Saturday, May 29, 2010

World Series Of...Not Again!

I couldn't decide if I would play any tournaments while here at the World Series Of Poker, particularly the $1,000 buy-in event, which draws a field of thousands of players. I played in it last year and didn't like it because they only give you $3,000 in chips, so if you get involved in a hand early and lose, half your stack is gone and you're crippled.

So, I wasn't going to fall for it again. I would just play in the cash games, which are always lucrative for me, and perhaps go over to the Venetian or Caesar's for one of their MegaStack tournaments.

Then last night, for some reason, I decided I can't come to the WSOP and not play at least one bracelet event. Besides, I told myself, I've done fairly well in tournaments this year, with four cashes thus far -- although they all had much deeper starting stacks. I walked over to the registration area and signed up.

Today at noon, I reported to my assigned table, looked around at the other players and promised myself I'd play mistake-free poker. They'd have to beat me, because I wasn't going to beat myself.

The whole table played conservatively for awhile, until Tom Dwan sat down in one of the empty seats. Durrr, as he's known, is one of the most talented newcomers on the poker scene in the last couple of years, with a playing style that strikes fear into his opponents. His range is so wide, and he plays so cleverly, making it very difficult to figure out what cards he's holding. I noticed the other players at my table tense up at Dwan's arrival, but his presence didn't bother me because I wasn't going to make any mistakes against him.

It took about 3 hands for Dwan to start raising every pot. I watched him watch the other players as he bobbed and weaved a few times, but didn't pick up a lot of chips because no one wanted to play a hand against him.

After about a half-hour, with blinds still at 25-25, he made his typical raise to 75, I looked down at a pair of jacks and re-raised to 225. Everyone else folded, but Dwan called. This was fine with me because I had position on him. The flop came out 9-high, with no straight or flush draws. He might have a 9, but I wasn't worried, so when he checked, I bet 325, and he called. The turn card was an ace and he checked again. Positive I had the best hand, I made a near-pot-size bet of 1,000. He looked me over and folded.

That helped my stack and dented his a little, but it was clear that this tournament wasn't all that important to him. The buy-in of a thousand dollars means nothing to his bankroll (he's won and lost millions at a time in online games and has won a ton on "High Stakes Poker," too), but with no other tournaments scheduled today, this was just something to kill time.

He continued his raising ways for another hour or so, taking down some pots, losing others. Finally, he tried a three-barrel bluff for all his chips against the guy to my right, who hesitatingly called and sent Dwan to the rail. I'd enjoyed talking with him at the table, and hope he'll come up to the suite to sit down with Dennis Phillips and me for our Final Table radio show, but his exit made the table a little easier.

Just before the first break, two hours into the tournament, with blinds now at 25-50, the guy on my right raised to 125. I looked down at two queens and re-raised him to 275. Everyone folded back to him, and he re-re-raised to 600. I'd seen him play a few odd hands (like raising with jack-two on the button a little earlier, and calling Durrr with ten-nine), so I figured he could have aces, kings, ace-king, ace-queen, or ace-jack here -- maybe jacks or tens, too. I wasn't ready to throw my queens away quite yet, so I called.

The flop came out jack-ten-five. He bet 675, just about half the pot. I thought for a few seconds then decided to raise it to see where I was. Too big a raise would commit me to the pot, since I only had 2800 left, so I raised about the minimum, making it 1400.

He instantly announced he was all-in. That's not good, I thought. He had said it pretty quietly, which made me think even more that he had a really strong hand. So, what could I beat? Not aces, kings, jacks, or tens. I didn't think he'd do that with ace-king or ace-queen. So the only thing I could beat was ace-jack, or a smaller pair, and his previous play indicated he was unlikely to shove with those.

Agonizingly, I laid down my queens and left for the break. When I came back, I got involved in another big hand almost immediately -- again with two queens. With blinds at 50-100, I raised to 250. The only caller was the shorter stack, who shoved. I called, and he turned over ace-queen. That meant I had him dominated but, sure enough, there was an ace on the flop (how do they do that so often???) and I was crippled even more, left with only about 500 chips.

Now I was under-the-gun and I was going to go all-in with anything decent. That turned out to be king-ten suited, so I pushed my meager stack forward. The guy on the button called with ace-seven of spades. He didn't need it, but an ace came on the flop again, ending my tournament.

I handed out a few promotional cards for The Final Table, wished them all luck, and walked out of the Amazon room. Now, I'm off to the cash games to win back that thousand bucks I just threw away.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tough Windows

Local TV reporter James Churchill went to an auto salvage yard to record a piece about how easy it is for a thief to smash the window of your car and take whatever's inside. Unfortunately for James, it wasn't that easy...


[thanks to Mitch Allen for the link]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Picture Of The Day

Alan Light sends along another good POTD suggestion: "HEMA is a Dutch department store with 150 branches. Take a look at their product page. Don't click on any product, just see what happens. The company has a great sense of humor."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Final Table #69: Final Prep for the WSOP



This week on my Final Table poker show, Dennis Phillips and I were joined by Kevin Schaffel (one of the 2009 WSOP November Nine) and Bernard Lee (13th in the 2005 WSOP Main Event), who each shared some advice for you about how to prepare for the 2010 World Series Of Poker, which begins later this week in Las Vegas.

We discussed what to watch for at the table, why you should get there early to see what's where, and how to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the world's biggest live poker tournaments. They all offered a great been-there-done-that perspective, especially for anyone making their first trip to the WSOP (a trip that we all agree every poker player should make at least once in their life!).

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


We usually do The Final Table in the poker room at Harrah's St. Louis, but next week we'll have a special show from The Rio in Las Vegas, reporting on the first weekend of the 2010 WSOP. You can listen live Tuesday 2-3pm CT on 590 The Fan KFNS Radio.

I'll be on Twitter from the WSOP, too -- follow me here.

Do you have your Final Table t-shirt, hat, and sweatshirt for the WSOP? Order yours from our online store right now and we'll ship it right away!

Worth A Link

  • DialIdol.com predicts that Lee Dewyze will win "American Idol" tonight, not Crystal Bowersox.
  • The man responsible for the deaths of who-knows-how-many children -- by making the invalid connection between vaccines and autism -- has been banned from practicing medicine in the UK.  Now if we could only ban Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy from repeating this dangerous anti-science crap.
  • Are today's comedy stars less durable than the ones who preceded them, or is Kim Masters extrapolating too much from the fact that Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers can't make a good non-animated movie?
  • Jimmy Kimmel on NBC canceling "Law & Order" but picking up "Law & Order: Los Angeles":  "You know, the last time NBC took a show that had been on for 20 years in New York and moved it to LA, it wound up as the lead-in to George Lopez on TBS."
  •  Richard Wiseman offers a puzzle involving a prison guard and a life-or-death decision

Crashing At The Airport


When CNN's Airport Network debuted in 1992, it carried a lot of CNN programming, with additional travel segments, business reports, and weather forecasts included, geared towards the captive audience of people waiting at the gates. But there was one category of stories that the Airport Network never carried -- plane crashes. Whether it was a commercial jet going down or a private prop-plane that ran into trouble, the Airport Network gatekeepers decided these were the sorts of incidents people waiting to board a plane just didn't want to see.

They were probably right.

That's why I was surprised two weeks ago, while waiting to change planes at the Southwest terminal at BWI, to see the Airport Network carrying the story of 103 people dying when Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 crashed and disintegrated while attempting to land in Tripoli, Libya. It was a regular CNN story, the kind that used to be purposely edited out of the Airport Network feed.

I'm curious, so if you know the answers to any of these questions, please e-mail me via the link on the right side of this page:
  • Has the Airport Network changed its policy in this regard?
  • Has Time Warner made so many staff cutbacks that there's no one exercising that editorial judgment for the niche network anymore?
  • If you're a frequent flier, have you seen similar stories on the Airport Network?
  • Is it possible that the airports have decided to dump the Airport Network entirely and simply carry the regular CNN feed instead?

Billboard Chase

This sequel to a camera commercial from last year contains some clever stop-motion animation that started with 355 photos, which were blown up to billboard size and shot again to give the illusion of a chase...


[thanks to Alan Light for the link]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Movie You Might Not Know


I have written often about my fascination with process. I'm curious about how things are done, and why, which is what draws me to some damned good documentaries.

The latest I've seen, and the newest addition to my Movies You Might Not Know list, is "Art & Copy," a look into the world of advertising and the people who create it. Director Doug Pray interviewed some of the top agency people in the world to discern the stories behind the campaigns they've created.

We hear from the team behind the "Got Milk?" slogan, learn that Nike's "Just Do It" was based on the last words of Gary Gilmore before he was executed, and discover the link between Toulouse-Latrec and some iPod billboards. We also get to see a couple of billboard technicians putting up a brand new ad (I always wondered how they did that) and hear one ad man explain how he literally made Tommy Hilfiger famous overnight.

These stories are accompanied by some stunning visuals that give "Art & Copy" a lot more energy that you'd expect from a documentary full of talking egos. Sadly, the movie doesn't spend any time on clever radio commercial campaigns like those created by Dick Orkin, Stan Freeberg, and others. Maybe someone else will make an equally good documentary about them someday.

See my entire Movies You Might Not Know list for more ideas.

Who You Gonna Call?

Since today is my daughter's 16th birthday, here's a Picture Of The Day she recommended:

Improv Everywhere strikes again, as 3 ghosts calmly sit down in the middle of a busy day at the New York Public Library, surrounded by people quietly reading and working. Soon, the Ghostbusters arrive to clear the area, to the smiling approval and applause of the library patrons...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Save It For The Show

I've done hundreds of interviews in the course of my radio career. Only a small percentage have included a guest in the studio with me. The far larger majority were on the phone and, in most cases, that was a better working arrangement.

If I'm talking with someone who is in another location, I can check my notes, leaf through an article or two I've skimmed ahead of time, turn my mike off to give my engineer an instruction, or do a dozen other things that help me conduct the interview while still maintaining a stimulating conversation.

On the other hand, if they're sitting opposite me in the studio, I feel compelled to maintain eye contact. Moreover, during the commercial breaks, there's always some small talk to be made, rather than sitting there in awkward silence. Quite often, however, those off-the-air comments evolve into something more -- something good enough to discuss on the show -- but the spontaneity is nearly impossible to recreate on the air, so a great anecdote or new talking point has been wasted.

It also makes it easier to ask tough questions when you're not in the same room. Ted Koppel understood this dynamic when he anchored "Nightline." Even guests who went to ABC's Washington bureau, where the show originated, were more likely than not sequestered in a separate studio with nothing more than a camera and an earpiece as their only connection to Ted. He watched them on a monitor, listening intently, while simultaneously devising his next line of questioning, all without having to worry about the familiarity inherent in sharing space with the interviewee.

The best exceptions to this rule have always been comedians. Some of the top touring pros have returned to my shows again and again because they understand this. Whenever someone like Brian Regan or Jake Johannsen or Heywood Banks makes an in-studio appearance, anyone in the room would swear that we don't get along, judging by the way we nearly neglect each other during the commercial breaks. The truth is exactly the opposite. They know that if they just give me a couple of topics they want to touch on, I'll lead them to a place where they can show off their best stuff, so that's all that needs to be said while the mikes aren't on. The lack of off-air conversation comes from knowing that it's best to save it for the show, when we can improvise whatever magic we're going to create for the listeners.

The same is true when I'm doing an ensemble show with several other regulars -- newsman, sports guy, sidekick, traffic reporter, etc. -- all of whom are welcome to contribute anything on the air at any time. There may be times during the break where someone will say, "When you have a chance, ask me where I was last night, because I have to tell you about this party my wife dragged me to" or "At the end of this newscast, I have a story you'll definitely want to jump on" or whatever. But that's all they have to say. The rest gets preserved for when we get back on the air.

All of this is prelude to the Picture Of The Day, a segment of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" from last week that never aired. Jerry Seinfeld was the guest and, during a commercial break, he and Jimmy were goofing around and coming up with some pretty funny material. When Jimmy insisted that they do the same bit on the air, Seinfeld (who understands comedic concepts better than 99% of the rest of his profession) demurred, knowing that it just wouldn't be the same to try to recreate it. In retrospect, they both probably knew that they'd blown it, because what happened on the air wasn't nearly as clever as what they ad-libbed during the break...

Friday, May 21, 2010

When Ben Says It, It's Ominous

Michael Emerson, whose perfect performance as creepy Ben Linus on "Lost" made the show's creators increase his role several seasons ago, demonstrates how he can take the most pleasant everyday phrases and make them sound sinister...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Monkey Business

The man behind the Invisible Gorilla illusion, Daniel J. Simons, has a new one called the Monkey Business illusion...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Final Table #68: Chad Brown + UIGEA Update


Today on my Final Table poker show, Dennis Phillips and I reported on our weekend at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut for their MegaStacks Challenge, where I had a very deep run in one event, and on the big finale to the SCOOP (Spring Championship Of Online Poker) on PokerStars, where Dennis cashed in a couple of events.

We also talked to Chad Brown, who gave up his soap opera career ("Another World") to become a successful poker pro. Chad talked about getting his start in poker games in the back rooms of Italian cafes in the Bronx, and working his way up to over $3 million in career tournament cashes. He's had lots of success in mixed games, so we discussed the 8-game-mix that will make up the $50,000 buy-in Player's Championship, the first big event of the 2010 WSOP, which kicks off at the end of next week. And we brought up a few points about Vanessa Rousso, a fellow member of Team PokerStars Pro who became Chad's wife last year.

Finally, we got an update from Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas about the impending implementation of the UIGEA, its possible impact on online poker, and whether there's a chance of carving out an exception for poker as a game of skill.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


Next week on The Final Table, just days before the world's biggest poker tournament begins, we'll get more advice on how to prepare for your first time at the World Series Of Poker from Kevin Schaffel (one of the 2009 November Nine) and Bernard Lee (13th in the 2005 Main Event).

We do the show live each Tuesday 2-3pm CT in the poker room at Harrah's St. Louis. You can listen on 590 The Fan KFNS Radio.

Did you get a limited edition St. Louis Arch Final Table shirt during the WSOPC Event here? We have just a few left, and they're on sale for $10 each, along with the rest of our t-shirts, hats and sweatshirts, in our online store right now!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Up The Down Ramp

Reader Darla McIntyre sent the beautiful optical illusion that is today's Picture Of The Day...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hotel Noise Reduction

Casino hotels should not have housekeeping knocking on doors at 9am. Most of us have only gone to bed a few hours ago, so that's way too early to be waking us up. Unless I have to get out of town on an early flight, it's rare that I'm even moving much before noon after playing poker deep into the night. Even though I keep the Do Not Disturb sign on the door (I explained why in this column), I can still hear them knocking on the neighbors' doors, banging around, vacuuming, etc.

These hotels should also have floors designated for no children. It's not the kids' fault. I know that some families come for the other amenities the big resorts offer, from the pool to the entertainment to the restaurants, but they live on a different clock than poker players and gamblers. We already have entire floors dedicated to non-smokers -- and that's a very good thing -- and it would be nice to have one dedicated to late-sleepers.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mega-Stacking At Foxwoods


When Harrah's St. Louis hosted the town's first-ever World Series Of Poker Circuit event last month, one of the pros who traveled to play in its championship event was Bernard Lee, co-host of ESPN.com's Inside Deal. While there, Dennis Phillips and I had him on our poker show, The Final Table, and since Bernard has signed an endorsement deal with Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, he invited us to come play their MegaStack Challenge this week.

We accepted, and got here Wednesday night, along with several hundred poker players from all over New England. Kevin Schaffel, one of the 2009 WSOP November Nine, came up from Florida, and my brother-in-law Stuart came down from Boston, too -- Stuart and I had first come to Foxwoods on Thanksgiving weekend, 1992, and we've been back several times, but this is the first time I've ever stayed in their hotel. It's very nice, especially the high-speed wired internet connection in the room.

On Thursday, we all entered the $560 buy-in event, which had a terrific structure -- 20,000 chips, 50-minute rounds, and lots of levels -- so we could play some real, deep-stack tournament poker. Or at least, most of us, could.

Unfortunately, Stuart only lasted 14 minutes. He raised with a pair of tens and got a few callers. The flop was ten-seven-seven, giving him a full house. He bet and got one caller. Stuart was hoping the guy had a seven, so he could get lots of chips out of him. The turn card as an ace, which seemed to make things better, because it was likely that the other player had called pre-flop with ace-seven, and now he'd have the smaller full house. Stuart bet and the guy called. The river was a three, which changed nothing. Stuart bet again and the other player raised. Sure that the other player didn't have pocket aces for the bigger full house, Stuart re-raised. The guy re-re-raised. That's when Stuart went all-in and the other guy insta-called. He didn't have a seven. He didn't have two aces. He had two sevens, making quads, and knocking Stuart out of the tournament completely.

Unbelievable.

Fortunately, I did a little bit better. I played well, caught some cards, stole some pots when I didn't have a hand, laid down a lot of hands, and played patiently. After 14 hours, Day One was over, and I was 10th in chips out of 61 remaining. We had started with 415 players, and the top 45 would get paid, so we still had a ways to go.

Today at noon, we returned to play Day 2. I chipped up from 194,000 to about 300,000 in the first two rounds by playing small-ball poker. Then I went completely card dead for two hours. Couldn't get a hand or an opportunity to make a move.

Meanwhile, other players were being eliminated. We busted the bubble at 45, so we were all going to make at least a little bit of money, and then we were down to 3 tables. I was moved to the toughest table in the room, with six stacks bigger than mine, including a couple with close to a million in chips (out of 8 million total). I couldn't do anything but bob and weave a little to steal some blinds and antes and tread water. The fact that I was playing so few hands meant I got some respect when I raised from late position a few times (with as small a hand as 33), and no one played back at me.

When we got down to 15, I made a major mistake. The chip leader, who was fairly active, raised in early position, which didn't necessarily mean he had a big hand. I'd seen him do it with any face card a few times. It was folded around to me on the button and I looked down at 77. I decided to make a stand and called. The flop was KQ3. Not good for me, but because I had position on him, I thought I might be able to make a play. He bet, and I called, planning to take it away from him on the turn. The next card was an ace, which I thought was perfect for my plan, especially when he checked. I put out a big bet and he instantly announced "all-in." Whoops! That backfired. I couldn't possibly call with just a pair of sevens on a KQ3A board, so I folded.

Since I hadn't seen his cards, I tried to get some information. I said, "That ace got you another 140,000." He said, "Why, what was the kicker with your king?" I said, "I didn't have a king." He replied, "Then I had you." That told me that my plan had been correct, trying to represent a big hand with an ace on the turn, but he had shoved with something like king-jack or king-ten, not believing I had an ace.

I was steamed. Fortunately, I knew it, and didn't let it affect the way I played the next few hands -- they were junk and I just folded. But by this time my stack was so short (around 240,000 vs. average chips of 630,000) and the blinds were 12,000/24,000, that I'd have to make a move soon.

Meanwhile, a couple of other short stacks went bust, which moved me up two notches on the payout scale. With 11 players left and only six at my table, the big stack again raised in early position and no one else called. I had ace-five offsuit. Figuring he might be making a move with king- or queen-high, I went all-in. He insta-called with a pair of eights. The board didn't bring me an ace, and I was out.

It wasn't the big payday I had hoped for, but except for that one slip-up towards the end, I had played well for 24 hours over two days and was proud of that. This makes four deep runs in tournaments this year (15th in Tunica, 14th in Biloxi, 5th at the WSOPC, and 11th here), which is nothing to be ashamed of. I received congratulations from Dennis, Stuart, Bernard, and Kevin -- all of whom had to also pay me for winning our last-longer bet, which also felt good.

So, what do you do after two marathon days of tournament poker like that? I'm gonna get some rest and go back tomorrow for the $1,650 buy-in MegaStack event.

This time, I won't overplay my pocket sevens.

You can follow the Foxwoods tournament action on their official blog here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Legend In The Booth

Hank Azaria is legendary baseball broadcaster Jim Brockmire, whose should never have made that final call at home...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Final Table #67: WSOP 2010 Preview


Today on my Final Table poker show, Dennis Phillips and I were in the Harrah's St. Louis poker room for a preview of the 2010 World Series Of Poker, which starts in just over 2 weeks.

We were joined by Jack Effel, WSOP Tournament Director, who explained some of the changes in events and venues, how they'll spread out entries for the Main Event to avoid last year's last-minute crush, and how you can register online in advance to ensure you don't get left out of the tournaments you want to play.

We also discussed Dennis' play against Eli Elezra in the "NBC National Heads-Up Championship" that aired Sunday, what we've heard about PokerStars' new high-stakes TV show "The Big Game" (which debuts on Fox next month), and the controversy about players wearing sunglasses in both live and televised poker games, including some recent remarks on the subject by Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan.

We do The Final Table every Tuesday from 2pm to 3pm CT in the poker room of Harrah's St. Louis. You can listen live on 590 The Fan KFNS Radio.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


For details on the Foxwoods MegaStack tournament that Dennis and I will play this week (along with Bernard Lee, Kevin Schaffel, and other pros), click here.

Did you get a limited edition St. Louis Arch Final Table shirt during the WSOPC Event here? We have just a few left, and they're on sale for $10 each, along with the rest of our t-shirts, hats and sweatshirts, in our online store right now!

Better Than X-Ray Specs

When the use of back-scatter x-ray machines became more widespread, I knew there would be privacy problems. Some minimum-wage security guy was going to see the outline of someone's body through their clothes and have a Beavis & Butthead reaction to that physical form.

That's exactly what happened six month ago at Miami International Airport. During a training session, TSA worker Rolando Negrin played the part of a passenger, while his colleague Hugo Osorno watched the monitor. When Rolando passed through the full-body scanner, Hugo noticed that Rolando was a little deficient in the manhood area.

Men can joke about a great many things, but there isn't a single human male on the planet who likes to have others make fun of his small penis. It's an Unspoken Guy Rule: no tiny-dick jokes to his face.

Nevertheless, Hugo mocked Rolando about it, and continued to make fun of his small genitalia for several months until Rolando couldn't take it anymore. The breaking point came last week, when Rolando caught up with Hugo in the parking lot, made him apologize and, in a perfect manhood metaphor, beat his harasser with a nightstick.

[It's at this point that my attorney would like me to go back and type the word "allegedly" about nine times, so let's add that these claims haven't been proven yet.]

While the TSA and the manufacturers the images aren't saved by the system, that doesn't keep them from being retained in the minds of the security personnel. So, if one TSA worker is acting like this regarding a fellow TSA employee, what makes you think they won't be gawking and guffawing when you, your wife, or your child passes through the full-body scanner with body parts below (or, certainly, above) average? How long before we hear about some celebrity captured in a similar situation?

By the way, Rolando was arrested and charged with aggravated assault for his attack on Hugo. I just hope that when they got him to jail, they didn't strip-search him.

Casey Counts 'Em Down

David Letterman has had many celebrities, sports stars, and politicians do Top Ten Lists on his show. The formula is always Dave setting up the premise, announcing each slot in the list, then having the celebrity fill in the entry. Only once did they work it in reverse.

In September, 1993 (shortly after Dave moved from NBC to CBS), he brought in countdown king Casey Kasem to introduce the Top Ten Favorite Numbers, with Dave plugging the numbers into the respective slots. I got a real thrill out of this list because the concept was so surreal, yet simply and perfectly executed.

I always had a warm place in my heart for Casey because he was part of my first job in commercial radio, at WRCN/Riverhead, NY. On Saturday nights, I hosted a five-hour music show from 7pm to midnight playing what was then called "album-oriented rock." Then I'd go out to a nightclub, have a few beers, try to get laid, go home (alone, more often than not), get way too little sleep, and come right back to the station on Sunday morning to run "AT40" for four hours, from 9am to 1pm (right after -- I'm not kidding -- the weekly polka show, hosted by Ed Toby, who made a mint selling and reading his own unique commercials geared to Riverhead's large Polish community).

In those days, "American Top 40" was delivered to stations on vinyl records. My responsibilities were limited to playing each segment and inserting commercials and promos during the breaks, right after the jingle singers sang "Casey's Coast To Coast!" That gave me plenty of time to marvel at how brilliant Casey's formula (developed with Don Bustany, Tom Rounds, and Ron Jacobs) was.

This was the summer of 1978, eight years after "AT40" had debuted, and they had found their groove. As myriad DJs have proven since, anyone can play and introduce the most-popular songs in numerical order (I should know, as I did one a few years later when I hosted a nightly rock show on WHCN/Hartford), but "American Top 40" wasn't really a music show -- it was a story-telling show.

In an era long before the public could find out anything about any pop star from hundreds of online sources, Casey's show was a rare place to hear fresh factoids about the artists, which he wove into his introductions and billboards with that magnificent voice. Some times his staff dug up something as mundane as the names of a singer's dogs. Other times they'd give you a quick bio on a new star or songwriter who was just emerging.

Each show always included one Long Distance Dedication, Casey's version of a song request on steroids. He'd read an excerpt of a listener's letter, usually describing some heartbreaking story about lost love, found love, a reunited family, or a soldier away from home. Then he'd play the one song that meant so much to everyone involved. There were some weeks when I could hear the tears forming in our listeners' eyes.

Once an hour, Casey would plug two or three of his hundreds of affiliates ("American Top 40 is heard in the fifty states and around the world every week on great radio stations like...."), and I still remember the thrill I felt when he said our call letters. I knew he was just working off a list and we'd come up at random in the rotation, but it was still cool to be sitting there all by myself in this radio studio next to an abandoned drive-in movie theater and hear a famous guy in Hollywood mention the tiny station I worked for.

"American Top 40" drew its playlist the the Billboard pop chart, and as the number of disco songs on the show increased, WRCN Program Director Don Brink decided they didn't really fit with the rest of the station's AOR format -- it was jarring to have Casey's show end with "Boogie Oogie Oogie" by Taste Of Honey and then have our next DJ start his show with "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd -- so the show was dropped (although the polka show outlasted my 3-year stay there). Somehow, "American Top 40" was able to survive our defection, and Casey kept counting them down, on one show or another, into the early years of the 21st century.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Linkomatic

After that fan who ran on the field was taken down by taser last week at a Phillies game, Time magazine has compiled the Top 10 Taser-ings, including "Don't Tase Me Bro" and the cop who tased himself.

Miranda & Terrorists

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and indicated a change of course in the Obama administration's policy regarding reading Miranda warnings to suspected terrorists like Faisal Shahzad, who confessed to planting the botched bomb in Times Square.

Today on KTRS/St. Louis, I invited Laura Olson, senior counsel at The Constitution Project, to respond to that change of legal course. We discussed the already-present public safety exception, the fact that Shahzad continued to provide information to law enforcement authorities even after being apprised of his Miranda rights, why US citizens should be tried in civilian courts instead of military tribunals, and whether those rights apply to non-US-citizens, as well.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Fact-Checking Justice Wannabe

Before President Obama announced Elena Kagan as his nominee for the Supreme Court this morning, the comment-cracy was already filling up with information about her. Some of it true, some of it not so true. So I called upon Angie Holan of Politifact.com to join me on KTRS/St. Louis to sort the facts from the myths.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

The Bill Of Rights vs. Facebook

Chris Bliss is the man behind MyBillOfRights.org, the organization that's trying to get Bill Of Rights Monuments built. Until two years ago, there wasn't a single plaque or other tribute to those basic constitutional freedoms. Now there's one in a small Iowa town square, and Chris continues to work on something bigger -- a multi-million dollar project in Austin, Texas, in front of that state's Supreme Court and adjacent to its Capitol grounds.

He has received approval from the legislators, designers, and developers, and is now in full fund-raising mode, but he's hit an online snag. In his efforts to spread the word via social media, he has a problem with Facebook. For some reason, they won't let their users link to MyBillOfRights.org, claiming the site contains "abusive content." Of course, it doesn't, and Chris can't get anyone from Facebook to explain to him -- via e-mail or on the phone -- what they found objectionable.

The irony is that one of the first rights guaranteed by the Bill Of Rights is the freedom of speech, but Facebook won't let Chris use their platform to promote a monument to that great document. As Chris explained to me today on KTRS/St. Louis, the hypocrisy goes deeper than that. Facebook has no problem with MyBillOfRights.org having a Facebook account and page, as long as it doesn't link to itself!

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


Click here to donate to the Bill Of Rights Monument Project or to get information on starting a Bill Of Rights Monument in your city or state.

KTRS Monday


I'll be back on KTRS/St. Louis today from Noon to 3pm CT, filling in for John Brown. You can listen live here.

I Scream, You Scream

A commercial from England where riders on a rollercoaster were given ice cream to eat while in motion...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Tree-Shaking Mama

Your child climbs up a tree and then either can't or won't come down. What's a mother to do? This one chose to shake the tree as onlooker Franz Gysi caught it all on cell phone video...


[thanks to Alan Light for the link]

Friday, May 07, 2010

Betty White Live

When Betty White hosts "SNL" tomorrow night, it will be far from her first shot at live television. That came more than six decades ago!

In 1949, Betty worked with radio disc jockey Al Jarvis on his daily show, which was televised in Los Angeles for five-and-a-half hours a day, Monday through Saturday. Of course, there wasn't much else on in those days -- they had exactly one other TV station to compete with, but it's still astounding that they did 33 unscripted hours a week, as she explained in an interview for the Archive of American Television...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Linkomatic

  • The iPhone parody ad that Ellen DeGeneres had to apologize for.  
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus' star on the Walk of Fame spelled her name wrong. Here are some other classic spelling errors
  • After watching him at the WH Correspondents Dinner, Mark Rothman thinks Jay Leno has morphed into Bob Hope
  • Chris Bliss has published an update on the Bill Of Rights Monument Project, as it inches closer to reality in Texas
  • Ken Levine remembers his one shot at the all-night show on WLS, when he freaked out the evening jock who preceded him. 

Good Morning All-In

So this is how poker is presented to the morning TV audience. As part of the "Living Your Dream" segment on "Good Morning America," George Stephanopolous went to Atlantic City to play for an hour against four pros -- Annie Duke, Phil Hellmuth, Steven Begleiter, and Jason Lee. Annie gave him some tips, Phil hogged the spotlight (as always), and Ali Nejad provided the commentary, all in a six-minute package. Like too much televised poker, it's a shove-fest and non-poker-players learn nothing about the game...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Final Table #66: Shannon Shorr


This week on my Final Table poker show, Dennis Phillips returned to join me in the Harrah's St. Louis poker room to report on his experience at the EPT finale in Monte Carlo. We also talked about:
  • Why you should bet out more often with big hands rather than trying to trap your opponent (with an example from Tom Dwan).
  • PokerStars' new high stakes TV show, "The Big Game," which Dennis will record later this week;
  • Another new poker TV show from Mori Eskandani, producer of "High Stakes Poker," "Poker After Dark," and the "National Heads-Up Championship";
  • The impending implementation of the UIGEA and whether its enforcement will change online poker (join the Poker Players Alliance to help fight against government interference in all forms of our game);
In our guest segment, we talked with Shannon Shorr, a 24-year-old poker millionaire who took a couple of years off from school to turn pro, but went back to the University of Alabama, where he's getting his degree in business management this week. With so many young players dreaming of playing poker for a living, Shannon seems to have his priorities (and money management skills) in order.

Next week: a preview of what's to expect at this summer's World Series Of Poker, with tournament director Jack Effel explaining the new events, the venue changes, how they'll spread out registration for the Main Event, and why they killed the Poker Kitchen.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!


We do the show every Tuesday from 2pm to 3pm CT in the poker room of Harrah's St. Louis. You can listen live on 590 The Fan KFNS Radio.

Do you have your Final Table t-shirt yet? They're on sale, along with hats and sweatshirts, in our online store right now!

Invisible Gorilla

Several years ago, I blogged about a psychological test done by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris regarding selective attention -- the notion that when you're paying attention to one thing, you don't always notice something else.

The test, done in 1999, just popped up in the news because it was used in a murder trial in New Zealand when defense attorneys argued that witnesses were so focused on one thing that they completely missed another. Read that story here, but first, watch the video, where six college students are playing catch with a basketball in a hallway. The object is to count how many passes are made by the students wearing white shirts...


[thanks to Robert Knotbob for the link]

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Albert Brooks & David Letterman

Here's an appearance by Albert Brooks on David Letterman's old NBC "Late Night" show. This is probably in the fall of 1982, and the film Brooks says he's working on was "Lost In America," the first movie he directed after the underrated classic "Modern Romance." What I like about this is how much Letterman is enjoying Brooks, regardless of the studio audience's reaction. He's obviously a big fan, knows that Brooks doesn't do many talk shows, and happy to let his guest take the conversation in whatever direction he likes...


Monday, May 03, 2010

Sunday, May 02, 2010

More Movies You Might Not Know


Since I started compiling my Movies You Might Not Know list half a dozen years ago, I have only included titles that were available on DVD. That meant leaving off some movies that I'd like to recommend, but couldn't because you wouldn't be able to find them. Every once in awhile, the studios find these little gems in their archives and release them on disc, and I then happily add them to the list.

Today, there are two more of those, both from Warner Brothers:

One is "Carny," a 1980 drama about Donna, a bored waitress (Jodie Foster) drawn to the world of the traveling carnival that comes to her town. The carnies she falls in with are played by Gary Busey and Robbie Robertson (the singer/guitarist from The Band) as veteran hustlers who show her what their life is like behind the scenes. As she discovers, it's a dark business, full of odd characters who treat each other like extended family, but are out to take your money any way they can.

I was disappointed that Robertson didn't do more acting after "Carny," because he certainly had enough charisma to fill the screen. Busey, who had just become a star with "The Buddy Holly Story," showed off his wild side here, while you can see Foster (then 18 years old) making the transition from kid roles (like "Taxi Driver") to the grown-up performances that would later show her real potential as an actress.

Caveat: don't confuse "Carny" with a 2009 made-for-TV horror movie by the same name, starring Lou Diamond Phillips.

The other title I'm adding is "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway," a character study of two old retirees living in the same apartment complex in Florida, who form an unlikely friendship. Robert Duvall plays Walter, a Cuban ex-barber with a penchant for bacon sandwiches, and Richard Harris plays Frank, a retired sea captain, with a penchant for Shirley Maclaine. The cast also includes Sandra Bullock, one year before her career took off with "Speed." They all give marvelously subtle performances, and the interplay between Duvall and Harris is masterful.

See my entire Movies You Might Not Know list and send me your suggestions, too.