Drunken Master and Football 101

WILD night at party. I had a rockin and rollin 11 hour total marathon session (2 tables, so 5.5 hours realtime). I feel like a real poker player. I have the suspicion that this blog entry will suck, as I think beer number 7 has just gone down the hatch. I feel like Jackie Chan in Drunken Master. For anyone that hasn’t seen it, our hero is a karate master who can only fight optimally after taking in a good amount of alcohol. The catch is, if he drinks too much, then he loses his skills. So the trick is to drink just the right amount (cool idea, no?).

Anyway, although poker tracker doesn’t keep track of number of beers ingested, I found that I was “in the zone” after about 4 beers. Making great calls, stealing pots, everything. I dominated during this period, and built up a nice stack for myself… but after that it started going downhill… 5 or 6 beers saw me getting sucked out on, and making crying calls at the river… the drunken master had clearly had a little too much.

Anyway, I ended up winning a whopping $435 on one table, and losing $300 at the other table. What the hell? I looked through the logs and saw I got rivered 4 or 5 times to lose big pots on the losing table, and was able to catch a couple rivers at the winning table. I think Abdul’s quote is, “at the turn of a card, a dominating hand can become dominating.” Too bad I didn’t cash out at beer number 4, as I was up $550 on the lucky table. I guess I can’t complain.

I managed to go 7-6 for my NFL bets, netting me a huge win of $3.00 after the juice. I didn’t like the spreads this week, but kicked myself for not betting the house on Dallas. Here we have 2 junk teams… one with an excellent coach, one with a terrible coach. We’ve got a second string QB who wasn’t even on a practice squad a couple months ago… and a tough Dallas defense. Dallas beats up on bad teams, because they play disciplined, smash mouth football, and let the other team make mistakes. Washington is a team with no strengths, and got lucky when Ramsey was hot at the beginning of the season. And Dallas was giving away a single point! I don’t know how I missed this one.

Warning! Football rant following… skip ahead if you don’t like football.

It’s tough to explain how important coaching is in the modern NFL to someone who’s never played football before. The complexity of the offensive systems is really amazing. On any given play, each player has a series of reads on the defense:
1. Pre-snap read: what defense are they playing? zone? man?
2. Pre-snap play read: for every play that’s called, there is a different set of reads that have been memorized, based on the read in 1.
3. Post-snap read: we know what are route/block is, but if the defense does something that counters our expectation, we have to adjust.

Here’s an example from my days of playing Tight End:
Coach calls: Kinger 685 F-flare
Explanation: Kinger means I backfield, tight end right. 685 are the pass patterns– first receiver runs a 6 (an in), second receiver (me in this case) runs a post, and the third receiver runs a 5 (an out). F-flare means the fullback runs a flare.

1. Presnap read: I line up and read the defense. I check the safeties… if there are two safeties equally deep, I know they are in a cover 2 zone, meaning that they divide the deep half of the field in two. If there is one safety in the middle, then they are in cover 3, meaning one safety takes the middle, and the two corners take the deep thirds. Let’s say in this case they are in cover 2.

2. Presnap play read: I know that in a cover 2, my post route goes right between the safeties, so I am the primary receiver. In a cover 3, my job is to make the Deep safety run with me, so either the back or one of the receivers comes open. Since they’re in cover 2, I expect the ball.

3. Postsnap read: I release inside the defensive end, and make a move to get past the linebacker. I look at the safeties, and see that it was a disguised cover 3, because there is a single safety in the middle of the field. So my job is to run straight at the safety and make him cover me. I break on my post, and run by the safety.

This is the key moment of the play. The QB’s read is to check down the receivers based on the coverage. If he did not see the disguised cover 2, he will look to hit me in the middle of the field. If he sees it, then he will look at the other 2 receivers, and if covered, then to the fullback. This is where the “system” ends, and the quarterback’s skill begins. The quarterback can choose to “disobey” the system that the coach has installed… it’s kind of like calling when the pot odds don’t quite justify it. In this case, the system says “if all 3 receivers are covered, dump it to the fullback for a short gain, or throw it away”. But if the QB sees that I have ran past the safety, he can go for the home run, and risk interception or an incomplete pass.

Whew. Ok, the point of that was that NFL football is incredibly complex. Every single play has a different set of complex reads for all 11 players. In this way, it’s a lot like poker. But it also shows you the importance of coaching. A team is really only as good as the “system” that its run by. Watch Belichek’s team or Parcells’. These teams know their system well, and it works. They don’t gamble much, and their offenses are designed to take what the defense gives them– no more, no less. They are the “grinders” of the NFL, where teams like the Vikings might be more of the “gambOOling” type– watch how many home run balls they throw to Moss in double coverage.

Which brings us to the Philly (+3) at Miami game tomorrow night. Andy Reid: great system. Dave Wannstedt: horrible system. But I can’t figure Miami out… Ricky is a good back, and their defense is tough all the way through, but they just don’t seem to have much heart. Philly baffles me as well, but I think they are pretty much solid.

Saddam captured: The first thing I thought of when I heard this was a story I wrote when I was 12 or 13. It was this long, rambling war story about a marine who fought through all the iraqis and got Saddam. It must have been during the first gulf war. I read the headlines today with no real surprise, awe, or joy, although I was surprised when I found out that no shots were fired. When I thought about my story, it was strange to think how much has happened since then. In some sense, I’ve been anticipating this event for over 13 years, if that original story ever meant anything. Maybe the joy was dampened by all the death required to accomplish the mission…

Ok, if you made it this far, congratulations, I thank you! I think I’m sobering up now, so I guess it’s time for another beer. I hope nobody drowned in the river…

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