Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Buffet of Gaming Choices: Las Vegas, Local Casinos and Online – Past, Present and Future

Having just come back from several days in Las Vegas, I am still having a difficult time wiping the smile off my face.  However, there is just one tiny problem: Las Vegas is over 1,700 miles away. It’s not like it is easy to go there for many reasons, including time off from work and travel costs. Fortunately, I am able to take several trips a year out west, but those times are spread out throughout the year. What is player to do when the desire to gamble hits?

Local options for me are quite limited. My state has a finite number of licenses for casinos, and the few that we have were originally all riverboat casinos that were required to actually sail. There was an admission charge at first, believe it or not. Go on a Saturday night and you would expect to pay $20 just for the opportunity to gamble! Fortunately, that is no longer the case. But … to get to the closest casino, I have to go over 90 miles. The gambling selections at that casino are, unfortunately, quite limited. Some slot machines, a few craps pits, a little blackjack, Caribbean Poker, Let It Ride and a small poker room is about all it has to offer.

The convenient option, of course, is online gambling. Online gambling, and poker in particular, flourished during the big poker boom that began around 2003. New online rooms popped up seemingly week after week. I remember that at one time I had over 30 poker room icons on my computer. Life was good! Unfortunately, the U.S. government did not see it the same way. The passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 began to cut into online play, and that fateful day we call “Black Friday” in April 2011 halted online gaming for many people. For some time, options were on the decline. However, the times are thankfully changing. More U.S. sites are becoming legal, being led by forward thinking political leaders in New Jersey and Nevada. Lobbying efforts across the United States are going strong. A country that has prided itself on freedom needs to loosen the shackles placed upon online gambling.
I find it interesting that my gambling choices have changed over the years. I have always like dabbling in slots for fun and entertainment, and used to frequent the roulette tables and the craps pits. Once the poker boom of the mid-2000’s hit, though, I was hooked. Although I play mostly Hold ‘Em, I have a special affinity for Omaha and O-8.I still enjoy playing slots, and have developed a liking for video poker. Being able to “mash buttons” in video poker is just a special treat in itself. Online poker and other online options are great if you are like me and like to do your gaming from the convenience of your own home. A laptop computer on my bed is all I need to play poker against players from all over the world.

Where do I see gambling heading in the next ten years? Going on the assumption that the economy in the United States will continue to improve and seeing the direction that individual states are going regarding online poker and other forms of gambling, I believe that gambling options will flourish, both in brick and mortar venues and in online formats. More states, desperate to balance budgets, will see the financial opportunity that online gambling brings.
The future looks bright, which is quite a change from the dark days after Black Friday. Best o’ luck as you enjoy your gaming!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Back Home Again - Reality Sucks!

I got back from Las Vegas at about midnight last night. There is a good side to getting away from everyday life, but it is also nice to get back home.

Since my work weekend is now starting (ha!), I will get up some posts starting later today.

First up: my Fremont Experience, the flash flood, Arizona, and maybe even the return to Las Vegas and a little MOJO.

Did I just write that I got home in time for a long weekend? Yowsa!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Guest Post: Anime Midwest 2014

Hello readers! Today’s update isn’t from lightning36 - oh, no. This post is written by none other than his fantastic youngest daughter. I’ve been pestering him to let me write this one for about a month.
From July 4 to 6, my father and I went to what was surely the highlight of his year so far. We stayed at the Hilton Rosemont / Chicago O'Hare Hotel

(lovely place, by the way) for two nights, though that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Most of our time (or mine, at least) was spent at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, enjoying the panels, shopping, and having a fantastic time in general at Anime Midwest 2014.
Father's note: From the organization's website:
What is Anime Midwest? Our midwest anime convention is a three-day convention celebrating Japanese animation, video games, music, and more for fans in Chicago. Almost 10,000 anime fans will come to the Hyatt Regency O'Hare from July 4-6, 2014 to take part in cosplay, concerts, gaming tournaments, formal dances, and more. You can make new friends, meet voice actors, and have a lot of fun - while we support you with a ConSweet full of free soda and ramen.

This year’s experience was nothing short of mind-blowing. There was free food, plenty of friends (some old, some new,) and, of course, dozens upon dozens of pictures.

Me being lifted by a good friend

One of the many pictures taken at a Homestuck photoshoot

(Homestuck is the webcomic my daughter adores)

Unfortunately, one of the most important parts of the convention has not yet had pictures or videos posted online: a conga line of Homestuck fans that wrapped around the building (and I was near the front, too!)

Overall, I would definitely say this was a great experience, and I hope that I have many more convention experiences to come as well.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. If you could write something in the comment section along the lines of “lightning36 should let his daughter go to Kollision Con in January,”that would be great! ;)


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Slot Lounges and Upcoming Las Vegas Trip

My Local Slot Lounge

Limited video poker and slot machines have been legal in my state for some time. Most times, these machines can be found in bars and restaurants. Lately, however, some new places have opened in the area -- places I refer to as slot lounges. They generally feature only a few machines (both lounges in the immediate area have five -- their limit?) which have multiple game choices. Free snacks and soft drinks are available, and pre-made sandwiches and beer are available for purchase.

Several weeks ago I received a mailing with a coupon to receive a free scratch card which would award me some free play. Am I the kind of guy who would turn down this offer?

I have now gone to the closest lounge three times. The first time I used my promo money to bank a tidy little profit. Mind you, I am just playing at the lowest levels for relaxation and to see just how loose/tight these machines are. But I must tell you, that first session, which included hitting the bonus time after time (Lotus Flower), was a ton of fun. The machine cooled off eventually, and I looked forward to my next session to give it another try.

On my second session, I got the bonus a few times and was up, then the machine went cold and I cashed out even. The lounges are open until midnight, which is perfect for a guy like me that enjoys late evening activities. Also, I found that going during the day doesn't always work so well since a regular crowd of day people go there. Remember, there are only five machines. One time I went I was unable to play as all the machines were occupied and one person was waiting to get on.

Last night I went after 11:00 p.m. for session number three. I was surprised to see that four people were still playing. I got on a new machine and played a game called Hit the Pig. Ding! Bonus after bonus hit and I cashed out with another little profit.

The atmosphere in the lounge is friendly. It is not a bad option to mash a few buttons in the late evening. It has been fun -- for now, at least.

Next Las Vegas Trip

I am heading out to Sin City a little later in summer than I usually do. My brother is retiring from his job in northern Arizona and I am going out for his retirement party. And, amazingly, Mrs. lightning is actually going with me this time! This means, however, that my usual Las Vegas routine will have some ... uhhh ... adaptations.

We arrive in Las Vegas on Friday, July 11 late in the afternoon. In what will be a first for me, we are staying downtown that first night. On Saturday we are driving to Arizona for the party, staying overnight, then returning to Las Vegas on Sunday and staying on the Strip for three nights.

Having my wife on the trip means cutting down on my marathon cash game sessions. Heck, I think I might return to playing a small tournament or two this trip. We are going to see a Cirque show (shows exist in Las Vegas?) and El Cheapo is actually springing for some spa services for my wife. We might fit in a meal at Guy Fiere's Vegas Kitchen and Bar in The Quad ($30 for a burger and fries?) and, of course, In-N-Out will see us at least once This will be quite a different trip, but not nearly as different as the non-gambling trip Las Vegas trip I took six years ago.

So ... the regular routine will not be in force. However, if any of my Las Vegas friends or any readers will be in town then, hit me up when I am in town to see what my time availability is.

Time for one last poker trip before heading to Anime Midwest with my daughter this weekend. Cheers!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Just Another Night in Par-A-Dice

The past two weeks have just flown by. After my excursion to the Aurora casinos and The Shoe in Hammond, I did a repeat a week later. The King of Komps had another free night and buffets at Harrah’s Joliet, so off we went. The results were much different this time.

Sad to say, the most successful part of the trip was the buffet at Harrah’s Joliet that I ragged on in a previous post. It was actually much better this time around. I don’t know if eating earlier in the evening or on a more crowded night had anything to do with it, but it was like we went to a different buffet. It still is no bargain at $19.99, however.
I lost a small amount at the Hollywood Joliet poker room. It is small and only has had one or two tables running whenever I have been there, but the vibe has been okay.
I ran into some problems at Harrah’s Joliet. I got my pocket Queens crushed on an 8-9-9 board. Yes – a guy had pocket 8’s. I lost some other hands there where there were several people in big pots. The implied odds were really good, but I was just really unlucky that none of my overcards ever hit.

At The Shoe, I ran Jacks into Aces, Jacks into Kings. I finally started getting back to even when the late night drunks and rich donks came in, but the table broke. At my new table I quickly chipped up, only to flop Broadway and be all-in after the flop against pocket Kings. You know what happened next. The turn was a 9 and the river was a 9. One or two hands later, a shorty raised and I called with A-Q. The flop was Queen highly, so naturally I called his all-in bet after the flop. Unfortunately, he had pocket Aces. It was just that kind of night.
My session at The Shoe was a marathon that ended at 6:00 a.m. Nothing like playing poker all night, then hopping in your car for an almost 2 ½ hour ride home.

I returned to work last week and even fit in (sorry for anyone squeamish) a colonoscopy. Life gets wonderful as you age!

I decided to check out a new mini slot lounge in town. It looks like they are becoming the rage in Illinois. But hey – free snacks and soft drinks with a small list of menu items and alcoholic beverages for purchase makes for a decent little environment. I had some promo dollars and used that to cash out a little score. The people around me (only six machines there) kept looking as I hit the bonus on Lotus Flower time and time again. A second trip saw some bonuses on the same machine. Round three will be in the near future.
Yesterday I heard the poker sirens calling again, so I decided to make the shorter trip (1 ½ hours) to Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria. I snuck a quick look in the poker room, only to find the end of a tournament going on and what looked to be a three-handed table. Yuck. I played some sweet sweet video poker and then saw the game completely broke up. Back to the video poker and some slot play. Later on I saw a group of four or five that started a new game, so I entered. It turned out to be quite an evening.

The players were all locals, but very few looked familiar. The table filled up, and for the rest of the evening running into the wee hours of the morning, I not only played against some pretty bad players, but also found the favor of the poker gods. I hit sets. Some of my draws hit. It was one of those nights where virtually everything went well.  I had position on the good players and didn’t make many mistakes. Needless to say, it was a big night that helped to restore confidence that sometimes I might even know what I am doing at the poker table.

As I cashed out in the early morning hours, one guy said “Goodbye, cheater.” I am not sure if he was just ribbing me because I was winning a bunch of pots and took a decent amount off him, or if he was upset at a hand that happened a couple of hours earlier. We were in a hand together and both missed our draws. After the river, he said “You win” and was ready to muck his cards. His friends noticed that I hadn’t turned over my cards as I usually did at the conclusion of a hand, so they urged him not to muck (one player to a hand, jerks). When I saw that his Ace high was good, I mucked and said “No, you win.” I mean seriously – if your opponent wants to muck his cards thinking that he has lost, who would not accept this gift?
Since the Par-A-Dice poker room is small, there is limited table selection. However, even a small room can generate decent profits if the situation is right.

By the way, the title of the post was something that one of the players said after taking a nasty beat. I dunno know – it seemed like a great night to me!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today ...

No, not that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

But it was a heck of a day. O.J. Simpson was driving down California highways with the world watching. However, I was likely one of the few people in the United States who didn't know what was going on. I had spent all day at the hospital.

Daddy light and baby Rick

I got home at the end of a long day, only to be greeted by my niece who was jabbering "Uncle light, you'll never believe what has been going on. O.J. Simpson is running away from the police and they've been chasing him for hours."

I had hoped to end the day kind of quietly by watching the NBA finals match between the Rockets and the Knicks, but that game took a back seat across the country to the great O.J. Bronco chase. Needless to say, I had a much better day than O.J.

Rick and girlfriend Mari
Happy birthday, son o' mine. May all your dreams come true.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

For Two Fathers

Happy Fathers Day to all my readers, especially those who have experienced that wonderful calling we refer to as fatherhood. As I always say, it is the greatest non-paying job in the world.

In reflecting on Fathers Day, I thought about my own dad and my father-in-law. What did I learn from them?

From my father, I learned about sacrifice for the family. My dad was a blue collar worker who worked a regular day job, came home to eat dinner, and then worked many evenings at my uncle's gas station. For years he followed this same routine, which enabled him to move his family out of Chicago and into the suburbs. He never seemed to have many possessions, and frankly, never seemed to have much of a desire for any. I appear to have inherited this. A computer, a television and a car that runs can sustain me for a long time. I am a difficult guy to buy presents for because I don't really want much of anything. I can't really explain it -- it's just the way I am.

Dad died almost ten years ago. I feel so fortunate that his body gave out before his mind, for he had already been suffering from dementia. This past week I visited his grave and took my brother, the King of Komps, who always keeps dad's grave in great shape. Dad would have particularly loved the American flags, for he was a proud WWII veteran.

From my father-in-law, Fred, I learned that faith in God and a positive, selfless attitude can help one cope with almost anything. Fred had a remarkable medical history: heart bypass surgery, brain surgery, and spinal surgery. He had a large family that included many challenges, including a mentally and physically handicapped son and a wife with many medical issues. Yet, through all this, he never squawked, never complained, but just did what needed to be done in a positive manner.

Fred treated me like I was his own son, including inviting me to join the family menfolk on fishing excursions to Canada. One of the last things he did for me and my family was to buy us a dishwasher. He had seen one on sale at a terrific price and was thrilled to buy it for us. He was that kind of guy.

Fred has been gone more than 15 years now. He had terminal blood cancer and faced his final months with courage and dignity.

Both these men were truly loved and are sorely missed. I think of them at times when I have challenges as a father. It helps.

Fatherhood: the greatest non-paying job in the world.