Monday, March 28, 2016

In Retrospect, a Most Magical Night: Rock to the Rescue - December 4, 2013

Sometimes the appreciation of an event comes much later than one would expect. Tonight I was thinking back to a magical concert in Bloomington, Illinois on December 4, 2013: Rock to the Rescue, a fund raiser for tornado victims in central Illinois. Most of the performers came from Illinois and were joined by a few that were not, such as Larry the Cable Guy and Ted Nugent. Some things that, in my mind, made the concert one to remember:

Gary Richrath, former lead guitar player for REO Speedwagon, joined the band on stage for a rousing rendition of Riding the Storm Out. Richrath left the band in 1989 and had not played with them for 24 years. It was his one and only performance with them, as he passed away on September 13, 2015.
One of several bands playing that night was Survivor. In an interesting set, Survivor performed with its two main lead singers -- original singer Dave Bickler, who went to high school in my home town, and his replacement, Jimi Jamison. Bickler was the voice on Eye of the Tiger while Jamison was the original singer on subsequent songs like I Can't Hold Back, High on You and The Search is Over. Sadly, Jamison passed away on August 31, 2014.

Styx also performed at the concert. I have seen Styx a few times, most notably for the Mr. Roboto tour in the early 1980's, and a couple of times more recently. I even bought a raffle ticket at the concert from Tommy Shaw's daughter! However, former lead singer Dennis DeYoung has been gone from the band since 1999. I finally got to see Dennis DeYoung in concert in ... Bloomington, Illinois earlier this month. It was worth every penny.

Another Illinois rock band, Head East, opened the show. When keyboard player Roger Boyd played the opening riff to Head East's most popular song Never Been Any Reason, it occurred to me that I had seen him do the same riff during my freshman year in college -- in 1977! Here is was, over 37 years later, and I was hearing the same player hit those notes. Who would have ever believed it?
The show was sold out for some time. However, I was able to snatch a great main floor seat about 16 hours before the concert when I looked by chance in the wee hours of the morning.

Funny how now, after over two years have passed, the concert means much more to me than it did that night I saw the performances. Some things you just can't really appreciate without the perspective of time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Unfortunate Race to the End

Racing usually involves two or more people or machines going against each other in a match of speed, each trying to be the first to cross the finish line. Be it track and field, NASCAR or drag racing, the competition and drama are all part of the fun of the race. Some races, however, aren't fun. Such is one "race" in my life.

2016 is proving to be a difficult year so far as the health of both my mother and mother-in-law continues to get worse. My mother turned 90 last October -- something which is kind of amazing in itself. Despite numerous health issues, she has already outlived my father by over 11 years. My family would never have believed that she would live this long. However, she has a diagnosis of "failure to thrive" and continues to slip away little by little. In visiting with her this past weekend, I was surprised to see that on last Sunday, which I imagine was not one of her "good days," she did not even remember that I stayed with her for four nights after Christmas so that thundering36 could get a respite from his care giver responsibilities. However, at least at most of the recent times that I have visited, she has been relatively okay as far as remembering her children's names and making sense with much of what she said.

My mother-in-law has, unfortunately, had a rapid downswing. Due to back and other problems, she is no longer able to walk. My wife spent this past weekend in northern Wisconsin helping to clean and sort out her mother's belongings since my mother-in-law is now in a nursing home for the duration of her life. Her dementia has caused her to have all sorts of strange delusions. Fortunately, she still recognizes her family, so at least there is that. However, my wife has had to deal with the difficult part of knowing that the mother she grew up knowing is fading further and further away.

The mother and child relationship is one of the greatest gifts that we have been given. As I think back over my life, I am fortunate to have known that no matter what happened to me in life, good or bad, there was always -- no matter what -- at least one person there who was on my side. I am sure that my wife has felt the same about her mother. And strangely enough, in probably the darkest hour in my life, the person who was there for me was my mother-in-law.

So, life goes on, day by day. And even as the race heads closer and closer to its conclusion, I think of how lucky I have been to have had the competitors in my life.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Illinois Pre-Primary Presidential Voting Guide

Feel sorry for me as I live in Illinois. We currently have no state budget for 2015-2016 because our corrupt Democrat-led group of state legislators cannot come to an agreement with our rich, destruction-bound Republican governor. We are deeply in debt because the state did not, for many years, put in its share of pension money. I've contributed my share every month for over 25 friggin' years, yet the legislators try to place the blame on guys like me. So really, at the risk of sounding poorly -- fuck this fucking state and its political crooks. I hope I get the hell out of here before they steal my pension money. But ... I am still here right now, ready to vote in tomorrow's primaries. My "expert" analysis of the presidential candidates:

I will not be voting in this primary as I still cling on to a few of the old Republican values. My party has largely deserted guys like me, so at some point, unless the Libertarians make a major move, I might be part of the evil side. Sigh

Bernie Sanders
My kids, poor college students, dig his socialist views. Sure -- redistribute money so everyone has some, comrade. It won't sound nearly as good to my son, who is completing his B.S in Math and Computer Science, once he lands a sweet job paying him decent money for all the thousands I dumped into his University of Illinois education. However, you have to love how a grandfatherly old guy like Bernie has energized young people. He is a good man, and our country could certainly do much worse -- like electing one of the many dildoesque candidates still in the race.

President Hillary Clinton
Difficult to see her not winning this fall's election. She is super smart and has extensive administrative experience. Unfortunately, I find her to be morally bankrupt, never finding a lie she can't love. Although I disagree with her politically, I do respect that she could probably run the country about as well as anyone. She needs to hope that one of her many crimes is not discovered before she croaks -- that she and husband Bill arranged to have Vince Foster killed. Yeah -- laugh now, but remember where you heard it. I can't believe that I might vote for her this fall.

I used to be proud to be a Republican. Not anymore. I have consistently had moderate Republican views for most of my life. Now my party has been overtaken by the radical right loonies. Instead of wanting government out of people's lives, they now want to interject God into everything. Tons of racism and hate and simmer right below the surface. What is a moderate to do?

Ted Cruz
This guy appears to be quite a prick. Apparently the people with whom he works don't like him much. He appeals to the fundamental religious right evangelical crowd. A lot of bluster about all the things he will change immediately once he becomes president. If only things were that easy. Maybe he has a master plan for expediting the removal of millions of illegal aliens in a week. I think he would try to do it.

Marco Rubio
I had high hopes for this guy, but he was a disappointment throughout the primaries. Perhaps his youth and inexperience were really showing. I think he is fundamentally a good guy who will be back in the future. I don't agree with all his views, but for some reason he gives me hope. I hope he isn't a flash in the pan. I wouldn't be surprised to see him elected president sometime in the next twenty years.

Donald Trump
What the heck is this guy doing running anyway -- bored with all his wealth? Full of bravado and bluster, he is an embarrassment to decent men everywhere. Even the indecent ones. Do you want your president calling ANY woman a pig? He is appealing to the angry, disillusioned crowd who revel in his bluntness and honesty. A thinly veiled hatred seems to be his calling card. Not a whole lot of substance beneath his mantra to "Make America great again." Go back to reality television.

John Kasich
Here is the best of the remaining presidential candidates. He appeared to be the only adult in a recent Republican debate. Unfortunately, he appears to have the personality of a wet noodle. He doesn't seem to have the gift of inspiration like some other candidates have. But ... he is experienced and at least realistic. I don't agree with all his views, but I get the feeling that he would be a decent head of state and executive administrator. He is so far behind that he has probably sunk himself, which is really too bad. Still, he gets my vote tomorrow. Keep hope alive ...

Trump wants to build that huge wall between the U.S.A and Mexico. Perhaps we need to concentrate on building a wall between the U.S.A and Canada to keep in all the people who will be ready to emigrate once one of these chumps gets elected. God Save the Queen!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ten Years Ago Today ...

It is hard to believe that it was ten years ago that I made this blog on Blogger and posted my terribly insightful first post: "Testing -- first post." It was as brief as Rob's posts are long!

In these past ten years, I have written 1,144 posts and the blog has been viewed over 235,000 times. During the heyday of online poker, I used to post several times a week. Now, however, as I am really more limited in time and energy, mostly due to the demands of my job. I'm sure aging ten years is a factor, too.

One of the unanticipated benefits of the blog is having a ten-year record of my life -- activities, successes, disappointments, feelings and thoughts. It has also help to make and friendships -- some that have pretty much come and gone, and others that form the basis of what I consider some of my best friends today. I look back on these past ten years and treasure many memories. I am thankful for the support and encouragement received during the tougher moments, especially when faced with my son's cancer diagnosis and my heart attack.

I had planned to write a special post for today, but, being a poker degen, I drove to the riverboat to play poker last night after going to a concert. I tooled in to my driveway at about 5:00 this morning and slept for most of the day. I'll wait until the time is right. I still might post a few favorite old posts this month.

For today, I will just say that I am very thankful for many things -- for the life I have been given, the family I grew up with and the one I have now, the gifts God granted me in helping me be successful in my career, and the many treasured friendships I have made. It is time to begin the next ten years. Let's do it!

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Favorite Las Vegas Trip of All Time -- 10 Year Anniversary Special

I have made somewhere around 100 trips to Las Vegas in my adult life. Perhaps the most fun was one in June 2012. I have consolidated several posts into one here. It includes several friends of old and today. Enjoy!


What -- I am up posting at 8:00 a.m. while in Las Vegas? And this is even after a night of sleep!

Nothing eventful, thank goodness, on the trip here. I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Going through the TSA line, however, I was selected at random, yanked to the side, and my laptop was given the swab test.

Check in at Bally's was quick and easy -- just the way I like it. No -- keep your mind out of the gutter!

Met two bloggers in person for the first time. The first was balt999, who is also a dealer at Bally's. I had played at Ron's table before, but did not know he was a blogger at that time. I also met Rob from Rob's Vegas and Poker Blog. Rob and I played some cards at Bally's, had dinner together, then went to his favorite place, the "BSC" poker room, and tossed a few cards there. Of course, knowing full well Rob's aversion to guys who were their caps backwards, I made sure I wore one just like that for a bit in his honor. We had some great conversations, and I am sure at least a few ears were ringing!

I hit the wall at BSC and decided to call it a night early. I did sneak in one more quick sessions at Bally's before going to bed.

The first day was one of ultimate grinding. I actually made a small profit in every session, even if that profit was only a few dollars. Still, being ahead is better than being behind.

If anyone in Las Vegas wants to connect up with me while I am here, send me a tweet: @lightning36.

Onward and upward!


Not having either the time or the inclination to make a looooong blog post like this guy, I am, however, able to at least briefly note some things that have been happening the past two days in Las Vegas.

Day 2 (Thursday): Met koala, a member to the TBC “head patters,” at Harrah’s and had lunch together. It was quite a great time, reviewing the history of Tony and talking about some of Tony’s latest happenings and his upcoming homecoming in Las Vegas. Koala, like most of the lone poker players and or bloggers I have met, was really great in person – very personable and very funny. We had a great time!

I got in several hours of poker. Koala and I played at Harrah’s, where he did quite well and I finished with a small loss. I then went to The Mirage, where my table quickly disintegrated soon after I got there. I lost a little bit also. Things just never seem to go well for me at The Mirage. I then returned to Bally’s (naturally), played more poker, and then met Man in Black for dinner. I had met MIB in passing on my last trip to Las Vegas. He has been through some difficult times but recently got a new job and is getting some important things back on track. As always, the conversation at mealtime was great. This has turned out to be the social trip of all time for me!

Later that night we were hoping to meet Carmel, who earlier in the evening had sent me this great direct tweet: “You rat bastard.” It turns out that she was going to surprise me at Bally’s but got a ticket driving there. Of course, I was to blame! Unfortunately, due to my getting his twitter name wrong and Carmel’s fondness for libations, we never met up. However, MIB and I must have looked so pathetically desperate while waiting for Carmel that we were approached for “dates” by an elderly hooker. As I texted Pokah Dave, “I wouldn’t screw her with your dick!” Oh and yes -- when I tweeted about the incident, referring to the woman of way too many evenings as a “random woman,” I received a few texts informing me that she was a prostitute. Thanks to those people for explaining to me what a hooker is. Having been to Las Vegas more times than I can remember, I had always wonders who those skanky looking women were who flirted with me in the wee hours of the morning. Gee – I never knew …

I ended the evening playing more cash games at Bally’s, and then finally called it a night. Actually, it was the early morning.

Day 3 (Friday): Woke up late and had a brisk walk down the strip to get in some exercise. I then caught a bus to downtown and registered for a deep stack tourney at the Golden Nugget. I was surprised during the tourney to get a tap on the shoulder from Memphis MOJO, who was also playing in it. Unfortunately, MOJO got felted on a big play and was out while I played short stack ninja. After 6 ½ hours of play and on the final hand before the dinner break, I woke up with A-Q and pushed all in against a raise and a call. The original raiser said “I am giving you a gift” and called. Unfortunately, a big stack who had already called the first raise also said he was all in. The nasty scene: my A-Q vs. A-J (original raiser) and A-A (big stack that originally smooth called the raise). Shit! The big stack knocked us both out.

I then headed to Rio to have dinner with cmitch and Shabazz Jenkins, two really tough online tournament players. It was interesting as Shabazz was at the end of his trip, I was in the middle, and cmitch just arrived a few hours earlier.

After dinner I headed back to Bally’s and played some poker at the same table with Very Josie, Poker Grump, and Rob’s Vegas Poker. The game deserves an entire post in itself. I made a totally donkey play against Grump (there were reasons, of course) and Josie was a total agro wild woman at the table. I was so card dead (and trapped at an aggressive table with the guys on my right button straddling my every blind) that I was finally forced to switch tables. Later on in the evening I finally got a few cards at a table I could exploit and ended the session with a nice profit.

I have gotten to the point where I play very few live tournaments. I look at this day, for example, and see most of my day wasted in a tournament where I failed to cash while losing a buy in. I much prefer the flexibility of cash games. I will therefore most likely take a pass on the big All Vegas Poker tournament on Saturday but will play in the much more intimate private tournament for “Friends of TBC” Sunday night.

Cheers! Las Vegas

Days 4 & 5: Bad Beats and a Pissed Off Blogger

Day 4 in Las Vegas (Saturday, June 30) started off with a nice lunch with Very Josie, followed by a session of cash games at Bally's. The day, however, was most notable for the All Vegas Poker tournament that was scheduled for the evening. I was not sure if I wanted to play in it. It sounded like it would be fun, but I just didn't want to play in tournaments three days in a row. So ... I did go to the Mirage, where the tournament was held, to socialize. I got to meet several AVP people/bloggers including grrouchie, Lindy, Stump, and the lovely Carmel. Carmel, who earlier had tweeted that I was a "rat bastard," showed me the reason for her tweet: the traffic ticket she got while driving to Bally's the night before to try to surprise me. Well ... excuse me!

When the tournament started Carmel and I headed to Casino Royale (home of $1 Michelobs and margaritas) and had a few drinks while getting to know each other -- which Carmel called my "interrogation" of her. Well, with all the provocative things she had written on her blog, I sure had lots of questions. We then went back to the tournament for some additional socialization, and then went our separate ways as I decided to play some cash games.

I first went to Harrah’s and was doing well when a player at the table saw his A-A go down in flames to Q-9. The guy just would not let it go, muttering nasty stuff to the guy who cracked the Aces and snapping at others at the table having a good time. I finally decided that I did not want to continue in that atmosphere and headed to ... where else, but Bally's! I had a great session there, but unfortunately won one hand I would have preferred to lose. I got in a hand with 5-5 and was excited to see a flop of 5-6-5! There were two diamonds on the board which led me to hope I might get a nice score on the hand. One other player was in, and he obviously had a good hand. I three bet after the flop and he came along. He even called my big value bet on the river. At the end of the hand, I saw the mixed news: good news -- I won a big pot; bad news -- the other player flopped a straight flush draw. If he had hit his two outer on the turn or river, we would have hit the bad beat jackpot. My share would have been either $4K or $5K! Ah well ... at least I cashed out with a nice score.

Day 5 (Sunday, June 24) -- the day I would like to forget -- started out nice and early. Surprisingly, I was up at an early Las Vegas hour for me: 8:30 a.m. I puttered around the room for a bit and texted Very Josie to see if she wanted to grab some breakfast or brunch. No answer. I figured she was sleeping late. A little later I called and texted again. Still no answer. I headed down to play some cash games and heard from Rob, asking about lunch plans. I thought I might hear from VJ soon, so I waited. After not hearing anything, I contacted Rob to tell him it would just be me and arranged to meet him at his famous "BSC" (Big Strip Casino), where Rob was taking care of lunch -- yes!. He would not be ready for some time, so I stayed a few more orbits at the cash game. Right before it was time for me to leave, I had a few free hands before the blinds came to me. On a previous trip, I stayed and played one last hand ... and lost an $800 pot! Wanting to break the curse, I stayed for the last free hands. I was dealt K-10 and called a raise. The flop: A-Q-J! The action was on me and I threw out a pot sized bet. The original raiser said "all in" and I instacalled. He flipped over A-Q and was shocked to see that I had flopped the straight. However -- and you know what is coming next -- he was happy to see that the turn was an Ace, taking a decent chunk of my stack. Strike one. Two hands later I was off to the BSC.

After lunch at BSC, it was getting late in the afternoon. We had still heard nothing from VJ, and I was concerned. We had heard that TBC and Pete Peters were playing poker at the Flamingo, so Rob and I headed that way. I asked Rob, who was driving, if he could stop in Bally's first so that we could check on VJ. We tracked down a hotel security guy to ask if he could do a wellness check on her. He called up to her room and spoke with her, then handed the phone to me. She was pretty nasty to me on the phone (excuse me all to hell for being concerned about her) and I let loose with some pretty foul language. I was pretty hot. Strike two.

Rob and I went to Flamingo and met up with TBC and Pete. Rob had never met Tony, and was in for his first taste of the "TBC Experience." Tony wanted me to drive him downtown, but I did not have a car. He turned to Rob and said "Aren't you Rob? Do you have a car?" Rob agreed to drive Tony downtown while I sat next to Pete at a $1/$2 table. I was not getting much in the way of cards but was able to chip up a little. Josie came a short time later and soon it was time to head toward the Riviera for the private tournament that had been arranged for supporters of TBC. We were beginning to rack up but I still had a few free hands. I looked down to see A-A. I bet and got a few callers. The flop contained three low cards with two spades. The other players checked, and I put out a bet of about 2/3 the pot. One player who had butchered a hand against VJ earlier and had checked when action originally came to him after the flop said "all in." I was shocked. He impressed me as being a really crappy player. I was 90% sure I was ahead of him. I tanked for a couple of minutes and then thought "I didn't come to Las Vegas to play like a pussy," and called. The turn was a spade. The player turned over his cards to show that he hit his middle flush. My whole buy-in plus extra mobney was gone. Strike three.

On the outside I appeared pretty calm but on the inside I was going berserk. I just walked away from the table and wandered around the casino for awhile. Two nasty beats while getting ready to leave that made a four-figure difference in my bankroll plus feeling like I had been shit on by a good friend was just too much.

I finally decided to get in some exercise and walk down to Riviera. I got there just as the tournament was supposed to start. Needless to say, I was not very good company. To make matters worse, the other of the two tournament tables had all the people I knew. Mine had Rob, Poker Grump, and other players I had not met. Fortunately, I was next to Cool Dave, who really made the table fun. During the first break when VJ was away from her table, I had a little fun with the others at the table that she had been running over. I took out a vial of medicine I had been carrying and acted like I has going to slip a micky in her drink. I then pretended to hock a loogie in it. Or did I pretend ...

I did not last long in the tournament and played a little HORSE afterwards. I got a sub sandwich and decided to head back up the strip since I certainly wasn't very good company. I sent a couple of tweets the next morning to apologize for being such a downer. Unfortunately, one did not go through. For those who were at the TBC tournament, I do apologize for being a curmudgeon (I was told that Grump and g(r)rouch(ie) were already taken -- curmudgeon was suggested).

I headed to Bally's (natch) to lick my wounds. I started feeling a little strange before I headed to Bally's. Little did I know that things were about to get even worse the next day.

Las Vegas Days 6, 7, 8: Excuse Me While I Run to the Bathroom

Day 6 (Monday, June 25) proved to be one of the poorer days I have ever had in Las Vegas. I met up with Very Josie and we walked to Aria to have lunch. Although I had not eaten anything that morning, I was not particularly hungry. I stuck mostly to healthy things, with, of course, a mashed potato tribute to TBC. I was starting to feel a little punk. However, I was a master chef that afternoon as I grilled Josie like never before. The great interrogator strikes again!

As we were finishing lunch Rob called to ask about afternoon plans. We invited Rob and his car (he he) to pick us up and go with us Golden Nugget, where TBC and koala were playing. Josie had a dinner date with TBC late that afternoon. Rob and his car are very nice to have around sometimes!

Josie seemed to be doing pretty well at the Nugget, so I thought I would have a little fun with her -- bluff her off a hand (she doesn't let go easily but knows a big raise from me means huge hand), and then show the bluff. Well, things didn't work out as planned. Ms. Run Goot called my raise with pocket Jacks and hit a set on the turn. When action came to me I fired out a big bet, expecting her to fold. She then raised me and I hollywooded like I actually had a hand and had a big decision to make. Bah!

Josie eventually went to her dinner with Tony, leaving Rob, koala, and me at the table. I got a whole lot o nuttin.When the dinner was over, Josie had to leave to catch her flight. By this time I had been feeling even worse and asked Rob if he could drop me off at Bally's. I was hoping that I would feel well enough to play a few hands, but instead went immediately to my room where I felt the full effects of my illness over the next several hours. My flight was scheduled to depart at 11:40 a.m. the next morning, and I knew there was no way I could be on that flight. I called Southwest Airlines and was able to reschedule my flight home for a day and a half later. I went to sleep and planned on extending my hotel stay the next morning.

Day 7 started out with a call to Caesars Entertainment. I was given what I thought was a high rate for an extra midweek day, so I decided to check in person at the desk. I was given a lower rate by the woman working platinum check in/check out, and she suggested I speak with a host to see what could be done (I already had several comped days during my stay). The host gave me a great rate for the extra day, and I ventured out in search of some food and some Gatorade. I ate breakfast at La Salsa Cantina in the Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood, and chugged down a quart of Gatorade. I got one more for the road and headed back to my room for more sleep -- for I had to sleep immediately!

I had gotten a message from Carmel offering to take me out to dinner if I felt well enough, and in the early evening I ventured to the Bally's poker room. Feeling somewhat better, I met Carmel later that night for what proved to be an interesting and fun evening. Before we left Bally's, however, I was begged by some guy to have my picture taken with him.

Carmel and I ate at a great place in Chinatown -- Hue Thai's Sandwiches -- having some Banh Mi (house special and chicken) sandwiches and Tom Yum soup. It was great! Afterwards we rode around Las Vegas and stopped in at Ellis Island to check out the poker room. The tables were covered and no one was anywhere around, so we went back cruising around when Carmel decided to stop at the Green Door - a swingers club! Did I want to see the dungeon?  Hmmm ... carrying a substantial amount of money, still feeling ill, not wanting to end up like so many of the rubes I had seen on CSI -- uhhh -- NO!

We drove down to the Fremont Street Experience and had a great time bumming around. Unfortunately, koala and Tony had already gone to bed. However, there were plenty of interesting things to keep us occupied.

The line, was, I am sure, long and I did not feel up to it, but we decided that on my next trip to Las Vegas we would for sure try the zip line on Fremont Street.

The illness still had a hold on me, however, and I finally had my batteries worn almost all the way down -- meaning that I must again sleep immediately. Carmel dropped me off at Bally's -- the end to a very fun night.

Day 8 -- my extra day -- was the day to get in a little shopping. I bought a dozen decks of casino used playing cards for my home game friends and a few other gifts, then met Rob and his car back at Bally's. He was going to join me for my final poker session after checking out, and I told him that I would like to play on his turf, the BSC. This final session included the story I posted about earlier -- the group of women who wanted Rob to take a picture of their cleavage -- and some expert poker play by Rob, who clearly was in his element at the BSC. As for me -- tons of draws that never got there. Meh. So much for poker on this trip.

Although my flight was delayed, it ended up getting into Chicago only a little later than planned, shortly after midnight. I did not feel up to driving the over two hour trip back home, so I instead stayed overnight at my Mom's house in the far west suburbs. Home would have to wait one more day.

One final Las Vegas post is still to come to tie up a few things and talk about some people I need to mention.

Las Vegas Odds and Ends

Wow -- I have been home from Las Vegas for over a week now. Despite all the posts, the blog comments, text messages and tweets, there are still a few thoughts I wanted to get down before finally moving on.

** I would like to apologize to Mr Subliminal. I had been wanting to meet this self-proclaimed homeless Las Vegas poker player (you mean there are more than one?) for some time. Unfortunately, we were not able to connect up as I inadvertently deleted his phone message and then got lost in a bit of a haze toward the end of my trip after I got sick. I hope to be back in early September. Perhaps we'll get a chance to tip a brew or two then.

** One blogger I failed to mention in my earlier posts was ck -- the Black Widow of Poker. Carol came out to the Nugget to wish good luck to me and Memphis MOJO while we were playing in our deep stack event. I did get a chance to see her for a minute later that evening, but certainly I wish things had worked out a little better so we could have tossed some cards together at Binions.

** In my reports I failed to mention finally getting to meet balt999. Ron is a dealer at Bally's and did deal at least a few hands to me. It was nice getting to meet Ron although he was usually working when I saw him. Ron's wife is a great tournament player and will likely be featured in an upcoming post at Ron's blog. I won't say anymore than that.

** Home court advantage -- I was going to sign in on the waiting list at Bally's when the brush said "You're Chad C, right?" The wink then let me know the story -- Chad C didn't answer his call for a seat so I became Chad C and was able to play immediately. Yes -- being a visiting regular and being friendly at the table does sometimes get you a perk or two!

** While letting VJ use my laptop (Uhh -- the computer this time!) I walked around and ran into a co-worker at Bally's. Yes, sometimes the world is amazingly small.

** Mucho thanks to Rob for the taxi service he provided throughout the trip. No need to paint your car yellow, but you and your car will be in Las Vegas the first week of September, right?

** Even with a week's stay, it seemed like there was not nearly enough time to do everything I would have liked to. I am already looking forward to my next trip -- tentatively scheduled for September  3-7. Hey -- that is less than two months away. Yessss!!

Misc Las Vegas Pictures

Great Picture of Very Josie ... in my hotel room ... he he

Rob (Rob's Vegas and Poker Blog) enjoying our meal at ... BSC!

Two cuties -- Very Josie and Carmel

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Remembering My Dad: A Repost of a Repost of a Post from Long Ago

In keeping with my plans for celebrating ten years of this blog, I am reposting one of my favorite posts -- one that had to do with my father and a time when I needed a car badly. As a side note, those of us who have lost parents know that these memories become even more important and cherished as time goes by.I had just gotten to work at the 7-Eleven store in the next town. I was working the evening shift, as I recall.

The year was 1980. I had completed my B.A. degree in the spring and was working at 7-Eleven during the summer to save some money for grad school, which I would be starting in the fall. My car, a junky 1973 Pontiac Catalina, had been totaled the previous January when some idiot blew through a stop sign and drove across four lanes of traffic to hit me with a Chevrolet El Camino. Although my Catalina was a tank, so was the El Camino. My Catalina didn't stand a chance. The complete driver's side of the car was dented in. Thank goodness it was a big sturdy car or I might not be here writing this.

I did without a car for five months. However, I needed a car for grad school since part of my first semester responsibilities would include traveling to many elementary, junior high, and high schools in central Illinois to give intelligence tests as part of my training in Clinical Psychology.

The Catalina had come from a Lincoln-Mercury dealership a few towns away. My dad talked with his "buddy" -- Freddie -- a typical used car dealer, to set up the deal. I bought the Catalina for $500, only to see it need a new tranny a few months after completing the sale. I did not want to go back to Freddie to see what other mechanical marvel he would try to unload on me.

My dad and I decided to look at the local AMC dealership in the next town. We saw a car that looked just about right -- an early 1970's Matador. It was white with blue interior and seemed to be in great condition. It was selling for $1000. We examined the car pretty closely and seemed to really like it. But for some reason which I do not recall, I didn't close the deal. Instead, I had my dad drive me to work.

Once at work, I started fretting about the car, thinking that I should have bought it before someone else got it since it was a good deal. I was beating myself up when lo and behold, my dad pulled into the 7-Eleven parking lot with the car. I went outside and he told me that he was worried that someone else might buy it, so he went to the bank to get money, then went to the dealership to buy it. Needless to say, I was surprised as hell but happy to have a car for my grad school years. The car gave me two years of semi-reliable transportation.

I recall this story with tears in my eyes since today marks the fifth anniversary of my dad's death. This story reminds me of all the small things that parents do to help their kids -- things which often are not appreciated until many years later or until people have kids of their own.

Shortly before my dad passed away, he gave me his 1992 Honda Accord, which he could no longer drive, so that I would have a winter car and could keep my Mustang convertible in the garage during the cold, snowy weather. I recently gave the car to my sister-in-law -- someone who could really use it. However, I did keep one item from my dad's car -- his trusty riding companion, Bongo, one of the Beanie Babies. Bongo now rides with me everywhere in my Mustang. Today, however, Bongo gets a special treat -- he is sitting in my office watching me work, just as I imagine my dad is doing somewhere, looking out for me as only a father could ...

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Lightning Strikes Blog 10th Birthday is Just Days Away

Believe it or not, the end of this week marks ten years since I began the Lightning Strikes blog. The blog began merely as a vehicle for me to participate in an online blogger tournament series that had a buy-in to the WSOP Main Event as first prize (I came in 4th btw).
During the heyday of online poker, posting almost every day in your blog was required to keep up with the cool kids. I wrote of online tournaments, actual hand histories, Las Vegas trips, and even regular news from the greater poker world. As the online poker crazed died down, thanks to the U.S. government, I began writing less about poker and more about general life issues. Never did I suspect that one day I would actually hit the ten year mark.

So ... over the next few days I am going to republish some of my personal favorite posts, pictures and screenshots. At least the ones that I will select are ones that stand out in my feeble memory for one reason or another. Some will deal with family, some with poker, some with Las Vegas trips. Going on the assumption that I will get done what I would like to do, I hope to publish a special Tenth Anniversary post that I have been mulling in my mind for several months. Stay tuned.
A freeroll that won me a $2,000 WSOP package. Sweet. So I wasn't a total tournament dork?

Monday, March 07, 2016

I Don't Know How to Lov(ie) Him ... or Do I?

So today Lovie Smith was officially introduced as head football coach of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. Yes -- the same Lovie Smith who once coached the Chicago Bears and, more recently, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What do I make of this?

My niece's husband, a southern gentleman who was born in and breathes the SEC, snarkily remarked on Facebook the other day, "I didn't know that Illinois had a football team" when I posted that then-coach Bill Cubit had been fired. It is difficult to disagree.

The University of Illinois has been a mess for many years. Outside of admissions scandals, hiring former terrorists, university administrators trying to get around FOIA requests, administrators being canned and getting involved in a messy "he's hired -- no, he's not" controversy, the Athletic Department has had its share of problems. Lawsuits by former athletes. Coaches and Athletic Director fired. Poor performances by the revenue generating sport teams. A major university that loves its sports, yet can't seem to get back on track with the major teams like football and basketball.

I must admit, I was never really a Lovie Smith fan during the time he coached the Bears. Although he had some success, there was always a feeling that the Bears could have done better with their personnel. He just seemed to be lacking that certain something that could move the Bears up to the next level. Yes, they went to a Super Bowl, losing to the Indianapolis Colts, and twice were the NFC champions. But missing the playoffs five out of six years doomed Smith's career in Chicago. There was a lot of frustration in those seasons.

But now it is time to be realistic. I don't think that anyone doubts that Lovie knows his stuff on defense. Who could the Illini possibly attract to be its head football coach? Lovie Smith is definitely more than I and most fans would have expected. He may have worn out his welcome with the Bears and the Bucs, but he has a chance to turn around a floundering Illini team. The twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, current students, alumni and supporters across the country are excited. The smell of change is in the air.

Welcome to the University of Illinois, Lovie!
Lovie at the Illini Union today