Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Tracking the COVID Beast

This week was supposed to have been a great one. Aside from having a birthday this week, I was supposed to have dinner with a co-worker from the 1980s. He is in town with his wife, and my wife and I were going to meet them for dinner on Thursday. On Friday, my two daughters were to visit us -- the make-up trip from their Christmas trip that went kaboom when Southwest Airlines canceled their December 23 flights. Things were looking great despite my having a small cold, which I figured would be gone by Thursday. I bowed out of my regular online poker game with friends on Monday and didn't go to a home game I was invited to on Tuesday for fear of passing along my cold. With out-of-state folks coming into town, I thought it best to take a CVID test just in case. Frankly, I was surprised to see the bright pink stripe on my testing strip. After avoiding COVID for, as far as I know, almost three years, I finally had it. The symptoms have seemed pretty mild, so I was not even thinking I had it. Looking back, however, I can see the signs.

Tues, Jan 17  Cold continued. Bowed out of a home poker game to not spread germs. Went grocery shopping and felt so fatigued that I used the regular cashier line -- which I never do --  instead of having to look up prices on all the veggies in the self scan lines. Decided to test for COVID. Test was positive

Mon, Jan 16  Decided not to play in my Monday evening online friends game since I felt a little punk

Sun, Jan 15  Wanted to write a blog post after watching the NFL playoff games, but felt too tired and decided that I would do it the next day

Sat, Jan 14  Got home at 2am from Las Vegas. Lazed around/slept until 5pm, then, still feeling a bit tired,  headed to Talking Stick to meet up with a friend who was in town
Fri, Jan 13  Felt a small twinge in my throat in the evening. Chalked in up to long days and less sleep in Las Vegas

Tues, Jan 10  Wrote this in my blog post: "The $5.99 hamburger and fries and the $3.50 Stella draft were not bad. I was ready to walk to MGM to play poker, but the rain was really coming down. Suddenly, I felt overwhelmingly tired and walked backed to my room in Horseshoe when the rain stopped. I also felt warm and I'd swear someone slipped a mickey into my drink. I crashed for the rest of the afternoon. Yuck."

So, it appears that I likely caught COVID before I went to Las Vegas. Since the symptoms has mostly been mild, I just figured I had a cold or one of the usual bugs that was making its rounds.

I feel fortunate that COVID hasn't hit me worse. It appears that I have had it for over a week now, so hopefully I am not too far from being 100% again.

Thanks for reading! 😀

Monday, January 16, 2023

Will I Go Straight to Hell for Taking a Nun to a Casino -- and Finding Out That She Collapsed?

 I was walking my dogs yesterday and was ready to return home when I thought to check the mailbox in case my wife had not picked up Saturday afternoon's mail. I was saddened to see that one of the items was one of the home made Christmas cards my wife had sent out. It was returned with the following notation: Deceased. 😔 I brought the card into the house and showed my wife. A quick internet search confirmed that the friend had passed away last summer. I was reminded of a time when I thought my passage in the afterlife was going to be straight to hell -- with a bullet on it.

My in-laws lived in northern Wisconsin -- the Chetek area to be accurate, about 100 miles east of Minneapolis. It was not unusual in the 1990s for my wife and I to load up our van and head from central Illinois to Chetek for the Christmas holidays. The drive was over 450 miles and the travel included anywhere from 0 to 3 children, depending on which year we went. Winter weather in central Illinois is a real crapshoot. It can be relatively decent or really cold and crappy. The drive, with winter conditions and kids, usually took in the area of 8 hours. To go north ... straight north in winter. Sometimes we would hear things like "The snowfall has been 23 inches, but the rods are pretty clear. Yeah. Once up in Chetek with any number of my wife's family, I often found myself to be bored. The saving grace was that the St Croix Casino in Turtle Lake, WI was only about a 45 minute drive west. On more than one occasion, I made the trip, most often by myself. One year, however, I had a fellow gambler. One of the guest at the house was my wife's former first grade teacher, Sr. Katie. My wife's family had been friends with Katie since the 1960s. She was from Pittsburgh and was, as you might guess, a huge Steelers fan. We had fun talking football trash: Steelers vs Bears. Katie was not your typical nun. She was excited to toss a little money around at the casino, so off we went.

Once at the casino, we separated so that she could do her thing and I could do mine. I had a few favorite slot machines I liked to play, so I made a beeline for them. After a short while, I though that it would be a good idea to check in on Sr Katie. As I began walking around the casino, I heard a commotion going on. There were sirens and flashing lights. I went toward the source and was horrified tro see that Sr. Katie was lying on the floor and being tended to by the EMTs. Holy crap, I thought -- I took her to a casino and she was going to croak. Strangely enough, although she apparently lost consciousness for a short time, she quickly came to and seemed recovered. The EMYs wanted to transport her to the local hospital, But Sr. Katie said that she was fine and that she periodically had fainting issues due to a chronic health condition. After the EMTs left, she wanted to continue on at the casino - mostly for my sake, I think. However, I told her that it would be best to go back to my in-laws' home for her to rest. I breathed a sigh of relief as we headed back to Chetek. A nun dies on my watch -- not exactly something I wanted added to my judgement resume.

We got back and there were no further health incidences before my wife and I headed back south in a few days. It always seemed kind of strange that my wife's family stayed connected to their daughter's first grade teacher. The reason was that she left the teaching profession and went into health care. She was the assistant administrator for the Catholic hospital that my father-in-law served in as the chief  administrator.

Over the years, I only saw Sr Katie one or two times at family weddings or funerals. We would talk about football and our wonderful trip to the casino. She was almost like a member of my wife's family and spent a lifetime in service to people via education, health care and service to people in several US venues and in Ethiopia. She was one of a kind and will be deeply missed.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

WTF - $1/2 NL Uncapped? January 2023 Las Vegas Poker Trip Continues at MGM, Golden Nugget, Horseshoe, South Point and Venetian

 Wednesday, January 11, 2023

It was finally time to try my luck at MGM Grand. Years ago, it was one of my favorite spots to play. I had some great days there, especially when playing their pyramid promos. However, for some reason, MGM was very unkind to me in 2022. In fact, I lost more money at only one other casino last year: Desert Diamond in Glendale, AZ. It was a new year ... or so I thought. After making my way south down the Strip, I got to MGM just as a new $1/2 table was opening. As I took out my cashola and saw that almost everyone was buying in for $200 or so, one players asked "Aren't all the NL games here now uncapped? The dealer stated that this was true, and one player bought in for ... $1,000! As things were, he was on my immediate left. I quickly racked up my chip and scooted to the one remaining open seat at the opposite end of the table.

I tweeted about this situation and received several responses in favor of such a move. The main thought seemed to be more opportunity to win more money. That might be true. However, in my mind, it changes the texture of the $1/2 games , which tend to be recreational and ... well, fun! A few times after the game started, the guy with $1K led out for $30. Ummm ... not exactly the usual starting raise in $1/2. He quickly learned that he wasn't going to get action unless someone had a monster, and he settled down into more conventional $1/2 NL play. EDITORIAL COMMENT: As for the folks on Twitter who liked the uncapped buy in, they can have it. I say, put on the big boy or big girl pants and play $2/5, $5/10 if you want to play big stacks.

I was doing okay until I called a short stack's all in when I had A-Q. She, of course, had A-K and doubled up through me. However, the crucial play was when I flopped a set of 3s. There had been flush possibilities on the board, but  third heart never came. I was hoping that the big stack guy had Aces up since the only things that were going to beat me were a bigger set or if he had a 4, which would complete a straight. Unfortunately, the player had a pair of fours and I shipped me meager stack to his big one. Once again, things at MGM just didn't work out for me. I think I will avoid it on my next trip or two.

I decided to relax before my planned 7:00pm tournament at the Golden Nugget Grand Poker Series. Private Uber service was provided by my friend, Larry. He struggled and went out fairly early. However, I won a few hands and was at least keeping about even with my opening stack until the big moment arrived. I looked down to see pocket rockets. A loose and poor player raised, only to be three bet by a newer player who had recently come to the table. He had been making large raises. I made a very large raise, but did not go all in. The initial raiser quickly folded, but the new guy thought for a minute and called, so I was thinking maybe K-K or Q-Q. He would act first after the flop, and I would then shove all in no matter what. The flop was 10-rag-rag and he checked. I shoved all in and he called ... with 9-9! He got no help on the river, and I doubled up. the stack didn't get much larger a a few of the 20-minute levels went by. I was moved to a new table just before the first break. A few of the players had my covered plus more. There were some shorties at the table, so I wanted to be careful. Finally, it got to the point where I would need to shove. I was in the small blind with 10d-5d. A shorty called, I completed, and the big blind, another shorty, called. The flop was 9-4-2 with two diamonds. I shoved with my diamond draw and was quickly called by the big blind - a bad sign. the other shorty folded. We turned over cards and I was horrified to see the the big blind was 9-4! At least I had some outs, but go no help on the turn or river now. I was crippled, and a few hands later, the shorty who had folded the hand of my big loss now had more chips that me and pushed all in. I looked down to see 10-10 and insta-called. We turned over our card and she had A-J. It was going to be a race. The first flop card was a rag, but then Ace ... Ace. Dead except to a perfect run out. At least I lasted over three hours, but dang ... I saw some really terrible poker. 

We decided to eat at Circa in 8 East, a Pan-Asian restaurant. As Larry had told me earlier, their brisket fried rice was pretty good! After the late dinner, Larry dropped me off at Horseshoe, and I decided to play a late-night session there. My table was not much fun, but I saw that AgSweep was playing at another table and moved there. It was a fun table! It became even more fun when one dealer started dealing me cards that either flopped straights or led to straights. Sometimes poker is EZ! AgSweep called it quits at about 3:30am (she had said earlier "I'm not going to be playing any sessions until 3am.") and I left shortly thereafter. A player who had the big stack at the table stopped me to say "Hey - I really had a tough time figuring out how to play you." Of course, I loved the compliment and then responded "Are you trying to say that I suck?" We both had a good laugh. It was time for bed.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Larry and I always do a poker session off the Strip when we are in town together, but I decided against our usual journey to Red Rock and instead suggested the we do the South Point buffet for lunch and then play poker. We did so, and were quickly seated at $1/2 NL after lunch. I doubled up when I flopped a straight vs an over pair and then had pocket Queens turn into a set on the flop and quads on the river. I was able to extract money from one player in the hand and happily took the $50 bonus. We didn't stay particularly long and left when some players changed and the dynamics were totally different. Hew dropped me off at Horseshoe and headed back to his hotel.

My session at Horseshoe was another marathon. Poker and Twitter friend Bill Boudreau had been playing for several hours at a table that he said was tight and not really fun. My table was similar. It hurts your soul when you make a small raise with A-A and even the blinds won't call! Bill later left, and I went to his table when I requested a table change. A couple of players from Norway sat down and a few others changed, and suddenly we had a fun action table. The only negative at the start: sitting virtually right behind me was a most unwelcome sight at the Las Vegas poker tables: the Man Hating Woman. She left to use the restroom and I was tempted to "accidently" bump into her table and topple her stack of chips. Well, at least it was fun to talk about.

There were a couple of other irritating things about the table. Two guys bought chips and sat down. One guy played about an orbit, then walked away. The other player never actually even played a hand before walking away. Another player took long breaks from the table, but at least he played some hands. I asked the brush about picking up the two guys because they had been gone about a half hour, but he responded that it had only been 14 minutes. Well, it felt like a half hour and it was obvious that they were not going to be back soon. A while later, the guy who hadn't played a hand came back and was asking "Did Pierre come back?" We shook our heads and off he went. At least if his friend was Lucky Pierre, we'd know what he'd be doing! The guy finally came back after being gone for 37 minutes (Pierre never returned), played a hand or two and cashed out. Meanwhile, a number of new players were all seated at other tables while we played five or six handed. Grrrrrr ...

Another annoying thing was that one guy at the table talked with one of the Norwegian guys non-stop for several hours - no exaggeration. Socialism, Euro-Socialism, Bernie Sanders, US political policies, ... Hours -- literally hours. AgSweep informed me the Jon "PearlJammed" Turner was at her table. He has only won millions more than me in poker. My best guess is that he was burning time while a young woman who apparently was his girlfriend was playing some $2/3 NL. After a long session that left me with about as much as I came with, I called it a night. The highlight of the evening? When dealer friend Vinnie started his shift.

Friday, January 13, 2023

I had a late evening flight home planned, so I packed, checked out of Horseshoe, had lunch, and headed down to Venetian. I had also thought about playing at Wynn/Encore, but there was a long wait list at Wynn. At Venetian, the wait was short and there was a high hand promo going on. Ding!

My table at the V was pretty tight, but I won a little here and there until I got some decent cards. I had four to a full house in spades and was needing the Jack on the river. Unfortunately, one of the other players had the Jack. I ended up making a nice profit, but was surprised when I came back to my table after a restroom break and finding that the table had broken up! That told me that it was time to end my poker on this trip and prepare to head to the airport. My flight was late and we were delayed once we landed, so I didn't end up getting to my home until after 2am. As always, I was greeted at the dor by these hoodlums.

All in all, this Las Vegas trip was solid. I was able to have lots of fun playing poker, got to see some friends, and kept in touch with other friends and my brother via texts/private messages, so it was almost like they were there with me. My next trip has not yet been planned. In the meantime, it will be back to the local poker rooms for now. I hope to get out to Talking Stick tonight to see poker dealer Ron, who is visiting friends in town this weekend.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Outed at the Horseshoe Poker Room: "Are you lightning?"

Greetings from Las Vegas! My trip started on Monday with good karma. As I got to my seat on Frontier, I saw a young lady sitting in it. Her significant other said that they wanted to sit together and asked me if I would trade him my back-of-the-plane aisle seat for his first row middle seat. I said okay, but getting back to the front of the plane was a challenge. It ended up that I was able to sit in the first row window seat with no one in the middle. Extra leg room and a nicer seat. Bingo!

I got to the Horseshoe and attempted to check in 30 minutes early. I decided to decline the "generous" offer to get my room 30 minutes early for an extra $40 and instead went straight to the poker room. I had a great session -- good cards, draws came, weak competition. I was also able to talk a bit with old poker blogger friend AgSweep and poker dealer Ron.

I checked into my room and headed to the Ellis Island Cafe for dinner. As always, it did not disappoint.
Not bad for $10.99 😀

I returned for another session at Horseshoe. I was able to double up against a poor player, but then lost some key hands (Q-10>K-K on a flop of Q-Q-J) and settled for a small win.

Today (Tuesday) started out with lunch at Ocean One in the shops adjacent to Planet Hollywood. The $5.99 hamburger and fries and the $3.50 Stella draft were not bad. I was ready to walk to MGM to play poker, but the rain was really coming down. Suddenly, I felt overwhelmingly tired and walked backed to my room in Horseshoe when the rain stopped. I also felt warm and I'd swear someone slipped a mickey into my drink. I crashed for the rest of the afternoon. Yuck.

I got up and was to meet AgSweep for poker at Horseshoe. After a rousing dinner of a small Greek salad and a chocolate shake, I headed to play some poker. I got into a big hand with the big stack player on my left, who I later found out was named Peter. I checked my top pair on the turn, and Peter made a big bet. I shoved and he called with the nut flush draw. He hit his flush on the river, felting me. After my rebuy, we got into another big hand. I had two pair, but there was a flush possibility on the board. I jammed all in. He looked at me and said "Wait - are you lightning? I read your blog. You're good and you have the ability to bluff me." He said he knew about me because of @sevencard2003. He also said he had a flush, so I started hoping. He decided to call, felting me for a second time. I can't recall the last time a player felted me twice in a row -- if that ever happened. 😃

AgSweep was still playing. So I talked with her before heading to ABC to buy some water for my room. I returned to the poker room to chat, but finally felt better and decided to play one more session. I was to be at a new table where Peter would also be playing, and I wanted to make sure that I would have position on him this time. However, a seat opened up at AgSweep's table, so I sat there... and here I am, at the tightest $1/3 table in history. 

The story will continue ...

I was able to make a profit, mostly due to a hand I played with AgSweep. She flopped a set of deuces and I flopped a flush draw. I shoved all in to get another player out if the hand and was surprised when she called. I  hit my flush on the turn and the board didn't pair for her, so I doubled up. We played for a few more hours, but nothing wonderful happened to me.

Wednesday plan: Play the 7pm Golden Nugget Grand Poker Series event. Before that, unsure.

Thanks for reading. 😃

Sunday, January 08, 2023

November/December Melancholy, a Great Poker Session, and a New Year Has Come. On to Las Vegas!

Greetings and welcome to 2023! Blogger Tony Bigcharles recently pointed out in his blog that I had not published any posts in December 2022. Aside from being busy with the holidays and family visits and such, I have just felt not quite right ever since mid-November. The death of my friend's daughter hit me tremendously hard. Unfortunately, it was followed up shortly thereafter by news that another former colleague had cancer throughout his body and was on the brink of death. He died the next day. Despite his many friends at our former workplace, I was only one of two people to leave a message on the online memorial site. I was reminded of the quote from Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby: "Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead." I have tried to live that quote to the best of my ability. I decided to cancel my December trip tp Las Vegas. I just felt like staying home.

My wife and I had planned to have our family together for the first time in several years, but unfortunately the weather and Southwest Airlines kept that from happening. My two daughters still live in central Illinois and were scheduled to fly to Arizona on December 23. Talk about bad timing. However, my son and his girlfriend were able to make their flights from Seattle, so at least there was that. My daughters, however, will be flying in to visit on my birthday later this month.

The poker year ended with a big bang. After going to an appointment on the opposite side of the city, I decided to try my luck at $1/2 NL poker at Lone Butte during the day. I was expecting tight play. Man, was I wrong. I felted two players on one hand when I had A-K on a flop of K-K-rag. A few minutes later, a new player transferred to the table with over $500. I raised with J-10 and he was among a few callers. The flop was 10-rag-Jack. I led out big and only he called. The turn was a beautiful 10. He bet and I called. The river was some sort of rag. He checked. I thought for a bit about what he might call. I put out a bet of $50 (into a pot of ~ $125) and was surprised when he re-raised me to $125. I went all in and he said "I have a 10" and called. I flipped over my cards, he nodded and said "nice hand" and immediately left the table. I was only there a short time, having bought in for $200, and I was already well over $1,000. I stayed for some time and finally cashed out for over $1,600. I had not had a session like that for a loooong time. Of course (u see), I had to see how far my good fortune would last. One word: Ha! I returned to Lone Butte the next day and surrendered $300 back. I then went to Talking Stick and gave back another $400. So much for my end of the year heater. 😁

I have only played twice in the first eight days of the year. However, I posted wins in both sessions at Talking Stick, so 2023 is off to a good poker start. But to make it even better ... where could I go?

In just over 24 hours, I will be heading out to Las Vegas for my initial 2023 trip. I'll be staying at a mid-Strip hotel and most likely will be concentrating my efforts on Bally's while hitting other select poker rooms. My poker buddy Larry will be flying in Tuesday night, and old online poker friend AgSweep should already be there when I get in. I might or might not see Tony Bigcharles, as we know that he doesn't plan ahead and changes geographic poker locations more often than some people change their underwear. Anyone else? I'll be around during the week, so hit me up if you're available. 

I am looking forward to 2023 and hope that this will be a great year. I seemed to be doing fine in 2022 until the end of the year. I hope all my readers, poker buddies and online friends are all off to a good start in 2023. Cheers!

Thanks for reading. 😊