Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vegas Extravaganza - 3 days of memories

A few days ago, I got tired of blogging each day's worth of memories. After a while in Vegas, it's really kind of the same after all. All the poker rooms have the same characters and there are poker hands and wins and beats. Nothing too new we haven't read a thousand times before. But there are still good stories to tell. So here are some good vignettes from the last few days.

1. Best line I've heard at the table: "Zooming's for the kitchen table, son". After a drunk, possibly high, kid in mirrored sunglasses had finally been called down on his 3rd consecutive $50 turn bet, showing a complete bluff, a large Texan in a cowboy hat delivered this classic line. The drunk kid rebought 3 times and lost his stack 3 times, all on called bluffs. The last one, the guy called with bottom pair on the river because the kid's bluffs were so predictable.

2. Best celebrity story I've heard at the table: Bill Gates was at the Bellagio, playing the 4-8 limit Hold'Em game (Two separate people have already confirmed to me that this is what he plays when he's at the Bellagio). Mr. Gates spots Doyle Brunson in Bobby's Room, playing in the "Big Game". He procures a copy of Super System and sends it to Doyle with a note asking Doyle to autograph it for him. Doyle refuses and sends back a note to Bill saying he'll only sign it if he comes and plays higher limits with him in the room. Bill sends another note back that says, "Ok. How's 1 million-2 million sound?". Doyle autographed the book.

3. Worst beat I took at the table - I have AA UTG+1 at Circus Circus. I've been fast playing my big hands so I decide to limp this time. UTG, the big big stack at the table, takes away my limping option by popping it to 20 PF. I make a move to my chips to see how he'll react and he says, "Go ahead, bang it.". So I do, by re-raising to 60. I figure this will isolate him but a guy two to my left cold calls. Sweet. I only have 57 behind and when it folds to big stack, he calls. Flop is 864 rainbow. Big stack checks to me and says, "Go ahead, put the rest in." I oblige. The fish two to my left calls and big stack calls. Big stack get up from the table and says, "I need some help". "You have overs?," I ask. "No, just a 4," he says and we both laugh. We've been mixing it up together so he was friendly to me. I know he's an aggro player and telling the truth. Still don't know what fish to my left has. Turn is a J, putting two diamonds on board. It goes check check (I'm already all in). River is a 7, no diamond. Board is now 864J7. I turn over my Aces, figuring one of them has a set. Aggro guy checks his cards and folds with a laugh. Fish checks his cards one more time, hesitates, and turns over 4d5d! He cold called two raises with 4d5d!!! Are you kidding me?!?! That moron had bought in for 5 buyins and finally broke even with a luck lucky hit and then left a few hands later. I managed to get all my money back plus profit though, with a good run of cards. The best was when I had 22 and was able to limp in and see a flop with A25. I called a 10 dollar bet and the turn came with a rag. My opponent checked and I bet out 25. He called. The turn was a beautiful Ace. I knew my opponent had an Ace, I just didn't know if he boated up. When he checked, I put out another 25. He called and showed Ace 6. Sweet!

4. Best move I made at the table - Back at Circus Circus with the aggro Asian guy. If flopped a flush draw with a single over card. There was a few mobneys in the pot and I really wanted to see a free card. When it checked to aggro Asian guy, just before he made a bluff bet, I made a move to my chips like I was going to bet if he checked. I knew he was smart enough to pick up on it, especially after we'd already had a conversation about observations at the table. So when he saw my "unconscious" move, he checked to me and said, "Ok, you bet it". When I checked to get a free card, we all had a good laugh. I didn't make the flush, but I got a good free look with a nice table trick.

5. Best move I saw made at the table - Same aggro Asian at Circus Circus (who shows up a lot in this list because he was lots of fun to play with). He has a small flush on the turn and a short stack goes all in when the club hits. Asian guy shows me 5c7c. He knows it's no good but he looks around the table and spots a fish with a larger stack who calls the all in. Instead of folding what he knows is a hand that won't win the main pot, he calls the short stack's all in, in order to win side pot money! It was brilliant. The other guy ended up making a straight and pushed all in for 200, which aggro Asian called. He ended up losing the main pot to a King flush and about 100 dollars but won the side pot for 200 for a 100 dollar profit!

6. Best feeling I had at the table - After going 0 for 2 in Stratosphere tourneys (placing 6th in each one, just out of the money), I finally took one down. Just like in the previous two tourneys, I tripled up early on. I was determined this time to keep on accumulating, even if it meant taking risks. I overplayed pocket Tens to get crushed when a woman slowplayed AK on me and called me quick when she checked an Ace flop and I moved all in. But then I got it back when I tried to steal the blinds with A5, got called from the small blind and the flop came 853 with two spades. I went all in and he called with AsTs. But my pair held up and I was back in. By the time the final table was set, I was middle stack but that would quickly change. I got AhQh in the small blind and it folded to the button who bet out 3X the BB. It looked like a steal and I had a premium hand, so I shoved for 8500 more (blinds were 500-1000). He quick called with AK. Flop came with 3 undercards and a single heart. I called out for a heart or a Queen and got another heart. I kept calling and was rewarded with another heart! The big stack at the table was decimated and I was now king stack. I took out a Sandra Oh lookalike when it folded to me in the SB and I called with Tc6c. BB Sandra Oh checked and the flop came with Ten high. I bet out a few thousand and she called. The turn was a 6, giving me top two pair. I bet out 5000. She must have thought I was bullying her, because she pushed all in with As9s. I quick called and she saw the bad news. Finally, I took out my table nemesis who kept calling my raises and then betting big out of position. I had Q6 on the button and I tried to steal the blinds with the big stack when it folded to me. I raised 3.5X the BB and my nemesis called. The flop had a 6 in it so when he checked, I made another bet. He called. Turn was an Ace. He checked to me, I checked back. River was a Queen. Sweet! He pushed all in and I called. He showed AK (Slow play, no play buddy!) and I felted him on the bubble. Awesome. At this point, I had 2/3 of the chips in play with 4 players total. It was cartoonish how big my stack was. So I put out a deal: "Give me first place and you guys can chop the rest amongst yourselves". They took it. So there it is. The best feeling I had was taking first place in a tourney, without chopping the money and without having to play for it! HAHAHA!

The funny thing about that tourney is that I almost missed it. I had been feeling a bit worn down after all of my running around (34 poker rooms so far!!!) so I got to sleep late and slept in. I woke up at 10AM but fell back asleep and had a pleasant and prophetic dream. I was playing in an O/8 cash game. For some reason, CK was there and so was Erick Lindgren (It's a dream, don't look for answers), along with some other unknown participants. To make a long story short, I had nuts/nuts and it was capped on every street with every player in and I scooped the whole thing. This was in my head when I woke up at 11:53a, 7 minutes to go to the noon tourney. I immediately put on clothes, brushed my hair into a semblance of normality and ran downstairs. There were two seats left when I got there and two people ahead of me in line, but luck was on my side when the guy in front of me decided last minute he didn't want the seat. W00t!

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and I plan on being on Fremont Street for it. It should be lots of fun. I haven't taken a single picture since I've been here, but I'm going to tomorrow, for sure. Other than that, the only other thing to report is that 11 nights is a LONG time to be in Vegas, especially alone. I don't think I can do it again, though to be fair, I've been spending an awful lot of time in crappy little local rooms just to book the visits. The next time, I won't have to. :-)

Vegas Extravaganza - Day 6

After I got back from Laughlin, I committed myself to play in the noon tournament at the Stratosphere. It was a disaster. After winning a few small pots, I started to get a few good starting hands that deserved a raise. I was brutally re-raised on each one and I had to fold. Things like AT, KQo, etc… had to be mucked when flops would miss me and my opponents would bet big. Sometimes they showed and each time I was right to lay down. But it quickly got to me that I was losing chips raising PF and then making correct laydowns. Eventually, my brain started to imagine that some of these must be bluffs, right? So I get ATs in EP and I raise to 175. I get two callers and the flop is JT3 rainbow. I bet out 450 C-bet and the button re-raises 700 on top. I start thinking about it and eventually I begin to think he has AQ and is trying to steal in position. So I shove and he calls with AA. Duh! They ask me if I want to rebuy into the tourney, but I have a policy against that when I’m not on my game, so I demure and go to the cash game instead.

Things don’t get any better there.

I buy in for $150, which is about the average stack at the table and I start getting bad luck. Not in hands, mind you, but in pots and payouts. How’s this for bad luck? I get AA in the SB. When it limps to me, I raise to $21. The BB, a small stack who just sat down a few hands ago, re-raises to $50. Bingo. He has $30 behind him and I put him all in. He calls and I turn over the bad news. “There’s a problem,” he says. And he turns over AA as well. Crap. I flop a runner runner flush draw, but it doesn’t come and my bullets make me a dollar after the rake. I toke the dealer anyway for giving me the hand. Later on in the day, I get KK and the exact same scenario occurs. I raise, get re-raised and he pushes all in. I call and he has KK. Another split pot for a dollar. Another AA I get flops KK and I have to fold when a guy pushes with KT. Yet another AA goes down when I try to bet a guy off a flush draw on the flop but he calls my 2X pot bet anyway and catches on the turn. Grrr…. I do end up winning with one AA, but only about 24 dollars when everyone folds to me PF on the button. I end up losing most of my first buyin when a new aggressive player at the table (whom I ended up talking to and liking) caught a set on the turn against my top two and I called his value bet. I rebought for 200 more and lost that on a few sick hands, most of which I bet and had to lay down. The sickest one was my QQ. I was UTG+1 with it and the UTG player raised to 8 dollars. Now I had an interesting dilemma. 8 dollars isn’t a huge amount and if I flat call, so many people will come in that I might very well get outflopped. But if I re-raise, it will look so suspicious that I might chase everyone out. So I decided to gamble for a big pot and flat call. Sure enough, 6 players came in. The flop was J54, rainbow. SB checked and BB bet out 13. UTG called and I popped it 40 more on a non-threatening board. A 40 raise was a significant amount at this table so it was surprising when the SB, who had just checked, smooth called! This raised the hackles on my neck. I figured him for AJ until the BB moved all in for $300 dollars! Holy crap!! With the smooth call and then the all in, I came to conclusion that I was beat. UTG folded and so did I. SB quick called and showed 55 for the flopped set of 5’s (Presto!). BB showed AJ, for the worst played top/top I’ve seen in a while. When I told the table I had QQ, they were impressed at my laydown but the BB guy was pissed that I hadn’t re-raised PF. He really went into it with me about it. He put me on AJ and the smooth caller on 67 for the OESD. He figured the all in would drive me out and he’d be heads up with a draw against him. Yeah, right. Sorry guy.

Meanwhile, I was making sick laydowns that were correct, but my stack was getting demolished and I was getting very frustrated. Especially since there was plenty of dead money to be had. When I finally got felted for my second buyin, I bought in for another 300, determined to do well. I did. It took a card rush and two well timed bluffs, but I was able to make all of my money back. The final hand, I had Qc9c and I limped, which was the usual for the table. Flop was KJT with one club on board. I flopped second nuts and I smooth called when one guy bet it. Turn was Ten of clubs. He bet again and I smooth called again. River was a 4h, no help. He bet out 50 and I decided that I was good and min-raised to 100. He just called, knowing I had the straight. I showed him the bad news. He had had the T9 and caught trips on the turn. I’m just happy he didn’t boat up on my flopped straight! Oh, one other sick laydown I remember now. I had KcJc and limped into a board that came KdKhTc. I checked in EP and it checked all around. I knew I was good here. Turn was Ac. Now I’m in a bit of a dilemma. A guy who I knew was holding an Ace bet out. But I have the royal flush draw, and if I bet him out of this hand, I won’t see the river. The Stratosphere has a big hand jackpot for the club royal flush that was over $1000 and I wanted to see the river. I was still good here anyway and I’m only dead to 2 cards (any Ace) so I flat called. The river was an Ace, of course. Grrrr… He moved all in quickly and I folded my King. He flashed the inevitable A6o for the sick runner runner beat.. At least there wasn’t much in the pot… When I cashed out, I was even on the day by 3 dollars. Rather then being greedy and trying to make profit, I took the prudent course and called it a session.

Vegas Extravaganza - Christmas in Laughlin

I woke up Christmas day at about 10:00AM, a decent hour for once during this trip. I didn’t know what the poker scene was going to be like in Vegas on the holiday, so deciding my day’s itinerary would be difficult. Until I remembered that I wanted to see some poker rooms out of the city, that is. Laughlin, about 90 minutes south of Vegas, on the Arizona/Nevada border, seemed like the perfect destination. I spent a few minutes blogging the previous night’s events and taking a shower and stuff, and then I hit the road.

The ride down to Laughlin is…interesting. After you’re out of the city, a 20 minute drive, there is absolutely nothing. I mean nothing. For 70 miles, you’re driving through desert as far as the eye can see. There are cacti and desert grasses and nothing else whatsoever. Oh, wait, there’s a town called Searchlight which is literally 1000 feet long. And somewhere on the drive is a small settlement of RV’s, maybe 40 or so, out in the middle of nowhere. The emptiness is kind of hard to comprehend, but strangely beautiful. Also, the mountains surrounding the desert are very stark and pretty. The ride isn’t so bad because the highway is smooth and the speed limit is high. I arrived in Laughlin, on the Colorado River, at about 2:00 PM.

Driving into the town, you come in from an elevated hill and you get to see the city of Laughlin before you actually get there. It’s very strange because there is a central strip (called Casino Drive, natch) which is surrounded by 8 or 9 large casinos, and then empty desert all around it. I imagine this is what Vegas looked like 50 years ago or so, before urban sprawl came here. The casinos are all smoking allowed (even some of the poker rooms) and the visitors here are either grizzled locals or scuzzballs from Arizona. They’re also old. Damn old. And smokers. And playing poker with oxygen tanks. And they go to sleep early dammit!

Anyways, I started out the trip with the very first casino I came to, Riverside. The poker room here is 10 tables stuck in a corner near the craps tables. The room is somewhat separated from the casino, so the thick wall of smoke doesn’t quite get in, but it’s still pretty crappy. The tables suck, the chairs suck and the chips suck. The action, though, is pretty decent. They run an O/8 game that not only gets off regularly, it has enough interest to have a must move table! I played the 3-6 O/8 with a full kill for a few hours. I didn’t win, but I made my buy in last for a while and I got some good experience. The players here are veterans and they’re tight, but they’re balanced by plenty of old folks who don’t know what they’re doing. I wish I could be better at hand selection in O/8. I’d make big mobneys.

From there, I went hopping from casino to casino, playing in each room and having loads of fun doing it. The biggest issues were the smoke in the casinos and the emptiness of the casinos. Seriously, at about midnight, this place was a ghost town. Not a car on the road and maybe a few dozen people on the casino floor. I diligently played in every single poker room in the town, except for two. In the Aquarius casino, the poker ‘room’ is nothing more than three tables with ropes around them situated right in the middle of the floor next to the craps tables. They have hours. Can you imagine? Poker room hours? When I got there at 2am, they were closed! Lol!! And the Avi casino, an Indian casino about 20 minutes out of town, was also empty and the poker room barren when I got there. I finished my run all through town at about 3:00 and I decided that driving 90 minutes back to Vegas was not a great idea. I was tired and there are no lights on the road in the desert. A bad combination. So I went to Harrah’s and asked for their room rate for the night. $29.00 was the answer. It was a no brainer. I stayed the night at Harrah’s and drove back to Vegas at 9:45am.

For the record, the coolest looking hotel in Laughlin is the Colorado Belle. The entire hotel is shaped like a riverboat and the theme runs inside as well. There’s even a moat surrounding the hotel to make it look like it’s on the river (which it actually is on the other side). The moat is filled with koi fish and there’s a walkway above it about 15 feet. An odd thing about the fish; when I peered over the side to look at them, they swarmed over to me, their mouths agape in anticipation. I didn’t think you could train fish, but these fish clearly expected that ‘people’ equals ‘food’. It was a really really weird sight. I met some really nice people on my trip, and some really strange and grizzled white trash. The worst poker ‘room’ was at the Pioneer, which is only two tables next to the bar in the saddest looking casino (how’s ten foot high ceilings for you?) you’ve ever seen. Smoking is allowed at the table and the people there are the sorriest you’ve ever seen. It’s a pleasure to be back in Vegas after this trip. Laughlin is so ghetto, it’s not a place I’d like to visit again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Vegas Extravagana - Day 3 (and 4)

After falling asleep at 10:30Am the previous day, I desperately needed at least some sleep. I made sure to leave a message on Matt’s cell phone that he needn’t bother disturbing me until at least 5PM because I would be in bed, dreaming of cracking pocket Aces. My body woke me up at about 4:30, and after showering and getting dressed, I called up Matt again to see what was going on. He wanted to meet up for dinner at about 8PM or so, so I was on my own until then. 3 hours wouldn’t be enough time to do anything worthwhile, so I wrote the last blog entry and did some more trip research. I got bored of this after about an hour and I wandered downstairs to the Stratosphere poker room to see what was going on. There was a 1-2NL game going on which I joined, but it was boring as hell. Not only couldn’t I get any cards, but there was nearly no action at the table. BORING.

I got up from the table at about 8:15PM and went to meet Matt at The Paris. There is a great little restaurant on the casino floor called Mon Ami Gabi which I had been to in my first trip to Vegas. My friend Gary, who used to live out here, had brought me to it and I remember it being pretty good. It was. We had a nice dinner of filet mignon (for them) and steak Dijon (for me) and a couple of really great glasses of wine. Afterwards, we dropped off Rachel at The Venetian (her request) to leave the boys alone for a night of poker.

At Matt’s request, he wanted to see some of the local joints, which fit into my plans perfectly because we could go to some places I’d never been before. We decided to hit Santa Fe Station, north west of the city. The place, like a good portion of the locals places, was nice enough, but a bit on the smoky side. The poker room is a decent size with about 14 tables, and there were at least 5 or 6 tables going. We were seated at two different 1-2 tables immediately and we went at it. For about 90 minutes. We were crushed! I can’t speak for Matt, because I wasn’t at his table, but I got creamed. I lost two full 200 buyins on three pots, all to the same guy, who check-raised me every single damn time. And the worst part is, I really don’t think I could have done anything differently. It seemed to really be a case of bad timing. Here’s what happened.

I get A7 on the button and it limps around. The flop is 723, with two clubs. A guy in MP bets 5 and a few people call. I pop it to 25 on the button and just my nemesis calls. The turn is another 2. Nemesis checks to me. Now I put him on a flush draw. I bet out 45 (much bigger than the table is used to). He smooth calls! Ru-roh. The river is a brick. He checks, but I can see the trap coming from a mile away and I check. He tables 77 for the second nuts.

Next, I have 89o on the button again and the guy to my right raises to 15, a pretty standard PF raise here. I debate calling because I know I’ll get a whole bunch of other callers in here so I do and I do. About 6 people call to build a juicy pot. The flop is 779. It checks all the way around to the original raiser to my right and he C-bets 40. I have a good read that this guy is bluffing, so I decide to take it down with my pair. I move all in for 71 total. It folds around to my nemesis, who moves all in for 103! Shit! The original raiser says, “I was bluffing but I have outs, so I call.” Huh? My nemesis tables another slow played monster, A7. There were no diamonds on board, by the way. The turn is a 6 and the river is a Ten. Wow! I made my straight. I turn over my cards and say, “Straight!” and original raiser says, “I got a bigger one bro.” and turns over Jd8d. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck!

I buy in for another 200 and take down a nice pot when it limps around to me in the BB and I call (free call) with 95o. The flop is 558. I check and the UTG guy bets out 15. I call and it’s heads up. The turn is a brick. I check again and he bets out 30. I pop it to 50 more. He seems puzzled but he calls. I have a good hand with three 5’s, but it’s a crap kicker and I’m out of position. So when the river comes, another brick, I check again and he checks. He has KK! LOL. He’s upset he lost with KK. Uh, dude, try raising with it. So now my stack is about 290, which gets whittled down when I can’t hit my big cards after I’ve raised them. You know the drill. AK in your hand, flop is 223 with a bet. JJ in your hand, flop is AKQ. Etc, etc, etc. I have about 220 in my hand when I get 67o in MP. UTG, new player, raises to 15 and I call because, again, a bunch of other people are going to call. That’s why you play these cards, though I wish they were suited. My nemesis, on the button looks at the 7 callers and says, “I guess I have to call now”. The flop is 679, all hearts. I have bottom two pair, with no heart in my hand. UTG moves all in for 105! My read is that he has a high pocket pair (KK or AA) that he wants to protect against the straight or flush draws. He does the right thing here, except that I’m ahead. It folds to me and I decide the best thing here is to isolate against him. My feeling is that if he had the Ah or Kh, he wouldn’t have moved so quickly. So I push all in for 220. It folds around to my nemesis (who had already checked as first to act, btw) and HE pushes all in! UTG folds in a huge display of disgust and picks up his chips and walks. I’m pissed that I got slow played and trapped yet again by the same guy and I know what he has before he even tables it. He was reluctant to call PF so he must have….T8. Of course he does. Flops the nuts against me and again, I really don’t think there was much I could do here. My reads were right and only a flopped flush really worried me. I couldn’t hit my 6 or 7 and I was done. Matt and I ran with our tails between our legs.

We went across the street to Texas Station, which is a much crappier casino with a much crappier little poker room. There was only 1 out of their 9 tables going and it was a limit 4-8 game with a half kill, which Matt wouldn’t play. The tables were all worn and the players were all locals, but there were MOUNDS of white chips at the table. No joke, the average stack size, for a 4-8 game, was about 350 dollars, in whites. It looked like a cartoon. I sat down with 100 just to do one rotation and book the casino as an official visit. There were no great hands to speak of, just a whole hell of a lot of action. I’d really like to come back and play this game again.

Matt was kind of tired at this point so we decided to finish up the night at the Venetian where he was staying. I love the Venetian poker room. In my opinion, it’s the best in Vegas. Hell, it’s the best one I’ve seen anywhere so far. It has about 65 tables, they’re all immaculate suede and leather, the chairs are comfy leather and the cocktail waitresses are the shizznit. Matt went to self-sacrifice at 1-2 but I was too tired to risk it, so I went with 4-8. As the night wore on, the table started to break up and at 6:30AM (Matt had already busted and gone to sleep), we combined the remaining two 4-8 tables. There was a kid in seat 10, with a large stack of chips in front of him, who was drunk and somewhat belligerent. I didn’t pay him any mind, but there was a crappy player (a kid of middle eastern descent) who really hated the drunk kid. For the sake of this conversation, drunk kid will be referred to as DK and middle eastern kid as MEK. DK was needling MEK all night, talking to him whenever he went into the tank to make a decision. It didn’t help that DK was making seriously donkey calls and sucking out big big pots. The action at the table was significant, with a few players really juicing the pots. MEK complained to the dealer about DK no less than 4 times and no less than 4 times, the floor was called over and gave DK a stern talking to. They cut of DK’s alcohol, but he still nursed the beer he had left. The floor guy kept a watchful eye on DK and there was a good bit of drama surrounding the whole thing. Then all hell broke loose.

I got 22 in late position and called a raise from DK in EP. About 7 players called because no one believed DK anymore. The flop was Ks2s4d. I had bottom set, which I was SURE was good about now. DK bets out and about 6 players call behind me. I’m last to act and I smooth call because I want to see what the turn will bring. My best card here would be the 4s, because it would fill up my boat AND make someone’s flush draw and there would be big mobneys for me! My heart skipped about 3 beats when the 4s came on the turn! Hello mobneys! Dk bets out and it folds to MEK who calls. I raise and DK re-raises for 3 bets. MEK calls again and I re-raise to 4 bets! DK re-raises to 5 bets (capped) and MEK goes into the tank. DK starts in again with MEK, who flashed his cards to the guy next to him. It’s obvious to anyone who plays poker that MEK has a weak flush. DK starts goading him into calling. “Your flush is no good. What are you even thinking about donkey? Wait, I know what you have. It’s…67 of spades, right?” MEK is getting incredibly flush and he finally shouts, “If you talk to me one more time, I’m going to punch you right in the mouth, you got that? Shut the fuck up!”. DK says, “Whatever, I’m just talking.” The floor comes over to see what the commotion is about and both sides start arguing. The floor guy says, “Ok, let’s just play this hand out and then I’ll take care of it.” I took that to mean he was going to boot DK because he had already warned him 4 times about being a drunk asshole. MEK is visibly agitated and he finally mucks in disgust. DK is a bit distracted, luckily for me, because when I raise again to 6 bets, he just calls. He’s got K4 for the bigger boat. Ouch! Not only is he an asshole, but he’s winning big pots!

The floor guy asks to see DK away from the table and it’s obvious to everyone that he’s being booted. DK comes back and stands over his chair and points at MEK. “You know what you are? You’re a pussy for getting me kicked out of here. You’re such a dick”. That did it. MEK stands up, in full fighting mode even though he weighs about 135 soaking wet. They get chest to chest and start the shoving. One of the players gets up and try to get in between but it’s no use. MEK throws the first punch and now fists are flying. DK gets in one good shot for every two that MEK gets in. They do this for about 15 seconds before a security guy shows up out of nowhere. He’s about 5’8” with full grey hair, about 145 pounds and maybe 65 years old, but you can tell he’s an ex-cop. He grabs MEK by the throat and throws him down onto a poker table with a bang. “Do you want to go to jail?!?” DK keeps going after MEK and the wiry security guy gets in the way. Now that the two are separated, a guy in a bullet proof vest from the K9 corp, with a K9 in tow, shows up, again out of nowhere, and the dog starts barking on command. It’s a very menacing german shepard. I don’t move an inch from my seat. Two more security guards show up and the wiry 65 year old guy flashes his badge when the two kids start shouting explanations. The security guards don’t care. They handcuff both participants and walk them out as the floor guys pick up their chips off the table. Maybe DK can use his winnings to make bail? LOL. It was some Christmas Eve.

With two players gone at 7:30 AM, we only played another 2 hours before the table finally broke. Of course we talked about the fight the whole time. The guy next to MEK, whom he had flashed his cards to, told us why MEK finally flew off the handle. It turns out he really did have 67 of spades! DK called his hand perfectly and that crushed MEK’s pride. I lost the hand, but it was well worth it to see a fist fight break out in the Venetian. As the table got down to 4, we broke it up except for an Asian kid who wanted to play me heads up. Ok, I thought. I’ll play heads up. After 15 minutes, I was up $40 and he called no more and went to play 1-2NL.

It was about 9:50AM at this point on Monday morning. I had wanted to play the O8 tourney at the Orleans at noon so I had a fateful decision. Go to sleep or stay up. Uh, dude, I’m in Vegas. I stayed up and drove to The Orleans. They had no fewer than 3 cash tables for O8 going and I was seated at one almost immediately where I putzed around for about an hour before the tourney started. The tourney, even though I busted after the first break, was a lot of fun. It’s $80 total to get in, you start with $4,000 in chips and blinds are twenty minutes until the first break, 30 minutes afterwards. I have a whole bunch of leaks in my O8 game, all of which manifested themselves yesterday at The Orleans. The big one is calling with too many speculative hands that aren’t even good if they hit! Somehow, I think 5689 double suited is a calling hand. What the hell am I thinking? But the tourney was still fun and I met a bunch of really nice locals who took to tutoring me, so I consider it an investment in learning the game. After the tourney, I was so jazzed to play the game that I ended up playing O8 cash (4-8 with half kill) until 7:00 PM! After not having slept all night, I was up until the next night. That’s Vegas for you. I called it quits after losing my 3rd rack and drove to get some quick food.

I stopped at a seedy little taco joint and was wary to see 4 menacing looking drunks loitering outside the entrance. No sooner had I gotten out of the car, one of them walks up to me and says, “Hey man, I don’t mean to bother you. I mean, I’m not hustling you or anything but, do you think I could get something to eat?” I weighed my options and decided that this is not my town and it’s better to take the path of least resistance here so I said “Sure, come on in.”. He said, “Well, wait. You ever eat at the buffet across the street? It’s real good, so maybe…” I cut him off because I could see where this is headed. I give him money for food and he gets drunk with it after walking away from me. I said, “Hey, you want some food or not?”. He threw up his hands and said, “Ok, ok.” So he walked in with me and ordered the biggest burrito off the menu and I got two little tacos. Richard, that was his name, started making small talk. I wasn’t interested at all and I guess he got the message. He thanked me for the burrito and walked outside again but that didn’t stop me from keeping a close eye on my rental car as I ate my tacos (which were REALLY good, by the way).

I drove back to the Stratosphere and it was only about 8PM. I didn’t want to wake up TOO early, so I played some Pai-Gow, and low limit Craps for another two hours before calling it a night. I had been up for nearly 30 hours straight and I feel asleep instantly, peacefully waking up on Christmas day at 10AM.

I don’t know what I’ll do for Christmas, but I think I might take a trip out to Laughlin and see what that’s like.

Vegas Extravaganza - Day 2

I woke up Sunday morning, Dec. 23rd, at about 10:30, refreshed and eager to attack the day. The day was sunny, but cold, as it appeared out my window. By the way, I have a very nice view of the Stratosphere tower, facing the strip. This is in sharp contrast to the usual view I have at hotels, namely the parking lot or a large air conditioner vent. The Slayer and I had already agreed the night before that we should meet up for breakfast before doing anything, so I called him up and we agreed to meet at The Peppermill, a moderately upscale diner on the strip next to the Riviera. I showered, got myself dressed and drove there to wait for them. They were a bit late because they had parked their car at The Venetian’s valet the night before and they were told it would take them 20 minutes to get it! Well, after a while they’d had enough and took a cab to the restaurant. Bad news for me, as I was now stuck playing chauffeur for the rest of the day. I’m exaggerating, of course. We were probably going to be together most of the day anyways.

After a monstrously huge breakfast of Ham and eggs, French toast and pancakes (not all for me, silly), we decided on what we were going to do that day. I originally had wanted to go the Orleans noon O/8 tourney, but I discovered that they didn’t have that on Saturday (Mon. and Thur.), so we decided to hit the gun range instead. Rachel, Slayer’s GF, had never fired a weapon before and Slayer was eager to show her what all the hubbub was about. We drove to The Gun Store (that’s the name of the place) and walked inside. It was a madhouse. There was a line of about 15 people in front of us, all holding their targets and ammo, eager to get a chance to blow holy hell out of their pieces of paper. The 3 of us got up to the cashier and proceeded to order from our own little ‘menu of death’. Slayer went big, ordering two sub machine guns and the SAW, a military grade weapon. Rachel really didn’t want to shoot at all, but Slayer convinced her to take a crack at the MP5, a submachine gun with a very light recoil. I wasn’t in too much of a destructive mood, so I opted just to take 30 rounds on a Glock semi-auto pistol. The shooting went very quickly, taking just 6 or 7 minutes to blow through three magazines. It was still fun though, and I got my shots into a decently tight grouping. I had a bunch of outliers though and the employee who was watching over me said I was ‘anticipating the shot’ too much, which threw off my aim. Hmmmm….Is there a poker lesson in there somewhere?

After shooting up a bunch of targets, we decided to head over to Binion’s for some poker. Rachel isn’t a poker player, so when we got there, I thought it would be nice if I introduced her to Pai-Gow, because everyone needs something to do. I was going to drop Slayer off at the poker room and get Rachel onto the $5 tables, but Slayer joined us and we spent a pleasant 90 minutes playing min. bet Pai-Gow. After a while, we all got bored so we walked into the legendary Binion’s poker room.

For a Saturday night (granted it was early), the place was relatively dead. Some of that was due to a MTT going on in the back. But there were only a few cash tables going. Slayer and I signed up for a table and a new table was started to accommodate us. After about 30 minutes, a feeder table was set up as a must move and we were able to play about 4 hours with a full table. I did not run well.

The table was full of locals who played a pretty tight and aggressive game. I couldn’t get into a draw cheaply and was routinely being bet out of pot odds. I played back a few times, even C-betting Ace high to take a few $60 pots, but my speculative suited connectors did nothing for me. My initial $200 buyin was down to about $160 when I got QQ on the button. It limped all around to me and I made it $20 to go. This was slightly larger than the normal bet, and I wanted to make it look like I was stealing in position. The BB, a young kid with large headphones and sunglasses, who obviously looked the part, re-raised me to $70 straight. I went into the tank thinking about what could be happening here. Of course, he might have a monster, AA or KK. Or he might be interpreting my move as exactly what I hoped and he was trying to steal right back with AK, AQ, JJ or TT (or even garbage). A call seemed to be superfluous to me. I would only have $80 behind so my choices were either all-in or fold. I decided that there was a 50/50 chance I was ahead and I pushed all in for $160 total. He insta-called (whoops) and gently turned over AA. No miracle Queen for me and I was felted. Rebuy! There were no other big hands to report for the rest of the session and I ended up about $210 down. Slayer, on the other hand, did exactly what he always does. Made donkey calls and when he caught he got paid off big. He also donked off his first buyin and a very stupid call. Slayer was UTG and came in for a raise to $7 (smaller than the standard table PF raise to $12). He got a few callers and the board came QT3. Slayer bet out about $15 and got two callers. The turn was an Ace and it checked all the way around. The river was a King, making the board QT3AK. Slayer bet out $15 and the woman to his left went all in for $100 more. The other guy in the hand said, “I guess I call”. It was back to Slayer, who looked in pain, and he said, “Shit. I call too”. NOOOO! I was praying he wouldn’t call because he turned up AA. Needless to say, both his opponents had the Jack for the runner runner straight. By slowplaying his turned set, he completely screwed the pooch and then got married to it to the tune of his whole stack! I’ve got to have a stern talking to that boy….

We left Binions and drove back to the Bellagio where Slayer and Rachel were going to the theater to pick up their tickets before the show. The traffic on the strip was HORRENDOUS and they were able to call the box office and convince them that they didn’t have to pick up their tickets right then. So then we turned around and I dropped them off at the Venetian for them to get ready for the rest of their night. Now I was alone and I had to decide what to do.

After some thought, I decided to give Boulder city a try. I set my Garmin to give me directions to Sam’s Town and off I went. Freedom is a good thing. J When I arrived, I had a quick dinner at Willy and Jose’s, which is what Tony Roma’s would be if it was a Mexican restaurant. After the dinner, which was just a notch above Chevy’s, I hit the poker room.

The Sam’s Town poker room is very much a ‘locals’ room. It has 8 tables snuggled into a corner of the casino which, despite being away from much of the casino floor, is still relatively noisy. To make it worse, the first table, where I sat playing 4-8 HE, is close enough to the casino entrance doors that there was a very very cold draft coming onto the table. I had to play in my heavy jacket and most players were bundled up with scarves. Despite the frigid temperatures, it was a very pleasant game to be in. The locals are relatively loose and aggressive which makes for some fun pots. This is not your standard Atlantic City game where the action is limped all around and then 5 people stay to the river. Here, raises and re-raises are common and the play is mostly good. Which suited me just fine, by the way. I like playing big multi-way pots, because I can use my good sense of odds to figure out when to go for my draws. Every so often, when I’d hit a big draw, a chunky Mexican guy at the other end of the table would sarcastically say “wow, you’re such a good player. You must be the best player in Vegas”. I paid him no mind, especially considering he had to make 3 trips to the ATM. LOL! Still he was annoying enough to everyone that he had to actually be warned by the floor. I sat at the other end of the table with this woman, and we hit it off quite well. We both had sizeable stacks in front of us, and every time the chunky Mexican would berate us, we’d have a good laugh at his expense. My best line of the night was, “The stripe on your ATM card must be worn out by now”. He didn’t like that. After going card dead for quite a while, I went on a card rush for about 15 minutes and went into the profit zone. At about 2AM or so, I felt that as much fun as I was having, it was probably time to cash in my profits and visit another casino. So I said goodbye to my new friends and headed off to other pastures.

I wound up at Sunset Station, where I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice, large (for 9 tables) and comfortable room with a few games going. Even the cocktail waitresses were hot. The equipment was all pretty top notch and the players were something awful, even for locals. I joined into one of their 4-8 with a ½ kill games and went up $150 in about 30 minutes. I was able to hold on to the profit for the next 90 minutes and I decided to pick up at about 4:30am. The table wasn’t as friendly as Sam’s Town, but the loose and aggressive limit style made up for it. After I cashed out, I went walking around the casino for a bit. This place is a real find! The casino is super clean and neat and pretty. Not pretty like The Wynn, but they clearly do a good job. The centerpiece bar, The Gaudi bar, is inspired by the architecture of Antonin Gaudi, the famous Barcelona architect. Barcelona was my first European trip back in 1998, so it struck an extra special chord with me. The casino was very very nice and I could definitely see myself coming back in the future.

I was all set to drive home to the Stratosphere, it being 4:30am and all, and I programmed the coordinates into my Garmin GPS. As I was driving, I had to take an exit ramp and just off the ramp was Boulder Station. I remembered from my research that it had a poker room. Ah, what the hell, I though. Might as well check it out. The room here at Boulder Station is much dumpier than Sunset Station. 9 tables crammed into a little room that allow smoking! L I sat at a 4-8 HE with a ½ kill table (fun game) which lasted about 4 hands (seriously) before breaking up. I looked up at the board for available games, and was delighter to see an Omaha game (also 4-8 with ½ kill) running! I signed up immediately and was seated inside of 10 minutes. My first hand, I get As-5s-6s-Qc. I’m in the big blind and it limps around to me and I check. The board comes out with 238. I check and call one bet with my gutshot wheel and second nut low. The turn is a Queen. Again, I call one bet. The river is a Queen and I call another bet. The guy shows A533 for the boat and the same second nut low. Oh well, I thought, quartered. No biggie, at least I get my money back since there were plenty of people in the pot. The dealer shoved the ENTIRE pot to the guy to my right with the boat. When I protested that I get ¼ of the pot, the dealer calmly said, “Sir, this is an Omaha table, not High-Low. There is no low.” Whoopsie! Thank god I didn’t raise! So the rest of the night, I heard a few comments about it, but it actually worked to my advantage when I had the nuts and check-raised. No one believed me! I lost my first buy-in on some sick nut draws that didn’t come in and then I was down to the nubs in my second buy-in. After splitting a big pot with another Mexican who got angry at me for the rest of the night (what is it with those guys?!?), I went on a card rush for about 3 hands in a row where I took my remaining $40 and built it up to $400! It was a think of beauty. At this point, I had been so engrossed in the game that I had been playing for about 4 hours and it was 9:15 in the morning! Everyone at the table was getting a bit sleepy, myself included, but I took a cup of coffee to keep me up for the ride home and determined to play just until UTG and then leave with the profit I had earned. The second to last hand, I get Ad-Td-Ac-8c. Woot! Aces double suited. I raised and got a whole mess of callers. This was a very loose table and the pots were BIG. The flop came with two clubs and no clear straight draws. I believe the flop was Qc-3c-7d. I had the nut flush draw and runner runner nut flush the other way. I bet again and again got called by a few folks. The turn was 9c. Gin! I bet out and this time a few people folded, except for the angry Mexican. The river was 9d. Uh-oh. I decided that he couldn’t have been calling my bets with a set, right? He’d be raising. So I put him on two pair or a set he slowed down with when the flush came. So I value bet and he popped me. Grrr….I called and saw the bad news. He had Q9. Nothing else, mind you. He needed runner runner perfect to beat me. Ah well. Because I was controlling the betting the whole way, I only lost about $40 or so. I was still up $160 and decided to pack it in.

I drove back to the hotel, in the harsh glare of daylight, and finally put my head to the pillow at 10:30am! I love this town.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Art and the artist (non pokery musings)

Karol recently posted a blog entry about how great Kanye West’s album, Graduation, is even though Kanye himself is retarded. It got me to thinking about an old dilemma I was wrestling with many years ago which I have since, I think, resolved for myself. But let me hear what you all think about it.

The dilemma is this: Can you separate the art from the artist?

Let’s take a prime example. Richard Wagner, the great German composer, composed his masterpiece “Ride of the Valkyries” as a testament to the spirit of Germanic culture. It is very martial and stirring and it features some of the greatest violin parts ever set to music. The violin bits for the piece were so difficult that Wagner himself was forced to train his own violinists to do them, rather than simply hire musicians for his orchestra. Oh, for those of you who don’t know the piece I’m referring to, it’s the “Kill The Wabbit” song that Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd sing in the Warner Bros. classic, “What’s Opera, Doc?”. But I digress. Anyway, the dilemma is that Wagner was a raging anti-semite. Of Hitlerian proportians. It was no accident that Hitler himself was a huge admirer of Wagner and appropriated his music as a way of stirring the anti-semitic feelings that lay in German society. To this day, many Jews, young and old, can’t bear to listen to Wagner because of the views he held and the evil that was done set to his soundtrack.

Let’s take another example. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and the 3rd president of the United States, was a great statesman. His work, as a politician and as an author, was seminal in the development of our country. It changed the way people think about politics, human rights, the organization of the state and the way people should live. He was also a slave owner who undisputedly fathered children with a slave he owned, Sally Hemmings. The dichotomy of the man who authored the phrase, “All men are created equal”, using his influence as the owner of human chattle to satisfy his lust outside the bonds of his marriage is palpable.

I find it interesting when I visit museums to research the artists whose works catch my eye. I like to know more about them because I am curious about the process of creation. Are the works of these artists shaped by their experiences? Undoubtedly. Does it matter if they are virulent and repulsive human beings? That’s the answer I was trying to find out.

Initially, I thought that yes, the artist’s personal views DO matter when looking at their artwork. That you can’t separate the two. My logic in this was the definition of ‘art’ as I saw it ten years ago. In my mind, art was the expression of a person and the product of a person who holds twisted beliefs must be twisted in themselves. Don’t we do this in our own minds when we hear politicians giving stump speeches? We look into the backgrounds of those people, find flaws, and then project them onto they’re message. We even extrapolate personal flaws from personal behaviors! I remember reading an article recently that said Barack Obama….smokes. The horror! The article implied that someone who smokes might not have, I am not making this up, the moral fortitude to lead our nation. Ridiculous, right?

A few years ago, while thinking deeply about this topic, I came to an about face, which is where I am now. Expressions of artists, I reasoned, are essentially ideas. Some of those ideas are original and some aren’t. But no matter where they come from, an artist you find personally repugnant or one whose views you agree with, the ideas are all filtered through the viewer’s own prism of interpretation. In other words, we as humans make our own judgments on ideas that are presented to us every day. Some of these judgments are based on our experiences and some are visceral reactions, but they are unique to us, the viewer. What this tells me, logically, is that art, once created by the artist, is set free to become whatever the viewer sees in their own mind. The intention of the artist, while interesting, has no real bearing on the meaning of the piece! This was a revelation to me when I thought about it. This means that I should hold precious in my head only the interpretations that I give to art, be it books, music, paintings or poetry. It’s true that some research into the artist’s background, intentions or circumstances might inform my opinion better, but in the end it is my own filter that counts.
Karol said it best (and more succinctly): “Don't hate the album, hate the artist”.

Vegas Extravaganza – Day 1 (Travel Day)

After all the wonderful luck I’ve been having the last few days, with all the small and big things in my life, I got my first lemon at the airport. Figures, right? I mean, if you’re going to get lemoned (new verb, past tense. Alert Websters), the airport would be the logical place it would happen. Wasn’t too big a deal, really. My flight was delayed on the tarmac by about an hour. It was all a little surreal though.

First, I board the flight on time and as I make a right onto the plane, the line stops as someone is hoisting luggage into the overhead bin and I am temporarily stuck in first class. I look around at the seats, to compare them to the coach seats I can see just a few rows away. They’re leather, wider and they look comfy but not much much better than the cattle class. A step up, yes, but not quite worth the money, I’m thinking. I look down at the passenger directly to my right in first class, who’s busy typing away on his iMac, and he looks up at me. It’s Teller, from Penn and Teller fame. I do a double-take and it’s definitely him. I want to say something, like “I’m a big fan” or to tell him how much I loved them in The Refrigerator Tour on broadway more than ten years ago or how much I enjoy their Showtime series “Bullshit”. But I say nothing. Why? Because I’m a New Yorker, that’s why. I take pride in not accosting celebrities. Still, I thought it was cool to see him in person. The line continues to move and I take my seat in my comfy and cozy exit row. The legroom in the exit row is HUGE and I’m pretty psyched about it. As I wait for the plane to push, one of the crew members gets on the intercom. “We’re going to be a few minutes because, gosh darn wouldn’t you know it, we don’t have enough cups to serve you all once we’re airborn.” That’s a quote by the way. She said ‘gosh darn’. So we waited a few minutes for the catering truck to bring us cups but then we just sat there. Someone else came on the intercom, “Well, we’re going to be another 15 minutes or so. We have a passenger bag that’s vibrating and we’re going to have to take it off the plane and identify the passenger”. I’m thinking, “Wow, some chick left her batteries in her vibrator and it went off somehow?”. But we never found out what the mysterious vibration was. About 20 minutes after the announcement, we were told that we were 15th in line for take off.

So 60 full minutes after we board the plane, we finally push from the gate and take to the air. The pilot tells us we’re going to make up some time in the air, but not much as there’s a 130 mile an hour headwind we’re battling. So I won’t land, optimistically, until 12:30AM EST. I still have to get my bags which I checked, get the shuttle to the rental car location, get the car and drive all the way to the Stratosphere, where I’ll be sleeping for the entire trip. Best case scenario, I lay my head down to go to sleep at 2AM EST.

But there’s little chance of that either.

I know from prior experience that once you land in Vegas, your energy level immediately increases five fold. I think, and this is only a theory of mine, that the Luxor hotel is not actually a hotel, but rather a huge Red Bull delivery device that spews fine Red Bull mist into the upper atmosphere for the inhalation of visitors. It makes sense, right?!?!

I’m on the plane now with about 90 minutes to go in the flight. PP has instructed me to place $5 on the roulette wheel on 27 the moment I get into the Stratosphere. It’s important that this be the first thing I do, with my suitcases in tow, BEFORE I go to my room. Good luck PP, I’m rooting for ya.

Tomorrow, I plan on hooking up with Slayer and his girlfriend. I believe tomorrow at noon is the O/8 tourney at Orleans and I’m not missing it for the world. I can’t see Slayer, or his non-poker playing girlfriend, playing in it, so I’ll probably see them afterwards.

When I got to my room this evening, I discovered that the old Stratosphere poker room had moved and that the new one was holding a midnight tourney. And what time was it? That’s right, 11:45PM. How could I say no? So I found the new room (bigger than the old one, but noisy because of the club next door) and signed up. The tourney structure is very generous here. 4,000 in chips, 20 minute blind levels and the blinds start at 25-50. Antes don’t begin until the 6th level, so there’s plenty of play to be had. I was able to triple up in the early goings when my KQ turned two pair and two donkeys went all the way with me trying to catch 4 outer straight draws. But then I went card dead…for the rest of the damn tournament. After two levels of seeing nothing but T2, J5, 69 and the like, I decided to start with the blind stealing regimen. That’s easier to do in the early rounds, but in the later rounds you’re committing too much of your stack to do it effectively. Nevertheless, I was able to ride my stack and skilz all the way to 6th place. There were 32 paid entries and the top 3 paid out ($60 buyins), but the thought of my cashing was never really in question. I just didn’t have enough chips and when I finally got AQo on the BB with 1/3 of my chips already committed, I went all in on two guys who flat called. Ok, I thought, 3-1. The flop was Q74, all hearts. Uh, I didn’t have a heart. The first guy who called moved all in and the second guy insta-called! Ruh-roh. The first guy had flopped a set of 7’s (goodbye TPTK!) and the second guy had the nut heart draw. But the heart never fell and the set of 7’s knocked out two players in one shot. There was a pretty blond girl who was severely short stacked on the bubble and I tried to get her her 60 dollars back by suggesting they make a bubble boy prize, but all the players refused. It was quite harsh. The top payout was 900, the second was 450 and the third was 150. They couldn’t give up 30/20/10? Really? So mean. I had played as well as I could have for 3 hours and got nothing for it. Still, it was fun. I wandered off to the Pai-gow table, where I had a run of 5 pai-gows in a row (lemon) but managed to make a few dollars off of Roulette to break me even on the Pai-Gow losses. Sorry, PP, your $5 bet on 27 didn’t come in. :-(

Tomorrow is another day. Actually, today is.

Friday, December 21, 2007

1 hour to flight time

And my run of luck keeps going....

If only work had been wonderfully quiet this week. Dyanu! **

If only I was able to fix my ipod for cheeep. Dyanu!

If only my budding relationship with E was going swimmingly. Dyanu!

If only I was able to reclaim $1400 (!) of my Vegas trip expense by renting out my apartment from Christmas through New Years (Thank you Liezl). Dyanu!

If I was able to make it to Newark airport with amazingly little traffic. Dyanu!

If only the security checkpoint at the airport was a breeze to get around. Dyanu!

If only I was able to find a seat to wait for my flight that had a working outlet next to it. Dyanu!

If all of this happened, it would have been enough. But no. When I checked into my flight using the kiosk (the only way to fly), an option came up to change my seat. I chose it and discovered a window seat in the exit row was available! On a full flight! I grabbed it up and now I can stretch my legs in comfort and sleep with my head up against the fuselage. Life is good ladies and gents. Life is good. Dyanu!

**For you goyim reading this, Daynu is a hebrew word meaning, roughly, "it's enough for me".

Vegas coming up - 15 hours to flight time

Could I BE more excited? It's 3:15AM and I feel like I've taken amphetamines.

Jamie Lynn Spears - Speared

Have you been following the wonderful saga of little Jamie Lynn Spears? The younger sister of trainwreck Britney Spears is pregnant. She's 16. Oh yeah, she's also the start of 'Zooey 101', a popular tween show on Nickelodeon. Oh yeah, her mother's book on Christian parenting got, um, postponed indefinitely. Oh yeah, her mother also sold the rights to the pregnancy story to OK magazine for $1 million dollars (reportedly).

I really didn't think this microscope trained on fucktarded parenting could get any funnier, but it did. An article on MSNBC is reporting that the father, Jamie's boyfriend Casey Aldridge, most likely committed statutory rape in impregnating his girlfriend. No, the funny part is not that he could possibly receive jail time (he's either 18 or 19 according to reports). The funny bit is that the article reports his current profession as 'pipe layer'.

I. Shit. You. Not.

If you don't think this is funny, you are retarded.

I'm hoping this is someone having a laugh with the poor hapless reporter on this one. The last time that happened, I laughed for a week when a guy gave his name to one of those 'reporter on the street' guys who ask questions and publish the answers next to people's pictures. The funny name that sent me into hysterics? Heywood Jablome.

Quick 3-6 mixed game recap

CK has a better post on the night but here are a few of my quick thoughts:

1. Dawn Summers is a suckout queen. Or is that a Stud/8 Master? It's hard to tell. All I know is that she announced she was going to leave soon and a few minutes later she pushes her chips towards me a bit. I ask if she wants to leave and she says, "Are you kidding? There's still 15 minutes left in the Stud/8 round!"

2. The Rooster has an uncanny ability to accumulate stacks of chips...without anyone noticing.

3. CK wins at Omaha. A lot. Even if she's drunk.

4. The entire table should be shot for getting up at 11PM! School night my ass.

5. I have to remember that 2-6 is not an emergency low when the O/8 board is KK953. Jordan scoops again!

This was the last Wall Street Poker game of the year. It's been a freaking blast and I'm looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Data spelunking

I recently updated the Wall Street Poker League website to include lifetime stats dating back to the beginning of the league. What I found were some pretty interesting data finds. I was scouring the data to try to figure out who the best player has been (this includes official tourneys only, not cash which is tracked on a separate spreadsheet). I haven’t come to a good conclusion because of some confusion on how to measure “the best”.

One measure of tracking is pure profit. How much one is up playing tourneys. In that regard, I am in the lead with $773.50 in total profit. However, this is a super silly stat because I have more tourneys under my belt than anyone else, 179.

If we want to get to a better measurement, we might use avg $/tourney which mitigates the number played to some extent. In that regard, LJ is out in front with $24.93 avg. per tourney. But this is somewhat disingenious because LJ has only played in 15 tourneys! This might just be a great run of luck. Is 15 enough games to determine an accurate avg.? If we start going into the higher numbers of tourneys, the winner seems to be Michael Brown, who has 90 tourneys under his belt with an impressive $8.13 avg./tourney. My own avg., by the by, is *only* $4.32. I say ‘only’ because that’s still ahead of the curve, but it’s not the best performance. Even though I have twice the number of tourneys that Michael has, 90 is still a significant number.

Interestingly, W, who has won the League title twice, only has an avg. of $3.64 with 140 tourneys played. Looking at the Placement Count backs this up as I see that W places 3rd and 4th much more often than 1st, which is where the big money is. Michael and I, when we cash, do so more often in the 1 and 2 positions, which would explain why we have more money than W, but our league rankings are lower.
The question that I’m facing is basic: Which is the better stat? League ranking or Avg./tourney (with an acceptable minimum # of tourneys)? Any thoughts out there?

How fencing is like poker

When I was in High School (That's the stone age to you Matty Ebs!), I was a fencer. No, that doesn't mean I put wooden posts in the ground. I was on the fencing team, which is the sport that involves stabbing and slashing people for points. How could I refuse? I was actually pretty good at it. You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I was 155 pounds as a senior and flexible. After 3 years on the fencing team, I could do a full split, which was useful for getting very low in your lunges. This is an advantage because the lower your blade is in the angle of attack on your opponent's torso, the harder it is for them to parry your thrust. I was good enough at the sport to be scouted by a few college teams. I was one point shy of winning the Nassau County championship, but fate had other plans. I ended up teaching fencing at Hofstra (no fencing scholarship) and it will always be a wonderful part of my past. But that was a long time ago. Now, I'm lucky if I can get out of bed without hurting yet another body part.

At this point in the post you're asking yourself, "Where the fuck is the poker?". It's coming soon. A little more about fencing though. Fencing has been described as "physical chess" because it's very much a mental game. In fact, the rules of fencing dictate that once a parry (block) has been made of an attack, the 'right of way' belongs to the person who made the parry. Meaning that if I parry your attack and imediately start a counter attack (or Riposte as it's called) and you ignore it and start another thrust and both of our blades land at the same time, the point is given to me. Since I had the right of way. Because of this back and forth action where the 'power' is constantly changing, the game has a large mental element to it.

And here's where the poker parallels start. Poker is a fully mental game, though there are some minor physical elements to it as well. The parallels I draw between fencing and poker sit on the shifting of power from player to player, especially in heads up matches. When you are 'first to act' in poker, it is very similar to having 'right of way' in fencing. How you bet and play your hand will, hopefully, drive how your opponent plays. Once a bet is made, your opponent will now try to sieze control with his 'right of way' and make a move. Sometimes they give up. Sometimes they take control. Same as fencing.

As in fencing, it is important in the game of poker to remember how your opponents reacted when you did something. For instance, in fencing, if I make an attack to your leading shoulder, you may parry and then retreat a step. I now have to think about the odds of your doing the same retreat if I try again in the same area or if you will 'change it up' and attempt a riposte on my next lunge. In poker, we catalogue how our opponents react and size up their future actions in much the same way.

Many of the mental moves we make in both sports are similar. Fencing has the feint, which is a physical movement you make hoping to draw your opponent into committing themselves to an action which you already know is coming. For example, if you notice your opponent shifting their weight forward in preparation for a lunge, you may subtly move your lead foot over to the left as if you are heading in that direction. Your opponent, hopefully, will try to lunge where he/she thinks your body will be, but it won't be. When they start their lunge, you will side-step and score a touch on your opponent's now exposed flank. In poker, we call this, 'giving off a false tell'.

The point I'm trying to make is this. We have lots of experiences in our lives to draw on and it behooves each of us to find that which we are good at and apply those lessons to that which we hope to get better at. It's a long journey, but a fun one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My thoughts on commenting

There are two kinds of comments on poker playing. The good kind and the bad kind.

The good kind of comments are made to people you like and are geniunely intended to help them. Hopefully a civil dialogue will commence and everyone invovled will learn something. This is the kind of commentary I try to foster at the Wall Street Poker table.

The bad kind of comments are made in anger, usually when you lose, and are meant to spew vitriol at your opponent. I never understood why someone would do this to another person. Other than not being nice (I'm a big believer in it), it doesn't have any beneficial effect on either player! If I'm in a hand where my opponent calls me down with a worse hand and wins, I try to focus on the fact that I wanted that call. +EV rules. If I'm in a hand where my opponent calls my play with a better hand, I try to think about what I could/should have done differently. Did I not bet enough? Did I bet too much? Did I give off a tell? Why did that person call? The last thing I want to do, though, is tap on the fishtank and put myself on tilt by being mean. That's a sure recipe for more losses.

There is a third kind of comment actually. When you are mean to another person intentionally in order to put them on tilt and induce a call. But you can only do that *during* a game, not afterwards!

*this post is inspired by LJ. We are all on your side here at Wall Street Poker.

Things are working out for me (mark this date)

My ipod has been making bad hard drive noises on me and crashing sometimes. This is not good. I want my music for Vegas! I was considering getting the hard drive replaced by the Apple store but my warranty expired long ago and the replacement hard drive with labor is nearly $200! Then I thought about getting an Ipod Touch. It's $360 for the 16GB version, and it looks great (plus no hard drive), but I couldn't help thinking there had to be a better way. Then I ran into this website, which explains in great detail how to replace the Ipod hard drive yourself. I read the info and decided I could try this.

I did some research and found that the exact replacement hard drive for my 20GB model was only $40 with free shipping from some company out in Iowa. I would have gotten the larger hard drive, for a capacity upgrade, but I didn't know if it was going to work, so I went with the cheaper option first. The hard drive arrived and I went to work. Following the instructions, along with a demonstration video found here, I was able to open the Ipod case, remove the old hard drive, and replace it with my new one. I closed the case, easy as pie, and plugged it in and restored the software with NO PROBLEMS! I'm now listening to my click-free, non-crashing new hard drive and my Ipod might as well be brand new.

For $40.

I feel good.

Last night's tourneys

The Rooster didn't show up last night. He also didn't send me any notification whatsoever. The worst part is that he *commented* on my blog yesterday so I know his 'puter works!

Ok, for clarification sake, here is the rule of Wall Street Poker:
--Begin Rant--
If you've responded YES to an Evite invitation and you find that you cannot attend, for whatever reason, you MUST:
1. Change your Evite response to NO
2. Inform me in writing or by phone that you will not be able to attend. I will change your Evite response for you.

Since only a limited number of people can respond YES to an Evite, your clicking YES and then not showing up is equivalent to taking someone else's seat away from them. It is only good manners to give up your place in line and let someone else join the fun!

Joaquin, if you're reading this (and I hope you are since I don't have your phone number), this is the 3rd time you've done this! I've let it slide in the past because I found you through well-liked players, but enough is enough already. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt because I never clarified the rule to you personally. Consider yourself so notified.

Also, a corollary to the above rule, the more time you give new players to take an abandoned spot, the better off you'll be seen by the whole group. If you change your EVITE response from YES to NO two hours before the tourney starts, it does no one any good. Please, everyone, try to make sure of your plans at least a day in advance. Emergencies happen, I know, but carelessness shouldn't.
--End Rant--

The tourneys last night were a bit of a blur, but lots and lots of fun. I busted out pretty early on a donktacular hand. Matty Ebs had just made some off handed remark about being stupid with 57 and I look down at my hand, in MP, and sure enough it's 5s7s. I find this somehow endearing to play now. Even when PP, in EP, raises to 150 (blind are in their first 25/50 level). I call, Jesse calls, Matty calls and Ken calls. Flop is 7c-6s-2s. I've got top pair and a flush draw. Woohoo! I'm all prepared to take down the pot but PP C-bets 300, a crappy bet if I ever saw one. He's got an overpair, I just know it in my gut. If I push, he will probably call and he's be right to. I smooth call, Jesse calls and Ken calls. There is now lots of mobneys in the pot. The turn is a 3d. Dammit, I have more outs now. A 5 gives me two pair. A 7 gives me trips. A 4 gives me the straight. And any spade gives me the flush! But here's where I screwed up big. PP bets out 750, finally a decent sized bet. Instead of pushing with all my outs, I call. Jesse smooth calls and Ken gets out of the way. I don't put 2+2 together, though it's obvious, in hindsight, that Jesse's on a better flush draw than me. The last card out is Js. PP pushes all in with 1200. I call (<----Idiot). Jesse accidentally says "call" when he meant to go all in, because he has As4s. Jesse and I both outchip PP by 50, so Jesse would have felted us both in one shot! Ken, it turns out, folded a spade draw as well. Matty had it right though, if I had pushed all in on the turn, I would had won that pot. Jesse would have folded with just the spade draw and one card to come for all of his chips. So PP was out and I was left with just 50. I somehow managed to turn that into 250 but got felted when my A9 ran into Bacini Mary's AQ. PP and I dealt and shuffled most of the rest of the tourney and we were somewhat relieved to see Jesse ride his monstrous chip stack into the money. Mary busted out in 3rd and Matty and Jesse went heads up. I was in the bathroom for a few minutes and when I came out, Matty had taken the big chip lead. But the tide swung again on a set over set flop and Jesse finally put the nail down to take it all.

And then he left. In his defense, he never signed up for the second tourney but there were whispers of "hit and run". :-p

The second tourney was much better for me. I had the button on the first hand and was dealt QQ. When it limped to me, I tried overbetting 400 to see if someone aggressive (maybe Matty) would think I was stealing a few limps in position. No one bit but I was OK with that. This tourney was much tighter than the first and while I built a nice stack, I was worried that it was going to become too much of a luckfest if too many people stayed into the later rounds. It took 1.5 hours to get the table down to 6 people and we played 6 handed for a good 20 minutes. But then the pressure of the blinds started wearing people down. Alceste and I were the chip leaders at this point, with Alceste pressuring me with raises every chance he got, it seemed. It's tough to tangle with the big stack knowing you might be able to sit on your chips into the money. It also didn't help that my best hand for 20 minutes was J9o. Marco, who had previously been sitting on a big stack, gave away a bunch to me when he raised PF to 600 (blinds at 100/200). I had Ad5d out of position and the flop was three diamonds. Gin! I checked, he checked. The turn paired the board, but I wasn't scared about it. I checked, he checked. The river was a brick. I had to start thinking about how to extract value here. I bet 1000 and Marco hestitated. He was looking like he was going to fold and I needed to sway him to make a call. So I pulled a trick from Darko's playbook. "What do you have there? A weak Ace? And overpair?". He started to move in his mind. Shifting strategies. I could feel it. I put some more Hollywood on. I turned over my 5d so he could see it. I did it again. Now, here at WSP, you can flash your cards in a tourney provided you are heads up. Don't try this in a casino kids! Your hand would be declared dead in most places. Finally, Marco bit and said, "Ah, you're bullshitting me. I call!". Alceste said, "No he isn't!" and I turned over my Ad to show him the bad news. I felt dirty about it, but richer. That washes out, doesn't it? :-)

With my new larger chip stack being dwindled by blinds, Marco finally busted, I believe to Art. Art, who had been hanging on by the skin of his teeth, was now in a good position and I was about 3rd, with Bacini Mary bringing up the rear. It was at this point that we talked about a 4 way chop since the hour was getting late. But Mary would have none of it. She was here for the points, not the mobneys. Play on! I was dealt Ako on the button and called a raise for Art. The flop came with a whole bunch of nothing. Instead of moving all in on me, Art bet out maybe 1/3 of the pot. I called. The turn was a rag. Now he put me all in, but it was only about 700 and there was nearly 5000 in the pot. I felt I had to call and the river was a brick. I turned up my AK and Art turned over AT! With no pair from either of us, my AK played and I swung into 2nd, just like that. Art finally busted to Alceste when Art pushed and Alceste insta-called with QT. Art had a weak King, but a Queen flopped and a Ten hit on the river for Art's bubble. Mary accomplished her goal of moving up in rank and even got some more money out of it, I'm sure. I busted her a few hands later when my TT stood up against her 87. Alceste outchipped me 14,000 to 11,000 and we chopped at that point.

It was nearly midnight and the tourney had lasted a long time. But it was fun and I'm feeling invigorated for Vegas. 4 more days people!

I can't believe I forgot to blog about the most memorable hand of the second tourney! Marco's note reminded me. :-) Basically, Alceste was under the gun and made a larger than standard raise to 2200. Blinds were 300/600 at this point. I was next to act with AQ but I would have essentially needed to re-raise all in here and I didn't feel like going out of the money with a hand that could easily have been dominated and was probably 50/50 at best with people to act behind me. I folded and it got to Marco. He went into the tank for a good long while. No Hollywood on anyone's part, just some serious thinking. The table was completely silent. Marco made a move to his chips but finally folded. He flipped up his cards. KK!!! Holy crap!! The table went ballistic. Alceste only had TT and we ran the board for fun just to see what would have happened. The flop had an Ace (I was ahead). The turn was a Ten (Alceste is now ahead). The river was a King! Unbelievable. I've seen KK folded pre-flop in a tournament in only two situations and both of them had multiple re-raises and all-ins before the Kings folded. Never have I seen KK folded to just a single raise.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Random funny

I saw this on Waffles site:

Damn, that dog made me crack up....

I gingerly test the waters

Last night, I got a call from W who was spending the weekend in AC at Harrahs trying to rape the WSOP tourney players as they busted out of their tourneys into cash tables. She was having mixed results, but the cash action was juicy, she promised. I weighed my options. It's true I just got out of surgery and yes the weather was supposed to be awful (possible snowstorm). And besides, W was lonely! Darko had gotten the same call and we decided together that we would go down. So I made sure to wake up early this morning (9 am thank you) and I was able to safely get on a 10:30 bus to the land of opportunity. It was raining a bit, but no snow, so I figured I was good. Darko would come on a later bus, having the privilege of being able to spend the night with W. I, unfortunately, had to come back that night to work Monday. So I had to get down at a decent hour to get some playing time in.

The bus was mostly empty going down and the ride was smooth as can be. I even got to hop out at Cheesequake for a quick bit of breakfast! I arrived at Trump Plaza, cashed my 20 coupon, and spent it on a cab to Harrahs to meet up with W. She was dead asleep, of course, even at 1:15pm when I walked into the poker room. Oh well, I thought, no time like the present. I bought into a 1-2 table for 200 and proceeded to get....nothing. Hardly a playable hand in the first 30 minutes. The one hand I got, JJ, I raised to 15 and got 3 callers. An Ace flopped, someone led out in front of me, and I was done. I was patient though. I didn't play many hands, giving people the impression I was tight, but really it was because I was getting NOTHING. I was actually playing lots of unsuited connectors and I even raised 9dTd because I was hoping to flop good. The gods weren't with me. I used my downtime to survey the table. There were two bull dykes (sorry, no other way to describe them) to my right and they SUCKED. There was one aggro guy in the 8 seat with a big stack and he was doing a little bullying. There was also a loosish dealer to my immediate left. Finally, after seeing a whole bunch of nothing for an hour, I get TsTc in the SB. It limps around to me and I raise it up to 16. Bully, to my left, calls and bull dyke to my right calls. The flop is Js7s2s. I check the scaryish board and everyone checks! The turn is a 6h. I should have led out but I check instead. Bully checks. BD bets out 25. She was scared of the flush so I hope that pushing big will get her to fold. She might only have 88 or 99 too. And I have the flush redraw. So I shove. Then, the unexpected happens. Bully calls! BD gets out of the way (I personally think she had A6). Bully shows QsJc. I'm crushed and find no miracles. This is also the first hand I saw him slowplay in an hour. My luck.

I rebuy for 200 more and play another 2.5 hours. I go on a run of 3 hands in a row with JJ, QQ and JJ, getting pais on the first two, but I can't make any more money. Byt the time W decides to go running and Darko suggests we hit Borgata, I'm at exactly 200 of my combined 400 buyin. We get up and leave, hoping Borgata will treat us better.

Darko and I take the Jitney to the Borgata, saving a few bucks on cabfare. It's a surprisingly easy ride for 2 bucks. When we get into the poker room, it's dead. I mean deader than Julius Caesar. Deader than Sharon Tate. Deader than Jerry Garcia (and that's pretty dead). There was open seating for 1-2 and Darko and I took seats next to each other at a table that, at least, was full of money. Two pretty women (straight), one with huge.....stacks, were seating two to my left. An asian guy, with his pretty girlfriend sweating him, was directly to my left. I posted UTG for the first hand and got nothing. The second hand, in the BB, I get KK. It limps around to me and I bet 20 on top. The UTG asian player, makes it 80 more to go. It folds around to me, naturally, and I hesitate. Conventional wisdom says he has AA, but there's an issue. One, he doesn't know me and may think I'm bluffing. He might only have JJ or QQ here and make the same play on a new player. Two, I don't know *him*. He might be a natural bully. He was big stack at the table and there has to be a reason he's that way. Third, he limped UTG. With AA? That's one way to play those. Bit JJ seemed more likely to me for some reason. Limp in and see a cheap flop, or try to bet someone off a raise, trusting that yoy're ahead if he calls. I decided, finally, that KK is just too good of a hand to be scared with. I pushed all in and he called. He flipped his cards over and at first I only saw an Ace. His other hand was blocking his other card. My heart leapt with the possibility he would be tabling AK suited, but he moved his hand and saw the other Ace. Whoops. 80/20, here we go. The flop I don't remember. I just recall being strangely calm somehow. Then the turn smacked me with a King and the river was a blank. Poker loses, I win! W00T!! I doubled up and was suddenly even for the day, a position I would stay in for the rest of my session. I eventually worked my stack up to +85 but gave some back in the final 30 minutes, finishing my day at +24. Better than being down!

Darko, who was mostly card dead through his session with me, still somehow managed to get up to plus 100, mostly on the strength of a flopped set of Kings (on of his few good hands that I saw. Then came a series of events I'm sure he won't soon forget. A few new players had been sat at our table, including a long legged beautiful Irish girl and two middle eastern looking friends. The Middle eastern types looked aggressive, with their black comp cards and sunglasses, but only bought in for maybe 130 each (pussies). In late position, Darko comes in for a raise to about 15 and gets a few callers, including long legged Irish girl. The flop is AA3, with two diamonds. It checkes to Darko who C-bets 25 without blinking. Irish girl calls with some hesitation. Darko flashes me his cards, QT offsuit, no diamonds. A pre bluff. He immediately goes into Hollywood mode. "C'mon, you small Ace is no good here". He's certainly representing the Ace but she doesn't look at hom, she just stares at the board. The turn is a brick and she checks. Darko fires out 65 and starts up his Hollywood again. This time she starts squirming and I can see the hesitation in her mind. I start reasoning that she doesn't have the Ace, she has a flush draw. Sure enough she mucks and mutters about not getting the odds to call with her nut flush draw. Little did she know she was ahead. Darko mucked without showing but the Russian guy to his right starts goading him to show his cards. "You were bluffing! I know you had nothing". Darko proclaims his innocence that he had an Ace but he laughs while he says this, which PERFECTLY sets up the next hand. There is a raise preflop, which a few people call, including Darko. The flop is 347 rainbow. One of the middle eastern guys, in the BB, bets out about 20. Darko flashes me his cards, 5d6d. Holy shiite! Nut straight on the flop! It folds to him and he re-raises to 65. Middle eastern guy seems perplexed. He goes into the tank. Darko, scared he might fold, does some more Hollywood. "Your AQ is no good," he says. "My baby Ace takes this one down!". Middle eastern guy is being played like a banjo. He's listening to this and I can almost see him go red in the face. He starts pawing his chips and I know he's gonna bite. He's thinking about Darko's move the last hand and what the russian said. He just sat down recently amd he thinlks he's being bullied. It's brilliant. Finally, after just a little more verbal needling by Darko, he snaps. "All in," the middle eastern guy declares. Darko cackles with the glee of a man who's taken down his prey and laughs, "I call!". He shows the nut straight and the guy melts back into his chair, showing 79o! Lol! He has top pair with a 9 kicker and got suckered into thinking he was being bluffed by a bully. The dealer deals the turn, it's a 3. The dealer deals the river, it's a 7! The table erupts when we realize the donkey sucked out runner-runner boat! Darko laughs it off and we all have fun with it, mostly because it was only about 90 more to call and because he (Darko) made a brilliant play, regardless of the outcome. Sick sick hand though.

I got up at 9;00pm to cash out and say my goodbyes. I was able to get a cab to Claridge for the 10PM bus but I arrived about 35 minutes early. I decided to kill the time playing 10 dollar PaiGow (yay low limit PaiGow!) and managed to score an additional 35 dollars in profit before heading onto the bus. All in all, a fun little day jaunt and a good appetizer to the Vegas orgy-feast to come!

Friday, December 14, 2007

My last health related note

Ok, this is it. I know you're all tired of hearing about this but I couldn't go to sleep tonight without giving credit where proper credit is due.

My Gastroenterologist: Dr. Kenneth Miller, 311 East 79th Street, suite 2a, NY, NY
He's fantastic. Other than being young and hip and yet completely serious and knowledgeable about his practice, he was the first guy to correctly diagnose me with gallstones after NY Downtown Hospital made two failed diagnoses 8 months apart.

My Cardiologist: Dr. Jonathan Greenblatt, 1841 Broadway, suite 1012, NY, NY
Funny, young and yet totally capable and, again, knowledgable. He performed a battery of tests on me and explained every procedure and every result in as great of detail as I asked for. Fantastic physician.

My Surgeon: Dr. Brian Jacob, 1010 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY
I can't say enough good things about this guy. Not only did he perform surgery on me with as few complications as a guy could hope for with a gall bladder in such bad shape, but he actually made me like him in the process. He is such a cool guy and he happens to have hands of gold. Every step of every process was explained in such a way that I felt absolutely no fear at all. He even got my parents to like him, no small feat. I couldn't have wished for a better surgeon. One of the anesthesiologists decribed him as being "meticulous". Is there a better adjective you'd want for your doctor?

My Surgeons Hospital: Mt. Sinai, Madison and 100th street, NY, NY
The pre and post operative care was absolutely top notch. I never waited more than three minutes after calling for a nurse to help me and their mannerisms and professionalism bowled me over. Part of getting better is feeling good about your care and for my 3 day stay I was made to feel like a VIP for the entire time. Kudos to the entire staff who were gentle, discreet and caring every step of the way.

Perhaps, one day, somebody reading this will need a laparoscopic surgeon, or a cardiologist or a GI. If so, please take my recommendation and use one of these fine gentlemen. I've been there, I've done that and I can say with no reservations that they are the best. You will NOT be disappointed.

P.S. No, I DIDN'T get kickbacks of any sort for these glowing reviews. I truly feel blessed to have gone through a traumatic experience in as good of a way as I did.

P.P.S. The next post will be about poker!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another health update

For the last few days, I've had a drainage tube sticking out of my body. The tube interferes with my life in lots and lots of little ways. The tube, while inside me, keeps me from using some of my stomach muscles without pain, so it's tough to walk. The tube, while outside me, keeps me from sleeping on my stomach, so I am getting crappy sleep. The tube, while bandaged up, makes it very hard to shower without getting the bandage wet. And finally, the tube, while inserted into my chest, physically keeps a wound open and bleeding!

So it's with great happiness that I announce that the tube is now out of me! I went to my surgeon today who removed it with great skill. There was a suture keeping the tube from falling out, which he cut open. Then he told me to take a deep breath (oh yeah, impossible with the tube) and not to be nervous (are you kidding me?). So I did the best I could and he pulled. I could feel the snaking tube unraveling from inside my chest, rubbing up against my liver, lungs and ribs. It felt like a live sname was loose inside my body cavity. It also hurt like hell because I couldn't breathe. In a few seconds, the surgeon stopped pulling because the tube was out but it still took me a good 5 minutes to catch my breath. I looked down at my side and saw a bleeding gash, about half an inch long, but deep. This, the doctor told me, would produce the largest scar out of the whole operation! I looked at the two other upper body holes as the doctor pulled off the bandages. They were tiny little slashes that were already half-healed, if not for the scabbing. The last wound produced in this medical opera is the vertical slash above my belly button where the gall bladder was removed. Because it had been stiched up immediately after the operation and not touched, it will not scar as badly, even though it's bigger than the tube wound.

I immediately felt better when the tube came out (and I caught my breath). I could now move my stomach muscles and I took my new (old) body out for a walk. Where I had been walking with a slouch before, my body was now relatively straight. I gingerly tried breathing deep. The only pain I got was the pain from the open wound. That will subside soon and I'll be back to normal quickly, I'm sure. More importantly, my super duper 11 night Vegas trip is going to perfect!

Is it wrong that I scheduled my gall bladder surgery so that I would be better juuuust in time to go to Vegas? Huh? Is it?

More Wall Street Poker tourneys and cash games are coming up soon. I'm back, baby!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I'm bored. Time to start a meme.

This is my first attempt at starting a meme. If you're reading this, help me out. Post your own versions on your blogs with exhortations for others to do the same. It's easy.

I will call this meme:

Treating Myself Well

Rules: List the last 5 things (in reverse chronological order), that you've purchased for yourself that cost more than $250. Add the date purchased, the reason for buying and any other information you care to provide. Exclude rent, groceries or other regular expenses. Also exclude travel expenses and other non-tangible items. This list should be the last 5 expensive "things" you bought for yourself.

My list:
1. Dec. '07 - Marshall 1960A guitar amp cabinet - $475 from Pete via Craigslist
2. Dec. '07 - HP tx1320US laptop - $1050 from
3. Nov. '07 - Marshall JCM 900 guitar amplifier head - $500 from a guy out in Jersey whose name I can't remember via Craigslist
4. Nov. '07 - 4 Frames for lithographs - $733 from The Frame Place, Staten Island, NY
5. Aug. '07 - 4 lithographs by Michael Parkes - $2800 from CFM Gallery, SOHO, NY

One more night with my parents

I love my parents, I really do. But if I spend one more night with them, I'm going to pull a Menendez brothers on them. I can depend on the legal expertise of the Wall Street crew to defend me, right? I mean, temporary insanity IS a legal defense.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Surgery recap

Those of you hungry for the remains of the Wall Street Poker den will have to wait a little while longer.

I entered the hospital Wed. morning with very high spirits. Thinking about the particulars of the surgery was only going to make me uber nervous, so I tried to concentrate on the other-worldliness of my surroundings. My parents and I arrived at the hospital at 9AM on the button. We wandered through the lobby to find the surgical waiting area, and my first bit of fantasy hit me. The waiting area is set up as a combination airport/Cheesecake Factory. There are two large screen TV's set up exactly like an airport, but instead of tracking incoming and outgoing flights, they track surgerys in real time! The last name and first initial of each patient is posted with the time of admittance and the status of the surgery! In/Out/OR/Reco, etc... Pretty impressive. I walked up to the front desk and registered myself and they gave me a buzzing beeper. You know the buzzing beeper. The same ones they give you at The Cheesequake Factory to let you know when your seat is ready but you can still wander the mall. Like I said, other-worldly. I waited patiently with my parents for an hour or so and I was called by the familiar beep/buzz of my beeper/buzzer. Directed to a cubicle where a hospital beureaucrat was waiting, I signed my name on a whole bunch of forms before being given an armband and a trip up to the first level of Dante's Hell. This first level is where you wait, yet again, for multiple nurse's to take your blood/temperature/vitals, etc... Each time a separate person came to see me, the first question was, "Can I see your armband". I think SOMEONE's been sued before. Turns out I have O+ blood type, in case anyone is keeping track. It took about 90 minutes to fully get me prepared and then my parents were allowed to join me again while we waited for the OR to open up. I was stripped down, my clothes were placed in bags and stored and I was dress in the usual gown with the open ass. On to a guerney I went and I was rolled into the pre-operating area, with about a dozen people waiting with me. A host of doctors, anesthesiologists and interns came to take information for me. Needles were inserted, fluids were started and then finally my surgeon came to say hello. "Things are a little backed up," he said. Turns out my 11AM operational appointment was going to be closer to 1:30 or so. I didn't mind. I kept my mind on taking in the surroundings and keeping myself from going nuts. Finally, the anesthesiologist came in and said we were going to go in. She started me on the "good" drugs and I caught the other woman wheeling me in say that "Dr. Jacob is so meticulous". It was a wonderful thing to hear just as my world turned hazy and I passed out. I wasn't even in the OR yet.

I came to, barely, and my parents were standing over me. I had no idea what time it was but I'd say in hidsight that it must have been about 4:00PM. The surgeon came over to me and I was too weak and hazy to even shake my head in acknolwedgement. Some words came to me, but I had trouble making them out. "Surgery" "Good" "Excellent" "Necrotic" "Worse than anticipated" I didn't know what it all meant and I had no strength to care. The anesthesia was still in heavy effect and I passed out for about another 2 hours. When I came to, the surgeon reappeared and I was able to finally take my status into account. I looked down and there were bandages I could feel underneath my robe. There was also a small grenade shaped bladder, attached to a tube which was pinned to my clothing. I followed the tube with my eyes and found it attached to ME, underneath a particularly large bandage. I had done a lot of research into this surgery and I didn't remember a single time where I heard about this bladder. What the hell happened?

The surgeon explained that my gall bladder had been in much worse shape than anticipated. It was, and I quote, "Chock Full" of stones and had been chronically inflamed for what appeared to be years. The inflammation had caused my cystic duct, the tube joining my gall bladder to my liver's bile duct, to be shorter than expected. What that meant was that clipping off the duct tube once the gall bladder was removed, would be riskier than hoped for. And that's why I had a bladder attached to me. The bladder gather up liquids from the general area of the where the gall bladder user to be and if it shows up with bile, I'll know the clips fell off and the tube is now leaking bile into my body. So far, so good, by the way.

Surgery was a little busy that night, so it took a while to get me into a room. By 10PM, I had a room with a roomate and the full attention of a staff of nurses. Mt. Sinai, I must say, is fantastic for post operative care. The nurses were on the spot at all hours and were excellent and sensitive. I will spare you the more disgusting details of my stay, but suffice it to say that each nurse I came in contact with was profession, excellent and discreet. I felt very taken care of. Each doctor I came in contact with, my surgeon, my GI, my cardiologist, etc.. all stopped by personally for visits. Some more than once. I had anticipated going home the night after the surgery, but I tried wrapping my mind around one more night. But I felt weak, very weak.

My body was growing stronger, but it wasn't fully back up to par. Still isn't. I spent a very long day sitting in my bed trying to move body parts. My stomach muscles are very sore and it's really incredible how many things you do that use those muscles. Standing up, sitting down, moving your legs, rolling over. Everything! My parents did their best to drive me nuts but I tried to work past it by sleeping as often as possible. It was hard, but I managed. Between the poking and prodding, my mother's rambling, and the pain in my belly. It was a long day. I wasn't ready to go home and my surgeon agreed with me. One more day would do me.

I woke up Friday morning and I had gotten significantly better. My walking is still stilted and painful and slow, but that's better than the 90 year old shuffle I was doing the day before. And let's be serious. It was barely 36 hours after major surgery.

I was released at about 4:30 and have been home since, under the watchful eyes of my parents. The bladder grenade thing is still attached to me, but it'll be removed on Tuesday or Wed. I have a followup with my GI on Monday and I look forward to feeling better every day.

THANKS to everyone who helped with my recovery just by showing they cared. You know who you are and I love you for it. Best get well gift? Custom Wall Street Poker Dunkin Donuts gift card. Awesome.