Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Arizona Trip Continues: White Sox Baseball and Poker at Wild Horse Pass

On Tuesday, March 24, I got in my rental car and headed toward something I had never done before: spring training. I was going to see my first MLB Cactus League game!

I did not quite understand that 15 baseball teams have spring training in the greater Phoenix area. The White Sox share a facility at Camelback Ranch - Glendale with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Getting to the field was actually quite a haul from the northeast edge of the metro area to the southwest side. The drive took close to an hour. Luckily, I finally entered this century and learned how to use Google Maps.

The crowd for the game against the Colorado Rockies was quite sparse. There is a White Sox at Cubs game tomorrow that is sold out and will probably be a madhouse. This game, however, offered many options for tickets. I decided to go retro and get a lawn ticket, which was a good choice. I spent the game walking around the stadium and didn't fry in the hot sun.

The game itself: meh. I was surprised at how uninterested I was in the actual game. It was just a spring training game, of course. I was more interested in soaking up the experience. There was only one negative to the trip: I missed getting a foul ball. One came into the area and only one other guy was anywhere close. Unfortunately, it bounced right to him and he didn't muff the chance. Rob and Pete Peters texted me and suggested that I should have pushed the kids out of the way. Unfortunately, the guy was an adult male and about twice my size. Justifiable homicide if I kill him for it?

After the game, I found out that dinner plans for that evening had been screwed up and I was probably on my own for dinner. Fortunately, I had spotted just the place to go. Where else but ... In'N'Out Burger! The picture below should look familiar.
The ol' double double animal style
 
 
On Wednesday I had great plans that got waylaid to some extent. I looked to start the day by getting in a poker session at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler -- close to an hour away. Before the sun went down, I planned to check out the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Then, I would end the trip with another poker session at Talking Stick. However, I never made it out of Wild Horse Pass until after 10:00 p.m.
 
The poker room at Wild Horse Pass only had a few games going when I got there late in the morning. Only one was what I was looking for: the $2-100 spread game. I had to wait 20-30 minutes before a seat opened up for me. There were some initial fireworks when an older local took offense to a guy who talked non-stop, saying that the guy had already chased away three guys from the table. That might not have been too far off base. The guy was to my immediate left and talked loud and non-stop about football. He is a sports radio talk host in Philadelphia (I checked him out online that night) and was jabbering with a guy who claimed to be a former Oregon quarterback. I didn't get his name but am guessing he was legit.
 
 
Overall, play at the table was not that great. I was able to chip up fairly easily and had a nice session. The poker room is glassed in and therefore keeps out the noise and smoke from the casino, which was nice. Food on the poker room menu is half price -- another bonus. There were several promotions including Aces cracked, splash pots during selected basketball games and drawings for money every odd numbered hour. Entries are earned by showing a full house or higher.
 
I cashed out with a nice profit and decided to burn some of my new slot player club bonus money. I found my good friend Willy Wonka and hit several bonuses (that was just for you, cokeboy99). I then played a machine called "Corgi Cash" and hit some very nice bonuses. Winning at poker and slots? Hmmm ...
 
By the time I was done, it was already evening and a trip to ASU was not out of the picture. But ... I had already been out of the poker room for more than an hour and decided to go back in and see how I would do at a new table. Talking Stick would just have to wait.
 
This second session was again profitable. I did have one nasty suckout that swelled my stack, but most pots were won by decent play. The suckout: I raised with A-K spades and saw a flop of A-K-6 -- all clubs. One player was a shorty in early position, stack of about $100. A new player to the table was in late position with a stack of $200+. I was sitting on about $450. Shorty checked the flop. I bet $30 into the $45 pot. Both players called. I was relatively sure that I was ahead of Shorty but not sure about late position guy. The turn was a red 10, now opening up straight possibilities. I had a feeling that I was behind one way or another. Shorty checked. I threw out a $30 donk bet to see what the others would do. Late position called and Shorty shoved all-in for an additional $53. I called, as did the guy in late position. Gulp. I got ready to grab my ankles. And then the turn ... an Ace! I bet $100 and the late position guy said "I'm only calling." He had pocket 6's for a flopped set and boated on the river. Nasty! I never did see what the Shorty had. I scooped a nice pot, donkey that I am ...
 
Unfortunately, the table next to me hit the bad beat jackpot. If only ...
 
I finished just after 10:00 p.m and made the journey back to where I am staying. It was one heck of a day for poker and slot fun.
 
 
Today (Thursday, March 26) I am going to play at Talking Stick in the afternoon, then have dinner with my wife, my brother, his wife, and maybe a few other relatives. I have been on a nice roll at the poker tables and hope it continues for at least one more session.
 
Later!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Poker at Talking Stick Resort

Greetings from sunny Arizona! I flew out here Sunday morning. Things are going well so far, including a trip to the Arena Poker Room at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. But first ... a look at the back yard of the house where Mrs. lightning and I are staying.
Yes -- it is not exactly the view we get in central Illinois! One of my brothers moved to Arizona years ago, and I remember hearing about he had to rake his yard.

Car rental prices were very high due to MLB spring training going on, so I opted to rent from something I had never heard of before -- RelayRides.com. Basically, the company has been set up to so you can rent a car from another person. People list their cars and the per day price, and you select. I am renting an older Honda CRX and am saving at least $200 over the crappy lower rung car rental agencies. It has been fine so far.

After using Sunday to relax and socialize with our guests (and watch the excellent college basketball action!), I headed south on Monday to check out my nephew's business (a fitness center), ate lunch at Hooters Scottsdale, then went to Talking Stick Resort for a poker session.

The closest thing to my usual $1/2 NL Hold em was a $2/3 spread limit game. The only really bad thing is that $1 rake is taken from the small blind before the cards are dealt. A chop, therefore, is unlikely since the small blind is forced to only get back $1. The table buy-in limit was $300. I bought in for $200. I am not sure of the rake, but I had read previously that it was on the high side.

I was hot at the beginning, but being new to the table, people were hesitant to get into hands with me. Too bad, as I might have won more than the $100 I quickly added to my stack. Soon I got into my first important hand with K-K on the button. Someone in early position raised to $12. There was one caller, a guy who out-chipped me and who seemed to be a solid played. I raised to $35. The initial raiser folded, and the solid played raised to $105! I was surprised. Just calling a $12 bet, then re-popping the subsequent $35 raise to $105? I went in the tank and was wondering if he was just putting me on a button steal and was, in his mind, re-stealing. However, his play was reminiscent of the ol' limp raise people do when they have pocket Aces. I guessed that he had Aces and took the $35 loss rather than risk losing $300. He didn't show. What do you think? btw -- he continued to play solid poker and cashed out with, I assume, a win of several hundred dollars.

I again had Kings and won a nice pot from a guy who had A-Q and thought he was ahead on a Queen-high flop. This same guy tried to muscle me out of a pot when I had two pair (Kings and Jacks).I was out of position and just checked the river. He thought I was weak and put out a big bet. When I called he auto-mucked. I had a chance to totally destroy him when I had A-K in middle position and raised to $10. He was on the button and went all in for $106. Everyone else folded and I was sitting on a stack of about $700. I said "I call" and he had this sick look on his face. Unfortunately, the board had all low cards and I flipped over Big Slick and said "I imagine that you are good." He turned over his pocket Deuces ...

One last hand: I had pocket 10's (stack of about $550) and raised to $10. Seeming solid played in late position (stack of about $200) raised to $25. I called. The flop was K-rag-10 rainbow. Yowsa! I checked and he bet $35. I raised to $80 and he shoved. I, of course, insta-called. He then quietly asked "do you have pocket Kings?" and I knew I was good. To rub it in, I quaded up on the river. Sometimes poker is EZ!

I ended up with a profit of over $450 for my 6+ hour session. I was pleased!

Today (Tuesday) I am planning to catch a White Sox and Rockies spring training game. The Arizona vacation continues to roll on. I am enjoying the 85 degree weather while thundering36 is putting up with five inches of snow in suburban Chicago. Ah well ...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Traffic Ticket, the Concert, the Wedding and the Trip

 
The Traffic Ticket and the Concert
I worked all day on Friday and then headed off to see Heart and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in concert. Just a few blocks away from my house, I got pulled over by a deputy sheriff who thought that a car zipping by at 20 miles over the speed limit should not get away unscathed.

I can't even remember how long it has been since I got a conviction on a ticket. Even the last ticket I received was over ten years ago. I got it late one night coming off an interstate highway in a desolate area. I unfortunately did not come to a complete stop at a stop sign -- something done by many that time of night. Unfortunately, the county police used that intersection as a money making project for the county. Even while getting the ticket, I was advised by the deputy sheriff to ask for court supervision, which would add additional revenue to the county.

I went to the courthouse on the designated day ... along with probably over 100 more suckers. The process was fast -- plead guilty, ask for supervision, pay a little extra money, go home. Sweet way to gouge us chumps who got caught in the late-night trap. My moment in open court was a tad funny.

Court officer: Mr. lightning, are you currently on court supervision?

Me: No. However, in the state of Indiana, I believe I am currently on some sort of driver's diversion program.

Court officer: We don't care about Indiana. Are you pleading guilty and asking for court supervision?

Me: Yes.

Judge: Approved. Pay the clerk. Next case ...

Mrs. lightning and I got to the concert in plenty of time despite the unanticipated delay. My wife was extremely tired from a long week at work and fought to stay awake at the concert.

The concert itself: meh. Both groups sounded really good, but it ended up seeming like some rather boring 1980's flashback to me.


The Wedding
A long-time co-worker and friend had a son getting married Saturday late afternoon. I had already botched some things by getting the date wrong, causing myself and Mrs. lightning to adjust our weekend travel plans. Instead of leaving for Phoenix Saturday night, we will be leaving early Sunday morning.

The wedding was quite nice. It was a Jewish wedding held at a local country club. As part of the wedding ceremony and custom, the groom broke a wine glass by stomping on it. I was wondering if perhaps fellow blogger Tony Bigcharles is really Jewish and parroting this tradition in select poker rooms?

The food (filet and salmon) was not particularly good, but the open bar immediately after the ceremony ended was a major plus.


The Trip
In just over three hours, Mrs. lightning and I will be on our way to Chicago to fly to Phoenix. My wife's best friend moved outside Phoenix toward the end of last summer, so a spring trip there was on our agenda! The trip is likely to feature some time with some of my relatives (I have a niece and nephew who live there and a brother who will be visiting while I am there), perhaps a spring training game -- either the Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox, both of whom train in the area, and, of course, some poker! I will definitely spend some time playing poker at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale and maybe even Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino in Chandler.

As always, I wait to pack until the last minute. Three hours to go and I have not yet packed. Some habits are just hard to break.

I hope to make a post or two from Arizona. I am looking forward to a little warmth. Weather in central Illinois has been getting better, but still ...

Later!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Update from Last Weekend's Poker sessions

I went up to the suburban Chicago area last weekend to get in a few casino visits with my brother, thundering36. The plan on Saturday was to visit a casino we had not been in for a long time: Hollywood Aurora. This would be my first time playing poker there. I had already been informed of the $8 rake!

This is the report I posted on the Two Plus Two forums:

 
Hollywood Aurora
I decided to give this room a try for $1/2 NL when I was in the area despite the warning of the high rake. $200 maximum buy-in.

Unfortunately, as previously reported, the $8 rake is still in effect, including immediately taking the small blind away when cards are dealt. It looks strange to see the naked big blind out there by itself.

I was quite surprised that I initially found the players in the feeder table to be quite tight. Nobody raised above $8 pre-flop. Once I got the main table, the raises and play were a little more standard.

I don't like the concept of the feeder table, but it worked decently for this room. There were never more than two $1/2 tables going at once on a Saturday night, although there were several higher limit tables.

I found the players to be friendly and polite, the dealers to be okay (except that one or more really seemed to take a long time to look at the cards at the end of the hand before pushing the pot to the proper player) and the management friendly. I particularly liked the dealer named Fay.

I had a fun time playing this room. Even the room itself was pretty nice. And there were opportunities to order food in the room. However ... the one huge "however" is the rake. It is difficult not to think about how much one loses from every decent pot. If management were to make a more reasonable rake structure (including not snatching a buck pre-flop), this room might get a lot more love ... and business.


I played a little over four hours and ended up -$31. I would play there again if travels took me to Aurora, but the killer rake would certainly have me going to other area poker rooms instead if I had the time.

On Saturday, we went to Harrah's Joliet. Overall, I have had success at this room over the past few years. It was time to add to the profits.

My original feeder table had some very weak players. One guy flopped the nut flush but chose to slow play it. Unfortunately for him, I flopped a set of 3's and boated up on the river. I am positive he in no way saw that coming.

I was up about $170 when I was moved to the main table. The players were a little better here, but the big stack left soon after I came. I was able to switch seats and ended up sitting in seat one. The poker gods must have been pleased, as they fed me some cards which I played quite well. I had a good vibe running and was having fun. A couple of poor players kept rebuying for $100, and I was able to stack one of the decent players when he pushed all in over my raise. The look on his face when I called was classic! His eyes nearly popped out of his head as he got ready to see my set of Jacks felt him and his top two pair.

The domination at the table was so bad that a few players were jokingly urging the dealers to quickly start dealing when I was away from the table to check text messages. Illinois poker rooms are very strict about no phones at the table, and I hated to keep popping up and moving away from the table.

Eventually thundering36 and I had to leave, and I was happy to visit the main cage to cash out after coloring up.
 
There isn't anything quite like a successful poker session!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Poker is a Funny Game


About 55 years ago, Joe Garagiola, a former Major League Baseball player and sports radio announcer, wrote a book titled Baseball is a Funny Game. I was reminded of the book when I examined what happened to me over the past week in my brick and mortar and online poker games.

Last Friday after work, Mike (a co-worker) and I hopped on the interstate and drove the 90 miles or so to East Peoria, IL to play poker at the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino. Par-A-Dice, which has a very small poker room, its the closest thing I have to a "home" casino/poker room. Our plan was to play until we pooped out, keeping enough energy to make the ride back home in the wee hours of the morning.

After over a half hour wait, we were seated at a brand new table. At a ten-person table, I generally prefer to sit in seat five or six in order to see the flop better. I chose seat six and Mike sat in seat five. If only I could redo the start of the night ...

The table was filled with pretty poor players. There was maybe only one other person -- or maybe two -- who looked to be decent. In the first orbit or two, Mike got pocket Aces and got paid off, then flopped a set of 6's and got paid off again. I should have chosen friggin' seat five! Within a few minutes, Mike had a big stack o' chips while yours truly was busy folding ... folding ... folding ...

At one point I finally hit a few decent cards and, with some good play, increased my stack from its initial $200 to about $425. At that point, Mike's $200 buy in was about the same size as mine. Unfortunately, I kept bleeding chips as the table's composition changed and I got zilch for cards. Mike went down quite a bit but then hit a couple of big hands and finished the night up several hundred dollars. As for me ... I grinded out a measly $77 profit. In six hours of play, I only hit one set -- on the final orbit I played. But at least I still came out ahead.

Not satisfied with Friday night's results, I decided to put in another session on Sunday. Eight hours later, I left with a $100 profit. During that time, I hit NO SETS! Fourteen hours of poker on a weekend and only one set? Geez.

Unfortunately, my Tuesday night home game was once again canceled. It only seems to get enough players every other week.

On Wednesday evening, I played in the play money version of the old blogger tournament, The Mookie, now called The Dank. So guess what? In the first five minutes, I flopped a set AND flopped quad Aces and got paid off on each. Why didn't that happen last weekend? Poker is indeed a funny game.

This weekend, I am traveling to the Chicago area to visit my mother and to hit a few casinos with thundering36. Some possibilities include the Joliet casinos (Harrah's and Hollywood), Hollywood Aurora, maybe Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin and/or Harrah's Horseshoe in Hammond, IN. I have never played poker in Hollywood Aurora and Grand Victoria, two casinos notorious for their extremely high rakes. Wherever I play, I hope to hit sets at a slightly better rate than once every 14 hours ...

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Updates: Life and Poker

 
Life: Cars, work and baseball
The past ten days or so have been a real whirlwind for me. On Monday of last week, my son was involved in a three-car fender bender. It appears that he only suffered a mild concussion, as evidenced by his text: "Got In a car crash bloody knuckles maybe concussion idk in maybe with seeing convenient. Mo airbag. Double rear ended. Lest head ended."

My daughter got to the accident site to pick up my son and take him to a local convenient care medical office. They were told that a trip to the emergency room would not be necessary as long as things got better and not worse.

Of course, then there is the matter of the auto insurance. All three drivers are covered under State Farm policies, so this should have made things relatively easy. However, they did not call the police to the accident scene and, not surprising, one driver did not report the accident to the insurance company and another driver's story is quite different than my son's. The other driver's story would allow her to skate without having anything go against her insurance policy. Hmmm ... the plot thickens.

I had an interesting experience with my own car. I was quite shocked to see the passenger side outside mirror hanging down. I had just gotten back from a grocery store and wondered if someone had done it by slipping on ice and hitting the car or just done it to be nasty. I told my wife what happened and her response was "Was it the passenger side?" Hmmm ...

So, it turns out that my wife was pulling my car out of the garage/driveway and hit our garbage can. The mirror was probably 90% off and then finally fell down on the way back from the grocery store. A few days ago, I bought some black duct tape and taped the mirror back up until I have time to get it taken care of properly. Last night, I was in a big hurry to meet my wife at a restaurant. As I zoomed out of the driveway much faster than usual ... you guessed it, I hit the same garbage can, tearing off the mirror I had just taped up! Some days ...

Work would be fine except for two people who frequently seem to have issues with each other, forcing me to use time I need for other things and making me wonder why I chose to be in charge of my area for another three years. I believe the term "dumbshit" may apply to me. I will repeat that claim over the next few weeks as I have to have annual evaluations completed for eight members of my staff by the end of the month. Good times.

I recently wrote about the futures of Chicago sports teams. I, like many others across Illinois, are looking forward to the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. So far I have purchased tickets to two games: White Sox at Cubs on July 12 and Cubs at White Sox on August 16. I will be wearing my White Sox gear for both games while the King of Komps (thundering36) will be wearing Cubbie blue. I had the opportunity to purchase opening day tickets for the White Sox, but I have been to several home openers and, frankly, they often kind of suck due to the weather and traffic.


Poker
I recently published a short post on the upcoming 2015 World Series of Poker on the blog operated by Tony Bigcharles. The post mentions the several inexpensive tournaments being offered at the WSOP. At this point, however, I have no plans to travel to Las Vegas during the WSOP or the rest of the summer. I am pretty sure that I will find my way to Las Vegas sometime in June or July, but with no good way to get free or dirt cheap rooms for the time being at the Caesar's properties, I will need to plan things more carefully. I actually had to suffer the indignity of paying a few resort fees this past December.

This past Tuesday I played in my weekly home game. I have gotten to know how the regulars play now, which is certainly an advantage. One guy spews and reloads, spews and reloads, ... I like playing with him! Catch a few cards and call down light = profits.

I got into a big hand with the host, David. David is a solid player and a nice guy, but this is poker, you know. I had just kidded him while he was on a heater, which included winning a nice pot vs me. Several times over the past couple of years, I have gotten monster hands against him. I just reminded David how I am used to crushing his soul. Two hands later, it happened: the monster hand of the night.

I had a stack of about $220. David covered me and had a little extra. Blinds were $.50/$1. I was on the button and looked down to see pocket Aces. A couple of people limped in (might have been a raise to $3 - don't remember) and David raised to $12. How much should I  raise? I decided to raise to $30. The others folded and David carefully considered what to do. With our past and knowing that this kind of a bluff was not usually a lightning36 move, I thought he might fold. He clearly had to put me on a premium pair or A-K. However, he was on a major heater. Surprisingly, he raised to $100. I decided not to monkey shove because David has the discipline to make a tough fold. I looked at him and he was staring at me. I then said "That good, David?" I then decided that I didn't want to Hollywood too much -- a dead giveaway when followed by a shove -- and pushed out my chips and said "all in." David took a few moments to think and decided to call. He said "I have Kings." I replied that I had Rockets. We decided to run it twice and I won both hands, raking in a nice ~$445 pot.

I felt bad for David, but we have all been there. I did suppress the desire to say "sorry." I didn't think that would help any. To David's credit, he took it like a man. I'd probably wouldn't want to know what his mind was thinking, though! A short time later I cashed out for a little over $400 -- a $300+ profit. Not bad for a $.50/$1 home game. I had a nice drive home. The sock drawer became a little more crowded.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Update on Chicago Professional Sports Teams: Rose and Kane Injuries Change Championship Possibilities


For fans of Chicago's professional sports teams, the end of the NFL regular season meant that we could move on from the disappointing, messed up Bears to the winter sports teams that give us the best shot for a championship in 2015: the Blackhawks and the Bulls. Although the Bears seem to now be heading in the right direction with changes in the coaching staff and management, a championship in the immediate future seems unlikely. But the Blackhawks and the Bulls -- yes!

Unfortunately, February 24 was a crushing day for both teams. Blackhawks scoring star Patrick Kane fractured his collarbone and will be out about 12 weeks. If he is lucky and the team continues to do well, Kane could possibly be back toward the end of the Stanley cup playoffs. Even in that best case scenario, how effective would Kane be after sitting out for so long?

Unfortunately for the Bulls, guard Derrick Rose is now facing his third severe injury in his young career --  his second right medial meniscus tear. Although the extent of the damage and the prognosis are not yet known, it is likely that Rose will be out at least eight weeks.

So what does this mean for the Blackhawks and the Bulls? I am guessing that it means that Chicago will not have any sports championships in 2015. The Bulls were certainly not a sure bet to go as far as the conference finals, and without Rose they do not match up nearly as well with the better teams in the Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks still realistically have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, but going forward without their charismatic leading scorer will be difficult. The NHL's Western Conference is loaded with good teams, and the rest of the season will be a struggle.

Thankfully, baseball season is on the way! Spring training is underway, and both the White Sox and Cubs made great roster improvements in the off season and should be much better than they have been the past two seasons.

The Cubs picked up a stud pitcher in Jon Lester and have a wealth of young, promising players. The Cubs farm system is reported stocked with more talent than any other team. The White Sox picked up some key players, including pitcher Jeff Samardzija and Melky Cabrera.

My predictions for 2015:

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls maybe win one playoff series and then bow out. Tensions between head coach Tom Thibodeau and front office underachievers Gar Forman and John Paxson boil over for good and Thiodeau leaves for greener pastures.

Chicago Blackhawks: Without Patrick Kane and lacking depth on defense, the Hawks do not make it to the Stanley Cup finals. One of several teams could torpedo the Hawks run. But there is always next year.

Chicago Cubs: A much-improved Cubbies team brings excitement back to Chicago baseball. The Cubs finish around .500 and look to make a serious playoff run in 2016.

Chicago White Sox: The Sox will challenge for a division title and will battle for a spot in the playoffs. The optimist and life-long Sox fan in me predicts that the Sox will play n the post season in 2015.

Chicago Bears: New coaching staff turns things around quickly and begins to build excitement for the Bears. Unfortunately, it will take a few years to restock a poor defensive group. Bears fan will need to keep optimistic for 2016.

I hope to see a Cubs and/or Sox spring training game in Arizona at the end of March. I already have tickets for the King of Komps and I to watch the Cubs at the White Sox in August. Getting tickets to see the Sox at the Cubs or Cubs opening day vs the Cardinals? That will take some luck when single game Cubs tickets go on sale early next month.

How is YOUR city doing regarding professional sports in 2015?