The Counterpoint

January 11, 2005

I bought Phil Hellmuth's Million Dollar Poker System at Target today. At only ten bucks, I didn't see how I could pass it up. What better way to wind down at night than watch Hellmuth attempt to teach poker while whining about some of his bad luck?

The DVD itself is rather cheaply produced. Save for some fancy introduction sequences for the various sections, it basically consists of Hellmuth sitting at a table, gesturing, and flipping over cards. Those three features add up to an entertainment value of zero. Hellmuth has no personality at all on this DVD; if you have never seen him play then you wouldn't know him to be the brat that the poker world does. It may have been smarter to hire an actor or look-alike to read his lines for him, if only because we wouldn't feel like we're watching a late night public service announcement put on by Charlie Rose.

The skills he tries to teach are pretty straightforward: play optimum hands, pay attention to the personalities of the players at the table, etc. He actually says he "invented" animals to label players' personalities, which is especially impressive. Can you imagine his business card?

Phil Hellmuth
Professional Poker Player
Animal Husbandry Expert

It's almost hard to take him seriously after that.

The DVD will work very well for beginners. The biggest mistakes that beginners often make deals with hand selection, so the "top ten hands" and the "majority play hands" features will be the most helpful for those looking to improve their games. After that it will get a little more complicated for beginners, so it may be a good idea to watch one section, play some live poker, and then go back and watch the next section. I wouldn't recommend trying to learn everything at once.

But there is some value for the intermediate players, as well. I found the section on pot-odds to be most helpful. I am the furthest thing from a math wiz; I have trouble calculating anything harder than 2+2 without a calculator. But the DVD offered some simplification techniques that make it very easy to calculate what your pot-odds are and what your odds of winning each hand are.

The DVD also touches on folding, raising, re-raising, position play, and a few other topics While the tips offered in these sections are helpful, they aren't really discussed in depth. For more techniques on these issues you are probably better off reading a book.

Was the DVD worth the ten bucks? Probably not, but if it has any real affect on my game then maybe I will re-evaluate my view on it.

Recommended: Yes, for beginners who are looking to move to the intermediate level.

January 10, 2005

No more "freak dancing"

Principal on a power trip:

Fed up with students' racy moves, a principal at a California high school has taken the unusual step of canceling the rest of this year's school dances.

Principal Jim Bennett of Lemoore Union High School said he warned students at a winter formal dance last month to either quit dirty dancing or face the possibility of not dancing at all. ...

The ban on dances includes the school's Sadie Hawkins dance in February and the junior and senior proms in the spring, but Bennett said they could be rescheduled if students modify their behavior.
Sounds like something out of Footloose, doesn't it?

I wouldn’t disagree that "freak dancing", as the old-folks call it, is suggestive. But at the same time, it’s not really doing any harm. Stopping kids from grinding is not going to lead to a decrease in sexual activity; in fact, it may lead to an increase in such activity because they can’t act out their desires in such an innocuous way.

As an aside, even if he is right to ban the "freak dancing", is he really justified in banning an event as important as prom? Even though I didn’t go to prom myself, I understand the cultural significance of it for most high-schoolers; there is a reason they spend the whole year in preparation.

January 09, 2005

Tsunami picture update

In case you were wondering, the tsunami picture referenced below is fake. You can read Snopes' debunking of the photograph here.