Sunday, July 05, 2015

Struggling with Letting Go

Dealing with negative things in life is never easy. I have found, however, that having negative experiences sometimes prepares you to handle other difficult tasks. At least that was the lesson I learned several years ago from my pastor, Fr. Tony Trosley.

I was at a very difficult time in my life, struggling with a personal situation that was tearing me apart inside. It may sound kind of funny, but being a professional counselor, I choose NOT to see a counselor when faced with some struggle in my life. Instead, being Roman Catholic, I seek out a priest. The combination of counseling and religion has been most effective in helping me deal with my struggles.

Anyway, in trying to discern some meaning from the horrible thing that was happening in my life, Fr. Trosley speculated that perhaps God was preparing me -- toughening me up, getting me equipped and ready -- to handle a bigger challenge in my life.

I was able to get past the situation in my life, but not without much pain, reflection, prayer and sometimes just driving in my car, blasting out a particular favorite CD, and screaming my head off. But I made it.

Shortly thereafter, I was confronted with two extreme challenges in my life: coping with the sickness and subsequent death of my best buddy at work, Norm, and dealing with the death of my father. Although living with my dad's death was certainly hurtful and traumatic, there was a sense of toughness and calm that I can only attribute to Fr. Trosley and his wise speculation. I like to think that this God that we speculate about, argue about, sometimes kill about, took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to show a little mercy and guidance to this humble guy who was faced with some terrible realities.

I hadn't thought about this much recently until the convergence of a few things hit me like a brick tonight. After going to Anime Midwest, I stopped at the hospital to see my mother. Her health has been up and down as she struggles toward her 90th birthday in October. My brother, thundering36, who has been struggling to take care of her, has had to deal with the difficult decision of when to begin our mom in hospice care. It is difficult because of the ups and downs. Regardless of exactly when it will come, we know that day is fast approaching.

At my home, we are struggling with whether or not to put our long-time family dog, Ginger, to sleep. Ginger has been suffering from Canine Cushings Disease for several years. Lately, however, she has been dealing with other medical issues. Tonight when we came home from the Chicago area, it seemed like, as we had been thinking about, it might be time to let Ginger go. We will be talking with our family vet tomorrow.

While looking up information on the internet and shedding a few tears, I was struck by the notion that I am about to go through a situation similar to the one I mentioned earlier. Is the loss of a long-time cherished family pet the event designed by God to prepare me to handle the loss of my mother?

The life may seem good on the outside -- poker, vacations, a nice job and great family. On the inside, however, the heart is breaking.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

It's Time for Anime Midwest 2015

Hey there! By this time, you should know who's writing the post today- lightning's gorgeous (and humble) daughter! My dad hasn't made a post about it yet, but I've decided to take the reins and talk to you about Anime Midwest 2015!

If you've read my dad's previous blog posts, you'll know that this will be the third Anime Midwest I've gone to, as well as the fifth convention in total. Other reviews of conventions can be found in the archives of the blog.

The convention start tomorrow, and I'm going to be meeting several other friends at the center to help the review. Unlike previous reviews, I plan to talk in-depth about all three days. I've got even bigger plans for this convention than last year, so be sure to look around sometime after July 5th to see what went down.

See you soon!

Anime Midwest 2015
July 3 - 5
Hyatt Rosemont & Stephens Convention Center
Rosemont, IL

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Tripping Reno with Tony Bigcharles

On Tuesday, June 23, the Phoenix leg of my trip came to a close and I got ready to fly into Reno. The afternoon flight was great -- at least what little I remember of it. I snoozed almost the entire time. After we landed in Reno, I got my suitcase and picked up the car from Hertz that I had gotten through Priceline: a Toyota Yaris. Meh.

The trip to the downtown Harrah's Reno was quick. Reno is smaller than I imagined. Harrah's Reno seemed dead, and I appeared to be one of the younger patrons. I can't even tell you much about the hotel since I spent so little time in it. However, I was frosted to find out that, despite paying the famous Caesars' resort fee, such simple things like coffee and water in my room were not covered. $3 for a bottle of water in the room? $1.50 for each K Cup of coffee? No thanks!

I headed to Peppermill to play some poker with Tony Bigcharles. The plan was to head to a buffet for dinner. Tony told me that he would cover my buffet with comps. Sweet!

I was getting hungry as the evening wore on, but Tony wasn't and the game was good, so we played on. Early in the evening, I woke up to find that I was dealt pocket Aces. I raised and Tony stayed in the hand. I remember the hand a little differently than Tony. In my mind, the flop was A-8-9 -- I had flopped top set. Tony remembers the flop as A-9-2. Tony started going through his usual jabbering about the hand, and all the guys at the table, who I am sure were tired of his talk, watched the hand closely. It was pretty obvious who they were rooting for in the hand. I raised and Tony talked and talked. I just kept quiet. Tony remembers an 8 on the turn, which gave him two pair. I remember him already having two pair on the flop. Whatever.

The jabbering continued, and I had no idea that Tony was that strong. He told me that he considered shoving on the turn, which would have been sweet to the tune of over $300 from the sockroll. However, he held back. The river was an Ace, giving me quads. Fortunately for Tony, the card scared him off and he folded instead of shoving to my raise. He still jabbered on why I was silent, and all the guys at the table had a chuckle when he tabled his two pair and then saw that I had quads. The quads were good for an immediate $75 high hand bonus, and it held up several hours later to give me an extra $100 for the top hand, 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

We headed out for the Grand Sierra Resort, where Tony could pick up a free buffet pass for that night and would buy mine with his comps, which he remembered being around $50. He was shocked to find that his comp balance was ... 72 cents! While he tried to rectify the situation with the GSR players club personnel, I got concerned that we would not get in the buffet by its 9:00 closing time. Tony's situation stayed unresolved and we got to the buffet at 8:50 only to find that they shut off the line early due to lack of seating.  Dang! So instead, I drove us to Denny's where we ate instead.

We went back to Peppermill for more poker and I picked up my $100 bonus. I continued to have some success on the slots as my trip continued, and even had this fun shot from a Pete P. Peters favorite game, Miss Kitty.
Yep -- those sticky wilds in the bonus game are fun -- especially when 13 of the 20 spots are already wild. Meow!

Wednesday was pretty much more of the same -- poker, poker and more poker. However, Wednesday was just one of those days when things did not go right. For example, I raised with A-Q and got a few callers. The flop was Queen high with two rags. One guy stayed with me and my raises  preflop, after the flop, and after the turn. What could he have? I was concerned I was just playing right into his hands. The river seemed to be an innocent looking deuce. Only this time, when I raised on the river, he re-popped me. I called. He showed Q-2! What? He called all my bets with top pair worst kicker and then sucked out on the river? That was pretty much how the entire day went.

Mr. Bigcharles himself donked me in a hand. Sorry, but with a week having gone by and my life being filled with many challenges at work and in my personal life, many of the details are lost. But as I recall, I raised with A-K, Tony called and stayed along, then hit a flush on the river. What I mostly remember is that I had had a really rough poker day and was really pissed at the beat. I was looking for the nearest stapler to throw, but not seeing one, laid into Tony pretty good. I think he was a bit surprised that I got so angry in losing a hand. Hmmm ... perhaps his play-by-play chatter had something to do with it?

I was finally able to meet Tony's friend Karen, with whom I had exchanged texts and messages the past several weeks. Like many of the people I have met who try to help Tony, Karen was great! Sometimes I think that Tony has no idea how much some people are trying to help him.

Thursday was the day we planned to go to Lake Tahoe. We headed out early in the afternoon on a wonderful day. Some pictures on the way to the lake:

We got to the lake and were ready to start driving around it, but Tony suggested that we visit a couple of casinos first -- the Tahoe Biltmore and the Crystal Bay Casino. What is a degenerate gambler to do? So naturally, we turned right instead of left and headed to the casinos. I was quite surprised to see what the Tahoe Biltmore looked like. I was thinking that perhaps, being on Lake Tahoe, it would look like the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL...

... or perhaps the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, it was not quite what I expected:
Tony directed me across the street to the Crystal Bay Casino, where I could take advantage of its ATM promotion, while Tony went to play one of dem GOOD machines -- a video blackjack machine -- at the Biltmore. I ran $50 in free play through the Enchanted Unicorn and Konami Lotus Land: Tiger's Winnings slot machines, profiting $115. Not bad! Afterwards, we ate lunch at the Biltmore Café , mostly on Tony's comps, then headed around Lake Tahoe. A few pictures of the lake:

The pictures really don't do it justice. It was very pretty and populated by tons of people stopping their cars along the lake and wading in it or sunning themselves on the shore. I am ashamed to say that I passed up my chance to dump Tony's body in the water and steal his sweet, sweet sockroll. I guess I will just have to continue going through life as a poor man.

After driving several miles around the lake, we headed to Carson City, where I was hoping to check out the Nevada State Museum. Unfortunately, we got there a little bit before it was closing. I really wanted to visit the gift shop, but as with the buffet at GSR, the doors were locked EARLY. Dang! We stopped in the little casinos in the downtown area (this is where the picture of Tony next to the Batmobile was taken) and then headed back to Reno and the Peppermill.

There were a couple of hands that final night that put a damper on the trip. In one, I got Pocket Rockets on the button and put out a $20 raise. I got one caller. He was a youngish Asian guy who was with a guy closer to my age. They hadn't played for too long and I didn't have a great read on him.  The flop was 10-3-6 with two Spades. I put the guy on a flush draw and was quite surprised when he re-raised my $35 bet after the flop to $100. I had about $450 to his $300 (prior to the hand) and I pushed all in. He tanked for a bit (high card on the flop was a 10, and I didn't put him on a set because of the re-raise), then called. The turn was a blank and the river was a spade. He flipped over his cards to show 4s-5s -- a flush draw and an open ended straight draw after the flop. My stack - decimated. I just got up from the table and headed toward a Miss Kitty game to lick my wounds.

I returned and built my stack back up. A few hours later, after the table was broken and I was playing with mostly new people, I had the most heartbreaking hand of the trip. A player from a $3/5 table came over with a decent stack, and he was pretty aggressive. I was waiting for my chance. I attempted to limp in with pocket 6's and he raised to $16. I called. The flop: a beautiful 2-2-6! I hollywooded a bit and got him to shove all in, which I happily called. He showed pocket Queens - sweet! Until the river, that is. He binked a Queen on the river to win a pot of about $700 that was within my grasp. How devastating. I played for a bit longer but didn't have the heart after that. Besides, I had played through the night and had to check out of my hotel room in a few hours anyway.

Tony, who had left the game earlier to catch a few hours of sleep, amazing reappeared in the wee hours of the morning and was there to join me for breakfast -- which he paid for! Afterwards, he gave me an agreed upon $50 toward my car rental costs (the lightning36 cab company has reasonable rates!) and I headed back to my hotel room to get one hour of sleep. Before I left town, I stopped by Peppermill to tell Mike, the poker room manager, what a great room he ran. I really enjoyed playing there.

So ... although I took it on the china few times in the poker room, I had a great time playing poker and visiting with Tony. I only wish he could change some of his behaviors when playing poker -- namely constantly chattering about hands, goading people and showing his bluffs. I am convinced he loses more than he will ever realize by playing that way. But, as we all know, Tony's gonna Tony.

Is Reno worth a visit? Well, aside from Peppermill, I briefly played at Atlantis. One table of $1/2 going there. Meh. Peppermill appears to be the only really good option in town -- certainly not enough to justify a trip there for poker alone.

For my trip to Scottsdale and Reno, I won both at poker and slots in Arizona, and won at slots and lost in poker in Reno. The two big hands I wrote about were the difference between a small profit and a small loss for the trip. N0t exactly what I was shooting for, but the trip was great nevertheless.

Happy gambooling!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Goodbye Scottsdale and On to Reno

I was all set for my final full day in Scottsdale to be a big one. The plan was to play some poker, visit the Arizona State University campus, then play a final round of poker for the day. What was that song Meatloaf sang -- "Two out of three ain't bad?"

My afternoon session saw me booking a small win, thickening up the ol' sock ... ummm, bankroll. It was a good time to leave since the particular table I was at wasn't spewing anyway.

As for ASU ... it was not quite like I thought. It seemed a bit more urban than I imagined. Still, going to school in Tempe would be awfully sweet. In my neck of the woods, ASU has a big rep as a party school.

I got back to Talking Stick for my final sessions of the trip. To put it simply, it was not good. I was seated at a table with two agro guys to my left. I got involved in some pots but never got the kind of flop I needed. I dropped part of a buy in just doing dumb stuff and once getting outkicked on a hand. I asked for a table change, but things only got worse. I got pocket Jacks and raised preflop to $10. I got two callers. The flop came 10-rag-rag. I don't remember it exactly, but the other cards were two lower unconnected numbers. The two callers checked and I bet $20. Surprisingly, one opponent raised me. And then, even more surprisingly, he was re-raised. Did I have the worst hand of the three of us? I was guessing that at least one or maybe two were ahead of me, so I folded to the two check raises. They ended up getting it all in. The guy who pushed flopped two pair -- or at least he said so. He was a pretty solid player, so I believed him. The other guy, unfortunately, flopped a set of 10's.

Later on I was getting frustrated with a number of things, as was the player to my left, who was losing chips in a hurry and getting pissed. He straddled my big blind a few times and always raised the straddle, and finally I got pissed. He was down to under $100 when I saw A-9 sooted in the big blind which, of course, he straddled. I called the straddle and, on cue, he raised $10 or !15. I was almost sure I was ahead with an Ace so I just thought "screw it" and immediately put out a big stack of chips. Didn't even count. Then, to my surprise, he called. Ummmmm ... I wasn't expecting that. There was a 9 on the flop, so I was thinking I was good. Turn was a blank but the river was a King. Did I just get rivered? I announced that I had a pair of 9's and flipped over my cards. He mucked and left the table.

So ... was that a foolish play on my part? It came from frustration, but I also knew he was frustrated and didn't believe his straddle bet. I didn't expect the call, however, but I might have been good even without catching the 9 on the flop.

The evening ended when I was in the small blind with 9-6. There were  a few limpers and I completed the blind to $3. The big blind then raised to $8. He was a relatively new player in the game and I had little information on him. I decided to throw in a redbird since I was already in for $3 and there were others n the hand. The flop: 7-8-10! I flopped the ass end of a straight. Unfortunately, the big blind flopped a set of 8's and wasn't going anywhere. He called a big bet on the turn ( a 6 -- and I thought that he had the same straight that I did now) and the river, unfortunately, paired the board. I pushed my remaining chips in the middle only to see that ... he quaded up on the river. Boom - one buy in plus and I was felted. Nothing seemed to be going right that evening, so I figured it was just time to leave and prepare for the next leg of the trip. I still finished ahead for the trip, but surely didn't like the bite that was taken from my profits on my final session.

In about five hours I leave for Reno, where I am sure to have some poker stories to tell as I hit the tables there with Tony Bigcharles. I have never been to Reno before, so this should be kind of fun.

Just in some miscellaneous news, I need to make a decision on a beard. I had a beard for 30 years and shaved it off a few years ago since I didn't like all the white hair in it. I started growing it back but am thinking the same thing again. My wife, however, like me with a beard. What to do ... Also, I had put on some weight and thought that I looked like a whale in my pictures from Las Vegas. When I got back home, I started doing the Ideal Protein diet. I basically have had few carbs in the past 2+ weeks and have radically changed my diet and am drinking tons of water. Pissing every five minutes also, unfortunately. But ... I dropped some weight and am feeling pretty good. I think I'll keep on this direction for a bit longer, at least.

Next post: Reno, baby!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pokering out in Arizona

It is now Monday morning and I have been enjoying my trip to Arizona. The weather has been hot hot hot -- and so has the poker!

Getting out of town was more difficult this trip since I had to work the day before we left -- and stay a little later to make sure everything that needed to be done was done since I was only in my office for 1 1/2 days -- and spent the evening before leaving celebrating my son's 21st birthday. Of course, Mom and Dad were not invited to the party he was hosting for friends!

After flying in, getting my rental car, driving to our friends' house, etc, I didn't think that heading to the casino that night was a good idea. Better to wait until Friday.

It seems like my poker playing has gotten into a bad and familiar pattern. I lose initially, then struggle to catch up, then either win or lose. This trip, unfortunately, began the same way. In my first session at Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale I was at the table of a regular who, I assume, is a guy who is loaded and who just likes to mess with people. He put his money up for grabs but then sucked out or hit crap like you wouldn't believe. I guess I got a little impatient and greedy since I had not been winning many hands. Although he at one time had a big stack, he was enjoying playing short stack ninja with a stack that kept going below $100. One time I called his all in with A-7 sooted. Sounds screwy, right? I knew my Ace would be ahead. He pushed with 10-9 sooted and, of course, binked a 9. Crap. I then was in a hand with him holding J-10 on a Jack-high flop. I checked the flop, he raised, and I pushed all in. He called and, believe it or not, had a set of deuces. I was surprised and frustrated and didn't even know if he flopped the set or hit it on the turn. I was also in a huge hand with a huge draw and missed on both the turn and river, donking off more money. Anyway, I was down to start the trip.

I left the casino to get some lunch and clear my head. I came back for a long session that saw me folding hand after hand. The hole got deeper and I was not happy. I hung out in the slots section afterwards, which was one smoky, crowded madhouse. I was ready to call it a night.

On Saturday morning, Mrs. lightning and I went to breakfast with our hosts. Afterwards, we did a little shopping and just basically enjoyed the morning and early afternoon. Fatigue set in, and I napped away the afternoon. For dinner, my wife and I ate at a Hawaiian restaurant. Afterwards, I went out of my way to find a store where she could get the dessert she craved. But then ... it was time to get things right at Talking Stick, and I did it in a hurry.

I got on the wait list for $2/3 spread (the closest thing to my usual $1/2 NL) and a new table open almost immediately. I bought in for $300 and was ready to go. There was a guy who resembled Poker Grump who blabbered on non-stop. How nice to have constant irritation. At least he didn't play the might 2-4. But I was ready to go.

This day certainly marked a different day. After folding several hands for the first orbit or so, I got AA UTG. I raised and got two callers. The flop was 2-4-5 rainbow. I raised, one caller folded, and another (stack of a little less than $200) called. The turn was a brick. I put out a $100 raise and was called. What? It was a new table, so I had no read on the guy. Had he flopped a straight? The river was a brick. I went all in and he called. I flipped over my Aces and flipped over ... A-4? What? Yowsa! I happily added his chips to mine. He left the table.

Several hands later, I was dealt pocket 3's in middle position. Someone raised to $12 and I came along with a couple of other people. The flop was 3h-6h-Ks! The original raiser made it $25, one person folded, and I repopped to $100 to try to keep out the flush chasers (notice that I said "try" since it seems like players now chase every flush no matter what). Much to my surprise, a guy to my left, who appears to be a good player, pushed all in. Sheeit! He had over $300. The woman who initially raised then mucked, leaving me with a decision for all the chips I had just won plus over $100 more. Was I going to lose to a set of 6's? No way he had Kings or else he would have three bet the flop. There was no way I was going to lay down a set there, so I called. He flipped over 4h-5h for the open ended straight flush draw. Now I had to dodge a ton of outs. The turn was 8s -- one down -- and the river was ...........9c!

So how can luck and circumstances change in poker? The day before I sucked big time and the poker gods pissed on me left and right. Now, after 20-25 minutes of poker, this:
In my mind I was thinking that the poker gods recognized my efforts with my wife's dessert and showed me some sympathy. Unfortunately, after that half hour was over things were back to normal. Nothing of note happened for the rest of the session and I did lose a little of the stack, but I did cash out a nice profit at the session. Back in business, baby!

Yesterday (Sunday) after attending church, Mrs. lightning and I had breakfast at a café that was highly rated on Yelp. I love searching for these hole in the wall places. So ... away from the trapping of the Scottsdale elite, we found a great locals place to eat breakfast. The food was excellent and the service superb -- all from what looked like a junky little diner!

Sunday, however, was the day I designated to lay poker at Wild Horse Pass Casino. On my trip to Phoenix last March I made a killing at Wild Horse. I was hoping for more of the same.

When I checked in they decided to open a new table. My goodness -- the players at it were bad! I wasn't getting cards, but I tried to remain patient. The big hand finally came after an older gentleman sat down. He was the small blind and I was the big blind. Unfortunately for him, he limped or minimum raised his pocket Aces and could not let them go in the despite my re-raises. Fortunately for me, I flopped a straight, and then kept trying to move him out of the hand in case he had a flush draw or flopped a set. Double up time. Yeessssssssssss!

Our table kept getting short handed and the really weak players left, only to be replaced my a couple of agro players and one woman who was a local who appeared to be quite good. It was time to leave. However, there was no way I was going to leave without playing some slots since I had been successful at them last trip. Thanks to the Pegasus game I was waiting about 30 minutes to get on.
Not bad for a 40 cent button mash!
I headed back to Talking Stick for one final session yesterday. I had plenty of ups and downs but won again in poker and slots. You can't ask for much more than that.
This afternoon I plan to drive to the campus of Arizona State University just to look around, and then a session or two at Talking Stick. Tomorrow afternoon I am flying to Reno, where I will be playing some poker with Tony Bigcharles, meeting poker acquaintance Karen and hopefully getting to explore the area at least a little.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer 2015 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part III: A PICTURE OF MR. SUBLIMINAL!

Wednesday, June 3 - Saturday,day, June 6

Wednesday started off with something that would make the day great for me: my favorite meal at P.F. Chang's in Planet Hollywood -- Mongolian Beef. If you haven't tried this dish at P.F. Chang's, you are missing something special.
Being that I was already at Planet Hollywood, I decided to give the poker room a go. Although many people like this room, I never really have liked it. The "poker room" consisted of a bunch of tables right in front of the Earl of Sandwich shop. I guess this was due to the poker tournament series that was going on? I was losing a little and winning a little when I hit a decent streak. It got much better when I flopped a set and a decent player at the table didn't believe I had the goods. Score!

After cashing out a nice profit, I jumped over to the sports book to watch my Chicago Blackhawks face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game one of the Stanley Cup Final. Although the Hawks were behind, two quick goals in the third period gave them the first game. Yowsa!

I then headed to MGM to play some cash games with Rob and to meet and play with Mr. Ben. Although the company was excellent, my poker game seemed a little off. I began receiving a bunch of great hands in the first few orbits -- QQ, AK, QQ, QQ ... I was beginning to look like quite the aggro player. I chipped up but then lost a lot of my winnings when I perhaps overplayed one of the many QQ hands. Ah well ... I lost part of a buy in and left when Rob and Mr. Ben decided to leave.

I then decided to play at PH as I made my way back north up The Strip. Apparently, I had missed all the action of some guys who dusted of a few grand. Some at the table had profited from the bad players and had big stacks. I didn't enjoy the table I was at and should have just left. I ended up eventually dusting off a buy-in when I was outkicked for top pair. I decided to head to my old honey hole, Bally's, which had not been treating me well this trip and the previous one.

Things just got worse at Bally's. The table had some interesting characters. One guy looked to be a younger, thin version of Tony Bigcharles. He apparently got rivered by another guy at the table and wouldn't just forget it. He kept whining for an hour. The guy on my right spoke so loudly that I had to take both of my  hearing aids out. He went on and on about some beautiful young blond girl. And then there was the European guy and the middle aged Asian guy. Such was my late night table.

Eventually the blond came around, and as it turns out, she was the missing player at the table. She was young, very blond, very cute and attractive. She said her name was Starr. I could quickly see bu her play that she knew exactly what she was doing in every poker hand.

There came a point when I had an open-ended straight draw and a massive pot in front of me. The easy thing to do would have been to fold. However, I made the choice to gamble and boom - buy in gone. A short time later there was another opportunity to get in on a big pot with another open ended straight draw. Not feeling lucky the second time, I folded. Of course, the card I needed came on the turn after I folded. Bah! Time to call it a night.

On Thursday afternoon, I entered into a tournament at Treasure Island (TI) with Mr. Ben. After the first break I was dealt pocket Kings in late position. I put out a healthy raise and picked up three callers. The flop was Jack high and one guy went all in. Followed by a second guy. It was only an el cheapo tournament, but I figured "what the heck" and also went all in. A fourth guy joined us. It turned out that the first guy had a set of Jacks. The other hands were as I expected: A-J and 5-5. I lost my stack, and that was that.

I played the cash games at TI for awhile and then decided to go back to Bally's. My run-bad at Bally's continued. One guy chased his flush draw to the river ... and hit, of course. In another hand I flopped two pair, only to be second best to a guy who flopped a straight. Dayum!

At that point it was time to take a break from poker. I met up with Mr. Subliminal, and we devised a plan to raise money for our dinner. Subliminal brought an accordion and I "borrowed" a plastic tub used as a drum from one of the usual Strip vagrants. He was sleeping at the time.

Subliminal and I set up shop on the overpass outside Bellagio. We jammed to an amazing number of tunes from Fur Elise to Uptown Funk. The money just poured in. Despite being lobbied to continue to perform after a third standing ovation, we ditched our instruments in Subliminal's underground lair and headed to the Bellagio Café with our hard earned cashola.

As promised, I am now publishing FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME a picture of Mr. Subliminal. Ready? Drum roll, please ....................................
Of course I am on the RIGHT, u see ...
Subliminal went off to ... ummm ... do what ever Las Vegas homeless guys do when they have a full belly. I, meanwhile, decided to play some $1/2 NL at Bellagio. After getting up about $100 or so, I decided to call it a night -- my last full night in Las Vegas.
On Friday morning I checked out of The LINQ and headed to Mirage to get in a final cash session there since that poker room had been so good to me. It didn't disappoint as a table full of donators kept giving and giving. However, a few crusty old regulars soon entered the game, and I got rivered by one flush chaser for a big pot and was bet off an overpair in another hand. It was time to grab my winnings and go. And go I did, to ... Harrah's! I squeezed in one last session (another short one with a modest profit) while waiting for Rob to pick me up and drive me and my luggage to MGM.
Rob and I ate a final Rob-comped meal at TAP and were joined by none other than Pete P. Peters, who just arrived in town. After finishing our meal, we sat for what would be my final poker session of the trip. Rob and PPP were seated at the same table and I joined them after a short wait to transfer over. A little bit later, Chris Abramski arrived and got a seat, but wasn't able to get to our table before I had to leave.
Time ran out for me and I caught a cab to the airport. I had not taken a redeye flight for many years. It was wonderful! I slept almost the entire trip back to Chicago. Once there, I lounged in the AA Admirals Club, enjoying a leisurely breakfast while I waited for my commuter flight back home Saturday morning.
My oldest daughter picked me up at the airport in my convertible. While away, my wife reloaded hydraulic fuel in the motor for the top, allowing me to enjoy the open air ride on my way back home.
Although I had too many losing sessions to end up on the plus side this trip, I had one great time. My next trip to Las Vegas is already booked for October 4-9, partly to attend a national conference. I imagine that I will be able to somehow work in at least a few minutes of poker. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day of Extreme Emotions

Today is a day that I will long remember. My son, Rick, turned 21. Dinner with the family was at Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works. Rick started off drinking a bloody mary on an empty stomach, then ordered a flight of beers.
He waited on most of the beer until his food came. Used good judgment, eh?

Afterwards, we went back home for a little birthday cake. Rick wanted a carrot cake, and my wife's first from-scratch attempt was a tasty masterpiece.
So it seemed that all was well and good in the world. We were certainly a far cry away from the horrid day just over five years ago when Rick was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. After a successful operation at the Mayo Clinic, he has been cancer free for over five years. For that we are extremely thankful.

I was reminded today of something a resident of my hometown stated on Facebook sometime in the past two years. I had never met the man, but he frequently posted about things in the hometown, the past, family ... you know the routine. Then one day he stopped posting. Friends found out that his twin sons were involved in a serious auto accident. One son died and the other was horribly hurt. I am not sure of that son's status.

After several people posted notes of sympathy and the offering of prayers, the man finally made a post. In it he said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said something to the effect of "Your life can be rolling along, and then suddenly -- in an instant -- everything can change."

This morning I received a phone call from my good friend John who shared some horrible news: Another friend named Brian, who had been the best man at my wedding and with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook after more than twenty years, was in Brazil with his wife to attend a wedding of someone in her family. Brian's stepdaughter was to fly from the U.S.A. and meet them in Brazil. Unfortunately, she was the victim of domestic violence and was strangled to death by her live-in boyfriend. Brian's wife, who had gone to Brazil to share in a family wedding, now had to immediately return home to bury her daughter.

This is not the first time that Brian has had to deal with violence in his life. When Brian was young, his father was the victim of a brutal ax attack. Although his father recovered and lived for several years after the attack, significant brain damage was done, changing his personality from a kind man to one people sought to avoid. Talk about cruel twists of fate.

So even though I was happy to celebrate my son's 21st birthday, I was a sad man today, thinking of my friend, a gentle man who has had to endure more pain in his life than is fair or that I could ever even imagine.

"In an instant -- everything can change." Let's remember to appreciate what we have today, for there are no guarantees for tomorrow.