Sunday, December 04, 2016

Poker Relationships

Yesterday, the annual World Poker Blogger Tour (WPBT) tournament was played in Las Vegas. There were only 23 runners, a far cry from when the weekend could attract so many people that the tournament had in the area of 140 runners.

I wonder if we are are the verge of a new revolution in poker. Vlogs now seem to be the latest venture by a number of poker players. I may be mistaken, but it appears that Trooper97 ("What up? It's The Trooper.") might be the Chris Moneymaker of poker vloging.

Anyway, poker relationships are quite unique. I started this blog over ten years ago -- right when poker was riding the wave of popularity across the globe and certainly in the United States. I, like many others, played online poker virtually every day. And not just for a few minutes. Somehow my wife did not divorce me during this time when it seemed that I lived and breathed poker almost every minute of the day.

At that time, I had a number of poker friends and acquaintances that were part of my daily life. Most had a poker blog, so significant time was spent reading all the blogs each day. Posting was frequent, the gossip flowed, hand histories were posted and analyzed, and good cheer and friendly digs ruled the day.

The highlight of the week happened every Wednesday night when The Mookie, a private tournament for bloggers, took place. It was like having a prom every week. No matter what I was doing, I tried to be home Wednesday nights at 9:00 p.m. Central time for the weekly social gathering. There were also other blogger tournaments, but The Mookie was the king! I never actually met Mookie, a guy from Texas who kept stats, posted the results and even featured the winner in a blog post. And if you won, the next week's tournament featured you or your blog's name!

I have to tell you, many of the poker bloggers were really talented poker players. Winning The Mookie was tough. I actually won it the second time I played it and figured that I would just crush it every week. Ha! I didn't win another for over two years! Check out this picture from ten years ago that I used to advertise "The Mookie - Lightning Strikes:"
There have been many ups and downs since that time. A couple of bloggers turned bad and cheated some of their friends. Many just faded away as poker's popularity faded. The restrictions on online poker that were thrust on many of us via the U.S. government dealt a crushing blow to much of the poker enthusiasm. There were some relationships that were tattered for one reason or another as, after all, we are just people. But, I have to tell you, when problems arose, poker buddies always seem to have your back. The support I got from my poker buddies when my son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer many years ago was unbelievable.

Toward the end of the poker boom, a newer crowd of poker bloggers started appearing on the scene. Some of those people remain some of my most treasured friends and are actually some of the people who still read this blog. For those friends, I am particularly thankful.

I have met many online poker buddies in person because of the WPBT and subsequent trips to Las Vegas. It is always interesting meeting online friends in person. And the most fun? Being able to actually sling some cards in person with these friends, whether in Las Vegas, Reno, the Wisconsin Dells, St. Charles, MO or any other place that has a poker room ready for action!

As for my future poker schedule, aside from infrequent trips to my closest rooms, East Peoria, IL's Par-A-Dice Casino and Harrah's Joliet, I do plan on playing at these distant casinos over the next two months:

December  17: Ho-Chunk Casino, Wisconsin Dells
December 26-30: Harrah's New Orleans
January 23-27: Las Vegas

And finally, thanks to the people who read this blog. If there are any people from the "old" days, make sure you pop in on the comments occasionally so I know you are still around.

Onward and upward!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Update

Happy Thanksgiving to all my online and real life poker buddies and other assorted friends!

In my job, the journey from Halloween to Thanksgiving is like a three to four week sprint -- fast and furious action! One goal is to just make it to the Thanksgiving break without feeling worn out or sick. I think I made it!

Work has been challenging in that the state of Illinois legislators and governors refuse to work together. They didn't pass a budget for last year and haven't for this year. They are anticipating not passing one until 2018. In the meantime, the state debt continues to grow, pension debt increases and public colleges and universities, as well as social service agencies cut, cut  and cut until being on the brink of disaster. My school had to not offer contracts for next year to several outstanding new faculty. Morale is low. Meh.

Being indecisive as I sometimes tend to be, I still don't know what my role at work will be come May. Either I will take on added responsibilities or will go back to my regular role I left 4 1/2 years ago. I hope to have some clarification by January.

I hope to actually make another post this holiday weekend. For now, have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Cubs Win the World Series & Life Goes On

After 108 years, it finally happened: The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions! It's not like this is a complete surprise since the Cubs were the favorite to win it at the start of the season and had the best record in the regular season. However, these were still the Cubs, who have known to blow it time and time again at the worst possible time. I guarantee you that most Cubs fans felt the way that I did when the Indians tied it up late in game seven. My stomach was feeling quite unsettled. Thank goodness for the rain delay, which was probably the true MVP in the deciding game.

Of course, now many of us are living in a new reality. How does one's prospective of life change now that the Cubbies have won the World Series? It's like seeing that thing you always hoped would happen but never would finally coming through. For me, this was the final team that needed to win it all since I started following Chicago professional sports teams. The pressure will now switch to the Chicago Bears, whose last championship was over 30 years ago. Since that time, the Bears have only reached the Super Bowl once.

The day after the big Cubs victory, I did have my wife go to Dick's sporting goods store before it opened so that I could get some sweet, sweet swag.
 My boss, one of those dastardly Cardinals fans who are overpopulated throughout central Illinois, did stop by my office to drop off a congratulatory donut treat.
All in all, the last week was one of great stress, especially after the Cubs went down 3-1 on the series and also when Cleveland caught up in game seven. However, the jubilation and associated feelings certainly more than made up for it.

And of course (u see), just when things were going great because of the Cubs, things seemed to take a turn for the worse at work. Some untenured faculty are not being rehired for next year in a cost-cutting measure designed to cut expenses and move my college to the point where we no longer have to depend on money from the state. My department is currently down 1.5 staff, and another retiring in April will likely not be replaced. I am scheduled to present a report on student mental health challenges in my school at a board of trustees meeting on November 16. I was hoping to use the meeting as a forum to make a compelling case to replace the counselor retiring in April. However, it appears likely that a big faculty contingent will also appear at the meeting, pretty much pushing my request into the background.

My status for next year in still uncertain as no plans have been finalized for the merging of another department into mine. I am scheduled to stay in my current leadership position for another 18 months. I had already been considering calling it a day on those obligations at the end of April next year, and I am pretty sure that I will not get what I asked to remain in my position and take on additional responsibilities: more pay and for someone to get an upgrade to associate director so that I would have someone with some real authority to back me up. It is likely I would be offered a nominal increase in pay, but I seriously doubt I will get the administrative help I need. Unless either I am offered a decent increase in pay and/or I decide to bite the bullet for the sake of my department, it looks like my administrative duties might come to an end in April. Either way, life will be quite different come next summer.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Cubs Are FINALLY Going to the World Series!

Sometimes you really do have to wait almost a lifetime for something. For myself and other Cubs fans around the country and the world, that day has FINALLY come. In my lifetime, I have lived through ...

*  The great collapse of 1969. A team with several future Hall of Fame members just faded in August and September. Harry Caray was still announcing for the St. Louis Cardinals at that time and was heard to sing and say "The Cardinals are coming, tra la, tra la," but it was the dastardly New York Mets who overtook the Cubbies and eventually won the World Series.

*  In 1984, the Cubs went up two games to none against the San Diego Padres in the five-game National League Championship Series. In game five, first baseman Leon Durham let a ground ball go through his legs, allowing the tying run to score. Disaster followed. The Cubs had this series and blew it. Friggin' Steve Garvey.

* In 1989, the Cubs faced the San Francisco Giants in the Championship Series. The Giants won the series in five games in what I remember as the series of first basemen. Will Clark went 13 for 20 and Mark Grace went 11 for 17. The Cubs had some great players, but the Giants just seemed to be the overall better team.

*  In 2003, the Cubs were within five outs of going to the World Series in game six. It will forever be known as the Bartman Game. The Cubs suffered a bitter losses to the Florida Marlins in that game and game seven. Although the Marlins were arguably the better team (they did win the World Series), the Cubbies should have won the series. No longer did people say "In Dusty, we trusty."

*  In 2007 and 2008, the Cubbies had great teams, yet were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectfully. Manager Sweet Lou couldn't bat for the feckless Cubs.

*  In 2015, the Cubs got hot as the season wore on and made it to the National League Championship Series, only to be swept by the Mets. My brother, thundering36 and I were at that final game. Although the defeat to the excellent pitching staff of the Mets was sad, it laid hope for the 2016 season.

With the Cubs finally making it to the World Series for the first time since 1945, the feeling is indescribable. The closest thing I can say is it is like Christmas when you were a kid ... times 50!

Unfortunately, a sad note is that the Cubs, like the White Sox in 2005, took too long to get to the Promised Land. My father, a White Sox fan, passed away 14 months before the Sox won the World Series. My mother, a Cubs fan, passed away this past June. Her grandchildren have made the hashtag #winitforgram on Facebook (the more recent posts -- not the ones for the grandmother who is 102 years old!). So I guarantee you, if there is some funky World Series play where the ball takes a weird hop for the Cubs, you can guess that my mother was probably involved from the great beyond.
In the meantime, I am wearing what I call the "Cubs smile" today. The sun is shining, the temperature is fine. Play ball! Or maybe even ...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Brief Update

Thanks to the people who shared their wisdom on my last post either through blog comments or private communications to me via other means. This past week at work was particularly brutal. Last Sunday, I had to work to prepare my office for any students who sought counseling assistance due to a local shooting. On Tuesday night, I was working with police to track down a person whom we considered a serious self-harm risk. Needless to say, there was a lot of stress this past week.

In some ways, the recent events almost seemed to muddle my situation further. I was at the top of my game and met the challenges I needed to. At the same time, I was reminded that maybe it is time to let go of my administrative responsibilities and get back to my regular job.

I chuckled at the people who said that my decision should include the amount of poker I will be able to play. The truth is, my poker is very much impacted by my job. Before I took on these additional responsibilities several years ago, I was heading to Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond about every other weekend to play poker. I now use the weekends more for relaxation, which usually does not include the 2 1/2 hour drive to play at The Shoe.

On Sunday, however, I am heading up to the Chicago suburbs to get a better idea of how much will need to be done to begin to get rid of the junk in my Mom's house. I plan on torturing myself by watching the Bears play the Lions, and then playing some $1/2 NL at Harrah's Joliet on the way home. Ahhh ... how sweet it would be to catch some of the bad beat jackpot which is now over $600,000. Heck, even the mini bbj is almost $35,000!

I hope to be able to write a positive poker post upon my return ... if I have time, that is. I am beginning to appreciate how valuable and elusive free time can be.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Crossroads: A Work Dilemma

An important decision time will soon be coming for me at work. I am usually able to make quick, good decisions for myself, but when it comes to my job, I sometimes struggle.

The recent history: In early 2012, my department at work was in need of a new leader. I actually wrote some posts about this back in 2012. To make this an anti-Rob post, I'll summarize quickly. I decided not to run and agreed to be the interim director for a year to help clean up a huge mess. One year was not nearly enough time to fix things properly, so I continued in the position for another two years. At that point (early 2015), I was concerned what finances might do to my workplace and thought that I wanted someone competent in charge in case some difficult decisions had to be made. The result was that I took on the responsibility of being in charge for another three years. That brings me to now.

Financial issues and a retirement made this the time to merge another department into mine. Meanwhile, I am losing some of my own staff, meaning that I will now be responsible for more things, yet have about the same staff size as before. I know that, no matter what, things are going to change and I have some decisions to make.

Scenario one: I fixed the things that needed fixing and was already considering calling it a day on the director responsibilities next April. I would say "no thank you" and would then have about three years to go until my retirement and could go back to my regular job and enjoy my final years.

Scenario two: I accept the new challenges that will take place next summer and be da man who finds a way to make everything work. This would be a professional challenge, which appeals to me, but would also be a major pain in the ass. I would do this without having all the conditions met that I think are needed in order for me to do this (get an associate director, get a bump in pay, get workers titles and job descriptions changed as I would like, ...) and would likely be frustrated.

Scenario three: I make a take or or leave it offer to my boss, who is in a very difficult position. He's trying to do what he needs to do for the institution and doing what the president wants, yet I also need him to advocate for me. It would be simple: I need this, this and this or I'll finish up my duties and let someone else be in charge on May 1. I return to my regular job and responsibilities and look forward to my final three years at work.

So I am currently perplexed. My boss is having a 1 1/2 day retreat at his house next week in order for our entire unit to work on challenges. He is a good guy, very smart and dedicated, but relatively inexperienced in his job. He is a poker player, so it is fun to talk about job situations in poker terms sometimes.

I have a number of competing emotions and ideas. I am the ultimate team player and think I am a good manager -- certainly a players manager type instead of a business-like company guy. I like challenges, and this would be one. I have a huge ego when it comes to work because I know I am damn good at what I do. However, there are other aspects that bother me. Although I am compensated very well for my regular job, the compensation I receive for being the head of the department is really peanuts. Despite trying to negotiate, whining and even carrying on at times, I haven't gotten been able to maneuver a respectable increase in that pay. Now I am trying to do it when we are having cutbacks and consolidations to save money.

Unfortunately, I also don't think others can understand how difficult my job is and the pressure I am regularly under. I think the appreciation will come after I am gone or out of my current position. I try not to harbor resentment, but there is some there.

Well, this is where I am as of today. Next week's retreat might clarify and some things. I am thinking that I could FINALLY get a bump in pay for taking on more, but I get the feeling that my desire for someone to be bumped up to associate director won't happen. It is difficult when you are solely the responsible person and don't have a back-up with official/compensated responsibilities.

I know that I have many readers who have great business and professional experience. Tell me what you think. I am open to whatever input you have.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Almost Back to Me

Things were not going too badly in May. I had a nice vacation in Las Vegas and was ready for the summer. However, there were a couple of things in my life that had potential to blow up ... and they did.

It had been evident for some time, at least to me, that my wife's supervisor, the principal at a private elementary/middle school, seemed to not like my wife for some reason. About a week or two before the school year ended, an email my wife received led her to believe that she, an at-will employee, would be fired. She confronted the principal, who lied to to her face told her no. Toward the end of May, I was taking part in a big picnic that the directors of my workplace hosted for our employees. During that, I heard from my wife that she had been let go and was treated very harshly. Meanwhile, I am gritting my teeth as I helping run the picnic. It was a shitty day.

Last December, I watched my mom for a few days after Christmas so that thundering36 could get a break away from taking care of her and go to Las Vegas. My mom was not too bad during the time I watched over her, but thundering36 let me know that he saw a cognitive decline in her during the first several months of 2016. In June, my mom seemed to be having some more severe issues, and it was recommended that she go into the hospice in-patient center for a few days for an evaluation. As I got ready to head up to visit in June, my brother told me that I needed to get to the in-patient unit right away. I had just started the trip and pulled to the side of the road, phoned my wife to quickly pack some clothes, went back home to get my wife, and headed to the in-patient center. My family watched my mother slowly die over the next week. She passed away on June 16, the day before my son's birthday.

The next couple months were pretty rough. I had already cancelled a quick return trip to Las Vegas and was forced to cancel a trip my wife and I were going to take to New Orleans. We also had a special hotel room reserved in St. Louis to celebrate our anniversary in July, but I just didn't feel like going.

I got a short respite at the end of July as thundering36 and I went to a couple White Sox-Cubs games, but the afterward the pressure at work was pretty intense. I went back to Las Vegas at the end of August and was joined by my wife for a few days, After returning, more intense work, which finally ended last Friday afternoon.

So in short, my summer really sucked. It was if there were clouds hovering over my head for a few months. I put on weight and overall felt like crap. It was part depression and part just needing to cope with some new realities. All the while I had a ton of pressure at work. Yuck.

However, I seem to have broken through since returning from Las Vegas. I've been on a diet and have dropped eight pounds. For the first time since last spring, I feel like myself again -- for better or worse!

And once again, a heartfelt thank you to my online and poker friends who were around for me this summer and helped me get through these past difficult months. The tweets, text messages, Facebook comments and blog comments all were a part of finally getting my life back to normal. I think I am about there.

Onward and upward. That is the right direction to go, right?