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Albadri Primed for Saudi Derby
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Albadri | Racingfotos.com Jane Chapple-Hyam's Albadri (Ire) (Dandy Man Ire) will take part in the $1.5-million Saudi Derby on the $20-million Saudi Cup undercard on Feb. 20. A winner on debut, the bay colt raced exclusively in stakes company in his next four starts, with his best finish a fifth in the G3 Tattersalls S. in September. His final 2020 appearance was a sixth in the G3 Horris Hill S. two starts later on Oct. 24. In his latest run, he handled the Southwell synthetic well and saluted by a length in a handicap there on Jan. 28. “We might be a 100-1 shot, but we got an invitation so may as well give it a go,” said the Suffolk trainer. “He went on the nearest I could find to dirt in England–which is Southwell. Hollie [Doyle] was pleased with him, and he won. “He's going out in really good order, and I'm flying out there tonight [Monday]. It's very competitive, but every now and again you've got to dip your toe in the deep end. It's not a massive field–and because we got the invite, the owners were keen, so why not?” She added, “Hopefully we can finish in the prize money–which would help–and he's come out of his race at Southwell very well, and he went into that needing it. He'll have been about 85% fit, so he's bang on song now. We've always liked him. I've always felt he would make up into a 100-rated horse, so he needs to prove that on Saturday. “They'll go quick, with the Americans and Japanese. When he won on debut he came from off the pace, but he made the running last time–so he's versatile. Hollie rode him in the Horris Hill and got a really good feel off him that day, which is important to me because she believes in the horse. Hollie's on again.” Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts. This story was posted in Europe, Shared News Europe, Top News Europe and tagged Albadri (Ire), Dandy Man (Ire), Hollie Doyle, Jane Chapple-Hyam, King Abdulaziz Racetrack, Riyadh, Saudi Cup, Saudi Derby.
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Elio Fox Bags Big into Day 2 of the partypoker MILLIONS Mini Main Event
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February 15, 2021 Jason Glatzer The 2021 partypoker MILLIONS Online kicked off its 28-event schedule over the weekend with the Millions Online #01 Mini Main Event completing both its opening flights on Saturday and Sunday. The event features a $1 million guaranteed prize pool (which was smashed) for a $1,100 buy-in. Read on to learn more about the Mini Main Event and what else is happening now in the MILLIONS Online at partypoker. Head to the NEW partypoker HubWant to stay up-to-date on all the latest partypoker news right here on PokerNews? Why not try out the new partypoker Hub! Sebastian Camilo Toro Henao Leads Mini Main Event The $1,100 Mini Main Event crushed its $1 million guarantee with 1,127 entrants to generate a tasty $1,127,000 prize pool. Each of the opening flights played down to just 15 percent of the field leaving just 169 players heading into today's Day 2. Each of the opening flights allowed for 1 re-entry during the first nine levels. Players were given plenty of time to build a stack with long 25-minute blind levels. Sebastian Camilo Toro Henao will head into Day 2 with the chip lead after he parlayed his opening stack of 1 million in chips in Saturday's Day 1a into a massive stack of 27,039,049 in chips. Two-time WSOP champion Elio Fox (25,419,260) is the closest player on Henao's tail after virtually bagging the biggest stack on Sunday's Day 1b. Luciano Hollanda (23,000,730) and Patrick Blye (22,663,403) were the only two other players to end an opening flight over the weekend with at least 20 million in chips. Other players heading into Day 2 near the top of the leaderboard include Thomas Boivin (18,388,054), Joseph Cheong (17,118,762), William Kassouf (16,075,000), Espen Uhlen Jorstad (13,730,257), and Dominik Nitsche (12,483,080). Thomas Boivin bags a big stack into Day 2 of the partypoker MILLIONS Online Mini Main Event Top Ten Stacks Heading into Day 2 of the Mini Main Event PlacePlayerCountryChipsBig Blinds 1Sebastian Camilo Toro HenaoMexico27,039,049193 2Elio FoxMexico25,419,260182 3Luciano HollandaBrazil23,000,730164 4Patrick Charles BlyeUnited Kingdom22,663,403162 5Nikolai PenkinRussia18,426,901132 6Thomas BoivinUnited Kingdom18,388,054131 7Vitezslav CechCzech Republic18,020,370129 8Daria KrashennikovaRussia17,750,348127 9Thomas MacdonaldUnited Kingdom17,618,322126 10Joseph CheongMexico17,118,762122 Day 2 of the Mini Main Event Kicks Off Today! The Mini Main Event resumes on Monday, Feb. 15 at 7:05 p.m. GMT (2:05 p.m. EST) with 169 hopefuls battling it out on Day 2. The structure becomes deeper on Day 2 with 30-minute blind levels throughout the day as compared to 25-minute blind levels during each of the opening flights. All of the returning players are each guaranteed a min-cash of $2,105 for nearly double the $1,100 buy-in with all players having their eye on the top prize of $184,507. Day 2 will conclude after 10 blind levels with any surviving players coming back to compete on Day 3, which features even longer 40-minute blind levels, on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Day 3 will witness the field trimmed down to just nine players with the final table scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17 when a winner will be crowned. Related: Check out the FULL partypoker MILLIONS Online schedule Mini Main Event Payouts PlacePrize 1$184,507 2$127,033 3$87,283 4$57,011 5$39,049 6$30,147 7$23,758 8$18,817 9$14,827 10-11$11,160 12-15$8,837 16-23$7,128 24-31$5,607 32-39$4,596 40-55$3,786 56-71$3,190 72-87$2,809 88-103$2,605 104-119$2,457 120-135$2,334 135-151$2,215 152-169$2,105 Mini Second Chance Turbo Starts Today! The first champion of the MILLIONS Online at partypoker will be crowned today. It won't be in the Mini Main Event but instead in the one-day MILLIONS Online #2 Mini Second Chance Turbo, which features a $50,000 guarantee for a $530 buy-in. The Mini Second Chance Turbo begins on Monday, Feb. 15 at 9:15 p.m. GMT (4:15 p.m. EST) with players starting out with 1 million in chips. As the name of the event suggests, this will be one of the faster event on the schedule with eight minute blind levels. There is still time to get into the action in this event for much cheaper than the $530 buy-in via the many $66 satellites scheduled throughout the day at partypoker. Play the Second Chance Turbo at partypoker Play in the 2021 partypoker MILLIONS Online You’re going to need a partypoker account if you want to jump into any of the partypoker MILLIONS Online tournaments. Head there right now if you already have an account, or download partypoker via PokerNews if you don’t have an account. Deposit $10 to receive $10 in tickets over the course of a week: Day 1: 2x $1 SPINS tickets + 1x $3.30 MTT ticketDay 2: 4x $0.25 SPINS ticketsDay 4: 1x $3.30 MTT ticketDay 6: 4x $0.25 SPINS tickets Deposit $20 and receive $30 worth of tickets over the course of a week: Day 1: 1x $5 SPINS ticket + 1x $3.30 MTT ticketDay 2: 2x $1 SPINS ticket + 1x $5.50 MTT ticketDay 4: 1x $5.50 MTT ticketDay 6: 2x $3 SPINS tickets + 1x$3.30 MTT ticket
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Sebastian Henao Leads MILLIONS Online Mini Main Event
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The MILLIONS Online festival has gotten off to a flying start with the Mini Main Event obliterating its $1 million guarantee. A massive crowd of 1,127 players bought in across a pair of starting flights and only 169 of those starters remain in the hunt for the $184,507 top prize. MILLIONS Online Mini Main Event Top 10 Chip Counts Place Player Country Chips 1 Sebastian Camilo Toro Henao Mexico 27,039,049 2 Elio Fox Mexico 25,419,260 3 Luciano Hollanda Brazil 23,000,730 4 Patrick Blye Canada 22,663,403 5 Nikolai Penkin Russia 18,426,901 6 Thomas Boivin United Kingdom 18,388,054 7 Viteslav Cech Czech Republic 18,020,370 8 Daria Krashennikova Russia 17,750,348 9 Tom Macdonald United Kingdom 17,618,322 10 Joseph Cheong Mexico 17,118,762 Sebastian Henao finds himself in the envious position of going into Day 2 as the tournament’s chip leader. The Mexico-based grinder is armed with 27,039,049 chips and must fancy his chances of taking down this event from this position. Victory will not be an easy task because there are some exceptional players in the chasing pack. Elio Fox is one of those superstars. Fox, also grinding from Mexico, has 25,419,260 chips in his stack and will have a major say in where this title ends up. The two-time WSOP bracelet winner has almost $10 million in live tournament winnings and more than $4.5 million from the online poker world. Daria Krashennikova flying high in the MILLIONS Online Mini Main Event Slightly further down the chip counts, you find Canada’s Patrick Blye (22,663,403) who is riding the crest of a wave having won the APAT WCOAP Main Event last weekend for $27,408. He’s guaranteed another $2,105 right now but he definitely has an eye on the top prize. Also in the top 10 chip counts at the start of Day 2 are Thomas Boivin (18,388,054) and Russian starlet Daria Krashennikova (17,750,348). As are British high stakes cash guru Tom Macdonald (17,618,322) and Joseph Cheong (17,118,762). Stellar Names Litter The Field Those players are joined by some of the game’s biggest names. Such luminaries as Will Kassouf (16,075,000), Dominik Nitsche (12,483,080), Tom Middleton (11,180,475), and Mike Sexton Classic champion Daniel Dvoress (7,917,694) are all still in contention for glory. As are the likes of Justin Bonomo (6,362,236), David Peters (6,325,618), Kelly Saxby (5,313,311), David Yan (4,882,878), Ami Barer (3,473,910), Roberto Romanello (3,305,634), Hristovoje Pavlovic (2,255,971), and Mike Watson (915,478). Play resumes at 19:05 GMT on February 15 and continues until the 169 returning players are whittled to the final table of nine. Each of those finalists will then be guaranteed $14,826 and will be eight eliminations away from a $184,507 score. Love poker? Join party! If you’re ready to jump into the action, then click here to download partypoker and get started! If you already have an account with us, click here to open partypoker and hit the tables!
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Michael McDowell, a Big Underdog, Wins Daytona 500
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — There was a 16-car pileup near the start of the afternoon race and another fiery one right before it ended shortly after midnight. In between, Sunday’s Daytona 500 had a bit of everything.Hail the size of golf balls. A nearly six-hour rain delay. Fiery crashes, smoky crashes and muddy crashes. Drivers sprinting for shelter, fans running for safety and at least three contenders who left the track in search of dinner, including one who went through a takeout window still wearing his racing suit.A car partly owned by the singer Pitbull crashed out early. One owned by the basketball star Michael Jordan was still battling for the lead late. Cars went out with crash damage, or tire damage, or engine damage, or all three. One driver deftly avoided trouble on the track only to have his car slide into its muddy bog of an infield, which tore out some of the key components that make it run.And yet, when it was all done, when the rain stopped and the smoke cleared and the cars limped back into their garages, this year’s Daytona 500 still found one more way to surprise: with a 100-1 long shot, Michael McDowell, celebrating in Victory Lane.“I can’t believe it,” said McDowell, who looked stunned as he stopped at the flag stand to collect the checkered flag. It was his first win in 358 starts in NASCAR’s top series. “So many years just grinding it out,” he added. “So many years just hoping for an opportunity like this.”Over its 63 runnings, dating to 1959, the 500 has become known as the Great Equalizer, a race that allows a wider measure of competitiveness as unheralded drivers can keep themselves up front with the major teams through drafting. It has blessed a statistically significant number of underdogs with victories, a group that has included little-known rookies and stars moonlighting from other series, like IndyCar’s Mario Andretti in 1967. It also has produced shocking upsets: Derrike Cope in 1990 and Trevor Bayne in 2011 were two of the more recent examples.Early Monday morning, fate smiled on another underdog. McDowell, a 36-year-old journeyman with 14 years in the series, drove unscathed through a fiery last-lap crash to take a car-length victory over Chase Elliott.McDowell never led a lap in the 200-lap event until the last few feet of the final time around. He won because he had just moved out front as the yellow caution flag came out for a multicar pileup triggered by the Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Elliott tried to sneak ahead of him but was ruled to have finished second. Austin Dillon was credited with third, followed by Kevin Harvick and the pre-race favorite, Denny Hamlin, who was trying to become the first driver to win three straight Daytona 500s.“To get a first victory in a Daytona 500 — are you kidding me?” McDowell said in remarks to those that remained from a socially distanced crowd of about 30,000. “We’re a Daytona 500 champion. I cannot believe this.”McDowell wasn’t so lucky early in the race, when a 16-car melee was triggered on lap 15. He was right in the middle of that one, and his Ford suffered damage on all four corners. But his veteran crew chief Drew Blickensderfer — who worked for Matt Kenseth’s winning 500 team in 2009 — expertly assessed the damage during the long race stoppage that followed. When the race restarted hours later, McDowell was able to run his repaired car up front with the leaders the rest of the way.“It was pandemonium, chaos, out there; I hated that we couldn’t win,” said Logano, whose crash collected not only Keselowski but also a third Penske teammate, Austin Cindric. “But if we couldn’t, I would root for Michael.”Kyle Busch also drove into the fiery pileup, along with Darrell Wallace Jr., who had led the race briefly in his debut for a team run by Hamlin and Jordan. Wallace’s hopes were dampened on a final pit stop that went haywire, and forced him to make an additional stop to replace a loose wheel. The mistake cost him a full lap.The problem for Hamlin, who led nearly half the race, was that he got too far out front of the pack. Driving alone left him without drafting partners, and it allowed the field, moving faster as a group, to reel hin in.“We had the dominant car,” Hamlin said. “I was the fastest, but I got too ahead, by myself, and got freight-trained.”The Ford teams, including McDowell’s, also outfoxed the rest of the Chevrolets and Toyotas in the field on the last scheduled round of pit stops. They all pitted unexpectedly, together, in tight formation. And all of them executed their pit stops with identical precision and came back out on the track in a pack. The three Toyota drivers remaining in the race — Hamlin, Wallace and Busch — were unprepared to respond in kind; they were all spread out on the track after their stops, and Hamlin found himself relegated to 12th place with about 25 laps to go.After the final pits stops, there were five Fords in formation running up front, followed by the Chevrolets of Elliott and Dillon, and the Toyotas of Busch, Hamlin and Wallace.McDowell was in fifth, then fourth, and then suddenly in the lead — on the final lap — as the crashes unfolded around him. Elliott actually passed him, but an official review said the pass came seconds too late.The longest of races had produced a most unlikely winner.
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End2End signs local deal to develop online in Argentina
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Through a distribution agreement with JSD S.A. "We want to accompany and be part of the process for the award of online gaming licenses taking place in Argentina. The bingo segment, due to its multichannel nature (online, betting shops, mixed offering, among others), is a game that perfectly adapts to the cross-selling between the newly-emerged online market and the existent lottery market, which generates major jackpots and commission for players, betting shops and operators alike," said Alejandro Revich, CEO, End2End. "Without a doubt, JSD’s experience in both markets fits the profile we were looking for, so we are completely satisfied with this agreement." Revich added that "JSD has been a major local asset for the definitive arrival of End2End in Argentina."  Jorge Diment, CEO, JSD e-Gaming Solutions S.A., said "traditional bingo is social and family game in nature, it serves as a link in the coexistence of online and land-based operations even as a promotional product. Players need no training to play bingo: it is a traditional game one learns when we are little." "The possibility to sell bingo cards at shop or online allows to boost a great business for operators, regulators and even local distributors such as lottery shops," Diment explained. “It is a comprehensive product which allows lottery shops to be part of the business." .
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Newspaper claims footballer won $100m at poker
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Put on your sceptical hat for this, but a newspaper is claiming that former Everton star Thomas Gravesen is one of the biggest winners in poker. Thomas Gravesen The Daily Star wrote that the Danish midfielder had won over $100 million playing poker since retiring from football and moving to the United States.  At this stage it would be remiss of us to point out that the Daily Star in the UK is not exactly a Pulitzer winning publication. Also, mainstream media tend to get turnover and profit gravely mixed up in these stories.  There are, however, rumours abound in poker that some of the biggest games and therefore biggest winners in poker are from the private games enjoyed by the rich and famous where most professionals are not allowed. Indeed, there is credible evidence to suggest that Rick Salomon and Tobey Maguire are two of the biggest winners in poker history from such games.  The article also claims that Gravesen lost $54 million in a single heads-up session in Vegas. That actually has some secondary evidence to be found, as five years ago somebody made the same claim on 2+2. They also said Gravesen was up $80 million at the time.  So it seems clear that Gravesen plays high stakes games and possibly has been a winner in them. However, it is probably better to wait for some respected players in the industry to confirm he is the real deal before we pay too much attention to the $100 million winner claims.  Do you think this story is plausible? Let us know in the comments: Barry Carter Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2, Poker Satellite Strategy and PKO Poker Strategy
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Ready or Not, Baseball Begins Spring Training This Week
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Steve Sparks is heading to spring training soon to broadcast the Houston Astros’ exhibition games on radio. But with the sport and the country still in the grip of the coronavirus, he will miss the up-close access that gives spring training its charm.“We’ll probably have some roped-off areas where we can get to a certain spot, but not like those days where you could stand right next to the bullpen, watch the prospects and listen to the teaching,” said Sparks, a former major league pitcher. “One day I was eight or 10 feet away from Justin Verlander throwing in the bullpen, seeing him look at an iPad after every pitch and making this one adjustment that I was able to talk about for half of a season because of what it did for his fastball.”Fans, too, can often get close enough for their own moments of wonder at complexes in Florida and Arizona, which open for pitchers and catchers for 15 teams on Wednesday and all teams by Friday. Most teams let fans roam the back fields with few restrictions. In Mesa, Ariz., the Chicago Cubs encourage fans to tailgate beside the players’ walkway from the training complex to the ballpark, bringing a touch of Wrigleyville to the desert.Alas, this spring will be different. Attendance will be limited to 20 to 25 percent of capacity, depending on the city. The usual ambience — crowded grassy berms above the outfield walls, fans snagging autographs — will take a hiatus. Even the minor leaguers will keep their distance; most of them will not report to spring training facilities until the big leaguers leave town.At least players in Florida will get a break from two- or three-hour bus rides. The five teams based in the east coast of the state — the Mets, the Houston Astros, the Washington Nationals, the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals — will play against only one another, and the teams that train in the Tampa area will not play the teams in the Fort Myers area.The changes make last spring training seem much longer than 12 months ago. Back then, the industry was consumed by the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Three managers and a general manager were fired over it, and the Houston players faced severe backlash from colleagues around the league and fans at exhibition games. The pandemic abruptly changed everything.During a four-month shutdown, the commissioner’s office and the union bickered over the details of the restart, an early battleground for the painstaking negotiations to replace the collective bargaining agreement that expires after this season.The sides assumed their hard lines again this winter. With support from city officials in the hard-hit Phoenix area, owners proposed pushing back spring training, staging opening day in late April and shortening the schedule to 154 games. Players would get full pay, with a universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs as part of the deal. The union rejected that plan without a counterproposal, retaining the expanded playoffs as a bargaining tool to get the larger-scale changes it wants in the next C.B.A.Barring a change, then, the league will head into an uncertain future by turning to the recent past, with pitchers hitting in National League parks and the same playoff format as was held from 2012 through 2019 — three division winners and two wild-card teams in each league. Last season, eight teams from each league qualified for the postseason, and the designated hitter was used in all games.“I don’t understand why we don’t have a D.H.,” Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ said last week on MLB Network Radio. “I think for both sides, for the fans, for the game, for health and safety — there’s no reason why the D.H. shouldn’t be in there. It shouldn’t be tied to anything. The D.H. makes sense for the betterment of the game. It makes sense for the future, it makes sense for keeping pitchers healthy. Nobody wants to see Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks hit. They want to see them strike guys out; they want to see them be the aces that they are.”Two innovations from last season will remain: Extra innings will begin with a runner on second base, and games will last seven innings during doubleheaders. (Some spring training exhibitions will be limited to five innings.) The league will also introduce a new ball that adheres closer to the middle of the existing specification range — in other words, slightly lighter and less bouncy, in hopes of curbing the majors’ home run surge.For some pitchers, this adjustment confirmed suspicions that the league had juiced the old ball to generate more homers. In any case, if last season proved anything, it was the timeless lesson that pitching usually wins. The Los Angeles Dodgers had the best earned run average in the majors and won the World Series. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays, who had the best E.R.A. in the American League.The Dodgers added to their overpowering staff by signing Trevor Bauer, who won the N.L. Cy Young Award for Cincinnati last season, to a three-year, $102 million contract. The deal is front-loaded with salaries of $40 million in 2021 and $45 million in 2022, and Bauer can opt out after either season.Bauer, who chose the Dodgers over the Mets, will be the third former Cy Young winner in the rotation, joining Clayton Kershaw and David Price. The Dodgers also have a wave of hard-throwing homegrown starters, none older than 26, in Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urias, who threw the final pitch of the World Series.No team can match that depth, not even the division-rival San Diego Padres, who traded for Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove to build off the team’s first playoff appearance since 2006. After a shortened season, it may be more important than ever to carefully manage pitchers’ workloads.“We feel like we’ve got seven proven major league starters; we’re not sure exactly how things are going to shake out on April 1, but we couldn’t be more confident that they’re going to help us through the year and also through October,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “Adding to our pitching depth was something that was really important to us, just with all the unknowns, going from a 60-game season back to 162 games.”While the Dodgers try to become the first team to repeat as champions since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000, the Padres, the Chicago White Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays moved aggressively to continue their ascent. The White Sox — under a new manager, the Hall of Famer Tony La Russa — gave three-year contracts to starter Lance Lynn and closer Liam Hendriks in free agency, while Toronto splurged for center fielder George Springer (six years, $150 million) and infielder Marcus Semien (one year, $18 million).Several other teams made multiple win-now moves, like the Yankees (Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon), the Mets (Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann, Trevor May, Aaron Loup), the Minnesota Twins, the Washington Nationals and even the Kansas City Royals, who traded with the Boston Red Sox last week for outfielder Andrew Benintendi.The Red Sox, who dealt Price and Mookie Betts to the Dodgers last winter, stumbled to 24-36 for a .400 winning percentage, their worst since 1965. Their additions have been mostly low-cost placeholders — Franchy Cordero, Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, Hunter Renfroe — signaling another year of rebuilding at Fenway Park.Teardown strategies are still in vogue, and not just with typically stingy teams like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The Cubs shipped Darvish to the Padres, and the Colorado Rockies dealt Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, less than two years after signing him to an eight-year contract extension. Several other teams, like Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Seattle, did almost nothing to improve.It is no wonder, then, that players believe the current economic system incentivizes losing while also discouraging teams from exceeding a luxury-tax limit, in effect creating a salary cap. Resolving those issues and avoiding a strike must be an off-field priority this season — because while this spring training is bound to feel different, it is surely better than no spring training at all.
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Speed of Courts at Issue in Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — The chatter about the speed of the tennis courts at the Australian Open this year started innocently enough.It was just before the ATP Cup, the team competition at Melbourne Park that preceded the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam event. Dominic Thiem of Austria, the winner of last year’s United States Open, mentioned he had been practicing at John Cain Arena, and the ball seemed to be coming off the blue hardcourt pretty darn fast.Days later, Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 and eight-time champion of the Australian Open, said the court at Rod Laver Arena, which he refers to as his second backyard, felt strikingly fast. Then, after his second-round defeat of Frances Tiafoe of the United States, Djokovic said it was playing faster than at any other time since he began playing here 15 years ago, which is not a bad thing for perhaps the game’s most precise and effective ball striker. He said it again after beating Milos Raonic in the fourth round Sunday night. On Friday night, Thiem, the No. 3 seed, came back from two sets down to beat the fan favorite Nick Kyrgios of Australia in the third round, and spoke of all the challenges he had faced — a hostile crowd, Kyrgios’s booming serve and “the fastest Grand Slam Court I have ever played on.”Few players have disagreed.Their comments have caught Tennis Australia, the organizer of the Australian Open and the keeper of the courts at Melbourne Park, a bit off guard. Last year at the Australian Open, some players complained the courts were too slow.Machar Reid, the head of innovation for Tennis Australia, knows the most about the condition of the courts. He said pretournament tests produced results similar to last year, the first year the Australian Open contracted with GreenSet, which supplies the acrylic coating of the courts, essentially the paint.“What we aim for is consistency, year after year, not just here but for all the facilities in the country, so the players are playing on a similar surface no matter where they are,” Reid said in an interview last week. “All our indications are that the courts are the same.”Without getting overly technical in evaluating the tests against the experiences of multimillionaire athletes who have hit countless shots on countless courts and are sensitive to the tiniest changes in conditions, it is worth noting that tennis players consistently suffer from the Goldilocks syndrome.Tennis courts are always either too fast or too slow, too slick or too sticky. Players can shift their opinion midway through a match if the weather changes. They are not an easy lot to please.Men seem to obsess and complain about the speed more than women, perhaps because they hit harder. A serve traveling at 130 miles per hour is plenty difficult to return on a normal court. On a too-fast court it is tough to get the racket on it.The International Tennis Federation, the sport’s world governing body, classifies tennis courts into one of five categories for its Court Pace Rating: slow, medium-slow, medium, medium-fast and fast. A surface receives its classification after various tests that include measuring how high a ball bounces when it hits the surface at different speeds and how easily it slides when it is dragged across it, as well as other factors.The red clay of the French Open is the slowest Grand Slam surface. Playing on the grass of Wimbledon in certain conditions can feel like playing on an ice rink, with the ball skidding and barely rising above a player’s shins. The slightly cushioned hardcourts at the United States Open and the Australian Open are plenty fast, but the ball generally pops up. The speed can be adjusted from year to year depending on the grittiness of the acrylic coating — think of it as adding sand to paint.All the courts at Melbourne Park were polished and given a fresh coat of the GreenSet acrylic before this year’s tournament. Reid said Tennis Australia aims to provide a court that lands right in the middle of the I.T.F. classification scale because the organization believes that kind of court produces the best tennis.A court rated in the fastest category would too heavily favor the big servers and prevent points from developing. A slow court would encourage players to stay back and turn each point into a defensive chess match. A medium court allows tennis to hit that delicate balance between athleticism and strategy.The problem is tennis tournaments don’t take place in a static environment. No matter what the numbers say, how “fast” a tennis court plays is the result of an incalculable and ever-changing interaction of the ball, the surface of the court and the climate.Changes in the weather can have a drastic effect on how a ball moves. Cooler weather can make a tennis ball feel like a rock on the racket and lessen its bounce. When the temperature rises, the ball becomes livelier. There have been a few hot days in the past month, but the weather has been rather cool for the Melbourne summer.Then again, racket and string technologies are always improving, allowing players to hit harder, with more topspin than ever. Also, courts generally speed up with increased play, and the courts at Melbourne Park have experienced significantly more play than normal this year. Players began practicing on the courts three weeks before the Australian Open. Five separate competitions took place the week before the tournament started.And yet it’s a mystery whether the courts are truly faster and how big a factor that will play in the outcome of the tournament.Fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, whose game is laced with power, described the court at Rod Laver Arena as one of the slowest at Melbourne Park and not that different from the courts at other Grand Slam events.But Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, one of the game’s great baseline defenders, described the courts as “really, really quick.” Schwartzman, the No. 8 seed, lost in the third round to Aslin Karatsev, a hard-hitting Russian ranked 114th in the world and playing in his first Grand Slam singles tournament. Karatsev dispatched Schwartzman in three sets.“He’s a guy who was doing very powerful shots every single time, and the court was not helping,” Schwartzman said. “I prefer it a little bit slower, to have better conditions so you can think a little bit more in the match and you can have choices, different choices, different shots.”In the fourth round, Karatsev came back from two sets down to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, the No. 20 seed.“I played here before, and it was slower,” Karatsev said. “But for me, it’s good. I think the fast surface for me, it’s always good.”On Sunday, Thiem, the big hitter who started all this chatter, lost badly to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at Rod Laver Arena, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.“It was very, very fast, probably the fastest Grand Slam I’ve played so far,” Thiem said. “But that wasn’t the issue.”After the tournament, Reid said, he will evaluate the reams of data produced by the Hawk-Eye system, which takes hundreds of measurements per second of the ball and the court position of each player. It should provide some insight into whether the courts were faster this year. Or maybe it won’t.
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With Indoor Rinks Closed, Players Turn to ‘Speakeasy Hockey’
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NORTHVILLE, N.Y. — One by one, the hockey players drove down a dark road in the foothills of the Adirondacks in search of fresh ice on a recent Friday night.The regulars knew where to turn. Nine pairs of skates dangled from a clothesline above the apron of a gravel driveway, marking the private property’s entrance. Lights affixed to trees illuminated a snow-covered lawn. Wood burned in an old barrel.Christian Klueg welcomed the invited guests — players ranging from teenagers to 50-somethings — to his backyard hockey rink. For 27 years, he had built smaller versions. But when he realized indoor rinks in New York would be closed or have restricted hours because of the coronavirus pandemic, he went all-in on upgrades. He drove 172 miles north to the Canadian border in December to purchase a 1987 Olympia ice-resurfacing machine.His playing surface measured 71 feet by 125 feet (an N.H.L. rink is 85 feet by 200 feet), and it was enclosed by boards four feet high that a minor league team once used. Klueg kept the resurfacing machine next to a seven-foot stack of firewood. Only one thing was missing as he grabbed a stick and skated from his house to his dream rink.“Anybody want to play goalie?” he said.Klueg, 39, a father of three, isn’t the only person playing hockey closer to home this winter. Locked out of indoor rinks because of the pandemic, hockey parents pivoted to their backyards, where they repurposed old barns, expanded previous playing spaces or purchased easy-to-assemble kits to keep their children occupied. Some were especially resourceful, spending a couple of hundred dollars at Home Depot and building from scratch. Others invested thousands in customizing rinks they had bought online.First-timers learned to negotiate inconsistent thaws and freezes, and anxious hosts added umbrella insurance on top of homeowners insurance in case injured visitors filed lawsuits. Like-minded neighbors knocked down fences to share space for rinks, while others complained about noise created by pucks crashing against wooden boards. With ice time at a premium, backyard rink owners were flooded with requests for open skating times.“It’s almost like Prohibition-era speakeasy hockey,” Klueg said. “Knock a certain way, come on in.”But no matter how hard someone bangs on her barn door in Hinesburg, Vt., Rebecca Racine Keinath, 47, isn’t letting outsiders into her new skating space. Last spring, she and her husband, Bart, figured their two children would be able to stay active outdoors all summer, but worried about what they would do in the cold-weather months if a vaccine were not available.So they took measurements of their 74-year-old dairy barn. Drainage grooves in the concrete on the ground floor prevented them from building a rink on that level, but when they looked up at the hayloft, they envisioned playing the game on a higher plane. They built stairs, removed much of the straw in the loft and patched holes in its wood floor before laying new planks and a tarp and then flooding it when temperatures dropped in mid-December.They installed LED lights for red and blue lines, and to keep an eye on the children from the kitchen, they set up a security camera. Visitors will not be allowed inside until the virus is better contained.“The cows might be rolling in their graves, but it’s warming to me that this beautiful barn isn’t just going to waste,” Racine Keinath said. “I like a little old with a little new.”Dylan Gastel, 24, learned how to build a rink in an old-school way. Growing up in Lincoln, R.I., he worked with his father constructing outdoor rinks. Over three weekends each November, they would saw plywood, hammer stakes into the ground and drill holes for screws. Eager to skate, Gastel would sit in his high school classrooms refreshing the Weather Channel’s website to learn when the next cold front was coming. Once the water froze, he sometimes skated until 3 a.m.“The only times my mom let me go in late to school was if I stayed up skating all night long,” he said.Updated Feb. 14, 2021, 8:48 p.m. ETHe eventually went to Yale, studied mechanical engineering, gained an entrepreneurial grant of $1,000 from a Yale program, developed the prototype of a rink that could be assembled in an hour and started a backyard rink company in his dorm room. Gastel’s modular kit offered lightweight plastic boards, connecting brackets, a liner and straps that held the system together. No tools were needed. In his first year, he said, he sold $1 million worth of rinks, and he doubled that in his second year.Then the pandemic hit. As school districts and local governments shuttered indoor facilities, Gastel said, he watched sales spike in those same areas as families, schools and towns purchased his rinks to offer outdoor options. In September, he projected he would run out of supplies by Christmas because of accelerated demand.So to shore up the supply chain, he traveled the Midwest in the fall and into the winter, securing additional production sites and warehouses. In three months, the company expanded its manufacturing capacity 500 percent.“Had to take those risks a little bit,” Gastel said.For many parents, their reward has been watching their children skate just outside their window. Robert Goldenberg, 46, had contemplated buying a pool to offer his family a respite from extended indoor time over the summer. He decided against it, in part, because he didn’t want to take space away from the rink the family has used through many winters.His two sons tried out for a travel team in October, but the season was suspended before final cuts had been made. The sons, who are 15 and 18, have not returned to an indoor rink, but they sharpen their skills at home in a Montreal suburb.To prevent pucks from landing in neighbors’ yards, Goldenberg added plywood fencing and 10-foot netting by the goal. But one night in January, he was in his second-floor office and heard a loud bang. His 15-year-old, Brett, had shot a puck, which ricocheted off the crossbar and crashed through the family’s dining room window.“I didn’t conceive it would go that far,” Robert Goldenberg said.Other rink owners have taken extra precautions. Brian Cook, 42, known in his Wisconsin neighborhood for his elaborate Christmas light displays, consulted an insurance agent about opening his four-year-old rink to people outside his family this winter. After answering questions from an underwriter, he took out a $1 million umbrella policy. He welcomes friends and children from around the neighborhood.“I have to make sure my butt’s covered to where I don’t lose my house because someone had a major concussion on my ice,” said Cook, who offers visitors skates, in a variety of sizes, that he has collected over the years.To alert skaters to possible trouble, Klueg places orange cones by soft spots on his ice. His house rules include a ban on body checking.Klueg has considered more renovations to his 13-acre plot. His wish list includes a 50-ton chiller with 8,400 square feet of refrigeration mats that would keep the ice frozen even when the temperature reaches 50 degrees. He estimated that he had poured $10,000 into his rinks over the years.Between shifts during a recent game, he envisioned his barn as a heated bay where he could park his ice resurfacing machine.“Next year,” he said.
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Seven final poker quotes to inspire you
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When it’s played right, poker should inspire everyone at the table, win or lose. Of course it’s nice to walk away from the felt a winner, but it shouldn’t define your mood. If it does, maybe you’re in the wrong game.Better a rye smile and a few funny words than anything is our motto and it’s with that spirit in mind that we present to you seven final quotes from the great game to inspire your own week at the felt.Let’s get the lesson on!1. “People would be surprised to know how much I learned about prayer from playing poker.”Mary Austin makes the surprise call about a player’s beliefs at the poker table. Have you ever been all-in against an opponent and they’ve called upon ‘The Poker Gods’ to save them despite veering between only agnostic or downright atheist? This isn’t uncommon in real life, actually. In times of peril, many people will summon a higher power for help having previously never believed. We think any God might be quite busy saving the starving and hungry to assist in preventing that one-outer landing on the river, but what do we know?2. “If you play bridge badly you make your partner suffer, but if you play poker badly you make everybody happy.”Joe Laurie Jr. hits the nail on the head, as in poker it really is you against the world. If the world wins, then they want you back at the table as soon as possible. If you win, well you’re happy. It sounds like the easiest thing to be a winner at poker, but it is of course, very difficult. Getting to know how your table (and in microcosm, the poker world) plays, is of course, key. There’s no way around playing at the felt to do this, so stay sharp by staying at the table.3. “Even Jesus wouldn’t bet all of his chips on a Jack-three.”Phil Gordon is inclined to believe that Jesus would have been tight-aggressive or at the very least tight-passive and who are we to disagree. What would Jesus’ favourite hands be? Well it’s hard to look past the son of God set-mining with the cowboys in order to get three kings – that would be the Jesus play. It’s unlikely he’d even call the flop with pocket sixes for fear of landing the hand of the devil – 666.4. “I was tired, a little the worse for drink, jet lagged and light-headed – four out of four conditions in which one should certainly not play poker in Las Vegas.”There aren’t many people we respect more in poker than Anthony Holden, who is better health than he has enjoyed recently, spoke to us way back in 2012 at the inaugural IFP poker event at the Rotunda in London.If you haven’t read Anthony Holdens seminal poker book Big Deal, then read our review of it right here and make it your next poker purchase – it’s wonderful.5. “Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead.”Jackie Robinson is bang right about one of the most important things to remember about playing poker and quitting while you’re ahead. No-one wins forever in poker, but those who learn to walk away from the table with profit on a consistent basis win the long game. In the end, the only battle is with yourself.6. “Last night I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.”Steven Wright with one of the funniest lines about poker ever written. Just the visualization of a home game with Tarot cards is enough to make us chuckle, but if you get tired of poker, you can always look at our article we published over Christmas which talks about other card games you might like to play. 7. “The next best thing about gambling and winning is gambling and losing.”Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandalos had an appetite for gambling that was insatiable and he knew that win or lose, if you’re taking part, you’re enjoying it to some extent. Poker is like that and if you’re in a chair, virtual or otherwise, you can have fun.If you’re playing poker tonight, then enjoy it! It’s enormous fun and should be enjoyed whenever you sit down to play. We hope that you’ve loved this look at some of the best quotes from the world of poker as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together.
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