Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Las Vegas Countdown: 48 hours

With almost half of April already in the rear view mirror, it is now just over 48 hours until I leave for my second Las Vegas trip of 2021. You can tell that Las Vegas action is picking up when some friends have already been there this month and other are coming after you return home. I did specifically pick this coming weekend so that it would match up with the time that poker friend Nick Gale selected for his vacation. Nick and I were occasionally able to play poker together at the Par-A-Dice riverboat in East Peoria, IL.

I keep reading in Las Vegas reports on Twitter that Las Vegas is back! Of course, there is some negative news. Weekend Strip hotel rates have gone up, car rental rates have skyrocketed up Uber/Lyft transportation has been challenging to get. Word is out that Caesar's properties have significantly upped their drink prices, but my drinking in largely restricted to comped drinks while playing poker, so that means little to me. Probably my big transportation issue is not having an easy way to get to the South Point Casino, which has become s favorite place to play poker.

Thursday night might mean some time at Trooper Thursday at the Westgate. Other than that and possibly some time at South Point, my schedule is open and flexible. If you want to meet up to grab a beer or fling a few cards this weekend, please text me if you have my phone number or leave a blog comment.

Over the past several months, I have decreased my presence on social media. There hasn't been a particular reason -- maybe just a bit of weariness after the presidential election? I will make an effort to post more tweets this trip and write up a trip report, something I did not do last time due to the short time I actually spent gambling. This trip, however, is purely a poker/meet up with friends trip, so it should be distinctly different from the last one where I accompanied my wife for a work trip. However, I was able to get a free steak dinner at Delmonico Steakhouse that trip,  so few complaints from me!

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 09, 2021

Living the Bipolar Poker Life

Although I have not been blogging much or talking much on social media about my poker play, I have actually had quite a few sessions since moving to Arizona, all but two at the Talking Stick Resort. I had never been close enough to a poker room nor had the time to play on a regular basis, but that all changed since the move.

As much as I would love to say that I have been killing it every session, the truth is that I am streaky in my sessions as I learn what it is like to play regularly in a room. I started out with a great winning streak and expected to win virtually every session. Ha! Unfortunately, that was followed by a nasty losing streak which brought me back to reality. Of course, LOSING is not nearly as much fun as winning, u see. 😃

I got back in a winning cycle, but I seemed to struggle. I had unreal periods of being card dead and missing every flop. I took my share of knees to the nuts on the river when I was ahead.  I was getting quite an education - one I had never gotten before. I was learning which players and tables to avoid and when the best times to play would be. I also tried to keep this all from dominating my life. It has certainly been challenging,  but it was part of the retirement/moving to Arizona package I wanted. The move has worked out really really well.

I spent the first 30 years of my life being continually involved in many sports at many different levels. Poker, for me, has always stoked that competitive fire. I have worked hard at regulating mood swings based on poker results. However, that is still a work in progress.

Three days ago, I was at a table that seemed to be perfect. The players were not afraid to splash chips with obviously second-best hands. I flopped a set of 5s and was anticipating a big payoff. There was a flush draw and possible straight draw on the board after the turn, so I overbet the pot with a $200 raise. I was surprised when it was called. Nut flush draw? One thing I quickly learned at the Stick is that nobody ever folds a nut flush draw. The river appeared to be a harmless Queen. The rest of my stack was headed for the pot. I was shocked to see that my opponent was chasing the nut flush and instead lucked out by hitting a gunshot straight. All of the beautiful pot of about $900 went to him instead of me. I just wasn't in the mood for that and yanked out my charger cord and wished the table luck as I quickly left the room. One of the players came out to get me since we were waiting on a share of a bonus jackpot. I was appreciative of that. After getting my chips, I cashed out and headed toward home, just feeling really discouraged. I stopped off at a favorite drink shop and got myself some milk tea with boba to soothe the pain.

After dinner, I was feeling a little better. Then that night or the next day I read a Doyle Brunson tweet about getting past a bad run in poker. It was helpful in getting me back to normal. I decided to hit the poker room yesterday afternoon.

After a 60-90 minute wait, I was seated at a new $3/$300 table at Talking Stick. A player two to my left was very aggressive, and the player on my immediate right had just won an $800 electronic Keno jackpot and was determined to play like a mad man. Very early on while I was getting used to the table, I passed on calling a $31 raise with my pocket 6s. Of course, a 6 came on the flop. I was cursing in my head until I saw that the mad man had flopped a set of Kings. I would have been felted if I had called his raise. Was this a sign?

A few hands later I called a raise with K-Q on. The flop was Queen high and a big bet won me the pot. I was on my way. 

A few hands later, I flopped a set of 3s. I was in a pot with the aggressive player and the mad man. The turn brought a diamond draw and the mad man suspected I was drawing. He raised, I reraised and got all my money in. He called and asked "Do you have a set?" I told him I did. He was protecting his two pair and doubled me up as I felted him. I was feeling good at that point.

A few hands later, I flopped a set of 7s on a  board of 3-4-7 rainbow. I raised after the flop and the aggressive guy put in a big reraise. Could he have called the preflop raise with something like 6-5 sooted? Since he had been very aggressive, I was guessing that perhaps he had an overpair. I reraised and we got all our money in. After the turn and river he flipped over his cards: pocket 3s or 4s. Set over set. Second time this had happened to him. I now had a big stack and decided that I'd stick around while the mad man was still there. He eventually left and I stayed at the table for a bit. Then I remembered how many times I saw the cards quickly turn on someone and decimate a stack. I decided to cash out with what was my biggest profit since moving to Arizona. I stopped at my favorite drink shop on my way home to celebrate. The milk tea never tasted so good.

So ... I am learning. And, surprisingly, I have gained more respect for Tony Bigcharles and his ability to consistently win at these lower levels of poker. Imagine that.

In less than a week, I am heading to Las Vegas at the same time as my buddy @nickg_96. We hope to meet up with some of our Las Vegas homies for a few sessions of fun poker.

Life is good! Thanks for reading. 👍❤

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Tombstone, AZ: Site of the Gunfight at the OK Corral with a Side Trip to the Grave Of Johnny Ringo

Like many people, I have been a big fan of the movie Tombstone for some time. Since I am a person who doesn't particularly enjoy going out to movies, it is not surprising that I never saw Tombstone when it was originally released in 1993. However, Tombstone and many other movies seem to have developed second, third, and many more lives via cable television networks. These multiple showings were my introduction to the movie and, essentially, a closer look at Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the OK Corral. Prior to moving to Arizona, I did some online research about both topics. My plan was to make a trip to Tombstone sometime in the winter or spring. Needing to use a Best Western comped room by the end of March helped in giving me a deadline. On March 25, my wife and I headed out in the morning hours to make the 200+ mile trip. Following are some of our pictures:

Big Nose Kate's Saloon

The Oriental Saloon
The actual site of the gunfight
Figures depicting where the participants were
The area where the reenactment was performed

Photo of the three gunmen killed in the fight
Laudanum -- opiate used by Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp's common-law wife. She died from a combination of alcohol and laudanum
Just down the road from the main area of old Tombstone is Boot Hill
Old Man Clanton

Burial place of the gunmen killed at the OK Corral

After a fun afternoon in Tombstone, we drove about an hour northeast to visit Johnny Ringo's grave. It is on private property, but the owner allows visitors. It was really out in the middle of nowhere and required driving a few miles on a nasty unpaved road with tons of stone.

It was a long but successful day. We headed back toward Tombstone and stayed in Sierra Vista for the night. Was the trip worth it? Hell YES!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Pictorial: Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine in Sierra Vista, AZ


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Flying Chips at the Stick

One of the best things about moving to Arizona has been my proximity to the Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort. With good promos and different games and levels, it is really a great poker room. I decided to partake in a Saturday late afternoon/evening $3/$300 spread limit poker session yesterday. I bought in for $400. As usual, the Stick did not disappoint.

Early on - perhaps in the first 45 minutes or so, I got into a big hand. I looked down to see A-J unsooted and put out a small raise to $10. The button re-raised to $25, and I called. The flop was A-A-rag. Since I was new to the table, I didn't have a lot of prior information to go on. The player seemed solid, so I thought he could have one of several combinations with an A, or perhaps KK, QQ, maybe JJ. I checked and he put out a $50 bet. I called. The turn was a Queen. I checked and he checked behind. The river was a beautiful Jack, giving me a full house and the second nuts. I raised $100 and my opponent re-raised to $200. At that point, I considered just calling, but seeing how I was ahead of almost anything he could have, I shipped the rest of my chips. He called and flipped over A-Q for the stone cold nuts. Major ouch! Less than an hour in and I was felted for $400. At least the guy who did it was  good player and didn't river me with some crap hand. He also showed a little empathy, so I just kept a stiff upper lip and bought back in for $300. What a bad start to the poker day.

Well, as it so often happens in poker, things changed about a half hour later.  I did get a few hands and won a few pots. Then ... it happened. I was in the big blind with QsJs. Someone raised to $15 and got several callers. It came back to me and I called. The flop: 9-10-K rainbow! I led out with a small $30 bet to see if I could get someone to raise. There were a couple of callers until it got to the player to my right -- the guy who had felted me a bit earlier. He raised to $100. I raised $300 (the max), making my total raise $330. The opponent went into the tank. Finally he called. I had about $75 left behind. The turn was a low spade, butting two spades on the board. I pushed the rest of my money in. He called. The river was another spade. I flipped over my cards to show the flopped straight. He turned over pocket 9s for a flopped set that didn't improve. So ... shortly after losing my $400 buy-in, I scooped a $1000+ pot. Isn't poker a great game?

The players at my table seemed pretty good. Different people were hitting hot streaks and chipping up, then losing some. It was a fun, challenging night of poker ... until a terrible player came to the table. Unfortunately, he was also unbelievably lucky, hitting a number of winners on the river. I took him for some pots and then, unfortunately, rivered the nut flush on a paired board. When he bet $100, I fortunately just called. He had turned quad Jacks. Day-um!

He was like an elevator -- up and down, up and down. He was pretty much a calling station and was spewing chips. The sport over the next few hours was to see who could end up with his chips. I am not sure, but I think that he bought and rebought in with a total of $1,800. Pretty hefty for a game of $3/$300 spread limit. He was finally felted by a woman wh had suffered some terrible beats to him. There is justice in poker?

With a small but acceptable profit, I called it a night late in the evening, had a quick dinner using my comps, and road home in the dark and quiet night, remembering why we love this game called poker so much.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Settling into Arizona Life: Fun Everyday Stuff and Poker at Talking Stick Resort

It is amazing how you can sometimes settle into a new life and have everything feel natural. Such has been my transition from being a resident of Illinois to being a resident of Arizona. Of course, I had a number of things that made the transition easier. My wife scouted out a place for us to live and did a great job. We were able to transition into a new house, get rid of many old belongings and buy some new things, and take care of other tasks like getting Arizona license plates and drivers licenses without much of a problem. We continue to become more familiar with the area and have gotten into some regular routines. There have been, however, some interesting aspects such as getting used to the local flora and fauna.

The Saguaro Cactus
The Cholla Cactus
The Prickly Pear Cactus
Although we had a few coyotes in the area in IL, they are loud here some nights.
Our dog, Fredo, chased a javelina down the end of our driveway.

I look forward to spotting some snakes and scorpions once the weather gets warmer. 

I live in an interesting area. There is plenty of space for lots of wild animals, yet some human creature comforts like Walmart, Home Depot and Burger King are only a few minutes drive away. Once COVID-19 is on its way out, we will appreciate the other things that will be close by -- MLB spring training, professional sports and major venues for concerts.

I will enjoy the nice, mild Arizona winter for now. As the weather, heats up, I am sure that the pool in the backyard will get much use as I adapt to the cruel, hot summers. One other thing that is much different (and appreciated): instead of needing to drive hours to get to a decent poker room, I have one within a 30-minute drive. Speaking of poker ...

The Stick

It has been sooooooo nice to be able to hop in my car and be at the Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort -- or, as people commonly call it, "The Stick" -- in 30 minutes or less. I had been successful at the Stick in the past and had also suffered some horrible beats. My game of choice is the $3/$300 spread game as No Limit games are not legal here. Having played at this game before, I transitioned to it pretty easily. Blinds are $2 and $3, and before the cards are dealt, the dealers grab $1 from the small blind for the promo drop. Raises are limited to $300, which makes the game play pretty much like a No Limit game anyway. Buy in is capped at $600, and there are sometimes stacks of $1000-$2200 or so on the table, partially due to some of the good promotions.

I started out by winning four of my first five sessions (I broke even the other one) until I hit the inevitable slide which included plenty of run bad with some tilty bad play mixed in. I did play a session at nearby Wild Horse Pass and won there. I took a bit of time off and jumped back on the horse, winning my last two sessions. I am pretty sure that I will keep my sessions late afternoon starts, where I seem to do much better. Just from my small sample, it appears that the daytime players I have run up against have been more aggressive and better players overall.

About a week ago, I got a telephone call from old poker blogger friend The Poker Meister. He seemed pretty impressed that I was able to complete my plan to retire, sell my house, and move west during the pandemic. To me, it was just doing what I needed to do. However, if that serves as encouragement to some of my friends to continue to work hard and then enjoy the results of their hard work, so be it. Sometimes as I drive to the Stick on a beautiful day, I am still sort of amazed that my wife and I set this plan a few years ago and it has worked out so well so far. As COVID-19 and other things have taught us, tomorrow is no guarantee. I will enjoy where my life has taken me and look forward to seeing what happens the next years or so. I have been retired for over six months now and actually have considered what kind of job, if any, that I might do to help occupy my time. Having a part-time job sounds kind of fun until I remember that I would actually have to work! I'll just take my time with this decision.

I have tried to detox myself recently by staying off the political channels and the news since the inauguration. I have stepped back some from social media and the cesspool it has become. Life is to precious to waste with crap! So, for now, life is very good. I will enjoy it while I can. I might be making a trip to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks, and hope to soon take a two-day trip to Tombstone. I guess I just have to decide to "say when."

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

A Repost From Ten Years Ago: Visiting the Plane Crash Site Where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper Died

It was 61 years ago today that a performance in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa became the last stop for music icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. The plane crash that occurred during the night on February 3, 1959 -- The Day the Music Died --  took the lives of the  three young rock and roll stars. I decided to take a road trip to the crash site over ten years ago and later wrote the following post:


Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part Two: The Day the Music Died

In 1971, singer Don McLean released the seminal song and album, American Pie. Although written in a cryptic, poetic style, it was easy to see that the subject of the song was the plane crash death of three American rock and roll singers -- Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson, AKA The Big Bopper. McLean referred to to the February 3, 1959 tragedy as The Day the Music Died. 

The biggest star to perish that fateful night was Buddy Holly, a unique guitar player and vocalist from Lubbock, Texas. Buddy Holly and the Crickets had a number of popular hits including Oh Boy!, Peggy Sue, and That'll Be the Day. 

The youngest performer to die was Ritchie Valens, a 17-year-old singer and guitar player from southern California. Although only 17, Valens was already making a name for himself across America with hits like LaBamba and Donna.

The final performer to die in the tragic flight was Texan J. P. Richardson, known as The Big Bopper. Richardson was famous for his song Chantilly Lace.

The evening before, the performers played at a popular spot, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

After the concert, the musicians boarded a plane in nearby Mason City, Iowa. Shortly after take off, the plane crashed just north of Clear Lake, killing the three musicians and the pilot.

I had always wanted to visit the site of the plane crash and pay homage to the singers, so I made a road trip last June with my youngest daughter. We drove up to Clear Lake, Iowa, got directions, and immediately headed out to the crash site. Where along the country road to stop to find the site? Just look for the Buddy Holly marker!

Next step: Walk through a corn field. The memorial is located on private property, and the owners graciously allow pilgrims to visit.

A marker lets you know that you are almost there.

Then ... you are there. The memorial is small, with all kinds of small tributes, and frankly, junk all around.

A small memorial to the pilot was recently added. Although the memorial is not aesthetically pleasing, just being at the site that changed the rock and roll music landscape forever is a powerful, and yet sad feeling that I will never forget.

"A long, long time ago... I can still remember How that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while. But February made me shiver With every paper I’d deliver. Bad news on the doorstep; I couldn’t take one more step. I can’t remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride, But something touched me deep inside The day the music died."