Monday, June 29, 2009

Vegas update (gambling, entertainment, food)

Just a quick post so that noone thinks I'm buried up to my neck in the desert somewhere.

Got KOed of the 1500 PLO8 tournament in 1.5 hours. There were at least 3 pros at my table, and I think the pro directly to my left was actually the chip leader after the first day. It wasn't so much that as the fact that I didn't have any cards and didn't hit any flops. The only flops I hit were quads with a guy chasing A3 low all the way and catching it on the river and another hand where I flopped the nut low and flush draw against someone's two pair and second nut low and my low got counterfeited on the river for his wheel.

Food-wise, the notable meals were a meal at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and a teppanyaki meal with Kobe beef. Other than that, I've mostly eaten in the hotel, including an averagish prime rib at the steakhouse and some 75cent (beef) hot dogs and $5 steak and eggs at 5 in the morning.

I will jot down all the stuff I want to post about so I can do it later. But as I'm going to bed at like 6am every day, I will probably not be writing any more posts until I get back.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Food videos (food)

Some food videos I want to share. These are not particularly new, but interesting enough to rewatch even.

Gordon Ramsay on what might be the best farmed caviar:

Dan Barber on humane foie gras. I am hoping to get a reservation at his farm/restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns when my mom visits in September:

Jennifer Lee on Chinese food history in America. I have always been quite fascinated with American Chinese food actually:

Both of the last two talks come from Taste3 which looks to have been quite a conference. However, I used links from TED because I think that if you haven't heard of TED, you should definitely check it out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Need some sun (food, health)

Not just because of the constant rain lately. I'll avoid that soon enough when I'm out in Vegas. The reason we might need more sun comes from a study presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting. Researchers found that after placing subjects on a calorie-restricted diet, those with higher vitamin D levels had increased loss of belly fat. While vitamin D also comes from healthy food sources like fatty fish, our skin makes vitamin D after exposure to ultraviolet light. So the whole fit-bodied tanned culture might be more than just a correlation of being someplace sunny.

As I prepare (really haven't prepared anything) for my trip, I decided to introduce more flavors to my palate since the detox and light chinese food. However, I think I went overboard by having three tacos with my first exposure to Mexican spices and beef and pork all at once. It was delicious though. I wonder what I will end up eating while in Vegas. The fact that it's 9 nights is a bit daunting since that's a long time to be on vacation alone.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vegas (entertainment, food, gambling)

At the behest of my bosses at work to stop going in and losing too much money every day in this crappy market, I will be on a trip to Vegas from Jun 24 to Jul 3. My plan is to play the 1500PLO8 tourney, and then just chillax from there. The good news is that between redeeming credit card miles, using Hotwire, and getting three free nights at the Bellagio based on my last visit there, the trip expenses for 9 nights will only be about $400 of cash out of pocket.

However, as I really want to play that tourney, I probably won't be doing much in the way of gambling otherwise. So I am looking for:

Anybody who wants to come join me or knows locals they want to introduce me to.
Anybody who wants to back me to play some poker.
Any show/comedy recommendations.
Any restaurant/local food recommendations.

Right now I have my sights set on "O" or "Ka", maybe even Carrot Top, and perhaps Robuchon for a meal although it's really out of my price range.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Detox over (food)

I lasted 5.5 days. The half day was because one of the days I had to eat something or else I was going to faint, and so I bought a turkey and swiss sandwich from Starbucks (I can't believe I paid $6 for that thing). I wouldn't consider this detox I went through to be particularly healthy. To put it in perspective, in those 5.5 days i lost about 8 lbs. But I felt like I needed a shutdown reboot of my body and I felt that this was the best way.

To restart my palate, I'm going to go with light (not American) Chinese food. Since it'll mostly be fish, chicken, vegetables, and rice, you could say that I'm continuing my diet. Chinese food is also cheap (from Chinatown), which is a very good thing for me right now. I continue to suck at work, and even though I sound like I'm making excuses, I probably shouldn't have been trading during this detox.

Besides work, my mood certainly isn't helped by this awful weather. Raining and humid all the time it's like I'm back in Hong Kong. I remember those days of stocking up on luncheon meat (think SPAM) and canned fish as June is generally typhoon season in Hong Kong.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Detox and Food Inc. (food, entertainment)

After going crazy last week food-wise, I just started a personal detox on Saturday. This was much needed, as I ate at Prime House (the 65-day dry aged ribeye, superb), Eleven Madison Park (for lunch, again), L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (one of my favorite places, see my review from 2 years ago ), revisited all my favorite sandwich places, and drank 3 cartons of chocolate milk all in the same week.

Although it hasn't even been 48 hours, I'm suffering. Maybe it's withdrawal. It's not that I'm not eating at all, but I'm eating very little and whatever I do eat doesn't have much taste to it. Perhaps I shouldn't have started this detox on a weekend, seeing as how when I have more free time I have more of an itch to eat. I'm only hoping to last through the week, after which I'll start eating sensibly, but adding flavor back into my diet.

Speaking of my favorite sandwich places post, I forgot about Dogmatic. Dogmatic ( is on 17th St and Broadway, and serves gourmet sausages in minibaguettes with fancy sauces. They source their food from sustainable farms and they heat the minibaguettes with spikes so that the sausage and sauce inside stay warm (often hot). My favorites are turkey sausage with truffle gruyere sauce, lamb sausage with mint yogurt sauce, and pork sausage with chimichurri. For less than $5, one will do for lunch, although I usually end up having two.

Another food-related thing I've been meaning to do is go see the documentary Food Inc. Here is their website and the trailer looks pretty good. I don't know how much new information will be in this movie, but I think I will appreciate the movie and the reviews have been quite good so far.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Amherst CDS trade (trading)

This WSJ article was making the rounds today:

"A Daring Trade Has Wall Street Seething"

(EDIT: It appears the link leads to the usual WSJ thing where it says you have to be a subscriber. To bypass this, type the name of the article in google, and the google link to the WSJ article will allow you to read it in full)

It was an interesting situation, and the journal article did a good job of explaining everything such that someone not in finance could still figure out what happened. In short, a small firm sold a lot of CDS on a bunch of bonds backed by subprime mortgages that were about to fail. After selling an amount that was multiples of the underlying bonds, the company "somehow managed" to get the servicer to buy up all the bonds and pay off the principal (something which was allowed only in this circumstance because what was left was 10% of the original batch) and caused the CDS to be worthless. Some of the big banks (JPM, RBS, and BofA were named) who had bought up the CDS, at 85+cents on the dollar, were now whining.

Another example of the problem when the derivative is bigger than the underlying instrument. Of course if the market was regulated and open interest was available for all to see, this coup might not have happened. Regardless, this was a great trade for whoever Amherst was representing and just an apalling oversight on the part of the named banks because this certainly had to have been foreseeable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Favorite Sandwiches (food)

I'm going to list some of my favorite sandwich places in NYC. All of these sandwiches are not cheap, and start above $6. If you want something cheap or something that is more of a traditional sandwich, the $5 footlong at subway really is a good deal. I usually get the banana peppers to add flavor without adding something cream/fat based. This list is by no means comprehensive, but I'm at work now with nothing to do so here goes.

(3rd ave/27th st)

Lamazou is a small cheese shop that has a large selection of premium quality meats and cheeses. Almost every sandwich there is good. I tend to have my sandwich on their ciabatta, but I also listen to their suggestions as they seem quite knowledgable. My favorites are the 1. Smoked Salmon with Lemon dressing, Capers, Onions, Cornichons, the 4. Mortadella, Salami with Provolone cheese (must add roasted red peppers, this sandwich becomes amazing) and the 21. Chicken Salad, Cheddar & Sundried Tomatoes. Another great thing there is their roquefort egg salad. Yes, egg salad mixed with a good amount of one of the tastiest blue cheeses. Fattening for sure, but oh so good.

(Murray Hill, East Village, West Village)

I will not debate whether this banh mi is authentic or not, and I understand that it's hard to justify the higher price when cheaper banh mis are to be had all over NYC. However, their ingredients are fresh, the bread is nice, and I'm mostly there for the curried catfish sandwich that comes with cucumber relish, pickled red onion, and honey mustard sauce. While catfish is a relatively cheap fish, a fish sandwich for $7 is not horrible.

Num Pang
(University Pl/12th st)

The sandwiches here are amazing in their variety and the freshness of their ingredients. Whatever needs to be grilled is grilled to order before being put in the sandwiches. Everything on the menu looks good and they have a good array of daily specials that actually change frequently. While the size of the sandwich doesn't look like a lot, the semolina bread is quite hearty and should fill you up quite easily. When I ordered the shrimp and spanish mackerel sandwiches, the portion sizes were good too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Running score (bridge, sport)

Just finished watching the early afternoon vugraph on BBO of this year's team trials for selecting the representatives for the US in this year's world championship. In two of the round of 32 matches in this session, there was a "state of the match" gamble on the final board.

In one match, one player made a leap to slam which made on some helpful lies and won the match despite trailing by 5 imps going into that board. While the auction made it seem that the jump to slam was a calculated risk, it was still very likely that the perceived score influenced the decision.

In another match, one player bid a grand and went down while the other table bid and made the small slam which decided the match. I did not kibitz this match, but I was told that bidding the grand might have also been a "state of the match" decision. The problem was that the team that bid the grand was actually up 5 imps going into that board!

This brought up a very good point among the specs. Bridge is the only sport (or mindsport if you want) where there is no running score known to the players up to the last decision to be made. In all physical sports there is a running score, in poker there are chip counts, and in a race you can always look back and see where your opponents are. In bridge, depending on the number of boards designated per set, you can only know the running score up till that last set. The only argument for a sport where the running score wasn't known was boxing, but that score is a subjective tally and I think that's different.

What's also different with bridge is that it's the only sport where there are a set number of boards that are played. Because of the need for comparisons across the duplication, this is different from a "timed" event. I'm not sure I know any other sport/game that does that. In the end, bridge cannot do a running score without slowing the game down tremendously. Because of the duplication, both sides would be restricted to playing each individual board within a specified time frame, or else the table that plays faster would be disadvantaged by the lack of score comparison. This is also why a barometer style pairs is ok, because it's normal to expect all pairs to finish a round simultaneously.

This is just something we all have to accept as bridge players, and it might also be another reason in support of why bridge is not a sport, but a game or mindsport if you will.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The greatest poker advice I've ever read (gambling)

The WSOP started a few days back and the big 40kNLHE already has a winner. While that was certainly the big news especially with all the NLHE fans out there, I was more interested in another event. The 1.5k limit Omaha/8 produced Thang Luu as the winner yet again. In the last 3 versions of this event, Thang has won it twice and come in second the other time. The only other time someone has gone 2nd or better 3 years in a row was Johnny Chan, when he lost that third main event to Phil Hellmuth.

I was reading the results on the WSOP site and came across an interview with Thang Luu. He gave one of the most ineffable pieces of advice/strategy I've ever read/heard about poker. He says, "This is Hi-Lo, not No Limit. Other players in this game wait for a big hand to come, but not me. I play every hand because every hand can win." He LITERALLY plays every hand. Not all the way to the river, but it seems like from what I've read online he does see practically every flop. Obviously he has other poker skills like people reading, but it's still an amazing strategy nonetheless. In a way, it kinda makes sense. He's playing in a weak field (not sure if he'll use the same strategy in the 10k LO8 event) so there are good value betting opportunities and good fold vig. He's right that it's limit and not NL, so no matter how huge a hand you have, you can only win so much. More importantly, it's omaha/8, so the preflop dominance isn't as big as it can be in hold'em and so if he's going to outplay people after the flop, he increases his edge by seeing more flops. With regards to play, it makes it near impossible for someone to put him on a hand, and I'm sure the stuff he shows down with will tilt a lot of people. This whole strategy goes against practically everything I've ever read about poker, but the results speak for themselves.

Another book (entertainment, sport)

Since I'm still the market's whipping boy, I've had more time to read and just finished another book. This one is "7 Seconds or Less" by Jack McCallum about what goes on behind the scenes of an NBA team during one of the more entertaining recent playoff runs, the Phoenix Suns of the 2005-06 season. I think any real NBA fan would enjoy the book, but I especially liked the book because I'm always curious about how things (businesses, etc.) are run and I love interesting characters and that team was full of them.

Only one more book left from my recent Amazon purchase and that is "Breaks of the Game" by David Halberstam. Let's see what all the Bill Simmons fuss is about.