Saturday, May 31, 2008

I am so NOT on a roll

I played in a 2-5NL home game tonight. It's on Broad Street, which is right around the corner and things started out fine. I worked up my $400 buyin into $560 and then got my 99 snapped off by 44 when he cold called a $40 flop bet to hit a gutshot straight on the turn. I paid off his river bet with a harmless looking board.

Other bad beats of the night for me:
My AK goes down in flames to a possible bluff when I C-bet and then fire 150 on the turn and he calls each time. He puts 150 on the river when the board flushes up and I have to fold because I don't have a thing.

I have 5c7c and I turn two pair. I fire 100 into the pot of $70 and he calls. The board pairs up a three on the river and I go all in and he calls with top pair and 8 kicker. (I kinda screwed up on this one but he still got lucky on me with his 5 outer).

My AA gets snapped off by 23o! I raised to $25 pf and he called. Flop is Q25. I fire $40, he calls. Turn is a Q. I move all in, he calls. River is a fucking 2!!!!

I lost big tonight and I'm super-pissed. Time to slow down and relax.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

W is on a roll (The poker player, not the president)

I managed to do well in the tourneys at WSP last night. I busted out 5th in the first tourney after getting crippled on a particularly bad flop for me. Blinds were 100/200 and I was in the big blind. Dawn raised to 400 and David R. called. It folded to me and I looked down at J5o. An awful hand which I would have gladly mucked had I not been in the big blind. I had probably the second biggest stack at the table at the time and I could afford to defend my blind. So I counted the money in the pot and verbally announced, “5 and a half to one. I have to call”. I told Dawn that if the flop comes up complete garbage, she should muck. The flop came down J52. GIN! “That’s garbage,” I said and then bet out 400. Dawn thought for a bit but then mucked. David R. min-raised to 800 and I figured him for a good Jack, maybe AJ or KJ. So I quickly moved all in over the top and he quick-called. I showed my monster top two and he showed me 22 for the flopped set. Um….ouch? I doubled him up and put my once healthy stack in jeopardy. I managed to double up the very next hand with AK and a King high flop vs. Scott’s KQ but I couldn’t improve after that. W and Robert went heads up for the money with Robert crushing W for ½ her stack on the first hand heads-up. From there, it was a quick finish.

The second tourney worked out better for me. I jumped out to a huge lead and ended up with half the chips in play with 4 players still in. I was cruising to the money until W donked off her big stack by doubling up both David R. and Alceste on successive hands! Now it was a battle and there were no shorty stacks anymore. David R. got a little lower down when I picked up AQo UTG. I raised and David re-raised me. I shoved and he thought for a long time about what to do. With a sigh that only comes from someone who knows they’re beat, he called off all his chips with 22 (AGAIN!). Even though were were a coinflip pre-flop and the board flopped a pair of 4’s, I couldn’t hit any of my outs and I ended up doubling his stack. I was now in 3rd place but got lucky when Alceste busted out with QT vs. KT to slide into the money. Still, I was in grave danger of a crappy cash when I got lucky. W and David R. put it all in the middle with W’s KK handily besting David’s AQ when a King flopped. With only 2000 in my stack and blinds at 300/600, I offered a quick chop with W who generously gave me $20 extra to lock up her win! Kudos to W and David R. for cashing in both tourneys!

Also, a new chant from Dawn: “Someone’s gonna get huuuurt, Someone’s gonna get huuuurt”

Memorial Day weekend recap

What an amazing Memorial Day! I had gotten an email from Abbie (“The Law”) asking if I wanted to join her on a weekend trip to the Adirondacks, organized by a company called Adventure Society. I looked up the details and it sounded like a great deal. $440 gets you roundtrip transportation, breakfast and lunch for 3 days and a dinner as well. Also included were the activities, which were Whitewater Rafting on Saturday and a choice of Hiking, Spelunking, Mountain Biking or Kayaking on Sunday (I chose Kayaking). Accommodations, also included in the price, consisted of luxury townhomes on Gore Mountain (Queen bed, Jacuzzi, two bedrooms/two bathrooms, Mountain views, etc…). I’ve been saying for years how I need to take advantage of opportunities to get outdoors and this seemed like a perfect package. Plus, Ali agreed to come with me and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a nice weekend than this.

So I was in! And excited. As the day approached, the anticipation built. I got concerned when Abbie didn’t show up to one of my WSP games because she was sick but I didn’t think about it much. Then, three days before our departure, Abbie gave me the bad news. She was REALLY sick. So sick, in fact, that she had to pull out of the trip all together. Boo! I was bummed about it, but still looking forward to it. It rained a few days before the trip but all the weather reports were forecasting a beautiful weekend.

I went shopping with Ali Wed. night before the trip at Eastern Mountain Sports for gear I would need. Techwick undergarments, a rainjacket, a fleece vest, bug spray, waterproof pants, etc… It all came in handy when the time came. Thursday night, I packed up all of my things and went to sleep with butterflies in my stomach.

Friday at work couldn’t go fast enough and when 1PM hit, I flew out the door. The bus was leaving at 3:30PM from 59th and 9th but I had one more purchase to make before I could leave. I’ve been in the market for a subcompact digital camera and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Canon PowerShot 870IS is not only significantly cheaper than I thought ($270 at J&R), but is more full featured than my state of the art digital that I got 7 years ago. With a 4GB memory card, the total came out to $300. Camera in hand, I hauled my way uptown to meet the crew.

When I got to 59th and 9th, luggage in tow, I found two passenger vans and a large group waiting to board. Our trip leaders, none of whom were above 30, greeted us and got us on board for the trip. We hit some traffic on the way out of the city and I was surprised that neither of the vans had brought a GPS with them. I learned this fact when we went local to avoid an accident on the West Side Highway and ended up getting slightly lost in Harlem. I suggested the best route (125th street) and we found our way back. From there, it was a pretty easy ride and we made it up to the townhouses at 10:45P. Ali and I, along with another woman we met, were in the first townhouse. Scott, one of our trip leaders, got the key for us and walked us to our door. He inserted the key into the lock and turned it, or tried to. Back and forth, he jiggled the key, but the knob wouldn’t budge. After 60 seconds of this, I was starting to get a bad feeling. It was 45 degrees outside and the prospect of not having a place to sleep, or sleeping on the floor of someone else’s house, was not pleasing in the least. We all gave the key a turn, just for the sake of our sanity, but it was clear we didn’t have the right key. We tried all the keys, to no avail and were not happy to learn that the office was closed for the evening. We tried the emergency number they gave us (specifically for lockouts), but it was only a beeper number and no one ever called us back! Luckily, since there had been a few last minute dropouts from the group, there were 2 spare bedrooms we could use and we didn’t really care at this point. So Ali and I made our way to a full-sized bed (tiny) and promptly fell asleep.

We were woken up by a knock on our door at 6:45AM, telling us the bus for the White Water Rafting would be leaving at 7:10! I jumped in the shower quickly and started to layer up my clothing. Ali did the same and we groggily made our way to the bus for breakfast. The breakfast location was a beautiful cabin in the woods with a restaurant called The Log Cabin, natch. But when we got there, our ‘gourmet’ breakfast was really just a buffet of eggs, pancakes, sausages, bacon and frozen fruit that had been defrosted that morning. We didn’t really care, though. We were hungry and excited to start the day. I made sure to eat light (You don’t want to be out on the river when ya gotta go) and we all clambered back in the vans. We got to the White Water Rafting outfitters and got a brief safety discussion about what to do. It seems there are lots of signals to follow (Easy forward, All back, Hit the deck, Lean in, etc…) and there are things you DON’T want to do if you fall in. For example, if you hit the water, you DON’T want to stand up because, as we were told, your leg might get wedged in a rock and then the current could break your leg and then keep you held under, drowning you. Yep, I won’t do that, I promise. We got our wetsuits (I brought my own wetsuit booties that I have from diving) and got back in another van to drive us upriver to the dropoff point.

The route we followed was 14.5 miles from our location and when we got out, we had to carry our boat down a trail. This was evidently a popular spot with lots of outfitting companies because there was a long line of boats to get onto the river and we schlepped our boat along a few feet at a time.

It was finally our turn and we all awkwardly boarded, paddles in hand. There was a small lagoon that we practiced the paddling commands in and then we were off on the river! Let me tell you, it was a real rush. I wish I had pictures, but I forgot my wallet back at the town house so I couldn’t buy one of those disposable waterproof cameras and I was certainly not bringing my new digital. You get WET on these trips! I’m happy to report that no one on our boat fell in although we must have seen at least half a dozen other boaters hit the drink, which was fun to watch! We also had our own cheer. After each set of rough rapids, we’d raise our paddles in the air and yell, “Smashing!”, which is a little gay but that was the point. It was supposed to be semi-ironic. Trust me, it was fun. The other boats were so mellow that our guide said we were ‘sucking all the fun into our boat’. Hahaha! We had a blast. The scariest part was when we went ‘surfing’ with the boat. This involves finding a big rock where there’s a rough rapid and then paddling back upstream until you’re in the eddy created by the rock. From there, you can keep turning the boat around and around, getting all of the boaters soaked until you’ve had your fill. Well, the first time we did this, I nearly fell overboard, which my guide remarked was ‘fun to watch’. Wiseass. The second time, Ali let go of the handle end of her paddle and it swung around and smacked me right next to my right eyeball. Ouch. Other than that, it was a blast. We finished up 4.5 hours later completely exhausted and exhilarated. The one thing I didn’t like, other than the very cold water, were the bugs on the river. They were swarming quite a bit of the time and we spent a large portion of our quiet river time swatting them away. But hey, that’s nature for you.

When we got back to the outfitter, we stripped down and got into our dry change of clothes (yay!) and hung out for a bit. Part of the rafting experience that the Adventure Society puts together is a barbecue dinner afterwards. One of the employees at the outfitter was roasting chicken parts on the grill and it smelled amazing. We were all starving somewhat fiercely and we lined up eagerly to fill our plates with chicken, macaroni salad and potatoes, all of which we scarfed. After driving back to the townhomes, I took a much needed nap before joining the group for a SMORES session in the fireplace. We had fun just getting to know each other and making fun of the few in the group who had NEVER HAD SMORES! Are you kidding me?!? We put on a SMORES clinic and all the newbies were impressed. Speaking of newbies, Ali introduced me, and the group, to Oreos with Peanut Butter. Here’s the recipe:

Take an Oreo double stuft (must be double stuft).
Take a knife full of Jif creamy peanut butter.
Spread the peanut butter on the Oreo.
Repeat until sick.

One of the group got all Martha Stewart on us and unscrewed the Oreos, put the peanut butter inside and then placed the top back on. I have to say it made for a better presentation and less messy eating. Good times.

As I was leaving, Sarah, one of the group leaders, told me they had gotten the right key for my townhouse. Me, Ali and Jaclyn (the other roommate) got our stuff from our Friday night home and made our way to the place we’d be sleeping for the rest of the weekend. When we opened it up, we discovered that both bedrooms were on the second floor, adjoining each other. I had no problem with this but Jaclyn was slightly upset. She had assumed that the bedrooms would be on opposite floors and she didn’t want to disturb Ali or I. I told her it wouldn’t be an issue but she was adamant about giving us privacy so she went back to the other townhouse! I couldn’t stop her (and didn’t want to) so Ali and I ended up with our own place for two night! SWEET!!!

We got some really good sleep that night and we woke up at 7:15a in preparation for an 8AM take-off for the next day’s activities. Saturday had been overcast and 73 degrees but Sunday was sunny skies, not a cloud in the sky and 77. The wind was blowing a light breeze with no humidity and there wasn’t a bug to be found on the river. It was a PERFECT DAY. We had another mediocre buffet breakfast at the same place and then we split into our groups. I was Kayaking with Ali, Jaclyn, Maricelle and Sarah (our trip leader). We went by van to the Kayaking outfitter, where I purchased a hat (forgot mine at home) and mosquito netting for my head, just in case. Ali insisted I’d look dorky in the netting, and I agreed, but I’d rather be dorky looking and comfortable than the reverse. As it turns out, I didn’t need the netting at all because the day was so beautiful and lazy that even the flies were giving it a rest.

We very lazily floated down our 4 mile route, soaking in the fantastic scenery and generally relaxing. It was idyllic, bucolic and other adjectives meaning freaking awesome. At the end of the trip, in sight of the drop off point, we had 30 minutes left and decided to rest on a nearby beach rather than drop off our Kayaks. We sunned ourselves and napped on our Kayaks for a bit before deciding on some impromptu swimming in the river. Or rather the girls swam and I fell out of my Kayak into the water while I was trying to get out onto the beach. So sue me, I’m not a boater.

We got back to the townhomes, raving about our fantastic river experience and passed out in our beds, waking up at 7:00 for dinner out at a local tavern. For a shit-kicking little tavern, the food was actually pretty good. I was particularly amazed at how cheap it is relative to Manhattan. A pint of beer was $4 and a full glass (not a shot) of Maker’s Mark was only $5! One of the girls got two glasses of wine at the bar and paid $10 for the two glasses. One of the locals, a grizzled older man, about 60, remarked that, “that better be good wine for $5 a glass!”. The lady informed the gentlemen that it was actually quite cheap compared to Manhattan, where we lived. The conversation went like this:

Gentleman – “Really? How much is it in Manhattan?”
Lady – “About $15”
Gentleman – “For both, I hope”
Lady – “No. Each.
Gentleman – (Elbows his friend like he’s in a sitcom) “You hear that Elmer (ed. Note: Real name)? She pays $30 for two glasses of wine! I can’t understand you city folk”

The theme from Deliverance jangled through my mind.

The group was going to meet that night for some Trivial Pursuit but my team deflated the expectations of the other teams. After 8 correct answers in a row, the other team members started to get “tired” and started to drift off to their rooms. Cowards. My team remains undefeated and victorious.

Monday morning, we slept in late, went for yet another cruddy breakfast at the same place (mountain views notwithstanding) and hit the road to go home. Despite the fact that it was Monday after a holiday weekend, we made it home in just over 6 hours and had absolutely no traffic within 90 miles of the city. Outstanding. At 7PM, we disembarked and we all went home to our respective apartments. The day was beautiful and I wanted to enjoy it, but the van ride home killed me a bit and I was able to get into bed early for work the next morning.

I can’t begin to say how wonderful the entire weekend was. I feel invigorated for more outdoor activities and I’m definitely going to plan a few as the summer rolls along. In a few weeks (June 14th I think), I’m going to do a horseback riding/strawberry picking day trip. Anyone want to join me? Also, a few weekends afterwards, I want to do a canoe trip on the Delaware river with overnight camping on the river. The fresh air is making me giddy, me thinks.

Guest Blogging the Mohegan Sun - (Pervy Paulie)

On Sunday I went to Mohegan Sun with my friends Shira and George. Since this was a holiday weekend I wanted to do something different than play poker in AC. Playing poker in CT seemed perfect! Mohegan Sun has a branch of a Boston seafood restaurant (Summer Shack) that I like, so I made reservations for dinner, and we hit the road.

We left Brooklyn at 10am and we got to Mohegan in two hours and 45 minutes. It is an easy ride straight down 95. It was about 5 miles more than AC but we hit traffic in one spot at the end. Parking was free. (good thing since it took $60.01 to fill my gas tank!)

Currently, Mohegan has a 100% electronic poker "room" (there are no dealers, chips or cards). They have 5 PokerPro tables set up in a horse shoe pattern on the casino floor. Each PokerPro table has ten seats and each seat has a touch screen in front of it. In the center of the table is a large screen that shows the community cards and the size of each player's stack. One Floor person runs all 5 tables. The offerings when I was there were 3/6 limit (1), ½ No Limit (3) and $80 and $100 sit and go's. They also do MTT's and can do Omaha, but the floor guy said there is never enough interest to start an Omaha table : (

In order to play you must first get a regular Mohegan Sun Player's card. You then take it to the PokerPro desk so they can link it to a PokerPro account and assign your PIN #. Then you take the card to the cage to make a deposit. I deposited $200 on to the card and was seated at a 3/6 limit Hold'em table. You dip and remove your card like at an ATM and then enter your PIN. It then asks how much of your account do you want to bring to the table. I brought in $100. My name PAUL and $100 then showed on everyone's screen and the $100 showed in front of me on the big screen. The game was very intuitive. Your hole cards are shown face down on the screen in front of you. You cover them with your hands and the peel up. The blinds are taken automatically and your screen lights up when it is your turn. There are four option buttons that light up (check, bet, raise and fold). If you fold you need to hit the button twice to confirm. Most people used their cards as a stylus.

I played for 2 and a half hours before dinner and was up $100 even. I didn't miss not having a dealer (or cards or chips). You get to see a lot more hands and you don't need to tip.
I then went to dinner. The New England clam bake was 5 stars. It is a small lobster, clams, mussels, chorizo, egg, corn and potato all in Old bay seasoning. Not the neatest dinner I had, but very good. The table clothes are brown paper and they give you a plastic bib.

I then went back to the tables. All were full so I swiped my card and entered the lists for everything. I got called for limit first and played a couple of hands before I got called for no limit. I got up with an additional $51 on my card. No limit was a little different than limit. When it was my time to bet, 3 chips appeared ($1, $5, $25) in addition to check, fold and all in. To bet you hit the chips until you had the amount you wanted then you hit the confirm button which showed the amount. You had to confirm every choice in no limit. I had an hour to play before we had to go and I made an additional $30 in no limit.

I cashed in at the cage for $381. The give you a receipt (in and out) so keeping track of your P & L is easy. (tips for drinks are cash since there are no chips)
I own 100 shares in PokerTek so my retirement rests on them doing well : ), but that aside, and the fact that I won, I really liked the game. There were no misdeals, accidental mucks, players going out of turn or asking how much can I bet?, in addition to the time wasted changing cards and dealers and adding chips and making change. It was like playing on-line with the advantage of seeing the players, and the players have easy access to Jack and Coke. Also it limits the risks of collusion on line.

PokerPro is coming to the Trump Plaza in AC soon and is already in poker rooms around the world. (see press release from Friday and websites below). It is temporary at Mohegan, they are opening a live poker room in August with over 40 tables.

I am thinking of starting a quest to see all the PokerPro rooms around the world : )


Stud/8 Miracles

Dawn Summers has a new post about the wonders of playing poker on Wall Street. She is the Master of Blog Writing (just go with it, it's true).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rockstar Dreams

My band, Negative Ken, has a new singer. She's a little green but she's got great potential. All she needs is a little experience. With that in mind, we went last night (Myself, the singer, Lauren, and my drummer Lee) to Arlene's Grocery to partake in a little Rock N' Roll Karaoke.

Every Monday, Arlene's has a live band (who are AMAZING!) playing from a playlist of hits (about 60 songs). The only thing missing is: You! This is exactly like Karaoke except that playing in front of a live band is a whole different experience. Tempo and arrangement are often different than the recordings and adjusting to those differences is the kind of experience I wanted Lauren to have. She chose to sing "I love rock n' roll" by Joan Jett.

She took the stage, the 4th song of the night, and the boys instantly went nuts. She was wearing a slinky black cocktail dress and she got into the song with her whole body. With every shake of her hips and her purring lyrics, the men in the crowd responded. All was going well through the first chorus until...

She muffed the lyrics. As the second verse started, she lost her place in the lyrics book and the singer in the backup band had to come over to put her back in place. All of a sudden, the life went out of her performance. She stopped moving, she wasn't enjoying herself, and her singing was a little flat. It's not a critique, because we've all been there as performers, but it was valuable experience she can learn from. I was very proud of her. She really is a natural and she'll knock everyone's socks off in our first gig together once she finds her footing.

Of course, this did not absolve me of my responsibility of getting up there and rocking the house. Which I did, to the tune of "The boys are back in town" by Thin Lizzy. I don't want to pat myself on the back, but the girls screamed in delight. :-)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend recap

Another awesome weekend. It's funny that life seems to taste better when you're being couple-y. :-)

Friday night was the H.O.R.S.E. tourney at Wall Street Poker. In attendance were Alceste, Dawn Summers, J. Mord, Paulie, W, The Slayer, KJ and myself. The tournament went swimmingly (if long) and it was J. Mord and Paulie heads up for the big cash money which they eventually split, but not before they had made a deal to pay out the top four players, which included Dawn and KJ. I went out in an awful 6th place finish. I committed a whole bunch of chips on draw where I was 60% or more and couldn't complete them. The worst hand, the absolute worst was where the Slayer was the bring-in in Razz with the Ks showing as his door card. He decided, sit down for this, to COMPLETE the bet! I have 7 as my door card and 24 underneath so I raise to a whole bunch of high cards showing, figuring I'm going to go heads up with a guy with a freaking KING SHOWING!!! I'll make a long story short. I bet or raised every street and lost. He ended up with an 85 low to my 86 low. Wow. Oh, and I finally busted out after making a 76 low on 5th street but couldn't shake Paulie's wheel draw, which he finally made ON THE RIVER! I can't say I played poorly, but the cards just weren't with me that night.

The game ended late and I got up at 10AM so I could have lunch with my, what do you call her, um....special ladyfriend. I'm not quite sure when the title change to girlfriend occurs so I'll go with that for now. We were set to have brunch at 11AM but I was running late and we eventually met up at her place at around noon. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and we walked to Josephine's near the park for a great meal and then a walk through Central Park on a spectacular day. We walked east through the park and ended up at the Neue Gallery for their exhibition on Gustav Klimt, which was wonderful. They have a tryptich of Klimt's that was featured in the famous 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition in the early 1900's. The paintings are called, collectively, the Beethoven Frieze and were meant to be accompanied by a special arrangement of Beethoven's 9th symphony which was arranged and conducted by Gustav Mahler specifically for this purpose. The gallery has thoughtfully piped in the appropriate music and it's really a wonder to behold. Highly recommended if you like Klimt's work.

After the gallery, we walked 3 blocks north to the Guggenheim, which Ali has never been to before. It's a pleasure taking city newbies around because it revisit places you might not have gotten back to in a while. We picked a great time to go, actually. The Guggenheim is having a special exhibition of a Chinese artist who likes to blow shit up. Seriously. Nothing blows up in the Guggenheim itself, but there are video presentations of his outdoor pyrotechnics that he did in other cities and it's pretty damned cool. Plus, the interior of the museum is filled with the coolest thing I've ever seen done with that space. It's a car (8 cars to be more precise), arranged in mid-air to emulate a car bomb explosion. The theme is recognizing violence to achieve peace or some other such artistic nonsense. Trust me when I tell you it's AWESOME to look at. And you don't have to pay to see it. Just walk in the lobby and look up. Way cool.

We did some more walking in the park after that but then I had to go. That night was a private party I was dealing poker at and I didn't want to be late. Every six months or so, a guy I know has a private party in a SOHO loft for an ever-growing group of guests. This time, it was over 130 people, 105 of which signed up for the poker tourney. The guest list is filled with rich, if not famous people, including 2002 WSOP Main Event winner Robert Varkonyi! There is a sushi bar with chefs and an open liquor bar with professional bartenders and 3 of the hottest drink waitresses you've seen attending to the boys every need. Cigars are free (and indulged in quite a bit) and a DJ was spinning tunes all night. A real bacchanalia. Two women went around giving neck massages too. But that wasn't the best part. Every year, the host and his friends think of something else to make the party bigger and better and more memorable than the year before. Two years ago, he had the idea of announcing the blind changes by having the hot young waitresses come out in different costumes and performing little sketches, which was awesome. He still does that, but this year he turned up the heat. He hired three of the hottest models you've ever seen, dressed them in NOTHING but thongs and high heels (no tops) and had them body-painted to look like playing cards (Three Kings of different suits). They walked around like that ALL NIGHT, serving drinks, being flirtatious and generally distratcting everybody, inluding yours truly. Seriously, The Hef himself couldn't have done it better.

I came home stinking of cigar smoke, but entirely happy working the party, as usual. I got up Sunday morning very late and when I got up I crawled to the couch and fell back asleep. I needed to catch up and I did. I was woken up by Ali at 1:30pm because we had made Sunday brunch plans, this time downtown. We met up at Dos Caminos in SOHO at 3:45PM and had an absolutely delicious brunch (yummy yummy breakfast tacos) and then walked through SOHO hitting some of the art galleries. We ended up at CFM Gallery, which is where I bought 4 of my lithographs in August. The woman running the gallery actually remembered my name, which was incredibly flattering and very show-offy (not what I intended, but hey!), even though her name completely escaped me. We closed down the galleries and then I had to leave Ali again to go to band practice.

By the way, the band is playing at the R Bar in July. Details will be forthcoming when we get closer to the date. We have a few new originals and two new covers we'll debuting and it promises to be an amazing time. After the practice, my drummer dropped me off in Union Square and I was still hopped up with energy so I dragged my guitar to the Union Square theater and caught the 10PM showing of Iron Man. There was a funny incident before the show. It was 9:45 when I got upstairs and they weren't letting people into the theater yet. Even though it was Sunday at 10PM, the line ran down the hall, down another hall to a dead end and then wrapped around for 40 more feet. I got to the end of the line and waited patiently while we all chatted and commented on how amazing it was for this showing to be sold out. Then, some big goofy white guy with a bald head and thick glasses (hereafter known as the BIG DICK) comes up next to me and shouts to his girlfriend at the dead end, "Lisa! Come forward. No way is everyone going to follow this line!". Ok, you have to picture this. There's at least 100 people on line and this guy is SHOUTING to his girl to CUT THE LINE! Are you kidding me? 50 people gave him dirty looks but said nothing until I stepped up to the plate.

Me: "Dude, did you just ask your girl to cut this line?"
BIG DICK: "What, you think everyone is going to wrap around without converging?" (an exact quote)
(15 people, simultaneously): "Yes!"

He shrugged and then went to join his girl. I had now been officially annointed as the 'line officer' and let me tell you, not a single person got out of line. It was a beautiful moment in the history of civility.

The movie, by the way, pretty much kicked ass. And there's a cool little scene at the end of the credits which I'm not going to ruin but is great if you're a reformed comics geek, like I am. I didn't know about the scene but I figured things out when I saw everyone just staying when the credits rolled. It was totally worth the extra 5 minutes.

Just a great weekend all around.

Ali and I, and Abbie +1, and a large group from Adventure Society are going to the Adirondacks this coming weekend for a spectacular adventure. Whitewater rafting, Kayaking and Smore's making by the fire are all on the agenda. I am VERY much looking forward to it.

Where my loyalties lie

I am, first and foremost, a fan of New York. That means the city of New York and any teams that spring from it. That's the Yankees AND the Mets, the Jets AND the Giants. I hate hockey so I don't give a shit about the Rangers OR the Islanders and the Knicks keep breaking my heart but I'm with them in spirit.

Most people, when they hear this philosophy, end up asking me the inevitable question; If push comes to shove, whom do you choose?

The answer is: I'm a Long Islander in my heart. Therefore, the Mets and the Jets take priority over the Yankees and Giants.

I don't care if you don't like it, that's how I root. So I'm happy the Mets kicked the Yankees butts this weekend.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'm flying

Date #3 ended about 4 hours ago and I'm still on cloud 9.

This is NOT going to be good for my sleeping habits.

Monday, May 12, 2008

California Trip – Addendum

The New Jersey leg…

I took the redeye home from California and it actually arrived almost an hour early! I was on the ground at about 5AM and back in my apartment at 6:30AM. My sleep schedule was still completely out of whack but I was on the tired side and I took full advantage of the fact that I didn’t have to go to work that day or the next. Interestingly, the couch seemed more comfortable than my bed and I crashed there, waking up at 3:30PM, much later than I’d hoped. You see, the Van Halen concert, the one postponed since February, was being held in Cracklantic City the next night and I had a hotel reservation at the Tropicana the night before. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, took a shower, repacked an overnight bag, and managed to make the 6PM bus from the Port Authority.

The trip down was uneventful and I played a few hours of NLHE at the Trop ($140 profit) before sleep overtook me again.

I woke up Friday morning full of vim and vigor. I checked out, took my stuff and walked on the boardwalk up to Caesars. The concert hall is next to the pier at Caesars and I figured the best thing to do was check my bags there and pick them up that night after the show. I sweet-talked the porter (with a fiver) to allow me to check the luggage since it’s only supposed to be used by guests and I was on my way. I sat for some more NLHE at Caesars and walked away a few hours later another $200 up. I needed these wins to eat into my loss in California (damned O/8!). The rest of the poker crew (Abbie, W, Darko and PP) were on their way down to the Showboat and I wanted to say hello before I had to go back to the hall to see the mighty Van Halen perform. I said my hellos as they all registered for the 7PM tourney and I took a rolling cart thingy to the Boardwalk. I needn’t have rushed since some local guy (great voice but doing mostly covers) was opening up for them. I went upstairs to use the bathroom and I turned the corner and bumped into one of my college fraternity brothers! He lives in Philly and came into town for the show. Freaky.

At 9PM, the mighty Van Halen stormed the stage. The crowd, which was populated by much older people than I’d expect (I mean some 60-70 year olds in the groups!) was a bit slow to get into it but they eventually warmed up and the band responded in kind. The guys look fantastic. Everyone was in great form, even little Wolfgang Van Halen, on bass replacing Mike Anthony. Wolfie was more competent that I would’ve expected from a 15 year old and the show went off professionally without a hitch.

The set list, if anyone cares, was: (in order)
You Really Got Me
I’m the One
Running with the Devil
Romeo Delight
Somebody Get Me A Doctor/CrossRoad Blues Medley
Beautiful Girls
Dance The Night Away
Atomic Punk
Everybody Wants Some!
So This Is Love
Mean Streets
Pretty Woman
Alex Van Halen drum solo
I’ll Wait
And The Crade Will Rock
Hot For Teacher
Little Dreamer
Jamie’s Crying
Dave’s Acoustic Guitar solo and rap
Ice Cream Man
Eruption/Cathedral medley
Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love

Awesome show. As you can see, they stuck strictly to Dave material pre-5150 and it was incredible stuff. Everytime they did a closeup on Eddie’s hands, I was in awe. Just a great experience for me all around.

When I got back to the Showboat at 11:30, Darko and Abbie were still in the tourney. Darko busted out just out of the final table but Abbie cashed, though it was a bit far away to make any real money. I think she made back part of her buyin.

After that, we decided to stay and play at the Showboat that night and tackle Borgata the night after. I played at a 1-2NL table with Wendy and got utterly destroyed for nearly 4 buyins. It was 7AM and everyone was cashing out when I FINALLY went on a run of four hands where I won back a good portion of my losses. So I booked a 350 loss rather than the 700 loss I was looking at.

We slept really late at PP’s place in AC and got up in time to have a late lunch at White House. Note to self: there is a LOT of meat on those sandwiches! We made it to the Borgata, which was a little light for a Saturday night, in time to play more 1-2NL. This time, I booked a nice session, doubling my buyin of 250, which put me in the black for the AC weekend, even with my 1-2 meltdown the night before. I was starting to come down with a cold and I had decided I was going to go back on the bus that evening, so I cashed out and waited until midnight to have dinner with the crew downstairs at the Hibachi place. When I got back topside, though, the siren song of the 10-20 mixed game (O/8, Stud/8) was just too strong. I sat in for a few hours, picking up at 4:00 AM to make a 4:30 bus at Claridge. I lost most of my buyin in the first three hours because I kept getting rolled up suits for the first four cards in Stud and then not connecting. Three of those hands cost me nearly $100 each time. Finally, I hit a big hand. In O/8, I got AAK9 double suited, in a kill pot of 15/30. I elected not to raise, given the luck I’d been having. The flop was A94, all hearts, of which I had none. I only had about 150 left and I kept check-calling a huge multi-way hand (7 players!). I knew I was probably drawing to the nuts but I needed to hit so bad. Finally, the board came with running Two’s to boat me up and I check raised the last bet all in! W00t! Some guy made a 63 low and I took the high to chop an 825 pot! Woot! I was nearly back to even and I scooped my first pot of the night with a King flush a few hands later to pull with 30 of being even. That’s when I got up, gratefully.

I cabbed it over to the Claridge and found out that the bus was never going to arrive since it had stopped at Caesars 20 minutes earlier and filled up! The next bus wasn’t until 6:10 at the Hilton! Grrr…. I took another cab to the Hilton and had 90 minutes to kill, so I sat in a 1-2 game with 200. I doubled up on the third hand with an absolute beauty. I had AJo UTG+1. I’m new to the table so I don’t know what the standard PF betting is yet. I elect to raise to 10 and I get 5 callers. Flop is JJ2 with 2 spades. I have a new thing now where if I flop a monster with a flush draw, I take one card on the turn to see if the flush appears and then start betting big. My thought is that it’s easier to bet someone off the draw if there’s only one card to come than two. The turn is a 3d. An old Chinese woman bets 10, an older black gentlemen (dressed really nicely in a natty suit) calls. At this point, I should be raising big to take down the pot but I’m tired and I just call from some stupid reason. Everyone else folds and my idiocy gets rewarded with the one perfect card in the deck I could have hoped for on the river, the Ace of Spades (~Ace of spaaaades~). It makes my boat and completes the flush draw. I’ve been checking or check calling every street since the flop so a flush draw is going to think they’re good. The old Chinese woman goes all in for 28. The old black man min-raises to 58. Bingo. He’s got 125 behind and I do some Hollywood (“58 to me? Hmmmm…”), before pushing all in. He insta-calls with the King flush and I stack them both with the second nuts. Weeeeee!

I manage to hold on to my profit for another 45 minutes before I have to leave, just making the 6:10 bus which got us into the Port Authority at 8:10 on the dot. My cold was starting to progress so I had to cancel the date that night I was looking forward to all week, but I’ll make that up to her.

All in all, a nice return to form for the Wall Street Crew in our first weekend in AC in quite some time. Can’t wait for the next one!

California Trip – Part Six

When I woke up at 10:30 on Wed. morning, my itinerary had been done. All the poker rooms had been visited. I’d eaten lunch on the Santa Monica Pier, been out to the desert, seen windmills and poker stars and generally been around.

But I still had a full day ahead of me.

I found the strength inside of me to play yet more poker and made it over to the Hollywood Park race track, which was the closest one to the airport. I sat at a $200 max buyin table for four hours and ran good, profiting over 300 before I left. I can’t tell you any specific hands, because I don’t really remember, except that I was making good reads and betting well. I wanted to play longer, but the horses were racing at the park that day and I wanted to see at least one race. I did manage to bet on the last race of the day, 5:00PM post time.

As I scanned the odds lines, I decided to put $6 on horse 6, paying 5 to 1, to Show (meaning he’d pay out if he finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd). I put another $4 on a Trifecta of 10,6 and 16. 10 was paying 5 to 1 as well and 16 was the favorite at 9/2. Unlike other race tracks I’ve been to where you have to watch from a grandstand far away, Hollywood Park lets you get right next to the track and the horses aren’t more than 30 feet away when they gallop past the finish line. Because of my line of sight, I couldn’t see the start of the race but I got a great view of the finish. My boys were in great position to pay me off all through the race but my main nag, 6, slipped out of the top two at the last second and finished in 4th by a nose. The top four finishers, in order, were 16, 10, 12 and 6! SOOOO close. The Trifecta would have paid me almost $2500!! Instead, I lost on both bets and I was out $10. It was a fun 30 minutes though and seeing the jockeys parading around on their steeds was a wonderful sight. The animals are incredible and the whole thing is filled with a great mystery and romance. That is, until you see the patrons. Guys who bet on the ponies, by and large, are the absolute dregs of humanity. Just saying.

My flight didn’t take off until 9:30p, so I had a few hours to kill but I didn’t know what to do. By the time I drove anywhere, I’d have to turn around anyway. I spent an hour trying to find a Best Buy to get a wireless mouse for my laptop and scored one about 10 minutes away. Then I just went to the airport. I was two hours early, but I bought a one day pass for $45 at the executive lounge (worth it for the free beers and nice lounge) and got on my flight. It was a quick 4.5 hours home and we landed early by about an hour. A cab ride home and my trip was at an end. Oh lord, was it fun.

There are so many more rooms to see in Southern Cali. I’m looking forward to doing San Diego and then San Francisco too, but who know when I’ll get the opportunity. I think my next big trip will be to either Tunica or Indiana for the riverboat rooms.

California Trip – Part Five

And I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven…

After my cash at the Bike, I went back to sleep and woke up in the early afternoon. I went back to Hollywood to finish up some sightseeing (the Capitol Records building and the Hollywood sign) and then headed over to Commerce Casino to finish up my poker rooms.

The Commerce is the best poker room I’ve ever seen. Bar none. End of discussion.

I walked in at 7PM and the place was crawling with players. I looked around the room and there were about 45 tables, each of them completely full. It was odd, though, because while it was a big room, I’d heard the Commerce was the biggest room in the world and this was only half the size of Borgata. Then I looked at the call boards. 100-200 Stud, 300-600 Omaha, 1500-3000 Hold’em! Oh crap. This was the high limit area! 45 full tables! I scanned the crowd anxiously to see a familiar face, but I didn’t see anyone I recognized. I walked through the area to a small hallway when the room opened up into a gargantuan area-like hall filled with over 160 tables! Think of a football field, filled with poker players. It was somewhat chaotic, but the staff was very professional and seats could be had easily. I found a 3-5 NLHE table that was opening up and sat down with $200 to see what could happen. I got felted early on when my QQ got outflopped by 44. The table is $200 max buyin, so you can quickly get pot committed, especially if there is another player involved like there was in my hand. But I bought back in and managed to walk away with a $140 profit a few hours later when all was said and done. In the course of this, I made the greatest laydown of my life.

I have AQo in the SB (natch) and I elect to limp instead of raising out of the SB. Flop is AQJ, rainbow. A monster flop for me. I bet out $25, get one caller from 5th seat, who I know to be a good player and he’s deep stacked. It folds around to 7th seat, who is a truly atrocious young Greek guy who is already in for 6 buyins (I shit you not). He raises to $75 and has about $150 more behind him. I am salivating at the prospect of stacking this moron, but I hesitate. The good player flat called my $25 on the flop and I’m worried about him. He could stack me completely if I make the wrong move here and I have $500 behind at this point. I start to think about what he could have that he’d:
a. Limp preflop with.
b. Flat call a large-ish bet on the flop with such a dangerous board.

A few possibilities came to mind. KT, for the flopped Broadway straight. JJ for the flopped set. QJ, for the flopped two pair. I discounted QJ, because I felt he would have raised me on my flop bet with such a strong hand. After all, AQ seems unlikely because no one raised pre flop! The only other two possibilities I thought of beat me. So I mucked. It hurt to do so, but I mucked. Good thing, too, because when I did, the good player shoved all in for 700+! The awful player thought about it out loud, not making any sense, and then finally folded what he said was a set! Yeah, right. I asked the good player to show me his cards, and told him I’d mucked AQ. He offered to show for $5 and I got my chip to him as soon as possible. It was worth the information. He flipped over KT. Best read of my life and I saved myself at least $100 or more by making it.

Commerce was lots of fun and there is really good food service at the tables, with carts and everything. The place was just *made* for poker players and if you’re out in L.A., you can’t miss it.

I left at about 3:40a, donking off my profits to the siren song of 4-8 O/8. I passed back through the high limit area again on the way back to my car and I finally saw a poker celebrity playing. It was Cindy Violette, playing 100-200 Stud. She was a bit fatter than I ‘d expected (not a knock, just an observation) but her hair was long and blond and beautiful. I didn’t want to get to close but I wanted to see the action. She had about 15,000 or so in front of her, similar to the other players. I was about 8 feet behind her when she noticed someone look at me and she turned around and stared me right in the eye. I gave her a knowing nod and she turned back around, I guess convinced I wasn’t a threat or something. I definitely wasn’t close enough to be signaling cards because I couldn’t even see what was on the board. I left after a few minutes, happy to accomplish something I’d wanted to do, see a poker pro in action.

As I traveled back to Marina Del Rey, I made a late night stop at the La Brea Tar Pits. The gate was closed and I couldn’t see much, but there is a single tar pit right off the road that was visible. I’d like to have seen more, but I have a compressed schedule and this is what it is. Even at night, though, the moonlight cast an eerie silence over 40,000 year old pits, conveniently located on Wilshire Boulevard, right down the street from Beverly Hills!

I fell asleep, sad in the knowledge that the next day would be my last in California.

California Trip – Part Four

I heard the mission bells…

After my 37 hour pokerpalooza, I slept for a good 7 hours in my hotel, waking up to a pleasant conversation of the Mexican hotel workers who were chatting it up in loud Spanish right outside my door. I thought about yelling at them, but really I was too tired and I don’t speak the language. I showered and dressed and wondered what to do with my day.

The day had been set aside for sightseeing, so I definitely wanted to hit a few of the local tourist spots. Everyone I’d spoken to about touristy things in L.A. told me the same thing; “There’s nothing to see. It’s a disappointment.” So I really didn’t have high hopes.

For the most part, they were right.

I started out by driving to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills shopping area, which is about 4 square city blocks, really *does* exude the aura of super-rich. Each jewelry store is more high end than the next and most of the patrons, in the mid-afternoon, are either crass tourists or incredibly rich and thin locals. I walked around for a bit, including the actual Rodeo Drive, which is just this small alleyway that looks very European, but I didn’t have anything I wanted to buy so I ended up leaving after an hour.

My next stop was West Hollywood. I’ve always, my entire life, wanted to see the Whiskey-a-go-go rock club on the Sunset Strip. So many famous rock bands have played there (G’N’R, Motley Crue, etc…) that I felt I had to make the pilgrimage. I drove up onto the strip, found the club (Thanks again Garmin!) and made my way inside. Except it was locked because rock clubs don’t open at 2PM. I probably should have realized that. I was just hoping the bar would be open and I could have a drink, but no such luck. However, a new problem presented itself. I was having some, um…, intestinal issues, which would have to be addressed immediately, if not sooner. I spotted a coffee shop next to the Whiskey called Duke’s coffee shop. The name rang a bell somehow and then I realized that this was the famous Duke’s coffee shop which I’d read about in some biography somewhere. I ordered a coffee (because bathrooms are for customers only!) and headed to the men’s room posthaste. As I passed the headshots of the hundreds of famous patrons, I found a sign that said this was the location of the Doors first club gig, back when it was a club called London Fog in the 60’s. When I got into the men’s room, there was a single toilet and I did the math in my head. All of those famous people, all the guys anywhere, have used this toilet. All those famous rock musicians. You know, those perfectly clean musicians who have no diseases or open sores at all.

I put down a MOUNTAIN of paper on that seat before I sat on it.

Across the street from the Whiskey is the Viper room, which is owned by Johnny Depp. If you remember, this was the place River Phoenix died after OD’ing inside the club. I took a picture.

That was pretty much it for West Hollywood. I drove to Hollywood Boulevard and saw Graumman’s Chinese Theater, with the walk of fame and the handprints and everything. I put my feet in Harrison Ford’s and mine are smaller. I kinda figured. The place was swarming with tourists and performers of all kinds trying to swindle money. Instead of wading through the scrum, I decided the best way to experience the theater was to see a movie. So I did. I caught Harold And Kumar 2 at Graumman’s. Granted, it was an early afternoon showing on a Monday, but there were only 5 people in the theater. The theater is very comfortable and big, but it’s just a movie house. In fact, most of the time I was supposed to be impressed by something in L.A. (the eateries, the landmarks, the shopping), I always thought to myself, “We have that in Manhattan too, and we don’t have to drive to it.” New York City: Still the best city in the world.

After the movie, which was fun but not great like the first one, I had some dinner and then headed back to my hotel for a quick nap. When I got up again, I headed out to the Bicycle Casino. It was 11:30p when I got there and the plan was just to play for a few hours and then be back at the hotel at 3:00a to try to get my sleeping cycle back in order. The room is very nice at the Bike and it reminds me quite a bit of the Taj. It’s kind of what like the Taj would like to be like, if they had decent management. They weren’t quite as busy at the Bike as they were at Hawaiian Gardens, but there were still plenty of choices to be had. The room is split into multiple ‘pits’ where are labeled overhead (Stud, Omaha, Hold’em, etc…). There was a line at the front desk for a tournament sign-up and I thought that would be a great way to play and kill a few hours. So I signed up, after hastily getting photographed for a players card. The tourney was $40+10 and it filled up with 100 participants for a midnight start on a Tuesday Morning! Try THAT in Atlantic City. The payout structure was odd, though. Normally, tourneys pay out the top ten percent of players so I would have expected only the final table to get paid. But the Bike pays 18 spots for tourneys of 100 or more, which seriously dilutes the prize pool. Top prize was only $1400.

I played a very tight game, but concentrated on stealing blinds when at all possible. My table was passive, which helped, and I was able to accomplish my goal quite nicely. Through three blind levels (20 minutes each), I stayed just ahead of the average chip stack and I hadn’t shown down a single hand yet. The next three blind levels were much of the same. Again, I hadn’t shown down a single hand. Then I got the dream hand. I’m in the small blind with 77. I have about 10,000 in chips and blinds are about 150/300. There are two limpers and then a player in the 6th seat raises to 1200. It gets to me and I consider folding but I’m starting to compute my implied odds. If I flop a set, could I win 7000 in chips to my 1000 I need to call here? I decided that I could, especially if one of the limpers calls. So I call and one of the limpers indeed does call. The flop is KQ7. BINGO! I hit my set AND got some high cards in there so I know that someone has a piece of that. I check, waiting to check-raise someone. The first limper bets out 2500. The raiser raises him up all in to 8,000. I push all in as well and the limper gets out of the way with what he says later is KJ. Easy fold in my opinion. The other guy asks if I have a set and I show him the bad news. He has KQ and I instantly become chip leader in the tourney. An hour later, I look up and there are only 3 tables left. Only one stack is bigger than mine and I’m looking good to final table this thing.

A few minutes later, I stack a guy on one of the best reads of my life. I had QQ in the SB (why am I always getting good hands in the SB?!?!) and it limps to me. I pop it to 4X the BB and everyone folds except one of the limpers. Flop is AKJ. WORST. FLOP. EVER. I check and he checks behind! Now I have a ton of information to work with. He limped PF, so AK is probably not his hand, but he called my 4X BB bet. So he has something good but he’s looking to connect on the flop. Then, he checks in position on me with AKJ on the flop! So it’s looking better and better to me that he doesn’t have an Ace or a King. The turn is a 4. I check again and this time he shoves all in. I go into the tank and work out all the logic I just typed out above. The only thing that makes sense with those moves is…an underpair. Maybe Tens or 9’s. It takes me a minute to think about and I finally make the call and he shows pocket 8’s. Genius!

There are a bunch of short stacks that are busting out and the blinds are starting to get aggressive. It’s been three and a half hours already but I’m very much in the zone. We finally get down to 2 tables and everyone is in the money. I’ve still got the second largest chip stack and we draw for the table seatings. As it turns out, the three biggest stacks in the tourney all get seated together, in a row, with me out of position on both of them! Couldn’t have been crappier. But I bide my time and end up losing nearly half my chips on a bluff.

Here’s what happened:
I had T2 in the BB and it folds all around to the SB who limps. I check my option and the flop comes AT7, rainbow. He checks and I decide I probably have the best pair here. I bet out the pot, he calls. Uh-oh. Is he slowplaying an Ace? I doubt it because I can’t see how he doesn’t raise an Ace preflop to take down the big blind.. Turn is a J. He checks and I smell a trap. I think the Jack helped him somehow. His call on the flop bet indicates to me that has something and the Jack seems to help a few hands. So I check. The river is a Queen. The board is now AQJT7. A King fills a straight so the Queen is a great scare card and I’m in position. He checks to me and I bet 6,000. This is about ¾ of his chip stack and effectively cripples him. My thought was that he has something like JT and he is going to fold to a straight on board. He goes into the tank for a while and I try to play some mind tricks. “Your two pair get cracked?,” I ask. He doesn’t respond. Finally, he makes a crying call with the sigh that comes when you know you’re beat. If only. He has 89 for the bottom straight and ends up taking the pot. It was a good bluff on my part and most good players would have folded two pair. I guess folding the straight is harder to do.

After that, my stack was crippled and I was down to an M of 5. I ended up pushing all in with AQ only to get called by AK and he spiked two Kings on the flop, putting me out in 12th place. For my $50 buyin, I got $75 in money. Still, it was fun.

Friday, May 9, 2008

California Trip Report – Part Three

My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for night...

I got to Newport Beach around 11PM and checked into my cute little hotel about a block from the beach. After I put my stuff down, I immediately ventured out to see what the beach was like at night. It was a Saturday night and, as you’d imagine, the beach and boardwalk were full of kids hanging out. The energy was fun and I managed to take a midnight stroll in the ocean, sans footwear. The Pacific is COLD!

I woke up in the morning with visions of L.A. poker rooms in my mind. But poker wasn’t on my agenda quite yet. First was the Santa Monica pier. My ex’s cousin, Michael, lives in California (he’s getting his degree in Physical therapy) and we’d arranged to have lunch together. I drove to my last hotel in Marina Del rey and he met me at my hotel at 2PM and we drove the short distance to Santa Monica. The pier is a fun place, if smaller than I imagined it when I saw it in Lost Boys. The beach was absolutely crawling with people and the pier was busy with artists, sculptors and souvenir stands. At the end of the pier is a middling Mexican restaurant we had lunch at. The only saving grace was that it had beautiful ocean views all around. But it was strange because there were pigeons in the place, walking around like nothing was going on! We caught up for a while and he dropped me off after a nice few hours. It’s been a very long time since we had spent time together and it was probably the nicest part of my trip. When you get married to someone and become part of another family, divorce hardly ever takes away that feeling. At least it didn’t for me.

I napped for a bit at my hotel and got up at 8PM, ready to hit some more poker rooms. The farthest room away from me was Hawaiian Gardens. I drove there and was stunned. Absolutely floored. There were 120+ rooms in a huge tent-like room and there were no empty tables, at all. I couldn’t believe how much action there was here. There were multiple Omaha, Stud and Holdem tables going, at various levels, in addition to at least 70 NLHE tables! WOW. So this is what California poker was all about. I’ve been thinking about why there was so much action in L.A. and it hit me. These people can play every night of the week because it’s only a 20 minute ride to the tables. In New York, you have to travel at least 2 hours each way, which pretty much limits your poker playing to weekends. But in L.A., these rooms are hopping EVERY NIGHT. It makes a big difference. If you don’t believe me, try to imagine there’s a 120+ table poker room in Times Square. That’s about the same commute as it was for me to get to Hawaiian Gardens. I don’t want to get into my insanely bad O/8 play, but I lost another three buyins. Ouch.

I played until late in the night and when I left, I had two choices. Go home, or keep going. For whatever reason, I decided to keep going. It was daylight when I left Hawaiian Gardens and I thought to myself, “It’s daylight on an early Monday Morning. What better time to go to Compton? All the gangstas are sleeping!”. I set my GPS to Crystal Park Casino in Compton and prayed for the best. I needn’t have worried. The casino is right off the highway and you never have to go into the general neighborhood. Befitting the hour, the place was deader than dead. It’s also really small. Still, they manage to cram 30 tables in the back, but no one was playing. I decided to work off some energy anyhow playing Pai-gow. Other than a few interesting rule changes (The joker counts as a WILD card!), the game is pretty much the same. The dealer was cruel to me, dealing me Pai-Gow’s for 7 out of 10 hands! It was insane. The whole time, a woman is sitting next to me, not playing at all. She looks to be in her early 40’s and other than a late age weight gain and a really bad case of adult acne, she wasn’t terribly unattractive. I was talking politely with her and the rest of the table and we all were having a good time, despite my losing streak. When it came time for me to go, and here’s where it gets odd, this woman gets up and follows me to the cage to cash out! I didn’t sense anything odd about her but I was curious. Her friend at the table had given her some money for a cab ride home, but when we walked outside together, she asked me to give her a ride home! I was way too tired to be made a conquest of some cougar, besides for which I wasn’t interested in picking up older woman at 7:30AM in Compton! I declined and she called me a “dud”. Then she asked if I could at least drive her to the Metro station, which was actually in sight of the casino, a five minute ride. I didn’t see the harm and I went along with it. We chatted amiably on the way and I found out that she was leaving because the casino security had actually kicked her out! Turns out she’s a regular who had run out of money and even though there was no one in the casino, the gendarmes didn’t like a woman with no money just sitting there. She also confided to me that the reason she didn’t have her own car was that she had gambled it away. Wow. The dregs of society flock to me. I dropped her off and shook my head in disgust.

By the way, I get the irony of a guy who uses his vacation time to tour poker rooms bemoaning the gambling addicts in Compton! So save it!

At this point, it was perfectly light out, but I kept pushing through my sleepiness. I figured that the more poker rooms I could bang out now, the more time I would have to myself later. So I went to the next closest room, which was the Hustler Club, owned by Mr. Larry Flynt. The club is in a really sketchy part of town and it doesn’t help that the place looks like it was designed by a pimp who thought it was ‘classy’. The room is circular and the walls are upholstered in plush red velvet. The chandeliers are over the top for such a small space and there are about a dozen full size Klimt reproductions on the wall, which give the place an entirely decadent feel. There were two poker games going at this ungodly hour but I didn’t feel like sticking around, so I collected my poker chips and left. The whole room made me feel dirty.

A mile away was the Normandie casino. By far the most ‘ghetto’ casino I’d visited, it was dirty and populated by really unsavory characters. I played a few hands of 3-6 limit and hightailed it out of there. A truly disgusting place.

The final stop in my 37 hour day was Hollywood Park (hey, it was on the way back to my hotel!). The facility is really nice for a racetrack. There are about 60 tables with an old fashioned brush board which is on a podium elevated above the floor. I played a few minutes at 1-2NL before blowing yet another buyin in O/8. I’ll learn one day, I swear it. I drove back to my hotel and slept, a lot.
More to come soon, including my near Trifecta, my cash in a Bicycle tourney and the two best reads I ever made in my life.

California Trip Report – Part Two

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light…

I got up relatively early from my previous day of casino hopping and went out to find sustenance. The good news about California is that it is CHOCK full of good taquerias. That means good Mexican street tacos, which I absolutely love. They constituted probably 2/3 of my meals during the week. Hey, when in Rome…

I only had two casinos on tap for today. Lake Elsinor and Pechanga. Lake Elsinor is hardly a casino. It’s a motel with a VFW style room attached to it with about 15 tables in it. When I got there, I had some coffee in their diner and then signed myself up to the O/8 table, because I’m a glutton for limit game punishment. While I was waiting, I sat at a 6-12 HE table. The action was SICK. People raising and re-raising just for the hell of it. I sat tight and waited for a few premium hands and then pumped them good. I was able to walk away with a good hundo of profit when I decided to pick up and leave. This place was clearly for locals only and I wanted to see what Pechanga had to offer. Before I left, though, I sat for some Blackjack at one of the two tables they had going. I saw something very odd there. There was a guy in the corner of the table banking every hand. I’ve seen people banking table games like Pai-Gow, but this seemed different somehow. I found out a few days later what the deal was. It turns out that in California, Casinos (other than Indian Casinos) can’t bank their own games. Instead, they contract out corporations (like Network Management, Inc.) to bankroll the table games. An employee of the company sits at the table with a rack of chips that belong to that company and pay out the dealers as needed to pay out the players. It’s a very odd system but that’s how it works.

Something else I noticed that separated California poker from other places. In California rooms, the rake is taken BEFORE the hand starts. To compensate, the blinds are larger than normal for the same buyin games. For example, a $200 max NLHE game has blinds of $3-$5. A dollar is taken immediately from the small blind to pay the jackpot drop. The other $4 or $5 dealers is taken as soon as the flop comes. This is different, and more expensive, than the %10 rake taken from the Atlantic City casinos. Don’t ask me what happens if there is no flop, I wasn’t paying attention.

I got to Pechanga in the early afternoon and I was seriously impressed. They put some SERIOUS money into this place and it shows. It’s at least the equal of the Borgata, except the patrons aren’t as young. The poker room is equally spectacular and it’s upstairs from the casino floor so it’s away from the noise of the floor. You go up an escalator and past some glass doors into a huge open room. There are about 60 tables or so and in the center is a slightly raised podium with the high limit tables. Above this podium, on the ceiling, is a huge three sided TV screen which, tonight, was showing the DeLaHoya fight. All around on the walls were other huge TV screens. The ceiling height was at least 35 feet, so it made the room look gargantuan. Unfortunately for this potentially world class room, the place was more than half empty. On a Saturday night, that doesn’t bode well. I played a whole bunch of O/8 at Pechanga, and was rewarded by losing 3 buyins. In my defense, weak though it is, even the other players were bemoaning my ridiculous bad luck. But that doesn’t excuse my strange addiction to this game which I am clearly not good at. Sometimes, when you see someone staying in for three bets with an inside straight draw, on a paired board, and then winning(!), it makes you crazy.
Luckily, I had to leave at 9:30 in order to drive to Newport Beach and check into my next hotel. Sunday was set aside for sightseeing, and some face-time with a former family member.

California trip report – Part One

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…

I was stupidly excited for my trip to California at work. The clock had barely touched 4 when I said my goodbyes and sprinted out the door, rolling luggage in hand. The jubilation was juxtaposed with the aura of death clinging to my office of late, due to the mass numbers of layoffs happening recently. I couldn’t care less though. Poker awaited me on the sunny west coast.

I took the A train to the Air Train, this time using the southern route to Howard Beach rather than my typical ride to Jamaica station. The Howard Beach route is faster by about 15 minutes, so yay me for learning something new! I boarded my Virgin America flight and was awestruck immediately by the amenities available in coach. This airline is like JetBlue, on crack. Not only do they have an inflight entertainment system with multiple satellite TV channels, but the same system also serves up music and movies as well. With a swipe of a credit card, you can order up to 24 or so movies right to your screen. There were also about 150 albums to choose from to listen to. You could even make your own custom playlist, ala Ipod. Oh, and there were 4 electrical outlets available in every row of seating. And the best feature on the plane, you can order (via your inflight entertainment system, natch) meals delivered right to your seat. Hooyah! Best. Airline. Ever.

After a long but pleasant flight, I landed in LAX at about 10:30PM. I got off the flight quickly and ran to catch what turned out to be the very last shuttle bus to the Enterprise rental car facility. They were closing down, but managed to get me into a fullsized car that was an upgrade from my economy because it was so late at night. I happily threw my stuff in the trunk and started to drive away. I hadn’t gotten more than 50 feet when I heard a rattling coming from the front wheel well. When I stopped the car, the noise stopped. When I moved again, it started up. This wouldn’t do at all. I was going to be here for a while and I need a dependable vehicle. So I walked back in and told them there was a problem. As soon as they drove it to test, they agreed and asked me to pick another car. I picked the Audi Convertible but they nixed that idea (Hey, I tried). Instead, I got into a Toyota Yaris (I hadn’t heard of it either). The car drove fine, even if it was a bit underpowered. The only thing that annoyed me about it was that it had manual windows and doors. They even make that anymore? I put my trusty Garmin in place on the dash and was on my way.

It was about a 50 mile drive to Riverside, California which was where I would be staying for the first two nights of the trip. I picked Riverside because it was centrally located between the Palm Springs area, where about half of the casinos I would see were, and LA. I arrived at midnight, precisely, and was disappointed to see that the Days Inn was actually a motel. One of the adventures of traveling on the cheap is that you never quite know what to expect. But I’m not a dainty traveler and a few nights in a cruddy motel room wasn’t going to kill me. I crashed immediately on hitting the pillow.

When I got up in the morning, it was another 90 minutes to the city of Indio (located about 30 minutes East of Palm Springs in the desert) where my first casino awaited. The Spotlight 29 Casino is a pleasant enough place. Small, but friendly, I arrived with high hopes of finding a game or two going and immersing myself into my experience. Lo and Behold, the poker room didn’t even open up until 10AM! I used the time to get a really great breakfast of something they called French Toast Bagels (thinly sliced bagels prepared like French toast). At 10AM, there was nary a single person waiting to play, so I collected my chips, called it a visit, and went on to the next casino right down the road.

The Fantasy Springs was the next on the list. It was about the same size as Spotlight 29 and had a nice archway entrance to the poker room. When I got into the room, though, I noticed something odd right away. There were no people. That wasn’t the odd part. There was no brush desk either! That’s weird. Who do I ask about games? The room was small, only 8 tables or so, and when I got a closer look I realized what had happened. All the tables were PokerPro tables. You know, the automatic ones that deal sit n’ gos without a dealer. Grrr… Since there were no chips being used, I decided that from now on, PokerPro rooms would not count as real poker rooms (Sorry Mohegan Sun). My trip was a few hours old and I still hadn’t played a hand of poker after two casino trips! WTF?

Undaunted, I hit the road again. It was closing in on noon now and the desert sun was high in the air. All around were interesting California desert scenery. I passed miles of windmills, like orange groves in Florida, and saw a few honest to goodness tumbleweeds. The hills were pretty and some of them were snowcapped too. The next casino I hit, Aqua Caliente (which by the way is the most racist name for an Indian casino ever!), actually had poker games going. It’s a beautiful facility, maybe on the smallish side, but the 11 table poker room was in full swing when I got there. I managed to sneak into an Omaha HiLo game after a small wait and eked out a tiny win after about an hour of play. But I couldn’t dally. I had many more casinos to go before I could sleep. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about this place. It looks like many other Indian casinos across the country, but at least it’s clean. One bad thing about the Indian casinos, though, is that smoking is allowed on the casino floor. Nothing like Laughlin, NV where smoking is a religion, but I could smell it a little.

Back in the car and off to Palm Springs this time. I always imagined Palm Springs as being this wonderful vacation resort town but when I got there, I found it’s just this little rinky-dink desert town with nothing to it. There are some nice golf courses, from what I understand, but that didn’t interest me. I pulled up outside of the Spa Resort casino and walked inside. Beautiful. They really put money into this place and it showed. The hallways were cool marble and the Southwestern theme was pretty without being obnoxious. The poker room was a small 8 table job which was running some low limit games when I got there. I managed to get onto the list of the No Limit game and we started a new table. I sat in the 5 seat and scouted out the competition. There were two people who knew like they knew what they were doing and one completely donkey looking guy. He was 5’9”, about 260 pounds and had really badly done tattoos covering his arms. He was also drunk, at 1:30p. After playing about 30 minutes and building a small profit off my $200 buyin, I flopped a set of 7’s on a board of Ks-7s-3h. One of the good players led out for $15 and I popped it to $45, trying to make flush draws pay. Stupid drunk guy (STG) smooth called on the obvious flush draw. Smart guy went into the tank before finally correctly putting me on a set, which he announced out loud. I wanted to punch him but it didn’t seem to matter. I had a fish on my hook and I was reeling him in. The turn was a brick. I moved all in for another $100 or so, which covered the other guy who didn’t hesitate to call. The turn was a spade. I knew I was beat but STG slowrolled the J2 flush like he had just taken down the WSOP main event. I got my money back from him later, or at least most of it, when I flopped a King flush vs. his top pair and he doubled me up. I wanted to stay to make some more money off an obviously weak table, but I had so many more rooms to visit.

A few more miles down the road was the strangely named Morongo casino. This was the first real poker room that I visited. It had about 35 tables, with quite a bit of action going when I got there in the afternoon. In addition, they had a few limit tables and some Omaha tables. In California, Omaha is more readily available than the few crappy tables available in New Jersey. Naturally, I wanted to play Omaha, which is an infinitely more interesting game to me than Hold ‘em. Mind you, I seem to suck at it, but I’m fascinated by the game. That curiosity is killing my profit at the tables though, and I’m probably going to have to give it up after this trip except for certain circumstances. So I sat down at Morongo to play 3-6 O/8 with a full kill (full kills are common for limit games in California). It took a little while, but I lost two buyins in short order. In my defense, when they dealt me the first hand, it had 5 cards in it. And it wasn’t a misdeal. Let me repeat that. In Morongo Casino, they deal O/8 with 5 fucking cards! I kept drawing to straights, not realizing that even flushes were suspect in this game! I left with my tail between my legs and headed down to my next destination.

Soboba was about 45 minutes out of my way in the middle of absolutely nowhere. At this point, it was 11:30 at night and I was starting to feel the effects of a full day. I got out of my car at the end of a full parking lot and legged it over to the entrance, where I was turned away. I had my camera slung over my shoulder and the redneck rent-a-cop stopped me at the door. “We don’t allow cameras in here”. Really? What the fuck do you think everyone is carrying in their cellphones, dickhead? But I learned long ago that it’s not good to argue with an armed man. So I legged it back to my car, locked up my illicit camera and came back to the poker room. It SO wasn’t worth the trip. The casino is a crappy little local casino and the poker room is whopping 9 tables. I eked out a small profit at the 3-6 table and left as soon as I could.

Even though it was late, I was still a little jazzed up with adrenaline. I decided that rather than go back to my hotel, I was going to visit one last casino to give me some more playing time the next day. And I’m glad I did. I trekked up another hour north to the San Manuel casino and I was very impressed. It’s a 60 table room, quite nice, with a whole lot of action going when I got there. By far the best room I had seen today. I killed some time playing 3-6 7 Stud while I waited for an O/8 table to open up. When it did, I played a 2 hour session that ended with me being exactly even for that table. Probably the best I did at O/8 all week! Grrr… Still, I was happy I had seen this place. It was a nice room and populated by lots of fun players. I drove back, very tired, to Riverside and fell asleep happily.