Thursday, May 31, 2012

Talking, But Not Playing, At The WSOP

I spent today interviewing poker pros at our Final Table Show booth at The World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The two you see above are Mike Sexton and Maria Ho, who have both been our guests several times before.

Last year, right after talking with us, Maria played in the $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event and finished second, earning over $540,000, the biggest prize ever won by a woman at the WSOP. At the time, we joked that we had brought her luck, so today she said that if she didn't make another deep run in an event this year, she'd never return to the show. Dennis and I both like Maria and respect her poker talent, so we wish her the best in the various tournaments she'll play over the next 6 weeks.

Meanwhile, Mike Sexton (who you know as lead commentator on World Poker Tour telecasts for the last ten years) stopped by in the midst of some early success at this WSOP, cashing in two of the first three events -- 16th in the $3,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em/pot limit Omaha mixed event and 15th in the $1,500 buy-in seven card stud eight or better tournament. At one point yesterday, he was playing both events at the same time, which we've discovered is a not-uncommon thing at the WSOP for players who want to enter overlapping events.

Our other guests today included Shannon Shorr, David Bach, Asad Goodarzy, and Linda Johnson. You'll hear these conversations over the course of the next month on the show.

By this evening, I was pretty burned out from all the discussion and recognized that I was in no shape to jump into a cash game, so I called it a day, went back to my hotel room and ordered a pizza for dinner. There will be plenty of time for poker tomorrow (after we record a couple more interviews), and I'm considering playing in the $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament this weekend, which will probably draw more than 4,000 players -- the first big field of this WSOP. I'm torn because I usually don't like short-stack events (starting stack is only 4,500 chips), but because players who bust out on Saturday will be allowed to re-enter on Sunday, which tends to make play a lot looser, I think there may be some juicy opportunities early to grab some chips if I can navigate the minefield that comes with that many opponents.

As I said, I haven't made up my mind yet, but if I play, I'll post updates on my Twitter feed.

Incidentally, before Dennis and I sat down with all of our guests, I wandered over to the Quad Jacks TV area, where Marco Valerio is doing live webcasts from the WSOP. My portion of his morning update begins about 15 minutes in...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Maybe She Had The Fish

I flew to Vegas this afternoon on my favorite airline, Southwest, and they got us here 20 minutes early. But just as we landed, a flight attendant told everyone to stay seated and asked if there were any medical personnel onboard. A young physician stood up and they asked him to help with a woman a couple of rows behind me who was having breathing problems and severe chest pain.

As another flight attendant brought the portable oxygen and other onboard medical equipment, all of the passengers did as they were told and remained in their seats, albeit with a large amount of neck-craning. The doctor and the flight attendants moved the patient forward as the front door was opened and some Clark County EMTs came in to help. They put her on a stretcher in the jetway and worked on her for about 10 minutes until she was stable enough to move. I assume she was taken to a medical facility from there, but I don't know.

I was impressed with the efficiency of the women on the cabin crew, who helped the ailing passenger while continuing to maintain calm on the plane -- even taking to the PA to tell passengers who were transferring to other flights that they wouldn't miss their connections because we had landed so early. I was also happily surprised that not one single person on board complained. I've been in the midst of similar circumstances before, and there are always inconsiderate people who bitch and moan about not being allowed off the plane. But today, not one peep.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Final Table #174: WSOP Begins + Ed Miller

Today on the Final Table, we began our coverage of the 2012 World Series Of Poker, which got underway Sunday at the Rio in Las Vegas. We analyzed 3 key hands Dennis played in the first open event yesterday ($1,500 buy-in no-limit hold'em), discussed why turnout wasn't as big as expected, and explained the new chip-tracking system the WSOP will begin using tomorrow.

In our guest segment, we talked with Ed Miller about his new book, "Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Opponents." Ed explained how most poker players learn how not to lose, instead of how to win, and how they can change that. He also discussed specific strategies small-stakes players can use to make their game better, why fear is one of the major factors keeping players from winning more, and how to recognize bet-sizing tells in your opponents.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • US News' Rick Newman explains why Mitt Romney can't possibly do what he says he'll do on Day 1 of his presidency.
  • Another class action suit (involving Groupon) where customers get almost nothing, lawyers get almost everything.

ABC News Now Or Never

Why hasn't ABC gotten into the 24-hour news business vs. NBC, Fox, and CNN?

Corporate parent Disney does have a channel called ABC News Now which offers programming around the clock, but it's never gotten the effort from the company, which doesn't use its big-sister network's stars (Diane Sawyer, George Stephanapolous, Robin Roberts, the "Nightline" team), nor has it established an identity strong enough to distinguish itself. You can't even find a link to the network on the ABC News website!

With ABCNN's lifestyle and features programming, its viewership makes Oprah Winfrey's failed network look like a juggernaut. The vast majority of cable and satellite subscribers don't even know it exists, nor does anyone consider it the channel to turn to for breaking news.

Ironically, next month will mark the 30th anniversary of ABC's first venture into this territory with a network called Satellite News Channel. When it debuted in June, 1982, it was the only competition for CNN, with a news-wheel format based on the Westinghouse all-news-radio model ("Give us 18 minutes, we'll give you the world" -- Group W was a co-owner of SNC). CNN was so worried about SNC that it rushed its own second channel (CNN2) onto the air, and when that had little impact, Turner bought SNC and shut it down a mere 16 months after its debut. CNN2 eventually morphed into Headline News, which now goes by HLN, home of the alluring Robin Meade and her well-produced, fast-paced "Morning Express," as well as the always-creepy Nancy Grace and her tabloid colleagues in primetime.

Is there a hole in the 24-hour news spectrum for ABC to exploit, considering the ideological agendas at FNC and MSNBC, the multiple CNBC channels, Fox's business network, the various sports networks, The Weather Channel, and the historically low ratings of CNN? If there is, their current ABC News Now product is the kind of half-assed effort that's doomed to mediocrity, a waste of channel space that's about as compelling as the NFL Network in March.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reading Recommendation

When I picked up Warren Littlefield's "Top Of The Rock," I thought it was going to be a memoir by the former NBC programming executive who steered the network through its Must See TV heyday. It turns out to be an oral history of those years with Littlefield's memories interspersed with those of the actors, writers, directors, and business people who developed such hits as "Seinfeld," "ER," "Cheers," "Friends," "Mad About You," "Law and Order," "Will and Grace," and "Frasier."  There's lots of insight, some good stories, and a little too-much back-patting, but along the way, you get to see the process and the people behind some of the best television of the '80s and '90s.

There are four threads running through the book that stand out:
  • The importance of casting -- finding the right actors who will have the right chemistry together -- and the impact that immediate stardom had on several cast members who went from having less than $200 to their name to big salaries and the loss of anonymity, unable to go anywhere without being recognized.  
  • How Littlefield and others had to battle the bad instincts of his boss, Don Ohlmeyer, whose snap judgments on shows and their elements were more often wrong than right.
  • Vicious words from several of the players about Jeff Zucker, whose reign as top dog at NBC in the post-Must See TV era has resulted in disastrously low primetime ratings for the network.  
  • The incredible value of having James Burrows direct your sitcom. The list of sitcoms he's done is probably a record, with a surprisingly large number not only getting on the air but drawing large numbers of viewers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Final Table #173: Owais Ahmed

Today on the Final Table, with the World Series Of Poker just days away, Dennis revealed his involvement in the company that will take photos of every player in every event at the Rio and make them immediately available for purchase. Look for their kiosk every day you play there!

In our news segment, we discussed why the number of entrants at the WPT Championship is at a five-year low while other live tournaments (like the WSOP Circuit Event in New Orleans this weekend) are drawing bigger fields than ever. We also discussed the Hollywood celebs who chose to settle a lawsuit over their poker winnings rather than go to court, whether an official White House response to an online poker petition will have any affect on the chances of legalizing it federally this year, and why you should add Illinois to the list of states considering online poker legislation.

In our guest segment, we talked with Owais Ahmed, a mixed-games specialist who won his first WSOP bracelet last summer in the $2,500 Limit Omaha/Stud 8-Or-Better event, as well as finishing fourth in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. He explained how he overcame a big chip deficit to beat Michael Mizrachi heads-up to win that bracelet and why he's happy this year's Poker Players Championship won't be televised. We also asked him about playing an All In Or Fold tournament earlier this year at the LA Poker Classic, why he enjoys doing commentary on Live At The Bike webcasts, and why he prefers the small fields that show up for mixed-game tournaments as opposed to the big no-limit hold'em events.

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

Johnny Carson Dreams

Twenty years ago today, Johnny Carson signed off on his final "Tonight Show," leaving behind a legacy as the Most Famous TV Star Ever. Much has been written about him in the years since, particularly two weeks ago when PBS aired an excellent "American Masters" show about Carson's career (if you missed it, the documentary is streaming here).

One thing the documentary did not mention was Johnny's skepticism. He was the one who gave James Randi a national platform on "The Tonight Show" to expose charlatans like Peter Popoff and psychic surgeons and other paranormal con artists. I was riveted to those appearances, and thrilled years later when Randi told me that Johnny had been one of the biggest benefactors of the James Randi Educational Foundation, even making arrangements to have his charitable foundation continue to offer financial support even after Johnny's death.

In the three decades Carson sat behind the desk, lots of people dreamed of sitting down in the chair next to him. Including me.

As a teenager, and then later as a semi-famous radio personality, my conscious brain knew I had no chance of getting there, because I was not a movie star, a standup comedian, an author, or any of the show business categories that might qualify one for a guest spot. But my subconscious had other ideas, and they snuck into my dreams late at night, even after Carson concluded his remarkable run. I'd picture myself joking around with Johnny on the set, or hanging around with him backstage in his office, or sitting on the couch ad-libbing during another guest's segment. Pure fantasy stuff that I never believed in real life, but acted out in my sleep.

While mine were purely subconscious, the dream of appearing with Carson was very real for dozens of standup comedians. A spot on his "Tonight Show" followed by Johnny flashing a smile and an "ok" sign to the comic were enough to launch careers, as it did for so many. One night they were sleeping in their cars and begging for an unpaid slot on the Comedy Store stage, but the night after doing Carson, they were being booked at clubs all over the country for real money.

Because the audience could see that Carson was openly rooting for the comedians to do well, they were almost always very supportive. They wanted to be able to tell their friends they were watching the night a new comedy star exploded onto the scene. For some of those comics, it was a step towards a long stand-up career or a sitcom or other fame and fortune. For others, it was the single high point of their lives. Every comedian I've ever talked to who did that show remembers every detail of it.

One of my favorite stories about that experience came from Kevin Pollak who, as a guest on my radio show in 2007, explained how he did something unprecedented -- he manipulated the "Tonight Show" booking process so that he could go right to the guest chair without having to do a standup spot first. Telling the comedy talent coordinator, Jim McCawley, that he was going to pass on a Carson booking until he could do it under his own terms was one of the ballsiest showbiz moves I've ever heard of. But it paid off a year or so later when Pollak, then appearing in Ron Howard's "Willow," finally did get the opportunity to sit on Johnny's right, and when he did, he knocked it out of the ballpark.

You can hear that conversation here (note: the first half of the interview was about Pollak working to turn Buzz Bissinger's book about Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals, "Three Nights In August," into a feature film -- a project that, five years later, seems to have been shelved).

Also on

Not So Much With The Hotness

Here's a Knuckleheads In The News® story you'll enjoy.  The details:
  1. There's a lingerie warehouse in New York run by Orthodox Jews. Because that's who you think of when you think of sexy attire.
  2. A woman was fired from her job at that lingerie warehouse because she was "too hot" and dressed "too provocatively."
  3. It took almost an entire day for Gloria Allred to smell a publicity opportunity and gather the cameras around to announce she's representing the woman in charge.
  4. The woman in question hasn't signed a deal to pose naked in Playboy. Yet.
By the way, she's not that hot, unless you're casting for a new season of "Jersey Shore."  And since when does an employer not have the right to tell an employee their clothing isn't appropriate, even if they're selling lingerie?

One question I'd like to ask the Orthodox Jews who ran the place: which of your thongs do you suggest a female customer purchase for an occasion where she won't be allowed to sit near or dance with any of the men like, say, at any of your religious gatherings?

How Do You Get To Sesame Street?

I saw this on my friend Mark Evanier's site and had to embed it here, too. It's Bert and Ernie from "Sesame Street" trying to record GPS driving directions (an actual product)...

Sitting Down For A Standup

After I wrote about standing ovations yesterday, a friend suggested I share the story of the time I didn't stand up for Jerry Lewis. The occasion was the very first Comic Relief USA concert at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles in 1986.

I ended up in the audience because WYNY, the NBC FM station in New York where I was doing mornings, pulled off a big promotion with HBO in the months before the concert. That part of the story is too long to tell here, but in the end, I ended up flying across the country with our winner, Kathy, and her boyfriend, to see the show. We provided first-class airfare, a nice hotel room, a limo to the venue, and tickets to the show. At the amphitheater, I took Kathy and boyfriend inside, where I handed our tickets to an usher, who did a double-take towards me and stiffened as he said, "Yes sir, follow me, please." He then proceeded to walk us past row after row after row of seats until we were front and center. I mean we were in the middle of the first row. I was impressed, but Kathy and her boyfriend were freaking out. Winning the trip was one thing, but getting these seats ensured that WYNY (and my morning show) would be forever be included when related this story to everyone she knew.

Comic Relief began with hosts Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams joking, singing, improvising their way through the open, the various introductions, the pre-produced filmed requests for donations, etc. Over the course of the next four hours, we watched stand-up performances by Steve Allen, Howie Mandel, Minnie Pearl (!), Paul Rodriguez, Bobcat Goldthwait (taking a shower onstage while squawking), and about 3 dozen more comedians. Celebrities like Richard Dreyfuss and Penny Marshall promoted Comic Relief t-shirts and asked viewers to call a toll-free number. It was a comedy telethon.

At one point, Sid Caesar came out and did a tight 8 minutes of shtick, funny as hell. While I was cheering for him, I was disappointed in the tepid response from the crowd of 15,000 -- it wasn't nearly what a comedy legend of his stature deserved. Afterwards, either Billy or Robin made a point of mentioning what a pioneer Caesar had been in TV comedy, as if to explain his presence to an audience that apparently didn't recognize greatness in their midst.

A few acts later, Jerry Lewis came out, and the audience stood in unison. Except for one person -- me. What made this awkward was the fact that I remained seated directly in front of where Jerry stood at center stage.

A week or so later, HBO aired the Comic Relief event in two parts over two nights (it had not been televised live). My wife and I watched it at home and, since I'd told her the Jerry Lewis story, she assured me that my non-standing-ovation wouldn't be visible. She was wrong. As Lewis walked to the microphone, there I was, on my butt, while everyone else rose as one. But she noticed something I hadn't seen that night. Lewis seemed to have noticed me sitting there. As he panned the crowd, he stopped at one point and glared down at me, as if he were telepathically yelling in that familiar pissed-off-Jerry tone at this impertinent interloper who dared to dishonor him, attempting to force me to my feet.

I kept applauding, but I never got up. Finally, the crowd sat down and Lewis did his thing, mostly tired mugging routines like sticking a glass in his mouth. The only part of it I enjoyed was his cane routine, which was actually pretty impressive in person.

I wasn't being disrespectful. While I admired some of Lewis' work, I thought he paled comedically in comparison to Caesar, and if they weren't going to stand for Sid (or Steve Allen, for that matter), I wasn't going to stand for Jerry.

The real highlight of the evening, the one most deserving of a big ovation, was this routine by George Carlin from his then-new album, "A Place For My Stuff"...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Another Movie You Might Not Know

"Winning the lottery is like throwing Miracle-Gro on your character defects; everything is magnified."

That's a line from one of the people interviewed in "Lucky," a documentary about lottery winners that I'm adding to my Movies You Might Not Know list. He's talking about a friend of his who won a huge state lottery payout and saw his life go right into the toilet in the following months.

"Lucky" is the story of that lottery winner and many others, most of whom have no idea how to handle their new wealth (one guy buys 12,000 pairs of pants, all the same size and color, and a house with a second floor so heavy it nearly crushes the first floor), let alone the envy and jealousy of their neighbors/friends/family members, and the requests from others who want some of the money. One couple says that, early on, they were receiving 10,000 letters a day from people who claimed to need help in some way or another.

I saw some of the latter when my friend Dennis Phillips won several million dollars in the World Series Of Poker Main Event four years ago. In the months that followed, he was hounded by people who wanted him to back them in tournaments, invest in their businesses, or front them money for no other reason than he had it and they wanted it. He acceded to some of the requests, which were never repaid, before he had to start saying no to everyone -- a tough thing for him to do because he's such a nice, friendly guy. When he did say no, some of the beggars got really mad at him, as if he didn't deserve his windfall but they did, or that he was doing them wrong by not giving them more money to lose in whatever way they'd lost all of their other cash in the first place.

Fortunately, Dennis is a good businessman who, with assistance from close friends and trusted advisers, found projects that were worth of his time, energy, and investments, putting him well ahead of so many others who find themselves suddenly rich.

Chip Denman, head of the Statistics Lab at the University of Maryland, says "luck is probability taken personally." Every one of the lottery winners in "Lucky" takes it personally, suffering from a high degree of what John Allen Paulos called "Innumeracy." They have no idea about odds and are superstitious to a fault, relying on crazy systems, or signs, or dreams to determine the lottery numbers they'll play. Some are sure that allowing the computer to choose their "quick picks" is a guarantee that they won't win, despite the fact that the numbers they're picking by hand don't win either. They have no understanding of the concept of "random."

One single mother, who hasn't won a big prize yet, bemoans the fact that she's come close several times and is convinced her turn is coming. Meanwhile, she spends nearly $100 a day on lottery tickets, as she has every day for 30 years. That's nearly a million dollars she's thrown away, money that could have changed her life if she had just saved it instead.

"Lucky" was directed by Jeffrey Blitz, who was nominated for an Academy Award for "Spellbound," his 2002 documentary about spelling bees (also on my Movies You Might Not Know list). While this one doesn't have the competition aspect of that one, it's a stirring examination of a small group of people who have hit it big and become richer than they ever dreamed -- only to discover that dreams can sometimes become nightmares.

Standing Up For Sitting Ovations

Ben Brantley has a front-page NY Times piece today on how the standing ovation has become the default reaction to live performances, with audiences leaping to their feet at the end of virtually every production, regardless of whether it was deserved.

The reasons for the ubiquity of the promiscuous S.O. have been widely pondered by cultural pundits. One theory has it that it’s because habitual theatergoers have become a relative rarity. Many who attend big Broadway shows are tourists whose itinerary includes, along with visits to the Statue of Liberty and the Hard Rock Cafe, a performance of “Wicked” or “Jersey Boys.”

For such audience members, standing to applaud at the end of a show has become part of the Official Broadway Experience. And if you’ve spent several hundred dollars for that pair of orchestra seats, an S.O. seems to help confirm that the money wasn’t wasted.

I also have a suspicion that for some people, standing immediately at the end of the show is simply a physical relief after an hour or more of immobility. Besides, the sooner you’re on your feet, the greater your odds are for beating the crowd to the exits. And, oh yes, let’s not discount the domino effect of an S.O.: once the person in front of you is standing, you too must stand if you want to see what’s on stage.
My wife and I first noticed this phenomenon here in St. Louis, where it's been going on for well over a decade. I can't count the number of times we've stayed in our seats applauding but not standing because, while the production we'd just seen was very good, it wasn't great enough to merit the highest honor an audience can bestow. In many cases at the St. Louis Rep, the cast has taken a single bow to a standing ovation, but the applause had receded so much by the time they left the stage that they didn't return for a curtain call. It's not that the Rep's shows aren't worthwhile -- they are, and we've seen most of them this century -- but we believe the standing ovation should be a rarity, not the response de rigeur.

It's even more ridiculous when people get on their feet at the beginning of a performance, usually at concerts. Perhaps they can't believe that the performer they've paid to see has actually shown up to play and sing for them, so when he/she does, they stand up to express their shock and excitement. These folks have set the ovation bar far too low.

I've been to too many concerts and plays that disappointed me in the end, and by then it's too late to take back that freely-given Standing O. So, I'll be happy to applaud when you appear, but I'm not getting to my feet in admiration until you've done something on that stage that's really worth it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Night At The Symphony

We went to a wonderful performance by the St. Louis Symphony last night. The program included Dvorak, Saint-Saens, Ravel, and two of my favorites -- Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" and Bernstein's symphonic dances from "West Side Story."

The former featured the St. Louis debut of 15-year-old Julliard prodigy Sarina Zhang on piano. Her performance was so powerful and exciting she received a well-deserved extended standing ovation with two curtain calls.

The latter was a medley from Leonard Bernstein's fabulous original Broadway score. I couldn't help but wonder what it would sound like to someone who had not seen "West Side Story" on stage or screen. I'd hope they would be as mesmerized as I was. As a lifelong fan of the show, I'm familiar with every note yet still awed by Bernstein's rhythms and instrumentation, which were so original and compelling, unlike anything else I've seen in a normal classical setting.

One of the things that makes the piece so distinctive is Bernstein's use of percussion. According to Wikipedia, it takes four musicians to play all of the instruments in his score (Traps, Vibraphone, 4 Pitched Drums, Xylophone, 3 Bongos, 3 Cowbells, Conga, Timbales, Snare Drum, Police Whistle, Gourd, 2 Suspended Cymbals, Castanets, Maracas, Finger Cymbals, Tambourines, Small Maracas, Glockenspiel, Woodblock, Claves, Triangle, Temple Blocks, Chimes, Tam-tam, Ratchet, Slide Whistle, Timpani). I'd like to see an orchestra feature the percussion section out front for a performance, just so we can watch them move back and forth among all of that apparatus.

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • The woman using her mind to control a robotic arm is amazing, but I'll be impressed when she can get a teenage girl to do what she's told.
  • Every restaurant I've been to at the top of a tall building always had terrible food -- until tonight when we ate at Kemoll's. Wow.
  • Some of the history of the iconic Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign at the south end of the strip.
  • What a pleasure to go for a walk around Creve Coeur Lake w/my wife today after two months of being stuck inside because of severe hay fever.
  • David Pogue's proclamations for a Cell Phone Users' Bill Of Rights

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Final Table #172: Allen Kessler

Today on the Final Table, we discussed some tournament strategy from a hand I played (or rather, opted not to play) recently, new rumors about how soon the PokerStars/Full Tilt deal could happen, prop bets on this summer's World Series Of Poker, and whether the WSOP should display Chris Ferguson's banner with the other previous Main Event champions at the Rio. We also answered a listener question about how to handle taxes when you share a big tournament prize with people who backed you.

In our guest segment, we talked with Allen Kessler, the poker pro who has been grinding his way through tournaments for several years and cashed in over 150 of them, including 20 times at the WSOP and 11 times on the WPT. He explained how he changes his strategy as the money bubble approaches in each tournament to last longer, why he doesn't play cash games, and how he gets so many free buffets from casinos. We also delved into his expertise on tournament structure, including which tournaments do it right, which ones do it wrong, and which one recently changed it structure to add a level that's named after him.

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sorkin's Syracuse Speech

Every year, lots of celebrities are invited to give commencement addresses.  Very few of them write well, so they don't turn out to be much of anything.  And then there's Aaron Sorkin's speech at Syracuse University.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Terry Gross After-Show

I have written before of my respect for Terry Gross, host of NPR's "Fresh Air," and the best interviewer I've ever heard. For anyone who's ever wondered what happens after she says goodbye to a guest and the microphones are turned off, here's a funny short film by comedian Mike Birbiglia...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Things With Pits

Dick Cavett recalls being on "The $10,000 Pyramid" with Dick Clark, a slew of contestants, agonizing last-second clues, and the man in the booth who made the tough decisions.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • My old friend Bob Somerby (The Daily Howler) takes on Tom Brokaw over recent comments about Fox News & MSNBC. 
  • A wonderful story about an encounter with the late Maurice Sendak by Alec Baldwin.
  • Before he died, this guy wrote his own obituary, and made it look like a change-of-address announcement.
  • Zach Elwood explains how the Matt Damon and John Malkovich characters in "Rounders" gave off tons of obvious tells.

Recommending AutoSlash

Here's a recommendation for a money-saving service, with the disclaimer that I have no connection to the company and don't get any kickbacks from them -- I just like the way they do business.

The company is AutoSlash, which helps you book car rentals and then monitors the rates of the company you're renting from. If they drop below your original price, the website re-books your reservation at the lower rate.  And the cost for this  Not a penny for the original booking, or any subsequent automatic re-bookings.

I used  AutoSlash to book a car for my upcoming Las Vegas trip for the World Series Of Poker.  AutoSlash told me which company had the lowest rates -- which I confirmed by checking the websites of various rental agencies and other low-price search engines -- and then, a few hours after I booked a car through AutoSlash, they sent me an e-mail saying they'd found a better price and had locked me in at that rate ($6 lower).  Three days later, I got another e-mail saying they'd found an even better price ($8 less) and reserved the same car with the same company at that rate.  This morning, they sent me another e-mail telling me they'd re-booked it for me yet again at a rate that will save me $40 on my week-long rental.

Apparently, car rental companies adjust rates all the time based on demand, and since there's no penalty for cancelling a reservation (or even for not showing up to pick up the car!), consumers are free to play the find-the-best-price game.  In the past, I'd make the reservation weeks or months ahead of time, then check the options again a few days before my trip and, occasionally, save a few dollars by re-booking.  Now I don't have to do that, because AutoSlash does it for me.

So it's a free service that does nothing but save me money without taking an extra second of my time.  What's the downside?

The biggest car rental companies (Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, National, Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty) have stopped working with AutoSlash because it was costing them money (the companies pay AutoSlash a commission on each reservation, but end up collecting less because AutoSlash uses coupon and discount codes to find you better prices).  That limits your choice to companies like Payless, Fox, and EZ, but since there's no difference in the cars they offer, what difference does it make which agency you rent from?  I've used these smaller companies several times and never had a bad experience.  The car is always clean, gassed up, and ready to go when I arrive -- which is all I want.

It's possible that the industry may squeeze AutoSlash out of the business with those limited options, which would be a shame.  Until they do, I recommend you give them a try.  Those dollars you save will pay for some of the gas you'll have to put back in the tank at the end of your rental.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Bully Pulpit (cont'd)

As to Romney's claim that he doesn't remember the bullying incident, one must wonder how it escaped his memory while it has stuck in the minds of others who participated, like Phillip Maxwell -- a lifelong friend of Mitt's who told ABC News he held Lauber's arm and leg and describes Romney and the other boys involved as "a pack of dogs."

It’s a haunting memory.  I think it was for everybody that spoke up about it … because when you see somebody who is simply different taken down that way and is terrified and you see that look in their eye you never forget it.  And that was what we all walked away with. I saw it with my own eyes.  It was a hack job … clumps of hair taken off. When I saw the look on his [Lauber's] face, it was a look I’ll never forget. When you see a victim, the sense of trust betrayed in this boy who was perfectly innocent for being different. This was bullying supreme.
Here's Andrew Sullivan on the notion of pranks and Romney's claim that he doesn't remember:
I do not believe Romney has no memory of this. I believe he is lying. His absurd statement that he has no memory of the event but that he didn't target the boy for being gay is hilarious for its self-contradiction. A boy who routinely snickered "Atta girl!" when one young gay kid in his class spoke up is not just bashing hippies. I went to an all boys high school in the 1970s. What Romney did was a gay-bashing. 
Should we judge a man today by what he did all those years ago? 
Not entirely. He has apologized. But there is surely something here: the notion that being privileged and conformist requires actual punishment of the marginalized and under-privileged; that you pick on younger, weaker boys, not older ones; and that you psychologically traumatize the victim by permanently marking his body. 
And this matters because today these attacks on gay kids drive many to suicide, others to despair; they wreck lives and self-esteem. It matters that we know that one candidate for president was an anti-gay bully in high school, targeting a weak and defenseless kid and humiliating and traumatizing him. Today, he does the same thing in a larger, more abstract way: targeting a small minority as a way to advance his own power. It gives me the chills.

The Bully Pulpit

Now that President Obama has announced public support for gay marriage, and the political pundits are arguing over what effect it will have on the election this fall, there's the other side of the coin to consider -- Mitt Romney's renewed opposition.

I'd like to see a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP supporters, explain how they can rally behind a man who would do all he could to limit their civil rights.  The answer to that, I fear, is the same as why so many lower- and middle-class Americans continue to vote against their own economic interests by voting for Republicans who do more to enrich the 1% at their expense -- they buy the lies.

I also wonder how the presumptive GOP nominee would answer this simple question, "What message do you think you send to young gay people when, as the de facto leader of the Republican party, you take a hard line in opposing laws that would extend equal rights to them?"

Romney probably doesn't think about how his words and policies affect gay people.  But a story in today's Washington Post offers some insight into his long-entrenched mindset, revealing an incident at Cranbrook, the elite prep school he attended.  The article details how Romney saw John Lauber, a quiet, younger boy with bleached-blond hair over one eye, and was so repulsed by the look that he told a friend, "“He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” Romney kept complaining about Lauber's appearance until one night he gathered a posse to go to Lauber's room, pin him to the floor, and cut his hair.  Then Romney led the other boys away, cheering.  The Post includes first-hand accounts from other boys who participated in or witnessed the episode and recalled it as "vicious."

Late this morning, Romney was asked about the story in a radio interview.  He claimed he had no memory of the incident, although plenty of other people who were there remember it all these years later. ABC News quoted an old friend and Romney classmate as saying:
There are “a lot of guys” who went to Cranbrook who have “really negative memories” of Romney’s behavior in the dorms, behavior this classmate describes as “like Lord of the Flies.” The classmate believes Romney is lying when he claims to not remember it. “It makes these fellows [who have owned up to it] very remorseful. For [Romney] not to remember it? It doesn’t ring true. How could the fellow with the scissors forget it?” the former classmate said.
In the radio interview, Romney offered this tepid statement:
“Back in high school, I did some dumb things, and if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize for that. I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far, and for that I apologize.”
This was not "hijinks and pranks." This was bullying, pure and simple. It doesn't matter whether Romney's actions were driven by a belief that Lauber was gay (which he was). Romney was acting out against this kid just because he looked different, because he didn't fit the macho bullshit stereotype of all the other rich Cranbrook WASPs.  And when Romney uses the qualifier "might" (as in some of his pranks "might have gone too far"), it's like his weak response when asked about Rush Limbaugh's verbal attacks against Sandra Fluke -- "those aren't the words I would have chosen."

Romney's apology is not enough. He's only offering it because the incident has now come to light -- at no time in the past 4 decades has he ever thought he did anything wrong that night, so there wasn't any need to apologize until the spotlight was turned on.  He has no remorse.

What he needed to say today was that he knows the difference between right and wrong, and that his actions 40 years ago were wrong. He also should be using this moment to send a message to today's victims of bullying -- kids who are picked on because they're gay, or because they're straight but perceived as gay, or because they're different from everyone else, or because they're smarter than everyone else, or because the color of their skin is different, or for any other reason.  Romney should admit that what he did can't be written off as the wacky antics of a teenager, but are part of a long history of bullying that America is only now beginning to come to grips with.

Updated 5/11/12 11:37pm...

Joe Klein agrees with me, writing on

I’m still waiting for the moment when Romney actually tells the truth about something difficult. He could have said, “You know, I’ve been troubled by the Cranbrook episode for most of my life, and I feel relieved, in a way, that it’s come out now. I did a really stupid and terrible thing. Teenage boys sometimes do such things and deserve to be punished for them. What I most regret is that I never apologized to John and won’t be able to now that he’s gone, but let me apologize to his family and friends. Bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. It is especially unacceptable when prejudice — against one’s race, ethnicity or sexual orientation — is involved. If elected President, I will try to atone for my teenage behavior by campaigning against bullying all across this country. What I did back then should be an example of how not to behave. I hope we can all learn from this. I know I have.”

Traditional Marriage, Mormon Edition

Mitt Romney's disapproval of gay marriage is based fervently in his religion, which is odd considering that the definition of acceptable marriage has changed so often in Mormon history. For most of the 19th century, they didn't limit marriage to one man and one woman, but rather to one man and as many women as he wanted to take as brides, including some who were under 15 years old. The Mormon church officially forsook polygamy in 1890, but many "plural marriages" were sanctioned until 1904.

Even then, the LDS church didn't sanction interracial marriages until 1978 -- before then, blacks weren't even allowed to marry other blacks -- and there are still many Mormons who believe it to be more than wrong, though they don't go as far as Brigham Young, who once sermonized that whites who married blacks should be put to death on the spot.

So, when a Mormon speaks of "traditional" marriage, it's fair to ask them which tradition they hew to and why, if their church has changed its policies on who can marry before, it can't change them now.  Romney's own great-grandparents were polygamists, and if you go back one more generation, you'll find a Romney man with 12 wives. How is that better than a gay man with one husband or a lesbian with one wife?

One other thought. In Romney’s mind, corporations are people, and there are no laws preventing companies from entering into a partnership that offers both parties all sorts of legal rights. Perhaps every gay American should incorporate. Then they'd be free to merge with anyone they like!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Final Table #171: Bernard Lee and Michael Hirschensohn

Today on the Final Table, we discussed the sale of Harrah's St. Louis to Penn National Gaming. The sale won't be complete until the end of this year, but we tried to answer some questions about why Harrah's is pulling out of the market, what it means for future WSOP Circuit events, and what effect the sale will have on poker players in this area.

Next we analyzed some rule changes that were announced today for the World Series Of Poker (which begins in 3 weeks in Las Vegas) including lifting some restrictions on what you can and can't say while you're in a hand and what you can do once you've won it. We also revealed the plans for ESPN's coverage of the WSOP, and how you can use your Total Rewards points to enter WSOP events or earn comps with your buy-ins.

Then Bernard Lee joined us to talk about the Direct TV broadcasts celebrating the 5th anniversary of his poker radio show, and offer some advice for anyone who will play their first-ever WSOP tournaments this summer at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Finally, Michael Hirschensohn, a friend and business associate of the late Amarillo Slim, joined us to shed more light on what was behind the charges against Slim in 2003 that turned him into a pariah in the poker industry -- including some facts from the case that haven't been revealed before regarding the prosecutor, the woman who was in it for the money, the court-ordered psychiatrist who examined Slim, and comments from his old friend Doyle Brunson. [If you missed our 2009 interview with Slim, in which he candidly discussed this case and much more, click here]

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

Monday, May 07, 2012

Which Side Of History?

Jon Sinton, who I worked with 3 decades ago when he was starting out as a radio consultant, long before he created Air America and other businesses that promote the progressive viewpoint, has written a piece asking which side of history you want to be on:

I want to be on the side of the American Revolutionaries. Not the conservatives who sided with King George.

I want to be on the side of Lincoln and the abolitionists. Not the conservatives who were willing to spill their countrymen’s blood to preserve their ability to enslave their fellow man for economic gain.

I want to be on the side of the 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition, not with the conservatives who passed the 18th Amendment that created it.

I want to be on the side of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, not the conservatives who opposed it.

I want to be on the side of scientific fact, not with the conservatives who, 85 years after the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, just passed legislation in the Volunteer State weakening the teaching of evolution.

I want to be on the side that advocated entering World War II, not the conservative isolationist obstructionists who delayed it.

I want to be on the side of The New Deal that created social insurance so we would never again face bread lines and destitution, not the conservatives who opposed Social Security.

I want to be on the side of the Interstate Highway system, not the conservatives who opposed infrastructure spending.

I want to be on the side of The Great Society, which expanded social insurance to create Medicare. Not the conservatives who opposed it.

I want to be on the side of the Environmental Protection Agency, not the conservatives who opposed protecting our air and water from pollution.

I want to be on the side of self-determination, not the conservatives who traded guns for hostages to sidestep Congress and fight an illegal war in Central America resulting in the Iran Contra Scandal.

I want to be on the side of welfare reform, not the conservatives who would allow the poor to starve in the richest country in the history of the world.

I want to be on the side that opposed the Iraq War, not the conservatives who lied and ginned up evidence to push us into Iraq.

I want to be on the side of Ben Franklin who said, “Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.” Not the conservatives who created The Patriot Act.

I guess all that makes me an Eisenhower-Nixon Republican/FDR-LBJ Democrat. Eisenhower built the freeways, and warned against the military/Congressional/industrial complex; Nixon opened China and created the EPA. FDR saved the world (despite the isolationist Republican Congressional and business leaders who wanted no part of WWII), and created social insurance; LBJ fought for civil rights and enhanced social insurance with the creation of Medicare.

Republicans used to be communitarians like Reagan and Eisenhower, but neither of them could get through primaries now. They’re not doctrinaire enough. I don’t even recognize the Party of Lincoln, and wonder what a life long Republican thinks of what has become of the Grand Old Party.

Here’s what Thomas Mann, of the nonpartisan Brookings Institute, and Norman Ornstein of the very conservative American Enterprise Institute write in their new book, It’s Worse Than You Think: However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become a insurgent outlier, ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

By the way, I don’t have much patience for the Democrats as a party either. I guess I am an independent.

The entrenched, monied interests in Washington prosper when they keep us yelling at each other instead of at them. It is a great diversion. If we ever discover that so many of us who think we disagree actually agree, the game will up for them. But in the meantime, they promote the bickering and sniping, and hope they can keep us thinking the other side is unreasonable and even evil. The fact is we are mostly a centrist country whose common interests greatly outweigh our differences, but don’t tell anybody.

Push The Button

This Picture Of The Day is quite dramatic, and all you have to do is push the button...

Friday, May 04, 2012

Jimmy Fallon's Audition

When Jimmy Fallon auditioned for a part on "Saturday Night Live" in 1998, he did a stunning array of celebrity impressions, including two I've never seen anyone else do -- Gilbert Gottfried and Adam Sandler. The latter impersonation earned him a very audible laugh from Lorne Michaels...

Also on

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Osama Papers

Surprises in the Osama Bin Laden private paperwork that was made public today:

  • Once tortured an Al Qaeda lieutenant for not removing all the brown M&M's from a bowl he put out for a party.
  • Should never have invested in franchises of tanning salon company Afghanis-Tan.
  • Was frustrated he could never beat Ayman Al-Zawahiri at Words With Friends.
  • Thought it was funny to ask associates, "Is that a bomb in your underwear or are you just happy to see me?"
  • Loved Brooks, hated Dunn.
  • Stopped watching major league baseball when they allowed designated hitters.
  • Held a grudge against TJ Maxx because they would only give him store credit for a return, not a refund.
  • Considered ordering a hit on Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cruse for the less-than-satisfactory final episode of "Lost".
  • Hoped he'd live to see the day a pizza company would finally put hot dogs in the crust.
  • Kept in shape by devoting 30 minutes a day to Tony Horton's Extreme Home Fitness Workout DVDs.


There's a story in this morning's Wall Street Journal about efforts by the Washington Nationals to keep Philadelphia Phillies fans from taking over the ballpark when their team visits town.  The Nationals are a losing franchise that can't fill the seats, while the Phillies are winners whose fans love them so much they don't hesitate to make road trips to the capital to cheer on their boys.  That presents two problems for the Nats -- one, there are more people in the stands rooting for the visitors than for the home team, and two, Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation that leans well over the obnoxious line.

Which reminds me of a story told by Dave "The Predictor" Murray, the sports guy on my morning radio show on WCXR/Washington many years ago.  Dave had gone on a weekend hockey trip to Philly to watch the Capitals play the Flyers.  When he got back to work Monday morning, he shared the experience with our audience, complaining about the loud, crude fans he'd encountered, including one in particular who kept shouting obscenities at the visitors while spilling beer down Dave's back and smoking a disgusting-smelling cigar.

Dave paused, then added, "and her husband was worse!"

West Wing Walk

Who better to promote walking than some cast members from the TV show that featured more "walk and talk" scenes than any other?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

I'm Just Asking

The war in Afghanistan has created mental health issues for thousands of American soldiers who have been forced to serve multiple tours and then come home to a VA establishment that's not fully prepared to help them re-enter society nor deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.  A recent report by the Inspector General says the VA is not meeting its own guidelines for veteran care, and that more than half of returning American veterans with mental health problems have to wait an average of 50 days for an evaluation.

Considering the consequences of this war for our men and women in uniform, what must it be like for the people of Afghanistan who have lived in the midst of this debacle for over a decade?

Stephen King On Taxes

In a piece for The Daily Beast, Stephen King explains why he and other rich people should be taxed more. I can already hear the right-wingers responding to this the same way they did when Warren Buffett dared to offer the same proposal. The rebuttal went, "If you want to pay more taxes, go ahead, no one's stopping you." The logic in that is the same as telling someone concerned about people driving too fast through their neighborhood, "If you want to slow down, go ahead, but don't tell me what to do." Of course, that doesn't fix the problem unless everyone agrees voluntarily to slow down, which they're not going to do unless forced to.

This is a debate that should be at the core of the presidential campaigns this year, if only the American public could focus on its importance without being distracted by dog stories. Here are two paragraphs from King's op-ed, which will whet your appetite to read the whole thing here.

The U.S. senators and representatives who refuse even to consider raising taxes on the rich -- they squall like scalded babies (usually on Fox News) every time the subject comes up -- are not, by and large, superrich themselves, although many are millionaires and all have had the equivalent of Obamacare for years. They simply idolize the rich. Don’t ask me why; I don’t get it either, since most rich people are as boring as old, dead dog shit. The Mitch McConnells and John Boehners and Eric Cantors just can’t seem to help themselves. These guys and their right-wing supporters regard deep pockets like Christy Walton and Sheldon Adelson the way little girls regard Justin Bieber … which is to say, with wide eyes, slack jaws, and the drool of adoration dripping from their chins. I’ve gotten the same reaction myself, even though I’m only “baby rich” compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills.

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want -- those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money -- is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies -- you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay -- not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay -- in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

Colbert vs. Keaton

I felt sorry for Stephen Colbert the other night when Diane Keaton appeared on his show to promote the paperback edition of her autobiography. It was clear from the start that she wasn't going to play along. Despite Colbert prompting her to share stories from her book, she refused, opting to be argumentative with him over nothing. It was almost as if she thinks he really is a right-wing blowhard who offends her in multiple ways.

I've had guests on the air like this, who don't understand that by sharing an anecdote or two from their book, they'll arouse some interest from the audience that might then be inclined to purchase it. Instead they deflect repeated questions (which exist solely to set them up to tell a story) by answering, "oh, yes, that's a good one, which you can read about in my book," without offering a sample. I also hate it when authors keep mentioning the title of their book, as they've clearly been told to do by a publicist, because it's the host's job to do the plugging -- Colbert, like me, is always generous about that, so there's no need for the interviewee to do it. You'd think that someone like Keaton, who has done her share of TV talk shows in the last four decades, would know this by now.

Since I've read Keaton's book (thank you, St. Louis Public Library!), I can tell you it contains plenty of provocative material that could have been mined in a six-minute TV interview. I also know that Colbert always greets his guests backstage before the show tapes to remind them that he's doing a character and it's his job to be funny, not theirs, so the straighter they play it, the better the resulting segment. Keaton either doesn't understand that or was under the influence of something, to the point where Colbert finally said, after five exasperating minutes, "We put up a big picture of the book and I'm going to shill for it super-hard at the end of the interview, but before I encourage my viewers to buy the book, you have to say one fucking thing about it."

I feel your pain, Stephen.

Friendly Advice for CNN

Cenk Uygur, whose "Young Turks" show is on the barely-seen Current network, offers some advice to CNN on how it can boost its withered ratings:

Stop doing "he said, she said" crap that doesn't actually deliver the news to anyone. Democrats said this and Republicans said that -- who cares? What is the reality?! Your job is supposed to be to bring us facts, not what official spokespeople told you in their press releases and talking points.
The problem is that CNN doesn't have the courage to do this. They're afraid it might offend some folks if you tell the American people reality. I want to be clear; I'm not saying they should give us opinion. There's plenty of that in other parts of cable, including my show. They're never going to out-opinion me. But if Mitt Romney says his proposal balances the budget, well, why don't you crunch the numbers and tell us whether that's true or not? Of course the reality is that it creates trillions of dollars in deficits just so that the rich can have more tax cuts. But CNN would consider reporting those facts as being biased. 
If the Giants play the Cowboys and beat them silly, it is not biased to report that they won. You don't have a pro-Giants bias if you report the score. I'm a progressive but I have no interest in CNN skewing issues in favor of Democrats. By all means, call them out just as aggressively. The Democratic Party takes huge amounts of cash from corporations and unions to vote a certain way. My God, CNN doesn't even cover the role of money in politics. They take politicians at their word. Are you kidding? It seems like the people who work at CNN are the last people in the country who actually trust our politicians. Congressional approval ratings were recently at 11 percent. How well do you think you're going to do on television if you're sucking up to those guys? 
By the way, following along with artificially created Fox News scandals doesn't give you balance. It makes you sad and pathetic. There are plenty of real Democratic scandals without falling into the rubbish Fox talks about. How much money does Chuck Schumer take from Wall Street? What favors does he give them in return? Why do Democratic leaders keep writing legislation rigged against the Internet -- could it have something to do with the tremendous amount of cash they take from Hollywood companies? Why does President Obama get a free pass on following George Bush's civil liberties abuses like warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detentions?
In other words, do your job -- report the news. The real news, not dueling talking points and manufactured controversies. My God, where is your investigative team? What's the last story you broke? Of course, the reality is that you don't want to break stories about Washington because that might offend some people. What kind of a so-called news operation is this afraid of their own shadow? "Oh my God, what if we offended someone in power. They might not come on our shows anymore and they might call us biased."
Or they might call you journalists.
Uygur's whole piece is here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Final Table #170: Sam Barnhart

Today on the Final Table, we talked about Dennis' weekend trip to the Chad Brown Charity Event at Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma and the strategy behind his play on the bubble (at the point where one more player will be eliminated before everyone remaining makes any money). We also discussed the newest developments in the Full Tilt Poker saga, including a report that Laurent Tapie offered to hire all of its parent company's employees in an effort to launch a new poker site later this year. And we discussed a newly posted interview with Howard Lederer, in which he explains why "honesty is the best hustle."

In our guest segment, we welcomed Sam Barnhart to the show. Sam had an amazing 2011 -- he entered a super satellite that put him into the WSOP Circuit Main Event at Harrah's Tunica, which he won, earning a spot in the WSOP Circuit National Championship at Caesar's Palace, which he also won. To top it off, he made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 17th and bringing his tournament earnings for the year to over $800,000. We asked Sam about his life since then, what he learned from playing all those years in Mississippi, and his advice for anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps (including Main Event rookies like me).

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