Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Still Time to Win WSOP Seats Around Vegas

My new column for Ante Up is now online and can be found here.

The issue is available in poker rooms around the country right this very minute.  They had at Binion's on Saturday.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Playing Poker With Abraham Lincoln

This was about a strange night of poker where the general vibe at the table kept changing from very pleasant to very tense and back again.  It had an interesting cast of characters…a rude Egyptian, a pissed off (usually jovial) regular, three convention goers there to get drunk rather than play poker, and a lady dealer with a wicked punch (and the cast to prove it).

And then there was Abraham Lincoln.

When I got to the table, the first person I noticed was Sammy, the regular I first wrote about here.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time.  He had a big stack of chips in front of him, and for awhile anyway, he was his usual talkative, friendly self.  And the person he was mostly talking to, was the fellow sitting to my immediate right.

The 16th president of the United States. 

Ok, obviously it wasn’t really Abraham Lincoln.  Honest Abe’s been dead for well over 150 years.  It was in all the papers. 

But this guy was dressed and coiffed to look like Abraham Lincoln.  He had the Lincoln beard and he was wearing the famous Lincoln stovepipe hat.  This was in March, meaning Halloween was a long ways away.

He explained that he had stopped shaving awhile back and thus his beard had become quite wild.  He went to a hair stylist for a haircut and to trim the beard.  When the stylist was done, she had intentionally shaped his beard to resemble Lincoln’s.  So he picked up the stovepipe hat and just ran with it.

At one point, I did point out that there was one thing incorrect about his Lincoln look.  Lincoln had the beard, but no moustache.  This guy had a moustache too.  He agreed that this was historically inaccurate.  But he said that he liked the moustache too much to shave it off.

Everybody at the table was calling this guy “Honest Abe” or just “Abe.”  I’ll refer to him as Abe Lincoln so as not to confuse anyone with my pal Abe, who doesn’t appear in this story.

Sammy and a few other players at the table were quizzing Abe Lincoln to see how much he knew about Lincoln.  For example, he was asked what play Lincoln was watching the night he was shot.  Abe Lincoln correctly identified the play as “Our American Cousin.”

Someone asked him if he saw the recent Lincoln movie.  He replied, “You mean ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’?  Yeah, I did.  It was pretty good.  And historically accurate.”

Hmm….well, we had a laugh about that and then the person said he meant the Oscar nominated film with Daniel Day-Lewis. And Abe Lincoln said yeah, he had seen that one too.  I’m not sure, but I think he preferred the one with vampires.  But then, who wouldn’t?  Vampires are really big these days.

There was another guy with a beard at the table.  It was really full, kind of wild.  He was wearing a baseball cap (the right way) over his long hair.  He suggested that he could possible refine his look and pass himself off as Jesus Christ in much the same way as the other guy was pretending to be Lincoln.  Then you’d have Jesus Christ and Abe Lincoln at that same poker table.

Of course, some of us pointed out that he couldn’t really be “Honest Abe”—at least while playing poker.  After all, being totally honest at a poker table isn’t really such a good idea.

In addition to Sammy, JC and Abraham Lincoln, there was an Egyptian at the table.  Seriously, that’s what we were calling him (and what he called himself) after he said he was originally from Egypt (now living in Southern California).  The Egyptian was a chatty, friendly guy.  Perhaps a bit too friendly.

Apparently at one point, at the behest of The Egyptian, everyone had agreed to a round of straddles.  Everyone but me, that is.  I must have been too busy taking notes to have heard this conversation.  But suddenly everyone had been straddling and then I was under-the-gun and The Egyptian told me it was my turn to straddle.

You all know how I feel about straddling.  So of course I refused.  I never straddle.  Never.  I think it’s the stupidest bet in the entire casino (I’m specifically talking about the under-the-gun straddle here).  And as such, I hate it when some clown at the poker table suggests a round of straddles.  It’s like, “Let’s everybody make the same stupid bet so at least we can all prove we’re equally stupid.”  I’ve been known to change tables rather than sit with folks who suggest a round of straddles.

I of course said no, I hadn’t agreed to straddling and I wasn’t going to do it.  The Egyptian was a pretty big guy and was sitting in seat 7 while I was in seat 5.  So the Egyptian leaned over and reached out and tapped the table in front of me and said, “Come on, come on, put out $4.”

I said no again and he again tapped on the table in front of me and said, “What, that $4 is gonna keep you from going to college?”

I said nothing.  But I was pissed.  That’s just the kind of thing that really bothers me.  Don’t tell me how to spend my money, pal.  I was about to ask for a table change but then I changed my mind.  The cash drawing was about a half an hour away and I figured I would just stay there until the drawing, and then decide if I wanted to call it a night or move them.

I wasn’t the only one pissed off by the Egyptian.  Sammy had moved to the seat directly to the left of the Egyptian.  In addition to the big stack of chips, Sammy had at least one hundred dollar bill as part of his stack.  At one point Sammy was complaining about having been card dead for awhile.  The Egyptian said, “What are you complaining about?  You’ve got all this money.”  And with that, he grabbed Sammy’s $100 bill and waved it in front of him.  This set Sammy off.  Usually a very jovial, fun-loving guy, he started yelling at the Egyptian.  “Don’t touch my money.  Keep your hands off my money.” And with that, he left the table.  I assumed that he was going to ask for a table change, but that wasn’t the case.

I hadn’t really said anything to the guy about the straddle, just a muted “no.”  But Sammy’s tone sort of made everyone uncomfortable. Suddenly, the pleasant conversation was gone and even though Sammy was away, you could gut the tension with a knife.  Everyone stopped talking.

Things lightened up though when Nancy came to the table to deal.  The last time I mentioned Nancy was in the post here.  This night, she looked different.  She was wearing a cast on her right hand.

Despite the cast, Nancy, trooper that she is, was dealing about as fast as most dealers.  It was her wrist, her pinkie and her ring finger that were bandaged up. She could still use her thumb (mostly) and her other two fingers.  It was actually impressive,

Of course, I had to ask Nancy what happened.  She said she threw a punch and broke her hand.  “Threw a punch?  At someone or something?” I asked.

“I punched someone. I got into a fight.  It was a friend of mine. She had gotten out of line and I had to punch her.  To be fair, she had had way too much to drink.”

“You punched a girl?”  I wanted to be sure.

Yes, she punched a girl.  So I guess it was a cat-fight.

“Slugger” was replaced by a male dealer, an excellent, very professional dealer.  But I won’t reveal his blog name because of….well, you’ll see.

Sammy had returned and so did the tension.  But he already had the seat change button and was able to use it almost immediately to get on the other side of the table from the Egyptian.  The Egyptian didn’t get why Sammy was so upset.  He said something like, “We’ve been kidding around, having fun all night.  Why are you so upset?”  Sammy replied, in a harsh tone, “You kept touching my money, man.  I told you not to do that.  You touched my chips twice, you grabbed my bill, you touched my wallet.  I don’t like that.”

Sammy managed to annoy the dealer a bit when he moved.  He had too many chips to carry in his hands but he tried to anyway.  He spilled them and one of them went in the automatic shuffler.  This caused at least a five-minute delay in dealing the next hand (and thus, costing the dealer money).  But he hadn’t lost his sense of humor.

Abe Lincoln was talking about calling it a night. This was after he’d won a nice pot and tipped the dealer generously.  So the dealer said, “Don’t go.  I don’t want you to leave.”

Abe Lincoln asked, “Why, because I’m a good tipper?”

Dealer: “No, that’s not it.  It’s just that Vampires might show up, and we may need you.”

This broke the tension and had everyone laughing.  I want to be clear—this dealer was not around when Abe Lincoln mentioned the Vampire movie.  In fact, since he’d been at the table, nobody had referred to this guy as Lincoln either.  It would have been funny even if he had heard our discussion of the Vampire flick, but since he hadn’t, it was awesome.

Unfortunately, things didn’t stay jovial for too long.  Three convention goers joined our table.  They made it clear they were just there to have a good time and get drunk.  Ordinarily, these are precisely the kind of people you want at your table.  But they were sitting on opposite sides of the table and wouldn’t stop any conversation they were having long enough even look at their cards.  The dealer and/or the players next to them had to constantly remind them that the action was on them.  The game slowed to a crawl. 

The leader of this group of conventioneers did have one good line.  Noticing the girls walking by for the club, he said, “You know, I’m so old, in my day, in order to get laid you need to have four goats.”

In addition to telling them during the hand when it was his turn, the dealer dutifully reminded them between hands that they needed to follow the action and be prepared to act when it was on them.  They denied that they were slowing up the game (which was absurd).  Suddenly, the Egyptian spoke up, and started criticizing the dealer for warning the players to stop slowing up the game.  “We were all having a good time and you come here and start yelling at them.  Just do your job dealer and deal. Just deal.”  I am sure that the Egyptian never saw the convention goers before they arrived at the table.

Sammy took this opportunity to deny that we were all having a good time because the Egyptian had touched his money.  Things were spinning out of control. 

The dealer was back arguing with the “leader” of the convention goers and he asked him if he wanted him to call the Manager over. He said yes and thus the Manager came over.  As soon as the Manager came over, the Egyptian, who really wasn’t involved, started yelling at the dealer (in front of the Manager) that it was all his fault there was so much tension and that everything was fine until he had started criticizing the convention guys.  This was total bullshit, of course.

But it was the end of the dealer’s down anyway and so the Manager pulled him aside and got his side of the story.  With a new dealer in the box, the Manager very gently (too gently, if you ask me) reminded everyone to pay attention to the game and left.

I had had enough.  I suppose playing with those convention guys might have been +EV but they were only going to slow up the game even more as they continued to drink.  It would be too annoying to play with them, I thought.

Besides, I had definitely had my fill of the Egyptian.  I didn’t want to be at the same casino, let alone the same table, as this guy.

So I picked up and called it a night.  As you may have guessed, there were no poker hands worth talking about from this session.  I left a few backs behind.

After cashing out, I did make a point of going over to the Manager and giving him my unbiased view of what had happened.  I like this Manager but I was a bit disappointed in the way he handled it.  Specifically, I thought he should have defended his dealer better.

I knew that the Manager would respect my opinion—he’s known me for a long time. I wanted to be gentle in criticizing his actions, so I was careful with my words.  “I was a little surprised you didn’t warn that guy about the way he was talking to (the dealer).  I didn’t think it was right that he was yelling at him.”

He admitted that he raised his voice but didn’t think he was yelling.  He was just trying to defuse the situation.  So I gave him a brief recap of what had led up to the whole problem.

And as I was in the middle of my explanation, who should come over to interrupt but the Egyptian, who was on his way to the Men’s Room.

He said to me, “You’re telling him how out of line that dealer was, right?”  But he didn’t say “dealer.”  He referred to the dealer by his ethnicity.  No, he didn’t use an objectionable term, but his ethnicity was irrelevant and he could have just said “the dealer” or even “him” as we both surely would have known who he meant.

Funny that the Egyptian would think I would be on his side in this.  I guess I really do have a poker face.

I told the Egyptian that the dealer was just trying to keep the game moving in an orderly fashion.  So the Egyptian started arguing with me, in a bit of a heated fashion.  “You’re defending him?  Everything was fine until he showed up.”  That was a lie and I called him on it, and fortunately, he took off for the Men’s Room.

The Manager said to me, “OK, I think I’ve got this all pretty well figured out now.  I’ll be sure to tell (the dealer) that you stuck up for him.”

And that was the end of a real crazy, schizophrenic night of poker.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"What's The Most Outs You Can Have?"

This post is about two sessions on the first Sunday of March Madness.

I started in the middle of the afternoon at Mandalay Bay, where I hadn’t played since this post here.

When I arrived, I was immediately sent to the same table I played the last time.  I’ve now played at Mandalay Bay twice and have only played at one table there.

It was 1/2 so I bought in for $200.  When I got there, the table was a bit wild.  For the first dozen or so hands I saw, every single one was raised preflop.  One hand, it was raised to $11 preflop and seven players saw the flop!  That was the kind of table it was. 

I hadn’t won a pot and was down to about $170 when I had King-10 off in the big blind.  To my astonishment, it hadn’t been raised when the action was on me.  I put in a buck and the big blind just checked.  A limped pot.  What a novelty.  Five of us saw the flop, which was King-6-4, 2 diamonds.  I didn’t have a diamond.  I led out for $8 and all four of the players called.  How could a flop like that hit five players?

The turn was a 10 of something other than a diamond. I bet $60.  At this table, I wasn’t worried about no one calling.  I was more worried about everyone calling.  But it folded to the biggest stack at the table.  He shoved.  I was committed when I made my bet so I snap-called. My biggest concern was that he had a pair and the flush draw although the way he had been playing, he might have done that with just the draw.  Or a big King.

We didn’t show and the third diamond on the river gave me some concern but he said to me, “You have King-4?”  And he showed King-6.  I showed my turned two pair and took down a real nice pot.  I’m thinking he probably should have raised my flop bet, right?

I only made notes on a couple of other hands.  I won a small pot when I saw the flop for a buck from the small blind with 9-7.  No one bet a King-9-x flop, or a blank turn.  A second nine hit the river and a guy called my $10 bet but mucked when he saw my hand.  I won some chips raising a bunch of limpers to $14 with Ace-King.  Three of us saw the flop, which was Queen high missed me totally.  I almost didn’t c-bet.  The guy in front of me had some chips in his hand and appeared ready to bet and then checked instead. Hmm…thinking he liked his hand enough to almost bet, should I save some money by checking behind?  No, I decided to c-bet anyway.  My $30 bet was not called. Did the guy fold a week Queen thinking I had Ace-Queen?

I lost a few bucks calling a small flop bet with the nut flush draw.  But the guy didn’t bet the turn when the board paired. I folded to his $25 bet on the river, which was a blank.  He was pissed that I didn’t bet, since the pair on the turn gave him a boat.  “Damn!  Why didn’t you call?” he said.  Well, cuz I had Ace high, that’s why.  I lost the minimum there and was grateful for not hitting my flush.

I left with exactly $200 profit for a couple of hours of play.  Much better result than my first try at Mandalay.

After some dinner I ended up at BSC for the evening.  The poker wasn’t too memorable but it turned out to be fun thanks to the antics of “Ray.”  Ray is a regular, pretty aggressive player, friendly guy.  I’m not sure if he knows my name but he surely recognizes me (and yes, I know his name, first and last, and “Ray” is neither).  When I got to the table he said, “Welcome back.” Of course, I had been in the room plenty over the past few days but this was the first time I’d seen him on this trip.  I said, “Feels like I never left.”

Ray has this thing where he tries to throw an empty, crumpled up plastic water bottle into a trash can from a long distance.  In the poker room.  But he doesn’t just do it.  No, he wants action on it.  So he’ll ask other players at the table if they will bet him $100 to $1 that he can make the basket.  “Easy buck for you,” he’ll say.  This time the wastebasket was behind him and there was a tournament table in use in front of it.  And he said he would throw it over his head, without looking.  He always tries to get me to bet and I always refuse.  But there was a guy at the table, a European aggro, who took the bet.  Actually, I’m not sure if he did or not, but it was taking Ray forever to pull the trigger and actually throw the thing.  Every time he looked, there was a floorperson or a dealer in the way.  So finally the Euro said he would give Ray the buck if he would just throw the damn bottle.

Ray at one point asked me what I thought the true odds of him being successful were.  I said it was at least 1,000 to 1.  He scoffed.  No, he said, if he tried it 1,000 times, he’d make it at least a couple of times.  He said that I would make it a few times if I tried it 1,000 times.  Really?  How did word of my basketball prowess reach the poker room?

They were talking about making side bets if he hit someone at the tournament table.  But there was no real betting action other than the Euro and finally Ray threw the bottle and we couldn’t see it. but apparently it came fairly close.  He tried to give the Euro a buck but no, the Euro insisted that he owed Ray the buck for actually throwing it.  I dunno if any money ended up changing hands. 

Then he was getting a massage from one of the regular massage girls.  My recollection is that he usually gets a massage when he plays.  So Ray was talking about which muscles to work and which to avoid.  As frequently happens, the subject got a little off-color.  I’ve heard many a patron ask if the massage includes a “happy ending” when the therapist comes around hawking her talents.  The girls usually just feign a laugh or say something like, “I’ve never heard that before.”  Sometimes they act offended, but hey, this is Vegas and the person joking has probably one or seven too many adult beverages by then.

Anyway, Ray was quite familiar with this particular masseuse. So he said something to the effect, “Of course, we know there’s one particular muscle you better not work.”  She didn’t object to the innuendo at all, she just laughed.  Ray said something about how that would “make a mess” and the dealer added, “Yeah, and the cards would get sticky.”

But the weirdest bit was when he missed on a hand where he had a lot of outs.  Suddenly he asked the question, “What’s the most outs you can have?”  A few people at the table made some guesses, including Abe, who had recently joined the table.  No one could agree so Abe suggested that little thing called the internet and that he could look it up on his cell phone.

Ray scoffed at that. “Look it up on my cell phone?  That’s ridiculous. Why would I look it up on my cell phone when I can look it up on my IPad?”  And he took out his IPad and started researching it.

He came across a few forums where there was speculation about it, but I’m not sure he ever came up with a definite answer.  He was looking for a situation on the turn, only one card to come and, what’s the most number of outs you could have.  Here’s a link to one such post where it says there are 25, although I’m not sure they all agree.

This became a running gag the rest of the evening.  Whenever anyone folded, they’d say “And I had 25 outs….or was it 23?”  When Ray got tired of researching, he took his IPad, with the page I just linked on it, and handed it to Abe for him to review.  Then Ray took off on a bit of a break.

After Abe was done reading the post, he looked around and saw that he couldn’t return Ray’s IPad to him because he wasn’t there.  Before Ray returned, Abe was called for a table change.  Abe wanted to give me Ray’s IPad but I said, “Just keep it.  Since he isn’t back when you moved, that’s yours now.  You won an IPad.  It’s plus EV.”

He laughed.  “That may be the most plus EV thing that happens tonight.”  But in fact he did give it to me.  When Ray returned and noticed that Abe was gone and wondered where his IPad was, I of course returned it to him.

The poker was rather blah, nothing much going on either way, no big hands won or lost.  But there was one hand that I’ll mention, mostly for my own benefit, because I think I may have missed an opportunity to take advantage of my image.

I’ve noticed a lot of players at the 1/2 table don’t really pay attention to how other people play.  These are obviously the players you want to play with. 

But some players do, and the regulars do.  And good players like Ray have a pretty good read on the other regulars, like me.  I need to take more advantage of this.

On this particular hand, I had Ace-King under-the-gun.  I had about $160 in front of me.  I raised to $8, and a couple of people called.  Ray was the big blind, he had at least twice as many chips as I did.  He made it $40.

Grrrr.  I’m not that big a fan of Ace-King, as I’ve written before.  Playing it against a tough opponent didn’t appeal to me very much.  I did think about it though.  I figured if I just called, with my stack, I’m pretty close to committed.  So should I just raise instead?  Raising would definitely commit me.  I’d really have to shove.  Do I want to get my stack in there with Ace-King?

Now. Ray has played with me enough to know I’m not raising under-the-gun without a pretty good hand.  So that means he must have a really, really, really good hand, right?

Maybe.  But maybe he’s thinking that there’s even fewer hands I would call a three-bet with, and if I don’t have one of those, he takes it down right there?

Hmm.  By the time I thought it all the way through, I was making a compelling case for shoving.  Ray’s three-betting range is fairly wide. The more I thought about it, the more I considered shoving.

But then I thought….well no.  He’d probably call at this point.  And I just didn’t feel like putting my whole stack on the line with only Ace-King.

Perhaps I need to rethink the value of Ace-King.  That was certainly some of the feedback I got to this post here.  But after I folded I realized how I should have played the hand.

I should have shoved, but done so instantly.  No hesitation.  I should have been prepared when I bet, knowing that Ray was the BB and that he might come over the top—I should have been prepared to use my image with Ray to just snap-shove.

If I shoved after thinking about it, he knows I don’t have Aces or even Kings.  If I snap-shove, he is going to put me on Aces or Kings.  Now, if he’s the one with Aces or Kings, he’s not going anywhere.  But if he’s got 10’s, or Jacks….or just maybe Queens (maybe!)…..maybe he does fold.  And if he’s got a lesser hand?  Easy fold. 

So I’m thinking a snap-shove there would have given me a lot of fold equity, in addition to whatever equity I had playing the hand out with AK.  Yeah, against me, knowing how I play, he’s only calling my snap-shove with a couple of hands.  But after thinking about it as long as I did, knowing I don’t have Aces or Kings, he calls me with more hands, and I lose that fold equity.

I dunno, it’s just something I couldn’t get out of my mind after the session.  Any thoughts from you folks?

I left down a few bucks.  I was still up for the day thanks to the session at Mandalay Bay.  Good poker session early, fun time late.  Not bad.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rude Awakening

Weird stuff seems to happen on my birthday. My last post featured one such incident (see here).  And in that post I referenced almost getting arrested on my birthday a few years ago (see here).

Today, as I post this, is my actual birthday. And as usual, I am celebrating it in Vegas. And as usual lately, I attended (last night) one of those crazy BSC dealers games to celebrate it, hosted by my pal Mike, who's birthday was yesterday (see here).

That was a fun time to be sure, and I will need time to write the 50,000 word post that the event deserves, so stay tuned.  This post here is about the way my birthday--the actual day--got started this morning.

As usual lately, I am staying in one of those hotel/motels that has a full kitchen, off the strip. Much cheaper for me to prepare my own breakfast and lunch (and sometimes dinner) than go out for all my meals while I'm in town.  And the rate is reasonable, especially for the usually overpriced weekends.

So I got to bed fairly late last night and was in the middle of a very sound sleep. when I was jarred from my bed by the sound of the smoke-detector in my room blasting away.  WTF?  It was about 5:15 AM!

I got up and checked around and saw no smoke, smelled no smoke and didn't see any fire either.  I assumed since it was the smoke-detector--at least that's what I thought it was--and not a fire alarm, it was just my room.  But as I became more and more awake, I began hearing people in the hallways leaving their rooms and talking.

So I had no choice but to throw on some clothes and get out of the room, and we all were exiting the building.  The alarm was building-wide.  Someone said that at the end of the hall, there was smoke coming from one of the guest rooms like nobody's business.

We waited outside for a bit and heard the fire engines coming and pulling in.  Oddly, there were some people still in the lobby so I went in.  

Apparently there was no actual fire.  A woman had been cooking something on her stove and fell asleep.  The fire department dealt with it and then put some huge fans around to clear the smoke.  Within a half hour, we were back in our rooms.

Of course, it was now 5:40 AM and I was wide awake.  I was just about to give up on trying to get any more sleep when, the next thing I knew, it was 10:00 AM.  So much for getting much done on this birthday.

Of course, as I had rushed to exit the building, it had suddenly dawned on me that this was my actual birthday, and this was how it was starting out!  This event would join my own personal birthday lore.  First a casino-robbery.  Then a near-arrest.  Now a early morning fire alarm.

Crazy things happen to me on my birthday!

Anyway, that's all.  I'm going to put some pics below that I like, because, hey, it's my damn birthday, right?  These are gifts to myself, because I was shaken from my sleep at 5AM this morning and I deserve it.

The first two pics were tweeted to me by my pal Judy, who apparently thinks I'm obsessed with bosoms.  I suppose she may have gotten that idea when I posted a pic of her cleavage on my blog (see here).  But I remind you that she and her cleavage-mates demanded that I take and post that picture.

Thanks, Judy!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Crap-Shoot of a Birthday

A couple of years ago, I told the story of how I was “almost” arrested on my birthday (see here).  That story was written the night it happened.

This is about a birthday in Vegas a long, long time ago, when I celebrated my birthday by (almost) witnessing a daring casino robbery.  As my next birthday is right around the corner, now seems a good time to recall that night.

I was in town for my birthday and let’s just say it was one of those “Big-0” birthdays.  When I walked into this particular casino—let’s call it The Flamingo Hilton, since that was its name at the time—it wasn’t quite my birthday yet, but by the time the robbery took place, it was after midnight and thus was actually the anniversary of my birth.

This was long before I was a poker player. I’ll pause so the reader can make the obligatory joke that nothing has really changed in that regard.  In those days, my games of choice were blackjack and craps.  If things got really bad, I might try my luck at Keno.  I might also have played a little video poker to kill time.  But basically it was blackjack and craps.

This was so long ago that you could still play those games for a $2 minimum bet.  Not at every casino, but at more than a few.  The fact that you can no longer play them for $2 goes a long way to explaining why I no longer play them.

The Flamingo Hilton was one of the last “nice” casinos that still offered $2 craps, at least during the week.  So on this particular night, I walked in there to play some dice.  

I got into a game and it was pretty good.  The table was nearly full, and the dice were hot.  I was starting to win a little money.  Each shooter was making a few points, and things were looking good.  Finally, one shooter got started on a really nice roll.  Everyone was having a good time.  My birthday was off to a great start.

The craps tables were pretty far away from the casino cage, but from somewhere, we heard a loud, booming voice, shouting “Get down!  Everybody get down!”

Seeing as how we were in a good craps game, we did what anybody would do in that situation.  We kept playing.

But not for long.  Soon the dealers at the table, the box man, the floor people behind them, were all shouting, “Get down.  Get down.”

They weren’t suggesting that we start dancing.

We saw the dealers all basically dive under the craps table.  So the players followed suit.  And for several minutes, we were all just on our knees under the craps table.  Presumably, everyone at every table in the casino was doing the same thing.  And I guess at the slot machines too.  We heard murmurs that the casino was being robbed.

It was a bit unnerving to say the least.

Eventually people started walking around the casino telling everybody to get up and that everything was ok.

So we got back up.  Nobody’s chips at that craps table—or anywhere else, as I far as I knew—had been touched while we were all down on our hands and knees.

The game resumed as if nothing had happened.

Well, almost.

One couple, scared shitless, picked up all their chips and got the hell out of there.  I don’t think they stopped by the cashier to cash in their chips.  Maybe—maybe—they went into a nearby casino and cashed their chips there.  But they might have just taken the next cab to the airport and gotten the hell out of Vegas and returned to their nice little Midwest hometown (I’m just assuming) on the very next flight.

The other thing that changed was that the shooter immediately 7’d out on his first post-robbery roll.  And the game never recovered.  The damn crooks had turned a hot craps table into a very cold one.

I don’t recall how much longer I stayed.  But I went over to the cashier to cash out and of course there were now tons of security people and cops there.  And I did indeed ask the cashier if they had been robbed.

I was assured that they had been.  A bunch of guys carrying heavy artillery came in, hoped over the cage and shoved guns in a few people’s faces and helped themselves to tons of cash.

No shots were fired, no one was hurt, and they got away with a ton of money.

We later found out that it was an L.A. gang that stole the money.  They had robbed one or two casinos previously and would rob at least one more before they were caught.

The next time I went into the Flamingo, the cage was enclosed in glass.

Not exactly the kind of birthday surprise I was hoping for.  But definitely the most unusual birthday I’ve ever had.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Poker Room Manager at the Tropagala Reacts

Here's something different.  

My pal Woody, my good friend and avid blog-reader, just made a video for me.

Woody was mentioned in my last post (here)...so here's another gift he gave me.

I want to be clear, I had nothing to do with this video, nothing at all.  

Except for the fact that I'm posting it on my blog, I guess.

But I think it is hilarious and wanted to share it with my readers.  (Of course, it's all about me and the blog, so how could I not love it?).

I hope you enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Amazon Gift Card From Hell

This story has a happy ending (no….not that kind…..get your mind out of the gutter!) but man, oh man, did I have a few really frustrating hours dealing with an Amazon gift card I received.

My birthday is just around the corner and over the weekend I visited my friends Luv Malts and Woody, the two people most responsible for me starting this blog, this past weekend.  They gave me a very generous birthday gift.  It was a gift card from Amazon.  We were headed to dinner but I had my laptop with me and since I had some time, I tried to enter the gift card code on my Amazon account so I would have the money there when I needed it.

Should have been easy, right?  But no, it wouldn’t accept the code that was on the back of the card.  I tried it multiple times.  I had both LM & Woody read the number and we all agreed on what the number was.  Now there was some doubt whether one of the characters was an “I” or the numeral “1” but I tried it both ways and no luck.  LM took to my keyboard herself to enter it and it didn’t work.

One thing that was weird was that on the page it said that the activation code was a 14 or 15 digit number.  But the code on the card was 16 digits.  I tried the code without the last number, no luck.  I tried the code without the last two numbers and….no luck.

Finally we realized we had to call Amazon.  That’s not easy.  They make it real hard on Amazon to figure out how to contact them by telephone. In fact, you can’t call them.  You have to give them a phone number and they will call you.  What is this, the CIA?

They did indeed call me back right away.  And were unable to help me.  They said the activation code that I was looking at was invalid.  I should mention that my friends had bought the card at the local CVS pharmacy.  I’ve bought gift cards in retail outlets before and I knew that you had to be very certain that the cashier “activates” the card when you buy it, otherwise, it’s not worth the plastic it’s printed on.  They showed me the receipt and it clearly stated that the card was activated.

But Amazon customer service couldn’t locate that number.  There’s another number underneath the code and they had me read that to them and, although they recognized it as a good number, all they could tell me was that there must have been some problem with the activation process at the store it was purchased and that I should see if the people who gave me the gift still had the receipt and could take it and the card back to CVS and resolve the issue at the store.

Well that was convenient.  OK, so now it was just damn lucky I was still with LM & Woody, and luckier still that I had thought to register the gift card while I was still at their house.  Suppose I had waited a few days?  Possibly after they had lost or thrown out the receipt?  Yikes.

But ok, I had gotten “lucky” I suppose.  I was with my friends and had the receipt and the CVS was on the way to where we were going to dinner so it wouldn’t be too big a deal.

We arrived at CVS and Woody told the store manager what happened.  He said there really wasn’t anything he could do because according to his system, the card was properly activated and “gift-cards are non-refundable.”  But he said he would call Amazon right then and there and see what he could do.

Oops.  As I already pointed out, you can’t call Amazon.  Fortunately, they had called me on my cell phone and the number that they had called me from wasn’t restricted. It was right on my phone.  I was concerned that the number would only be good for calling out and would not accept incoming calls.  But no, the number worked and the manager was able to get through to a human being.

He explained the problem and then they asked for my email address.  I should have stopped that conversation right then and there.  You see, in my original conversation with a different customer service rep, we had never gotten to the point of discussing my account.  I was just trying to get them to acknowledge that the card was valid.  They had no idea what account I was trying to get money applied to.  They were telling me the card was not valid.

Nevertheless, the manager handed me the phone and from that point on, I was on the phone, standing at a CVS register, talking to Amazon about this gift card for about 45-minutes.

I remind you that this was all about a gift I received. 

The young lady from Amazon, like the guy I spoke to before, said the activation number was no good.  We now had another set of eyes—those belonging to the CVS manager—confirming that I was giving them the number as it was printed on the card.

The customer service rep was at a loss.  She put me on hold and when she came back, she asked for the number underneath the activation code.  I gave that to her.  She had to look that up in a different system, I believe.  Finally she came back on and told me that the second number was good and that it did indeed show there was an amount available on that card number for the amount of the gift card.  Victory!

No, not quite.  I asked her to give me the correct activation code for that number so we could be done with this.  But no, she couldn’t do that.  She didn’t know what to do and put me on hold again.

Finally she came back and said there was only option left.  I needed to scan the front and back of the gift card and email a copy of the scan to their “Escalation” department. And send them a detailed explanation of the issue I was having.  I must admit that I found that option totally unacceptable.

After all the time I’d already invested in this, to do this additional work seemed totally unreasonable.  Suppose I didn’t have access to a scanner?  Not everybody does.  And then I had to put this all down in an email explaining to them?  Do they think I have nothing better to do?

I told them that this was way too much for something that was supposed to be a gift to me and she apologized but insisted that was all that could be done.  I suppose I might have made a bigger stink if I wasn’t in a public place but finally, after repeating how unacceptable this was, I finally wrote down the email address of the escalation dept.

I still don’t get why they just couldn’t give me a working activation code right then and there, they must have had one assigned to that card number, right?  And also, reading between the lines, it sounded like what they were telling me was that that the card my friends purchased was misprinted, that it came with an invalid activation code.  This was clearly Amazon’s fault and yet somehow, I was the one who had to do all the work to get it fixed.

Didn’t seem right.

I should mention that while I was on the phone with Amazon from CVS, I did hear the store manager tell LM and Woody that one way or the other, he would see that the issue was resolved satisfactorily.

Anyway, when we got back to their house after dinner, LM volunteered to scan the card for me so I could dash it off to Amazon right then and there.  Well, to prove that Murphy’s Law is absolute real, her PC decided to die right there and then, before she could scan the card!

Seriously, that’s what happened.  Truth be told, she knew that her PC was on its last legs and was planning on taking an inventory of all the important files on it the very next day before buying a replacement.  And the damn thing died about 12 hours too early.  We wasted another hour trying in vain to get her PC to actual boot.  She kept getting an ominous message warning her that a fatal hard drive failure was eminent!  Unreal.

It was kind of ironic I was there to witness the death of this particular PC.  I was actually there at this computer’s birth, many years ago.  I helped LM set up an elaborate dual-boot mechanism that she needed for her work when she first bought this computer.  So I had come full circle with her PC.

When I got home later that evening, I was able to scan the card and email it to Amazon, with a long explanation (do I ever do any other kind?) of the issue and expressing my frustration with the whole process.  I sent this off right before retiring for the night.

When I awoke, there was an email from Amazon saying that they had credited my account for the amount of the gift card.  So at least I didn’t have try to enter a damn activation code.

Anyway, the issue is resolved and I got my gift.  I think I worked harder for that gift than I do for my paycheck (but don’t tell my boss that).

I think there’s a lesson here.  Be careful with those gift cards you buy at retail outlets.  Maybe don’t send them to someone who doesn’t live near you, in case they have to bring that card back to the location it was purchased.