Friday, October 30, 2009

Is the Treasury Department a Giant Ponzi Scheme?

Think about this one for a second. If you replaced the U.S. Government with a giant multinational corporation, and the Treasure Department with it's financing arm it seems like all you are left with is a giant Ponzi scheme. Lets say you have this big company, and it raises cash to invest through its financing arm by issuing short and long term bonds at market interest rates. These bonds are given the highest ratings allowable due to the strength and stability of the underlying big company. They get favorable low interest rates as a result. The business that the company is in does not matter, but lets just say they have a natural monopoly. It is believed that they can raise their prices across the board or for certain higher end customers at any time they would like, and this would increase their revenues. This has never been proven, yet it remains a widespread belief. This is a pretty good thing because the underlying business of the company has been losing money for over 30 years now with huge losses in the most recent years, and massive losses project into the future. But this does not matter much, as the financing arm just issues more bonds to cover the losses. So rather than the funds from the bonds issued going into some tangible investment that could earn the returns required to cover the interest and pay back the principle, it goes to pay for the companies operational losses, and for interest and redemptions on previously issued bonds. So now after 30+ years of this, and a huge downturn in the economy that has crippled it's revenue it is left with 12 trillion in outstanding bonds, and not a penny left to pay any of it back. In fact the company is projected to lose an additional trillion+ dollars a year for the next ten years, and will have to issue more bonds to cover that. So pretty soon we are going to be looking at 2o trillion dollars owed, with none of it invested in anything tangible, and still no prospects to pay any of it back. Is this a Ponzi scheme? If this was the U.S. Government and Department of Treasury does that make it not a Ponzi Scheme?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fantasy Sports - Art vs. Science

In the classic post Art vs. Science, back when I used to post about poker, I made the case that a different set of skills were emphasized when playing cash games vs. tournament poker. Cash games were more science than art, and tournament poker was more art than science. Ultimately, to be successful at poker you should be good at both, but the arty types tend to prefer MTTs, and the math nerds cash games, all else being equal. So what about Fantasy Sports, and specifically Daily Fantasy Sports (most similar to poker) like we run at

It turns out that success at fantasy sports requires the same two skills sets. People use both art and science (or one or the other) to try to beat Fantasy Sports for a profit. Lets say that art is your sports knowledge and feel for who will do well in a given match-up. You have watched a ton of games, and followed a ton of teams, and as a result you just know who to pick each day for your fantasy team. You found out that some rookie will be getting a start, or just remember a favorable match up from the past and adjust your team accordingly. You are playing based on feel for the game, and don't need to run any numbers to confirm your selections. If you have a good depth of sports knowledge, and a good understanding of specific match-ups, that is all you should need to make money at fantasy sports. The poker player who plays like this has never studied pot odds, and does not give a crap about outs. He/she has played enough hands to get a feel for what is the correct move, and they simply go with there instincts.

Next there is the science approach. Lets say that you don't have any sports knowledge at all, but wanted to earn a few extra dollars playing fantasy sports. You learn the fantasy scoring system for a given site, and start crunching the numbers. You take a pure statistical approach to the game. While the art guy may know a hitter does pretty good against left handed pitching, the stat guy knows exactly how well every player in the league does against left handed pitching. The Art guy may make a pretty good choice here, but the science guy has the numbers to see if any other possible choices are better. The science guy simply uses historical statistics to forecast what will happen in the game that will be played today. He does not need to know a thing about any individual player, just that player x is the best statistical selection for position y in today's match-ups.

Now for the blended approach. Statistics can lie, and unless you keep going to deeper levels you may not be able to get the results that you want. For example lets say that a certain rookie has been coming off the bench all year, but due to an injury will be starting going forward. The Art guy is all over this. He has the rookie in his line-up immediately, because his sports knowledge tells him that's a good choice. The Science guy does not see this. Historical stats are still crap for this player. Now if the Science guy is weighting recent performance (going to a deeper level), he will start to see after a few games, that this rookie has become the best selection. So the science guy eventually gets it right if he digs deep enough into the stats. If this same thing happens, but this time on an obscure team the Art guy does not follow closely, the Science guy catches it way before the Art guy. So just like with poker you should use both approaches for the highest level of success.

There is a key difference between poker and fantasy sports though that I have left out. When people play by feel at poker, they are often pushing people around at the table. For example lets say you are drawing to a flush with one card to go, and you need to call a bet to continue. The science guy runs the numbers, and knows if he has "pot/implied odds" to chase the draw, and makes a decision based on that. The art guy also runs though all the similar situations he has been in in the past and probably comes to a similar conclusion. Now lets say the draw was missed, and you are bet into again and are holding top pair or something weak. The science guy may call based on the odds of having the best hand, but will probably not get out of line here. The feel guy, may shove all-in on the missed draw, and force a better hand to fold. The key difference here is that you can't be pushed off your fantasy sports team like you can a poker hand. A maniac, that may be hard to deal with mathematically, and force you to play by feel, can't exist in fantasy sports. They can only do what you are doing, and pick the best possible fantasy team. For this reason I think the Art edge can be substantially reduced, and Fantasy Sports could be played effectively with a nearly pure Science approach. The maniac in poker can be dealt with scientifically, but it requires game theory, which is tough to solve for complex situations like a poker game. You don't ever need game theory in fantasy sports, so success in fantasy sports could be as simple as determining proper drawing odds, and making sure that you get them when drawing.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Longtime No Online Poker

OK, I realize poker content has been lacking over here at BlindersPoker. It would help if I played more, but I can't seem to get myself motivated. Since the last BBT, I went on a cash game binge for a while to clear a FTP bonus. I won some cash, but never played enough to completely clear it out. That was about a month ago, and I have not been online since. There is a local cash game every weekend that I finally dragged myself to last weekend. It is .10/.20 NL with straddles welcome. Playing live with friends is about as fun as poker can get. Flopping quad 8s for a pretty massive pot (considering the blinds) helped as well. So all in all, I still appear to have the skillz to beat poker for a profit (live or online), but not the motivation to actually play. The online games appear soft again, so I don't really have any excuses. Just wondering what it will take to get me back in the game.

So, I have been writing a bit about politics instead lately, which I would guess most readers here do not like. I think we are in some pretty crazy times right now, with the American Dream getting trampled all over by our wealth redistributionist leader. It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. His policies are not popular, and make no sense, yet he continues to push for them. I see a bloodbath coming in the midterm elections, and the end of Obama's unrestricted power. The ObamaCare bill is a complete disaster. It was pitched as a way to bend the cost curve down for all Americans. What we have is a bill that will increase costs for all Americans (unless you are poor enough for free health insurance), at a faster rate than if we did nothing. ObamaCare is just a new massive entitlement for the poor, at the expense of everyone else and the economy, pushed through at a time when our country could least afford it. The economy will never improve until Obama stops intervening. Drop the health care, and climate change bills if you want the economy to improve. Until all this needless uncertainty is removed, rich people and businesses are going to sit on their hands and not take risks. If the Democrats can somehow get this pile of shit passed against the will of the American people, they are going to get tossed out on the street next year, and a new congress can start undoing Obama's damage.

The latest talking point that drives me nuts is the notion that Obama saved us from the brink of a depression. First off, I am still in the depression camp. Until the economy starts to actually recover, you can't say that we have averted a depression. These talking points will come back to bite if the economy never improves under Obama which is very likely. Secondly, what exactly did Obama do to save us from the brink? TARP was passed by Bush, and 1/2 of the money went out to the banks long before Obama took office. Most of the Bush TARP funds have been paid back at this point. Obama requested the second half of TARP and pissed it completely away by bailing out GM and Chrysler, sending more money that will never be repaid to AIG, and by converting Preferred shares at that carry interest and must be paid back to common stock that gets no interest, and will never be paid back. Obama did pass the stimulus bill that has been a complete failure, and has done little to stimulate the economy (not a thing for small businesses) despite a near trillion dollars in borrowing to pay for it. So again I ask, what exactly did Obama do to avert a depression? I see a bunch of things he is doing to cause a depression, like pushing through a massive entitlement that we can't afford (ObamaCare), or pushing for an end to U.S. manufacturing as we know it, by unilaterally increasing energy costs in the United States (Cap and Trade).

The politics stuff I guess is more interesting to me than poker right now, so until I can drag myself back to the felt, you might find me bitching about U.S. Politics here more than some douche who check raised me on the turn with a naked draw.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

ObamaCare Donkey Math

Leave it to congress to use the donkiest of math when trying to justify a new massive entitlement at a time of massive federal deficits. The latest bill comes in at an $825 billion dollar price tag, and reduces the deficit by $80 billion over the first 10 years. Donkey math at its finest. We are going to spend $825 billion in order to save $80 billion. I knew the government was inefficient, but come on. The $825 billion will be a combination of about $500 billion in cuts to Medicare payments, and $325 billion in tax increases. So what if we went ahead and cut the Medicare and raised the taxes, but did not do ObamaCare? Then we could use the $825 billion to pay down the debt, and would forgo the $80 billion in savings. So the actual ObamaCare bill is a negative $745 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, not the donkey math result of positive $80 billion. If the politicians were honest with us, they would admit that this is just a new healthcare entitlement for the poor, that we are rolling out at a time when we can least afford it.

Pay As You Go

Pay as you go simply does not work when you are running a massive budget deficit. Pay Down The F-ing Deficit should be the policy. If they keep raising taxes and cutting programs to "Pay As They Go" for new spending and entitlements, they are completely ignoring the debt problem. There are only so many programs that can be cut, and taxes that can be raised. If you dedicate all of your new taxes and program cuts to new programs and spending, we will never make a dent in historically massive deficit we are running. Pay As You Go needs to be redefined as operating under a yearly balanced budget, and not in the perverted way it is now, or America is toast.

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