Saturday, December 31, 2016

So Long, 2016, You Really Sucked

The title of this post is a reference that only one person who reads my blog will get, my pal (since college) Norm.  Back in the '80's (I think), the two of us would regularly attend the performances of an improv group known as "Instaplay."  The creative team behind this group went on to fame and fortune.  Bill Steinkellner and Cheri Eichen became producers on Cheers and later created a sitcom for Bob Newhart.  But before that, every Saturday night they did a show in Hollywood with a few other talented people and improvised an entire play for a small but loyal audience. 

Norm and I were regular attendees.  They would take suggestions for a title from the audience, have the audience vote for their favorite, and then improvise a play based on the title.  The plays were always funny and frequently they were downright awesome.

One time, a day or two before New Year's Eve, someone shouted out his suggestion:  "So long, 19xx, you really sucked."  The "xx" is because I can't remember the year, but I assume some year early 80's.  The audience had a huge reaction to that title, and Bill (the director of the play) said, "If that doesn't win, the person who suggested it might just kill himself—the final blow of the year."  Not to worry, it won in a landslide.  I don't recall anything from that particular play, but obviously the title stuck with me all these years.

That's what everyone is saying about 2016.  It sucked,  It has been such a bad year, everyone can't wait for it to be over.  This is generally meant in the "meta" sense, that it has been a bad year for the world and the country. 

Well, I'm going to leave the world and the country out of this.  No politics here, although for a lot of people, world events, particularly the US presidential election has had a strong influence on how they view the year (good or bad). 

The other thing that has created this meme is all the celebrity deaths this year.  It has seemed like a terrible year for deaths of well known people, people who have been a part of our lives for many years.  It was capped off by the tragic deaths, within a day of each other, of mother/daughter, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

All those famous people who we have loved for years passing is indeed sad, horrific, even.  But I do wonder if 2016 was really worse than any other year?  When we think of deaths beyond this year, we don’t usually identify them with a year.  Are we just forgetting some other year—or indeed every year—with a lot of big celebrity deaths?  Perhaps someone has or will review recent years and compare them, deathwise.  Or is that too ghoulish to even consider doing?

It's just that as we get older, more and more people who were important to us (both family/friend wise and famous people wise) die.  It's the nature of life.  When you're 8 years old, and your parents are commenting and even grieving over some movie star they grew up watching, it probably doesn't make much of an impact on you.  But now, as an adult, someone you've enjoyed for 20-30 years passing, it really hits home (and maybe gets you to reflect on your own mortality—now that is really scary!)

All of this is an introduction to my own personal reflections on 2016.  What kind of year was it for me, personally? Ignoring all those meta considerations, I mean.

Obviously not good. 

This was the year I really started souring on Las Vegas, my favorite city in the whole world for most of my adult life.  You all know it started with the change to paid parking.  That was bad in and of itself.  But it just reminded me of how much Vegas has changed since I first fell in love with it.  I've reflected on this on a number of posts, here, for example. 

This bad taste in my mouth led me to decide to visit Vegas less often.

Then came another hit that I haven't really spoken about here.  Soon after my last visit to Vegas in June/July, I heard that MGM properties (the people who brought paid parking to the Strip), without any announcement/warning whatsoever, had suddenly made all the poker comps for all their players in their rooms disappear if they were over a year old.  I cannot properly reveal all the angst that news brought me. 

I'm happy to report that subsequently, most of the comps that I personally lost have been restored. I can't reveal what it took to get that accomplished, tho. If you have lost any significant amount of comps from an MGM owned poker room, my advice would be to speak to no one but the poker room manager him or herself about trying to get them restored (and if they do, you will only have one year from the date of restoration to use them).

That began the second half of the year, followed by the first of two surgeries for me.  The first was elective.  I finally decided to have the cataract in my left eye removed.  That eye has been my worst eye since birth.  But lately, I had become pretty much blind in that eye.  Due to a specific condition I had, my ophthalmologist said there was only a 50/50 chance the procedure would improve the vision in that eye significantly.  I decided to roll the dice since the eye was pretty much useless.

That procedure was scheduled a week before Labor Day weekend (not my choice, but it was the best available).  That meant my traditional Labor Day weekend Vegas trip was out.  I'm happy to report the procedure was a success and my doc was actually surprised by how much my vision improved.  It is not quite as good as my right eye but I now have pretty good distance vision without glasses (tho it can still be improved with glasses).  Reading is a different story (cuz I'm old). 

But as is not uncommon with this surgery, they had to wait three months to do a final step in a process, a laser treatment that was completed in the doc's office in early December.  That means I wasn't able to get my new glasses before coming to Vegas—they are waiting for me when I return home. Actually, the reason I didn't come a day earlier was I finally had the Optometrist appt for them the day before I got to Vegas. My old glasses are now just a monocle (ala Col. Klink) because they took the left lens out, it only blocked me from seeing anything.  So in Vegas, I am using a pair of "cheaters" (twenty buck reading glasses from Wal-Marts) and mostly carrying them around since they are not good for distance vision.  But I need them to read anything.  Can't wait to get my new glasses. 

Then, in late October, just two days before what was supposed to be my triumphant return to Vegas, I was told I had serious heart disease that had to be addressed right away.  You know the rest of that story.  No Vegas, just a triple bypass and 6-7 weeks of recovery.  In fact, the complete recovery will take at least six months if not longer. 

That put a serious dent in how I view 2016 as a whole, of course.  On the one hand, I'm grateful that the problem was caught in time, before it did more serious damage to my body.  Or gave me an actual heart attack.  Or, you know, killed me.

However, if it was all just the same, I sure would have preferred not to have gone through it, of course.  It was not a pleasant experience, obviously.  I received clearance to head for Vegas just a week before I arrived. I knew there was an excellent chance I wouldn't make it here before next year.  But I did.

So yeah, 2016 kind of sucked for me.

But make it to Vegas I did.  Thus far, this has been a pretty good trip.  Better than pretty good, in fact, despite the usual bad beats and such.  I gave Vegas a chance to disappoint me further, and so far….it has not.  That's good.

In sum, it hasn't been a great year for me, but it appears to be ending on a high note.  I guess you could say that being able to come to Vegas just 8 weeks after having my chest cut open is a pretty good high note.

I'm sure all of you had your ups and downs this year….hopefully the downs weren't as low as mine.  Just like any year, it's not all bad or all good.

No matter how you rate 2016 as a whole, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year.  May 2017 be a better year for all of us!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Lump of Coal in My Christmas Stocking

Been in Vegas for just over a week as I write this, and indeed I have a few stories to tell.  For now, I am going to start with my what happened this past Saturday, which was Christmas Eve.  It's a story I can do fresh from memory without listening to my voice notes, so let's go.

This was my first full Saturday in Vegas, and it was more than time to play my first tournament of the trip.  As you know, I like to play in a "big" tournament on Saturdays, one that could go long into the evening if I run well.  I had arrived in Vegas the previous Saturday, too late to play a tournament. Reasons due to my recent surgeries prevented me from arriving the day before, on Friday, which I would have preferred of course.

But even if I had arrived that Friday, I probably wouldn't have played a big tournament the day after.  I really felt it was better to spend some time just playing more flexible cash games for at least a few days to see how I held up.  I can leave or take a break from a cash game any time I want.  If I start to feel exhausted in a tournament, I'd be out of luck.

But after playing a bunch of cash sessions for a week, I knew I was ready for a tournament, hopefully one that lasted 10-12 hours ending with me taking home first place money.

The obvious choice was Binion's, the tournament I love to play on Saturdays.  Or used to. It has actually been a year since I played in it. That is partly due to the fact that I haven't been to Vegas that much this year.  But also due to the fact that they changed the starting time from 2PM to 1PM at the beginning of this year.

But my other viable option—the Aria 1PM—also changed its starting time.  It's now 11AM (and a higher buy-in but that's not a factor for me).  That just doesn’t work for me, although maybe one day I will be willing to go thru the hoops necessary to play in it.

For now, the Binion's option looked good, even with the earlier starting time (1PM downtown is worse than 1PM at Aria, as I've explained before).  And this particular Saturday was really the only chance I had to play in it.  As I said, I was in town too late the Saturday before, and the next Saturday would be New Year's Eve, and if I'm still in town there is no way I'm playing in a tournament (downtown, or anywhere else) on NY's Eve.

Late in the week, another option developed. I was informed that the Stratosphere was holding one of its "Stratstack" $110 events on Saturday.  It was a last minute addition, as it usual is (not the poker room manager's fault—blame the suits).  I found out on Wednesday and briefly considered it, but decided I really wanted to see how things were at Binion's.

You see, Binion's has fallen on hard times.  The switch in starting times was the result of a change in management.  Paul, the previous boss (technically just the Tournament Director), moved over to Aria.  But even before that happened, Binion's was having more and more difficulty getting cash games going.

Finally, a few months ago, I heard from Binion's that they were closing their poker room and moving into the pit, near the sports book.  They'd just have four tables there.  They would use the old room only for the Saturday tournament.  The old tournament area became a big empty.

Plus I heard through my sources that virtually all of my favorite dealers were no longer working there. This included Audrey and Denise, sources for some of my best blogging material (see here, for example).  I was wondering if I'd recognize anybody.  But even tho I knew I'd miss all my pals, I felt like I had to see it for myself.

So I woke up early (actually really early for me when in Vegas), had both breakfast and an early lunch, and headed downtown. I valet parked (as I usually do downtown) and headed over to Binion's.  I walked first to the new poker area and it was dead, a dealer and a floor man waiting for a game to start.  So I walked over to the old poker room, where the tournament was supposed to take place, and it was deserted.  That didn't concern me as it was still at least 10 minutes before noon, the time when registration opens.

But as I got to the podium, I saw a rather small sign indicating that the $10K guaranteed tournament was cancelled for the day (but would resume next Saturday, New Year's Eve) and that instead, they would be running their normal daily $100 tournament in the new poker area.  That tournament has no guarantee, 20-minute levels and would probably be two tables, tops. I had zero interest in a tournament like that and if I had, I could find one like it without going to downtown.  Grrr…

To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.  Aside from screwing me personally, this unreported cancellation was embarrassing to me professionally.  It is my responsibility to have the tournament listings on PokerAtlas show the correct tournament for Vegas (and several other territories).  And because I wasn't informed of the cancellation at all, PokerAtlas was incorrect regarding this tournament change. 

Binion's isn't on Bravo, so they couldn't list the change there (although, to be honest, most rooms wouldn't bother to list a last-minute change there). And they don't have a poker room twitter account that could be used to announce the change. They could have one, and it would cost them nothing, but hey, that's their choice.

But they could have damn sure at least told me so I could have updated PokerAtlas.  It's not like I am not in regular communication with them.  They have been keeping me up-to-date with all the changes that have been going on with the room all along.  And I made a special point to introduce myself last year to the new person in charge when Paul left (as I recall, I went down to play in the tournament that day just so I could find out who was running things and make sure they had my contact info—and I theirs).

But they didn't do it, and not only did I have the wrong info on PokerAtlas, I was personally affected by it.  I could have gone to Stratosphere and played in their tournament, or found another one, but instead I was stuck downtown with no good tournament options.

Oh, and by the way, as it happens, I was downtown just a few evenings earlier.  You may have heard of my session with Tony at Golden Nugget.  Before dinner, I walked over to Binion's to check the new location for the first time.  Then I walked over to the old poker room.  And there was no sign in either place saying anything about that Saturday's tournament.

So, I thought about it for a few minutes, looked at the clock, and saw it was just about Noon.  I knew that late reg for the Stratstack ended at 2.  Since the Stratosphere isn't that far from downtown, it wouldn't take me that long to get there.  I hate late-regging for a tournament, but at the moment, this seemed like my best option.

It was certainly weird getting my car out of valet just minutes after dropping it off, but fortunately it didn’t take too long to get the car, and to drive to the Stratosphere.

When I arrived in the poker room, the first level was still going, so I hadn't missed that much.  Unfortunately, there were only two tournament tables going and less than 20 players signed up.  And this tournament had no guarantee.  I know they usually get much bigger fields when they run this (usually twice a month), but it was Christmas Eve and no doubt that made a big impact on turnout.

Well, I didn't really want to play in a $110 tournament with that small a turnout, but this was already attempt #2 at playing at a tourney this day.  I didn't want to try for strike three!  I figured there would be latecomers and maybe I could tweet about it and help get some players in.  Besides, if nothing else, Mark, the manager of the Strat, is a really good guy and has been very good to me over the years, so I figured I would help him out by playing.

I did tweet that I was playing in the tournament, but just a few more latecomers showed.  Note: I always tweeted about the Binion's cancellation, but on my own twitter account.  I have no ability to tweet on the PokerAtlas account.

Well, the tournament itself was a total bust for me.  Not worth writing about.  I did last almost four hours, made it to the final table (out of two, total) and of course, did not cash. 

There was an unusual incident early on when a woman, who was either a tourist or a homeless person, I'm not sure, walked by, stopped at our table, leaned in and shouted, "What do you guys all think of gold diggers?"  And then walked away.  I guess that's not so weird for Vegas.

But I managed to get more annoyed at Binion's while there than I was originally, if that's possible.  I noticed that a guy I see every time I play Binion's playing at the other table.  I was sure he was only there because of Binion's cancelling their tournament.  So I went over to him during the first break and asked him when he found out about the cancellation.  Was it mentioned the last week (I'm sure this guy was there).  Or did he find out like I did, just by showing up today and seeing it then?

I said hi and asked, "When did you find out about Binion's not having the $10k today?  Did they give any notice?"

Apparently the question got him angry.  "No, not at all.  And that damn PokerAtlas, it said it was running today.  They never update that shit!"

Whoa!  That got me really, really pissed.  Fortunately, I knew he was a nice guy, we'd had friendly banter of the poker table many a time.  Even so, it was difficult for me to not get agitated.

I said, "I'm PokerAtlas!  And I contact them all the time, do updates all the time, that's my job.  But they didn't tell me they were cancelling today, and I can't read minds."  I was a little heated, to say the least.  But it would have been worse if I didn't consider him at least a poker buddy.

"Well you should have called them."

"I can't call every day," I said.

Then he said, "Well, I tried calling them all day yesterday and they didn't answer the phone."

So they would have answered my phone call?

Then he said that they said last Saturday that there was a possibility that they would run the tournament Christmas Eve without the guarantee, but they were definitely planning on running the normal tournament.  He said that would be ok with him….as long as they had at least four or five tables.

But there was no mention the week before that they wouldn't run it at all. 

Then, realizing he had ticked me off (and insulted me), he added, "Well, I blame Binion's more than anyone else, they should have announced it earlier."

Ya think?

Actually telling me would have helped a lot, but it wouldn't have been good enough, because they don't have a twitter account to use, as I mentioned.  Note: Binion's casino has a twitter account, but I've never seen them use it for poker, and I doubt poker players follow it.

The tournament resumed, and I was now freshly annoyed.  I don't like someone questioning my professional performance, I take pride in my work.

Being distracted and upset by all this didn't help me in the tournament.  Perhaps that contributed to my lack of success.

All-in-all, I want to express my thanks to Binion's for ruining my Christmas Eve.

Bah Humbug.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Some Christmas Cheer!



And for you fans of food porn, my dinner last nite:

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Blog Post I Won't Be Writing

Well, I know I'm way late with a blog post for you. Truth is, I've been too busy (both with fun and work) to write something up.  Hopefully I'll have something for you soon.

But damn, I can't believe I missed the story of the year, one that is right up this blog's alley. Apparently, while I was here in Sin City, a couple of ladies of the evening got into fight right in the middle of the Strip, blocking traffic and everything.

Someone took some video of the fight and the story made international news.  You can read about it here and here.  Be sure to watch the videos there if you are interested in this sort of thing.

It is just disheartening to me that such a perfect incident for me to blog about happened while I was here in Vegas and I wasn't there to report on it for you.  So, as much as I'd love to be writing up a first hand report of that hooker battle, I can't. Reminds me of the time two girls flashed their boobies in a poker room while I was there and somehow didn't see it.  You can read about that here.

Judging from the video, the hooker fight took place in front of Monte Carlo, just up the Strip a little ways from MGM.  I coulda been there.


Anyway, I'll try to get you a "real" blog post soon.  In the meantime, I found a pic of a girl who has nothing to do with the hookers fighting story, and it appears below.  Enjoy.

Monday, December 19, 2016

If You Three-Bet, Shouldn't You C-Bet?

ANNOUNCEMENT:  Before I get to your regularly scheduled blog post (which is actually late, so not so regularly scheduled), I want to announce that I am currently in Vegas.  Yeah, after getting clearance from my cardiologist, and surviving a test run at the Bike last Saturday (see here),  I knew I was ready to give Vegas one more chance to disappoint me!  So look for stories from my current Vegas trip soon!  In the meantime, here's this story from some time back that I wrote up while I was still in L.A......Enjoy!

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Here’s another report on a session that happened a few years back I haven’t written up until now.

It was a busy Friday night.  And I got off to good start.  When the big hand hit, the table was short-handed; a couple of walkers and an empty spot waiting for a new player.  I was down to about $185 and on the button with pocket 10’s.  It folded to me and I made it $10.  The small blind folded and the big blind made it $30.  He had been a playing tight aggressive in the brief time I was there with him.  I called and it was just the two of us.

The flop was beautiful: 10-6-3, rainbow.  Much to my surprise, he checked. I didn’t quite get that. Heads up, on that flop, what could he have that he didn’t want to c-bet with?  I mean, he had a hand good enough to three-bet from the big blind, isn’t a c-bet pretty much automatic heads up?

Anyway, I decided to check back.  I think if that same situation had happened now, I would have bet to start getting money in. But back then, I was more likely to slow-play a set.

The turn was a 9 and put all four suits on the board.  This time he bet $50.  I had $158 left.  I was done slow-playing.  I thought about shoving, and of course, I wanted to get all my money in.  He had me covered.  But I felt that psychologically, it might be easier for him to call (or re-raise) if I bet smaller.  So I made the min-raise to $100.  He thought about it for just a few seconds and then announced “all-in.”  Of course, I snap-called.

The river was a blank and he turned over pocket Queens.  I was more than happy to take the double up, but now that I saw his hand, I really couldn’t understand checking the flop. How does he not bet his overpair there?

That was like the second or third hand this particular dealer dealt.  During the rest of his down, everything was working for me.  I raised with Ace-Queen and Ace-King and missed, took both with c-bets.  Raised with Ace-8 suited, missed, made a c-bet that was called by one player.  No more betting, and when I showed my hand he mucked saying he missed his draw.  With 5-4 in the big blind, I rivered a straight and took a small pot (there was no betting until the river when I made a small bet that was called by two players). My straight was good.

As soon as the next dealer came in, my luck changed and I went card dead.  Very late in his down, however, I had Ace-Queen and raised to $10, had two callers.  It was a pretty good flop for me: King-Jack-10, rainbow.  It checked to me.  Although I was slow-playing sets back then, I don’t think I’ve ever been likely to slow-play a straight.  And with all those high cards, I figure a paired board makes a full house more likely than on drier boards. Also, I think it’s too easy to get counterfeited when a fourth card to the straight hits. So I bet $15 but didn’t get any takers.

Next hand (this dealer’s last), I raised to $8 with King-9 of hearts.  Only one caller.  The flop was King-King-10.  I bet $10, then $15, then $20.  Only the last bet wasn’t called.

This was a club night and I had the right table, wrong seat.  My back was to the parade.  But for awhile I resisted any chance to change seats since I was running so well.  Eventually though, the guy who paid me off with my set of 10’s moved immediately to my left, and then started straddling every time I was the big blind.  He also started betting much bigger than he had been.  And so, when I realized it had been over an hour since I’d won a pot, I moved to get a better view. Oh, and also to change my luck.  Yeah, that’s it.

Later, in the big blind, I had Jack-8 offsuit and there was no raise.  The flop was 8-5-2, I bet $5 and a guy made it $15.  I called. A third spade hit the turn and I had the Jack of spades. I check/called $15.  The river was a blank and I checked.  He bet $20.  Not enough to get me to fold.  He showed Ace-5.  

Later, I had pocket Jacks in the big blind, there were a bunch of limpers.  So I made it $17 and had three callers. The flop was 10-9-3.  I bet $50 and had one caller.  The turn was a 10 and we both checked.  The river was a 7 and again we both checked.  He mucked when he saw my hand. 

I was about to leave and book a nice win, when the dealer who had dealt the big hand at the start pushed back in.  I decided to see if my luck with him was still good.  Nope, the well had run dry.  I didn’t get a single hand to play.  Nada.

So I was done, and was able to book one of my most profitable 1/2 sessions in a long, long time

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"I Can Make Life Miserable For You"

Desperate men take desperate measures.  So since I haven’t been playing poker for nearly two months (prior to this past Saturday, that is), and I needed something write to write about, I pulled out my old notes that I’ve accumulated over the past three years, since I started recording voice notes on my poker sessions.  

Each day in Vegas falls in one of three categories.  1. Most definitely blogworthy (those are almost always the ones I write up ASAP, and they’re the main reason I don’t relate my stories in chronological order). 2. Absolutely nothing to blog about.  3. For further review—maybe after listening to my notes when I get back home, I can crank out a blog post about the session. Sometimes, months later, when I listen to my notes, I realize there’s nothing there.  Other times, I find a hidden gem that I’d actually forgot about when I categorized it and find something really good in there.  Or, perhaps I figure out a way to put a spin on a mediocre story and turn into something really good.  Those are the ones that I’m most proud of.

Anyway, I’ve still got plenty of those category #3 days that I never went through to determine if there’s a blog entry in there or not.  So in the absence of new, current material, I started mining through those old notes to find something to check out.

Thus, I came across this story that’s a few years old.  It centers around a real obnoxious, rude girl—a bitch, if you will.  We’ll get to her in a minute.

During this time, there were several promos going at MGM.  It was a Sunday night, and they had the football promo where they would pick a winner after each score, and that person would get between $100 and $500.  They also had those drawings every 4 hours (you got a ticket for making a flush or better).  And they had the promo where each hour a different high hand (or two) was worth a progressive jackpot.  For example, I got to the room this evening right before 6pm, and from 6 to 7 the high hands were quad 6’s or a 6 high straight flush.  On this night, hitting that would be worth $3,500 (each hand started a $200, I believe).  By the way, they now have this same promo again (everything old is new again).

In fact, that $3,500 was awarded this very evening….but not to me, of course.  I heard about it when the next dealer pushed into our table at 6:30PM and she told me which dealer had dealt the quad 6’s to win the prize.  Hours later, the dealer who dealt the jackpot hand pushed into my table, and I asked him what kind of tip he got.  He told me, “It was a bad beat.  I got twenty bucks.”  Ouch.  It was easy for me to say since I didn’t win (and have never won any kind of jackpot that big), but in my mind, I was thinking a $200-$300 tip would have been appropriate.  Since this was my home room at the time, I suppose the amount would be adjusted for how much I like the particular dealer.  What say you?  How much would you tip for being dealt a $3,500 jackpot hand?

During his down, the same dealer told me of another bad beat for him.  One time, he was dealing a real high roller game—minimum buy-in was $50K—and two guys were heads up in a huge pot.  It was over $600K!  He knew both players and knew if one guy won it, he’d get at least a $1,000 tip.  If the other guy won it, he’d get almost nothing.  Of course the second guy won the pot, and tipped him $30 for the hand.  The dealer was laughing about when he told me the story, but I bet he wasn’t laughing when it happened.

Anyway, at my table when I got there was this bitchy woman. Let’s just call her “Mean Girl” or MG for short. In my voice notes, I described her as “somewhat cute.” Today, I couldn’t recognize her if I tried. (But I’d bet the farm she bore no resemblance whatsoever to the young lady depicted below).  At 6, she was called for the drawing (during this time, there was only one name picked, and that person picked an envelope that could be worth between $100 and $3,000.

 She was at the table when her name was drawn, but for some reason her boyfriend was right where the shift boss was when he drew the ticket and saw her name even before it was announced.  He was all excited and screamed to her that she had won.  She got all excited too.  She jumped out of seat to go draw the money envelope, all excited, hooping and hollering and went over to hug her boyfriend.  Then she asked if she could take pictures (of the winning envelope, I guess).  She was told she could take all the pictures she wanted. 

Then she picked the envelope with her prize in it.  It was a $100, the minimum (of course, most of the envelopes were worth $100).  She was crushed.  It was clear she felt this was a bad beat and went back to her seat at the table acting like she’d just lost a million dollars.  The shift boss said to her, “Don’t you want to take pictures?”  And she said to him, in the nastiest tone possible, “No, I don’t want to take any pictures.”  She begrudgingly took the $100 when they brought it to her. Sure, I’d seen people obviously disappointed that they didn’t win more, but this was the worst reaction I’d ever seen to someone actually winning money.

A little while later, she hit a flush and was given two drawing tickets to fill out (during this version of the promo, a high hand caught in the first hour of each four-hour period for the drawings was worth two tickets, not one).  She started filling out one when she asked when the next drawing was.  Told it was nearly four hours away, she disgustingly turned back the tickets without filling them out.  “I have a plane to catch way before that.”

The one decent hand I won during this session was the hand where MG decided to prove what a bitch she was.  She made a small raise to $7.  I had Ace-Jack in the big blind.  There was another caller, a guy from Hawaii, so I decided to defend my big blind and call. The three of us saw a flop of Ace-Ace-X.  I decided to lead out with a bet, $20.  I’m not sure why I did that, in that case I normally check and let the preflop raiser bet.  But I didn’t explain to myself why I made the donk bet.  Perhaps I knew from observing MG’s play that she was less likely than most players to c-bet.  Anyway, she folded but the Hawaiian called.

The turn was a low blank, and I bet $35.  The Hawaiian thought about it and then asked to see my remaining stack.  I didn’t have much left, it was probably no more than $50-$60 (it hadn’t been a good night for me).  After he got a better view of my stack, he started counting his own chips (he had me covered).  This whole process hadn’t taken very long when all of a sudden, MG (who, remember, was no longer in the hand) said, “Time.  I’m calling time.” The Hawaiian’s only reaction was to say, “What?”  I thought it was way too soon to call time.  But the dealer saw that a floor person was nearby and called her over and she started the clock.  The Hawaiian didn’t say anything.  I guess I was more annoyed than he was.  You never know how, if at all, a decision is going to be affected by that.  My assumption was that he had the remaining Ace and was trying to figure out if his kicker was big enough to warrant a call.  If that was the case, I was pretty confident my Jack was good.  If he had a Queen or a King, he’d snap call.  So I was willing to give him all the time he needed to decide to call.  Maybe now he’d be distracted or pissed off enough to fold?  I know it could work either way, of course. That’s why a third party should stay out of it, unless it really was taking too long.  And this was a cash game, time was not a factor as it would have been in a tournament.

The Hawaiian didn’t need the full minute, he said, “OK, call.”

The river was another blank and I shoved the rest of my stack.  He called and asked, “You got a boat?”  I showed my Ace-Jack and said, “No, just an Ace.”  He looked at my cards and said, “Yeah, pretty good Ace.”  And he mucked.  Note: He later told me he had Ace-10 and I have no reason to doubt him.

As the dealer pushed me the pot, the Hawaiian said to MG, “Would you mind telling me why you called time on me?”  She responded, “Oh, you were taking too long, and I got a plane to catch.  I need to play more hands.”   He just shrugged and said, “It was only like 30 seconds.”

He didn’t sound in any way upset, he was very calm.  But nevertheless, MG said to him, “Oh, sorry I put you on tilt.”  He replied, “You didn’t put me on tilt.  I’m ok.” 

And then she said, “Well you better not make an issue out of it, because I can make life miserable for you.”  She said it in a very threatening tone, very nasty.

That seemed totally out of the blue.  I wondered what she meant?  I’d never seen her before so I doubted she was well-known enough in the room that she could use any pull to get the guy in trouble with the poker room management. 

To me, it would have seemed that the best way to make life miserable for the guy would be for her to marry him.

The Hawaiian guy was totally silent.  He handled it with total class and didn’t respond.  But a few of us at the table kind of went “whoa” under our breaths.  I was totally prepared to speak for the guy if he decided to call management’s attention to her threat.  But he just shrugged it off.  A very easy-going fellow indeed. 

The guy on my direct left did speak up.  He said to the Hawaiian, “I wouldn’t have been so nice if she had said that me.”  MG didn’t react to that and neither did the Hawaiian.  But when MG finally picked up her chips and cashed out, we all rehashed the incident.  We all agreed that MG was a total bitch, and again the guy to my left said, “Yeah, that would have been a lot uglier if she’d said that to me.”

But the guy from Hawaii was total class the whole way.  He didn’t deserve the treatment he got from MG, that’s for sure.  And he was so classy about it, I almost felt guilty for taking his chips on the hand MG interfered with.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Back in Action

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have already figured out the big news. 

I saw my cardiologist on Thursday.  He cleared me to pretty much return to normal activity.  The only restriction left is, I can’t lift anything more than 20 pounds (it was five pounds max up until then, which is really restrictive).  But I can drive, and I can travel.

I decided to run a few tests to see how I would handle increasing my activity level.  On Friday, I took a little shopping trip—first time I’d driven a car in 7 weeks.  I went to Walmart (or, if you prefer, Walmarts).  And even though I didn’t really need all that much, I somehow managed to make $300 disappear.

Saturday—which was exactly 7 weeks to the day after I had the bypass surgery—was much bigger.  I needed to make a long overdue appointment in West L.A., so I did.  That got me up really early Saturday morning.  And I was dying to play some poker again.  Since my morning trip took me a lot closer to the Bike and a lot farther away from Ventura, it only made sense to head out to the Bike after my appointment, even though I would have preferred playing in Ventura.

In addition to just wanting to play, I wanted to see how my body would hold up after a fairly long drive and what I hoped to be a fairly long poker session.  After all, if my body couldn’t handle a trip to the Bike, it wouldn’t be able to deal with a trip to Vegas now, could it?

When I got to the Bike late Saturday morning, I found out it’s not just Vegas that is cutting back on, well, everything.  No, they didn’t charge me to park.  But I did learn their rewards program has been changed, and they no longer offer cash back for the reward points you earn.  You must use those points for food, hotel reservations, etc.  Just a few months ago they had changed the program so you could accumulate those points over an indefinite period of time and get cash back once you hit $25.  I never got to take advantage of that.  Now my points are only good for food.  I was also informed that the menu options for the table-side dining have been greatly reduced. It’s like Vegas and L.A. are competing in a race to the bottom.

Anyway, on Twitter, I posted this pic with the caption, “Back in Action.”  This is just my starting stack, it was taken before I played a hand.

However, I think my readers will probably appreciate this pic more, a totally appropriate graphic for a post about the Bicycle Casino.

There were two 2/3 games going when I got there, and I didn’t have to wait long for a seat at one of them.  A few of the players looked vaguely familiar, but there was one guy that I was sure I’d played with before, a fairly young bald headed dude.  My only memory of him was that he wasn’t a very good player.

In an early hand I wasn’t involved in, my suspicions about him were confirmed, or at least I thought so.  As I recall the action, under-the-gun +1 opened for $10 (a small raise for a 2/3 game).  The very next player made it $30, and the next player after that cold called the $30 without a moment’s hesitation.  So it folded to this bald-headed guy, who made it $105.

It folded back to the guy who made it $10, who tanked for a long time.  Both he and the bald guy had around $200 or so when the hand started.  I couldn’t figure out the guy’s hesitation.  I understand you can open to $10 with a pretty wide range.  But now it was obvious if he was to continue he’d be playing for stacks, that would seem to be a very limited number of hands.  You either have one or you don’t.  But he took a long time to finally fold.

The guy who made it $30 then announced all-in.  He had everyone covered.  The guy who had cold-called the $30 folded almost instantly and then it was back to the bald guy who wasted little time in calling the all-in.  They didn’t show and after the board was dealt, the bald guy asked the other guy “How big is your pair?”  And he flipped over….pocket Queens.  They were not improved by the board.  The three-bettor showed two Aces, also unimproved by the board.

So my question is….do you four-bet pocket Queens?  I guess one argument is, well you would four-bet pocket Kings and Queens is only one rank less.  But honestly—are pocket Queens ever good there?  The guy who raised to $10 and the guy who made it $30 had shown no maniacal tendencies to this point.  The guy who cold-called the $30 was the most aggressive of the three but still had never shown anything too crazy.  It just seems to me the guy had to know his Queens were, at the very best, the second best hand there.  But you tell me.  Maybe my time away from the felt has made me even nittier than ever.

I guess my session could best be summed up by three hands that played out in succession about an hour and a half into it.  First, I had pocket 8’s and a guy in front of me made it $22.  I called and four of us saw a flop that totally missed me.  I folded to a flop bet.

Very next hand, after a couple of limpers, a guy made it $23.  I had pocket deuces.  Assessing the people who still had cards (including the limpers), I was fairly certain that if I called from the button, at least one or two others would call as well, so I thought it worth a call.  I was right, five of us saw the flop.  It came 9-7-2 rainbow.  To my disappointment, it checked to me.  I think if the preflop raiser had bet, I probably would have just called with that flop.  But seeing as how I was the last chance to get any money in the pot on the flop, I felt I had to bet.  I put out $50.  A few guys tanked, but no one called.  Maybe I should have bet even less?  As it was, I bet less than half the pot.

Next hand, I looked down at two Aces.  So that was my third straight hand with a pocket pair.  I guess that may have happened to me before, but I can’t recall it.  There were a couple of limpers so I made it $20.  The bald guy called but no one else did (which was surprising).  The flop was King-Queen-x, two clubs.  I did have the Ace of clubs.  Bald guy was the small blind and he checked, I bet $30 and he check-raised to $60.  Hmmm.  I thought he could easily be doing that with just a King (or even a Queen).  I called.  The turn was a third club, and this time he led out with a shove—it looked like $80, which I had covered.  I honestly thought there was a reasonable chance my Aces were beating his top pair, and if not, I had the redraw to the nut flush. I called.

The river was a spade, and he showed me King-crap of clubs.  The rag was really low, 7 or under. And that’s all it too crack my Aces.  He called my $20 from out of position with King-rag of clubs.  Tell me again why I missed playing this game?

A couple of orbits later, he made it clear just how much he loved those suited cards.  He limped in under-the-gun and it folded to the button who made it $27.  This guy was probably the best player at the table and hadn’t come close to making a big preflop raise like that before.  It folded to the bald guy, who tanked for a bit and then folded, face up, saying, “I have a good hand, but it’s not that good.”  The hand he folded?  Why Jack-7 of hearts, of course.

What?  That’s not a good hand, you say?  Come on, with just a little bit of luck, you could flop a straight flush with it.

Sad to say, my session was pretty bad.  I wasn’t exactly card dead.  I was getting cards good enough to play, good enough to call a preflop raise with, but then would completely whiff on the flop.  On the rare times I’d be able to raise first (once with Ace-King, then with pocket 10’s), I’d get multiple callers and have to fold on the flop.

There were no disaster hands, just a steady drip, drip downward.   As such, I never did a full second buy-in, I just added $100 every so often when my stack got too depleted. I probably would have cashed out at some point, but I really wanted to test myself to see how I’d hold up if I played as long as I could.  For most of the session, I wasn’t even remotely tired, even though I had gotten up real early.  In fact, it wasn’t until my last two orbits that I got fatigued at all, and I attributed that to lack of sleep and not to my body being in recovery status.

After over three hours, I had taken out all the money I was willing to play with, and my stack was still short.  I made it $20 with Ace-King of spades and got two callers.  There was just one spade on the flop, but I made a $30 c-bet to try to take it down.  But both called.  There was no further betting action and they both had flopped a pair of 7’s.  My Ace-high no good.

Next hand, I made it $15 with Ace-Queen of spades.  Again, two callers.  This time there were three low cards on the flop, two of them were spades.  I think I started the hand with $50-$60 or so.  I just shoved.  Both called.  They checked the turn, a blank.  Still looking for that spade, I saw instead a red Ace on the river.  I was sure it was not good enough. They both checked the river. But one of them showed a low pair (with the board) and the other had a straight draw that missed.  My Ace was actually good.

That kept me in the game for another 45-minutes.  But then, as I said, I started noticing the fatigue.  When I started yawning every minute or so, I knew I had pushed myself as far as I could.  I had some chips left and was able to cash out, but still a fairly substantial loss.  But at least I passed my own personal endurance test by playing nearly 4-1/2 hours on my second day back after being taken off restricted activity.  I’ll settle for that.

= = = = = = =

Side note: I don’t normally give special attention to blogs that already appear on my blog roll (to your right), but I want to make an exception in this case.   Blogger KKing David has an important story posted on his blog about a terrible incident he recently witnessed in a brick and mortar poker room recently.  I encourage you to check it out here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"You See What You Get for $100?"

Just the other day, I happened to remember an old Vegas story that I never blogged.  Even better, it is a hooker story.

However, it isn’t my story. It was related to me by a former co-worker.  So I checked my really old emails to see if I had emailed the story my friends long ago, so I would get the details right.  Well, not only had I indeed done just that, but I discovered another Vegas story in a separate email from the same source—one I had completely forgotten about--that is also worth telling.  Not a hooker story, but still entertaining, I think.  Finally, I did remember another hooker story tangentially related to this same person that is also worth reporting.

These stories took place close to 10 years ago. They go back to my days working the 9-to-5 grind (though for me it was more like 7:30 to 6:00).  Back then I was working for a really, really big company.  Well, to be more accurate, I was working for a moderately big company that had been bought out by a really, really big company and was now a subsidiary of said giant company.  That buy-out had happened a few years before I was hired.

Most of my career I was in middle-management.  For this company, I was managing a department of 8 people (not counting myself).  There had been a lot of turnover (including my predecessor) and I had to hire a bunch of people.  The last of my original hires to staff up was a very young fellow I’m going to call Edgar.

Edgar was like 22, 23 when I hired him and he was a real go-getter.  He was very green, hadn’t had much experience in the corporate world (and this was very much the corporate world).  In fact, he started as a temp and had impressed me enough that I decided to bring him on full-time.

I was very much his mentor.  He had a lot to learn about being a professional.  Fortunately, he had a great can-do attitude and was a fast learner.  I was also kind of his mentor when it came to life in general.  I recall one time he came to me bewildered because he had played a little April Fools Day joke on his then-girlfriend and it had a really bad result.  He thought it would be funny if he texted her that he was breaking up with her, even though he had no intention of actually doing so.  He couldn’t figure out why didn’t laugh hysterically when he said “April Fools!”

I said to him, “Edgar, have you actually met a woman before?”  I must have given him some good advice as to what to do, because they patched things up—at least for the time being.  I believe by the time he and I parted ways, he had become engaged to another girl.  I’m pretty he sure he married her and now has at least one kid.

Anyway, it didn’t take long for Edgar to find out that I was spending all my time off in Vegas.  Edgar had lived in L.A. all his life but had never been there.  So he was constantly asking me for Vegas information, for tips and recommendations.  He planned many trips there that he had to cancel for one reason or another.  But he always got me to “approve” his choice of hotels when he booked them.

He was barely passed drinking age but he definitely had a fondness for demon rum.  He heard a rumor and asked me to confirm it.  “Is it really legal for people to be walking the street in Vegas while carrying an open drink?”

I said, “Edgar, it’s not only legal, it’s required.  You can actually get a citation if you’re caught walking down the Vegas Strip without at least a beer in your hand.”  I think he believed me for at least half a second.

Finally, after many false starts, he did indeed make it to Vegas. I think what finally got him there was a story he heard from a friend of his about a friend of that friend.  Supposedly, this guy had called one of those “escort” agencies and ordered a girl to come to his room.  The escort took care of the guy’s needs for $400.  What makes the story more noteworthy was that supposedly, this guy’s roommate (male), was in the bed right next to them the entire time this, um, transaction was taking place.

Anyway, not sure if Edgar had a girlfriend when he finally made it there but this was a guys weekend.  He went with a co-worker (from another department, not mine), that co-worker’s buddy (who was supposedly a cop) and Edgar’s cousin.  The cousin was Edgar’s age and the other guys were a few years older.

So Edgar came back with this story.  One night, the other two went to bed (they were all sharing one room) and Edgar and his cousin were walking the Strip near the Flamingo (they were staying at the Mirage).  It was like 2-3 in the morning.  And they encountered just a ton of streetwalkers.  I see lots of working girls inside the casinos, but rarely find them on the Strip these days.  But then, I’m not usually walking on the Strip that late (or should I say, that early?).

Edgar reported that none of the ladies he encountered were even remotely attractive.  They were not at all tempting.  They ignored them all for awhile, just blowing them off (so-to-speak) until Edgar couldn’t help himself.  He had to find out how much such a girl would charge for her services.

When a girl he thought was particularly unattractive approached him, he boldly asked, “How much?”

The girl said that it depends, but it is usually around $150-$200.

Edgar decided to negotiate.  He told the girl that this was his first time in Vegas.  Then he said, “Look, I’m young.  I’m good looking….can you give me a discount?”  The girl laughed and then said, “OK, for you, $100.”

According to Edgar, he said to her, “Oh that’s great.  But I’m gonna pass.”  And then he and his cousin walked away from her.

When he told me that story, I told him that was a very dangerous thing to do, negotiate with a hooker and then stiff her like that.  I told him he could have gotten the crap beaten out of him by her pimp (Edgar was not a big guy by any means).  I also called him a “hook-tease.”

However, Edgar was very proud of himself.  He thought the experience of negotiating with a hooker and talking her down was well worth it.  I asked again how she looked.  He insisted she was “butt-ugly.”

I said, “You see what you get for a hundred dollars?”

Well, Edgar fell in love with Vegas that first trip.  It wasn’t long before he asked me if he could leave early one Friday afternoon for another trip to Vegas. This time he was taking two friends from high school for their first visit to Vegas.  One of them was actually turning 21 so it seemed like an appropriate thing to do.  The other buddy was slightly older and Edgar was the old man of the trio at almost 23.

Edgar was just supposed to miss half of Friday and return to work on Monday.  But when I got in Monday morning, there was a voice mail message from Edgar, left at 1:30AM that morning.  He apologized for not being able to come to work that day as planned.  He said it was after midnight and he was still in Vegas.  And the birthday boy had gotten himself arrested for public intoxication. Also, he had punched somebody. He was still in jail, and they had to wait 12 hours for him to sober up so they would release him.

On Tuesday, Edgar did indeed show up for work on time.  And he told me the whole story—or at least the part of the story that he was willing to tell his boss.  It seems that on Saturday night the three of them went to Pure Nightclub at Caesars (that’s the old nightclub that was right next to the poker room, since replaced by Omnia, which is where the old poker room was). Edgar insisted that he didn’t have a single drink there but his youngest pal did indeed indulge and got completely hammered.  When they left the club, they were outside by the taxi area.  There, the three of them encountered a group of folks, both male and female, approximately the same age. 

Well the drunk birthday boy started flirting with one of the girls in the other group.  Apparently they had met previously inside the club.  The girl was fine with this but a couple of her male companions were not thrilled.  At one point, Edgar’s birthday boy pal got “physical” with the girl (he never gave me any more detail than that).  The girl didn’t object but her friends did.  One of them shoved the birthday boy. At that point, Edgar tried to grab his friend to get him the hell out of there.  But it was too late.  Edgar wasn’t sure who threw the first punch, but punches were thrown and some of them indeed made contact. 

It didn’t last very long.  Caesars’ security showed up almost immediately and broke it up.  The cops were called and showed up pronto.  Statements were given. Two of the guys from the other group, along with Edgar and his two pals, were taken to the nearest police station.  They interviewed the girl involved and she said she was not willing to press charges against Edgar’s buddy.  So, no charges were actually charged against anyone except the birthday boy, and it was only for public intoxication since he was drunk out of his mind.  Thus they had to wait 12 hours until the police would let him go.  He had a court date two and a half months later he had to return to Vegas for. 

I had to ask…what did the girl look like?  Was she worth it?  Edgar insisted that she wasn’t at all attractive.  In fact, on the ride back to L.A., Edgar and his other buddy spent the entire time teasing the hell out of the birthday boy for getting arrested over such an unattractive chick!  Of course, he was totally shit-faced at the time.

When Edgar first told me the story, the timing of it didn’t make sense.  If this happened Saturday night, he still could have made it back to town in time to make it into work on Monday.  When I pointed this out to Edgar, he confessed that he had told me a little fib.  That story actually took place Sunday night, not Saturday night.  It seems on Sunday, after they checked out of their room at the Wynn, they decided to go to the club first instead of hitting the road.  That’s why Edgar didn’t drink.  The plan was for him to drive the other two home in the middle of night (Sunday night, or really Monday morning).  Basically he planned on showing up Monday morning not having any sleep at all.  Thus, he was reluctant to tell me the truth.

In reality, when Edgar and his other pal were released from the police station at 2AM Sunday night/Monday morning, they checked into the Imperial Palace (now The Linq) and crashed there until they could pick up their friend Monday afternoon.

 There’s one other somewhat relevant story I remember from my days working with Edgar. It doesn’t have anything to do with Vegas, but you’ll see it is somewhat related.

During this period, former basketball great Charles Barkley was arrested for a DUI.  You probably remember.  I’m too lazy to look up the details, but if memory serves, he was driving his car in a bad section of town (I think it was Philadelphia, but not sure) and had picked up a streetwalker, ran a stop sign and then was stopped by a cop who realized he was intoxicated.

Anyway, this was all over the news and on some website (and I have no idea if this is reliable or not), they quoted Barkley explaining to the cop why he ran the stop. He said that he was going around the corner so the girl could give him a blowjob.  Then he explained to the cop that he had met with the girl the week before and she had given him the best blowjob he'd ever gotten in his life.

Well, when Edgar brought up Barkley’s arrest, I couldn’t help telling him this juicy piece of gossip.  And after I told him Barkley’s supposed excuse for his running the stop sign, Edgar replied.  “Oh wow.  And they still arrested him?”