Monday, October 24, 2016

The Cubs Are FINALLY Going to the World Series!

Sometimes you really do have to wait almost a lifetime for something. For myself and other Cubs fans around the country and the world, that day has FINALLY come. In my lifetime, I have lived through ...

*  The great collapse of 1969. A team with several future Hall of Fame members just faded in August and September. Harry Caray was still announcing for the St. Louis Cardinals at that time and was heard to sing and say "The Cardinals are coming, tra la, tra la," but it was the dastardly New York Mets who overtook the Cubbies and eventually won the World Series.

*  In 1984, the Cubs went up two games to none against the San Diego Padres in the five-game National League Championship Series. In game five, first baseman Leon Durham let a ground ball go through his legs, allowing the tying run to score. Disaster followed. The Cubs had this series and blew it. Friggin' Steve Garvey.

* In 1989, the Cubs faced the San Francisco Giants in the Championship Series. The Giants won the series in five games in what I remember as the series of first basemen. Will Clark went 13 for 20 and Mark Grace went 11 for 17. The Cubs had some great players, but the Giants just seemed to be the overall better team.

*  In 2003, the Cubs were within five outs of going to the World Series in game six. It will forever be known as the Bartman Game. The Cubs suffered a bitter losses to the Florida Marlins in that game and game seven. Although the Marlins were arguably the better team (they did win the World Series), the Cubbies should have won the series. No longer did people say "In Dusty, we trusty."

*  In 2007 and 2008, the Cubbies had great teams, yet were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectfully. Manager Sweet Lou couldn't bat for the feckless Cubs.

*  In 2015, the Cubs got hot as the season wore on and made it to the National League Championship Series, only to be swept by the Mets. My brother, thundering36 and I were at that final game. Although the defeat to the excellent pitching staff of the Mets was sad, it laid hope for the 2016 season.

With the Cubs finally making it to the World Series for the first time since 1945, the feeling is indescribable. The closest thing I can say is it is like Christmas when you were a kid ... times 50!

Unfortunately, a sad note is that the Cubs, like the White Sox in 2005, took too long to get to the Promised Land. My father, a White Sox fan, passed away 14 months before the Sox won the World Series. My mother, a Cubs fan, passed away this past June. Her grandchildren have made the hashtag #winitforgram on Facebook (the more recent posts -- not the ones for the grandmother who is 102 years old!). So I guarantee you, if there is some funky World Series play where the ball takes a weird hop for the Cubs, you can guess that my mother was probably involved from the great beyond.
In the meantime, I am wearing what I call the "Cubs smile" today. The sun is shining, the temperature is fine. Play ball! Or maybe even ...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Brief Update

Thanks to the people who shared their wisdom on my last post either through blog comments or private communications to me via other means. This past week at work was particularly brutal. Last Sunday, I had to work to prepare my office for any students who sought counseling assistance due to a local shooting. On Tuesday night, I was working with police to track down a person whom we considered a serious self-harm risk. Needless to say, there was a lot of stress this past week.

In some ways, the recent events almost seemed to muddle my situation further. I was at the top of my game and met the challenges I needed to. At the same time, I was reminded that maybe it is time to let go of my administrative responsibilities and get back to my regular job.

I chuckled at the people who said that my decision should include the amount of poker I will be able to play. The truth is, my poker is very much impacted by my job. Before I took on these additional responsibilities several years ago, I was heading to Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond about every other weekend to play poker. I now use the weekends more for relaxation, which usually does not include the 2 1/2 hour drive to play at The Shoe.

On Sunday, however, I am heading up to the Chicago suburbs to get a better idea of how much will need to be done to begin to get rid of the junk in my Mom's house. I plan on torturing myself by watching the Bears play the Lions, and then playing some $1/2 NL at Harrah's Joliet on the way home. Ahhh ... how sweet it would be to catch some of the bad beat jackpot which is now over $600,000. Heck, even the mini bbj is almost $35,000!

I hope to be able to write a positive poker post upon my return ... if I have time, that is. I am beginning to appreciate how valuable and elusive free time can be.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Crossroads: A Work Dilemma

An important decision time will soon be coming for me at work. I am usually able to make quick, good decisions for myself, but when it comes to my job, I sometimes struggle.

The recent history: In early 2012, my department at work was in need of a new leader. I actually wrote some posts about this back in 2012. To make this an anti-Rob post, I'll summarize quickly. I decided not to run and agreed to be the interim director for a year to help clean up a huge mess. One year was not nearly enough time to fix things properly, so I continued in the position for another two years. At that point (early 2015), I was concerned what finances might do to my workplace and thought that I wanted someone competent in charge in case some difficult decisions had to be made. The result was that I took on the responsibility of being in charge for another three years. That brings me to now.

Financial issues and a retirement made this the time to merge another department into mine. Meanwhile, I am losing some of my own staff, meaning that I will now be responsible for more things, yet have about the same staff size as before. I know that, no matter what, things are going to change and I have some decisions to make.

Scenario one: I fixed the things that needed fixing and was already considering calling it a day on the director responsibilities next April. I would say "no thank you" and would then have about three years to go until my retirement and could go back to my regular job and enjoy my final years.

Scenario two: I accept the new challenges that will take place next summer and be da man who finds a way to make everything work. This would be a professional challenge, which appeals to me, but would also be a major pain in the ass. I would do this without having all the conditions met that I think are needed in order for me to do this (get an associate director, get a bump in pay, get workers titles and job descriptions changed as I would like, ...) and would likely be frustrated.

Scenario three: I make a take or or leave it offer to my boss, who is in a very difficult position. He's trying to do what he needs to do for the institution and doing what the president wants, yet I also need him to advocate for me. It would be simple: I need this, this and this or I'll finish up my duties and let someone else be in charge on May 1. I return to my regular job and responsibilities and look forward to my final three years at work.

So I am currently perplexed. My boss is having a 1 1/2 day retreat at his house next week in order for our entire unit to work on challenges. He is a good guy, very smart and dedicated, but relatively inexperienced in his job. He is a poker player, so it is fun to talk about job situations in poker terms sometimes.

I have a number of competing emotions and ideas. I am the ultimate team player and think I am a good manager -- certainly a players manager type instead of a business-like company guy. I like challenges, and this would be one. I have a huge ego when it comes to work because I know I am damn good at what I do. However, there are other aspects that bother me. Although I am compensated very well for my regular job, the compensation I receive for being the head of the department is really peanuts. Despite trying to negotiate, whining and even carrying on at times, I haven't gotten been able to maneuver a respectable increase in that pay. Now I am trying to do it when we are having cutbacks and consolidations to save money.

Unfortunately, I also don't think others can understand how difficult my job is and the pressure I am regularly under. I think the appreciation will come after I am gone or out of my current position. I try not to harbor resentment, but there is some there.

Well, this is where I am as of today. Next week's retreat might clarify and some things. I am thinking that I could FINALLY get a bump in pay for taking on more, but I get the feeling that my desire for someone to be bumped up to associate director won't happen. It is difficult when you are solely the responsible person and don't have a back-up with official/compensated responsibilities.

I know that I have many readers who have great business and professional experience. Tell me what you think. I am open to whatever input you have.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Almost Back to Me

Things were not going too badly in May. I had a nice vacation in Las Vegas and was ready for the summer. However, there were a couple of things in my life that had potential to blow up ... and they did.

It had been evident for some time, at least to me, that my wife's supervisor, the principal at a private elementary/middle school, seemed to not like my wife for some reason. About a week or two before the school year ended, an email my wife received led her to believe that she, an at-will employee, would be fired. She confronted the principal, who lied to to her face told her no. Toward the end of May, I was taking part in a big picnic that the directors of my workplace hosted for our employees. During that, I heard from my wife that she had been let go and was treated very harshly. Meanwhile, I am gritting my teeth as I helping run the picnic. It was a shitty day.

Last December, I watched my mom for a few days after Christmas so that thundering36 could get a break away from taking care of her and go to Las Vegas. My mom was not too bad during the time I watched over her, but thundering36 let me know that he saw a cognitive decline in her during the first several months of 2016. In June, my mom seemed to be having some more severe issues, and it was recommended that she go into the hospice in-patient center for a few days for an evaluation. As I got ready to head up to visit in June, my brother told me that I needed to get to the in-patient unit right away. I had just started the trip and pulled to the side of the road, phoned my wife to quickly pack some clothes, went back home to get my wife, and headed to the in-patient center. My family watched my mother slowly die over the next week. She passed away on June 16, the day before my son's birthday.

The next couple months were pretty rough. I had already cancelled a quick return trip to Las Vegas and was forced to cancel a trip my wife and I were going to take to New Orleans. We also had a special hotel room reserved in St. Louis to celebrate our anniversary in July, but I just didn't feel like going.

I got a short respite at the end of July as thundering36 and I went to a couple White Sox-Cubs games, but the afterward the pressure at work was pretty intense. I went back to Las Vegas at the end of August and was joined by my wife for a few days, After returning, more intense work, which finally ended last Friday afternoon.

So in short, my summer really sucked. It was if there were clouds hovering over my head for a few months. I put on weight and overall felt like crap. It was part depression and part just needing to cope with some new realities. All the while I had a ton of pressure at work. Yuck.

However, I seem to have broken through since returning from Las Vegas. I've been on a diet and have dropped eight pounds. For the first time since last spring, I feel like myself again -- for better or worse!

And once again, a heartfelt thank you to my online and poker friends who were around for me this summer and helped me get through these past difficult months. The tweets, text messages, Facebook comments and blog comments all were a part of finally getting my life back to normal. I think I am about there.

Onward and upward. That is the right direction to go, right?

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Attack of the Man-hating Woman

I recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas (Aug 26-31) and have not yet had a chance to post about any of the happenings due to a busy work and leisure schedule upon my return . However, due to some tweets that were sent by myself and Vegas DWP during my Las Vegas trip, I have had several requests to post the story of how I was verbally attacked while playing poker at Caesars Palace. Since Vegas DWP was a witness and not directly involved in the situation, he is a much more impartial observer that I could be. In reality, since I was in the middle of the situation and seething, I don't have a coherent memory of the entire incident myself -- only bits and pieces I remember or heard.

Here is Vegas DWP's account of the situation. Afterward, I will comment.

The Scene:

So I’m playing 1-2 No Limit at Caesars Palace with lightning36.  It’s the first time we’ve met in person, so we’re chatting at the table for a couple of hours in a game that’s reasonably good.  There was a maniac at the table raising nearly every hand, straddling the button, and the action from the other players was rather good.  The table was friendly, if a bit on the quiet side (it was a Monday afternoon, after all) and we were having a nice time.

I was in seat 5, there was a player next to me in seat 6, seat 7 was vacant, and lightning36 was in seat 8.

Just as the button moved to seat 6, the player sitting there got up and left for a break.  About the same time, vile man-hating feminazi sits down in seat 7 right next to lightning36 on his right.

So just as we’re about the be dealt the next hand, I’m the small blind and there is a “missed blind” button in front of the seat next to me (seat 6) as the dealer is preparing to deal the next hand.

The “Incident”

Vile man-hating feminazi is still getting situated, unracking her chips, and doesn’t appear to see that the big blind is now on seat 7, where she’s just sat down.  At this point, lightning36 politely (and I stress, POLITELY, as I heard every word he said) mentions to vile man-hating feminazi that it’s her big blind.

The following conversation goes something like this:

Vile Man-Hating Feminazi (VMHF):  “I KNOW the big blind is on me.  You don’t have to tell me how to play poker, SIR.”

lightning36 (L36):  “I’m not trying to tell you how to play poker, just wanted you to know it’s your big blind, as I noticed you just sat down”


L36:  “I’m sorry, I was just trying to be polite and let you know”

VMHF:  “I think maybe you should just shut the fuck up and play poker”

L36:  [at this point, steam starts to emanate from L36’s ears] “I’m sorry, what did you say to me?”           

DEALER:  “Hey, please settle down and behave yourselves”

VMHF (to Dealer):  “I’m being perfectly calm, when this asshole next to me decides to ManSplain to me how to play poker”

L36:  “ManSplain?  Oh, you’re one of THOSE?”

VMHF:  “FUCK YOU, asshole”

Dealer (to L36):  “I need to ask you to stop, now, or else it’s gonna be on you – we’ll have you removed if you don’t calm down.”

L36 (to VMHF):  [sounding quite agitated by now] “No, fuck YOU, bitch.  Why do you hate men so much?”

VMHF:  “Men are useless – try to find me at least one decent one in this whole town”  [as if any man would go within a 100 yards of this witch]

L36 (to me):  “Can you believe this woman?  Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Me (to L36):  “We were having a nice time until she showed up – people who take the fun out of the game really irritate me”  [I said this loud enough so that VMHF would hear, but unfortunately she didn’t engage me – I would have loved to rip her a new one]

Dealer (to L36):  “This is your last warning – you have to stop now, or you’ll be asked to leave.”

L36:  “That’s actually pretty funny – I’ve never been banned before.”

VMHF:  “You and all of the rest of your kind should be banned from the whole planet”

At this stage, I’m surprised L36 didn’t smack her in the mouth, because that’s exactly what I wanted to do.  Shortly after the exchange above, the player immediately to my right left the game, and VMHF asked for a seat change and sat down right next to me.  I looked over at L36 and muttered “Lucky Me” … I guess VHMF didn’t hear me.

So ... there is Vegas DWP's version of the incident. As he mentioned, the table action was interesting because of the maniac who raised virtually every hand. I had even suggested a side bet between us if either of us was to take a big chunk of his stack (which Vegas DWP actually did, at one point). Although I was down a little at the time, I was in a good mood, as I was in Las Vegas, of course!

I 100% guarantee you that my reminder about the big blind was said in a polite, helpful way. The woman had just sat down and had her face buried in her phone. I was guessing that she was completely unaware that she was going to be in the big blind. I would have said the exact same thing to any guy as a simple matter of courtesy. I was completely astounded that she would talk to me the way that she did.

One thing I have been pretty adamant about my entire life is to not let idiots run over me. My anger was exacerbated by the fact that her invective talk was in answer to my polite, considerate verbal nudge. I just don't tolerate that crap in my life no matter what. In retrospect, I could have handled the situation much better, but she already, in my mind, ruined the fun at the table. For visitors like me who are recreational players and who have limited time, almost the worst thing that can happen is to have the fun taken out of poker.

I do remember, in the heat of battle, mentioning Donald Trump, knowing that it was bound to piss her off. I also remember saying very clearly and deliberately "Some guy somewhere must have really done you wrong at least once." My wife would be happy that, as much as I wanted to, I didn't call her "the C word."

I considered many other things to say, but as a professional counselor who supervises the mental health counseling, academic advising and educational planning for a population of about 10,000 students, it was certainly not a stretch to say it was pretty evident that this woman suffers from some pretty intense psychological issues. I decided that, despite my anger, I was not about to damage this woman anymore than she already is. Believe me, I am pretty sure that I knew exactly what to say that would have messed her up even more ... but didn't I guess that was about as humanitarian as I could get at that point. Or should I have said "huwomanitarian?"

I'm not sure what would have happened if the floor had been called over, which would have been the next step. I guess I would have faced a decision about whether or not I was ready to leave the poker room. I did, however, scan the poker room, looking for a stapler. If only ...

"This guy is the nicest guy in Las Vegas."   A female Bally's Las Vegas poker dealer

"lightning is the friendliest blogger"   Poker blogger Jordan

"Fuck you, asshole!"   Feminazi bitch at Caesars Palace

A BIG thanks to Vegas DWP for providing the gist of this post. He is okay ... for a male ...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Off to Las Vegas in Less Than 24 Hours

After a truly terrible summer, I am happy to see that the new school year has started and the scent of promise and hope is in the air. Better yet, it is time for another trip to Las Vegas. Things in my life were in pretty good shape when I last visited in May. I hope this trip is the new beginning I have been needing.

Since Caesars Entertainment Corporation has pretty much left me out in the cold, I have been forced to go with the hotels and companies that still offer good deals or haven't given up on me.

I'll be getting into Las Vegas on Friday and stay two nights at Hooters. On Sunday night, my wife will join me for three nights. We'll be staying at the Gold Coast.

As with most of my trips, I have few solid plans. I might meet up with Vegas DWP and fling some cards on The Strip or maybe even Red Rock. Since Pete P. Peters rescheduled his Las Vegas trip, I was the recipient of his ticket to see Journey, the Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay. Sounds like a winner to me!

Unfortunately, my private Uber driver will not be in town, forcing me to use Lyft, Uber, taxis or shuttles. One would think that she would at least arrange a private limo for me, but ...

If Tony Bigcharles is still in town, I imagine he'll blow up my phone with calls and messages. Note to Tony: Too bad you won't get off your butt and work on your bans. Most of the places I play poker are places you can't or won't go.

The Mirage has been my honey hole lately. Bally's and MGM still treat me pretty well. I even ventured to Aria last trip. I might check out the new Encore/Wynn poker room as well.

It is time for the poker gods to favor the guy from central Illinois. 

More to come ... from Las Vegas!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Paul McCartney Concert Followup and Poker Session with Iron Mike Sharpe

Last weekend ended up a little more fun than I anticipated. Mrs. lightning and I got into St Louis mid-afternoon, checked into our hotel room, and took a nap before heading to Busch Stadium for the Paul McCartney concert. The ride to the stadium was quick and without incident, and soon we were parked and walking toward the venue. The line to get in was long but moved pretty quickly.

The concession prices at Busch Stadium were higher than those of U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field, where I had just recently seen games. The best deal food-wise was a huge BBQ brisket sammich with fresh potato chips and coleslaw for $14. Pretzels were over $9, a 20 oz. soda was $6, crappy Busch products were almost $10 and even special Cardinal Spring Water was $6. Sheesh.
The concert was due to start at 8:00 p.m. We were warned that it might start on time and to be ready. It was actually almost 8:30 before Paul McCartney took the stage, opening with A Hard Day's Night. Check out this link for a complete setlist for the concert.
Our review? Unfortunately, we thought the first 2/3 of the concert had an uneven pace of songs from different eras and was kind of boring. People were sitting on their hands unless a Beatles song or a solo or Wings  monster was sung. Frankly, I had little interest in more recent McCartney tunes, and he littered the beginning of the concert with them. I was not enamored with some of his Beatles selections, like Can't Buy Me Love, We Can Work It Out, You Won't See Me, Love Me Do, Lady Madonna, Elinor Rigby and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. However, the last 1/3 was dynamite, including songs like Back in the U.S.S.R., Live and Let Die and Birthday. I was glad I got to see McCartney in concert, but I was not blown away as I was expecting.

The next morning we packed up and began to head for home. It was a dreary, rainy day. However, I had been hoping to get in a poker session at Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri, and possibly meet up with Iron Mike Sharpe there.
No, he was not the professional wrestler who was mainly a jobber

From some Roughing the Punter posts:

lightning36: Played some $1/3 NL with Iron Mike Sharpe today. Told him that Lester gave me gold to acquire TBC Inner Circle membership. He stiffed me.

Iron Mike Sharpe: Lightning had a good session. Especially b/c I bluffed a good amount of chips to him on a 6-6-3 flop, 2 turn. He had raised in early position and bet flop, and bet small on turn (like $30 bet into a $100+ pot). I had 3-4 and raised to $125 and he shipped with presumably AA or KK. I had to muck.

My session was a grind. I got there and there was $2-5 running from last night. But it broke 20 min after I sat down and I was down $120.

$1-3 session started slow, then I started to get chips and ended up with strong second best hands and the bluff hand from above.

I was down $580 at one point. Went back to work and ended up +$50 after 8.5 hours for the $1/3 session so only down $70 total on the day. I'll take it. Thurs - Sat, I won $1500 combined for those three days.

I can't be a member of the TBC Inner Circle until TBC lifts my Twitter ban u see. Will one of my friends get TBC to lift my ban for me?

lightning36:  Nice meeting you and playing with you today. I really wasn't planning on going, but as my wife and I got to the 270/70 exchange, I decided to give it a try. We were in no hurry to get home, and my wife is exceptional in patiently reading while I play on trips.

That guy to my right who kept button straddling $10? I was just hoping for a hand but wasn't getting crap early on aside from flopping a set the first orbit.

And yes -- the hand you bluffed -- I had KK. I was hoping to induce some action, but was surprised at your raise. I figured that you wouldn't be raising the turn if you had a 6 or the straight. Glad I read it right.

I took some chances with decent hands and good draws and things worked out. I left up $400. Right before I left you won some big pots and looked like you were getting out of the hole.

I'll ask TBC about the Twitter ban. My usual charge for TBC access is a purple chip, but having met you, I might give you a discount.

Iron Mike Sharpe: I completely forgot to use the "this game's so easy even lightning36 is winning" line.

Lester: One gram of AU was all that it cost to jump the rope line into TBC inner circle status:

Tony Bigcharles: how did u stiff lightning? Only i give out inner circle membership and i only give it to those i trust.

Yes, good times indeed! Anyone else interested in procuring TBC Inner Circle membership can contact me for current rates and procedures.

Meanwhile, my next trip to Las Vegas is now less than one week away. I'll write at least one more post prior to the trip.