Monday, July 17, 2017

Weekend Update: A Wedding, A Visitation, An Anniversary and A Trip to Las Vegas

The wedding: My niece was married yesterday in west-central Illinois -- pretty much the middle of nowhere. Several family members on my wife's side of the family came to celebrate, so it made the whole thing kind of fun. Otherwise, I have never really liked going to weddings and even receptions, unless I can cut out right after eating. I don't have any deep, dark reason for this -- just a quirk of mine, I imagine.

The visitation: Unfortunately, the father of my daughter's girlfriend passed away after a lengthy illness -- Lewy body dementia. If you don't know what that is, look it up. It is a terrible way to die. Having had my mother and mother-in-law both pass away within the past 13 months, I have begun thinking more about the future and quality of life. It is a scary thing to think about as one gets older.

The anniversary: Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated 29 years of marriage. Yes, not only was there a woman foolish enough to marry me, but she has been foolish enough to stick around for almost 30 years. I may have taken a lot of heat when I was younger for taking so much time to decide to get married, but I am happy to see that my caution and slow deliberation paid off.
My favorite picture of my wife

The trip to Las Vegas: Although I just returned from Las Vegas two weeks ago, I am heading back today! The first trip was an add-on after visiting my son in Seattle, but this trip was planned quite some time ago to coincide with a Las Vegas visit by Aussie friend Koala. I don't have many things planned out for the trip, but I hope to catch dinner with VegasDWP before he jets off to distant corners of the world, and on Wednesday night (6:30pm at Nine Fine Irishmen in New York New York), I will be having dinner with Koala, Alysia Chang, Stacy and Miyuki (from the 1st Annual "Memorial" TBC Meet Up,) and anyone else who'd like to join in. Arch, if you are reading this, join the group! If anyone else would like to be added to the dinner group, let me know ASAP so that I can revise the reservation.

So ... it was a busy weekend, but I am now prepared to have a great time in my favorite vacation spot. I'm going to also try to see a few other friends, time permitting. Now if I would only not wait until the last minute to pack ...

Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Las Vegas Trip Report: June 28 - July 2, 2017

An unexpected trip to Las Vegas was a great way to end the month of June and finally get away with some time to myself. As usual, Sin City did not disappoint as the poker was great and I was able to spend some time with some old friends and meet a few new ones.

I had been out to Seattle with my wife to visit my son. From there, on Wednesday, my wife flew to Scottsdale to visit her best friend while I headed to Las Vegas. The trip started off on a poor note when I made an unwise decision to give Lyft Line ridesharing a try. It sounded great, right? Share a ride with someone going along my route and pay a discount price? Well, things didn't quite work out the way I would have liked.

To begin, it took longer to get my Lyft ride than other times when I just rode alone. The other passenger was dropped off sort of along the way. After we dropped her off at a parking lot to pick up her car, I expected to get to my hotel, Harrah's. Instead, the driver went out of the way to pick up a guy and his wife, which added additional time on to the trip. I was not happy. Lesson learned. Bad way to save a few dollars.

After checking in at Harrah's, I played sessions at Mirage and, strangely enough, Flamingo, a place I rarely play and have never particularly liked. I ended up a little on the positive side, not a terrible result to the first evening of poker. I called it a night (or rather, a morning), with hopes of killing it the rest of the trip.

On Thursday, I headed to the Mirage in the afternoon, booking a profit, and then headed to what used to be my favorite poker room, Bally's. I was going nowhere fast until old friend and Bally's poker dealer Ron dealt to my table. Over the years, for whatever reason, it seemed like I lost when Ron dealt. This time however , was different. I flopped a set of 3's and doubled up. A few hands later , I flopped quad 10's and felted the same guy who had doubled me up he I must admit, Ron has suddenly become a much better dealer!

I left Bally's with a nice profit and headed to MGM Grand, where I was to meet poker friends Rob and also Vook ,who I'd never met.
lightning, Vook and Rob

Vook arranged to also meet up with some of his poker friends After some dinner and drinks, we headed to the poker room. Rob and I were at one table and Vook and his friends were at another. Lady Luck was shining on me as I schooled Rob on such things as cracking the DREADED POCKET KINGS with Q-8 sooted. Of course, Rob also schooled me on one hand when I refused to chop blinds with him just to have a little fun, and he picked off my bluff. Bah! However, another session, another profit. And a fun night for five guys who like to play poker.
After MGM, I headed to Planet Hollywood to try my luck there. PH, as usual, provided good games and a profit. Feeling tired as the morning was beginning, I decided to call it a night. However, on the way back to my room, I was startled when a woman of the night slapped my butt and tried to grab my arm and walk along side of me, much as my wife likes to do. Hmmm ... she did look amazingly good looking for a street walker, so I ... well, you know Mr. Clean Living here. I told her "no thanks" and hustled back to my room with a huge grin on my face. Just another night in Las Vegas!

After a minimum of sleep on Friday morning, I headed across the street to once again play at the Mirage. My table had a few people spewing chips, so I knew the afternoon would be good. I made sure that I stayed long enough so the I would be there for at least one down dealt by Kristi (Alaska Gal). My dealer/friend luck continued as Kristi flopped me a full house! I didn't make much off the hand, but it was fun anyway.

I cashed out with a profit and headed to In-N-Out at The LINQ to grab a double double animal style, then proceeded to Planet Hollywood to meet up with VegasDWP and Tony Bigcharles. Rob was able to meet us a little later.

There  were a few humorous things from that night. VegasDWP gave both Tony and me a casino chip from Wynn Macau as a souvenir. When I joked about how little it was worth in the US, he pulled out a hundred bill, equivalent, he said, to about $18 US money, and gave it to Tony as a souvenir. Unfortunately, didn't seem to quite get or appreciate this and cashed it in at a currency exchange! The chip got me two admonishments from casino personnel because they thought that it looked too much like a PH $25 chip. I guess I should have taken it off the top of one of my stacks before shoving on one hand! They made me put it in my pocket - lol.
Tony studying poker strategy between hands. Oh wait - that is Candy Crush Saga!

I cashed out another profit, ate a late meal with Tony, and headed back to Harrah's for my last night there. I have no hooker stories from that night. I guess I was just a one night wonder!

On Saturday, I checked out of Harrah's and again headed to the Mirage for some poker. One hand of note: I looked down to see AA. I raised and was three-bet by another player at the table who was a nice guy and appeared to be a decent player. I hollywooded for a bit, not wanting to overdo it. I shoved and he called. I was hoping he had KK, but unfortunately, he also had AA. fortunately, there were no backdoor four-flushes, which would be a crappy way for anyone to win in that situation.

After booking another profit, I met Alysia Chang at Harrah's, and she drove me to my new hotel for one night, Fortune Hotel and Suites. I was pleased to see that the hotel seemed to be okay, as it was quite a bargain for Las Vegas on a Saturday night. AC picked up VegasDWP, and the three of us grabbed an early dinner at Sweet Poke. Afterward, AC went back to her studying, and Vegas DWP and I went to Golden Nugget to play poker and meet up with Tony.

Now I have to tell you, I have not had good experiences playing at the Golden Nugget. The last time, I blew through a buy-in very quickly. Among reasons I don't like playing there: sketchy players, crowded room, no Verizon service there, uncapped buy-in. There was a guy at our table who was acting very strangely, but he left. I didn't like not having phone service and, after digging myself in a hole, I was back to about even and wanted to leave. However, since I was playing there with friends, I decided to stay. Bad choice. I played crappy poker and lost the equivalent of a regular buy-in. I decided to leave, and Tony caught me before I left to suggest playing poker somewhere else. We Ubered to Planet Hollywood, which always seems to be very good to me.

The session at PH was a little more like it. I doubled up early against one player, then felted him after he rebought when I hit a set of 10's on the turn as he caught the second nut flush. I raised and he re-raised and I called. The river paired the board, and my chip stack was looking rather healthy.

Some time thereafter, I got the opportunity I was looking for: the chance to mix it up with Tony. Tony led out the betting with  20-something and I three-bet to $68 with KK. Tony then quickly shoved all in. Did he have Aces (maybe), Kings (unlikely), Queens (possibly) or was he bluffing (maybe)? I was thinking either Aces or  a bluff and I decided to call. u see, he turned over ACES, of course! But ... I just had a feeling I was going to win the hand. The flop was J-J-Q. The turn was a 9, giving me four more outs. Unfortunately for Tony, the river was a 10, giving me the straight and Tony's stack of $200-250. I was very impressed that he remained calm. Meanwhile, I stacked chips.
We played more and I won some more hands, then decided to book the win, get something to eat, and try to get an hour or two of sleep before my flight. Tony and I ate at Planet Dailies (I highly recommend the late-night steak and eggs special) and then got ready to head out.

Tony arranged for an Uber pick up and was going to have the driver drop me off along the way. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out. I saw that the driver noted in his profile that he was hard of hearing. When he got to PH, we went inside his car and the music was turned up at top volume. Tony tried to explain about dropping me off, but he was unable to communicate with the driver. Tony was having difficulty messaging the driver, and the driver responded "no" when I asked if he could read lips. Finally I told Tony that I would just take my own Uber and said goodnight. My ride back to the hotel was uneventful.

I got about an hour of sleep (not much sleep the entire trip), checked out and caught the hotel shuttle to the airport.

It is interesting that this trip to Las Vegas was planned relatively late yet was one of the better ones since I took home a very nice profit, met up with several friends, and had a blast. The only downer of the entire trip was the time spent at the Golden Nugget, which was also the only significant losing session of the trip.

Fortunately, my original summer trip to Las Vegas is now officially less than three weeks away. I will be meeting up with Aussie pal Koala and am tentatively planning a dinner at Hugo's Cellar for the two of us and Alysia on Tuesday, July 18 or Wednesday, July 19. Others are invited. If interested, let me know ASAP.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Off to the Northwest and Southwest

A long-awaited vacation has finally come! I was off this past week (despite having to make up a day of work on Tuesday) and used it to catch up on a bunch of personal matters that needed attention. However, today begins some fun as it is travel time.

This afternoon, my wife and I will be flying to Seattle to visit my son, who recently moved there. My wife has never been to Seattle and I haven't been there for over 30 years, so we are looking forward to the next few days. On Wednesday, my wife is flying to Phoenix to visit her best friend. I originally planned to just fly back home, but instead decided to reward myself for all the work I had been doing on my mom's house. So, you guessed it: I am going to Las Vegas for a few days!

Several poker friends are there for the WSOP and might be gone before I arrive. However, I know that Rob and TBC will be in town, as well as most of my local friends. I will be in Las Vegas for four nights, to be followed by a five night trip the third week of July.

Having dropped off my administrative gig at work eight weeks ago, I can clearly see now that it was certainly the right decision for me. For the first time in over five years, I am on vacation with absolutely no work worries hanging over my head. It feels great!

If you are in Las Vegas June 28 to July 2, hit me up via text, twitter or email.


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Where Have You Been, lightning?

Is it really June already? I only authored two posts the whole month of May and have had much less of a presence on social media the past five weeks. There must be a reason, right? Well, there is.

I have not had a free day since sometime in April. My previous two posts referenced the work that was needed on my mother's house, getting it ready to be sold. On days I was not working at my regular job, I was working to empty out, clean, and starting today, paint the house. The month of May flew by as all I did was work and work some more.

Cleaning out the accumulated belongings of over 50 years is quite a task. It is just not a matter of going into a house and removing everything. First, things have to be sorted. Check out just one of the horror show of storage areas:
Additionally, the number of plastic bags that were recycled required a couple of trips to the local grocery store recycling bin. I went to a company that recycled styrofoam. I made nine trips with a full van to Goodwill and another trip to a different resale shop. Mind you, I donated box after box after box of things that had to be sorted first.

My brother Dan hauled away several truck loads of garbage that he was able to empty into his company dumpster and his wife put out several boxes of recyclables. The time finally came to rent one for most of the rest of the garbage. A week ago, we filled a 20-yard dumpster. It was pretty big: 14 feet long, seven feet wide and five feet tall.  It was packed solid. A metal scavenger came by a filled an old U Haul with metal including old appliances from the basement: a refrigerator, a stove, a water heater and a dryer. The local recyclable haulers probably have a new favorite as we loaded up more than the usual little recyclable bin. Check out the stack of boxes below. 
Unfortunately, the picture does not do just to the majesty of the pile. It was 6-8 feet deep and solid with paper, cardboard, plastic and glass.

What to do with all the furniture ... Some was destroyed, some given away, a few items still left in the house, potentially heading for a landfill.

Painting started today as two rooms were badly in need of it. We got one room finished today and at least got  a start on the other. Additional cleaning still needs to be done, some repairs are being done to a bathroom, and a basement and garage emptying are still not completed. 

It has all been more work than I could ever have imagined. However, like any seemingly overwhelming task, the key is to not focus on the total project, but to take steps and see continual progress.

I was able to sneak in a few poker sessions on some of the weekends, but essentially I have not had a day off now for over five weeks.I'll be forced to do so, if not before, when my wife and I visit our son in Seattle later in June.

Part of what has allowed me to keep my sanity through all this is my return to the rank and file at work, stepping down from my leadership position. After one month, the jury is in; things are great! The person who took over as acting director has had her hands full with some personnel issues. Meanwhile, I can go into work every day free from some of the hassles I dealt with for the past five years.

In summary, life has been extremely busy but good. I trust that the rest of this month will continue to be much the same. I am looking forward to a little freedom come July.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Playing with a Maniac

I have spent the past several weekends taking off from work early and driving up to my late mother's house to get things thrown out or donated, and working to get the house ready to be put up for sale. Fortunately, when the enormity of the task threatens to get to me, I can find solace in the Harrah's Joliet poker room. The bad beat jackpot there is inching closer to $800,000, so there is always that fun element of thinking you could hit it big while playing $1/2 NL. Last weekend, I got in two sessions. The Saturday night sessions was unremarkable until the local maniac sat down at the table.

The regulars at my table were familiar with the gentleman. I trust that what we saw Saturday night was similar to what the regs have seen in the past. One person said that he heard that the guy had lost $15,000 already that weekend at the tables. Things at our poker table were about to change quickly and dramatically.

Prior to the maniac sitting down, the game was a generic $1/2 NL game. Over the past couple of hours there were regular raises, standard play, nobody really getting out of line except a woman who kept straddling $10 every chance she got. Unfortunately for her, I don't think that she was quite as good as she thought, blaming all her losses on having second best hands or getting rivered.

The maniac bought in for the maximum $200 (I had a stack of about $200) and quickly began raising every hand by grabbing a handful of chips, usually around $35 worth, and betting without even looking at his hole cards. People kept limping in, and yes, he raised EVERY hand. He at first accumulated some chips before anyone played back at him. As luck would have it, he sucked out several times before anyone won against him. One time when he raised to only $23 I called with pocket 4s. The flop had three overs and I was forced to fold to a huge bet. I fired that one blank and figured that I would wait to take another shot. It came when he raised to $33 and I was holding KsJs. As good a time as any to call, I thought. The flop came Jack high rainbow. The maniac bet and I shoved, thinking that I was most likely in the lead. In the excitement I didn't see his cards, but he claimed after the river that he had two pair, apparently after the flop or the turn. It didn't matter, because the turn and river were spades, giving me runner-runner second nuts. I more than doubled up (there was at least one other person in the hand for the flop) and told him that I would give him a chance to get his chips back.

A few more hands were played, he spewed, and he bought back in for another $200 and was in for $600 total. I then looked down to see a thing of beauty: pocket Aces! Play came to me and I limped in, knowing that he would raise when the action got to him. As expected, he raised to about $35 and I pushed all in. He called. The flop consisted of  rainbow of cards below face cards. He flipped over his cards to show that he had a gutshot draw with two cards to come. Fortunately, the turn and river were both blanks. I felted him, he congratulated me, and then left the table. In a span of about 15 or 20 minutes, he spewed $600, and I grabbed $500 of it.

I took a restroom break, came back and played a couple of orbits, then cashed out with my $500 maniac profit. Some nights poker can be really fun!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Life Update: May 4, 2017

Wow -- it is hard to believe that I haven't posted in almost three weeks. April was one heck of a month. With that, what has been going on with me?

Work: Ahhh ... the feeling of freedom! My last official work day as director of my department was Friday, April 28. Although actually not in charge this week, I am still finishing up a few things dealing with the transition. I am hoping to extricate myself from all that sometime next week. I was able to walk away from a difficult personnel situation, which certainly will make my life much easier. It's been a long five years.

My roof: The roof on my house had been degrading in quality. While still protecting the house, the organic shingles were starting to look pretty bad. Some bad wind days blew off a significant number of shingles. I'll spare you the details, but add in a good homeowners policy and a favorable determination by an insurance adjuster, and lightning is a happy guy.

My Mom's house: This past Sunday, my brother, thundering36, moved back to Melbourne, Australia, vacating my late mother's house. Now the work of cleaning out a house that accumulated 50 years of junk begins in earnest. On Friday, my brother-in-law and I will be hopefully making some decent progress.

My family: My wife loves the new job she started working at in February. We are very thankful that she was able to get into a position where she is appreciated, unlike her previous job. In just over a week, my oldest daughter will be graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in Women and Gender Studies. My son is finishing up his program at Illinois in Math and Computer Science with an online class he is completing while working as a software engineer in Seattle. He will likely earn his bachelor's degree this summer. College costs have significantly cut into my sockroll over the past several years. It will be nice to have that monkey off my back.

Las Vegas: I will be heading out to Sin City July 17-22. One evening during the trip, I am hoping to grab dinner at Hugo's Cellar. What about it -  Koala, Alysia ChangVegasDWPgrrouchie? Anyone else?

Finally, the beginning of May brings some time for reflection. My father would have been 93 years old. And this year for the first time, my wife and I will be celebrating Mothers Day without our mothers. If your parents are still alive, appreciate them while you can.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Righting a Couple of Wrongs

I believe that most people who know me personally would probably say that I am a nice guy. I mean, I, of course, have my bad days and moments and have been known to be a tad dickish at times, especially when provoked (see Attack of the Man-hating Woman). But in general, I think that I have had a lifetime of pretty good behavior.

As I have referenced several times in this blog, in social media and personal communications, this past year has been rough. So rough that, in fact, I believe that it has been the worst year of my life, surpassing years when my father died, when I found out that my son had cancer, and when I had a mild heart attack.

I've never been one to get depressed beyond the normal/reasonable stage, but recently, I had been wondering if I had been seriously depressed during this past year. Being a clinician, I had already thought that, although I was not overly depressed, the stress I was under was enormous, causing me to think, say and do some things that I would not normally have done. I saw it was time to right a couple of wrongs I had done to other people.

I have a colleague with whom I have sometimes gotten along with, sometimes not. I was in a small meeting with her and our boss when my frustration with work and life in general got the better of me, and I ripped into her. After some time had passed, I sent her an apology email. As you might guess, I got no response. I finally got a chance to talk with her face-to-face last week and grovel in person. After about an hour-long talk about us, our relationship and work, I felt like we were about as good as we were going to get. I was a little disappointed that she refused my invitation to smack me in the face. It probably would have made both of us feel better.

Well, that was one down. However, I felt like I owed at least one more person an apology. It might surprise you who I owe that to.

On my last trip to Las Vegas in January, I was pretty much a dick to none other than Tony Bigcharles, whom I have often accused of being a shitty friend. Well, being frustrated with life in general and then finding out that, once home and back at work, I would have to deal with a brand new time-consuming and crappy issue with an employee, I treated Tony in pretty much the way I have called him out for in the past. So, for once, the shoe is on the other foot.

So Tony, my apologies for blowing off your calls and texts when you were trying to get us to play some poker at the Nugget. Friends shouldn't treat other friends like that. Period.

Things have been straightening out in my life, and life will continue to get better in the weeks ahead. Dang -- it looks like the evening will be pretty nice tonight.

Thanks for reading!