Friday, February 25, 2011

American Idol: the Good, the Bad, and the WTF?

Hollywood Week has come and gone and at last, we're left with our Top 24-- 12 guys and 12 girls who will be at the mercy of the American voting public next week. On the whole, I think it's a pretty impressive crop of talent this year and thankfully devoid of the over-population of white guys with guitars that were forced on us last season (now we get white guys on piano and bass!). There's a guy with Tourettes AND Asperger's, two former maids, a lot of dudes who love to screech out high E's and a menagerie of sickly precocious 15-year olds. Here's a look at who I'll be watching...and muting... over the next few episodes:

The Good: Casey Abrams
I am loving this quirky little w00k who crawled out of the San Bernadino Mountains and thankfully found his way to Hollywood. He's a gifted musician, a creative arranger, soulful without being over-the-top, and despite the unfortunate Taylor Hicks comparisons, has a sound that I welcome on Idol. Here's his Hollywood Week solo-- "Georgia on My Mind," self-accompanied on stand-up bass.

The Good: Pia Toscano
This chick was entirely off my radar until the latter stages of Hollywood Week, but as Randy would say, she "blew it out the box" with this solo performance:

The Good: Tim Halperin
Ladies, can we say adorable? Love the soft, lilting timbre in his voice that is sure to make teenage hearts melt across America. Here's his piano-duet version of "Something in the Way She Moves" with Julie Zorilla.

The Bad: Jacob Lusk
Please pass me some of whatever Randy Jackson was smoking when he declared this the best performance in ten seasons of American Idol... and a little of what Lusk injested before this utterly spastic rendition of "God Bless the Child." This year's motto appears to be "scream your face off if you want any attention from the judges" and this "spa concierge" from Compton (huh?) takes it right to heart:

The Bad: Clint Jun Gamboa
Can he please crawl back into the Long Beach karaoke bar he came out of? The guy has a decent voice, but you can barely hear its tone over all the runs and falsetto screeching. No subtlety here, folks. AND he kicked Child Tony G (aka Jaycee Badeaux) out of his group during Hollywood Week for a finishing touch of cutthroat cattiness. Watch him mangle "Georgia on My Mind" if you dare, or are simply an aural masochist:

The WTF?: Thia Megia
I wanted to projectile vomit when rocker Jessica Cunningham was cut and this creature was let in. This disgustingly precocious 15-year old already stunk up the small screen last year on America's Got Talent and rather than allowing her teenybopper vocals to marinate and mature for another year, the judges let her in on her first try rather than giving the nod to Cunningham, who, after making the Top 40 for a second consecutive year, instead had J.Lo ruin her 25th birthday by sending her home. I hereby declare Thia Megia this year's Jasmine Trias. Which means she'll probably stick around a lot longer than we want her to. Her screamy, high school talent show treatment of "You Raise Me Up" starts at the 1:16 mark.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

American Idol Discussion on Wicked Chops Podcast

Grrrr. I'm a lil' tilty at the moment after having my wallet assaulted at the DFW currency exchange counter. I'm used to getting screwed when it comes to changing USD for foreign money, but this particular transaction cost me nearly 20% in juice. That's got to be a new record when it comes to my global travels for poker, and it's not exactly an expense that can be reimbursed. Vomit.

Anyhow, the Entities at Wicked Chops Poker were kind enough to invite me on this week's podcast. Along with Chops and WPT's Jeff Holsey, we delve deep into our collective favorite topic-- American Idol-- after discussing Peter Eastgate's "un-retirement" and Ashton Griffin's 70-mile prop bet. Give it a listen here.

If all goes as its supposed to, I should be touching down in Sao Paulo, Brazil in about twelve hours. It's a good thing that the PokerStars Blog team has the best local guide ever, our own Sergio Prado, a SP native who writes the Brazilian blog. Without Serge I'd be in trouble because the only words I know in Portuguese are "good morning," "beer," and "go fuck yourself."

For now I have three hours to kill in the Admirals Club, the first season of Community on my hard drive, and a free drink waiting for me at the bar.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Top 5 American Idol Season 10 Hollywood Week Hopefuls

It's been an excruciating four weeks of audition episodes on American Idol and thankfully, tonight the show moves in to Hollywood Week (and the ensuing cattiness, tears, mental breakdowns, and forgotten lyrics). Before the drama kicks off, I thought I'd take a look back and share with you who I'll be watching closely during the next round. All five (well, actually six with the Gutierrez Bros.) have serious raw vocal talent and also benefitted by having their "stories" (or at least some sort of schtick) featured on the broadcast. There is plenty still to see, but these are my favorites thus far. Feel free to add your own $0.02 in the comments.

Mark Gutierrez, 28 and Aaron Gutierrez, 27
Hometown: Redlands, CA
Audition city: Los Angeles
You'll remember them because: They're the Latin Jonas Brothers.

Lauren Alaina, 15
Hometown: Rossville, GA
Audition city: Nashville
You'll remember her because: Steven Tyler called her "beyondo cute" after she sang his song "Don't Want to Miss a Thing." That and the tragic rainbow tye-dye dress.

Chris Medina, 26
Hometown: Oak Park, IL
Audition city: Milw00kie
You'll remember him because: He wheeled in his brain-damaged fiance to meet the judges.

Casey Abrams,19
Hometown: Idyllwild, CA
Audition city: Austin
You'll remember him because: He carried around a mouth-powered keyboard at auditions called a melodica.

James Durbin, 21
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
Audition city: San Francisco
You'll remember him because: He's the dude with Tourette's and Asperger's.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Year of the Poker Media?

Our salaries may be falling and our jobs disappearing, but four of us donks-with-notebooks have managed to score life-changing money in tournament poker over the last couple of months. The latest member of the poker media to accomplish this feat is Remko "happyfreaked" Rinkema, a writer/reporter for Early this morning, Remko finished in fourth place at the Estrellas Poker Tour-Madrid main event for a €26,100 score (about $35,500 USD). For the 99% of you who do not read Dutch, check out this hilarious Babelfish translation of's writeup.

Remko is true to his nickname. Despite the hour or the circumstance, the guy almost always has a smile on his face and he has a few freaky tendencies (like his frequent $50 cab rides from the Rio to Naked Fish during dinner breaks at the WSOP, where he consumed copious amounts of Las Vegas' finest sushi). Consider this your invite for a victory baked lobster roll this summer, buddy!

So, to recap. In the last 51 days Kristy Arnett won a MiniFTOPS jersey, Rob "veeRob" Perelman shipped the Hearland Poker Tour-Red Rock, I won a crazy-tall trophy at the PCA Ladies Event and Remko made a televised final table and $35K. Of course we're not the first poker writers to win tournaments-- Ryan won an LAPC event in 2006, Pauly, Dan and Lana won Dream Team Poker in 2009, and Otis shipped a Ceasar's Megastack event last summer. But the confluence of events in such a short period of time does beg the question. Is it the year of the poker media?

A hearty mazel tov to Remko. Who's gonna be next?

Friday, February 04, 2011

New Tao of Pokerati - Super Bowl Wagers

As close to a lock as you're gonna get this Sunday

I taped a guest spot on the quickest gambling podcast on the internet, the Tao of Pokerati. Filling in for Michalski, I sat down with Pauly to discuss my one and only Super Bowl wager.

2011 Super Bowl: Exotic Betting on the Super Bowl with Change100 (4:19) - Pauly and Change100 chat about "exotic" proposition wagering for this year's Super Bowl. And if you're looking for some easy money, then you're in luck because Change100 also shares a tip on how long it will take Christina Aguilera to sing the national anthem.

For more on our week in sports betting, check out Your Hands and Feet Are Mangos, Part 2. My beloved has so corrupted me that I just put a 20-spot on Ivy League basketball. Go Yale?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

American Idol, The Rum Diaries, and How I Lit $335 On Fire

I try to live my life with few regrets, but if I have one it's that Showcase and I never got our shit together and auditioned for American Idol while we were still eligible. It's not like I was a lock to make Hollywood Week or anything-- on my best day Simon Cowell would have labeled my musical theater-trained belt "too cabaret"-- but it still would have been a cool footnote in our personal histories. At the end of last season, when Crystal Bowersox lost to Lee DeWyze, I felt like I was done with the show after nine seasons as a faithful viewer, but the ensuing shake-up at the judges' table led me to come back for more. The jury is still out for me when it comes to Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez's contributions to the show since we're still in the cringingly awful audition stages of Season 10, but I will say this. Goddamn I miss Simon Cowell. These folks are just too damn soft.

I'm taping an episode of the Wicked Chops Poker podcast this afternoon where I will no doubt go into more detail about specific contestants with the Entities. So stay tuned for that.

While Pauly took last week to do nothing but drink and bet on basketball (as detailed in his epic post Your Hands and Feet are Mangos), I didn't do much else besides organize my finances (thanks to my PCA score I am now debt-free for the first time since I was 18), hack through red tape at the passport office so I can go on an assignment Brazil in two weeks, and play online poker. I stunk up the joint when it came to MTTs, but thankfully made most of those buy-ins back in cash games and SNGs. Full Tilt's Double Guarantees Week and their new Multi-Entry Tournament shtick was like handing a back of rock to a crackhead, and I hit the pipe hard over the weekend when it came to those suckers.

Yesterday, instead of firing up the laptop, I hit the road and drove out to the Commerce Casino to play in an L.A. Poker Classic prelim. I sang along to the Glee soundtrack all the way down the 10 and as Maridu messaged me yesterday, "I'm pretty sure that's a tell." The structure for the $335 Double Stack NLHE was downright amazing for a low buy-in SoCal tourney, with 10,000 in chips and blinds starting at 25/50. Unfortunately, I got caught up in a very weird hand in the second orbit that cost me a significant chunk.

The UTG player, who seemed like an online guy both in terms of his look and his bet sizing raised to 125. A guy in an Angels hat flat-called and two calling stations in middle position flatted before the action came around to me on the button. I looked down at two kings and three-bet to 700. All four players called. The flop was 9-J-Q rainbow. Ewww. UTG guy checked, Angels hat bet 2,000, and the two calling stations folded. I hated raising, I hated folding, I didn't have any sort of read on Angels hat yet, and I still had UTG guy behind me. I decided to call, and UTG guy called behind me. 9,500 in the pot now. The turn was the 9s, pairing the board and giving it a second spade. UTG guy looked like he might bet, but then decided to check, and Angels hat quickly bet 4,000. I got the hell out, UTG guy shoved and Angels hat snap-called, turning over pocket queens for the nut boat. UTG guy had K-T for the straight and busted out.

After that, I couldn't win a pot to save my life. The one time I did flop top pair with A-T, I got raised on the turn on by the tightest player at the table and let it go. Angels hat was running over the table with his massive stack and was getting smacked in the face with the deck-- he showed pocket aces, pocket kings, quads for fuck's sake. My stack steadily eroded and I ended up check-shoving a 5-3-3 flop with pocket eights only to run into Angels hat's Q-Q. With that, my $335 burst into flames and instead of heading downstairs to ignite a few more hundred dollar bills in the cash games, I decided to drive home before rush hour traffic rendered that task impossible.

Queens against eights again, how about that?