I was talking with Ali about her finals schedules this year and we agree that Dec. 4th - Dec 13th would be the perfect time for me to do another poker trip. I realize I've already covered this topic, but it brings a specific problem into relief that I want to address.
The Dec. 11th weekend is the Winter Blogger gathering in Las Vegas. I've been invited to this before over the past few years, and haven't been able to go for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with scheduling at my job. In past years, the proximity to Christmas meant that if I wanted to take off for this event, I'd have to work through Christmas season. Especially seeing as how my girlfriend is in Law School and has Christmas off (and celebrates it intensely with her family), it's in my best interest to take the Christmas week off vs. an earlier week in the month.
So when things lined up so perfectly this year, with Ali's finals being the exact weekend of the Gathering, and Christmas being on a weekend so I don't have to take any time off to celebrate with Ali's family, I nearly succumbed and booked a trip to Vegas.
So why didn't I?
One word: dedication. And sacrifice. Uh...two words. Dedication, sacrifice and an almost fanatical devotion to my quest. Three words. (Couldn't resist the Monty Python reference, sorry)
I said a while ago that I would visit every legal poker room in this country. Seeing as how vacations alone are very rare (Ali refuses to go with me on a 'poker trip') and I wasn't able to do as much traveling this year because of my job loss in January, I would be wasting a chance to chalk up some more poker rooms to my list if I went to Vegas. Now, it's true that there are about a dozen poker rooms left in Vegas that I haven't seen yet, so I could clear those out of the way if I went to the Gathering (Sounds like Highlander, doesn't it?), but there's a better than average chance that I will be in Vegas someday with Ali so I can hit those rooms up then. Combining poker room visits with trips including Ali is possible, if I do it carefully. For example, Ali's friend lives in San Francisco, so I got the go-ahead from her to take two days off from any long weekend we plan out there to hit up the Bay area rooms. New Mexico is another example. If I took a week off to visit New Mexico, I could see all the rooms in the state in 4 days and then fly Ali out for a long weekend of sight-seeing for the other three days. It's all a matter of planning.
So I decided to use my precious vacation time to go to Arizona, where I would never normally go for any reason other than poker, instead of Vegas. It sucks a bit, because I am positive that I'll have a kickass time in Vegas and not so sure I'll have such a great time in the high desert of Arizona. But if I'm serious about seeing my quest through, I'm going to have to make a few sacrifices. Personal traveling pleasure being one of them.
In related news, I've started inputting all of the poker rooms I've been to into Google Maps. I had started a while back but dropped it because of restrictions in the interface that wouldn't allow me to show more than a certain number of items on the map at one time. This limited the idea of me being able to see the entire U.S. map with every poker room I need to visit, or every one I've been to. So I'm working around the issue by doing maps of each state. Google is kind enough to allow me to overlay maps on top of each other, so for traveling and planning purposes, I can show a map of Iowa, say, and then, turn on maps of the bordering states in order to plan how to best see the largest number of rooms. Often, casinos exist just over the border of one state or another, and showing a single state isn't optimal. Also, the proximity of large cities with no rooms, to the border of states with lots of rooms, allows me to plan better flights. An example is Dallas, TX. Texas has one room in Eagle Pass, all the way on the south-west border of the state, but the Dallas airport, to the far north, is very close to the southern end of Oklahoma. So if I want to do the Oklahoma state rooms, I'd probably fly into Dallas and then drive North, ending up in Oklahoma City. Thank god car rental companies allow you to rent in one place and drop off in another. I wouldn't be able to do this quest very efficiently if that weren't the case!
Once I'm done with entering the data into the maps (using www.thepokeratlas.com, natch), I'll have two maps for every state with poker rooms. One map for rooms I haven't visited yet, and one map for rooms I've already been to. That's 130 rooms at the moment and 17 more to come with my Arizona trip in December. I've identified a few places in the country, so far, that would make good weekend trips. Fly in, drive no more than two hundred miles, see the rooms and fly home. If Ali has something to do that I can't be a part of, it's a good way for me to hit up some more sights.
It's still going to take me many years to complete this journey, and like I told Ali a few days ago, it will probably never really be done. New rooms open up all the time and I will NOT be taking a flight to the middle of Oregon and driving 350 miles, just because some room opened up with 2 tables in it. But I feel that as long as I make a good faith effort to see all the room's possible, I will still have accomplished my goal. What are my goals? To play a lot of poker and to see the country. Worthy goals, in my humble opinion.