Friday, March 01, 2024

Yeah - I'm Still Around. Poker Nonsense and Upcoming Las Vegas Trips

POKER

It has been almost two months since my most recent blog post. The results with life, as often with poker, have been mixed. Years ago (almost 18 now!) I started this blog to write about poker, so away we go.

My last Las Vegas trip (January 4-8, 2024) started out great, notwithstanding the travel error I mentioned in my last post. Even though I missed out on several hours I had planned to be in Las Vegas, I decided that I would hit up MGM Grand when I got into town late Friday night. I started my trip with a nice profit, got some sleep, then had two successful sessions the next day at Bellagio. I seem to remember spotting Chris Abramski and Flynn & Ollie in the afternoon session, and after a nice dinner with NormInVegas, having a fun session with Norm. One woman whom I abused time and time again (in a poker way, of course!) told me that she did not like me. My response: "I have this habit of making beautiful women angry with me." I mean, seriously -- how could she respond? I had been on a heater for several weeks and then did the dumbest thing in the world: I tweeted about it. I guess I was just asking to get bitch slapped. I got what I was asking for.

I decided that after finishing at Bellagio, I wasn't quite ready to go to bed. I hit up one of my old favorite spots: Horseshoe. I got into a game with a group that had been playing several hours, so I was the odd man out. I was hanging in with a loss of chips until I  thought that I was way ahead in a hand and attempted to bluff a flopped two pair. Yuck. But wait -- that was only the beginning.

I headed back to my sweet, sweet home (Excalibur), ready to sleep and resume my "success" the next day. I decided to play at Wynn. I built up a nice stack at a table of relatively quiet, sour players. I was ready to lock up my winnings and get dinner when I stoopidly stayed for a few more orbits. I then made a monumental mistake in not properly betting a player off his flush draw. I didn't believe that he had it and payed the ultimate price. I was livid with myself and felt like I had embarrassed myself in front of the table with my play. I decided to leave at that point, but I was pretty sure that Mr Runbad Tilt would be following me. Unfortunately, I was correct. I dusted off a buy-in at Caesars when I jammed my dwindling stack all in with my pair of 7s on a board that was 8 high. A player with A-8 called me. Meh. Time to call it a night.

On Sunday, I played in a poker tournament at The Poker Oasis. I was at a table with Norm (thanks for driving, sir), Luke Johnston and @bigfokkerdog. Flynn was at at other table. The game was likely memorable for others, but not for me. Things just didn't go right and my frustration continued. I was harassing Luke for catching cards and playing well  and blasting music in addition to what was being played, and bigfokkerdog got pissed at me and threatened to throw me in the pool outside. As Harry Caray would say while broadcasting Cubbies games, "You can't beat fun at the ol' ballpark" -- or poker table. Thanks to Joseph and Toni for hosting.

After Norm busted, he drove me back to the Strip. I ended the trip torching off money at MGM. Frankly, I was so numb by that point that I don't even remember how I lost money there. It was time to shut down poker for the trip. 

I look back, and I see that I could have played so much better in the sessions where I lost money. Before I retired, I was known in my professional job as someone who NEVER makes mistakes. Therefore, it is difficult for me to accept that I make mistakes in poker. Frankly, sometimes it is quite maddening. I guess this is one of the reasons why so many of us love the game. It can take you to great heights, then suddenly show you that constant success is an illusion.

Meanwhile, back at home, the carnage continued. After starting out with a win at what used to be my "home poker room," Talking Stick Resort, I played sparingly and lost four sessions in a row. Over the course of four weeks, I took some horrendous river beats when I had gotten it all in while ahead. Additionally, I had a dispute with the Stick floor people over a ruling that I thought was exceeding unfair. I've been whining enough here already, so you'll have to ask me in person in Las Vegas why I got my panties in a bunch. The floor was pretty tolerant of my language since I did not direct my F-bombs toward anyone in particular (including those who made the decision against me). I decided to back away from Talking Stick for a time and play at the local place where I didn't win much in previous years, Desert Diamond. Of course, poker is such a quirky game that one night when I went specifically for  Wednesday night's Rise of the Phoenix promotion, I won two promos in one night: $200 for a straight flush, and $1,200 for quad deuces. In fact, I've played seven sessions at Desert Diamond in 2024 and have won at all of them! Go figure.

VISITORS

My brother-in-law, Philip, came to visit us in Arizona for the first time. He had not taken a vacation in many years, so we served up a great trip for him. He got to do the number one thing he wanted to do while here -- visit Alice Cooper's house. My wife threatened him with his life if he rang the doorbell out at the entrance. I took him to the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, and we surprised him by taking him to the Eagles and Steeley Dan concert at the Footprint Center. Yep - it was a great trip!

Three days after he left, our youngest daughter, Erin, came to visit. Plenty of mom's home cooking was consumed, and I took my daughter to a special store with mega Japanese products and out for one of our favorites: Banh Mi sandwiches and bubble tea.

Finally, a former co-worker, Dennis, and his husband, Joel, visited us before February ended. We had a great Mediterranean dinner followed by Italian ice and ice cream. Dennis and Joel have visited us each year we have been out in Arizona. It's great to have friends who don't forget you once you have moved away.

THE CONTINUING STORY OF EVA

Two months after my last blog post and I am still dealing with/helping out Eva. She got on a hospice program, then went off it. She is currently in a local rehabilitation facility, hoping that she can learn to walk again, which would solve many of her problems. I am guessing that her walking days are behind her. She is a stubborn survivor and continues to live despite end stage renal failure and going weeks without dialysis. Who would have ever guessed that my "normal" day would consist of things like talking with the funeral director and visiting a Jewish cemetery?

UPCOMING LAS VEGAS TRIPS

I will be heading back to Las Vegas March 18-21. Former poker blogger AgSweep will be there that week, so we will likely be hitting up a few of the Strip poker rooms.

Former poker blogger and Aussie Koala Pete will be arriving back in Las Vegas on June 4. I will be heading out to Las Vegas June 9-14. Most likely, Pete will ride back to Arizona with me at the end of the week to visit for a few days, as he did his last trip to the US.

Thanks for reading. I am looking forward to soon beginning year 19 of this blog!

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Las Vegas Trip on January 4-8, 2024: A New Year Trip to Clear My Head

After taking a five month break (July to December) in trips to Las Vegas in the second half of 2023, I am now turning around and taking this weekend's trip only three weeks after coming home from my last one. Why? Largely, it is due to something that has, quite frankly, been screwing up my mind for the past few months.

A little bit of an explanation ... Back last July, I started volunteering for a local non-profit organization. Although I have helped with some respite care for caregivers who are taking care of Alzheimer's family, most of my help has been to drive local elderly people to non-emergency medical appointments. One particular rider has gotten to me in a very personal way.

I began driving Eva right from the start. The drive didn't seem too bad -- to a local dialysis center. Eva is at end stage renal failure. I guess I should have known that we'd connect as, on our first trip, she told me that I drive like a lunatic! I started picking her up after her Monday and Friday treatments were completed, and she usually looked terrible. She continually ranted about how dialysis was just a scam because one never really gets better from it (she pretty much rejected my common sense response that at least it keeps her alive), and we sparred back and forth about our choice of candidates in the upcoming Republican presidential primaries. Eva is a huge Trump supporter who could not believe that my main man is Chris Christie. Eva was a successful  businesswoman and is very firm in her beliefs. She can take as well as she gives, so we have had quite a lot of fun jousting together.

A few months ago, she stopped returning my phone calls. I knew that she either had to be in the hospital or was dead in her house. I went over to her house and considered calling the police first, in case somebody might think that I was breaking in. I decided instead to just go inside and search every room, expecting that I might find her lifeless body. The house was empty, except for her frightened dog. Apparently, Eva or a neighbor called 911 and had her transported to a local hospital. After a few days there, she came home. In early December, she was actually booted out of the dialysis center as she was starting to lose it mentally. She decided not to continue dialysis.

I looked up information about her choice and knew that she could go at any time. As I understood, 4-6 weeks was the usual maximum time patients could go without before passing. She had no family and essentially no or few friends, so I invested lots of time, effort and heart in helping her through what I thought were her final days. After her last trip to the hospital, she could no longer walk and was very depressed. One night my wife and I brought her food from her favorite Mexican restaurant and a take away quart of frozen margaritas. Eva drank over half the margaritas and proclaimed "I'm STONED! She despises most of the meals she gets delivered by the non-profit agency, but she has liked some home cooked meals my wife has made.

After almost four weeks without dialysis, Eva decided to go back on it. She had done this same thing once or twice in the past. The conundrum I found myself in was that I had become a very important part of her life -- perhaps being her only real friend. However, her demands/requests for my time greatly increased. There were even a couple of times where I was stripping her bed and washing her sheets while she was receiving dialysis -- and I don't even wash clothes at my own home! She is very strong willed and stubborn. There are other complicating factors which I can not get into here. She desperately needs a caregiver staying with her or visiting frequently, but she is unwilling to do so. In a sense, I and a few other people have been enabling her to avoid getting help she really now needs, but some of us have finally taken a stand not to do this anymore.

Frankly, the whole process has sucked a lot of energy from me. Over the past week, I have screwed up making travel arrangements for this Las Vegas trip, losing half a day of good poker time, misplaced a car fob, misplaced two pairs of reading glasses ... Either my wife is doing an excellent job of gaslighting me or I am very frazzled. I'm taking this Las Vegas trip not so much to obsess with poker as to get away and hopefully clear my mind and recharge my batteries.

I know that some of my poker friends are struggling with family who have Alzheimer's or other health issues, and as Bill Clinton said, I feel their pain. I assisted in dealing with multiple issues my mom had, and I saw first-hand the physical and emotional toll it took on my brother, thundering36, who was caregiver to our mother. Sometimes life is really challenging.

My travel screw up (reserving a seat on an 11pm flight, thinking it was at 11am) has me getting into Las Vegas close to midnight tonight. It still should give me plenty of time to get in some quality poker cash game time over the next three days before heading home Monday afternoon.

As always, hit me up if you want to fling some cards together or grab a meal. I will be playing at the Poker Oasis tournament on Sunday. I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading. 😀

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Las Vegas Trip and Meet Up Game Report: December 10-14, 2023

 It was time. I had not been to Las Vegas since July -- an abnormally long time for me since I moved to Phoenix. The trip had tentatively been planned for some different days, but I had told Very Josie that I would sync my days up with hers as she was planning to visit Sin City with her sister, Carmela. Unfortunately, the change of dates meant that I would not be able to cross paths with Iowa poker buddy @JT88Keys, who did not have the same flexibility to change his dates as I did. VJ and I also decided to host a meet up game while in Las Vegas -- always a good time to meet and toss cards with friends.

Sunday, Dec 10

I probably did not make a great decision the night before I left, but I was almost through viewing season two of The Sopranos, and I wanted to see how the season concluded. I stayed up too late, considering I wanted to get on the road as early as I could Sunday morning. However, I woke up early, packed, and was on the road at a decent hour. I would be staying at Excalibur this trip -- my usual place. Despite the place being jokingly called the "dirty castle" by some, it actually cleaned up several years ago. The nasty smoke smell is mostly gone and the rooms have been refurbished - with old Bellagio furniture, I once heard. I always try to stay in the Resort Tower and in a Stay Fresh room. Those rooms have always been great in my experience. I got the MGM credit card so that I could have Pearl status. which means free parking at all MGM properties. MGM has also been pretty good to me in terms of room comps, so it has been my usual Las Vegas home.

I was hoping to make a surprise appearance at The Poker Oasis, but I was fatigued after the more than five-hour drive, so I elected instead to unpack and take a short nap first. Later in the afternoon, I joined an old poker friend, @seemitch, at the Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar in Mandalay Bay to eat some wings and drink a few beers. At the 2022 WSOP, Mitch placed third in the Seniors Event, and currently he was in very good shape in the WPT Prime Event. He eventually finished 69th out of more than 10,500 entrants!

Afterward, I decided to play poker at MGM Grand. I was seated at a $1/2 table with perhaps some of the worst poker players that I have recently seen! Unfortunately, I was getting no cards at all, and it was killing me. I just couldn't get into any decent pots for at least a couple of hours. However, things finally turned around and I got on a mini-heater. Had I not taken it on the chin in a few hands, I would have had an exceptional session. However, making a nice profit on my first session was a very good start to this Las Vegas trip. I went to bed a happy camper that night.

Mon, Dec 11

I woke up at a decent hour and invited Josie and Carmen out to breakfast. The site: Lou's Diner. I had heard many reports that this old fashioned diner was one of the best Las Vegas breakfast spots. I picked up the Ladies at Resorts World and off we went. We had about a 10 minute wait before we were seated. After eating, the verdict was unanimous: Lou's Diner deserves all the kudos it receives.


Josie and Carmela wanted to go shopping at a clothing store and there was one just a few blocks away. While they were shopping, I headed into Arizona Charlie's Decatur to burn some time. I had been in that casino to play poker once before with Tony Bigcharles many years ago. It was one of the few poker rooms that allowed smoking. Yuck. The poker room has been gone for years.

After driving the ladies back to Resorts, I headed back to Excalibur to relax. Months ago, I had made a dinner reservation for four people at the Top of Binion's Steakhouse for that night at 6:30pm. I had invited fellow poker friend @WASHDUDE to join us, and he accepted. He would join us at 6:30. After relaxing and changing clothes, I picked up the ladies and headed downtown. We arrived about a half hour early so that we could take a quick look at the Fremont Street crowd. It did not disappoint -- especially the guy who looked like Donald Trump who was wearing not much more than a jockstrap type covering. Only in Las Vegas!

The dinner at Binion's: Fantastic! We had an excellent 24th story view of Las Vegas. The service was quick, friendly, and professional. Best of all, the food was outstanding. We started off with a couple different types of bread with Specialty butters and three different gourmet salts alongside to enhance the flavor of the bread. After ordering some starters, it was time to focus on the main entrees. We ordered New York Steaks and Prime Rib. The entrees came with fresh vegetables and a choice of loaded baked potato, risotto, mac 'n' cheese, or garlic mashed potatoes. Everything was great with maybe the exception of Washdude's escargot. One of the many reasons I chose this steakhouse was the ridiculously low (for Las Vegas) prices. For example, my 10 oz New Your Steak dinner cost just $53! Even with several glasses of wine, the starters, and the entrees with accompaniments, the total bill plus tax came to less than $400! I am happy to recommend this steakhouse.

Afterward, Josie and Washdude played some blackjack. We then split up as Washdude was heading to parts unknown, and Josie, Carmela and I headed to Bellagio, where Josie and I would play some $1/3 NL at the same table. Being the card rack that I was for much of this trip, I was showing a profit after the first hand I played. I looked down at K-K and 3-bet to $25. I got one caller. The flow was a beautiful K-8-8! The caller went all in and was felted. Definitely not a bad way to start a session.! We only played for about 1 1/2 hours and didn't like a few of the people at our table, but still I made a nice profit. Sometimes things just work out right. Unfortunately, Josie felt ill at the end of the night, which ended up changing our plans for the next night.


Tues, Dec 12

We were in no hurry to begin the day too early. We had a late morning breakfast at another place that people (me included) rave about: Mr Mamas Breakfast and Lunch. I had been there once before with poker friend Larry. Once again, it did not disappoint. After breakfast, we headed out to Red Rock Canyon to go on the 13-mile scenic drive. Josie and I had been on it 18 months earlier. It is certainly a great way to get away from the casinos and the Las Vegas glitz.

We had planned to go to dinner that night at Roma Restaurant and Deli with Washdude and @Onechiquita, but Josie was still not feeling up to par from the night before. Closer to dinnertime, I was actually fatigued and not hungry, so we ended up not going there. Maybe next trip.

I got into a poker session at MGM that evening. It was mostly like some of the horror show sessions I had earlier in summer and fall. I started out by again flopping a boat on the first hand I played and felting another player. However, I lost a ton of chip when I called a $20 bet with  Ac9c. The flop was A-3-9. The original bettor bet $25 after the flop, and I raised to $75. I was then surprised by his next move: all in. What could he have? I didn't think he would be betting to $20 initially with 3-3. Maybe he had an Ace with a strong kicker? Maybe A-3sooted? An over pair? A-9? I decided to call. He flipped over 9-9! II got called by thr lost all my previous winnings and about half my stack. I then could not catch any cards nor get anything to shove all in. I waited patiently as my stack dwindled. Finally, when I got 10-10, I 3-bet all in. I was called by three other players. There was a King on the flop and one more on the turn. I knew I was done for. The winning hand was K-Qos. I took a break and came back later. This time, I was card dead. I was holding my own, but my $300 buy in had gone down to $200 even though I was playing good poker. A young guy sitting next to me had obviously had too much to drink, but whereas he was irritating others, he was providing me with some escape from the boredom of folding most hands. A young cowboy then sat on my left. He bet virtually every hand. He started amassing a decent stack, which I figured would be the answer to my short stack. Then came the big hand. The cowboy bet. A short stack with around $90 went all in. I looked down to see what we used to call the VeryJosie: J-10sooted. I called the all in. The cowboy then shoved all in. With about $110 left, I called. The flop was a brick. The turn was a brick. But the river ... a 10! The cowboy showed 3-3 and the initial player who went all in mucked. With my $200 stack now up to $500, I decided it was time to cash out and head for bed as the next day would be a biggie for me: the meet up game VJ and I were having.

Wed, Dec 13

Today would be a day to sleep a little later. However, A series of 12 straight Twitter private messages and a 21-minute phone call from TonyBigcharles got my day going. Since I had not communicated with anyone from the Sahara poker room for several days, I decided to go there shorty after it opened to make sure that everything was set for the meet up game at 5pm. I had texted a list of players earlier to Matt, one of the heads to the poker room. When I got there after 12:00 noon, a small tournament was going on. I dealt with another one of the room's bosses, John. He was excellent in working with me to get everything set. I decided to go to Rollin Smoke Barbeque for lunch. My invitation to Josie and Carmela got me one lunchmate: Josie. She thought she was a funny lady by making a joke about me to a worker. Meh. I took her back to Resorts afterward and went shopping at Smith's for some snacks for the meet up game. By the time I was done shopping and with traffic around the Strip pretty heavy due to the soft opening of the Fontainebleau and construction traffic, I decided to just head to Sahara really early. I set up the food and waited for people to arrive. Because of all the heavy traffic, almost everyone was getting there late.

The Meet Up Game

Here is a listing of the people playing and my assessment of their skills

Very Josie: $2/5 and $5/10 cash game crusher. Extremely aggressive. No playing around with her.
Mr Subliminal: Experienced player with Aria pedigree. Be careful with him.
Abramski_C: I've seen him smoke a table before, including me. Take him seriously.
Alysia (Onechiquita): Dangerous mixed game and Omaha player. Very strategic.
Norm (Vegas724): Solid player who has seen me lose and play stoopid. Knows his stuff.
FlynnandO: Experienced player. Lulls you into traps by using humor at the table.
bigfokkerdog: Crushing donkathon tournament this past week. Not afraid to bluff.
Stephen M: Solid player. Cashed WSOP Seniors. I'll watch him carefully.
Angela M: Never seen her play before. Works in the industry, so watch out.
Hockey_Poker: Very much into strategy. Hosts games and plays solid game.
Washdude: Solid tournament skills. Not afraid to get his chips in. Caution.
Carmela: Unknown player and therefore a wild card. Watch carefully.

We started the game with one full table and decided to break up into two once all the players we knew were going to be there actually arrived. Unfortunately, Mr Subliminal was under the weather and could not come. Also unfortunately, Norm had to deal with a family situation and left right when we started. Our plan was to play a rotation of $1/2 NL Hold 'em and then a rotation of $1/2 PLO. 

The first hand I played was a foreshadowing of things to come. I was dealt pocket deuces and bet. Washdude was in the hand with me and there might initially have ben one or two more. The flop provided a beautiful deuce. Bingo! As the hand progressed, I boated up and there was a flush possibility on the board. I guess Washdude didn't believe me as we were both all in. Ta daaa! When we switched to to Omaha, I was in a couple of pots but didn't have much after the flop. Meanwhile, Carmen, who claimed to be unsure of Omaha play, was raising! The play was getting pretty wild for a fun $1/2 meet up game. Josie flopped a straight and kept pushing the action. Others can fill in the details, but she was all in along with two or three others. Her hand held and she quickly had a huge stack of chips.

After one rotation of both games, we broke into two tables and decided to play only $1/2 NL. At my table, from my left to my right were Stephen M, Chris A, Joseph (Hockey Poker), Angela M, and Josie. Later on, FlynnandO would join and also bigfokkerdog. As luck would have it, one player at the table had a HUGE horseshoe stuck up his/her butt and was handed almost perfect cards the entire night. That player ... umm ... would be me! I took a bunch of chips off Chris A. Josie funded my retirement account. I put a very cruel cold deck beat on Flynnand). And so it went. For over three hours! When a new player not with our group came to the table, I felted him within a few hands. It was unreal.

Some of the players began leaving, and we finally called it quits around 8:45pm. I won an obscene amount of chips for a friendly $1/2 game. After all my whining earlier this year about my bad luck, I think I'll keep my trap shut for at least a few weeks. more surprisingly, Carmela, the least experienced of the players, took home a very nice profit. Chris A came out ahead and I believe that Josie did also. I am not sure who else might have.

Afterward, one of the dealers told me how much fun our group was and how it helped the dealers and the room. Apparently, Wednesday is traditionally a slow night for the room. Our game provided tips for the dealers and raised the room's profile when people walking past saw and heard the fun we were having. This is the third meet up game I've hosted at Sahara. The poker room management and dealers have always done their part to make the games successful. As a bonus, I finally got to meet @Criminal_Bizzy, who works at Sahara.

Thanks to:
John from the Sahara poker room. He was great to work with.
Matt from the Sahara poker room, who helped with the initial list and arrangements.
Josie, who paid for half the snacks that were provided.
FlynnandO, who provided counsel on setting up the game.
Alysia, who brought food to the game. She is always very generous.
Joseph, who brought the nice, sweet treats to the game.

After the meet up game, I dropped dropped Carmela off at Resorts while Josie and I went to Bellagio for one last session.

 I was mostly folding until I was in a raised pot with 7-7. The flop:7-5-5! Yes - poker is EZ sometimes, especially when you flop boats. I was heads up with a player who apparently had a good hand but tanked and folded on the river. VJ and I were both tired, so we called it a night. Josie told me that she was dealt Q-Q and hit a set on the flop, eventually doubling up. It looks like the poker gods righted the world. 😁

Thurs, Dec 14

I checked out of Excalibur and picked up Josie and Carmela, then headed to one of my favorite places - the Black Bear Diner. Once again, the meal did not disappoint. After brunch, I dropped the ladies off at the airport while I began the six-hour trek home.

Although I didn't mention it, I also had a successful trip with the slots. The only negative of the entire trip was the losing poker session at MGM. Other than that, I won at all my other poker sessions and won almost every time I put money in a slot machine. Good gambling, good food and great friends were the hallmark of this trip. If only every Las Vegas trip could be this fun and profitable.

Thanks for reading. Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Please POST THEM ON THE BLOG AREA FOR COMMENTS. Blogging is NOT dead yet!

Thanks for reading. 😀

Friday, December 08, 2023

Poker Update Plus Final 2023 Las Vegas Trip Begins on Sunday, December 10

Poker, like life, seems to be one continuous circle. After getting frustrated with some brutal losses in October, I muddles around for a few weeks, playing less and winning a few, losing a few. Fortunately, I finally got on a heater starting on November 14, winning five sessions in a row and  fattening up the ol' sockroll back from its lean weeks. Unfortunately, it finally ended last Tuesday when I was card dead at Desert Diamond, the one local poker room where I seem to have a difficult time posting winning sessions. I continue to do well at my "home" poker room at Talking Stick Resort and finally had a monster session at Lone Butte which moved the room up to my second most profitable over the past two years. In terms of driving time, Talking Stick is 25-30 minutes, Desert Diamond is 35-45, and Lone Butte is 45-55. No complaints here since in my Illinois days, it was 90 minutes to a small riverboat room that no longer offers poker, over a two-hour drive to Harrah's Joliet, which no longer offers poker, and about 2 1/2 hours to the Shoe in Hammond, Indiana. The Shoe does not have a hotel attached and is in a sketchy area outside Chicago, so I usually had that long drive home in the late night/early morning hours. If you ever wondered why I used to treasure my trips to Las Vegas, now you can see why they were welcomed.

This past summer, I think I finally overdosed on Las Vegas and poker since I had been such a frequent visitor after my move to the Phoenix area. That and the traffic and others hassles caused by last month's F1 race caused me to just concentrate on the local rooms. However, when I heard that VeryJosie and her sister were going to Las Vegas in December, I decided to make a final 2023 trip. I will be driving this time and spending four nights -- Dec 10-14. Aside from playing poker and seeing some of my friends who are either Las Vegas locals or frequent visitors, Josie and I will be hosting a meet up game on Wednesday, December 13 at 5:00pm at the Sahara Las Vegas. The game is designed to be friendly and fun, and will be either just $1/2 NL or else a combination of $1/2 NL and $1/2 PLO alternating each rotation around the table. We used this format last time and things seemed to go pretty well. You can get on the sign up list by responding on my tweets on Twitter or just leaving a comment on this post. We already seem to be counting on having two tables going, which hopefully means no waiting to play. Flynn & Ollie might have a few surprises for the game, so who knows.

Since I am driving to Las Vegas this trip, I might bring along my laptop and crank out a blog post or two while there. Of course, u see, when poker and sleep both call, the posting tends to take a back seat on a short trip. We'll see. Cheers!

Thanks for reading. 😀  

Monday, October 16, 2023

It Is Official: Poker Sucks Dick

 I can't really pinpoint the first times that I began playing "serious poker" -- not just playing a few games while goofing around with friends. It must have been sometime after Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event in 2003. I had perhaps watched some of the ESPN WSOP broadcasts before then -- I don't really remember. But it is likely that I stepped my feet gingerly into online poker sites like Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker somewhere just short of 20 years ago. After cutting my teeth on play money games, I finally deposited some money on a few sites and began to play -- mostly tournaments at first. As the years progressed, I lost my desire to play in tournaments, largely when I took some brutal beatings by idiots in tournaments hosted by Illinois Charitable Games in various central Illinois settings. Along with those experiences, I found that I was tired of drowning on the river in some online poker sites, where many people questioned how random the random number generators really were. When it became more difficult to find freezeout tournaments, my decision to concentrate on cash games became more set in stone. I am aware of variance and know that the poker gods can really be fickle. After having a really bad downswing last year, I went on an unreal heater. Well, for the past several months, I have had a bad downswing. It seems like nothing goes right when you hit the skids. It took a long time, but after all these poker years I finally have divined the true nature of the beast: Poker Sucks Dick.

I began frequenting casinos in the 1980s. After having much success with slots, a downswing with them was part of what led me to poker. Poker always seemed to be sort of a strange match with me. In real life, I had this respectable job in higher education, often supervising a number of people and being responsible for some significant aspects of the school. Part of what I did was make sure that my reputation was spotless. I was always a pretty straight arrow with a wholesome image. In contrast, my early days with online poker saw me using any profanity and mind games I could with some of the cretins who were prevalent. And despite meeting so many great people via poker, let's face it: there are some really unseemly people and situations in poker. But what else?

All my life I have lived by certain credos. I was gifted with a good head on my shoulders. I was generally pretty successful with most things things I attempted since I was pretty smart, worked hard, and tried to have the best intentions. I had a long, successful career in my field and now am still trying to find my way around in retirement. The thing that has confounded me most has been poker, especially learning to cope with the ups and downs. Frankly, I have been fortunate to have had many ups in life and struggled with the downs. The downswing I've had in poker just slays me because I can't somehow just fix it, as I have been able to do with most other things on my life  when things went askew.

Earlier this summer, for instance, I had a horror show of a bad five session poker odyssey. In those five sessions, I had these outcomes: Winning sessions: one; Ran pocket Kings into pocket Aces: one; Lost set over set: three. I seriously began to wonder which poker god I offended to award me such outcomes. Many of my other sessions have been filled with other instances of being completely card dead, losing to underdog hands, and generally struggling to go home with even a modest profit. This led to my deceleration of poker sessions and in fact seemed to make my recent volunteer involvement with a local non-profit agency become a refuge where what I did was important and appreciated. And I didn't lose money. And I didn't curse the poker gods for crapping on me. However, this past Saturday, I decided to play a poker session at  Lone Butte, which is about a 45-minute drive from my house. I was hoping to turn things around and maybe even hit a high hand. I wasn't prepared for what would happen there and later on at my usual place, Talking Stick Resort.

Lone Butte

Hand 1: Playing $1/2 NL with a $300 maximum buy in. Most stacks at the table were between $200 and $400. I was dealt pocket Kings in the big blind. A couple of players limped in and I raised to $12 to get some action. I got only one caller. The flop was a beauty: K-4-Q. I raised and my opponent called. Sweet. The turn was another 4, giving me the full house, Kings over 4s. I was hoping that my opponent hit a King or a Queen, so I bet. My opponent put out a big bet that would take about half my chips. It was thespian time as I faked mulling over what to do. When I thought that I had sufficiently acted long enough, I shoved all in. He instacalled. I don't remember what the river was because my opponent turned over pocket 4s, meaning that he had the only hand that could beat be when the true one-outer came on the turn. I was shocked. Not only did he felt me and win a pot of $600+, his quad 4s won the half hour high hand jackpot, meaning that he got an extra $250 that should have been mine, as I saw it. Damn!

Hand 2: I was on the button with Ks3s. There were several limpers, so what the heck -- I also limped. The flop was 3-3-J. I was hoping someone had a Jack. Everyone checked. The turn was a 3, giving me quads and potentially a high hand bonus. Everyone else checked, and I put out a bet to get more money in the pot and, if nobody called, I didn't have to worry about an Ace hitting the river, negating my potential high hand (both hole cards had to be used). One person called. The river was a rag. When I bet, my opponent folded. I turned over my hand and said "High hand." It held for a $250 bonus. Sweet, I thought, the poker gods might be having mercy on me. I began building my stack up and decided to continue playing as the table had some players who appeared to be pretty weak.

Hand 3: By this time, the table had turned over except for a jerk in seat three. We had almost gotten into it earlier. He was the initial raiser and, after the flop, I bet into him. I had apparently done this a time or two more than he would like, and he three bet me a substantial amount. I had a decent hand but not one that I thought good enough to call or four bet. He then snidely made a remark about how he was tired of my betting into him and that I couldn't have it all the time. He was mostly talking shit about me to the guy next to him, who was getting amused as I answered back. The tension level was rising and I was pretty sure the refereeing would not be impartial with a regular vs the interloper (me). Fortunately, that was the last we talked. I'm sure he knew that I was laughing inside when he got felted. Anyway, with the tension pretty close to normal and with my stack being pretty healthy, I looked down to see pocket Queens. I raised and got two callers. The flop was Q-8-3. I decided to put out a small raise. The guy in seat one, who was pretty new to the table and had been losing, jammed all in. The other caller folded and, of course, I called the smaller stack. The turn was a 6 and the river was an 8, giving me the best boat. I flipped over my cards and was shocked to see that my opponent had rivered the case 8! Once again, I was one-outed and lost to quads. I can't even remember the last time I was one outed, much less having it done to me twice in the same session. I was flabbergasted. My stack shrunk some, and after not connecting in a few more hands, I decided to leave and get some dinner. I felt pretty fortunate to be down less than $100 for the session, but really -- one outed twice?

My favorite BBQ place in the area was less than two miles away. I anticipated getting my favorite meal -- a large smoked potato with one or two meats added on top. When I attempted to order, I was told that they had run out of smoked potatoes for the day. Huh? The place still had 1 1/2 hours before it closed. The run bad continues! An interstate closure for construction forced me to drive past my usual poker home, Talking Stick Resort. I thought "What the heck - maybe I can break the curse here tonight. Mwahahaha - what a fool I am. 

Talking Stick

Hand 1: Playing my usual $1/3 NL Hold em. I bought in for $300. After burning about $50 on hands that missed the flop, I was dealt pocket 6s. The young, aggressive Asian guy to my left raised to $12. I called. We were heads up. The flop was 6-6-2. Yowsa! It been some time since I had flopped quads. The guy bet $40. I decided to just call. I don't remember the turn. The guy bet $50 and again I smooth called. I don't remember the river either, but there were now four clubs on the board. The opponent checked. I was hoping that he had a high club. I bet $100, praying for a call. He thought for a few moments and folded. I turned over my cards, announced "high hand" to the dealer, and scooped my pot. Unfortunately, the quads did not hold up and were beaten by quad Kings or Jacks for that half hour's high hand bonus. Can't win 'em all. 

Hand 2: Asian guy raised pre-flop to $15. He had been getting spanked on some hands and appeared to be tilting. I looked down at pocket 4s. I called as well as the big blind. The flop was a juicy Q-4-2! Quite unexpectedly, the Asian guy went all in. The only hand I had to fear was Q-Q. He had been aggressive in his hands, so I didn't put him on a hand that big. I called pretty quickly. The big blind thought, then decided to also call. The both had me covered. Since the big blind had not re-raised pre-flop, I was pretty sure I was way ahead of both. I anticipated tripling up. The turn was a Queen. As it turns out, both players had a one Queen, so that was the case queen. They both had trip Queens while I had my 4s over Queens boat. The river stuck a dagger through my heart. It was a 2 -- one of only three cards in the deck that could lose me the hand. So both players went runner runner (case Queen and three-outer deuce) for full houses, and my full house was second best. Felted and discouraged, I called it a day. Stoopid poker.

How can anyone run so badly? And what a poker day. I got quads twice and was involved in two other hands where my opponent turned or rivered quads. I lost a hand where I flopped a set when the perfect cards came runner runner -- the case Queen and one of three river outs. Really -- how?

As you might guess, I am feeling pretty discouraged. In most things in life, doing the right thing advances you. In poker, luck has a way of disrupting even the best plays. Thus, I came to finally realize what I mentioned in the blog post title and the first paragraph of the post: Poker Sucks Dick.

What does this mean for the future? I'm not quite sure. Although I had been going to Las Vegas every 4-6 weeks earlier this year, the combination of Las Vegas fatigue, getting my ass handed to me in poker, my new volunteer gig, and the Las Vegas 2024 negatives (cyber attack, F1 traffic issues, reinstated parking fees, floods and insect attacks) have kept me away since July. I do plan to go there sometime around the week before Christmas to meet up with Very Josie and meet her sister. Until then -- I just down know. Probably no Las Vegas trips until then, and maybe even little b&m poker. The fun just seems to have been sucked out with my run bad over the past several months. *Sigh*

Thanks for reading! 😀

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

A Trip Report Featuring Tony Bigcharles and Select Poker Clubs in Houston -- August 17-20, 2023

It had been quite some time since I had been to Houston -- almost 40 years, in fact. Tony Bigcharles aka @sevencard2003 had been wanting me to visit him for some time, and when I looked at flight and rental car possibilities, it seemed like there were some pretty good deals. Since Tony had recently been staying at long-term residence hotels with suites and living rooms with couches, and since he said I could crash on his couch, I decided to head to Houston for three nights. 

Thursday, August 17, 2023
With my trusty small backpack that qualifies as a Frontier Airlines personal item, I packed up early Thursday morning and had my wife drop me off at the airport. When I fly Frontier, I fly as cheaply as I can -- no checked bags, no carry on bags, no seat selection. I usually wait until about 12 hours before the flight to check in. I got a window seat in the 10th row, so I was pretty satisfied, although I always prefer an aisle seat. When I went to sit down, I saw that the middle was occupied by a small, skinny girl. Score! Things got even better when I started to doze off before takeoff. A flight attendant asked "Sir - would you like an aisle seat?" Double score! I got moved up to a 7th row aisle seat with no one in the middle seat. A great start to the trip.

After snoozing almost the entire way from Phoenix to Houston, I hopped off the plane and headed to the shuttle bus to the rental car center. I had seen reviews of several of the agencies. I do not rent from Fox Rent a Car and the like, and other less expensive agencies had terrible reviews and noted long wait times. I decided to spring for just a bit more and rent from Alamo, which has always been great for me in the past. I waited only a few minutes in line and was quickly on my way to pick up my full size car. I was directed to a beautiful black Toyota Camry. I checked all around it -- not a scratch! When I started it up, I saw that the trip odometer had 4 miles on it. I had wondered -- could I really be driving a brand new car?

Although I was driving on the Houston toll roads and freeways during the dinner hour, traffic was not totally terrible. I soon got to Tony's hotel and we headed out to eat dinner at a Black Bear Diner. I had eaten breakfast at ones in metro Phoenix and Las Vegas, so it was time to try it for dinner. The turkey club and salad I had were very good. Tony munched down on meat loaf and dem mashed potatoes!

It was now time to learn about the private poker clubs of Texas, which get around state gambling laws. Playing at one usually means paying a one-time membership fee, a daily fee, and paying for time instead of paying rake. There are sometimes specials depending on time of day or sometimes senior discounts. The first stop: the Empire Poker Club.

Tony claimed that this was in a bad area of town. He was probably right as I got a bad feeling outside the building. Inside, a worker warmly greeted Tony and gave him a hard time in jest. It looked we were in friendly territory. There was one game going and it had two seats. Later, a second game started.

Being unfamiliar with everything, I bought in short. The results for me at this stop were not good. There were some uber aggressive players who were betting up big with crap hands. Unfortunately, I wasn't getting good enough hands to get and stay in the hands I played. On a double board bomb pot, I flopped trip Aces on one board (I forgot what I had on the second board) and decided to shove my small buy in. Unfortunately, Tony had a great hand for the other board and turned a gut shot straight to win the board I thought I'd win. Later on, I was all in with a flopped two pair and was called by an aggro dude, who rivered a higher two pair than me. Meh. I wished I'd gone to the other table when it started. At that point I'd had enough and told Tony it was time to leave.

Tony said that maybe I would like this other room better -- one where "old man poker" was played. Even though, he had won a ton his last time there. It sounded good to me. It was quite a drive, but that's what the lightning36 private Uber service was designed for! We got to the Rivers Poker Club and, unfortunately, there was only one game going and one seat open. Tony graciously offered to sit out, but I told him that he could take the seat. I had to wait a really long time before anyone left, but I talked some with the owner and felt right at home. There was no door charge for me since it was my first time there. I eventually got seated and played for some time, eventually securing a modest profit. That made me feel like I was not a total poker donk, at least. We headed back to the hotel later that night, knowing that Tony would be checking out the next morning. We would be moving to a different hotel in a different area in metro Houston. Fortunately, the sofa in Tony's suite was a hide-a-bed, ensuring that I would get a decent night's sleep.

Friday, August 18, 2023
We went to bed late and Tony did not wake up early, as I did. The free breakfast spread at the hotel was pretty good. We knew we had to get out by noon, and so we did. We loaded up Tony's stuff and headed south. When we got to the new hotel, a police car was in the parking lot, and it appeared that the policemen was making sure a woman was leaving the area. The room was not yet ready, so we grabbed lunch at a local KFC (got to have dem mashed potatoes!) and then headed to the Capri Poker Room. 
Tony played in the PLO game and I played in a $1/3 game that had one PLO hand per orbit and double bomb pots at dealer changes.  I was mostly up and down and couldn't get much traction. I ended up dumping a few bucks before we stopped to head back to the hotel to check in. After that, we headed to the nearest H-E-B grocery store. I think I had been in one once long ago. Tony had been telling what what a great store it was, and it looked pretty good to me, especially all the prepared meals that were available. We headed back to the hotel to load up the fridge and storage areas and then to Capri for a freeroll Capri. There were extra chips for dealer toke, rebuys and add ons, so the "freeroll" would not be so free for most people. I elected to not pay a cent and figured I'd just jam early and take my chances.  I started out getting a couple of small pairs that didn't get help on the flop. I called a raise with 8-8 and saw a 9-high flop. I decided to jam my remaining chips. I did -- right into A-A! After donking out of the freeroll, my bad luck continued as I returned to a cash table. In a regular Hold em hand, I made the nut straight at the turn and also had four to a flush. An opponent made a big raise and I jammed the rest of my money in. He called. I anticipated winning a big hand. Unfortunately, the river paired the board and my opponent calmly said "Quads." Seriously? After being felted on that play, I had had just about enough for the day. I hung around for a bit, then eventually headed back to the hotel with Tony. Later, I wanted to look for a decent BBQ place and Tony just wanted to eat in our room  and then sleep, so I headed out. I looked at the Yelp ratings for local places and found two. However, one had no one in it and was in a desolate area, so I passed. Another seemed to have only carry out, so I decided on a Mexican Restaurant with tons of people in it: Los Ramirez Mexican Restaurant. I ordered the Grande Meal. It was indeed GRANDE.
This picture does not include the taco with fillings that took up a whole plate and does not really do the meal justice. It was the most food I had EVER received from a combo in a Mexican Restaurant. There was no way to eat all of it! At least my belly was happy. I headed back to the hotel and eventually crashed. Tony and I both woke up around 3:30am and saw that there were three tables going at Capri. I jokingly said "Get dressed. Let's go!" When Tony started to quickly get ready I had to say "Hey - I was just kidding. No way I'm going there at 4am." We both went back to sleep.

Saturday, August 19, 2023
Thursday, we were ready to hit it another time. After lunch, we headed back to Capri. Having a little more experience there now, I felt more comfortable -- and was hoping the poker gods would spare me. They did, as I flopped a full house on one of two bomb pot PLO boards, got people to contribute, then jammed. I split a $1,200 pot and was back in business. I played very solid poker and posted a nice win for myself. The table dynamics changed when some new players came to the table, so I cashed out to take a break before a freeroll. Then a strange thing happened: no freeroll! The brush said that no one came to play, but I think they just decided not to have it. When it comes down to it, I guess these private rooms can really do almost whatever they want. People who owned/managed/worked at the room shuffled in and out of cash table seats to keep the tables filled. This certainly was a major negative in my book. I started another session and dropped a little bit, then decided I'd had enough poker for the day. I headed out for dinner and decided on Stomp's Burger Joint. The selection of different hamburgers was very good. I had one, some mac and cheese and a chocolate milkshake to go. I knew Tony had been stuck pretty bad, so I checked on his status. He bought back in for over $2K, hoping to get back in the positive range. I told him I'd stop by since the room was right across the street from my dinner spot. I told him I'd wait about 20 minutes, then he had to decide what to do. He had cut his defecit some and decided to head back to the hotel with me. We just relaxed and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Sunday, August 20, 2023
I woke up and got in the shower while Tony was sleeping. I finally woke him up and gave him some options. He decided to stay in bed while I went out for breakfast. I had found a decently rated T-Mobile  store close by that opened at noon, and we planned to get there right before it opened at noon to be first in line as Tony was looking to switch his phone service. I was hoping to be on the road by 12:30pm. I had been warned about construction and other delays. We were first in line, and Tony was able to switch carriers and get a new phone that would work out to be free. He got his service switched to his old phone and will return another time to switch active phones. I took him back to Capri and hopped on the toll road a half hour later than I planned. Fortunately, the Sunday traffic was light and getting back to the rental car center was easy. When I checked my car back in, I found out that indeed I was driving a brand new car that had only had four miles on it! I drove 220+ miles in the three days that I was there. It makes me want to get a new Camry!

My flight back home was uneventful. Frontier gave me the same window seat I had originally been given on the flight to Houston. However, this flight was almost full and I got no aisle seat. Fortunately, the middle seat was occupied by a young, skinny girl. The luck o' the Irish! My wife picked me up at the airport and we had a pleasant drive home, sharing stories of the past few days.

Trip summary
I played six poker sessions and won money at two of them. Therefore, this ended up being a losing trip. I took some bad beats but in fairness, also sucked out a few times. Maybe if I had come out a winner overall I'd have a better opinion of the Houston area poker rooms. In my mind, they are a cross between home games and regular regulated casino poker. I can see how non-locals might be concerned playing at these places. The players skill level seemed to be pretty good, and although I rarely spoke with any, they seemed to be decent guys (I only played with one woman and for a short time). I did not like paying membership fees, a daily fee and a time fee. I feel much more comfortable with a rake being taken. I also didn't like that an advertised freeroll was canceled for apparently no reason. Perhaps if we'd gone to Spades, a larger poker room, the experience might have felt different. But ... it was something new and fun, I got out of town for a few days, and I got to see Tony, who was a good host this trip. I'll get in one poker session tonight at my home game, Talking Stick, before heading to Napa, CA tomorrow to visit family and a former co-worker.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part Four: The Abbey Road Crossing and Abbey Road Studios

One of the advantages of having a blog for so long is being able to publish a series of posts over time. The first three installments:

Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part One Dan Fogelberg: Same Old Lang Syne
https://lightning36.blogspot.com/2010/08/famous-sites-in-popular-music-part-one.html

Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part Two: The Day the Music Died
https://lightning36.blogspot.com/2010/11/famous-sites-in-popular-music-part-two.html

Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part Three: Carefree Highway by Gordon Lightfoot
https://lightning36.blogspot.com/2022/04/famous-sites-in-popular-music-part.html

And today ... Part Four!
Being a child of the 1960s and 1970s, I was and still am a huge fan of the British Invasion music that began with the Beatles. When my wife and I were in London in March 2002, the main site I wanted to see was the famous crosswalk the Beatles were in on the cover of the Abbey Road album. It was the thrill of a lifetime to actually walk across the fabled place. However, it is not as easy as it seems. The road is actually quite busy, so you have to carefully chose your spot. We finally did get a reprieve from the traffic, and ...

Now, of course, walking there was not enough as who would ever know if or when we would be back (we have never returned to London!). So ... when I saw a door open at the Abbey Road Studios, I grabbed Mrs. lightning and we went inside the restricted building. It was amazing to see the studio rooms where such great music had been made and recorded. Unfortunately, we were soon discovered by an employee who politely informed us that visitors were not allowed inside. Of course, we played dumb and acted like we didn't  know that. We left the building and hung around the very small parking lot and watched musicians walk up. Unfortunately, we recognized no one famous. I am certainly glad that we walked in when we had the chance. And you know what? I WAS THERE!
Thanks for reading!