Sunday, February 14, 2021

Flying Chips at the Stick

One of the best things about moving to Arizona has been my proximity to the Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort. With good promos and different games and levels, it is really a great poker room. I decided to partake in a Saturday late afternoon/evening $3/$300 spread limit poker session yesterday. I bought in for $400. As usual, the Stick did not disappoint.

Early on - perhaps in the first 45 minutes or so, I got into a big hand. I looked down to see A-J unsooted and put out a small raise to $10. The button re-raised to $25, and I called. The flop was A-A-rag. Since I was new to the table, I didn't have a lot of prior information to go on. The player seemed solid, so I thought he could have one of several combinations with an A, or perhaps KK, QQ, maybe JJ. I checked and he put out a $50 bet. I called. The turn was a Queen. I checked and he checked behind. The river was a beautiful Jack, giving me a full house and the second nuts. I raised $100 and my opponent re-raised to $200. At that point, I considered just calling, but seeing how I was ahead of almost anything he could have, I shipped the rest of my chips. He called and flipped over A-Q for the stone cold nuts. Major ouch! Less than an hour in and I was felted for $400. At least the guy who did it was  good player and didn't river me with some crap hand. He also showed a little empathy, so I just kept a stiff upper lip and bought back in for $300. What a bad start to the poker day.

Well, as it so often happens in poker, things changed about a half hour later.  I did get a few hands and won a few pots. Then ... it happened. I was in the big blind with QsJs. Someone raised to $15 and got several callers. It came back to me and I called. The flop: 9-10-K rainbow! I led out with a small $30 bet to see if I could get someone to raise. There were a couple of callers until it got to the player to my right -- the guy who had felted me a bit earlier. He raised to $100. I raised $300 (the max), making my total raise $330. The opponent went into the tank. Finally he called. I had about $75 left behind. The turn was a low spade, butting two spades on the board. I pushed the rest of my money in. He called. The river was another spade. I flipped over my cards to show the flopped straight. He turned over pocket 9s for a flopped set that didn't improve. So ... shortly after losing my $400 buy-in, I scooped a $1000+ pot. Isn't poker a great game?

The players at my table seemed pretty good. Different people were hitting hot streaks and chipping up, then losing some. It was a fun, challenging night of poker ... until a terrible player came to the table. Unfortunately, he was also unbelievably lucky, hitting a number of winners on the river. I took him for some pots and then, unfortunately, rivered the nut flush on a paired board. When he bet $100, I fortunately just called. He had turned quad Jacks. Day-um!

He was like an elevator -- up and down, up and down. He was pretty much a calling station and was spewing chips. The sport over the next few hours was to see who could end up with his chips. I am not sure, but I think that he bought and rebought in with a total of $1,800. Pretty hefty for a game of $3/$300 spread limit. He was finally felted by a woman wh had suffered some terrible beats to him. There is justice in poker?

With a small but acceptable profit, I called it a night late in the evening, had a quick dinner using my comps, and road home in the dark and quiet night, remembering why we love this game called poker so much.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Settling into Arizona Life: Fun Everyday Stuff and Poker at Talking Stick Resort

It is amazing how you can sometimes settle into a new life and have everything feel natural. Such has been my transition from being a resident of Illinois to being a resident of Arizona. Of course, I had a number of things that made the transition easier. My wife scouted out a place for us to live and did a great job. We were able to transition into a new house, get rid of many old belongings and buy some new things, and take care of other tasks like getting Arizona license plates and drivers licenses without much of a problem. We continue to become more familiar with the area and have gotten into some regular routines. There have been, however, some interesting aspects such as getting used to the local flora and fauna.

The Saguaro Cactus
The Cholla Cactus
The Prickly Pear Cactus
Although we had a few coyotes in the area in IL, they are loud here some nights.
Our dog, Fredo, chased a javelina down the end of our driveway.

I look forward to spotting some snakes and scorpions once the weather gets warmer. 

I live in an interesting area. There is plenty of space for lots of wild animals, yet some human creature comforts like Walmart, Home Depot and Burger King are only a few minutes drive away. Once COVID-19 is on its way out, we will appreciate the other things that will be close by -- MLB spring training, professional sports and major venues for concerts.

I will enjoy the nice, mild Arizona winter for now. As the weather, heats up, I am sure that the pool in the backyard will get much use as I adapt to the cruel, hot summers. One other thing that is much different (and appreciated): instead of needing to drive hours to get to a decent poker room, I have one within a 30-minute drive. Speaking of poker ...

The Stick

It has been sooooooo nice to be able to hop in my car and be at the Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort -- or, as people commonly call it, "The Stick" -- in 30 minutes or less. I had been successful at the Stick in the past and had also suffered some horrible beats. My game of choice is the $3/$300 spread game as No Limit games are not legal here. Having played at this game before, I transitioned to it pretty easily. Blinds are $2 and $3, and before the cards are dealt, the dealers grab $1 from the small blind for the promo drop. Raises are limited to $300, which makes the game play pretty much like a No Limit game anyway. Buy in is capped at $600, and there are sometimes stacks of $1000-$2200 or so on the table, partially due to some of the good promotions.

I started out by winning four of my first five sessions (I broke even the other one) until I hit the inevitable slide which included plenty of run bad with some tilty bad play mixed in. I did play a session at nearby Wild Horse Pass and won there. I took a bit of time off and jumped back on the horse, winning my last two sessions. I am pretty sure that I will keep my sessions late afternoon starts, where I seem to do much better. Just from my small sample, it appears that the daytime players I have run up against have been more aggressive and better players overall.

About a week ago, I got a telephone call from old poker blogger friend The Poker Meister. He seemed pretty impressed that I was able to complete my plan to retire, sell my house, and move west during the pandemic. To me, it was just doing what I needed to do. However, if that serves as encouragement to some of my friends to continue to work hard and then enjoy the results of their hard work, so be it. Sometimes as I drive to the Stick on a beautiful day, I am still sort of amazed that my wife and I set this plan a few years ago and it has worked out so well so far. As COVID-19 and other things have taught us, tomorrow is no guarantee. I will enjoy where my life has taken me and look forward to seeing what happens the next years or so. I have been retired for over six months now and actually have considered what kind of job, if any, that I might do to help occupy my time. Having a part-time job sounds kind of fun until I remember that I would actually have to work! I'll just take my time with this decision.

I have tried to detox myself recently by staying off the political channels and the news since the inauguration. I have stepped back some from social media and the cesspool it has become. Life is to precious to waste with crap! So, for now, life is very good. I will enjoy it while I can. I might be making a trip to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks, and hope to soon take a two-day trip to Tombstone. I guess I just have to decide to "say when."

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

A Repost From Ten Years Ago: Visiting the Plane Crash Site Where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper Died

It was 61 years ago today that a performance in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa became the last stop for music icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. The plane crash that occurred during the night on February 3, 1959 -- The Day the Music Died --  took the lives of the  three young rock and roll stars. I decided to take a road trip to the crash site over ten years ago and later wrote the following post:


Famous Sites in Popular Music -- Part Two: The Day the Music Died

In 1971, singer Don McLean released the seminal song and album, American Pie. Although written in a cryptic, poetic style, it was easy to see that the subject of the song was the plane crash death of three American rock and roll singers -- Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson, AKA The Big Bopper. McLean referred to to the February 3, 1959 tragedy as The Day the Music Died. 

The biggest star to perish that fateful night was Buddy Holly, a unique guitar player and vocalist from Lubbock, Texas. Buddy Holly and the Crickets had a number of popular hits including Oh Boy!, Peggy Sue, and That'll Be the Day. 

The youngest performer to die was Ritchie Valens, a 17-year-old singer and guitar player from southern California. Although only 17, Valens was already making a name for himself across America with hits like LaBamba and Donna.

The final performer to die in the tragic flight was Texan J. P. Richardson, known as The Big Bopper. Richardson was famous for his song Chantilly Lace.

The evening before, the performers played at a popular spot, the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

After the concert, the musicians boarded a plane in nearby Mason City, Iowa. Shortly after take off, the plane crashed just north of Clear Lake, killing the three musicians and the pilot.

I had always wanted to visit the site of the plane crash and pay homage to the singers, so I made a road trip last June with my youngest daughter. We drove up to Clear Lake, Iowa, got directions, and immediately headed out to the crash site. Where along the country road to stop to find the site? Just look for the Buddy Holly marker!

Next step: Walk through a corn field. The memorial is located on private property, and the owners graciously allow pilgrims to visit.

A marker lets you know that you are almost there.

Then ... you are there. The memorial is small, with all kinds of small tributes, and frankly, junk all around.

A small memorial to the pilot was recently added. Although the memorial is not aesthetically pleasing, just being at the site that changed the rock and roll music landscape forever is a powerful, and yet sad feeling that I will never forget.

"A long, long time ago... I can still remember How that music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while. But February made me shiver With every paper I’d deliver. Bad news on the doorstep; I couldn’t take one more step. I can’t remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride, But something touched me deep inside The day the music died."