Friday, December 03, 2021

My Year of Concerts

When COVID-19 became a reality early in 2020, one of the unfortunate fallouts was the cancellation of concert tours throughout the world. As things have gotten better in 2021, so many bands and musical groups have again hit the live performance trail. One of the nice things about my move to Phoenix has been the great number of concert venues and the number of performers who have their shows only 45 minutes or so away. Being somewhat newly retired and not getting any younger, I decided to have a year when I would go to lots of concerts. The ones I have attended in my year are, so far:

Aug 14, 2021: Cheap Trick, The Showroom at Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale, AZ

Aug 27, 2021: Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, The Showroom at Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale, AZ

Sep 26, 2021: KISS, Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ

Oct 24, 2021: John Fogerty, The Pool, Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale, AZ

Nov 6, 2021: The Rolling Stones, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV 

I have already purchased tickets to a few other shows so far:

Dec 5, 2021: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Jan 29, 2022: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, ASU Gammage, Tempe, AZ

June 7, 2022: Chicago and Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ

I have already passed up some great shows for one reason or another and will almost certainly be adding more in over the next several months. However, I have already seen three concerts off my "concert bucket list" (Herman's Hermits, John Fogerty and The Rolling Stones) and will be seeing another (Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons) in January. The only other one that I can think of that might be on the list would be America, although I had seen and met former member the late Dan Peek at a small concert at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL almost 40 years ago.

For my readers: Any bands, groups, or singers on your concert bucket list?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 05, 2021

Let's Spend the Night Together - in Las Vegas with the Rolling Stones

What I am calling My Year of Concerts continues on Saturday night as my wife and I will travel to Las Vegas to see the Rolling Stones at the Allegiant Stadium. I foolishly passed up seeing the Stones twice before. The sad stories:

July 8, 1978 -- One of my best friends broke up with his girlfriend. He planned to see the Rolling Stones with her in Soldier Field in Chicago. Because of the break up, he had an extra ticket. Did I want it? Unfortunately, I had to be in Kankakee, IL that day to finish up meetings for an organization I was in. As much as I wanted to see the concert, I decided to go to my meeting. The Chicago Tribune wrote this: 

"The Stones headline for the first time at Soldier Field. The stadium is filled on a steamy summer day with 80,000 fans, with opening acts Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Peter Tosh and Journey, featuring new vocalist Steve Perry. The Stones set list includes most of the songs on the quintet's latest release, "Some Girls."

Right. So I not only missed the Stones singing much off the Some Girls album (maybe their last great one?) AND I missed Steve Perry's first tour with Journey. However, it was pretty hot that day, and a concert with 80,000 in Soldier Field would have been a killer trying to get something to eat or drink,  not to mention navigating huge lines just to take a piss.

June 21/25, 2019 -- I knew several friends and relatives who went to one of these concerts. I had seen live, in concert YouTube videos of the Rolling Stones from the past several years, and I thought the Stones sounded terrible. I asked a work friend about going, but he declined. He had seen some of those same videos, I believe. I let this one pass, only to hear from the people I knew who attended that the concert was great and that the Stones sounded wonderful. Sigh.

When I saw that the COVID postponed Stones Las Vegas concert had been rescheduled for this coming weekend, I was determined not to let the opportunity pass. I got my tickets once they went on sale again. In the meantime, drummer Charlie Watts passed away, giving me even more reason to go since you never know when a band with elderly members might have its final concert. I missed seeing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their final tour because of bad timing. I disn't want anything like that to happen again.

I imagine my poker and gambling will be minimal this trip. We plan on getting into town Saturday afternoon and leaving town Monday afternoon. That does leave all day Sunday and maybe a short Monday session like I had the last time I was in town. So ... if anyone is in town and free on Sunday and would like to possibly connect, hit me up in a private Twitter message or text if you have my phone number.

If you start me up ... If you start me up, I'll never stop ...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 22, 2021

Las Vegas Trip Report October 17-21, 2021: Great Fun EXCEPT for the Effing Caesars Palace Poker Room!

Prologue

 I was very much looking forward to my October trip to Las Vegas. I was going to play some poker, see some old friends and meet (in person) some I've only known online. Prior to my trip, however, I wanted to complete my friggin' Automobile Safety Class I was taking online. Back at the end of August, I was coming home from the Talking Stick Resort late at night. The Photo Enforcement Unit of the Scottsdale Police Department (in what sounds like something truly un-American) apparently caught me speeding via camera at 2:00am. Construction traffic forced me to take a different way home, and I did not know that the road I was on was equipped with a camera to catch speeders. Being the menace to society that I am, I was apparently clocked at 59 mph in a 45mph zone. Yep - truly a danger to the non-existent traffic at 2:00am. The best alternative seemed to be taking a traffic safety course online - a bit cheaper than in person, total cost less, and the ticket would not go on my record. The issues regarding my trip was that I didn't get much of the class and quizzes done during the day, so I had to finish it at night. I believe it took four hours total, and I didn't finish it until after midnight Saturday night. So ... I went to bed late the night before my trip and had yet to pack anything. I had several bad dreams and had a crappy night of sleep. Meh.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

I slept late Sunday morning, shaved and showered, and got on the road about 11:00am for a drive that takes 5-6 hours depending on meal breaks and naps I take if I feel tired. Lunch was courtesy of my favorite place on the way to Las Vegas from Phoenix, Dazzo's, which serves Chicago-style food. After a fully dressed Chicago hot dog and fries, I was back on the road, getting to Bally's late in the afternoon.


Although I was tired and hungry (my excuse - ha!), I decided to head to Caesars Palace to meet @tait3100 (Bill Tate), who was playing in the poker room. I actually played at the same table as Bill in a Trooper Thursday back some time ago, but we didn't speak to each other. We had now been friends via Twitter for some time.

Bill and guy who hates Caesars poker room

For an acid flashback ... to April earlier this year. I was ready to head to the airport at the end of my Las Vegas trip. I decided to play one last session at Caesars Palace. I was ready to leave with a profit that session and decided to play one more hand. I was dealt A-A! Quick end of story: My opponent and I were both all in after the flop with my A-A vs his Q-Q. The turn was a blank and the river ... you guessed it! One of two queens left in the deck. Instead of doubling up my last hand and leaving with a nice profit, I was felted. Grrrrrr ...

This time, I wasn't getting cards, didn't like my table, was tired and crabby, wasn't playing well ... you know how those times are. I lost a bunch of chips, got frustrated and left. I played some slots, just hung out absorbing the Las Vegas night, and finally went back to my room, calling it a night. Things would be much better the following day as I would be playing somewhere else and meeting up with several people.


Monday, October 18, 2021

Feeling refreshed after getting some sleep, I headed out to Blueberry Hill for breakfast. Unfortunately, nearly everyone in Las Vegas seemed to have the same idea. The parking lot was jam packed. I opened the door to the restaurant and saw a huge portion of humanity. One guy told me that there was a 35 minute wait. I got in my car and drove around looking for the first breakfast restaurant place I could find. I wasn't seeing any and then bingo -- Denny's! Some may not like Denny's, but I have always been a fan.

After breakfast, I was to meet up with @VeryJosie and her boyfriend at the Wynn poker room. Another acid flashback ... Josie and I used to be great friends during the heyday of blogging and online poker. I hadn't seen her in, I believe, nine years. We had a falling out a long time ago and infrequently connected on various social media over the years. However, time has a way of healing old wounds, and I was really looking forward to seeing her again. Thanks to Tony Bigcharles for alerting me that VJ was going to be in Las Vegas when I was.

I met up with Josie and her boyfriend, Mike. I had a chance to talk with Mike a little later. He seemed like a good guy. As for Josie, it was almost like we were back several years ago. We weren't chiding each other like we frequently did way back when, although we both had fun telling the story of how I planned to bluff the crap out of her once at the Golden Nugget, only to be caught red handed when she flopped a set of Jacks. At least my intention was solid!

With Very Josie. Just like old times, I kicked her ass in poker.

Two other friends were invited to the Wynn poker room: @ZetusLarry, a friend I had met a couple of years ago in Bally's. He was friends with a mutual friend (@Robvegaspoker) and had read my blog and blogs of other friends, so he knew a lot about me. The other player was @FlynnandO (Flynn & Ollie AKA Erin) -- the pink flamingo and the otter that play poker. Flynn brought Erin to Wynn. Flynn and I had conversed many times on Twitter, and I am a regular reader and commenter on https://flynnandollie.com/.

I was initially at a table with Josie and Mike. I chipped up early and watched Josie get cold decked and rivered. Better her than me! Soon a new table was opening, and Josie, Larry and Flynn were sitting at the same table. I put in for a table change, but did not get it right away. My time finally came after I lost some chips but then regained a lot of them. 

The play at the table was fun! Unfortunately (and correct me if I am wrong about this), Flynn and Larry were basically card dead and weren't getting many great opportunities. I, on the other hand, was dealt some sweet hole cards and even hit a number of flops. Poker is EZ when the poker gods show favor. I was able to triple my buy in over the course of the afternoon session. I was pretty enthused. Josie, meanwhile, was her usual aggressive self and had a few of the male players at the table totally discombobulated. She also cashed out a profit while there. More importantly, it was fun, especially since I was catching cards. Ha! It has been several years since I played at a Las Vegas table with so  many friends. For me, poker doesn't get much better. A sincere thanks to Josie, Larry and Flynn for really making my whole trip with that one session!

Larry, Josie, Erin and I clowning around at Wynn

I decided to catch dinner that night at Hooters in the Oyo Hotel and Casino. After dinner, I planned to play poker at MGM. I purposely went to Hooters so that I would not have to pay for MGM parking. They are not getting parking money from me if I can help it! However, it was relatively cool/cold that night and my hoodie was back in the room, so instead of navigating my way outside to MGM, I hopped in my car and drove to South Point. A rodeo was coming to town, so there were cowboy hats everywhere! The game at South Point was dull and my assessment was that I was not going to make money there, so I cashed out exactly even. It was time to call it a night.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Before I left South Point the night before, I noticed that its breakfast buffet, which is only $9.99, also included bottomless Bloody Marys. I awoke early Tuesday morning and was hungry. I hopped in my car and drove to South Point for breakfast. Fortunately, I got there at about 8:00am and there was no line. Before I finished close to 9:00am, the line was extremely long. And yes, the Bloody Marys were good. All free drinks are!

I went back to my room to catch a little extra sleep. In the afternoon, I was able to reconnect with another old blogger/online player from years ago: @shbzjenkins (Jeremy). We had a good laugh sharing tales from the old days.

Blog hero and Jeremy outside the currently closed Bally's poker room

That night, Flynn was interested in picking my brain about something, so he invited me to dinner at Echo & Rig Butcher and Steakhouse. I had heard great things about it before, so I obviously jumped at the chance. Free food - I am there! It was a nice place with a lot of energy and lots of noise. The food was pretty good, and the thing that bothered me to a small extent is that we were paid almost a little too much attention by wait staff and workers. Personally, I prefer to pretty much be left alone when I dine. Anyway, it was a great night talking with Flynn (and Erin). Thanks very much for the meal. I will follow up (in private) with a few more thoughts after our discussion.




Flynn and I both look a little worn

Flynn felt tired and wanted to return To South Point, so I had him drop me off at Bally's so I could get my car. I got on Poker Atlas and used that to get on the $1/3 list at Resorts World - Las Vegas. I wasn't connecting on any flops, and finally shove my shortie stack with AsQs with a $15 raise and a call in front of me. The initial raiser called with pocket 9s. I was saved from being felted by hitting an Ace on the river ... for once! Now with a fresh new stack, I won some pots and got back at an aggressive player who had pushed a few people around. I ended up with a profit and decided to cash out. I won some money using free credits on my favorite slot machine at Resorts, but I am sorry to say that the profits I plugged into the Megabucks machine did not make me rich. Oh well ...


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Wednesday morning was designed to be a morning to sleep in. I originally thought about playing in a WSOP morning Seniors tournament, but decided against it. I woke up later in the morning and heard from Larry. He was going to stop at Chick-fil-A, grab a sandwich, and head to MGM. Part of the conversation:

lightning: "I still look like a mess and need to get food also."

Larry: " You want me to pick up a Chick-fil-A for you? Don't worry how you look, you're not picking up any ladies anyway."

It's good to have friends? Larry picked me up with a sandwich, fries and a drink (thanks a million, Larry!) and we headed to MGM. We immediately got on a table together. I described the session as "sedate." Larry got a nice chip up when he and the woman to my left both flopped sets. His set of Queens was higher and he felted her. I had some good opportunities and felted the same woman when she went on a mini tilt and also had a boat on a board that also made a flush a possibility. I suckered a guy who had been betting people off hands to make a big raise. I was guessing he had a flush. I went into fake tank mode and "reluctantly" pushed all in. He then went in the tank and surprised me by not calling. Ah well ... One guy at the table who had position on me seemed to be getting the better of me too often, so I thought it was time to book the win and move on. Larry made a nice profit also.

We walked back to the Tropicana where Larry had parked (for we do not pay for parking, u see) and parked at Caesars Palace. We tried to play at Bellagio, but the wait lists were way too long. This was actually the second time we tried unsuccessfully there. We did not even think of attempting at Aria due to the long wait lists. We headed back to Caesars. Big mistake. I should have taken Larry up on his offer to take a scenic drive to Pahrump. He said we could just stop at a bar there and have a drink, then go back to Las Vegas. Some restaurant must have been pretty good since he mentioned chicken and some ranch ...

Caesars once again proved to be a disaster for me. I play poorly and the right cards and situations never seem to come. After donking off a bunch of chips on a questionable play, I ended my session by running A-K into A-A. I could have avoided getting felted, but I was already tilting from some previous plays. Meh - time to go. The saving grace of that session was running into my dealer friend Ron, who made the final table of this year's WSOP Event #1 -- for casino employees. I got some dinner, went back to my room to change clothes, then headed to Wynn. I was seated next to a guy who asked me about the University of Illinois hat that I was wearing. It turns out that the guy was also from central Illinois and often played poker at the same riverboat that I used to play at in Illinois. I'm pretty sure I played against this guy before, but it is tough to tell when we are wearing masks. Anyway, he was from the same town as @nickg_96 and knew him. We were able to chat about all the characters we played against and I was able to get updates on a few. Wynn once again proved to be a good spot for me, and I booked my second win here. I headed back to Bally's for my final night in Las Vegas.


Thursday, October 21

I woke up with no real plan for the day. I got showered and packed in plenty of time (I am notoriously slow in the morning) and decided to get a late breakfast at a local favorite, the Broken Yolk Café on South Las Vegas Blvd. It did not disappoint. I wanted to get in one final poker session, so I headed to Caesars Palace, right? WRONG! I went back to Wynn one more time. I was able to be seated next to my old buddy, Arch. I first met Arch several years ago when I arranged the First Annual TBC Memorial Meet Up in Las Vegas. He is a regular at Wynn in the daytime. The one hand of note was when I was dealt J-J and raised. There were two callers, which included a guy who seemed to be picking spots to use his position to raise people out of spots. The flop was uncoordinated with all cards below a Jack. I put out a probative bet, one player folded, and the guy who had been raising people out of pots re-raised my $30 bey to $80. My read was that he was trying to steal again, so I jammed all in. I was surprised that he called. The board ran out with a Queen and a low card. He apparently was on a straight draw and missed. I turned over my pair of Jacks for the winner and doubled up. I played for awhile but then figured it was time for me to book the win and hit the road. I said goodbye to Arch and headed to the parking lot. Fortunately, my drive home was uneventful, there were no traffic delays or construction issues, and I got home before 9:00pm. 


Epilog

I have made over 100 trips to Las Vegas over the years. This particular trip (outside of the effing Caesars Palace Poke Room) was a great trip. In general, my poker results:

Caesars Palace: Meh -- two bad sessions, a loss and a worse loss

South Point: Meh -- one boring session, broke even

Resorts World: one session, profit

MGM: one session, profit

Wynn: three sessions, all three profit, one a very nice profit

I came out overall with a decent profit. Not enough to rule the world, but I'll take it!


Despite the profit, the best part of the trip was the people I reconnected with or met in person for the first time. Being able to share stories, relive the past, grumble together at other players - yes, this is the stuff that makes poker fun. Being at a poker table in Las Vegas with three friends also at that table -- classic!

I will be returning to Las Vegas in two weeks to attend the Rolling Stones concert. My wife will be making one of her rare trips to Sin City. This will be her second trip in 2021. Now if I could only convince her to live with me there ...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Las Vegas, Here I Come!

It feels quite different to be living in Arizona, and so close to Las Vegas. I can sometimes catch flights that take just over an hour to get there and cost less than $100. If I was making a quick trip, it could be laughably cheap on an airline like Spirit or Frontier if I had no carryon or checked luggage. I can drive there in about five hours, depending on restroom and meal breaks. Although these options are attractive, having three good poker rooms in town certainly lessens my desire to head to Sin City. But ... I haven't been there in awhile, I'm tired of the local rooms, and hope to meet up with some friends who are in Las Vegas.

I generally play cash games and get in maybe one small buy-in tournament. right now, there are so many excellent choices in tournaments with the WSOP going on and with great poker series at places like Wynn, Golden Nugget and Orleans. However, the one I am looking at is a Wednesday morning WSOP seniors tournament. Sounds about right for me!

As I write this post, I am still working on my Arizona Defensive Driving online class. I am hopefully near the end. Total time to take it will be about four hours, I believe. I must admit that I have learned a couple of things, but certainly not four hours worth!

So ... if any friends want to meet up in Las Vegas, hit me up in one social media form or another or text if you have my phone number. It will be nice to get away for a few nights, although my life in retirement is certainly much more relaxed than it had been while I was a working professional the past 38 years. Life is indeed good!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The answer: What do you say to someone you haven't seen in over 45 years?

Note: This post is a follow up to my most recent post at https://lightning36.blogspot.com/2021/09/what-do-you-say-to-someone-you-havent.html.

The morning of my meet-up with my former high school classmate, Kacey, was a disaster. My plan was to wake up early, drive to the Hertz office when it opened up, drop off my rental car, hoof it to ORCA (the public transportation train), get back to my son's apartment, shave, shower, get dressed, and make the short walk to the café where my wife and I would be meeting Kacey and her "sweetie" - as she referred to him - Chuck. Unfortunately, I overslept! I had actually woken up too early but fell back to sleep. It was almost 9:00am - the time Hertz opened ... and only one hour before we were scheduled for brunch! I threw on some clothes, ran to the rental car, and went downtown to the Hertz office. I dropped the car off and left the 6th floor of the parking facility to get down to street level. Once there, I quickly decided to check Uber instead of walking and public transportation. An Uber ride was one minute away. I quickly reserved the ride, the driver picked me up immediately, and soon I was back at my son's apartment. I did a quick shave, had no time to shower, wetted down the bed head hair and tucked it under a hat and put on the clothes I had selected to wear, sweating profusely the whole time. I called Kacey, told her we might be a few minutes late, and headed out the door with Mrs. lightning.

We actually got to the café right as it was opening. Our guests were already there. After some quick hugs, we had an issue: only those vaccinated were allowed in the restaurant. One or both of our guests were not, so they checked if we could eat at one of the outdoor tables. Thank goodness that the answer was yes, as many of the restaurants in Seattle (or at least that area) require proof of vaccination.

Kacey had had a difficult life. She grew up in an abusive household and said that she was therefore pretty messed up for awhile. When she was 30, she married a man twice her age! She had some kids, but her husband passed away. Fortunately, she met another guy who came into her life -- Chuck. He appeared to be a great guy. Believe it or not, the cars we regularly drive are nearly identical! My wife got into a long discussion with him about boats and other things.

I had been dying to ask Kacey to give us an honest appraisal of what I was like in high school. She was very kind in what she said -- saying that I was always kind, a gentleman (ha!) and involved in almost everything, which I pretty much was in high school. I let her know about some of the things I had to deal with at the point in my life, which surprised her since we weren't really best buddies or anything. I guarantee you that if we were to ask some of my close friends, the appraisal would have been much more complex!

We actually talked for several hours and were having so much fun that a woman walked past our table and said "You all are having too good of a time!"

We needed to get on with some other things that afternoon, so my wife and I said our goodbyes, hugged, and went back to my son's place. The brunch had gone much better than I would ever have expected. Mrs. lightning had been suspicious about the meeting when it was first proposed to me a couple of years ago. She suspected that Kacey was trying to sell me something. I had seen too many movies where a person looks to get back at a person after many years for some perceived wrong, so I did have a modicum of trepidation! In this case, I suspect it is one of a person who struggled through a difficult period in her life and was seeking a validation that there had been some good in the past and that she had made it through. I was certainly happy to be part of her healing if that was the case.

Thanks for reading!

Chuck, Mrs. lightning36, blog hero and Kacey

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

What do you say to someone you haven't seen in over 45 years?

This weekend, my wife and I will be taking a much-needed trip from our regular routines (and the hot Arizona weather) to Seattle to visit our son and his girlfriend. Thanks to COVID-19, we haven't been back there for over two years.
When we took a Seattle trip a few years ago, I were alerted via Facebook that someone from my high school class lived there and wanted to meet up. I was kind of surprised since this is someone who was really more of an acquaintance than a friend. My wife suspected an ulterior motive -- that she was going to try to sell me something. On the other hand, remembering how I could be a real dick when in high school, I was reminded of the many television shows where someone poisoned another person to get back at them for some perceived wrong from the past. I decided to take a pass on the meet up.

Right now, a tentative plan is for my wife and I to have breakfast with this woman and her husband this weekend. I invited by son and his girlfriend to tag along, but I'm pretty sure they would be bored. What I'm really interested in hearing is a high school perspective on me from someone who hasn't seen me since. I'm pretty sure she is the kind of person who wouldn't say negative things even if they were true, but nonetheless, this could be an interesting look into what I was waaaay before I became the person I am today.

Poker Update
Even though I ran Kings into Aces last night, I haven't been squawking about poker much on Twitter because I haven't been playing due to a virus I caught and have been winning when I have. My confidence level has gone up, which is always good. My terrible run bad streak seems to have ended with the final crushing blow I did tweet about, when my AA went down to A-Qos when my opponent binked a third Queen on the river with us all in. Gawd, that sucked!

I will have a Seattle report after I get back home next week.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

She Pranced Across the Lawn Like a Delicate Fawn & Phoenix-area Poker Rooms: Subjective Experiences

She Pranced Across the Lawn Like a Delicate Fawn

As some readers might remember, I have three children: a son and two daughters. My oldest daughter, while growing up, had a core of friends whom we saw quite often. One friend, Lizzy, had several connections to my family. Her younger brother was friends with my son, my wife was friends with her mother, and her family attended the church we attended.

It's funny, the things you remember as you get older. I can still picture Lizzy as that little girl from long ago: Blonde hair, pale skin, thin, and cute as a button. The word that comes to mind is adorable. The memory that is etched in my mind is one from when Lizzy was getting older. She had been at my house and needed to get home. I volunteered to drive. I don't remember any of our conversation, but when I got to her house, she thanked me and got out of the car. The sight I saw next was amusing. This sweet girl, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, put her hands up in front of her and headed to her front door. She pranced across the lawn like a delicate fawn. It was the cutest thing! Why that memory stayed with me for all these years, I don't know. Maybe because it was a combination of beauty and humor.

As the years went by, my family lost most of the connections with Lizzy's family. I had not seen her in many years. Unfortunately, we were alerted to some horrible news from last week. Lizzy had been crossing a moderately busy road back in our home town and was hit by a car. She suffered multiple traumatic injuries and was on life support. She was able to donate several organs including her kidneys, pancreas, corneas and skin before she was taken off life support and passed away. Lizzy was only 29 years old.

Phoenix-area Poker Rooms: Subjective Experiences

Earlier this year, someone on Twitter asked if I would write a post about subjective experiences in the Phoenix-area poker rooms. Over the past several months, I have played many sessions, skipping from room to room depending on my schedule, casino promotions, and how my luck seemed to be going. So ... this seems like a good time to write about how it feels to be playing poker in the three main poker rooms in the Phoenix area. Pleas keep in mind that I have been playing the smaller spread limit games: $2/100, $2/200, $3/300. No Limit games are not allowed, so spread limit games are as close as I can get. 

The Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort (east side of metro area)
Known by many simply  as "the Stick," the Arena Poker Room has been a mainstay in Scottsdale, AZ  for many years. It was the only poker room in town that I played in before I moved to the area.

The Stick is easy to get to as it is right off "the 101" -- the highway that loops around greater Phoenix. Most players come to the room via an entrance right outside the room and adjacent to a huge parking garage. Sign in is done via a players card. The brush workers are adept at controlling the wait lists in this very busy room.

Players can order both food and drinks at the table. I don't know if tableside food might be stopped again as it was during the main COVID-19 period, but as least for now, it is still there. Recently, players were again required to wear masks and many of the plexiglass dividers returned. However, all the tables were not outfitted with plexiglass. I am guessing that either the number of tables might be decreased again or more plexiglass ordered. 

What is it like playing there?
When I think of the Stick, I think of a professionally run room. The dealers are very good and are friendly, but maybe a tad too friendly with some of the regulars. Sometimes I get the feeling that I am playing in someone else's home game. Although several people have told me that they think the level of play is soft, perhaps things have changed since COVID began? I used to play in the day but really struggled to make a profit. I think some of the regulars are quite good. More recently, I have been playing in the evening. I believe that the level of play is not as great and there can be some really loose action. So ... if you play at the Stick, I recommend the evenings - definitely. Overall, the players tend to be more friendly than not, although that is harder to evaluate with masks and plexiglass. Players seem to take their lumps better here than in the other rooms in the area.

Gila River Hotels & Casinos - Lone Butte (south side of metro area)
"The Butte" is a new poker room that opened earlier this year. Gila River had previously had a poker room in its Wild Horse Pass property 2 1/2 miles away but closed it to move into the new area that was built for poker at the Lone Butte location in Chandler, AZ. The old poker room at Wild Horse Pass was small and congested. The new room at the Butte has tons of space and has all brand new tables, chairs, etc. It recently went back to requiring masks for all players, the the plexiglass hadn't returned as of last weekend. Easy access to the casino is available off the 202 Loop. There is a huge parking area outside the poker room and a private entrance to it. Drink service has tended to be slow most times I played, and few players take advantage of food delivery to the table.

What is it like playing there?
I think that of the three major rooms in town, the Butte has the softest players. I've tended to play lowball here, most often getting in the $2/100 spread game. The stacks are usually closer to max buy-in size ($300) and the play is much more friendly. The dealers are pretty good, but once again, seem to be almost a little too friendly with some of the regulars. Although it is the furthest poker room from me, it has tended to be my default room if there are no outstanding promotions going on in the other rooms. As with the other rooms, I have found evening play to be much better in terms of pulling a profit. After I am done playing, I especially like to wind down playing several of my favorite slot games in the casino.

Desert Diamond Casino - West Valley (west side of metro area)
Every time I walk into the Desert Diamond Casino, it is hopping!  Located just off the 101, the energy level seems to be especially high at this place. I have used slot wins to cover poker losses more than a few times here. This casino is relatively new, opening in February of 2020. The casino is actually not open 24 hours and doesn't open in the morning until 10:00am.Don't get there more than a couple of minutes before it opens or you will be turned away when you try to get to the parking garages.

The poker room is a very nice area that is close the the entrance to the casino via the west garage. The only spread limit game that has been offered on any of my trips has been $3/300. This casino has not faltered, requiring every player to wear a mask ever since I started going. The poker room also has continued to keep its plexiglass at the tables. The room has mostly Limit poker going at the tables, and the room is certainly underutilized as there are always many empty tables.

What is it like playing there?
The brush gets players seated promptly as there are less poker games and players in this room than the others. Dealers are good and management seems to be okay. I found the drink service to be slow. In fact, now that there are free coffee and soda stations in the casino, I prefer to get a drink on my way back from using the restroom. Because the wait to play $3/300 used to be agonizing long, I started coming in when the room opened at 10am. I found it difficult to win against the morning regulars. Now, as with the other rooms, I shoot for the evenings. And ... there are some great slots that I love to play.

Conclusion
After writing these impressions about the three poker rooms, I feel like I haven't said much about them at all. I guess that is because, in my mind, all three are okay, but I am not enamored with any one room. My room choice often tends to be based on which casino is offering the best promotion that day.

When I moved to Arizona in December after retiring in July 2020, I had questions about myself: how I would handle having poker rooms nearby, would poker dominate my life, would I be hauling bags of money back to my house every night ... I adapted to some realities. I now do not play as much poker as I imagined I would. I try to enjoy playing as much as possible when I play. And ... no, I have not been carrying home bags of money. After starting off the year with seven winning sessions in a row, I hit probably the worst poker slide of my life. However, I did survive it. I still love poker, but it now has a certain place in my life. I look forward to seeing what the last months of 2021 will bring. Of course, if I get on an ultimate heater, ... he he!

Thanks for reading!