Monday, September 29, 2008

The Bottom Line

Barry has another great piece today about how the treasury wants to change the rules to further manipulate - I mean stabilize - the market by suspending mark to market accounting. He also makes a simple point that is basically what I've been trying to say about perpetuating Ponzi Schemes:

"What the Fed, Treasury and SEC seems to fail to understand is that you CANNOT get a return to normalcy after a bubble -- not until prices are allowed to fall to levels that bring in aggressive buyers. That is true for stocks, houses, and even financial institutions."

Asset prices MUST come down. That means some people will lose their homes, and some people will not be able to get new mortgages or car loans. It's a fact - that's how credit works.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vegas Indian Summer 2008 - No City For Old Men - Part II

If you missed Part One, go read it now.
On account of being old men, we went to bed early Monday night, and were up by 10am on Tuesday. We hit the Mirage buffet, which was a very pleasant surprise. Although we were too early for the lunch items, the breakfast showing was quite solid, and a steal at $15/person.
Big Show and I decided to take a tour of the strip to do some channel checks of the development of the new projects, and to try to find someplace other than the Venetian with a good double deck blackjack game. The Harrah's properties have a decent game, but with no DAS (double after split). We wandered down the strip, through all the casinos of yore; O'Sheas, Harrahs, Casino Royale, Flamingo, the immortal Imperial Palace, Bally's, Paris, and eventually came to the newly remodeled Planet Hollywood. I flat out LOVED the way PH looks inside, but they don't throw a double deck game, so we walked out front to stare speechlessly at the amalgamation across the street.
Although it's in foreclosure, construction is still going on at the Cosmopolitan. There is even a rumor that Starwood may come in as a partner and re-brand it as a W Hotel. Still, getting back my deposit on a unit at the Cosmo (man - this is a few YEARS ago now, I think) must have been the best real estate decision I've ever made. And then we have CityCenter. I'm going on record as saying I think MGM's CityCenter will be the biggest disaster in urban development history. The project cost will exceed $10B (probably by a LARGE margin), and, quite simply, they're too late. The game is over.
A few of CityCenter's buildings are nearly finished - the ones back behind the Cosmopolitan, and they have two hideous strip-front buildings with Frank Gehry-esque curved colored blue and yellow glass. Horrible. All in all, including the Cosmopolitan, I counted at least NINE towers in various stages of completion in this one project alone. Mind boggling. Of course, then there is more development across the street, with the Planet Hollywood condos, and elsewhere on the strip as well (the halted Echelon project, for example, where the Stardust used to be). Speaking of Echelon - talk about startling project management. When I read a month ago that Boyd decided to halt construction of Echelon for "3 or 4 QUARTERS" due to a slowing market, I figured they just had a frame in the ground and a few stories built: au contraire - the Echelon skeleton is built - and they have completed the glass on almost half of the tower. Simply shocking that they can halt it now.
Anyway, we wandered back to the Mirage, and snagged seats in the... wait for it.... 1-4 stud game! Now, my NLHE game has been so off lately, I figured I'd get back to basics - but 1-4 stud was absolute HAZING. I've never played a poker game in a casino where there are US quarters in play! Aiyahh! We were 6 handed, and half the time you'd raise the bring-in and rake in a pot with a single $1 chip in it. Of course, I'd make a big motion of fake-sweeping a pot toward my stack with both hands, scooping and scooping, corralling the one lone chip, and a mountain of imaginary chips. At least it made Big Show laugh - and he's a stud specialist!
Big Show went on Bajungi tilt when he pounded a pot all the way with kings up, make kings full on the river and bet out. He got raised, and immediately put out a three bet. His opponent called, and showed aces full! Big Show was on tilt that his opponent didn't put in MORE bets on the river! "I thought you might have quads," his opponent pleaded, but Big Show couldn't believe the nittyness - and he was on the LOSING end of it! It reminded me of the time some uber-nit at the Venetian 4-8 limit game just called my river 3-bet with pocket jacks on a 5-T-Q-5-J three heart board. He should have paid off my quad fives with a 4-bet and a call of my five-bet!
After more than enough hours of low-limit hell, I collected a BLT Burger comp as a reward for the 1-4 stud self-hazing session, and Big Show and I hit the Pai Gow pit again. Big Show quickly steamed off a buy-in, and went to tackle the face up double deck game (all MGM properties changed from the pitch, face down, double deck to the face up game, to speed up the game, and, we were told, because people were marking cards when they got to handle the cards in the pitch game!) I was left to take on an Asian Pai Gow dealer heads up at her own game - hardly a fair fight. Nevertheless, I ground out a small win, and Chops came by to chat on his way home from closing another big business deal. After Chops left, Big Show collected a comp from the BJ pit, and we hit BLT Burger.
I live around the corner from the original BLT Burger in NYC, and the Vegas version was an adequate imitation. I pressured Big Show into ordering the Twinkie Boy shake - which is basically a liquefied (did you know that's how you spell LIQUEFIED? me neither) Twinkie with milk and ice cream. "You might as well just throw that right in the toilet and cut out the middle man," I told him, foreseeing the gastrointestinal trauma it would be sure to cause even the most lactose tolerant.
Being somewhat bitter about our Venetian hostess falling down on our room comp, I wanted to be a vindictive consumer and not give them any business. However, we came to the sad realization that if we wanted to play double deck pitch blackjack, they indeed have the best game in town, and caved in to our moral sense of consumer rights advocacy.
We monopolized the table outside the high limit salon, with each of us playing two spots. When interlopers threatened to disrupt our monopoly, Big Show muttered "time to break out the cigars," and we laughed at the thought of using them like a bug-bomb smoke screen. We got the pit boss to comp us some cigars, and the waitress brought us several rounds of nice port. The cigar girl tried to light my cigar, but I wanted her to roast the end more before she tried to light it. "Put it in your mouth," she urged me, and I had to stifle a witty retort, as Big Show was already choking back laughter from two seats away.
Cigars successfully lit, table monopoly maintained, ports grasped, we sat back and enjoyed throttling the Venetian's double deck game, until they pulled another classic Venetian "fuck you, the customer is NEVER right" maneuver. It was Tuesday at 8:30pm, and we were at a $25 table, of which there were 3 of in the vicinity. The other two were empty. The pit boss bumps the table minimum to $50, and tells us "You guys can play quarters until 9:15, then you have to go up." Now, we can handle the action, but it never ceases to amaze me that they would risk having a customer walk away by not grandfathering him into any limit he was already playing. The pit boss explained "you'll win faster this way," in the classic house sales line.
Eventually, the Venetian gained a measure of temporary revenge, when they ground back from a 30 unit deficit to put me in the hole, but I redoubled my efforts, fought off tilt, and eventually walked away up 7 hunge or so. No post would be complete without a reference to some casino urinal, so, for my most loyal reader, Bones, I have to mention that I drank so many Fiji's, champagnes, ports, and beers that I literally must have used the high stakes salon pisser 20 times. It is one of the nicer heads that I know of, by the way, but it's hidden away in the bowels of the high stakes area. Clearly, a player of my stature carries the aura of "I am JUST the kind of man who is supposed to use that pisser."
Finished with blackjack for the night, we decided to check out the late night action in the poker room. I was quickly seated in a 4-8 Omaha 8 or better game with a half kill, which Big Show managed to join 10 minutes later. The game went bonkers when Crazy Mike showed up. Now, Crazy Mike is a tremendous character - he buys into the low-limit game for $1k, and splashed chips around, throwing out blind preflop raises - he'll put out a stack of chips and just say "unlimited - the maximum," and raise or reraise whenever it got to him. He also came armed with his own little side table, on which he had 2 corona six-pack cartons which were filled with bottles of Fiji. Now, Mike acted kinda like an obnoxious ass, but I loved the kid - he was young, claimed to be rich, hated poor people and liberals, and clearly was intelligent behind the crazy persona. He had the floor wrapped around his finger, and insisted on cans of Pepsi, a bucket of ice with a scooper, and wine glasses. He was more than willing to share, but only if you agreed to drink it his way.
As far as ludicrous situations go, this game was probably crazier than 6-Sigma-Sunday, although nowhere near as profitable. Mike seemed to take a liking to me when he found out I was not poor, and I think he felt disappointed yet somehow more secure when I relented to his insistent questioning of "are you worth more or less than TEN?" and told him that my net worth was "less" than 10 million. He complained that everyone in Vegas was a total whore, and that he couldn't meet a nice girl, while at the same time passing out stacks of chips to the staff, and donking off chips to the table. He clearly realized the irony of him feeding the whore addiction. "I mean, they brought me TWELVE Fijis! Who needs twelve Fijis?" He pleaded with me. The cigarette girl came by the table, and I said to Mike, "You should date HER." He looked at her, looked at me, and simply said, "She sells cigarettes." I nodded and pursed my lips - good point kid.
I had one noteworthy hand in the Omaha game, where I held QQxx in a raised pot, and the flop came Q-6-6. I let out, got raised by some doucheball to my immediate left, and I three bet him. on the turn, I checked, he bet, and I three bet. We had another douche trapped to doucheball number one's left the whole time.
On the river, I still had the second nuts, although a low was possible. I bet, doucheball one raised, and douche number 2 was all in for his last $24 or so. Now, I may be up against 66, but I'm not nitty enough to just call here, especially in a high-low game, so I three bet it. Doucheball one put on a hemming and hawing show, and stacked out a bunch more chips. "Raise it," the dealer announced, and it was 4 bets back to me. I finally figured out that this schmuck wasn't acting - he had meant to call my 3-bet, but had accidentally put in a 4th bet. So I promptly 5 bet it back to him (SUCK IT!), he called, and I scooped the side pot when he showed a 6 - I thought the doucheball had a low, but his hand was faceup, and neither he, the dealer, nor anyone else at the table said anything, so I just raked in the side pot. The second douche got half the main pot with his nut low.
Crazy Mike left his stuff at the table, but went in search of more action elsewhere in the room. After several minutes, I tried to find him, but he had disappeared, and our game rapidly broke. Big Show and I checked our baseball 3-team parlay, and found we went 0-3! That's how to do it if you're gonna fail!
We putzed around a little, played a little more Pai Gow at the Mirage, and pounded a few more drinks before Big Show pussed out, saying his head hurt and he wanted to go to bed. I, being an even wussier old man, was only too happy to oblige, and we turned in early to prepare for our last full day in Vegas.

SFW Porn = Best Ever - Watch more free videos

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vegas Indian Summer 2008 - No City for Old Men


I woke up at 5:30am for the first time in about 9 months, and felt like I was going to work: Wall Street was blowing up - Lehman Brothers had failed to find a buyer the previous weekend, and BofA was buying Merrill Lynch. I had more pressing concerns though: shower and shave before my 7:30am flight to Vegas! Now, the Big Show and I are Vegas professionals, but we made an atypical mistake in planning this trip: we'd booked the flights a mere 2 weeks before, and hadn't locked up our hotel room before hand. We reasoned "Monday to Thursday in the summer? Won't be a problem," but when we called our hostess at the Venetian, we were shocked to find that there were no room comps available! She said she'd be able to take care of us on the weekend, but apparently the Venetian and Palazzo were slammed with both a technology conference and a big party for Mexican Independence Day! Still, we pulled some strings and Big Show's boss hooked us up with a freeroll room at the Mirage, courtesy of his own 7 figure line of credit.

My car arrived with no trouble, and we breezed to JFK where I ran into a little Monday morning security line traffic. After negotiating the pack of doucheballs, I stopped to take a leak, and was fascinated by the waterless pisser in the bathroom. Not even a piss mint in there - amazing.

The flight was uneventful, apart from a typical array of fat ignorant idiots, and I breezed through McCarran to a 3 minute cab line, and straight to the Mirage. I checked my bag and, not psyched to play 3-6 limit hold'em, walked across the street to the Venetian, where I checked in on the 2-5NL list, and grabbed a quick bite to eat up in the food court at Panda Express. I returned to the poker room just in time to grab my seat, and sat down eager to reverse my recent ill fortunes at the poker table and dominate some doucheballs.

In my first orbit, I over-limped a UTG limper holding pocket 5's. 4 more people limped, and a nitty old regular in the small blind made a strange raise to $25. The initial limper now popped it to $125, and I folded quickly, as did everyone else back to the small blind, who thought for 2 minutes before mucking what he claimed (and I'm sure he was telling the truth) was QQ. I nodded at him: "You mucked queens?" "Yeah," he lamented. I nodded understandingly, "I mucked kings," I said, and it never occurred to him that I was full of shit - he thought that actually made SENSE! My old friend The Dealer was to the nit's left, and eyed me suspiciously, at which point I made an "are you fucking kidding me - of course I didn't muck kings" face, and he smiled and chuckled.

I was rapidly put on bajungi tilt by a complete ass-clown two seats to my left: an early position player opened for $30, and I called, directly to his left with 66. Now, Assclown says "raise 20" and is informed by the dealer that the minimum raise is to $55, which he is now obligated to make. It's folded back to the initial raiser, who now 4-bets it to $155, and I have to fold. Assclown calls, puts his last $60 in on the A-6-3 all heart flop, and turns another ace that he didn't need to crack the initial raiser's KK with his ACE JACK! Kid Dynamite falls victim to the three bet squeeze play min raise from a total assclown who held AJ - oy vey. I steamed right out of the room, and back accross the street, exchanging text messages with Chops along the way, who was trying his best to antagonize me.

Fortunately, Big Show had just landed, and he promptly met me at the Mirage, where we checked into our comped room, dropped out bags, and returned to the infamous Pai Gow pit where we'd been liquidated the year before. We were playing $10 Pai Gow, and upon seeing our player's cards, the pit boss politely informed us that we'd have to bet $25 per hand to be rated. I calmly replied that we understood, and that we would get there, and then chided Big Show: "He already has you rated: as a total douchebag."

I was excited to tell Big Show about the waterless urinal at JFK Airport, and he quickly inquired "What if you take a dooker in it?" "It's a urinal," I reiterated, but he just stared at me. "Yeah, so... same question." Sick fucker. Amazingly, the Mirage urinals have VERTICAL no-splash astro-turfs in them, as opposed to the Wynn's piss pots, which still have the horizontal no-splashers in them. I wonder if each casino has an Executive Vice President In Charge of Quelling Urinal Splashback. Heck - I'd go back to work for that job.

After we lit up cigars, and I kept the cocktail waitress alert and tilted with a steady assault of varied drinks (champagne, Captains & diet, Coors Light, Cabernet), we were joined at the $10 Pai Gow table by Omar, a native Mexican who was in town to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. He thoroughly enjoyed our attempts to converse with him in Spanish (from me: "Como te gusta Julio Cesar Chavez?" and from Big Show, the much less couth: "Hijo de puta.") Omar was impressed when we managed to have an almost real conversation entirely in Spanish, where he told me that he was in town with his wife and another couple, who were out shopping. I replied by telling him that I didn't work, and that my wife was at home working. We then celebrated in the only way possible - with margaritas. Oh - by the way - Omar spoke perfect English, and a few other languages as well.

Although we never bumped our bets up to the big player stud rating green chip $25 level, after a few hours, the pit boss fell prey to our irresistible personalities, and started conversing with us on the state of the stock market. He was excited that I also liked gold as an investment, and repeatedly hammered me with his tip to buy small cap gold stocks. Then, as the coup of the day, he asked, "would you guys like to get something to eat?" before writing us a comp to Carnegie Deli! Big Show and I mock-high-fived, having thoroughly beaten the system: despite deliberately and fearlessly maintaining our min-bets, well below the normal rating level (right in the heart of the rated:Douchebag realm), we'd secured a dinner comp. Free rolll!

We gratefully accepted the comp, and gorged ourselves on pastrami and brisket at the Carnegie Deli before returning to the Mirage poker room to dominate a little 1-2NL. Perhaps I was too impatient, but again I simply couldn't crack the game. At one point, Big Show elbows me, and says, "Look - Jose Canseco!" Sure enough, it looked exactly like Jose, only smaller! I remember Canseco as an absolute beast. Even without the juice, there's no way he could be this small - he looked like he was 6 foot 4, 210 lbs! Big Show was adamant, and we confirmed it was indeed Jose when Big Show simply yelled "JOSE!" at him, and Jose turned and half-smiled.

Later, a girl came and sat down in the 3 seat between Big Show in the 2, and me in the 4. It turns out it was Jose's companion/girlfriend, and I promptly put her on bajungi tilt by calling a preflop raise with A5s, calling her little flop continuation bet with bottom pair, and stacking her when I turned two pair. We were talking to her about how small Jose was, "He must be 210lbs!" I pleaded, and Jose came over to retrieve her, having busted out of his own $70 Sit'n'go. "THAT'S not 210 pounds," she gushed, practically drooling, in a day dream, as Jose came over, which Big Show later translated (accurately, I think) as "it feels like more than 210 pounds when he's slamming me after a half bottle of Grey Goose."

I turned to chat with Jose, telling him, "Jose, I have a vintage 1994 Red Sox jersey-t-shirt with CANSECO 33 on the back - it's from MVP sports and I think I'm probably the only guy in the world who still has one." Either my complement came out wrong, or Jose was on tilt from taking a 3 outer in the sit'n'go (Big Show later reasoned: "he's probably BROKE!"), but he gave me an indifferent, unenthusiastic "great," with an implied "go fuck yourself."
After cashing our Monday Night Football ticket - we hammered the OVER, which got there before halftime I think, we bailed on the poker game, and dominated some more low stakes Pai Gow for a bit, before turning in early on account of being old men.
stay tuned for part II..

Aiyahhh! I got Scammed!

via a commenter on again, it's scary cause it's true:
Dear American,
I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable for you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, Lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are now constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA, and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury,

Hank Paulson

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lessons Learned? Nope.

Look, I WANT to move on, but there's so much to talk about, and I have what I think are well enunciated thoughts on the subject.
Barry Ritholtz has a piece today linking to an editorial from the NY Times related to short selling. The beauty of it is, the editorial is from 1930! Almost 80 years ago, in response to allegations similar to what we saw this very week that "short sellers" were causing the market's problems, a committee was formed to analyze the issue. "This committee contained not one member of the Stock exchange; it was made up of such eminent economists, journalists, and practical business men as Mr. Horace White, Judge Samuel H. Ordway, Mr. Edward D. Page and its professor John B. Clark of Columbia." In other words, it was at best an impartial committee, and at worst, a non-market-friendly committee. Their findings?
"In its unanimous report of 1909 the committee found that the greatest evil of the stock market was "pyramiding" of speculation for the rise on the basis of previous paper profits, now used as "margin" for still larger ventures."
Impressive. almost a full CENTURY ago, people who weren't even market participants had the foresight and understanding to realize that it wasn't the short sellers that were the problem - it was the excessively leveraged buyers. Sadly, our officials cannot seem to grasp that concept yet, and still try to pump the bubble at all costs. From Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee: “we were reaching the point where people wouldn’t be able to get auto loans or home loans.” He foresaw “a very substantial reduction in economic activity.” Now I'm 100% sure Nouriel Roubini has a better understanding of markets than Barney Frank, and this is basically the exact point that Nouriel was making when I quoted him earlier - that you NEED a reduction of economic activity.
Final thoughts today on the bailout plan - there's a little clause in the plan called "Section 8:"
Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency
In plain English, I'm pretty sure that means Treasury Secretary Hank "Don't Fuck With Goldman" Paulson can do, in the words of Teddy KGB: Whatever the fuck he likes. (Don't splash the pot!)
That also means that when Paulson changes his mind and says that he'll allow foreign companies to submit assets to this bailout plan now (whereas initially it was only supposed to be companies headquartered in the US): “The American people don’t care who owns the financial institution,” there's nothing you can do about it. Hey Hank - I care who owns the financial institutions - I'm sure all the naive, ignorant Americans you're lying to about this bailout plan would care too when they find out their taxes are going to bail out Chinese, Japanese, German, English, Swedish, and myriad other investors who made bad investing decisions.
The American people should know that Paulson has been trying to TALK his way out of this crisis stemming from bad subprime debt for AT LEAST 18 months. Back in March of 2007, he called the issue: "contained." Well played, sir. I wrote a mere month ago that you can't talk your way out of issues like this - the tragedy is that the press and our elected officials had ample time to address the problems BEFORE they became financially apocalyptic - but chose instead to pay lip service to the issues, and blindly reassured the public that everything was fine. Turns out, it's NOT fine! Maybe if Henry Paulson had done his job properly we wouldn't be arguing about absurd bailouts today.
They figured this out 100 years ago. Why are we so off base today? I feel like the only guy who gets it now is Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning - way to go Kentucky - YOU have an intelligent man looking out for your interests.
watching, waiting,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Run Good!

First off, quality post on Check it out.
Now, thanks again to Pokerlistings for including me in the Run Good Challenge freeroll series. This week, I completely outplayed two time reigning champ Dan "The Boy" Skolovy, aka, the Canadian Assassin, on the very first hand, stacking him and sending him home talking to himself, no doubt vowing not to mess with Kid Dynamite in the future (DYKWTFIA?!?!): with 10-20 blinds and T1500 stacks, it was folded to me on the button where I saw 7-7. I opened for 60, and Dan, knowing that I'm aggro, re-popped me to 240 with nothing. Knowing that I knew that he knew that I was aggro, I snap-pushed, and he snap called me with... QQ! Donkey. Obviously, I spiked a 7, but I forgot to chat: "REPORT TO THE RAIL." I should win some kind of bonus for being the first person to stack Dan in 3 weeks.
I then got it in bad again against Chops, when he 3-bet someone preflop with KK, but I woke up in the SB with QQ and pushed on him. He called, and crawled back to his hookers and blow when I spiked a Q.
Eventually, I lost a race to host Matt Showell of Pokerlistings, with AJ vs his 22, and the very next hand my JJ ran into Amy Calistri's aces. I finally managed to muster one measly point (from my 6th place finish) in the standings, which wasn't enough to qualify me for the finals. At least I managed to outlast Pauly's seat this week - which was vacant, being blinded off as, I presume, he was getting completely blitzed at the Yankee game. I think in the 3 week Run Good series, I probably got all-in 10 times, and was dominated 8 of them. Well played sir!
ShortStacked Shamus won the event, and the prize pool that had been rolled over twice because Dan was ineligible to win the money. Shamus earned it - dominating me from both sides (ouch) - at our first table when he constantly applied pressure from the button on my blinds, and at the final table when he adequately defended his blinds against my relentless pressure.
Stay tuned this week for my Vegas Indian Summer 2008 recaps, including Kid Dynamite and the Big Show's adventures in: Mirage 1-4 limit stud! Venetian 4-8 Omaha8 with a 1/2 kill! Poker with Jose Canseco, and a showdown with Crazy Mike. Of course, there are blackjack and baccarat shenanigans aplenty, and some in depth analysis of the latest in urinal technology.
wait for it...

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Funny Cause It's True

LongOrShortCapital has the answer to my question about how the BankAmerica/Merrill Lynch negotiations went down.
They also had a great question: Why didn't AIG just insure itself?
ScreenJunkies and WallStreetFighter look at 6 stock market movie geniuses.
At least I don't have this job. (via WallStreetFighter)
1-2 Knockout has some more points on why it's silly to blame the "shorts." He also has the best handle around: Anal_yst.
Nouriel Roubini is much smarter than me. I think he's basically saying what I'm saying though: that the Ponzi scheme hasn't been solved:
When a country (say Russia, Ecuador or Argentina) has too much debt and is insolvent it defaults and gets debt reduction and is then able to resume fast growth; when a firm is distressed with excessive debt it goes into bankruptcy court and gets debt relief that allows it to resume investment, production and growth; when a household is financially distressed it also needs debt relief to be able to have more discretionary income to spend. So any unsustainable debt problem requires debt reduction. The lack of debt relief to the distressed households is the reason why this financial crisis is becoming more severe and the economic recession - with a sharp fall now in real consumption spending – now worsening. The fiscal actions taken so far (income relief to households via tax rebates) and bailouts of distressed financial institutions (Bear Stearns creditors’ bailout, Fannie and Freddie and AIG) do not resolve the fundamental debt problem for two reasons. First, you cannot grow yourself out of a debt problem: when debt to disposable income is too high increasing the denominator with tax rebates is ineffective and only temporary; i.e. you need to reduce the nominator (the debt). Second, rescuing distressed institutions without reducing the debt problem of the borrowers does not resolve the fundamental insolvency of the debtor that limits its ability to consume and spend and thus drags the economy into a more severe economic contraction
I read a comment on another blog today where someone basically said "It's crazy for the government to buy only the bad, distressed assets from these banks - if they're going to bail them out, then take over EVERYTHING." I think I pretty much agree with that; we can't take a TRILLION dollars of taxpayer dollars to take the mistakes off the books of the big boys and let them continue to operate afterwards.
I lost so much faith in our government today that I may not vote in the upcoming election. I don't want to have to say I supported these idiots - and I don't think either candidate has any clue what's going on with our financial system.

Bad Beat - Game Changer

I'm pretty speechless this morning. I knew it was going to be a crazy week before I even left for Vegas, but I didn't know that our financial regulators were going to drastically alter the rules of the game in the middle of the hand. I sat down to start to write an analogy to the house altering the rules in blackjack after you received your cards, but I'll abandon that and just hit some points:
The regulators, today, BANNED the short sales of 799 different stocks, almost all of which are financial stocks. I feel like we've been through this before, but for the non-financial savvy out there, let me spell it out again: the price of an asset, be it gold, oil, orange juice, or a share of Goldman Sachs, is the net "view" of what all market participants think it is worth at the time. I explained in detail how blaming "speculators" for rising oil prices was absurd, and blaming "short sellers" for the decline in stock prices is equally asinine. If you want to make yourself throw up in your own mouth, just think about both of those points combined. As I said previously:
We blame the "speculators" when prices rise against our will, and we blame the "short sellers" when prices fall against our will. This is patently, outright, ABSURD. I don't know how else to say it. We don't blame the equity "speculators" when stock prices go up, and we don't blame the oil "short sellers" when oil plunges from $150 to $100. We have our cake and eat it too.
Instead of vilifying people like Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn a "short seller," of Lehman Brothers stock who "stood to profit if the price of Lehman Brothers declined," (I put it in quotes cause these are the kind of talking points the press uses to brainwash the American public who knows no better) we should give Einhorn a medal for WARNING us about Lehman. Maybe if we'd LISTENED to him, instead of CRITICIZING him, Lehman Brothers would have addressed their problems and survived.
Another point on short sellers, for the brainwashed public: short sellers do not cause a company's stock to go to zero. If the short sellers are wrong and acting irrationally, then the LONG BUYERS will step in and buy the stock from the short sellers. It's a game where the stock price is the score - it measures the will of the longs vs the shorts. The problem now, is that the game isn't fair: you cannot short these stocks any more, so the prices are pure manipulation.
Earlier this week, Russia took an interesting step to halt the decline in their market - they simply closed it! Then, Russia's largest bank gave "stock market players" a large cash infusion so they could buy stocks to prop up the market! Sounds crazy right? Like market manipulation? See the difference between Russia, Venezuela, China, and the USA was that our market was FAIR. That ended today: we changed the rules to prevent one half of the market pricing mechanism (the short sellers) from acting. In addition, the government, who had decided not to "bail out" Lehman because of "moral hazard," decided to just bail out THE ENTIRE STREET. This latest "bail out" - which will probably be in the neighborhood of $500BILLION, basically results in the Treasury/Federal Reserve buying all the dog shit liabilities off the Wall Street Banks' books so that they can regain their liquidity. A number of financial blogs had taken to sarcastically labeling our country the USSA (Unites Socialist States of America) as we'd taken a decidedly communist turn when we SOCIALIZE losses (via bailouts) but privatize gains (when companies succeed). Now we've gone one step further and joined these lesser tier markets in directly manipulating the rules of the game.
I'm not exactly sure what happens to my ponzi scheme thesis now: I'm covering my bank short - the thesis that all these guys were insolvent and would go bust, while correct, is now pretty much dead. However, we still have to pay for this! I think what happens is that it takes years instead of months - we have a long, drawn out recession, and massive inflation as our Treasury continues to print more money to pay for all of this. Then, maybe China stops buying our debt, and we have real problems. We'll see.
The saddest part of this whole equation is Lehman Brothers. I have some good friends who work(ed) at Lehman, including a former boss of mine. It's kinda sick for Lehman how everyone got some sort of relief except them, and it illustrates an important lesson: the Treasury basically said that they'd let Lehman die because they had to put a cap on "moral hazard" at some point; at some point firms need to be held responsible for their decisions. The tragedy is that when this lesson extended to Hank Paulson's boys at Goldman Sachs (where Paulson was a partner previously), the officials did an about face - the Goldman Mafia squeezed the trigger, and Paulson came to the rescue, changing his tune. I guess moral hazard only applies selectively.
For now I'm taking a watch and wait approach to the markets, as I usually don't like to get involved in games where the rules are liable to change at any point in time. I'm also pretty depressed that our government leaders really seem to have no idea of how our markets actually work. Every time I hear a congressman blame short sellers for the problems (instead of the banks with 100-1 leverage who made bad loans), it makes me want to move to Canada.
good luck eh?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Interesting Times

Monday will be one of the more interesting days in our capital markets in the last several years. Over the weekend, the venerable Wall Street institution Lehman Brothers was the latest casualty - a sign that the Ponzi scheme is finally running out of buyers. Even more interesting, Merrill Lynch was basically forced by regulators into finding itself a suitor - which it did in the form of BankAmerica. Merrill was going to get pounded the same way Lehman did, and the Fed seemingly twisted their arm into merging.
The more interesting question is why BofA agreed to pay a premium (MER closed around $18, and BofA bid $29 per share in stock), when it seemed obvious that they'd be able to scoop MER for a discount if they so desired. It seems that BofA either a) is retarded, which is a possibility, considering their recent history of acquisitions (Countrywide Financial), or more plausibly: b) BofA decided to pay up for MER to try to shore up confidence in the financial markets, and essentially eat the premium they paid, in turn avoiding subsequent panic and systematic risk when MER would have followed LEH straight to zero.
This deal is especially surprising to me since it seems logically impossible that both sets of shareholders should want to approve the deal: if it's a good deal for MER because they had no alternative and were going to face the same fate as Lehman and Bear Stearns, then it's a bad deal for BofA because they overpaid. There is the odd probability that BofA is getting a quality asset (Merrill's massive retail brokerage network) at a discount price - and they had to pay up in order to preserve Merrill's franchise of brokers who would have likely walked if the stock plummeted. We'll see... I hope BofA didn't pay up for the sake of appearance - to inspire confidence - because as I've stated before, I don't think you can con your way through a Ponzi scheme of this magnitude.
Sadly, I will miss much of the action tomorrow on a plane. The good news is, I'm going to Vegas with the Big Show! Although I may be under-informed in terms of the rapidly evolving financial markets, I will hopefully have some blogworthy stuff to relay when I return. If you're looking for frequent stock market commentary that's not tainted by the mainstream media, check out Dealbreaker, and Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture Blog for the lowdown.
In the meantime, if any readers are in the Northeast (ie, Connecticut, Western Mass, Eastern NY State, NH, VT or Maine) - and live in a nice rural/suburban area - please tell me about it - the Dynamites will be looking for a new home eventually, and the task of relocating when you have no idea where you want to go is actually much more daunting than it sounds. We're looking to leave NYC because I want to be able to stay retired, and this city is too damn expensive to live in the style I've become accustomed to. I'll get into this deeper at another time.
until next time,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Nice Hand Sir!

Wow - so many sigmas last night in ESPN's two hours of 2008 WSOP Main Event coverage from days 1C and 1D. If I told you that you'd see: Chuck Liddell owning Mark Seif, Phil Hellmuth surpassing all past doucheness, Phil Ivey throwing a stone cold bluff at TWO opponents who held second set and top two pair, Joe Hachem whining like a little bitch, a guy with no arms playing poker, Phil Laak disguised as an old man under heavy makeup, Chris Moneymaker making a donkey call that is horrible even for HIM, Mike the Mouth doing his thing, and Phil Ivey actually showing some anger - would you believe me? But that's not even the best part!

The highlight of the show came when ESPN did a little side feature on Donald Hobbs, a young man who was in a brutal car accident. It seems Hobbs is a big Chris Moneymaker fan, and while he was laid up in the hospital, Moneymaker found out about Hobbs and took the time to go play poker with the kid. In addition, Moneymaker bought Hobbs into the main event. Kudos, Chris, that's a classy and generous thing to do, and a good use of your poker celebrity. However, the gem was during Hobbs' poignant interview with the ESPN cameras off set, where he was describing his injuries. He had such a thick Kentucky accent, that the ESPN editors apparently didn't notice that he said "TITTY NIPPLE" when he was describing his injuries. He says, and I quote, "I got burned from my right titty nipple down to my kneecap." Well done Mr. Hobbs. I don't mean to make light of Hobbs' injuries, only that I'm fairly certain the reason ESPN didn't edit it is because they couldn't understand what he said. You can see it at 7:28 of this video:

While we're on the subject of the above video, make sure you check in at the 5:33 mark for Hellmuth's entrance, which, although it's early, practically locks up 2008 WSOP Douchebag of the Year (DBOTY) for him. I'll give Phil credit for at least urging everyone to support the troops, but he also gets douchebag points for thinking that nothing would make the troops happier than a visit from Phil Hellmuth. Hey Phil - what's with the riding crop? I'm pretty sure US Army generals don't carry riding crops.
Interestingly, another former WSOP Main Event champ, Salty Joe Hachem, attempted to give Phil a run for DBOTY, complaining like a bitch whenever he met resistance from a better hand, despite the fact that Hachem issued two sick beats early on: spiking a two outer on the river for most of his chips, and catching AK with his AQ by spiking a Q on the river.
Let's get back to Hellmuth. Did you watch that video clip of his entrance? You did? And you didn't put your fist through your computer monitor? Phil's absurd outfit almost made me rip the cable right out of the wall, but I had high hopes, because sitting directly to Phil's right was... The Iceman, Chuck Liddell! Liddell, the former UFC light heavyweight champ, had already politely turned down offers from his table mates to "knock out" Phil, but after seeing the WCD (world class doucheball) in person, I was optomistic that Liddell would unleash physical fury on him. Earlier, Chuck did manage to thoroughly confuse Mark Seif, even telling Seif that he had two pair, but getting paid off anyway.

I'm not going to give a play by play of the rest of the broadcasts, but suffice to say, everything I wrote in my first paragraph actually happened - watch the videos for yourself.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Vincent Arroyo Winery

Several years ago, Mrs. Dynamite and I visited Napa Valley for the first time. We enjoyed touring the Valley, tasting wine at a bunch of places, and quickly found a favorite in Vincent Arroyo Winery. When we returned to Napa several years later, I was shocked at how much things had changed: most of the wineries we visited seemed to have become purely commercial "Disney" enterprises - come in, pay a tasting fee (and these weren't $5 tasting fees, I'm talking about $10-$20 for tastings!), get a mass produced treatment, and leave. We didn't even go to any of the big name cookie cutter places you'd have heard of even if you've never been to Napa.

However, on our second trip, there was one thing that hadn't changed - the friendly treatment and extensive service at Vincent Arroyo. Although I am, of course, a big hitter, the folks at Arroyo don't know this, and took us on a back room tour, letting us taste their finest wines straight from the barrel - just because that's how they roll. Now, I'm hesitant to spill these secrets, as I don't want everyone to storm Arroyo winery and ruin what makes it so special - the fact that it's a smaller, less trafficked winery, which allows it to give its guests special treatment. Also, they actually care about customer service, clearly, which is especially essential in their field, as the wine tasting experience can be almost as important as the actual wine. The memories we have of Arroyo make their wine taste better to us - because we think back to the experience every time.

This year, we were in Sonoma, for the impending nuptials of the legendary Dirty Dave, and the Big Show, Erik the Nit, and yours truly treated our respective ladies to a Saturday of high class wine touring, courtesy of Dave Rasmussen at Eclectic Tour. Thanks to Dave's inside knowledge, we found another fantastic gem in Hawley Winery, a tiny family run operation in Dry Creek Valley. Mrs. Dynamite and I picked up matching t-shirts at Hawley, along with a bunch of wine.

Sunday morning, we wanted to take the Big Show and his woman to Arroyo, so they could see what we'd been raving about for years. I surprised everyone by wearing my new Hawley Winery t-shirt. "Isn't that like wearing the competitor's logo?" Mrs. Dynamite wondered, but I explained that I'd use it as a reverse psyche out to show Arroyo that they weren't the only play in the Kid Dynamite playbook, which would get us superstar treatment.

After calling to set up an appointment, we arrived at Arroyo around 11am. As we got out of the car, Vince himself came out of the shop, and put me to the test early: "What do you want?" He gruffly shot at me. Being the savvy consumer I am, IKWTFHW (I Knew Who The Fuck He Was) and calmly replied, "We want to taste your wine!" Having passed the test, Vince cracked a smile, put his arm around me, and led us into the tasting room, which is part of the winery. We were lucky that they had just finished bottling, and thus had a barrage of wines for us to taste - Arroyo sells a huge portion of their wine via standing customer annual orders (which I have, of course), so if we were there a month later they'd probably have been sold out of lots of stuff.

Having noticed that one of their vineyards was brand new, with tiny vine saplings, I asked Vince what had happened, and he responded by explaining that the grape yields in that vineyard had deteriorated due to old age, and had to be replanted. After pouring us fresh tastes, he led us out to the vineyard, where he got down on his knees, digging with his bare hands at the foot of the vine, and showed us how they grafted the vines onto the root stock. I was unaware that they don't plant "Cabernet" or "Merlot" - they plant a root stock that's suitable to the climate in that particularly place, and can then graft their choice of grape varietals onto it. Watching the patriarch of the Arroyo wine family digging in the loose soil with his bare hands to give us a lesson on a perfect September Sunday morning, we all smiled, feeling lucky, and I pitied the poor suckers paying $50 for an ounce of Opus One further down the Valley.

We ventured back inside to taste the rest of Vince's offerings, and Mrs. Dynamite insisted I add 3 bottles of the Cab Reserve to our order, which I promptly did. By this point, Vince was entertaining some other guests, but must have been within earshot, because when I asked the lady who was adjusting my order if it was possible to order some more of their 2000 Cab right now, she replied that I'd have to wait until they have their annual library sale. Vince popped back over, and asked, "Would you like to take one with you?"

That's an easy question. "You know where they are?" I asked him, as it had been explained to me that until the library sale, they didn't even know what their inventory of past releases was.

"I have it in my cellar," Vince explained. Ummm - ok - the guy whose name is on the wine is offering me bottles from his cellar? Let me think about it...

"Absolutely, thank you so much," I was pretty impressed.

Vince returned with his hands full, and explained to me, "I brought you three bottles - the 2000 cab, the 2001 cab, and the 1991 cab." I was speechless, shocked at the privilege. I looked at the woman who had been helping me, and made a motion to her that said "how much for these," but Vince cut me off - they were his treat. "You just have to tell me how you like them," he requested - DEAL.

Now - was this treatment a result of Vince fearing he'd lose me to Hawley? No - of course not - I'm guessing he was happy to have a young couple who clearly enjoyed his wine (that's me and Mrs. D) bragging in front of him to our friends (Big Show and his fiancee) about his winery, and relished our enthusiasm and the joy we got from drinking his "work." He was eager to share his wine, and I hope he knew it would be the highlight of our trip, and he should also know that it will make us loyal customers for life.

I'd like to say that we packed the wine up to bring home and save for a special occasion, but we didn't want to risk packing them in our luggage, and also, we were already in California for a wedding - a special occasion indeed. Within an hour, we'd gotten our bounty back to the hotel, and did a side by side comparison of the three wines, savoring them alongside a few cigars I'd brought along. So how did we like the wines? Vince, the answer is simple: they were unforgettable. Thanks again.

Kid Dynamite's tasting notes:
1991 Cab: "Holy crap that's good. This must be what really good wine tastes like."
2000 Cab: "This is an old favorite of mine - my go to "luxury" wine that I don't break out when I have company over - I want to hog it for myself"
2001 Cab: "I'm amazed at how similar this tastes to the 1991. Not quite as balanced, but seems a lot "smoother" than the 2000 Cab. Wicked good. This was Mrs. Dynamite's favorite."


Pokerlistings Run Good Challenge

I was lucky enough to be recognized as an Official Legend of the Internet, and invited by the good people at to participate in a series of freerolls known as the PokerListings Run Good Challenge. Now, although I've been known to run bad, and I'm not a member of the poker-media-mafia A-list, Matt @ Pokerlistings had the good taste to recognize a cunning linguist when he reads one, and included me in the shenanigans.
After dominating my table for an hour, trying to hold my own in the chat-box banter-fest without offending anyone, and avoiding beats, I eventually felt the wrath of Dr. Pauly, when he dropped the hammer on me with his 7-2 vs my QQ. All-in preflop, he slammed running deuces on me and crippled me, taking the rest of my chips an orbit later when he, in the luckiest hand I've ever seen (sarcasm, see, it's supposed to be funny cause I am exaggerating), his 88 held up against my AT.
If you want to see all the legends who participated, and who will continue to participate for the next few weeks, check out Matt's post at
As Pauly and Dan from Pokerlistings got into a lengthy (120+ hands!!!) heads up battle featuring numerous suck-resuck scenarios, the busted players, myself included, got involved in what turned out to be a very fun game of "type the dirtiest word you can that Pokerstars won't censor." Believe me, it's more fun that it sounds.
Eventually, Canadian Dan managed to finish off Pauly the Luckbox, and, since he was ineligible to win the prize money cause he works fro Pokerlistings, resulted in a skins-game-esque carryover of first place money until next week!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Yet ANOTHER Sign of the Apocalypse

As if you needed another sign... Can I short the Cincinatti Bengals?
Bengals putting Ocho Cinco on No. 85 jersey
CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson is no more. It's officially Chad Ocho Cinco in the NFL.

The Cincinnati Bengals announced Thursday that they have begun "the process of listing the former Chad Johnson as Chad Ocho Cinco for all club business, per the legal change of his surname effected in Florida.

"The list of appropriate changes will include Ocho Cinco wearing his new surname on the back of his jersey for Sunday's season opener at Baltimore."

Ocho Cinco officially changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in Broward County, Fla., last week. The league had not changed his name on their Web site or the team's Web site.

"It's something I don't think anyone has ever done before," he told the Bengals' Web site last week. "Have I ever had a reason for why I do what I do? I'm having fun."

Two years ago, Johnson gave himself the moniker -- a reference in Spanish to his No. 85 -- and put it on the back of his uniform before a game. Quarterback Carson Palmer ripped it off before the kickoff. After the season, coach Marvin Lewis -- who dislikes Johnson's attention-getting stunts -- referred to the receiver as "Ocho Psycho."

Johnson has been a concern for the Bengals this season. He unsuccessfully lobbied for a trade in the offseason, threatening to sit out if he didn't get his way. When the Bengals refused, he relented and showed up for minicamp, but complained that his right ankle was bothering him. He had bone spurs removed from the ankle and was limited at the start of training camp. In the second preseason game, he landed awkwardly and temporarily dislocated his left shoulder. Johnson is wearing a harness and expects to play in the season
opener against Baltimore on Sunday.
I'll be in my bunker

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Who Are The Ad Wizards That Came Up With THIS One?

I mean come on... She's like 16... "makes my taco pop" ???

Via WallStreetFighter - Watch more free videos


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Veeps Schmeeps

Unfortunately, it will be impossible to avoid publishing some political rants over the next few months. Today, in lieu of a rant, I pose the following philosophical question: why should the personal lives of the candidates be off limits if they give us a look at the values they portray? Let me get more specific, while being fair to hit both parties:
Sarah Palin, the GOP VP candidate, was in the news the past few days because her unwed 17 year old daughter is pregnant. Does this matter? Well, I'd leave it to the words of another teenager - some random girl who was being interviewed on NBC or ABC or something, who said simply: "If she (Palin) can't control her own daughter, how will she control the Unites States of America?" Seems like a reasonable question to me.
On the other side of the ticket, I'm simply shocked that the Democrats are trumpeting Joe Biden's lack of personal wealth as if it is a testament to his character. Biden is the 99th wealthiest out of 100 senators. While that may be good for portraying him as the opposite of John McCain, it is not an admirable trait considering how well compensated he has been, and rather than lauding his net worth, listed as "between $70k and $150k," voters might do well to ask themselves how this man has managed to avoid saving any money. Strangely, I saw nothing critical written about Biden's lack of net worth, aside from a well written political blog in the free NY daily, AM New York, from Jeff Akston. The gist of Jeff's post is that Biden seems to be saying, "Put me in charge, and I'll burn through your money like I have mine!" In fact, I guess that makes him a good Liberal candidate after all...
Now THIS is what a real VP candidate should look like... I think this is one of my all time favorite YouTubes...