A Day At The Sun

Mohegan Sun is one of two casinos ‘in’ Connecticut. ‘In’ is in quotes because these are sovereign nations–a term I don’t totally understand.

“I can’t believe it’s just over a day since we left.” That was Helaine referring to our whirlwind trip to Mohegan Sun. It was for an occasion, but I’m sworn to secrecy. Let’s leave it at that!

Mohegan Sun is one of two casinos ‘in’ Connecticut. ‘In’ is in quotes because these are sovereign nations–a term I don’t totally understand. It is a spectacular complex with two immense casinos, shopping, upscale restaurants, a large arena and giant hotel.

Before casinos Eastern Connecticut was the quiet part of the state. It was the section of Connecticut most like the rest of New England. Now the two casinos are the economic engine which powers the area.

By the time we’d driven the 65 miles to Uncasville we were hungry! First stop Bobby’s Burger Palace. In this case Bobby is Bobby Flay, celebrity chef. I’m not a fan of his persona, but I love his cooking.

I had a Chicago Burger with fries and a vanilla bean malted. Oh–it was ‘crunchified’ meaning potato chips were embedded in the burger. The taste was excellent especially the malted. I can’t remember the last malted I had.

This was going to be a one-meal-per-day trip!

I wandered over to the poker room. For years Mohegan Sun had gone without poker, but it’s back and the room is big. Later this month the Sun will host a large televised tournament. It’s a lot too rich for my blood with a $5,000 buy-in for the main event (though most qualify by winning smaller satellite tournaments).

I played three separate sessions Saturday and Sunday at $1/$2 no limit Hold ‘Em tables. I am not a big money player. I lost in one session and won the other two times. My profit was a little under a hundred dollars.

Helaine had gone online for tickets to a comedy show. We headed to the Cabaret Theater where the Treehouse Comedy Club is now booking comedians.

The format for shows like this is always the same with three comics: a headliner, featured act and the emcee. In this case that meant Richie Byrne, Tina Giorgi and Bob Dibuono.

Three for three! We laughed a lot. Helaine and I agree Tina Giorgi (a former schoolteacher) was our favorite of the night, though Richie Byrne (who does the audience warm-up for the Dr. Oz Show) finished very strong.

Our single meal today was brunch at Caesar and Pompeii. We’ve eaten there before, both brunch and for dinner. The brunch buffet was very good with lots of seafood, lamb chops and a dessert table that would make you fat just looking at it! Unfortunately, there’s no longer dinner at Caesar and Pompeii and even the Sunday brunch disappears Mother’s Day.

The best part of the trip was going with Helaine! We had a great time together. Even after twenty six years she’s a helluva date.


On Her Way Home

Helaine leaves Las Vegas this afternoon for the flight home. The good news is, she flies with the wind at her back, making the trip home much shorter, timewise, than the trip out. On the other hand, she immediately loses three hours by virtue of the time change.

Helaine leaves Las Vegas this afternoon for the flight home. The good news is, she flies with the wind at her back, making the trip home much shorter, timewise, than the trip out. On the other hand, she immediately loses three hours by virtue of the time change.

Her plane gets to Bradley after midnight. A quick check on FlightAware shows this Oakland/Las Vegas/Hartford flight is consistently on time or even early.

The house is in reasonable shape. I have a few loads of laundry to do. The mail has been brought in the house and left virtually untouched. I’ll straighten that pile.

Last night, on the way back from Uncasville, I pulled the car to the side of the road and got Helaine’s boarding pass, using my cellphone.

Rick, sitting in the passenger seat (apprehensive some errant truck was going to sideswipe us) probably wondered about my slavishly anal retentive dedication to this particular task. It was so out-of-line with the rest of me.

Though I went online within two minutes of the passes availability, it is number 43. On the way down, getting it an hour late, Helaine got number 45. I don’t quite understand how this works.

In any event, she’ll board early enough in the process to get the aisle or window seat she wants. Sit too far forward, in what seems like the best seats, and the obligatory screaming baby will keep you ‘entertained’ all flight.

What did we do before cellphones? Separated by 2,000 miles, we were both reachable by the other around-the-clock. That’s an amazing convenience and huge change from how it was as recently as 15 years ago.

More than any other innovation since the jet age began, cellphones have changed travel.

On the other hand, when you’re on vacation, you’re often isolated from news. Helaine didn’t know about the Las Vegas ricin scare until I told her, a day after it as reported nationally.

I’m really looking forward to Helaine’s return. The house is too quiet. Her company is missed. I’m nearly out of snacks.

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.

Kathy Griffin At Mohegan Sun

Yesterday, we headed to Uncasville to see Kathy Griffin at Mohegan Sun Casino. The signs at Mohegan Sun celebrate their 10th anniversary. Their Cabaret isn’t quite that old, but this was still our first time there.

What a beautiful theater. Really. It is spacious and esthetically pleasing. It’s probably the prettiest modern theater I’ve been in.

On top of that, people were sitting in ‘easy chairs.’ This is not a ‘jam ’em in’ casino showroom.

I do have one complaint… I’ll get to that in a while.

I’ve always enjoyed Kathy Griffin. She’s very funny – a take no prisoners comedian whose act is heavily based on dishing celebrities.

I’ve seen her stand-up a lot. I haven’t seen as much of her reality show, which is a shame since some of her act referenced it.

For whatever reason, I went to the show thinking Kathy was the ‘modern’ Joan Rivers. After all, Joan has always made fun of celebrities.

My error. Kathy Griffin doesn’t tell jokes. She makes observations. But they’re spot on and hysterical. She was funny for the whole 90 minute show.

Oprah&#185, Larry King and Liz Taylor got nicked pretty good. So did some names more easily reachable. It’s difficult to think Clay Aiken, Linsday Lohan or any number of high profile celebs would give her the time of day… but they do. And so there’s more and more to say.

What struck me is, so many of Kathy’s observations are my observations. Many celebrities really do live lives with feet of clay. And, when introduced as universal experiences, they’re funny because they’re ludicrous.

Oh – I said there was one thing that bothered me, and it was the drink service. In a venue like this, service goes on during the show. I accept that. However, shouldn’t the waitresses make some attempt to keep it down while a comedian is on stage?

&#185 – I wish someone would have told Kathy that Gayle King was a high profile news anchor in Connecticut until a few years ago.

Nearly Childless

Now that Steffie is at school, Helaine and I are nearly childless. We can come and go as we please (as can Steffie, much to our chagrin).

Last night we went out to dinner with another couple and went to an adult restaurant. I’m not going to give their names, and you’ll understand why later.

The restaurant was Le Petite Cafe in Branford. It is a tiny place on Montowese Street, adjacent to the Green. It is tied with another restaurant for Zagat’s highest rating for Connecticut.

It’s small enough that I missed it as I drove by. It was only through Helaine’s diligence that we stopped.

Dinner was excellent. I had a chowder appetizer and lamb for the main course. Both were wonderfully prepared and very tasty. What’s not to like?

Though the restaurant is small, there are two seatings. We were there for 8:30, which is an early breakfast for Helaine who is normally in pajamas by then.

As we finished our main courses, the husband of the other couple started looking uneasy. A quick glance down showed he was taking his own pulse! He’s a physician, though most of his work is research and certainly not centered on anything his pulse would enter into.

He wanted to go to the car and lay down, but we weren’t hearing any of that. I gave my credit card to the waiter and walked him to the car. A few seconds later his wife climbed in and drove him to the Emergency Room at Yale/New Haven Hospital.

They were still there when I spoke to them this morning. His tests have come back fine. He’s still feeling achy and tired. He’s good enough to go home… but not good enough. There’s something going on with him that wouldn’t normally be checked for at the ER.

He’ll find whatever it is and he’ll be fine. Of this I have no doubt. But, it’s scary for all of us.

Today was another day with nothing to do. Helaine and I climbed into the car and drove to Foxwoods.

There are two casinos in Connecticut. Only this one, Foxwoods, has poker. At one time they both had poker rooms, but Mohegan Sun closed theirs about 20 minutes before the big poker boom hit America.

With no child left behind, we’re staying at one of Foxwoods high rise hotels. Like Mohegan Sun, this is a beautiful resort hotel. The rooms are every bit as nice as anything you’ll find in Las Vegas… though the view out the window is decidedly Eastern Connecticut.

Unless someone told you, you’d have no reason to suspect places like this existed in Ledyard and Uncasville, Connecticut.

I sat down almost immediately and played cards for a few hours. Then, it was dinner time.

Helaine had made reservations at Cedars, the steakhouse. We showed up at 6:30 and waited about 20 minutes. OK, that’s not a long wait, but 6:30 is 6:30.

The food was worth the wait. I had chowder (again) and a steak, prepared Pittsburgh (charred outside, rare inside). Between the soup and a side dish of potatoes, I decided dessert wouldn’t be necessary for me and Helaine concurred.

I headed back to the poker room for some more play.

This was a very good day of poker. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Whatever insight or skill I bring to a brick and mortar casino, I owe to my low stakes online play.

Years ago I thought I was a pretty good poker player. I was not. Now I’m decent. I can keep my head above water at the stakes I choose to play.

Today I was conservative and measured. Patience is a poker virtue.

I only had one bad beat, though it was a doozy. I went in with a Jack and King of Spades. The flop came with 3 more spades – I had a King high flush!

The next card, the turn, was a rag (no help).

Then came the river. That final card was another spade. I was set to beat any other hand, except one that had the Ace of Spades.

I knew the two cards in my hand and the five on the board. That left 45 unknowns The one person playing against me had two cards. So, the odds were 2 in 45 he’d have it.

Ouch. This was a very expensive hand to lose. Still, the day ended quite positively.

How much better could I do? Not much, I figured. So, at 10:30, I went up to the room for the night.

I am going to work tomorrow, but there’s an 8:00 AM tournament and I think I’ll get up early and play.


We spent yesterday, and a significant part of today at Foxwoods. Helaine and Steffie both wanted to see Rick Springfield perform. I wanted to play poker with real people.

Though Foxwoods is only about 1:15 away, we decided to spend the night. The hotels on-premises are beautiful and quite pricey. This isn’t Vegas. Still, it was a good idea because we weren’t under the restrictions a drive home would require.

Check-in was a breeze and we ended up on the 21st floor of the Grand Pequot Tower, overlooking the woods of Eastern Connecticut. The room was spacious by hotel standards and the bathroom immense, with big towels and strong water pressure (the two criteria by which I judge all hotel rooms). There is no high speed Internet access and the dial-up connection wasn’t very good, and quickly disconnected.

Though Foxwoods is the largest casino in the world, it is in a part of Connecticut that had languished in obscurity for deades. If you think of Connecticut as the “Gold Coast” of Fairfield County, you are not thinking of Eastern Connecticut. If it weren’t for the casinos, Fairfield County residents wouldn’t know this area existed.

Near Bozrah and Occum, not far from Uncasville, Foxwoods is surrounded by the town of Ledyard (Foxwoods itself is in the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation) . Without Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, I’m not sure what the economic state of Eastern Connecticut would be. I do know, with these two casinos, people working in service industries can have jobs with benefits… including insurance. In Eastern Connecticut, a working family can own a home.

I headed to the poker room and got on a list to play, then joined Helaine and Stefanie in the coffee shop. Again, this is a beautiful place, but not Vegas. It was a little more expensive for similar food.

After lunch, while the girls schmoozed with the cult members (Rick’s fans), I went and played cards. I sat at a $5/$10 fixed limit Texas Hold’em table and bought in for $100. Unlike the tournaments I favor on the computer, I’d be playing live cash. Every bet was real money – win or lose.

Almost immediately, I faced one difference between online and brick and mortar poker – the dealer wasn’t perfect and the players weren’t saints. An older man at the opposite end had ripped into the dealer for a minor transgression which put her on tilt. For the next 15 minutes she was awful; once beginning a deal without shuffling!

Almost immediately I found an inner peace I had never experienced at a poker table before. Everything was crystal clear. I was totally confident. I watched as players went in and out, betting, checking, folding. I knew what they had… or was pretty sure.

My game is very tight. I only play ‘premium’ cards, and only play under specific circumstances. I had no trouble folding hand after hand after hand as the action went on around me. As tight as I was, the players at the table were the opposite. Of the 10 players, often 6 or 7, sometimes more, would see the ‘flop.’

Compared to my online games, things went slowly. But, I wasn’t bored. I had ample opportunity to take in the game and the players. This is something I had never been able to do in the past. I knew how I’d play my cards almost as soon as they were dealt, so I watched them play my opponents play theirs and started to form opinions about their style and technique.

I have been thumbing through poker books for years. The authors always talk about doing things like this, but I had never been savvy enough. At times, it was as if the other players were moving in slow motion with their cards exposed to me.

OK – Hold on a second. Let me stop patting myself on the back. I am going to tell you I won, but make no mistake about it. Just because I won tonight doesn’t mean I will be a consistent winner. But, as I wrote before I went, I thought I’d end up with a pretty good idea of my skill – win or lose. It was fun to realize all the computer games I’d played had sharpened my skills.

I played through the early evening at $5/$10 and won $112. I was beat on a very big hand when my pocket Kings didn’t hold to pocket Aces, or I’d haev won more. Poker players always remember their beats more than their wins.

When my cellphone rang around 10:15 I picked up my chips and cashed in. Steffie had called from the concert, asking me to bring more memory for the camera. She didn’t think the 200+ pictures available would hold her when we went backstage after the show.

I got the memory and headed to the theater. I was lucky enough to see someone who knew me and was let in for the last 20-30 minutes. Helaine and Steffie were out of their seats in the first row, pressed against the stage. Steffie had my camera against her eye and was snapping away.

I moved down to see them, then said hi to Mark Davis, our chief capitol correspondent, who was there with his wife Betsy. From there I moved to the back of the theater. I have seen Rick Springfield before. His fans really are cult-like in their fervor. It is fun to stand back and watch him perform and them react. And, it’s fun to see Steffie and Helaine having such a good time side-by-side.

After the show the three of us and the Davis’s went backstage to say hello and take some photos. It’s really a spectacular theater, with great acoustics and better lighting. Backstage was the perfect spot for the meet and great (last time it had been in a basement stairwell). As he had been in the past, Rick was gracious and took time with those who had come to see him.

It’s obvious he enjoys the adulation his fans give him. How many other rockers will have a career that spans four decades?

We took Steffie upstairs to the room, then joined Mark, Betsy and two friends of theirs in a very nice lounge on the 24th floor. They were driving home, so the night didn’t last long, and Helaine and I were soon back in the casino.

The $5/$10 table I favor wasn’t available, so I tried a weird no limit game with $1/$2 blinds and a buy in limit of $40-$100. If it sounds confusing now, I can assure you it was extremely confusing then!

It didn’t take long to give back $50, and I’m still not quite sure how. I stood up and walked away.

This table is obviously there to cater to folks who’ve watched poker on TV or played on the Internet. The math involved when one player goes all in against another player with less money makes the action unwieldy. On top of that, it’s slow. I could never get into the rhythm of the game, if there even was one.

There were still no seats at the $5/$10 table, so I sat down at $10/$20. This is way over my head. I had never played at stakes like this before. My thought was, even with the $50 I’d just dropped, I was up. I’d take my winnings and another $100. Whatever would happen, would happen.

The $10/$20 games was very similar to the $5/$10 – loose. It didn’t take long to win a pot and I recouped the $50 from no limit and a little more to boot.

This table was expensive to sit at. If you folded an entire round, not playing a card, it would still cost $15 for the blinds!

I held my ground and played tight. I gave back what I’d just won and a little more before winning again. The pots were large – often well over $200. My night was not spectacular. But, I felt really good about how I was playing.

Dealt two 4’s, and with little action before the flop and then a third four with the flop, I quietly sat back and watched my 3-4’s turn into 4-4’s! They had been played so silently, on a table where others could be depended on to do the raising, that when the river came, another player bet into my four of a kind. I gladly bet back.

On the hand I decided would be my last, I took an AK all the way to the river without pairing. The others at the table, having seen me fold hand after hand, respected my final bet enough to let me steal the pot.

Not every hand was played correctly. I slow played two Queens, even after I caught a third one. When I checked, it allowed a player to stay in and make his straight, taking me out. Had I bet the three Queens, he surely would have folded to me.

I cashed out $265 ahead, which with my earlier winnings put me up $377.

Was I lucky? Probably. Will I always win? No. Consistently? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly more likely than ever before.

Before I went to play, I had written in the blog that win or lose, my goal was to judge my competence at poker. I am confident in the fact that my skills have greatly improved thanks to the thousands of games I’ve played on the Internet. I think that will translate to profit… at least I hope it does.

I can’t wait for Vegas this summer.