Sunday, July 24, 2016

Update from Somewhere South of Chicago

Just a quick life update since I have not been posting with any regularity lately.

I have been feeling pretty good the past week after having some weeks where I felt like total crap. I am sure that a decent amount of it was due to mourning the loss of my mother and some of the associated difficulties surrounding that. The next part will be challenging as I deal with the aftermath of the passing. I hope to consult with a specialist attorney this next week to make some progress in terms of my mother's estate. I don't want to go into any detail here, but some things in my future are likely to be a real pain in the butt.

A hopeful thing family-wise is that my wife has a job interview tomorrow. We have great hopes that she will be offered the position. The job would likely not be as ideal (except for the supervisor) as the last one, but she would possibly receive a 20-25% bump in pay, which certainly would make me happy!

I have this coming week off before work hits its extremely busy time and my life becomes challenging. thundering36 and I will be going to two White Sox-Cubs games this week, one at The Cell and one at Wrigley Field. The trip might also include an overnight stay at Harrah's Joliet.

My 2016 poker success seems to continue to go up and down. My last session I played some $1/2 Pot Limit Omaha. It was amazing how much more I felt the need to concentrate on the play. However, I learned a lot and will be better equipped to play it the next time. I dumped a little in Omaha and a little in $1/2 NL Hold 'em. I was embarrassed to need some slot luck to mitigate my losses.

My next Las Vegas trip is set for August 26-31. I plan to take my wife with this trip (a rare occurrence), but if she gets the teaching job she is interviewing for, I will have to go solo (unless thundering36 begs to go along)!

In the meantime, I will continue to keep up on social media sites and get ready for the work dog days of August.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

28 Years Ago Today ...

... I was fortunate enough to get married to a woman who learned to put up with all my bullshit over the years. But what was that time really like?

Our wedding was scheduled for a Saturday at noon. We were both living in Springfield, IL at the time, with most of my family living in west suburban Chicago and most of my wife's family living in northern Wisconsin. Everything seemed to be planned out pretty well. My big night was the Thursday before -- my bachelor party.

I got together with a group of my friends and we hit the bars. There was a late night stop at Deja Vu, the local strip joint that at least promised you a chance of getting out and back home alive. I knew I was pretty drunk when one one the dancers came up to me and asked me for money ... and I actually got out my wallet. As I opened it up she was saying "Yeah - there's a ten. That good." The strippers did their usual bachelor party routine -- got me up on stage, had me take my shirt off, and then danced around me and rubbed up against me. I still have a polaroid picture somewhere. It ended up being a really fun night. And then there was Friday.

Oh my goodness! I had never felt so sick in my life. My family was coming into town for the rehearsal dinner and I felt totally like crap. I couldn't help with much of anything. The only thing I had to eat the entire day was a chicken leg. To make matters worse, my tux didn't fit properly and I had to have it altered. It would be ready for me -- when the store opened up the next morning at 10:00 a.m.! So I had to hope that my pants fit correctly and was picking them up two hours before the wedding. Sheesh!

On Saturday morning, I was pretty friggin' nervous, as you might guess. I decided to go to the tux rental store at 9:15 a.m. just to keep my anxiety level down. Around 9:30, a guy came to work at the shop. He said "I had a feeling you'd be waiting for me, so I came in early." Dang -- what a life saver. I got my pants and headed back to my house. My younger brother, Dan, was in stitches because I was so nervous. I was pacing back and forth, which surprised him because he always saw me as being calm in almost any circumstances.

Once we got to the church, two of my friends -- college students at the two-year school I worked at -- told me that there was a car that was running right outside the church in case I wanted to make a last-minute dash for freedom. It was tempting!

The wedding ceremony, which was a Catholic mass, took just over an hour, as I recall. There is one part of the ceremony where the bride goes in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin, kneels and prays for guidance in being a good wife. She seemed to be there forever. Of course, my friends all kidded me afterward, saying that she needed the extra time since I was such a dick!

We had a reception for about 300 people. There were lots of relatives and many of the students that I worked with on a daily basis. Still not feeling right, I had nothing to eat at my own wedding reception. The guests all got a great bonus because there was a mistake in the food order. Instead of having fried chicken and beef for 300 people, we had fried chicken for 300 people and roast beef for 300 people. Everyone at the reception was able to take home a big plate of food if they wanted.

After the reception, there was the tricky matter of getting to our hotel for the wedding night. One of my friends was determined to mess with us that night, so I had reservations made at several hotels in town, then canceled all but one right after the reception. I borrowed my Dad's car so that my friends couldn't find me by looking for my car. I thought I had all my bases covered. We checked into the Ramada Renaissance Hotel at had a room reserved on one of the upper floors -- the nice limited access section. We opened the door of our room, and within 30 seconds our phone was already ringing. Shit! The hotel operator told us that we had a message from a Mr. E. E. Springs. My bride said "What?" I replied "That is Sharp (my friend) trying to be funny. As in the noise of the bed springs during sex is ee ... ee ... ee."

We told hotel security that we were not accepting guests under any circumstances and that they should feel free to kick out people who came looking for us downstairs. Sharp, who was a relatively new attorney, was paranoid about being involved in "moral turpitude," and paraded the group out of the building. From our 19th floor room we could see our disappointed friends heading back to their cars!

We ordered room service, as I was finally able to eat. In about 48 hours all that I had to eat was that solitary chicken leg, so I was starving, as you might expect.

So, fast forward 28 years, three kids, lots of great memories and our share of difficult and challenging times. That's where we are today. We went out for breakfast and are going out to a popular steak house for dinner tonight. Hopefully, our health and good times will continue over the next several years. As I did 28 years ago, I consider myself a pretty lucky guy.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Finally ... I Am Back

I can't believe that it has been almost three weeks since my last post. At that time, my family was waiting for my mother to pass. Unbelievably, after being admitted to the hospice inpatient center and essentially being ready to die, my mother lived for a week without food and water. It was a very difficult time for my family, as you might understand. Thankfully, she finally passed away on Thursday, June 16. My wife and I were hoping that she would not pass on the 17th, which is my son's birthday.

I came back home on Friday the 17th, but was too physically and emotionally drained for us to go out for my son's birthday that night. Instead, we went out Saturday night for an all you can eat Korean BBQ dinner. This was the selection by my son, a foodie who greatly enjoyed the night.

My mom's visitation was Monday, June 19 late afternoon and evening, and her funeral and burial was the next morning/afternoon. I was fortunate to have several of my close friends from work come up for one or the other, and was able to reconnect with many of my cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives I had not seen for ages. It is amazing how time flies.

I also got in several poker sessions at Harrah's Joliet and Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria over the past two weeks, and showed a nice profit for them. I was back at work for one week, which was quite a struggle. I feel like I have been living in a fog the past week. I have made dumb mistakes like forgetting to sign a check and adding up two numbers wrong. I hope I am out of the fog or at least almost there.

I have a number of things hanging over my head, and was hoping to get away next week. I just don't know if the time is right yet. I already cancelled a trip to Las Vegas from last month and also a trip that I was taking to New Orleans with my wife. She is vacationing in Arizona right now, so I do have some leeway in what to do. I planned to do some things with my kids, but right now I just seem to be living in a big bubble of indecision.

Such has been my life the past three weeks and extending to six weeks. You know it has been bad when a flooded basement can't crack the top two list of bad things that have recently happened to you.

And once again, a huge THANK YOU for my friends who connected with me in one way or another during the previous difficult three weeks. I feel fortunate to have so many friends I have met in person and/or virtually due to poker and my blog. I heard from a lot of my current friends and also many whom I do not interact with much anymore. I am also fortunate to have a great job and to work with many wonderful people. All this made the recent downswing in my life much easier to handle.

So ... it is time to turn the corner and start resuming some semblance of my regular life. The journey continues, although with a little less enthusiasm, at least for now.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

When Minutes Move Slowly ...

I just got back home after being away for two days. This is certainly one of those times when life is a challenge.

As many of you know, my mother is 90 and has been teetering on the edge health-wise. My brother, thundering36, had her admitted to a hospice house early last week since she seemed to be having some major problems. I worked half a day on Friday and got in my car later that afternoon to take the ride up north. I had only gotten a few blocks from home and was texting thundering36 that I was on my way. He returned my message, saying that I needed to come to the hospice house immediately. I drove back home, had my wife pack her things, and the two of us drove up to see my mom.

Unfortunately, the inevitable will soon happen. My mom is going to die. Now it is just a matter of coping and waiting. I can't begin to describe what it is like seeing your mother winding down, just biding time while her body begins to shut down and she will take her last breath. In what now appears to be a fortunate twist, I had experienced seeing this once before when my father-in-law passed away. All you can do is try to make the person comfortable in his or her last days or hours. It is an extremely emotional time with lots of crying, kissing, stroking of hair. And as much as it hurts, you pray that things end quickly with as little suffering as possible.

I am grateful for the many supportive messages I have received from blog readers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, poker acquaintances and friends in general. Believe me, it helps. It also helps me to follow the exploits of friends on twitter or in their blogs to keep myself grounded in the rest of the world instead of being trapped with no outlet in the horrible situation I am forced to be in.

My mother is stubbornly fighting death. And I always thought that I received that trait from my father. There is no way of knowing how long she will last, so my wife and I decided to drive back home for tonight and spend a night in our own bed. Based on a talk with a hospice nurse, it seemed that tonight was a good time to sneak home. She, of course, told us there were no guarantees that my mom would not die this evening or in the early morning hours. I replied that I am a gambler and was just wanting to play on the right side of the odds!

So this month has started out just about as badly as a month could. My wife was informed that she will not be rehired back into her job next school year and was let go with a degree of callousness that I could likely not touch even in my most horrible times. Our sump pump malfunctioned when somehow a stick got caught in it, flooding our basement. I canceled a spur of the moment trip I planned for Las Vegas last week and had to cancel the vacation to New Orleans that my wife and I were taking this coming week. And now we wait for my mother to pass.

Once again, thanks to my friends, near and far, in person or via electronic, computer or social media, who have reached out to me. It helps -- it really does.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Decisively Indecisive

I am usually a believer in a sort of Karma that if things are meant to happen, everything just seems to fall into place. With that in mind, I got a wild hair to go back to Las Vegas after seeing all the excitement with the WSOP's first event. Flight reservations were made, a hotel room was booked, and I even decided to extend the stay an extra night. Everything seemed to be going well, but then ...

Boom -- everything seems to be falling apart. Even between the beginning of this post late at night and the continuation the following afternoon, it just looks like the Karma is just not right. So today I am fighting an internal battle with myself. I will probably make a decision by the end of the work day.

In general poker news, I played at Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL last weekend. I was doing well until the big hand. I was UTG and looked down to see AA. I raised to $12. Unfortunately, there were several callers. However, Dan, an extremely tight player, was the last to act. He went all in. Yowsa! I had somewhere in the area of $450 behind and Dan had maybe $300. I went all in. Everyone except for one shortie immediately folded. He thought about it and also folded. Either Dan or his wife, Sheri, who was also sitting at the table, asked "Do you have Aces?" I replied yes, and Dan muttered that he had Kings (as opposed to the dreaded pocket kings). As expected, the flop brought a King, leaving me only two outs. They didn't come, so instead of having a stack of around $700-800, I had a single stack of redbirds. Thank you, poker gods. About a half hour later, they finished me off when I flopped trip Jacks with a 10 kicker. The table lucksack stayed in the hand with me after my flop bet, so I pushed all in after the turn, a 6c. He said "You're not gonna like this" and tabled his hand -- J-6! That was it for me. I headed out to the parking lot to drive home.

Earlier this week, I had to drop my youngest daughter off on the east side of Chicago. With Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond only a 15-20 drive away, there was an easy decision to make. Of course I went to Indiana! Unfortunately, my drive on the Chicago Skyway (toll road that goes around Lake Michigan and into Indiana) was nasty as rain came down like you wouldn't believe. I got into The Shoe and headed to the men's room. The floor in there was wet, and immediately I was on my back. What a start!

After about a half hour wait, a new table opened and I was seated. The most memorable hand was when I flopped top two with Q-J. The turn was a Qc, which, unfortunately, completed the club nut flush draw for another player. Can you say stacked? I had a nice session at The Shoe, which took some of the sting out of the nasty session at Par-A-Dice a few days earlier.

So ... we shall see what my next move is. For my friends who are playing in any WSOP events -- best o' luck!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Chillin' Out on Memorial Day Weekend

My Father, a World War II veteran, is on the left
For any readers who have served in the United States military, a huge THANK YOU! Enjoy this weekend and know that people across the country respect and admire the sacrifice you made.
Unfortunately, family news was not great this week. My wife, an extremely talented teacher, was not rehired for the next school year. No reason was even given, and the real reason appears to be that the principal of the school never liked my wife from the get go for some unknown reason. The way Mrs. lightning was treated by her supervisor the past few years was abysmal. The way she was let go was horrendous -- being told that she was an at-will employee and that she needed to get her office area cleaned out by the end of the day, which happened to be the last day of the school year. Sadly, this all happened in a private, religious school. There is a lot more to the story, which I decline to post here, and I will be following up with our church's (soon to be ex-church, I am pretty sure) pastor, and likely some higher up the religious organizational food chain.
My wife, as you might expect, was hurt beyond belief at the way things went down. I am considering bringing a stapler with me to church tomorrow and doing my best imitation of TBC after a suckout.
The weather is meh today -- overcast, windy, rain ready to fall -- so I might head to the boat to play some poker. I went to Harrah's Joliet last weekend and had two big losses -- one when the agro guy at the table called my all in with the nut flush draw and hit it on the river, turning what should have been a $700+ stack into nothing, and a second loss when I pushed my Big Slick into Pocket Rockets. The second one was really my fault. Such is poker.
If I have time this weekend, and pending new developments this weekend, I will make a post regarding the current huge story in poker -- Dr. Jaclynn Moskow's allegations of sexual harassment at Poker Night in America. The story has been fascinating.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Las Vegas Trip: Final Chapter

I have already been chastised by Alysia Chang for omitting details in my blog -- like it was really necessary to report that she said my brother is cute? But I did neglect, in my late-night fatigue while writing my last post, to mention an interesting situation that happened when I was on my way to cash out at MGM on the Thursday night of my trip. There was a long line at the poker cage, so I walked toward the cashier station that wasn't too far away. Before I got there, however, clumsy me almost dropped a rack of chip and had redbirds flying on the ground. I picked them up but was short several. An MGM employee saw me and helped look with his flashlight. We found them all -- except one.

As we continued to search, a woman at a slot machine asked me what I had lost. I told her that I had dropped a bunch of redbirds and had found all but one. She said "I found one" and dove into her purse to return it to me.

I cashed out, but kept a $1 chip. I walked over to the woman, thanked her and handed her the $1 chip, saying "Please keep this for good luck." Later on, I heard that a woman won a $1,000,000 jackpot on slots that night at MGM. Do you think?

Anyway, back to Hooters.
I made my Orbitz reservation less than five minutes before I entered Hooters. They told me it would take about 15 minutes for the reservation to show up in their system. That was accurate.

The room had Hooters colors. They try to make the casino and hotel look kind of rustic with a lot of unstained wood. But ... the room did have bottled water (I was going to say "free," but that pesky resort fee, you know) and Keurig coffee pods.
After checking in I headed across the street to MGM. So yes - I would definitely recommend Hooters as a decent place to stay if you wanted your base to be on the south side of the strip.

At MGM, I was able to complete my second promo card ... on the third try for my black flush. The session was another winner.
I decided to cash out and grab a comped meal at Hecho en Vegas Mexican Grill and Cantina in MGM.
Enchiladas Banderas
After dinner, I headed back to the MGM poker room. I was fortunate to sit next to a smoking hot Aussie babe and was at a table with obnoxious guys. One guy got really drunk and was fascinated with the blond massage gal ( I preferred the ginger one - ruffff!). She was giving a long massage to a guy at the table when she suddenly said to the drunk guy "You're making me very uncomfortable staring at my ass." The guy then asked the floor, Frank, to come over while he complained about the massage gal. He apparently stared at her more, bringing a visit from another member of the staff who had a long talk with the guy. Good times.
Michelle tweeted that she was going from Bally's to Aria, so I decided to cash out that late night session at about even and toss some cards with Michelle during my last session. The table I started out at was nitty, unfortunately, as I got AA, AK, QQ and AQ all in the first half hour but only showed about a $40 profit. Michelle's table had more action, so I transferred there. After getting no cards for several orbits (Michelle may remember things a little better here as I was getting fatigued), I limped in or called a small raise with A-3 hearts. The flop was Q-2-4 with two hearts. One of the short stacks went all in for around $75. A big stack called. What to do? Maybe it was the hour, the success on the trip, the feeling that I would hit my flush, the urge to gambol some and win big or go home -- I don't know, but I shoved all in for $300+. The big stack called and I gulped. The turn was a ... brick. The river was a ... brick. The big stack flipped over Q-2 for a flopped two pair. Yuck -- felted. I decided to call it a night.
Walking back to Hooters via the Monte Carlo, I passed a lady of the night who asked "Why are you alone, Mister?" I chuckled and moved on. Had she only known that I would have been willing to procure her services for ... $5 ... lol.
On Saturday morning I checked out of Hooters and had a late breakfast with Alysia before heading to the airport. Now normally this would be the end of anything halfway interesting, right? Well ... it was a short time before my SW flight was ready to board. And ... my flight was overbooked by three people. Southwest asked for volunteers to be voluntarily bumped and I shot to the gate station. It turned out that I was indeed bumped. How sweet was the deal? My original flight left a half hour later than scheduled. I got on a flight that got me to the airport only one hour later. My compensation for the one hour inconvenience: a travel voucher worth the full unrestricted fare for the trip. Score!
Once on the plane, I met the coolest flight attendant ever:

Once I was back in Chicago, I picked up my car and headed for home. A stop at Portillo's ...
... and I was good to go for the rest of the ride home.
In summary: one heck of a trip -- a solid A grade. Who could ask for much more?