Thursday, June 10, 2021

Miami Don, the Mookie, WPBT and Poker Blogging: When We Was Fab

One of the things I like about Facebook is that is lets you know when your friends have birthdays. It is sad to say, but I have several Facebook friends who have already passed. Rather than delete them off my friends list, I keep them as a remembrance. Today, I got the notice that it is the birthday of "Miami Don" Wade, one of my old guard poker blogger friends. In a sense, the loss of Miami Don reminds me of the loss of regular contact with my old poker blogger buddies. We were a disparate, yet cohesive group.

I began this blog over 15 years ago, partially to play in a tournament series reserved for poker bloggers only. This was during the heyday for poker in general and especially for online poker. I was one of many players of the "Moneymaker Generation," a group of players that became excited about and began playing poker after Chris Moneymaker's amazing win at the 2003 WSOP Main Event -- his first live poker tournament and one in which he won his seat in an online satellite.

Prior to my blogging, there had been some professional writers who actually covered poker events, with many having their own blogs. There were a few waves of new bloggers, and I was pretty much a "C Lister" - one of the late comers compared to many of the others. One thing the bloggers were great at was hosting private online tournaments. I heard of one on Wednesday nights called "The Mookie." I played in my first Mookie on Oct 18, 2006 and went out in 54th place (out 0f 60 players) when I was all in pre-flop with K-K vs 10-10. A 10 on the river sealed my fate. I played one week later and ... I won!
"Wow," I thought. "This weekly tournament might be easy pickings." That win really began my association with that particular blogger community. The players were good, we had tremendous fun, and we sometimes got some awesome perks from the relationships some bloggers had with major poker sites like Full Tilt Poker. There were lots of fun things about the group, including great encouragement to "drop the hammer" - chase people out of a pot by betting big or going all in with 7-2os, nicknamed "The Hammer." Also, similar to todays poker streamers, we had a private radio broadcast of all the Mookie tournaments. Led by Joanne and Ben, two players out of Canada, and their buddy Ian, a stalwart Detroit Redwings fan with whom I clashed time and time again (because I was a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, u see), the broadcast team played music, reported on the tournament while in progress, and generally spewed out fun times. However, I think that many would agree that the best broadcasts were when Miami Don was their guest. He had a wicked sense of humor which became more so as his drinking progressed throughout the show. Sometimes my wife or kids would come running into the bedroom (where I played online poker) to see why I was in such hysterics! Damn, but those were some awfully fantastic times. No matter what I had going on, I almost always made it home by 8:00pm on Wednesdays to play The Moookie. Oh, and as an aside ... I didn't win my second Mookie until July 1, 2009 -- over two years and eight months after my first! The third actually came just four weeks later.

For many years, this group of bloggers played an in-person tournament in Las Vegas in early December -- called the WPBT -- the World Poker Blogger Tournament. Although the tournament was deemed important, especially for bragging rights, the weekend largely consisted of typical Las Vegas debauchery. It would be accurate to say that significant amounts of alcohol were consumed, weed and other drugs were present, all forms of gambling were experienced, and there may have been a story or two regarding prostitution and/or sex. People did their own thing with some of their online friends, including trips off the Strip (I once took a few friends to the Pinball Hall of Fame and a cemetery), dinners at nice restaurants, or other Las Vegas activities. If you played in the tournament, you were encouraged to bring a bounty with you to be given to whomever knocked you out of the tournament. Once I and another player knocked Wil Wheaton out of the WPBT. His "bounty?" An uncashed slot ticket worth only a few cents. I believe he also signed it with the following sentimental message: Suck It!

It was great having this group of poker friends located all around North America. I found that out when some tough times came, particularly when my then 15 year old son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It was a very difficult time for my family, and my poker blogger buddies were there to support me when I needed it most.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The bomb was dropped on Black Friday -- April 15, 2011, when the federal government decided to take on the largely unregulated online poker world. For the people in the United States, online poker slowed to almost a complete stop. The big boys, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet, were in the crosshairs. United States v. Scheinberg alleged that the "defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering to process transfers to and from their customers." (quote taken from Wikipedia).

Many of the old guard poker bloggers stopped writing in the blogs. Interest in the meager online poker options greatly decreased. The WPBT still had robust gatherings for a few years, but then things trickled to a halt.

Over the years as many of the poker blogs died out, the new kids in town -- poker vlogging and Twitch streaming -- became popular. Blogging has become a dinosaur -- a mammoth from times past that isn't around much today. Ummm yes -- I realize there are no more live dinosaurs around today outside of Hollywood. There are still some bloggers who write occasionally. The list of blogs on my main page is really outdated. I deleted many years ago, but kept some of the links. I think it is time to update so my blog is accurate.

So what was the purpose in this post? The anniversary of Miami Don's passing always reminds me of what I great time I had with my friends in the poker blogging community. I am still friends with some and am friends with many on social media, although the interactions are generally initiated by a birthday notice or in case of some sort of personal hardship or tragedy. Although we rarely communicate, the feelings I have for many in this group still run deep. They had a significant affect on my life and, more importantly, were good friends. I certainly miss that.

Being an old, retired guy now with FINALLY some time on my hands, I invite any of my old poker blogger buddies and current poker blogger friends to comment on this post. Let me know how you're doing, show me you're still around. Can this actually become a one-off place for everyone to reconnect?

Monday, June 07, 2021

Las Vegas Trip Conclusion; Is Lone Butte a Beaut or a Butt?; and Beware of False Lightnings


The end of my recent Las Vegas trip is now over a week in the rearview mirror. So ... back to my trip ...

Wednesday: I slept late and decided to head to Wynn for the afternoon. My history at Wynn has been pretty good. I find the games there to be more serious than at some of the other venues I play. I think I actually concentrate a little better here. The bonus of playing at Wynn is that I am very likely to run into my friend Arch there. In fact, I got seated at Arch's table. I was able to see him river a Royal while holding Ah-10h. I wasn't getting anything for cards and left shortly after he did. That evening I went to South Point. Unfortunately, it was more of the same there. Just a blah day for poker.

Thursday: It was time to head to Planet Hollywood for cash games. PH had just move its poker room that day - underneath the escalator and outside the Cafe Hollywood. It was pretty loud there. I had a good session going that got better against an extremely tight player. I was in the blinds with a suited connector and ended up rivering a stealth straight. When I raised to $20 after the river, the tight player bumped it up to $85. I held the stone cold nuts, so what to do? I decided to raise to $200. He went in the tank and said "Could you have a bigger set?" Now I knew I was taking the pot myself. I was only hoping he'd call or, if maybe he had top set and thought that I had a lower set, he'd come over the top again. Unfortunately, he made the right move and folded, leaving the table for a short time to cool off. A short time later I gave some of it back when a guy straddled on the button. I called with Q-Jos. Everyone accept for me folded, and he bumped it up. I called. The flop was 7-7-rag. I checked and he checked. The turn was another rag. I checked and he tossed out $15. I called. The river was a Jack. I decided to bet it, and he shoved his short stack. I insta-called and flipped over my cards, expecting to win with Jacks and 7s, Queen kicker. He turned over 10-7sooted. Dayum! I played a bit longer, then decided to cash out with a good profit. I got my comp paper for Pin-Up Pizza that I earned by playing six hours and also got my sheet to comp me into one of the Friday $80 tournaments.

Have you ever eaten at Pin-Up Pizza? It was very good for a guy who hadn't eaten for several hours, especially since it was free! While eating, I struck up a conversation with a truck driver from Florida. We talked about driving in winter weather, wives and vacations, etc. Only on the Las Vegas Strip. I decided to call it a night since I would need to check out of my hotel room in the morning, try to get some breakfast, then head over to PH for the noon tournament. Thursday was a great Las Vegas day!

Friday: I slept later than I planned. I checked out of Excalibur and got to PH with a few minutes to spare before the noon tournament. Unfortunately, I didn't get to have anything to eat. In retrospect, that was not a good idea. I chipped up early in the tournament and then was in a hand where people were limping. I limped in in position with 9s-8s. The flop was 6-7-10 rainbow. Shazam! When it was my turn to bet, I placed a sizable bet down. The doofus on my left called. The turn was another 10, so now things dramatically changed. I made a bet of 6,000T (starting was 20,000T). He called. The river was a 3. I checked and he bet another 6000T. I was guessing that he had a 10. I called. He turned over ... 10-3os. What? He limped in with that shit hand? Then called my first raise with top pair crappy kicker? He then hit his trips - with a crappy kicker, then hit the miracle 3 to boat up on the river. No way I saw that boat coming. Now suddenly I was the short stack. A few hands later I looked down to see pocket Queens and made a big raise. The same guy called. The flop was Jack-rag-rag. Things were looking good. I put in another big raise. He called. The turn was a Jack! If he had top pair on the flop, I was screwed. I was pissed, hungry and kind of tired - not the best way to play poker. I tilted and shoved in the rest of my chips. He called and showed KJos. I laid down my cards, and walked off. Bad luck and dumb play - not a great combination.

I then walked across the Strip to meet up with good friend  Pete P Peters, who was grinding a 100-hand VP machine at Bellagio. PPP and I have been friends for many years, dating back to when I ascended (descended?) to Grand Exalted Poobah of the TBC Inner Circle.

PPP was the person who funded Tony's trip from Florida to Las Vegas so that Tony could meet up with all his supporters who were playing a tournament  set up by another friend, Koala, to get Tony some money. I had hoped to get a drink while PPP and I were talking, but it was pretty busy in Bellagio and the cocktail servers seemed to be avoiding our area. After a long conversation I knew I needed to get on the  road to drive back home. No more poker for me this trip.


Although it is the longest drive to a local poker room for me, I decided to invest some time playing at Gila River Lone Butte Casino. I am happy to report that I got on a mini heater there, winning at poker, slots, and promos. My poker game of choice there has been the $2/100 spread limit table. Maximum buy-in is $300, blinds are $1/$2, and raises are limited to $100. You might think that chips don't fly at this level, but that isn't always true. Sometimes the games are nitty, but sometimes, like almost any level of spread or no limit, stacks can be "transferred" rather quickly. I was at one table with a muscular guy who was enjoying being table captain. He raised every hand and was winning quite a few small pots. It was time to wait and trap. That opportunity came when I was dealt A-J. I raised from middle position. One guy who was selective in hands played called. The table captain re-raised, and I and the other player both called. The flop was A-rag-rag. I was mostly concerned about the other "regular" player in the hand, hoping he didn't have A-Q or A-K. The table captain raised and I and the other player both called. The turn was a blank.  The captain raised and bumped it up another $100. The other player went in the tank and finally folded. The table captain called and shoved the rest of his dwindled stack in after the river. I called and showed A-J. The table captain mucked and I scooped a big pot. He was pissed and bought in again. The other player in the hand told the table that my raise chased him out with ... A-J!

An orbit or so later,  the table captain raised and I called with K-10os. The flop was a A-Q-J with two hearts. I flopped the straight! The table captain raised, and I added $100 on top of the raise. He added another $100, I matched that and bumped another $100 and he got all his in. We tabled our cards and he was drawing to a heart flush. Fearing the worst, the dealer dealt a non-heart turn and a non-heart river. The captain was felted and quickly left the table. When the dealer's down ended, I jokingly suggested that she go back to dealer school since she forgot to screw me on the turn or river!

One other day, I was having a good day when our table was selected for a $100 splash pot. I was dealt A-K and raised to $25. Only one caller. The flop was Ace-rag-rag. The next thing you know, we shoved back and forth and got all our money in. The board paired on the river, so I was sitting with two pair, top kicker. I never did see that the other player had. Life is great when you run goot! I got two $24 promo chips that day, and even one of the two won at Blackjack.

After winning three days in a row, I finally had a losing session where nothing seemed to go righ. I followed it up with a session on Sunday when everyone else hit rivers or had slightly better cards than me at the end. So ... the Butte was a beaut and then turned into a butt. That is my official poker analysis!


Continuing with the story I posted previously regarding the "other" lightning (Lightning Poker - (@lightning_), I went to his Twich stream while playing in his private NL game on ACR. Unfortunately, my crappy laptop computer was having issues, so my participation was limited. I got stacked when I went all in with A-A. Unfortunately, my opponent had both a flush draw and an open-ended straight draw and  won on the river. I failed to hit the "Run it twice" button in the allotted time, so I didn't have a second chance to get even. I was frustrated and decided to call it a night.

I know that the faux lightning is a good guy and has a popular gig. I hope that maybe we might enhance our lightning vs lightning "battle" in the future.

Thanks for reading!