Archive for March, 2015

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Whiplash (2014)

March 30, 2015

Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons,
Director: Damien Chazelle

“Can’t? When did you become a fucking expert on what I can or cannot do, you fucking weepy-willow shit sack?”

Bottom Line: My first thought concerning Whiplash was that I liked it but that I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it and my second thought was that I needed to watch it again. Immediately. For a film that doesn’t have a ton of depth for its lead characters, it still managed to pretty much blow me away. This is a story about passion and how far one is willing to go to achieve their goals. It’s a jazz-fueled version of 8 Mile with drums instead of rapping. Only better – and that’s coming from a hip-hop aficionado and Eminem fanatic that could really care less about jazz music.

Whiplash seems to be saying that greatness can be achieved if you’re willing to strive to improve despite any abuse or obstacles thrown your way. Miles Teller’s character Andrew Neimann is an aspiring drummer attending an elite music school where the top jazz ensemble is conducted by a dominating, completely unforgiving, in-your-face-and-over-the-top, totally obscene asshole named Terence Fletcher – played to absolute perfection by J.K. Simmons. Fletcher’s teaching style is 100% out of line. I really can’t imagine that a) no one on the outside knows what’s going on or b) that he could possibly get away with the abuse he constantly flings at his students. That doesn’t make it any less fun to watch though. Some of the interactions are truly horrifying, but Simmons is so good it will fill you with glee watching Fletcher terrorize these poor kids. Fletcher states that “the next Charlie Parker would never get discouraged,” but it’s a bit vague if Whiplash is advocating his teaching style as a means of reaching greatness or whether greatness can be achieved despite someone like Fletcher doing everything possible to stomp out any trace of dignity his pupils might have left. Either way, Fletcher provides a great antagonist – if not a respectable mentor – and makes the film far more enjoyable than it otherwise would be.

Whiplash is also about passion versus balance – a theme I can relate to concerning my own relationship with poker. It’s easy to imagine a life where I eat, sleep, and breathe poker and literally think of nothing else – I know I’m capable of it – but it also sounds awfully lonely. In Whiplash, Andrew Niemann chooses to devote his life to drums, at the cost of everything else: he has no friends, he tells his girlfriend that she will just get in the way of his passion, he looks down on his extended family, and even his relationship with his father – his one true ally – seems cold and distant. He might eventually gain the respect of his fellow band members, but it’s doubtful he will ever earn their fondness or support. He’s really not a very likable guy which makes rooting for him a bit difficult. I do not want to be that person – even if it means I may not reach the pinnacle of my chosen field.

Whiplash is easily one of my favorite films of 2014. J.K. Simmons is every bit deserving of the Oscar he won for his performance. Though his character is brutal and harsh, he’s also hilarious and a total joy to watch. I’m not a big Miles Teller fan, but I felt like his performance in this movie was extraordinary and highly underrated. Director Damien Chazelle deserves a ton of credit for making everything feel incredibly authentic in this film. Both lead actors look like experts – at drumming and conducting, respectively – and the editing is so crisp that each instrument is highlighted at such a precise moment that it’s clear that the filmmakers have a deep understanding of composition. Finally, Whiplash has one of the best climaxes to a film I’ve ever seen. You will literally hold your breath for 15 minutes straight.

What Whiplash lacks in character depth, it more than makes up for with amazing performances, hilarious dialogue, heart-stopping scenes, and a remarkable climax.

Replay Value: I watched it twice in a week. During my second viewing, I watched several sequences multiple times. I truly loved it.
Sequel Potential: There is more to this story, but exploring it would be a mistake, as this particular arc reaches a satisfying conclusion, and further adventures would be far less interesting.
Oscar Potential: J.K. Simmons deservedly won Best Supporting Actor; so did the editing and sound mixing teams. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Miles Teller did not get nominated and it’s difficult for me to agree that Bradley Cooper was better in American Sniper than Teller was here. Also, Damien Chazelle may have deserved more recognition for his work as director.

Grade: 8/10 (Excellent)

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2015 Poker Goals – February Wrap-Up

March 2, 2015

Every month I’m going to reflect on the previous month of poker and see how well I’m doing at accomplishing my 2015 goals:

-log 750 live hours

For the second straight month I played 100+ hours of live poker with 112.5 hours logged in live games. That brings my total to 249.5 for the year and I’m on pace for nearly 1500 hours in 2015. As someone noted on my Facebook last month, 750 hours is a soft goal for a professional poker player – that’s true. But it should be noted I am NOT a professional poker player – I work to pay my bills. Still, it’s obvious that my 750 goal is going to get demolished and it’s sad that I was playing so little poker that I felt like that was a number I had to strive for. I think I can safely update my goal to 1200 hours as 100 hours seems like a good number for me since I’m working part-time.

-focus on how well I played, how well I controlled tilt, and how well I paid attention to game flow instead of how well I ran.
-continuing taking notes throughout all my sessions and combing through them later.

I fell off a bit here in February. Once again, I pretty much only kept notes for $8/$16 sessions, but I ran into some roadblocks this past month. For one, I have at least three sessions worth of notes I haven’t gone through looking for mistakes or for variance so I can’t post the stats like I did last month. I may update this page in a few days with those numbers, but part of me feels like I should just move forward and focus on current events.

Another issue I had was that I played a lot of short-handed poker and when then game gets down to 5 or less players, I find it not only difficult to jot notes between hands, but my game changes so much that some crazy things are going to happen – variance is going to increase drastically and I’m going to be in a lot more marginal situations. It’s better to just focus on the action and let the results speak for themselves.

My ability to keep my emotions in check remained strong, but everything else listed in the above goals could use some work going forward.

-spend less than 20% of my total hours in 4/8 games

February was extremely fluky. I should be able to log at least two $8/$16 sessions a week, but this past month it seemed like something random came up on all my normal playing days: big poker tournament, went to a hockey game, I got sick, I attended a going away dinner, I played $4/$8 on a friend’s shift because he’d been playing on mine, and I had to cover a shift for someone on vacation. As a result, I only played 39 hours of $8/$16 compared to 70 hours of $4/$8, although nearly half of those $4/$8 hours were as the floorman. For the year, 67% of my free time hours have been in bigger games, so I guess I’m okay with that.

-log 100 hours of spread limit

I actually played one really short session in the $3/$5 Muckleshoot game which brings my total hours for the year to a whopping 2. I feel like this is a goal I’m more likely to achieve over the last few months of the year. While I’m all for challenging myself as a player, at the end of the day, I’d rather spend my time in a game I’m an expert at and I just haven’t spent much time developing my NLHE game and I don’t feel like my bankroll is large enough to learn on the job.

I doubled up early in the session and won a sizable pot with KK, but I blew back all my profit in an extremely marginal situation where I whiffed a nut open-ended straight draw in a raised pot and then leveled myself into calling off $200 on the river with 4th pair after concluding that I should fold. It’s that kind of flimsy decision-making that makes me feel like I’m not ready for that game yet – the confidence is simply not there.

I did cash out +$20 though. GOT EM!

-play a tournament series in a city I’ve never been to before

I thought I was going to Shakopee, Minnesota this past month, but that trip was cancelled for various reasons. I will probably revisit that idea in late summer or early fall. Some friends recently moved to Connecticut and I may visit them later in the year, which would certainly include a trip to Foxwoods. Also, I am going to Vegas a week from today, but that’s nothing new and also not necessarily a poker trip.

-continuing reading about mental game, develop mental game profiles, and improve my c-game
-focus my learning — don’t study multiple variants at the same time or games I’m not playing frequently

To be honest, I didn’t spend a ton of time on my game away from the table this past month. Between all the distractions and being sick, I didn’t have a bunch of free time, but this should change going forward.

-treat poker like a job with set hours and not like a hobby

Fortunately, I work for a living and I’m in a situation where straying from this plan isn’t detrimental to my short-term quality of life. Even though I reached my hours goal, I definitely treated poker like a hobby this past month.

-watch opponents closely in tournaments and develop exploitative styles for each of them instead of playing laggy for laggy’s sake
-take my time in critical pots and really think things through before acting
-set a new career high tournament score

I played five tournaments in February, but three of them were at my job and two of them were while I was working. I took second while I was working for my only cash of the month.

I made a pretty early exit in the $115 Monday night tournament at Muckleshoot. I lost with QQ to quads for a decent portion of my stack and then I jammed over an open with 18-19 bigs holding JJ and my opponent showed up with QQ.

I also played the 4th Sunday $250 deep stack at Muckleshoot and never really got things going. I had a chance to chip up early, but got decidedly unlucky. With blinds at 100-200 and effective stacks well above 20K, a weak, predictable player limped in and I raised it to 700 on the button with AKdd. A younger Asian guy three-bet me from the big blind to 2200 and the limper folded. My first instinct was that this guy was capable of re-raising me light and capable of realizing that I would raise the button light trying to isolate the weak player in position. In this instance, I was near the top of my range and I felt like if the big blind was capable of 3-betting light, he was probably capable of 5-betting or jamming light. Since I’m never folding AK here, I decided to avoid the leveling war and not get 100+ bigs in preflop with Ace high during level 2 and just called. The flop brought KQ3 with two clubs and I called his bet of 2500. The turn bricked out and he bet 5000. I could jam here, but I really felt like his range was mostly air and that if he had nothing, he would almost certainly have to bet the river and raising the turn would let him off the hook – so I just called. The river was a pretty gross Tc, but since I felt like I backed him into a corner where he had to be his entire range, I snap-called his 10K bet and he showed me the 85 of clubs for a flush. Sigh. From that point, I made a few unsuccessful opens trying to pick up some much needed blinds before eventually cramming it in with AT and 6 bigs only to run into AQ.

I am now about a month away from going a year without cashing in a tournament with a buy-in of $100+ and it’s been such a steady drain on my overall results that I’m starting to think maybe I should focus solely on cash games. At the moment though, I am still planning on playing the $500 NLHE event at Muckleshoot this month and the first two events at The World Series Of Poker in late May, plus the daily $150 at Venetian this month.

-double my current bankroll size
-maintain a 1 BB/HR win rate at 8/16
-start playing 20/40 regularly by end of year

I crushed it in February for the first three weeks before having a rough last week.

My final numbers were 1.35 BB/HR overall, 1.52 BB/HR @ $4/$8, and 1.02 BB/HR @ $8/$16, which brings my YTD totals to: 1.15 BB/HR overall, 1.87 BB/HR @ $4/$8, and 0.48 BB/HR @ $8/$16.

See you next month.