Monday, December 28, 2009

Troubles with the Wisconsin Trip
How nice to spend a leisurely morning at home with no agenda. Ahhhhhh.

My family's trip to northern Wisconsin ran into a little difficulty. After getting the house picked up and everything packed for the trip (including instructions for someone taking care of the lightning family zoo while we would be gone), we headed out at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Although I was to be the initial driver, my wife decided to get behind the wheel for the start of the trip. I happily snoozed .

About one hour into the trip, we began to hit nasty weather. I had been checking for several days to track the big winter storm that was still to the west of us. It appeared that Saturday would be a decent day to travel. However, my wife was horrified to see between 20 and 30 cars that had run off the interstate. We went further and then ran into some heavy snow. A call to my sister-in-law seemed to indicate that we would have only about one hour of good travel the rest of the trip. Therefore, after driving about 1/3 of the way (160 miles), we ate lunch, turned around and came back home. We had several inches of snow at home on Saturday through Sunday morning, so it looks like we made a good decision. The combination of ice, water, wind, and then snow makes midwest driving a challenge sometimes in winter.

Funny thing -- a majority of the vehicles that were in ditches were trucks or SUV's. Looks like the drivers overestimated how their vehicles would perform in the adverse weather. While we were trudging through at 50-60 mph, some of these idiots were passing us like we were standing still. Enjoy your wait in line for the towtruck!

Poker No Goot
I must have somehow offended the poker gods. I have been getting my butt kicked in every way imaginable -- running K-K into A-A, running Q-Q into A-A, running A-A into a flopped set, losing when a lucky two-outer hits after all the money has gone in ... Online poker has not been my friend since I returned from Las Vegas.

I was looking forward to playing some live poker at the St. Croix Casino in northern Wisconsin. I may have to hope the roads are okay to make a little jaunt to Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria instead.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Hangin' at Mickey D's
I was off for a few days because of the Christmas holidays and decided to take care of some car maintenance issues. My usual routine is to drive to the shop by myself and hang out in McDonald's while the work is being done. I had this planned for two days in a row.

Day 1: I ordered my usual -- sausage bisquit and small coffee. I took out $2.25 to pay, yet was surprised to find that the total came to just over $1.50. I looked down at the receipt to confirm what I'd guessed: I was given the senior citizen discount! I looked around and noticed that this particular McDonald's seemed to be the big meeting place for seniors. I was the youngest guy there. But what the hell, I'll take the discount since I am a cheap guy!

Day 2: Ordered the usual but was charged the full price. What -- I found the Fountain of Youth the night before? I sat down and started people watching when I thought I saw a guy who looked like OhCaptain. Nah, I thought. Then a guy who looked like Bam-Bam came in. Next -- jjok's twin. Then another Bam-Bam. wtf -- had I choked on the sausage, died, and entered into a poker blogger Bizarro World? I was going to take some cell phone pictures of the guys, but Waffles already said I am creepy, so I decided maybe not.

A Merry Christmas to all my poker friends!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Early Christmas Present
Last summer when I was in Las Vegas for the WSOP, my wife remodeled our basement to surprise me when I got home. This month while I was gone for the blogger weekend, she made me this table for my Christmas present. Yes -- made it! She got plans off the internet, ordered all the materials, and put it together while I was gone.

An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

Proverbs 31:10-12

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Long Night
It is deep into the night and I cannot sleep. No, it is not a hot online poker game that is keeping me up, nor anything remotely interesting on television that has caused this disconnect.

A woman with whom I work lost her only son the other day. Whenever a 20-year old dies, we immediately suspect that either an alcohol-related auto accident or suicide was involved. I was saddened to hear that her son apparently took his own life. He was attending a university in another state. I cannot even imagine someone having to break the news to the family.

I am long past the age when my death would be a total shock. It seems to me that when people die in their thirties, people think "What a shame. He died at such an early age." Once you hit about mid-forties, however, the shock value is mostly gone. People may be surprised, but you begin to expect that people die of natural causes. It is a very disconcerting feeling. But when the young die, there is something profoundly sad about it.

In the mid-1990's, my best friend at work delighted in telling me about the athletic exploits of his son, a wide receiver on the local high school team. The son was a good athlete and attracted interest from a number of universities. However, he suffered a leg injury and suddenly interest waned. The boy, David, worked like hell to rehab and was looking forward to playing out his senior year and showing all the colleges that gave up on him that they made a mistake. However, David made one of those poor decisions that cost him his life.

One night, he was drinking with a group of his friends and made the mistake of getting in his car. He was speeding down a dangerous road, lost control, and hit into a tree. Everyone else in the car was relatively unharmed. David, unfortunately, broke his neck and died instantly.

The saddest day in my professional career was the evening I took the phone call from my department head and heard that David had died. It was the first time that my children had ever seen me cry. I couldn't even imagine the pain my best friend was in.

Tonight, I feel some of that same sadness. To lose a child at an age when you are excited to see him growing into adulthood with all its hopes, dreams, and challenges ... just so very, very sad.

I was out Christmas shopping tonight and decided to make a late night fast food run before I came home. Seeing my kids diving into the food and hearing "Thanks Dad" was such a comfort on this sad, cold night. Across town, some other parents were not quite so fortunate ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Las Vegas trip report Part II - Dec 2009
As the WPBT Winter Championship was about to begin, there was only one problem: Luckbox Challenge team member pokerpeaker was at my table. I was hoping that we would seldom be in the same hand.

As we started the action, Jordan made a comment about the fish at the table. Now, as for me, I love some friendly table banter. And seeing that I was aware of Jordan's performance in blogger events earlier in the year, I guess he might not have been totally innaccurate. However, shortly after he made his remark, I was dealt a big hand. He folded to my raise after the flop. My response: "Glub glub." Yesss -- we are having fun.

Unfortunately, my teammates pokerpeaker and OhCaptain went out relatively early. With the team challenge in the gutter, I just had to win for myself.

I got mostly garbage cards and played few hands. Jordan, on the other hand, was pretty aggressive and seemed to be playing well. As I got short stacked, I was desperate to make a move. I looked down to see A-Qsooted. The non-blogger on my right raised, and I knew that I was ahead of him. I pushed all in. Another shortie, Schaubs, also went all in. We turned the cards over and I was way ahead of the non-blogger. Unfortunately, Schaubs tabled A-K. But, being a blogger tournament, so you can guess what happened next. I spiked a Queen and faded the remaining Kings in the deck. I knocked out Schaubs (sorry buddy) and hurt the non-blogger. This would keep me around for a little longer. Others who came to our table after bustouts included AlCantHang and Bam-Bam.

A-Q was my hand. I went all in with it two more times and stayed alive. However, my run ended when I was forced to push my shortie stack with A-5. Poker Gnome calculated the odds out loud (pretty interesting) and called. His Q-7, I believe, caught a Queen on the flop and another on the turn. I was out in about 20th place.

The real fun then began. I discovered that I lost my phone during the tournament, and now it was time to find it. Not in the poker room. Not in the bathroom. Not at the cashier. Good guy yestbay lent me his phone and I called my cell phone. No answer. As I headed toward the security desk, yestbay caught me to tell me that someone had called his phone to say that mine would be delivered to the security desk. Yessss.

Yestbay and I were deciding how long to stay before heading to dinner. He was getting hungry but I decided to stay for the end of the tournament. Sorry I kept you there longer , buddy.

As the final table was winding down and AlCantHang couldn't get cocktail service, I rushed out to a bar and bought him a shot of SoCo. It must have been SoCo Gold or something because Caesars charged me $10 for it. Yowsa!

After the tournament was over (big congrats to Astin -- hell of a job), I headed back for some more poker at Ballys, then finished up at Imperial Palace before hitting the sheets.

I slept late on Sunday and checked out of my hotel room at IP. I wanted to stay there for the blogger events, but I would go to Ballys for my final two nights. So nice to just head up to your room after finishing at the poker tables.

I caught the second half of the early football games and watched the fun at the Palazzo's excellent LaGasse's Stadium luxury box that was reserved for the bloggers. What a great way to watch the games. After skipping out to give the Venetian poker room a try, I came back for the second half of the late games. Had a great time, including discussing Troy Aikman's sexuality with Dr. Pauly (loudly in front of StB, you understand), crappy football teams with bayne, and the Bolts with smokkee. I decided to pass up the evening football game and headed back to my home, Ballys.

I was seated at a table with a guy who proclaimed "I control this table." Well, Mr. douche bag didn't control it for very long because this loud, drunk, Latino guy sat down and pissed off the dealer and everyone at the table ... except for me. I ate his act up. A classic line (to the guy who controlled the table): " Hey maaaaan, why don't you take off your sunglasses so that I can see your pretty eyes?" After he blew through his chips, he left but came back less than an hour later. He was seated at another table, and I bought him a massage. He were giving the sign of the horns back and forth to each other. Funny stuff. I eventually changed tables and sat next to him. Damn, was that fun! I played long into the night and had a great time.

On Tuesday I decided to head to Excalibur and try the poker room since they finally got out those blasted electronic poker tables. However, a tournament was going on and there was not a NL game, so I went to MGM. I got seated at a table just as Penner was also. It seemed like we won virtually every hand we were in. He busted some jackass who went all in for $200 with Q-10 sooted. Good stuff. I was dealt rockets and hit a set on the flop. Unfortunate dude in seat 6 hit a set of Kings. Yep -- I got it all. Great session.

I returned to Ballys and played deep into the night. I just couldn't dig out of a hole I put myself into at the start of the session. Ah well ...

The flight back home on Tuesday was uncomfortable but uneventful. An end to a pretty good trip.

I now have one official blogger gathering under my belt. It was not the emotional trip that others had since it wasn't a big reunion of friends for me. However, it was a good start. Also, I can't remember a time I went to Las Vegas feeling so burnt out from work. I didn't feel like myself until Saturday -- with half the weekend over!

Funny thing -- most people were pretty much the way that I had imagined they would be. The people who always seemed to be nice people were. There were a lot of bloggers I only briefly met or didn't meet at all. Next gathering, perhaps?

A special shout out to OhCaptain, who was looking out for this newbie. Without OhCaptain and twitter, I would not have known half of what was going on. Thanks, bro.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Las Vegas trip report Part I - Dec 2009
Work had been getting extremely stressful. Some side domestic issues had been wearing me down. And it was time to go to Las Vegas.

This trip to my second home would be quite different than most others. I am usually in pretty good shape when I make these trips. This time, however, I felt like I was burned out beyond belief. Tired. Worn out. Tapped. Yet, this trip would be there to help bring me back to being a regular person.

This was also going to be my first trip to the annual poker bloggers gathering. I was looking forward to meeting some of the people with whom I've jousted at the virtual tables. However, this would also mean using the trip in a different way. I usually go to Las Vegas solo or with one of my brothers. I use it to get away from my people-intensive job and spend countless hours at the poker tables. Before I played poker and went to Las Vegas for the slot action, I had trips where I rarely spoke for three days. This would be different.

After catching the puddle jumper from my town to Chicago on Thursday, I was disappointed to see that I would be flying to Las Vegas on a Boeing 737 . Six seats across with a narrow aisle in between. Even the first class seats looked small. Very uncomfortable ride.

When I got to my hotel for the first three days of the trip, the Imperial Palace, I was able to pull out a little prank that I had thought about for a few weeks. I was hoping that AlCantHang would already be at the bar beginning the festivities. He was. I bought a shot of SoCo away from the beginning bloggers who had gathered and stepped in between them. I put the glass on the bar in front of Al and said, "Do you think you guys could watch my drink for a bit?" Someone spied it carefully and said "What is it?" I replied "Southern Comfort." There was a chuckle and someone said something like "It won't last in front of that guy." I then just turned away and headed toward the elevators. Al yells out "That's got to be a blogger. Who are you?" I just kept walking. After unpacking my clothes and getting settled, I headed back to the Geisha Bar. I outted myself and Al bought me my first Jager bomb of the trip. "Well played, sir," he said. Quite.

After hanging around for a bit, I headed to my LV home poker room, Ballys. I made either a soul read or a donkey call just after getting there. I checked with top pair, top kicker after the flop and then heard "all in" by someone in late position. I figured him to be on somekind of draw and decided to call. I was right. He had a lot of outs but I faded them all. Ding.

It was just one of those nights where you hit every flop, make all the right decisions, and at showdown, always have a hand at least a little better than anyone else. The stack kept growing, and eventually I had over a grand in front of me. I even hit a Royal flush, which was cool. I had the nut flush on the turn when a guy pushed all in. I upgraded to the Royal on the river. I kept getting text messages from OhCaptain to come back to the IP, but I stayed until I seemed to start slowing down. Nice first session.

At the IP, I was able to meet a whole bunch of bloggers for the first time. The funny thing was, everyone was just about how I thought they would be. I played Let It Ride for the first time and was at the table when Drizz hit quad 3's for a big score. Yowsa!

It was interesting being at my first blogger gathering. I was like the guy who married into the big family that was having its annual reunion. There were obviously a lot of strong friendships among many of the bloggers. It was like a bloggers all star game with all the old and big name bloggers in attendance. Quite a site to see.

My weary body just could not make it out of bed Friday morning. All the burn out from work was catching up with me. On top of that, I developed a jock itch type rash on the plane trip in. Yeah -- it was fun walking around Vegas this trip!

On Friday afternoon, I headed toward the pawn shop that is the basis for the Histroy Channel show Pawn Stars. Much to my delight, an epidode was being filmed. The scene I witnesses should be shown in the new episode this coming Monday night. After the filming was finished, I was able to meet Richard (The Old Man), Rick, and Chumlee. Chumlee was, of course, the fan favorite. I was able to have a nice chat with Richard. Quite a lucky day.

Later on I went to MGM and decided to catch a quick snack with OhCaptain . As we were heading away from MGM, I tripped and made this spectacular tumble. Funny shit, I imagine, but I found out later that my big toe was all purple. I felt like I was right in the middle of Midnight Cowboy -- "I'm fallin' apart here."

We decided to give Fatburger a try. Loud rap music combined with an average hamburger. Meh.

We went back to MGM, watched the now famous Table 16, and waited for the start of the mixed games. I decided to make a quick treck to Ballys to see if my luck would hold up. Unfortunately, I got engrossed in the game and totally forgot about the Steel Panther concert. I went back to MGM after people already left for the concert and played a little mixed game action. Being used to playing HORSE online, I had quite a funny time trying to keep straight the amounts of bring ins, antes, and bets.

Saturday was the big event -- the WPBT Winter Classic. I had breakfast at Bellagio with OhCaptain, jjok, Katitude, Astin, and Astin's friend. Great time, great conversation. On to the tournament ...

Prior to the tournament starting, I wanted to meet Waffles. I saw him sitting by himself at a table. I walked up and whispered in his ear "Hi -- aren't you the guy I had sex with on my last trip here?" Hmmm ... I guess he didn't think it was as funnny as I did. Muhaha.

My starting table had some interesting players -- Jordan, Schaubs, StB, pokerpeaker, and Carmen's mother. Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

An Update
Wow -- so long since my last post. Work has been kicking my ass for the past 5+ weeks. This is always the busiest time of the year for me at work, so survival is often the goal.

Unfortunately, some things are already so far in the rear view mirror that they are almost out of my memory. For example, I made a little road trip and played at the home game of fellow blogger gadzooks64. The drive was 105 miles -- but worth it, right? I felt like I was playing really well, then got derailed when an unlucky card hit. Another come-from-behind hand and I was out. 'zooks has a great group of people at her home game. It made me sad to think that my great home game faded away a couple of years ago.

Hey -- I am in the final 9 of the Challenge ck ESPN Eliminator Challenge. I almost died last week when the Falcolns waited until the final minute to topple Tampa Bay. I was kicking myself for not taking the Cowboys at home against the Raiders. But hey -- almost everyone has had at least one close call.

Weather permitting, I will leave to join my fellow poker bloggers in Las Vegas in just over 30 hours. Not like I am counting or anything. You heard it here first -- I am taking down the WPBT Winter Classic. And oh yeah -- the winners of the Luckbox Last Longer Challenge will be Team D-Listers -- myself, OhCaptain, and pokerpeaker. Learn it. Know it. Live it. A special thanks to PokerStars for chipping in a cool $2000 to sweeten the pot for the challenge winners!

I hate to head to Las Vegas so burned out from work, but the part of me that has working my nuts off is ready for a little poker, socializing, and relaxation. I am looking forward to meeting some of my online poker friends in person for the first time. Does life get any better?