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NBA Pro Jerome James takes a seat $$$, tournament play in cash, Tiger Woods
by MJ Bernstein | Contact   
Wednesday, 02 December 2009

Poker Pro MJ Bernstein's Blog

Jerome James

Lately, I've been spending more time at the Horseshoe. Not a lot of time, but a couple days a week at least. Since I last posted, most of my sessions have been wins, culminating with one of the best sessions I've had in quite a while -in terms game-size/profit- last night.

I suppose it would be fare to say that I raped the game pretty bad. After running $500 up to 5K over 7 hours, no one really wanted to play me anymore. I can't say that I blame them either. As soon as I got over 400 big blinds -which by no means was easy- what I didn't do was just sit back and wait for more chips to come. Instead **do not reccomend**, I switched to an all out tournament big-stack betting strategy which ended up frustrating the hell out of everyone at the table. That, as I'm sure you might guess, lead to some "frustration plays" which allowed me to more then double my chips before nights end. I definitely ran well, but when it comes to exploiting a good situation, I can be a monster. And so it was...

The other cool thing about last nights session was playing with Jerome James of the Chicago Bulls. I copied his Wikipedia Profile below and I would suggest reading it -particularly if you don't know who he is- before continuing with this blog.

-- Jerome Keith James (born November 17, 1975 in Tampa, Florida) is an American professional basketball player who is currently under contract with the Chicago Bulls of the NBA. James played at Florida A&M University, and was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the second round of the 1998 NBA Draft. Over the course of his career, he has played for the Kings, Seattle SuperSonics and New York Knicks. He has also played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

James has averaged 4.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in 358 career games (180 games started). James played well for the Seattle SuperSonics during the 2005 NBA playoffs, averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 11 games against the Kings and San Antonio Spurs.

After the 2004–2005 season, he signed a 5-year $30 million free-agent contract with the Knicks. He arrived at his first training camp out of shape and in his first season he only averaged 3.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in 9 minutes per game. James missed much of the season due to injury and when he wasn't injured, he frequently did not play significant minutes. James was suspended on January 2, 2006 for not being prepared to practice.[1]

James is often cited as one of many questionable signings done by Knicks General Manger Isiah Thomas.[2] Tommy Beer of HoopsWorld wrote "James was universally panned as the worst free-agent signing of the summer (and in the pantheon of all-time worst.)"[3] He is also sometimes cited as an example of the "contract year phenomenon", where an athlete with impending free agency plays at a higher level than he ever has before, only to return to his normal level of play once he signs a new long-term contract.[4] Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated wrote "James was a chronic underachiever who cashed in on a brief moment of excellence". He also wrote that the Knicks signing James "was a mistake before he ever took the court at Madison Square Garden. The day the Knicks announced his signing, they were universally panned by executives, experts, journalists -- really anyone with a voice box."[5]

In the 2007–08 NBA season he played in only two games (on Jan 18 at Washington and Jan 21 vs Boston) for a total of five minutes, while earning a salary of $5.8 million.[6] James made his only field goal shot and two free throws of the season at Washington, giving him the best field goal percentage (tied with Jelani McCoy who also took just one shot) and free throw shooting percentage (tied with several other players) in the league according to statistics. He played another 2 games the following season scoring 6 points but suffered a season ending torn Achilles tendon injury.

On February 19, 2009, James was traded by the Knicks along with Tim Thomas and Anthony Roberson to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Larry Hughes. He has not played for Chicago.[7] --

So, that's Jerome in a nutshell I guess. I'm not a big basketball fan as I didn't even know this stuff until I read it 10 minutes ago. Anyway, at the table Jerome was definitely a likeable enough guy. I mean, after what seemed like being stuck 10 buy-ins, he kept his cool and was still joking around and having a good time with everyone. Well, I should say that he was still joking around the 8th rebuy. By the tenth, he was starting to get a little frustrated and some pointed remarks were dumped on the guys who were taking his money, myself included. The fact is, that despite devoting most of his time to playing basketball, Jerome seemed to have a pretty good grasp on basic poker fundementals. What he lacked, as most armatures do, was an understanding of solid, cash hand value in terms of rank and application. Put it another way, he couldn't understand why someone would sometimes 3 bet the button with belly and two pair outs against his top pair/top kicker or why people would call substantial pre-flop raises with "marginal holdings" to begin with. It just didn't add up to him. Understanding these things come with time (think the "10,000 hour rule") and I wanted to tell him that yesterday, but I never got the chance. Towards the end of the night, after taking a pretty bad beat, Jerome wished everyone luck and left pretty quick. I wanted to be nice, but what can you do. I'll tell you one thing, if haven't been around NBA players a lot (and I haven't) one thing you will notice right away is how damn TALL they are. At over 7', Jerome was probably the tallest guy I have ever been around. I used to think a friend of mine and poker player, Tim Hebert, was tall at 6'7". Well, Tim doesn't even come close to Jerome. I talked to Jerome for a bit earlier in the day and all I remember is looking directly up! It can be a little intimidating -ok, a lot intimidating- and my neck hurt after the conversation.


In other news, it looks like Tiger Woods is in some hot water. I have to say that I find the whole situation  ridiculous and I think everyone should just leave Tiger and his family alone. Of course, no one will because it brings in the ratings, but WTF!? I think the guy already has it bad enough with his wife trying to rip him a new one with a 3-wood, to then have to deal with the people from the media asking how much of the shaft is still sticking out... I feel for ya, Tiger. I guess we are all going to see this thing play it out, like it or not, but I wish Tiger and his family the best. It looks like its going to be a long road ahead.

I don't know about all of you, but I'm starting to prep for the holidays. I can't believe how quickly time is running...

See you at the tables,


* Please feel free to email me at with any questions or comments

Poker Has Lost a Good Man
by T.J. Cloutier   
Monday, 23 November 2009

Poker legend TJ Clouier shares tales from the poker trail.

Poker has lost a very good man in Jeffrey Pollack. He did some great things for the poker world. Jeffrey created the Players Advisory Council (the P.A.C.) for the WSOP. He instituted the World Series of Poker in Europe. And he returned the Poker Hall of Fame to the elevated status where it should have been for years. This year he coordinated a big dinner party with dignitaries and speeches and all the stuff that goes with ceremonial occasions. Jeffrey also instituted the “November Nine,” which has worked out terrific for poker, increasing poker’s popularity and reputation among fans.

One of the best things Jeffrey did was to seek out a lot of peoples’ opinions about issues that matter to the poker world. Believe me, if he could put up with me and my squawking, he could put up with anybody. I didn’t agree with some of the things he did, and let him know about it, but eventually we became very good friends.

Nobody has said a word to me yet as to whether Jeffrey resigned because of the new position that Harrah’s created one level above his, so I don’t know whether that affected his decision. When Jeffrey called me (and other members of the P.A.C.) a day before the announcement came out, he didn’t say a word about his reasons for resigning.

He was pretty much in control of the World Series. Obviously, he had to answer to corporate management, but he was as high up as the WSOP went. Now, this new position has been created. If I’d done all the things he’s accomplished during the short time he’s been “the commish,” I don’t know whether I’d like it if somebody fresh was brought in that I had to answer to about something that I helped create, somebody who’d be a buffer between me and top management. Beforehand, I think it was just Jeffrey and Howard Greenbaum and Seth Polansky, head of marketing. They were always involved with the P.A.C. and everything to do with the WSOP, including the hiring of Jack Effel, who has done a great job as the director of the WSOP.

Just look at the P.A.C. We started out with Howard Lederer and Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman, myself, and Barry Greenstein. Then Robert Williamson came in and a coupla years later, they brought in Steve Zolotov, Tom Snyder and David Williams. Later, we added other players to expand the scope of experience. Then they asked for the name of an amateur who should be on the committee, someone who would look at things more from the everyday, amateur standpoint than from the pro standpoint. Of course, the first people who came to mind were Bob and Maureen Feduniak. I knew that anything they said would be strictly for the benefit of the WSOP and the players. And since Bob had retired as a full partner of Morgan Stanley, he could also look at the business side of things and weigh that against the poker players’ side of things.

People don’t realize what a strong committee we are. It’s hard to estimate all the different things we’ve dealt with … and the huge amount of time we spend discussing issues through our e-mail chains and our conference calls with management. We’ve achieved a lot of things, too. For example, when Jamie Gold won the bracelet in 2006, he committed several infractions of the rules during the play, but nobody called him on it. We knew that wasn’t right. The crew that worked that final table didn’t give penalties when they should’ve been given, so that whole crew was taken off the duty roster for the final table. And since then, the rules have been pretty uniformly enforced.

We’ve also discussed the make-up of the tournament, which events should be added, which should be eliminated, and special events like the $40K no-limit hold’em tournament they ran last year to celebrate the WSOP’s 40th anniversary. We all talk a lot to air our opinions, especially Howard and Daniel Negreanu and Steve Z. Then I chime in from the old-timers’ point of view. Of course Annie and Jennifer are always right in there, too, as well as Clonie Gowan.

I give credit to Pollack for coming up with the idea of the P.A.C. and putting it all together. He also was instrumental in getting big corporate sponsors for the Series that included Jack Links, Planters, Miller Brewing and Betfair. Of course, I started complaining right away that part of that sponsorship money should go to the players. By bringing in these sponsors, Pollack made millions of dollars for Harrah’s, and what did Harrah’s give up? A $10 coupon … and they made players like it! They never added a cent to the prize pools, and further, we had to pay to stay at the Rio. What a marketing job he did for Harrah’s … to increase attendance (especially during the recession) and bring millions into the business, while getting players to accept it all.

To sum up, Pollack did a fantastic job of running and branding the World Series of Poker. Harrah’s is really going to miss him. So will the world of poker. Till next time, this is T.J. signing off to the world from the rain on the plains of Texas.