Monday, May 25, 2009

Free your music collection

Warning: No Poker Content Whatsoever

I am not an early adopter of most new technology. I prefer to have most things mature somewhat before I go spending my hard earned money. Music is the exception. When I first heard about MP3 technology, I leapt in with both feet and my eyes closed and it was the greatest thing I'd ever heard. I instantly got the concept, even though it took my friends, and the general public, many years before they understood. Take your entire music collection, convert it into electronic files and watch as the hardware industry created a plethora of ways for you to listen to that music. Instantly. At your fingertips. No more shuffling for the right CD. No more skips when someone bumps the stereo. I intuitively figured out that this would change the music landscape, for the better.

My first MP3 player was the Diamond RIO PMP300. It was translucent green, held 64MB of music (upgraded from the original RIO's 32MB) and had about a 24 song capacity. I paid $250 for it back in early 1999 and people thought I was NUTS! But any hesitation I might have had was washed away the first time I went skiing with it. As the crystal clear air washed over me going down the mountain, with Boston's "Rock and Roll Band" blasting in my head, I reached a nirvana moment. No longer would my music appreciation be limited to my bedroom. No longer would skipping portable CD players keep me from listening to the soundtrack of life while I was living it.

It took a few years for the world to catch up but they did, big time. In the intervening years, I've built up quite a music collection and digitized all of it. Even better, since the music is portable by definition (no matter what Sony tries to do), I've integrated other people's collections wholesale. I've done a lot of trading of collections with people and have no problem with simply dumping an entire hard drive worth of music into my collection to mingle. Given how easy it is to sort through your collection with ITunes, or other worthy media players, it always fascinated me how reluctant most people are to do this. After all, media storage is super cheap, so space isn't the issue. Most people will tell me, "I would never listen to what you have so I don't want it." To which I like to reply, "Who cares?!?" Since it doesn't cost anything to store the music, why wouldn't you want it, even if you probably will never listen to it? Maybe your spouse will, or a friend, or it will come in handy at a party? Maybe you'll be curious and want to explore a new genre? If it doesn't cost anything to store, why not have it? I still don't understand.

Of course, there is one little problem. MP3 files display their song information (Title, Artist, Track number, Album Title, etc..) through tags embedded in the song file itself. This tag information is notoriously unreliable if you haven't purchased the song through a standard channel (like ITunes). In the early days, all of the tags were done manually by different people, which meant that a single song could be tagged hundreds of different ways. It made it impossible to tell at a glance which song was which, and that made song organization a nightmare. The industry understood this and there are now song libraries out there, like Gracenote, which can be accessed by software to lookup song information in a single location. The uniformity of the information is what's important. If all the software is looking at a single database, there is only a single point of failure and you can rely on a song being tagged the same from software to software.

Until now, though, tagging a song was still a relatively manual process. There was no way to tell if a song, let's say "Whipping Post" by The Allman Brothers, was really that song. You would have to listen to it, identify it, look up the corresponding information in the database, and have the software update the tag details. If you have 30,537 songs (my current library size), this could take forever.

With this in mind, it was a few hours ago that I was looking through LifeHacker.Com (one of my favorite websites) when I came across an entry for Best MP3 Tagger. First prize went to a piece of software that is changing my life as we speak. It's called TuneUp and it's a companion for ITunes. The way it works is that you drag files from ITunes into it's window and it creates an acoustical profile of your song, like a fingerprint, and then matches it to the Gracenote database. In just a few seconds, it identifies the song and allows you to save the updated tag information. The drag and drop interface, combined with the ridiculously awesome accuracy (it even gets the album art!) and the ability to batch load hundreds of songs at a time makes this the best piece of software I've purchased in years. You know all of those classical music pieces you might have that aren't really tagged well or have the wrong composer or movement? No problem. It actually knows which piece, which movement, which orchestra, which composer and which conductor. How about those Russian songs I downloaded whose tags were in Cyrillic? No worries. This thing found out that they're Vissotski and it even knows the English name of the songs and the album title. How about those hundreds of tracks I have that have no tag information whatsoever? A breeze. TuneUp blows through them and finds out who they are, what album and what song.

All of a sudden, I have access to thousands of songs which were in my library but not really accessible to me. It's a mind blowing experience and all of a sudden I'm giddy about music again. With just a few hours of work, my music will have consistent genres attached, consistent artist names (no more Led Zeppelin and Lead Zeppelin mistakes) and accurate album titles. The consistency will enable me to browse genres easily, to discover country or R&B songs I'd never heard. Or maybe browse my collection by Year Released and get a chronological walk through pop music history. Or perhaps create a playlist of just albums released from 1990 - 1994, so I can relive my college years.

I have goosebumps.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wall Street WSOP winner

It was a long five hours but "Big" Paul Weiss outlasted a full table to take down the main prize. Personally, my money was on The Slayer, who after having announced that he hadn't played cards in months, went on a run worthy of his name. After doubling through the chip leader, cracking KK with his Q9o, he was up and down until he blasted Wendy out of the tourney with his 77 vs. her 66 and was the chip leader heads up. Two hands later, he and Big Paul were all in. Slayer showed 88 and Paul had Ah2h. The flop was garbage but the turn was an Ace and Paul doubled through. A few hands later, Slayer's slowplayed top pair, King kicker did him in when he let Paul draw to runner-runner flush for the win.

But if it hadn't been for the suckout against the pocker 8's, it would have been The Slayer out in Vegas representing Wall Street. The mind reels.

Congrats to big Paulie on a well deserved win! The sentiment, for now, is that he's going to play in the $1,500 HORSE event being held Sunday, June 14th (a 3 day event). More on this story as it develops...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So close to OK (Not much poker content)

Being unemployed has one side benefit: time. I am oozing free time out of my pores and have been spending it wisely with Ali, who is similarly infected with free time, having finished her law school finals two weeks ago. Ali's summer asoociate job doesn't start until June 1st, so we're doing a lot of lazing about along with chores and occasional fun things like movies, museums and dinners.

One of the great things we did this past week was to go see a Yankee game at the new stadium. First of all, I have to say that the new stadium is awesome! There are entrances on all sides of the stadium now, so getting in and out is a breeze. It's only a 15 minute ride to the stadium from the 72nd street B train, which is a huge plus. And to top it all off, the weather was an unreal 70 degrees and clear that night. Just an outstanding night for baseball. I had gotten seats on the field level all the way out in right field and am happy to report that the sight lines were excellent. We couldn't quite tell balls from strikes, but we had a great view of all the action. The new screen out in centerfield has twice the amount of info as the old screens and is crystal clear and bigger, to boot. From the screens you can tell who's up, what the count is, what the lineup is, what the score is, what the speed of the pitch is and what type, the batters season stats and (my favorite) the complete boxscore AND SITUATION (baserunners, who's at plate, who's pitching, etc.) of up to four different games at a time going on around the country. It's a cornucopia of information and is very welcome.

The game was against the Minnesota Twins and featured all the hallmarks of a game to remember:

1. A solo homer from Derek Jeter
2. Two solo homers from Justin Morneau
3. A solo homer from Joe Mauer
4. An inside the park homer (!) from Brett Gardner <----wow
5. A thrilling come from behind finish with the Yanks scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th culminating in a 2 out single by Melky Cabrera with the bases juiced. Yanks won 5-4 after being behind the entire game.

Gardner had come in the game for Johnny Damon, who was ejected after arguing with the ump the second time he was called out on strikes. Gardner came in and hit a single his first time up, the inside the park homer the next time and finally hit a lead-off triple in the bottom of the 9th to start the rally that led to the Yanks win! The triple was *almost* another inside the park homer, since Gardner tripped up a bit rounding first, but he would have been held at third regardless. Amazing game and a wonderful lift to the spirits.

In poker news, we are having the final table tonight of the six month long Wall Street World Series of Poker satellite, ending in a $3,000 grand prize for the winner to go to Vegas and play in a WSOP event of their choice. I wish I could have won a seat myself, but I didn't quite make it. I'm excited to see who's gonna take it down. It's a very tough table tonight. I'm just happy that we were able to get 10 seats filled, given the recent fall off in poker attendance. Not just at my place, by the way. I've heard reports from all over the city that the economy is choking poker games everywhere. {Sigh}

Oh yeah, I fixed my TV too. This is, by far, the most exciting news of the past few weeks. My TV, for a few months now, has had a weird glitch in which the background music WAY overwhelmed the dialogue, making watching most TV shows and movies quite irritating. I figured the speakers were blown, or something, but they seemed to respond well, just off balance. I had finally had enough and called a TV repair company to come make a call. After 10 minutes of fiddling with the settings, we discovered that the SURROUND feature of the TV was turned on, which somehow split the signal into a front and back of which only one seemed to be going through the TV speakers. Turning this setting OFF cleared the problem instantly! It's like getting a new TV! I had to pay for the guy's parking costs and gave him a $10 tip for his troubles, so $130 later (welcome to Manhattan), my TV works again!!! Totally worth it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tourney pain

I played in Bally's 40+10 tourney Sunday morning. Other than being a rape on the rake, I didn't realize the blinds escalated every 12 minutes. I had already paid though, so I went into turbo mode and started chipping up nicely. I was chip leader at the break with 27,000 in chips but it meant nothing as the blinds were escalating at a furious pace. In two rounds, I still had 20,000 in chips but blinds were now 2,000/4,000. I was in the BB with 8c9c and UTG went all-in for 6,900. The SB called and I called. Flop was 943. SB checks and I move all in. SB thinks about it and says, "time to go home". He calls and flips over Tc4c! There's no club on the board. UTG has 88. I'm a monster favorite here with only 7 outs to beat me between two players, but the turn is a 4 and I get knocked out.

WTF?!? T4?

Atlantic City - 2nd addendum

Almost forgot to mention. In my Qd9d flush hand from my mugging post below:

I lost to Ad8d flush on a T344 board. I had put him on a 4 but misread his nut flush. The detail I forgot to mention is that the river was a Ten! So even if my read was right, he *still* would have beaten me.

On second thought, maybe I'll kill myself after all.

Atlantic City mugging - addendum

I bet horses 6, 10, 12 and 15 to win in the Kentucky Derby. That's 20 percent of the field including 2 of the odds on favorites. My long shot, horse 10, ran second the whole way until the final stretch whne he died. In the end, not one of the horses finished in the top 4. It was exciting to watch, but in the end it was a boil on an ass of a day.

Atlantic City mugging

I've been down in AC for about a day and a half now, but it feels like a year. I can't remember the last time I ran this badly. It's a bit of a shock, too, because I've been running good, nearly nonstop, for 3 months now.

Warning: If you don't like hearing about brutal, soul-crushing beats, then now's your time to flip to another blog.

The adventure started with. 9:30a bus down to AC Friday morning. No problems there and by the time I rented my car and checked into my motel, I was at the Showboat just in time for the 2pm tourney. I never got much traction in the tourney and ended up losin 2/3 of my stack early on when my KK got run down my JJ when a Jack came on the river. I managed to work myself back up to 11,000 in chips (just over the starting stack), but the blinds had gotten to 600/1200 by then. I picked up AKo in the BB, saw a raise to 3600 and pushed. My opponent had QQ and I lost the flip. Ok, no big deal. -$65 so far on the trip.

I walked over to the Taj and played 5/10 Omaha Hi/Lo the rest of the night, through 2am. By the time it was over, I was down 2.5 buyins ($500). Not a huge deal, considering it's Omaha, but it's painful to see people cold calling 2 raises with nothing but a pair and seeing them go runner-runner for the nut boat to your flopped boat. This happened twice to me, by the way.

My Omaha game has been off lately, so I walked off the table and passed by the Pai-gow pit, where I managed to double my 200 stake to 405. My only bright spot of the trip. Down $360 on the trip so far, no big deal.

I woke in the morning intent on playing $1/$2 NLHE all day. I've been running really well at no limit and I felt confident and relaxed that I coul make up my losses.

I went to the Borgata and had a seat at 11:30a. I was up 100 pretty quickly and felt like things were turning around. Then, 3 guys got up to my left and were replaced by 3 big stacks who started getting very aggressive. I requested a table change, rather than be at a disadvantage out of position to these bangers. My casg game revolves a lot around playing lots of cheap hands that have the potential to win big pots (suited gap connectors and the like) and having these guys on my left was going to make that impossible. So I smartly found a tbale that would work for me. My new table was a dream. There were 4 stacks bigger than 600 and they were generally limping or raising light and then betting BIG on the flop. Perfect if I hit big.

My first opportunity came with ATo. I was in late position with a bunch of limps and I raised to ten, mostly to build a pot. A few people called and the flop was KJ8, rainbow. It checked to me and I checked. I had to think that someone had a big enough piece of it that I couldn't bet them off it. The turn was a beautiful Q. Even better, the board was still rainbow, so there was no possibility of a flush. The first player bet out 15. Another player called. The third player raised to 45! I opted to call here rather than push my remaining 140 because I hoped to get another caller or two, but both players folded. It was now heads up and the river was a Queen. Fuck. He bets out 50 and I just call. He shows KQ for the boat (4 outer, awesome). I can't put him on a boat because he never bet the flop with KQ! Yes, he could have had QJ or even Q8, but he could also have Qx. Not sure if I could have gotten away from that bet given I was getting something like 4 to 1 to call the river.

I bought in for another 200 and worked diligently to stop steaming. I managed to cool down and started playing around again. I was in the SB with the Darko (25o) and was 6th in the pot to call a PF raise to 7. The flop was 348 with 2 diamonds. I checked and it checked all the way around. The turn was the Ad making me a straight but puttin a flush on board. I bet out 25, just to see where I'm at and get one caller. I'd seen him show down lots of crap hands and chase lots of flush draws with just a single suit, so I knew he didn't have the diamonds. I put him on an Ace of some sort. The river was a Black Ace. The board was now 348AA. Perfect for me. My thinking was if he had made two pair on the turn, he would have raised me, although the diamonds might have slowed him down. Anyway, I bet out 50 and he pushes all in! Going on my original read of his having an Ace, I figure he's pushing with trips and a good kicker so I call. Nope. A3 for the rivered boat. Another awesome 4 outer on the river. Sweet.

At this point, the table is starting to feel sorry for me. I've lost 400 in just 2 hours with hands that were 92 percent to win on the river. I take another walk to blow off steam and finally reason that I shouldn't get discouraged about losing like that. It's not like I pushed with an 8 percent chance! Although, I did call these all ins with the losing hand. But really, how many people are folding the nut straight just because the board pairs. If I always folded the hidden straight, I'd lose lots of money to people who bet their trips.

So I buy in another 200. This time, I chip up a bit again until I'm up 150 on the buyin. Players have been cycling through the table and I get QQ against a new young player who had just sat down. I raise to 15 and he re-raises to 35 on the button. My hackles raise and I just call. Flop is T95. Another rainbow. I check to the reraiser. He bets 20, suspiciously low. AK continuation bet? I opt to call. Turn is a 9. I Hollywood and check to get a free card. It works. River is a rag. 2 maybe. I check one more time. He bets 25, I call, he shows AA. Ok, I lost the minimum there.

The game goes on and I lose a medium pot when I turn an 8 flush and lose to a JAck flush. A bit later, I get AQ. I raise to 12. The AA kid calls and I make a joke that now he's just calling me because I'm running like ass. He laughs and assures me he's not. I loudly check blind and the flop is 778. He checks. Turn is a J. I check, he checks. River is an Ace. I bet 20, he calls. I show AQ. He shows AK. We share a laugh but I want to beat his face in. 10 minutes later, I have AKo, I raise to 15 and AA kid's friend calls. Flop is J 85. I check, he bets 20 and I decide on a different tack and check-raise to 45. If he's got a small pair or AQ then he has to fold, right? No, he moves all in instead! In my mind, I insta-fold, but I want to see if I can get him to show. I make big Hollywood. "Do you want me to call? Show me one". Etc... I finally muck in mock disgust (QQ, I say) and he says, "I had you crushed" and shows JJ for top set. True 'nuff.

I have 70 left and promptly get QQ again. I raise to 15, get re-raised to 35 from the AA kid and I shove. This all looks familiar, no? Well, he calls and tables AA. Again. He looks almost pitiful doing it and I want to punch out his teeth, but what am I supposed to do? I don't get my Queen and I'm now officially down 600 on the day (965 on the trip).

I leave the Borgata, narrowly missing Kearns and Stephane somehwere in the room, and head to Harrah's for dinner. I have a passable stromboli and head to the poker room for one more session. I figure a new room might be better for me. Um, not so much.

I start out the session in great style, going up another 150 on the buyin but that's just the fattening up before the kill. It starts when twice, to the same guy, I get check-called on every street when I have top pair, King kicker to his top pair Ace kicker. That's both times to the same guy. Then I ran into a doozy. Qd9d in the BB. It limps around and the flop is 3d-4c-Td. It checks around to a guy who's been check-calling hands and showing down middle pair. He bets 5 dollars. A few people call, myself included. Turn is 4d. I bet 25, it folds to this kid who raises to 65. I'm guessing he hit the 4 on the turn, giving him trips. I push for 130 more and he pauses. "I guess I'm going home," he says. Then he makes another statement which turns my blood cold. "If you have the boat, I'm beat. I call.". He turns over Ad8d. Fuck!

I'm down to 70 and I pick up 23o in the SB and a semi-aggressive player raises to 5 in early position. Almost everyone calls, including me for 4 dollars more. The BB calls and the flop is 238 with two clubs! I almost bet out, but my feeling is the raiser is sitting on a monster. To my chagrin, it checks around. Turn is an off suit Ace and I figure the raiser must have an Ace, so I bet 25, hoping the raiser will put me all in. But the BB, who is a big black guy who is playing his very first hand, beats hims to it and moves al in with his short stack for 80. I put him on and Ace, or a draw or both. There's a possibility of 45, but I can live with that. Otherwise I have him beat, right? The original raiser folds as does everyone else and I call for my remaining chips. The BB shows....A2 for a turned two pair. That's a 3 outer if you're keeping track at home. God forbid a 3 should come on the river to bail me out and I am down another buyin. That's 800 on the day and a whoppins 1160 for the trip so far.

It's only 11:00p when I tuck tail and head back to the motel.

A lesser man would hang himself in the bathroom. I'm just gonna finish watching Doc Hollywood and call it a night. Sunday could be a savior, or a very long day.