Friday, April 23, 2021

Fredo, I've a Feeling We're Not in Illinois Anymore

The move to Arizona my wife and I made last December has worked out exceedingly well. I don't belive that I could say that we have had a bad day here... until today.

This morning, my wife was walking our dog, Fredo. Now, we have been walking Fredo regularly since the move. On a few occasions, he has gotten a few cactus barbs in his paws or on his mouth. Taking them out was sometimes a bit of a challenge, but generally we could get the job done. However, there was a complication this morning. Fredo apparently was marking a type of cactus known as the Jumping Cholla. This particular plant has spines that appear to jump at people (and animals) that are in close proximity. The spines have barbs that dig into the skin and are very painful. Fredo found out firsthand as a spine attached to his belly and dug in with numerous barbs. When my wife attempted to take the spine off, Fredo started going nuts from the pain, jumping in a circle. Some of the barbs ended up attaching themselves to my wife.

I was just getting ready to shower and shave at home when my frantic wife called. I put some slippers on quickly and and jumped in my car to where they had walked -- a significant distance from the house. Trying to take the barbs out of the dogs paws and miscellaneous areas was difficult as the barbs cause a great deal of pain. My wife called some mobile emergency vets, but the one who responded said he couldn't come.

My wife took my car to get a muzzle for the dog for us to try to get the spine off him, but we knew there was no way we could with a worked up 80 pound pittie/lab. He would need to be sedated. He had been scared to walk, but later tried and was able. I made the long trip home with him. Unfortunately, the hot rocky road did quite a number on my feet.

My wife got home with the muzzle right after I got home. It became apparent that there was no way we were going to get the spine out without sedation. He was able to get into my wife's car, so off they went to a local animal hospital. A few hours and $300+ later, Fredo is back home. He's been a little less active than usual as some sedative still likely remains in his body.

And no - this would have never happened in Illinois. We still think it was a great decision to move west, however. One bad day out of about 130 works for us! 😄

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Las Vegas Trip Report - April 15-19, 2021: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I have now been back home for one day after my trip to Las Vegas. My February Las Vegas trip was not really a gambling extravaganza but more of a mini-vacation with my wife, who needed to go to a conference for work. So really, this was my first real gambling trip to Las Vegas since last September. As always, there are some real highlights and some unfortunate lowlights. I'll use a theme I believe I have used before, paying homage to that great spaghetti western: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

As always, hanging out with friends in Las Vegas is the best. Being able to play poker and sit at the same table with them is even better, even when plexiglass makes communication difficult. I originally picked the days of my trip some time ago to coincide with the vacation that my central Illinois friend, Nick, was taking. Nick and I played $1/2 and $1/3 NL poker together at Flamingo, Wynn, Bally's, and Planet Hollywood. Nick also had a ton of comps he was trying to burn through, so that meant that many of our meals were comped. Free food always tastes better, so thanks, Nick! Nick plays a much different kind of poker than I play, and it garnered him good results some of the sessions. Because he has a very aggressive style, he is also able to frustrate and irritate some players, which is always fun to watch. He irritated the hell out of me when I flopped a set of 3s on a very wet board. It turned out that he had both straight and flush draws and called my big flop and turn raises. He binked the flush on the river. I believe I uttered an epithet or two ...
lightning36 & Nick outside the Mirage pool area

I also got to play a session of $1/2 NL poker with Chris Abramski at Flamingo and with grrouchie at Planet Hollywood. Nick was also part of those sessions. I don't recall Chris and I playing too many hands against each other, and unfortunately, grrouchie felted me when I was short stacked at Planet Hollywood when I flopped bottom two pair. I should have taken the hint when he reraised me after the flop. Either he had an overpair to the board or had a set or top two pair. I should have gone with my gut and folded, but I didn't. I went to my favorite Kitty Glitter slot machine to lick my wounds.

I was concerned about Uber/Lyft service on my trips to and from McCarran. I was shocked that I was able to get my quickest Uber ever to get from the airport to the Mirage. Speaking of the Mirage, I was able to use the MGM app to check into my room and get my key just after 11am. One hour from plane touching down to being in my Strip hotel room -- excellent! I had no problems with my room at the Mirage.
My room at the Mirage

Using Nick's Caesars comps and my Caesars and MGM comps, I was able to get free meals at Margaritaville, Johnny Rockets, Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen, the Paradise Cafe (at the Mirage), Gordon Ramsay Burger and Buca di Beppo. Not bad! Next trip I'll perhaps plan on eating at a steak house I haven't tried. Blame Pete Peters for a growing addiction to steakhouses! Drinkwise, I began with White Russians but changed over to Margaritas for the rest of the trip. Only one Corona and no Bloody Marys. I almost feel like I cheated on my besties! 

The Farmhouse Burger with added toppings
The breakfast "buffet" at Buca di Beppo

I had a good $1/3 NL poker session on my one trip to the Wynn/Encore poker room as did Nick. I was also able to say hi to one of the regulars - my old poker friend Arch, who I believe has known Tony Bigcharles longer than anyone I know. I also had a killer $1/2 session at Planet Hollywood. About an orbit or two after coming to the table, I won a big hand with set over set. Everyone at the table knew what was happening as both my opponent and I kept raising after the flop and couldn't wait to get all our chips in. I had middle set and was relieved to see that he had bottom set. The opponent was understandably upset and seemed to want to reclaim his chips a few hands later. I raised to $12 from middle position with A-Qsooted. He and a LAG player at the table called. The flop was J-rag-10 rainbow. The opponent made a small raise to $12. After the set over set and a few other good hands, I felt like my mojo was working and called the $12 with my gutter. The LAG player also called. The turn was a beautiful King. The opponent made another small raise and I bumped it up to $100. The LAG player folded and the opponent went into the tank for several minutes. He called. I don't remember the river, but I pushed in the rest of my chips. He folded in anger. Clearly on tilt, a hand or two later he shoved his now short stack all in and was called by the LAG. The LAG won the hand. I heard from another player that the opponent pushed all in with ... 3-2os!

Although I was down early and ended with only a small profit, my late Saturday night session at Planet Hollywood and some great moments. I was dealt A-A and shoved all in after the flop and was called by 10-10, which did not improve. In a big hand, I was dealt pocket 9s and saw a flop of 9-3-3 with only one other player in the pot. I checked and she raised, so I smooth called. The turn was an 8. I raised, and she reraised me. I called. On the river, I raised $200. She called. She tabled pocket 8s for a really disappointing hand for her.

I also had an interesting winning session late Sunday night at Planet Hollywood. A guy at the table appeared to be angry/drunk and was enjoying making huge raises and driving people out of pots. chipped up some and then had an interesting hand. The problem player did a button straddle for $10. I looked down to see Ac-10c. I decided to put my plan into action. I merely called the $10 bet. there might have been another caller. When it got back to the button, he did exactly what expected: He raised to $50. I then pushed by entire stack in - about $250. He had me covered and maybe an extra $200-300. He thought for a bit and then folded. I had no idea if he would call. I figured I was ahead and was willing to take my chance against a random hand to double up. I figured if he was gonna have some crappy hand and bink a lucky card on me, it was gonna be for an extra $200. Readers - what do you think? Would you have done the same thing?

I flew on Southwest Airlines from Phoenix. The flight is only about an hour long with just over 40 minutes of actual time in the air. I messed up checking into both my outgoing and returning flights. I missed the beginning of the check in period by one minute on the outgoing flight and ended up with a C6. I got an aisle seat in the back of the plane and then saw that I chose a seat next to a woman holding a baby! Fortunately, the child did not cry until we landed. For the return flight, I missed the check in time by an hour but still managed to get B41. Again, an aisle seat in the back of the plane. However, I slept most of both flights, which was pretty sweet. And Southwest was ... Southwest, which is fine!

As good as Uber was coming in, Uber and Lyft were bad when I was leaving. I tried at least four times each to get a ride, but there was never a driver in the area nor one that accepted the ride. I finally went to the Bally's cab stand and just took a cab and was there quickly. It cost more, but at least I got there.

Of course, it is good that Las Vegas appears to be coming back, but the Strip sidewalks were full of people walking slowly. And hey - the porn slappers were back Saturday and Sunday nights. The smell of weed along the Strip is overpowering. 

Some of the poker rooms still have limited hours and are not always open when you might like. This was especially the case on Monday when the room options were more limited. This will hopefully change sometime next month when some COVID-19 restrictions are scheduled to be eliminated in Nevada.

I was able to use the MGM app and get into my room at the Mirage very early. At Bally's, where I spent one night, it would have cost an extra $15 to get into my room before 4:00pm. Seeing as how the stupid resort fee there is now over $40, I refuse, as a matter of principle, to give them anything more. I ended up finally getting into my room around 2:00am.

These three poker hands -- and the last one in particular -- are the kind of poker hands that rip your heart out.

The first happened Thursday night at Flamingo. The session was actually fun at the beginning. A talkative guy sat down, saying that he was originally from Columbia and now lives in San Francisco and that this was his first time in Las Vegas. We found out he had actually been here one time before, but apparently, he didn't get to play poker. He was wild and played about 75-80% of the hands, most times limping in if he could or calling small raises. In one hand, I flopped a gutshot. He minimally raised on the flop, so I called. I hit my gutter on the turn! He then bet $40 after the turn. There was a flush draw on the table, so I raised to $100. He had been calling most raises and in many cases, sucking out on others. He went in the tank for a minute or so, then folded. Rats. Unfortunately, I went card dead and had no other chances to grab his stack. He eventually got booted for dropping too many F-bombs. Nobody playing at the table wanted this loose luck sack to leave. He sucked out so many times and ended cashing out around a grand when asked to leave by the room supervisor. Chris Abramski was waiting to join me at the table and replaced him, so Chris never had a chance for some donk money. Nick later joined us when he got into town. But the play that tilted me was when I had  A-3 in one of the blinds and saw a flop of  3-3-A! I checked the flop and hoped that someone had an Ace and would bet it. It checked around. The turn was a ten and a put out a raise. A player to my left raised to double my bet. I called. The river was a rag. I bet again and he pushed all in. I insta-called, ready to scoop in a nice pot. Unfortunately, the other player had 10-10, so he beat me with a bigger full house. I was felted, was upset, and went to play slots to cool down.

My many Saturday night cash game hours at Planet Hollywood earned me a free ticket into a PH $100 daily tournament, which I entered at 4pm on Sunday. There were only 17 entrants. At the end of six levels, we were down to seven players. We had a scheduled break and moved to the final table during the break. A guy was able to late register at the last minute, going immediately to the final table. He ended up being the first one out! Another player busted, leaving six of us. only one player appeared to have significantly more than the rest of us, and I was perhaps the shortest stack. I stayed in pushing a couple of times, but was not called. Then, the crucial play: I was dealt Ad-9d, certainly a hand to push with. A guy who seemed to be the biggest luck sack in the world in the cash games the night before pondered his decision, then said "call." The flop brought two diamonds, so I had a nut flush draw with no Ace and no 9 on the flop. He turned over his cards and had A-2! I was shocked to see that he called with that hand, knowing that he would be behind any Ace. He had me covered by a little. The turn was a blank, and the river ... a 2! Boom - I was out and very unhappy to leave via a three outer on the river. 
Readers - don't you think that the guy CALLING with A-2 was a terrible call? I had 8 big blinds left and he had a couple more. An offer to chop was likely coming soon, and the double up would have put me in decent shape with about as many chips and most players. I was pretty frustrated.

My poker time ended in about the worst fashion imaginable. On Monday afternoon, I hoped to get on a table at Bally's. There were two $1/3 NL tables going and I was first on the list ... until a friggin' Caesars Diamond player signed up, knocking me out of the top spot.  I hate this rule at the Caesars poker rooms. Anyway, one table had a lot of chips and likely was an action table. The other table had small to medium stacks and seemed tight. The guy who jumped ahead of me got on the tight table. He immediately requested a table change. I had to now wait longer until two people decided to leave. The guy who jumped ahead of me transferred to the action table and I went to the tight table. Suddenly, everyone starts leaving the night table, leaving only thereof us. Meanwhile the action table (and the seat I could have had) was full at eight. I cashed out to go to Caesars in final session. As I walked away, I saw that a player at the action table decided to leave, but one of the other two remaining from my table jumped in. Nice. I hoofed it toward Caesars.

At Caesars, I wasn't getting any cards and appeared to be nitting it up. I then won some pots, especially against one player who kept having second-best hand to mine. I was ready to leave with a respectable profit for the short time there since I had to walk to Bally's, pick up my bags, and catch a ride to the airport. I decided to play one last hand. I looked down to see A-A! I put out an opening raise of $12 and was called by the player to my left, who had been doing quite well. When action was on the guy I kept beating, he raised to $45. When action came back to me, I raised to $140. The player went in the tank and said "You must have Aces or Kings." You think? He then called me. The flop was Jack high and I was hoping that he didn't hit a set of Jacks. We both pushed all in and turned over our cards. He had Q-Q! All I had to do was fade two cards and I would finish with a nice $500+ pot right before I headed home. The turn was a blank and the river was ... a Queen! A loud profanity slipped out and the other players looked sympathetic. The dealer was waiting to see if I would disparage her, but I just jokingly said "You really need to learn to deal that river better." I said goodbye and fist bumped the guy who got the best of me. But really -- the tight player at the table makes a huge raise, you have Q-Q, you know he has Aces or Kings, yet you call and hit the two outer?

I sent out a tweet about hating poker. I lived all my life until recently in Illinois. There was always this huge Midwestern part of me that believed that if you work hard and do the right things, you will be successful. In poker, however, it seems that I have hit this long streak where I get pounded right in the butt way too often when I make the right play and a good pot is at stake. I am very frustrated and today announce that I have officially retired from poker. My wife said it would last a day. Ha! Today I begin day three. How long will it last? I dunno. I just know that I am very discouraged. 

Thanks to Nick, Chris and grrouchie for the fun we had playing. As for poker: KISS MY ASS!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Las Vegas Countdown: 48 hours

With almost half of April already in the rear view mirror, it is now just over 48 hours until I leave for my second Las Vegas trip of 2021. You can tell that Las Vegas action is picking up when some friends have already been there this month and other are coming after you return home. I did specifically pick this coming weekend so that it would match up with the time that poker friend Nick Gale selected for his vacation. Nick and I were occasionally able to play poker together at the Par-A-Dice riverboat in East Peoria, IL.

I keep reading in Las Vegas reports on Twitter that Las Vegas is back! Of course, there is some negative news. Weekend Strip hotel rates have gone up, car rental rates have skyrocketed up Uber/Lyft transportation has been challenging to get. Word is out that Caesar's properties have significantly upped their drink prices, but my drinking in largely restricted to comped drinks while playing poker, so that means little to me. Probably my big transportation issue is not having an easy way to get to the South Point Casino, which has become s favorite place to play poker.

Thursday night might mean some time at Trooper Thursday at the Westgate. Other than that and possibly some time at South Point, my schedule is open and flexible. If you want to meet up to grab a beer or fling a few cards this weekend, please text me if you have my phone number or leave a blog comment.

Over the past several months, I have decreased my presence on social media. There hasn't been a particular reason -- maybe just a bit of weariness after the presidential election? I will make an effort to post more tweets this trip and write up a trip report, something I did not do last time due to the short time I actually spent gambling. This trip, however, is purely a poker/meet up with friends trip, so it should be distinctly different from the last one where I accompanied my wife for a work trip. However, I was able to get a free steak dinner at Delmonico Steakhouse that trip,  so few complaints from me!

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 09, 2021

Living the Bipolar Poker Life

Although I have not been blogging much or talking much on social media about my poker play, I have actually had quite a few sessions since moving to Arizona, all but two at the Talking Stick Resort. I had never been close enough to a poker room nor had the time to play on a regular basis, but that all changed since the move.

As much as I would love to say that I have been killing it every session, the truth is that I am streaky in my sessions as I learn what it is like to play regularly in a room. I started out with a great winning streak and expected to win virtually every session. Ha! Unfortunately, that was followed by a nasty losing streak which brought me back to reality. Of course, LOSING is not nearly as much fun as winning, u see. 😃

I got back in a winning cycle, but I seemed to struggle. I had unreal periods of being card dead and missing every flop. I took my share of knees to the nuts on the river when I was ahead.  I was getting quite an education - one I had never gotten before. I was learning which players and tables to avoid and when the best times to play would be. I also tried to keep this all from dominating my life. It has certainly been challenging,  but it was part of the retirement/moving to Arizona package I wanted. The move has worked out really really well.

I spent the first 30 years of my life being continually involved in many sports at many different levels. Poker, for me, has always stoked that competitive fire. I have worked hard at regulating mood swings based on poker results. However, that is still a work in progress.

Three days ago, I was at a table that seemed to be perfect. The players were not afraid to splash chips with obviously second-best hands. I flopped a set of 5s and was anticipating a big payoff. There was a flush draw and possible straight draw on the board after the turn, so I overbet the pot with a $200 raise. I was surprised when it was called. Nut flush draw? One thing I quickly learned at the Stick is that nobody ever folds a nut flush draw. The river appeared to be a harmless Queen. The rest of my stack was headed for the pot. I was shocked to see that my opponent was chasing the nut flush and instead lucked out by hitting a gunshot straight. All of the beautiful pot of about $900 went to him instead of me. I just wasn't in the mood for that and yanked out my charger cord and wished the table luck as I quickly left the room. One of the players came out to get me since we were waiting on a share of a bonus jackpot. I was appreciative of that. After getting my chips, I cashed out and headed toward home, just feeling really discouraged. I stopped off at a favorite drink shop and got myself some milk tea with boba to soothe the pain.

After dinner, I was feeling a little better. Then that night or the next day I read a Doyle Brunson tweet about getting past a bad run in poker. It was helpful in getting me back to normal. I decided to hit the poker room yesterday afternoon.

After a 60-90 minute wait, I was seated at a new $3/$300 table at Talking Stick. A player two to my left was very aggressive, and the player on my immediate right had just won an $800 electronic Keno jackpot and was determined to play like a mad man. Very early on while I was getting used to the table, I passed on calling a $31 raise with my pocket 6s. Of course, a 6 came on the flop. I was cursing in my head until I saw that the mad man had flopped a set of Kings. I would have been felted if I had called his raise. Was this a sign?

A few hands later I called a raise with K-Q on. The flop was Queen high and a big bet won me the pot. I was on my way. 

A few hands later, I flopped a set of 3s. I was in a pot with the aggressive player and the mad man. The turn brought a diamond draw and the mad man suspected I was drawing. He raised, I reraised and got all my money in. He called and asked "Do you have a set?" I told him I did. He was protecting his two pair and doubled me up as I felted him. I was feeling good at that point.

A few hands later, I flopped a set of 7s on a  board of 3-4-7 rainbow. I raised after the flop and the aggressive guy put in a big reraise. Could he have called the preflop raise with something like 6-5 sooted? Since he had been very aggressive, I was guessing that perhaps he had an overpair. I reraised and we got all our money in. After the turn and river he flipped over his cards: pocket 3s or 4s. Set over set. Second time this had happened to him. I now had a big stack and decided that I'd stick around while the mad man was still there. He eventually left and I stayed at the table for a bit. Then I remembered how many times I saw the cards quickly turn on someone and decimate a stack. I decided to cash out with what was my biggest profit since moving to Arizona. I stopped at my favorite drink shop on my way home to celebrate. The milk tea never tasted so good.

So ... I am learning. And, surprisingly, I have gained more respect for Tony Bigcharles and his ability to consistently win at these lower levels of poker. Imagine that.

In less than a week, I am heading to Las Vegas at the same time as my buddy @nickg_96. We hope to meet up with some of our Las Vegas homies for a few sessions of fun poker.

Life is good! Thanks for reading. 👍❤

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Tombstone, AZ: Site of the Gunfight at the OK Corral with a Side Trip to the Grave Of Johnny Ringo

Like many people, I have been a big fan of the movie Tombstone for some time. Since I am a person who doesn't particularly enjoy going out to movies, it is not surprising that I never saw Tombstone when it was originally released in 1993. However, Tombstone and many other movies seem to have developed second, third, and many more lives via cable television networks. These multiple showings were my introduction to the movie and, essentially, a closer look at Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the OK Corral. Prior to moving to Arizona, I did some online research about both topics. My plan was to make a trip to Tombstone sometime in the winter or spring. Needing to use a Best Western comped room by the end of March helped in giving me a deadline. On March 25, my wife and I headed out in the morning hours to make the 200+ mile trip. Following are some of our pictures:

Big Nose Kate's Saloon

The Oriental Saloon
The actual site of the gunfight
Figures depicting where the participants were
The area where the reenactment was performed

Photo of the three gunmen killed in the fight
Laudanum -- opiate used by Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp's common-law wife. She died from a combination of alcohol and laudanum
Just down the road from the main area of old Tombstone is Boot Hill
Old Man Clanton

Burial place of the gunmen killed at the OK Corral

After a fun afternoon in Tombstone, we drove about an hour northeast to visit Johnny Ringo's grave. It is on private property, but the owner allows visitors. It was really out in the middle of nowhere and required driving a few miles on a nasty unpaved road with tons of stone.

It was a long but successful day. We headed back toward Tombstone and stayed in Sierra Vista for the night. Was the trip worth it? Hell YES!