Monday, December 17, 2007

Knowing How to Win

Brian Westbrook decides a touchdown is unneededPoker content emerges in the second-half of this post. Includes some semi-comical chatbox trash talk, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, what say we play a little Monday morning quarterback?

Happened to catch the concluding moments of the Eagles-Cowboys game yesterday, and near the end there occurred one of the most unusual plays I can ever recall witnessing in an NFL game. Leading 10-6 with about two-and-a-half-minutes to go, Philadelphia had a third-and-something on the Dallas 25. The Cowboys had used their final timeout, so stopping the Eagles here and limiting them to a field goal was their only remaining hope.

Philly handed the ball to running back Brian Westbrook who after making the first down found a seam and broke into the clear. At about the five-yard line Westbrook strangely appeared to slow down, turning his body to face the other players. Initially it looked like another one of those in-your-face, taunting-type plays we see so often nowadays, where the runner tiptoes into the endzone backwards, rubbing it in the faces of his opponents. But no! At the one-yard line Westbrook purposely dropped to the turf, allowing himself to be tackled just shy of the goal line.

What the hell? Player has an easy six and doesn’t take it?

As the clock wound down to the two-minute warning, it quickly became obvious just how inspired Westbrook’s play really was. A touchdown would have given the Eagles an 11-point lead, but also would have given the ball back to the Cowboys who could well have gotten a quick score, then attempted an onside kick. In other words, scoring a touchdown here meant Dallas still had a chance. Falling down at the one, however, ensured victory for Philadelphia, as all they had to do was kneel on the ball three times while the Cowboys -- out of timeouts -- helplessly watched the clock expire.

“Brilliant,” said Philly coach Andy Reid afterwards. Seems apparent that Reid hadn’t instructed Westbrook to make such a play. “He used that Villanova education and transferred it to the football field,” Reid added. It was brilliant -- the kind of play that probably wouldn’t even occur to most players or fans as an option. Not to mention utterly selfless.

What made the play especially intriguing to watch and contemplate afterwards was the irony of that first, false impression that Westbrook was about to mock the Cowboys defenders -- the sort of thick-headed, selfish move we tend to expect -- when, in fact, the move was both clever and classy.

Now, the poker. Had a fairly ordinary hand the other day at a six-handed PLO25 table on Stars made memorable by how one player handled himself with the endzone in sight. Kind of the opposite of Westbrook’s example, really.

I had just come to the table, buying in short (just ten bucks). Had played just a couple hands -- and so had $9-something in front of me -- when I got Kc9hTcJd in the small blind. The player in the cutoff -- 2FreakinEZ -- raised pot to $0.85, and I went ahead and called, as did the big blind. Incidentally, while I almost never use real names when recounting hands here, I’m making an exception in this case. (Keep reading -- you’ll see why.) Generally speaking, I’ve been mostly avoiding calling raises from out of position like this, but I had a decent starting hand and as I was short I was ready to gamble should the flop prove favorable.

Flop came 9c2s9d, giving me a decision. The pot had $2.55 in it. I bet out $1.50 to see if anyone else had the other nine, and both players called. When the Ac came on the turn, I might should have put on the brakes, but instead I stubbornly made a bet of $3.25, effectively committing myself to the hand as I only had about four bucks left. (I’ll admit as well to having had a couple of tables opened at the time, and thus probably wasn’t giving full concentration to what was happening here.) The big blind folded, but 2FreakinEZ called. The river -- 4s -- didn’t help me, but I went ahead and somewhat recklessly stuck my remaining chips in the middle.

2FreakinEZ did not act immediately. In fact, he requested more time, and we all sat and watched his name flash on and off while waiting for him to call or fold. Amid the time warnings in the chatbox, I notice my dawdling opponent has typed “2 freakin ez.” He waits until there’s less than five seconds to go, then calls, showing his AAxx for the boat.

“Slowroll?” I typed, adding a facetious “vn.” “Ouchies,” he replied. I conclude our dialogue with a “whatever” and rebuy.

It becomes apparent after a while that 2freakinEZ plays very few hands -- in fact, I notice he’s got four tables open and is mostly folding on every one. After a bit he turns quads on our table and pulls the exact same trick on another player, waiting for 30 seconds or more, then typing his little catch phrase before calling his opponent’s all-in bet.

“Wow that’s a real neat trick,” I type. He says nothing.

The fact is, taking the low road is too friggin’ easy. Meanwhile, good sportsmanship and/or selflessness usually requires some effort. But as Westbrook’s play yesterday demonstrates, it doesn’t have to be all that difficult. In some cases it can be as easy as falling down.

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