Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Goodbye Scottsdale and On to Reno

I was all set for my final full day in Scottsdale to be a big one. The plan was to play some poker, visit the Arizona State University campus, then play a final round of poker for the day. What was that song Meatloaf sang -- "Two out of three ain't bad?"

My afternoon session saw me booking a small win, thickening up the ol' sock ... ummm, bankroll. It was a good time to leave since the particular table I was at wasn't spewing anyway.

As for ASU ... it was not quite like I thought. It seemed a bit more urban than I imagined. Still, going to school in Tempe would be awfully sweet. In my neck of the woods, ASU has a big rep as a party school.

I got back to Talking Stick for my final sessions of the trip. To put it simply, it was not good. I was seated at a table with two agro guys to my left. I got involved in some pots but never got the kind of flop I needed. I dropped part of a buy in just doing dumb stuff and once getting outkicked on a hand. I asked for a table change, but things only got worse. I got pocket Jacks and raised preflop to $10. I got two callers. The flop came 10-rag-rag. I don't remember it exactly, but the other cards were two lower unconnected numbers. The two callers checked and I bet $20. Surprisingly, one opponent raised me. And then, even more surprisingly, he was re-raised. Did I have the worst hand of the three of us? I was guessing that at least one or maybe two were ahead of me, so I folded to the two check raises. They ended up getting it all in. The guy who pushed flopped two pair -- or at least he said so. He was a pretty solid player, so I believed him. The other guy, unfortunately, flopped a set of 10's.

Later on I was getting frustrated with a number of things, as was the player to my left, who was losing chips in a hurry and getting pissed. He straddled my big blind a few times and always raised the straddle, and finally I got pissed. He was down to under $100 when I saw A-9 sooted in the big blind which, of course, he straddled. I called the straddle and, on cue, he raised $10 or !15. I was almost sure I was ahead with an Ace so I just thought "screw it" and immediately put out a big stack of chips. Didn't even count. Then, to my surprise, he called. Ummmmm ... I wasn't expecting that. There was a 9 on the flop, so I was thinking I was good. Turn was a blank but the river was a King. Did I just get rivered? I announced that I had a pair of 9's and flipped over my cards. He mucked and left the table.

So ... was that a foolish play on my part? It came from frustration, but I also knew he was frustrated and didn't believe his straddle bet. I didn't expect the call, however, but I might have been good even without catching the 9 on the flop.

The evening ended when I was in the small blind with 9-6. There were  a few limpers and I completed the blind to $3. The big blind then raised to $8. He was a relatively new player in the game and I had little information on him. I decided to throw in a redbird since I was already in for $3 and there were others n the hand. The flop: 7-8-10! I flopped the ass end of a straight. Unfortunately, the big blind flopped a set of 8's and wasn't going anywhere. He called a big bet on the turn ( a 6 -- and I thought that he had the same straight that I did now) and the river, unfortunately, paired the board. I pushed my remaining chips in the middle only to see that ... he quaded up on the river. Boom - one buy in plus and I was felted. Nothing seemed to be going right that evening, so I figured it was just time to leave and prepare for the next leg of the trip. I still finished ahead for the trip, but surely didn't like the bite that was taken from my profits on my final session.

In about five hours I leave for Reno, where I am sure to have some poker stories to tell as I hit the tables there with Tony Bigcharles. I have never been to Reno before, so this should be kind of fun.

Just in some miscellaneous news, I need to make a decision on a beard. I had a beard for 30 years and shaved it off a few years ago since I didn't like all the white hair in it. I started growing it back but am thinking the same thing again. My wife, however, like me with a beard. What to do ... Also, I had put on some weight and thought that I looked like a whale in my pictures from Las Vegas. When I got back home, I started doing the Ideal Protein diet. I basically have had few carbs in the past 2+ weeks and have radically changed my diet and am drinking tons of water. Pissing every five minutes also, unfortunately. But ... I dropped some weight and am feeling pretty good. I think I'll keep on this direction for a bit longer, at least.

Next post: Reno, baby!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pokering out in Arizona

It is now Monday morning and I have been enjoying my trip to Arizona. The weather has been hot hot hot -- and so has the poker!

Getting out of town was more difficult this trip since I had to work the day before we left -- and stay a little later to make sure everything that needed to be done was done since I was only in my office for 1 1/2 days -- and spent the evening before leaving celebrating my son's 21st birthday. Of course, Mom and Dad were not invited to the party he was hosting for friends!

After flying in, getting my rental car, driving to our friends' house, etc, I didn't think that heading to the casino that night was a good idea. Better to wait until Friday.

It seems like my poker playing has gotten into a bad and familiar pattern. I lose initially, then struggle to catch up, then either win or lose. This trip, unfortunately, began the same way. In my first session at Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale I was at the table of a regular who, I assume, is a guy who is loaded and who just likes to mess with people. He put his money up for grabs but then sucked out or hit crap like you wouldn't believe. I guess I got a little impatient and greedy since I had not been winning many hands. Although he at one time had a big stack, he was enjoying playing short stack ninja with a stack that kept going below $100. One time I called his all in with A-7 sooted. Sounds screwy, right? I knew my Ace would be ahead. He pushed with 10-9 sooted and, of course, binked a 9. Crap. I then was in a hand with him holding J-10 on a Jack-high flop. I checked the flop, he raised, and I pushed all in. He called and, believe it or not, had a set of deuces. I was surprised and frustrated and didn't even know if he flopped the set or hit it on the turn. I was also in a huge hand with a huge draw and missed on both the turn and river, donking off more money. Anyway, I was down to start the trip.

I left the casino to get some lunch and clear my head. I came back for a long session that saw me folding hand after hand. The hole got deeper and I was not happy. I hung out in the slots section afterwards, which was one smoky, crowded madhouse. I was ready to call it a night.

On Saturday morning, Mrs. lightning and I went to breakfast with our hosts. Afterwards, we did a little shopping and just basically enjoyed the morning and early afternoon. Fatigue set in, and I napped away the afternoon. For dinner, my wife and I ate at a Hawaiian restaurant. Afterwards, I went out of my way to find a store where she could get the dessert she craved. But then ... it was time to get things right at Talking Stick, and I did it in a hurry.

I got on the wait list for $2/3 spread (the closest thing to my usual $1/2 NL) and a new table open almost immediately. I bought in for $300 and was ready to go. There was a guy who resembled Poker Grump who blabbered on non-stop. How nice to have constant irritation. At least he didn't play the might 2-4. But I was ready to go.

This day certainly marked a different day. After folding several hands for the first orbit or so, I got AA UTG. I raised and got two callers. The flop was 2-4-5 rainbow. I raised, one caller folded, and another (stack of a little less than $200) called. The turn was a brick. I put out a $100 raise and was called. What? It was a new table, so I had no read on the guy. Had he flopped a straight? The river was a brick. I went all in and he called. I flipped over my Aces and flipped over ... A-4? What? Yowsa! I happily added his chips to mine. He left the table.

Several hands later, I was dealt pocket 3's in middle position. Someone raised to $12 and I came along with a couple of other people. The flop was 3h-6h-Ks! The original raiser made it $25, one person folded, and I repopped to $100 to try to keep out the flush chasers (notice that I said "try" since it seems like players now chase every flush no matter what). Much to my surprise, a guy to my left, who appears to be a good player, pushed all in. Sheeit! He had over $300. The woman who initially raised then mucked, leaving me with a decision for all the chips I had just won plus over $100 more. Was I going to lose to a set of 6's? No way he had Kings or else he would have three bet the flop. There was no way I was going to lay down a set there, so I called. He flipped over 4h-5h for the open ended straight flush draw. Now I had to dodge a ton of outs. The turn was 8s -- one down -- and the river was ...........9c!

So how can luck and circumstances change in poker? The day before I sucked big time and the poker gods pissed on me left and right. Now, after 20-25 minutes of poker, this:
In my mind I was thinking that the poker gods recognized my efforts with my wife's dessert and showed me some sympathy. Unfortunately, after that half hour was over things were back to normal. Nothing of note happened for the rest of the session and I did lose a little of the stack, but I did cash out a nice profit at the session. Back in business, baby!

Yesterday (Sunday) after attending church, Mrs. lightning and I had breakfast at a café that was highly rated on Yelp. I love searching for these hole in the wall places. So ... away from the trapping of the Scottsdale elite, we found a great locals place to eat breakfast. The food was excellent and the service superb -- all from what looked like a junky little diner!

Sunday, however, was the day I designated to lay poker at Wild Horse Pass Casino. On my trip to Phoenix last March I made a killing at Wild Horse. I was hoping for more of the same.

When I checked in they decided to open a new table. My goodness -- the players at it were bad! I wasn't getting cards, but I tried to remain patient. The big hand finally came after an older gentleman sat down. He was the small blind and I was the big blind. Unfortunately for him, he limped or minimum raised his pocket Aces and could not let them go in the despite my re-raises. Fortunately for me, I flopped a straight, and then kept trying to move him out of the hand in case he had a flush draw or flopped a set. Double up time. Yeessssssssssss!

Our table kept getting short handed and the really weak players left, only to be replaced my a couple of agro players and one woman who was a local who appeared to be quite good. It was time to leave. However, there was no way I was going to leave without playing some slots since I had been successful at them last trip. Thanks to the Pegasus game I was waiting about 30 minutes to get on.
Not bad for a 40 cent button mash!
I headed back to Talking Stick for one final session yesterday. I had plenty of ups and downs but won again in poker and slots. You can't ask for much more than that.
This afternoon I plan to drive to the campus of Arizona State University just to look around, and then a session or two at Talking Stick. Tomorrow afternoon I am flying to Reno, where I will be playing some poker with Tony Bigcharles, meeting poker acquaintance Karen and hopefully getting to explore the area at least a little.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer 2015 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part III: A PICTURE OF MR. SUBLIMINAL!

Wednesday, June 3 - Saturday,day, June 6

Wednesday started off with something that would make the day great for me: my favorite meal at P.F. Chang's in Planet Hollywood -- Mongolian Beef. If you haven't tried this dish at P.F. Chang's, you are missing something special.
Being that I was already at Planet Hollywood, I decided to give the poker room a go. Although many people like this room, I never really have liked it. The "poker room" consisted of a bunch of tables right in front of the Earl of Sandwich shop. I guess this was due to the poker tournament series that was going on? I was losing a little and winning a little when I hit a decent streak. It got much better when I flopped a set and a decent player at the table didn't believe I had the goods. Score!

After cashing out a nice profit, I jumped over to the sports book to watch my Chicago Blackhawks face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game one of the Stanley Cup Final. Although the Hawks were behind, two quick goals in the third period gave them the first game. Yowsa!

I then headed to MGM to play some cash games with Rob and to meet and play with Mr. Ben. Although the company was excellent, my poker game seemed a little off. I began receiving a bunch of great hands in the first few orbits -- QQ, AK, QQ, QQ ... I was beginning to look like quite the aggro player. I chipped up but then lost a lot of my winnings when I perhaps overplayed one of the many QQ hands. Ah well ... I lost part of a buy in and left when Rob and Mr. Ben decided to leave.

I then decided to play at PH as I made my way back north up The Strip. Apparently, I had missed all the action of some guys who dusted of a few grand. Some at the table had profited from the bad players and had big stacks. I didn't enjoy the table I was at and should have just left. I ended up eventually dusting off a buy-in when I was outkicked for top pair. I decided to head to my old honey hole, Bally's, which had not been treating me well this trip and the previous one.

Things just got worse at Bally's. The table had some interesting characters. One guy looked to be a younger, thin version of Tony Bigcharles. He apparently got rivered by another guy at the table and wouldn't just forget it. He kept whining for an hour. The guy on my right spoke so loudly that I had to take both of my  hearing aids out. He went on and on about some beautiful young blond girl. And then there was the European guy and the middle aged Asian guy. Such was my late night table.

Eventually the blond came around, and as it turns out, she was the missing player at the table. She was young, very blond, very cute and attractive. She said her name was Starr. I could quickly see bu her play that she knew exactly what she was doing in every poker hand.

There came a point when I had an open-ended straight draw and a massive pot in front of me. The easy thing to do would have been to fold. However, I made the choice to gamble and boom - buy in gone. A short time later there was another opportunity to get in on a big pot with another open ended straight draw. Not feeling lucky the second time, I folded. Of course, the card I needed came on the turn after I folded. Bah! Time to call it a night.

On Thursday afternoon, I entered into a tournament at Treasure Island (TI) with Mr. Ben. After the first break I was dealt pocket Kings in late position. I put out a healthy raise and picked up three callers. The flop was Jack high and one guy went all in. Followed by a second guy. It was only an el cheapo tournament, but I figured "what the heck" and also went all in. A fourth guy joined us. It turned out that the first guy had a set of Jacks. The other hands were as I expected: A-J and 5-5. I lost my stack, and that was that.

I played the cash games at TI for awhile and then decided to go back to Bally's. My run-bad at Bally's continued. One guy chased his flush draw to the river ... and hit, of course. In another hand I flopped two pair, only to be second best to a guy who flopped a straight. Dayum!

At that point it was time to take a break from poker. I met up with Mr. Subliminal, and we devised a plan to raise money for our dinner. Subliminal brought an accordion and I "borrowed" a plastic tub used as a drum from one of the usual Strip vagrants. He was sleeping at the time.

Subliminal and I set up shop on the overpass outside Bellagio. We jammed to an amazing number of tunes from Fur Elise to Uptown Funk. The money just poured in. Despite being lobbied to continue to perform after a third standing ovation, we ditched our instruments in Subliminal's underground lair and headed to the Bellagio Café with our hard earned cashola.

As promised, I am now publishing FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME a picture of Mr. Subliminal. Ready? Drum roll, please ....................................
Of course I am on the RIGHT, u see ...
Subliminal went off to ... ummm ... do what ever Las Vegas homeless guys do when they have a full belly. I, meanwhile, decided to play some $1/2 NL at Bellagio. After getting up about $100 or so, I decided to call it a night -- my last full night in Las Vegas.
On Friday morning I checked out of The LINQ and headed to Mirage to get in a final cash session there since that poker room had been so good to me. It didn't disappoint as a table full of donators kept giving and giving. However, a few crusty old regulars soon entered the game, and I got rivered by one flush chaser for a big pot and was bet off an overpair in another hand. It was time to grab my winnings and go. And go I did, to ... Harrah's! I squeezed in one last session (another short one with a modest profit) while waiting for Rob to pick me up and drive me and my luggage to MGM.
Rob and I ate a final Rob-comped meal at TAP and were joined by none other than Pete P. Peters, who just arrived in town. After finishing our meal, we sat for what would be my final poker session of the trip. Rob and PPP were seated at the same table and I joined them after a short wait to transfer over. A little bit later, Chris Abramski arrived and got a seat, but wasn't able to get to our table before I had to leave.
Time ran out for me and I caught a cab to the airport. I had not taken a redeye flight for many years. It was wonderful! I slept almost the entire trip back to Chicago. Once there, I lounged in the AA Admirals Club, enjoying a leisurely breakfast while I waited for my commuter flight back home Saturday morning.
My oldest daughter picked me up at the airport in my convertible. While away, my wife reloaded hydraulic fuel in the motor for the top, allowing me to enjoy the open air ride on my way back home.
Although I had too many losing sessions to end up on the plus side this trip, I had one great time. My next trip to Las Vegas is already booked for October 4-9, partly to attend a national conference. I imagine that I will be able to somehow work in at least a few minutes of poker. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day of Extreme Emotions

Today is a day that I will long remember. My son, Rick, turned 21. Dinner with the family was at Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works. Rick started off drinking a bloody mary on an empty stomach, then ordered a flight of beers.
He waited on most of the beer until his food came. Used good judgment, eh?

Afterwards, we went back home for a little birthday cake. Rick wanted a carrot cake, and my wife's first from-scratch attempt was a tasty masterpiece.
So it seemed that all was well and good in the world. We were certainly a far cry away from the horrid day just over five years ago when Rick was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. After a successful operation at the Mayo Clinic, he has been cancer free for over five years. For that we are extremely thankful.

I was reminded today of something a resident of my hometown stated on Facebook sometime in the past two years. I had never met the man, but he frequently posted about things in the hometown, the past, family ... you know the routine. Then one day he stopped posting. Friends found out that his twin sons were involved in a serious auto accident. One son died and the other was horribly hurt. I am not sure of that son's status.

After several people posted notes of sympathy and the offering of prayers, the man finally made a post. In it he said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said something to the effect of "Your life can be rolling along, and then suddenly -- in an instant -- everything can change."

This morning I received a phone call from my good friend John who shared some horrible news: Another friend named Brian, who had been the best man at my wedding and with whom I recently reconnected on Facebook after more than twenty years, was in Brazil with his wife to attend a wedding of someone in her family. Brian's stepdaughter was to fly from the U.S.A. and meet them in Brazil. Unfortunately, she was the victim of domestic violence and was strangled to death by her live-in boyfriend. Brian's wife, who had gone to Brazil to share in a family wedding, now had to immediately return home to bury her daughter.

This is not the first time that Brian has had to deal with violence in his life. When Brian was young, his father was the victim of a brutal ax attack. Although his father recovered and lived for several years after the attack, significant brain damage was done, changing his personality from a kind man to one people sought to avoid. Talk about cruel twists of fate.

So even though I was happy to celebrate my son's 21st birthday, I was a sad man today, thinking of my friend, a gentle man who has had to endure more pain in his life than is fair or that I could ever even imagine.

"In an instant -- everything can change." Let's remember to appreciate what we have today, for there are no guarantees for tomorrow.

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Champions!

As a little boy, I lived and died with the Chicago Blackhawks. From having my brother Tom take me to meet Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to being one of Keith Magnuson's "bodyguards" when he visited the local Jewel grocery store, the Blackhawks have always been part of my life.

Chicago won no major professional sports championships from 1964 to 1985. In 1986, the Bears won Super Bowl XX and the streak was broken. Then the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan gave Chicago its first sports dynasty with six championships in eight years in the 1990's. Those were heady years.

There was a drought until the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. Then, after some terrible years, the Blackhawks misery owner died, his son took over, and the rest is history. Three championships in the past six seasons -- and in five years.

The Hawks had all that they could handle with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Look for the Lightning to be hoisting the Cup themselves sometime in the next few years.

So tonight - a celebration. Life is good. Very good.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer 2015 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part II

Monday, June 1 - Tuesday, June 2

Hoping that my final session at MGM on Sunday night/Monday morning had turned things around for me, I went to lunch full of enthusiasm. I ate at the relatively new Fulton Street Food Hall at Harrah's, which fairly recently replaced the below average café and also an Asian restaurant. The food hall was very nice, with a wide selection of delicious looking food: pizza, sandwiches, sushi, breakfast items, etc. It was definitely a nice spot for an enjoyable lunch.

Next stop: Harrah's poker room. I have overall had success there and feel pretty comfortable playing $1/2 no limit at that venue. I bought in for my usual $200. I waited patiently and finally got my opportunity when I was dealt AA in middle position. A guy in early position, who had been playing pretty conservatively, raised to $16. I re-popped to $40. He went in the tank for a bit and then announced "all in." I insta-called and his face just dropped. He had been playing tight, waiting for a premium hand, and finally got QQ. My pocket rockets held and I doubled up. I stayed for a little while but was anxious to play across the street at Mirage, so I cashed out with a decent profit. My quest to get even was building up steam.

I really like the new version of the poker room at Mirage. I know that the room is not the mecca for poker that it once was, but I am fine with it being a regular, decent room in the middle of the strip. The late afternoon crowd was a tad on the older side, but there were some younger guys in the mix. I do not remember that there were any terribly memorable hand in that session, but I again cashed out with a nice profit, edging my way back to respectability.

Dinner that evening was largely arranged by Alysia Chang. AC and I had dinner with Rob and Michelle -- @Snapple95 -- at the Lux Café in Venetian. I had never met Michelle in person before, although we have traded tweets and other communications. We came up with a great plan of all cashing in our comps to pay for the meal. I was shocked to find that I had almost $30 in food comps. Frankly, they must have been accumulated over several years, for I usually don't play much at Venetian.

As Rob usually writes after one of these meals, there were probably bloggers/poker players whose ears were ringing quite loudly and frequently as we exchanged tons of gossip, stories, impressions and other sordid information. A few years ago when I used my Las Vegas in-person time to ask a lot of personal and blunt questions to Very Josie and Carmel, Josie named my questioning "The Lightning Inquisition." I was two for two in getting women to divulge some of their inner secrets to me, then cry! I was, of course ..., a compassionate listener. I tried to break both AC and Michelle, but they were two tough cookies and didn't falter under the heat of the questioning!

I felt a tad uncomfortable, however seeing that it appeared that both AC and Michelle were somehow romantically intertwined with Tony Bigcharles. I believe AC had been involved in a whirlwind engagement and Michelle seemed to be the current apple of Tony's eye. And yes -- I can feel safe writing such things since I am 1,700 miles away and unable to receive any punches to the jaw or slaps to the face!

After a fun dinner, Rob and I headed to MGM to get in one final poker session. During my last trip to Las Vegas, I was unable to see my friend, Mr. Subliminal. I believe he might have been injured in some homeless people squatting rights dispute or the like, but he was free and able to come to MGM, where I introduced him to Rob. Mr. Subliminal and I were able to chat for a bit and talked about having dinner together sometime before I left town. With that he was gone, probably after seeing see MGM security officers in the area.

Unfortunately, I finished the MGM session down just a tad -- $50. It was time to call it a night.

On Tuesday it was time for me to catch up with one of my old online poker blogger friends, cmitch. Mitch is an exceptional tournament player and always seems to cash in WSOP events and make money at the WSOP cash games. He was one of two people I most hated to play against in blogger tournaments.

We tried to catch lunch at the Hash House A Go Go at Rio, but the waiting line was a mile long. We went to Gold Coast and decided on getting a light lunch at TGI Fridays. It was difficult to believe that the online tournaments we faced off in were already several years ago.

After lunch I decided to burn some time playing slots at Gold Coast. It was the one casino where I have had success playing video poker. I accumulated enough player points to get a small give-away gift: a small flashlight on a movable tripod. It sounds a little better than it actually is! I will mention in later before my report is over. I also had a first happen: I flushed my sunglasses down a toilet! I was using the restroom and just flushed the toilet when my sunglasses fell from my shirt straight toward the drink! I grabbed frantically to no avail. Unfortunately, the Gold Coast toilets are powerful monsters. Goodbye designer (ha!) sunglasses.

I caught the Rio/Harrah's shuttle back to Harrah's where I would begin my evening sessions. I was seated at what was my worst table during the trip. People were taking FOREVER to play their hands, and I lost about $50 calling raises with small and middle pocket pairs, thinking that my implied odds in those cases were off the boards. Unfortunately, nothing hit. I got frustrated with the slowness of the table and with two players who kept jawing at each other, so I asked for a table change. My new table was much different.

My new table was a little slow due to a guy who had been drinking quite a bit and was apparently hitting every flop and dominating the table. I was hoping to trap him if at all possible. He was actually quite fun, and we joked about the aloha shirt I was wearing. I told him that he could have it if he felted me.

My opportunity came when I was dealt pocket 9s and caught a set on a Jack-high flop. I raised and the initial raiser, the decent play on my left, just called. The turn was a blank and I raised substantially. The villain called. At that point I had only a little over $100 left and pushed all in after the river blanked. He called with, unfortunately for him, with A-J for top-top. Ding!

Shortly thereafter, a really obnoxious woman replaced the guy and sat next to me. She seemed to have a crush on one guy at the table who she had recently met. She kept directing conversation toward him, and he clearly was not interested. She did have some mad poker skills and amassed a large stack rather quickly. As for me, I couldn't stand her chatter anymore and cashed out, looking to play again across the street at Mirage.

The session at Mirage started out slow. I was not dealt anything and could not catch anything. Soon a new guy came to the table, bought in for $300, and basically announced that he was giving away his stack since his horse at the WSOP had made the final table of THE COLOSSUS. I was able to get a bit of it. He busted, and then his girlfriend played. I then witnessed perhaps the most amazing heater I have ever seen at the table. This girl, who appeared to be a competent player, was getting flushes, nut flushes, full house after full house ... It was amazing. She was dealt excellent cards and creamed virtually every flop. She won nearly every hand for 1/2 hour and built up a really nice chip stack.

The guy and girl left, only to be replaced by three guys who appeared to know each other. One guy claimed that he did not know how to play poker. His little game got old after 30 seconds. Unfortunately, AlaskaGal1 rotated to my table to deal and had to put up with this butthole. On one play he went all in and showed 7-2os! The guy knew what he was doing and increased his stack quite quickly. I was determined to take some of it.

I am not sure how it happened, but I somehow irritated him -- perhaps by winning a hand against him. He told me that the next time I threw chips in the pot that he would go all in. I believed him. I was ready. A couple of hands later I was dealt K-Q. I figured that it has to be in good shape vs a random hand. I threw two chips in the pot and, as expected, the villain went all in. The flop came K-rag-rag and the villain flipped over K-J! Ding! I had never purposefully slow rolled anyone before, but this was my first time to do it in a b & m casino. The turn and river were rags, and I slowly turned over my superior hand, winning with a higher kicker. The villain was not happy and started saying how I was a woman for waiting to make sure that his three-outer didn't hit. I considered my options and decided to just be quiet in the hope that I could get the rest of his stack. The table was pretty happy to see me piss off the jerk.

The jerk eventually left and normal play resumed. Then a gift from the poker gods appeared. I was dealt K-Q (lucky hand for that night!) and called a raise by a guy who seemed to be a decent player. The flop: 10-J-9 rainbow! The villain raised and I re-raised. He thought for a few seconds and announced that he was all in. I called and flipped over the nut straight. The turn and river were rags. He mucked his cards and counted out how much of his stack he would have to ship to me. All but about $25!

So here it was -- after my terrible start, I was almost dead even. I cashed out and went back to The LINQ, feeling like a returning conqueror.

COMING IN THE NEXT POST: Chicago Blackhawks, Planet Hollywood, Mr. Ben, Bally's and ... for the FIRST TIME EVER ... a picture of Mr. Subliminal!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer 2015 Las Vegas Trip Report - Part I

Saturday, May 30 - Sunday, May 31

My summer 2015 trip to Las Vegas would begin much differently than most of my other trips. Due largely to American Airlines and its lack of availability when using frequent flier miles, I selected a trip that would begin right in my town. The downside was that the flight was scheduled to leave Saturday evening and get into Las Vegas around 10:30 p.m. The initial plan was to crash for the night in Pete P. Peters's room at Caesars Palace. Unfortunately, PPP had to change his Las Vegas trip plans due to work, leaving me with no really good options for the night. Either I had to pony up $250 to stay Saturday night at The LINQ or else get a less expensive room somewhere else, knowing that I would only be in the room for a few hours maximum before having to check out. I was not renting a car this trip, so I felt like my options were more limited.

I decided to do whet seemed to be the best option: gamble all night until I checked into The LINQ sometime Sunday. In retrospect, maybe it wasn't such a great plan.

My flight got into Las Vegas early and I shuttled to The LINQ to check my bags. I already knew that poker room waiting lists were mega-long due to THE COLOSSUS going on at the WSOP that weekend, so I decided to go next door to Harrah's to check out the line. I was number 36 (ding!) on the list and decided to just wait it out there. I had to wait almost 1 1/2 hours to play.

My first poker session in Las Vegas was a disaster! The game was wild, which I liked. It featured a woman who was a dead ringer for Alanis Morissette -- a woman who was uber-aggressive and got caught bluffing twice. One guy trapped her when he flopped a set of 9s vs her pocket rockets, but she avoided being stacked by rivering an Ace. I wish I ran like that! She then walked away from the table and didn't return for what seemed like an hour. Very strange.

I got stacked when I raised with JJ and was three-bet by a big stack on the button. I had seen him play his big hands aggressively (the set of 9s I previously mentioned) and had also seen him shoot barrel after barrel with nothing. Yuck. The flop was all low cards. I checked. The villain bet and I shoved all in. He called. Oops. He flipped over the dreaded pocket kings. I started the trip down a buy in.

The table just didn't feel good to me, so I left to walk south down the strip. I stopped at the Flamingo to see how its refurbished poker room looked. Not bad. It was late and I took a seat. Big mistake. I had never really liked playing at Flamingo for a number of reasons. On this night, the table had a bunch of total morons who kept jabbering away and taking forever to play. I had a few draws that didn't make it and left the room down about $100. Maybe one day I might actually have a good experience at Flamingo.

Since the night had been turning into morning, I bummed around a bit and did things like checking out the refurbished poker room at Mirage. It looked nice. I waited for the buffet at Harrah's to open and used some of my dwindling comps to get some chow. Breakfast favorites of biscuits and gravy and bagels with cream cheese, salmon and capers woke me up and got me ready for what would hopefully be a better Sunday.

After breakfast, I attempted to check in early at The LINQ. No open rooms. Damn COLOSSUS! I went to my old honey hole, Bally's, to play some morning poker. Maybe it was the fatigue - I dunno. But I seemed to be impatient and just didn't like the table I was at. A few of the old farts (I guess that means guys older than me!) didn't like my aggression when I had hands. I ended up getting Aces cracked by 6-2 (almost The Grump!)  when a guy who button straddled called my raise. I guess I was just a chump and he outplayed me when his stealth hand flopped two pair on an innocent looking board. Stacked again! Did I suck or what?

I was getting weary and decided to see if I could check into The LINQ at 1:00 p.m. When I got back to The LINQ, the check in line was very long. I saw the VIP area and decided to check in there. I guess even those of us lowly Total Rewards platinum card holders with low tier scores can check in there, right? I was out in five minutes and all set. As a bonus (drum roll, please), I was notified that there was free water, soda and light snacks in the back of the VIP room. FREE Mountain Dew? angerisagift would certainly say "The GOOD stuff with real cane sugar and SHEEEEEIT!"

It was finally time for me to get some sleep immediately. Outside of some cat naps on the flights to Las Vegas, I had now been up about 36 hours and was ready to hit the sheets.

My room at The LINQ was really quite nice. The furnishings were not high-end, but the room was decorated quite tastefully. I liked it.

After getting some shuteye, I met Boob Rob at TAP in MGM for some dinner. Rob graciously used his comps to cover dinner, which was greatly appreciated. He didn't even attempt to charge me half the value (take notice, Tony)!

Rob and I played a session at MGM, but were rarely in a hand together. Interestingly, despite playing several hours together at MGM this trip, we never really faced off against each other.

Rob called it a night after the midnight promo drawings, but I was stuck and not full of energy. Of course, u can't leave a table STUCK, u see.

I got even and played until 5:00 a.m. I am happy to report that the MGM session was the first one in which I pulled a profit. Things were about to turn around. I hate to brag about my win rate of $.25/hour at MGM, but ...

So ... my first day and a half in Las Vegas was relatively uneventful and kind of boring. It was time for a healthy walk back to The LINQ and to try to get my waking/sleeping hours in order.

COMING IN THE NEXT POST: Winning poker sessions, dinner at the Lux Café with some familiar names, and a Mr. Subliminal sighting.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Weight

Those have met me in person would certainly not describe me as a skinny guy. But believe it or not, that was the way I grew up. thundering36, myself and are siblings were all relatively skinny kids. Things changed for me just after I turned 18 and was ready to begin college.
I've always had a huge appetite. However, in high school I was involved in sports, student organizations, working, ... I was always on the go. The sports, in particular, helped me keep a trim, athletic figure. But when I went to college, the sports dropped off quite a bit. I almost immediately put on the "freshman 15." On my first trip home after being away at college for a couple of months, I ran into a high school acquaintance whose first words to me were "lightning, you have a fat butt." And so it began.
In my last semester in college, I broke up with my long-time girlfriend. I looked at myself in a mirror and saw a guy with a bloated face and scraggly beard. I pretty much knew if I ever wanted to have a decent chance of seeing female flesh again that I would have to make an abrupt change in my life.
I lived in a fraternity house, which basically was there for all kinds of debauchery. I exercised in the morning and at night, and while my fellow frat members were drinking beer, I was drinking diet grapefruit juice. The weight starting coming off.
When I started grad school, I had to walk about a mile from my house to and from classes each day. I had little money, so the eating was sparse. I was fortunate to live with a guy who was into whole foods and cooking from scratch. Pretty soon I was in really great shape. I distinctly remember one day when one of my female friends pinched my butt. I almost cried, thinking that I had finally made it. I look at my son, who is almost 21 years old and lanky. Hard to believe that I was that way long ago.
As I began my professional career, I was the director of intramurals where I worked. That and little money again meant that I was trim and in excellent shape. However, changing jobs, getting married and having kids all seemed to suck away my energy as I got older. The capper was when I got involved in online poker and spent every evening playing in tournaments.
A few years ago, my weigh really ballooned up to the highest it had been. I joked to colleagues that I was a prime candidate for a heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, I was accurate. I had a mild heart attack and had stents placed in my heart. I got lucky. Unfortunately, too much damage had been done to another artery and a third stent was put in.
I joked that now I could begin again with all the bad habits that I acquired over the years since I had a relatively clean slate. Unfortunately, the combination of age, fatigue and stress from work fed into some laziness, and my weight began creeping back up. After this most recent Las Vegas trip, I weighed myself only to find that my weight had reached about the second highest ever -- behind the period when I had my heart attack. It was time for a change.
My wife recently lost between 30 and 40 pounds doing the Ideal Protein (IP) Diet. She put back on a few pounds and decided to go back to some IP principles. This time, however, she is joined by her husband. It was about time for me to get back on the stick.
I had some medication decreased which may have been causing me fatigue. Cutting out the carbs in my diet has been a struggle. But ... I have already dropped several pounds and am feeling better for it.
Last night was interesting. In my senior softball league I am actually one of the "young guys." I looked at the line up card last night. I was being moved from my familiar "extra fielder" position (usually playing right behind second base) to right field. Additionally, I was listed as the substitute runner for one of the guys on the team in case he got on base. So in the first inning lightning36 was actually pinch running for someone -- really!
Healthy food and sheeeeeit already today along with a walk in the rising morning heat. The direction is clear; I just have to continue to make positive strides toward the end destination.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Ready to Return Home

I have a few minutes before my flight from Las Vegas boards -- just, unfortunately as the weekend begins to heat up. I have been in Las Vegas for six nights and have had a very good time, especially when meeting with friends.

I will attempt to put up a trip post or two right away. I am still on vacation from work and will have plenty of time next week to write some things up.

I am taking a redeye flight tonight, which is unusual for me The good thing is that I will likely sleep all or most of the way, as I have not gotten much sleep the past week.

Onward and upward!