TABLE TALK

John Granato: Comparing Houston's sports teams and stars to poker chip stacks

Yes, Jose Altuve started with...you guessed it, a short stack. But he is doing just fine now. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

On Wednesday’s show I accidently (or not so accidently) called the Skeeters the first half champions and second half chip leaders. Lance started naming our town’s sports chip leaders. I thought I might break that down a little further by category.

The Team Poker Tournament

The Astros are far and away our chip leaders. They won a bracelet last year and their good fortune has continued this year. They always seem to have an ace in their hand and come up with clutch flops all the time. They’ve had some bumps in the road. They’re shaky on the river. You never know if they can hold on even when they’ve got a big lead in a hand but even with some misplays that they would like to punch themselves in the face over, they are still clearly the team to beat.

The Rockets have a nice stack as well. They won two bracelets in the 90’s and after a long dry spell they looked like they’d win their third in dominant fashion last year. They made it to the final table and were chip leaders with just one team to beat but they couldn’t close them out. It all fell apart when they got their aces cracked. That hurt badly. After that they misfired on 27 straight pots. Instead of playing more conservatively with the lead they just kept firing away until their stack disappeared and they were left wondering if they could ever win it again.

The Texans are one of the short stacks at the table yet still one of the most popular players. They’re Phil Ivey. Everyone loves to watch them and they get all kinds of attention but they rarely ever win. They have bursts when they go on the offensive and come up with huge hands but they find a way to screw up the betting and come away with small pots. To compound the situation they broke their right hand. After that every bet looked awkward. They tried to bluff with weak hands and no one believed them leaving them with practically nothing. The hand looks like it’s healing though and when it does they could be dangerous, maybe even win a bracelet someday.

The Dynamo are also short stacked. They’ve won bracelets in five stud but look outclassed at this table. Seems like they’ve never been able to compete with the big boys here. Still they have a small but loyal chip stack that never seems to leave them. They could gain some confidence with a lot of people watching the World Cup of Poker this summer. It will always be an uphill battle though. They’d be much better off on the European or South American Poker Tours but they like it here and will continue to compete at the highest level.

The Skeeters clearly don’t belong at this table but they have a chip and a chair and that’s all they want. They are content with a seat at the table and will fight for any small pot they can win. They are by far the scrappiest team at the table. They’ve garnered a lot of respect from the other players even though they don’t have the firepower to compete for bigger pots. They’re not going away anytime soon.

The MVP table

Alex Bregman is this year’s chip leader. He’s burst onto the poker scene and in just a few short years has proven to be the most clutch player in the game. He continues to win big pot after big pot with huge unbelievable cards on the river. He doesn’t have a bracelet yet but he’s the best bet to be our next bracelet winner. The players all love him. He’s a trash talker and isn’t afraid to celebrate wins. He’s gotten into some scraps with fans on the rail talking trash but no one seems to care as long as he keeps coming up clutch he’s going to be the fan favorite.

Jose Altuve is next with a bunch of chips still in play from last year’s bracelet winning performance. He started with the shortest stack in the field. No one thought he could even get into the game but here he is with a win last year and a big stack again this year.

James Harden has the next biggest stack. He won a bracelet last year as well but his struggles on the river continue. Two years ago he folded with the best hand in a big tournament in San Antonio but he bounced back nicely from it thanks to some tips from his buddy Chris Paul. Chris left him though and James reverted back to his old ways in his last tourney and lost a tough one by misplaying his hand late after building a big chip lead. If he figures out how to play the river he’ll be a champion one day.

Justin Verlander is still up there with the best players. He’s the new guy at the table but he’s certainly not new to the game. He came over from the Detroit Poker Tour where he was by far their best player. Everyone loves what he brought to the table. He’s made everyone around him better.  

JJ Watt with his 3 bracelets is still up there among the chip leaders despite not playing a hand in what seems like years. He’s the Doyle Brunson of this group. He’s larger than life. The fans love him but his best days are behind him. Yet here he is with a bunch of chips and the biggest rooting section on the rail.

Deshaun Watson is the biggest wildcard in this field. He hasn’t been playing long but he built up a huge stack with some big hands and then nothing. As an amateur he showed that he can play with anyone finishing runner-up and then winning the college tournament. If he can stay in more hands he is almost certain to be one of the best players in the field but he’s got to prove he can do it over the long haul.

Carlos Correa has been bleeding chips lately. As a younger player he was thought to be the next sure thing but maybe expectations were too high for him. He has unbelievable talent but he sits out way too many hands. You can’t win if you keep folding and Carlos has been folding a bunch. Needs to get back in the game and show what he can do.

George Springer is coming off his first World Series bracelet winning performance but it hasn’t been going well for him lately. He’s taken some big swings at huge pots but come up empty. He can’t keep whiffing on them if he’s going to win another bracelet. The question is how much longer he’ll be at the table. Will he outlast Altuve, Correa and Bregman? There aren’t enough chips for all of them. Who’s the odd man out? We’ll soon see.

Dallas Keuchel is clearly the short stack at the table. He won a bracelet in 2015 but those days are long behind him. He’s been playing better of late but dug himself a huge hole. His problem is he doesn’t play fast enough. The other guys are catching up to his moves and stealing pots from him. He’s slow and steady though and making some nice plays lately. Don’t count him out now but this just may be his last tournament here. Odds are he’s moving on and playing in another game next year.  

 

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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