Sunday, September 14, 2014

Screwed by Dealers Three Times in One Night

Yesterday I made a short road trip to play some poker at the nearest room, the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino in East Peoria, IL. It was a very different trip.

Sadly, my friend Willy Wonka was not attentive to my needs. However, another favorite slot machine at the boat,, Cash Illusions, was.

There isn't anything quite as fun as donking a little cashola in slot machines for a little relaxation. And when you win ... so much better!

I was seated immediately upon entering the poker room. The game was progressing slowly as I received little in the way of cards. Then, however, things rapidly changed when one of the better local players sat down at the table. I knew him well enough to know that he tries to blow people off hand by betting really big after the flop or turn. I had pocket 5's and flopped a set on the turn. A set of 5's used to be called "Presto!" in the old poker blogger world, and I felt like shouting it out. The good thing was, I knew exactly how to play this guy. I showed weakness after the flop, and he jacked up his bet after the turn. There were straight possibilities out there, but I was betting that I was way ahead, so I shoved my whole stack. He tanked for a bit, than apparently decided that I was using his strategy. He called. I never found out what he had, but I took everything he had except for $7. He walked away from the table to take a loooong break. Yowsa!

Eventually several players started leaving, so I decided to take a break while comfortably ahead. I returned to the room a bit later and was seated at the same table. There were several new players and the action was loose and hard. I was hoping for some decent cards, but switched tables when they were not forthcoming. A while later, cokeboy99 came to the boat and was able to eventually get seated at my table. It sure was nice to have at least one compadre in the room.

As for the title of this post ... three different times by three different dealers, I was on the crappy end of their errors.

#1: Female dealer who also messed up a pot by not counting out chips from a player's all in somehow misdealed our hands. I looked down to see ... A-A. Wonderful.

#2: Male dealer who is apparently very new exposed the river card before the final player in a hand had a chance to call a bet. The card would have given me the nut flush and won me a nice pot. However, the river card was instead shuffled back into the deck, and the new river was not a Heart, meaning I had nothing. That hand really cost me. Grrrrr.

3#: Male dealer (probably the best or one of the best in the room) somehow misdeals. I look down to see ... A-A! Do you believe it! I know there could be an assumption that it the cards were dealt properly, I might not have gotten both A-A hands. However, I am not sure what caused the misdeals -- bad flips to the last couple of players? In any event, you should be able to understand why I felt frustrated last night.

Toward the end of the evening, a rather annoying player sat down and kept running his yap the rest of the evening. He was a lucksack supreme, and I only hope that I get to play with him again in the future when the poker gods might be a little more favorable to me.

All in all, despite some good play on my part, I took a slight loss on the evening. It was nice, however, so get away for part of the day since work has been taking its toll on me lately.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Repeat of a Story Etched in Time

My Greatest Catch - A Fishing/Life Story
My family was not exactly the type that would buy Field & Stream or Outdoor Life magazines. No family members except a brother-in-law had ever gone hunting. Fishing was something you did at the local pond with a bamboo pole, a bobber, and a worm. So when the opportunity came up to take a week-long fishing trip in Canada with my father-in-law and several of my wife's relatives, I was both excited and scared. Doing a week at Lake of the Woods in Nestors Falls, Ontario with a bunch of guys sounded like a great time. However, I knew I would be the worst fisherman out there, and would have to be taught a number of different strategies and techniques. The trip ended up being great, and the annual fishing trip was something I looked forward to.

A year after my father-in-law passed away, I went on the trip with my wife's cousin, Tim, and my wife's Uncle Don. Tim and Don were hard core fishermen, as evidenced by one trip where we spent over 70 hours on the water in one week. Tim and Don taught me about 50% of what I knew about fishing.

One afternoon, I got one hell of a yank on my line. The fish was obviously a monster, and smart too, as he tried to get away under the boat. Tim and Don later said that they couldn't believe that my fishing pole didn't break as it was bent in a U-shape when the fish ran under the boat. After much struggling and fighting, I landed the sucker. I was hoping that I had caught my first muskie, but instead it was a huge northern pike. Yes -- I was so damn proud of myself.

I couldn't wait to get back to shore. The plan was to bring in the boat and I would fix dinner while Tim and Don went to the tavern up the road to call home and check in with their wives. Of course, as I was cooking, there was a spring in my step. I kept thinking that life just didn't get much better than it was that day.

Tim and Don would usually be back right away, but this time it was taking them forever to return. It was dark outside and the dinner was beginning to get cold, so I began to think that I might need to go down to the tavern and see what was holding them up. Before I could get out the door, they came back in with grim looks on their faces.

I wish I could go into detail about the length and weight of my greatest catch, but the details were lost in the events of that day.

September 11, 2001.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Football (and More) Saturday

My friends Steve and Carol invited Mrs. lightning and me to go to the University of Illinois football game and pre and post game tailgates yesterday, so how could we refuse? Carol and I first started working together ... ummm ... 32 years ago when I started my first professional job. Old friends are good friends!

Since Steve is a frequent flier at a local butcher shop, he scored free pre-game tailgate passes to a large tent sponsored in part by the shop. Free tailgate that included free draft beer? Score!

The game itself was interesting. Of course, a school like Illinois that is from a major conference is expected to win against lesser conference schools. However, Illinois hasn't exactly been a football power for some time. Western Kentucky gave the Fighting Illini all that it could handle. The final score was 42-34 -- a narrow escape for the home town team. Former Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt passed for 456 yards and three touchdowns for the Illini. The good news is that Illinois is ranked 8th in the country in passing yards -- 370.5 per game. The bad news is that they are 122nd in rushing yards -- 71 per game. Next week they play at Washington. Things might not be so cheery a week from now.

After the game, we set up our own tailgate. And just so that Pete P. Peters knows that all members of the lightning crowd are not total pikers ...

Yes -- those are filets that you see on the grill -- the same filets that helped score Steve the pre-game tailgate passes!

And no -- we did not bring any Stags' Leap or even Jordan cabernet with us. Instead ...

So, with a face that was burned a pretty shade of red and with a belly full of choice steak, bloody marys and Torpedos, I returned home from a fine afternoon.

But wait ... one thing was missing. Where was the poker and/or the button mashing? Before the evening was over, I decided to cash in my free play at the closest slot lounge. Of course, free gambling money is always great gambling money.

The last time I visited the lounge, the machines were all cold and I left rather quickly. This time, however, my favorite Lotus Flower machine had a little hot streak in it. For example:

I usually go to the lounge late in the evening since others have generally cleared out by that time. Hmmm ... a guy goes to mash buttons later at night and wants to be alone doing it. I might have heard of someone who does that before.

All in all, it was a great Saturday. Now it is Sunday, and time to go from one orange and blue team to another:

Go Bears -- and have a great football Sunday!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Jimi Jamison, lead singer of Survivor, dead at 63

Pop rock music has lost another member as Jimi Jamison, lead singer of Survivor, popular band of the 1980's, died of a heart attack on August 31. Jamison took over lead singing duties of Survivor from David Bickler and recently was touring with an updated version of Survivor that included Bickler. Yes -- two former lead singers sharing the lead, as I saw in the December 2013 concert in Bloomington Illinois, Rock to the Rescue.

While the name Jimi Jamison may not jump out at you, he was the lead singer of some Survivor classics ("High on You," "I Can't Hold Back," and "The Search is Over,") as well as the iconic Baywatch theme song, "I'm Always Here."





Monday, September 01, 2014

Rockin' the Par-A-Dice

I had been a tad jealous of my friends who were in Las Vegas, playing poker, mashing buttons, betting on sports and generally having a great time. Here I was, however, in central Illinois. What to do?
Yesterday, the answer to that question became very clear. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were using my house as a base for their travel to visit relatives and friends in the area. But ... they were leaving on the next leg of their trip. My youngest daughter was getting ready to go to her weekly Sunday gathering with friends. My wife was going with a friend to visit someone in a nursing home. That left this guy all alone with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon. When all else fails ... head to the nearest poker room!
I hopped in my car and headed to the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino in East Peoria, IL. Two shorthanded tables were running so I was seated immediately. It's tough making good money when playing $1/2 NL with only a few people at the table. Eventually more players came in, however, and I won a big pot when I hit a set of Queens on a flop with two hearts showing. A villain raised and I made a huge re-raise. He went all in (only about $17 more) and, of course, I called. The turn was a heart and he turned over his cards to show that he had the nut flush draw and hit it. However, the river paired the board and I announced "I have a boat" and turned over my pocket Queens. Cha-ching!
The table was eventually shut down to be used for a tournament, and I cashed out a nice profit. I was then on a wait list to be seated at the only cash table going, so I played a little video poker, but my favorite machine just wasn't hitting. I headed down to a different level to play my favorite slot, the Willy Wonka machine. A minimal investment and I was on my way. Shortly into the session, the Oompa Loompa bonus gave me this:
I stayed on that Wonka Machine and then hit a bonus that looked to just be decent ... until it was multiplied 10 times!
Doubly sweet!
My name was called on the intercom as a player left the cash game, opening up a seat for me. What to do? The decision was easy ... stay on Wonka!
Wonka stopped giving shortly thereafter, so I played a few other slots. Blogger friend cokeboy99 texted that he was able to come to the poker room, so I headed upstairs and got seated at one of the two cash games running. I was in the big blind the second hand at the table and looked down to see the dreaded pocket Kings - two black ones! Most of the table had limped in, so I bumped it up to $22, not knowing anything about the table. One guy called. The flop: three diamonds, Queen high. I checked, he bet $20, and I bumped it up to $50. I was pretty sure I was still ahead. He called. The turn was about the worst card imaginable: the Ace of diamonds. I checked and he went all in. I was pretty sure he had at least one high diamond (confirmed by the guy next to me who spied the cards before the villain mucked) or, at the least, had a big Ace. I grumbled and folded.
I reloaded and soon got into another big hand when I flopped a set of Queens (the ladies were with me that night!) and saw a flop that included  two spades and a King. I bet out $30 (about a pot-sized bet and was raised by one villain. Another one called, so I pushed all in. Both guys called. One had the nut flush draw, the other likely had some type of straight draw. Thankfully, the turn and river helped no one, and I scooped a huge pot.
cokeboy99 soon checked in and we played at the same table for several hours. Eventually I had to think about the long drive home, and when I left both cokeboy99 and I both had a nice profit.
Two winning poker sessions and a winning slot session in an unexpected trip to the casino. Sometimes things just work out right.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Should Be On My Way to Las Vegas, But ...

This post comes to you not from Las Vegas, not from the airport, not from the highway ...

Working in a job that has a cyclical work year, I have traditionally taken some vacation time in early September, right after one of my busiest and stressful months. In the 1990's, a common practice of mine was to gather with the menfolk of my wife's family and head north to Nestor Falls, Ontario, Canada, for a week of fishing. Whether we were fishing for bass, walleye, crappie, northern pike or muskie, the days on the water were long and fulfilling. The important part (along with, of course, the fishing, beer and camaraderie) was just totally getting away from work and from regular life. I would come home ready to take on the new challenges at work.

After my brother, the King of Komps, moved back to the United States from Australia in 2000, I shifted away from the fishing trips to Las Vegas trips, especially since KOK's birthday is around Labor Day, and we frequently went together to have fun and to celebrate. However, this year proved to be a challenge. KOK takes care of our mother and currently is unable to get away for more than a short time. I have been busy with some new initiatives at work and am already far behind where I should be at this time. As a result, there was no Labor Day Las Vegas trip this year. Today would normally be the day that we would be leaving.

Making things worse, in a sense, was reading of the escapades this past week of PPP, Rob, ~Coach, Tony Bigcharles and grrouchie in Las Vegas. Throw in some poker at the Venetian, a guest appearance by the mysterious Alysia Chang, some sweet sweet video poker and a filet or two, and I am one envious guy! To make matters worse, this past week at work absolutely sucked. You know you have had a golden week at work when you get back to your office for the last hour of the work week before a holiday weekend and a colleague tells you "You haven't checked your voicemail? You should have a message on there from the police in the neighboring town."

But ... hey, getting a day off work should never be overlooked. And the NFL season is upon us. And the MLB season is nearing an end (never too soon for a Chicago baseball fan).

Time to start searching hotel deals from Caesar's, flight possibilities, and somehow fitting in a little vacation time with a busy schedule. September is just beginning. There is always time to fit in a Las Vegas trip, right?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Concert Mini-Review: Eddie Money at the Urbana (IL) Sweetcorn Festival - Aug 23, 2014

So what could be more Midwestern than a festival honoring and featuring sweetcorn in August? The annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival has been going on in Urbana, IL (home to the University of Illinois) for 39 years. Aside from the delectable ears of corn that are available for a nominal price, the streets of downtown Urbana are filled with other summer delicacies, drinks, and music.

The headliner for the 2014 festival was Eddie Money, iconic 1980's rock star. His fairly recent Geico insurance commercial ...

... certainly made me wonder if it would even be worth my while to see him at a free festival. Reviews found on the internet seemed to be one way or another: either he was great or he appeared to be drunk and put on a terrible performance. His voice is pretty obviously shot, and I know there has been criticism in that he doesn't sing enough of the lyrics himself, instead deferring to his adoring crowd. But ... what the heck -- I missed out on seeing Steely Dan at the Illinois State Fair the weekend before, so it was time to hit the free concert!
Money's tour schedule indicates that he plays primarily three types of venues: small clubs/concert halls, casinos throughout the U.S and festivals/fairs. He had what appeared to be a few thousand people listening on a wonderful Midwest August night.
His set started out with a classic, "Baby Hold On." His daughter, Jesse, sings with Money's stage band, and she seemed to do well throughout the evening, especially when featured.
Money covered all of his hits throughout the hour-long set, including "I Wanna Go Back," "Walk on Water" and  "Take Me Home Tonight" (with Jesse doing a fine job with the Ronnie Spector part). He closed out the set with "Think I'm in Love" and his signature hit "Two Tickets to Paradise." The obligatory encore concluded with the hit "Shakin'."
Money is a big supporter of military veterans and is donating proceeds from his new single, One More Soldier Coming Home, to the Fallen Heroes Fund. He came out immediately after the performance to sign Eddie Money items bought at the concert, which largely consisted of tee shirts (some portion of the profits going to support military/veterans causes) that sold for ... $40! During the concert, when speaking about the shirt sales, Money said "Hey -- this is not like the Rolling Stones -- the shirts are $20 ... really $40." I thought he was kidding. Needless to say, I declined.
So the big question: What was the concert really like? Money was having a great time with the crowd and was pretty, for lack of a better word, goofy. I didn't think he was drunk, but got the impression that this was just where he is right now in life. He did, unfortunately, defer waaay too much of the singing to the crowd, especially on the choruses of his big hits. His voice, never one of the great voices of popular music, has diminished over the years, but was certainly better than the way it sounded in that Geico commercial. I guess he enjoyed the campy act he put on in that advertisement. Money's performance on the saxophone and harmonica, however, was really quite good.
So ... if you are a music purist and want to see Eddie Money perform songs just as he recorded them, you will be disappointed. But ... if you are having a good time at a free fair and free concert, you will find that he puts on a pretty decent show. I enjoyed the show, but was glad that I had the proper expectations beforehand.
Rock on, Money Man!