Friday, January 31, 2014

January 2014 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part II

Tuesday, January 21, was the day I switched hotels. I liked my room at Palms (and I liked the cardio center there), but I was ready to head to the middle of the strip -- the area that is usually home to me. Destination: Harrah's. I was comped a petite suite and looked forward to seeing the new digs. However, I was checking in early and my room was not yet ready. So ... it was lunch first with Man In Black. We had no planned excursions to Jean, NV like last trip, so we planned to toss some cards instead at Harrah's.

The session at Harrah's was certainly a trip. Man In Black was a wild man! I was wondering wtf he was doing with his seemingly wild aggro play. In the first 1 1/2 orbits he got QQ, AA, QQ! He chipped up, lost a big pot on a huge bluff (I think he overestimated the ability of an average $1/2 NL player to lay down a hand), chipped up, lost a pot on a nasty beat ... It was like watching an elevator! Then came the crucial hand with me. I raised with K-Q and he called. The flop was K-2-rag. I led out and MIB pushed all in. He was short stacked and it was about another $50 to call. I thought he was bluffing again and I called. Set of deuces - damn! Shortly after I doubled him up he had to leave. I waited until he had been gone for a bit before I sent him a one word text message: "Dickhead." I let everyone know he was my friend and what I had sent. They had a good laugh.

The table was a good table in many ways -- a group of "mature" gentlemen who were very nice and having fun. Soon I hit my first run of good cards on the trip and built my depleted stack up to $500 from my $200 buy in. If a guy got a set, I got a boat. I had A-3 on the button with a bunch of limpers and limped in myself to see a flop of 3-3-3! This was a fun hand since, of course, everyone checked after the flop and my small bet looked like an obvious button steal. I got some callers and hoped that at least one person had a nice boat. One apparently did since he bet the turn. I hollywooded a bit and decided to smooth call. He then bet on the river and I placed a decent value bet. He called. Just the perfect storm to make money off a hand like that. As I was stacking my chips, one of the guys at the table looked at me and said, "Hey -- you know that text you sent to your friend? Well ..." We all laughed. I ended out cashing out a nice profit and was suddenly feeling like maybe the poker gods were back on my side. Ha!

It was getting quite late in the afternoon and I still needed to check into my room. If you are wondering what a Harrah's petite suite looks like, this is it:

No big deal -- just a little more space than a regular room. It even included an empty non-functional mini bar that had a sign on it indicating that it was for sale. Classy!

After relaxing in the room, I decided to head downstairs for an evening session at Harrah's. The session started out great as the first hand I was dealt, pocket 6's, improved to a straight flush on the river, netting me a decent number of chips by the other person in the hand. I had a table change request in to move back to the table I was at earlier. Only one person remained from the afternoon session, but he told me it was a good and fun table. And hey -- he was a Chicago guy, so of course I knew that was the place to go. I switched over and won a few hands here and there. Then came the biggie. I was dealt pocket Queens. A player who had a big stack but did not impress me with his play opened up the betting. I raised and he looked me over and called. The flop was a a rainbow of low uncoordinated cards. He checked, which surprised me. And here is where I second guessed myself: I checked behind. The turn was another rag, but it put two diamonds on the board. The villain let out with a big raise. I felt pretty sure that I was way ahead but I had my doubts. The way he played the hand sure didn't make me think that he had Aces or Kings and I doubted he hit a set. I pushed all in. He tanked, which told me that I was ahead. Finally, when I thought he was going to fold, he just said "screw it" and called. The dealer peeled off the river -- a King. I had a feeling I got screwed. Villain turned over his A-K of diamonds. He made the big river call with just the nut flush draw and binked a freaking King. Dang -- that hurt. I never recovered the rest of the trip.

I rebought and saw a string of horrendous cards. As with most of this trip, premium starting hands did not come. I was getting very few small pocket pairs, and none were hitting a set. I was getting very frustrated. Finally, I was dealt one of my favorite starting hands:

A short stack raised and several people were getting in the pot. I called and was just hoping that for once I would hit a set. I got my wish as the flop was 2-6-8. The shortie went all in and the next guy to bet raised. Although I feared that he might have hit a higher set, I was determined to get it all in  and did so. He called -- with pocket 8's! To make matters worse, he quaded up on the turn. Bah! He had me covered, so I was stacked for the second time of the long session. I decided I had had enough poker and went in search of some sweet, sweet video poker machines to sooth my wounded poker soul ...

On Thursday I had a leisurely lunch by myself and decided to check out the improvements at The Quad. I must say, junky properties like the Imperial Palace and O'Sheas have been replaced by really nice casinos and stores. Quite an improvement. However, as always in Las Vegas, "improvements" means that some of the trashy, kitschy places that were fun to visit are now gone. I saw a dealertainer at The Quad, but it was not the same. O'Sheas, instead of being this cool little Irish-themed casino that was great for beer pong and a late night food area, now looks to me like an upscale Irish bar. yeah it was very nice looking, but still ...

No poker games were going at The Quad, so I went to Flamingo. I rarely play at Flamingo and have never really liked the room. I was quickly seated near the rail, which made me very uncomfortable since I had someone standing about two inches behind me. I only stayed for a few orbits then left. I still don't like the place.

I decided that I would spend my final evening playing in my usual Las Vegas poker home, Bally's. I can't say the play was memorable. I had pocket Queens with one caller and saw a flop with three hearts. The caller checked and I shoved to protect my hand. The villain tanked and folded. He never did show. I don't know if he had a better draw than me or not. The rest of the session was spent folding poor starting cards and folding starting hands with potential that missed the flop. This ended up being the theme throughout most of the trip. I finally decided to end my poker playing for this trip and met up again with Tony Bigcharles, who hopped a shuttle to the middle of The Strip. We were going to look for a place to eat, but that is a challenge with Tony when mid-strip at night since he has been 86ed from so many places. We just decided to slum at the Mickey D's next to Harrah's and watched all the young people come in in various states of intoxication. Finally, we went our separate ways and I decided to actually pack most of my clothes to make things easy in the morning.

Oh yeah -- there were several times when I got to play my favorite slot game:

Willy Wonka was very good to me. Bring on the Oompa Loompa bonus! After all, that bonus does remind us of one particular Sicilian Oompa Loompa ...

It was tough leaving the nice Las Vegas weather (highs in the 60's) to return to the sub zero weather in Illinois. I was actually able to wear shorts and a tee shirt while in Las Vegas. When going to pick up my car in Midway Airport's long term parking, it was winter coat, hat , gloves ...

I am perhaps rethinking how I do my Las Vegas trips. It might be a little better to cut down the frequency and instead stay a little longer. I dunno.

So in short -- a great first night to the trip, but after that, nothing special outside of seeing a few friends. Poker was below average as I continued to get crappy starting hands and likely, therefore, didn't play my best poker. But it was still a Las Vegas trip, and who can complain too much about that?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The View From A Bed

Life's ups and downs are funny. Last week I had a great week in Las Vegas -- friends, poker -- you know the routine. However, I was hoping that the guy who was wheezing at my poker table the last night of the trip was not a foreshadowing of my future. Unfortunately, it was.

I went back to work last Friday and had a relatively calm day. But ... when the evening came, I began to feel a cold coming on. I did little on Saturday, using it as a day to recover from the trip, and even played a little poker that night at my regular home game. However, I left the poker game relatively early to head home to bed.

Come Sunday morning, my body was fully invaded. This has probably been the worst cold I can remember in years. I have stayed pretty much in bed since then but finally wandered outside a few times yesterday to pick up some groceries and some meals. I am feeling much better today and anticipate returning to work tomorrow.

I guess that, looking back on the sequence of events, I should not be particularly surprised. The November to mid-January period is usually the most challenging one at work. So, getting physically and mentally run down, I then hop on a plane to Las Vegas, where I don't get much sleep while putting in mega-hours playing poker and just cavorting around. But at least it was fun!

If nothing else, at least I was reminded of something that George Harrison wrote many years ago:

Try to realize it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 2014 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part I

I quite unexpectedly scheduled a trip to Las Vegas in the middle of this month. A comped room offer started the ball rolling, and things just seemed to fall into place.

I had decided for several reasons to drive up to Chicago the morning of the trip instead of staying overnight in the Chicago suburbs the night before, and that ended up being a good choice. Travel to the Chicago area on Saturday, January 18 would have been brutal due to snow, winds and cold.

My Southwest flight left Sunday, January 19 morning, and I thought I was going to luck out and have an open middle seat on the plane for the flight to Las Vegas. However, I have learned NOT to count on that until the place leaves the gate. Sure enough, right before the door closed, two last people got on the plane. And ... a rather large guy chose to sit in the middle seat next to me, spilling over into my seat. To make matters worse, the guy sitting in front of me decided to recline in his seat. I just kept thinking "I'll be in Las Vegas in a few hours ..."

I rented a car from my go-to spot in Las Vegas  -- E-Z Rent-A-Car -- and was surprised to see that I would be driving around in a brand new Chevy Impala. New car smell -- yes!

After a quick stop at In-N-Out Burger (Double Double Animal Style, of course!), I checked into the Palms Casino Resort. My offer was to include some VIP passes to the resort nightclubs, but I guess they somehow sensed that I was not exactly one of the beautiful young crowd that patronizes places like that! I caught a little bit of the Broncos-Patriots football game in the sports book, then went up to my room. I had been told the Ivory Tower rooms had been remodeled. My room was actually pretty nice.

I felt tired and in need of a shower, so I just relaxed in my room for a bit and watched some football.

As the second football game was heading toward a conclusion, I met and picked up an online poker friend, AvoidOddLaw, at Bally's and drove us to THE Steakhouse at Circus Circus, where we would meet blogger Pete P Peters and his friend.

Circus Circus you say? Yes, the property is overrun by kids, but THE Steakhouse has been highly rated by Zagat for many years. I liked the idea of an old school steakhouse in the middle of this crappy casino.

This was the first time I met AvoidOddLaw in person. We usually chatted while playing The Dank, the latest version of the weekly private online poker blogger tournament that had formerly been called The Mookie. I had met Pete Peters in person a few years ago in Las Vegas, and Pete and I text each other regularly.

Having a nice steak dinner in Las Vegas with friends is da shitz! I liked the atmosphere at THE Steakhouse, and the fillet I ordered was huge. Taste-wise it was just okay. The service was excellent, and we had a great time discussing poker, jobs, Las Vegas and a whole host of topics.

Afterwards I chauffeured everyone to Bally's, where we hoped to play some $1/2 NL together. We were all seated at the same table and were joined by grrouchie. How cool -- a group of five playing at the same table in Las Vegas! It was just like a home poker game. PPP's friend was at the opposite end of the table, but the other four of us were next to each other cracking quips and jokes. Unfortunately, a d-bag sitting near PPP's friend was lucksacking his way to a big stack and apparently was dissing our play. Meanwhile, I was tossing 9-3os, 8-2 os, J-4os, ...

As the evening wore on it looked like grrouchie would be the only member of the group that would be on the plus side for the session. Such is life. However, it was a ton of fun while it lasted,. And yes -- PPP did drink Lite beers!

PPP and AvoidOddLaw both left for home the next day, so I was certainly glad to share a meal and toss some cards with these good guys. This was one heck of a way to start my trip!

Monday was a day to start off leisurely. I grabbed lunch at the Palms buffet and waited for Tony Bigcharles to get his butt out of bed. It was time for our triumphant (?) return to the Suncoast Casino to play in the O8 spread game. I played in the game with Tony a few trips back (leading to TBC's famous "even lightning won" quote) and did quite well. In fact, I have come out ahead each time I have played 08 spread in Las Vegas.

I was fortunate to begin the game by getting several excellent beginning O8 hands. TBC, on the other hand, was in el foldo mode. I was able to build a decent stack but really wanted to dig into the stack of a guy at the end of the table who was showing a very good profit. So, when the time seemed right and he was in a hand, I jumped in with a hand that would normally be folded in O8: a middle-level trapping hand with both straight and flush possibilities. It's called thinking outside the box, Mr. Bigcharles. As the pot kept building, I was in good position for a big win -- or so I thought. Unfortunately, Tony was also in the hand chasing a flush -- one that was bigger than mine. The river game me a straight, allowing me to scoop a big pot. It also, however, drew the ire of Mr. Bigcharles, who texted that I was a "mf donkey who ... thinks he's good." My official response to this statement: "Muhahahahaha. Suck it!"

Tony left the table shortly thereafter and I stayed for several more hands before cashing out a profit. We then went to Palms to that Tony could play spread limit there. While there, I played a little sweet sweet video poker. The first attempt I made at Palms the day before had a bad result. However, I tried the Multi Strike Poker machine and had this nice hand:

I didn't want to play limit poker at Palms, so went to my old honey hole, Bally's, to play. After an unremarkable session, I went back to Palms. I was ready to go to sleep but drove Tony back home first. That's just the kind if mf donkey I am.

Two days down, still no great success at $1/2 NL. That would come at the beginning on my third day in Las Vegas.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bad Cancer Situation -- Help Desperately Needed

Readers and friends might remember that almost four years ago, I was faced with some potentially devastating news: my 15 year old son had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Everything that happened in the next couple of weeks after that was a whirlwind. He was treated at Mayo Clinic, had surgery, and fortunately everything happened so fast that there was little time to absorb or even feel much of anything. You become intensely focused on the task at hand.

To see your child in such a vulnerable position is heartbreaking. Fortunately, with great medical care and the support of many family and friends (a special shout out to Oh Captain, who spent several hours keeping me company during that difficult week), my family got past this.

My son now:

We were lucky -- very lucky. He didn't even have to suffer through chemotherapy or radiation treatments. I have excellent health insurance through my employer, so all the medical expenses at Mayo were paid.

Everyone isn't so lucky. Good friend and former poker blogger Very Josie has a nephew who needs help. Badly. Please check out her post at this link. And to donate, this link.

Although I have always appreciated what I have, I have begun to appreciate it even more as I have become ... ummm ... chronologically older. If you have a few bucks you can spare, please consider giving to someone who really needs it. Prayers, karma and good thoughts are also helpful.

Life is short and precious. We are all in this together.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Back from Las Vegas

Just got home this evening from Las Vegas. Quite a shock to the system going from temperatures in the mid 60's to weather below 0 with the wind chill.

My flight to Chicago continued to Fort Lauderdale, FL. The airport information was funny. Chicago: temperature 3 degrees. Fort Lauderdale: temperature 73 degrees.

Got to get to bed. Tomorrow is a one day work week. I can handle that.

lightning36 and Tony Bigcharles walking down Las Vegas Blvd´╗┐

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Time for Las Vegas!

In just over 12 hours I should be on my way to Las Vegas. To catch my flight, however, I will have a long drive on roads that might have snow and/or ice issues. I am certainly hoping that I will not have any problems.

As always, I wait until the last minute to pack my bags. I've had this routine almost all my life. I don't know why, but it just seems to work for me. Less anxiety?

My brother, the King of Komps, will be staying home this trip. However, I will be meeting up with some friends in Las Vegas, so a good time is almost guaranteed.

If you are around Las Vegas and want to see about meeting up, give me a shout via text message or email (if you know my info) or send me a message on twitter (@lightning36, of course).


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rocking Bovada


Every so often I act like it is back before Black Friday and attempt to prove I have some mad online poker skillz ... or some of the old VeryJosie lucksackery! I won a $100 added private tourney tonight. I have also been playing some Omaha on Bovada, and despite the variance (or just my crappy play), I have fashioned a pretty good winning record.

I really like the anonymous play feature of Bovada, which thwarts the pros and semi-pros and their tracking software. It even gives the hacks like me a fighting chance to win in an online environment that is certainly shark infested nowadays.

Las Vegas -- I hear you calling!

Come Along With lightning36 For A Fun Morning!

7:45 a.m. -- Ready to leave home drop daughter off at school and then continue on to work. Friggin' Illinois roads are slick with snow again. Lemon!

8:05 a.m. -- Police officer is just outside my office. One of my administrative assistants is experiencing some heart issues. Ambulance was already called. After receiving services, assistant goes to hospital. I check her desk schedule: virtually no other coverage today. Scramble!

9:05 a.m. -- Late to 9am meeting. Meeting scheduled for an hour takes only about 40 minutes. Win!

10:00 a.m. -- Meeting to talk about submitting workshop proposal for national conference that was supposed to be held at an excellent breakfast restaurant was instead held in conference room at work. Lemon!

10:45 a.m. -- Meeting ends early. Shore up other things at work because I need to head downtown.

11:25 a.m. -- Get to clinic where oldest daughter is having oral surgery. Numb nuts driver in front of me appears to not know how to push button and take parking ticket. Decides to back up. I lay on my horn and he stops about 1 centimeter short of hitting my car.

11:30 a.m. -- Go into building. Surgery is so fast my wife is already wheeling daughter toward exit. Go back to car and stop to grab a Subway sub. Make small talk with woman, calling it a "Seinfeld moment." My monologue began: "You're getting a pizza sub at a sandwich shop? Why would anyone do that? Why not just go to a pizza place?" She was mildly amused.

12:00 noon -- Go to drug store to pick up prescription. Look at picture of new head pharmacist. Old head pharmacist was kind of cute, as is new one. Wonder if that is coincidence.


12:25 p.m. -- Get home. Give daughter pills. Check on sandwich, which somehow was left undisturbed by the four cats roaming the house. Win!

I hope your morning was a good one!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Miscellaneous Photo Dump

I am pretty much trapped inside the house today but might actually leave to help get my son's car unstuck. In the meantime, I thought I would post a few pictures just for the heck of it. There is no common theme -- just some pictures.

New kitten Holly, who makes it difficult for me to post sometimes

James "J.Y." Young & Tommy Shaw of Styx

Gary Richrath playing with REO Speedwagon for the first time since 1989

Took this picture after a forum discussion of cheap wines kids used to drink

lightning36 rocking the cheap beer - 16 oz. PBR draft for a buck!

Home of one of dem good machines!

My ultra-secret group that controls every move of Tony Bigcharles

One of my all-time favorite pictures: What being a father is all about
And finally, before moving on to 2014, those that are gone that I will remember ...

Boyfriend -- family cat. He disappeared just as mysteriously as he arrived. Presumed to have met his demise via either a fox or coyote that had been stalking the neighborhood. A soft bundle of love.
Ron Cannon -- a member of my home poker game. A musician known as Big Daddy Sun, Ron was famous for his explosions when people beat him with crap. Games are less interesting without him.

Jen Smith -- former co-worker. She valiantly battled breast cancer but her body finally could take no more. She became an author and an advocate and served as an inspiration for countless cancer patients across the United States.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Please -- Just Leave Aaron Rodgers Alone!

I have been a Chicago Bears fan all my life. A big fan. In my youth I used to watch sports nonstop. Now, not so much. However, there is no way I ever miss a Bears game unless absolutely necessary. Needless to say, the Green Bay Packers are not exactly at the top of my list of favorite sports teams. That being said ... could all the asshats in the world just leave Aaron Rodgers the fuck alone?

The guy is an amazing athlete, as I have unfortunately witnessed too many times. He is a great quarterback and perhaps in the future will be recognized as one of the all-time best. He kept his mouth shut when playing behind Bret Favre, then came into his own and has been outstanding ever since. By all accounts he is a great teammate and a nice guy and uses his athletic fame to benefit several charities.

Now, however, when his name should be in the news because of the way he crushed the souls of Bears fans like me, he has become the focus of speculation regarding his sexual orientation. I find this troubling on so many levels. I know that he is a public figure, but when will the fascination over sexual orientation ever end?

I don't care if Aaron Rodgers is gay ... or straight ... or whatever. I hate ... hate ... hate that this apparently decent man has to deal with this issue publicly. If he is gay does he have to be a standard bearer, not by his own choice? If he is straight, does he find that he can't even have a roommate without having to give explanations?

I would rant further, but in my mind I would rather just concentrate on the upcoming NFL playoff games and not give this particular issue more publicity than it already has. It seems to me that we should be much better than this.