Tuesday, August 24, 2021

She Pranced Across the Lawn Like a Delicate Fawn & Phoenix-area Poker Rooms: Subjective Experiences

She Pranced Across the Lawn Like a Delicate Fawn

As some readers might remember, I have three children: a son and two daughters. My oldest daughter, while growing up, had a core of friends whom we saw quite often. One friend, Lizzy, had several connections to my family. Her younger brother was friends with my son, my wife was friends with her mother, and her family attended the church we attended.

It's funny, the things you remember as you get older. I can still picture Lizzy as that little girl from long ago: Blonde hair, pale skin, thin, and cute as a button. The word that comes to mind is adorable. The memory that is etched in my mind is one from when Lizzy was getting older. She had been at my house and needed to get home. I volunteered to drive. I don't remember any of our conversation, but when I got to her house, she thanked me and got out of the car. The sight I saw next was amusing. This sweet girl, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, put her hands up in front of her and headed to her front door. She pranced across the lawn like a delicate fawn. It was the cutest thing! Why that memory stayed with me for all these years, I don't know. Maybe because it was a combination of beauty and humor.

As the years went by, my family lost most of the connections with Lizzy's family. I had not seen her in many years. Unfortunately, we were alerted to some horrible news from last week. Lizzy had been crossing a moderately busy road back in our home town and was hit by a car. She suffered multiple traumatic injuries and was on life support. She was able to donate several organs including her kidneys, pancreas, corneas and skin before she was taken off life support and passed away. Lizzy was only 29 years old.

Phoenix-area Poker Rooms: Subjective Experiences

Earlier this year, someone on Twitter asked if I would write a post about subjective experiences in the Phoenix-area poker rooms. Over the past several months, I have played many sessions, skipping from room to room depending on my schedule, casino promotions, and how my luck seemed to be going. So ... this seems like a good time to write about how it feels to be playing poker in the three main poker rooms in the Phoenix area. Pleas keep in mind that I have been playing the smaller spread limit games: $2/100, $2/200, $3/300. No Limit games are not allowed, so spread limit games are as close as I can get. 

The Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort (east side of metro area)
Known by many simply  as "the Stick," the Arena Poker Room has been a mainstay in Scottsdale, AZ  for many years. It was the only poker room in town that I played in before I moved to the area.

The Stick is easy to get to as it is right off "the 101" -- the highway that loops around greater Phoenix. Most players come to the room via an entrance right outside the room and adjacent to a huge parking garage. Sign in is done via a players card. The brush workers are adept at controlling the wait lists in this very busy room.

Players can order both food and drinks at the table. I don't know if tableside food might be stopped again as it was during the main COVID-19 period, but as least for now, it is still there. Recently, players were again required to wear masks and many of the plexiglass dividers returned. However, all the tables were not outfitted with plexiglass. I am guessing that either the number of tables might be decreased again or more plexiglass ordered. 

What is it like playing there?
When I think of the Stick, I think of a professionally run room. The dealers are very good and are friendly, but maybe a tad too friendly with some of the regulars. Sometimes I get the feeling that I am playing in someone else's home game. Although several people have told me that they think the level of play is soft, perhaps things have changed since COVID began? I used to play in the day but really struggled to make a profit. I think some of the regulars are quite good. More recently, I have been playing in the evening. I believe that the level of play is not as great and there can be some really loose action. So ... if you play at the Stick, I recommend the evenings - definitely. Overall, the players tend to be more friendly than not, although that is harder to evaluate with masks and plexiglass. Players seem to take their lumps better here than in the other rooms in the area.

Gila River Hotels & Casinos - Lone Butte (south side of metro area)
"The Butte" is a new poker room that opened earlier this year. Gila River had previously had a poker room in its Wild Horse Pass property 2 1/2 miles away but closed it to move into the new area that was built for poker at the Lone Butte location in Chandler, AZ. The old poker room at Wild Horse Pass was small and congested. The new room at the Butte has tons of space and has all brand new tables, chairs, etc. It recently went back to requiring masks for all players, the the plexiglass hadn't returned as of last weekend. Easy access to the casino is available off the 202 Loop. There is a huge parking area outside the poker room and a private entrance to it. Drink service has tended to be slow most times I played, and few players take advantage of food delivery to the table.

What is it like playing there?
I think that of the three major rooms in town, the Butte has the softest players. I've tended to play lowball here, most often getting in the $2/100 spread game. The stacks are usually closer to max buy-in size ($300) and the play is much more friendly. The dealers are pretty good, but once again, seem to be almost a little too friendly with some of the regulars. Although it is the furthest poker room from me, it has tended to be my default room if there are no outstanding promotions going on in the other rooms. As with the other rooms, I have found evening play to be much better in terms of pulling a profit. After I am done playing, I especially like to wind down playing several of my favorite slot games in the casino.

Desert Diamond Casino - West Valley (west side of metro area)
Every time I walk into the Desert Diamond Casino, it is hopping!  Located just off the 101, the energy level seems to be especially high at this place. I have used slot wins to cover poker losses more than a few times here. This casino is relatively new, opening in February of 2020. The casino is actually not open 24 hours and doesn't open in the morning until 10:00am.Don't get there more than a couple of minutes before it opens or you will be turned away when you try to get to the parking garages.

The poker room is a very nice area that is close the the entrance to the casino via the west garage. The only spread limit game that has been offered on any of my trips has been $3/300. This casino has not faltered, requiring every player to wear a mask ever since I started going. The poker room also has continued to keep its plexiglass at the tables. The room has mostly Limit poker going at the tables, and the room is certainly underutilized as there are always many empty tables.

What is it like playing there?
The brush gets players seated promptly as there are less poker games and players in this room than the others. Dealers are good and management seems to be okay. I found the drink service to be slow. In fact, now that there are free coffee and soda stations in the casino, I prefer to get a drink on my way back from using the restroom. Because the wait to play $3/300 used to be agonizing long, I started coming in when the room opened at 10am. I found it difficult to win against the morning regulars. Now, as with the other rooms, I shoot for the evenings. And ... there are some great slots that I love to play.

After writing these impressions about the three poker rooms, I feel like I haven't said much about them at all. I guess that is because, in my mind, all three are okay, but I am not enamored with any one room. My room choice often tends to be based on which casino is offering the best promotion that day.

When I moved to Arizona in December after retiring in July 2020, I had questions about myself: how I would handle having poker rooms nearby, would poker dominate my life, would I be hauling bags of money back to my house every night ... I adapted to some realities. I now do not play as much poker as I imagined I would. I try to enjoy playing as much as possible when I play. And ... no, I have not been carrying home bags of money. After starting off the year with seven winning sessions in a row, I hit probably the worst poker slide of my life. However, I did survive it. I still love poker, but it now has a certain place in my life. I look forward to seeing what the last months of 2021 will bring. Of course, if I get on an ultimate heater, ... he he!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Remembering My Dad on the Anniversary of His Passing: A Repost of a Repost of a Post from Long Ago

17 years ago today, my family experienced an absolutely horrific event: we watched my father take his last breaths as he quickly passed away after being taken off life support. I can't describe how horrible that was.

Days like today certainly give me pause for reflection. Having some relatives with teenage kids, I am reminded how teenagers are the smartest people on earth and their parents are among the most stupid. However, sometime beginning in kids 20s -- maybe after getting married and/or having their own children -- they begin to realize that maybe their parents were a little smarter than they gave them credit for. More importantly, if they had not done so already, kids begin to realize and understand the many sacrifices their parents made for them. In my mind, this is really a significant landmark in becoming a mature adult.

I have reprinted the following blog post a few times over the years. Today seemed like a good time to do it again. Oh -- and if you are still fortunate enough to have one or more parents, give them a kiss or a hug or, if living in an area distant from them, give them a phone call. Being a parent myself, I realize the value of those actions so much more now.
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 ...
Dad lightning

Bongo in his new car

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

I Can Hear Music ...

I am hoping ... really hoping that the spread of COVID over the next several months will not again result in life being basically put on hold for the next 6-12 months. One thing that I recently missed was not being able to attend any live concerts. So ... I have several concerts planned or available through the next few months. My lineup:

Pump Boys and Dinettes (actually a musical) - Saw it last week. Very entertaining!
Cheap Trick - I've seen these Illinois homeboys several times already.
Herman's Hermits - Been wanting to see Peter Noone for about 50 years!

The Monkees - Only Mike and Mickey left. Possibly a real last tour.
The Eagles - Saw them once before. On the fence on this one.
KISS - Saw KISS once before without makeup. 

John Fogerty - I have always wanted to see John Fogerty. Fingers crossed that this one takes place.

The Rolling Stones (Las Vegas) - Mad for not seeing them in Chicago. Charlie Watts is already out for the concert. He is 80 and the rest aren't far behind, so ...

Other ones in which I have less interest but will consider
The Doobie Brothers - Seen them at least two times before in Las Vegas.
Alan Parsons Live Project - Interesting. If I am bored that night ...
Styx - Seen these Illinois homeboys several times. If only they'd let Dennis DeYoung back on stage for one final tour.
Jackson Browne - Never was a huge of this great artist.
Air Supply - Just to bring back the 80's.
Christopher Cross - Welcome back to 1979!
George Thorogood & the Destroyers - Saw them once or twice before. 

Several years ago, I posted that while in Las Vegas I was deciding whether to see Air Supply or Black Sabbath as they were playing in town the same evening. I thought that my buddy PokahDave was going to have a stroke upon hearing that!

Thanks for reading!