Friday, February 27, 2009

Bulls Family loses Johnny "Red" Kerr the same day as Norm Van Lier
Yesterday was a terrible day for Chicago Bulls fans across the world. We were saddened to hear that Bulls broadcaster and former Bulls great Stormin' Norman Van Lier passed away at his home. The day got worse at news reports confirmed that Johnny "Red" Kerr, the first coach of the Bulls and a long-time broadcaster, succumbed to prostate cancer. Kerr had been associated with the Bulls for almost the entire history of the franchise.

Rick Telander wrote a nice tribute to these outstanding men who contributed so much to the Bulls and the Bulls fans. Thank you, gentlemen. You will not soon be forgotten. Rest in peace.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Goodbye -- We'll Miss You Norm

Norm Van Lier passed away today. Norm, a former Chicago Bull, was one of the NBA's best defensive players in the 1970's. He teamed with Jerry Sloan to form one of the best defensive backcourts ever. You always knew that the Bulls, in the pre-Jordan days of Sloan, Van Lier, Love, and Walker, would always be in the game due to defense.
Norm returned to cover the Bulls on Chicago sports television at the beginning of the Bulls' championship teams of the 1990's. He always spoke his mind -- patting players on the back when waranted, slicing them apart with critical comments when deserved.
He was passionate about basketball and was always a fan favorite. We'll miss you, Norm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Las Vegas Trip Report -- January 24-28, 2009
Time to finally report on my last trip to Las Vegas. I usually do my reports right after the trip, but a cruise to the Bahamas right after my Las Vegas trip (I run goot) set me back a little. It is hard to believe that my visit was already a month ago. Let's see how much my aging brain can remember.

The trip was originally contemplated since Harrah's was actually giving away free nights to even lowly poker players. When I mentioned the free rooms to my brother Jim, the King of Komps, he checked his e-mail and found several great offers. He strung together two offers for a total of six nights -- three at Bellagio and three at Encore -- gratis. He also got $350 of free slot play, but I don't recall him sharing that with me - ha ha. I decided to stay only four nights -- three at Bellagio and one at Encore. It had something to do with my wife's birthday, as I recall ...

We had a standard room at Bellagio. To tell the truth, I have no idea why someone would pay a lot of money to stay in one of these. The room did have an excellent bathroom and was decorated nicely, but I much prefer the rooms at Planet Hollywood and Paris. We didn't really avail ourselves of many services there, so I can not speak of the pampering for which Bellagio is famous.

We always joke about not breathing anywhere near the mini-bar. When we found an unaccounted for bottle of Sprite on top of the mini-bar (left by housekeeping, we postulated?), we wondered if it had come from the mini-bar. Jim checked our account and found out that about $700 of meals and purchases had been charged to our room, including a $400+ meal at a restaurant at another MGM property. Bellagio did a fine job in taking care of the situation, but it kept us wondering about that Sprite ...

I only stayed at Encore for one night, but the room was excellent. I also loved our room at Wynn on a previous trip. If you haven't stayed at either hotel, I highly recommend it, especially if you get any type of decent rate.

First Time in the Bellagio Poker Room
I slipped in a quick two-hour session my first day while waiting for my brother and nephew to arrive in town. Surprisingly, the service was much better than I had heard. I was greeted at the desk and immediately put on a wait list for $1/2 NL. I was seated about 15 minutes later. My table had absolutely horrible players. They stayed in hands until the end when they should have clearly known better. I doubled up during the session, then left when the others got to the hotel. I hated to give up that juicy table.

I played one more session at Bellagio, but the second time was much different. The players were much better, including an off-the-clock Bellagio dealer who talked nonstop. The players were good and pretty tight, so I left after about an hour or two up a whole $5.

Wynn Poker Room
I only played one session at Wynn. Although I like the Wynn poker room, I just don't seem to get cards there anymore. I only lost a few bucks there this trip, but I was pleased at one play in partuicular. I was getting frustrated at my lack of cards and called the blinds with K-rag diamonds. The flop came with two diamonds. A guy from Amsterdam raised (I put him on top pair), and I called. The turn was a blank. He raised again, and I said F it, I'm chasing. The river was a non-diamond Ace. The Amsterdam guy checked. I had nothing, but thought about how I could win the pot, which was maybe about $150. I decided to bet only $30 -- obviously a value bet screaming for a call, right? The guy started talking the hand out. "You had Ace-rag of diamonds and paired your ace on the river? Why only $30?" I was just staring straight down at the table. He then put his cards right in front of my face and said "This is what I have. Should I call?" It's funny -- I didn't even look at his cards to see what he had. He was convinced that I paired an ace on the river, thought some more, then folded. YESSSS!!! My best play of the trip.

Ahh -- My Home Away From Home
Ballys is my Las Vegas poker home. I love the constant action, the friendly home game atmosphere, the quick drinks, and the donkey tourists who play there. I did well my first three sessions there, and then ended up grabbing my ankles big-time in the fifth session. I doubled up early on when a wild player who was getting ready to leave town decided to spew all his chips. I caught a boat on the river and heard him say those sweet two words: All in. However, before the session was over, I took a beating I will remember for a long time.

I was just getting ready to leave and even had a rack on the seat next to me. I had a free hand coming before the blinds, so I stayed for one more hand. I was dealt pocket 3's. The flop: Q-3-K. I raised and was called by the donkey of the table. All good so far. The turn was an 8. I raised and was reraised $90 by the donkey. I went into the thespian routine and acted like I was in the tank. I reraised all in. The donkey went in the tank, then decided to call off the rest of his chips. He turned over K-8os for two pair. All I had to do was dodge a King or an 8 on the river. The river: K! Donkey boy won the $700+ pot and I was left with about $150. Ouch. The worst part was that I knew that he would just give the chips away to everyone else at the table. Sheesh.

I played a few more sessions at Bally and did okay. However, that big pot was the difference between having a good trip and a really good trip money-wise. Damn.

The Carnage Continues at Caesars
After getting my spirit crushed by the big hand at Ballys, I grabbed a hot dog at Bill's (love those street vendor-type hot dogs right from the cart) and went across the street to Caesar's to play in the 7pm tournament. I was getting no cards, getting no cards, getting no cards ... sigh. I was down to about half my $10,000 starting stack when I was dealt A-Q sooted in middle position. I raised and was only called by the table aggro guy in early position who limped in and was starting to get a big stack. The flop came Q-rag-rag. He looked at my stack and announced that he would put me all in. I called and immediately turned over my cards. He said "Nice hand" as he turned over Q-J. Of course, the turn was a Jack and I got no resuck on the river. Out. Just like that. What a freaking crappy day.

In Summary ...
So ... I stayed in nice hotels, ate at some great buffets at Bellagio and Paris, had much fun playing poker, won some money ... but dammit, that one big pot I lost would have really capped off a great trip.

Las Vegas -- my kind of town.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Second Place in Final February Shark Poker Tour POY Tournament
Long day on Friday. After dropping my son of at school, I worked the entire day and then got home just in time to play the weekly members game at MurryTheCat + Friends. I went out when I pushed all-in pre-flop with A-Ksooted and was called by J-J. I caught two pair on the flop. You of course can figure out what the turn card was.

After dinner, I hit up Absolute Poker for some Omaha 8. I have been playing it for the past couple of days. The players at the $100 max PL tables are pretty horrible. It is easy money if you get any cards at all.

To end the evening , I played in the final February Shark Poker Tour Player of the Year tournament. I was sitting in third place for the month despite missing two of five tournaments. I played well, got some cards, and got a little lucky. I finished the tournament in second place. My A-9 was pwned by A-K on the final hand. Unfortunately, unless I figured things wrong, I will just miss finishing in first place for February.

I will get some live poker action today at Illinois Charitable Games. I hope my recent good play continues.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quick Bad Beat Post
How is this for results of three tournaments in a row:
1) Lost to two-outer
2) Lost to two-outer on river
3) Lost boat over boat
Sometimes I do better when I play like a complete donkey.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Talk About a Bad Beat ...
This is the PokerStars 25,000,000,000 hand waiting to restart. Notice that Confedrate was not dealt in because he was waiting to post his blind, therefore no share of the prize. Man ...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I am now watching a live press conference in which my new senator is attempting to talk himself out of a perjury charge. Illinois politicians. God bless 'em.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Coping with Suicide
My oldest daughter learned a sad lesson about life way too soon yesterday.

I was a little bit under the weather and staying at home when I received a call on my cell from her. She asked if I could call into her high school and have her excused for the afternoon after lunch. What? I of couse asked why. She told me that her boyfriend's best friend (who lived in another state) had committed suicide the night before. To make things worse, the young man who killed himself texted my daughter's boyfriend (Sam) before he did it. So poor Sam not only has to deal with the grief from the loss of his friend, but all the feelings connected with getting this last text.

I am happy that my daughter certainly saw the need to help Sam through this rough time. She has been pretty amazing. Sam and his family are going back to Texas today to attend the visitation and funeral.

This is not the first time that my daughter has had to deal with the aftermath of suicide. Ones of her acquaintences at school killed herself last year.

This is all so sad, particularly to those of us who are well beyond getting that first drivers license. If 16 years is a life, than I am already on my fourth life. Shit, who even remembers half the stuff the went on before you turned 16? And outside of helping to define who you are today, how much did that shit really matter in the long run? Why can we sometimes not see the big picture and realize that even most of life's hard knocks are pretty insignificant in the long run?

Today, I am just sad. Such a tragedy. Such a waste.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Close but No Bananas

A couple of interesting tournament results for me the past two nights. I somehow stayed in the Mookie Wednesday night despite getting absolutely crappy hands. Then, when with about twenty people left and hovering around Dank Position (last of the survivors), I got pocket Queens and was all in with, I think, two other players. Wouldn't you know it -- I got real Damn Queen Bitches!! I ended up taking the lead and was doing fine until I lost a big coin flip vs Blinders when he was all in. Blinders, NYRambler, and I ended up about even in chips, and then the bottom fell out for me. Crap cards and a loss of concentration seemed to erode my stack quickly. Couldn't catch a break on a flop. Got away with a bluff or two. Looked for an all-in opportunity, but kept waiting for a decent pre-flop hand to push. One never came. Out in third.
Evil Wonka and I were talking about the number of Mookie victories we each had earlier in the tournament. Little did I know that I would blow my chance for Mookie #2 a few hours later. I never expected to be sitting in the final three. I never expected that I would finish the tournament with such listless play. Bah.
Tonight's Shark Poker Tour tournament was different. After trolling around in the middle of the pack for the first couple hours, I sucked out Q-Q vs K-K. I then hit a torrid streak of cards and knocked out several players. I had a big chip advantage going into heads up, and had quite a battle. I went out on a nasty play -- my trips vs a straight. I played pretty well but just didn't get the win.
At least it looks like I have gotten back on track. After winning a $10 SNG on PokerStars, I hit a little streak where I went out quickly in a few tournaments. Hard to tell what will happen in the future in this silly game.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cruise Part 2 -- Game Show and Poker
The cruise featured, as one of its nightly entertainment programs, a show called the "Love and Marriage Show" -- basically a takeoff on The Newlywed Game. Three couples were to take the stage -- the longest-married couple, the shortest-married couple, and one other couple who "earned" their way to the stage. To get there, the women had to plead with their hero, Tarzan. The men had to do their best Tarzan imitation. One guy before me did an excellent Tarzan yell while beating his chest. I had to think fast. When it was my turn, I jumped up on the padded seat next to me and yelled and thumped my chest as wildly as I could. It worked.

I won't bore you with all the details, but I will tell you that I correctly guessed what color AND size bra my wife would want if she were to send me to the store for one. I even impressed myself. I got my biggest laugh, however, when answering the question of what I touched first after waking up in the morning. Yeah -- I said what you were thinking!

We didn't know it at first, but the show was taped and broadcast over the Royal television channel frequently the next couple of days. So many people came up to us to tell us they enjoyed the show. A few people at the Caribbean Stud table kept joking about how they would never shake my hand in the morning. It was all a fun time and even got us a few little gifts for participating.

Speaking of Caribbean Stud ...

I had never played the game before, but it seemed simple enough. I just played basic strategy and had a good time. Interestingly, I won each time I played and wound up a few hundred dollars ahead.

The highlight of the trip for me was the $1/2 NL Hold Em play. There was only one poker table in the casino. I passed on the nightly tournament since the structure was so terrible ($90 buy-in for 1,000 chips, $60 rebuys and an add on, rapidly increasing blinds). However, the rake for cash games was amazing. It was -- get this -- 10% up to a maximumof $15/hand! Yowza!!

My first session saw me getting few hands to play. However, in a short time I saw some amazing hands, including one straight flush and a guy with rockets who caught a flop of K-K-A! Damn.

I left and returned a short time later to find that they were only letting people buy in for $100 (the usual buy-in was $100-500). I was getting few cards when they announced that the table would close after a few more hands. Damn. WARNING: DONKEY STORY COMING. I was dealt Ac-Ts and raised. I was called by two players. The flop produced three clubs. Villain 1 raised $30. Villain 2 called the raise. I said f**k it and called. The turn was a a blank. Villain 1 again raised $30. Villain 2 went all in. I had spied the nice pot just begging for a suckout. I went all in and was called by Villain 1. The river: Qc!!!! Yep -- I chased a flush donkey-style and scooped a $300+ pot. Hee haw!!

I played a few more sessions and ended up doing quite well. There were some really bad players at the table to go along with a few good ones. The play was all friendly, however, as everyone was enjoying the cruise. The only bad thing was that several of the dealers were poorly trained. The players had to direct/correct the action way too many times.

Between Hold Em and Caribbean Stud, I was able to pay for the costs of the cruise for myself and my wife. Not too shabby.
Our Fun Cruise to the Bahamas and Key West - Part 1

Our trip started on Sunday, Feb. 1 with a flight out of our local airport to Chicago. All seemed to be going well until we turned on our phones and found out that our flight from Chicago to Miami had been canceled. There was another leaving about an hour later, so no big deal except that our seats were changed and this claustrophobic guy (me!) lost his aisle seat. Having failed in my bid to get a free upgrade to first class due to the change, we sat apart on the plane so that I could get the last remaining aisle seat.

Check in to the Hilton Miami Downtown was easy, and thanks to Hotwire we were able to get a $200+ hotel room for $63 plus fees. Not that this hotel was worth a whole lot more than we paid. $20 breakfast buffet? Right.

No problem getting to or on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas the next morning. The ship was in great shape and ready to go.
Our first stop was Nassau/Paradise Island. Nassau seemed to be like any other tourist trap -- lots of crap shops down the main drag. We took an entertaining ferry ride to the Atlantis resort and had a great time looking at the fantastic display of tropical fish. The weather was a tad rainy and chilly for part of the day, but we still had a good time. Mrs. Lightning got to try some conch fritters, which she had been wanting to try. We went into the Straw Market, but I was really not in the mood to haggle on my vacation. We did have a pleasant time strolling down the streets and will look forward to a day when we can once again visit.

Our second port was supposed to be Coco Cay, but the choppy seas made it too dangerous for the tenders to transport us to the island. Therefore, we got a day at sea instead. This was unfortunate for my wife, who was looking forward to participating in some of the outdoor excursions. This was a goldmine for me, however, as it meant that the ship's casino was going to open for the afternoon instead of just being open in the evening. More on that later.

Our final port of call was Key West. The highlight of the trip for Mrs. Lightning was our time spent in the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. My wife loves butterflies and spent an hour surrounded by them. A half hour was good enough for me. We went to the southernmost point in the continental U.S.A., walked past the Hemingway Home and Museum and the Truman Little White House (no desire to look at a bunch of rooms), and, of course, hit Duvall Street. I looked in Sloppy Joe's but didn't see Al or any other bloggers looking to make a long day of it in Key West.

Yes, I am able to confirm that there actually is a start and an end to Route 1. I was there.

The trip had a baaaad ending, however, as was alluded to in my previous post. I ate some bad food in the Miami airport and paid the price when I got home. Having been home now for almost two days, I am feeling like I can make it into work tomorrow. My body has to be wondering what is going on, being gourged with cruise food and then being poisoned and losing just about all water from my body. I guess it could have been worse.

The only real negative of the cruise was that the weather did not cooperate at all. My wife was looking forward to coming home with a tan, but the weather tended to be cloudy, windy, and cool. However, we had a great time and enjoyed being off by ourselves -- something we have not done enough of in the past several years. Thanks to Royal Caribbean International for an excellent cruise.

Coming up: Cruise Part 2 -- becoming a cruise game show celebrity and showing how to score at Hold Em and Caribbean Stud Poker.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What a way to end a trip
Today has been reserved as a day to recover. I would normally be excited about catching up on my blogging regarding my Las Vegas trip and my cruise to the Bahamas, but a case of food poisoning at the end of the trip has slowed things down a tad.

The culprit: Manchu Wok -- Orange Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken. On the flight from Tampa to Chicago, I started getting that terrible feeling. I knew then that the day was going to have a bad ending. I made it back home and actually into my own driveway, but the minute I stepped out of the car ...

I am trying to carefully rehydrate myself today. Too bad such a great vacation had such a nasty ending. I'll try to start my trip reviews tomorrow after a little more rest today.

Oh yeah -- here is a picture of yours truly and Mrs. Lightning enjoying the cruise.