Friday, June 02, 2023

On to Las Vegas!

The month of May just seemed to fly by. It started out with my wife taking an international trip and being gone for 12 days. Throw in my oldest daughter's birthday, Mother's Day, school years ending and the like, and May was likely a busy month for many others also. I kept on playing poker pretty regularly and continued what has so far been a pretty successful 2023. I decided to skip going to Las Vegas in May and decided that I would go at the beginning of June. That being said, it is almost time to return to Sin City.

I have been getting some very nice Las Vegas offers this summer. I will be driving out next Tuesday, May 6 and staying until Monday, May 12. I also have the option to stay an extra day or two if needed or desired. Although I have mostly abandoned tournament play, I was looking at making my return to the WSOP by playing in either the new Gladiator donkathon and/or a WSOP senior daily. I might even consider something at the Golden Nugget, Orleans or South Point. In summer, there are soooo many tournament series going on.

I'll be shifting around in my stay this trip: one night at ol' standby Excalibur, two nights at South Point (first time staying there) and three nights at Golden Nugget (first time staying there). The second half of the trip should be interesting as my worst Las Vegas poker room (results-wise) is Golden Nugget. In over 100 trips to Las Vegas, I have only stayed on Fremont Street two nights -- at Four Queens. I have generally felt uncomfortable on Fremont in the evenings, so I am open to reframing my experiences there.

Although not set in stone, a side trip to North Las Vegas to play some poker and blackjack at the Poker Palace may be in order. Tony Bigcharles, NormInVegas and I went there earlier in the year and had a blast.

If any one wants to meet up, say hello or grab a meal or a drink, hit me up with a blog comment or a PM on Twitter. I am hoping that the construction on/near the Strip won't cause me too much trouble.

Thanks for reading. Cya in Las Vegas!

Sunday, May 07, 2023

A Plethora of Thoughts About Fatherhood

I have been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately, based on my own experiences and triggered by a Facebook post by friend Vegasfan1970 regarding raising his son from  the beginning of kindergarten to the end of his senior year of high school.

For years, I have publicly called fatherhood the world's greatest unpaid job. I stand by that statement. Some thoughts that have been buzzing around in my mind recently ...

Several years ago I made an incredibly naΓ―ve statement to a woman from work.  I knew she had adult children whereas mine were not quite yet adults. I said to her "Gee -- it must be nice having adult children and no longer having all their worries as when they were younger." She just laughed at me. I found out later that one of her adult children was in some type of trouble, from marital issues and/or criminal/legal problems. I guess I should have at least thought about a previous supervisor whose daughter had a child born out of wedlock at an early age. This supervisor largely brought up her daughter's daughter.

My own father, John (or called Jack by many family and friends) was a product of his times: the Great Depression and World War II. Although he was extremely bright and did exceptionally well in high school, his was not a world of higher education not any sort of "professional," or office job. His passions were mechanics and things he could build and fix with his hands. He did construction work early on and later specialized in mechanics, especially with huge machines. We sometimes joked that he was like Ed Norton from The Honeymooners -- working in the sewer. He derisively called guys who dressed in suits and took the commuter train into Chicago "office boys." Unfortunately, two of his four sons (myself and thundering36) were professional educators, which I don't think he ever fully appreciated nor understood. He felt more comfortable in the world of fixin' things.

He was perhaps typical of the WWII vets, early on smoking lots of Lucky Strikes and drinking Jim Beam and beer. As a father, he worked a regular job and then worked several nights at my uncle's gas station, helping to pay off a mortgage that allowed him to move his family from the near Northwest side of Chicago out to the Southwestern suburbs. Unfortunately, he also had a pretty severe problem with his hearing, which I imagine was part heredity, from his mother, and part environmental, from WWII and his profession. Unfortunately, I inherited hearing issues which were also likely exacerbated by the home's loud television and by rock and roll. Later in life as his workload decreased and and he got hearing aids, he actually became a lot more chatty than he had ever been when younger.

My father-in-law, Fred, was much different. He was educated and a professional. He had a heavy burden as his wife dealt with many health issues all her adult life (similar to my own mother who struggled with terrible depression), he had a mentally and physically handicapped son, and a few more kids than my own father. Fred was an extremely extremely pious man and amazed me at how he could keep his cool under the most trying of circumstances. One of his daughters had severe psychological issues and pretty much wrote off her whole family. The compassion that Fred showed toward the wayward daughter had a profound impact on me and on realizing how I could become a better father.

Throughout my world, I know several men who are outstanding fathers. I would start naming some, but I don't want to leave anyone out. These gentlemen are indeed the cream of the crop.

As for myself, this past long weekend was kind of my personal fatherhood weekend as my wife was away on a trip to Israel. This is actually the first time since the late 1980's that I have been alone at home for as long as two weeks. Things were a little quiet around the house except for our two dogs and our cat. However, I heard from my oldest daughter on Thursday afternoon. She was excited to tell me that she didn't realize that her car was paid up until she saw two months of payments sitting in her checking account. We talked quite a bit and before I hung up, and somehow I got talking about the trip to Maui that my wife and I took about 15 months ago. I said, "I'm sure we told you, but I unfortunately drank too many Mai Tais too fast on our whale watching excursion. I couldn't even walk off the boat by myself and had to be helped off. Your mother was pretty pissed off at me, sat me at a picnic table on shore, and went shopping in the nearby shopping center while I snoozed." My daughter started laughing hysterically and yelled "NO - I NEVER HEARD THAT STORY BEFORE. WHY DO YOU TELL ME THE SAME OLD BORING ONES WHEN YOU HAVE ONES LIKE THIS?" Needless to say, our conversation end ended with us both smiling. I suppose her was much bigger than mine.

On Friday morning, I called my son, who was anticipating being let go from his job in a morning online meeting. It was mostly to give him some emotional support (which he usually gets from his mom and did the night before), and to give him some suggestions  on what to say if he was being let go so that he would come off as best he could. He found out that he was indeed being laid off, but with a generous severance package, all for a job he's actually glad to see end. We were able to process the meeting afterward, and as always, I reminded him that when he was young and angry, that he told me that he would spit on my grave when I die. Although neither of us mentioned it, we both remember that my response was "You'd better die first, otherwise I will piss on yours." πŸ˜›

Finally, I decided that I should call my youngest child today. She has been struggling in many ways lately, and had us quite scared a few weeks ago. However, an adjustment in her meds did wonders for her. She had been asking for some money to help pay for a hotel room for a convention she wants to attend. Although angry at the way she had recently treated my wife and I (maybe the first time ever that she had been mean to ME), I remembered that lesson that I mentioned earlier -- the one I had learned from my father-in-law. My daughter sounded great and it was like things were back the way they have been most of her life. For that, I am extremely thankful.

As a dog and cat dad, I have tons of fun with my pets and they get lots of love ... and treats. Thank goodness they are here for me to talk with since my wife is gone.

On a final note before this day ends ... Happy 99th birthday, Dad! Although you left us almost 19 years ago, you are definitely not forgotten. Thanks for all the love you showed and for helping to make me the person I am today. πŸ’“

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Dealing with Five Months of Death

 "They were asking if you were around -- How you was, where you could be found."

                                    The Boys Are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy


It has now been one month since my last post. Time flies quickly sometimes. Where have I been? Well ... dealing with

Five months of death

It actually goes back to November 15, 2022. The day started out with promise. I was in Las Vegas and would be attempting to get some Taylor Swift pre-sale tickets for my daughter. The promise of the day was totally shattered when I heard that a tragedy happened to a former work friend. Some quick digging and calling turned up the sad story. My friend's only child, an adult who was married and a mother, was walking and hit and killed by a vehicle after she dropped her son off at school. The next several hours were spent crying and texting a multitude of former work friends. It would be accurate to say that we all felt destroyed that day.

Less than three weeks later, I received a notice that a former work friend was as death's door. He passed away the next day. This friend, Jack, and I had both had the same bad situation dealing with a supervisor at work. Jack had already been gone from the place when I was hired, and four years later, I got a job working at the same place Jack had moved on to.

Bad news continued on into 2023 when I found out that another former co-worker, Lenita, passed away due to cancer at the young age of 66 at the end of March. Lenita and I had an interesting relationship. We were rarely on good terms when we were both directors of our respective areas. I once even suggested to our supervisor that the best thing she could do to Lenita would be to fire her! Several years later, Lenita and I actually forged a decent friendship -- sort of like two old warriors coming to an understanding and appreciation of and for the other. She retired before I did and at least was able to reap some good years of retirement.

The most recent sadness came the second week of the current month when a member of my meet-up group trivia team and the guy who hosts my local home poker game, texted that he had lost his son. I  found out later that his son, only 22 years old, had suffered from depression for some time and had shot and killed himself the week before. The father, Bobby, has a vast array of friends in town. He invited his poker buddies to play one night to help him cope and had at least two happy hours/nights out with friends to get him through his pain.

The common link to these four deaths (two friends and the only children of two other friends) is yours truly. I've felt like there has been a pall hanging over me. Fortunately, I have a great life and some very good family and friends, so I was able to focus on that. I played a lot of poker, which also really helps. I'm hoping that I won't hear of any deaths to any friends or their kids for some time. I am ready for a return to what I consider my normal life. I was disappointed that a trip to Los Angeles  earlier this month had to be canceled since the friend I was to meet there had some surgery. He was going to house sit for a friend and I was going to join him. For several years, we talked about making the rounds at the area cemeteries to see the graves of famous people. Maybe next year.

Upcoming

Early next week, my wife is leaving for almost two weeks on a trip to the Holy Land. For various reasons, I decided to stay home and watch over the house and pets. She's extremely excited to go, having been a good Catholic girl her whole life. While she's gone, it would be fair to assume that I will continue my regular poker schedule -- and maybe increase it.

My next scheduled trip to Las Vegas is June 6-12. For some reason, I have been the recipient of some good room offers this summer. I will be spending one night at Excalibur, two at South Point (first time staying there) and three nights at Golden Nugget (first time staying there). I generally avoid the Fremont area, so this trip will be interesting. With all the trips I've taken to Las Vegas, I have only stayed downtown one night each on two separate trips. We'll see how things work out. Also, I plan on playing in the WSOP Gladiator event. Seeing as how I rarely play tournaments anymore, taking a stab at this low low priced donkathon doesn't seem too horrible.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Las Vegas Trip Report - March 20-24, 2023: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Having now been home over two days since the end of my trip last week to Las Vegas, I think I can reflect on it much better than if I had done so immediately. The trip started off with so much promise as the night before, I had a great winning  session at my local place, Talking Stick Resort. I have already told my wife that, as far as Las Vegas trips go, this one was definitely in the bottom half. The major reason for this was the number of shots to the nuts I took while playing poker. Nevertheless, a trip to Las Vegas still is a trip to Las Vegas, so even the bad is not too bad. There were definitely some highlights to go with the lowlights. 

THE GOOD

The Meet Up Game

The best part of the trip was the meet up game that Luke Johnston and I sponsored. We had enough to keep one table filled for almost the entire time, which was about 4 1/2 hours. We alternated between $1/2 NL Hold em and $1/1 PLO every orbit. In retrospect, this seemed to work pretty well for everyone, as some players were not very experienced in Omaha and others really love Omaha. The players included myself, Luke, @ZetusLarry, @Hockey_Poker, @Onechiquita, @smoe913, Vinnie, @sevencard2003, @AZ_Snoop_20, Brian B and a random player. Brian B accumulated a huge stack, Onechiquita and I seemed to do very well, but I'm not sure how many others ended up with a profit. Regardless, it was a great time. Many thanks to the Sahara, poker manager Matt Barros, @jurbanic95, who was working that evening, and the poker dealers, who handled us with a light touch. And thanks to the guys who came to socialize, @Flushhdraw and @MrLimitHoldem.

Horseshoe Grand Opening


I was fortunate to be on hand for the ceremonies that "officially" opened the Horseshoe on Friday, March 24, right before I returned home. Tons of media were present, along with special guests like Jack Binion and Doyle. I heard that Doyle would be signing autographs at a poker table inside Horseshoe at 6:45pm, so I stuck around to meet him and was first in line.

Winning at MGM

MGM Grand used to be a great poker room for me. For some reason, I was really snake bit at MGM in 2022. Of the many poker rooms that I played in, MGM was near the bottom of my list in profitability. I am happy to report that I won my one and only session there this trip, actually putting MGM into the profit category for me in 2023. I also pulled a small win in my sessions at Venetian.

THE BAD

I had subpar poker sessions at Mandalay Bay, Bellagio and Wynn. I took some bad beats at Mandalay Bay and Bellagio and got caught making a big bluff at Wynn. However, I stayed at Wynn long enough to finally cash out with only a two figure loss, which almost made the session seem like a success.

THE UGLY

One word: Horseshoe! I had two bad sessions right at the start of my trip and didn't play in the room for the rest of the trip. Horseshoe had been one of my most successful places in 2022. It was very disappointing that I had so much bad juju this trip. In my first session there I had a set of Aces and was up against a potential flush after the turn. I decided to gamble and lost when the river didn't pair the board. Meh.

I didn't get into any individual hands here because there was so much waiting for decent cards, having to fold when I didn't connect with the flop, and then losing, even when I had a decent hand. That part of the trip was frustrating and, in my mind, best forgotten ASAP.

I might actually take some time away from Las Vegas for a few months as my wife and I both have some travel plans in April in May. Of course, with Las Vegas only being a short drive or plane ride away, ...

Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 27, 2023

lightning36 and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

 After a day like yesterday, I want to move to Australia. Actually, my brother, thundering36, who has been mentioned in this blog in the past, lives there. Maybe I should join him and/or poker buddy @Koalapete?

Yesterday actually started fine. Our dogs got up a tad early and I got up to feed them. Since I was up, I decided to fix breakfast for myself and my wife. Always good for some husband points. Then I got dressed and took the dogs for a walk. Everything was fine until I tripped in the same area I had tripped a few weeks ago. Some of the road had degraded and there is an area of loose gravel. Just dumb that I did it again. As I went sprawling face first, I broke my fall with my right hand, again turning some of the heel into a mixture of rock, skin and blood. My right knee also was scraped and bloody, and unfortunately, the bag of dog poop that I was carrying hit the road and split open, getting on my hands and a leash. Wonderful.

After having my wife patch me up (she did get breakfast made by me, of course!), I solidified plans to meet up with another former central Illinois resident and former poker blogger, @Z0oo0ks (Sheila) , at the poker room at Lone Butte in Chandler, AZ. The Butte was having an excellent promo day  with plenty of high hand action and cashola to mystery seats. First, however, I had two tasks: 1) Fill up my car with gas; and 2) Pick up a glass bowl my wife had made in a glass blowing class. I used an app to pick out two places to go for gas and decided on the non-Costco option, which would be quicker. I would just need to go a little bit out of my way. A decent trade off, I thought. I got to the gas station and found out the gas was actually more expensive than I thought. With my grocery store discount, however, the price was still pretty good. After filling up, I checked Google Maps to see the route I would take to pick up the bowl. There was a note saying the route would be the fastest due to construction traffic. I looked at the time: 41 minutes? I then saw the problem: the southbound interstate was closed for construction! I would need to weave around several other streets to catch the interstate several miles away. Sheila got to Lone Butte before me and got our names on the $1/2 NL list -- with about 50 people ahead of us.

After picking up the bowl, I got to Lone Butte, prepared for a long wait. Sheila, meanwhile, got seated in a $2/3 game. Some free pizza was provided, which helped with the wait. After about 1 1/2 hours, I was seated. The real fun was about to begin.

Hand #1: The first hand I played was with J-10. One player raised to $8 and I and another player called. The flop was J high with two hearts. The initial raiser bet $20 and I called. The turn was what looked to be an innocent 8. It turns out the the initial raiser had pocket 8s. He checked the turn and I checked back. He then raised to $40 on the river and I called, thinking that I likely was going to win the hand. I was surprised to see that he caught his card on the turn.

Hand #2: I was dealt 9-9 and raised to $8. One player raised to $16 and I called. The flop was all low cards. I was guessing that I was ahead. I bet and the villain called. The turn was an Ace. I checked and he checked back. The river was inconsequential. I checked and he checked back -- with K-K.

Hand #3: I had pocket 9s again. A player to my left raised and I called. The flop was 8 high. Things looked good. The player raised and I called. The turn was a brick. He checked and I raised. He called. The river was a brick. He checked and I checked back, thinking that I was going to win the pot. Unfortunately, he flopped a set of 8s. More money down the tubes.

Hand #4: I was dealt pocket 8s. The flop was all hearts. Two of us in the hand. I checked and villain checked back. The turn was an 8. I bet and the villain called. The river didn't change the board texture. I checked, he bet and I called. He turned over the the nut flush.

Hand #5: I raised to $12 with Q-Q and got two callers. The flop was rag-5-5. I thought I was in good shape and raised. The villain called. The flop was a rag. Villain checked, I bet and he called. The river was a rag. He checked and I decided to just check back, expecting to win the hand. He said "quads" and turned over 5-5. Actually, I think he saw how I was getting screwed again and took it a bit easy on me. I was getting pretty close to just calling it an afternoon.

Hand #6: I was dealt pocket Aces and raised to $12. The same player who won Hand #4 raised to $30. I jammed all in (about $120) and the villain called. He had me covered. My Aces held and I doubled up. Finally!

Hand #7: I was dealt Q-Q. A player in early position bet $8 and I raised to $25. The flop had two clubs and was 8 high. She checked and I bet $50. She shoved all in and I called. She had 7c8c and was on a flush draw. The turn was an 8! I had $100 left and just said "I can't take this whupping anymore." I cashed out and saw Sheila on my way out. All these hands happened in a period of about 90 minutes. It was seriously time to get out of that place.

I soothed my injured soul with some great BBQ before heading home. Fortunately, nothing else happened the rest of the day. Hadn't I had enough? But, as  Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading of my suffering so that it was not all for naught! If not, I might really consider moving to Australia. πŸ˜„

Special thanks to author Judith Viorst.



Saturday, March 18, 2023

A Repost From 2015: Carmen and the Bolt of Lightning

There is sadness among many old time poker bloggers today as word has spread that Carmen Cincotta aka  CarmenSinCity aka PokerGirlInVegas passed away. At the height of the poker blogging craze, Carmen's blog was a regular stop for news about Las Vegas, the poker world and fashion. She will be missed by the many people she touched.

Back in 2006 and 2007, I was an avid reader of Carmen's blog. She posted many pictures of herself and had quite a following as Carmen was very attractive. I knew that she sometimes played poker at MGM in Las Vegas, so on a trip there in February 2007, I went to play at MGM with the hope of meeting Carmen in person. Much to my surprise, she was there. And wow -- was she a knockout! As luck would have it, I was seated at her table -- right next to her. I decided to have a little fun with her and acted like I was brand new to poker and asked her if she could give me some tips on playing. She wrote a great recap of our meeting from her perspective, but unfortunately she gave up her blog and the blog address has been taken by someone else. She described how she was licking her lips, anticipating stealing the roll of this poor stooge who wandered into the MGM poker room.

Carmen had seen pictures of me and thought I looked familiar, but she didn't recognize me. When I felt like I had put her on long enough, I decided to reveal who I was. The conversation went something like this ...


Me:  Well, even though I am new to the game, sometimes I hit with a large force.

C:     crickets

Me:  Sometimes that force is powerful, like a bolt of lightning.

C:    crickets

Me:  I SAID "LIKE A BOLT OF LIGHTNING."

C:    crickets, but a puzzled look

Me:  LIKE LIGHTNING36!


Yes -- she finally got it! She smiled and gave me a hug. We talked for a little bit, and soon afterward she left with her buddy, Miami Don.

Most of the poker bloggers were aware of her substance abuse issues and legal troubles over a number of years. She was very open about her life in her blog. From what she told me, she had a great job working in or around Baltimore/Washington DC. Work was fueled from the top down with alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, one day the job and party got busted and she was out of a great job. It seemed like her life never really got back on track after that.

I remember seeing her one year at the annual World Poker Blogger Tournament (WPBT) traditionally held in Las Vegas at the beginning of December. I could not believe my eyes. This drop-dead gorgeous woman I had previously known looked old and shriveled up. The drugs had been taking their toll. It was depressing to see.

Carmen faded from sight as her legal woes mounted and blogging seemed to be yesterday's news. However, as far as I know, she seemed to be doing better the past year or so. I tried reaching out to her a time or two, but got little response. I always hoped that she really got her life back on track.

The annual WPBT is right around the corner -- the first weekend in December in Las Vegas. I am sure that those in attendance will speak and think fondly of a woman who left this earth much too soon.

R.I.P Carmen.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Return to Las Vegas on Monday and Meet Up Session Next Wednesday at Sahara

With decent room offers and cheap flight available, I decided to make a quick turn around and go back to Las Vegas a month after my last visit. The trip is scheduled from Monday, March 20 to Thursday, March 24, 2023. My home base for this trip will be the Horseshoe Casino. It was a bit more than my old standby, Excalibur, but will prove more convenient since I will not have a car this trip and will likely focus more playing time at Horseshoe, Venetian and Wynn/Encore. Ideally, I'd also like to devote a day to Bellagio and Aria. Maybe my last day before my night flight leaves?

Also included in this trip will be a meet up game that I am hosting along with @LuukeJohnston. Details are on the flier on this post and on Twitter. It looks like we are good for one table right now. The games are meant to be friendly $1/2 NL and maybe $1/1 PLO. Join us on Wednesday, March 22 at 5pm at Sahara. PM me on Twitter to get on the list or ask any questions.

As for other fun things I have been up to, I got a last minute offer to see the Angels play the Cubs two weeks ago. It's amazing how quickly I can get ready to go somewhere when properly motivated. This afternoon, I'll have great seats for the Cubs playing against the White Sox. I've found that about two spring training games per season suits me just about right. The games themselves are usually pretty unimportant. The experience, though, is everything.

Taylor Swift begins her 2023 tour tonight in Glendale. In case she decides to come to the White Sox/Cubs game today in Glendale, I'll see if she can meet me for breakfast or brunch tomorrow. Heck - I might even insist that I pay!

If you are in Las Vega next week, I hope to see you. Of course (u see), I would be happy to win some of your cashola at the poker table.

Thanks for reading!