Poker At Mohegan Sun

This was my second chance to try electronic tables. It was much more enjoyable than my trip to the Commerce in Los Angeles. Maybe the addition of technology takes some getting used to? Whatever the reason, the play was much more like ‘real’ poker this time.

PIC-0031Helaine’s out of town. I’m off from work. It’s cold and gray and the sky is spitting from time-to-time.

I went to play poker.

My friend Rick and I decided to go to Mohegan Sun. Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun’s own Lex Luther, is the casino more known for poker. Mohegan Sun has just added some electronic tables and has a few moderately priced tournaments. It’s also around 15 minutes closer.

The weather really sucked this morning, but it didn’t slow our progress across Connecticut’s shoreline and then up to the north, close to its eastern border. Mohegan Sun is in Uncasville, right on the Thames River (upriver from the Groton Sub Base). It’s really a beautiful countrified area with two gigantic casino hotel complexes.

Connecticut’s two Indian casinos are in a part of the start which had been more like the rest of New England than the rest of Connecticut. It is rural, with light industry. At one time, there were many mills. No more.

The casinos have changed everything with an influx of workers from every corner of the Earth. English as a Second Language” programs in school often see Chinese, or other less common tongues, as the first language.

PIC-0026The Sun’s poker room is wedged in the middle of the casino. The tables are spread out, forming an elongated oval with lots of foot traffic on either side.

This was my second chance to try electronic tables. It was much more enjoyable than my trip to the Commerce in Los Angeles. Maybe the addition of technology takes some getting used to? Whatever the reason, the play was much more like ‘real’ poker this time.

The electronic tables are faster and there are no dealer mistakes. One of the floor bosses told me, he hasn’t seen one fight since these tables have come in!

We played an 11:30 tournament, a little limit Hold’em and two ‘sit ‘n go’ tournaments. Rick did well. I did not. I find my current play suspect.

As it turns out, the winner buys dinner rule was in effect.

Poker At The Commerce

PIC-0179Among my goals in California was a trip to the Commerce Casino. It is a mainly poker casino in a small municipality adjacent to Los Angeles.

This is by no means the type of casino you’d find in Connecticut or Las Vegas. It is smaller and looks a little worn.

There are poker rooms on the ground and second floors. Playing very low stakes games, I walked the stairs.

My friend and his son came along, and they actually had a good time. Though they’re not poker players, they did play in a $40 sit and go tournament played on a computer driven dealerless table.

I really wanted to like the electronic poker table, but I didn’t. There was something missing. I’m not sure if it was the lack of a dealer, many of whom don’t speak English anyway, or the absence of the old school tactile connection with the cards and chips.

By the time we left, I had won around $100 playing at low stakes games. I had a good time, because I like playing cards. I’ve been to spiffier joints.

Car Buying Time

The word is out. It’s time to replace Helaine’s SUV.

Of all the purchase decisions in our lives, this is the one we enjoy the least. Seemingly, there’s no good way to buy a car and guarantee you’re getting something good for a good price. How can you not have buyer’s remorse?

I’ve been pouring through Consumer Reports. Most of their info is good. They seem a little heavy handed in the way they push their own service, which provides the actual price a dealer pays for vehicles. I’ll probably swallow hard and buy it anyway. Isn’t Consumer Reports supposed to be a little less self serving?

We went to two dealers today. At the first we looked around, acted sheepish, looked at a few cars and decided which might do.

We realized, after about thirty seconds, their midsize model was too small and their big model too pricey. A salesman came over as we were deciding to leave. I apologize here for costing you an ‘up’.

We’ve scouted out financing, but there’s a ‘deal’ currently underway from the manufacturer. Zero percent for 36 months. That’s a better price (duh) and there are legal advantages to dealer financing.

I have some rules at a car dealership. If you’re my salesman, we are joined at the hip. You cannot leave my side to consult with your manager. If you go, I go. They never like hearing that.

You may not treat me like a fool. If you lie to me, and believe me it’s happened, I will call you on it before I walk out. Lying infuriates me. I do not suffer fools or liars gladly.

Helaine made me promise not to make anyone at the dealership cry. I get a little nuts during the heat of battle, but it’s their fault. Decisions at the ‘car store’ are stacked in their favor. They have all the info. You have little. And, the salesmen have incentive to make you pay as much as is possible.

In the end, we’ll find the car we want and desperately try to get bids from three dealerships. I did that when we bought Helaine’s first SUV and I think it worked well.

I should probably sell Helaine’s car privately. Do I want to be in the used car business? Of course, you lose a lot when you trade a car in.

During the last shopping cycle, long after I left one dealership, the manager related to a friend of mine who just happened to be there, “Geoff Fox was here. He was shopping on price. He won’t be back.”

You’ve got that right, bucko.

Best Seat InThe House

We were invited to a dinner tonight, which was over by 7:30 PM. It was in the Convention Center at the MGM Grand. Helaine and I headed back toward the casino (this facility is so large, it might as well be in another area code) and I sat down at a $1/$2 no limit Hold’em table.

A casino might run many games at the same level, so they assign you a seat in order to keep the tables balanced. I was sent to table seven, a standard ten seat Hold’em table against the rail that separates the poker room from regular public space.

To one side is Centrifuge, a loud bar. On the other side is the sports book. Straight ahead is a glass enclosed habitat with a few very live lions walking around. The walkway in front of the poker room was very busy.

I had the six seat, meaning I was facing the dealer slightly off the middle of the table. More important, my view was out toward the throngs.

Originally, I felt cheated. There were no TV sets for me to see. It’s customary when I’m out of a hand for me to stare of at a sporting event on TV. I’m back in the game when the next hand’s dealt.

Within a few minutes, I realized how much better entertainment I’d get this way!

There was a a little of everyone walking by. I saw a man and woman who were a cowgirl and cowboy. There was a woman dressed in ‘mod’ fashions from the 60s. A heavy bride led an entourage of interestingly dressed friends and relatives.

Mostly I ogled at young women in skimpy outfits. There was plenty of exposed flesh.

Forgive me Helaine, because it was great sport to watch… even from afar.

This was dress to impress… or maybe dress to attract. Often the girls would walk by in packs of three or four or more. Some of them stopped a moment to have their pictures taken in front of the Dave Matthews Band posters (he appeared last night and tonight). A number of guys walked with their dates in tow. In other cases, the women were towing the men!

I assume few were here for the lions. More than likely they were headed toward Centrifuge. Even though drinks are free for casino players, bars (where the liquor is sold) are plenty crowded.

When I finished my poker playing (a very good night. Currently I am nicely ‘up’ for the trip), I headed toward the hotel elevators. The rest of the casino was also jammed with young people.

They were clustered near bars and slot machines. They were probably at the table games as well. I wasn’t close enough to see clearly, but the ‘pits’ were jammed too.

Back to my chosen game: Hold’em. I continue to be surprised how TV has turned what was a game of older men and women into a game primarily played by twenty something men. They like the action provided by no limit games, which can be quite free wheeling.

I’m glad I can sometimes take their money.

Poker At The MGM

I have been playing a lot of poker since we arrived. I’ve played a few tournaments with the remainder $1/$2 no limit Hold’em.

Don’t let the declared stakes fool you. $1/$2 can easily become an expensive game.

At the moment, playing lots of hours since Wednesday, I’m up $28! That’s less than one winning hand separating me from being a net loser.

The dealers and cocktail waitresses at the tables have made more from my play than I have. I tip the dealer on every winning hand and the waitress with every drink (mainly water and coffee) delivered.

I have never played where the cocktail waitresses came to each table as often as they do here. I haven’t heard anyone have to ask for drink service! That’s very, very unusual. No, actually, that’s unheard of.

I like the poker room at the MGM a lot. The tables have a hard surface between the felt and rail. It’s much better for stacking chips and helps better delineate the playing area.

The dealers here are also very good. I’ve had no ‘losers’ dealing. Most are friendly and often engage in conversation.

Earlier today I had a dealer I recognized from years at the Mirage – Daryl. He is also known by his nickname, Razzo.

Razzo was the first person I know of to bring poker to the Internet. This was long before online poker sites and the like. His has been online since 1995.

I said hello and he said he recognized me. Maybe… though who knows. He’s dealt to tens of thousands of tourists.

The poker room is squirreled into a curved space, almost like a warped dumbbell. The two ends are larger than the middle. There are twenty two tables, each with automatic shufflers.

MGM’s poker room has the best automation set-up I’ve seen. As you sit down, the dealer logs you in (if you’ve got a player’s card, he just swipes that). The poker room floor people know how many people are at a table, who needs to buy chips, who has left. It’s super efficient, which is good because I want to play at full tables.

MGM runs some sit and goes (single table tournaments) and larger tournaments. I don’t like the blind structure, which goes too high too quickly. That favors gamblers and penalizes more analytical players.

When I started playing poker in Las Vegas, the average player was in his sixties. Most tables dealt limit 7-card stud. Today, the average player is in his twenties and (at least this afternoon) the room was 100% Hold’em, mainly no limit.

It’s still called poker, but it’s a totally different game.

Recalled And Repaired

This summer, I wrote about my car’s brake light problem. It was a repair that would surely be associated with a recall… but when?

This weekend I got the note from Mercedes Benz. Today I took my car to the dealer. They couldn’t have been nicer and I was in and out in a bit over an hour.

As it turns out (and I never thought about this part when my brake lights were repaired this summer) the lights were repaired with the same part that would later be recalled!

Today, the three month old housings for the brake lights on my eight year old car were replaced. I wonder if they would have lasted longer if I wouldn’t have driven so much at night?

Did I mention the original repair was pricey?

It was – hundreds of dollars. It seemed like a lot for what I got. There aren’t too many places to get Mercedes Benz brake light housings. You’re sort of over a barrel. I guess that’s the case with any car.

There is, however, good news. It’s an official NHTSA recall. I get my original repair money back and today’s service was free.

How about that? At this point the refund counts as found money.

I was a little upset at how both NHTSA and Mercedes Benz North America handled this in August. If this is really a safety recall, neither of them acted particularly quickly nor were their people knowledgeable. I was disappointed in August.

That opinion is unchanged.

A Day At The Tables

24 Feb ’06, 2.22pm EST

Originally uploaded by geoff_fox.

Very windy – went to Foxwoods. Wish me luck.

That line above was thumbed onto my phone while playing poker. It was about all that went right early in the day.

After my big ‘score’ in the PokerStars satellite tournament, I thought some real poker might be fun. I don’t usually sit face-to-face while I play… in pajamas.

Foxwoods is around an hour from here. We drive by another beautiful casino, Mohegan Sun, to get there. About twenty minutes before poker became hot, Mohegan Sun shut their room. I’ve heard all sorts of rumors, but never an official explanation for why they closed.

As has been my custom recently, I sat down at a $10/$20 table and proceeded to bleed money. I’m a little embarrassed by how much I lost (and won’t put the amount here), but with the bets being in increments of $10 and $20, it mounts quickly.


My mood had shifted from good to bad. So, why not spread a little sunshine around? I headed toward Helaine in another part of the casino.

I took the shortcut to get to where she was from where I was. That involves cutting through the men’s room!

Helaine was having fun. She really didn’t want to go. We compromised and had an early dinner… or late lunch… take your choice.

We sat along a wall in the lounge attached to Cedar’s Steakhouse. On one TV, foreigners with unpronounceable names were playing hockey in an Olympic medal round. Go guy with 15 consonants and no vowels! On another TV, Scooter Libby’s lawyer explained how much classified data he’d need for Scooter’s trial, while commentators speculated it was a ploy to get the charges dropped.

Scooter’s my age for heaven’s sake. No one our age should be named Scooter.

Loaded up on chowder, burger and French fries the size of waffles, I decided to give poker another chance. Helaine told me an attitude adjustment was in order.

I went back, sat down and began to win.

I had an incredible mountain to climb… which I did. By the time we left, I was down $5. It’s so incredibly unlikely, I’ll say it again. I lost $5 for the day. And that was after tipping the dealer on every winning hand and tipping the waitress who delivered bottled water, coffee and a Baileys (the only alcoholic beverage I drink. What a wuss I am).

I got up from the table and we left. I am a happy man.

Before I close out this entry, two casino observations.

As you walk toward Foxwoods’ poker room, you pass a portion of the casino with unusual games. I don’t know their names. I have no idea of the rules. They are played, almost exclusively, by Asian men and women.

It is astounding to walk through this area and see nothing but Asian faces – most of them puffing cigarettes. I don’t know if the number of smokers here reflects the Asian-American population in general, but it is quite noticeable and a much higher percentage of smokers in one place than I remember seeing in decades.

The second observation concerns something we saw just before we left. Helaine was alongside my table, waiting for me to get up and cash out. She told me to turn and pointed to a coterie of security games and other uniformed casino personnel. Some of them were scurrying around, others standing and milling and others still were holding a white sheet aloft, hiding whatever was behind it.

If someone didn’t die tonight in the poker room, they surely got real sick. I guess that’s inevitable with so many people there all hours of the day and night. It was a little spooky.

As far as I could tell, no game stopped while this commotion was in progress.

Improv – More To The Story

After an attempted nap, I sat down to play poker. It wasn’t long before a man sat down two seats to my left. He looked familiar.

When he stood up to make a cell phone call, I realized it was Bud Freedman, owner-founder of the Improv. I wasn’t totally sure, so I kept my mouth shut.

When the dealer referred to him as Bud, I knew.

Bud Freedman is to comedy as Benny Binion was to poker. Bud had a comedy club long before that was the thing to do. And to say the majority of the big names in comedy played his clubs is not hyperbole.

I told him I had something to say, but I didn’t want to kvetch. I explained we had been to the show last night, told him where we sat and that the sound was awful.

He seemed concerned. He also had the exact correct and gracious response. He offered to host us another night, his treat, front and center.

I didn’t take him up on his offer. We’re committed. Still, I was impressed.

You don’t survive in business as long as he had without serving your customers. I’ll bet the sound system is looked at tonight and fixed as quickly as is possible.

At least I hope that’s what happens.

End of An Era

Lots of “had to’s” today. I had to drop Steffie’s car at the dealer. I had to pick up a disk from my friend Kevin. I had to go to work – not my usual Sunday plan.

That’s why I was in the car as we approached the top of the hour. This has always been my time to hit the network news. OK – I’m a living anachronism, but I still listen to network radio news on the hour anytime I’m in the car.

WCBS had the Yankees game, so I went to WQUN. They had a ballgame too. WAVZ, now mostly Air America talk shows and CNN Radio Network news was also in the middle of a baseball game. As I tuned and tuned, I could find no network news!

I can’t remember this ever happening before. I’ve always been able to find a NOTH and nearly always it was CBS.

It has been getting harder to find over time. I remember driving up I-95 in Ft. Lauderdale this past winter and being pleased to hear Bob Hardt’s network cast from ABC. I was pleased because of how sparse these newscasts have become.

There was a time when radio stations had to commit to presenting news in order to keep their license. As strange as it seems now, top-40 stations would pause every hour for a newscast. With all the outlets available today it probably isn’t as necessary.

Write it down – May 1, 2005. The first day I could no longer depend on network radio news. It’s a shame.

My Invitation Must Have Gotten Misplaced

50 Cent, the former drug dealer, hopefully former thug and current rap multimillionaire, threw a party last night at his mansion in Farmington last night. My invitation must have gotten misplaced.

This was a major deal. Lots of ink, lots of air time.

A friend, one of many, at a Hartford radio station sent me this.

I’ll have to make sure to avert my eyes.

50 Cent (or FITTY as we, his neighbors call him since he moved into Mike Tyson’s place a 1/4 mile from here) is coming to our Hip Hop station this morning and his people warned us — no autographs, no approaching him, no looking at him.

The cops are coming to shut down the road and only station employees with ID will be allowed in.

I cant beleive I cant get an autograph!!!

With all the RIAA kvetching of the past few years, I can’t believe how much money there still is to be made in recordings. Call me old – I just don’t want to say music in this case.

What’s the Opposite of I won?

My poker tournament experience has ended. I didn’t win. That’s not to say I didn’t have a god time or I didn’t play well. Except for one small move early on, which I now question, I was pretty happy with my play.

I got to bed early (for me) last night. Sleep was not very good and I was up just after 6:00 AM. I left the house around 8:00 and drove the 70 minute trip to Foxwoods.

Though the roads around the casino were reasonably busy, I realized as soon as I got to the valet parking area that Thursday morning was not prime time. Mine was the only car there and a nice young woman quickly walked up and gave me a parking ticket.

If you’ve never been to Foxwoods it is a world unto itself. The complex is immense. It was, and may still be, the world’s largest casino. As big and bold as Foxwoods is, the area surrounding it is the opposite. Surrounded by the town of Ledyard, there is still plenty of farmland and low density housing and businesses in the area. As you approach from the north, the high rise hotels dominate the rolling terrain of eastern Connecticut.

I got to the poker tournament desk at 9:26. I know this because it’s on my receipt. I said hello, paid my cash, chose between a hat, t-shirt and $10 in food coupons (food – though not used) and headed toward the tournament.

How fitting is this for a seniors poker tournament, we were in the Sunset Ballroom!

I walked into the ballroom. It was a breath of fresh air because I felt, I looked, I (probably) was the youngest person in the room. I’m used to being the oldest at work. This is more fun.

I scouted the room and didn’t see anyone I knew. Then I spied Jimmy Christina.

I have described Jimmy here before, so let me be brief. Jimmy is not tall, though he easily stands out in a crowd of people. His gray hair is pulled back in a ponytail. He has a Southern New England accent&#185 delivered in a voice reminiscent of a gravel road. Standing in his tuxedo, he is the absolute height of incongruity.

When I grow up, I want to be Jimmy Christina.

There’s one more thing about Jimmy. If you watch him from afar, you will see a constant stream of people coming up to him, saying hello. All of them are smiling. Jimmy is smiling. He is charming.

I moved to my seat at table 30, seat 8. The room was filled with long, narrow, Texas Hold’em tables. Each was set to comfortably seat nine players. The dealer sat in what looked like an executive’s office chair. I am told they hate it because it has no back support.

This tournament was ‘sponsored’ by “Oklahoma” Johnny Hale. Johnny is old school poker, back when it was all guts and instinct. It was the era before mathematicians quantified the game’s nuances into a series of odds and ratios. Johnny introduced some other older players, shilled his own line of merchandise and books and led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence. He is everything you expect from someone who goes by the name Oklahoma Johnny.

In a poker tournament, you buy in for a fixed amount and then get tournament chips, in this case $1,500. They’re not good anywhere else, just in a tournament and can’t be turned into real cash. You keep playing poker, hoping to survive as more and more players bust out.

Today’s tournament had 295 players. The top 25 would win money, starting at $777 and going up to better than $40,000. The goal in tournament play is survival. Survivors are paid. Winning is of secondary importance. I hope that makes sense.

Since the game was No Limit Texas Hold’em, anyone could bet all of their chips on any card. It didn’t take long until someone did – and walked away the first loser. I was one player closer to the cash.

Compared to online play, live poker is very slow. And compared to online play, I’m not multitasking. The game at hand gets my undivided attention.

With forced bets and a few cheap peeks, I quickly turned my $1,500 to $1,350. I was somewhat uneasy, though it didn’t affect my play. I was very self conscious. I didn’t want to be out early. I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing.

At the far end of the room a big screen TV displayed the current stats. What were the blinds (forced bets for two players each round)? How much time was left at this limit? How many players were left?

Table 30 was one of the first to get broken up. As players leave, and some tables have empty seats, tables are combined to allow everyone to sit at tables with a similar number of players. I was sent to Table 8, Seat 1.

Around me, the room was alive with the sound of cards being riffled and chips clinking. It is a steady castanet sound which permeates the room. It is actually reassuring to hear. I looked down at the stacks of chips in front of each player. Already there were huge differences with some players close to busting out and others amassing fortunes.

Life at Table 8 didn’t go much better. Slowly, as if I had a leak, chips were disappearing from my stack. Before long I was down to $320.

With a forced bet of $75 and a number of players already calling in front of me, I went all in with a pair of 4s. Being dealt a pair is good – but 4s… well even a pair of them… is no bargain. If anyone else matches any card other than a two or three (unlikely they’d be played anyway) you’re dead meat.

On the fourth common card, ‘the turn,’ a third 4 was dealt. I had a set (three of a kind) and was now back to nearly the $1,500 I started with. A few more good hands had me up to $2,000.

Meanwhile, on the TV screen the numbers were changing. As tables were consolidated the player count went down – 225, 200, 175, 150. My chip count had me below the middle of the pack, but I was still playing.

And then, I drove into oncoming traffic at full speed.

The limits had gone up to $100/$75. A few players limped in with minimal bets when the action got to me. My cards – two red Aces. In Hold’em there is nothing better to have than a pair of Aces. I raised to $300.

A few players dropped out and then, across the table, another player pushed his chips toward the center. He was all in. In order to play my Aces, I’d need to match his chips.

I had Aces. There is nothing better.

I pushed my chips in as we both turned over our cards. He showed another Ace and a Jack. This was wonderful. Additional Aces wouldn’t help him. He needed two Jacks or some ridiculous out of the blue miraculous one in a million shot… and there would only be five common cards with which to accomplish this.

The dealer rolled three and then one and then one more. Of the five cards exposed, four were 7, 8, 9 and 10 (the 8 coming on the last card, know as the River).

I still had my Aces. He had a straight!

I was left with a few hundred dollars. It didn’t take long to lose that when my King, Queen was beaten by a Queen, Jack.

I had played four hours and fifteen minutes, finishing 102 of 295.

Good play can get beaten. It is, after all, gambling. Yes, there is skill, but skill tempered by chance.

I’m glad I played. I enjoyed the tournament. I wish I would have come home with some more money.

&#185 – Usually limited to far Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, this regionalism makes a Boston accent sound soft and gentle.

Stormy Saturday

Steffie was away at Field Hockey Camp. The weather was forecast to be rotten. There were no movies worth seeing. Helaine and I decided to drive the hour or so to Foxwoods where I could play poker while wearing something other than pajamas.

The traffic was horrendous. Well, for our little part of Connecticut it was horrendous. I’m sure Californians or Long Islanders would disagree with my threshold of traffic pain. We hit the first stoppage on I-91, approaching I-95.

The new Ikea was supposed to attract more cars. Since it has opened, I have noticed much slower traffic where I-91 empties into I-95. It might be a coincidence. I hope it is. I don’t want to think this will now be the norm.

I crossed the “Q” Bridge and headed east on I-95. Since I-95 runs from Maine to Florida it’s considered a north – south road. Signs point you to I-95 north or I-95 south. Unfortunately, here in Connecticut it is entirely east – west. It is somewhat confusing in the beginning.

A few minutes later I heard what sounded like touch tones on the radio, then silence, then National Weather Service radio broadcasting a tornado warning for Northern New Haven County.

I picked up the phone and called the station. I wanted to make sure we were on it. Thankfully we were.

Gil Simmons was heading back to the studio from the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament. A crew was heading to Wolcott where we had reports of storm damage. Our automated equipment had instantly posted the tornado warning on the air.

We continued the drive – in heavy traffic on I-95. As is so often the case, we never found out why the traffic was heavy. One minute we were in bumper-to-bumper stop and go traffic, the next we were cruising along at the speed limit.

Skies remained threatening, but we beat the storms to the casino. The valet parking area was fairly empty and we pulled right in. As it turned out we beat the thunderstorms by about 30 minutes.

Since July, and Las Vegas, I have spent more time in casinos than ever before. Of course I’ve been going because I’ve been winning. Somehow online poker has made me a much better ‘live’ poker player. And since I am willing to risk more in person, a good night can be very rewarding.

The poker room at Foxwoods is bigger than ever, just having added 12 tables. It was also more crowded than I’d ever seen it with long waiting lists to play. I signed up and Helaine and I left to walk around. I came back in time to play.

Recently, I had been having good luck at $10/$20 Texas Hold’em, and went there again. Foxwoods deals tables of 10 at Hold’em – and the table was full.

I bought in with $200 and was soon down around $60. The things began to turn around. By the time we were ready for dinner I had won $483.&#185

We went to the coffee shop for dinner. Foxwoods has some beautiful restaurants and one disappointing buffet. I had a French Dip sandwich, fries and a bowl of chowder. Dinner couldn’t have been nicer.

To its credit, this coffee shop is reminiscent of Vegas coffee shops. It is bright and airy, more room between tables than you’d expect. The food is very good. The menu is more limited than most Vegas coffee shops, but there’s no problem finding something good to eat.

We headed back upstairs and I got reseated for poker. Even though my dinner break allowed me to be second on the list for players coming in, it took nearly a half hour for me to sit.

I never felt I was doing that well, but before long I could see an extra few stacks of $5 chips in front of me. I was up over $200 before getting sucked into a hand that better judgment should have kept me from. I left the table up another $143.

As was the case when I played in Atlantic City, I keep waiting for my big loss. It is coming – I just don’t know when. Even a great player, and I am not a great player, can’t sustain the string of wins I currently have at brick and mortar casinos.

That loss didn’t come Saturday night.

On the way out I picked up some brochures for Foxwoods big series of tournaments which comes in October. The entries are a bit pricey, but I would consider playing in one event.

In a somewhat sobering observation I realized I am eligible to play in the Senior Tournament. All I need to do is bring proof of my 50+ age… and a lot of cash.

&#185 – When I play poker, I buy in for a round amount. When I cash out I subtract that amount to come up with my win. During the course of playing I tip the dealer after any winning hands and tip the waitress when I get a soda or coffee. Those come from my stack, so they reduce my winnings. Whether they should be part of my winnings or losses is academic. It is easier to calculate it this way, so I do.

Yikes – Poker’s Good

We slept in pretty late. It was late enough that I missed my friend Barry, who decided to go back to Philadelphia early because of the bad weather.

My breakfast, at the Metropolitan, was strawberry pancakes. Not bad, but not special. Breakfast was fine.

Afterward Steffie and Helaine set out to see the new outlet stores. I headed to our room where the Phillies / Cubs game was in progress on TV. I wouldn’t have stayed but Eric Milton was on his way to a no hitter.

Unfortunately, in the 9th the no hitter went bye bye. In fact, Milton was pulled with the score tied 2-2. I left to play poker and watch the end. By the time I got downstairs the Phils had won 3-2.

Poker had been pretty good to me. I had won all three times I sat down to play, so I decided to go up in stakes. I put my name on a list and in a few minutes was playing $10/$20 Texas Hold’em.

To me, this is scary territory. These pots can hold significant cash and require a significant investment. Right away I promised myself to play tight. Unlike the lower stakes tables I normally play at, there is no rake here. Instead each player is charged $5 every time the dealer changes (every half hour).

It didn’t take long before I won my first hand. The afternoon went very well – not perfect. By the time I cashed out, I had made another $915.

This has been a significant poker event for me. Discounting the tournaments I played (because the payoffs are so concentrated in placing high), Las Vegas wasn’t too bad for poker either.

I think I am now a good poker player. Not great. Not excellent. Just good enough to hold my own in mid stakes ring games. That’s a heck of an accomplishment and I’m happy about it.

I’m going now to play a little more.

The Guys Go To Fry’s

Sunday morning – only one day to go. Very sad.

As always, Las Vegas woke up to sunshine. People here sometimes complain about the consistent, predictable sunshine. Give me a break.

After a quick breakfast at the coffee stand I took Michael and Max to Fry’s. I have heard about Fry’s over the years. The are stories about Fry’s in Silicon Valley during the early days of the dot-com boom… geeks picking up motherboards and nachos in the middle of the night.

It is a more technically oriented version of CompUSA, but the size of BJ’s or Costco. I saw displays of CPU’s, motherboards, cases, everything tech! Good God, I was in heaven.

I ended up buying a 120 GB Western Digital hard drive for $60 after rebate and two $22 books, both free after rebate. Not bad. Michael bought a DVD for Max and a few more very esoteric art film type DVDs for himself.

Before I leave the subject of Fry’s, there is one very tacky thing. The entrance of the store, which faces away from Las Vegas Boulevard, is styled like a slot machine. It’s very cheesy. The vertical stands, used to prevent cars from driving in, are fashioned to look like stacks of quarters.

We came back and I took a nap. Then it was back to the poker room. Though there was only one table playing $6/$12 and four on the waiting list, the woman with the clipboard told me it would move quickly. Right – I don’t think so.

I sat down at $3/$6 and bought a $100 rack of blue chips. It didn’t take long to notice a heavyset man with a large, though old, tattoo on his right arm. His long brown blond hair was askew as if he had slept on it, but hadn’t showered, or had just been up for a long, difficult time. He was loud. He had two drinks in front of him. He was drunk.

I really don’t care if there’s a drunk player, because they usually play stupidly, giving me a shortcut to their money. He was loud enough and off center enough to take my concentration off the cards and onto him. And, his irrational large bets totally changed the strategy necessary to stay afloat.

I lost a close hand – what should have been a cheap hand, but wasn’t because of his constant raising. I didn’t lose to him, but I lost. Before long I had shed $70. I tried hard not to go on tilt, to keep my play steady.

Little by little I played back and after a few hours left up $15.

During my play he was visited by at least two floor people. One came on my insistence. The other was called in by the dealer. He should have been cut off from liquor. He should have been removed from the table. I suppose if I would have pressed a little more he would have. On the other hand, I don’t want some huge drunk upset with me.

Dinner tonight was just Steffie, Helaine and me at the California Pizza Kitchen. Helaine and I are positive we’ve been served by this waiter at least 5-6 times before.

And now, my last chance at poker.

Blogger’s note: I continue to add photos to the gallery for this trip. You can see them by clicking here. The whole Vegas trip has its own category, which means you can link to these stories specifically by clicking here or read about the 2003 Vegas trip here.

It Takes Good Cards to Lose Big

Saturday was another beautiful day. Hot and dry. I think the dry is starting to take a toll. More than once I started to feel a little weak or light headed. I’m attributing it to dehydration and am going to ramp up the water intake.

I have to remember that even inside the dew point is low. Outside, the difference between the temperature and dew point encourages the rapid loss of body fluid. You DO perspire in Las Vegas. It just evaporates so quickly that you never notice.

I played some poker Saturday. So far I had won at every non-tournament session and lost in every tournament. I’ll explain why I’m separating those two when I summarize the trip from Connecticut.

I lost $307 – and lost it in a hurry. I didn’t play bad. I was attacked by a long string of unlikely occurrences. Someone who wouldn’t lay down a 10-J off suit to my Kings – even when the bet had been raised 4 times. Of course, in the end, she caught a straight.

If you calculated the odds for that happening, it was quite unlikely. But even an 80% probability is wrong 1 in 5 times.

This happened time-after-time-after-time. My Jacks with a King kicker lost to an Ace kicker.

Anyway, I watched $307 disappear as if the chips were evaporating like sweat in the Vegas sunshine. I’m not happy about what happened, but my play was fine. This kind of setback is absolutely expected, just as incredible hot nights are expected every once in a while.

I didn’t go on tilt. I didn’t try and chase my money. I stayed calm.

For at least five years, maybe longer, Helaine and I had talked about seeing Mac King at Harrah’s. Mac King performs twice daily at 1 and 3 PM. It is a family oriented comedy magic show.

As many times as we’d said, “This year for sure,” we’d never crossed the street to see him. On Saturday, with Steffie, Melissa, Michael and Max in tow, we did.

The show is dirt cheap to see. Helaine had 3 – 2 free ticket coupons. Our only obligation was to buy a $7 drink. With tax, 6 of us went to see Mac King for $49.20.

Playing off his Kentucky hayseed upbringing, he is very funny. The magic is simple, yet effective. The tricks are well done and folksy. There are no live animals, no expensive props. The charm of the show is, he’s charming.

I watched Max and Steffie, both laughing – Max on the level of a 6 year old and Steffie as a late teen. Seeing them smiling was part of my fun.

We had dinner at the Mirage buffet again. My capacity for ‘buffeting’ is rapidly diminishing. I worry about how much diet reversal has taken place in this week.

With time running out, I decided to play poker again. The losses from the afternoon continued. Before long I had lost another $175. With $25 left in my chip rack I started to recover and left the table, after four hours, with a $32 loss.

This late night $6/$12 table was one of the most lively and fun tables I had played at. A dealer from Imperial Palace sat at my right. A few seats farther was Lance from Texas. He reminded me of Rock Hudson in a Doris Day movie.

Lance was countrified and over-the-top Texas at the same time he was sophisticated. He was the grease that kept the table laughing and moving along.

In one hand, where the two of us were heads up, I felt guilty beating him and extracting extra chips. He had that kind of charm.

Blogger’s note: I continue to add photos to the gallery for this trip. You can see them by clicking here. The whole Vegas trip has its own category, which means you can link to these stories specifically by clicking here or read about the 2003 Vegas trip here.