Monday, July 27, 2015

Catch Up (Entertainment, Food, Gambling, Sport, Rambling)

It's been a while since I last wrote a post, so I figured I'd give an update on what I've been doing.

New Hobbies

Watching fighting games
Even though I don't play any of them, I do find them very entertaining to watch, especially the high level contests. So lately I've not only caught up on past matches through Youtube, I'll actually watch live streaming on Twitch as well. This all culminated in me watching the live stream of an entire weekend's worth of EVO, which is the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, held every year in Las Vegas. It was a ridiculous display of skill and drama, packed with excitement, and honestly more entertaining for me than the NBA finals. My favorite games to watch are Ultra Street Fighter IV (where the biggest prize money is) and Mortal Kombat X (which is only a few months old but has a huge following). I really think the fighting game scene is going to blow up big time, and some would say it already has considering there were 250k concurrent live viewers at the championship's peak, even though the prize pools were below $100k, compared to League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients which boast multi-million dollar prize pools.

Daily fantasy sports
I've always played a good deal of daily fantasy sports, but the past month or so I've really been into the day-to-day grind of the MLB season. I'm mostly trying to develop a model for it and plan to play strictly off the model. It hasn't been going well financially, but it's still pretty fun. It's kind of developed into a daily routine now where I download some data into Google Docs, then read it into R to do my analysis. The model has shown a lot of promise, but it hasn't won consistently, so I'm thinking of moving on to NFL analysis very soon in anticipation of the new season starting.

Older Hobbies

Food
I haven't really been out to many restaurants. I haven't really exercised in the past half year due to a calf injury, and have ballooned in weight so I'm trying to get back in shape starting with my diet. I did have an excellent dinner at EMP a while back, but none of the main "story" dishes were new so I didn't write up the meal. I also had a couple of stellar meals at 15 East, but as beloved chef Masato Shimizu is leaving the country, there's no hurry to write a post on it as the reader won't be able to enjoy the experience as well.

Poker
I'd been playing in a couple of regular home games, but now that summer is here, everyone's enjoying the outdoors instead. I also haven't followed the poker scene at all, except for coming across a couple of WSOP headlines.

Bridge
I've kept up with bridge even less, to the extent that I didn't even know when and where this summer's nationals were being held. I continue to play in the interclub bridge league, but that's been on hiatus for the summer and won't resume till September.

TV/Anime
My DVR continues to be full, and I still watch a good amount of anime (3-5 per season last few seasons), but it feels like there's just too much entertainment media (much of it good) out there nowadays. And I don't even have a Netflix subscription!

So that's a pretty good snapshot of how things have been. I believe that I will have a couple of food posts up soon when I get around to it, and this NFL season perhaps I'll start writing some daily fantasy posts instead of the previous gambling posts. Enjoy the summer, everyone!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

American Pharoah: The Triple Crown Winner of the Millennial Generation (sport, gambling, rambling)

The Sport of Kings has long been dead in America, and American Pharoah was the final nail in the coffin.

I can't wait to bet against American Pharoah when he races against older competition. I hope he really is a great horse and can prove me wrong, but he certainly hasn't yet earned all the respect and hype he appears to be getting. In a lot of ways, American Pharoah's Triple Crown victory reflects many of the negative things that older generations tend to associate with millennials.

We can start with the things that don't even have to do with horse racing. Like the horse's name, crowd-sourced from an online contest and misspelling the word "pharaoh". Or how, one of the most successful stables of the past decade has a 23 year old, who just recently graduated from NYU, as its racing manager. Oh wait, Justin Zayat just happens to be the owner's son.

But it's the actual horse racing aspect of it that makes a true fan cringe. I did tell people before the race that American Pharoah had the best chance of any Triple Crown contender I'd seen in the 21st century. But that wasn't because I thought he was a special horse. Rather, it was because the field was small, weak, and had no true stayers or rabbits (pace setters). As much as the Belmont is about backing up to race three times in 5 weeks, it is also about getting a full mile and a half. A true stayer, even if a little less talented, would make a would-be Triple Crown winner earn his victory. A good example of this was Birdstone's upset of Smarty Jones in 2004. And yet, even without a perfect start, American Pharoah managed to grab the rail and a cushy lead when the only other frontrunner in the race, Materiality, "decided" not to contest the lead. I knew it was already over at that point. This triple crown was nothing more than a participation trophy, and there wasn't even a cash bonus for winning it (there hasn't been for the last 10 years).

As I mentioned above, American Pharoah may still end up being a special racehorse and earn my respect. But the media can't wait that long. In an era when notable celebrities are famous for being famous rather than being talented, and where we can't determine real news from Onion headlines, the fluff pieces hit ESPN almost immediately.

There was this one, which proclaimed American Pharaoh as "a horse so perfect" without actually going into much detail about what distinguished him from previous Triple Crown contenders. The article mentioned also-rans like Funny Cide and War Emblem. Well how about Sunday Silence? Was he not a worthy, special horse? Probably one of the greatest sires ever behind only Northern Dancer, Danehill, and Sadler's Wells, Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer in the first two legs of the Triple Crown before losing to him at the Belmont. He would get his revenge by winning the Breeders Cup Classic, a race billed as the "race of the decade" as Easy Goer had one of the greatest 3-year-old campaigns ever. That was one of the greatest times in American horse racing, with a whole host of top jockeys including Jerry Bailey, Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, Pat Day, Pat Valenzuela, and more. Nowadays, a 50 year old Gary Stevens (yes, the same one!) can come back and still be a dominant force on the scene.

Although, according to this writer, horse racing in America doesn't need saving as it has record crowds and gigantic TV ratings. But how many of those attendees actually know anything about horse racing or its history? How many of those attendees will place another horse racing bet in their life? How many of those who watched the Belmont will watch the Travers or the Haskell? American Pharoah is the Millennial generation's Triple Crown winner. Not a crowning of talent, fortitude, or competitive achievement, but rather a spectacle we can cheer on to keep the party going. The Sport of Kings has long been dead in America, and American Pharaoh was the final nail in the coffin.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Finals Preview (sport, gambling)

Umm... not much to say here really. I mean, the only real arguments for Cleveland are LeBron and experience. Wait, the only guys with Finals experience on the Cavs are actually Mike Miller, James Jones, and Kendrick Perkins. Scratch that. I mean, if you compare this Cleveland team to his Miami teams, you can say that Kyrie is an upgrade over the final years with Wade. But they don't even have an equivalent of Chris Bosh. I'm really trying here but I just can't find any real reason to pick the Cavaliers. They came out of a very weak Eastern conference, where Chicago just kind of imploded and Atlanta ran into injuries to key players.

Bottom line. Warriors -230 for the series is great value. Warriors in 4 (+550) and Warriors in 5 (+180) are also worth taking a look at. I kind of see this series ending up the same way as last year's Spurs-Heat series.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cosme: Everything Was Good, Yet Still Felt Overhyped (food)

Please note that this meal occurred in February 2015.

The title pretty much says it all, but I think it's more reflective of the hype that Cosme gets than anything else. The hype is understandable. The named celebrity chef, Enrique Olvera, is arguably the top chef in Mexico and has a restaurant ranked 16th in the latest World's Best Restaurant rankings. The night we went, the New York Times had just awarded them 3 stars. But even with chef Olvera in the house that night celebrating the review, there were some things that just seemed to be missing.

Atmosphere:
The place is trendy. No doubt about it. One of our fellow diners believes she spotted Isaac Mizrahi. And while the music was acceptable during prime dinner time, it definitely turned into a very clubby vibe by about 11pm. And compared to those types of MePa restaurants, Cosme is indeed excellent. But for a restaurant that prides itself on its food and hiding the guacamole in a small corner of the menu, it wasn't quite there yet.

Food:
Everything involving corn was phenomenal. This includes all the tortillas and tostadas, as well as the purple corn chileatole served with the octopus cocktail, and the signature husk meringue dessert. Some items on the menu were more of the "check things off the list" variety, such as the seafood stuffed avocado or the uni tostada (uni! bone marrow!), which I liked far less than the mussel tostada which had a great depth of flavor. When I think of Mexican or Mexican-inspired food, I think of either freshness or depth of flavor. While freshness of flavor was evident in some of the dishes such as the scallop and the excellent cobia al pastor, none of the dishes really presented a depth and complexity of flavor except for the pozole. This was especially disappointing in regard to the enfrijolada. In terms of food, everything overall was good. And when I say everything, I mean literally almost everything, as the 6 of us ordered everything on the menu except for 4 items.

Service:
Service was friendly and prompt. And like I already mentioned, that is excellent for a trendy, busy NYC restaurant considering the large number of horrible waitstaff in the city filled with actor/singer wannabes. But for a critically acclaimed, sophisticated, serious restaurant, that's not enough. We had already mentioned that we were ordering practically the entire menu to share. The first miscue was when the server told us that the hamachi would not be large enough to share, and recommended we get two orders. We decided to get one order first and see how it turned out. It turned out that there were 5 slices of fish for the 6 of us. You're telling me we couldn't just pay for that one extra slice so that everyone could have one? Don't bullshit me with that everything is pre-portioned crap. The second miscue was when they brought our duck carnitas (meant to serve two) along with the accompanying basket of tortillas. Two tortillas. Seriously?

What made this worse was that these were things that should have had two opportunities to have been corrected before they got to the table. Not only should the server communicate with the kitchen, but a diligent world class chef should notice these things and question what goes out. "Two tortillas for a 6-top?" And yet they said Olvera was in the kitchen that night, although I don't know if he was manning the pass.

Price/Value:
Yes, the portions are small and the prices add up quickly. That has pretty much been mentioned on most of the reviews out there. But considering we ordered almost the entire menu, including all the desserts (but only one of the main entrees), the price for one person including tax and tip without alcohol was a very reasonable $100. So no arguments there, although I doubt diners can achieve those economies of scale without a group of 6.

Overall:
It's a good restaurant with good food. If a friend wanted to go to a trendy restaurant and we ended up there, I wouldn't be disappointed. But it's just way overhyped by the food media. This is not a restaurant that will change how NYers view Mexican food. It's not exactly a cash grab, but I doubt one would really consider it an extension of Pujol, Olvera's acclaimed restaurant in Mexico.

Photos and descriptions:
TOSTADAS, PUMPKIN BUTTER


UNI TOSTADA; AVOCADO, BONE MARROW SALSA, CUCUMBER $17
MUSSEL TOSTADA; RUSSIAN SALAD, CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE $14

SLICED RAW HAMACHI; FERMENTED SERRANOS, FISH SAUCE, BLACK LIMES $19

CHICHARRON; RADISH, CILANTRO, AVOCADO, HOT SAUCE $12

STUFFED AVOCADO; SEAFOOD VUELVE A AL VIDA, HORSERADISH $18


OCTOPUS COCKTAIL; PURPLE OCCIDENTAL CORN CHILEATOLE, CHARRED AVOCADO, RED ONION $26
SCALLOP AGUACHILE; POACHED JICAMA, FRESH WASABI-CUCUMBER-LIME $20


SMOKED RAW SEPIA; SALSA MEXICANA, AVOCADO $19
COBIA AL PASTOR; PINEAPPLE PUREE, CILANTRO $23

BURRATA; SALSA VERDE, WEEDS $24

MUSHROOM AND SQUASH BARBACOA; CHILPACHOLE, HOJA SANTA $25


ENFRIJOLADA; RICOTTA, HOJA SANTA, CREME FRAICHE, ONION $19
EGGPLANT TAMAL; FRESH RICOTTA $14

DUCK CARNITAS; ONIONS, RADISHES, SALSA VERDE (TO SHARE) $58

OCCIDENTAL PURPLE CORN POZOLE; PORK JOWL, LETTUCE, RADISH, MEXICAN OREGANO $22

HUSK MERINGUE; CORN MOUSSE


NIXTAMALIZED CARROT, CINNAMON CAKE, CREAM CHEESE ICE CREAM $14
CHOCOLATE GANACHE, MEZCAL, BLOOD ORANGE, BEET SORBET $14
BRIOCHE, PERSIMMON, RICOTTA, FRESH PEANUT BUTTER $14
LEMON CAKE, GRAPEFRUIT, QUINCE SORBET $12

SWEET POTATO FLAN, COFFEE $12

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Ramblings (sport, gambling, food)

Memorial Day, the prototypical American summer holiday. Most Americans are expected to be either on the road, having a backyard barbecue, or at a baseball game. For the rest of us, there's not much else going on. Only one NHL and one NBA game on tonight. The French Open just started, and while it's prone to early upsets, the first week of a major is often just going through the motions.

So let's focus on baseball, since that seems to be the "sport" with the most exposure today. The Yankees have lost 9 of their last 10, don't have Ellsbury, couldn't get it up to win last night when they were honoring Bernie Williams, and are facing the best team in baseball (by run differential). So why are they -130 favorites? The funny thing is, though, if you hop onto any of the major sports betting forums, there will be a fair share of posts suggesting that this Royals pick is too easy and that this has to be a trap game. Gamblers are a strange bunch. I'm gonna go with the Royals here, and think that the line is skewed because the Yankees fans, and their much bigger wallets, are supporting their team now that they have a day off to actually watch them. And then they'll realize the error of their ways.

I know I haven't posted any food/restaurant reviews in a while, and in fact I have a blog post from a meal back in February that really should have been put up long ago. So I'm going to go for a compromise here, and shorten my reviews so that I can at least put some posts up in the near future, and go from there. Blogging as an unpaid hobby is always tough. I've seen so many blogs, especially those of a personal nature, just stop updating. 


Monday, May 18, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Conference Finals Preview (sport, gambling)

We didn't take the quickest road to get there, but we ended up with the top seeds in each conference playing each other. I think this is a good thing considering how often people say that the regular season is meaningless in the NBA.

Eastern Conference

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
As if Mozgov wasn't sitting on the bench enough, he should get very little playing time against this Hawks team filled with stretch big men who can shoot. So a lot of the burden will fall on LeBron, like it usually has throughout his career, as he will anchor almost all their small ball lineups. But we've seen this LeBron vs an all-around team matchup before. It didn't work well against the Celtics and Pistons when he was younger, and it didn't work well against the Spurs either. That means Kyrie Irving needs to really deliver for the Cavs to pull this one out. Then again, the most pivotal player in the series might be Kyle Korver. I don't think Atlanta will pull out tight, close games against the Cavs like the way they did against the Wizards, so Korver's ability to keep the Atlanta offense going throughout the game will be key.

Western Conference

Houston Rockets (2) at Golden State Warriors (1)
I was one of many who thought the Clippers would easily dispatch the Rockets, but guys stepped up and the Rockets managed a well earned comeback from a 3-1 deficit. Now they face a team that they couldn't beat even once during the regular season, and I just don't think lightning strikes twice. The Warriors should win easily.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Preview (sport, gambling)

That Game 7 between the Spurs and the Clippers might have been the most entertaining non-Finals NBA game I've ever watched in real time. It was a crazy back and forth affair, and I don't think any team managed to get ahead by more than 6 points in the second half or hold a lead for more than a few minutes. Even if the grind of the long season makes you at best a casual NBA fan, the playoffs are definitely worth tuning in for.

Eastern Conference

Washington Wizards (5) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
Even with the great upset win on Sunday, I still think this series will go to Atlanta. This is just not a very good matchup for the Wizards, especially with Bradley Beal not being anywhere close to where he was last year. The Wizards' strength is their interior size and defense, and Atlanta essentially negates that with their spacing and shooting. The problem with that approach, of course, is that you will lose some games where you just go cold. The Hawks clearly relied too much on the three point shot at the tail end of game 1, but they were also just extremely unlucky with shots not going in. I expect the series to go to game 7, but what happens then will come down to whether those shots go in during that one game.

Chicago Bulls (3) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
Cleveland was never a very deep team to begin, so I don't think they can overcome the loss of Kevin Love. Without Kevin Love, they can't field an efficient small ball lineup, and their bigs Mozgov and Thompson are just way outclassed by Noah and Gasol. I think the Cavaliers win one, maybe two games at the most in this series, depending on how often Kyrie can go off.

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies (4) at Golden State Warriors (1)
A nightmare matchup for the Grizzlies, as Golden State is filled with players whose shots can go in no matter how good your defense is, while the Grizzlies are full of guys who aren't guaranteed to make open jump shots. Without Mike Conley, I wouldn't be surprised if this series ended in a sweep, but I think Warriors in 5 is the safe bet.

Los Angeles Clippers (3) at Houston Rockets (2)
Like I said in my first round preview, this is as prepared a Clippers team as any since the CP3 trade. The time spent without CP3 the past two seasons has made Blake Griffin into a superstar that can single-handedly carry this team of shooters, while the time spent without Blake has forced DeAndre Jordan into maturing his game. They'll still need Chris Paul, but winning the first game allows them to give him much more rest. With DeAndre Jordan now competitive against a past-his-prime Dwight Howard, James Harden just has too much of a burden to carry, surrounded by players well past their prime who aren't great shooters. This series should also go 5, depending on how much rest CP3 needs.

Monday, April 20, 2015

2014-2015 NBA Playoffs Round 1 Preview (sport, gambling)

Well, not sure how much of a preview this is since I couldn't get it out in time before the first weekend of the playoffs, but I'll just add in my thoughts based on what I thought going in and what we saw in the first set of games.

Eastern Conference

Brooklyn Nets (8) at Atlanta Hawks (1)
Someone told me an interesting stat last week going into the start of the playoffs. No one on the Hawks had scored more than 35 points in a game all season, and the only two other teams in NBA history to have that happen both won less than 20 games whereas Atlanta won 60 games this season. The good and the bad of this team-oriented approach showed itself in the first game against the Nets. With Milsap and Horford both dealing with nagging injuries, Atlanta did not look like a team that won 60 games in the regular season. However, their bench is very deep and works well enough within the system. Brooklyn just doesn't have the one true star who can take advantage of such a situation, so I expect this series to go 4-1 in favor of the Hawks, with the Nets needing a huge game from either Joe Johnson or Brook Lopez to steal one. Atlanta's main concern during this series is to try to get everyone healthy for the next round.

Boston Celtics (7) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2)
No matter how good of a coach Stevens is, the Cavs are just too talented and should sweep this series. The only thing the Cavs should be concerned about is getting Love and Irving some good playoff experience, so in my opinion it would actually work out better for them if the games were close, especially up in Boston.

Milwaukee Bucks (6) at Chicago Bulls (3)
This is just a horrible matchup for the Bucks, as they've struggled against big men all season, and Chicago has two of the best in the game in Noah and Pau Gasol. This was evident in the first game as Chicago outrebounded Milwaukee 52-41, even though much of the spotlight was on the two Bulls guards who scored over 20 points each. The real thing to look for here is whether the Bulls will sweep as they're supposed to. With a taskmaster such as Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, it'll be clear if they're ready to go deep based on whether they take care of business or are sloppy (they committed 19 turnovers in game 1).

Washington Wizards (5) at Toronto Raptors (4)
I expected this to be the closest series of the first round, and game 1 did not disappoint. While this could in theory still go either way, I think the Wizards will pull it out with their underrated defense. I feel they have more of an identity as a team and the veteran experience of Paul Pierce goes a long way. One of the more interesting things I noticed was that both Marcin Gortat and Jonas Valanciunas, two very capable centers, only played 26 and 24 minutes respectively in an overtime game. This should also be to Washington's advantage as I think they have a deeper and more suitable bench for small ball. After stealing game 1, Wizards should win in 6 if not 5.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (8) at Golden State Warriors (1)
Even though the Pelicans sneaking into the playoffs was a nice feel good story, they are completely outclassed here by the Warriors who play tremendous basketball as a team, and yet are capable of being carried in stretches by EITHER Curry or Thompson getting hot. But what really separates this Warriors team from previous years' versions is a healthy Bogut, who not only gives them a capable rim protector, but works as a very useful cog in that offense. This will be an easy sweep.

Dallas Mavericks (7) at Houston Rockets (2)
I expect this to be a much closer series than any of the individual game scores would indicate. Both teams are very good at home, and I expect this series to go to 7 games unless someone steals one on the road. I also expect most of the games to go over the over/under lines, as both teams are probably more concerned about playing their own offensive games than really stopping or slowing down the other team.

San Antonio Spurs (6) at Los Angeles Clippers (3)
I think the writing was on the wall when the Spurs couldn't win that last game of the season and fell from a 2 seed all the way down to a 6 seed. They should still play very well at home, but until Leonard is ready to really step up and take the position of the main guy on that Spurs team, I don't see them going back to the Finals any time soon. The Clippers, on the other hand, have slowly built up to this point where they are probably as competitive at the highest level as they've ever been. The absence of CP3 and Griffin at different times last season and this season have helped DeAndre Jordan a lot, and have made them a more versatile team than people give them credit for. I expect the Clippers to win this in 6 or 7.

Portland Trailblazers (5) at Memphis Grizzlies (4)
The past two regular seasons, Portland has been true to their name, coming out of the gate strong. And yet both seasons it seems they just kind of limped into the playoffs. The current Trailblazer regime has a history of playing their starters a lot of minutes, and with Wes Matthews out, they look completely out of gas. It doesn't help that Memphis still has one of the best team defenses in the game and are used to the grind. This series really shouldn't be close, but Portland should win one or two games just from Memphis' inability to consistently score.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I'm Still Here (rambling)

Sorry I've been MIA, but just wanted to let you know that I'm still here and that I do plan to write posts more consistently at some point. I swear this is not an April Fools joke! :)

At the very least I should have a post for the NBA playoffs coming up and my (now not-so-recent) meal at Cosme, one of the hottest restaurants in NYC.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2014-2015 NFL Season Superbowl Pick (sport, gambling)

Honestly, I haven't really paid much attention to all the pre-Superbowl stuff going on the last two weeks. I made up my mind a while back that the Patriots are my Superbowl pick, and I think the deflate-gate thing is beyond stupid.

For me, any single game team sporting event where both sides are given enough time to prepare will always come down to matchups. While Seattle's defense matched up perfectly against Denver's passing game last year, the Patriots' tight end dominated short passing game will neutralize much of Seattle's advantage on defense. On the other side of the ball, I think the Patriots will commit to stacking the box against the Seattle running game, and let Seattle try to beat them one-on-one in the passing game against Revis Island. I just don't see Seattle sustaining drives against that kind of defense.

While there are plenty of well known names and personalities on display in this Superbowl, I believe the players to watch are the ones whom many casual fans haven't heard much about.

Tim Wright (TE, Pats)
Unless you're a Patriots fan or an avid daily fantasy football player, chances are you haven't heard of Tim Wright. Furthering that anonymity is the fact that he has played just 8 snaps so far in the postseason. In fact, according to an NBCSports article, some casino in Las Vegas is offering a Tim Wright receiving yards prop bet with a line set at half a yard. This line is so ridiculous in my view that I suggest anyone within driving distance of said casino to go down and put some money on that over.

Seattle has been weak against tight ends all season, especially in comparison to their performance against wide receivers in general. Add to that Belichick's willingness to play multiple TE sets, the short passing game, and the need for extra blocking bodies, I think Tim Wright will definitely have a role in this game, and it wouldn't surprise me if he scored a TD with Gronk getting all the attention.

Robert Turbin (RB, Seahawks)
The only real household names on that Seahawk offense are Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, and both will be key points of focus for the Patriot's defense. Turbin will be important in offering a change of pace option in the running game. While Doug Baldwin is probably better than most people give him credit for in the passing game, Seattle will need to execute dump offs to Turbin and Lynch and hope for good YAC from both to sustain drives.

Overall, I think the Patriots win in a game where points will be hard to come by for both teams. According to the sportsbook director at the Wynn, it appears most of the money is coming in on the Patriots too.

Best bets:
The over on all Robert Turbin props, especially yardage ones. And on the off chance this game becomes a blowout in either direction, he'll benefit from garbage time too.

Lines per 5dimes:
R. Turbin rush attempts Over 4.5 +135
R. Turbin rushing yards Over 13.5 -120
R. Turbin receiving yards Over 8.5 +155
R. Turbin rush+receiving yds Ov 23 -120
R. Turbin has a reception YES -140

Good luck and enjoy the game everyone!