Friday, April 24, 2015

200,000


Lightning Strikes officially hit its 200,000th page view today. 100,000 was reached in May 2013, so it looks like business has picked up a tad despite the slide of online poker in the United States -- with online poker being the reason so many poker blogs were created. Or else it just means that the soulless bots that patrol the interwebs have taken a liking to this place.

In any event, it is what it is. Poker is still great. I enjoy playing. Time to start on the next 100,000!

Playing at the 2009 WSOP

Heck of a Week -- An Illness and Some Bad News for Two Friends

Coming to you straight from the lightning36 bedroom ...
No, I am not going to post any risqué pictures  -- although I am sure there are a least a few women out in the cyberworlds disappointed to hear this. I have spent many hours in my bed this week just being sick. Flu shots have made me pretty resilient to most colds and the like the past several years, but whatever got to me this week got me good.

However, with a bunch of time spent at home and with the ability to reflect, I try to remember that life, overall, has treated me really well. I've made many friends over the years and share with them in their good times and their bad. Unfortunately, this was an awful week for two of my friends. My old college buddy JB, who was very close to his mother, lost her early in the week. She was in her 80's and not in great health. She recently had a stoke and only lasted for a few days afterward.

Fellow poker blogger and good guy Nick -- cokeboy99 -- unexpectedly lost his father yesterday. Nick's dad was not very old and not having major health issues, which certainly makes that loss extremely difficult for Nick and his family. You can click on the link above to get to Nick's blog. I'm sure he would appreciate any prayers, virtual hugs, good karma and kind thoughts.

My next post: something special. Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, April 20, 2015

I'm Calling Out Some Poker Bloggers and Las Vegas People ...


I was recently reminded that there are people we meet who can make our lives miserable ... or can remind us that it is nice to have friends. With that as an intro, there are a few people I would like to thank today:

cokeboy99 -- Nick used his Caesars comps to pay for my dinner at Harrah's Joliet last night. During my last trip to Las Vegas, I forgot to get a rodeo souvenir for one of my administrative assistants. Nick was still in Las Vegas, got it for me, and brought it back so that we could make an exchange at our local riverboat casino.

JT88Keys -- Jeff saw my tweet about my youngest daughter having her phone stolen at school and my search for an inexpensive replacement. Jeff had an extra iPhone and promptly sent it -- gratis! Thanks -- and I hope you or someone in your family got something fun for the Amazon gift card I sent. NOTE: Click on Jeff's link to read his new post about his trip to India!

Rob -- Rob was very generous with his MGM comps on my last trip to Las Vegas. He covered a couple of meals and saw that we were treated like royalty at MGM. Of course, he is The King!

Alysia Chang -- On my last trip to Las Vegas in December, I left a winter coat in my rental car when I returned it. There wasn't enough time for me to retrieve it before my plane took off, so AC drove to the car rental center, got the coat, packaged it up, and already had it on its way BEFORE I even got back to Illinois!

Pete P. Peters --  The Poker Barrister is generously letting me crash in his room when I get to Las Vegas on a late Saturday night next month, saving me from paying an outlandish cost at The Linq for a few hours of hotel time.

Of course, I haven't even included the numerous people who tweet, text, phone or e mail to keep in touch with me, u see ...

Next post (maybe): Poker at Harrah's Joliet with cokeboy99; home game poker

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Heading Up North

It seems like forever since I have written a post. Work continues to drain me of energy and life. Dealing with frustrating people is such a challenge and such a waste of time.

I finally broke my poker losing streak in a very unspectacular was. At my home game last Tuesday, I booked a solid $125/hour win rate. Ummm ... make that $1.25/hour for a spectacular $5 win! I would have booked a bigger win except for running into Aces once when I connected with top pair top kicker on the flop. However, I was at least getting cards to play and occasionally hitting the flop, so no complaints here.

My oldest daughter, who completed her Associate in Arts degree a little over a year ago, had her nice grant funded position disappear (no surprise to her). She decided to return to complete her bachelor's degree, leaving me with two kids at the University of Illinois next year and with my youngest daughter beginning college at the local community college. I will finally be out of the high school business! However, money has now become a true abstraction in my life -- seemingly conceptual and not real. Nobody ever told me that this might happen.

Today, however, I will focus my attention squarely on Harrah's Joliet, where I will head to this afternoon. Cokeboy99 will also be playing there today, although he is opting to play in a tournament before hitting up the cash games, which proved so profitable my last trip.

I'll also be visiting my mother and thundering36 after my poker session is over. Now that I am signed up for a driver's safety course to get my speeding ticket taken off my record, I have become paranoid about getting another ticket. I hope that wears off soon.

Looking ahead, I will fly into Las Vegas six weeks from today. Pete P Peters will be there my entire trip, so I could end up trying that snooty Cabernet he raves about at some point. I believe that Rob will be there that week also, so I am sure there will be some good stories forthcoming from those guys and/or some of our friends who are Las Vegas locals.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

I Must Have Pissed Off the Poker Gods


I should have known it was too good to last. My March heater came to an abrupt halt at the end of the month.

My final session in March was on the last day of the month -- my home game. I was looking to end March with a bang, but instead I took a loss. Meh.

My last post reviewed the big hand that I lost to end my poker session at the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino this past weekend. If you haven't read it yet, ...

Last night I again played at my local home game. How about these two beauties that turned my winning night into a losing one?

1) I was dealt pocket Aces. Unfortunately, my opponent hit a set of 9's on the flop. Can you say "felted?"

2) I was in the big blind. Everyone folded except the small blind, who called. I looked down to see 7-7 and decided to just smooth call and see if I could hit a set. The flop: 7-9-9. Yowsa! Opponent checked, I bet, and he called. The turn: a rag. Now, however, there were both straight and flush possibilities on the board. Could this hand get any better? Opponent checked, I raised and he called. I could already visualize his chips in my stack. The river: 10 of hearts, which completed the heart flush draw. This time the opponent put out all his redbirds. What? Did he have a hand like 10-9? I had a sick feeling that my full house got counterfeited, but I was not going to lay this one down. I called and my opponent flipped over pocket 10's! And he thought that he was ahead the entire time and that I was chasing a flush. Bye bye profit, hello loss.

The only good thing about the night (aside from Kung Pao Chicken, Mu Shu Beef, Empress Shrimp and fried rice) was that the player invited me to another local game tonight. Will the streak continue?

Special note to the poker gods: Please take pity upon your wretched servant, lightning36. He promises NOT to martingale at the end of the night no matter what.

Of course, there are not any of dem GOOD machines around anyway, u see.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

DECISION AND RESULTS REVEALED -- Decision Time: What Would You Do?


After having a great poker month in March, I was looking forward to getting off to a good start in April. Unfortunately, my best option to play was getting in a session at Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL. My results at Par-A-Dice have been very uneven. It seems like almost every trip there has the potential for leading to a four-figure cash out or frustrating the heck out of me. Yesterday, I was faced with a big decision. Would you have made the decision that I did?

The scene: My end of the poker table had been pretty much card dead for hours. Almost all the hands were won by people in seats six through ten. I once was ahead by about $50 early on before I got transferred to a table so that I could play next to cokeboy99. He had been long gone. In the meantime, I had usually been somewhere between $50 and $100 down. I had played pretty good poker ... when I was actually able to play a hand. But it was one of those days -- bad hole cards, no premium starting hands, small pocket pairs don't hit a set on the flop, suited connectors miss the flop.

A guy from the other table transferred over to mine. By this time I had moved to seat four and he was in seven. Almost every time he could, he punished limpers by raising to $25 or $30. However, he did fold some hands pre-flop, so you never knew what he was going to do. In one hand, I either limped in or raised with pocket 8's. He bumped it up to $30 on the button. I decided to call. There were plenty of non-Ace overcards on the flop, turn and river, yet I won the pot. What was he playing -- Ace-rag? Then came the hand of the night.

I looked down to see sooted A-K (hearts). There was a pre-flop raise to $12 and one or two calls in front of me. I decided to smooth call (mistake?) to see what seat seven would do. He raised to $100! I had about $260 in front of me and he had me covered. Much to my surprise, a guy in seat three called the $100 bet and had a few more redbirds behind him. He was relatively new to the table. I wasn't impressed by what little I saw of his play. Action was on me. What did I do? What would you do?

I'll give readers a little time to respond with what they would do and what they think I did before I reveal how the hand concluded.

DECISION and RESULTS

These were the things running through my mind ...
* March had been a great month. Lots of poker, lots of solid wins. My confidence and bankroll were way up.
* Last home game session was a loss. Was the streak over?
* I didn't have a made hand, but it was a good one.
* I was putting seat seven on a range around 10-10, J-J or A-Q. If correct, at worst I would be flipping with him, maybe even dominating him.
* I put seat three on a weaker hand -- maybe A-J, A-10, a middle pair or something else that a shortie might take a chance on.
* Even if shortie seat three had me beat, I would end up with a small win if I beat seat seven.
* I had previously had sessions where I wasn't wanting to gamble and passed up a chance for a big win.
* The karma was not in my favor that day -- or at least it had not been up to that point.
* When I go to Las Vegas to play poker, I often think that I did not go all that way to play like a pussy. East Peoria, IL is certainly NOT Las Vegas, but did I want to fold, then see that I would have won a big pot if I had any balls?

Dang -- there was a lot of crap zooming in my head! However, part of the reason I originally made the smooth call was that I wanted to mix it up with seat seven and take his stack, which I thought I could do. Here was my chance. This was clearly a fold or shove situation. I went all in. Not surprisingly, with all that money out there, seat seven called.

The flop was rag-rag-Jack with lots of black. Dayum! The shortie in seat three announced that he hit his Jack and flipped over A-J. The turn ... a rag. And the river was ... a rag. My only hope was that seat seven was playing a hand like A-Q or A-10.

Seat seven then flipped over his cards to reveal pocket Queens and began to scoop the nice pot. At that point I decided that I had had enough for the day and mucked my cards, grabbed my stuff and said goodbye. As I walked away, I could hear one player asking "What did he have?" I didn't think it would be too hard to figure out.

Thanks for all the great insightful comments. Many people were spot-on and provided good reasons for why they believed what they did. I only wish that I could have reported the fairy tale ending that Mr Subliminal suggested. Unfortunately, this was poker, and we all know that too many times in poker fairy tales, our Prince Charming turns out to be a frog.

Epilogue: After I left the table, I sought out my slot friend, Willy Wonka. Visions of martingaling danced in my head ...

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Returning to Work From Vacation Should Be Against the Law


After a nice trip to Arizona, I somehow made it through a week of work. Actually, it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. It was as if the week woke me up to remember that I need to take more time out for vacation instead of just grinding it at work all the time. Such was the transition I had to head of my department over the last three years. Any readers who have had significant responsibility for a group of workers and everything that goes along with that likely understands. Sometimes when you get away you are not really away.

I am also facing some blunt realities in life. In just over four months, I will have three kids in college at the same time. Money is just a concept in my life -- something that exists in the abstract. This is the closest that I have come to understanding how those rich professional poker players go about their business. It is if money isn't really real. It is also like I am the great middleman laundering money, making sure it goes from my employer to the University of Illinois and several credit card companies. Don't cry for me, Argentina, though -- I am just complaining, something I basically tend not to do.

The whole notion of vacation spurred Mrs. lightning to think about how, with the kids growing older, we might have just one last shot for a family vacation. So, outside of a little remaining planning, it looks like we are going to go to New Orleans in July, stopping in Memphis on the way down (shouting out to Memphis MOJO here!). I am still working on whether or not we will stop anywhere or go anyplace on the way back, or if we might just be too tired (or too tired of each other!) to do more than veg in the van.

I do have a Las Vegas trip planned sooner rather than later, however. I'll be flying down and getting into Las Vegas late in the evening on Saturday, May 30 and then leaving the next Saturday, June 6, just after midnight. Thanks to Pete P. Peters, who is letting me crash in his room when I get in late Saturday night. My wife asked me if I have warned him yet about how bad my snoring is. Heh!

I'll be setting up shop for the week in The LINQ. This will be the first time for my staying there since the old Imperial Palace was redone. Unfortunately, Caesar's  Corp has apparently been unhappy with my decision to work instead of being more of a degenerate gambler in its casinos, and it has been very stingy with room offers to me. I am actually paying for a room AND the resort fee? Blasphemy!

So ... life continues on. The sun is shining and it is a beautiful spring day in central Illinois. My best wishes to everyone. And for those who are so inclined -- Happy Easter!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bye Bye Arizona -- Do I Really Want To Go Back Home?

I am currently on an evening flight from Phoenix to Chicago. Mrs. lightning and I get in after 1:00 a.m. and then have a 2 1/2 drive home. Getting almost a whole extra day sounded much better when I changed our reservations rather than right now.

On Thursday morning Mrs. lightning and I took a nice stroll through the neighborhood. The yards in the greater Phoenix area are certainly much more interesting then back home!

I then went to play another poker session at Talking Stick. It was one of those kind of sessions that we all hate. I got cards, but had the second best hand several times. Then I was card dead for ... like forever! It was just a dull session and, unfortunately, was my last planned poker session of the trip. I ended up losing part of a buy-in.

The evening was time for a dinner with some family who live in Arizona. My oldest brother and his wife were down from Kingman, and we joined their children and the children's kids for dinner. Just one, big happy lightning family!

After dinner, we went back to our home base and basically crashed.

Earlier this morning, I was preparing to face the day when Mrs. lightning asked if it would be possible to waiting several hours before returning our rental car. I originally was to return it at 11:00 a.m. due to our old return flight time. I happily did, for now we would not have to return the car until 5:00 p.m., which meant ... time for one more poker session! I threw on some clothes, made sure my bags were mostly packed, and headed down to Talking Stick.

My first table had some very weak players. I flopped a set of Jacks on the button and felted one relatively short stack. I then was in late position with pocket fours (red) with several players calling an initial $16 bet. I called. The flop was a rainbow 5-3-8/9. Someone donk raised $10, so naturally I called hoping that I could hit a two or six and have the open ended straight draw. The flop was a beautiful black four! Someone raised to $25, there was a caller, and I raised $100. Much to my surprise and delight, two of the weak players tanked and called. There were now two spades on the board, and I was thinking that at least one was on a flush draw. I really wasn't expecting any calls. I was hoping I didn't get rivered. The river was a King of hearts, and I pushed all in. Both players folded and I scooped a nice pot of about $400.

Action slowed and players changed, so I moved to another table. It looked like a nitfest was going on, so I asked for one last change.

The one hand I wish I had back happened there. I was in the big blind and the player under the gun raised to $10. I had 3c2c and decided to call. The flop was King high with two clubs. I checked and he raised -- don't remember how much. I decided to call. The flop was a club! I had the flush, albeit the lowest one. I put the villain on K-something I checked and he made a big raise -- to keep me from possibly chasing a flush draw, I thought. I was in fact afraid that he had a bigger club than me and decided to push all in so he couldn't outflush me on the river. I had about $550 total and he had about $170. I was surprised that he called. The river was a random red card. I turned over my baby flush and announced it. He turned over Jc-9c for the bigger flush. Day-um! That cost me!

I continued to play and cashed out with a decent profit. All sessions on the trip save one were profitable. I was happy to call it a day and end my session. I headed out to return my rental car and head to the airport.

My wife got to visit her best friend. I got to see family and play extended sessions of poker. Needless to say, it was a great vacation and a great trip. Now if we can only handle leaving the 90+ degree day in Phoenix and returning to 27 degree weather in Chicago.