Sunday, September 24, 2017

I HATE! HATE! HATE! the Meal Button

I was playing poker at Harrah's Joliet yesterday when I was reminded of one of my pet peeves of brick and mortar poker: the meal button. But before discussing this dastardly button, let's look at the whole concept of poker and eating first.

When I play poker in cash games, I almost always  put in long sessions. The best strategy for me is to eat before I play poker. If I am driving a significant distance to the poker room, I'll either get a decent meal before I hop in the car, take some food with me or stop along the way to get some food, usually at a fast food restaurant. Sometimes I might do more that one of these things. When I get to the table, I want food to be the last thing on my mind.

Some poker rooms are set up so that players can eat at the table, thereby not wasting ONE VALUABLE SECOND away from playing! And actually, if one is hygienic about it, this option can work if you are really hungry. I think the smart players sit back from the table for an orbit or two and don't mix the eating with playing -- and handling cards. And eating something that requires a fork or spoon means you, in theory, are keeping nasty germs away from your mouth.

I don't like to think that I am paranoid about this, but we know that poker players are not the most hygienic people. I cannot tell you how many times that I have used the restroom while taking a short break and have seen way too many poker players return to the poker room WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS! Yes, just what I would be looking to do -- touch some cards that have microscopic remnants from some guy's butthole or schlong. Yecch!

I sometimes see people eating at the table touching sandwiches, french fries, etc and then touching cards. Ummm ... no thank you!

Butt (ha ha!) back to the main gripe of this post. Harrah's Joliet has a meal button that can be used, which is common in some poker rooms. I believe at Harrah's that players can use the button to be gone up to 45 minutes. I've seen some rooms use one for as short as 30 minutes and as long as one hour.

In my mind, if you are going to be gone 45-60 minutes, why not just cash out and come back after eating? In the meantime while you are gone, the blinds come around faster and the pots likely have less money. If one or two people take a bathroom or smoke break, suddenly the table is now seriously less than capacity. And if the table is so juicy that you don't want to leave, why go away to eat? On my last trip to Las Vegas, I was playing at Aria and getting ready to order a comped meal courtesy of Mr Subliminal when a guy came to the table and began spewing money. I not only needed to eat, but I really had to pee, but there was no way I was leaving that table anytime soon!

Yesterday, however, the meal button led to the most selfish and disrespectful way some poker players act. A guy named "Marcus" had apparently played at another cash table for an hour or more and wanted to be moved to our table. I am guessing that he has just busted. He set one redbird down and took off. He didn't even bring any chips with him or buy in at the table. Other players in the room said that he gets his butt kissed because of his status (Diamond or Seven Star?). The brush was actually called a couple times, but he asserted that Marcus had already played an hour and was eligible to use the meal button.

I'm guessing that you know how this story ends. Marcus was gone for about an hour, returned, picked up his redbird, and asked to be seated at a different table. The guy next to me predicted things would go down exactly that way. He has seen Marcus to this several times before. So Marcus blocked a wait list player from being seated, kept the table short handed for an hour, and didn't even attempt to play one hand at the table.

I've had other times when people were gone for long periods, played an orbit or two and then left, but don't recall having a player not play any hands at all and then move to another table. Of course, everyone was muttering unpleasantries under their breath yesterday. So yes -- I really do HATE HATE HATE that button!

I do recall that one time I played somewhere (maybe Harrah's Southern Indiana?) that used plexiglass little tables that would go over the chips so that someone could play "over" the space of someone on a meal break. That was an interesting experience.

btw - This is a lightning36 version of a mini-rant. I know that some players like to rant when their diet sodas are taken away prematurely, but ...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Two Short Bobby "The Brain" Heenan Stories

Earlier this evening, word spread across social media that former professional wrestler and manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan passed away. Heenan had been in questionable health for many years following a bout of throat cancer and several reconstructive surgeries on his jaw and face.

Going way back to the 1960's, I was a fan of professional wrestling. The feed we got in suburban Chicago was Bob Luce Wrestling. I grew up watching stars like Dick the Bruiser, The Crusher, Yukon Moose Cholak, Andre the Giant, Jimmy Valiant, The Blackjacks, Wilbur Snyder, Billy Red Cloud, Baron von Raschke, ... However, one of the most intriguing figures, and the man I consider to be the best professional wrestling manager in history, was Bobby Heenan. Heenan had the gift of gab and used it to fashion a hall of fame managing career. He was famous for a lot of big talk, but when finally cornered in the ring, he became the wimpiest, most timid man on the face of the earth, begging to not be hurt. He specialized in dirty tricks to help his wrestling "family," and could dive out of the squared circle faster than anyone if trouble was brewing and he was about to get pummeled.

In the early days, Heenan was known as "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan. In those glory days when he was managing tag teams like Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan and the Valiant Brothers, he was by far the best interview in local wrestling. One of my favorite memories was a tale he told about being in a downtown Chicago store. At that time, Heenan's speech impediment was a little more pronounced, sometimes adding color to his many stories. In this particular instance, he claimed that he was beginning to go down an escalator and was pushed from behind, tumbling down the escalator to the floor. He couldn't see who was at the top who had done the pushing, but as Heenan related "And I saw a young boy standing next to me at the bottom of the escalator pointing up toward the top and saying 'Look, Mommy -- Bruither ... Bruither ...'"

A few years later when he was managing the Valiant Brothers, he and Handsome Jimmy Valiant were discussing their many problems with being such handsome dudes and with all the women they attracted.
This time, Heenan let Valiant take the verbal lead, saying "Sometimes we have to die our roots black just to get a little peace and quiet." And a quote I have adapted and used myself several times in my life: "Sometimes people say we are conceited. But the truth is, sometimes we don't even think we're half as great as we really are."

Heenan was among the best in the business at creating heat for wrestling matches, earning the hatred of many fans and the inglorious nickname "Weasel." In later years, he was an engaging wrestling commentator, especially when paired with his buddy, Gorilla Monsoon.

Rest in peace, brother Bobby, and thanks for the many hours of fun and delight you gave to me and to other wrestling fans across the world.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Night with ZZ Top

I remember first hearing ZZ Top's "La Grange" when it came out in 1973. In fact, I think that if I checked my old 45's, I would find it there. It was certainly unique and seemed to come from a group destined to be a one-hit wonder. Man, was I wrong.

I had passed up several chances the past few years to see ZZ Top, once at Assembly Hall in Champaign and once at the Harrah's Horseshoe Hammond. When I heard that they were going to be playing in a small, local venue that seats less than 1,500, I was determined to go. Unfortunately, the beginning of ticket sales somehow passed me by, and later I forgot about the concert. Several weeks ago I was prepared to buy a ticket, only to find out that the concert was sold out.

I checked on craigslist.org. Nothing. I checked several ticket resale sites, but the cost was prohibitive and the tickets were crappy. So I checked. And checked. And checked. Nothing.Finally, the venue posted that there might be some tickets released closer to the concert. I checked several times. Nothing. I even checked this morning. Nothing.

I was prepared to admit defeat and kick myself when I decided to take one last look right after I finished work today. I was surprised to find that there were tickets available! I went to the venue's website and saw something unbelievable: a ticket available for purchase IN THE FRONT ROW! I put in my order information, clicked on the button to complete the sale and ... received a message that my order could not be completed. I had had trouble with that website before, and despite changing browsers and credit cards, I couldn't purchase the ticket. I called the box office and was told that someone (me) had clicked on the seat and it was still listed as "reserved." I was asked if I instead wanted the third row seat, but I declined. The young woman at the box office asked for my phone number and told me she would see if it became unlocked and, if so, she would give me a call. I figured I wanted that first row ticket and waited for the call. Fortunately, the woman called a few minutes later and I was able to get my front row seat -- less than 2 1/2 hours before the concert. Score!

I went home, had a quick dinner and headed to the will call window, thereby bypassing the line of people waiting to enter. Another score!

Yeah - I was really in the front row and ready for the concert to begin.

Billy Gibbons

Dusty Hill

There were a few interesting songs in their set, including Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" and Buck Owens/The Beatles' "Act Naturally." However, the big ZZ Top monster hits were the highlight of the show. "Gimme All Your Lovin'," "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" were in the main set and an extended version of "La Grange" and "Tush" were the first encore. They ended the night with a second encore of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock."

As with poker, sometimes life circumstances seem really crappy ... until  you catch that one outer on the river. Getting a front row ticket to a sold out concert hours before the show -- a clear demonstration of what clean living can do for you! As Brad Hamilton said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: "Learn it. Know it. Live it."

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 04, 2017

Family Tradition



Working in a student services area of higher education as I have my entire professional career, I have been used to the cyclic nature of my job. After a long, hard summer and the start of the new school year, I have often opted to take some vacation time at the Labor Day holiday.


Beginning in the 1990's, the trip of choice was often an annual family fishing trip which gave me an opportunity to spend some quality time with my father-in-law and connect with uncles, cousins and other relatives on my wife's side of the family. Even after my father-in-law passed away, the tradition continued. I once wrote a post about the day I caught the biggest fish I've ever caught, which happened on a historic day. However, one year I didn't go on the trip -- maybe even a last-minute cancellation -- and never went on another one.

In 2000, my brother, thundering36, moved back to the USA from Australia, and, especially with his birthday being around Labor Day, the tradition of the Labor Day trip to Las Vegas began. It included some significant trips, like the one in 2008 when I was in Las Vegas when the house I had for sale closed. Or there was the trip that wasn't taken in 2012 when both thundering36 and I got sick the morning of the trip and decided to delay it until December. Unfortunately, our plan to celebrate thundering36's birthday at Gordon Ramsay's Steak that trip was scuttled. However, we were finally able to have that celebration dinner at Steak in 2016, a rare trip when I was accompanied on part of the trip by Mrs. lightning36.

I was wondering if I should take the trip this year, seeing that I had already been to Las Vegas in January, June and July. On top of that, an opportunity arose to visit my son in Seattle at the end of September. I almost canceled the Labor Day trip, but ... what the heck, you only live once, right?

I make my drive to Chicago in seven hours, yet haven't packed yet, as is my usual procedure. I certainly hope the poker will be much better this trip than the last. And if you are in Las Vegas the next few days, Cash Me Outside - How Bow Dah?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Las Vegas Trip Report Part III: Filling in Some Details

For many reasons, including style, memory and, most importantly time considerations, I do not usually write epically long posts like my friend Rob. However, I sometimes get asked to expound a tad on some of what I've written. I have had three such requests from my last post. So ... here we go!


The trip with Alicia

It was my last night in Las Vegas, so I wanted to make it worthwhile. I had been playing poker with TBC at Planet Hollywood, but his sleep schedule dictated that his night would be ending quickly. Alysia called and asked if I was up for  getting a dinner off The Strip. Hell yes! However, her car was in the shop ... again (ha!) and she would be driving her brother's car. He was getting dressed and then the two of them would pick me up. That seemed okay, so I said goodbye to Tony and headed to the nearby ABC shop to get something to drink. I eyed a big ca of one of my favorite beverages, Stiegl Radler, but decided against it since I didn't want to chug it or drink it in the car. Bad move, as AC's brother, Solomon, took FOREVER to get dressed. In the meantime, I burned time in a sports memorabilia shop. I'm sure the guy running the place has seen plenty of my type before: always trying to be a comedian. There was a 50% off sale, and I spotted a signed photo of former Chicago Blackhawks player Alex  Zhamnov. For those not quite into 1990's NHL history, Zhamnov was traded to Chicago for legend Jeremy Roenick. Blasphemy! Zhamnov never quite panned out in his several Chicago seasons. I saw a $50 price on the photo and asked the guy, "$25?" He said "yes," and I replied  "You'll give me $25 to take this away from you?"

Anyway ... AC and Solomon picked me up and we headed toward Rio, where Solomon was heading to meet up with friends before heading out to Sapphire Gentlemen's Club. Watching AC and her brother navigate their way was a treat in itself!

Once at Red Rock after eating dinner, AC had a strict deadline of when we had to leave. Let's just say I kind of ignored it and stretched things out a little. We headed to Sapphire and picked up Solomon and friends. And no, I had no desire to go inside. u see, I believe in CLEAN LIVING, of course! I was squeezed into the back seat with the friends, who I'll let AC describe in a blog comment. We dropped the friends off at Ellis Island, and AC decided not to join me for a late late night session at Venetian. Once there, I was treated to the loud noise of a huge gang walking through the V. It turns out that the gang was led by none other than NBA superstar Kevin Durant!

I eventually grabbed an Uber back to my hotel and got a short amount of sleep before taking the hotel shuttle to the airport.


Koala Logic

I saw TBC take a nasty cold deck beat at Wynn/Encore and keep his composure. Good job, Tony! However, Koala was peeved that at either that beat or one other bad one, Tony blamed the loss on Koala. u see, if Koala had not been there, Tony would have already left and NOT lost the later hand, of course. Well, I figured that logic was good enough for me. When I torched off my stack at MGM (A-K vs A-A on a King-high flop), I informed Koala that it was his fault since I was there with him and he owed me a few hundred dollars to cover half my loss. Amazingly, he turned down my request. However, on the night I cashed out about $1,400 dollars at MGM, he later told me that he was entitled to half my winnings that night! The nerve of the guy -- he he!


Could TBC hook up with the Man-hating Woman?

I have described the Man-hating Woman as having similar behaviors to Tony: quick angry outbursts, not paying attention to play at the table, burying her face in her phone playing Candy Crush Saga or Bejeweled. Seems like a match made in heaven, right? Ummm ... no. Believe it or not, Tony has much more in the way of social skills than that wretched woman. She's actually just the female version of the nitty, nasty Las Vegas grinder that we visitors despise. She wears headphones to tune out the world, plays uber-tight and at some point sucks the fun out of the table. One would think that someone living in Las Vegas being able to make money off poker would be a tad happier or, perhaps,a tad smarter and use personality to make the table atmosphere optimal for a grinder to make money. Well, that's not her. Sadly, I think she is just one of those people who thrives on being miserable. I wouldn't want to see Tony or anyone but a sworn enemy get anywhere near her.


The ride from Hoover Dam to McCarran International Airport

Long after I'd flown back home, Alysia drove TBC and Koala to the Hoover Dam area where they hit the local casino. On the way back to Las Vegas, they called me and we had a long, funny chat. The subject then focused on Tony's getaway, which he decided would be that night. He spotted a cheap fare to Cleveland and wanted me to go online and book his flight for him as Alysia drove him to the airport. Now, of course, booking a flight usually means providing information that I didn't know ... like maybe Tony date of birth or other personal information. I also wondered why a guy who could easily torch off a couple grand martingaling blackjack seemed afraid of the plane fare going up $50 dollars or so when the flight was only around a hundred bucks anyway. I actually looked up the flight to see if it was still around $100, but as Alysia was getting near the airport anyway, Tony wound up getting the ticket there ... at the cheap price.


Next trip to Las Vegas?

I am tempted to make a trip in a few weeks -- September 4-8. That would make three trips in a span of about ten weeks. Would that officially make me a degenerate? Or more of one?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Las Vegas Trip Report Part II: Reuniting with Koala, Las Vegas Friends and the Return of the Man-Hating Woman

Outside the Mirage on a great hot summer day

Reuniting with Koala

This past trip to Las Vegas was at a somewhat unusual time for me. I tend to travel to Las Vegas in late January/early February, May/June and early September. Many years ago I would sometimes go in the early part of July, but this year's trip was scheduled way in advance and with a specific reason: to coincide with the vacation trip of my Aussie friend, Koala.

I first met Koala in Las Vegas in June 2012 when he planned a special tournament designed to assist Tony Bigcharles. Koala and I shared a meal and played some poker at Harrah's, having a great time and laughing quite a bit.  Over the next several years we traded emails, connected through social media and online forums and occasionally played in some online tournaments. I was not able to meet up with him his last trip to Las Vegas, so I made sure I wouldn't miss this one.

Although we had not seen each other in five years and most of our friendship had been through electronic communication, it was like two old war buddies having a reunion. We played several poker sessions together, shared some meals and had plenty of time to just b.s. about poker, our poker friends and life in general.He was around to see some of my craptastic poker play (including my torching off my stack with A-K vs A-A on a king-high flop!) and put on quite a show at MGM on a special day with hourly high hands when he hit several in a row.

We both stayed several nights at Excalibur and used that as our home base for that week, hitting the Excalibur poker room, MGM, Wynn/Encore, Mirage ... As the week ended, we both checked out of Excalibur -- me to stay at another hotel, and Koala to pick up his rental car and take a trip to the Reno/Lake Tahoe area. As always, seeing and playing poker with old buddies makes for a great Las Vegas trip.


Las Vegas Friends

Having visited Las Vegas something around about 100 times over the years, I have some friends who either live there or visit frequently like me. A shout out to a couple of my dealer friends I briefly saw last trip, AlaskaGal -- Kristi -- who deals at the Mirage, one of the rooms where I've had regular success, and Ron -- balt999 -- who deals at Bally's, which used to be my number one poker room in Las Vegas.

I was happy to catch one night with VegasDWP before he left on one of his many trips outside the U.S.A. David was able to sling some cards with Koala and me at Excalibur, then treated us (thanks again, sir!) to dinner at the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. As I recall, he might have been heading out after the meal to a Trump supporters rally ...

And, u see, what would a trip to Las Vegas be without seeing infamous Las Vegas and national poker grinder TBC -- Tony Bigcharles, of course? Tony and I got to play a couple of times at Wynn/Encore and also at Planet Hollywood. While playing at Wynn?Encore, I also got to meet one of TBC's other acquaintances, Benny Profane.

And then there is Alysia Chang, my former personal Las Vegas Uber driver and now sometimes source of transportation. She was able to put her coding work aside for a bit and and showed up with her brother, Solomon, at a dinner with friends at Nine Fine Irishmen in New York-New York. Also at the dinner were Koala and Stacy, another TBC acquaintance from his time at the Gold Rush in Jean, NV.
 Solomon, Koala, Alysia, Stacy and me

Alysia was also able to borrow her brother's car while hers was in the shop, drive us to the Roma Cafe for dinner, then to Red Rock for a late-night poker session.
My veal parmigiana at Roma Cafe

And ... on her drive back from Hoover Dam with Koala and TBC, she dialed me up for a fun phone call, including Tony's request for me to purchase his plane ticket to Cleveland while he was en route to the airport. Good times!


The Return of the Man-hating Woman

Just about a year ago, I wrote a blog post titled Attack of the Man-hating Woman, about an altercation I had with a very unpleasant woman at a poker table in Caesars Palace. The memory of this woman has been burned into my brain. I was really hoping to never run into this wretched person again. However ...

One of the days of the trip, Koala and I headed to play some cards at MGM. We were put on the wait list but were told that a new table would soon be opened. A few minutes later we were getting settled into our new table when I spotted the woman in seat two. Yes, it was the man-hating woman! I didn't know if she would remember me after a year, figuring that her interaction with me was probably indicative of her regular behavior at the table. I was in seat five and was keeping an eye on her, wondering if she would be involved in any interesting situations. My intuition was spot on. She won a hand -- maybe a suckout -- against the guy in seat three. He gently ribbed her about it, and she abruptly got up from the table and moved to seat nine. The guy started asking "What happened?" The man-hating woman refused to say anything. She preferred to play poker with her headphones on and , ala Tony Bigcharles, kept her face buried in her cell phone as she played Candy Crush Saga, Bejeweled or some other game. I got my old blog post up on my cell phone and asked the guy to read it. He kind of looked at my phone and didn't show much interest until he seemed to understand that the post was about her. He then read it and had a funny look on his face. Then he understood. It wasn't him. It was her.

I had no desire to again have any type interaction with such a pathetic human being. I did catch her first name from the MGM log in system at the poker table. I wanted it just in case there is some need for it in the future. She seemed to be friendly with one of the dealers, so I wondered if she is a regular at MGM.

My assumption is that one or more of my blog readers might have played poker with this woman one or more times in Las Vegas. Look the the frumpy, somewhat overweight woman with brown hair, pale skin and brown glasses who plays poker while wearing headphones and keeping her nose buried in her cell phone playing phone games when the action is not on her. If she seems to get pissed off for relatively no reason at a man -- BINGO, you have now experienced the man-hating woman. Good luck with her!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Passing of a Poker Blogger Friend

It is with great sadness that I have been asked to help spread the word of the passing of a former poker blogger and friend. Earlier today, I received a text message that Wolfshead (Herb Gaasche) passed away this morning.

Wolfshead was one of the old time poker bloggers who also transitioned into the new group several years ago. He was known for his acerbic comments, particularly toward the woman he loved to chaeuffer around, Very Josie.

I was fortunate enough to meet Wolfshead in person on one trip to Las Vegas in 2010. His humor was even better in person. Despite many problems getting around due to various health concerns, including a stroke, he was a good sport and joked about his situation.

Unfortunately, over the past several years, he had a few more strokes and his health continued to deteriorate. We had not traded text messages for some time, and just over two weeks ago I sent him a text to see how he was doing. One of his nephews, Patrick, responded to me text. He said the Wolfshead recently had a leg amputated and had been bedridden since December. I left the usual kind of message that I normally would for him: "Please tell him to get off his fat butt or I'll sic Josie on him." This morning when I heard about his passing, Patrick wrote: "When I told him of your message, he was unable to communicate but his eyes lit up with joy."

Sometimes life is just really interesting. I had not heard from Wolfshead for a few years and just sent the recent message to him on a whim. Two weeks later, he is gone.

Patrick said that Wolfshead requested that his services be delayed for a month or so in order to give his long-distance friends the opportunity to attend. I will post an update when I receive additional information.