Thursday, June 10, 2021

Miami Don, the Mookie, WPBT and Poker Blogging: When We Was Fab

One of the things I like about Facebook is that is lets you know when your friends have birthdays. It is sad to say, but I have several Facebook friends who have already passed. Rather than delete them off my friends list, I keep them as a remembrance. Today, I got the notice that it is the birthday of "Miami Don" Wade, one of my old guard poker blogger friends. In a sense, the loss of Miami Don reminds me of the loss of regular contact with my old poker blogger buddies. We were a disparate, yet cohesive group.

I began this blog over 15 years ago, partially to play in a tournament series reserved for poker bloggers only. This was during the heyday for poker in general and especially for online poker. I was one of many players of the "Moneymaker Generation," a group of players that became excited about and began playing poker after Chris Moneymaker's amazing win at the 2003 WSOP Main Event -- his first live poker tournament and one in which he won his seat in an online satellite.

Prior to my blogging, there had been some professional writers who actually covered poker events, with many having their own blogs. There were a few waves of new bloggers, and I was pretty much a "C Lister" - one of the late comers compared to many of the others. One thing the bloggers were great at was hosting private online tournaments. I heard of one on Wednesday nights called "The Mookie." I played in my first Mookie on Oct 18, 2006 and went out in 54th place (out 0f 60 players) when I was all in pre-flop with K-K vs 10-10. A 10 on the river sealed my fate. I played one week later and ... I won!
"Wow," I thought. "This weekly tournament might be easy pickings." That win really began my association with that particular blogger community. The players were good, we had tremendous fun, and we sometimes got some awesome perks from the relationships some bloggers had with major poker sites like Full Tilt Poker. There were lots of fun things about the group, including great encouragement to "drop the hammer" - chase people out of a pot by betting big or going all in with 7-2os, nicknamed "The Hammer." Also, similar to todays poker streamers, we had a private radio broadcast of all the Mookie tournaments. Led by Joanne and Ben, two players out of Canada, and their buddy Ian, a stalwart Detroit Redwings fan with whom I clashed time and time again (because I was a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, u see), the broadcast team played music, reported on the tournament while in progress, and generally spewed out fun times. However, I think that many would agree that the best broadcasts were when Miami Don was their guest. He had a wicked sense of humor which became more so as his drinking progressed throughout the show. Sometimes my wife or kids would come running into the bedroom (where I played online poker) to see why I was in such hysterics! Damn, but those were some awfully fantastic times. No matter what I had going on, I almost always made it home by 8:00pm on Wednesdays to play The Moookie. Oh, and as an aside ... I didn't win my second Mookie until July 1, 2009 -- over two years and eight months after my first! The third actually came just four weeks later.

For many years, this group of bloggers played an in-person tournament in Las Vegas in early December -- called the WPBT -- the World Poker Blogger Tournament. Although the tournament was deemed important, especially for bragging rights, the weekend largely consisted of typical Las Vegas debauchery. It would be accurate to say that significant amounts of alcohol were consumed, weed and other drugs were present, all forms of gambling were experienced, and there may have been a story or two regarding prostitution and/or sex. People did their own thing with some of their online friends, including trips off the Strip (I once took a few friends to the Pinball Hall of Fame and a cemetery), dinners at nice restaurants, or other Las Vegas activities. If you played in the tournament, you were encouraged to bring a bounty with you to be given to whomever knocked you out of the tournament. Once I and another player knocked Wil Wheaton out of the WPBT. His "bounty?" An uncashed slot ticket worth only a few cents. I believe he also signed it with the following sentimental message: Suck It!

It was great having this group of poker friends located all around North America. I found that out when some tough times came, particularly when my then 15 year old son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was a very difficult time for my family, and my poker blogger buddies were there to support me when I needed it most.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The bomb was dropped on Black Friday -- April 15, 2011, when the federal government decided to take on the largely unregulated online poker world. For the people in the United States, online poker slowed to almost a complete stop. The big boys, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet, were in the crosshairs. United States v. Scheinberg alleged that the "defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering to process transfers to and from their customers." (quote taken from Wikipedia).

Many of the old guard poker bloggers stopped writing in the blogs. Interest in the meager online poker options greatly decreased. The WPBT still had robust gatherings for a few years, but then things trickled to a halt.

Over the years as many of the poker blogs died out, the new kids in town -- poker vlogging and Twitch streaming -- became popular. Blogging has become a dinosaur -- a mammoth from times past that isn't around much today. Ummm yes -- I realize there are no more live dinosaurs around today outside of Hollywood. There are still some bloggers who write occasionally. The list of blogs on my main page is really outdated. I deleted many years ago, but kept some of the links. I think it is time to update so my blog is accurate.

So what was the purpose in this post? The anniversary of Miami Don's passing always reminds me of what I great time I had with my friends in the poker blogging community. I am still friends with some and am friends with many on social media, although the interactions are generally initiated by a birthday notice or in case of some sort of personal hardship or tragedy. Although we rarely communicate, the feelings I have for many in this group still run deep. They had a significant affect on my life and, more importantly, were good friends. I certainly miss that.

Being an old, retired guy now with FINALLY some time on my hands, I invite any of my old poker blogger buddies and current poker blogger friends to comment on this post. Let me know how you're doing, show me you're still around. Can this actually become a one-off place for everyone to reconnect?

Monday, June 07, 2021

Las Vegas Trip Conclusion; Is Lone Butte a Beaut or a Butt?; and Beware of False Lightnings


The end of my recent Las Vegas trip is now over a week in the rearview mirror. So ... back to my trip ...

Wednesday: I slept late and decided to head to Wynn for the afternoon. My history at Wynn has been pretty good. I find the games there to be more serious than at some of the other venues I play. I think I actually concentrate a little better here. The bonus of playing at Wynn is that I am very likely to run into my friend Arch there. In fact, I got seated at Arch's table. I was able to see him river a Royal while holding Ah-10h. I wasn't getting anything for cards and left shortly after he did. That evening I went to South Point. Unfortunately, it was more of the same there. Just a blah day for poker.

Thursday: It was time to head to Planet Hollywood for cash games. PH had just move its poker room that day - underneath the escalator and outside the Cafe Hollywood. It was pretty loud there. I had a good session going that got better against an extremely tight player. I was in the blinds with a suited connector and ended up rivering a stealth straight. When I raised to $20 after the river, the tight player bumped it up to $85. I held the stone cold nuts, so what to do? I decided to raise to $200. He went in the tank and said "Could you have a bigger set?" Now I knew I was taking the pot myself. I was only hoping he'd call or, if maybe he had top set and thought that I had a lower set, he'd come over the top again. Unfortunately, he made the right move and folded, leaving the table for a short time to cool off. A short time later I gave some of it back when a guy straddled on the button. I called with Q-Jos. Everyone accept for me folded, and he bumped it up. I called. The flop was 7-7-rag. I checked and he checked. The turn was another rag. I checked and he tossed out $15. I called. The river was a Jack. I decided to bet it, and he shoved his short stack. I insta-called and flipped over my cards, expecting to win with Jacks and 7s, Queen kicker. He turned over 10-7sooted. Dayum! I played a bit longer, then decided to cash out with a good profit. I got my comp paper for Pin-Up Pizza that I earned by playing six hours and also got my sheet to comp me into one of the Friday $80 tournaments.

Have you ever eaten at Pin-Up Pizza? It was very good for a guy who hadn't eaten for several hours, especially since it was free! While eating, I struck up a conversation with a truck driver from Florida. We talked about driving in winter weather, wives and vacations, etc. Only on the Las Vegas Strip. I decided to call it a night since I would need to check out of my hotel room in the morning, try to get some breakfast, then head over to PH for the noon tournament. Thursday was a great Las Vegas day!

Friday: I slept later than I planned. I checked out of Excalibur and got to PH with a few minutes to spare before the noon tournament. Unfortunately, I didn't get to have anything to eat. In retrospect, that was not a good idea. I chipped up early in the tournament and then was in a hand where people were limping. I limped in in position with 9s-8s. The flop was 6-7-10 rainbow. Shazam! When it was my turn to bet, I placed a sizable bet down. The doofus on my left called. The turn was another 10, so now things dramatically changed. I made a bet of 6,000T (starting was 20,000T). He called. The river was a 3. I checked and he bet another 6000T. I was guessing that he had a 10. I called. He turned over ... 10-3os. What? He limped in with that shit hand? Then called my first raise with top pair crappy kicker? He then hit his trips - with a crappy kicker, then hit the miracle 3 to boat up on the river. No way I saw that boat coming. Now suddenly I was the short stack. A few hands later I looked down to see pocket Queens and made a big raise. The same guy called. The flop was Jack-rag-rag. Things were looking good. I put in another big raise. He called. The turn was a Jack! If he had top pair on the flop, I was screwed. I was pissed, hungry and kind of tired - not the best way to play poker. I tilted and shoved in the rest of my chips. He called and showed KJos. I laid down my cards, and walked off. Bad luck and dumb play - not a great combination.

I then walked across the Strip to meet up with good friend  Pete P Peters, who was grinding a 100-hand VP machine at Bellagio. PPP and I have been friends for many years, dating back to when I ascended (descended?) to Grand Exalted Poobah of the TBC Inner Circle.

PPP was the person who funded Tony's trip from Florida to Las Vegas so that Tony could meet up with all his supporters who were playing a tournament  set up by another friend, Koala, to get Tony some money. I had hoped to get a drink while PPP and I were talking, but it was pretty busy in Bellagio and the cocktail servers seemed to be avoiding our area. After a long conversation I knew I needed to get on the  road to drive back home. No more poker for me this trip.


Although it is the longest drive to a local poker room for me, I decided to invest some time playing at Gila River Lone Butte Casino. I am happy to report that I got on a mini heater there, winning at poker, slots, and promos. My poker game of choice there has been the $2/100 spread limit table. Maximum buy-in is $300, blinds are $1/$2, and raises are limited to $100. You might think that chips don't fly at this level, but that isn't always true. Sometimes the games are nitty, but sometimes, like almost any level of spread or no limit, stacks can be "transferred" rather quickly. I was at one table with a muscular guy who was enjoying being table captain. He raised every hand and was winning quite a few small pots. It was time to wait and trap. That opportunity came when I was dealt A-J. I raised from middle position. One guy who was selective in hands played called. The table captain re-raised, and I and the other player both called. The flop was A-rag-rag. I was mostly concerned about the other "regular" player in the hand, hoping he didn't have A-Q or A-K. The table captain raised and I and the other player both called. The turn was a blank.  The captain raised and bumped it up another $100. The other player went in the tank and finally folded. The table captain called and shoved the rest of his dwindled stack in after the river. I called and showed A-J. The table captain mucked and I scooped a big pot. He was pissed and bought in again. The other player in the hand told the table that my raise chased him out with ... A-J!

An orbit or so later,  the table captain raised and I called with K-10os. The flop was a A-Q-J with two hearts. I flopped the straight! The table captain raised, and I added $100 on top of the raise. He added another $100, I matched that and bumped another $100 and he got all his in. We tabled our cards and he was drawing to a heart flush. Fearing the worst, the dealer dealt a non-heart turn and a non-heart river. The captain was felted and quickly left the table. When the dealer's down ended, I jokingly suggested that she go back to dealer school since she forgot to screw me on the turn or river!

One other day, I was having a good day when our table was selected for a $100 splash pot. I was dealt A-K and raised to $25. Only one caller. The flop was Ace-rag-rag. The next thing you know, we shoved back and forth and got all our money in. The board paired on the river, so I was sitting with two pair, top kicker. I never did see that the other player had. Life is great when you run goot! I got two $24 promo chips that day, and even one of the two won at Blackjack.

After winning three days in a row, I finally had a losing session where nothing seemed to go righ. I followed it up with a session on Sunday when everyone else hit rivers or had slightly better cards than me at the end. So ... the Butte was a beaut and then turned into a butt. That is my official poker analysis!


Continuing with the story I posted previously regarding the "other" lightning (Lightning Poker - (@lightning_), I went to his Twich stream while playing in his private NL game on ACR. Unfortunately, my crappy laptop computer was having issues, so my participation was limited. I got stacked when I went all in with A-A. Unfortunately, my opponent had both a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw and  won on the river. I failed to hit the "Run it twice" button in the allotted time, so I didn't have a second chance to get even. I was frustrated and decided to call it a night.

I know that the faux lightning is a good guy and has a popular gig. I hope that maybe we might enhance our lightning vs lightning "battle" in the future.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Las Vegas

I had originally planned to go to Las Vegas this week, but I didn't actually make my hotel reservation until right before I started on the trip yesterday. With a brief stop for lunch, it takes me about five hours driving. MGM Resorts has been generous with its room offers to me, so after staying at Delano in February and Mirage in April, my May trip brought me to ... Excalibur. I had read that Excalibur had improved, so I thought I would give it a shot since it would cost me the least of any Strip hotels.

Impression after one night: Definite improvement! My only problem was that my phone would not unlock my door with the digital key. I never was mailed a QR code, likely because of the last-minute reservation. I got a plastic key at the desk instead.I 

My Stay Well Fresh room is not bad! My view of the Excalibur pools also was a pleasant surprise. 

The casino doesn't reak of smoke like it did years ago, and the entire place seems cleaner ... more like when it opened. So ... if you are looking for a decent but not extravagant room at a great price, Excalibur has my recommendation. 😀

I played an evening session of poker at South Point. The place was hopping on a Tuesday night! I wanted to eat at the dinner buffet first but the line was too long. I went straight to the poker room for $1/2 NL.

The poker room was also packed. Cash games were nine handed and the plexiglass had been down for a couple of weeks. It was nice to feel the return of "regular" poker. There was even a bit of talking among players. I was telling another guy a bad beat story and flipped him a chip. The atmosphere okay. There were no jerks at our table.

I originally was down when I called a $20 raise in middle position with AdJd. There was one other caller. The flop had two diamonds, no Aces or Jacks. The original raiser checked and I checked. The other guy made it $20 and I called. Brick. I checked and the guy went all in. He was a short stack and there was about $150 in the pot. Brick. Down about $100 early on.

Two other hands of note. On the button with AsKs, I raised to $15. Everyone folded except the big blind, who called. The flop had an Ace and a spade, so I led out and he called. The turn was a spade so, with top top and the nut flush draw, I bet bigger. He called. The river was a beautiful spade. I made a value bet and he shoved. Perfect!

In the second hand I had AA. There was a $5 button straddle and  $12 raise ahead of me. I bumped it to $30. The player to my left raised to $60. Now the question was "How much should I raise?" I made it $160 total and he called. The flop was great - low, uncoordinated and a rainbow. I shoved my remaining $180 or so and he called. He turned over pocket Queens and bricked the turn and river. That's the way it is supposed to work.

I cashed out with a nice profit and played slots until midnight hit. There was a long line to get into the Coronado Cafe for the midnight specials, but I was in no hurry.

While waiting to get in Coronado, I became aware that my name was dropped on a Twitch stream, so I joined the chat. Lightning Poker (@lightnin_), an obvious lesser version if the REAL lightning, has invited me to come on his stream -- to duke it out for the title of top Lightning. I have accepted the challenge! More details should be available soon via Twitter (@lightning36 or @lightnin_), this blog, or the faux lightning's Twitch feed.

On to day two in Las Vegas. Poker might include Wynn, Bally's and/or South Point.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Impressions: Brand New Poker Room at Gila River - Lone Butte (Chandler, AZ) and Reopened Poker Room At Desert Diamond - West Valley (Glendale, AZ)

Lone Butte
Since my move to the Phoenix area last December, I have had been essentially two choices of where to play poker: Talking Stick Resort or Gila River - Wild Horse Pass. Gila River Hotels & Casinos made a decision to close the smallish Wild Horse Pass poker room and build/open a brand new poker room at a sister property -- Lone Butte, which is just over three miles away from Wild Horse Pass. The poker room opened just a few weeks ago, and last Monday, April 26, was a special day as vlogger Brad Owen, advertised as a "poker influencer," was making an appearance to play $5/500 spread and have drinks afterward. I got a message from a former poker blogger, Zooks64, asking me if I wanted to meet up with her at Lone Butte during the Brad Owen event, which we assumed would help draw a healthy crowd. Zooks is a former central Illinois resident who beat me out to Arizona. I occasionally played at her home game in Illinois, which was just over 100 miles away at the time. I hadn't seen Zooks for a few years, so I excitedly said yes to her invitation.

Lone Butte advertises the new poker room like this on the Bravo app:
- New 8,000 sq ft poker room with 30 tables
- Private entrance with convenient parking
- Nine 90-inch TV screens plus a video wall covering over 200 inches
-Earn $1 in comps for every hour played
- Private patio with smoking area

Unfortunately, Lone Butte, like the other major poker rooms in town, does not allow players to phone in to get on the waiting list. I made the 45-minute drive to Lone Butte, which I had visited once before when trying to figure out where the new poker room would be located.

There was covered parking near the new poker room - very nice as the Arizona sun has been getting pretty hot. The day I went was a cooler day, however, so I parked a bit closer to the room's outdoor opening. The outdoor patio area is pretty spacious and seemed to be used that day mostly as a smoking area. There were tables set up so players could eat outside if they chose. There was a poker menu posted inside the building and food and drink counter was set up.
Food is also available in the casino's food court.

The tables are all brand new, sectioned off into seven playing spaces by plexiglass. The chairs are comfortable and are not on rollers, but slide across the carpeted floor on metal chair glides.

The room itself is wonderfully large and the tables are spaced appropriately. There is a good-sized main desk area where the lists and seating assignments are controlled and a separate area for chips. Restrooms are conveniently located right outside the room.
I got on the list for $2/200 and $3/300 spread limit games. There were only one table of each open when I got the before noon as most of the games that were going were Limit games. I had to wait about 45 minutes to be seated at the $3/300 game. Two additional tables were started soon after.

I was quite shocked to find that the maximum buy-in for the$3/300 was $1,500! I had been used to the $600 max buy-in at the Stick. I would have preferred to play at the $2/200, but I was still far down the list for that game. Soon Zooks came in, and she had what appeared to be a pretty long wait.

The players at my table ranged from Terrible to Pretty Good. I was doing okay -- winning my share of pots. The only stumble I made was while hoping to isolate a poor player with my A-K. The third player in the pot, a guy to my immediate right, unfortunately, had A-A. That cost me a couple hundred. That lucky guy got Aces three times in a half hour and got paid off each time. 

Zooks was at a different table that had a lot more money on it than mine. Also, it sounded like the players there were tougher. I cashed out after several hours and took a loss due to the A-K/A-A hand. I played some slots to cool down, then headed back home.Zooks and I messaged back and forth (using a hands-free method). She left before me and lived closer, getting home rather quickly. I saw Brad Owen there, but didn't have a chance to meet him.

Evaluation: Very nice new room. If the buy-ins stay that big, I'll have to move down to $2/200 or $2/100 spread. Dealers were experienced and professional. This room is an excellent option if you are looking to play in the south Phoenix area.

Desert Diamond
The same day that Zooks and I played poker at Lone Butte, the poker room at Desert Diamond reopened. Two days later, I decided to check out the reopened poker room while my wife was working a temporary part-time job. She works and I play poker. Seems right.

My drive to Desert Diamond is about 35 minutes: longer than Talking Stick but shorter than Lone Butte. However, seeing that my closest crappy poker room in Illinois was 1 1/2 hours away and the nearest good rooms were over 2 hours away, you'll hear no complaints about distances from me!

The unfortunate part of playing here was the lack of spread limit tables when I visited. $2/200 spread limit had only one table running and $3/300 spread had two. The wait lists were not long, but they barely moved. I was enjoying a good run at the slot machines, which kept me busy. However, it was close to three hours before my name was announced for $3/300. I had actually thought about just leaving, but that would have been hard with seeing my name at the top of the list. It was there for quite some time.I received a text when my name was called, and you have five minutes to get there. A guy was in line in front of me asking several questions. When I got to the poker room worker, I saw that my name had disappeared off the list! She sent me directly to a gentleman at a station inside the poker room who was seating people. He said U just got there in time. Next time I'll go straight inside if there are people in line at the check-in station just outside the poker room.

The play at the table was okay -- the usual mix or bingo players and decent players. One aggro guy was getting lucky, hitting the river several times to win hands. My first big hand, I got my taste of action with him. He raised to $15 (he raised just about every hand), and I stared at my pocket Kings in the small blind. I popped it to $40 to isolate. He called. The flop, of course, had an Ace. I made a continuation bet on the flop and he called. We both checked the turn. I checked the river and he threw out what looked to be a value bet. I called. He turned over A-5sooted to drag the pot. I did get my revenge, however, when I was on the button with pocket 9s and raised to $15. He raised it up to $35. I figured that he could have almost anything and decided to call. The flop was 9-7-rag rainbow. Sweet! I played the hand really well, merely calling first his flop bet, then his turn bet when another 7 fell, giving me a full house. After he raised on the river I shoved in the rest of my chips and he called. Unfortunately for him, he had a 7 and thought he was felting me with trip 7s. Wrongo! I had a very nice pot.

I lost some of the stack when I again was dealt pocket 9s. I whiffed the flop, but floated to either checks all around or a minimal raise. The tune was lovely 9, giving me a set. Unfortunately, it also completed a player's open-ended straight. I was pretty shocked when I lost that hand.

Now it was time for the King of Run Bad (me!) to once again keep my crown. I looked down to see K-K. A player in early position who was too busy playing with his phone and rarely played any hands raised to $30. I raised to $70, which should be screaming A-A or K-K as I was not being overly aggressive in the game. H shoved all in and I called. The flop was Q-rag-rag. The turn was an Ace, so I was pretty sure I was dead. The river was a rag. I had already flipped over my K-K. He finally showed his Q-Q. Two outed for all my chips once again (see final hand from my recent Las Vegas trip report). Feeling frustrated and defeated, I left the table and headed to the food court before making a stop on the bitter ride home.

Evaluation: Another very nice, spacious room. Dealers seemed to make a couple of questionable decisions. I would normally never wait so long to play, but the slot fun kept me there. The casino was really hopping with action. It was nice to see that I now have three good poker options in my area. It will be interesting to see what changes are in store in the future. Will the plexiglass stay? Will masks still be required?

Although I will admit to making some poor decisions and stupid plays, the run bad I have been experiencing has really left a bad taste in my mouth. In between these two sessions, I played at Talking Stick and messed up when I hit a straight on the river but failed to see that the card also completed a flush, and then ran into quad Kings. I leave on a trip to Wisconsin and Illinois in just over three days and therefore will get a poker break whether or not I play in the next three days. Handling the downswings in poker is something I struggle with, especially when they seem to go on for several weeks. How the pros can make it through the times of huge losses - good luck to them!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Fredo, I've a Feeling We're Not in Illinois Anymore

The move to Arizona my wife and I made last December has worked out exceedingly well. I don't belive that I could say that we have had a bad day here... until today.

This morning, my wife was walking our dog, Fredo. Now, we have been walking Fredo regularly since the move. On a few occasions, he has gotten a few cactus barbs in his paws or on his mouth. Taking them out was sometimes a bit of a challenge, but generally we could get the job done. However, there was a complication this morning. Fredo apparently was marking a type of cactus known as the Jumping Cholla. This particular plant has spines that appear to jump at people (and animals) that are in close proximity. The spines have barbs that dig into the skin and are very painful. Fredo found out firsthand as a spine attached to his belly and dug in with numerous barbs. When my wife attempted to take the spine off, Fredo started going nuts from the pain, jumping in a circle. Some of the barbs ended up attaching themselves to my wife.

I was just getting ready to shower and shave at home when my frantic wife called. I put some slippers on quickly and and jumped in my car to where they had walked -- a significant distance from the house. Trying to take the barbs out of the dogs paws and miscellaneous areas was difficult as the barbs cause a great deal of pain. My wife called some mobile emergency vets, but the one who responded said he couldn't come.

My wife took my car to get a muzzle for the dog for us to try to get the spine off him, but we knew there was no way we could with a worked up 80 pound pittie/lab. He would need to be sedated. He had been scared to walk, but later tried and was able. I made the long trip home with him. Unfortunately, the hot rocky road did quite a number on my feet.

My wife got home with the muzzle right after I got home. It became apparent that there was no way we were going to get the spine out without sedation. He was able to get into my wife's car, so off they went to a local animal hospital. A few hours and $300+ later, Fredo is back home. He's been a little less active than usual as some sedative still likely remains in his body.

And no - this would have never happened in Illinois. We still think it was a great decision to move west, however. One bad day out of about 130 works for us! 😄

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Las Vegas Trip Report - April 15-19, 2021: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I have now been back home for one day after my trip to Las Vegas. My February Las Vegas trip was not really a gambling extravaganza but more of a mini-vacation with my wife, who needed to go to a conference for work. So really, this was my first real gambling trip to Las Vegas since last September. As always, there are some real highlights and some unfortunate lowlights. I'll use a theme I believe I have used before, paying homage to that great spaghetti western: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

As always, hanging out with friends in Las Vegas is the best. Being able to play poker and sit at the same table with them is even better, even when plexiglass makes communication difficult. I originally picked the days of my trip some time ago to coincide with the vacation that my central Illinois friend, Nick, was taking. Nick and I played $1/2 and $1/3 NL poker together at Flamingo, Wynn, Bally's, and Planet Hollywood. Nick also had a ton of comps he was trying to burn through, so that meant that many of our meals were comped. Free food always tastes better, so thanks, Nick! Nick plays a much different kind of poker than I play, and it garnered him good results some of the sessions. Because he has a very aggressive style, he is also able to frustrate and irritate some players, which is always fun to watch. He irritated the hell out of me when I flopped a set of 3s on a very wet board. It turned out that he had both straight and flush draws and called my big flop and turn raises. He binked the flush on the river. I believe I uttered an epithet or two ...
lightning36 & Nick outside the Mirage pool area

I also got to play a session of $1/2 NL poker with Chris Abramski at Flamingo and with grrouchie at Planet Hollywood. Nick was also part of those sessions. I don't recall Chris and I playing too many hands against each other, and unfortunately, grrouchie felted me when I was short stacked at Planet Hollywood when I flopped bottom two pair. I should have taken the hint when he reraised me after the flop. Either he had an overpair to the board or had a set or top two pair. I should have gone with my gut and folded, but I didn't. I went to my favorite Kitty Glitter slot machine to lick my wounds.

I was concerned about Uber/Lyft service on my trips to and from McCarran. I was shocked that I was able to get my quickest Uber ever to get from the airport to the Mirage. Speaking of the Mirage, I was able to use the MGM app to check into my room and get my key just after 11am. One hour from plane touching down to being in my Strip hotel room -- excellent! I had no problems with my room at the Mirage.
My room at the Mirage

Using Nick's Caesars comps and my Caesars and MGM comps, I was able to get free meals at Margaritaville, Johnny Rockets, Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen, the Paradise Cafe (at the Mirage), Gordon Ramsay Burger and Buca di Beppo. Not bad! Next trip I'll perhaps plan on eating at a steak house I haven't tried. Blame Pete Peters for a growing addiction to steakhouses! Drinkwise, I began with White Russians but changed over to Margaritas for the rest of the trip. Only one Corona and no Bloody Marys. I almost feel like I cheated on my besties! 

The Farmhouse Burger with added toppings
The breakfast "buffet" at Buca di Beppo

I had a good $1/3 NL poker session on my one trip to the Wynn/Encore poker room as did Nick. I was also able to say hi to one of the regulars - my old poker friend Arch, who I believe has known Tony Bigcharles longer than anyone I know. I also had a killer $1/2 session at Planet Hollywood. About an orbit or two after coming to the table, I won a big hand with set over set. Everyone at the table knew what was happening as both my opponent and I kept raising after the flop and couldn't wait to get all our chips in. I had middle set and was relieved to see that he had bottom set. The opponent was understandably upset and seemed to want to reclaim his chips a few hands later. I raised to $12 from middle position with A-Qsooted. He and a LAG player at the table called. The flop was J-rag-10 rainbow. The opponent made a small raise to $12. After the set over set and a few other good hands, I felt like my mojo was working and called the $12 with my gutter. The LAG player also called. The turn was a beautiful King. The opponent made another small raise and I bumped it up to $100. The LAG player folded and the opponent went into the tank for several minutes. He called. I don't remember the river, but I pushed in the rest of my chips. He folded in anger. Clearly on tilt, a hand or two later he shoved his now short stack all in and was called by the LAG. The LAG won the hand. I heard from another player that the opponent pushed all in with ... 3-2os!

Although I was down early and ended with only a small profit, my late Saturday night session at Planet Hollywood and some great moments. I was dealt A-A and shoved all in after the flop and was called by 10-10, which did not improve. In a big hand, I was dealt pocket 9s and saw a flop of 9-3-3 with only one other player in the pot. I checked and she raised, so I smooth called. The turn was an 8. I raised, and she reraised me. I called. On the river, I raised $200. She called. She tabled pocket 8s for a really disappointing hand for her.

I also had an interesting winning session late Sunday night at Planet Hollywood. A guy at the table appeared to be angry/drunk and was enjoying making huge raises and driving people out of pots. chipped up some and then had an interesting hand. The problem player did a button straddle for $10. I looked down to see Ac-10c. I decided to put my plan into action. I merely called the $10 bet. there might have been another caller. When it got back to the button, he did exactly what expected: He raised to $50. I then pushed by entire stack in - about $250. He had me covered and maybe an extra $200-300. He thought for a bit and then folded. I had no idea if he would call. I figured I was ahead and was willing to take my chance against a random hand to double up. I figured if he was gonna have some crappy hand and bink a lucky card on me, it was gonna be for an extra $200. Readers - what do you think? Would you have done the same thing?

I flew on Southwest Airlines from Phoenix. The flight is only about an hour long with just over 40 minutes of actual time in the air. I messed up checking into both my outgoing and returning flights. I missed the beginning of the check in period by one minute on the outgoing flight and ended up with a C6. I got an aisle seat in the back of the plane and then saw that I chose a seat next to a woman holding a baby! Fortunately, the child did not cry until we landed. For the return flight, I missed the check in time by an hour but still managed to get B41. Again, an aisle seat in the back of the plane. However, I slept most of both flights, which was pretty sweet. And Southwest was ... Southwest, which is fine!

As good as Uber was coming in, Uber and Lyft were bad when I was leaving. I tried at least four times each to get a ride, but there was never a driver in the area nor one that accepted the ride. I finally went to the Bally's cab stand and just took a cab and was there quickly. It cost more, but at least I got there.

Of course, it is good that Las Vegas appears to be coming back, but the Strip sidewalks were full of people walking slowly. And hey - the porn slappers were back Saturday and Sunday nights. The smell of weed along the Strip is overpowering. 

Some of the poker rooms still have limited hours and are not always open when you might like. This was especially the case on Monday when the room options were more limited. This will hopefully change sometime next month when some COVID-19 restrictions are scheduled to be eliminated in Nevada.

I was able to use the MGM app and get into my room at the Mirage very early. At Bally's, where I spent one night, it would have cost an extra $15 to get into my room before 4:00pm. Seeing as how the stupid resort fee there is now over $40, I refuse, as a matter of principle, to give them anything more. I ended up finally getting into my room around 2:00am.

These three poker hands -- and the last one in particular -- are the kind of poker hands that rip your heart out.

The first happened Thursday night at Flamingo. The session was actually fun at the beginning. A talkative guy sat down, saying that he was originally from Columbia and now lives in San Francisco and that this was his first time in Las Vegas. We found out he had actually been here one time before, but apparently, he didn't get to play poker. He was wild and played about 75-80% of the hands, most times limping in if he could or calling small raises. In one hand, I flopped a gutshot. He minimally raised on the flop, so I called. I hit my gutter on the turn! He then bet $40 after the turn. There was a flush draw on the table, so I raised to $100. He had been calling most raises and in many cases, sucking out on others. He went in the tank for a minute or so, then folded. Rats. Unfortunately, I went card dead and had no other chances to grab his stack. He eventually got booted for dropping too many F-bombs. Nobody playing at the table wanted this loose luck sack to leave. He sucked out so many times and ended cashing out around a grand when asked to leave by the room supervisor. Chris Abramski was waiting to join me at the table and replaced him, so Chris never had a chance for some donk money. Nick later joined us when he got into town. But the play that tilted me was when I had  A-3 in one of the blinds and saw a flop of  3-3-A! I checked the flop and hoped that someone had an Ace and would bet it. It checked around. The turn was a ten and a put out a raise. A player to my left raised to double my bet. I called. The river was a rag. I bet again and he pushed all in. I insta-called, ready to scoop in a nice pot. Unfortunately, the other player had 10-10, so he beat me with a bigger full house. I was felted, was upset, and went to play slots to cool down.

My many Saturday night cash game hours at Planet Hollywood earned me a free ticket into a PH $100 daily tournament, which I entered at 4pm on Sunday. There were only 17 entrants. At the end of six levels, we were down to seven players. We had a scheduled break and moved to the final table during the break. A guy was able to late register at the last minute, going immediately to the final table. He ended up being the first one out! Another player busted, leaving six of us. only one player appeared to have significantly more than the rest of us, and I was perhaps the shortest stack. I stayed in pushing a couple of times, but was not called. Then, the crucial play: I was dealt Ad-9d, certainly a hand to push with. A guy who seemed to be the biggest luck sack in the world in the cash games the night before pondered his decision, then said "call." The flop brought two diamonds, so I had a nut flush draw with no Ace and no 9 on the flop. He turned over his cards and had A-2! I was shocked to see that he called with that hand, knowing that he would be behind any Ace. He had me covered by a little. The turn was a blank, and the river ... a 2! Boom - I was out and very unhappy to leave via a three outer on the river. 
Readers - don't you think that the guy CALLING with A-2 was a terrible call? I had 8 big blinds left and he had a couple more. An offer to chop was likely coming soon, and the double up would have put me in decent shape with about as many chips and most players. I was pretty frustrated.

My poker time ended in about the worst fashion imaginable. On Monday afternoon, I hoped to get on a table at Bally's. There were two $1/3 NL tables going and I was first on the list ... until a friggin' Caesars Diamond player signed up, knocking me out of the top spot.  I hate this rule at the Caesars poker rooms. Anyway, one table had a lot of chips and likely was an action table. The other table had small to medium stacks and seemed tight. The guy who jumped ahead of me got on the tight table. He immediately requested a table change. I had to now wait longer until two people decided to leave. The guy who jumped ahead of me transferred to the action table and I went to the tight table. Suddenly, everyone starts leaving the night table, leaving only thereof us. Meanwhile the action table (and the seat I could have had) was full at eight. I cashed out to go to Caesars in final session. As I walked away, I saw that a player at the action table decided to leave, but one of the other two remaining from my table jumped in. Nice. I hoofed it toward Caesars.

At Caesars, I wasn't getting any cards and appeared to be nitting it up. I then won some pots, especially against one player who kept having second-best hand to mine. I was ready to leave with a respectable profit for the short time there since I had to walk to Bally's, pick up my bags, and catch a ride to the airport. I decided to play one last hand. I looked down to see A-A! I put out an opening raise of $12 and was called by the player to my left, who had been doing quite well. When action was on the guy I kept beating, he raised to $45. When action came back to me, I raised to $140. The player went in the tank and said "You must have Aces or Kings." You think? He then called me. The flop was Jack high and I was hoping that he didn't hit a set of Jacks. We both pushed all in and turned over our cards. He had Q-Q! All I had to do was fade two cards and I would finish with a nice $500+ pot right before I headed home. The turn was a blank and the river was ... a Queen! A loud profanity slipped out and the other players looked sympathetic. The dealer was waiting to see if I would disparage her, but I just jokingly said "You really need to learn to deal that river better." I said goodbye and fist bumped the guy who got the best of me. But really -- the tight player at the table makes a huge raise, you have Q-Q, you know he has Aces or Kings, yet you call and hit the two outer?

I sent out a tweet about hating poker. I lived all my life until recently in Illinois. There was always this huge Midwestern part of me that believed that if you work hard and do the right things, you will be successful. In poker, however, it seems that I have hit this long streak where I get pounded right in the butt way too often when I make the right play and a good pot is at stake. I am very frustrated and today announce that I have officially retired from poker. My wife said it would last a day. Ha! Today I begin day three. How long will it last? I dunno. I just know that I am very discouraged. 

Thanks to Nick, Chris and grrouchie for the fun we had playing. As for poker: KISS MY ASS!

Thanks for reading!

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!