Arizona trip report - Day 4
After my harrowing day yesterday with the chills, spills and thrills that only dangerous weather driving and backroom poker in a strange town can offer, I took it upon myself to sleep late. I woke up around 11am in the Quechan Casino in Winterhaven, CA and puttered around the room getting myself ready until the knock on the door from housekeeping got my butt in gear. I went downstairs to the grill on the casino floor and had a sandwich for lunch before finally hitting the road at around 1PM. Before I did, I made a last loop around to the poker room to see if there was a game going. There was, but it was a $3-$6 lhe game and it was full. Rather than wait an hour to play for an hour, I hit the road for Phoenix. It was going to be a long drive through the desert and I was anxious to end my long driving part of the trip. After making a huge loop around the state, from East to West and North to South, I would finally be back at my starting point. Or at least near it.
It was about a 3 hour drive from Yuma to Phoenix but I was able to get some sightseeing in on the way. My first stop was the only decent thing to see in the town of Yuma, according to a dealer who had grown up in the area. The Yuma Territorial Prison. From 1876 to 1909, the Yuma prison operated as a hellhole stop for prisoners in the area. The cells are located outdoors in the hot desert and there is little protection from the elements as well as no protection from the snakes and scorpions which often got into the cells. Oddly enough, though, this was a very modern facility for it's time. It had electricity, a phone system and flush toilets! Still, some prisoners managed to escape and there was a famous prison riot at one time as well which ended when the superintendant of the prison ordered the guards to shoot the prisoners who had taken him hostage and dragged him to the main gate in an effort to get out. The guards opened fire and the superintendant was injured, but survived. A tough business.
After touring the prison, I went out on the road and it was a pretty uneventful drive. There were plenty of beautiful mountain vistas and sweeping desert views. All along the sides of the road were tall cacti and I desperately wanted to take a picture with me next to one. But the interstates in Arizona have barbed wire along the side to prevent you from wandering too far. Maybe it's private property? Or maybe the state doesn't want you to die on the nearby railroad tracks. Whatever it was, I couldn't get my cacti shot.
About 55 miles outside of Maricopa, which is where Harrah's AK-Chin casino lay near Phoenix, I spotted a sign that said something like 'National Petroglyph Monument, Next Exit'. That isn't exactly what it's called but the idea is the same. Petroglyphs, for the unaware, are symbols carved into rock by prehistoric peoples. The chance to see 10,000+ year old writing was too great for me to pass up. I took the exit and found myself on a long country road. The petroglyphs were ten miles away. As I drove, I noticed there there was no barbed wire along the road! In the distance, I saw a tall Saguaro cactus in the desert (the one with multiple arms) and I stopped the car and took some shots. Finally, a shot of me with a cactus!
I got to the petroglyphs and took a few photos. It was interesting to see the carvings, but after a few minutes you get the general idea. I read the placards placed by the National Park Service and was surprised to find that the symbols are usually archetypes and carry significance and meaning. But that's as far as my attention span would take me. I left the area as the sun was setting and made to to Harrah's in Maricopa, AZ at around 6:00p.
Because I was so far ahead in my schedule (I wasn't supposed to show up to Harrah's for another two days!), I didn't have a place to stay for the night. I was just going to play it by ear and go to a Days Inn somewhere but I took a chance and asked the front desk what they could do for me for a room. They swiped my Harrah's players card and informed me that I could be comped if I wanted a room! Um, sign me up! I checked into my room, which was a long and strange walk along the pool from the casino floor and went to the poker room.
For a Harrah's poker room, it was a little small. There were about 8 tables, of which a single game of, you guessed it, $3-$6 hold'em was going on. However, there was a tourney starting at 7:00p for Omaha Hi-Lo! I signed up quickly and only had to wait a few minutes for the tourney to start. I took my seat for the 3 table tourney and even though I got bad beat on one of the opening hands, I managed to recover and made the final table easily. However, blinds were escalating very very quickly and my holding were crap. Something was going to have to happen. As the table progressed and I managed to stay afloat, I noticed that I was fixing to bubble. 4 places paid and I was the short stack with 5 players left. But luck was on my side when a woman in the 10 seat decided to push with A4KJ and was cracked by the big stack who scooped with Aces full and no low. I thanked him for getting me into the money and promptly scooped the next two hands. With the blinds the way they were and the structure being what it was, that put me near the top of the leaderboard. The big stack proposed a chop and even though the 4th place person had a single BB to her name, I agreed for two reasons. One, I'm not a local and the prize pool was tiny so I was felt like being nice. Two, anything can happen, as seen by my vault into second place in two hands. The 4th place prize was only $30, so I'd feel like an idiot if I busted out in that position. Omaha Hi-Lo is such a fickle game.
We chopped for $81 profit each and moved on to a $3-$6 lhe game. It was a rollicking good time. There was a group of randy older women (who doesn't love randy older women) making completely inappropriate sex jokes and causing your humble naarator to blush something fierce. Seriously, grandmothers making cunnilinigus jokes are funny! Joanna, the loudest of the group, pegged me as Jewish immediately.
"You're a jew, aintcha?"
"Yeah, how'd you guess"
"Are you kidding me? Look at that schnoz!"
Ok, you got me. Joanna proclaimed that she "had a little jew in her" too to which her friend exclaimed, "You mean your boyfriend's here right now?". Dirty dirty women.
I got friendly with a seven foot tall black man (not an exaggeration) named Hawk who's something of a local legend in those parts. Aside from being friendly and gregarious in his own way, he hailed from Bed-Stuy, so at least we had Brooklyn to talk about. Two other folks at the table hailed from Brooklyn too, including Freddy who insisted to me that there was no such thing as a Syrian Jew. He should know, he said, he's Syrian! I think the large Syrian Jewish population near Avenue S and Ocean Parkway would disagree with Freddy but he was drunk and loud so I declined to argue. Freddy and I had a bit of a smackdown comparing girlfriends. Ali is 12.5 years younger than me and beautiful beyond compare, which usually wins these arguments but poker players don't measure along that yardstick. Instead, it seems to go with who's girlfriend is skankiest. Freddy pulled out a picture of himself with a girl who was maybe 30 (to his 50+), dressed in a halter top that completely exposed her side boob and a tatoo running along the side of her body. Ok, Freddy you win.
I played until 2:45a when I couldn't take it any longer and cashed out with +$150 in profit, bidding everyone a good night. It had been the most fun I'd had playing $3-$6 ever in my life.
More to come...