Tuesday, July 31, 2007

As a -mata of Fact

I feel that my vocabulary is decent if not strong. So, when I learned about the -mata pluralization form today, I was surprised that I had never really heard about it before. I guess you learn something new each day.

Now, most people have heard of the word stigmata as it refers to the wounds inflicted upon Jesus during his crucifixion. But, did you know that stigmata is also the plural of stigma (note that stigmas is also an acceptable plural form). Beyond that, did you know that there is a large class of -ma words that can be pluralized with -mata?

I thought it was pretty cool. It's not that often that you run into a whole new set of pluralizations.

dogma - dogmata
- diplomata
miasma - miasmata
adenoma - adenomata
enigma - enigmata
sarcoma - sarcomata

There are quite a few others, as well. I'm going to have to start putting these to use the next time I have an itch for lexical ostentation.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Quick Update

There's just a little more selling to be done... for that I can thank in part the high San Jose City Transfer Tax of $3.30 per $1,000. Tack that onto the $1.10 per $1000 Santa Clara County Transfer Tax, and we're looking at a good chunk of change. Boo!

Sold Chevron (CVX) at 88.44.

Might do some more selling for good measure. I would not be too surprised if we have another sell-off that challenges the magnitude of that of yesterday's. And, looking at the portfolio, it probably makes sense for me to lighten up a bit on the Altria Group (MO). Looks like it's going to be a bit too large a percentage of the total.

*** Edit #1 ***

Sold off Linear Technology (LLTC) at 36.55.

Five in a Row

Well, Captain Kings and I hit up Garden City tonight. We ended up never being seated at the same table, but it worked out for the best probably. If he's at my table, it's simply one less fish to take money from and potentially splitting the 'expectation' bucks with someone that has a clue about the game.

The table was soft as is typical in a California card room, and if my two sessions this week at Garden are any indication, I would say that the average player there is even worse than the typical players at Bay101. So, I just might have to play here more. The main negative about playing at Garden is that I know a large number of the players at Bay, so I'm able to better able to exploit player-dependent weaknesses.

I played a really aggressive game tonight. I didn't have any really big hands, and only once I had QQ that won a small pot heads-up against a blind. A good part of the win tonight had to do with me running over the table, partly due to the fact that I was able to establish a very strong table image early on. As a result, I was fortunate enough to pull off a few well-timed bluffs, and despite being sucked out on pretty badly a few times, I managed to kill the table.

It was like I zigged when I should have zigged, and zagged when I should have zagged. When I had a big hand, I was often getting full value plus some philanthropic crying calls. And, when I didn't have as much, I was able to take down pots with standard continuation bets. In the end, it was an excellent session... +$504.

I could have played more tonight as the game was still juicy, but I told QB I wouldn't stay out too late so that I wouldn't be dead-tired when we kick it tomorrow night. This extends the win streak to 5.

Let's just hope that there isn't another bloodbath in the markets tomorrow to ruin my multi-session rush.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Brutal Day

Today has been one brutal day for the markets. Credit concerns, housing numbers, Exxon miss, and the list keeps on... who knows where we're headed.

In the morning, FormFactor (FORM) was the only positive in the Portfolio. It was sold off at 40.86. And, now I see that it's in the red along with all the others.

It's brutal, but to be honest, we've all had it pretty good so far. Since last May, I don't think we've seen much more than a 5% dip. I remember reading that such a long bullish run without any 10% correction being quite rare.

Anyway, enjoy your day and keep your mind off of the markets. Unless you're net short, in which case, go have a drink.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Letting It Ride on Form Factor

Okay, I have decided to hold the Form Factor (FORM) shares through its earnings. It's a position that I will have to sell anyway as escrow close is approaching fast, and ultimately, the position isn't large enough to impact anything. So, let's gamble.

*** Edit #1 ***

Looks like FORM came in well ahead of analyst estimates at 0.38 EPS. The high estimate was 0.36 and the consensus mean at 0.34. Additionally, the top line also looks good at $114MM. Barring negative guidance, I should be able to find a nice selling point in tomorrow's market.

Poker Win Streak and Story of 9's

Chalked up a solid winning session tonight over at Garden City. Four in a row constitutes an official streak in my book. The plan was to head out to the card room and eat some prime rib with a co-worker and Captain Kings (CK) and do some pokering. Anyway, we get there only to find out that the restaurant is undergoing serious renovation and was closed, and we found out that table service on the casino floor was super slow.

So, we went over to this random place next door called Harry's Hofbrau. The place reminded me of a cafeteria at an old person's home. Prices were reasonable, and the portions were healthy. The food wasn't bad for the money, but it really wasn't my sort of atmosphere. It really seemed like a senior citizen center for some reason.

Okay, onto the poker...

CK and I get seated in a 6/12 game and I am pretty much card dead, but I'm playing tiggity-tight to protect my money. After some time, I'm up maybe a hundred, but then slowly get whittled down as my card deadedness continues. Got a few hands cracked, and then next thing I know I'm stuck about a hundred. No big deal... CK was mostly spinning his wheels, and he left a tiny loser, might as well call it break-even for all intents and purposes.

After CK leaves, I get hurt in a couple big pots where I flopped sets. One guy spiked his 2 outer, which converted his overpair into an overset, beating my set of 9's. In the other hand, some guy managed to stick around with 76o on a 87T flop when I held 88, and caught a 9 on the river. It's around this time when I reload for another rack.

Not long after I get one of those hands made in heaven. I cold call with red 99 in the cutoff after a guy raises some limpers and gets everyone after him to cold call his raise. It's a family pot for two bets apiece. The flop comes a lovely Kc 9c 4x. So, the raiser bets and gets all the callers possible, and I raise it up. The button now 3-bets, and it is capped by the small blind. The raiser and the rest of us call. It was maybe 7 of us to the turn for 4 bets apiece.

The turn is an absolute beauty... a 4c. It now checks to me and I bet out. The button now raises, and the small blind cold calls as well as the initial raiser and one other guy. I 3-bet, and now the button caps it up, which puts him all in. The other two players call the capped bet along with me. The river is an offsuit 8. Checks to me, and I bet, and both players call. Button has K4s for 4's full of Kings, small blind has a T-high flush, initial raiser has KQ, and I scoop up a monster pot.

Now, that I'm unstuck... I'm coasting and play pretty boring tight-aggressive ABC poker, and walk out a $508 winner. Yay! I guess I've got time to tell the story of another hand... one that ate at me quite a bit. Basically, I made a bad (? - really up for debate) river laydown that cost me a pot.

Coincidentally, I've got red 99 again. And, I limp on the button after a few limpers. Sometimes I raise it in this spot, but for better or worse, I limped this time. The flop comes out 7 6 5 rainbow. Big blind bets out, and a lady who recently sat, but has not really gotten much out of line, calls his bet. The guy before me also calls, and I raise. The bettor now 3-bets, and the 3 of us call.

The turn brings out an Ace, completing the rainbow. The bettor now bets his last chips all-in. The lady calls, as does the guy after. I'm a bit confused now and I'm not that sure where I'm at. I think about it a bit, and I call. The river brings another Ace. Now, lady bets out and guy calls. I actually call for time here, and can't think of a good reason to overcall here. I let the hand go... and much to my chagrin, it was a winner.

The big blind had a weirdly played K6s (probably brought on by the "I want to get all-in" mentality, which I failed to properly take into account), the lady had Q7h, and the guy that called last mucked his hand. I felt a bit sick after that hand... I just couldn't figure out how I could have been ahead. I guess everyone makes a bad laydown every now and then. Still eats at me though... ugh.

As you can see, the night really revolved around the number 9... it sure would have been surreal if the card room played Revolution 9 for all of us. Hah.

Okay, I better try and get some sleep. It's not easy as the adrenaline is still pumping and I'm really wired from the coffee I had there.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Jalapenos and a Keychain

A few months ago QB and I bought a jalapeno plant (and a basil plant, but it died). Only recently did we actually get any peppers out of it... 3 of them to be exact. Not knowing much about jalapenos, we allowed one of them to ripen fully, which means the pepper turned bright red. Kind of neat I guess, I had never known that jalapenos turned red eventually.

Here are a couple shots of our peppers. They've already been eaten, and we found that they were medium spicy at best.

And, earlier this week I got a gift from Rowr. It's a casino chip keychain... a Mandalay Bay poker chip to commemorate the un-boll weevil-ble time we had donking it up at the 4/8 table there back in March. In case you forgot all about the comedy duo Vegas debut, here's a link. And, here is a pic of the keychain. Thanks, Rowr!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another Quick Update and More

Today, I sold the Amgen (AMGN) January '08 $40 LEAPs (AMQAH) at 17.50.

And, I tried to buy back the FormFactor July $40 put options, but ultimately my order did not fill, and I didn't have time to take action before the market closed. Recall that I had sold the contracts for 0.80, before I knew that I would definitely need to raise cash. I was hoping to get back in at $39.20 effectively. But, things have changed since then. So, some time next week I will be selling the shares that will be put to me. Before or after their earnings announcement (July 25)... that is the question.

Well, I hit up Bay101 for some 6/12 with my buddy K last night. He played really well, and picked up a nice $370. I managed to make $212 after peaking at a whopping +$520 or so. I would say that of the $300 down swing, around $80 of it was due to sub-optimal play, which came in the form of mild tilt after I took a few pretty sick beats... those beats would account for the majority of the difference. Anyway, it's been a good week of poker... 3 sessions, and just under a 2K score in total.

It's nice to find time again to work on the part-time 'job'. The house stuff is more or less all under control now, and I'm mostly just waiting for the escrow company to give me a final schedule. I guess after I get the place, I will have to figure out the furniture situation. Moving from a small 1 bedroom apartment into a 4 bedroom house is going to be pretty weird. I'm still nervous as hell about all of this, but I'm really trying my best to not go crazy with the negative what-if thoughts.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Quick Update

Sold Montpelier Re Holdings (MRH) at 17.88.

While I had originally planned on converting the TODCO (THE) shares to Hercules Offshore (HERO), circumstances dictated that I take the cash instead. The cash payout hit the account this morning, so the shares were sold at 48.46. I suppose that looking at HERO's current price (32.34), I got a little more going the cash route... the conversion rate was 1.4616 HERO for 1 THE.

In quick news, eBay (EBAY) came out with strong earnings and revenues, but Wall Street is punishing the company on fears of slowing growth. The fear, I believe, was brought on by eBay's listings, which actually decreased for the first time (listings fell around 5% year over year). But, something to keep in mind is that the revenues per listing was up a whopping 30% year over year. And, let's not forget the outstanding performance of their Paypal unit. In short, I think the sellers today have it wrong. In any case, I'm hanging onto the shares I currently have in my Trading Portfolio.

International Game Technology (IGT) got a nice pop following its earnings today. They believe that demand is going to be really strong in FY '08. And, they also mentioned the possibility accelerating the buyback being conducted by the existing repurchase program if they see opportunities to get cheap shares.

Washington Mutual (WM) is a retirement account holding of mine, so this is probably the first mention of it here. Anyway, they said in their conference call that they would continue to reduce their exposure to the sub-prime loans. They also expect further declines in house prices, which they believe will push up credit costs. In any case, the stock is flat today in spite of an early morning pop.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Selling and a Bit of Poker

Sold off some more stuff this morning...

45% of Eastman Kodak (EK) at 28.50
50% of Fortune Brands (FO) at 83.10

*** Edited to correct the Turn card below. ***

So, last night was another 8/16 poker session. I managed to pick up around 30 bets after maybe 5 or so hours of play. Generally speaking, I made good plays and got paid in full for all my strong hands. However, there was one hand where I put in all my money way, way behind and couldn't even bet the river when I got extremely lucky.

Anyway, I limp two off the button after several limpers with 78d. An OK player who is sort of tilted right now raises it on the button, and we see the flop about 6 ways for a couple bets apiece. Flop comes out AT8, rainbow with a diamond. We check to the raiser who bets, everyone else folds. I go ahead and call getting good odds.

The turn brings a 7 putting up a flush draw (not mine, of course), and I'm thinking should I bet out right now, or should I try and raise him. I get the feeling he likes his hand, so I go for a check-raise. That feeling of mine is confirmed and is quickly replaced by that really sick feeling in your stomach when he 3-bets me. I really want to fold, but the pot tells me I can't, so I call intending to check-call the river only if it brings a 7 or an 8. There's just not much hope for me. The river brings me a 7, which guarantees a showdown. I check. When he checks, I know I've won.

He turns over A8s in disgust, and only then did I see just how far behind I was and how slim I was drawing. Money put in when behind? $72 Money put in when ahead? $0. That's not how you play winning poker. But, yay for being a luckbox. I suppose that hand makes up for the JJ, QQ, KK that went down in flames.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quick Update

Hopefully, everyone had a good weekend. I had the first relaxing weekend in some time as the house-related stuff is winding down. QB and I did go check out a few furniture stores to get a clearer picture of prices and available styles.

Okay... back to business. Sold off 25% of the Student Loan (STU) position this morning at $201. After that position sale, I have now raised about two-thirds of the total amount needed to close escrow.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Thrill of Victory

I haven't played much live poker recently, save for the recent Vegas trip and one short and only mildly profitable spread-limit session. Well, tonight I found the time to play a solid six hour session of 8/16 at good old Bay 101. The table was wild, nutty, and full of tilty players. One guy even got kicked out for the night for being a too loud, pissed off, and throwing his pocket aces at another player, barely missing.

The session started out poorly, when KK and QQ both got cracked in a single orbit. But, then about a half an hour later, I got AA twice in three hands, and both times it held up in capped family pots... I told you it was a wild game. After this turn of events, I was simply on fire... making strong plays at the right times, protecting my hands and getting full value for almost everything.

Anyway, I quit near the peak of my session. By the end of the night I had a rather obnoxious mountain of chips in front of me... I cashed out 7 racks having bought in for one, which means up a whopping 75 bets. Yay!

I don't expect to run this well again any time soon. It just doesn't happen that often. So when it does, you really gotta cherish it. It doesn't get much better than the combination of playing well and having the deck hit you pretty hard.

Okay, I really ought to go to bed. We're having a company picnic tomorrow, and I'm in charge of the young ones. I'm going to teach the kids how to play Nim, and maybe have a small tournament, hehe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Portfolio Decimation Continues

Today, I did a good bit of selling. Here's the quick summary.

100% Deb Shops (DEBS) at 29.00
100% Lifetime Brands (LCUT) at 20.04
100% Sun Bancorp (SNBC) at 16.80
60% Yahoo! (YHOO) at 26.70
40% Linear Technology (LLTC) at 36.81
35% International Game Technology (IGT) at 38.81
25% General Electric (GE) at 38.00
20% Altria Group (MO) at 70.63

Still got a ways to go. I continue to be saddened by this entire process.

In other news, it looks like First Marblehead (FMD) got a pop today following news that Sallie Mae buyout may fail. But, it was sort of a wash for me, as Student Loan (STU) took a dive on the same news.

Angry Video Game Nerd

As usual, I'm pretty behind the times when it comes to funny stuff on the internet. I just heard about this guy that puts up some really funny (old school) video game reviews on YouTube. After watching a few of them and getting quite a few laughs, I watched this one that reviews a bunch of unauthorized Christian Nintendo games.

It is un-f'ing-believably funny. Word of caution... there's a lot of cursing, and if you're a hardcore religious type maybe it's best to pass. But, for the rest of you, man, this guy's a total crack up.

Angry Video Game Nerd YouTube "Bible Games" Review Video

Monday, July 09, 2007

It Has Begun

Nothing interesting to report today other than the sale of a couple positions.

Sold Constellation Brands (STZ) from the Long-Term Portfolio at 24.12.

Sold Qing Xiao Mobile (QXM) from the Trading Portfolio at 9.25.

I've decided that I will be using some of proceeds from selling off part of the Trading Portfolio to fund part of the down payment. It's such a sick amount, and it saddens me deeply having to destroy the Long-Term Portfolio, which took me many years to build. Ugh.

Anyway, more selling to be done in the days to come.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Point of No Return

Well, yesterday marks the point of no return for me. And, so now I will share with those who are not yet in the know the reason I need to raise cash.

I bought a house. It might be an incredibly dumb thing to do right now, but it had to happen sooner or later. House prices in the areas that I was looking at have flattened out over the last couple of years. And, mortgage rates are still low by historical standards, and the tax-break is appealing. Also, we're technically in a 'buyer's market'.

But, let me say that "buyer's market" is not what you (non-Bay Area folks) think it means. Silicon Valley is still a bit nuts. The first two houses that I put in offers for wound up being multiple-bidder situations. The first one had 4 bidders, and I came in 3rd after the counter-offering was completed. The winning bid came in $2K below list price. The second house had 3 bidders, and from what I understand the person who ultimately bought it simply gave an offer equal to the list price. Just think... these are not in 'hot' areas here. The hot areas like Cupertino, Mountain View, etc. are still seeing houses being picked up 10% above list price. Scary.

In any case, all the buyer contingencies were removed yesterday, and the 3% deposit check was cashed. I am very soon to be a homeowner, for better or worse. I should be closing in early August. I suppose in 4 or 5 years I'll look back and think... wow, what a monumentally stupid decision, or wow, I sure got a bit lucky to buy when I did. I'll definitely let time tell me which it is, as I've been too stressed out by all of this house stuff to give it much more thought.

I guess this brings me to the dreaded topic of the partial portfolio liquidation. I expect that a little over half of the Long-Term Portfolio needs to be sold off to raise the cash required to close. I've put in a great deal of thought about this, and still, I'm not sure exactly of what I'm going to do. I have a few weeks before the cash needs to be ready, but I will be making some firm decisions very soon. I'll keep everyone posted.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Quick Update and a Fun Game

So, I dumped the Penson Worldwide (PNSN) at 19.25 for a significant loss.

Okay, now that the bad news is behind us, let me just say that I started playing the computerized version of a board game called Carcassonne on the XBox360 Live Arcade. It's really a fantastic game. I would think that playing the physical board game version would be sort of a pain when it came to keeping score, but I don't really know that for sure.

The game is chock full of strategy and has a ton of replay value. If you enjoy strategic board games, you've got to give this game a try.

To Womper, who played a bunch of games with me the other night... let's play more ASAP. I still want to see you crush me. To PapaRappa... go buy this game. It's only like $10. Then we can do a 3-player game.

And, in other news, it looks like I might get back the money I spent on repairing the XBox. In a news release today:

Microsoft said it would extend warranty coverage to three years to cover the problem and would reimburse customers who had previously paid for repairs related to the three-flashing-lights error message.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Worldwide Disaster

Sucks for me to have to write this, but there's no reason to cry over spilt milk.

A Trading Portfolio holding, Penson Worldwide (PNSN), announced a significant earnings shortfall today. Shares tumbled nearly 20% in afterhours trading. There's been a lot of talk about the potential loss of a major customer. From the release, it does not look like the reduction in earnings is being attributed to that. The company also authorized a share buyback of up to $25MM, but I read it more as a sign of desperation. As a result, I will be looking to exit the position soon. The loss to be taken is substantial, but not devastating... BLECH!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Portfolio Checkpoint - 2007 Q2

Anyway, now that I've recovered slightly from the Vegas trip, here is this quarter's checkpoint.

There was a bit of selling in the portfolio, as I have been slowly raising some cash anticipating what I had mentioned about a week ago about a major cash outflow event. In any case, there will be a great deal more selling off of stocks in the portfolios.

The portfolio is more concentrated now than before, and this is the direct result of the reduction of positions in the portfolio along with the fact that the percentages do not reflect any cash in the portfolio.

Company Ticker Q2 Q1 Change
Altria Group MO 18.3% 18.0% +0.3%
Student Loan Corp. STU 9.5% 6.9% +2.6%
General Electric GE 7.5% 5.5% +2.0%
Eastman Kodak EK 6.8% 4.4% +2.4%
Yahoo! YHOO 6.1% 5.6% +0.5%
Linear Technology LLTC 5.8% 4.0% +1.8%
Fortune Brands FO 5.7% 4.3% +1.4%
Int. Gaming Technology IGT 5.5% 4.5% +1.0%
Constellation Brands STZ 5.5% 3.8% +1.7%
First Marblehead Corp. FMD 5.3% 4.1% +1.2%
TODCO THE 4.3% 2.9% +1.4%
Montpelier Re MRH 4.2% 3.1% +1.1%
Chevron CVX 3.9% 2.7% +1.2%
PH Glatfelter GLT 3.7% 3.2% +0.5%
Amgen $40 Jan 08 Calls AMQAH 2.2% * * * * * *
Lifetime Brands LCUT 1.9% 1.5% +0.4%
Deb Shops DEBS 1.9% 1.5% +0.4%
Sun Bancorp. SNBC 1.7% 1.4% +0.3%
Form Factor FORM 0.0% 6.4% -6.4%
Capital One Financial COF 0.0% 5.0% -5.0%
American Eagle Outfitters AEO 0.0% 4.1% -4.1%
Amgen AMGN 0.0% 4.0% -4.0%
Coventry Health Care CVH 0.0% 2.0% -2.0%
Kongzhong KONG 0.0% 1.0% -1.5%

Trading Portfolio holdings:

CompuCredit (CCRT)
eBay (EBAY)
Penson Worldwide (PNSN)
Qiao Xing Mobile (QXM)
Wet Seal (WTSLA)

Notes: Percentages do not account for any cash held in the portfolio. During this quarter, Kraft (KFT) was distributed to Altria Group shareholders, and those shares were subsequently sold. Additional shares of FMD were purchased during this quarter. AEO, COF, CVH, and KONG were sold off completely. AMGN was sold, but 2008 LEAPs (AMQAH) were purchased. FORM was also sold off, but July 40 puts (AFUSH) were sold.