Archive for November, 2017

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Weekly Music Update – 11/29/2017

November 30, 2017

Since I celebrated Thanksgiving three different times last week, I never got around to posting my Weekly Music Update, so this post includes releases from the last two Fridays.

Also, aside from the one album I’ve been listening to heavily that I’ll mention below, most of my music listening lately has been in preparation for my next Rapper Profile (you can read past profiles for Biggie and DMX by clicking their names).

So who is my next profile going to be?

This guy:

That’s Eminem – in honor of his new album Revival which has been officially announced as coming out on December 15th.

New Releases

CyHi The PrynceNo Dope On Sundays (hip-hop/rap) – This album is fire. I made a preliminary Top 5 of 2017 list last night and this is a strong contender. Great lyrics, great beats… just great rap music.

Fabolous & JadakissFriday On Elm Street (hip-hop/rap) – Both these guys are rappers I’ve always thought of as overrated. I really like Jada’s verse on the opening track when he raps from the perspective of Jason Vorhees (I guess Fab missed the memo – his verse has almost nothing to do with Freddy Krueger), plus the beat is horror movie awesome. The rest of the album is the slightly above average material I’ve grown accustomed to from these guys.

Kodak BlackProject Baby 2: All Grown Up (hip-hop/rap) – Kodak had a release last year or earlier this year that I was expecting to hate, but actually kind of liked. I have given this zero listens so far though.

NasIn My Ghetto – EP (hip-hop/rap) – I’m not sure what this is supposed to be or who released it but more than half of these songs were on Lost Tapes, which was released 15 years ago. Nas fans would be better off adding that album to their collection, especially since the mixing on this is really subpar at times. This has already been deleted from my playlist.

Bob SegerI Knew You When (rock) – Another attempt at branching out with an artist I’ve never listened to. So far I’ve listened to zero songs. LOL.

Jaden SmithSYRE (hip-hop/rap) – I was going to skip this, but someone recommended it to me. I listened to the first several tracks and while the rapping is solid and the music is fine, I can’t say it really grabbed me. I have not revisited it again.

Talib KweliRadio Silence (hip-hop/rap) – There was a time in the early 2000s when I considered Talib a top 20 emcee. His star has faded quite a bit since then. I haven’t listened to this album yet and I was shocked when Talib spent the first weekend of its release arguing nonstop with poker players on Twitter. POKER PLAYERS. Not really sure how or why that happened, but I don’t get how someone that just released a new album could waste so much time and energy arguing and telling people to take showers on a social media app.

Other Notable Releases

BjorkUtopiar (electronic)

Lil Uzi VertLuv Is Rage 2 (hip-hop/rap) – Nope.

T-PainOblivion (hip-hop/rap)

Ratings

KamaiyahBefore I Wake (hip-hop/rap) – RECOMMENDED

Wu-TangThe Saga Continues (hip-hop/rap) – TOP NOTCH

Sam SmithThe Thrill of it All (pop) – RECOMMNENDED

JidennaBoomerang – EP (hip-hop/rap) – RECOMMENDED

LE$The Catalina Wine Mixer (hip-hop/rap) – RECOMMENDED

Brent FaiyazSonder Son (r&b/soul) – VERY GOOD

Dame D.O.L.L.A.CONFIRMED (hip-hop/rap) – RECOMMENDED

Other Recent Releases

Cam’ronThe Program (hip-hop/rap) – Haven’t listened yet… but I did hear Ma$e destroy Cam’ron last week.

KalelaTake Me Apart (R&B/soul) – Haven’t really listened to yet.

ELHAEAURA II (R&B/soul) – Haven’t listened at all.

dvsnMorning After (r&b/soul) – Pretty close to having a rating for this.

Big K.R.I.T.4eva Is a Mighty Long Time (hip-hop/rap) – Can’t really get into this.

YelawolfTrial By Fire (hip-hop/rap) – Close to having a rating for this also.

Best of 2017 Playlist Additions

“No Dope On Sundays” featuring Pusha T – CyHi The Prynce, No Dope On Sundays

“Murda” featuring Estelle – CyHi The Prynce, No Dope On Sundays

“Closer” – CyHi The Prynce, No Dope On Sundays

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December 2017 – Most Anticipated Movies & Shows

November 30, 2017

Top December Movies

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (December 15th) – No explanation needed here, right? As far as Star Wars fanboys go, I’m not much of one, but I would say I enjoy the series. I own about 300 movies, but not one film related to the Star Wars franchise. Still, nothing quite defines the experience of going to the movies like a new Star Wars film and I’ll be there opening weekend like everyone else. I was very happy with JJ Abrams’ reboot in 2015 and this should be another fun installment.

2. The Shape Of Water (December 8th, limited) – Guilleremo del Toro (Pan’s Laybrinth directs a stellar cast that features Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, and Octavia Spencer in this period piece about a mute woman that works as a cleaning lady in a top secret government building that houses a creature that she becomes fond of. del Toro and top notch actors and a creature is always a winning formula.

3. I, Tonya (December 8th, limited) – Margot Robbie plays notorious ice skating star Tonya Harding, the woman that was responsible for bashing in rival Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. The tone of this movie seems fun and Robbie and Allison Janey look like they could be giving great performances.

4. Molly’s Game (December 25th, limited) – I read the book this movie was adapted from and I thought it was interesting, but not really something that would translate well to the big screen. If anyone can make it work though, it’s Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter responsible for The Social Network and Moneyball. Also, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba bring serious acting chops. For those that don’t know, this is a movie about a woman who hosted some of the biggest underground poker games in Los Angeles and New York, some of which were attended by celebrities like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and Alex Rodriguez.

5. The Post (December 22nd, limited) – Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in a newspaper drama set in the early 1970s.

6. Phantom Thread (December 25th, limited) – Director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and Daniel Day-Lewis team up again for what is supposed to be DDL’s last role of his acting career. The film is set in the 1950s and centers around London fashion, which definitely doesn’t excite me. Day-Lewis is one of the best actors of all time though and Paul Thomas Anderson has proven himself a very capable writer/director, so I will be anxious to see how they can make this material enthralling.

7. Downsizing (December 22nd) – Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play a married couple that decide to shrink themselves in order to escape their stress filled lives and take advantage of this newfound technology that will help the world’s overpopulation issue. Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) directs this comedy.

Netflix Additions

Immediate Watch

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2 (Dec. 5th)
Judd Apatow: The Return (Dec. 12th)
Dave Chappelle: Equanimity (Dec. 31st)

Eventually Watch

The Crown, Season 2 (Dec. 8th)
Peaky Blinders, Season 4 (Dec. 21st)

Might Watch

Diana: In Her Own Words (Dec. 1st)
Easy, Season 2 (Dec. 1st)
Trollhunters Part 2 (Dec. 15th)
Bright (Dec. 22nd)
Creep 2 (Dec. 23rd)

Other Notables

8 Mile (Dec. 1st)
Full Metal Jacket (Dec. 1st)
V For Vendetta (Dec. 1st)

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So Many Horror Movies!

November 29, 2017

So last month I went to Reno, Nevada for Jason Sommerville’s Run It Up Reno (and maybe I’ll blog about that someday – it’s been on my list for a month now) but before heading to Reno, my friends and I made a stop in Hollywood to check out Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.

For those that don’t know, Halloween Horror Nights is an event that Universal does every October where they create a bunch of haunted houses based on famous horror movie properties and these things are amazing. I think the experience is an absolute must for fans of the genre and I have gone the past two years and feel like it should be an annual tradition. Who doesn’t want authentic looking Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger jumping out at them?

Anyways, in preparation for the event this year, I watched a bunch of horror movies and I’m going to bust out some very quick reviews for them right now:

Saw (2004) – The world is introduced to The Jigsaw Killer and it’s a pretty fun ride. This movie is still great today and I can still remember how blown away I was by the ending the first time I saw it. I love the scene where the dude from “Lost” is in the closet and you can only see his eye. The lack of budget shows a bit now and some of the acting, particularly from the two leads, is pretty laughable. Still, even with these flaws, this is the best film in the series by a wide margin.

8/10 (Must See)

Saw II (2005) – The Saw sequels were really forgettable to me the first time I watched them. I have much better recollection now having seen most of them twice, but I remembered very little from my first viewings. The traps are the coolest thing about this series after the original movie. They can be really gross and incredibly creative. While Jigsaw coerced someone to help him in the first film, this is where we start to see that his death traps can actually inspire real life changes to their survivors – and potential apprentices for his cause.

4/10 (Forgettable)

Saw III (2006) – Jigsaw captures a doctor to perform medical procedures on him and keep him alive while his protege runs her own death trap game. In Saw everything is connected and nothing is coincidence. I think I liked this movie more than its predecessor.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw IV (2007) – Spoiler alert! Jigsaw is dead. Can you imagine if the Halloween series killed off Michael Myers in the third film and then made five more movies? I can. That movie is called Halloween III: Season of the Witch and it’s one of the all-time worst horror sequels ever made. I’m not really comparing the Saw franchise to that movie, but it does seem like a weird choice to kill off your prime villain when you have a horror franchise cash cow going. I think Saw makes it work though. With flashbacks of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw orchestrating things and a somewhat believable following helping carry on his legacy, the movies manage to stay fun and interesting without straying too much.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw V (2008) – Detective Hoffman is now the primary Jigsaw killer and becomes the suspect of an FBI agent. The series continues to keep things interesting and relevant with flashbacks and backstory.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw VI (2009) – More of the same.

5/10 (Watchable)

Saw VII (2010) – The wheels have officially fallen off. Right from the opening scene this movie feels different – and not in a good way. I do like the idea of someone posing as a Jigsaw survivor as a claim to fame and then being put through the death trap mazes, but man… this one was brutal. This is easily the worst entry of the initial run and it was bad enough to put the franchise to sleep for seven years. There’s a big reveal at the end that could have been cool in a better installment.

2/10 (Horrible)

Jigsaw (2017) – I have to admit I was curious how they could possibly reinvent the franchise. Even fans of the series probably won’t really like this movie. It’s cool to see Tobin Bell back as The Jigsaw Killer, but one has to wonder how that is even possible. The answer will likely disappoint or infuriate you. It wouldn’t be a Saw movie without the patented surprise ending and, well, it’s pretty bad. This is a completely unnecessary sequel and a poor attempt at rebooting the series.

2/10 (Horrible)

Insidious (2010) – The first jump scare in this movie is one of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. The movie itself was somewhat intriguing and the concept of The Further is pretty cool, but it was a bit slow and my friend I was watching it with was totally uninterested.

5/10 (Watchable)

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) – This sequel is better than the first and is a really good compliment to the original – so much so, that it makes the first movie better. We get a better idea of how The Further operates and some things that were unexplained in the first movie have pretty cool reveals here.

6/10 (Recommended)

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) – A decent prequel that shows how psychic Elise got into the paranormal activity business and met her future associates Tucker and Specs.

5/10 (Watchable)

Sinister (2012) – A hidden gem. This movie was truly thrilling and actually quite scary. I kind of loved it. This is a must watch for fans of horror.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Teeth (2007) – This movie is utterly ridiculous. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a movie about a girl that has teeth in her, uh, female parts. So naturally she is the subject of multiple unwanted male sexual advances and we are rewarded with more than one severed genitalia. I think this movie is meant to be part comedy, part parody, part horror and with that in mind I guess it works fairly well. Jess Weixler actually gives a pretty great performance in the lead role and I’m surprised she hasn’t seen more success in her career.

5/10 (Watchable)

The Babysitter (2017) – If you saw this on Netflix and dismissed it, you made a mistake. I very much liked this horror comedy about a kid that catches his babysitter and her friends performing a ritual sacrifice and finds himself fighting for his life. Judah Lewis gives what should be a breakout performance and is very funny in his role as the kid in this movie. Fast-paced and funny, but not particularly scary, The Babysitter was a fun, light horror flick.

6/10 (Recommended)

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Marathon Monday: 12+ Hours of $15/$30 LHE – A Live Blog!

November 27, 2017

7:15 AM: Alarm goes off. Time to get to it!

7:23 AM: Welcome to Marathon Monday! Bookmark this post and check back throughout the day as I will be updating all day long when something interesting happens or at least every 90 minute break.

I slept like absolute crap last night. I took a nap in the middle of the day yesterday and decided it would be a good idea to drink some coffee to give myself a boost for my second shift on Global Poker, so I was drinking caffeine as late as 6 PM. Not sure if it was the caffeine or if I’m just anxious to play poker today – Mondays at the Palace have quickly become my favorite work day. Either way, it felt like I was never able to fully rest last night. Could make for a tough day, but I still feel pretty good right now.

8:05 AM: Arriving at Crunch Fitness for some pre-session yoga and light lifting. I could sleep an extra two hours by cutting this out but I’m determined to commit to yoga, so here I am.

9:57 AM: Back home with Starbucks coffee and sausage sandwich. 19 people signed up to start $15/$30 today… let’s see how many of them actually show up at 11 AM. I predict we start without a full game again.

10:58 AM: 6 seated players with chips so far! Lol! If you build it they will come though. Took a couple hours to fill up last week but I bet it’s full before noon today.

11:03 AM: Cards in the air. Started 6-handed… 13 no shows and 1 flake. Maybe they don’t know the game starts at 11?

11:08 AM: AT > AK on KQ97J and we have sugar 16 hours earlier than we did last week!

11:22 AM: A player joins the game and he’s one of the all-time biggest maniacs I’ve ever seen. Yum yum! He’s also the player that sat down and busted last week when I was on a 5 minute break. He did buy an extra $200 this week.

11:26 AM: We have a full game! This likely won’t be a super marathon. I have an appointment in Bellevue at 8 AM so no 16 hour craziness today but I’ll be here til at least 11 PM.

11:51 AM: Just found a way to lose to 44 with 77 on a 762 two heart flop. Three bets pre, three bets flop. Yawn.

12:43 PM: So much for early sugar. Another brilliant $15/$30 start. I think I’m down about $700 already thanks to that 77 hand, KQ < K9 on a K9x flop, a couple nut draws that missed, and my one premium pocket pair that went down in flames like this:

I raise JJ under the gun, next player calls, and maniac defends big blind. Flop is 642 with two hearts – I have J of hearts and lead, next guy raises, maniac calls, I 3-bet, cap, call, call.

Turn is 2h and I check and overcall. Last time UTG+1 played like this he had top two so I assume he’s strong again.

River is an Ace. It checks around and the maniac wins with A3o.

Also, when the player to my left sat down this morning – after asking me if I used to work here when we played together two weeks ago, like he didn’t remember me – he asked me why he hasn’t seen me on T.V. yet. Okay, buddy.

1:08 PM: The maniac has felted after buying in for $500 and peaking at $1300. I almost got none of it but this was his last hand:

Multiple limpers, he raises cutoff, I 3-bet ATdd from the button, some fold, some call, he caps, and at least five of us see the flop.

It is pretty nice: K83 with two diamonds. The small blind leads out, a call, maniac raises, I 3-bet, call, call, maniac all in.

Turn Qd! I can see the light! I bet and small blind calls.

I don’t hit the $4766 Diamond Royal Flush on the river but I do get paid off and the maniac somehow doesn’t fill up with KQ.

A very nice pot on the brink of a reload.

2:40 PM: It’s not all bad! Thanks to the pot above, a couple small ones, and a set of 9s before taking this break, I am now down only ~$275.

2:54 PM: The Riddler is badgering me for updates. I just ordered two bottles of water so someone can take my extra one later without asking. Also just made my first ace high call down of the day – it wasn’t good.

3:30 PM: Not really sure about this one. One limper, I raise KTss, couple cold calls, and 4-ways to KJ9 one spade flop. I decide to check because a free card can’t hurt me too much and this is a flop I don’t really want to get heavy action on. It checks around.

The turn is a 7s, so now I have all sorts of good things going on: top pair, double gutter, flush draw. The preflop limper bets out and I raise it, planning to take a free showdown and bet when I improve.

I don’t know about this play though. The pot is big enough that I don’t really mind driving players out, but my draw is also so big I don’t really mind letting them see the river either.

I think it’s pretty close, but it feels less close when they all fold and I get 3-bet. Ugh.

I miss and he wins with KJ.

4:10 PM: I’m getting wrecked by a nit today. It’s pretty embarrassing… but I didn’t know yet!

Game climate has definitely taken a turn for the worse. My favorite player lately ended up passing and leaving and now we are getting Radio Mike instead.

4:18 PM: Yikes. I just cold called a raise thinking I was opening AJo from MP. This is a hand I would actually fold to an EP raise against a reasonable player.

Instead I wind up losing lots of bets to the big blind’s A9 after seeing an A98T4 run out.

And now I’m reloading. In for $2800.

Maybe it’s time to refocus.

4:54 PM: Was on the verge of disaster before winning the last two hands before this break, which included a rather spicy open with K8cc from a position that wasn’t the button, or the cutoff, or the hi-jack…. and got to show Radio Mike trips when he defended and called me down.

I already received a text about that one.

The session hasn’t been going well. Here’s a hand that I wasn’t very happy about:

Two limpers, small blind calls, I check ATo. I raise sometimes here but I check this time.

Flop is 542 and the first limper bets, button calls, SB calls, I call. You could debate folding this, but I’m not really convinced anyone has anything. I admit a 3 or an A might not be great cards, so maybe I should fold actually.

The turn is my nut card: a T. I check, planning to raise the field since I expect the flop bettor to bet most of the time – he has a very itchy trigger finger. But it checks through.

K on the river and now I’m bluff-catching. I check, first limper bets, button – a new player to me that seems to lack experience – calls, and I overcall and lose to button’s K7o. Just beautiful.

I think I’m down around $800-$1000 at the moment.

5:04 PM: I sit down and try to buy the button for $30 (it’s only $20) and the dealer is confused. He gives me back $10. I put it back in. I’m confused.

I say, “I don’t know what game I’m playing.”

Radio Mike says, “that would explain a lot.”

5:28 PM: I pick up AA, which is only the second time all day I’ve had JJ+, and open with a raise. One player and a blind calls.

Flop is 772 rainbow and I bet and only the cold caller stays.

Turn is a 9 and I’m considering check-raise but decide to lead and he raises me! Goodness. This isn’t a player I expect to raise light here so I’m already mentally preparing for the bad news. I call.

River is a blank and I check-call and he shows… 98ss, for one pair. The heck? I’ll take it!

5:46 PM: How do you put a stop to some solid momentum? Like this:

MP opens, I 3-bet KJhh and we go four ways to a J43 with two hearts flop. Three of us end up capping the flop, with the other PFR and myself putting in the bets and raises.

Turn pairs the 3 and they both check-call me.

River is a 2h and now the small blind leads out. Okay, I’m still raising here. But then the PFR makes it $60. How is this real? Now I can’t beat much. Maybe QThh or some other overplay. This player doesn’t have to have the nuts here, so I’m never folding. I call, SB calls, and the other player wins with AThh. So sick!

7:26 PM: If you’re wondering why I haven’t updated it’s because I’m completely and utterly card dead. They did just let me win with KQ though. I have about $1900 in front of me, so I’m down $900. ~3.5-4 hours to right this ship!

8:08 PM: One of my favorite players is in the game for multiple buy ins. He’s the guy that capped pre with 82cc, then capped the 532 flop, in an epic hand against me when I flopped a wheel.

I will refer to him as The Human Torch going forward.

8:19 PM: Momentum! Thanks to some battles with my friend Ryan O.

He opens, player B calls, I 3-bet AKo from the big blind (I would flat here like 10%) and Ryan caps it.

Flop is King high, two middle cards. I check, Ryan bets, B raises… B has like one big bet left, so I think the best way to maximize is to cold call this bet and lead the turn. So that’s what I do. Ryan calls flop and then calls the turn when a blank hits and the flop raiser folds. What???

River is another K. I bet and my hand wins.

On my button, the hi jack limps in and I raise with J9dd. Both blinds defend and the limper calls.

Flop is J53 with one diamond. Everybody calls me.

Turn is a 6 of spades, opening up a flush draw. Everyone checks to me and honestly, I think this is close to a check. Very close. The turn is pretty good for the two blinds check-calling ranges. I can check and fold to bad river cards, or call one bet with a decent pair, or bet if they all check again.

I bet though and Ryan check-raises me from the big. Ew. The limper tanks for a very long time and then folds. I call.

River is a Q and Ryan checks. I’m very happy about this because it means I might win. I check back. He shows J8 of spades and I do win. Limper that folded on the turn claims QJ. Wow. Thanks Ryan!

Thanks to these pots and another huge hand where it was capped multiway preflop and I flopped a flush with AKcc, I am now down about $500.

8:44 PM: The Riddler is on the $15/$30 list and now I’m thinking maybe I’ll never go home tonight.

8:52 PM: I have acquired the Jesus Seat. I went from having The Torch, Peter, and Ryan on my immediate left to having all three of them on my immediate right. Radio Mike moves into my old seat and I chuckle inside.

9:15 PM: We have sugar!!

I open 66 from maybe too early of a position. I get 3-bet, Radio Mike caps it, The Torch is in. We are five ways capped to a pretty decent 655 flop.

I check. Radio Mike bets, The Torch torches – and has two small bets behind – so I make it look like I’m thinking about isolating him and 3-bet it. One player takes all three bets to the face but Mike just calls. Whoops.

Maybe I should have flatted. I could sell a hand like 88 or 99 by calling but now Mike is on defense. The Torch puts in his last small bet and I get four bets four ways after flopping a full house.

The board comes running deuces and everyone pays me off and The Torch helps me get the flop capped holding… 98.

I am up like $20 now.

9:27 PM: The Riddler is in the game. I don’t know what happened, but Peter is showing him the A6 on the J22K6 run out and The Riddler is looking at 55 like wtf just happened.

10:21 PM: Peter’s doom switch has been activated.

First, he has J9 on a 95597 board in a very large pot and he waits until the river to raise it. He’s heads up and his opponent calls with… 97.

The runout is bad enough but when he just gets called he knows he’s never losing this massive pot – and then he does.

Shortly afterwards I pick up the QJdd UTG and it winds up getting three bet and four or five us see the ATx flop, with one diamond. I check-call a bet from Peter and another player tags along.

Turn is 8d and I check-call again. Radio Mike also sticks around.

River is 6d and I lead out? Eh. Pretty safe river. I can probably check-raise and it’s even more apparent when Peter flats and shows a set of Aces. Whoops!

11:13 PM: The Riddler wanted an update so bad he decided to do something crazy:

He opens from EP and I 3-bet AK and we go heads up to the K64 flop. I bet, he calls.

Turn is a T and now he check-raises. I call.

River 9. Bet call.

I say, “I really don’t see how you can have me beat here”

“Like that,” he says – and snap rolls QJ.

I mean… I just… I can’t even…

12:30 AM I am home now. Sometimes you rack up and leave. Sometimes you rack up and play another orbit.

I posted another big blind. Someone limped in, Radio Mike raised it, I 3-bet TT and they both call.

The flop is 8 high and I bet, limper calls, Mike raises, I 3-bet, the limper folds and Mike calls.

Turn and river are blanks and Mike calls me down with… JJ.

I post the small blind. It folds to Ryan O in the cutoff and he opens. Folds to me in the small blind and I 3-bet because Ryan’s cutoff opening range is disgustingly wide. The big blind calls and Ryan calls.

Flop is AKQ and I check. Let’s be honest. This is not a good flop for me. If I can show my hand down cheaply I’m okay with that. If the big blind shows aggression I might end up folding. He checks though and Ryan bets. I call. Big blind folds.

Turn is a blank and I check-call.

River is a K and I check. This is a card I expect Ryan to check a lot, but he bets and I can’t help but ask “does that mean I was winning the whole time?”

Yes… Yes it does. I call and he shows K3o.

I did pick up KK this last orbit, but I got minimal action and a board that ran out poorly for me.

I’m really loving the $15/$30 game and the action has been really good, but it was another subpar session for me. I was stuck almost all day and finally got back to even, only to have a bunch of bad run outs push me back down right before I left.

I ended up finishing the day -$695. Not sure how I’m going to sleep tonight knowing that The Riddler is out there somewhere playing poker with red chips.

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Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

November 23, 2017

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad
Director: Kenneth Branagh (Mama, Inception, Memento)

Bottom Line: I never read Agatha Christie’s novel that this film is based on so I have nothing to say about the source material or how well it was adapted by the screenwriters. The gist of the film revolves around a rather legendary detective named Hercule Poirot (played by director Kenneth Branagh) who finds himself aboard The Orient Express when one of his fellow passengers is murdered and is put to task to solve the crime.

Branagh gives such an uneven performance as Poirot that I found myself disconnected from the film very early on. Branagh starts the film off playing Poirot like he’s a Sacha Baron Cohen character and by the time I realized this movie was supposed to be taken seriously, I was already checked out. By the third act of the film, I was thinking Branagh was actually doing a pretty good job, but by that point, I had pretty much already dismissed his performance as cheesy.

Because of this rather monumental shift in tone, I just didn’t care much about what was going on. I don’t know if it’s Christie’s novel (I’m guessing no) or if the production team just did a poor job bringing the story to life. Branagh and his cinematographer do some interesting things with the camera and there is some gorgeous set pieces in the film, but the characters are just so unbelievably dull. I didn’t care about a single one of them.

Also, for all the phenomenal actors cast in this movie, no one really gives a notable performance. Again, I don’t know if it is weak characters or poor direction from Branagh, but I felt like pretty much everyone in the cast could have been replaced by some random actor and it wouldn’t really change anything. I can’t remember the last time Johnny Depp has played such a forgettable character – for better or for worse.

I was really disappointed with Murder On The Orient Express. When I first saw the trailer I was really intrigued – it looked great. The execution was just not good. I’m not really sure who this movie is for. I suspect Branagh thought he was making Oscar fodder, but it’s unlikely this movie is going to get any nominations. If it does, it will be for Cinematography or Art Direction, but the film has gotten such lukewarm responses that it will probably whiff entirely. I imagine there’s a good movie to be made with this story, but this isn’t the one. It was boring and Branagh seemed confused on what the tone should be. I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone as I did not enjoy it myself.

Replay Value: I will likely never watch this version again.
Sequel Potential: Just did some digging and I see that Hercule Poirot is an iconic and prolific character in Agatha Christie canon. If this was a huge success, Branagh could have possibly parlayed it into his own iconic character. I predict this is the last time he plays Hercule Poirot on film. With so much material to adapt from a noteworthy author, however, this surely won’t be the last time the world sees the character on the big screen.
Oscar Potential: Very little. Some outside chances at the categories I mentioned earlier.

Grade: 4 (Forgettable)

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Marathon Monday: $15/$30 Debuts @ Palace! (A Live Blog)

November 20, 2017

10:50 AM: Arriving at Palace and ecstatic to see 17 names on the list for this game. Last time I was here – late on Wednesday night – there were only 5 names on the list and I was legitimately concerned that this might not happen.

I like to buy in for at least 37.5 big bets for LHE games, but I typically buy bigger for red chip games. I will be sitting down with $1500.

11 AM: Okay, make that 20 names on the list. Not sure how many of them are actually here.

11:06 AM: Cards in the air starting 6-handed with the 20th name on the list getting a seat. Oh oh.

11:19 AM: Still 6-handed. I can see three people on the list that are in other games right now. If you scared, say you scared!

12:07 PM: This is fun. We are still 6-handed and the only reason this game is going is because the right players are losing (me!) and right players are winning.

Currently -$500 as the only pots I’ve won are preflop steals and small continuation bluffs.

I just had this awesome hand: open 66; cutoff and button cold call and big blind defends. Flop 742 two diamonds, I bet and get two callers. Turn 7h, opening up backdoor flush draw. I bet and both call again. River is a black ten and I check-call, losing to T8 of hearts.

12:13 PM: We gain our first player! And he’s a certifiable maniac. Game on!

12:37 PM: Taking my first break. I’m down $500 and still haven’t won a showdown. I was pretty close to reloading – which is at about 1.5 racks for me – but I just made a flush in a decent pot and didn’t get called on the river.

Had our first hit and run. No surprise there. Picked up two players though – we are now 8-handed.

12:46 PM: A new player sat down with $300 as I was getting up to take my break and was busto before I sat back down 8 minutes later.

1:16 PM: Game fills up for the first time!

People buying in for $500 and taking $20/$40 overs buttons. Uhm. Okay.

1:23 PM: The maniac is batting 1.000 against me. Seems like KJ will turn the tides on KJx two club flop but he check-raises me on 9c turn, and I decide to call down unimproved. He shows JJ and his expert slow play costs him multiple bets. Bright side?

Still haven’t won a showdown. Down ~$800 and working on my Zen deep breathing exercises!

1:35 PM: Reloaded! In for $2500.

1:46 PM: Early break. I’m officially steaming.

Maniac raises three limpers, I cold call KT of clubs, and we go six ways to T84 with two spades. Everybody checks to me and I bet. Folds to the maniac and he check-raises me. Unbelievable. I call him down and he shows me 44. Dude risks a free card in a huge pot with 5 opponents just so he can raise me? Oh, it hurts! This dude is SMASHING me.

2:06 PM: I’m down over $1100. I still haven’t won a showdown. The maniac has over $1600 in front of him on my direct right. If the Poker Gods really hate me today, he will rack up and leave in the next hour.

2:33 PM: I three bet a LAG with 66 and flop middle set. The flush gets there on the river and I’m actually ever so slightly disappointed when I don’t get check-raised. I won my first showdown! 3.5 hours into my session – and I was playing 6-handed for over an hour. Pretty impressive.

2:40 PM: I sit down and buy the button and the maniac button straddles. I defend Q9dd and two others come along. The pot doesn’t go off for five bets each so I might actually have a shot here.

Flop is QJ8 one diamond and only the maniac calls my flop lead. Check around on 9 turn and he calls when I bet the 9 river. He shows J8. We are breaking some serious ice here! Maniac is no longer 100% against me and I sucked out on him.

Finally picking up a little momentum with four showdowns won in the last hour.

3:30 PM: The Legend is in the box. The mother#%$*ing Legend!

3:47 PM: Someone asks for a setup. There’s no escaping that nonsense.

A short while ago, there were 11 names on the list, but when someone got up, half of them passed and now there are 6.

4:00 PM: Five hours into my session and I’m stuck $1200 or $1300. I have not been running good when I play pots but I’ve also been crazy card dead. I’ve had TT once. I’ve had JJ+ zero times.

This game is good right now but if the wrong people get up it could turn in a hurry. Three of the next four players on the list are either solid or nitty.

4:37 PM: Finally picked up QQ! In a 3-bet multiway pot no less. Didn’t show it down but I’ll take it.

Also added on for another $1000, so I’m in this game for $3500 now. I can hardly wait for people to stop by and comment on how well I’m doing.

5:24 PM: The maniac just cashed out. For like $200. He peaked around $1700, mostly winning pots against me. I got basically none of that back as he sprayed it around to everyone else. I’m still -$1500. His departure and replacement by a nit makes this game significantly worse.

6:09 PM: My buddy Peter sits down an hour ago and just immediately goes to crushing and already has a $499 jackpot under his belt. Dealer didn’t see the straight flush and I was trying to back him up, but they are paying Peter anyway.

6:22 PM: Peter raises a series of limpers and I 3-bet AK from the small blind. Limpers fold! Well that certainly doesn’t happen in a Palace $8/$16 game. 3-handed and I bet A98 and they both call (Overs). Turn is a 7. I bet, one snap folds, and Peter tank-folds and asks “Ace no good, right?” Claims A2. Peter, always a thorn in my side.

6:30 PM: Cha Mang in the game. Getting close to house game status.

7:07 PM: Just a brutal session so far. Currently stuck about $1800. Still super card dead and any step forward is followed by three steps back. Absolutely no momentum in 8+ hours of play. The game is far worse than it was a few hours ago. There’s a chance I might not try to stretch this into Marathon territory tonight.

7:19 PM: Now I’m really on tilt. Cha just took my extra water because he “didn’t want to wait for the server to come back around.” Oh, really?

8:04 PM: Captain America is in the box. I told him he probably won’t be saying “thank you” to me tonight and he promptly deals me QQ which flops top set and holds up somehow.

Before that, I picked up AJdd in the small blind. Peter raises the whole table on the button and since the limpers have been folding to 3-bets I just call and play a multiway pot.

The flop is all medium cards with two diamonds and I act without thinking – I check. With the PFR on the button I actually like leading out here better as it gives the field a chance to call one bet before Peter likely raises. I want to get as many bets in on the flop as I can and betting is the best way to do this. Especially since Peter isn’t a reckless c-bettor. If he flopped no immediate equity, he’s not torching a bet here.

He does check and I get zero bets in on the flop. Ugh.

Turn is another small or medium card and I don’t think I will win by betting so I check. There’s a bet, a raise, and a cold call back to me and this pot is large enough for me to continue.

It stays at two bets and, by God, I make my flush. Two players call and I scoop my only substantial pot of the day. Currently at -$1300.

9:12 PM: I’m finally on a little heater. Sets and overpairs winning showdowns and my buddy Radio Mike sits down and immediately tries to triple barrel bluff me with AK high in a four bet four-way pot. I call down with 99 on T High run out. Only stuck $1100 now. I actually thought I was in better shape than that, but I’ll take the forward momentum!

10:29 PM: Heater over. Back to card dead and flop whiffs. Back to -$1500. Radio Mike’s been playing for 90 minutes and has had QQ+ three more times than I’ve had them in 11.5 hours.

11:42 PM: Peter is no longer running good. He is running really, really bad. Like so bad, I can see that he’s in actual physical pain.

And then this hand happens:

Two players limp in, Peter calls, I check with AJo from the BB, which is something I basically never do in this situation so maybe I’m on tilt myself. But really I’ve been whiffing so many flops that I’ve been doing a lot of raising pre and checking on the flop. So I decide to check in bad position with a strong hand.

Flop is A62 rainbow and Peter leads from the small blind. Very tempting to raise here but the pot is micro and I have a monster for this situation. I flat and so do the other two players.

Turn is a 5 and now Peter checks. I bet, one caller, and Peter check-raises! What?! I can’t fold here so I call and so does our straggler.

River is another 5 and now Peter checks! I think about for quite some time before saying “I want the pain” and betting. The other player folds and Peter shows immediate vocal and physical exasperation which is basically like turning A2 face up. He doesn’t though. He folds it instead.

I’ve had some better luck recently and am currently stuck less than $1000 for the first time in HOURS!

12:45 AM: The Riddler distracting me for the last half hour.

1:15 AM: After going my first 14 hours of this session without getting AA, I get them twice in three hands, the first time flopping A99 in a 4-bet pot. I have come all the way back to -$500. I can still salvage this thing!

1:27 AM: AA again! Crazy how these streaks happen. All three hands good too.

1:32 AM: Variance is INSANE. AA again! Four times in less than 20 minutes. That’s just crazy.

1:50 AM: I took a short break as a player was cashing out and there were 6 people still on the list. I somehow came back to a 7-handed game with no list 5 minutes later.

3:35 AM: I just got home. I was severely distracted my last few hours, but a flurry of KK and QQ followed those Aces and somehow managed to book a +$25 win for the day. Perhaps the best $25 I’ve ever made. I’ve been stuck more chips in a poker game and booked a win, but I’ve never been stuck $1800 and booked one. I would say it feels amazing but I’m too drained and tired to feel anything. Looking forward to a real day off tomorrow!

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Justice League (2017)

November 20, 2017

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Mamoa, Henry Cavill
Director: Zack Snyder (Man Of Steel, Watchmen, Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice)

Bottom Line: I can’t believe it. I didn’t hate it. It’s a miracle! Seriously, I really thought I would never like Justice League. Zack Snyder already disappointed me beyond belief with his abysmal Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice and I really thought the trailers for this movie looked like a total mess too. I had every expectation that it was going to suck and only a very small piece of me held out hope that it could be good.

I was so pleasantly surprised to enjoy this movie. I mean… it wasn’t amazing. It’s not going to crack my top 10 of 2017 and it’s not even in my top 3 superhero films of the year. But it didn’t suck! IT DIDN’T SUCK!!! YES!

All the members of the team get their moments to shine and the many concerns I had about Cyborg and Aquaman were quickly relieved. That’s not to say I’m looking forward to a Cyborg solo film – I really think that would do poorly – but he wasn’t cringe-worthy like I was expecting and I think he added to the film quite a bit. Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller are great additions as Aquaman and The Flash, respectively.

Wonder Woman is still the star of this team. Gal Gadot is just perfect in that role and for whatever reason the filmmakers know how to make that character awesome.

I wish I could say the same for Batman. I like Affleck in the role, but in a lot of ways, I think Batman might be the weakest link in this crew – and it’s not because he’s a human being with no powers. Or maybe it is. A superhero like Batman worked amazingly well in the realistic world that Christopher Nolan crafted for his Dark Knight trilogy, but a movie like Justice League, which features heroes that can fly and aliens from other planets, well, Batman seems a little out of place. That seems to work just fine in an animated form, but something about seeing him involved in these crazy scenarios in live action form makes you think “maybe you should sit this one out, bud.” I dunno… maybe he will grow on me over time.

Justice League still has a really gloomy and grim setting, but there is a noticeable change in tone that adds quite a bit of humor and I think most of the jokes landed the laughs they were looking for. There are some great scenes involving Superman and Flash (weird… Superman returns – what a spoiler!) and another one with Wonder Woman’s lasso that you can’t help but think Joss Whedon added in post-production after Zack Snyder left the film due to a family tragedy. A little humor and charm certainly makes the movie far more enjoyable than its predecessor, which took itself so seriously it was almost comical.

Steppenwolf is the big baddie here and I’m honestly not familiar with him at all, despite watching the entire run of Justice League Unlimited and basically every animated film DC has released. Maybe I just missed him or forgot him, but I was pretty shocked when I heard a villain I’m completely unfamiliar with was who the JL would be battling in this movie. I thought he was okay. I guess he was believable as a formidable opponent for these superheroes, but there wasn’t anything particularly special or interesting about him.

All in all, I thought Justice League was a fun, but not great film. It certainly won’t convert anyone that’s anti-superhero movie, but it gives this fan of the genre hope for the DCEU going forward and it was honestly looking pretty grim last year. I am now looking forward to the next adventure. Bring on Darkseid!

Replay Value: I think I can enjoy this movie multiple times.
Sequel Potential: There are 19 movies in the pipeline for the DCEU at the moment, but only five of them have actual release dates and who knows how many of them will ever see the light of day. Aquaman comes out next year and Shazam! and Wonder Woman 2 are due out in 2019. A Justice League sequel will surely get made, but everything else DC has hinted at has to be taken with a grain of salt at this point.
Oscar Potential: None.

Grade: 6 (Recommended)