Sunday With The Eagles

I got home from the JDRF Walk bushed beyond belief. Still, the Eagles were playing on TV, and as a good fan I wanted to watch.

When I say “on TV,” in this case I’m talking about on TV somewhere other than Connecticut. In order to see the game, I had to find a place where they were showing the game. I headed to “Eli’s on Whitney.”&#185

Me in a bar is sort of laughable. I don’t have anything against alcohol – I just don’t drink.

I take that back. Two or three times a year I’ll have a Bailey’s, which is closer to chocolate milk than booze.

Eli’s is centered around a large rectangular bar with seating on three sides. On the walls above the bar, and the walls inside the bar, are TVs. On Sundays, every NFL game is shown. The more popular games have multiple sets. ‘Glamor’ games with Cleveland or Kansas City (or both) have just one.

I walked in around 1:15 PM. The bar wasn’t particularly crowded, so I found a spot near one of the TVs showing the Eagles – Oakland game.

There were groups of people watching together, but I stood off to the side, against a wall, by myself. The only person I knew, at the bar with a date, was watching a different game.

I ordered a Diet Pepsi and some fried mozzarella. I also told the waitress, though I’d be drinking soda, I’d be tipping like I was drinking alcohol. I didn’t want her to spend the afternoon thinking I as a low value customer (which, to her bosses, I was).

The day started very poorly for the Eagles. On the opening kickoff, kicker David Akers fell to the field, writhing in pain. There was a penalty, and amazingly, Akers tried again… only to fall down in pain again. Another penalty. A scrub came in to make a very short kickoff on the third attempt.

All day long that would be a major advantage for Oakland.

The Raiders scored first, then the Eagles. With Akers unavailable, Mark Simoneau came in and missed the point after. The score was 7-6.

Donovan McNabb, the favorite quarterback of nearly everyone but Rush Limbaugh, seemed out-of sorts. Passes went too far… or too short. There were lots of passes which could easily be labeled, “intended for the security guard.”

Oakland’s Warren Sapp dropped one sure interception of a McNabb pass and caught another.

Though the score remained close, the Eagles were going nowhere. Luckily, as bad a day as the Eagles were having, they were playing a team whose entire season will be worse!

Let me cut to the chase. The Eagles went ahead. Then, as time ran down, Oakland tied the score. The Eagles got the ball back with 2:15 to go, moved most of the length of the field, ending up on the 5 yard line with :12 remaining.

Unbelievably, David Akers limped out onto the field. His short field goal attempt was good!

As the ball left his foot, he fell to the ground, again in pain. Close-up shots showed he was crying.

Yes, it was great that the Eagles won, but even better was what David Akers showed. He’s a long standing pro with nothing to prove. But, when called upon, he showed he had heart.

I would guess it’s any sports player’s fantasy to make the big play that wins the game. To do that under the duress of acute physical pain only makes the final victory sweeter.

Actually, I’m just guessing. I was never on anything more athletic than the math team.

&#185 If you’re reading this from somewhere other than Connecticut, you should know Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin and had the world’s first assembly line right in New Haven. Sure, “Eli’s on Whitney” is located in the next town north, but it’s the thought that counts.

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.

This Can’t Be Real

I read an article online recently about the type of poker tournaments I play in. I wish I could remember where I read it, or who wrote it, because it has had a lot of influence on me these past few weeks.

These tournaments pay the top three finishers out of nine who start. It’s not like a ‘normal’ game where your fortunes ebb and flow with each hand. And so, the article said, the goal is not to knock other players out – but to survive.

The fact that someone didn’t follow that advice in a tournament I played earlier tonight was what allowed me to finish in the money. I had very little cash left and was forced ‘all in.’ Though he had two bad cards, a 2 and 4, he stayed in, hoping to eliminate me. The little I won from him allowed me to stay in through another round of blinds, and that allowed me to outlast the player who went out 4th!

I have been doing well of late. Maybe some of it is this strategic advice. I’m sure a lot is the luck of the deal which does enter into poker over short periods.

I started tonight playing a $15+$1 ‘turbo tournament.’ Whatever the reason, these suit my style of play and I’ve done very well with them. I came in 2nd.

I had won some money, so I decided to up the stakes and played for $25 +$2. This was the tournament of survival I just wrote about – and I came in 3rd.

Now I was up over $40 for the evening, so I decided to do something daring – a $50 +$5 tournament. I had never played at this level before.

For the first time, I noticed a difference in the quality of players. They were tighter – probably more savvy. I felt my way through the first few times around the table. There were a few deals where I had good cards, but they didn’t improve after the ‘flop.’ I was slowly bleeding money. Of 8 players left, I was 8th.

I was following the sage advice I had been given. I avoided conflicts when I wasn’t assured of winning. That meant throwing away a lot of early bets as I folded. As the ante’s rose, all this betting then folding was crippling me.

And then, the cards turned. I started getting great hands. This isn’t the norm, but luck is luck. I’d much rather be lucky than skillful!

Before long the table was down to five, then four, then three. I was in the money.

I won this little nine person tournament when I went in with an Ace against the other players Ace, but with a higher kicker. He was gone. I hadn’t won as much as I’d survived as others fell around me.

PokerStars Tournament #1556707, No Limit Hold’em

Buy-In: $55.00/$5.00

9 players

Total Prize Pool: $495.00

Tournament started – 2004/05/06 – 02:31:56 (ET)

Dear ctwxman,

You finished the tournament in 1st place.

A $247.50 award has been credited to your Real Money account.


Thank you for participating.

We’re now up nearly $500. I remember a few months ago we had turned our $250 into less than $20. Now poker fortunes have changed. This is our high water mark.

I won’t stick at this $50 + $5 level. Much too scary. Much too expensive. Tomorrow, it’s back to the smaller games. But, if I get a few wins, I might be back.

Fantasy Football

If you didn’t choose a totally new team every year, I’d have to say I’m playing for draft position. In my fantasy football league, I am taking up the rear and it’s not even close.

This first to worse story comes courtesy of a team chosen by my peers, when I couldn’t make it for the draft. Of course, these are the same guys who chose a team that took me to first, last season. I don’t think there’s any hanky panky going on.

The whole concept of fantasy football is strange. Helaine calls it ‘sports gambling.’ She’s right. It’s not that you can win or lose a large amount of money (well, forget the win stuff entirely this year), it’s that you’re no longer rooting for teams, you’re rooting for players, in the abstract.

The fun is trying to shuffle your lineup to get the best bang on any weekend. Will my guy be able to catch passes against them? Will my kicker see action… maybe be in a position to kick a bunch of field goals? Who is available as a free agent for me to sign?

And then, there are the bye weeks when you have players who aren’t playing and wholes in your lineup to work around.

All this having been said, at the moment, my sorry team is being creamed. The realtime stats package I bought ($9.95) from Yahoo shows me down 43.84 to 1.75!

Maybe I’m a bad coach? Yahoo lets you look at your optimized team: 53.04 to 3.15. Not much difference.

The afternoon is still young. I could still get beaten by 100 points, probably setting some dubious fantasy league record.