Friday, September 27, 2013

Game On!

Saturday will be a fun day for my wife and me. Some old friends buy a set of four tickets to University of Illinois home football games each season and invite special friends and relatives to tailgate and watch the game with them. Our game is tomorrow morning.

It is always good to have old friends. Carol and I worked together in the 1980's when we both got paid peanuts to work at a small religious school. Carol's husband Steve, however, worked for Central Management Services in the state -- a pretty nice job. Carol and Steve's apartment was like party central -- always a location to relax, always a welcoming place where the drinks were flowing, the conversations were great and the fun factor was high.

Some thing don't change much, I guess. We start the morning with breakfast at Carol and Steve's, tailgate before the game, watch the Illini usually get their asses handed to them (not this season, though!), tailgate after the game, then head back to our friends' house for post-tailgate drinks, television and conversation. The conversation tends to be slightly different now -- usually topics like medical woes and how our children are doing has replaced the stuff people talk about in their twenties.

The Illini are a 25 1/2 point favorite, boding for a much better result than we have seen on our football excursions the past few years. Oskee Wow Wow!

And JT88Keys -- will you be rooting for the Illini?

Friday, September 20, 2013

To Concert or Not to Concert?

Almost three weeks ago in Las Vegas, I was considering going to see Black Sabbath my first night in town. Or ... in a funny twist, the alternative could have been seeing ... Air Supply! If you are too young to appreciate what I just wrote, the rest of this post will mean little to you.

On Saturday night, barring any emergency, I am going to see Bachman & Turner. Back in the 1970's, I was a HUGE Bachman-Turner Overdrive fan. However, I missed seeing BTO in about 1975 when they were at a venue a few miles away from my home. I planned on seeing them in 1986 when they were opening for the Van Halen 5150 tour, but got into the area just in time to hear the last chord of their final song. I heard a virtually no-originals version of the band in 1988, but a few years later I did catch the band in a free show.

So ... this is really a night to bring back old memories.

Next weekend, another classic band will be playing in the area ... Cheap Trick!

I have seen Cheap Trick many times over the years, most recently last December in Las Vegas as the opening act for Aerosmith.

In case I am MIA over the next ten days, try looking for me in the 1970's.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? How About One Degree?

Last night something spurred me on to think about someone with whom I had a close connection. In previous posts I have mentioned the serial killers I have known. However, I thought it might be fun to play the Kevin Bacon game, but wanted to make it more challenging by making it only ONE DEGREE of separation. I'll start us off:

Influential American author. I used to work with his mother.

Miss America 2003, currently running for the U.S. Congress. I work with her mother.

Singer/Songwriter/Musician best known for monster hit Somebody That I Used to Know. He is a former student of my brother, the King of Komps.

I've got at least one more that I can think of, but I thought it might be fun to find out the connections of some of my readers. So ... if you know someone who has a close connection to someone famous -- only one degree of separation -- let's hear about it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Las Vegas Trip Report Part IV: Planet Hollywood Tournament, One Last Indignity, and Goombye

My plan for Thursday, September 5 was to play in one of the Planet Hollywood PHamous Poker Series On the Mess events -- Event #4 at noon. After having a great lunch at P.F. Chang's, I took an unfamiliar seat IN A TOURNAMENT! My table had some of the biggest donks in the world! I guess that an $85 buy in attracts that kind of crowd. One guy busted (15,000 starting chips) in the first ten minutes, running a bluff into rivered quads! He rebought and often went toe to toe with another terrible player.

After getting some nice encouragement from Very Josie along the way, I finally exited in the ninth level when I pushed all in with a flush draw after the flop. I thought the other two players would fold, but one was slow playing pocket Kings and called. No crub on the turn or river (I thought that crubs ALWAYS got there) and that was all she wrote.

I soothed myself with some Del Taco and a Blizzard, then met seattle irish for some $1/2 NL at Ballys. He schooled me on one hand (flush vs two pair) and did quite well in a short time. Unfortunately, he was called away by a work emergency. He did bring a friend with him, who unfortunately was up against my pocket Aces twice.

The final blow of the trip came later in the evening when I was dealt The Dreaded Pocket Kings! The guy on my right raised to $18 and I raised to $40. The dealer, Gianna, who is usually excellent, somehow had a hard time deciphering the initial raise, which should have been some foreshadowing. The flop contained all uncoordinated low cards. I led out with a bet and the villain went all in. No way that he had a set, straight draw or a flush draw based on the board. He either had me beat with A-A or I had him crushed. I called. He had J-J. He stood up to leave, said "Nice hand," and then we saw the turn -- a Jack! I immediately knocked my cap off my head and let out a muttering string of eff-bombs. They weren't directed at anyone but the poker gods for crapping on me again. Such is what happens when you just have "one of those trips" to Las Vegas. I left shortly thereafter, calling an end to my poker for this trip.

The next day the King of Komps and I headed back to Chicago. Our flight was delayed, but sleeping through an hour of the delay helps! Upon heading back to our mom's house for the night, we stopped to eat at Portillo's, allowing me one last good meal on the trip:

The Chicago Style Hot Dog!

Epilogue: The next day, instead of driving immediately home, I detoured to Harrah's Hammond and played a few hours there. I am happy to report that my winning ways returned and I did NOT lose boat over boat or lose to a two-outer. Such is life with our mistress, poker. And in case you have never played in Hammond ...
... the view from the marina garage is actually not too bad.

Next trip to Las Vegas: possibly late January or early February, maybe not until March or next summer.

Las Vegas Trip Report Part III: Deuces Wild, Tony Bigcharles and "I Love Vegas"

On Wednesday, September 4, the King of Komps and I headed out to Green Valley Ranch to have lunch. Of course, no trip would be complete without donking at least a few slots. Thanks to bloggers The Neophyte (and his wife the Poker Queen), Lucki Duck and Pete P Peters, I now Must Play Immediately after too much exposure to video poker, especially Deuces Wild. Some Deuces Wild porn, just for them:

I still have yet to hit four deuces. However, I am getting ready to abandon my training wheels and move above the five cents game. I found out that a local pizza place not far from home has a legal quarter Deuces Wild game. Hmmm ...

My next session at Bally's saw me have another wonderful hand. I was gathering a very nice stack when I was in the small blind with 3-4os. Many had limped in, so of course, I completed. The flop: 3-4-4! Yowsa. It checked all around and a King came on the flop. Hoping that someone had a King, I raised and was called by the button. Hmmm. The river was a rag and I led the betting. The button raised and I then raised. He debated what he was going to do, and for the first time I thought there was a chance I had the second best hand. He decided to just call and asked if I had quads. He then flipped over K-K, which totally surprised me. With a table of limpers, he slow played pocket Kings on the button! And to then hit the two-outer on the turn? Sheesh. This was the third time in 36 hours that I had lost boat over boat. Of course, I also won a quads over quads hand, but that only was memorable because the woman who lost the hand, a local who is about as bad as they come, never should have even been in the hand on the river.

That evening I made a run out to Tony Bigcharles' apartment to check on his internet connection. We then attempted to play some NL poker at Boulder Station, but seeing none going, went to Sam's Town to play some $2/4 Limit.

One thing I know about myself is that I am not a good Hold em Limit player. I have done well in Omaha 8 Spread Limit, but that is certainly much different. I played like crap and lost my buy-in. Even worse, I might have folded the best hand once when my attention drifted. I am not sure, however. I minimally staked Tony, who lost most of his stack when a big stack at the table chased a flush and hit it on the river. Tony was pretty upset and started shaking, but he actually held off blowing up, although he did pitch his cards toward the dealer and got reprimanded by people at the table. Just not a good night for either of us.

I dropped Tony off at his apartment to pay for his internet access and headed back to Ballys. One guy, Jack, came to the table shortly after me, then proceeded to hit several big hands in a row. He started drinking a lot, saying time after time "You know what? I love Vegas." He got several people drinking, including a crusty old guy who was angry with me for now showing a hand a re-raised him on. I must admit, I drank my share too. It was fun, but I needed a big hand. It came when I was dealt pocket 2's, called a raise by Jack and saw a flop of K-2-rag. Jack made a big raise and I re-raised. I was fairly certain he had A-K. He debated and even said "I bet you have pocket deuces." However, he couldn't lay down his hand, went all in, and had his guess confirmed. He said that he had A-K, but I never saw his cards.

Anyway, I won a huge stack, which had me set for the rest of the session. Jack was a good guy in that he didn't grouse about losing his chips. Amazingly, he hit some good hands again and proceeded to build his stack way back up again. We kept having drinks and saying "You know what? I love Vegas!" Night like that are what I live for.

Las Vegas Trip Report Part II: Birthday Bacchanal Buffet and Burgers along with Boats Beat Bonanza Beginning

The King of Komps celebrated his birthday on Tuesday, September 3, and our plan was to go to the Caesars Palace Bacchanal Buffet. We had read and heard many good things about it. We were not disappointed. Even if someone wanted an everyday treat, it was there.

And a picture that reminded me of Very Josie:

Yes - red velvet mini moon pies!

The King of Komps greatly enjoyed this birthday buffet.

Our buffet timing was exquisite. We got there at 10:30 a.m. so that we could get the breakfast food and price, and then also get the benefit of the switch over to the lunch menu. When we got to the buffet, nobody was in line! And, just to satisfy people who know I am always looking for "the deal," we each had $5 off our buffet from a coupon given to us when we checked in at Paris. Of course, the meal was paid for with my Total Rewards comps anyway, but still.  : o ).

How do I rate the buffet? Excellent! I would definitely have to say that it is tied for my favorite Las Vegas buffet along with The Wicked Spoon.

After brunch, I just sat outside Caesars Palace on that beautiful Las Vegas morning and watched the people walking to and fro. At times like that I feel especially thankful for the many good things that have happened in my life. Of course, I should have felt the impending equalizers ...

I decided to play some $1/3 NL at Bellagio. I did quite well there in a short session last trip. This trip, however, Bellagio was the beginning of my first of three boat-over-boat frustrations.

I was down a little from my $200 buy in. The villain had about $300 behind. I was dealt pocket 3's and attempted limped in along with a few other people. A guy in late position raised to $12 and others came along, as did I. The flop was K-K-5. Everyone checked, and the flop brought a beautiful 3. I decided against leading out and figured that the initial raiser would take a stab at the pot. He raised a weak $15 and I check raised him to $40. He called. The river: another 5! I knew I was sunk and checked. He put out a $15 value bet which I had to call. He, of course, had a King, although in my frustration I missed what his other card was. Suck and resuck. Sheesh.

I played another orbit or two, but the table appeared to have decent and tight players, so I figured it would be best to head to Bally's. It was time for a repeat performance.

I bought in for $200 and was getting few hands to play and was feeling somewhat frustrated. I got a table change and chipped up a bit and had a good feeling. But again, the cards were slow in coming. I was dealt pocket Snowmen in early position and decided to raise to $8. Everyone folded until a guy in late position raised to $30. Unfortunately, this guy had been away from the table some and I had no idea how he played. His stack appeared to be bigger than mine and I just had one of those feelings. Now, my more analytic friends might not subscribe much to feelings and premonitions, but what the heck -- I envisioned his stack becoming mine! I called the $30 raise and saw a flop of A-8-7! Yowsa -- a great flop!

I led out and the villain called. The turn was a 7, giving me the full house. I raised, he re-raised, I pushed all in and he called. The river was inconsequential and we turned over our cards. Damned if he didn't have A-A for the higher full house. I was shocked. Stack gone. Sheesh. Time for a poker break.

Later that evening I was getting hungry and planned to go with the KoK to Planet Hollywood so he could finish off his birthday evening with a lobster roll at Lobster ME. However, upon entering Planet Hollywood, we saw virtually no line for Gordon Ramsay BurGR. Fellow poker blogger Ag Sweep had highly recommended the place and said that there was always a huge line. The KoK had seen the enormous line earlier, so we quickly changed plans. That was a good decision.

The highlight of the meal: the Truffle Parmesan Fries.

I ordered the Farm Burger, which came with a fried egg, duck breast bacon and cheddar cheese. It was very good. And of course ... all paid for by Total Rewards comps!

After the late dinner, I decided to donk around on some slots. I noticed a hooker smiling at me and made a quick tweet. I turned around to sneak one last look and she was staring at me, smiling. Ut oh.
She sat down next to me and asked "Can I borrow a dollar?" How funny! After a bit I moved to a different area but came back. She again approached me and pointed out the number of free games I could win on a different machine. I guess I come off more as pathetic than cheap! Just a funny end to an interesting day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Las Vegas Trip Report Part I: Getting In and Getting to Jean

My most recent trip to Las Vegas began on Sunday, September 1. I was traveling with my brother, the King of Komps (or KoK), and looking forward to helping him celebrate his birthday.

As we were waiting to go through the security line, I swear that I saw Very Josie just ahead of us!

The trip from Chicago to Las Vegas was uneventful. I rented a car once again from E-Z Rent-A-Car. If you are looking for an inexpensive option in Las Vegas, this is the place. I always reserve an economy car and never know what I will end up with. This trip: Chevy Malibu!

The first night would be spent at Rio since it was our best option for a comped room. The check-in line was a mile long, but my Platinum status in Total Rewards let us bypass the line and instead register in the special registration area. We were in and out in about five minutes. Yowsa!

After eating an inexpensive and acceptable buffet at the Gold Coast, we hung around Palms, Gold Coast, and Rio for the night, mostly hitting up some slots. I wanted to play poker at Palms, but the only games running were two tables of Limit. I later went to play poker at Rio and was disappointed to find out the the Mega Beat Progressive Poker Jackpot had been hit the day before.

I played for a couple of hours but had one of those sessions where my good hands were things like 9-3os! One guy had the same problem as me, then started playing almost every hand and had a heater supreme. In one hour he flopped three straights, and all held! He cashed out with a pretty big stack of chippies whereas I struggled to keep even. A few decent players sat down at the table, and I knew that my best course of action was to just call it a night.

The next morning we checked out, went to Orleans for breakfast, then checked into Paris. I believe that this was my second time at this particular hotel. The room was fairly nice, but the butt-ugly carpet took the total effect down a notch or two.

The KoK went off to do his thing while I headed down to my Las Vegas poker home, Ballys. Unfortunately, I had another boring session as the afternoon/early evening crowd at Ballys was much too sober and nitty. The plan for later that evening, however, was to head down to beautiful Jean, Nevada to pick up Tony Bigcharles and drive him back to Las Vegas. The KoK wanted to see Jean, and I enlisted Vegas resident Man in Black to accompany us. After all, we figured that he might be more familiar with the rural Las Vegas desert scene in case we wanted to steal a sockroll and bury a body or something.

After a quick trip down the interstate, we were there.

We immediately headed for the Dealer's Angel game, but saw no TBC. We went to roust him out of his room, and saw something straight out of Big Bang Theory:

We got up to Tony's room and were amazed at how he was living in there since it seemed like his air conditioner was on the fritz. We grabbed his stuff and headed back to Las Vegas to a secret location where Tony expected to cash in a sweet room offer. However, he found out the offer had been sent in error to many people. The hotel, however, did comp him a night for the inconvenience. He was lucky to have the KoK as his personal valet, carrying the mother lode into the hotel:

It was actually pretty funny seeing my brother hauling in the food. Almost as funny as seeing him mouth "eff you" to me as he did the dirty deed.
After Tony got checked in, we headed to one of many Las Vegas shrines:
I wish I had a great story to tell (aside from having another great Double Double Animal Style), but truthfully, the trip to In-N-Out was about as normal as they come: just four guys making a burger run. Of course, Man in Black couldn't leave without putting the moves on one of the female workers. Maybe next time buddy -- after she gets her drivers permit! Tony's comment: "Don't quote me on this, but she isn't very good looking." Quoted, sir.
KoK and I dropped MIB and Tony off and headed back to end the evening at the Caesars strip properties.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Murder always seemed to be something just on television when I was young

You know, the great crime and detective shows where someone would be killed, and either the police or a hero lawyer would somehow get to the bottom of things and justice would be served. In real life it is no such way.

Long-time readers of this blog might remember that I grew up with a serial killer and went to college with another.  Still, I knew none of the victims, therefore these guys were more or less abstract killers in my mind.

This changed when I was in my first professional job. I student whom I knew and befriended was murdered in a cheap robbery. I later became tight with her brother and saw the agony that he had gone through with the trial of the killer.

Six years ago while just nosing through the internet and looking up former neighbors, I found that one who moved away many years ago had just been murdered in a senseless robbery. In my mind he was just the guy who lived next door, practicing pitching his awesome sinker in the backyard and doing a terrible job of singing the Sgt Pepper album when it first came out.

In my current job, I found that one of my colleagues had a sister who was stalked and murdered by a former boyfriend. Years later, the pain still endures for her. Now I find that the cousin and frequent guest of our former neighbors was senselessly killed by a couple of carnies in to work a festival last weekend.

Sometimes, despite how nice our lives might be, we peek outside our bubble of comfort and see that there is still evil in the world. Life in the bubble is much more comforting.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Road Trip to Beautiful Jean, NV - Muhahahaha

So tonight I am going to take a road trip to Jean to pick up TBC and bring the poker superstar to Las Vegas. I will have some company as Man In Black and my brother will both be along for the ride. How could this not have potential for Post of the Year?

By the way, the highway back from Jean IS pretty dark at night, right? You just never know ...