hookgrip Classic, among other things

This coming Sunday (the 23rd) will see CrossFit Center City (the gym that I go to) host its first Olympic-style weightlifting meet. There have been some quasi-competitions before but no real meets with a real platform, judges, timing rules, bar loaders, sessions, etc. And, in addition to it being the first USA Weightlifting (or USAW) sanctioned meet, it is also going to be called The hookgrip Classic, as I mentioned in my prior post. I’m pretty excited for it, hopefully everything will go well.

Since I know my blog readers want to hear about this: my lifting update is that I have been lifting better than ever recently. For a quick recap of the last year or so, I basically started lifting daily around Halloween of last year. At the time, I was struggling to squat 70kg (154lbs) — which is really bad for an adult male. In roughly four months, I took my squat from 70kg to 150kg/330lbs. Here is the video from Feb 24th where I squatted 150kg. I was quite happy with my progress at this point especially given that I deadlifted 184kg/405lbs on Jan 21st, 2012 (ie, about three months after I started). To go from being really weak to a 330lb squat and a 405lb deadlift in roughly four months is quite good, in my opinion. Here’s the problem — I didn’t progress at all from late Feb until roughly early September. That’s over six months of no progress — even with close to daily workouts (almost every weekday, scattered weekends). That’s not what’s supposed to happen. Of course, eventually it will happen, but 330lb squat and 405lb deadlift is not where progress should level off for a 29/30 year-old who is committed to training.

So, anyway, I had to try to figure out what was going on. For most of the time since March, I had bad left quad pain (also in right, but not as bad as left). It essentially felt like my quad was tearing apart when I got down into a squat. I tried to stretch it, foam roll it, lacrosse ball roll it, get massages, warm it up a lot, get ART (aka Active Release Technique), roll it with “The Stick” (a myofascial release tool), etc. I tried a LOT of things to get my quad better. I even took time off when I went to Guatemala in May but it still didn’t get better. Maybe just mildly but it got worse as soon as I started lifting again. I went to go see a joint doctor and he said that my knee was fine (I had some pain in my knee too, although most of the pain was in the quad). I tried everything I could think of. It would occasionally get better for a day or a few but it always came roaring back — and badly. As I said above, I made no lifting progress during this period. I actually went backwards. I did do a 151kg squat (332lbs) once but that was during a short period in late March when things were oddly good. But other than that period, I was struggling with weights that were easy just a month before.

So, for me, the big moment was when I went to London for the Olympics in early August. About two days into the trip, I woke up with ZERO quad pain. For the prior six months, even during the times when I wasn’t lifting, I still had some quad pain. For instance, in Guatemala it was still pretty bad although it definitely did not hurt as much that week simply due to a lack of lifting. It was actually an amazing feeling to wake up with no pain like that. I had gotten so used to stumbling around that I really felt like a totally new person. The pain didn’t show up again for the rest of the week in London either. I thought things through and realized something. I started taking protein shakes in early March and I’d taken some form of whey protein basically straight through from March until London. Even in Guatemala I’d eaten whey protein bars. As silly as this sounds, I actually began to think maybe it was the protein that was causing the issue. So when I got home from London, I decided to start lifting without any supplemental protein. I would just focus on trying to eat a good amount of protein. And, whaddya know, no quad pain since! I’ve been lifting literally every day for the last few weeks and no pain at all. Of course, my legs are a bit stiff in the morning and when I’m getting warmed up but that’s totally normal. That has all built up to today where I set a bunch of PRs in my squat. I squatted 137.5kg/303lbs for 5 reps (2 sets of 5 actually). And I squatted 147.5kg/325lbs for a set of 2. And I squatted 155kg/342lbs for a set of 1. All of those were personal records. After my terrible last six months as far as lifting goes, I could not have been happier about how today went. Hopefully the injuries will stay away and I’ll be able to keep making progress.

/lifting talk

So, like many others, I have watched all of the recently released Lederer Files videos. Before I get into the whole issue of whether Howard is telling the truth, I have to say that I think PokerNews did a pretty good job overall. I know that Matt Parvis missed a couple of opportunities to really stick it to Howard but overall I think he asked good questions. There were definitely a bunch of times where Howard pretended to forget things that he clearly could have remembered. I don’t necessarily blame him for doing that. He didn’t want to throw a ton of specific people under the bus because they were shitty FTP owners who didn’t care about the site. He just threw essentially the whole ownership into one big category although there were a few exceptions. That’s fine with me although I also get why people out there want to know who said what and at what points. It sounds like there were a bunch of owners who cared more about their distributions than getting the players paid. And that is fucked up. It would be nice to know who those people were, specifically.

Now, in terms of whether Howard is telling the truth. I think, generally, yes. I don’t think he is outright lying about major facts in the post Black Friday time period. There were simply too many people involved for him to lie about what was discussed on member calls, with the DOJ, with PokerStars, etc. I put the chances of him lying about those things at sub 1%. What I do question is how much he knew about the processing issues and the so-called “backlog” prior to Black Friday. I have a hard time believing that it was never brought to anyone’s attention. Now, do I think there are emails and various extensive evidence of the backlog being communicated to Howard? Probably not, no. I don’t think he would go on record saying that he didn’t learn of the backlog until April 7th if there was significant evidence out there to the contrary. But I think he had to know of it. Just my guess and I have nothing to back that up other than it not making sense. One thing that I should mention here is that I knew of a person who had a TON of uncollected eChecks with FTP. To the tune of north of 100,000. I knew a lot of other people with 5,000 to 10,000 in uncollected eChecks. I just can’t believe that I would know about FTP not collecting deposits and Howard wouldn’t. That doesn’t make sense to me. Now, of course, the backlog and the net cash are two totally different issues. I don’t have a hard time believing that Howard wouldn’t have known that the backlog (and even without the backlog) caused a massive net negative cash balance in the company. In order to know that, Howard likely would have needed a significant set of numbers to be pulled from several places (bank accounts, processors accounts, player accounts, etc) and unless there was a specific net cash report that he was getting (which he wasn’t, although he did get other reports) then I don’t see how he would know the net cash. Now, should he have known this? Absolutely. He was negligent as a board member in my opinion. But it’s harder than you might think in a company the size of FTP to just figure out the net cash. It’s not something you can just “figure out” or keep track of in your head or whatever. You need the report to be pulled. So, because I don’t think he would lie about not receiving reports when he was receiving them, I doubt he saw a report that specifically showed net cash.

So that’s my opinion. Overall I’m glad that information is starting to come out about FTP and I look forward to having the brand be run by the one company in the world that has a shot at reviving Full Tilt. It’s amazing how well PokerStars comes out looking in all of this. Not only did they have plenty of money to cover their US deposits, they paid them out quickly, they rescued hundreds of millions of dollars for the poker economy and they are going to re-establish one of the formerly great brands in poker. And, actually, I have a bit of a theory for one of the reasons that Stars is so much better run than, say, FTP. As you may know, the PokerStars ownership is consolidated in the hands of a few. More specifically, it’s consolidated in the hands of the Scheinberg family. Isai Scheinberg was one of the people indicted and he’s generally regarded as the founder, primary owner and brains being the PokerStars operation. And his son Mark, who I assume has a good chunk of ownership as well, is very very involved in the operations of the site. He is referred to publicly as PokerStars’ Chairman. Either way, Isai, Mark and a few others were the primary people receiving money from PokerStars’ operations from 2001 (when they first started operating, although they were quite small then) until 2011 when Black Friday happened. That’s a lot of years to build up profits. And, unlike the many FTP owners who by all accounts are degenerates (obviously not all of them), I assume that Isai and Mark didn’t need anywhere near the amount that PokerStars was able to provide them with. In addition, as owners, they are very involved in the day-to-day from everything that I can surmise from the DOJ documents and just what PokerStars employees have said. So while I definitely heard about uncollected eChecks with PokerStars as well (although not to the same degree, or close to it), PokerStars was simply so far ahead of any backlog of any kind that they may have had. I haven’t read all of the DOJ documents so this sort of thing might be out there — I don’t know. But don’t ever underestimate the value of having professionals run a company. UB/AP and FTP are what happen when poker players start companies. I’m not putting UB/AP and FTP on the same level but at the end of the day they screwed up because of bad management. Both businesses were more than capable of being extremely profitable so it isn’t like they failed because of actually being a poor business or product. PokerStars is what happens when a professional (although Isai definitely has a strong interest in poker from what I know) starts a company. But I think a large factor is how the ownership and management was structured in the two companies, in addition to the types of people in place.

Anyway, that’s my comment on the whole thing. I ended up doing about a four hour interview with Scott Bell from the UltimateBeat documentary project. We’ll see which parts of my comments end up in the final project. It was very difficult to remember a lot of the small details from four (UB) and five (AP) years ago but overall it went pretty well I think.

Have a nice weekend!

One thought on “hookgrip Classic, among other things

  1. Adam

    Agree with most of your part about Howard, and strongly agree with why Stars was run better. I’ve had this same conversation with a bunch of people. It is just extreme hubris on the part of Howard, Ray, etc. that they did not bring in professional management around 2006 when they really started raking in the dough. There was simply no excuse to have amateurs at the helm there, and I think this is something we all knew on some level well before Black Friday.

    Also I think it is just one of the world’s general truths that the more different people own a business (and particularly who have a say in its direction), the harder it is for that business to make decisions that focus primarily on what’s best for the company’s long term future. There’s gotta be some graph out there that shows how the more owners there are, the shorter the term is of focus in a company. Straight down to public companies where these days the CEO’s are typically held onto for a couple years and have that short amount of time to try and make the value of their stock shoot up and earn the heavy incentives built into their deals.

    I think there are ways to circumvent these kinds of problems, but when you have a bunch of degenerate owners all expecting and chomping at the bit for constant multi-million dollar distributions, and a management team with no spine and very little ability to make strong, safe long term decisions, this is what you get

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