Monday, March 29, 2010

Daughter ready to become a Texan
My wife and two daughters got back from Texas over the weekend. They were able to successfully find a nice apartment for my oldest, who will be moving to College Station in August. So for now, at least, all is well. She still is struggling to keep any interest in her final semester of high school. I hope she’ll be more motivated to take some online courses this fall.

It is frustrating dealing with colleges’ financial aid offices since so much of aid is need based. Unfortunately, we fall into that nasty category where my daughter doesn’t qualify for any need based grant money, yet we are not rich – and with two other kids who will be college-bound in a few years. I’ve already had several talks with my daughter about not digging yourself into too much of a financial hole while in college.

The sad thing is, my daughter did very well in high school grade-wise and had a great ACT composite score. Granted, she was not right at the top of her class, but she did well enough that I thought she would receive several academic scholarships with no problem. However, the state schools in Illinois are especially stingy in awarding academic scholarships, and the one she received from a private university barely began to pay for its high tuition. So yes, she learned a sad lesson: all the work she did in high school paid few tangible dividends. Welcome to an all-too-frequent reality in the adult world.

Reconnecting with the past
I recently connected with an old friend through facebook. Lois and I had an interesting relationship while we were in grad school. She was a few years older and was living with a guy who seemed to make a decent living. Money was not that big of an issue for her. I, however, was barely making it. In my second year of grad school, I was only making $161/month with my ½ grad assistantship. Most people in my program only had a ½ assistantship (if any) their second year because we were doing our practicum experiences both on campus and at a community facility. My rent was $95/month. I had to have a car to travel to my out-of-town placement. Do the math. Not a pretty picture.

After classes, Lois and I (the two outcasts of our grad group) would head to a local bar. She seemed to have a never-ending supply of quarters so that we could play our favorite game, Asteroids. As best I remember, she bought most of the beer. She certainly taught me a lesson about looking out for your friends who might need the occasional financial lift. It is a lesson I never forgot. Thanks to facebook, I was able to connect with this friend who drifted away over twenty years ago. I let her know how much her friendship and her actions meant to me. I was happy I was able to tell her this, especially with the ability to really appreciate it over the years.
Improved health care? Not for me.
It will be interesting to see how the new health care reform changes things in the USA. I have little confidence in the government’s ability to not totally screw this all up. I currently have a wonderful health plan offered through my place of work. Access to physicians and other health care has not been an issue for me. I am prepared to see my costs go up, my benefits decrease, and accessibility to health providers get worse. I think that I am like many others who fear they will be grabbing their ankles. I worked hard to get to the position I am in, so yeah – excuse me if I am not overjoyed that I will take it up the butt on this one.

From a practical perspective, I have two main questions: 1) How will this all get paid for without saddling the next generations with a nearly insurmountable debt? 2) If there is a physician and nurse shortage now, how will they serve the increasing numbers who will use health care? Aside from all the good arguments about needing health care accessible to all, I just have a hard time seeing this all working.
Viva Las Vegas!
I’ll be making my next trip to Las Vegas in just over two weeks. This will be a long one for me as I’ll be staying a complete week since the trip is job related. I hope to spend many hours in my Las Vegas poker home, Bally’s. Love that place! I also might play either in one of the Venetian deep stack tournaments or one of the WSOP circuit events being held at Caesar’s Palace. I’ll just play it by ear.

I know that many others are already making plans for going to the WSOP this summer. At this point, at least, I don’t know how motivated I will be to go since it will begin shortly after I get home from Las Vegas. It was fun playing in an event last year. This year, if I play, it will probably be in one or two of the $1000 or $1500 donkaments. Hee haw!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Close, but no Banana
After getting my butt kicked in the last two MiniFTOPS I entered, it did feel nice to come close to winning this tournament at UB. I went out when I pushed all in with A-K against 10-10, but no help came on the flop, turn, or river. And oh yeah -- the guy who won the coin flip won the tournament. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Earlier in the evening, I finally played my first home game on the poker table my wife built me for Christmas. The poker gods seemed to be with me there tonight also as I was a card rack demon.

All in all, not a bad night. Now to get some sleep before the sun comes up ...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Updates and Minimal Poker Content
MiniFTOPS, Mini Cash
Totally donked out of MiniFTOPS Event # 1 after hitting trips on the flop and losing most of my stack when I was outkicked. I guess I could have been more cautious, but ... hee haw!

Played Event # 2 (Omaha H/L Pot Limit) and finished 288th out of 4,198 runners. Unfortunately, events like this give me the illusion that I might know what I am doing in Omaha. The result is that I probably lose some mobney at the cash tables until I get my mind right.

Our Dog's Health
We think that Ginger has Cushing's disease. We still need to go back to our vet to confirm the diagnosis. We might be lucky and be able to treat her with medication. This might not sound like good news, but we were afraid that she had liver cancer. We hope she will be with us for many more years.

Wife's Employment Situation
My wife was not selected for a second interview for a job she applied for with a local clinic. It looked like there was a good match between the job responsibilities and duties and my wife's skills and experience. We were surprised. I guess this just means that a better opportunity is waiting around the corner.

My Daughter's College Plans

Although she had a great ACT score and great high school grades, we were disappointed to hear that my daughter was not granted an academic scholarship to Texas A & M through its honors program. No scholarship = pay out-of-state tuition. This, of course, caused some rethinking. My daughter is actually unsure about a major and has been unmotivated regarding school since her boyfriend moved back to Texas. My proposal to her: move to Texas, take online classes through my school (which would be FREE), work, and figure out what she wants to do. She gets to be near her boyfriend, which to her is most important right now. She gets to attend school at no cost, which is important to me. We don't waste money and we take the pressure off her since she is uncertain about her future.

My wife said that I am brilliant. Of course, those of you who read this blog already should know that.

And how is your life this week?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Review: Chicago Poker Classic
I just got home from playing in the final event of the Chicago Poker Classic. Of course, it does seem a little bit funny that this series is actually taking place in Hammond, Indiana -- not even the same state! Hammond/Gary , however, does house two riverboats with poker rooms and is only a 20-minute trip from downtown Chicago.

The Classic was held at the Horseshoe Hammond -- a Harrah's property. I had played in two WSOP circuit events at the Horseshoe, so I was familiar with the property. I played in Events 5 and 9.

Now that I have played four tournaments here, I can say that I have been truly pleased with the way the tournaments have been run. Registration at the WSOP events was nasty -- long lines that took forever -- but registration for the Chicago Poker Classic events was quick and easy.

Event #5
The Event 5 (Tuesday, March 2) buy in was $240. $10,000 was added to the event entry money. Starting chips: 10,000. Structure: fantastic! With 45-minute levels and slowly increasing blinds and antes, this was one heck of a bargain.

I got many big hands early but had trouble getting much action on them since my table was very nitty. I was, however, keeping above the chip average for many hours and felt okay about where I was. I made it to the dinner break (tournament started at noon) but knew that I was going to need to make some moves when we returned. After bleeding off chips on promising hands that missed flops, I made a grand suckout. I had A-K in the small blind and was faced with a hand in which everyone outside the blinds folded. I decided to limp. The big blind checked. The flop was Q-10-rag. I checked. The big blind checked. The turn was a King. I bet and the big blind raised. I decided to shove and was inst-called. Much to my surprise, the big blind turns over pocket Queens! I was ready to leave the table when -- you guessed it -- I spiked a Jack on the river and doubled up. Don't feel too sorry for the guy, though, because he was all in a few hands later. I had hit a straight, and he hit the straight on the river, chopping a big pot with me.

As the event went on, my table was collapsed several times. I was moved to a table with a woman I thought I recognized. I couldn't place her at the time, but later found out that I had probably seen her on television on the Heartland Poker Tour -- a tour that runs through the midwest. Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman won a Heartland event in 2008. She impressed me as being a very good poker player. I got into two big hands with her. In the first, she apparently chased down a hand and hit her card on the river, putting a dent in my chips. In the second, I hit a set on the flop, checked (I knew she would bet big), then check-raised her all in on a draw heavy board. She went in the tank and decided to fold. Nice decision -- for her at least.

At my final table, I saw my stack dwindling as the blinds increased. I had been card dead for over an hour and needed to make a move. I pushed with Q-9 sooted (best hand I'd seen and before another orbit would make me an easy target for the big stacks) and was called by another shorty with A-K. Neither hand improved and I was out -- 117/444 after 9+ hours of play.

Event #9
I decided to make the trip back up to Hammond for the Event #9 since I had such a good time earlier in the week. Since this was the final event, though, it was only scheduled for one day and had a different structure -- $10,000 added, 10,000 starting chips, but only 30-minute levels and more accellerated blinds and antes.

Unfortunately,this was one of those tournaments when nothing much went right. The best hands I got prior to my last hand were 10-10 and A-10 sooted. I did get lucky by hitting a gutshot on a multi-limped hand when I was in the small blind, but that was about it. Nothing but garbage hands -- fold, fold, fold. I never got much above my starting stack of 10,000, then saw my stack dwindle.

Final hand: I was on the button with K-K. Everyone folded except the big stack in late position, who raised. I pushed all in. Surprisingly, the big blind also pushed all in. The big stack went in the tank, saying he should fold -- but didn't. He called -- with Q-Q. The big blind had A-K. Unfortunately, the big stack binked a Queen on the flop and sent me and the big blind to the rail. There were 255 runners and I went out somewhere in the 100's.


So, although I didn't have much success in these tournamenst, they were fun and I played decent poker. A card or two here or there, especially in Event #5, would have sent me much deeper. Maybe next time.

All the reviews and discussion board threads I have read about the Chicago Poker Classic have been positive. The added money (and even a 2010 Porsche Cayman S in one event!) and the great structures made for excellent tournaments. Horseshoe Hammond does a great job running tournaments, from the great dealers to the complementary coffee and water table. If you ever contemplate entering a tournament there, know that it will be done the right way.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Chicago Poker Classic
It seems like forever since I've played some live poker. So ... time for me to demonstrate my donkey skills at the Chicago Poker Classic. I plan on playing in the March 2 event.

The Classic is being held at the Horseshoe Hammond, which is a pretty nice play to play. The poker room itself is okay, but the tournament will be played in The Venue -- the nice concert hall at the casino. I recently played there in a WSOP circuit event. There should be a lot of room and a large donkelicious crowd.

Viva Las Vegas

In a few more days I should have details finalized, but I plan to be in Las Vegas for a professional conference in April. Therefore, I should be able to play in the 2010 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza II and/or the WSOP Circuit Event at Caesars Palace. Not a bad choice!

Waiting for New Laws on Universal Teeth and Dog Care

Life is never dull around the lightning household. There always seems to be some type of medical issues to keep us on our feet -- and cost me money. Latest entries in the "take my poker bankroll away" catagory:

1) Youngest daughter will need braces. Cha-ching. That is three for three. The teeth come from my wife's side of the family, me thinks.

2) Family dog has highly elevated enzyme levels in her liver. Ultrasound is scheduled for Tuesday. Cha-ching. Cancer? Other problems with need for additional testing or treatment? Cha-ching, cha-ching.

In Other Family News ...

My wife's latest employment interview went well. We are waiting for her to be called for a second interview. Our hopes are high.

We are waiting to hear about academic scholarship decisions for my oldest daughter, who hopes to attend Texas A&M this fall. I guess that I am just a Nervous Nelly, but I will feel much better once her scholarship(s) and her tuition costs are confirmed. I hope everything works out, but I have just had this feeling of inpending disaster...