Friday, July 5, 2019

May 2019 Vegas Trip Report (Part 2)

Sorry for the long delay in getting to the rest of the trip.  Life, as usual, got in the way of my good intentions.  I'm going mostly from memory and the trip was about 2 months ago, so I'll do my best to recap our very mild shenanigans. 

On Day 2 we slept in until about 10:30 or 11:00 since we didn't hit the sack until after 4:00. We got ready and headed down to the food court at Excalibur to try to find some food. We settled on Schlotzky's Deli and got in the line of about 10 people.  It soon became apparent that there was only one guy working there taking the orders and making the food and the line was not moving.  We waited nearly 15 minutes and only one person had been served, so we made the call to go somewhere else.  We settled on the New York New York food court across the street. My brother-in-law got a breakfast burrito from a deli (don't remember the name) and I got a slice of the square pizza Trooper97 has recommended in his video blogs.  It was decent, but probably would have been better if I had asked to have it warmed in the pizza oven. 

After that we cut through Park MGM to Aria to play their $140 1 PM daily donkament. I had made pretty deep runs twice in that tournament on my birthday trip last year, so wanted to play it again.  Turnout this time around was even lighter than last year.  They barely filled up two tables.  It was pretty uneventful and I don't remember too many hands.  I was seated in seat 2 and the guy in seat 1 was your classic east coast talker. He saw probably 90 percent of the flops and was getting 2 pair an inordinate amount of times.  There was an older guy with an Army veteran cap on my left in seat 3 who clearly did not like seat 1.  He was making snarky comments under his breath at all of his boastful stories about expensive meals and extravagant spending. 

One of my only memorable winning hands was against the grumpy vet.  I don't remember exact betting amounts, but I know he raised preflop to about 3x the blind and I limp-called along with one other person with something like 87 suited on the button. I flopped an open ended straight draw and he made about a three-fourths pot bet.  The middle position player called and so did I.  The turn checked around.  I caught my straight on the river and made a bet of about half the pot on the river which was somewhere around 2,000 tournament chips.  He made the call and grumbled about my "loose call" on the flop when he saw my straight.  I told him he probably could have won the hand if he had bet the turn, but he gave me a free card to get there. 

My brother-in-law busted before the first break.  I busted just before the second break. 

After that we headed over to Planet Hollywood to see if there were any juicy looking cash games.  We decided the games didn't look that tempting so we grabbed some dinner at the Earl of Sandwich.  After that we headed down to see about getting in a game at MGM Grand.  We both got in separate cash games.  I wound up at the exact same table I played at on my birthday trip in May 2018 and there was an Irishman at the table who was also there a year ago.  I distinctly remember him because I was seated in seat 9 back in 2018 and seat 6 was a young Brit, the Irishman was in seat 7, and a Scotsman was in seat 8.  I later told my wife it was like the start to a joke. "An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman walk into a poker room..."

Right after I was seated they sent a young man to our table who told us he had just turned 21 and this was his very first time playing live poker in a casino.  He said he had played a bunch online though.  He was just killing time until he went to the David Copperfield show.  He needed a little help with the mechanics of the game like posting blinds (especially when he didn't have any $1 chips to do so), tipping, and letting the dealer make change for you.  But his play otherwise was solidly tight aggressive.  He wasn't afraid to put chips in play and made a pretty tidy profit in the 90 minutes or so that he played. 

I had an extremely uneventful session and when I started to catch myself yawning and losing focus I decided to call it a night down about $30 or so.  My brother-in-law had jumped into a late night tourney at MGM Grand.  He was a real fan of those small tournaments with overlays and had some success cashing in a couple.  I bid him good night and headed back north on the strip to Walgreens to grab some beverages for the room.  It was raining just hard enough to be annoying.  I honestly don't remember ever getting rained on before in my many trips to Vegas.  I just kind of hugged the buildings so I was under the awnings most of the way, so I didn't get all that wet. 

The plan for Wednesday was to play some disc golf.  My brother-in-law is really into it and wanted to try out a local course while we were there.  We woke up around 9:30 and after showering etc. grabbed lunch at Schlotzky's at Excalibur food court.  I stopped to purchase a Cubs cap at the Lids store so my bald noggin wouldn't get fried by the Vegas sun.  We caught a Lyft over to Sunset Park which is along E Sunset just on the other side of McCarran.  I downloaded a disc golf app to help us navigate the course.  We were struggling to find the first hole when a couple of locals who were playing came along and pointed us in the right direction. I decided not to play and just acted as caddy and carried his camo backpack and helped find our way to the next tee box. (I completely forgot to share this little incident. At the Des Moines airport his camo backpack was pulled off to the side for a more thorough search.  I asked him why and he just said it always gets searched probably because it's camo.  Well it turns out he had forgotten a big bowie knife in the bottom of the bag.  He just surrendered it and they let us go on our way.)

We were pretty whipped after traipsing around in the sun, so we headed back west across the street to Village Pub and Poker to cool off and have a beer. It was a nice little find.  They serve beers that are brewed at Ellis Island and both of the ones I tried were very tasty.  It turned out there was a little disc golf supply store right next door, so my brother-in-law picked up a specific disc he had been looking for back home.  We then caught a Lyft back to Excalibur to get ready for the evening's activities. After cleaning up and napping for a tiny bit we caught another Lyft over to the Rio for dinner at the Carnival World Buffet and the Penn and Teller show. 

The Carnival World Buffet did not impress me as much as it has in the past.  I thought the food quality was not as good and it seemed like they had a lot fewer selections than I remembered from 10 years ago or so.  Definitely didn't feel like we got value for the price which was almost $40 a person. The desserts were the best part of the buffet to be honest. 

After eating we putzed around in the casino playing some video roulette, video poker, and at least one slot.  I told my BIL that I wanted to get to the show early because I heard they had a decent jazz trio that played for about 30 minutes prior to the start featuring Penn Jillette on the upright bass.  Well it turned out I had the show time wrong and we actually arrived just as it was about to start.  As we were walking up the hall to the theater lobby the ushers started urging us to hurry up or we would miss the beginning of the show.  We had seats in about the 3rd row of the balcony right on the aisle in the middle.  They were good seats and being in the balcony meant we were safe from being picked to go on stage which was just fine with me. 

The show was very funny and there were several jaw dropping magic bits.  I'm told they change up the tricks in the show quite a bit, but I don't want to spoil too much by telling you about what happened.  I will share the trick that I thought was maybe the most impressive.  Penn asked for volunteers from the audience that were good at identifying the suits and values of playing cards and selected two gentlemen to join him on stage. He opened a new deck of cards and had them shuffle and split the deck into about two equal halves. He then had one start organizing his cards into suit and value order from A up to K. Then he had the other person fan his cards out and he examined them for exactly one minute.  Then he talked to the audience while that volunteer put his cards in suit and value order.

After that he proceeded to stand between them and as he pointed back and forth from one to the other he went through the suits one by one indicating which of them had which card.  And he didn't go slow.  It was incredibly impressive.

After the show both Penn and Teller and their incredible jazz pianist Mike Jones stayed in the lobby taking selfies with anyone that wanted one.  We got one with Teller (who actually spoke to us):


After the show we caught a Lyft to Planet Hollywood.  I had planned to get in a cash game there, but they had a pretty sizable list and didn't seem like they were inclined to open anymore tables.  I decided to call it a night around midnight and my BIL went to MGM Grand to get in a late night tourney.

On Thursday we woke up late and killed time around the room.  While the BIL finished showering I headed down to the Excalibur casino floor.  My 88 year old mother loves to play slots, but since she moved into assisted living she rarely gets to play. Before I left for Vegas she gave me $40 to play for her while we connected via Facetime. I started with a buffalo gold slot and we lost $20 without winning a single cent.  I then found a penny slot that had a dragon that would occasionally breathe fire on the reels triggering some wild spaces.  We won and lost a bit on that one, but eventually lost it all too.  I rarely play slots so I'm terrible at picking winners.

I then joined a $5 blackjack table and for the first time this trip had a little luck.  I cashed out up about $125 for the session. It was the typical low stakes blackjack table on the strip with a mix of experienced players and complete newbies with the newbs making lots of weird plays like hitting when they have 13 and the dealer showing a 6.  I don't like it when people do that, but I don't get as angry as some players.  I'm a firm believer that players only remember the times that it hurts them and forget all the times that it helped them.

After my BIL came down we headed over to the food court at MGM Grand and grabbed a burger at Johnny Rockets before catching the monorail over to the Westgate for Trooper Thursday.  This was my second time participating in a Trooper Thursday and probably my last. Nothing bad happened either time, but more than half the players at my table were regulars who apparently play in the game every single week. Two of the regulars elected to sit out for the bomb pots so that meant you were getting even worse odds on that blind $10 bet. Also Tim barely spoke to me or my BIL except when I was purchasing a hat as I was about to leave.  He spent all of his time brewing coffee and bantering with his buddies that play every week.  It felt like I had stumbled into someone else's home game and none of the regulars went out of their way to make the "new guys" feel welcome at all.  So it was just another 1-3 game except some of it was filmed and put on YouTube.

I left the game down about $100 and my BIL was up a couple hundred.

We caught the monorail back to Bally's and my BIL got into another of their tourneys with the overlay.  I ran into a nice guy from North Carolina that I had played with there earlier in the week.  He started  to tell me how earlier in the evening he had made the decision to rack up and leave, but a buddy convinced him to sit back down and continue playing.  I was sure it was going to be a bad beat story, but quite the opposite.  He said he went on the biggest heater of his life and cashed out almost $1,400 an hour or two later.  He showed me a picture of his 2 plus racks of chips.

We had a very early flight on Friday morning, so I decided to turn in around 11:00 PM. First I headed back to Walgreens to get some water and Gatorade.  Especially in the desert I like to have some caffeine free and alcohol free beverages around the hotel room for overnight and early in the morning.

I have no idea when my BIL made it back to the room.  I'm guessing it was after 2 AM for sure.  We had to be downstairs to catch a Lyft to the airport by 5:30.  That was it...I won a little at video poker and blackjack, but lost pretty consistently at poker.  I never had an disastrous sessions, but pretty much lost about $50 to $100 in each cash session I played.  I only spent about half of the bankroll I saved up for the trip, so it definitely wasn't the worst gambling result I've had on a trip to Vegas, but it for sure wasn't anywhere near the best.

I enjoyed having my BIL along with me, but I think I enjoyed my solo trip last year more.  It's just nice to have the freedom to do whatever you want without doing that dance of "what do you want to do?"

A couple observations about Vegas.  The food and other things just keep getting more and more expensive.  It just isn't the value it used to be.  I know I'm just joining the chorus here, but the resort fees are ridiculous.  I don't use the spa, fitness center, or pool so it's just lighting money on fire for me. Also literally half of the escalators to the sky bridges on the strip were out of commission this trip.  The one that goes over Harmon on the east side of the strip had the up escalator AND the elevator out of order at the same time.  If you had a mobility issue and wanted to go south over Harmon on that sky bridge you were shit out of luck.  The number of panhandlers, fake Tibetan monks, and general hustlers along the strip and the sky bridges was higher than any trip in recent memory.  The only one that almost earned money from me....almost....was a guy on the bridge from NYNY to Excalibur in the wee hours of the morning loudly singing, "IF YOU PUT A DOLLAR IN MY CUP, I'LL SHUT THE F#$% UP!"

Even with all of those negatives I still can't wait to go back again soon.  Currently pricing trips around Thanksgiving and talking with my boys about when they would like to go in 2020. I'm thinking early in the WSOP so I can play the senior event.  I also heard rumors they might run another tourney with the same structure as this year's Big 50, but it wouldn't be called that.  I would for sure take a stab at that if they do it again.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 13, 2019

May 2019 Vegas Birthday Trip - Day 1

Wow...it's been over a year since I posted here.  Like always I only post when I have something big to report on, so I'm constantly amazed by the people who post consistently and with overall great quality and interesting content.

I recently spent a week in Vegas celebrating my birthday with my brother-in-law.  We played some poker, saw a show, and ate a little too much.  Overall I had a pretty disappointing week of poker results.  I was card dead pretty much the entire time.  And because I was folding constantly I rarely got action when I did get a playble hand.

As usual I went for the more inexpensive lodging option to preserve as much of the bankroll as possible, so we were booked at Excalibur.  We arrived in town on Monday afternoon about 3:00 PM Vegas time and cabbed it from the airport.  I ionly took a cab because I was unsure where the rideshare pickup area was at the airport.  With tip that ride cost us $25, so that was the last time we would take a cab while in town and is likely the last time I will ever take a cab in Las Vegas.  On average even with a tip included Lyft and Uber seem to be about half as expensive as cabs and I never had to wait more than 2-3 minutes for them to arrive.

I booked the room through my Mlife account and had checked in ahead of time using the MGM Resorts app on my phone.  We took the first bad beat of the trip when the kiosks that were supposed to dispense our room key and help us avoid the check in lines were down.  The representative turning everyone away from the kiosks sent us to the VIP check in area, so our wait was much less than the standard check in line, but still much longer than iff the kiosks had been operational.

After we checked in we showered and headed out to find some food. We decided to make our way up to the Linq and grab some In n Out burgers.  I've never been there before, but knew enough to order my burger "animal style" to get it cooked with mustard and slathered in special sauce and sauteed onions.  I ordered the combo that included a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink and was very confused when the cashier asked "Just the burger or the fries too?" I thought he was asking did I want fries or not, so I said, "Yeah fries too please."

Turns out he was asking did I want the french fries anmial style as well.  Oh well live and learn I guess. I have to say In n Out Burger didn't live up to the hype. The burger was okay and the fries were very underwhelming.  They were almost like shoestring potatoes and seemed very limp and lifeless under the little bit of thousand island dressing and sauteed onions they globbed on top.  I probably won't be making a special effort to return there.  I'm sure this will be blasphemy to any of my west coast friends, but I honestly thought the burger I had later in the week at Johnny Rockets was better.

After eating we decided to make our way back south to Bally's to get in a cash game.  It took us just 10-15 minutes to get seated at separate tables by vlogger balt999. I was in the 6 seat.  Early in the session I called a small raise preflop with 10-8 of clubs from a Japanese gentleman in seat 9   I flopped two clubs and called a small continuation bet of I think $12.  I caught my flush on the turn and just called a bet of $25.  On the river he bet $60 and I just called.  He showed pocket aces and seemed surprised when I revealed my 10 high flush.  That left him with about $50 or so in his stack.

A few hands later I got pocket Aces and the Japanese gentleman was the only caller.  We both had a good laugh when he caught a flush to crack my aces and in broken English he said, "I revenge you." Later in the session he got his aces cracked again by another player prompting me to declare that I was going to open fold them the next time I got them.

The rest of the session was a very card dead roller coaster of small wins and losses until the very last hand I played.  I raised to $12 preflop with pocket queens and got 3 callers.  I flopped a set of queens on a board that had two clubs.  I bet $25 on the flop and only had one call from a woman that had joined our table just 15-20 minutes before this hand occurred.  I bet $45 on the turn which was an inconsequential card and she called.

The third club appeared on the river and she she tossed out two chips.  I decided $10 wasn't enough for me to fold considering the size of the pot so I said "Call" and threw out two red chips.  The dealer gave me a confused look and said, "Uhhhh....it's $50."  I said, "Oh, sorry, I'm color blind and those chips look the same as the $5 chips to me and nobody has had $25 chips in play for the last 6 hours I've been playing at this table. Another player at the table reiterated that everyone else at the table only had red $5 and white $1 chips.   I also commented that he hadn't announced the bet size either.  He just shrugged.  I paid the $50 and immediately racked up muttering angrily to myself. I went over to my brother-in-law's tournament table and explained my grievance loud enough for the dealer involved and the floor person standing nearby to hear. Neither reacted or otherwise pursued it further. I probably won't be back to Bally's poker room in the future.

All of this begs the question, why are two of the most commonly used chip denominations red and green which is the most common form of color blindness?  And why would a casino use shades of red and green that are that hard for color blind people to differentiate. I mean I literally couldn't tell them apart except by the denomination printed on them which is useless when they're at the other end of the table. I ran into the same thing later in the week at Westgate. My home casino here in Iowa uses a bright fire engine red and a very bright green that I can easily identify.  Bally's had dull brick red and a very dark shade of green...almost brown. I might have an ADA claim.

At this point it was about 2 in the morning Vegas time (so like 4 AM by my midwest body clock) and my brother-in-law had just flamed out of the 11 PM tournament. We decided to grab a bite to eat at Hash House a Go Go at the Linq and lick our wounds.  After gorging ourselves on their massively sized offerings we decided to call it a night.  We walked down to the skybridge from Bally's over to Bellagio to catch the tram from Bellagio down to Park MGM.  I thought I remembered where it was, but wandered all over the casino in Bellagio looking for a sign that directed to the tram.  We finally stopped and asked a security guard, but I think by the time we walked from the northeast entrance of Bellagio to the very farthest southwest corner to catch the tram and then from the very northwest end of Park MGM to the southeast exit to the strip we probably took more steps than if we just walked straight down the strip.  We finally made it back to the room about 4 AM Vegas time and basically collapsed into our respective beds.

I'll leave it there for now and pick up on Day 2 in another post. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Hoping for Lightning to Strike (Not Lightning36)

I say this every time I decide to post on here again, but jeez it's been a long time since I last felt motivated to share anything.  I've got a few things to share, so we'll see if I can fit it all into one post or have to split it into multiple ones.  (Super long posts are kind of the trademark of another certain blogger and I wouldn't want to steal his schtick.) I've got a lot to cover though:

  • A recent trip to Vegas
  • Some shenanigans at my local casino
  • An update on my show choir's super successful season

The wife and I made a very brief visit to Las Vegas for her birthday back in February.  We were low-rolling due to some unexpected medical expenses and a dryer that went on the fritz right before the trip taking an unexpected bite out of my gambling and entertainment budget.

We stayed at Luxor and I'm fairly certain that was the very first time I ever set foot in there.  We arrived about 6:00 PM on Valentine's Day and cabbed it from the airport. I don't like to assume I'll get long-hauled, but I have this habit of carrying on a conversation with my traveling companion as the cabbie is loading our bags that makes it clear that I'm not a Vegas newbie. Either it works or there are just way more honest cabbies than you'd expect from all of the stories about tunnel trips to south strip locations. I'd like to think it's just honest people. (I'm a very glass is half full guy with a dose of pragmatism.)

We had several nice meals and did the usual Vegas touristy stuff like the Bellagio fountain show, Fremont Street Experience, Forum shops, etc. The first two days in town I played three losing sessions of blackjack where I dropped $100 each time and lost probably another $100 here or there on various slots and video poker.  So it was lose, lose, and lose some more for the first two days we were there.


On the final evening we went back to Luxor pretty early because the wife was feeling tired and a little sickly.  She has a very sensitive stomach so it doesn't take much to make her queasy.  She was settling into bed early at about 8:00 PM, so I told her I was going to take one more stab at the blackjack tables at Luxor.  I only had about $200 left in the budget to gamble that I was willing to risk.  This time I sat at a $10 table, purchased $100 in chips, and tripled my money in about 20 minutes.

I headed up to the room to let the wife know I was headed out to the strip to play some poker with my newfound winnings.  I caught the tram from Luxor to Excalibur and then hoofed it up to Planet Hollywood. It took me about 15 minutes to get a seat at one of the 1-2 tables.  About 20 minutes into my session a typical younger Vegas grinder took the seat to my right.  On his third hand in the game he raised to $12 from UTG.  I called from UTG+1 with Q-10 suited. I believe there was one other caller preflop in late position.

The flop was Q-10-X.  (Sorry didn't take notes.)  He bet $20. I raised to $50. He flat called.  On the turn he checked and I counted out my remaining stack.  I only had about $125 remaining. If I make a significant enough bet there relative to the pot I'm pot committed no matter what happens, so I decided to just stick it all in.  He snap called and I groaned knowing that a grinder like him isn't doing that with just an over pair or top-top.  He showed me the bad news...pocket queens.  I went ahead and showed my two pair and as I wished the table good luck and got up to leave he quietly said, "Yeah that's a rough one."

I headed up the street to another of my favorite rooms at Bally's. Got seated pretty quickly at the only 1-2 game they had going.  A short time later they opened a 2-3 table and it filled up quickly.  The guy on my immediate left at the 1-2 game had a sizeable stack of like $1,500 and I was concerned that he was going to be super active and aggressive, but he played very tight and straight forward.  I later learned from the rest of the table that he was just running incredibly hot.  He was foreign, but I couldn't make out the accent.  Perhaps Israeli?  As we were playing, a friend of his with the same accent stopped in the room, put his name on the list for both the 1-2 and the 2-3 and prepared to leave to get something to eat.  He gave $500 to his friend on my left and asked him to buy him into whichever game he got called for first.  He put the $500 on the table behind his chips, but the dealer asked him to remove it from the table since cash no longer plays at the Bally's poker games.

His friend made it back just as he was being called for the 2-3 game.  The person leaving was in the 3 seat, but the guy in the 2 seat said he wanted to move to that spot, but was currently in a hand.  When the new guy got to the table he tried to sit in the 3 seat, but the dealer informed him he would have to wait until the hand was over to take the 2 seat instead.  He argued that he wanted the 3 seat, but the dealer told him it was a house rule there that players currently in the game have first pick of seats that are vacated.  This didn't sit well with the new guy and he voiced his displeasure rather vehemently.  The dealer called over the floor who backed her up and made him wait for the 2 seat.

After the hand finished they took their respective seats, but the new guy wouldn't let it go. He started threatening the guy that moved to seat 3 and when seat 3 essentially told him to shut up seat 2 reached over and pushed over seat 3's chip stack.  Seat 3 immediately returned the favor and the dealer yelled FLOOR! The floor guy came over and issued them both a final warning that if they said anything else he would boot them.  After things calmed down over there I turned to my tablemates and said, "I just want to thank everyone here for behaving like adults." Without a beat the dealer replied, "The night is still young."

I've been playing more frequently at my local casino because their bad beat hasn't hit in a while and has grown to almost $250,000. To qualify in this room it's aces full of kings beat by quads or better.  Both hole cards have to play and there is no pot minimum required.  They'll pay it on any cash game table that takes a jackpot drop and is at least 4 handed.  Losing hand gets half the jackpot. Winning hand gets a quarter of it.  Anybody dealt cards at the start of the hand splits the other quarter.  I figure lightning can strike and the odds of hitting that are better than the lottery.

The closest I have come to hitting it was hitting a set of sixes on the flop.  My opponent turned a straight flush and we had one pull on the river for me to get the last 6 in the deck.

Sometimes when I go to the casino I'll take $100 and try to double it at the blackjack table and then go play poker.  For some reason I play less timidly if I know half my buy in is house money, so that plan works for me.  Tuesday evening when I went to my local casino, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, it was not terribly busy.  They had one $5 blackjack table open and it was full.  There was one regular $10 blackjack table open and all the seats were full, but the lady sitting at third base had no chips in front of her and was just spectating.  Usually if you just hover with cash in  hand the floor will ask spectators to make room so you can play, but in this case they seemed oblivious so I moved on.

I found another $10 table that was the blackjack + 3 variety where you can make a side bet on a 3 card poker hand with your two cards and the dealer's up card.  You can choose not to play the side bet and the blackjack plays just like any other game.  At Prairie Meadows they pay 3 to 2 on blackjacks and the dealer hits on soft 17. The only other house rule I don't like is they will only let you split aces once. If one of your aces gets another ace dropped on it then you have 12 and that's it.

This table had two guys at it, but one was coloring up and leaving as I sat down.  I won the first two hands I played and lost the third. Just then a guy sat down at first base that was...how should I put this...a little rough around the edges.  Leather coat, greasy hair, scraggly beard...looked like he just came off a week long bender.  He asked if the dealer was treating us right and I told him that I'd only played 3 hands so it was too early to tell.  The other guy at the table may have been a mute since he never spoke once.

On the very first hand after the rough guy sat down I was dealt 15 and the dealer's up card was a 7.  I hit and drew a 10 and busted.  Rough guy grumbled that I was playing stupid.  I assured him that I was playing exact basic strategy and would not stray from that.  He didn't seem to know what that was.  When it was the dealer's turn she revealed an 8 under the 7 for 15 and then drew a 4 to give her 19.  Rough guy loudly complained that I had "stolen her bust card."  The floor person told him to let me play my hand however I wanted.  She also brought him a strategy card with the chart for basic strategy on it, but he claimed they made that up to get people to lose more.

A couple hands later a similar situation happened and he reacted the same.  I was back to my original $100 so I shook my head, made eye contact with the floor person who was now strangely silent and said, "I'd like to color up please." Then I took my $100 to the poker room and bought in short to the 1-2 game.

Lastly I want to brag on my show choir kids a little We had by far our most successful season ever.  We competed four times and all four times we were awarded 1st place.  They also give out caption awards to the groups.  The sort of big three captions are best vocals, best choreography, and best band. So in our four competitions there were 12 of those available to us to win. We won 11 of them only missing out on best band at our penultimate competition.

Here is a video of my varsity show choir. This year's show was themed around finding love in the world. It is a very fun and light-hearted show that featured a wedding with a very impressive gown and a rocking reception with a very quick onstage costume change that is almost like a magic act.  The set list for the show was:
  • "Two Scenes" - San Fermin
  • "Footprints" - DJ Tiesto
  • "All Over the World" - ELO
  • "Around the World in 80 Days" - Bing Crosby
  • "An Old Fashioned Wedding" - Annie Get Your Gun
  • "Some Enchanted Evening" - South Pacific
  • "Celebrate" - Kool and the Gang
  • "Locomotion" - Little Eva
  • "We Are Family" - Sister Sledge
  • "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
  • "Shout" - The Isley Brothers
Please enjoy and let me know what you think. For the uninitiated show choir can be a strange experience, but most people walk away very impressed when they realize that every person on that stage performing is 18 or under (except for one fat old bald guy at the piano).


Monday, September 25, 2017

Bonus Poker Content

I meant to add this as a short post script to the previous post about the football game, but forgot.  Last week I played the $50 tournament at my local casino.  I went out in about 25th place when I checked my option in the big blind with A-10.  I had about 12 big blinds remaining.  The flop was 10 high rainbow, so I bet $1,200.  The dealer for some reason announced my bet as $3,300. The next player to act put out $3,500 before I could correct the dealer. The dealer informed the player my bet was really $1,200 and he said, "Okay, I raise to $3,500.  It folded back to me and since I would only be left with about $4,000 if I called, I shoved and the other player insta-called.  I turned over my top pair top kicker and he revealed...aces.

The really interesting story from this tournament happened at the table next to mine though. One player at the table was trying to play the role of table captain.  You know the type...trying to call out people's hands, making big bluffs and showing them, chiding other players for folding, and just generally trying to control the action and get under the skin of the other players so they'll call him down light.

In the critical hand the table captain was heads up with an older gentleman who could best be described as nitty.  The old man seemed to be taking a while to make his decision when the captain said, "I'll call whatever you bet." In response to this declaration the old man immediately said, "Okay, I'm all in," and pushed his chips forward.

The table captain starts to muck when the dealer says, "No, you said you would call whatever he bet, you have to call." The captain says, "The action wasn't on me, so that's not binding."  The dealer called the floor who listened to all of the involved parties and then called over the other person working the floor that evening.  They conferred and declared the captain had to call.  It wasn't all of his chips, but it was a significant amount leaving him pretty short. He of course complained rigorously using some colorful language in the process claiming that this ruling was different from "every other poker room in the entire country."

The poker room at Prairie Meadows fairly recently moved from a separate room on the 4th floor of the complex to the casino floor on the 2nd level.  This means it is now under the control and management of the woman that runs all of the table games.  According to the poker dealers she is a very "take no shit" kinda gal.  She just happened to be checking in with the poker room staff when this all went down and told the guy to watch his language and drop it.  The ruling has been made and isn't going to change, so let it go.  She gave him one warning and said if he cursed again or brought up the ruling again he would be asked to leave.

He made it about 3 hands before he brought it up again and she immediately swooped in and said, "That's it. You're done let's go." And then she and a security guard escorted him out and his small stack was left behind to be blinded off.

I've never seen anybody get kicked out of a tournament that cheap before, but the dude was really fired up. I mean I get that he disagreed with the decision, but it's a $50 tournament and wasn't for like a $1,000 pot in a cash game or something.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Thrill of (near) Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Wow...it's been about a year and a half since I last posted here.  Guess I finally did something exciting enough to share. My 24-year old son and I made the last minute decision to head over to Iowa City for the Hawkeyes' prime time show down with the Nittany Lions of Penn State. I know a lot of Hawkeye fans who thought we would probably get blown out by PSU like we did last year at their place, but I had faith that the magic of Kinnick Stadium could help the Hawkeyes keep it close if not win outright.

We decided we were going to make a day of it and go over early and tailgate even though the weather was predicted to be unseasonably hot for late September. I borrowed my sister-in-law's portable DirecTV satellite setup and we reserved a portable generator from the local A to Z Rental.  I took care of the menu and sent my son to buy the beer since he is a Cicerone certified beer expert that is the bar and restaurant manager of a Flix Brewhouse here in Des Moines.

We met at my house at 7 am and filled up the cooler and then headed to the grocery store to grab a few last minute supplies and then dashed over to the rental place to pick up the generator.  We stopped to put fuel in the generator and to buy a couple gallons of extra gas just in case to make it through the afternoon and were on the road by 8 o'clock.

We got to Iowa City about 10 am and parked at the Finkbine golf course about a mile or so from the stadium. It was already plenty hot at 10 and we were both fairly drenched in sweat by the time we had everything setup about half an hour later.  It took about 30 minutes for the satellite dish to get all dialed in to the satellite signal and we cracked our first beer (and ice cold bottle of water) at about 11:15.



The one piece of tailgating equipment we didn't bring was a tent for shade.  We don't own one and I couldn't find one to borrow on short notice.  I was too cheap to spend the $100 or so to purchase one at Sam's Club, but we figured we could tough it out with enough cold beverages and a couple of box fans. We were wrong,

We were able to steal some shade from our neighbors, but by noon the sun was so high you couldn't get shade unless you were directly under their tent.  We had a bite to eat and watched all the early start college football games up until halftime and then we started discussing options.  We finally decide to pack everything up and head downtown to grab a beverage and some freshly prepared food. My son booked an uber to take us downtown and we decided it was the best $25 either of us had ever spent.

We killed about 3 hours downtown bar hopping and then caught the free shuttle from the old capitol building to historic Kinnick Stadium.  We arrived just in time for the band's pregame performance and then it was game time.  I won't go into a lot of details about the game, but suffice it to say the Hawkeyes played one of the prettiest ugly games.  They gave up tons of yards, but almost no points...just a field goal and a safety in the first half.  Iowa scored a late TD after an interception to make it 7-5 despite about a 225 yard difference in total offense.

The second half was a nail biter with Iowa taking the lead 19-15 with about 1:50 to go.  Our D had been keeping their offense somewhat in check so I was feeling pretty good about our chances to maintain that lead and win the game.  PSU worked the ball down the field and scored the game winning TD on 4th and goal from the 7 yard line as time expired. They were required to line up for the point after attempt, but they just took a knee after which their QB punted the ball which drew a chorus of boos from the Kinnick crowd. I heard he spent the first two minutes or so of his ESPN post game interview apologizing for it, so good on him I guess.

It took us about an hour and a half to walk back to our vehicle and escape the crowded parking lot.  Thanks to the close finish almost nobody left early so it was congested.



All in all it was a great day even if we got our hopes dashed right at the end.  The Kinnick crowd was raucous and loud and our beloved Hawkeyes proved they can play with a top 5 team.  They have a few winnable games in a row now, so I believe they can contend for the Big Ten West and maybe a potential rematch with Penn State or OSU in the championship game.

P.S. If you haven't seen it yet, the Iowa Hawkeyes started a new tradition that we're really proud of. The brand new childrens hospital was just completed adjacent to Kinnick Stadium.  The top floor facing Kinnick is like a giant press box designed so the very sick kids and their families can watch the home football games.  At the end of the first quarter the whole stadium turns and waves to the kids in the hospital as a show of support for what they're going through.  Since it was a night game they added the flashlights from their cell phones to make it an even cooler experience.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An Unexpected Goodbye

Last Saturday morning I got up early and put a cut up chicken, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, parsley, salt, and bay leaves in a pot to simmer for my homemade southern style chicken and dumplings. I settled into the couch to watch some English soccer and get ready for the third day of March Madness when my cell phone rang.

It's rare that my phone rings since it's used most often for text messages, tweets, and web surfing, but it's even more rare that it rings that early on a weekend. It was a close friend from Kansas City. He had just called me a couple of weeks ago when he was making a last minute trip up to Des Moines, so I figured he was calling about something similar. I was wrong.

Chris asked, "Where are you?" I said, "Sitting in my messy living room with food on the stove. Why?" He didn't beat around the bush, "Dave died last night." It felt as if I had fallen from a great height. "What? How? What happened?"

Dave was my very best friend for a large part of my life. We met in 5th grade band when all of the area elementary schools came together for an all district concert. We both played french horn and hit it off immediately. It seems almost everyone has that one friend through middle school and high school that if they aren't at your house, then you are at theirs. That was Dave.

We were high energy kids who got in trouble for talking and goofing off, but we weren't troublemakers by any stretch. We were in band and choir together. We double-dated for every single high school dance. I drank my first beer with Dave. He got a six pack of tall boys from his Cousin Jim and we drank them as fast as we could behind the dock at the building where we worked in the summer. I was with Dave the very first time I threw up from drinking. Coincidentally the same night as the six-pack mentioned above.

After high school we roomed together in college and contributed to each others' poor decisions that led to both of us being asked to take a semester off to "re-evaluate our academic goals." Neither of us ever returned to college. We got an apartment together and both got a job at the same fine dining restaurant. Dave eventually got let go because he couldn't stop himself from telling the Maitre D' exactly what he thought of him.

After going through a few mind numbing office jobs Dave decided that he needed a new adventure. He joined the Marines in 1989 and completed his training just in time to get deployed for Desert Storm. Dave was in a Marine heavy weapons platoon that was attached to the Army's Big Red One 1st Mechanical for the short, but intense battles that took place after the U.S. began their ground campaign against Saddam's troops in 1991. He never talked much about what he saw or did while there, but he was never fully the same after he returned.

After we both married and had kids we drifted apart. We would still get together when old friends would come back to town and it was always like no time at all had passed.

It's been 5 days since he died and we still don't know exactly what did him in. He went to bed about midnight and about 4 AM his girlfriend (he and his wife divorced a couple of years ago) realized he wasn't snoring so she checked on him and he was gone. The autopsy results won't be back for a while, but everybody who knows him well knows it will be somehow related to his drinking.

Dave's ex asked our friend group if we wouldn't mind saying a few words about Dave at the funeral service. I told her I would try. I'm a big crier. I get choked up at songs all the time, so trying to speak at the funeral of one of my best friends in the world was sure to turn on the water works. I finally decided that I didn't give a shit if I cried in front of a bunch of strangers.

I got up and talked about what good friends Dave and I were through high school, college, and after college. I told everyone that my list of really close friends is very short so losing one of them hits  extra hard. I wanted to depict for them how Dave was the type of guy that would do anything for his friends and always had your back. We shared a love of movies and could hold a complete conversation just in movie quotes, so it was apt that I used a movie reference to make my point. If you've seen the movie "The Town" you'll remember the scene where Ben Affleck goes to Jeremy Renner and asks in his Southie accent, "I need your help with somethin'. We're probably gonna have to hurt some people and you can't ask me about it later." Renner thinks for about half a second before asking, "Whose car are we takin'." That was Dave. If you needed his help with anything he didn't stop to consider the consequences or costs. He just showed up and did whatever needed doing.

Today they buried him with full military honors at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. It still is surreal to me that one of my closest friends is really gone.

Here are Dave and I just out of college doing what we did best at our first apartment. Dave is on the left and I'm on the right. In the last photo Dave is predictably in the center of the action and I'm on the right again.  Rest in peace, friend. A lot of people will miss you.





Friday, March 11, 2016

E5

Haven't posted in a while.  I have to feel motivated to share a story and tonight that just happens to be true. I'm a small time gambler and definitely not a pro like some other people u see. I work a 9 to 5 job for a big company and only gamble when I feel like a I have a couple of bucks that I can spare.  I never gamble money that would keep me from paying my bills, so it's not consequential except that I'm a competitive person and I would rather win than lose, ya know?

So it's Friday night in the booming metropolis of Des Moines, Iowa. I decided to take $100 and head on out to Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino and try my luck at the tables. The plan was to play a little blackjack and if I happen to double up or more I would take it up to the poker room and play a little 1-2 no limit hold em.

I arrived at the casino and headed up to their "Sports Pit" on the Mezzanine Level. It's the non-smoking area and on Friday and Saturday night is the only place you can usually find cheap blackjack. As I approached the table there was one guy sitting in the third base (last) seat playing by himself heads up with the dealer and he seemed to be doing well. They were almost to the end of the shoe so I waited patiently before sitting down.

I took my place in seat 3 of 7 at the table and the dealer started to shuffle. Just then a couple starts to sit down at the Mississippi Stud table next to us and asked, "What kind of blackjack is this?" The dealer and floor person redirected them to our table. They started to sit down in seats 1 and 2. The guy playing the third base spot kind of raised his eyebrows at them, colored up, and skedaddled.

The older gentleman of the couple says to his friend (date? co-worker?) or whatever she was that they should move so they'll have more room. I almost moved to third base to let hem have more room at the end of the table where they had already set up shop and really wish I had. The gentleman took the last seat and the woman sat down to his right.

Let me take a moment to say that I normally don't get too worked up over people that play blackjack in a non-traditional way. I try to play optimal strategy and figure they're mostly just hurting themselves if they don't play that way too.  I figure there is just as much chance that their unconventional methods could help you in the end as hurt you.  But sometimes somebody does something so shit all stupid that you can't help getting a little worked up.

I don't count cards when I play. As I said before I try to play optimal strategy and I utilize a betting strategy that is meant to maximize the effect of winning streaks and minimize the effect of losing streaks. It goes like this: as long as I keep winning I bet 1 unit, 3 units, 2 units, then 5 units. Then I just bounce back and forth between 5 units and 2 units until I lose a hand. If I win 4 hands in a row then I will have won 8 units. Tonight I was playing $5 so it was $5, $15, $10, and $25.  If I lose multiple hands I just keep betting 1 unit until a winning streak starts.

The table didn't start out well. The couple were playing super unconventional, but were mostly just standing when they should be hitting which is kind of the lesser of two evils when it comes to dumb play. I've lost down to my final $10 of my initial $100 buy in and I went on a streak. My bet is all the way up to $25 and I'm dealt a 4 and a 5.  The woman to my left has A6 and the guy has K5. The dealer is showing a 6. I double and draw a 10 for a total of 19. The woman hits and draws a face card and stands on 17.  The older gentleman decides to hit his 15 against the dealer's 6. The dealer sort of asks, "Hit?" before granting him another card and sure enough he taps the table and says, "Hit."

He gets a 7 to bust and the dealer rolls over a 4 under his 6.  He then draws a face card for 20 to beat both the woman (who had $5 at stake) and me (who now had $50 on the table).  If numb nuts had just stood like he is supposed to I'm back to $105. Instead I'm walking away from the table with steam coming out of my ears with a single red bird in my hand after muttering something like "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Did any of you figure out the title? With baseball season just around the corner and my beloved Cubs favored to win it all (I'll believe it when I see it) I had to throw in a baseball reference since the error by third base cost me $100 and E5 is the designation on the score card in baseball for an error by third base.