’m good at knowing when to 3 barrel, double barrel, fire 1 bullet or just check fold. Also I’d like to think I was good at taking advantage of different players styles and closing out final tables when I have a stack. The more experience you gain the better you become at the game so I just try to log hands/tourneys and try and play my a game as often as possible.

What the biggest post-flop mistakes MTT (multi-table tournament) players make:

not having a plan for turns and rivers or not giving themselves fold equity/widening peoples ranges etc. For example some boards will be bad c bets unless u are willing to double/triple barrell and then you have to consider opponents stack sizes and see if its possible, if there is 4k in the pot and your oppoents has 10k back and the flop is 566 if you think a lot of medium pocket pairs are in his range and you hold air then a cbet would be unproftable, however if in the same situation your opoonent had 25k you would have the ammunition to fire 3 bullets and have a lot more chance of getting him to fold on the turn/river.

Biggest mistakes he continuously sees his opponents making:

not balancing their ranges enough in certain spots

Why he keeps his opening raise size fairly large (2.75 to 3x) even late:

I like to play big pots and put people to decisions for their whole stack which is obviously easier with a bigger open. also you get less multiway pots.

If he’d prefer to grind a 30bb-ish stack or go for a huge chip stack:

huge chip leads ftw imo

Good Poker stuff there imo. And now I’d like to share a couple of interesting videos I came across while mindlessly wandering through YouTube today. The first features the eccentric and later troubled former World Chess champion Bobby Fischer in an interview with Dick Cavett that I watched for the first time (sorry I’m pretty lazy when it comes to research, the vid is circa 1971) and I found him to be very enigmatic and engaging. Heck, he’s was a chess genius from Brooklyn what more does it take to be interesting :) The second is a tape recorded interview from another former Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine. I have read about Alekhine several times previously and reviewed his games, but he comes across much nicer than I imagined. Actually, he seems like a really nice old guy that played Chess very well. Despite the fact that the recording is VERY old and for some reason I feel like Alekhine is going to invite me to Transylvania, lock me up in his castle, force me to write a series of letters and then travel across the seas to embrace/bite/vamp-out-on my Mina, I really liked listening to the short video….creepiness and all.  Especially when Alekhine proclaims that Chess does not require a strong memory (woot) and that “a lifetime is not enough in which to learn everything about Chess”. So enjoy, and if you really like the “Chess and Poker” combo posts, drop us a comment eh. Pavlov’s dog sort of thing.

I Own Jig-a-loo

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jig-a-loo-lubeFor those of you not “in the know”, Jig-a-loo is THE preferred spray-on lubricant used by Speed Cubers. What are Speed Cubers? Well, they are the entirely not-geeky individuals that have developed methods for solving the Rubik’s cube in a staggeringly fast manner, usually in less than 1min and frequently less than 20 seconds! I have recently become fascinated with the idea of becoming a speedcuber, and have been furiously practicing the art by learning the varying array of algorithms and ideas needed to solve the cube in such a quick amount of time. And I have to say, I absolutely love it!

To that end I am currently working on a speed-cubing Rubik’s cube guide as we speak that is not only helping me learn the way of the speed cuber but also will provide our users with an awesome guide that they too can use to learn how to solve the cube in sub-1min times and more in the near future. In an upcoming post I will document some of the things I’ve been researching, such as how to lubricate your cube effectively and make it turn and slice like butter (very cool). Hint: I get to use my Jig-a-loo! I’ve always received emails from people wanting to know if we were planning on featuring a speed-cubing guide, and since I am a creature of inspiration I had to simply wait around until the bug bit me and forced me to learn a new obsession. The time is now fellow geek speed cubers so keep your eyes peeled for more :)

Pan Down …. We’ve Got Wii

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Keeping with my trend of getting “into” things about 2-3 years later than everyone else (they haven’t invented hover boards yet right) I finally purchased the Wii gaming console. Have you heard about these things? They have motion controllers and are way, make that WAY, unbelievably cool! I noticed three Wii’s in a local store and debated buying one for the entire weekend, which for people with ADD means that I totally forgot about them until somebody asked me how my wiikend went (at least that’s how it spelled out in my mind anyway). Oh, yeah, go buy the Wii, right now, focus. Do not let your mind wonder why they call those things kids wear at the pool “Floaties” or “Water Wings” and not “Super Cool Air Muscles with Spider Man Tattoos Flexed Mightily for all Lifeguard Babes”.

3hrs and one very satisfying debit card sweep later, the Wii was finally in my possession and just looking at the crisp white glossy box….the universe felt somehow more complete. I hadn’t purchased a gaming console since the Playstation 2 so I had to figure out how to connect it to my TV old-person-where-does-the-dang-red-one-go-I-give-up-oh-ok-that-works-sweet style but once it was hooked up the Wii instantly breathed to life. Of course, everyone in the house had to give it a try six maybe seven times, and even after it was lil kids bedtime the wii stayed awake with us, tempting us to skip jobs/chores/hygiene and stay up for 9 straight days to master bowling and probably tennis. I think we’re going to like it just fine, and as soon as I can bowl a simple 300 (which shouldn’t be that hard right) I’ll be able to master the other games as well. Next on the list….ginormous-mega flat screen imo. Then it’s time to buy more games….but which ones?

*bonus points if you got the revenge of the nerds reference in the title :)

March Madness Fast Food Style

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It’s that time of the year again, March Madness! Thousands if not millions of people have filled out their NCAA brackets and are anxiously sweating their favorite teams and/or picks to see who will pull it all off at the end of the….oh wait, this isn’t a basketball post. Oh no. This is day 23 of a different form of March Madness. For reasons unknown to mankind, in late February our family decided to attempt the unthinkable: Go an entire month, a FULL month, without ever eating take-out or fast food. For us, that month was March, conveniently scheduled to have the full 31 days aka the longest time period allowed. Since we’ve endured I mean experienced this challenge for 3 weeks, I thought it would be a good time to go over how the challenge has gone so far from my point of view. And in my view all I can see are delicious, crunchy and conveniently prepared visions of yumminess. Uh oh, maybe I need to think about baseball. D’oh!

On the last day before the challenge began, we all got to enjoy a great going away mouth-party that was an Arby’s lunch and a Mexican fiesta dinner, all takeout baby. I’m surprised there wasn’t a McMuffin in the forecast but I probably didn’t realize how long a month truly takes. For example, try staring at a clock. All day. It takes 1591651316511 hours to complete the day if you do so. I’ve found it works the same for calendars, except maybe longer. Anyway, we started the challenge on March 1st and I dutifully drew chalk lines on the wall counting the days until we’d be able to enjoy the bountiful goodness of Fast Food America. But what happended next was most suprising.

I totally forgot about wanting fast food. The first couple of days went by very smoothly, with me avoiding TV and their super catchy $5-dollar-foot-long jingles and High Definition close-ups of all things sandwich. I even avoided driving by any fast food places just in case I had my window down and would be trapped into cracking like a bear and those damn pies the old ladies set out on the window prompting new episodes of When Animals Attack. But for some reason, I just really didn’t feel the need. What the heck. I’m not sure why, but I think I wasn’t missing it because while we were busy having every meal in we were all noticing that everything was tasting even better than usual. And everything has always tasted great as is (thanks to my wife’s awesome cooking abilities), but it was heightened to a new level somehow. It was like our tongues had been reborn! The first two weeks went by in a flash.

For some reason, though, week three was a bit tougher. All of a sudden I started noticing the fast food places again. I started noticing the commercials. To date, I’ve stayed strong and have not cracked (no one has) but it is definitely going to get harder heading into the home stretch. We only have 8 more days left in the experiment that no one really thought we could accomplish, myself included. I think it will be cool to complete our run, I will feel very good about outlasting my cravings, especially since I always enjoy a challenge where I come out the winter. Wish us all luck, and I’ll be sure to let everyone know if we can make it and squeak into April fast food free!

You can bet I will be tempted to burn the magnetic strip off my debit card on April fools day though…no joke!

So What Can I Say

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I’m just in the blogging mood for some reason! I’ve recently redone the look of our dormant blog and am really looking forward to sweeping the dust off of it and actually doing some posting this year. Yeah, I know I’ve said it many times before but let’s face it: You weren’t here to read it, and if you were well I wasn’t here that much and I didn’t notice. But I’m keen on letting by-gones be by-gones, so out with the old policy and in with the new more-frequent postage.

I had a great year in 2008 in just about all aspects, particularly in the online poker world where I enjoyed a very profitable year with multiple wins in both MTT (multi-table tournaments) and SNG’s (sit-and-goes) which I will be catching everyone up on in the near future. I plan on posting hands I’ve played with commentary on a semi-regular basis, which will help chronicle the 2009 poker season for me. For starters, I AM DONE WITH FULL TILT POKER! Well, at least for a little while. More on that to come, and more of the random blogs about relatively nothing you’ll come to love.

Another New Guide!

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We’ve added another great guide to the site, which can be found on our homepage menu: the Tower of Hanoi guide! This is one tough puzzle and I hope our guide sheds some light on the techniques used to solve it and helps out those of you who have been stumped by it in the past. It’s really quite beautiful, and mesmerizing, to move the tiles back and forth and finally solve the puzzle. Enjoy!!

In other news, I’ve been focusing much more at the poker table and have even booked several top 3’s including a win (woot), a second and two thirds in MTT tournaments, with various Sit-and-Go wins and placings in tourneys across the web. It feels good to take one down after a dry spell and puts me back in the winning spirit. I’m working on my game pretty hard and plugging leaks as they occur. My results can only improve! Check out the Tower of Hanoi guide and get ready for the upcoming Hold’em (and who-knows-what-other-forms-of-Poker-I-might-focus-on) guides :)

Big Name Stars Taking Home Bracelets

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The games most recognizable pros are winning bracelets by the bushel this year, and we’re only several tournaments into the long schedule that unfolds throughout the month. Here are some of the more notable wins:

Nenad Medic: Previously described as an amazing Cash game player, Nenad came into the tournament spotlight when he won the WPT Championship at Foxwoods. He continued to have success in the World Poker Tour arena, including a third place finish in the same event the next year. Now Nenad can lay claim to yet another notable achievement: WSOP Bracelet winner. He took down the pro-laced $10,000 Buy-in Pot-Limit Hold’em World Championship.

Erick Lindgren: Often referred to (very unfairly) as one of the games best players to have never won a World Series of Poker bracelet, Lindgren put the nonsense to bed by taking home a bracelet in another pro-heavy event, the $5,000 Mixed Limit/No Limit Hold’em event. Erick has had an incredible year so far, including winning the Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) Event #9 where he was actually the host of the event!

Daniel Negreanu: Easily one of the greatest players to have ever played the game, Daniel had been on a WSOP drought by his standards, having bracelet-blanked at the WSOP for almost four years. That all came to an end when he won the $2,000 Limit Hold’em Event #20 in the exact same event he won his last bracelet in. If you follow Daniel’s blog you’ll understand what an achievment this really is, so congratulations Daniel on a huge win!

There have also been big wins by fan favorite Mike Matusow and relatively not-well-known but very successful David Singer as well as some very high finishes by some of the “Internet Pros”. I put that in quotes since so many of the players who got their start online are now forces in the Live arena as well the line is becoming blurred between the two previously distinct styles of play. Good luck to everyone and keep the wins coming!

New Guides!

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Two new strategy guides can be found on the ChessandPoker.com homepage: Solutions to the Fifteen puzzle and Einstein’s problem!! We have lots more in production as well so keep your eyes peeled for more additions to the site!

WSOP Final Table Delay, Say What?

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In case you haven’t heard, the WSOP officials have decided to attempt something entirely new for this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event. They’re going to allow the tournament to carry on as usual until the enormous field of players is reduced to only the nine-player final table, but once it is established….the tournament directors will then immediately halt all play. At that point, the players remaining will be given a 16-week hiatus before the actual play at the final table will begin. Say what? Why? Something as unexpected as this definitely needs some clarification.

Firstly, why violate the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” ethos? Surely there’s a logical reason for this change. Thankfully for us one of the most trusted pros in Poker, Daniel Negreanu, has been willing to share his insight into the reasoning behind the move. Daniel, if you’ve been living under a Poker rock for the last 10 years, is among the most talented and popular players to have ever played the game and is certainly near the top of my very-short list of favorites. However, in this instance I’m finding it hard to follow his line.

Somewhat surprisingly Daniel is whole-heartedly behind this new format, which at least makes me want to give it a chance, but after reading the specifics of his endorsement of the change I’m not entirely sure. I’ll try to play Devil’s Advocate in an attempt to explain why. From Daniel’s initial blog post about the subject:

The reason for the three month delay is so that the WSOP broadcast schedule can air both the preliminary events as well as the lead into the final table. That many episodes takes about three months to air. There isn’t time to air all of the main event episodes leading up to the final table so that an “almost live” final table could air immediately after that. The only way to do that is to delay the final table until after the ESPN shows air.

Ok, there’s the first piece of the puzzle. ESPN and Harrah’s, the casino hosting the event, have pushed/decided to institute the change. ESPN, as we all know, is the exclusive broadcaster for the WSOP events, including all of the preliminaries. So in a nutshell, they are aiming to build up suspense for the final table by stopping it mid-tournament and then airing all of the sub-events beforehand leading into a now more-anticipated Final table. More:

This decision obviously will change the dynamic of the final table, but it also offers some great opportunities for poker to get some more mainstream media attention. The nine players at the final table will become quasi celebrities, much like reality TV stars. None of the players would be obligated to do any interviews or media in general, but if they chose to, the opportunities would be there.

Here’s even more validation. The players who are fortunate enough I mean skilled enough to make the final table will then be showered with both endorsements and ample media attention for the 16-week break, allowing them to cash in on any and all opportunities that come their way. Players becoming famous and making loads of “free” money is something all of us surely would like to have a chance at. Well, I’m probably 50% on board by now, but transversing the internet and various forums I encountered a number of players who had vehement opinions in opposition to the tournament changes. They challenged that the notable players in favor of the adjustments (and it’s not just DN to be sure, he’s just the most trustworthy and “wordy” source) had miscalculated the amount of good these changes would do for the game we all love. I may have just put it a bit more nicely and way less bluntly, but you get the point. They weren’t too happy about it. Following up, Daniel posted another blog which contained the following excerpt:

The bottom line is this: if Harrah’s and/or ESPN doesn’t profit handsomely from the WSOP… then we are all screwed. If they don’t make enough money to justify the headache of trying to accommodate thousands of sometimes, demanding poker players, then who will run this thing?

We need to take a step back to the Becky Behnen era circa 2004 and realize that the WSOP was almost a thing of the past. The tradition, the history, all of it could have disappeared if Harrah’s didn’t buy the Horseshoe along with the rights to the WSOP.

That’s when it hit me. They are afraid that Poker has lost its popularity, its surge, and willing to abruptly start taking some fairly large chances to recapture it. The comments above, which have been echoed in close form by many of the other supporters, remind me directly of Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” mentality. Why is there suddenly a panic-mode sweeping over the games most popular event? Are there behind the scenes reasons we’re not aware of? Always. But I’m not completely convinced that delaying the final table will have the rebounding effect that the organizers had in mind, particularly concerning the unknown cast of characters who will be taking center stage. Here are some more thoughts.

What if the nine players aren’t what we expected? This could happen on a very minor scale. Perhaps none of them have any type of TV-worthy personality. Not that I doubt ESPN’s ability to make anyone into a star, but you can only make Bill Gates so cool…you know? But unfortunately, it could impact the game in more damaging ways we haven’t yet considered. In fact, what if during the interim break some of the more industrious internet-based reporters find out one of the players is a really, really bad person? For example, what happens when we discover the chip-leader has a rap sheet a mile long? Do you think they’ll be able to spin it off in a believable manner, and would we even want them to? What if the motley-crew of contestants are more like what the general, non-Poker player visualizes when they talk disparagingly about Poker: the back-room type with a gambling/drinking problem and loads of other baggage? Ouch, and I’m not even really getting into the potential curve-balls and logistical nightmares that are possible when you start to think that 16-weeks is a looooooooong time for someone to screw-up or at least get way out of line with how most of us want the game represented.

What if it’s not what they expected after all? Let’s say it’s already happened and a) the new format didn’t make the kind of coverage/money/hype it expected or b) there is a huge outbreak of negative comments deriding the format, media, etc. Now what? Will we have Phil Hellmuth climbing up to a large 20ft high diving board where he will cannon-ball jump through a burning hoop into a pool of poker chips while simultaneously shouting “I’m all-in baby!” in an outdoor $100,000 buy-in reality-tv extravaganza where the players eliminated are sent off the island in shame? Wow, I hope so!

What if it’s really not about Poker’s dwindling popularity, but just about the money? While it’s easy to sit and judge from the outside, you certainly don’t have to think too hard to at least consider Money as a major deciding factor in the change. When I first heard about the delay, I instantly thought, “Why 16 weeks? Why not a few days, a week or even a month?” But as we’ve already read, this would not allow all the underlying episodes, with accompanying build-up advertising, to be broadcast. The suspicious nature inside of me also understands that the “major” players will all have books, training courses and various merchandise to plug during the extended break, so there is a money-making opportunity to protect by endorsing the new format, although I’m not sure that would be a likely overriding motive for most considering it may actually end up damaging the game and indirectly their livelihood. So where does this leave us?

Sigh.

After all of the self-discussion I can only come to one conclusion, and it’s the same one I started with. I am thoroughly confused and very skeptical, but ultimately hopeful that it will all work out in the end. Part of me wants a big-name pro to make it to the final nine so the new change can be validated and Poker becomes even more popular. The other half, though, just isn’t so optimistic that even that unlikely occurrence will be enough to convince me of the validity of the change. It just seems like all of a sudden the WSOP is all-in and hoping for a card, when it could have been content to sit atop the charts as a dominating chip leader. Part of the drama, as always, will be watching how it all turns out. GL WSOP!

Game Flashbacks, Random Awesomeness

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Ha! I just ran into a pretty cool video that brought back some memories about the oooooooooooooold days of video games. The nicely edited mini-masterpiece lives at:

http://eatpes.com/game_over.html

The short titled ‘Game Over’ is a stop-motion rendering of some of the more famous Atari-style video games like Frogger and PacMan. The crazy thing is that while most of us will recognize the imagery that matches up with the actual elements of the game (hilariously replacing them with clay foods and even candle missles) the thing I immediately noticed, on an almost primal level, was THE SOUND.

Yes. Hearing some of the game sounds that I once took for granted, staring blindly at a blinking screen and pushing the SINGLE game action button put me into a sort of game flashback state. The unique sound the frog in Frogger (did that guy have a name?) makes when he jumps back and forth sent a horrifying but strangely enjoyable hand-eye-coordination shockwave through my system, immediately forcing my mind into a jump-here-no-jump-there-no-backup-no-go-forward-SPLAT series of thoughts. The basic sounds of the other games as well, like PacMan, had the exact same effect.

That made me think of video games today…and then that made me think that I hadn’t even played my Playstation 2 in over a year…and then that made me think oh man now there’s a Playstation 3 and how even it is kind of old now. Jeez. But if I had to guess, I would say that today’s games focus much more on amazing graphics than they do memorable sounds. Oh wait, maybe not.

As I was writing this my wife returned from shopping and started telling me mid-post (yes, your significant other will start telling you very pertinent stories about their day during the last 1:24 of your teams playoff game as well) about a kid who basically almost passed out with excitement after his mom revealed that she was buying him a Guitar Hero guitar. Does that game depend on catchy sounds or….Hmmm. Uh-oh, another flashback. I remember having that exact same reaction when I found out I was getting Tecmo Super Bowl (probably my all-time favorite video game). I’m thinking I feel a video game relapse coming on. Yep.

Anyways…since you’re already taking the time out of your day to navigate through my random brain-processes allow me to direct you to another all-time favorite link of mine: David Wong’s Gamer Manifesto. Just. Plain. Brilliant. Enjoy!

Editors Note: James feels sorry for those of you who do not have A.D.D. and lol’s @ the phrase “my mind was a total blank”. He also cannot figure out how to open the plastic covering on new CD’s and wonders if dolphins really do try to have sex with humans. He also just remembered that he is VERY afraid of sharks.