Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Poker in 2019: Good Start at the Boat

Prior to the beginning of 2019, I had never kept consistent records of my poker wins and losses. In the past, some players were amazed at how I could play poker and not keep close track. Well ... in truth, I just didn't care a whole lot, being a recreational player. I did keep track of my wins and losses on some of my Las Vegas and other trips, but I never kept a comprehensive accounting of my poker play. However, as I have been able to play significantly more poker over the past 18+ months, I figured that it was about time for me find out the truth. Am I a losing player? Am I a winning player? Am I the new version of the old poker blogger Waffles -- the ultimate break even player?

I consulted with poker buddy Pete P Peters, who recommended a poker app to me. Thus, beginning on January 1, 2019, I have kept careful track of my in-person poker play, which so far has consisted of $1/2 NL and $1/3 NL Texas Hold 'em games.

Some findings so far:

1) I am 4 for 4 in cashing in sessions in my closest poker room, the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL. The games at Par-A-Dice are kind of like a public home game, with the tables largely populated by regulars. This, of course, helps when you are familiar with the players and how they play. I am running a tidy profit at the boat and certainly hope that ir continues.

2) I am 0 for 2 in cashing in sessions at Central Illinois Charitable Games. I ran a little bit better in 2018, but have gotten slaughtered there so far in 2019. I've gotten pocket Aces cracked and lost set over set, lost several hands when I had the second best hand, and probably played a little reckless due to some frustrations. I have not gone back for almost six weeks since I was not having success. Cash games are available approximately two Saturdays each month.

3) I came back from Las Vegas with the slimmest of profits over a great number of hours of play. My biggest profits were at Trooper Thursday at Westgate and at Harrah's. My biggest losses were at Mirage and Bally's.

So ... I will end the first two months of poker in 2019 with an acceptable profit. I will continue to  add in subsequent poker sessions throughout the year. I did not particularly like the poker app I was using, and was surprised to see that after entering a certain number of cash sessions and tournament sessions (when I ran out of free cash sessions I added additional ones as tournament sessions), I would be required to pay a fee to add additional cash sessions and another fee to add additional tournament sessions. Since I didn't particularly like the app - no thank you. Instead, I will do as poker friend Luke Johnston suggested and just put my totals on a spreadsheet. I might not have the fancy per hour info and the like, but at least I'll know where I stand in the calendar year.

Are there others like me -- players who have chosen to live in blissful ignorance of what the true numbers are?

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

That Hand Still Sticks in My Craw Ten Years Later

Today was a really slow day at work. I got a little bored and decided to check out what I was doing poker-wise a long time ago. Strangely enough, a post I published exactly ten years ago from today featured a hand that hit me hard at the time -- the hand below from my report of poker at Bally's. It was the first time that I remembered getting sucked out on really badly in a live game for a pot of $700+. After I left the table in almost total shock, I got out my flip phone, sat in the corner near where Nosh is now in Bally's (the poker room was in a different location from where it is now), and called my wife, feeling about as discouraged from poker as I had ever been.

I'm sure that when my brother thundering36 (AKA the King of Komps) reads the post, he will remember that trip to Las Vegas because of the $700 in faux charges that were added to the Bellagio hotel bill, which was under his name! And although at the time I wrote that Bellagio did "a fine job in taking care of the situation," it ended up not being so. As I recall, the folks at Bellagio kept questioning thundering36, thinking that somehow our nephew  and I were responsible for the $400 dinner bill and misc charges. People who know me know the likelihood of me running up a $400 dinner bill! Worse yet, thundering36 still had to deal with this charge and American Express months after we left.

So ... enjoy a little lightning Las Vegas poker from ten years ago!

Las Vegas Trip Report -- January 24-28, 2009
Time to finally report on my last trip to Las Vegas. I usually do my reports right after the trip, but a cruise to the Bahamas right after my Las Vegas trip (I run goot) set me back a little. It is hard to believe that my visit was already a month ago. Let's see how much my aging brain can remember.

The trip was originally contemplated since Harrah's was actually giving away free nights to even lowly poker players. When I mentioned the free rooms to my brother Jim, the King of Komps, he checked his e-mail and found several great offers. He strung together two offers for a total of six nights -- three at Bellagio and three at Encore -- gratis. He also got $350 of free slot play, but I don't recall him sharing that with me - ha ha. I decided to stay only four nights -- three at Bellagio and one at Encore. It had something to do with my wife's birthday, as I recall ...

We had a standard room at Bellagio. To tell the truth, I have no idea why someone would pay a lot of money to stay in one of these. The room did have an excellent bathroom and was decorated nicely, but I much prefer the rooms at Planet Hollywood and Paris. We didn't really avail ourselves of many services there, so I can not speak of the pampering for which Bellagio is famous.

We always joke about not breathing anywhere near the mini-bar. When we found an unaccounted for bottle of Sprite on top of the mini-bar (left by housekeeping, we postulated?), we wondered if it had come from the mini-bar. Jim checked our account and found out that about $700 of meals and purchases had been charged to our room, including a $400+ meal at a restaurant at another MGM property. Bellagio did a fine job in taking care of the situation, but it kept us wondering about that Sprite ...

I only stayed at Encore for one night, but the room was excellent. I also loved our room at Wynn on a previous trip. If you haven't stayed at either hotel, I highly recommend it, especially if you get any type of decent rate.

First Time in the Bellagio Poker Room
I slipped in a quick two-hour session my first day while waiting for my brother and nephew to arrive in town. Surprisingly, the service was much better than I had heard. I was greeted at the desk and immediately put on a wait list for $1/2 NL. I was seated about 15 minutes later. My table had absolutely horrible players. They stayed in hands until the end when they should have clearly known better. I doubled up during the session, then left when the others got to the hotel. I hated to give up that juicy table.

I played one more session at Bellagio, but the second time was much different. The players were much better, including an off-the-clock Bellagio dealer who talked nonstop. The players were good and pretty tight, so I left after about an hour or two up a whole $5.

Wynn Poker Room
I only played one session at Wynn. Although I like the Wynn poker room, I just don't seem to get cards there anymore. I only lost a few bucks there this trip, but I was pleased at one play in particular. I was getting frustrated at my lack of cards and called the blinds with K-rag diamonds. The flop came with two diamonds. A guy from Amsterdam raised (I put him on top pair), and I called. The turn was a blank. He raised again, and I said F it, I'm chasing. The river was a non-diamond Ace. The Amsterdam guy checked. I had nothing, but thought about how I could win the pot, which was maybe about $150. I decided to bet only $30 -- obviously a value bet screaming for a call, right? The guy started talking the hand out. "You had Ace-rag of diamonds and paired your ace on the river? Why only $30?" I was just staring straight down at the table. He then put his cards right in front of my face and said "This is what I have. Should I call?" It's funny -- I didn't even look at his cards to see what he had. He was convinced that I paired an ace on the river, thought some more, then folded. YESSSS!!! My best play of the trip.

Ahh -- My Home Away From Home
Ballys is my Las Vegas poker home. I love the constant action, the friendly home game atmosphere, the quick drinks, and the donkey tourists who play there. I did well my first three sessions there, and then ended up grabbing my ankles big-time in the fifth session. I doubled up early on when a wild player who was getting ready to leave town decided to spew all his chips. I caught a boat on the river and heard him say those sweet two words: All in. However, before the session was over, I took a beating I will remember for a long time.

I was just getting ready to leave and even had a rack on the seat next to me. I had a free hand coming before the blinds, so I stayed for one more hand. I was dealt pocket 3's. The flop: Q-3-K. I raised and was called by the donkey of the table. All good so far. The turn was an 8. I raised and was reraised $90 by the donkey. I went into the thespian routine and acted like I was in the tank. I reraised all in. The donkey went in the tank, then decided to call off the rest of his chips. He turned over K-8os for two pair. All I had to do was dodge a King or an 8 on the river. The river: K! Donkey boy won the $700+ pot and I was left with about $150. Ouch. The worst part was that I knew that he would just give the chips away to everyone else at the table. Sheesh.

I played a few more sessions at Bally and did okay. However, that big pot was the difference between having a good trip and a really good trip money-wise. Damn.

The Carnage Continues at Caesars
After getting my spirit crushed by the big hand at Ballys, I grabbed a hot dog at Bill's (love those street vendor-type hot dogs right from the cart) and went across the street to Caesar's to play in the 7pm tournament. I was getting no cards, getting no cards, getting no cards ... sigh. I was down to about half my $10,000 starting stack when I was dealt A-Q sooted in middle position. I raised and was only called by the table aggro guy in early position who limped in and was starting to get a big stack. The flop came Q-rag-rag. He looked at my stack and announced that he would put me all in. I called and immediately turned over my cards. He said "Nice hand" as he turned over Q-J. Of course, the turn was a Jack and I got no resuck on the river. Out. Just like that. What a freaking crappy day.

In Summary ...
So ... I stayed in nice hotels, ate at some great buffets at Bellagio and Paris, had much fun playing poker, won some money ... but dammit, that one big pot I lost would have really capped off a great trip.

Las Vegas -- my kind of town.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Las Vegas Trip Report: Up and Down Like an Elevator - February 2019

I began my Las Vegas trip a week ago - Sunday, February 10. It was a rare Sunday work day, as I was sitting at a table at an open house for a special program. The plan was to work noon-3m, head home, say goodbye to my wife, and then head up to Midway Airport in Chicago, a 2.5 hour drive, and then catch an evening flight to Las Vegas. However, a snow fell that morning, so I thought my best plan was to just take my packed suitcase with me to work. The road conditions for the first 75 miles were supposed to be bad, so I left the open house at 2:15 to head north.

I just got outside of town on the interstate when traffic slowed down and then came to a complete halt. Fortunately, rescue teams were able to get a car involved in an accident off the road, so my careful trip continued. I reached the airport almost two hours before my flight, so things worked out pretty well. My flight was only a little delayed in leaving.

A chimed in on a funny situation on the flight. A young guy with an aisle seat was asked by an elderly woman if he could put her suitcase in the storage bin. A second person did also. Then a flight attendant asked him to do something. His girlfriend and their friend were laughing about it all, so naturally I figured it was my time to butt in. I tapped the guy on the shoulder and said "Excuse me, but my back itches in a place I can't reach. Could you scratch it for me?" The row went crazy. Good start to the trip!

Getting in at Harrah's about 11:00pm, there were only a few people in the check in line. I was asked if I wanted to forgo room cleaning for a $10 food credit. I asked "Is this like it was before - $10/night? The answer was no - only $10 for the entire time of five nights. I chose to decline the "generous" offer.

I grabbed a quick meal and headed across the street to the Mirage. It was nice to see Kristi/AlaskaGal, who was working that night. I lost some money on draws that wouldn't get there, but the big hand I lost money on was when a guy flopped a straight flush. Ouch. I then climbed back in the positive and felt good. Unfortunately, a new guy came to the table and just wouldn't shut up. Worse yet, he would first talk before acting on his hand and really slowed the game down,. He was betting big, often with crappy hands. I took my shot at a huge pot and missed, starting off the trip down a buy in. It was time to head back to the hotel and sleep.

After a night's sleep and some relaxing Monday morning, I was ready for a long day of poker. First stop: my former "home" for poker - Bally's. Years ago this place used to be my cash cow. That afternoon, I was at a table that seemed local/semi-pro infested. I changed tables and got another similar to the first. I was already down a bit and didn't feel good about the game, so I cashed out and headed up to MGM, one of my favorite rooms. MGM didn't disappoint, as I recouped most of my losses from the first two sessions. I then decided to close the night at another favorite room, Planet Hollywood. I was down some and then had a chance to get involved in a big pot where I had a big flush draw. I decided to jam the rest of my money in and hit the flush on the river. Ding! I went home for the night back in the black.

Tuesday late morning I decided to eat in arguably the best buffet in town, Caesar's Bacchanal Buffet. I heard that Tuesday through Thursday were the least crowded days, and I was able to be seated immediately. The food was just as great as when my brother, thundering36, and I went a few years ago. A few food porn shots:
Sweet & sour chicken, seaweed salad, cheese and prime rib
Meatball, egg with salmon paste and caviar, shrimp, Asian beef dish
Caesar salad, salt and pepper shrimp, tuna poke, seafood chowder and pizza
Freshly made crepe with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, mixed berries and mango

After indulging, I decided to, guess what - play poker! I bought into the Caesars game and was disappointed when everyone was nitting it up. In the first 45 minutes, I got KK, KK, AA and AK and was only able to get action on one of the hands. Unfortunately, once the game loosened up, I was getting no cards. I had a few second-best hands, then finally decided, down half a buy in, to head back to Mirage for the evening.

Kristi was working again, and I looked up on the wait list to see the name Luke. I knew that Luke Johnston appeared to be working on attaining hours for a promotion, so I was guessing that was the Luke I know. Sure enough, he came in and shortly thereafter was seated at my table. Kristi was dealing , I was in seat four and Luke was in seat seven. I sent out the Bat Signal on Twitter, but no one else was able to come. Early on I was dealt pocket Kings, and raised Luke and another player out of an Ace-high (of course) flop. Later we joked about whether or not he thought that I was just dicking around with him by doing that. I had a successful session and amazingly, won back the exact amount that I had lost at Caesars that afternoon!

After we cashed out, Luke and I had a great discussion including politics (if only Chris Abramski could have joined us!), poker, poker players, dealing poker. Some readers might have had their ears ringing that night, but I'm not disclosing what we shared! Anyway, props to Luke, who I had been wanting to meet. I hope we get to play again in the future.

I wasn't ready to call it a night, so I decided to get into the late night Harrah's game. The cards came my way, and I immediately started taking down pots. A few hands in, I flopped four to a Royal (Ah Kh Qh Jh). I had not gotten a Royal for quite some time and just had that feeling. The turn ....... 9h! I has happy to pull down a nice pot as an opponent also got a flush, but lower. I doubled my money in less than two hours and decided to call it a night. The up and down pattern continued.

Wednesday morning was another leisurely morning after staying out most of the night to play poker. Not knowing where to go for lunch, I stopped at an old favorite, In-N-Out Burger for my usual order: Double-Double Animal Style fries and a chocolate shake. Although, in my opinion, the fries there are generally tasteless and below par, mine were actually good this time. Seeing as how I was eating at The LINQ, I decided to play at a room I don't particularly like and rarely do well in: Flamingo.

I nervously sat down and prepared to get violated. Surprisingly enough, I was gifted a double up plus in the first ten minutes when an older gentleman at the table neglected to see that there was a bigger full house possible on the board. I tweeted and asked if I should cash out then. Unfortunately, MrBen and Mr. GF09 both advised me to leave or play blackjack (RobVegasPoker suggested that I martingale!), but their sage advice came way too late. I saw one player donk off $300 calling an all in with top pair top kicker against a set, so when he was a relative shorty and he went all in, I called him with top top. Unfortunately, he had a set! I then had second best hands a few times and decided to cash out with a meager profit. If only Mr Ben and Mr. GF09 had gotten to me in time ...

Next stop: Bally's. Once again, I did not appear to be at a table with recreational players. And once again, in the first several hands, I flopped four to a Royal. I didn't even get my flush or straight this time. However, about 20 minutes later, another player at the table got (flopped?) a Royal. I was frustrated and took a small loss and decided to head back to MGM since the new pyramid bonus numbers would be up after being depleted over the past week.

At MGM, I wasn't getting any cards. I went down a bit, then crawled out with the help of a $100 pyramid bonus for a nines full of deuces full house. Then the bottom fell out. I had been mostly card dead, then get rivered time after time. Frustrated and down a buy in, I cashed out, ate and headed to Planet Hollywood.

I was holding my own there until another table broke up and some new players came in. Play suddenly got kind of wild, and one young woman in particular was raising big almost every hand. At one point, she took a horrendous beat when another player pushed all in with A-Q against her Q-Q. She flopped a set of Queens, but her opponent went runner runner A A for a bigger full house. She wouldn't give up her cards for some time, staring in disbelief, figuring that somehow she could not have lost. She appeared to be on tilt, still raising big - maybe bigger. I was dealt A-Q sooted and decided that this would be my slot machine hand. She raised big once again, and I monkey shoved my stack into the middle, figuring that she would fold. Much to my surprise, she called, and I guessed we were flipping, and I could live with that. The board ran out dry and I announced "I have A high." when she asked "How high is your kicker?" I thought I had her. I flipped over my A-Q and she flipped over A-K. Dammit!I sure pegged her wrong. It looks like she just was on a torrid streak of catching cards. It was time to call it a night.

I slept/lazed around all Thursday morning, unaware of how much rain had fallen. I knew there were flash flood warnings, which I saw as I waited to take the monorail to Westgate for Trooper Thursday.

I got to Westgate with a little time to spare, although I did not have time to eat anything. I played at Trooper Thursday twice before, and both times we had mini sub sandwiches and cookies, I recall. I was hoping some food would show up.

I was at Trooper's table in seat six. A local poker pro nicknamed Feather was next to me in seat seven, and Trooper was in seat eight. A bass player from a metal band from Denmark was in seat one, so the mix looked a bit eclectic. The first hand at the 2pm start was a bomb pot, and I flopped the second nut flush draw. I believe there was $80 in the pot (maybe $70), and I called a bet with my draw. Whiff. A bigger bet was now made after the turn, but with all the money in the pot I had to call. Whiff. I was down $100 on the first hand. Not a good start.

Things turned around after I won the next bomb pot when I flopped a flush and called an all in from a player with pocket Aces. Oh well ...

I made it into the Trooper's vlog, so that was kind of fun.
Thank goodness some pizza came at around 5 :00 or 6:00 since I was starving, having not yet eaten that day. I did have some of Trooper's coffee, and I thought it was really good.

I was fortunate to win two more bomb pots, which allowed me some flexibility to play. And by the way, the guy in seat seven (Feather, who was a really nice guy), went on for some time about the hand he lost to the bass player KK vs AA, which is kind of the basis of the vlog and vlog title.

I played for about six hours, making a very good profit. In the three times I have played at Troooper Thursday, my winnings are in the low four figures. I'll take that! I decided to head back to the Strip. But before I got on the monorail to head back south ...
TheTrooper97 and yours truly

I hopped on the monorail and headed back to Mirage. I tweeted that I was there and found that Chris Abramski was on his way. Chris was seated next to me, so we were able to have a fun night chatting about life, politics, poker and people. Chris won some big hand early while I lost several and made a huge error that cost me $100. I had donked off about $400 when I decided to play ultra tight, pick my spots, and shove when necessary. I was able to work my stack back up while Chris's went down. The big hand for me was when I flopped a set of 4's. I boated up on the turn and both players hit a flush on the river.  Fortunately for Chris, he won some big hands before we left. After being stuck about $412, I settled for a $19 loss. I can certainly live with that!

It was off to bed with my last partial day in Las Vegas coming up. I was running a small profit but wanted to get  in one more session before heading out of town. I headed to the Mirage after checking out of Harrah's to get some lunch at the Carnegie Deli, a freebie thanks to Mirage poker comps. 
Half of a Carnegie Deli Sandwich

I got in a game at Mirage and got raises snapped off a couple of times. My draws didn't hit and as a grand finale, I shoved my remaining chips in after the turn with a pair and a flush draw. I was surprised to get called, except I did from the only person or two among the rock garden who would. I was happy to see the flush on the river, which I expected would put me back in good shape. Unfortunately, my opponent's flush was a bit bigger. I headed back to Harrah's to grab my suitcase and bag and headed to the airport via Uber. The trip was officially over.

After all the poker I played, my report is pretty simple: with all the ups and downs, I essentially broke even on poker, making a slim profit. However, I did have a great time, got to play lots of poker, played some hours with friends and got away from work, the cold and regular life for the work week and was going home just in time for the weekend. As always, I am thankful for the many blessings I have been given in this life. Now, it is back to reality!

Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Leaving for Las Vegas ... I Hope

I just hit the magic 24-hour mark before my flight leaves for Las Vegas Sunday night. However, I have already gotten a warning from Southwest Airlines about the weather. Winter Storm Maya is moving toward the Midwest, possibly hampering my travel plans.
As things are, I am spending a Sunday doing a rarity: working. I have to log in some hours answering questions at an open house in the early afternoon. When I am done, I will head home, grab my suitcase, and head up the Interstate to Chicago.

My plans for the trip are still fluid. I plan on playing at Trooper Thursday at Westgate, hope to meet up with online friend ShadySteve while in town, and would like to grab a happy hour meal at Ruth's Chris and maybe do the Caesars Bacchanal Buffet or Wicked Spoon. Anyone care to join me? I've been watching my eating for the past week or two and drove my weight down a bit in hopes that I come back from Las Vegas without breaking my bathroom scale.

I was disappointed to see that Tony Bigcharles took off out of town last week before we could celebrate his birthday. We could have had quite a time: booze, hookers, blow, smokes ... okay, okay - maybe just country fried steak and mashed potatoes, u see ...

I made up my mind and stuck to my decision NOT to play at the Charitable Games outfit that was near town today. So far in 2019, I have been losing at their games but winning at the closest riverboat casino. I'll be interested to see how things go in Sin City.

If anyone wants to connect while I'm in town, leave a comment, message me on Twitter or text if you have my phone number.

Oh yeah - one last thing ... The woman who cut my hair for the past 20+ years retired last August. I had not gotten my hair cut for almost six months until I finally braved it last week. I posted the picture as my new profile picture and got a heck of a lot of comments and reactions. I am usually a guy who laughs a lot, smiles a lot, tells a lot of lame jokes (you know the type), but I actually just took the picture to show the haircut and the rarity of wearing a tie to work, which I just did for the heck of it since the shaggy hair was cut. Now really - do I look that mean in the picture?
Las Vegas - here I come. Thanks for reading!