Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year, everyone.  Let's hope 2016 is a great one!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vegas Poker Scene (January Ante Up Column)

Here's my newest column for Ante Up.  The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report.  The magazine should be in your local poker room sooner, rather than later.

 The daily tournaments with $100-plus buy-ins tend to get the most attention, but many players who come to town for just a quick two- or three-day visit may not want to commit to playing in a tournament that could easily take 10 hours or more if they run well. After all, people also come to Vegas to see shows, go to nightclubs, sunbathe at the pool and enjoy some fine dining. So let’s take a look at some of the regular more affordable buy-in tournaments that won’t take too much time, even if you’re fortunate enough to finish first.

• MGM runs one of the most popular morning tournaments at 11, sporting a $70 buy-in, $2K guarantee and a 15K stack.The first nine levels are 15 minutes and 20 minutes after that.The same tournament is offered Sunday through Thursday at 7 p.m. without the guarantee. The room has turbos daily at 2 p.m. and Sunday through Thursday at 10 p.m. The $50 buy-in gets you 10K chips and 10-minute levels.
• Treasure Island offers $75 tournaments at 2 p.m. ($750 guarantee) and 10 p.m. ($1,500 guarantee).The starting stack is 12K and the levels are 20 minutes. There are daily 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. tournaments for $65, with 20-minute levels and an 8K starting stack.
• The Rio has $60 tournaments daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and
9 p.m.They all have $500 guarantees and start with 10K chips and 20 minute levels.
• The Stratosphere’s daily tournament starts at 7 p.m.On Monday and Wednesday, it’s a $70 buy-in with $20 bounties. The starting stack is 6K and there’s a $20 add-on for another 6K. The rest of the week it’s $50 for a 4,500 chips and the same $20 add-on for 6K extra. The levels are 20 minutes.A nice bonus is free pizza during the first break.
• South Point has a $60 tournament daily at 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., plus a 7 p.m. event every day except Wednesday and Sunday.These tournaments have a $5 bounty, 20-minute levels and 4,500 chips.The Wednesday and Sunday evening tournaments start at 6 and have a $100 buy-in.The starting stack is 7,500 and offers a $10 add-on for 2,500 more.
• Daily $40 tournaments at Excalibur start at 9 a.m. with 15-minute levels. The buy-in at 1 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. is $45 with 20-minute levels.The starting stack for all tournaments is 5K.
• Luxor’s tournaments are daily at 10:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.(5K chips, 20-minute levels, $45 buy-in).
• Monte Carlo has a daily 9 a.m. tournament with 4K chips and 20-minute levels.On Wednesday, it’s $60 with $10 bounties; the other days it’s $50 to enter.The 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. tournaments have a $40 buy-in for 4K chips, with a $20 add-on for 4K more. The levels are 20 minutes. The 6 p.m. tournament offers 10K chips and 20-minute levels. Wednesday the buy-in is $75 and there’s a $10 bounty, the other days it’s $65.
• Mandalay Bay has a daily $40 event for 4K chips at 10 a.m. There is a $5 add-on for another 1K.The levels are 20 minutes. The other two dailies are 15-minute levels. The 3 p.m. is $40 for 5K chips with a $20 add-on for another 5K.The 10 p.m. is $65 and starts with a 10K stack.
GOLDEN NUGGET: Golden Weekend was a huge success. The $140 buy-in, $50K guarantee main event on Nov. 28 had 787 players and a prize pool of $82K-plus. The final table agreed to a chip-chop as the top prize of $7,373 went to Michael Gatto of Las Vegas. Robin Hamilton of California earned $5,775 for second and Colin McAliece of Ireland received $5,411 for third.
CAESARS PALACE: The tournament schedule has been revised.There are four daily tournaments, all with 20-minute levels. The 10 a.m. tournament has a $100 buy-in for 10K chips and a $1,500 guarantee.At 2 p.m. it’s $125 for 12K chips and a $2K guarantee. The 6 p.m. tournament has a $125 buy-in, 15K chips and a $2K guarantee.The 9 p.m. ($150) has a 15K starting stack and a $2,500 guarantee.
The cash games are always busy as the $1-$2 NLHE has a $100-$300 min-max buy-in.The $2-$5 game is $200-$1K. The room offers $2/hour comps and max rake is $4.
PLANET HOLLYWOOD: Sean Berrios of the Virgin Islands earned $347K for winning the main event of the WSOPC on Nov. 23. Two Southern Californians, Peter Hengsakul ($215K) and Antonios Roungeris ($157K) took second and third, respectively.More than 1,300 players competed for a prize pool of nearly $2M in the $1,675 event.
VENETIAN: Mohammad Eshagi of Las Vegas won $137K and the title in the $1,600 Deep Stack Extravaganza’s Main Event Nov. 18. Nipun Javia of California claimed $85K for second and Christian Soto from New Jersey earned $62K for third.The prize pool was $625K with more than 425 entrants.
MESQUITE: A little more than an hour from Las Vegas on the Utah border, the town of Mesquite has one poker room, at the Eureka Casino Resort. Twice a year, it hosts the Eureka Open.The next one runs Jan. 15-24.Most of the events are $80-$100 no-limit tournaments. The series ends with a $20K freeroll on Jan. 24.Entry is earned with a minimum of 25 hours of live play starting Jan. 10, with more starting chips awarded for more hours of play. Players can enter this tournament for $500.Many Las Vegas pros make the drive to play in this series.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Even The Hookers Are in Reruns This Time of Year

So this is my mid-Vegas Christmas season update.

Things didn't start too well. I have a bad, long tournament experience to report—it literally stunk.  Already told you about the bad suckout I had last week (see here).  A couple of nights later I had a real good nite—so good that I posted a pic of my stack under the title "chip porn" on Twitter.  That was basically the result of two big hands that I probably played badly.  I owe you guys that report too.

Yesterday I had a better—but still frustrating—tournament to write up for you.  Yes, I cashed, and no, it wasn't the dreaded min-cash.  But still, it will give me a chance to once again vent about how much I hate current tournament payout structures.  Honestly, they suck.  I think I may have to use my vast influence in the poker world to lobby tournament directors to make their payouts more fish friendly.  But that's a rant for another time.

But I need to be brief for this post.  Shouldn't be a problem for me, right?  So I'll just tell you about my brief hooker encounter from last nite.  Because everyone loves a hooker story, right?

It was approaching midnite and I was just wandering around a certain Big Strip Casino, enjoying the atmosphere (yeah, that's a good word for it) when, walking towards the lobby I noticed an attractive black woman just sitting in front of a slot machine, looking at the passersby.  Before I even got near her my spidey-sense alerted me to her probable occupation.  This was confirmed when I heard her say, "Hey baby, whatcha doing?" to me as I passed by her.  I didn't turn towards her at all, just kept walking.  I wasn't really in the mood to chat with a working girl.

But then, about 20 minutes later, I was walking up in the opposite direction.  I was actually walking away from the area where ladies-of-the-evening are known (by me, at least) to congregate.  Earlier, I had seen a woman who I recognized as a professional.  I turned away to avoid her. I recalled that I had already talked to this woman on a previous Vegas visit.  It was many months ago, possibly even a few years ago.  But I was sure she had tried to solicit me some time ago, even if the details were fuzzy.  In fact, I recalled seeing her either earlier this trip or on a previous recent trip (like maybe the Halloween trip). I was actually sure I had seen her multiple times since the time we chatted.

She kinds of stands out, that's why I recall her.  She has light red hair, and is a tad older than most of the girls who you see working this casino.  She was wearing tight, ripped jeans and high heels (kind of a weird combination).  She was not exceptional flashy looking, that's for sure.  Top was rather plain, showing just a little bit of cleavage.

Anyway, as I was making my way away from the lobby, we passed each other and I purposely looked away.  I actually think we had passed earlier and she didn't say anything, and I wondered if she remembered me and knew I was a waste of her time.

But this time, a few seconds after we had passed each other, I felt a pat on my back and turned around; it was her.  "Hi, where are going?"  I kind of shrugged and she said, "We've talked before, haven't we?  I remember you."

Well that was true, but of course, that line could be said to anyone just as way of starting a conversation.  But since I was sure we had talked, I believe she did indeed recognize me.

I confirmed that I remembered her as well.  So she said, "Why don't we have a drink together?"
I said no, I wasn't interested.

"Oh come on.  It's really cold outside, isn't it?"  That was certainly true  I said no.  "Actually, I have no money.  I lost tonight."  That was a lie, I'm happy to report.

"Oh, stop lying."  How did she know?

She asked where I was from.  I dunno why I told her the truth, but I did.  "L.A."

"Oh yes, I should have remembered that."  Now, I couldn't recall all the details of our previous conversation, but after talking to her I was sure that she was one of the ladies I'd had more than a two-word conversation with and I probably did tell her that I was from L.A.  Seems rather harmless info to reveal.  In fact, talking to her last nite, I was sure that we had a very similar conversation the last time and I was trying to remember if I ever blogged about our encounter.

In the meantime, I noticed the bit of cleavage she was showing and came to a snap decision that it was very possible she still had her original factory installed equipment, which would be rather unusual for her profession.

She reiterated her suggestion that we have a drink. I said, "No, sorry, I really just want to get to bed."  Then, realizing what I had said, I added, "Alone."

She wasn't giving up, and asked if I came to L.A. alone or with friends.  I kind of fumbled around with my response. "Alone….but I come to see friends.  I have friends here…….I actually have a girlfriend here." OK, that was a fib.

She said, "Oh that's nice.  So tonight you could have two girlfriends."

Hmm…..wasn't sure if she meant a three-way or that she would just be filling in for the night.  I suppose it might depend on how big my sockroll was.

I said no thanks.  I told her I had to get going and she said ok, and patted me on the chest.  She actually patted me on the chest or shoulder a few times during the conversation.  Hmm…I supposed I could have returned the favor and patted her on the chest too—for a price.

I took off and so did she.  This encounter left me scratching my head to recall if I had actually written here about our previous encounter.  I knew we had had an extended conversation, like the one we'd just had, so I would have bet it was blog worthy material.  I couldn't recall writing about it though.

So today I tried to scan through all my hooker posts to find it.  Initially, I remembered a post I entitled "A Very Personable Hooker", and figured that had to be it.  She was very personable.  But I reread that post and the lady in question was blonde.  I give fake names to people, but not fake hair color.  I suppose the gal last night may have dyed her hair since, but I have to say, it was very natural looking.  I suppose I might have found out if it was indeed her natural color had I accepted her proposal.  But let's face it, these days, it's unlikely the evidence would be there. And besides, one of the reasons that I remembered this lady was because of her red hair, I recognized the red hair.

After a quick review of all my hooker posts, I was unable to locate a report on our previous encounter.  Damn, it would have been so much better if I could link back to it.  So you'll just have to trust me on this:  Last night's hooker was a Christmas season rerun.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas! And Be Safe......

I was about to post my traditional Christmas post, just pics that are (in)appropriate for the season, when this morning I was awakened to an email from long time reader "Big L" (who you can read about here)And I thought that it was a very timely reminder to those of you who might be planning on having a bit too much Christmas cheer today (or next week, celebrating the New Year).  So here is his story:

With Christmas upon us, I would like to share a personal experience with my friends about drinking and driving.

As you know, some of us have been known to have brushes with  the authorities from time to time, often on the way home after a "social session" with family or friends. Well, two days ago, Sat. night , this happened to me. I  was out for an evening with friends  and had a couple Martinis followed  by a couple of bottles of rather nice red wine along with a wonderful dinner . Although  relaxed, I still had the common sense to know I was slightly over the  limit.

That's when I did something I've never done before: I took a  taxi home.

Sure enough on the way there was a police roadblock but  since it was a taxi they waved it past and I arrived home safely without  incident.

This was a real surprise to me, because I had never driven a  taxi before. I don't know where I got it, and now that it's in my garage I  don't know what to do with it.

So,  anyway, if you want to borrow it give me a  call.

Merry  Christmas and be safe out  there…

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Deuces Never Loses?—Bah, Humbug

Really, I think I played this hand more or less correctly, but since the result was not pleasant I want to run it by you good folks and see what you think.  Besides, it's been awhile since I posted some actual poker content here, and there's a rumor that this is a poker blog, so here goes….

It was a rather boring table the other night, although the stacks were all decent sized, not too many players were putting chips in play.  But there was one guy there that I thought might be more than willing to pay me off if I caught a hand, so I decided to stick around for a bit.

Actual, there was a dynamic there that I thought could work out for me.  Let's call the aforementioned guy "Villain" cuz I'm too lazy and too rushed to think of something clever.  He and his two buddies at the table were clearly all there to have a good time.  They seemed to be reasonably knowledgeable players but I got the impression that they were more interested in taking the money from each other than the other players at the table.  I think the greatest thing for any one of them would have been to have felted his two buddies, and if he had given away some money to the other players in the process, no big deal.  Everyone else at the table was playing fairly tight, it was these three guys who would likely be the source of any money to be had.

Villain was by far the most aggressive of the three, but the other two seemed to like to play in hands he was in to try to suck out on him, and similarly, he seemed to like playing when one of his pals was the aggressor.

So I was down to about $180 when I got a couple of deuces.  I was the second limper, one of the Villain's buddies limped in right behind me, and the Villain, in one of the blinds, made it $16.  Note:  I was distracted by another hand right after this one, then by chatting with a buddy who was in the room and recognized me, so it took me awhile to jot down my notes.  Thus my details might not be perfect, but I'm pretty sure anywhere I'm off wouldn't make a big difference.

It folded back to me. Villain had me covered.  With my stack, it was marginal at best to set-mine there.  Maybe it was a definite fold.  But I felt that if I called, the guy's buddy would call as well, giving me better odds.  Plus, I really felt Villain was a guy who could stack off light if I hit the flop. I had been waiting for a chance with this guy and this seemed like that chance.

I called but his buddy folded rather quickly, so it was heads up.  The flop was sweet, Queen-6-2, rainbow.  Villain led out for $16.  I thought about raising but really, the flop looked about as dry as could be.  I was fairly certain if I called he would bet the turn.  So I decided to just flat.

The turn was a 10, and put four suits on the board, so no flush possible. I didn't think a straight draw was much to worry about. I started thinking then about how much to raise his inevitable turn bet, and wondering if he would be bet big enough so I could just shove.  But instead, after appearing as if he was going to bet, he surprised me by checking.  So I had to bet.  I thought about maybe a 3/4's pot bet, but then I figured, if he's going to call $45, he's just as likely to call $60.  And if he's getting trappy with a bigger set, I'm suppose to lose my stack there.  So I put out $60.

After a few seconds, Villain announced all-in, and I snap-called.  If he had me set-over-set, well, that's poker.  We didn't show and the river was an Ace, at which point he announced, "I have the nuts," and turned over King-Jack.  Seriously?

I was already in the process of turning over my deuces.  He said, "Wow, I had no idea you were so strong there, you bet so much."  Then he added, "You really played that well.  You made me play bad.  I just got real lucky."  Yes, runner-runner to take down a flopped set is pretty lucky.

For whatever that's worth.

But what say you?  Did I make any mistakes there?  I mean, other than the preflop call, which I know was iffy but I think was justified. Seems to me that my assessment was pretty damn good, I gave him 2-to-1 odds and he needed 4-to-1 to be correct with his open ender.  He was indeed prepared to stack off light. Or do you think deserved to lose for not raising on the flop?

I'll mention the next hand because it sort of ties in.  I rebought, and called $8 with pocket 7's.  It was four-ways. The flop was Queen-high, two clubs, no 7.  But no one bet.  The turn was a 7 of diamonds, giving me a set and putting a second diamond out there in addition to the two clubs.  First to act put out $17.  Next guy called the $17.  I bet $60.  Last guy, who was one of the Villain's buddies, said, "That was my move…I was gonna do that.  I was gonna bet $60 too."  And then, with great reluctance, he folded. The other two players also reluctantly folded.  All the players in the hand, seriously, all of them, told me, "Good bet."  They actually went on and on about how great a bet it was. "You priced out all the draws," one said.  He had a draw, the other guy said he had a Queen. I seem to recall Poker Grump once commenting on how stupid it is to say, "Good bet," as you have no idea if it was a good bet or not.  You don't know what the player who made it had and you don't know what he was trying to accomplish.  Maybe he wanted a call?

Anyway, I couldn't build on that win, and had to leave the session early due to matters out of my control, down another $10 from the second buy-in.

So, I would appreciate some feedback on the big hand I lost (or even the one I won).

Who says deuces never looses?

Monday, December 21, 2015

My Luckiest Night in Vegas Ever

Boy did I get lucky Saturday night!

It had nothing to do with poker or gambling.  But for about an hour, I was in total panic mode and I was very lucky that the incident that had me all panicked had a very happy ending.

It was late in the evening and I was at MGM.  I was done playing poker for the evening.  I was trying to relax and enjoy the, um, scenery that is provided there on a night when the club is open.  One problem I've been having ever since arriving in Vegas is that my chronic bad back has been more problematic than usual.  It really bothers me most when I do a lot of walking, and in this case "a lot" is not really all that much.  So I was sitting down in front of one of the automated roulette machines that is located by the deli, which is also close to one of the areas where the club-goers line up.  It's a pretty good place to sit and enjoy the view on a club nite.

I was using my phone to, among other things, text one of my pals.  After I was done with the texting, I put my cell phone down on the roulette machine, next to the bottle of soda I had.  I remember thinking that maybe that wasn't such a good idea, thinking that since the phone and the soda were behind me, it was possible somebody could rush by and grab my phone before I could notice.  Or even if I did notice, once they were running away I'd be helpless since I can't move very fast due to my back issues.

But does anyone really do that these days?  Steal cell phones like that?  I thought it unlikely, but definitely thought that I had to make sure to grab my phone when I was ready to get up.  In fact, I was sure that at one point, after looking at my phone, I put it back in the case that I use for it, that is attached to my belt (the belt goes through the loops so the case can't fall off).

Anyway, I got up finally, walked around as best I could, and headed towards the back of the property where the parking garage is.  I made my way slowly, because if I walk slowly enough, my back isn't too bad.  I was basically walking at half my normal pace.

When I got back near the hotel lobby, I took a seat in front of a slot machine.  I needed a rest before heading back to my car since there was still a long walk to the car from there (the MGM is a big freaking place).  Pus that location is also pretty good for enjoying viewing the club-goers coming and going.  Also it is also possible to catch a hooker sighting or two there.

I was there for awhile and I believe I was just about to reach for my phone to see if I had any new emails or texts when my buddy Abe walked by, on his way to his car.  I had missed seeing him in the poker room earlier.  He stopped and had a nice chat, probably at least 20-minutes.  Finally he continued on and I stayed behind.  And so then I reached into my case for my cell phone and….nothing.  WTF?

I stood up and looked around.   Nothing on the floor near me. I checked all my pockets even though I rarely put my phone anywhere but in my case.  Nope, not there.

Holy shit!  This was scary. I mean, my whole life is on that cell phone. I can't afford to lose it.

I thought the most likely thing was that I actually did leave the phone resting on that roulette machine, even though I was sure I hadn't because I had actually thought of that very possibility.  So I headed back towards that machine. But I was also retracing my steps and scanning the floor, as it struck me as possible that it had somehow fallen out (or was possibly knocked out, tho I didn't recall bumping into anyone) along the way. I tried to follow my path back as accurately as I could remember it.

Interesting thing.  I was in such a frantic state, I was walking totally pain free (or at least, oblivious to the pain) and I was walking at least three times faster than my normal pace and who knows how much faster than I had been walking since arriving in Vegas.

Anyway, I made it back to the roulette machine, and of course the phone was not there, and I looked all around the floor near there and found nothing. It was time to head to Lost & Found.  Until that very moment, I had never needed this service at MGM, so I stopped by the poker room and asked where it was.  Turns it was back where I was when I first noticed the phone was missing, near the entrance to the parking garage.

I headed over there and of course kept scanning the floor for a phone.  No luck.  When I got to the Lost & Found, I was nervous as hell and very upset, and there was this guy in front of me trying to locate his coat, which, from what I could tell, he had actually checked somewhere, so it was weird that it was missing.  Anyway, after telling this guy three times that his coat had not been turned into them, he somehow, magically, found the guy's coat.

Meanwhile I'm sweating bullets just desperate to talk to this guy and praying my phone was turned in.  The guy checked his computer and there was no phone turned in that evening.  Nada, zippo.  I was surprised that he didn't ask me to fill out a report.  Instead, he gave me a card and told me to check back at that number in a couple of hours to see if it had shown up.  Well, since I didn't have a phone, that was sure going to be easy, wasn't it?  Well, I do have a hotel phone I can use in my room.  Just like in the old days, before everyone had a cell phone.

I wasn't ready to quit yet.  I wanted to do one more attempt at retracing my steps to see if I could find it myself, by some miracle.  Again, no luck.  But when I was in the area where I last saw it, a thought came to me that maybe one of the bouncers who police the lines to the club may have found it (since I may have dropped in that vicinity).  And if so, perhaps they hadn't yet had a chance to turn into L&F. So I asked one of them, he checked with another one who actually could use his cell phone to tap directly into the L&F inventory.  And he told me that there was no phone turned in. I asked if there was any chance one of the other bouncers had picked up and just hadn't had a chance to return it, and he said no, they would turn it in right away.

Looks like I was screwed.  As I walked back to the parking garage, I started thinking, planning and wondering what the hell I was gonna do.  I figured first thing I'd do when I got back to my room was just try calling myself and see if someone answered.  Of course that would be a long distance call from my hotel room phone, and back in the day when that was the only way to make a call from your room, they used to charge exorbitant rates both for just making a call and then for the long distance charge.  But that was the least of my problems.

I figured I'd call Verizon and see what help they could offer me.  Could they locate the phone?  I have to confess, I had done nothing in advance to prepare for something like this, no app installed that could help me.  I was working without a net. 

I figured I'd have to spend all night changing every single password for ever single app or program or account that I have on my phone. And then what?  If my phone had not been turned in by morning, I couldn't do my work without a phone.  I couldn't do Vegas without a phone.  Could I get a temporary replacement?  Would I have to buy a new phone (at full cost)?  I wasn't looking forward to that possibility.  But what choice would I have?

I made the walk back towards the garage in a very agitated state.  I never took my eyes off the floor still hoping to see it somewhere on the floor.  Since the L&F desk is right by the escalator down to the garage, I had nothing to lose by stopping by there one more time just to see if maybe it had turned up in the past 20-minutes or so.  It was like drawing to a one-outer but what did I have to lose?

I went back there and the same guy was there, no one in front of me this time.  He greeted me with a "What can I do for you, sir," as if he didn’t recognize me from just a few minutes earlier.

I told him I was just double checking on my cell phone.

"What kind of phone was it again?"

I told him it was an LG G3.

Suddenly he reached for something on his desk that I hadn't noticed…a cell phone!  He pulled off the yellow sticky that was on it that said "Stage Deli" on it and examined it to see if he could identify the kind of phone it was.  He couldn't, but I could already tell it was my phone.  So he asked who my carrier was, since that is identified on the phone itself.  I told him it was Verizon and he asked me to unlock the phone.  Since all I had to do was tap the front of the phone a couple of times and swipe, that didn't really prove it was my phone but it seemed good enough him.  He did take a copy of my driver's license and made me sign a form that I had received my phone back, but that was it.  I cannot tell you how relieved I was. Phew.  I would be able to sleep that night!

I asked if it was an employee or a good Samaritan who had found it, and he said it was an employee.  I'm guessing it was a janitor.  The sticker indicated it was found in the area where I last remembered using it, where I had put it down on the roulette machine.  But I honestly don't believe I left it on the machine.  I think it is much more likely that when I went to put it back in my case, I didn't secure it properly and probably just didn't notice that it fallen on the floor.  But I'll never really know.

I'd like to thank the Lost & Found and the security folks at MGM for their great service and response.  Great job.

But let's face it, I got incredibly lucky.  No doubt the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me in Vegas, getting that phone back, unscathed, in such a short period of time.  Of course that one hour that it was missing will probably take two years off my life, but I'll worry about that later.

Meanwhile, would love to hear advice as to what steps I should have taken if I had had to return to my room without the phone?  And what should I do know to be better prepared for this if —perish the thought—this ever happens again.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Was She Naked?"

I guess it’s been awhile since I’ve done this, but every now and then I like to dive deep into the memory banks and tell a story from long, long ago, back to my earlier days of Vegas visits.  One such blast from the past can be found here.

Back in the day, long before I played poker, my buddy Norm and I used to visit Vegas 2-3 times a year, for a few days or maybe a week at a time.  We had more or less regular 9-5 jobs and this was how we would spend our vacation time.

So this story takes place a long, long time ago, and it probably has remained in my memory for all this time because it is the origin of one Norm and mine’s favorite catch phrases.  What’s important to remember is that this happened when not only Vegas was very different, but so was the world.

There were no cell phones back then, and the internet didn’t exist, or maybe it was in its infancy but certainly didn’t resemble what it is today.  If you said, “Google” to anyone you would have gotten a look like you were speaking a foreign language (or baby talk).

It was so long ago, naked women had just been invented.

Oh, ok, that’s not quite true.  I think naked women have been around for at least several hundred years.  Naked men too, but no one cares about them.

But it used to be naked women were hard to see. Many guys actually had to marry a woman to see one naked.  But then, in the 1950’s, Hugh Heffner accidentally discovered that men liked naked woman when he added a few pictures to his magazine that everyone read for the articles, which he called Playboy. And since then, naked women were easier to see.  Men would go to newsstands (anyone remember those?) and buy a few of “those kind” of magazines. To make it look ok, they’d also buy copies of Newsweek, Time, Life and Sports Illustrated (before the swimsuit issue was invented), which they’d throw away as soon as they left the newsstand.

“Burlesque” shows turned into strip clubs which had signs like “Live Nude Girls!”—which had to be better than “Dead Nude Girls,” no? And thus another way to see naked women was born.

Las Vegas, a city long known to cater to all of man’s sins (hence the nickname, “Sin City”) started producing production shows with almost completely naked women.

Then Hollywood got into the act.  They started putting naked women in their movies. Aspiring and established actresses would be asked to shoot a scene or two in their birthday suits in major and not-so- major) movies.  The directors and producers of said movies would insist to these actresses that it was essential to the movie’s plot and to tell the dramatic story that they be seen without their clothes on. But of course, the real reason was they wanted to see them naked.

Hmm, I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent there.  Sorry about that, that is so unlike me.

Anyway, back to my Vegas trips with my pal Norm.  Norm and I had somehow discovered this phenomenon of actresses appearing sans clothing in movies and, as keen observers of popular trends and culture, had started paying attention to it.  Although the sight of a naked female certainly didn’t offend us, our main interest was as researchers. You see, not all of Hollywood’s stars and starlets were willing to remove their clothing for art.  So our main interest was learning who would and who wouldn’t take their clothes off for the camera.  We were really more like scientists studying this trend than anything else.

Again, I have to remind you of the times.  Today, there would be no need for our research, because the internet lays it all out for you. This may shock you, but I’ve heard that there are websites that not only list what actors have appeared in their birthday suits, but in which movies they have done so—and some even have the scenes (or pictures) available for your viewing pleasure.  Further, it is announced long before the movie is even made if Star X will be showing the goods.  By the time a movie comes out, it’s a safe bet that the most interesting scenes are already on the web.  If not, they soon will be. 

Back in the day, we were left to speculate. Of course, there were these things called “newspapers” (anyone remember them?) that got your hands full of gray ink that would publish movie reviews.  And sometimes they would say whether or not there was nudity in them.  Presumably this was a warning for parents, but come on, we know who the real intended audience was.  The problem was that “nudity” is a term that is not nearly as specific as one might think.  A person could technically be naked but somehow covered by a well placed prop, yet the listing would still call that “nudity.”

In those days, we had no choice but to see the movie in question ourselves, in a theater, for our scientific research. Or, we could wait for the movie to show up a year or so later on this new thing called “cable TV.”  Or maybe even rent or buy a tape of the movie from a “Video Store” in either VHS or yes, this story goes back this far, “Beta.”

Norm and I lived in the L.A. area but he travelled a lot for his work.  He would frequently be on the road for a week at a time.  He had a lot of free time in the evenings (remember, there was no internet!) so he’d sometimes see a movie while travelling.  The good movies that we’d both wanted to see he’d save for when we got together.  But if there was a movie out that merited the kind of research I’ve been talking about, he’d go see it while he was on the road, and report the results of his research back to me.

As I recall the story, on this particular trip, we had just arrived in town. Our main activities at this point when we went to Vegas were blackjack, craps, Pai Gow (when it was introduced) and food.  And by food, we usually meant buffets.  For many years, our favorite buffet was at the Golden Nugget, and I think that’s where this story took place, but am not 100% certain.  Oh, and by the way, another thing we frequently did in Vegas was go to movies.  Any old time Vegas folks remember the Red Rock theaters?

So we were enjoying a nice buffet lunch (and by “enjoying” I mean “pigging out on”) and we were catching up on what we’d been up to since the last time we’d gotten together. And Norm had just come back from a trip somewhere for work, and told me that he saw a particular movie that had just come out.  It was definitely not an “A” movie.  It was a movie that I knew instantly that he could have only seen as part of this research project—to see if the female star of it actually appeared in the buff in this film.

As an aside, I think I remember the actress in question, but am not sure.  If I was right about the actress, I’d probably have to look up the movie cuz I sure can’t remember the title.  But since it’s not necessary to the story and I could be wrong, I won’t mention who I think it might have been).

Anyway, Norm mentioned seeing this specific film and there was only question that needed to be asked.  There we were, both with full plates of food in front of us, and I leaned in and asked Norm, “Was she naked?”

Well, at that precise moment, unseen by me, the waitress had come by to see if we needed anything (drink refills, most likely).  My memory is that the waitress was this sweet, older woman.  And there was no doubt in either of our minds that she heard exactly what I asked Norm.

Norm and I just stared at each in horror, and when she left, we did indeed confirm each other’s suspicions that she had heard this.

Now, in hindsight, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal.  After all, this was Vegas, and no doubt the woman had heard and seen a lot worse.  But keep in mind it was a different era. Since there was no internet, there was no internet porn. We were gentlemen who were taught to act respectfully around women.  Yes there really was an era, and it wasn’t all that long ago, when a gentleman didn’t say  the word “naked” around women.

I recall being very embarrassed and also that Norm was even more embarrassed to have been seen with me.

Anyway, eventually we had a good laugh or two over it, told our other friends about it, and it soon became a catch phrase.  Now here’s the thing.  This same scenario, in some variation, started repeating itself over and over. Frequently one of us would catch ourselves from saying some thing too embarrassing, or sleazy, or even just personal, just as a server was coming to take our order or check on us. We began using the code phrase, “Was she….?” as a warning, if one of our party noticed the waitress and sensed that the conversation was about to go risqué. Or if we were about to stop ourselves just in the nick of time, as soon as the server left, we’d say “Was she naked?” practically in unison. But sometimes, yeah, it would happen again, and one of us would be overheard saying something we sure didn’t want anyone not part of our group to overhear.  And most of the time, when the speaker didn’t catch himself in time, it was me.

Probably today, in Vegas, that might be the mildest thing a waitress ever overhears.  But still, if you’re ever at a restaurant with me, and you hear me start to talk about my latest hooker story, take a quick glance around for an approaching server and remember to say, “Was she?”  I’ll get the hint.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Very Late—or Slightly Early—Christmas Post

Tis the season, as they say, so what better way to get you in the Christmas spirit than talk about my poker session from Christmas Day last year.

I know, I’m a little late.  But I never have ever attempted to do this blog in chronological order, as you know.  And so just the other day I looked at one of my old posts, the one from the day after Christmas, last year.  You can find it here.  And it was about the session from the day before, but just a real quick story about one hand from that session.  And clear as day, I wrote, “The story of this night's session will be an epic post (or two, or three) that I will get to eventually, possibly mid-2017 at the rate I am racking up stories for you.”

Well, according my notes, it appeared that I had never gotten around to give you the rest of the story on that session.  And after checking further, I confirmed that I never written the post for it.

I must say, I was a little upset with you, my dear readers when I realized this.  I mean, I know most of my readers memorize every post I write, word-for-word.  So I was wondering why I hadn’t heard clamoring from all of you, demanding that I tell you the rest of the story from this night.  What’s wrong with you people? Why weren’t you complaining that I left you hanging like that?  OK, to be fair, I did warn you that it might not come until mid-2017.  So by that standard, it’s early.  Anyway, I discovered that there were a bunch of nice sessions from that time period I never wrote up, so I will be relating them here in the possibly near future, and they will certainly be a welcome change from all the bad sessions from my most recent trip.

The night before this session, I had a a pretty rough go of it.  It was definitely not worth mentioning, other than the fact that when I was done, I realized I had played 4-1/2 hours without getting a single pocket pair.  Not a one. I lost about $160 and that’s all I need to say about that.
This night I did start getting pocket pairs, small ones that only cost me money.  For a couple of hours it seemed like I was picking up exactly where I left it the night before, and was losing chips again.

After missing with pairs like 5’s and 7’s, I had Queen-6 in the big blind and flopped two pair.  There was some betting on the flop and turn and it was mostly heads up, and it turned out that the other guy had Queen-6 too.  I was the big blind, he had limped from late position.  What the hell was his excuse?

I dropped to around $75 (from $200) and added $100.  Still losing, I got down to $120 or so.  The perfect time to get the dreaded pocket Kings. After a limper, I made it $10 and had three callers. The flop was King-6-6.  I mean, you’re supposed to flop a boat when you have the dreaded hand, right?  I slow-played it but no one else bet either.  On a blank turn, I bet $20 and had two callers.  Another blank and I bet $70.  No one called this time, but I did show for a drawing ticket, which was the first of many I got this night.  Keep that in the back of your mind.
Honestly, playing Kings, flopping a boat with them, and winning a respectable pot with them, I should have just retired from poker right then and there.

Sitting behind about $180, I raised to $8 with Ace-5 clubs. Only the big blind called. Flop was King-Queen-4, two clubs.  I c-bet $15 and he called.  The turn was the 8 of clubs, and Villain led out for $15, I made it $30 and he called.  The river was the Ace of spades and Villain shoved. Our stacks were almost identical and with the stone cold nuts it was a pretty easy call.  He showed King-8 off.  I took the pot, got another drawing ticket, and now was sitting behind $350, so I was actually up for the session.

I raised to $11 with King-Queen offsuit, four players called.  The flop was King-Jack-Jack.  I bet $30 and the only caller was the Villain from the last hand. The turn was another King.  This time we both checked (sorry, no explanation in my voice notes as to what I was thinking there as to why I didn’t bet with the boat).  I bet $65 on the river, a low card, he called and showed Jack-x.  He picked up the rest of his chips and left, declining the drawing ticket that was offered to him, saying, “No, this is not my night.”  I got the pot and another ticket.

I had 7-6 of diamonds and called a raise to $12 from the fellow who had replaced the Villain from the previous two hands—he was pretty aggro.  Unfortunately my voice notes are not complete, but I flopped the flush draw and no one bet (it was heads up).  I called $20 on the turn, still needing a diamond.  The flush came on the river and we both checked. He showed pocket Aces.  I got yet another drawing ticket in addition to the pot.  The guy asked me why I didn’t bet the river, and I just shrugged, but of course I was thinking I was a long way from the nut flush.  I should have turned the tables on him and asked him why he didn’t bet the flop with his Aces (one of which was the diamond).

I called $10 with Ace-5 of clubs, it was four-ways and there were two clubs on the flop.  No one bet.  The turn was another club, the preflop raiser bet $15 and I made it $35.  No one called, but I showed the hand to get another ticket.

I managed to lose most of my profit in non-spectacular fashion, and had close to $300.  In the small blind, I completed with Ace-10 offsuit, there were five of us.  The flop was pretty nice, King-Queen-Jack, rainbow. I bet $5.  Another player made it $10.  He had me covered and was prone to making overbets. The next guy called, the other two players folded, and I made it $35.  The guy who raised to $10—the one who had me covered, shoved.  The next guy, with about $80, shoved.  Of course I called having the nuts, but having to fade who knew what.

No one showed.  I was sitting there praying for two low cards that didn’t match either in rank or suit.  Instead, the turn was another damn King.  And to make matters worse, the river was another Jack.  Broadway wasn’t looking so good.

The big stack had 10-9, which was a relief.  The shorter stack had Queen-Jack.  I survived the paired King, but not the paired Jack.  But I still did fine, winning about $140 on the side-pot.

With pocket 4’s, I limped in along with four others.  No one bet the flop or the turn.  By the turn, there were three clubs out there and I had the 4 of clubs.  Another club hit the river, and I checked the pot to confirm that it was at least $10.  It was.  So I didn’t need to bet to get a ticket, and I didn’t want to bet such a baby flush.  But no one else bet, I had the only club, so I won a small pot but got yet another ticket.

As the midnight drawing approached, I had accumulated 6 drawing tickets, by far the most I have had in one drawing.  And I also had a nice profit from the poker, after a bad start.  Back then, the drawings were different, there had many different possibilities for how the cash was given away.  I honestly don’t recall the details but I think it was possible that only $100 would be given away, or that one person would win maybe a $500 prize, or there would be multiple prizes.  But regardless, for this particular drawing, they drew a prize of a total of $1,000, to be given away to 10 tickets, each worth $100.  You could win multiple times if you had multiple tickets. 

The graveyard shift manager started pulling tickets.  Now she had already seen me and said hi to me when she came around to get the final tickets.  So, the second name she called was mine, and she added, “I don’t think Robert’s here.  No, he’s not here.”  She was just teasing of course.  Then, after a few more tickets, she pulled another one with my name on it.  Again she joked that I wasn’t there.

So, I won $200 in promo money this night. Pretty cool (this was long before I decided that these promos were not necessarily good for me).  My profit from the poker was $150.  So it was a pretty Merry Christmas for me.