Friday, July 29, 2011

The World is a Little Less Wonderful Without Rob Grill

Sometimes things just slip past you, even in this computer age of instant information. In about a month I will be going to see the 2011 incarnation of the Happy Together Tour, a concert featuring several musical acts from the 1960's. One of the groups, The Grass Roots, will be missing its long time lead singer, bass player,  and leader, Rob Grill, who passed away earlier this month. How this somehow got past me I do not know.

It took a long time for me to see Grill's band. I had tickets to a Grass Roots concert many moons ago when I was in college (late 1970's). The fieldhouse was packed as the opening act took the stage. After a few songs, however, an announcement was made: a Grass Roots touring vehicle had been involved in an accident on the way to the concert. It was a serious accident, in fact, and at least one person died. As a result, the band was unable to make it to the concert. We were given an option of getting our money back or staying for the rest of the opening bands performances, and of course everyone headed toward the box office to get their money back.

I finally did get to see The Grass Roots ten years ago when they played at the Peoria Civic Center Theater with The Buckinghams and Gary Puckett. Rob Grill was fantastic. The years did nothing to diminish his golden voice.

After the concert, the bands stayed in the lobby to meet their fans and sign autographs. I told Rob how it took me 20 years to finally see his band after the cancelled concert. I reminded him of the accident that had caused the cancellation, and he looked at me and said "Brother, let's be thankful that we are all here today."

Since one of my friends is a professional singer who tours with some nationally recognized groups and is in touch with inside info on the oldies rock scene, I had known that Rob had been suffering from some physical problems the last few years.  He toured when he could and I was looking forward to seeing him again in August. Listening to the Grass Roots without him will certainly be bittersweet.

Just a few days ago I wrote about the death of former America band member Dan Peek. Being a big fan of rock and pop music all my life, I have always been thrilled at the times I have been able to meet some of these singers and musicians in person. However, as I have seen over the years, it just makes their passing a little bit sadder. Tonight I'll be thinking about these singers who provided me with much joy over the years.

Friday Musings from the Heartland -- Cars, Pets, and Me

If you have ever read Jordan's blog, you have read about his poker trips and his methods of transportation. Unless I remember incorrectly, his trips are via public transportation because, living in a big city, he does not own a car. Public transportation does really work well for some people.

I grew up in suburban Chicago, where having a car was necessary. Now, living in then heartland, a car is even more essential, although the public transportation (bus) system in my town has won national awards. With two working adults and three teenagers in the family, the number of lightning family automobiles is now at four. What that means, unfortunately, is that there is always a car that needs an oil change, tire rotation, check engine light diagnosed, and on and on. It seems like half my monthly credit card bill is auto/gas related. If the economy continues to fail, don't blame me. It seems like I pay more than my share in consumer goods and services.

Of course, what would the credit card bill be without some charges related to our pets? Thank goodness the chinchillas, bird, and tarantula are low cost and low maintenance. My wife has sunk plenty of time and money into her fish pond. The cats and the dog ring up significant vet bills, especially since our dog is getting older and has Cushing's disease. I don't remember pets being this expensive when I was growing up.

I guess the cars, the pets, and maybe even the rest of my family members form one side of the equation, wheras on the other side, there is me. I am a pretty low maintenance guy. I have always said that with a little TLC, Chinese food, and chocolate, I could run on autopilot for months at a time. Being the money manager of the family, I have always been careful with my money and among friends and colleagues have a reputation for being the guy who can always find the best deal on something. People who see me observe that I obviously do not spend much money on clothes (oh yeah -- a special FOAD to Josie's metrosexual co-worker) and I even have a hobby that has turned a profit for me most years. Somehow this all seems to work, making me just a regular Midwestern guy and my family just an average Midwestern family. I can live with that.

Today is the second to last week of my four-day work weeks. I hear some poker rooms calling me ...

Enjoy your weekend!

Addendum: Our family dog continues her physical difficulties, so it is back to the vet's office this morning. Cha-ching.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brief Impressions: Some Illinois and Indiana Poker Rooms

With the loss of my favorite online poker sites and with a few weeks of vacation this summer, I decided to play some cash games at several of the legal poker rooms in Illinois and Indiana. Some brief impressions:


Par-A-Dice Casino
East Peoria

This is actually the closest poker room to me, although it is about 90 minutes away. It is a small room that, outside of tournaments, had two to five tables going on my visits there -- mostly $1/2NL and an Omaha 8 table. The room is heavily populated by locals, including some solid players. There is a lot of limping in the $1/2 NL games, so you have to be careful about not getting snookered by a sharpie playing a junk hand and hitting the perfect flop. The dealers and staff are friendly and the atmosphere is cordial. It is a comfortable place to play, but you have to play sharp poker to turn a decent profit.

Hollywood Casino

Hollywood Casino is the current incarnation of the old Empress Casino. I had always thought that the Empress, the first riverboat casino I ever visited, was small and trashy. As Hollywood, the casino looks and feels much better. The poker room is small with only a handful of tables -- maybe five? I played some NL there and was surprised by several things. For example, there was a main table, and players were filtered into it by from the feeder table. I entered at the feeder table and was doing quite well. After a time, I was moved to the main table, where I stayed about even until taking a cruel river beat.

Although the play was friendly and the dealers okay, this room just did not seem to be up to the kind of standard worthy of  a long drive to play.


Yowsa -- now this is a poker room! Harrah's made this one of their WSOP poker rooms, and it is big! Lots of tables, lots of action. I played $1/3 NL here several weeks ago and made a huge score due to some loose play and great cards. The dealers and management seemed to be okay, but I was shocked at the rude behavior exhibited by some players toward dealers and other players. The dealers just seemed to not be bothered by it. As I have found both in Las Vegas and in the midwest, Harrah's knows how to run a good poker room. This is one heck of a room for an action junkie. A return is in the near future for me.


Horseshoe Southern Indiana

This is another excellent poker room in the fine Harrah's tradition. A big plus for me is that it is on a non-smoking floor. There is a snack bar at the back of the room (not in operation during my visit) and even rest rooms there. How convenient. It is a big room with lots of tables, but most were not in use on my trip.

The action varied on my trip and I had a few losing and even sessions. However, I had a great run on my final night and won back everything I had lost the previous two days. I felt comfortable playing here although the room was freezing. Two comped night at the hotel and a comped buffet made for a happy camper. This room will absolutely be a destination for me if I want to get away for a couple of days.

Horseshoe Hammond

I have played cash games at this Harrah's property two times and have played WSOP circuit events two or three times. It is a big, busy poker room that spreads many limit, NL, and Omaha games. The wait list can get quite long, so you have to be prepared to wait.

In my mind this is clearly the best poker room in my brief report. The wait list was well run, the dealers are good, and the play seems to be pretty fishy. I have turned nice profits on both my cash game visits here and have felt right at home. It would be tempting to play here often if it was not so far away.

I will be tempted to take another road trip this weekend. If I go to a Harrah's room I can be assured that I will be playing in a quality room.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

R.I.P. Dan Peek

I was sad to hear that Dan Peek, former member of America, passed away on July 24 at the age of 60. I went to a Dan Peek concert at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL many, many moons ago, a few years after he left America. Dan was gracious in meeting people, signing autographs, and sharing his new-found Christain faith. He left behind a life centered around drug use and authored and performed contemporary Christian music hits for many years.
The above video is of Dan singing lead on America's Don't Cross the River. We'll miss you, Dan.

Friday, July 22, 2011

All Hail Cornholio!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to Work This Week

Going back to work after a nice vacation is always difficult. Visiting several poker rooms in Illinois and Indiana and actually having my home game play for the first time since before Christmas was nice. But ... it was back to work in this darn, oppressive heat. Seeing as how I have an inside job in a nice air conditioned office I guess it really shouldn't matter, but just being outside for any length of time just seems to suck the life out of you.
The highlight of the week was last night. I was nearing the end of the work day when my oldest daughter called to tell me that her car had a flat tire. Yes -- just what I would want to deal with in the scorching heat. The fun continued when my wife put our big garbage can in the wrong place in the garage. I was maneuvering  my car around it when SNAP -- I looked to see that I had hit my outside mirror against the garage. The mirror flew off and shattered in the driveway. When it rains it pours!

I filled up the spare tire for my daughter's car and decided to change the tire later that night when the temperature would go down. Ha! I went out at 11:45 at night and it was still hot as hell. Nothing like getting heat stroke changing a tire in an Arby's parking lot at midnight!

I am working four-day weeks for the next three weeks, so my weekend has begun already. After taking care of some maintenance issues with my cars I just might find time for a few hours of b&m poker. If only I had the Harrah's profile to get rooms comped on the weekends ...

Friday, July 15, 2011

BUSTED -- Illinois Tollway Big Brother Violation Enforcement Camera System

People who know me know that generally I am a law abiding citizen. But, like most people, sometimes I run a little astray -- not usually by any particular intent, you understand. Sometimes things just happen. Like on the Illinois Tollway.

Now (as I am sure that Ken Prevo is already starting to chuckle) in case you do not know, Illinois has a rich history regarding its tollways. I remember my dad telling me that the tolls were to pay for construction of the roads, and once the roads were all paid for they would become free roads. Ha! I live in Illinois, dammit -- I know better. I seem to remember that the roads were paid for years ago, but then our wonderful legislators decided that the tolls would continue and would be used for highway maintenance. Of course, then additional tollways were built.

Living outside the metropolitan Chicago area, my travel on tollways has been infrequent. However, the most recently built tollway now provides a better means to get to my mother's house, so I have used the tollways more frequently. The typical method to pay tolls for people who frequently use the tollways is to use an I-PASS, a transponder you place in your car which automatically deducts the cost of the tolls as you pass through the toll stations. For people like me who pay cash, we get the honor of having to stop and pay double the amount of the toll.

My point in this post: I have driven through the toll station with no I-PASS and without paying three times in the past 15 months, usually because of carelessness on my part or relative unfamiliarity with where I was driving. The toll stations are equipped with cameras that proportedly take a picture of your license plate when you go through without paying. I can verify today that the cameras work!

I received a letter from the Illinois Tollway a few days ago. All three violations had been caught on camera and I was fined for each instance. Yes, I will pay my fines, lowering my state's debt to somewhere in the $121,599,577,000 range. But somehow the idea of getting caught on camera and receiving notice months or even more than a years later just doesn't seem to sit right with me. Maybe we ought to focus those cameras on the legislators who have driven the state into that debt of $121,599,585,000 (the debt went up $8000 between sentences).

Time to finally get an I-PASS, I imagine.

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rockin' the Grocery Store on Sunday Afternoon

Since I do most of the family grocery shopping I thought I'd better make a run before I leave for Indiana tomorrow. The first stop, Meijer, brought nothing unusual. It was at the second stop, County Market, where I seemed to run into an unusual cast of characters shopping today:

1) Tall creepy guy. This was the name given to this gentleman by someone who works with him at the local newspaper. The guy looks like a tall version of John Larroquette. His usual job is to stand at a station at the local grocery stores and try to get people to suscribe to the local daily paper. He does kind of give me the creeps.

2) Big version of Danny DeVito. Much bigger. And he smelled really, really bad. He smelled so bad that you could smell him an aisle away. He had the DeVito hair and was wearing a wife beater. I would call the shirt by the name we called it while I was growing up, but I will be sensitive to the feelings of some of my Italian readers.  Okay ... eff it -- it was a Dago tee.

3) Beautiful underage girl. Yeah -- you know her -- blondish-brown hair, thin, nice tan, long legs, short shorts. Hmmm ... maybe I should make that trip down to Florida instead of Indiana (see previous two posts).

4) Husband of She Hate Me. She Hate Me is this woman in town who used to be a friend of my wife. For some reason, she despised me. I honestly do not know why. I rarely talked to her, she knew little about me, and I could not understand the hate. But it was there. Clearly. Someone once speculated that perhaps I reminded her of some guy who crapped on her really badly. Anyway, it is kind of funny because no one seemed to like her husband ... except me. First time I had seen him in years and years. He is still around after winning a battle against cancer. I'd have liked to have said "hi" to him, but it was not like I really wanted to ask "So ... how is you biotch wife?"

5) Funny eyebrow lady. She shaved them off and drew in some really wicked ones. She shouldn't have used the McDonald's golden arches for a guide.

6) Old lady who smelled good. Thank goodness I walked next to her after running into #2 several times.

Bastin thinks that my dark side is coming out. Maybe he is right.

Road Trip This Week?

I am heading into my final week of vacation this summer. The vacation has been okay, as I have been able to take a trip to Las Vegas, had my mother at my house for a few days, went to a Cubs game, took my son and a friend to a Flaming Lips concert, and visited a few casinos for some cash game action. My wife and I had originally talked about a family vacation -- maybe Washington D.C. -- then decided against it, thinking about maybe a family cruise later in the year instead, which sounded really good after talking in Las Vegas with yestbay and his experiences with family cruises. However, we found our that our kids all disliked like the idea. So instead ... it just looks like a lightning36 and Mrs. lightning36 cruise sometime in December, January, or February. Of course, it will need to fit in with the WPBT Winter Classic!

Mrs. lightning36 has been spending the weekend at her friend's lake house (there might still be a family vacation there before summer is over!) while I have been ruling the roost in her absence. However, hearing about the Las Vegas tournament success of Shabazz Jenkins and the big cashish night Very Josie recently had got me thinking that one final road trip is in order. I know that The Neophyte would be expecting me to visit his Florida turf (see my most recent post), but instead I am planning to try out the poker room at Harrah's Horseshoe Southern Indiana. I have never played there before and was considering playing in one of the Denny Crum Poker Open events this coming August. Thanks to Harrahs Total Rewards I have two nights comped there, so I hope to leave Monday morning.

Have an excellent day!

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Casey Anthony ... will you marry me?

Okay, okay, I know ... this seems a little surprising coming from a guy like me. However, I have always made rational decisions in my life and I see no reason to change things now.

Why am I proposing to Casey Anthony? I obviously have some well thought out reasons ...

1) She is a cutie! Let's face it -- we have all seen her "party girl" pictures. Even when they tried to downplay her looks in court, she still looked hot.

Yeah -- she has that Alanis Morisette vibe going on, but she is waaaay cuter. And her figure ... well ...

2) She has been in jail for about three years. Hmmm ... a party girl who has been doing without for three years. I imagine that she must have certain ...  needs ... And yes -- this confirms what I have said for years: men are pigs!

3) Why would an old coot like me think that he even has a chance? Well, we already know that there might be some funky daddy story here. I'd guess that it is just another of her many lies, but hey -- it means she might consider it.

4) Speaking of lies -- since she lies about everything, there would be no pretense of her ever telling the truth.

Casey: "Honey, I do not know where your poker bankroll went. It was right on the table this morning."
L36: "Ahhh ... my girl!"

5) Discipline. Two of my teenage kids can get awfully mouthy with their parents. Imagine if they had to think about real consequences for their actions.

6) She is a problem solver. For example, a big problem I have in this whole plan is that I am married. However, Casey seems to have a way of making problems just disappear ... at least for awhile.

Well, I figure this is worth a shot. If I hear any good news I will update this post. Otherwise, if you see me on Anderson Cooper or Greta ... BOOM!


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Las Vegas Conversation Snippets

L36:  My luggage didn’t come in on my flight.
SW:  Where did you fly from?
L36:  Chicago –Midway.
SW:  We’ve been having trouble with Chicago lately,
L36:  Any idea where my luggage might be?
SW:  Either it’s still in Chicago or it’s in Burbank, CA.

As L36 walks through the Bally’s poker room upon arriving at the hotel/casino ...
Chauncey (Bally’s poker dealer) to brush:  Don’t let the guy in the yellow shirt sign up for 1-2NL.
L36:  Ahhh … my Las Vegas home …

L36 (grabbing player’s arm):  Sir … sir … the action is on you, sir …
Player:  Stares straight ahead, blinks rapidly.
L36:  Dealer – Call for a doctor. This guy is having a seizure or a stroke.

Drunk guy @ Bill’s:  I’m just having fun here tonight.
Drunk guy – pointing at L36:  You’re a good guy.
L36:  Thanks … asshole.
Table:  Muhahahahahaha

L36:  I can’t believe that you took all that money from the best looking mature woman I have ever seen and chased her away from the table.
Player:  Hey – YOU are the one that busted her!
L36:  Ahh well …

Oops -- I guess I should clarify. These were from conversations from my Las Vegas trip last month .

Monday, July 04, 2011

King of the Mountain: My Trip to Harrah's Joliet

It was certainly not inaccurate to say that I had been in a poker slump. I had not played a tremendous amount of poker since Black Friday. When I did (trip to Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL and a trip to Las Vegas last month), I was shocked at how bad I ran. People called with garbage and hit runner-runner flushes. I got rivered more times than I thought possible. I was coolered in a couple of big hands, and I never seemed to catch a break. If I chased, I never caught. Others could suck out, but why not me?

With this as a backdrop, I decided to check out the poker rooms at the Joiliet, IL casinos on the way home from my mom's house in suburban Chicago. It was a good decision.

I left my mom's house Friday morning, caught some lunch in the next town, then headed to my first stop, the Hollywood Casino in Joliet. The casino had formerly been the Empress Casino, one of the many old Illinois riverboat casinos that never sail anymore. I had always thought that the Empress looked kind of junky when it opened, but it had gotten better. As Hollywood Casino, it really looked quite nice.

The poker room was at one end of the casino, a nice but small five table area. I was put on the waiting list for 1-2NL. One table was already filled with players.

After fooling around on some video poker machines for about twenty minutes, I got the call to come to the poker room as a second table was about to open. We filled it and away we went.

I caught a few cards early and chipped up aganinst competition that I thought I could beat. Unfortunately, as more players came, I  was moved to the original table. It appears that the second and succeeding tables are usued as fillers for the original table(s). There was much more money at the original table, so the switch was fine with me.

I treaded water while the aggro guy on my left kept winning pots. Once people started looking him up and winning while calling light, he started losing. In the meantime, I got zilch for cards. I chased with an open ended straight and a fludh draw, but nada. I finally got a hand in the small blind when my junk flopped bottom two pair. I raised and was called by one played. Raised on the turn and was called. Checked the river not knowing what the player had, and then re-raised his raise. He had been calling with top pair good kicker and caught a higher two pair on the river. I was pissed! I threw down my cards, waited two hands, then left. The shitty luck was still going strong.

I then drove to Harrah's Joliet, a short drive away. I had not been to this Harrah's since I started playing poker, but I knew it has opened a special WSOP poker room recently.

The setting in Harrah's was much more intense than Hollywood. Hollywood had been very friendly and laid back. The play at Harrah's immediately struck me as much more serious. I was surprised at the guff some of the players gave the dealers ... and the calmness of the dealers in handling it. It seemed that nothing would faze them.

My bad luck continued when my big raise with Q-Q in the big blind was called by a guy with a crap hand who, of course, hit the perfect cards he needed. I was getting frustrated, and when an orbit or two later I flopped bottom two pair in the small blind, I said "eff it" and re-raised a $20 raise all-in -- another $80+. Much to my surprise, a guy called. The board completed with two rags, and the guy mucked his cards. I never found out what he called with, but I did not care as I rebuilt my stack and did not have to rebuy.

The first big hand of the night started when I was dealt A-Q. I called an average raise to see a flop of K-10-rag. The original raiser made a small raise, so I called. Bingo -- a Jack! There was a flush draw on the board and I did not want to let anyone get there so I pushed all in. The original raiser called and said, "I hope I wasn't coolered." He showd K-K for the flopped top set. The river was a BLANK (what?) and I scooped a nice pot and finally had a decent stack.

This same guy was the person who started what was to become the biggest hand of the night. He had gotten short stacked and pushed all in in early position pre-flop. I looked down to see A-A! There were several people acting after me, and I was hoping to lure in an aggro guy who had a stack the same size as mine, so I smooth called. Much to my surprise, as I was counting out the 50-some dollars to call, the aggro guy raised me another $100. After a bit of hollywooding, I said "all in." He did not take long to say "I have to call." I was guessing anywhere from Q-Q up. He asked me if I had aces and I nodded. He had K-K. The flop came with both an Ace and a King, so I knew he was drawing to one out. It did not come, and I scooped a huge pot! It is not bad being the King of the Mountain of a big mound of chips! The funny thing is that Harrah's has a bad beat promotion going and if my opponent had spiked his one outer, I'd have won half the mini bad beat jackpot -- or $3500. The one time I wish I'd been rivered. But ... no complaints here after that hand.

I played pretty much even Steven for the rest of the night. I finally had to leave with a long drive in front of me. The ride home in the early morning hours was made with a big smile on my face ...

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Friday, July 01, 2011

There's Nothing Like Fun at the Ol' Ball Park

Yesterday seemed to be an excellent day to visit the Friendly Confines -- commonly known as Wrigley Field. I got a good deal on tickets on Stub Hub and was all set to go with my brother. This was to be an interesting day.

My brother had been sick for the past few days and said he'd better not go. I was ready to call my friend Gerry (who lives a short distance from Wrigley) when my brother made a last minute decision to go. So ... off to the commuter train station we went. Nothing eventful on the trip from the western suburbs into the city.

We walked downtown and got on the Red Line (Chicago Transit Authority -- "L" train) only to find ... no air conditioning! Yes -- just what you want on a day when the temperature and humidity are both high. I would guess that the hot ride took its toll on my brother, who bagan to feel dizzy as the game began. He really looked bad and I was prepared to leave the game early. I did not think that he would make it past the third inning. However, he hung in there and the game looked like a Cubs loss until Aramis Ramirez homered in the bottom of the  ninth inning to tie the game 1-1. Extra innings! I was ready to leave, but my brother said :One more inning." Well, the 10th inning came, then the 11th, then the 12th, then the 13th ...

A Giants home run in the top of the 13th inning seemed to be the blow that could not be overcome. The Cubs were down to their last strike when Jeff Baker doubled. Again, the Cubs were down to their last strike when Darwin Barney singled in Baker to tie the score. More innings, perhaps? Fortunately, Geovany Soto then hit a walk-off home run to win the game 5-2.

After celebrating, we hopped back on the L, then the commuter train back to my mom's house. Although the Cubs made one hell of an effort to win the game, I have to give the player of the game award to my brother -- an uber Cubs fan who sat through 13 innings in hot, humid weather despite nearly passing out several times. I am happy he was rewarded.