Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Million Thanks!

If you look over to the right side of the page, you will see my last post, I've now passed 1,000,000 page views since I started this blog in September, 2011.   That's one million, folks.  I'm not sure what I expected when I started doing this, but I'm sure it wasn't that.

I joked on Twitter yesterday that to celebrate, I would take every single post I've done until now, combine them into one combined post, and publish that to celebrate.  Yeah, I'm not sure there's a server in the world that could handle that.

Instead, I'm going to put a sample of some of the pics I've included in posts over the years.  So yes, these are all basically "reprints"--except I'm going to throw in a new one or two.

You see I'm still too busy to actually write a post for you, so hopefully this will do for the time being.

I want to thank each and everyone one of my loyal (and even my not-so-loyal) readers for coming here regularly to see what silliness I'm talking about it.  Obviously I couldn't have reached this milestone without you.

I'm gonna keep trying to knock out blog posts for you as long as I can.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Anna & The (Dreaded Pocket) Kings

Sorry I haven't been posting much lately.  It's been some time since I've given you a "real" blog post, I know.  Last time it was just a reprint of my latest Ante Up column, and the one before that was a totally off-topic rant about the NBA playoffs.  But you know, I've been in Vegas for well over a week now, and I've been busy, busy, busy.  The good news is that there's plenty to write about, the bad news is that if I take the time to write up the stories, I can’t get more stories to write about.

So let's see how fast I can knock out this story about a fun time at the MGM poker room Saturday night.

I was assigned to a table right along the rail leading out into the casino. I already mentioned it was a Saturday night so you know why that was a pretty good table to be assigned (in case you don't, well the club is open Saturday night, got it?).  It took me all of half a nano-second to notice that there was a very attractive young woman sitting at seat 5 of this table, directly across from the dealer. In addition to a pretty face, it was clear, even while she was sitting in her chair with a table in front of her, that she had a very nice figure, to say the least.

I like having women at the poker table with me, and that has nothing to do with how they play.  I make no great assumptions about female poker players. I know there's a stereotype that they play less aggressively than the typical male poker player, and while that might be somewhat true, I've seen enough exceptions so that I know I can't rely on that.  I like them because female poker players tend to look better, and smell better, than their male counterparts.  Also, female poker players are a great source of "woman saids," and I'm always looking for those, as you all well know.

Originally I was stuck in seat 3, which was bad for a couple of reasons.  I don't see well from there; it's hard for me to see the action on the other side of the table.  The other problem was it was very close to one of the chairs on the table behind me, meaning staying there meant getting bumped into every few minutes, something that annoys the hell out of me.  So as I soon as I noticed the seat next to the young lady, seat 6, was available, I moved there.

But not long after that, I noticed seat 9 was available.  Seat 9 is directly next to the dealer.  It also has the best view of the folks walking through the casino on the way to the club.  So of course you understand why this would be my preferred seat. I grabbed that seat as soon as I could.  When I got up to leave, the woman in seat 5 said to me, "What's wrong, do I smell bad?" I laughed and assured her that was not the case.  Another player wanted to know why I kept moving seats.  I said, "I just want to keep moving so I can play the blinds more often."  He laughed and said, "OK, whatever works for you."

I never really got anywhere with the poker.  But the dynamics at the table were interesting.  The fellow in seat 3 started peppering the woman in seat 5 with questions.  It was clear that the woman had pricked his interest.  Thus I soon learned the lady's name was Anna and she was from Brooklyn, NY. I also learned her age, but as a gentleman, I won’t reveal that. Yes, Anna is her real name, and it will soon be obvious why I am not giving her a blog pseudonym.  I commented that she didn't sound like she was from Brooklyn, no hint of a New York or Brooklyn accent.  She just shrugged.  She then said she now lives in New Jersey, which she prefers to Brooklyn because it isn't so crowded…and it was pretty, there are flowers and trees there.  It was there that I no doubt impressed her with my vast knowledge of the states by saying, "Yes, it's the 'garden state.'"

The guy in seat 3, who was hitting on Anna, said he would never, ever live in New York.  He said he was from Los Angeles, and Anna returned fire by saying she couldn't see herself ever living in L.A.  I didn't take offense at this, nor did I admit to being an Angelino myself.  I felt that seat 3 was being so annoying to her that he deserved this comment whether it was true or not.  He was not representing L.A. well. Then he claimed that he now lived in Tennessee, which is probably an embarrassment to the Volunteer State.

From seat 3's third degree, we learned that Anna is a dog lover (she did indeed show us a pic of her dog) and that her passion was poker.  This surprised me a bit.  I hadn’t been there long, but since I had been there, except when she was responding to questions from seat 3, she seemed a lot more interested in whatever she was reading/watching/listening to on her cell phone than the poker and had not played very many hands at all.  My assumption was she was just a recreational player, not even a very frequent one, just killing time playing 1/2 while waiting to do something more interesting. I had noticed what appeared to be a Twitter screen on her phone in the brief time I was sitting next to her. 

Seat 3 wanted to know what her passion was after poker, and she said handball.  I have to admit, I never heard that one before.

At one point Anna asked how long she could be away from the table.  Told it was an hour, she nodded and said, "Oh, are you gonna take an hour break?  We'd miss you."  She said she wouldn't take a long break, but…..

Although she was talking a lot more with seat 3, I don't recall her ever asking him what his name was.  She did, however, ask me my name, which was nice.

The other big discussion was on politics.  I will leave that entire discussion out of this post because, as you know, I don't like to discuss politics on the blog.  But it appeared there was a lot of agreement between seat 3 and Anna on the world situation.  Fortunately, no one spoke up to disagree with their world view, which was a relief to me, because that could have gotten unpleasant.  But at one point seat 3 said, "I bet we've offended a few people at this table.  Sorry."

Anna handled this character's inquisition with charm and class.  She was, in fact a pleasure to play with the whole evening.  

Seat 3 won a big pot, to add to his big stack, and then racked up and left.  The conversation quieted down after that.  The guy who replaced him looked familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place him.  To me, he looked like an English or Economics professor, don't know why.  But I knew I'd seen him before, I just assumed that I'd seem in a poker room or two around town.  He didn’t say much, at least that I could hear, since we were on opposite sides of the table.  The previous guy in seat 3 could be heard from a few tables over, I'm sure. 

Two guys took seats 7 and 8 next to me, who were together, either friends or brothers.  They looked kind of similar, both had shaved heads, so maybe brothers.  The guy on my immediate right obviously fancied himself a great poker player and was somewhat coaching the other guy, telling him all the time why he did something, and how great a play it was. "Did you see that?  That was expert play there."  I heard him say that a number of times.

I also heard them whispering a bit about "the girl"—I assumed they meant Anna, but couldn't really make anything out more than that.

I'll only mention a couple of poker hands before getting to the payoff for this post.  I called a $7 raise from the big blind with Ace-8 off, and three of us saw the flop, including the "expert" to my right who was the small blind.  The flop came Ace-8-x.  The expert checked, and I checked, expecting the preflop raiser to c-bet so I could check-raise him.  Indeed, he bet $7.  To my surprise, the small blind made it $15.  WTF?  Now I didn't know what to do, had he flopped a set?  I was caught off guard so I just called, as did the preflop raiser.  The turn was an innocuous looking 9, and to my surprise, the small blind checked again, as did I.  Preflop raiser bet $25, and the small blind….folded.  Huh?  Totally lost and confused, I just called.  I checked a blank river and called another $25.  When the guy turned over Ace-9, I was livid.  What the hell was the guy doing check-raising the flop and then folding on a nothing looking turn?  I  felt he ruined the hand for me.  I would have checked-raised a lot more than $15.  But after I had a chance to calm down, I realized the preflop raiser probably was not going to fold top pair on the flop no matter what, so it wasn't as bad as I thought.  And then Mr. Expert said to me, "I screwed that up.  I had pocket Jacks and was trying to get all his chips.  I should have just raised preflop."  Yeah, that would have saved me some money.  Thanks, guy.

I raised to $10 with Jack-10 of hearts, and two players called, including Anna.  The flop came Queen-10-x, two spades.  I bet $15 and Anna shoved.  I said, "Really Anna?"  It was around $70, but she had played so few hands that I assumed she had a monster.  I folded.  After she took in the pot, she said, "I had a pair and a flush draw."  Hmm….

The last hand of the night I noted was when I had the dreaded pocket Kings.  Four people had limped in so I made it $16.  No one called, and a few people questioned why I raised so big.  Apparently they hadn't noticed that there were so many limpers.

Anyway, Anna finally took a long, long break.  She was gone well over a half an hour.  I heard the two guys on my right mentioning "the girl" and her being away so long, and wondering if/when she would return.  And then finally, the guy on my right nudged me and showed me a picture on his cell phone.  "This is the girl in seat 5."

This is the picture he showed me.

Man, oh man, I saw a strong resemblance, but I had no idea.  He told me who she was. "She was on Survivor.  She's a professional poker player, and a professional handball player."  I saw her name, Anna Khait.  I immediately started Googling her.  Since I'd seen her on Twitter I quickly found her Twitter account, read up on her and sure enough everything checked out.  There were other pics that looked exactly like the Anna in seat 5.  She was indeed a pro (or semi-pro) poker player based now in Jersey.  Funny, when she had mentioned living in NJ I commented that she could play on there and she acknowledged that she did. I almost asked her handle then and if I had, maybe I would have found out who she was then.

Sorry I didn’t recognize her.  But I confess, I've never watched one second of Survivor.  And I just don't follow professional poker much.  It's not my beat, I don't cover the professional game for Ante Up, I follow the scene for the recreational players. Often when people mention a name of a pro I should know, I just nod and try to remember the name so I can look them up later.

Anyway, the guy said he had indeed recognized her (I think it was from poker, not Survivor) and he didn't want to "out" her.  But he was obviously bursting with his secret and finally he shared it with the rest of the table while she was gone.  I have no idea if anyone else knew who she was before that.  But I honestly don't think she was trying to keep her identity a secret, for what it's worth.

When she finally returned from her dinner, no one said anything about it.  It was like our little secret.  But I knew what to do.  I figured I would tell her privately that I finally knew who she was.  I'd used Twitter to do this with other people before...tweeted to someone, "I'm the guy in seat 4!"  So I sent her a tweet that said, "don't feel obligated to say anything, but I'm the 'Rob' in seat 9. Nice to meet you!"  She had her phone down for awhile but when she looked at it finally, she looked up at me and gave a nice little smile.  Then she tweeted back, "you're so sweet. Fun playing with u."

When I realized she was a pro, I was really surprised she was playing so tight.  I would have expected a pro playing 1/2 to be playing a much more LAG style.  I guess she was card dead, or maybe that's the way she plays, or perhaps she was working on certain aspects of her game  Or maybe I don’t know what I'm talking about.  There's always that possibility.

I finally gave up the game and said goodbye to the lovely Anna Khait.  She was  total delight the entire night.

And here's a picture of her I found that looks a little more like she looked when I met her Saturday night.

There's a punch line to this story.  The next day I got a private tweet from "KKing David Bass" asking me if I had been playing with Anna at MGM too.  This was in response to a tweet I sent out the next day saying how much fun I had playing with her.  He said he had been in seat 3 at her table.  All I could remember about seat three by then was the Tennessee guy who had been quizzing Anna.  So I looked up to see if he had a Twitter pic.  Holy cow!  It was the guy who I felt had looked like a professor, who I thought looked familiar.  I was right.  Only I had recognized David from his Twitter pic, which I had see many times before, since we follow each other (and read each other's blogs).  You should check out his blog here.  What a nice coincidence.  But David, since you put the title "KKing" in front of your name, and use two "K's" to indicate pocket Kings, I would suggest you change your name from "David" to "Dreaded."  Just sayin'.

Finally, a note about this post's title. I'm sure you've noticed I sometimes use take-offs on books, movies and TV shows for titles, sometimes copying them outright.  I thought I'd do something with "Anna" and recalled that the novel that the Broadway musical and movie "The King and I" came from was called (or so I thought) "Anna and the King."  Wow, that's perfect, what with my thing with pocket Kings and then KKing David working his way into the story.  The trouble is, I checked, and the actual title of the novel is "Anna and the King of Siam," and I can't figure a way to work "Siam" into the title.  So I guess it's more of a miss, but I still like the title.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vegas Poker Scene - July 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 now.

But wait!  Before we get to that, the new issue also features I profile I submitted of my pal Kristi Smith, better known to you as Alaskagal.  Let's get to that first, and then the column, ok?


Meet Kristi Smith

Kristi Smith has been in poker as a dealer, dual-rate and supervisor in Las Vegas since 2008.
How did you get into poker? I got into poker in 2005. I was living in Alaska and the winters are long and boring. My ex-husband came home from work and said we would be going to play a Texas Hold’em tournament at a co-worker’s house. We went and played and I ended up getting second and I loved the game. I immediately began playing the free poker offered around town as there are no casinos in Alaska. I learned to deal from a group that runs charity tournaments. I would deal those whenever they came up. In 2008, I moved to Las Vegas. I got my first poker-dealing job from Jake Revelle at Imperial Palace. I worked there for a couple of years then moved to Mirage in 2010. Now I’m a dual-rate. Most days I deal and some days I work as a floor supervisor.
Why play at Mirage? Mirage has well-rounded promotions and it rewards MLife members with $2 an hour in food comps. In addition to $1-$2 and $2-$5 NLHE, Mirage has the most consistent $3-$6 limit game on the strip. Mirage offers four tournaments daily and will create a personalized tournament for your group for special events, such as a bachelor or birthday party.
What do you do when you’re not dealing poker? I’m usually playing poker. I enjoy playing $1-$2 NLHE and daily tournaments. I also love to sing karaoke and simply enjoy all that Las Vegas has to offer.

 And now the regular column:  
The MGM Grand hosts the fifth annual Celebrity Poker Tournament with actor-comedian Brad Garrett.The tournament benefits the Maximum Hope Foundation, a non-profit that provides urgent financial assistance to families with a critically ill child.
The organization was founded nearly 16 years ago by Garrett and makes rent payments, covers utility bills, offers gift cards for groceries or gas or assists with other urgent financial needs for those families with a child battling a life-limiting illness.
This year, the tournament will be during the World Series of Poker, just a week or so before the main event, at noon on July 2. The buy-in is $250 with $200 add-ons.The grand prize is $10K, which is conveniently the price of a WSOP main-event seat.Brunch is being donated by Wolfgang Puck.
POST WSOP: One of the many appealing things about poker in Las Vegas is the tournament action is great all year around.Of course, nothing compares to WSOP-time with all the great series around town, but when all those series wrap up, there are still plenty of tournaments.
The biggest buy-in events are not available, but there are a plenty of low-to-moderately priced tournaments all over town.
• The Venetian has two tournaments daily, at noon and 7 p.m., offering guarantees. All regular tournaments have 30-minute levels. The biggest buy-in is the $300 Saturday afternoon bounty tournament that offers a $12K guarantee.Players start with 12K chips and players get a $100 bounty for each player knocked out.
Fridays and Sundays at noon the tournament is a $200 bounty tournament with $50 bounties and a $9K guarantee.Again, players start with a 12K stack.
The rest of the week, the noon tournament is $150, no bounties, same starting stack and the $9K guarantee.
Rebuy tournaments are Wednesday and Friday evenings.Wednesday, the buy-in is $125 for a 10K stack and players can take advantage of unlimited rebuys for the first four levels.The rebuys are $100 for another 10K stack and players can rebuy whenever their stack is at or below 10K.The Friday offering is $200 for a 12K stack.Here, it’s a single $200 rebuy for another 12K whenever the stack is at 12K or less through the first four levels.
Monday and Sunday evenings offer a $125 buy-in with a 10K starting stack and a $4,500 guarantee.The rest of the evenings feature bounty events.
Tuesday and Saturday have $50 bounties for the $200 buy-ins, 12K starting stack.Thursday night is $125, $25 bounties and a $7K guarantee.
• The Wynn, with its new 8,600-square-feet 28-table poker room that opened in late May, offers a $25K guarantee Saturdays at noon, the biggest guarantee for a regular tournament in town. The buy-in is $225 for 10K chips.There are unlimited $200 rebuys for 10K chips any time a player’s stack is at or below 5K through the first four levels. There’s also an optional 5K add-on for $100.The levels last 40 minutes.
Fridays and Sundays are $200 events with $10K guarantees, 30-minute levels and a 10K starting stack.The rest of the week the offering is a $140 buy-in, 10K chips and 30-minute levels.
On the first Wednesday of the month, the regular tournament is replaced by a $300 senior event that features a $12,500 guarantee.The starting stack is 12,500 and there’s an optional $100 add-on for 5K chips at the end of the registration period, the fourth level. The levels are 30 minutes.
Thursdays at 5 p.m. is a $120 PLO tournament.Players start with 10K chips and have unlimited $100 rebuys available through the first four levels for 10K chips. There’s also a $50 add-on for 5K chips.
• The Aria runs two popular tournaments a day.Weeknights at 7 and Sunday through Thursday at 1 p.m. the $125 tournaments offer 30-minute levels and a 10K stack.Fridays and Saturdays, the daytime tournament starts at 11 a.m. and is $240 for a 20K stack.It’s worth noting the $240 tournament has proved to be popular since being introduced at the beginning of the year. It’s possible the room will decide to offer it on additional days in the near future.
• The Orleans is just a couple of miles off the Strip and is popular with locals and tourists.It offers a nice variety of tournaments twice a day at noon and 7 p.m.
The centerpiece is the Friday night $125 tournament, still the most popular regular event in town.It routinely draws 200-plus players, who start with 12,500 chips and play 30-minute levels.
The Orleans is a great spot for those who like disciplines other than hold’em.A $100 HORSE tournament runs Saturday nights offering a 10K stack and 20-minute levels. Tuesday nights feature $100 PLO, also a 10K stack and 20-minute levels. Thursday nights, it’s $75 Omaha/8 with the same starting stack and level times.
The $75 Omaha/8 tournament also runs in the afternoon on Mondays and Saturdays. Wednesday afternoons is an O/8-stud/8 tournament for $75. On Monday evenings and Friday afternoons, a $100 Super Stack Turbo tournament starts players with a 20K stack and 15-minute levels.
The schedule is filled out with $100 and $75 NLHE tournaments.
• The downtown rooms offer low buy-in tournaments during the week, while taking turns offering bigger events on the weekend.Golden Nugget has a $125 tournament Sundays at 11 a.m. with a $5K guarantee.The levels are 20 minutes and players start with 15K chips.
Binion’s Saturday deepstack at 1 p.m. has a $10K guarantee and starts players with 20K chips. Levels are 30 minutes.
As you can see, there are always great mid-priced tournament options in Vegas.
SOUTH POINT: The poker room is hosting a $10K Player Appreciation tournament Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. The top 40 hour-earners from July 1-31 qualify. First place pays $4K, second pays $3K, third is $2K and fourth is $1K. Every qualifier gets $50. See the ad on Page 9 in our July issue for more details.
CLOSURE: The Eastside Cannery, a small locals casino, closed its four-table poker room in April.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The NBA Picks a Champion

Sorry, this post is off topic.  No poker, no Vegas, no parking, no boobies.

I just have to vent a little on the NBA championship series that was decided on Sunday.  If you aren't interested in basketball, my apologies You can skip this and come back in a few days, when I'm sure I'll be talking about something more in line with my usual subject matter.

But now I must vent.  Where better to do that than on my own blog?  Of course I've vented a about sports a few times here before, so this is not a first.

As you know, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship in a thrilling game 7, beating the Golden State Warriors on the Warriors' home court, becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals to win the title.  Also, they had to win two of the three games on the road to do it.

Let me be clear. I am not a Warriors fan.  I was rooting for them against the Cavs, but the team I live and die for is not the Warriors but the Lakers.  But the Lakers have sucked lately, so I couldn't live and die for them this year.  There have been times when both the Lakers and Warriors had great teams and they had a pretty intense rivalry, and you can bet I wanted to see the Warriors buried by the Lakers.

But for now, I was mildly favoring the Warriors.  They are fun to watch and broke the record for best regular season record in league history, a phenomenal  effort.

I am upset not as a Warriors fan, but as a basketball fan.

And by the way, before the series started, I tweeted this out: "If I was one of those sports betting degens, I'd bet on the Cavs to win the series at +180. I think they are 50/50 to win."

No, the point of this post isn't to brag about being (sorta) right.  I did got some feedback telling me I was crazy and that the Warriors would win easy.  I take no pride in saying it would be close and that Cleveland was the way to bet.  Sports are unpredictable, that's what makes them so exciting.

It's just that the basketball is my favorite sport, especially the NBA variety, and I really am pissed about the way this played out. 

To show you how much I love basketball, I will tell you that I got to Vegas on Thursday, the night of game 6.  I delayed poker until after I watched the entire game in my room.  Sunday night, I was in my room watching the game again, instead of playing poker.  Note: I prefer watching a game like this in my living room (temporary or otherwise) rather than in a poker room, sports book, or bar.  It's just too distracting.  Note: Yes, I've watched Super Bowls while playing poker, that shows you how much I prefer basketball to football.

So after the final game, a real nail-biter that wasn't decided until the final seconds, I tweeted out these two tweets:  "Great game, Cavs & LeBron earned it....but series is forever asterisked by bonehead NBA front office decision to change course of series," and "So congrats to the NBA Front Office for their hard earned NBA Championship."

If you're still reading, I assume you know what I'm referring to. One of Golden State's key players, Draymond Green was suspended for game 5, which was the turning point in the series.  One of my pals, loyal blog reader (and guest blogger) Nick, responded, via Twitter, "Huh? Stop it. #conspiracytheories."  Nick assumed I was buying into the argument that the NBA somehow "fixed" the series to add a few more games to the finals, to make more money and create more excitement.  To be clear, I have always thought such theories are total bullshit. No professional sports league would risk their reputation, their credibility and even their license to operate by rigging games like that.  That's what we have professional wrestling for.

No it wasn't the NBA intentionally fixing the outcome of the series.  The outcome was decided (and changed) by a really boneheaded decision based on an even more boneheaded rule.

The NBA has two similar rules that I despise, and that are so moronic I honestly don't understand how anyone with an IQ above 23 could think they're good ideas.  Once the playoffs starts, players who get above a certain number of technical fouls, or so-called "flagrant" fouls, will be suspended for the next playoff game.  I'm too lazy and mostly too irate to look up the number. To me, it is obvious that If a player hurts his team in a game with a technical foul or a flagrant foul, and possibly even gets kicked out of that game for it, that penalty itself is more than sufficient.   If it's not, change it and give two free throws for a tech, give four free throws for a flagrant.  The issue needs to be decided within the game they are playing, not carried over.  Put it on the coach to decide if a player who keeps giving away points with his play or mouth is worth being in the lineup.

But the rules exist and going into game 4, Green—no less than the second or third best player on the team—was one flagrant foul away from the magic number where he would have to sit a game.

Late in that game—an easy win for the Warriors—he got all tangled up with LeBron James, the best player on the Cavs (and also the best player on the planet, sorry Steph Curry).  Basically, James, a very, very strong man, threw Green (not exactly a lightweight himself) to the ground.  And then—in an act that is known in the NBA as a sign of disrespect—stepped over him.  Green, from his prone position reached out with his hand and made some extremely minimal contact with James, and appeared to hit him in the groin area.

The play was reviewed during the game.  The officials are allowed to look at the replays to decide if any other action needs to be taken, be it a technical foul, a flagrant foul (of which there are two varieties, one of which means automatic ejection), or no call.  The officials on the floor did not rule it flagrant foul. The game went on.

After the game, James whined about it a bit.  The contact was so minimal that he had no idea where Green "hit" him until a reporter showed him the play on his cell phone.  So James whined about it some more, making a mountain out of a molehill.  I repeat….James didn't know Green hit him (if he even made contact) in the balls until he saw the replay on a cell phone.

So the next day, the NBA office reviewed it, and retroactively made Green's "punch" a flagrant foul, earning Green an automatic suspension for game 5.  They should really have called it a "fragrant foul"—because it really stinks.

Of course there's some history here.  Green is a tough customer and this wasn't the first time he'd made contact with a player's family jewels.  In the previous series, while completing a shot, he "accidentally" kicked a player there after getting fouled by him.  The league reviewed that one as well, and although it could have—and probably should have, based on the moronic league rules they have—suspended him for the following game in that series, they did not.

So basically, this was a "make-up" call by the league.  Those happen all the time in NBA games.  An official realizes he missed a call, and the next time down the court, he sees a phantom call to make up for it.  This was a "make-up" call.  In the earlier series, the guy Green kicked was not one of the two most important players on the team.  Of course, LeBron is the league's biggest name, even if Steph Curry has won the last two MVP awards.

I can't express how reprehensible this.

It is insane to me that the league ever, and I mean ever, retroactively overturns a ruling made the officiating crew at the game.  That game is over, move on to the next.  The officials at the game have the best insight about what happened.  They not only saw the game live, they heard it, the felt it, they understood the dynamics of what lead to it.  Plus, as I said, they also have the benefit seeing it replayed before they make their final decision, just as the idiots in the league office do. 

My feeling here is that if the officials at the game can't make the right call during the game, fire them and get better officials.  The officials at the game didn't think it was flagrant, so it wasn't a flagrant foul.  Period.

Another thing. In general, I hate with the intensity of a thousand suns ever suspending a player from a playoff game. It is brain dead.  The playoffs for any sport is that league's showcase.  You want to have the best players available to play.  Period.  As far as I'm concerned, no player (in any sport, really, but the NBA is the only I care about this much) should "ever" be suspended for a future game for actions in a previous game.  I put ever in quotes because I suppose if a player took a chair and smashed it over the back of an official during the game, I might make an exception.  But only then.

No, what they should do, if a player really does something so egregious that a suspension is warranted, is suspend the guy for games at the beginning of the next season. I'd rather see a guy suspended for 20 games to start the next season than for one playoff game when so much is on line.  Suspending players for a playoff game is not fair to the teammates—and also not far for the fans, who expect to see the best the league has to offer and who expect that the games will be decided on the court.

This is not the first time this has happened. There was a Knicks-Heat series years ago that was changed due to big brawl, resulting in mass suspensions, that completely changed the course of the series.  More recently, the Suns were about to defeat the Spurs in a series when their best player was suspended for a key game due to a strict interpretation of the stupid "leaving the bench" rule.  The Spurs went on to win that series, and the title, and I always considered that title for the Spurs to be tainted.  And poor Phoenix was denied their chance to actually win an NBA title.

I hated those decisions then, and I hate them now.  My conclusion is that the NBA is a beautiful game run by fucking morons.

So in the current series, the Warriors, at home, lost game 5 without Green.  Green returned for game 6, which was in Cleveland, and the Warriors lost there too.  Worse, one of their players, Andre Iquodala, hurt his back and was not effective later in the game, and might have been inhibited in game 7 too,  He was only the MVP in the finals for the Warriors last year.  Worst of all, their starting center, Andrew Bogut, was hurt too, and he was unable to play at all in game 7.  He doesn't play a lot of minutes, but his absence weakened their bench and their rotation and forced them to play Festus Ezeli for those minutes, who was awful in game 7.  The fact is, the Warriors would have been no worse off if I had played those minutes instead of Ezeli.

And so…in a really thrilling game that was a treat to watch, to be sure, the Cavs won on the road.  They deserved to win game 7 (and 6), no question about it.  But did they deserve to win game 5? We'll never really know, will we?  The game was decided in New York, not in Oakland.  Game 5 was the pivotal game, the game where the series turn.  Did it turn because the Cavs just got that much better--or did it turn because a key player was artificially removed from the game?

It isn't fair to the Warriors, and it isn't fair to the fans.  I don't mean the Warriors fans, I mean the basketball fans like me who want to see the game decided by the players.

You know who else it isn't fair to?  The Cleveland Cavaliers.  Because the Cavs might very well have won game 5 even if Green had played—and wouldn't that have been awesome?  And then we would have known that they really earned that victory.  And that Cleveland is truly a deserving champion.   

But we don't know that because of some asshat in the NBA office.  Some dipshit who thinks he's more important than the integrity of the sport, and of the playoffs.  The MVP of the series is not LeBron James, but Adam Silver (commissioner of the NBA). 

I know some of you are saying, "what about injuries?  They can decide games too."  Absolutely.  But injuries are part of the game and can't be helped.  In fact, Cleveland had several major injuries last year when they played the Warriors, so it wasn't a fair fight.  That's why it would have been so great to see the rematch with both teams at full strength.  We almost got to see that, and then the suits interfered.

Cleveland has it's championship, and no one can take it away from them.  But for the knowledgeable basketball fans, their victory will always have an "asterisk."  It is a tainted championship in my eyes. 

To sum it up, it is both bad rules and bad interpretation of those rule that have earned my ire.

Shame on you, NBA, shame on you.  And congrats to the NBA league office, the 2016 NBA champions.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Honeymoon in Vegas—With Me! (Part 2)

O.K., here’s the second and concluding chapter of my night with the Australian honeymooners.  Be sure to read part 1 (here) first or this will make no sense.

Sheila soon mentioned that she loves the U.S. so much that she wanted to move to New York. She hoped Bruce would be able to pass the N.Y. bar some day.  Then she said something odd. The reason she loves America so much is that you can take your dogs pretty much anywhere, unlike her home country.  She has two dogs, and told me that she loves them more than she will ever love her children if she ever has any.  She said she sends them to "doggie day care" and to "doggie pre-school" one day a week!  I had never heard of such a thing here, but maybe it does exist?

A friend with a dog was looking after her “children” while she was in the U.S.  She then said that Bruce has a tattoo of one of their dogs on his left shoulder!  I asked if he had a tattoo of her. She said, " you see how I rate with him!"  But then she was quick to point out that he had her name tattooed on his wrist in some foreign language.  And she showed me her own wrist, which had his name tattooed in some foreign language.  She joked that they use foreign languages so if they break up they can lie about what it says.  It was then that I noticed some weird symbol tattooed on her upper, upper back but I never got a chance to ask her what it was.

I was too busy with the sense of deja vu, another gal telling me about her tats! You see, on my previous Vegas trip, I was playing with a girl who was discussing her tattoos with me, and in fact, that story is one of my very first blog posts, which you can find here.  Unlike the girl in that earlier story, Sheila never volunteered to tell me about any tats she might have had where I couldn’t see them.  However, I had already observed that the area exposed by the wardrobe malfunction was tat-free.

Since she was a dog lover I had to tell her that I was a part time dog-sitter.  LM had sent me a picture of one of her dogs just hours before, so I whipped out my cell phone and showed her that pic. She said, " cute!"  Then I showed her a pic of LM’s other pup.  She loved that too.

I learned that Sheila had been watching Bruce play for some time before I had even gotten to the room, and one thing she had learned was that swearing was forbidden.  This was a challenge for her.  She said the f-bomb (as she called it) several times and immediately caught herself and apologized for it every time.  She had seen some guy get warned by a floor person about it and was concerned about getting into trouble. She said that swearing in Australia is no big deal.  Bruce, however, disputed that.  He said to her, "it's just no big deal to you."  That was funny.  

At one point, Bruce won a pot with a pretty weak hand.  Sheila had thrown away a much better hand thinking someone had her beat.  She was pissed.  "F*** you, Bruce" she yelled at her new husband.  The dealer warned her and she apologized.  She wanted to know what she could and could not say.  I had told her that it was pretty much just the f-bomb that was banned, that I'd never seen anyone warned for saying "shit," for example.  But one of my dealer buddies told her that pretty much any cuss word was banned.  She started asking about different words. Could she say "ass"? Except, she didn't say “ass,” she said, “starts with an ‘a.’"  A different dealer asked  what she was referring to.  She asked was "bottom" ok?  The dealer said yes, but he liked to use "petootie."

After a couple of hours, we were having such a great conversation and exchanging so much info about ourselves, I began to feel like Sheila and Bruce were my good friends.  When Jack came to deal, one of my best dealer buddies and someone I always talk basketball with, I introduced them to him as “my newlywed friends from Australia.”  Jack and I talked basketball and we discussed Australian players in the NBA.  Sheila knew basketball mostly from the reality show "Khloe and Lamar."  Bruce actually seemed to know a lot about the NBA and the playoffs despite basketball not being that popular down under.  

This led to Sheila voicing strong opinions about Kobe Bryant's long ago public infidelity and she talked about the huge diamond ring he gave his wife as an apology. I think it was worth around $2.5 MM. She said if it was her he cheated on, she would have taken the ring, half of everything he owned and still divorced him. Let that be fair warning to you, Bruce!

Sheila loved American reality shows.  She mentioned "Keeping up with the Kardashians" and "Jersey Shore."  While back east they actually went to the Jersey shore just because of the show.  She was disappointed she didn't run into Snookie or "The Situation!"  I was kind of lost there, having never seen the show.  She also mentioned that the reason they had to come to Vegas as part of this trip was because her favorite movie was "The Hangover."  So she was probably disappointed that she didn't run into Bradley Cooper while in Vegas.  She also mentioned a "Law & Order SVU" marathon she had been watching the other day. Since the show is about sex crimes, she thought it was very strange that the marathon was sponsored by …….Viagra.

At one point she mentioned dreading the 15-1/2 hour flight home because her back was giving her problems.  She hoped to see a doctor in L.A. to get some heavy duty drugs so she could mostly sleep on the flight home.  Otherwise she would down 4 Vodka tonics first thing and hope that worked.  Poor girl is in trouble if she has back issues at her age--25.  

How do I know she was 25?  Well, I started telling her some poker stories. My 4 7's story (here) and the tale of the young girl who lost when her 4 jacks were beaten by a royal flush (recently retold here).  I mentioned that it was a young girl. Then I corrected myself and said, “young woman” and apologized for being sexist.  She was fine with me calling her a girl but worried about the young part. She wanted to know how old she was.  I said she was like 22 or 23.  She was ok with that as long as I considered 25 young, because that was her age!   Jeez, I couldn’t imagine a 25-year-old worrying about being considered old!

In telling the story about Olivia, the girl who lost with quads, I told her about her dancing at the table when she thought she won.  This encouraged her to dance a bit whenever she won a pot. She stayed in her seat and thankfully, the dancing did not produce any more wardrobe malfunctions.

While discussing the "no cussing" rule, I thought of a joke for her.  I told her that in addition to the "no cussing" rule there was one other rule you must follow at a poker table.  "It's English only." She sort of nodded like who cares and then I added, "So don't start speaking Australian at the table."  She laughed and then played along. "OK, so no, 'G'Day Mates'"?  She used a thick, heavy Aussie accent for this, sounding a lot more Aussie than her normal tone.  I laughed, then she went on with the same exaggerated Aussie tone...."That dingo took my baby."

The guy sitting between Bruce and Sheila turned out to be an Israeli. She said she had studied the Israeli/Palestinian situation in school.  The Israeli clearly didn't want to talk about it, but Sheila kind of pontificated a bit about finding a fair solution.  This was maybe the one uncomfortable moment of the night. You all know how I hate discussing politics at the poker table and you can’t find a more volatile subject than this.  Fortunately it passed quickly.

Eventually our table thinned out.  There were three seats available at the other 2/4 table and four of us left in our game.  Normally we would draw for the seats with the loser going first on the waitlist at the new combined game.  But Sheila volunteered to take a break, be first on the list and just watch Bruce play for awhile.  She was just loving the hell out of the game though. She mentioned she lost about $125 but it was fine because of a) all the free drinks, and b)it was less than she was losing at video poker.  “And the fun,” I said.  “What about the fun?” Yes, she agreed, it was really fun and she was having a ball and really enjoying herself.

At the new table, Bruce was immediately to my left and Sheila was behind him, right between us.  There was a black guy sitting near us and Sheila said to him, "Oh you look a bit like Lamar Odom!"  This was an odd thing to say because he didn't really look anything like him.  The guy wasn't happy but he was not very friendly anyway.

However, he said something about wanting a certain kind of cigar.  She like that kind too and went to go look to see if she could find them. Bruce had been holding her purse so he gave it back to her and she took out some money and went hunting for the cigars.  While she was gone, the floor man came over and said, "Rob, is this your money?"  Right next to my chair and next to where Sheila was sitting was some rolled up money. It was a $20 bill.  I thought at first it might have been from my money clip but that had only $100's.  When i saw it was a twenty I was sure it wasn't mine.  I told Bruce it was probably Sheila’s since she had just opened her wallet to get some money out for the cigars.  But Bruce insisted it was not hers and that it belonged to me. 

Then the dealer at the time remembered that when I first came to the table, I had given him a twenty to buy some more chips and that it had probably fallen out then.  But money from my wallet is not rolled up like that.  I took the money, but when Sheila returned I told her about it and said it was probably hers.  But she insisted it was not! So I kept the money. Still, I knew it wasn't mine and I bet that it was Sheila’s.  So basically it was as if Sheila paid me twenty bucks to stare have this great, fun poker session and oh, btw, see a few “wardrobe malfunctions.” I suppose that was the best deal I've ever gotten in Vegas.

She came back and gave the black guy a pack of small cigars, and then bummed one of them. I wondered if she knew the rule about smoking not being allowed in the poker room. She did not! She was about to light up when I told her that there was no smoking in the poker room and she was surprised.  I told her she had to go five feet beyond the rail that enclosed the poker room to smoke it.  She said they have metric in Australia, so how was she supposed to know what five feet is?  Bruce said that since she's about 5'7", she could lie down and then stand about where neck rested. She didn’t do that of course. But the table had a discussion about the metric system after that. 

While she was gone, I commented about them having a tough drive in the morning if they were both hung-over.  They were both drinking a lot during the evening.  He said no, they'd be fine, he'd be fine.  I asked how long they dated before getting married and he said two years. Also, dogs were discussed and Bruce exposed his left shoulder, which had a huge tattoo of one of their dogs.  When Sheila came back, she insisted he expose it again. 

By the time she got back, a seat was available two to my right.  But as it was close to 3AM, I really was ready to call it a night. I was losing and I would've left a lot earlier if I wasn't having so much fun talking with my two new Aussie pals.  I said goodbye to them, shook both their hands, wished them luck and a fun rest of the trip, and told them I had a total blast playing with them. They each told me they had a blast as well.  

Since they were coming back to Vegas for one night a few days later (to see the Glee show), I asked if there was any chance they’d return to the BSC poker room after the show.  She said that it was a possibility.  But they did not.  I never saw them again.

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever made friends that fast before—at a poker table or anywhere else.  I think only at 2/4 was it possible.  It took much longer to become pals with Prudence (of course, we met at 1/2, not 2/4).  And that I guess is one of the things that makes me miss the 2/4 game.  Although that was unique, I do recall becoming really friendly with players at 2/4 when I was at BSC in that game every night for a week or so, seeing the same players over and over again.  It’s different at 1/2 for sure.  At that time, it was probably the most fun night (and morning) of poker I’d ever had, and it is still in my top 5 fun sessions, for sure.

And we had become so chummy and had become such good pals that I started feeling guilty about the occasional nip-slip.  At the beginning, Sheila was just some gal I was only going to interact with for a short time.  By now, she seemed like a friend—almost like a life-long friend since we had exchanged so much info on each other.  And I started wondering if I should tell her that she was exposing too much flesh.  But then I thought, that would just embarrass her needlessly (if indeed she would be embarrassed).  What would be the point? I was essentially blocking anyone else from getting the view I was getting.

But this is that first reason I mentioned for not posting this story earlier (in part 1).  Because by the end of the night, it was no longer a story about some random drunk woman accidentally flashing.  I’ve told stories like that before.  Including stories about ladies flashing a lot more than just a nipple.  But those were anonymous women I encountered for less than a minute. Sheila was now my buddy, my pal, my friend.  Somehow, it felt a lot different discussing Sheila’s “revelations.”  She was far from a fleeting stranger. 

Not only that, but I had also become friends with Sheila’s husband…..her brand new husband. It was kind of weird that I had seen a bit more of my friend Bruce’s bride than I was ever meant to. So, for that reason alone, I felt uncomfortable reporting this story to my readers for all these years.

There's a punch line to the story......about the twenty bucks.  Because I didn't think it was mine, I never really thanked the floor man for finding my "lost" twenty bucks.  When I got to the room the next night and had to wait, I went over and thanked him, but added that I didn't really think it was mine.  I asked if he remembered the Aussie couple.  He said, "You mean the girl in the white dress?  Yeah, I remember her."  I told her I thought it fell out of her purse when she went to buy cigars.  He said the way it was rolled up he thought she might have been keeping it.... and then instead of finishing his sentence he pantomimed with his hand to indicate down the front of her dress.  I laughed and said, "Oh, it was definitely not there!" without elaborating.

When I emailed this story to my friends while it was fresh in my mind (which is how I can report on this in such detail five years after it happened), a discussion ensued about the wardrobe malfunction.  There was a feeling among some of my friends that it hadn’t been an accident at all, and that Sheila knew exactly was happening and probably enjoyed flashing me. I never really bought into that but I suppose it was possible.

Well there it is….a story it took me five years to reveal (so-to-speak).  Hope you found it worth it.