Thursday, July 31, 2008

Poker Blues

As some of you know, I haven't had much time to play any poker lately. I've just been really busy with work and some travel. For the first night in what seems like forever, I had the chance to head down to the local card room and play some poker. The list for my usual low-limit 6/12 game was a bit long, so I opted to sit in the 5-200 spread limit ($200 max buy-in).

Well, three hours later, I call it a night as a two buy-in loser... this, after being up a fair bit earlier in the night. Looking at the hands, I suppose I should be happy that I put in my money for the most part quite good. My downfall really came from 3 hands where the 'big' money went in on 4 occasions (one of the hands had large bets on both turn and river).

Stop reading now if you don't want to read about bad beats.

OK, those of you that are still with me, here we go...

Hand 1: I have black AA and make it $25 pre-flop in early position. There are 2 callers. Flop comes Q76 rainbow. I bet $50 (maybe this is too small, I don't know... I am not that confident about my non-limit poker skills). Anyway, one guy folds and another guy thinks for a while and then pushes in the rest of his money... another $130. He's not one to fool around pre-flop so much, so I figure him for AQ (probably not KK, I'm pretty sure he re-raises me pre-flop). If he's got a set, so be it. So, I go ahead and make the call. The turn comes a K, the river brings a 5, and away go my chips when he shows KQ.

Hand 2: A4o in the big blind. There's no raise, and we see a flop multi-way... maybe 6 or 7 in the hand. Flop comes Q94 with a club draw. It checks around. Turn comes a 4, no flush. Small blind bets $30, and I raise it up. I think I made it $90 (I can't even remember for sure now, but I know it was less than $100 since I basically pushed out one of my incomplete stack of chips). The others fold, and the bettor makes the call. The river brings an offsuit J.

The bettor now bets $10 into this largish pot. Maybe this is when warning bells should go off. I am thinking this really makes no sense, and I raise it up. He then pushes the rest of his money in, and I had to call an additional $80. He shows J4 and I lose. So, money definitely went in good on the turn, but it clearly went in bad on the river.

Hand 3: So, this is the hand that busted me out. After this one I no longer had a desire to play, so I chose not to buy in again. A very aggressive player straddles and so it's a live $10 bet. I have ATs and limp after some limpers (maybe I ought to raise this, I really do suck at this game). More limpers after me and then the straddler makes it $40 more. There's 2 callers to me, and I call. The button also calls.

So, we see the flop 5 handed, and the pot's pretty large. The flop comes T33 with 2 diamonds. The straddler now bets $15. One guy calls, and it's on me. I have $140 left and I decide it would be really stupid of me to call pre-flop, hit my hand pretty solidly, and not bet it hard. So, I go ahead and push all my chips in the middle. Only the straddler guy calls, and the turn comes a 8 of diamonds, and the river brings an offsuit 9. I am shown the A6d for the big flush and I kiss my chips goodbye.

While I may have played some (or maybe all) these hands incorrectly, the bottom line is that I got most of my money in good... sometimes it was more than good, as I was better than a 4:1 favorite in a couple of those spots. Still sucks though. Ugh.

Quick Update and More

Sold Aug 20 Citigroup (C) Calls (CHD) on the position, which effectively brings down the cost basis to just around $22.

Manitowoc (MTW) has been disappointing thus far. Their conference call on Tuesday morning didn't really help instill confidence. The S&P downgrade of their shares also did not help the stock any. Shares are down to the mid 26's today. I might sell calls on some of that position we we get any sort of pop in the near future. Not sure yet.

In other news, I finally(!!!) bought the LCD TV (Samsung LN52A750 52-Inch 1080p) that I've been talking about for over a year. I really suck at that sort of thing. But in my defense, I just tend to procrastinate a great deal with big ticket purchases mostly because I don't really think they add much to my life. I might change my tune once it's delivered though, ha ha.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Texas Trip Report

Okay, it's time for my Texas trip report. I'm pretty much going to ramble, so don't expect any of what I'm about to say to be in any sort of logical order.

So, I had a lot of fun out there and it really was different. The locals definitely talk with a bit of a Southern accent, and they all seem to have a very strong sense of identity. Seriously, they absolutely LOVE their state (the mantra Don't Mess with Texas definitely comes to mind). I have never seen so many state flags being flown in my life. And, I definitely saw a few locals wearing Texas shirts.

I mean it's sort of borderline ridiculous... there's so much Texas pride. I mean, check this out. Here's a standard can of Bud Light from Texas.

Anyway, I spent most of my time in a few cities outside of Houston, namely Spring, Tomball, and Magnolia. These were all fairly small towns, but it wasn't so bad. There were plenty of normal stores. That's a good thing, because during the trip I had to go to Kohl's in Tomball to pick up some pants. I rushed my packing, and I packed the wrong set of pants to go with my suit jacket.

While I was out there I tried a couple fast food joints that were new to me. First, I had a burger from Sonic Drive-in. It's not really a Texas chain or anything, but I had never been. The closest one to my home is about 40 miles away. I also had a burger from Whataburger, which is a fast food chain that started out in Texas. I liked Whataburger more than I liked Sonic, but I'll take California's In-n-Out over both any day of the week.

I should also mention the weather. It was hot and humid. Most days were in the 90-100 degree range with very high humidity. You'd leave any air conditioned building and you would instantly start sweating. And, the power went out for a few hours at the house I was staying at. It didn't take all that long for the house to heat up to an uncomfortable level. Apparently power outages are a common occurrence out in that particular neighborhood (just outside of Tomball). The power goes out something like once a month. This time it went out because some branch fell off a tree and took down some nearby power lines. Not fun... I don't recommend it.

One thing that caught my attention was the gasoline there. Okay, so it was cheaper out there... the 87 octane was $3.85 (by comparison, the gas station near my place was charging $4.40). But, that's not what caught my eye. Their premium gasoline isn't 91 octane. Instead it's 93. I heard it had to do with some California regulations that required some more fuel additives, which lowers the octane level. Not sure really, but that's what I heard.

I might as well talk a bit about the non-fast food I had while I was out there. So, on the first night, we ate over at a Texas Roadhouse in Conroe. There's actually one location not too far away from me in Union City. I have always enjoyed their food, and this time was no different.

There was a nice rehearsal dinner consisting of some good Texas barbeque over at The County Line in Houston. The meal was mainly meat, but there were a few side dishes (beans, slaw, and potato salad). I also learned that you are typically served pickles and onions along with your meat out there. And, I should make it clear that the food was damn good. I kept on grubbing, and reluctantly stopped when I noticed that no one else was eating any more. In any case, I'd definitely go here again.

The lady and I also had a nice dinner over at a local seafood restaurant called Babin's, which is owned by Landry's. Anyway, the food was New Orleans style, and it was pretty much delicious. We started out with some fried alligator and fries. Then, for the main course I had the Crawfish Étouffée and she had the Chicken Evangeline, of which I only had a small bite.

I better talk about the wedding... after all, it's why I was there in the first place. The wedding took place at the Ashelynn Manor in the town of Magnolia. The chapel was nice, as was the estate. The wedding ceremony was lovely, too. The reception was then held on location at the Carriage House. There were two cakes at the wedding reception. I learned that it was common in the South to have a Groom's cake in addition to the standard wedding cake.

After the wedding and reception was over, a bunch of us (including the bride and groom) went over to this sports bar out in Spring called The Stadium. There was a lot of drinking and a good amount of drunken karaoke fun that night. Lots of wild pictures and videos were captured, but unfortunately, people would kill me if I were to put them up here for all to see. Ha ha.

We also took a drive around one of the more upscale neighborhoods in Tomball. Some of the houses were straight up baller with tons of land. And, what's actually kind of gross was that they cost a tiny fraction of what a similar house would cost out here. There was one absolutely gorgeous house that was up for sale. We checked online later and found the owners were asking only $725K for it. Amazing. It was a magnificent house sitting on 2 acres of land... a whopping 6600 sqft and chock full of upgrades. Man, we seriously get jacked over here.

Here are some animal pictures that I was able to take when I was out there. The deer in the pictures were totally chill. They weren't startled at all, and let me take as many shots as I wanted. And, I had never really seen any Texas longhorns before, so made sure to get one of them.

I've got one more odd thing to mention. I heard through the grapevine that there's this underground casino out in this gas station/convenience store. It is basically a room with a couple slot machines and some gaming tables. What's funny is that the room is marked "Broom Closet -- Keep Closed." I thought that was pretty funny. And, no, I didn't go check it out for myself, but my source is a good one, so I will believe it.

Okay, I've rambled for long enough. So that's it... my Texas trip.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back in Cali

I'm back in California, and also back at work. I'll put up a short trip report later along with some pictures.

The market sold off a bit while I was away... the Wet Seal (WTSLA) came down a fair bit and sits in the 4.60's. Citigroup (C) also fell quite a bit during my absence. It sits in the 17's now. Fortunately, at least one of my three largest positions went up... Manitowoc (MTW) is now trading around $30 after announcing its estimate beating numbers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Space City

Well, I am off to Houston for a few days. I've never really been to Texas before, so it'll be interesting to see if there really is that distinct cultural difference that I've heard so much about. Thus far in my life, I've only driven through the state.

The only major event is a wedding to attend, which means I should be able to check out some of what the city's got to offer while I'm out there. Anyway, it's way too early for me. Time to catch my flight... later!

Oh, and before I jet... I did put in a sell order on that Sandisk (SNDK) spread in case I can get a reasonably good price on it while I'm not able to watch the market. Maybe it'll hit, I guess I'll know later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quick Update

Well, what started off as a fairly ugly day for the market has now become a much more pleasant one. Anyway, my order to sell some calls on the buy-write portion of General Electric (GE) shares was filled.

Sold Aug $29 GE Calls (GEWHC) at 0.41.

This particular lot of shares now has an effective cost basis of $30.37.

So, Manitowoc (MTW) was initiated at a Buy by Longbow with a $43 price target. I don't have any of the details though. Anyway, despite that and the strong Caterpillar (CAT) earnings report, shares are lower. Boo.

And, Sandisk (SNDK) really tanked hard today, extending losses it had incurred in yesterday's afterhours session. At the present my spread can be cashed out for $2.15. But, I am going to wait a bit to see if I can squeeze more out of it. I don't think I'll hold it until expiration, as chances are I should be able to get very close to full value for it before then.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quick Update

So, to add some spice in my life, I picked up a bear put spread $15-$17.50 on SanDisk (SNDK) for 0.87.

Sold Aug $15 SWQTC at 0.53.
Bought Aug $17.50 SWQTW at 1.40.

They announce tonight, so I'll find out pretty quickly if this is going to cost me money or make me some. With my luck, I'll probably lose the first time in quite a while that I jump onto the dark side of the trade. Ha ha. It's a really small bet, so it won't hurt me too badly if I'm wrong.

In other news, the Wet Seal has fallen quite a bit today, down about 8%. Haven't seen any specific news, but most other retailers are also falling today, albeit not quite as much. Anyway, nothing for me to worry about. Just wait and see what happens.

I might sell some Citigroup (C) calls at some point to reduce my exposure a little bit. But, I'm not quite ready to do that yet. I will likely sell another round of calls on General Electric (GE) soon though.

*** Edit #1 ***

Well, as gaamblor already mentioned, SNDK missed its numbers (both top and bottom) by a huge margin. I am surprised at the size of the miss, as well. I guess this means that I'll probably be making money off of the spread barring some hidden good news in the conference call that'll start in about half an hour.

Shares traded as low as the mid-15's, and now are hovering in the $16 - $16.50 range.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Iceman Documentary

I just spent a couple hours watching an older HBO documentary on a rather scary contract killer named Richard Kuklinski. This guy is just plain scary. He was known as the 'Iceman' to the authorities after it was learned that he sometimes froze his victims as a means to alter the time of death.

As far as cold-blooded for-profit killing goes, this guy was the best. I found the story to be scary, yet fascinating. It is amazing he was able to keep his family in the dark about all of his activities. At least most of his victims were shady criminal types. Though, there was at least one that was just random.

Anyway, if you're interested in this sort of thing, here are the links:

Iceman Part 1
Iceman Part 2
Iceman Part 3
Iceman Part 4
Iceman Part 5
Iceman Part 6
Iceman Part 7
Iceman Part 8
Iceman Part 9
Iceman Part 10
Iceman Part 11
Iceman Part 12

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quick Update

Today was a good day for me despite the Nasdaq selling off some following the poor Microsoft and Google earnings reports.

First, Citigroup (C) didn't do as poorly as Wall Street expected, and so the stock jumped a bit. Now, I'm down less than 15% on that position, which is a f-ton better than being down nearly 40%.

Mattel (MAT) came in with better than expected top and bottom line numbers. Plus, they won the first battle in the lawsuit against MGA Entertainment. Those of you with young daughters might be familiar with the Bratz line of dolls. That line is the strongest direct competitor to Mattel's Barbie.

And, the Wet Seal (WTSLA) didn't give back too much of its recent gains. Its share price did reach my the range in which I intend to sell a piece of my position, but I haven't yet pulled the trigger. Hopefully, I will get an opportunity soon.

General Electric (GE) shares closed at $28 flat, which hit the strike price of the covered calls on the dot. Even with the new one penny automatic exercise rule, my shares should not be called away. I'll probably sell another round of calls next week. We'll see.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wacky Converse Sites

Okay, this is so weird and wacky to me... Converse has a series of odd sites. Start here, and you can go left or right through some pretty random sites. They range from totally ridiculous to somewhat interesting. I have no idea what the point is, but I thought it was nice to share.

*** Edit #1 ***

Just to be clear, you can click on the left and right arrows to traverse through a bunch of really random (wacky, imo) sites. Don't ask me what it's all about... it's just totally weird to me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Market Update

Finally, we get a good day in the markets with a huge surge in the financials after the Wells Fargo (WFC) numbers came out. Despite today's big move, a lot of positions are still hurting. I think we'll get a better idea of whether or not this is the start of a real rally or just another false alarm when Citigroup (C) reports its numbers this Friday.

I'm still very long Manitowoc (MTW) and Glatfelter (GLT); both are underwater at the moment. And, I guess we'll see how General Electric (GE) closes this week. If shares stay below my $28 strike price, I will probably sell another round of calls for the next month.

The super-performer of the portfolio, Wet Seal (WTSLA), touched 5.25 earlier today. I have been telling myself that I'd unload another chunk in the 5.50-6.00 range. We're definitely getting close to that range now. So, maybe I will need to start thinking about whether or not I want to add to existing positions, or if there are some other companies out there that I want to start positions in.

A friend of mine thinks Wellpoint (WLP) is entering value territory. Almost all of the healthcare companies got clobbered on the passage of that Medicare bill recently. Anyway, I am a bit hesitant to throw money at that sector. But, I'll probably keep that company along with a couple others (Aetna (AET), Coventry Health (CVH)) on the close watch.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Three Flavors of Corn

I learned a couple new words over the weekend, and I thought I'd share. I now present to you the three corns: Unicorn, Bicorn, and Tricorn.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time Travel Game

This game is pretty cool... definitely thought-provoking. You basically control this spaceman and you use your past actions to help you in the current time, by making use of a time travel machine. Just like in Back to the Future, the characters could see themselves perform actions of the past, you do the same in this game. But, be careful of paradoxes (I think they start becoming a problem around Level 6 or so).

Anyway, check it out: Chronotron

*** Edit #1 ***

OK, stuck on Level 16 for now. Time to take a break.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chess Position

It's been a while since I have made any post about chess. The weekly games with Jim stopped working out, and we've tried to get back to it, but so far it hasn't happened. I really want to start again, because he's taken the last 4 games from me.

Anyway, I still play a fair bit on RedHotPawn. I played a game recently that wasn't really all that interesting, except for the following position to think about. So, here's we are in the game after 10 moves. I'm White, and my opponent is a good 200 rating points below me on that site (~1325).

What's my best move?

Camouflaged Revisions and an Update

Same store sales figures were released today, and the Wet Seal (WTSLA) continues to do fine. It basically came in with in-line numbers (-2.9% vs -3.0% estimate). The Wet Seal division came in at -0.8%, and the laggard Arden B division came in at -10.7%.

There was a positive release today from the company. However, you wouldn't know it if you only read the headline reported by AP... Wet Seal lowers 2nd-quarter profit forecast.

So, it turns out there was a non-cash interest related charge due to investors converting debt in the form of notes into shares. I can't say I really understand all the nitty-gritty accounting details, but what I do know is that based on what was said in the actual press release, the company effectively boosted their earnings estimates. Excluding this extraneous interest charge, previous estimates were in the 0.08-0.10 EPS range, and now they have been upped to a range of 0.09-0.11. Analysts had a consensus of 0.09.

As a result of this, the Seal moves up higher. It traded above $5 for a good part of the day, closing at 4.98. Today's move is a really nice one considering almost all teen retailers saw their shares fall today... check out ANF, ARO, HOTT, etc.

And, for the quick update. I sold General Electric (GE) July $28 calls (GEWGB) for 0.67 covering the shares that I had added for the recent (losing) buy-write trade. The cost-basis of that lot of shares is $31.45, so that takes us down to $30.78. The company announces earnings tomorrow morning, and since I already hold a decent sized position, I figured I'd reduce my risk just a tad.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


A couple of months ago, a friend of mine let me listen to this one song that I thought was pretty catchy. I didn't think much more of it until I heard it again recently, and I decided I really liked it. The song is Handlebars by the Flobots.

Here's a YouTube video for your entertainment. And, before anyone judges me based on the band's political views, I wanted to say, I don't care all that much about it... I just like the music.

Mutiny, Cookies, Dinos, and More

As I mentioned previously, I was sick over a good part of the holiday weekend... many miles away from home down in LA. Still, despite my less than prime condition, I had fun and managed to do a few things other than relax and sleep.

I baked some cookies from scratch for the first time in my life. Turns out it's really not that hard to make cookies. It makes me wonder why there's such a thing being sold at grocery stores as cookie-making mix. In the spirit of our country's independence, I created a George Washington cookie. It may not look like much, but I assure you, it is indeed our country's first president.

I also made some progress on my Academy Award Winner Quest. I watched the 1935 Oscar winner, Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Clark Gable. The movie was good and did a decent job developing the characters. Long ago, when I was pretty much still a kid, I had read a book about the Bounty. But, for some reason, I never realized it was a true story.

I also got to grub on some Risotto with Peas and Squash, as well as a tasty apple crêpe. I did have some Potato and Leek soup too, but I forgot to take pics.

After I felt a bit better, I took a long walk and ran into a scary carnivorous dinosaur. Lucky for me, I was able to blind him with my flash and escape unscathed.

Talk about a big scare. Anyway, that's it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Quick Update

Well, I'm back in the Bay Area again. I was pretty sick for a couple days over the long weekend, but I'm back to being OK now. Can't say the same for the markets, hah.

Anyway, I put in my final buy on Manitowoc (MTW) at $27 even earlier today, taking my cost basis down to the 32.70's. That's the last money I'm putting into it... let the chips fall where they may. In any case, I'm down significantly on that position thus far, and I know I'm making a good-sized bet here, but looking into the company more, I have to agree with those analysts that say that the sell-off is over done.

I guess, as always, time will tell me if this was a boneheaded decision or not.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Neon Game

So, I started playing this game called Neon Layers. Starts off pretty easy, but it seems to get hard pretty quickly. I'm on Level 15 right now, and I think it's time for me to take a break from it. Okay, so I was going to embed the game here, but it's too wide for my page. So, here's a link: Neon Layers.

*** Edit #1 ***

OK, taking a break now... got to Level 19. I better stop. I feel the OCD in me ready to jump out.

*** Edit #2 ***

OK, I guess gaamblor beat me to it, but I just finished the game. I guess it wasn't quite as tough as I thought (like that Spin the Black Circle game). But, it still wasn't super easy... took a lot of attempts on the last level.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Quick Update

Market's been sucking as all of you know. Manitowoc (MTW) outbid Illinois Toolworks (ITW) for Enodis, and as a result it has taken an additional hit. I do think they overpaid, but I can't say that I really know that for sure. I am not sure I completely believe management as to how quickly that acquisition will add to earnings, but I do believe that it was a purchase that strengthens the company over the long-term. And, since I'm in it for the long-term, and I had some money to put to work, I've averaged down on the position. My cost basis is now in the mid-35's.


I'm still dead tired, and I'm just about to head in to the office. Surprisingly, I played zero poker over the weekend. Two of my friends played in the $1500 NL WSOP Event (the one that Gaamblor took 5th in... good job, btw). One of them busted out early running into Aces twice (his bustout hand was QQ vs AA). The other one suffered a bad beat with about a hundred or so players to the money (2700 players to start down to about 400, and 270 spots paid). He had an average stack and re-raised all-in with KK. He was called by a slightly bigger stack's AK, and he lost. Gross, but that's poker.

I lost a chunk playing Texas Hold'em Bonus... ya, ya, it's -EV, but the house edge isn't gigantic. All in all it was a fun trip. Barber and I ended up in a really nice room at the Wynn with a view and all. Unfortunately, there was only one King bed since they ran out of the Queen rooms, and so they rolled in another bed for him. Managed to make it out to the pool for a change as well.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the weekend with plenty of food, as you can imagine. Five of us went to dinner at Alizé atop the Palms for a 7-course meal.

Corner Room at the Wynn

Golf Course View

Wynn Pool

Lump Crab Stuffed Piquillo Pepper

Spinach and Black Truffle Salad
and Duck Confit Topped with Quail Egg

Pan Seared Foie Gras

Dover Sole

Palate Cleanser - Passion Fruit Sorbet

Veal Medallions
with Sweetbread in Fondue and Country Ham

Three Cheeses - Manchego, Blue, and Gouda

Dessert Trio - Banana Cream and Cake,
Black Cherry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Bar