Random thoughts about my interests which include (in no particular order) poker, finance & investing, politics, football and whatever else I happen to see that piques my interest

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A result I can live with

The poker tables have not been very kind to us since we returned from New Orleans and Biloxi but last Saturday the PQ and I headed back to Derby Lane with hope in our hearts and a gambling jones to fulfill.  It was an interesting day.

We decided to play in the 1pm tourney on Saturday due to my need to work early on Sunday morning.  We were hopeful of a long run in the tourney so we didn't want to come home at 1 or 2 am like we would if we played at 6 pm.  I had to get up at 6am to head into work Sunday morning.  While only for a few hours, it's not ideal to be testing new reports on a few hours sleep.  So we decided to play early and this tourney had the same structure as our normal one so no big difference.  91 people ended up signing up for the tourney which was a decent turn out.

Early on, the cards were not much different from previous weeks.  No big hands, no pocket pairs, and not much I wanted to play.  My table was pretty aggressive with the guy on my immediate right making 2-2.5x raises in just about any position.  He was getting decent cards many times - he won with KJ at least 3 times - but I knew he wasn't raising with premium cards.  The good thing his raises did from my point of view was keep me from throwing chips around with some crappy cards just to have something to do.  Some other people attacked his raises so if I had gotten into some of these hands, I'd just have been wasting chips.  While we started with 20K, I really didn't want to splash them around the way hands were being raised.  Luckily the hands I tossed were not improving on the flop so I wasn't missing out on any chips.

We were in the fourth blind level at 200-400 when I look down at K-10 of clubs in early position.  My neighbor to the right is under the gun and makes his standard raise, this time to 1100.  I'm down to 17,500 here and with only a little over 40 big blinds I know I need to get into some pots since the poker gods are not rewarding me with aces or kings.  So I call the 1100.  Guy across from me calls then it comes back to the button who reraises but only to 2200.  This is an older guy and I know the hands he's played have been big hands.  I immediately think AA, KK or maybe AK but more probably AA.  The small blind surprises me by calling and my neighbor does as well.  Since I'm already in for half the bet and 3 are already in, I call as does the guy across from me.

Flop comes down A-8-7 with the A-8 of clubs.  Not too bad from my perspective.  Everyone checks around to the button who bets out 1200.  I was surprised he bet so small.  Which again made me think AA in his hand.  Small blind calls, my neighbor calls, I call, and the guy across from me folds.  Turn is the magical 6 of clubs.  Can you say nut flush?  It's checked to me and I decide not to fool around.  I am a bit worried about the board pairing and someone making the full house.  So I bet out 5500 which was a little small at about 1/3 of the pot.  The old guy calls which I did expect, the small blind also called which I did not.  My neighbor dumped it which was too bad.  Dealer flips over the river and I'm praying "Don't pair the board" which is rewarded with the jack of diamonds.

The small blind shocks me and pushes all in.  He has me covered by a little.  I take my time then go all in for less.  I'm hoping the button will call also but I'm disappointed when he decides to fold after thinking for a little bit.  I flip over my flush versus the small blind's made straight (he had 9-10 so when I turned the flush, he turned the straight and then improved to a higher straight on the river) and I magically go from 17,500 to a bit over 50K in one hand.

My cards don't really improve much from there but I am able to bluff steal a pot after showing down that flush.  Neighbor to my left gets into a hand calling a raise preflop. The flop is 2-2-4.  Guy with a mid pocket pair pushes at him and he ends up doubling up when they get it all in and he turns over the deuce-four suited.  The mighty grump strikes again.  A little later I call a small raise with the same cards, flop comes out 8-4-2 and I drag a decent pot with my post flop bet.  Some days that grump gets you in trouble, some days it gets you victory.

We come into the last hand before break and I'm feeling pretty good about having an above average stack, especially with the cards I've been getting.  Blinds are 400-800 with a 50 ante.  I'm sitting in the big blind with A-5 of clubs.  Guy in mid position who lost to my neighbor's 2-4 is sitting with just over 14K pushes all in and makes a comment asking if he can still rebuy (he can).  I'm not putting him on a huge hand and I like A-5 suited.  Everyone folds to me and I think for a while.  I sometimes get involved in hands right before the break, often to my detriment.  I get the dealer to count it down and it's another 13.5K for me to call.  I'm sitting at about 60K now so losing won't kill me.  So I finally do.  I was pretty happy he showed KQ offsuit.  Flop was nice, small with 2 clubs.  Turn and river didn't help either of us and I bust him.  Now I'm over 65K at the break.  Not bad for a guy with almost nothing worth playing.

The PQ comes by during break and she's doing ok sitting at 38K.  She does a double take when she sees my stack.  We talk a little bit about our hands - she hit quad 10's early on which helped her chip up.  Outside of that she said she hadn't had much to play either.  Break ends and we get down to it.

Now the weird hands started happening.  Fortunately I wasn't in them.  Aggressive guy on the button raises 3x the big blind and gets called by the big blind and a guy near me who had called preflop.  Flop comes down 9-9-2.  Big blind checks, guy near me checks and the button puts out a healthy raise.  Surprisingly they both call.  I'm wondering what everyone has that they feel they can call this but maybe they aren't putting the button on much of a hand either.  Turn is a 7.  Again it goes check, check, bet by the button.  This time the big blind goes all in over the top and the guy near me goes all in for less.  Now I'm really surprised.  The button is looking at the both of them and he's a bit confused.  He has them both covered and finally he says "Well, I have to call".  Then he flips over 10-9 for trip 9's.  Boy was he shocked.  The big blind flips over 2-2 for 2's full of 9's.  Then the guy near me rolls over 9-7 for 9's full of 7's.  The river was a king so the guy near me who had been getting short got a big triple up, the big blind lost a bunch but got some chips from the button who paid off everyone.  I'm sure he saw that 9-9-2 flop and thought Bingo but instead he was behind the whole way. 

We got down to 2 tables not long after this.  More crazy hands happened and in a short time we were down to 6 people at my table so we were broken and moved to the last 2 tables.  The PQ was knocked out as well when her A-10 lost to 9-9.  I still wasn't getting much in the way of hands, I did get AA and won a decent pot but otherwise I was pretty much treading water.  And with blinds and antes increasing I had to do some creative bluffing to keep my chip stack up.  Of course the crazy hands kept coming.  8-8 takes down KK when and 8 hits the river.  We were down to 11 players total, 6 at my table when 3 guys get it all in with AK vs 4-5 suited vs AJ.  Looks like AK is going to take it all down when an ace hits the flop but a river Jack gives AJ the hand and busts the other 2 guys.  That gets us down to 9 and we're all in the money as top 9 get paid. 

We redraw for seats and I've got 2 larger stacks to my right but the really big stack is across the table from me so I don't have to worry about him too much.  I'm probably 7th in chips at this point.  Not too long into it, the guy in seat 9 - the guy who won with AJ before - tangles with the lady in seat 10 and she busts him.  I can't remember the hands but he was ahead and she pulled out a straight on the river to take him out.  The funny thing was, she was the wife of the guy he had busted who held AK  when he got his Jack on the river.  We all got a good laugh out of that.  The big stack across the table tangled with guy to my right who had a good sized stack as well.  Big stack pushed with AQ into KK and did not improve so he lost a large chunk of chips.  Not too much later he was out and we were down to 7.  Now the 2 biggest stacks are sitting on my right.  We kept playing for a while and the other short stack to my left got knocked out.  I've pushed a couple of hands and because I've been so patient, no one has looked me up figuring I'm sitting on some good hands.  Eventually people start talking about a chop and we end up chopping it up.  The 2 big stacks got an extra hundred, the rest of us cashed out for $420.  Not too bad for a $60 buyin.  Definitely a result I can live with. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Fun times in the Big Easy

Recently the PQ and I took a little trip to New Orleans for fun, food, and of course gambling.  We had 3 days reserved in a hotel right by the French Quarter so we took the opportunity to make a roadie out of it and drive up the coast from the Tampa Area to NOLA with stops in Pensacola (to visit our niece Kristin at Univ of West Florida), Biloxi, and New Orleans.  Then we figured to stop back in Biloxi for a day on our way back so we weren't just driving through.

It was a good trip though not profitable on the gambling side.  It wasn't all bad at least and man did we eat well.  We left on Saturday morning and arrived in Pensacola around 4pm.  The drive went pretty easy all in all.  Good weather and traffic was pretty light going up US 19 almost to Tallahassee before we moved it over to Interstate 10.  We made a brief stop in Tallahassee to hit up the Whataburger for lunch.  Love me some Whataburgers and they don't have any restaurants in the Tampa Bay area anymore.  From there it was a little under 3 hours to reach Pensacola.  After meeting up with our niece we decided to grab some dinner at a little place, almost a dive, called Jerry's Drive In.  What a fun place, with some good food and beers.  We ate our fill then took the niece shopping so we could tell her mother she was no longer a starving college student.  We were pretty tired from the road tripping so we made it an early night.

The next morning we went over to the college again and grabbed Kristin so we could head out to Sunday brunch at a place called McGuires Irish Pub.  We'd been there before but never for brunch.  Brunch is served with Irish coffee (frozen or hot) and beignets.  The frozen Irish coffee went down very nicely indeed.  I had an omelet that was made with 6 eggs.  It was big but my appetite was bigger and I took it down.  Needless to say we were stuffed when we left there.  The restaurant was busy when we arrived around 10:30 and packed when we left.  Does a huge business on Sunday for brunch.  The PQ and I recommend it highly.

From Pensacola it's a pretty easy drive to Biloxi, only about 2 hours depending on the traffic through Mobile.  Mobile is tough to get through sometimes, there's a big bridge over the bay before you reach the city then you go through a tunnel right after you cross the bridge and traffic tends to jam up there.  Last time I drove through it was not fun.  We checked the traffic maps and there were problems going through so this time I stopped for gas a short time after crossing into Alabama and found a route around Mobile.  We didn't actually miss the city but we were able to route north of the city and hook up with I-65.  We went south on 65 until it met up with I-10 on the west side of Mobile.  Easy trip even if a bit longer in miles.  For me travelling is not the shortest distance between 2 points, it's the easiest way to get from A to B.  The less stress on the drive, the better I like it and I try to avoid the interstates whenever possible.  You really can't do that through Mobile unless you want to drive surface streets through the city but at least I was able to avoid the mess on I-10.  After Mobile we thought about travelling the rest of the way on US 90 right along the Gulf coast but decided we wanted to get to Biloxi sooner so we took the interstate the rest of the way.

In Biloxi we each had a free night at the Beau Rivage.  If you get a chance to stay there, I recommend it highly.  They know how to treat customers.  When we first got to the hotel, there was a quite a line waiting to check in.  I figured on a 30-45 minute wait in line but like a shot, about 8 or 10 desk clerks made their way to the counter and within 10 minutes we had a room.  Nice rooms at the hotel.  Very comfortable.  We didn't have a great view but we didn't care.  A room is where I lay my head between gaming sessions so as long as it's comfortable, I'm happy.  Later that night I went down to the front desk to make sure my free room reservation was attached to the PQs so we didn't have to move out and back in again.  The guy on duty handled it like a pro and about 2 minutes after I talked to him, we were all set.  Great staff at the Beau Rivage.  The next day I made sure I talked to the manager and told her how much I appreciated the great customer service and attention to detail of the staff.  I think she appreciated hearing it.  But I know everyone I dealt with at the Beau, from cocktail servers to gaming staff to front desk to restaurant staff treated us well.  BTW if you want to know how we got free rooms, the PQ and I have been playing some online slots on a couple of sites sponsored by the MGM.  One is called POP Slots and the other is MyVegas slots.  Both are pretty mindless ways to kill some time but we do rack up points as we play and those points can be used for things like free rooms, 2/1 and free buffets, drinks, free and reduced tickets to shows, etc.  Sometimes things are blacked out and you can't use them but on this trip, it worked out really well for us.

We had a good time in Biloxi but the gambling did not go so well.  I didn't really have a chance to play poker but did roll the dice at a few places there, all unsuccessfully.  The PQ also did not hit much on the video poker so it was not a profitable few days there.  I did manage to get a round of golf in while we were there.  There's an old golf course named Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport just over the border from Biloxi.  It was designed by Donald Ross who is considered one of the great early golf course designers in the US, responsible for at least a couple of hundred courses throughout the country.  I've played some of his courses both here in Florida and up in Rhode Island where I grew up.  Some I didn't even know he designed.

Great Southern is located directly across the street from the Gulf of Mexico.  I'm sure it had some flood damage from Hurricane Katrina and from Hurricane Camille back in 1970 but at least it's on land that is raised up about 6 feet from the beaches so it doesn't flood all that often.  It's a great old course  with a really nice clubhouse and bar.  You can tell it was built in the time before golf carts as the distance from one green to the next tee is pretty short while the holes are pretty close together.  It even has a train track dividing the course after number 8 so that you play the first 8 holes on one side of the tracks, cross over for the next 9, then come back over for number 18.  Apparently it was originally a 9 hole course until they bought the land on the other side of the tracks and added another 9 holes.  So number 18 was originally the 9th hole when the course first opened.
4th green heading right toward the Gulf

The course also has some great scenic views as you approach the green on the 4th and 18th holes.  What more can a man ask for from a course.  The course conditions were not fantastic but considering it was April and they had just come out of winter, it was decent.  And a fun course.  I shot 87 which was a good round for me, especially since I hadn't played much over the winter this year.  I got lucky on the 18th hole, as I pulled my approach shot into the greenside bunker but hit a good sand shot to 6 feet and dropped the putt for par.  Just like the pros do.

After a couple of days of fun in Biloxi it was time to head to New Orleans.  Ohh did we have fun there.  I've never spent more than a day or 2 there so this time we actually got to see the city, walk around, eat, drink, be merry, and gamble.  And walk we did.  Our hotel was on the north east side of the French quarter so whenever we'd get down to Jackson Square or further, we'd end up going through almost the entire Quarter.  We ate at a bunch of places we've wanted to like Mothers, Arnauds (not the main restaurant but the bar next door called Arnaud's Remoulade - we were not dressed for the main place), Cafe Maspero, Ole Saint (a pub owned by ex Saint Deuce McAllister) with hurricanes at Pat O'Briens, coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, and even a visit to the World War 2 museum.  I highly recommend every one of those places.  I almost forgot we had dinner at EAT New Orleans which was right around the corner from the hotel.  We finished our trip with breakfast at the Camilla Grill in the Garden District before heading out of the city Good way to finish the trip.

Along the way we did get in a little gambling at the Harrahs.  I had a really nice roll on the craps table, kept the dice for about 45 minutes on one roll and hit all the numbers for a nice bonus.  It was nice to finally get something going on the craps table.  I cashed out for $700 which was a nice comeback after my lack of success in Biloxi. 

The next night after dinner at EAT, I hit the poker room at Harrahs.  I'd played there one time before and remembered it seemed to be a pretty loose room.  I was not wrong.  A little after I'd signed up to play $1-3 no limit (the lowest stakes there), they opened a new table.  I got my favorite seat next to the dealer.  For a new $1-3 table, the max you can buy in for is $300 which just about everyone did.  If you go to a table that was already open, or if you bust at your current table, you can buy in for whatever the biggest stack at the table has.  Most of the time, people were raising for $15-20 preflop, sometimes as much as $25-30. 

The very first hand after we sit down, guy in early position raises to $20 and gets 3 callers.  Flop is Ace high.  He leads out for $50 and only one guy calls him.  The next card is low.  No flush or straight on the board yet.  Original raiser leads out for $80 and is called by the other guy.  River is a 2.  Raiser goes all if for another $150.  Other guy thinks for a couple of minutes and finally calls for all his chips.  Original raiser flipped over AQ while the guy who kept calling turned overe AJ.  The loser immediately bought in for $600 and continued playing (and losing) eventually giving away his second buy in - unfortunately not to me. 

While the loose playing continued, I kept waiting for a hand to play.  Very few hands were unraised preflop and I was not getting cards worth calling a raise - which didn't stop many of the other people from playing hands.  I saw some pretty loose calls and chips going back and forth around the table.  After 2 people to my right busted, a lady and her cowboy boyfriend - who was much younger - sat down and bought in for three or four hundred each.  She played fairly normally but he didn't meet two cards he could play.  Won a bunch of chips with some unlikely hand, like 9-6 when he hit 2 pair but he gave it back.  He ended up buying back in for another 500.  Finally I get a decent hand, Q-J suited, and the hand wasn't raised preflop so I called in late position.  Flop is perfect, K-10-9 rainbow.  Small blind leads out for $15 and 4 people call.  Turn is a 6 and he pushes in for $41.  It's folded to me and I call.  River is a blank and he flips over K-10 for top two pair but not enough to beat my flopped straight. 

That got me started and put me up about $100.  A lady moves to the seat next to me and announces she had already lost $1000 on another table and wanted to get it back.  She and I tangled on one hand and ended up chopping when we each rivered a straight.  Then I called a preflop raise to 15 with A-9 of clubs.  Flop was all low but had 2 clubs.  There was a bet of $25 but 3 people called before me so I figured to see the turn.  Turn was the Ace of spades.  Guy across from me bets out for $50 which surprised me since he didn't lead out on the flop so I put him on an ace but watching him play previously, I wasn't convinced I was behind him at that point (though I probably was) but when cowboy boyfriend - well on his way to losing his second buy in - calls, I figure why not.  River is a beautiful 2 of clubs.  Checked by the guy across from me.  I'm really figuring the cowboy will bet but he checks to.  So I put out $85.  Guy across from me looks at me for a minute then calls.  I'm hoping cowboy will call too, I know he will with any  kind of hand, but he folds and I flipped over the nut flush.  Guy looks disgusted and folds and I'm now up about $300. 

The lady who had lost $1000 then gets into a betting war with the guy in seat 1 and ends up getting calling his all in bet on the turn for something like $425.  Between the two there is about $1000 in the pot and she cleans him out.  She had AK on a King high flop and he never showed so I'm not sure why he thought he was ahead but this made her pretty happy.  Now she's only down $500 for the night.  I had to leave soon after as it was getting late and we were leaving in the morning but it was a good night for me as I was up about $350 at that point.  With that and my great craps roll I left New Orleans a lot better off than I got there.  A great ending to a great trip.

From New Orleans we went back to Biloxi for a night before heading home to sunny Fla.  Had dinner at our favorite barbecue place there, The Shed in Ocean Springs.  Funky wreck of a place but what good barbecue.  I've been there 2 or 3 times before and it has never disappointed.  The smoked sausage is great and the sweet potato casserole is fantastic.  We gambled a bit but had no luck there.  The next morning we went to a seafood place called McElroys which is right over the bridge from Biloxi in Ocean Springs.  They serve a great breakfast and I had to admit their beignets were better than the ones we got at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.  They were hot, light and fluffy with a crunchy crust.  Cafe du Monde was good but these were better.  Best I ever had I think.  With full stomachs and some cash still in my wallet we headed home after a really fun vacation.  I look forward to our next trip to New Orleans but next on tap is Vegas in October.  I am ready to go now.     

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sleeping with one eye open

Back to Derby Lane we went last Saturday night to take another shot at the 6pm tourney.  We've been running pretty good in the tournament, one of us has cashed in it maybe half the time.  I chopped with 3 others a few weeks ago for $600 and the PQ chopped it a week or 2 before.  So Saturday we felt pretty good about our chances.

I've been trying to be a bit more cerebral in my approach, think it through a little more and also be more aggressive, especially in position.  I'm still not playing all that loose but in late position I'm playing back a bit more and raising a bit stronger while out of position I'm avoiding playing some hands I might have played in the past.  I'm also watching the betting habits of my opponents more and that's paying some dividends too.

We got to the room a bit early so I decided to play a little 1-2 no limit holdem while I waited on the tourney to start.  Didn't have much going on but I made a couple of hands and was up about 15-20 bucks when the tourney started.  I just stuck my chips in my pocket and headed over to table 3-4.  I sat down just in time for the first hand.

Unfortunately that didn't mean much.  I really did not get much to play with for the first few levels.  I did manage to use my position to take down a couple of pots.  That kept my stack near the 20K starting level.  In the third level I called a raise with 8-9 of hearts.  Flop was 8 high with 2 hearts.  I bet into the raiser and he called my bet.  Next card was a black jack.  I bet again and he let it go which put me over the 20K stack.  I really didn't play much else until right before the first break.  I was in the small blind with JJ.  Blinds are 400-800 and a guy across from me raised to 1600.  It was folded to me and I reraised him to 3600.  That got his attention because he knew I hadn't played much but he did call my reraise.  Flop was A-7-2.  I had put him on a pocket pair by his raise, I hoped it wasn't aces, so I led out for 4500 and he flashed me QQ before folding.  I told him I had AQ.  Poker players are such liars.   So I made it into the break sitting on 28K and while that wasn't a big stack, I at least felt I could still play.

At another table, the PQ was doing quite well.  In the 2nd level, she had gotten all in with 2 guys.  She raised preflop with QQ and got called by the 2 guys.  Flop was a bingo A-Q-6.  First guy to act goes all in, the 2nd went all in and she called them both while having them covered.  Both of them had an ace and her set held up.  She was sitting on over 60K at the break.  Needless to say, I was envious.

In the first level after the first break, Derby Lane gives away an entry to a bigger 2 day tourney coming up in a few weeks.  It's usually a $150-175 entry fee tourney.  The PQ won an entry to one of them a few months ago as a matter of fact.  She didn't score in it but she did have fun.  We were most of the way through the round when I looked down at the magical AA in my hand.  I'm sitting one off the button and of course everyone folds around to me.   The blinds were 600-1200 with a 100 ante.  I'd been watching the guys in the blinds for a while and felt pretty sure if one had any kind of hand, they'd push all in.  So I decided to just call.  One thing I've kept in mind is a saying TJ Cloutier wrote back when I first read some poker books "If you're not gonna raise aces, don't go broke with aces".  If the button and blinds all called, I was prepared to play very carefully unless I really hit my hand.

The button and small blind both called but the big blind bailed me out and pushed all in for almost 20K.  Thank you sir.  It came back to me and I thought for a bit.  I really didn't want to play this one multi-handed so I pushed in for almost 30K.  The other 2 folded and we flipped over our hands.  He had A-10 off vs my AA.  First card on the flop was a 10 and I'm thinking, "damn he's gonna flop a set."  But no, the other two cards were an Ace and an 8.  All were hearts but since neither of us had a heart, I was safe unless it came runner runner hearts for a split pot or 10,10.  Turn was a 9 of clubs and I'm safe.  River was the 8 of spades and I've got Aces full.  Which turned out to be the top hand of the level at that point.   The dealer had forgotten about the promo and so had I for a moment but then as he was gathering the cards I asked him if that wasn't the high hand.  He turned it back over, called over the floor and they confirmed the hand.  It ended up holding up so not only did I win over 20K on the hand, I won an entry to the big tourney.  Win/win even if I don't hit the money in this tourney.

After this I went on a bit of a tear.  I knocked out another guy when my AK beat his AQ.  Kept chipping up as I was getting a fair amount of respect on my raises.  Made a small flush with 3-5 and while I didn't take out the other guy, I hurt him pretty bad and he went out a little later.  I took out 2 small stacks with marginal hands, called an all in with A-4 vs KJ.  Flopped a 4 and he never improved.  Then I raised a small stack in the big blind with J4 suited from the button.  He went all in for a little more with Q-8.  He flopped an 8 but I turned a 4 and rivered another 4.  Hard way for him to lose but I've had it happen to me enough times.

We were down to 2 tables before long and while I didn't take anyone else out, I did take chips off a few of them and used my stack against some small stacks.  We got to the next break and I'm sitting on 200K while the average stack is about 120K.  With the number of small stacks left and the blinds and antes, it didn't take long to knock out enough people to get down to the final table.  I look over at the other table, where me and the rest of my table will move and there sits the PQ.  They drew for seat cards over there first and I saw she was in seat 2 while seat 3 was open.  I know how much she hates playing right next to me (as if someone would hate playing next to me, I'm a nice guy aren't I?) and when we drew for seats at my table I was hoping for seat 3 just to mess with her.  I got seat 5.  I walked over to the table and when I got close I said "Where's seat 3"?   My wife, my nice wife with nothing bad to say to anyone, immediately says "son of a bitch".  Then I started laughing and said, "well I'm in seat 5".  I crack myself up sometimes.

We played for a while and one guy got knocked out putting us down to the bubble.   8th paid $170, not bad for a $60 entry.  The PQ was pretty short but not near the shortest stack.  We all agreed to pay the bubble $10 each and finally an old guy on my left went all in and lost busting the bubble.  Not long after this I tangled with the guy in seat 1.  He had about 3/4 of my stack.  Blinds were 4K-8K with a 1K ante.  3 of us saw an unraised flop of J-10-6.  I had J-9 in the big blind.  I raised to 28K and seat 1 surprisingly called me.  There were 2 diamonds on the flop so I thought he might have the flush draw.  Turn was an 8 of clubs.  I thought that was good for me, gave me the open end draw plus top pair.  I bet 35K and he surprised me by raising to 75K.  I should have dumped it there I think but I really thought I was ahead.  So I called and hoped for a 7 or a Q.  Luckily a 7 did not hit, instead it was the 4 of spades.  I checked the river and he went all in for about 42K more.  I went into the think tank but I really didn't want to call off most of my stack here on top pair, 9 kicker.  I was a little leery because I was surprised he didn't raise preflop.  His hand looked to me like he played a big over pair.  Or made the straight.  Turned out he had Q-9 and turned the straight.   It was good not to lose another 42K but that hand hurt me and put me under 100K.

We played for a while and I started looking for places to shove in.  I managed to bluff one hand with QJ and took down the blinds and antes.  Then I tangled with the PQ who actually had me covered now.  I was in the big blind with K8.  3 others called including the PQ.  Flop came out 8-7-4.  Small blind checked and I pushed in.  It folded to the PQ and she looked at me, looked at her cards, looked at me again and finally folded.  I took down a decent pot and got to live a little longer.  Shortly after we went on break again and PQ asked me what I had.  I told her K8 and she got a sick look on her face.  "I folded A8" she said.  I breathed a sigh of relief but I wouldn't have minded if she called and knocked me out as at least my chips would have gone to her. 

After the break, another guy went out in 6th.  PQ started getting short and from the button she pushed all in.  I'm in the big blind and look at 4-4.  I look at her, look at my cards and finally call.  She flips over A-8 vs my fours.  I really thought she might have a bigger pocket pair and I didn't mind if she did as then she could take my chips and make a deep run, but as it turned out my fours held up.  "I can't believe you called me" she kept saying.  She at least made a decent cash in 6th.  Not too much later the rest of us chopped the money with 5 of us getting almost second place money.  So between us we took 2 of the top 8 places. It was nice for both of us to come home with cash.  I picked up the tab for a light night breakfast hoping I wouldn't wake up in the morning tied down to the bed with the PQ taking a baseball bat to me.  But she forgave me (or so she said) and I've woken up pain free since then.  Tonight we're gonna take another crack at the 6pm tourney.  Hopefully we'll both be lucky again.   

Sunday, April 1, 2018

All Hail the Poker Queen

I just noticed I started this post a month ago and never completed it.  Sorry for the delay and I'll  be posting more soon. 

It was a Wednesday night, like any other Wednesday night.  Well not quite like any other Wednesday night.  For this Wednesday was February 14th.  In other words, it was Valentines Day.

If you're like many guys, especially guys in a relationship, Valentines Day can be a very trying day.  Some women demand we prove our love to them on Valentines Day.  Many women want flowers, a nice dinner, chocolates or jewelry on Valentines Day.  And if she can show it off in front of the girls at the office and make them jealous, that's even better.  The holy grail is a delivery at work.  It's her way of saying "See, my man truly does love me" to all her co-workers.

I am a luckier man than most.  My wife is not like that.  Perhaps after 30+ years of marriage to me, her expectations have been tempered some.  Or perhaps she is a woman who truly knows what she wants and what is important to her.  And on Valentines Day, chocolates, flowers and a fancy dinner are not really important to her.  No, what truly says romance to my wife on Valentines Day is POKER.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Derby Lane holds a couples tournament every Valentines Day.  And they don't wait for the weekend to play the tourney, whatever day it falls on is the day of the tournament.  Which means if one of us stays in for the whole tournament, it's going to be a bit of a late night before going to work the next day.

The tourney started at 7pm, so I did take the PQ out for dinner before we headed over to Derby Lane.   Being the romantic guy I am, we decided to hit the Village Inn near the track for dinner.  If you aren't familiar with Village Inn, it's a slight upgrade on Dennys with some really good pies.  The whole restaurant screamed love and romance.  Well not really.  But we had a decent quick dinner and headed off to the track.

When we got there we noticed it did not seem like the tournament was going to be too full.  While we were about a half hour early, there just wasn't that many people hanging around.  The tourney usually has 50 couples in it but there was no where close to 100 people there.  As it turned out only about 30 couples ended up playing in the tourney.  That was a little disappointing.

The structure of the tourney is like the typical no limit hold em tourney except there is a time limit.  At a certain time they call last hand and the tourney is over.  It usually lasts between 3.5 and 4 hours.  After the tourney ends they combine the chipstacks of each couple remaining - if one is knocked out then you just count the one left - and declare winners based on chip counts.  You get a fair amount of play for your money as it was 15K to start and 20 minute blind levels but after a couple of hours with the blinds and antes getting up there, you gotta get something going.

Well the tourney did not start out great for either the PQ or myself.  I was down a couple of thousand early and she was too.  Neither of us were getting too much to play with and only a lucky straight kept me around my starting stack for the first hour or so.  We got a break about 2 hours in after 6 levels. I was lucky to make a hand right before the break and actually got to the break with 22K.  Not great but better than I had been doing.  The PQ was in much worse shape as she was down under 10K and just not getting anything.  But she was staying in and not playing foolishly.  I talked to her after the break and told her we both would need to get aggressive if we got playable hands and try to build some stacks.

Well in my case, that was not meant to be.  I hung on for another hour but without much to play or luck, I watched my stack dwindle.  I did manage a couple of opportune steals but that wasn't enough to offset the blinds and antes for long.  At about the 3 hour mark I pushed in with 99 only to see the gal next to me flip over KK and my tourney was over.

To my amazement, the PQ was still hanging in.  She still didn't have a big stack but she had managed to double up and was being patient while waiting to pick her spot.  But I knew even if she made it to the end of the tourney, she was far to short stacked to get into the money, especially without a partner.  Last year when we played the tourney, I had done pretty well but she was short stacked for a good part of the tourney.  I kept my stack and even added to it and when the time limit hit, I had a decent amount of chips.  But not enough to get into the money I thought.  But she was still in the tourney as well and had done quite well after the break to build some chips.  She had only a little bit less than I did and our combined stack was enough for 3rd place.  But this year did not look like it would be our year.

I was sitting in the bar near the poker room watching the play and messing around on my Ipad while the PQ decided to do something about it.  We knew the tourney would end soon and she had to take some chances.  She got aggressive and made a nice double up but was still one of the shorter stacks, especially since it was down to one table and two of the ladies from my table were sitting there with big stacks.  The last hand comes around and she decides to push it all in with KJ .  4 others called but she flopped a king and took down the hand for a massive pot.  She went all the way from 6th or 7th  chip stack to 1st in one hand.  And that's how the tourney ended.  When they totaled everyone's chips, ours were number one.  Thanks to her.  I'd like to think I helped but it was not true, it was all her.  She kept patient, picked her spots, got a little luck, and took down the tourney win.  Needless to say it was a good Valentines Day for us, maybe not quite as good as the one in 1984 when I proposed to her, but still a damned good night.  So all hail the Poker Queen, Valentines Day Poker Champion!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Back from Sin City

Got back last weekend from Las Vegas after 6 days of fun and games.  It was not a profitable trip, in fact I tried to find new ways to lose.  I'll detail a few of the ugly ones a little later.  I did play a lot of craps - mostly poorly - a fair amount of video poker and even some regular poker.  Nothing went well until the day we flew home.  Then it all turned so at least we left on a high note.

We arrived on Sunday morning.  The flight out of Tampa left at 6:15am and was packed.  We had to get to the airport around 4:30 am, fly to Houston and change planes there.  Then another packed flight to Vegas.  Arrived about 9:30 am Vegas time.  Who flies from Tampa to Houston at 6:15 on Sunday morning?  Apparently a lot of people.  I was not too surprised about the flight from Houston to Vegas though.  Every flight I take to Vegas is full it seems.

We had grabbed a bite to eat at the Tampa airport around 5:30 am but that was 7 hours before we landed so after picking up our rental car - big thanks to Hertz, they make it so easy to pick up and drop off cars if you sign up for their Gold Plus Rewards - we headed to the Strip.  I thought it would be nice to see if we couldn't get a cheap breakfast at Ellis Island so we stopped in there.  Got a great parking spot and apparently hit the cafe there at just the right time between early morning rush and late morning rush and got seated immediately.  The Poker Queen got the NY Strip and eggs for 6.99 and I took the corn beef hash and eggs for 7.99.  Almost the cheapest meal we had the entire time in Vegas.  But we did eat well.

We gambled a bit there while Pittsburgh was losing to Jacksonville.  That was sweet.  There was some leather lunged Steeler fan in the bar cheering every time the Steelers did something right and imploring the defense to stop Jacksonville.  I saw Jville was up 2 scores at the half but the way he was cheering after that,  I figured Pittsburgh had come back and taken the lead.  So imagine my surprise as we were leaving to see the Jags up by 10 points with very little time left.  I saw a lot of sad Steeler fans that day after the game ended with a Jacksonville victory.  And I have to admit I did giggle a bit.  Not a Steeler fan here.

We both only lost a little playing Video Poker at Ellis Island, so after leaving there we still had some time to kill before check in at Ballys.  The PQ suggested we should go by the Hard Rock.  Now I like the Hard Rock.  I never do poorly there and she usually does well too.  This time she did not have good luck and I started off really rocky at the Craps tables but before I left it all turned around and I had managed to make about $40 after being down almost $200.  That's a win in my book.  Turns out it was almost my last win until we left on Friday.  OUCH.

Check in was easy and the room at Ballys was nice.  Plenty large enough.  Only thing they don't include in the rooms is a fridge.  I like having one just to keep water cold.  We ended up buying a small cooler and keeping it full of ice and some water bottles all week.  The weather was near perfect for Vegas in January.  Daytime temps in the 60s, at night it fell to the high 40s, low 50s.  And boy did we eat well.  Breakfast is big for both of us but since I had been sick the week before we left, my appetite was not what it had been.  So we pretty much avoided buffets until the day we left.  And while we went to some old (and new) standards such as the Peppermill, Ellis Island, and Cinnamons, we also tried out a couple of new places that we both enjoyed.  I can recommend the Lucky Penny at The Palms wholeheartedly.  Also we really enjoyed the Pantry at the Mirage.  Big thumbs up.  I almost never finished a meal at any of the restaurants which for me is very unusual.  After arriving on Sunday we went to see comedian Gabriel Iglesias (Fluffy) who's last show at the Mirage was Sunday night.  After the show we were ready for a late dinner and the Pantry was terrific.

The Gabriel Iglesias show was a blast and much different than I expected.  They announced he was trying out some new material but the show was much more than just comedy.  Iglesias was much more introspective about life - both his and his life with his girlfriend and her son Frankie.  Gabriel has talked about Frankie in his shows for a long time, since he was a preteen, and now he's 20.  As a man who's now in his 40s, he realizes there is more to life and he talked about some of the things he's dealing with - his weight, expectations, family, etc.  It was a really fine show and he went way over the time he planned for the show, he was onstage for at least 2 hours.  By the end he had brought out his two dogs to the stage and was taking questions from the audience about different things.  The PQ and I really enjoyed the show.  He even allowed people to take pictures during the show.  He said, "the show is over, we're just talking now.  If you want to take pictures, go ahead"  The PQ snapped some on her phone which has an awesome camera.

We did go to one buffet, the AYCE buffet at the Palms.  They are still renovating the Palms and had recently opened the buffet.  It was good, some of the items like the Denver scramble were very good.  And it was pretty inexpensive, especially after using our player points.  I think our total cost was around $10.

As for the gambling, I took a bath on Monday through Thursday.  Craps, video poker, poker, it didn't matter what I played.  We played a poker tourney at Planet Hollywood on Monday.  My tourney came to an end when a guy with KK overplayed his hand and lucked into a river straight.  I raised with 99 and he reraised.  I had not been impressed with some of his other plays but figured him for a good hand from AJ up.  Flop was QJ3.  He made a smallish flop bet so I decided to call.  Turn was a beautiful 9 giving me my set.  I checked again and he pushed all in.  I wondered if he had QQ or JJ and flopped the set but I'm not folding a set there so I called his all in.  He had me slightly covered.  We turn over our hands and he's holding KK.  River is a piece of crap 10 giving him the straight and it's good bye to me.  I've been losing like this a lot lately.

The PQ continued on in the tourney and in fact later in the tourney called two all ins with AA, flopped an Ace and rivered the last Ace to more than triple up.  That got her to the final table and she ended up splitting the winnings 5 ways at the end for a $600 score and dinner for us at Gordon Ramsey's Burger just off the casino floor.  We ate there once before a few years ago and the burgers are excellent.  The parmesan truffle fries are even better and we split an order with our burgers.  The drinks however are quite pricey there.  Still the PQ had plenty left over from her victory.  While the tourney continued, I decided to play some 1/2 no limit.  Another beat down courtesy of a 10 left me muttering to myself.

I check from the big blind with Q9 offsuit and 6 of us see the flop of Q94 rainbow.  Nice.  I lead out for $10 and get 2 callers.  Turn is a J.  Not a great card for me but unless someone played QJ or called my post flop bet with K10, I still should be good.  This time I lead out for $27.  Guy 2 places to my left pushes all in and has me covered.  Other guy folds and I go into the think tank.  He had been pretty aggressive so I wasn't sure if he had me completely beaten or was pushing crap.  I thought for about 5 minutes but finally decided to call.  He had J8 suited.  I'm sitting pretty until another crap 10 hits the river and gives him the straight.  First I couldn't understand his flop call and while his all in was a good turn bet, I cannot believe another yahoo gets rewarded on the river against me.  After that mess I packed it up and left the table muttering about how much I hate 10s.

This poker karma extended to my next tourney as well.  We played a knockout tourney at the Mirage a couple of days later.  It was only 2 tables and the PQ didn't have much luck losing to some clown staying at the Mirage who comes down to the tourney wearing shorts, a tee shirt, flip flops, and a purple robe.  Guess it takes all kinds.  He was running all kinds of good though and knocked out 3 or 4 people and amasses a big stack.  I'm struggling to keep above water and we get down to one table then down to 5 people left after purple robe knocks out a decent sized stack across the table.  I believe they both had top pair and he out kicked him.  I'm sitting between big stack purple robe on my right and an older guy who also had knocked out a few people and had a good stack on my left.  The older guy called a couple of other all ins and lost including one of mine so he gave up a good piece of his stack.  I also made purple robe fold a hand when I pushed all in over the top of him and he had noticed how tight I had been.  Told him I had 2 pair.  Finally my turn comes.  I look down at KK in first position and just call the blinds.  No one raises and 3 of us see the flop.  It's jack high and not connected.  It's checked to me.  I lead out for 4K into a 5K pot and only purple robe calls.  Turn is a 5.  Board is still rainbow and not connected so I'm not worried.  Purple robe pushes all in.  Ok now I'm worried.  Did he play something like J5?  I don't care as it's too late in the tourney for me to fold so I call.  He was surprised but turns over J6 while I flip over KK.  He congratulates me on a nice hand.  Then the dirty dealer turns over a Jack on the river.  Goodbye.  I wasn't even upset as I expected something like that after the way I had been running. 

I did have a decent night in the Ballys poker room playing for about 3 hours and leaving up about $130.  Not a huge win but defnitely beat what I had been doing.

Friday we checked out of Ballys around 8:30 and headed over to the Palms for some breakfast and gaming.  I didn't play any craps but did stay about even on video poker.  The PQ won a little.  After that it was a quick trip to the Gamblers General Store near downtown for a few gifts then since it's on the way, we head to the Hard Rock before we hit to the airport.  That turned out to be a great decision.  I immediately hit the craps table.  There was a newly opened table with no one on it and another table with 5-6 people playing.  I went to the deserted one and immediately started rolling some numbers.  I played the All Small, All Tall, and All numbers bets.  I rolled all the small numbers and was one off the Tall numbers when I put a 7 up.  I was also playing the 6 and 8 and each time I rolled one, I added another $6 to the amount bet on the number until they were up to $30 bets.  I rolled a goodly number of sixes and eights.  So after my first roll I had made almost $100 profit.  Since no one else was on the table I kept rolling.  This time I managed to roll all the numbers for a nice $350 win.  One more roll and I hit all the small numbers.  I had also placed a bet on all the numbers for the dealers so they raked in some cash there.  I kept betting the hard ways for both me and the dealers and while I was able to roll some hard ways, I never got in a groove where I was rolling the same number more than once.  I ended up rolling for about and hour and a half all told and cashed out for a nice $600 win.  While not enough to make up for the rest of the week's losses, it's always nice to leave Vegas with cash in your pockets. 

At the same time I was rolling, the PQ was scoring on the video poker machines and she ended up cashing out for a few hundred dollars as well.  We both love that Hard Rock in Vegas.  I always seem to do well there. 

So that's my Vegas week in a nutshell.  Fun but not profitable.  Played a lot more poker than last time but again, not very successfully.  We should be heading back in late October so I need to practice my craps game a lot between now and then.  The PQ and I did manage to play a poker tourney last night at Derby Lane in St Pete and while she was out after a while, your's truly managed to hit the money for a 7th place finish.  Not a big cash but I'll take it.  Hopefully next time I'll avoid a couple of errors I made this time and do better.  But for now I'm satisfied.  And that's not always the case.