Thursday, January 17, 2019

Back in Las Vegas Feb 10 - 15

After a long hiatus, I am on track to return to Las Vegas for some cash game poker action February 10-15. This nine-month gap (since last June) between visits is the longest I can remember since I have been making multiple trips to Las Vegas over the most of my adult life. There were a few years when I made as many as five trips to Las Vegas in a year, but more often, I made two, three or four.

A combination of things made the gap this long. I traditionally make a Las Vegas trip right around Labor Day, but chose last year to visit my brother, thundering36, in Australia instead. In recent years, I have also made a few combined Seattle-Phoenix trips (my son lives in Seattle and Phoenix is my proposed retirement area), which lessened my ability to schedule in Las Vegas. And also, to be honest, the "changing" of Las Vegas made traveling there less desirable. The comped rooms I had formerly received from Caesars Entertainment were no longer there. Bullshit resort fees that surpassed $30/night made trips less cost effective. My tier credits on my Caesars Rewards card will be zeroed out at the end of the month, meaning that I would have to pay to park at several casinos, lessening my desire to rent a car. All in all, just more examples of how the way that Las Vegas properties are doing business are turning away people like me. They certainly do not give the impression that they care about recreational low rollers.

So here is my first shout out to friends who live in or will be in Las Vegas the week that I am there. If you'd like to get together to toss some cards or grab a meal or a few drinks, let me know via comments on this blog, private messaging through Twitter, or text messages if you have my cell phone number. I currently have few solid plans. I am planning on playing at TheTrooper97's Thursday afternoon game at Westgate. I am considering going to the Golden Knights game against Phoenix on Tuesday night and have thought about extending the trip a half day to catch the KISS concert at T-Mobile on Friday night. However, once in Las Vegas I tend to not to want to go to special events, preferring to spend more time donking off chips at the poker tables instead.

I imagine I'll be playing at some of my usual favorite rooms -- Bally's, MGM and Mirage. I also hope to get in at least one session at Aria and one at Wynn. And if someone is willing to provide private Uber service for me, I'd like to give poker another try at Green Valley Ranch. A year ago, I had a blast playing a late-night session there with ManInBlack and Chris A.

As I get ready for the supposed blizzard to tear through Illinois the next few days, visions of Las Vegas are already going through my head. I'll be loading up my car for the drive to the airport in exactly 24 days. The countdown begins ...

Thanks for reading!

Note: The picture at the top of the blog was taken at an Ultimate Bet party at Ghostbar at the Palms Casino many, many moons ago. At least one of us had his fair share of free booze at the party!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Women Done Me Wrong!

Thursday - January 10, 2019

Item: Wife takes close look at one of our cats, Sophie. Guess what? Sophie has worms! Of course, where does Sophie usually sleep? You guessed it - our bed! Other cat, Holly, decides to tackle Sophie. Likely both have worms. I don't want to touch anything. Trip to vet is in near future . Cha-ching! Excellent start to the day.

Item: Wife has day off while I have extremely busy day ahead of me. Apparently, she has nothing better to do than send me text messages like this: "If you don't stop leaving toothpicks laying on the floor, I'm going to cut you off forever. From toothpicks, not from me. One of these days you're going to swallow it instead of having it fall on the floor." Ho hum. What a terrible human being I am.

Item: Guy in the office next to mine shows me the check-in sheet of female student he just saw. In the area where students could specify a preference for who they would like to see, she wrote in "not lightning." What? Apparently this past summer I was the bearer of bad news to her. After informing her that she would not be able to get into the health program she wanted, I also told her that she should not arrange the school and work schedule she planned. I guess that made me the bad guy. I'm sure that under the guidance of someone else she will do better than two C and two F grades.

Item: Getting ready to pick up dinner order at Buffalo Wild Wings when daughter calls and asks if I can go to her house in the next town, grab a pair of her jeans, and take them to her back in my town where she is working a part-time job. I was guessing there had been some sort of "female issue" and didn't question why. I make the drive to her house, rummage around, get the jeans only to find out ... that her girlfriend had already grabbed a pair and was a few blocks away from delivering  them. I rode out there for nothing except being a dedicated father.

No wonder Superman had a Fortress of Solitude!

Monday, January 07, 2019

My Wife Just Doesn't Understand

Last night was a horrific night for Chicago Bears fans across the universe as the Chicago Bears's kicker Cody Parkey hit the post and crossbar on a kick that would have given Da Bears a post-season win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Parkey had hit the post on several kicks previously in the season (four in one game!), and the miss, foreseen by many Bears fans, left me and, I'm sure, others stunned and numb.

After having a little time to lick my wounds, I went out with my wife to get some new tennis shoes for myself, then a late dinner. Over dinner, we rehashed the Bears game and talked about being a sports fan and following teams. My wife has never really been  into sports and finds it difficult to understand how something like a lost game can mean so much and affect so many fans to the extent that it does.

To explain it, I reference my background in viewing sports and rooting for teams. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and all my life, I have rooted for all the Chicago professional sports teams -- Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox. There were even some years of rooting for professional soccer teams like the Chicago Sting, but I am not including those teams here. I therefore rooted for five sport teams each year. How was my dedication rewarded with championships?

I grew up in the 1960's and was too young for the 1961 Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory and the Bears 1963 championship. My sports memories began around 1966-1967. I faithfully cheered for all the Chicago teams, but dang -- what about some team winning a championship? I finally got my first one with the Bears Super Bowl victory in 1986. In effect, I had rooted for Chicago teams for about 100 seasons until one finally took home a championship.

The Chicago Bulls totally became the Chicago's team with the first real dynasty in my lifetime, capturing six championships in eight years in the 1990's. My usual poker gear includes a hat from that era that celebrates the double triple crowns.

Throw in more years of waiting, and finally my beloved White Sox won the World Series in 2005. They did not repeat, so there were more years of waiting until the Blackhawks, a team that had always been good while I was growing up and then were terrible in some of my adult years, won three Stanley Cups in  a five year span. Pretty heady stuff. While not quite as great as the Bulls dynasty, the mini-dynasty was quite a ride.

In 2016, the ultimate Chicago sports orgasm occurred when the Cubbies won their first World Series in over 100 years. Although they haven't repeated, they are still a threat for 2019.

So ... in approximately 250 seasons of sports fandom and dedication, I have seen 12 championships. As for Da Bears, they have only been to two Super Bowls and have won one -- not quite so rewarding for my 40+ years of following the team. They have not won a championship for 32 years. Whenever I hear things like "Bears football" -- which really means having a crushing defense, to me the Bears football tradition includes lots of years of suckage. They were not even projected to have a winning record this season, so to see the team play so well was quite a trip. They could have won almost every regular season game and lost some close ones. If only they had inched a little better toward the top and could have had a bye for this year's Wild Card Weekend.

I know my wife cannot possibly understand how much sports means to some people, especially when we pour our heart and soul into our teams -- and how a sudden, bitter defeat can just knock the wind out of our sails. How a championship can sometimes relieve all the hurt spent rooting and rooting and rooting for a team to win.

I distinctly remember when the Bears won that Super Bowl in 1986. I still have packed away the Super Bowl program from that event -- stained with champagne that I happily slurped that wonderful day. My wife was there to hug me when my tears flowed when Patrick Kane scored the winning phantom goal to nab the Stanley Cup in  2010. But there were other not-so-glorious moments: Black Wednesday for the White Sox; the collapse of the 1969 Cubs; the Blackhawks painful Game 7 Stanley Cup loss to the Canadiens; the Bartman game; and last night.  And through it all, my wife just doesn't understand ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Last Time I Was In Charge ...

The other day I was reminded of a truly unique experience I had at work many moons ago. For a little pre-Christmas enjoyment, I am reposting this story that I told here about 6 1/2 years ago. In the words of Hyman Roth -- "So ... enjoy!"

The Last Time I was in Charge ...

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I took over as head of my department at work this past spring. This morning I was walking into work when I ran into my boss, the vice president. We discussed a few budget issues, and perhaps I inadvertently reminded her that I might actually know what I am doing. Less than an hour later, I received an email from her administrative assistant: "lightning: Are you available to be in charge of Student Services in the vice president's absence? She plans to take some vacation days." I was reminded of the first time I had been asked to be in charge while the boss was away ...

Years ago I had been new in a supervisory position and was very interested in augmenting my credentials. When my boss, Carol, asked me to be in charge while she was away at a professional conference, I enthusiastically agreed. After Carol left, her secretary told me that someone had been scheduled to see me -- a student that Carol wanted to talk to but had not been able to before she left. The student, Josh, had been a little too aggressive in dealing with the instructor of his religious studies class. I was to talk with him about his behavior.

Josh was initially agitated since he didn't understand why he was seeing me instead of Carol. After checking in with my secretary, Nancy, he sat down, took off his sandals, and began playing with his toes! Nancy alerted me that this guy seemed to be odd. Things were about to get much worse.

It became evident immediately that Josh was going to be trouble. He was resentful at having to speak with me. He ripped on the instructor of the class, saying that he was a crappy teacher and didn't know what he was talking about. I started to say "It's funny that we are talking about a religion class because I actually minored in theology in college and am well versed in the subject." I was not able to get all the words out when Josh started raising his voice, yelling "Funny? This isn't FUNNY." As his level of agitation continued to rise, I decided to just cut things short. He was getting totally out of control. I finally had to call out to my secretary, "Nancy, call Public Safety." She stared at me with a puzzled look. I had to repeat, "Nancy -- CALL PUBLIC SAFETY." Josh went bonkers, saying "You're calling Public Safety on ME? You're calling Public Safety on ME?" He then ran out of my office into the middle of our reception area, grabbed his crotch, jumped up and down and shouted at the top of his lungs, "SUUUUUUUUUUUCK MY DIIIIIIIIIICK!!!!" He darted down the stairs and ran out of the building. Meanwhile, all my colleagues heard the commotion and stepped out of their offices to see what was going on. I was just standing there looking foolish. I sheepishly said to Nancy, "Have the Public Safety officer just come in my office when she gets here."

Aftermath --   It turned out that Josh was a drug addict and was higher than a kite that day. He tried to return to campus for a subsequent semester and was forced to write an insincere letter of apology to me. Asshole. My now deceased best buddy at work loved to bring up this story about once a year. In a high-pitched voice he would mimic "You're calling Public Safety on ME?" We always referred to Josh as "The Crotch Grabber." As for Carol ... she never asked me to be in charge again.

I hope the 2012 version of "lightning in charge" will be much different than the 1990's version.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Great Double Date

It would be a risk, I know. But heck -- what are friends for? What could possibly go wrong? Surely things couldn't get too messed up.

In high school, one of my best friends was a somewhat awkward guy. His family had emigrated from Czechoslovakia due to the political climate at that time. My friend, whom we nicknamed Spud (among other things), was extremely bright and was sort of an evil genius who, I thought, had the possibility to rule the world. However, he wasn't exactly a ladies man and stumbled socially. We lived in west suburban Chicago, where a car was necessary to get around. Spud didn't drive.

During our senior year, Spud developed this longing for a sophomore named Sherry. Unfortunately, with no wheels, how was he to take her out on a date? If only he had a friend who was dating one of Sherry's friends ...

One of Sherry's friends was a cute girl named Beth. I'm not sure how it started, but I was flirting with Beth and made a "date" to wrestle her in her front yard. Yes - you read that right - wrestle her. Now Beth was no skinny little girl. She gave me a run for my money in the match. And I've got to tell you, when is having a wrestling match with a cute girl not going to be fun? As it was, Beth had a boyfriend, a year older than me, who was finishing his freshman year at Michigan State. I was guessing that they had broken up or had some type of arrangement. Good for me.

Since I had access to a vehicle, Spud begged me to ask Beth out on a real date and double with him and Sherry. I had an idea that a shit show was to follow, but he was one of my best friends and needed a steady date other than Rosie Palms, so I agreed. The plan for date night was to cruise around a bit while it was still light outside, then head to the local drive-in movie. Solid plan. What could go wrong?

I picked up Spud and gave him a bunch of admonitions about messing stuff up since this was essentially his first date. Sherry's mom had dropped her off at Beth's house to make everything easier for the night. Good start.

I drove to Sherry's house and went up to the door to get the girls. They came out all giggly and ran to the car. Spud had been riding shotgun on the trip there, naturally, and didn't get out of the front seat fast enough. Both girls dove into the back seat. Fantastic! The shit show had begun!

We started to cruise around the area -- guys in front, girls in back -- and were joking around. I don't remember exactly what happened, but somehow things took a sudden turn the wrong way. They asked us where we were going, and we asked if they had suggestions. I don't remember which things they suggested, but when I told them the plan was to go to the drive-in movie, the response I got was a steely "NO." Ut oh - what now? The conversation turned a little ugly and I ended up inviting them to leave the car if they didn't like it. They asked to be let out and I did so in a local apartment area. I started to drive away and figured that, as messed up as things got, what was the one variable different from this date and my other successful dates? The answer: Spud! I started giving him crap, especially for not moving into the back seat before the girls got in the car. I mean really - what are good friends for?

At that point I decided to do what I thought was best -- calm down, go back and get the girls, take them back home and call it an early night. I drove back where we let the girls off and told them that I would drive them back home. They responded with middle finger salutes and the profanity that goes with those salutes. What to do now?

I was concerned because the girls were a couple of years younger than us and I felt like we were responsible for them. I decided to head to Beth's house and talk to her mom. I apologized, told her that things just went wrong and that I tried to bring the girls back but they refused. I wanted to let her know that I would no longer be responsible for them. She thanked me, and Spud and I left.

Beth's mom apparently was really pissed. I don't know what other stuff might have factored in here, but Beth's mom blamed it all on Sherry's influence on Beth, drove out in her car to pick them up, and get this -- made Beth call me to apologize and basically beg me to take her out again! Now you have to understand -- parents of girls I dated liked me. I was in sports and was the student body president and other #CleanLiving stuff. But of course, I am sure that Beth was humiliated to make that call. Yes -- that night I was certainly on the great double date of my life!

I took Beth out one more time. I'm sure she only went out with me to appease her mom. A year or two later I ran into Beth's Michigan State boyfriend. He just saw me and laughed at me. Lord knows what story he was told. He later married Beth and, as far as I know, is still alive and married to her.

Sherry disappeared off the face of the earth. Perhaps she moved away. I was off to college three months after the double date and have no idea what happened to her.

Spud's life changed shortly thereafter. He started smoking weed that summer while visiting the University of Illinois and likely got involved with other drugs which radically changed his personality and life. The guy with the brilliant mind flunked out of college shortly thereafter. I stayed friends with him for a few years afterward, but we essentially had little in common anymore. I think he lives somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

lightning's dating life got much better, and he disappointed women across the world when he married 12 years after the double date. He remains married today and can often be found donking off money in poker rooms in Las Vegas and the Midwest.

** From The lightning Chronicles, a soon-to-be-published compilation of short stories and essays. A motion picture is scheduled for release in 2022.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The TBC Talking Stick/Wild Horse Pass Challenge

Recently, Tony Bigcharles has been posting about some of his exploits in the Phoenix area casinos. This should primarily mean Talking Stick Resort and Wild Horse Pass casino. I have played at both over the past few years and can attest that they are great rooms for a number of reasons. I know that Tony previously played at The Stick, but I was unsure about Wild Horse Pass.

In a recent public post on Twitter, Tony stated "Phoenix is one of the last places remaining in the US where the lowest stakes are weak as hell and still beatable for over $1000 a week if u have the proper bankroll, which i doubt." I responded: "Tony, an experienced gambler like you should understand that you can't use a few days to make that kind of determination. If you play a few more sessions, I predict: you will lose several hundred dollars and: 1) no longer think the game is "beatable;" and 2) run somewhere else."

I thought it was foolish of Tony to make such a statement based on a very small sample. I was predicting that variance would soon bite him in the butt. I do acknowledge, as others such as AlaskaGal1 pointed out, that the games at The Stick have a reputation of being good, loose games. Even when I got my lunch handed to me a few times on my last trip to Phoenix, those beats were a result of a tremendous cooler and instances where I had my money in good and had people suck out on me. But a guy like Tony pulling down $1,000 a week? I asked for input from WECpoker, probably the person I am acquainted with who would be most the most knowledgeable about poker in the Phoenix area. Among other things, WEC tweeted, "I have to agree with Tony Bigcharles! He is echoing many things I have messaged him the past few days concerning some if the best games in US in Phoenix. As far as $1k a week in smallest games? Sure, very achievable+  more I think if playing 40 hrs. Lots of loose calls, over calls, & calling stations to help profit. If yer trying a lot of bluffing I think profit goes down. Lot of people calling you light, even some Ace High heroes. $100,000+ yearly earnings from poker in Phoenix? Yeah, no doubt easily within reach. Prolly not for Mr Bigcharles, but for a dedicated high level player it's a reasonable goal imo."

Okay -- so it looks like poker in the Phoenix area appears to be as several people have stated. If that is truly the case, why would Tony want to move anywhere else at this time? Northern casinos will start getting bad weather, options in Las Vegas are now few, Los Angeles casinos have a buy-in that makes games challenging. Why not just stay in Phoenix and watch the sockroll grow?

Some things to factor into the equation: 1) Tony reports that he is spending about $24/day on Uber. Not bad. He sometimes fails to consider that those of us who drive cars have a large built-in cost (buying the vehicle/monthly payments, insurance, gas, regular maintenance, unforeseen problems (like my $500+ repair from just over a week ago) ... 2) Food. Those of us who work regular jobs either have to buy lunch or make it ourselves. Same thing with dinner and maybe other meals. If we have a spouse/partner, kids or dependents, hike that figure up tremendously! Tony survives on the barest of food expenses. He stated in his blog: " theres a ton of self entitled spoilt rich people who order food at the table here and ive never understood why so many do that." Well, I guess Tony doesn't know the answer to that. At Talking Stick, the food is very good, inexpensive, delivered right to the table, and oftentimes paid for with casino comps. At Wild Horse Pass, unless things have changed, players have a poker menu from which to select meals and only pay 1/2 the listed price. Again, the food here, in my experience, has been good. So Tony can actually eat pretty well in the poker rooms for next to nothing. 3) Housing. This might prove more challenging because of the location of the casinos, but perhaps if Tony were to make a long-term commitment to stay in one place, he might find a decent deal.

So Tony, as I see it, here is your chance to grow that sockroll that once went over $45,000 and looked to be heading up to $50,000 (and a pox on Pete Peters, who declined to take my bet on the direction of the sockroll, saving himself from losing a nice wad of cashola). You stayed in Reno for a pretty long time. Commit to staying in Phoenix for six months. If you really can win the money you speak of, at the end of six months, the sockroll, which has stayed about the same for some time, should grow enough for you to then decide what your next move will be, and you will have a much bigger sockroll to then increase or decrease.

This all seems easy enough to me. Tony - what do you say?

Monday, October 08, 2018

Guess Who's Back?

Wow - a whole month since I last posted. I was planning to make one or more posts about my trip to Australia, but after getting back and trying to get my body back to central time, going back to work, feeling post-trip fatigue, ... 
thundering36 and I with our new friend, Dindy, at the Healesville Sanctuary

One of my issues seems to be having time/energy/motivation to post. Life seemed to be moving pretty fast. Some random thoughts as I reenter the blogosphere ...

* The Democrats have gone crazy! I mean, who really knows what happened, if anything, with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. For those readers who are not young pups anymore, imagine someone going back and digging into your life when you were in high school and college. Really -- what kind of things could they say about you? What did you do at a party? Ummm ... which one  -- not sure of the year, location, or other important details.

Personally, I thought the grandstanding by the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls was childish and poorly done. I will not give them even the acknowledgement of listing their names here. But guess what? You had the national stage and you looked foolish.

I'm not going to rehash everything that went on with then hearing, and I certainly have no solid evidence (nor does anyone else, apparently) of what happened. I have my own theory, but mind you -- it is just a theory. I suspect that the situation Dr. Ford described might have happened with another man. I get the feeling that if we had access to her therapist's notes, we would find that she has been riddled with significant psychological issues for many years of her adult life and her recollections are jumbled and not indicative of objective reality. As I mentioned -- this is just a thought.

The anger, bitterness, childish and destructive (dare I say hypocritical?) behavior of some of the far left has been amazing. If it keeps up, which hopefully won't happen since Judge Kavanaugh has now been sworn in, someone is going to end up hurt or killed. And we will see which party is more galvanized  for the midterm elections.

* Treasure your good health and your life. A major reason I visited my brother, thundering36, in Australia was because he had been having some serious medical issues. He was able to get out and do some things as long as there were rest days in between. We are hoping that his medical diagnosis is now becoming clearer and that there will be some procedures he can take to continue to lead an active life.

Shortly over a week ago, I volunteered to go to park in Indiana to go hiking with my wife and dog. I found out that my wife's plan was for us to go canoeing. Unfortunately, the water running through the park was up three feet and trips would be much more challenging. Ha! Our canoe hit some rapids and took us, at a pretty decent speed, right into a tree. The canoe capsized, and I was momentarily stuck underwater underneath it and some tree branches. Scarier than hell! I have watch Titanic too many times and felt like I was living the movie. Fortunately, some people were on the shore in that area and one guy came into the water to help me work myself out over several trees in swift running water. As a result, I lost my glasses, my hearing aids, and my non-waterproof cell phone got soaked and died. I've spent the past nine days getting things in my life back in order. I stopped wearing my contacts at the end of February because of impending surgery on my eyelids. I was forced to go back to them , which I had been putting off for months anyway. I was actually looking to buy a new phone anyway and was able to get one and be up and running last week. This Friday I am having an audiology exam and will be getting some much needed new hearing aids. So I have to tell you, this little canoeing trip cost my more than a few dollars.

* Poker. Arggg. I got in about five sessions at the Crown Casino in Melbourne and kicked some major butt. The players were bad, and the only losing session I had was when I lost a flip and an absolutely terrible player was in on a hand with crap cards and caught a miracle river. I returned home feeling confident about my game, but my poker has been suffering  while back at my usual rooms. This game sure can humble you sometimes.

* Anybody need a car? We currently have an extra car, which somehow made it through two teenage drivers and eight years of university parking lots and on-street spaces. It runs well, but looks like it has been through a war zone. Our van looks almost as bad and is still being kept around for hauling yard debris, furniture, etc. And my baby -- my faithful companion for the past 16 years (a red Ford Mustang convertible) -- squeaks everywhere. I'm taking in in to the shop soon to find out if there are any quick, inexpensive fixes. If not , it may be time to say goodbye. If so, what to get? I have no idea. If not a newer version of my car, I just don't know. I am not the kind of person that likes to spend a fortune on a car, but I guess I'll have to decide if I want something hot or maybe take a step back and get something a little more refined.

Thanks for reading!