Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Poker Recap

This month has been hectic from a poker perspective. I didn't play the first 10 days of the month, then was on restricted hours for the next 4 while my father was still in town. I played a lot of 40/80 and 30/60 (5 hours for every 7 I played of 20/40, a high ratio for me) and I ran bad. I posted the worst day of my life, had several other multi-rack losses on $10 chip games, and all this on top of the fact that I lost about $2500 at the Bellagio on the last two days of May. I've started playing small mixed games online (some buddies and I are going to start a weekly HORSE game on Fulltilt, the idea being that we should learn how to play those games, and I've decided I want to learn 2-7 Triple Draw), and I've back burnered my claim of firing up Sit 'N Gos again once some actual research led me to believe that until the UIGEA is repealed I'm just too far behind to make much money (not to mention that claim was based on cutting back my live hours, which isn't something one should really do after losing a bunch of money).

The net result: My first losing month as a pro. The loss wasn't really very big (eliminating just that one worst day of my life would have actually had me close to covering expenses this month), but it still stings. My hope is that I can come out of this more tilt-resistant and with a clearer view of what exactly the long-run is. I'm also thinking about cutting back on the 40/80 hours in July, as that really was the root of my problems (I won handily at 20/40, but you just can't really post good numbers when you go on a 6 rack downer in a game that's double your usual stakes).

I will leave you golden nuggets shared with me by Jose, the resident 30/60 lag at the Oaks. He's a great guy who is always fun to have in your game. First, another regular was offering a story about how he was playing in this game and made a loose call with Five-Four off. Jose was nodding patiently, listening to the story, when the guy added "You see, this guy was kind of an asshole" and he had to interrupt.

"Oh. If he was asshole, you have no choice. You must call."

We had fun with that one for the rest of the day, saying "He is asshole. You must call" almost every time Jose bet. The second nugget was perhaps even better. Jose's ethnicity is a mystery to me, but I have it narrowed down to either Spanish (as in, from Spain), or Middle Eastern. I can't really tell...I'd guess the latter if it weren't for his name. Anyway, apparently someone asked him what was going on with Iran and he responded in rhythm "Well they killed Michael Jackson so they wouldn't be on the news anymore."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Cinco

Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and anyone who tells you otherwise either hasn't been there or is in some way biased against sandstone. The park isn't technically a canyon, even though a river does run through most of it, but you get the sense that you're inside one while you're there. In general the place has a similar feeling to Yosemite National Park, except that it's more colorful and, as I said, everything is made of sandstone, not granite.

We awoke in the El Rio Lodge refreshed and ready to get an early start (we had a long day ahead of us, as we had to explore all of Zion and make it to Bryce in one shot). We drove the few miles past the entrance, parked at the visitor center, bought bagels and fruit at the coffee shop (like 3 of each if I'm not mistaken), and boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to the launching point of our first hike, the Hidden Canyon Trail. Zion National Park is one of the most modernized of the canyon lands parks, having completely redone the visitor center and added an mandatory (cars aren't allowed) shuttle bus system that runs with alarmingly frequency. Other parks have shuttle buses, but they don't seem to run often enough or have the coverage required to make them practical. At Zion this was not the case.

Anyway, the 2.2 mile round trip hike to Hidden Canyon was, as advertised, incredibly steep and a little bit tricky. In several places metal spikes had been pounded into the sandstone, with heavy chains connecting them for hikers to hold on to merely for safety. While this wasn't strictly necessary, I was happy to have some assurances against tumbling off the side of the cliff. We eventually made it all the way to the Hidden Canyon itself, which is, as the name suggests, a small side canyon that is hidden off the main gorge of the entire park. A sign stated that some rock scrambling was in order, and the trek into Hidden Canyon did not disappoint. We first climbed up the side slope, eventually getting up to a beautiful lookout point (the climb up was too rigorous to even bring the camera, however). On the way down I missed a hand hold and ended up with a finger full of cactus needles, but otherwise we escaped unharmed. Then we walked a ways back into the canyon itself, basically over a beach (remember, everything is sand stone, so everything is covered in sand). The secluded canyon was great, and we did a little more scrambling up some rocks. The sandstone was incredibly colorful, but we felt bad even walking on it, as it basically crumbled every time you touched it. Climbing up one wall I found a small clay disc with beads and shiny things embedded in it hidden behind a rock (probably put there by a little kid months or years ago). Little kid, if you're reading this, don't worry, I left your artwork undisturbed. After playing around in the canyon for what seemed like an hour, we decided it was time to head back down, as we had a few other hikes we wanted to do and it was already close to noon.

Next on the list was Weeping Rock. Basically what has happened here is the following. Water lands on top of the (soft) sandstone and flows through it, much like water seeping through soil. Eventually, however, the water hits a layer of hard rock, so hard that the water can no longer continue downward. What happens then? The water starts to move to the side like, and eventually hits the wall of the rock and seeps out onto it's surface. The appearance is that the rock is weeping, as water is falling off of it at a pretty surprising clip. We were impressed and happy we took the half mile detour to check it out. We also ran into an entire family of Steeler's fans, who were quite taken with my floppy Steelers hat.

After Weeping Rock it was back onto a shuttle bus that took us to our next hike, Riverside Walk. As the name suggests, this trail is along the river. Eventually, however, the trail stops and hikers are presented with a choice; turn back or walk in the river. Many hikers choose to follow the river upstream for many miles, eventually coming to the Narrows, a dangerous area where the river is only a few meters wide, with canyon walls towering up hundreds of feet on either side. Obviously this area is prone to flash flooding, something we'll here more about in a later installment detailing our trip to Antelope Canyon. The hikers who were continuing on up the river, be it for a few miles or all the way to the Narrows, were typically well prepared. Some wore half wetsuits, covering them up to their stomachs (the water was only 2 feet at it's deepest), or at least neoprene shoes, and almost all had walking sticks. Not me. I simply took off my shoes and waded right in, eventually making it a few hundred feet up and across to the other bank. Danielle stayed behind, choosing not to subject herself to the 50 something degree water. Then I walked, barefoot mind you, a few hundred more feet, and got back into the stream, where I asked a woman with all the aforementioned equipment "Does it get really cool really soon, or should I turn back?" She responded "No, it's pretty much the same for the next few miles" and I had my answer. Let me tell you, if you ever want to walk in 1 to 2 feet of pretty rapidly flowing 55 degree water on top of large smooth rocks, at least have the sense to bring a stick or some shoes. I almost fell 5 or 6 times, and by the time I got back my feet were not to happy with my brain.

After another short shuttle bus ride, we embarked on our final hike of the day, Emerald Pools. Once again this hike is intuitively named, as its 4 mile length takes you past not one or two, but three "pools" (cleverly named upper, middle, and lower). The pools themselves were pretty neat, with one of them forming below a carbon copy of weeping rock. They were also full of tadpoles and (presumably) mosquito larvae, so we didn't linger very long. Eventually we reached the upper pool and were greeted with a special treat. Several rock climbers were attempting a descent of the canyon wall, and were currently huddling on a ledge several hundred feet above our heads. The first climber rappelled down a rope, eventually landing on a slope across the upper pool while dozens of hikers watched with a mix of awe, curiosity, and fear. What if this dude fell? What exactly were we going to do then? He made it down safely, then tied something to the bottom of his rope which is companions eventually pulled back up to themselves. We watched the process for about 15 minutes, and eventually decided that if we'd seen one guy come down, it was fairly unlikely the second or third would look much different. We headed back down the trail, and Danielle made one of her almost daily "cool nature like discoveries" (which started with the prong horned antelope we saw at the North Rim and I'm just now remembering I forgot to write about). We saw a caterpillar, crawling along the sand, and lo and behold right behind him there were...caterpillar tracks. Have you ever seen caterpillar tracks? I doubt it. Now you have. The trip back down the trail was uneventful, and we made it to the bottom without incident.

The next thing on my schedule was a late lunch (the bagels and fruit we'd purchased hours ago were long since gone), and I picked up chicken sandwiches at the lodge (which was on the same shuttle stop as the Emerald Pools trail) while Danielle hunted for the always present Penny Smusher (these were the only souvenirs we picked up on the trip other than Christmas ornaments, something I collect). Then we loaded back up onto the shuttle bus and picked up the Highlander at the visitor center (after a quick stop inside, which assured me that, yes, it was very modern and cool and still didn't really have anything I wanted to buy inside), and drove out of the park, passing the Great Arch, Checkerboard Mesa, and through a ginormous freaking tunnel. I mean, this thing was nuts, carved right through the canyon wall, a couple miles long, with periodic 30 foot holes blown out of the wall to let in air and light. Once we got to the other side, we parked (in a very, very small lot big enough for about 8 cars) and did one last hike known as Canyon Overlook Trail. Aptly named yet again, this short (a mile or so) hike took us straight up the canyon wall to an overlook from which you could see a pretty large piece of the park. The view from the end, shown below, was truly breathtaking. It also afforded us one last chance to scramble around on some rocks, horrifying the middle aged couple who took our picture, one of whom was deathly afraid of heights. "It's safer than it looks", Danielle assured them as I was walking around on gigantic boulders seemingly inches from death (in truth I was many feet from death). "We're not so sure" was the response. On the way up we had passed this same couple at one point in the trail where it got a little narrow, and I realized the woman had been working up her courage to continue on and we'd walked past her without even breaking stride. It was, in retrospect, pretty funny.

Eventually we headed back down and packed back into the Highlander (after some good old fashioned rock pushing) for our drive to Bryce, where we were due by 6:30pm in order to get in one solid hike before dark. Would our young heros make it, or was this the end of their adventure? Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There is a Lesson Here...Somewhere

I'm sitting in an Oaks 15/30 game that honestly isn't that great. There are 3 props, including Matt Lessinger, and basically everyone is playing very tight. Matt, however, is getting hammered, both on and off the felt. Just before kickoff of the Spain v USA soccer match he declared he was going to make a call and place a bet. Turns out Spain was something like a 9.5 : 1 favorite, so he instead bet on the spread, laying 1.5 goals and 120:100 (he had to bet $120 to win $100, and Spain had to win by more than 1.5 goals for him to collect). Well, we all know how that worked out for the man....

The dealer was making a mess of everything. First, he blatently dealt out the button, who had just busto'ed himself but was in the process of buying more chips and was entitled to a hand. The poor guy didn't say anything, though, until after the UTG player raised, and the floorman came over and ruled basically "tough shit". The next hand a woman posts behind the button and the dealer again fails to give her a card on his first pass. She notices quickly, however, and the 3 players behind her simply slide their cards (at which they have not looked) to their rights. While this is happening the early position player (we'll call him Jack) on my immediate right says "Another misdeal?" and throws his jack of spades face up on the table. "No, no" says the dealer, "We're alright now". Jack is a little perturbed, but he takes back his jack and receives another card from the dealer. Now, were Jack a smart man, their would be no story to tell here. But you're reading about it, so we all know what happens next.

Jack open raises. In early position at a ten handed table. When it is known that he has the jack of spades in the hole. I'm next up and have to call for time upon beholding the mighty Ace Deuce off, saying "Now wait a second...this is interesting!" I think for a second and decide Jack has to have jack jack, catergorically ruling out Ace Jack. Now there's a poster behind me, plus $25 in blinds, so that's $40 of dead money I could create if I 3-bet here. I'm in position. And I know what he freaking has! To war!!! I 3-bet, everyone folds (thank God...but in retrospect, what I've just done is quite a show of strength. Jack has jacks and I 3-bet him!), and Jack...4-bets. Doh. Ok, whatever, time to flop 'em....


I raise, he calls, and proceeds to call me down, then muck when I table the goods. Like I said, I'm sure there is a lesson here somewhere....

Fast forward to today and I find myself sitting in the Bay 101 40/80 game, praying that somehow, maybe just this one time, I'll be allowed to win. You see, to date I'm a 5 rack loser in Bay Area 40/80 games, and I really don't think I'm not good enough to beat them. Pete, for example, who plays about the same as I do, is over a ten rack winner in a similar number of hours. Anyway, yet again I pick up black aces and make the obligatory raise. RU the floor man 3-bets me and a smile actually crosses my face; for once, I'm gonna get him. It may only be heads up and it won't be a huge pot, but god damn it I'm going to win this freakin' pot. Wait, what's that? Young Jae is calling 2.5 bets cold in the small blind? And Chau Vu wants to take a peak from the big blind for 2 more? Fine. Cap it! Me and the 3 badges are going to war and I've got the best hand by a mile and a half.

992 with two clubs.

Gin! Unless somebody has quads I should be good to go here. Young Jae and Chau check, and I bet. RU raises, Young Jae calls two cold like it's nothing (at which point I get a little concerned), Chau folds, and I 3-bet. Both of them call and I pray silently to the dealer and god to just this one time put a red card with numbers on it out there. And I am smoted....


Young Jae checks and I bet. RU calls only (which in retrospect is amazingly awful) and Young Jae raises. Now remember, I have the ace of clubs, so I've got like 11 outs at a damn monster (the 2 aces and the 9 clubs), so I call, having now put 5.5*$80 = $440 into this pot. I realize that yes, Young Jae is bad enough to have lots of 9s in his "what the heck I'll call 2.5 cold" range when the tightest guy at the table (even for me I'd been card-dead) opens like under the gun plus 1. RU 3-bets. I am physically struck back in my chair by the absurdity of it. He has Jacks and just spiked his 2 outter to beat me. Young Jae 4-bets. I stand up, make a small scene, lament how good it is that I run, and muck my hand. RU shrugs and says "quads?" and calls the cap (he can't even raise because I was still in the hand when the betting commenced). The river is a blank and RU only calls Young Jae, who proudly tables...J9 soooooooooted. RU almost falls out of his chair tabling his pocket jacks and Young Jae can't believe his "bad luck". Again....there is a lesson to be learned here....somewhere.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Four

We awoke in our cabin shortly after dawn. Dawn itself was kind of a relative thing throughout this trip, as we spanned two time zones, but were in various places that did not observe daylight savings time. To make a long story short, it was important to double check all your times on the schedule, and for about half the trip sunset didn't happen until almost 9pm (with dusk lasting another 45 minutes or so). The first order of business was breakfast at the lodge, where we picked up our boxed lunches. After this we split up, with Danielle going to the general store in an attempt to solve the digital camera debacle once and for all, while I visited the visitor center to form a formal opinion about what hike we should do. Both of these trips were a rousing success, as Danielle found memory that worked and I chose the North Kaibab Trail (our mule trip on the previous day was supposed to come out on the South Kaibab Trail, but instead just went out the way we came in due to construction work).

We drove to the trail head and set about the 4ish mile hike. The whole trail was much longer, but we decided we were only going to the Supai Tunnel and back. Our experience at the South Rim had taught us that hiking into the Grand Canyon is great, but that if you want the view to change you need to go a really, really long way. On both rims the only way in by foot is down the talus slope, and therefore you spend the first few miles looking at the exact same thing while you walk basically vertically downward. We stopped for a picture and...it worked! Awesome! Then we stopped for a second picture, and....we got a "Read/Write Error" on the camera. My limited knowledge of computer hardware, gleaned almost entirely from 6.033, led me to believe that the first picture was the wrong size and somehow did not fit into a slot on the memory stick. It also led me to be quite sure that we were completely screwed. Repeated attempts, at different resolutions, yielded no better results. We did not have a camera, and therefore ended up with only 3 pictures from this entire day, all taken by strangers who offered to email them to us. The first, shown above, was taken at Coconino Overlook, and the other two were taken just past the Supai Tunnel at the bottom end of our hike.

Now it was time to hike back up. To this point we hadn't really been on foot that much, with most of our travel around being provided by Dan and Gizmo. Danielle is a much more accomplished hiker than I am (she did the 18 mile round trip up Half Dome at Yosemite), probably because shes 2.5 inches taller and weighs 45 fewer pounds, and it quickly showed. This hike out gained 1400 vertical feet in just under 2 miles, for a grade of nearly 14 percent. And by the way we were at 9,000 feet. A new strategy was in order. After some thought, I realized that the way I ended up hiking with Danielle just didn't fit my aerobic profile very well. Her strategy was to walk at a medium pace for a longish time(10-15 minutes or more), and then stop for a longish time (1-2 minutes) for a sip of water and a break. This just didn't work for me; in my youth as a competitive swimmer, reps lasted less than 2 minutes, and rest came in the tens of seconds. A 2 minute breakd didn't really help me much more than a 20 second one. So I gave it a try, walking almost as fast as I could for about a minute, then stopping for 5-10 seconds, taking a few full breaths (of 9,000 foot air), and continuing on. The change was dramatic. Not only could I function with less overall rest, but I could walk faster. If you ever go hiking, try to think about the length of rest you need and your recovery curve; trust me, it can make a huge difference.

With my new strategy in place, Danielle and I finished the hike out quickly and easily. Then we drove back to the lodge and opted for lunch on top of a large (15-20 feet high) rock at Bright Angel Point (the same point we ran to the night before), which to that point was the most picturesque lunch I've ever had (it would be topped in a few days at Horseshoe Bend). Then we loaded up into the car and drove to several lookout points, specifically Cape Royal and Angel's Window.

After a little bit of rock pushing to get ready for the journey ahead, we set out for Zion National Park. Our first point of interest along the way (Danielle spent a lot of the car rides reading from her Rough Guide) was Colorado City, Utah. Apparently this city is one of the last bastions of fundamental Mormanism, complete with plural marriages and a runaway leader who is on the FBI's top ten most wanted list. Needless to say we did not stop the car. It appeared, however, that about 1 out of every 3 structures in the town proper was in the process of being built. Everywhere you looked there were half finished houses with construction equipment lying idle near by. Creepy.

By now we had zero'ed in on a solution for the digital camera catastrophe. My GPS (remember, for most of this trip the iPhone was unable to load web pages due to shotty or non-existent coverage) reported a Walmart in Hurrican, Utah, merely tens of miles out of our way. I called them and was informed, sadly, that this was only a Walmart DC, or distribution center. Luck smiled upon us, however, as in the last two years (after the maps were loaded onto my Garmin) a new Walmart Supercenter had been built to match the DC. With my sexy lady voiced Garmin leading the way, we followed "U-tahnine" all the way into Hurricane and eventually found the glimmering oasis of wally world.

Walking inside was jarring (we hadn't really been in a full fledged civilized place since Las Vegas), but we quickly found the digital camera stand and had the complete attention of two dedicated sales people. We settled on basically the cheapest Kodak camera available, and $100 later we were out the door with a camera and two foot long Subway tuna sandwiches. On the way to Zion we pulled off on a dirt road to eat our dinner and enjoy the view, and revelled in the fact that we were back to taking unlimited pictures.

Eventually we arrived at the El Rio Lodge, just outside of Zion. Actually we drove in all the way into the park first, only to find that the visitor center was closed, at which point we promptly turned around and drove the 3 miles back to our hotel. The front office, however, was already dark for the night, and all we found was a little note informing us that our room was number 6 and that we could find the keys inside. Sure enough, behind the unlocked sliding glass door there was a room waiting for our tired bodies. We washed our super fancy REI hiking shirts (thanks again Diana!) in the tub, finished our sandwiches, went roaming around looking for an ice machine that apparently didn't exist (I almost walked across the street to the next motel), and fell promptly asleep. The next morning we checked out via note, as the front office wasn't yet open. I hope they didn't mind :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The WTK Strikes Back

I spent Friday at Bay 101 and lost a striking sum of money. I started out at 40/80 and quickly decided I needed to move down; the game just wasn't very good. To my delight they called down a new 20/40 game and I asked Vivian (the floor woman who never lists me when I call in) to lock me up a seat. WTK yelled over "Can I draw for you?" and I said "Sure, go for it!". He pulled the king of spades, which still wasn't enough to get me the button. I got to the table just as the first hand was being dealt (I was trying to finish my free hands at 40/80, but ended up skipping out one hand early) and promptly lost a ton of money in the first 5 minutes (by capping capping pocket nines after a WTK 3-bet and running into a set of queens from the big blind, and then flopping top pair good kicker with QJ, only to watch WTK turn trip 9s). And then....

I'm in the big blind and pick up aces. 3 people have limped, including WTK, and I of course raise. Everyone calls, and we see the flop 5 ways.

A24 with two diamonds

This would rate towards the low end of fantastic. I bet out and get two callers, WTK and "Dodgers Hat" man. I'm in the 1 seat, with WTK in the 5 and Dodgers hat in the 6. The turn is:


Well that's not great, but I still gotta bet. I fire, and WTK thinks for a second and then calls. Dodgers Hat now raises, and I know I'm drawing for a boat. With 10.5 big bets in the pot, however, my 10 outter more than qualifies for a call. I hollywood it a bit, so as not to give away too much information (maybe) and then call. WTK now enters the tank, thinking and hemming and hawwing. It occurs to me that I have fewer outs than I thought; WTK has just picked up a second pair and is considering calling while drawing dead. Fine by me. I should note that he has toned back his lunacy by 3 or 4 notches lately, playing almost down right tight at times. If he keeps that level of discipline up, his hand-reading abilities and image will ensure he wins tons of money in this game. Anyway....he calls, drawing dead, which is fine by me except he's holding two of my outs but whatever.

A24-3-3 no flush

Since I hate money, I bet (check/raising would have been so sexy here given my read. WTK might have just filled up, too, and he won't check a boat. Even if he does check or didn't fill up, Dodgers Hat will HAVE to bet his straight when we both check and then I can raise anyway). WTK raises quickly and Dodgers Hat is let off the hook (he folded A5, or so was his claim, which I have no reason to refute). Oh well, at least I'm gonna get 3 bets out of WTK. I raise him pretty much in rhythm and he 4-bets likewise. At this point I declare "TIME!" and stand up to peruse the board. I actually bend over and put my face right next to the cards, making a pretty big show of it. I am actually making sure I didn't miss a straight flush (I didn't) and confirming that I do in fact have the second nuts against a none lunatic. Then I think for a second about what everyone knows here:

1. I know Dodgers Hat had a straight.
2. WTK knows (1).
3. I know WTK knows (2).
4. WTK knows (3).

Basically, WTK knows I have aces full! Aiyah! I call only and the man, the myth, the legend, cries out "How can you not raise me one more time with Aces!?" I table them out of turn, and he rolls quad 3s. Every person in the casino hears this story over the course of the next 6 hours, during which I lose a thousand or so dollars.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Three

Wednesday morning we awoke at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which in and of itself makes for a pretty freakin' cool day. After a hearty breakfast in the canteen (at, I believe, 6:30am), we were back at the corral ready to mount our trusty steeds for the 10 mile return trip to the top of the South Rim. The trip back up, we were told, would be much easier on our bodies. I suppose there are few reasons for this:

1. You're already sore as hell and it just doesn't feel so bad.
2. You're going against gravity, instead of with it, so the bumps aren't quite so bad.
3. You're doing the hot part of the canyon in the early morning, before it actually gets hot.

Once again our group set out second, trailing substantially behind the other set of eight overnight mule riders. Their group, for some reason, made much better time both in and out of the canyon. I overheard our guides discussing this fact, and apparently the other group's cowboy was known for setting a grueling pace. I was kind of thankful to be in the slow group personally. The only real problem we had was that last night Danielle realized that the extra memory she brought was not compatible with her digital camera. We were now working with limited resources, and were going to have to try to buy something at the gift shop when we got back out. No biggie, or so we thought. We rode out along Bright Angel Creek and eventually met back up with the Colorado, then walked along its banks until we had to cross the bridge again (the photo shown here was taken while walking along the bridge...as you can see, it's pretty high above the water). The trip afforded us more opportunities to stop (perhaps to rest the mules) and we had more chances to ask our guides questions. Our group was a rarity in that we had two guides, Mike and Mick, instead of the standard one, because Mick was in training. We learned all about the geology of the Grand Canyon (Mike was a self-proclaimed geology nut), and heard some interesting things about the wildlife in the area. We even got to see some California Condors for the second day in a row, which I'm told by the biologist in the household was quite a rare treat.

As it turned out there was one part of the trip out that was a little more challenging than on the way in; our mules needed more motivation. Dan, who was basically the only mule to require much in that department on day one, needed an almost constant assault to have any hope of staying with a few yards of the mule in front of him. As you can see in the picture here, even Gizmo, a model citizen on the previous day, fell behind quite frequently. We did eventually make it back to Indian Gardens, where the decision was made that the weather would in fact be hot enough to justify dowsing us with a hose. I was all for this procedure, but Danielle didn't like it much at all. Staying wet, I'd found, was the best and only really effective way to stay cool in the scorching sun. Danielle, however, insisted that Mick hose me off for an extremely long time, as she had some trouble getting the picture. The idea is just to get your shirt, not necessarily your pants and underwear, soaked, and I spent the rest of the day squishing around on my saddle.

After leaving Indian Gardens, I had my second real problem aboard Dan, as I failed to make it through a "fireplug." Throughout the two days our guide would periodically yell out "Fireplug!", which was our cue to motivate our mules and keep them moving. These places along the trail were spots where, for one reason or another, the mules liked to stop to take a leak. Now mules relieving themselves isn't something you can really put a stop to, but it is something you'd rather not have happen all at once. Just one of these guys stopping for a pee break ends up leaving quite a mucky mess on the trail; a few of them deciding to do it all at once and you get the sense a mudslide couldn't be far behind. Well anyway on the way up the fireplug call was made and the mule in front of me stopped and then started up again but it was too late; Dan let it fly, along with now both of the mules behind him. Alas.

Eventually we did make it all the way to the top, where be bid farewell to our trusty steeds, as well as our guides Mick and Mike. We decided that some ice cream was in order, along with a half hour of relaxation, before we piled back into the Highlander for the 200 plus mile trip to the North Rim.

But first, there was the small matter of memory for the digital camera to contend with. We drove over to the park general store and quickly found what we were looking for (or so we thought). The card was supposedly compatible with our camera, but a quick test proved otherwise. Danielle actually called tech support from a pay phone (my iPhone had zero bars), who confirmed that the memory "should have worked." Of course the woman who sold us the memory wouldn't let us return it, and her superior would only give us a replacement, which of course also didn't work. So at this point we were basically screwed, and it took us over an hour to get there. Great. We decided to drive to the North Rim and attempt another purchase after we arrived. If all else failed, we confirmed the locations of a few Walmarts within the immediate, oh, 200 mile area, that we could detour to as a last resort. On our way out of the park we stopped a few points of interest, including Lipan Point, and Desert View Overlook. We did not, however, stop at Moran Point, mainly because I didn't know it existed until I saw it on a map after we'd already passed it. Quite a shame too, really. At Lipan Point, Danielle incurred the first injury of the trip, from inside a porta-potty no less. I was standing outside waiting my turn, when all of a sudden I heard what could only be described as a squeal come from inside. Apparently the toilet paper dispenser (the large round kind) wasn't latched properly, and it managed to fall open and crack Danielle right on the nose. This has to be the first porta-potty injury I've ever seen. Hopefully also the last.

And away we went, on the 200 mile drive to the North Rim. We passed through a preposterous amount of nothingness, almost all of which was on Navajo Land. I have to say, anyone who tells you we didn't screw the Native Americans royally on this one is smoking some really good stuff. Eventually we made our way to Navajo Bridge, where we officially "crossed" the Grand Canyon. We stopped once or twice to check out some scenic overlooks, but in general it was an all out sprint to beat the sunset (our disaster at the general store had put us a little bit behind schedule). We arrived at the North Rim 15 minutes late, but still sprinted all the way down Lookout Trail (about half a mile), to take in some spectacular views in the twilight moments after sundown.

After a leisurely walk back to the car (past the lodge), we grabbed our stuff and checked in at the front desk. We then walked our stuff back basically all the way past the car to our "frontier style" cabin, dropped it off, and walked back to the lodge for our 3rd steak dinner in as many nights. We also ordered box lunches for tomorrow, and I managed to get carded and not have my ID (I left it in the room). We were asleep by 10:30 inside our cabin, resting up for the "serious business hiking" portion of the trip that was coming in the next few days.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Warning: Contains Poker-Like Substance

I've gotten pretty far away from talking about poker, so I figured it might be best to take a day or two off from the trip report (which by the way I hope everyone is either enjoying or ignoring) and write about what's going on with, you know, my trials and tribulations as a professional poker player. Running bad certainly wasn't fun. Between the $3K loss at the Bellagio, and then the $7K loss in like 48 hours a few days ago, I had actually managed to run myself into a nearly 5 figure hole from my "high water mark". The last two days, however, have done wonders for getting me back towards rising flood waters once again.

On my worst day ever, last Monday, I spent the entire day playing with perhaps the most prolific donator I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a felt with. He is just unbelievably awful. He plays way too many hands. He cold-calls multiple bets with unsuited and potentially (check that...probably) dominated hands. He peels the flop with nothing. He draws without correct odds. He doesn't know when to check/raise or when to bet, if he even bets at all. He's super passive, and checks down hands that warrant not only a bet, but sometimes even a raise or two. On top of all of this, he is incredibly well-funded. He buys into the 40/80 game for 5+ racks (usually 3 to start, then at some point in the fairly immediately future, he adds 3 more if he feels he's low on chips, at which point he still has like a rack and a half left). Taken all together, this dude's a freakin' whale. Yesterday I won about a rack in the short time I spent with him at 40/80. He was called for the main game, though, and it was gonna be a few hours before I got to follow him up the must-move chain, and therefore I abaondoned ship and played 20/40 for the rest of the day. I vowed not to let the same thing happen today.

I showed up at Bay 101 at 10am and sat myself down in a new 20/40 game. I won a little, and left the star next to my name on the 40/80 list (indicating that I was a phone ahead player who had not yet checked in). Within 15 minutes my friend's name appeared beneath mine on the list, and 15 minutes after that he appeared in the flesh and the star was removed. He was moved up the list ahead of all the call ins, and I promptly walked over and put my name right behind his. Angleshoot? Yes. But come on, we all have to make a buck.

He was called into my 20/40 game, but as he was sitting down Steve said "I'm starting another 40, do you want that instead?" Of course he did. This guy buys in for 6 racks at 40/80. You think he wants to play for half that? Who needs 12 racks?! I racked up my chips (and $300 win) the minute the game was called down and took the 6 seat in the new game, knowing that my friend has a strong preference for the middle seats (specifically 4-6). This ensured that while I might not get the abosulte Jesus seat, I would be at most one away. Sure enough, my buddy locked up the 5-hole and I was in business. Without delay I started to take his chips hand over first, iso-raising him with stuff like Queen high and then using position to hammer my points home.

But a problem was brewing. You see, this guy has generated a lot of buzz. I'm blogging about him. People are probably tweeting and emailing about him...anybody with a few contacts and a cell phone has heard about this mega-fish swimming around absentmindedly in the 40/80. Also, most poker players can do multiplication. If the dude can buy 6 racks at 40/80 (and, mind you, he said on Monday, when he had those 13 racks, that he was in 5 and had lost 10 the day before...making him a $2000 loser with 13 grand on the table), surely he'll play the 80 game if only it would go. With the bulk of the regulars in Vegas chasing their dreams of World Series gold, that game hasn't gone very regularly of late. Today, however, a strong list was developing and Steve (the lead floorman) was leaving table 36 conspicuously open, despite enough interest for either a 4th 20/40 game or a 3rd 40/80 (which they had yesterday). I knew what was coming; an 80/160 game was going to start, and he was going to play. Well, I guess I had to make the most of him while I had him.

Then disaster struck. In quick succession I played the following hands:

I raise KK in early position and only the big blind calls. The flop is:


And I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. He check/raises me and I decide to get a little fancy; I call only, planning to raise the turn.


That's a beaut right there. On the off chance he had T8 I just caught up, and if he has just one pair now he has 2 outs instead of 5. Of course he could perhaps have a 3, but I'll take those chances. He leads out and I raise. He looks puzzled and calls.


His check/raise is swift and merciless. Honestly without the 3 on board I could maybe get away from the hand, but with the nut two pair I have to call. This guy could be dumb enough to think he just caught up with JT. But no, he has Q9s and decided he was going to make a point with a gut shot. I will note that he put 2 big bets into a 4 bet pot on the turn with 4 outs.

Two hands go by and an older hispanic gentleman raises from early position. My friend calls in the SB (having him in the SB on your BB is just amazing. You never are left to defend alone. Ever) and I just call with AQo. This is probably a raise, but it's close and deception is always useful. The flop comes down:

AK5 with two hearts and a club

Check, check, and the preflop raiser bets. My friend calls and I raise. They both call.

9 of clubs

Now there are two flush draws. My friend checks, I bet, and the old man cuts out enough chips to raise, puts them together with his hands, pauses, then pushes only 8 chips forward. I am confused by this seemingly genuine act; he really looked like he was deciding whether or not to do it. My buddy calls and we see a baby club fall on the river. I bet and the preflop raiser now does raise. I call, and he displays A4 of clubs for the back door flush. I am not amused, and actually get a little vocal about it. It was an embarrassing loss of composure, and the old man not only handled it well, but made me look like an ass in the process. Kudos to him.

I quickly recover, however, and by the time the 80/160 game does go I am up about $1300 in the game and happy as a clam. The starting of the 80 opens a seat for me in the main game, and I take my "free" lap (when must moved you do not have to post to enter the game), which in actuality costs me $280. I move down to 20/40, where I am bludgeoned mercilessly at table 37 until I use an old trick of mine to get into a better game. Some of the good players in my games keep very regular schedules. Eric, who props at Garden City, is one of them. If he's at Bay 101 during the afternoon, you can be sure he's planning to pick up his chips around 3:30. If you combine this with Pete's theory of table autobalance (good tables tend to get worse, and bad ones tend to get better, because good players move around in an effort to make this happen), you have yourself a powerful little bit of insider trading. All it usually takes for one of the 20/40 tables to stand out head and shoulders above the others is for the best player to get up. Eric was the best player in his game, and I managed to slide right into his seat as he left, missing only a single hand.

At the beginning of my shellacking of table 35 I was only up about $800 for the day (as I said, I lost chips at an astonishing clip at table 37), but things quickly turned for the better. On my post-in hand I raised witih AJo, fired into 4 opponents on a flop of K88 with two diamonds, and led a blank turn after the pot had been reduced to heads up. My lone opponent folded, and I was off and running. On the very next hand (from the cutoff), I attempted a blind steal with Q9 of clubs. The button 3-bet me, and we saw the flop privately of:

Ac Ts 8h

This is a tricky spot in 3-bet pots. Technically when he bets the flop here (after I check to him), I'm not getting the right odds to call for my gut shot. The pot is laying 8:1, and I need 10:1. To make the decision, however, you need take many factors into account. What are my implied odds? In this case, they rate to be pretty good, as my opponent is pretty likely to give me the full 3 big bets if I hit. Will my hand be the nuts if I hit it? Sadly in this case the answer is no, and it is possible that my opponent holds KQ. Do I have other ways to win? There is a club on board, so yes, I could at least pull that off. Also, a 7 or 6 would add 4 outs to my stable. Finally, is it possible that I'll get two cards for four chips? I don't really know this opponent, but on this board, yes, I could very well get to see the river for just one bet. Many opponents will bet JJ-KK one time here and then check the turn, making sure they show down for cheap. So all in all, I decided to call, mainly because of the last two reasons.

Ac Ts 8h - 5c

There's that help we're talking about. I contemplated a check/raise, then decided this dude wasn't folding anything ever and just called him. The river was a gorgeous Jack of hearts, giving me the second nuts. I checked, he bet, and this time it was my turn to be swift and merciless. He called and started yammering something about he knew that card gave me a straight and he wanted to check it, then flashed something that looked like pocket jacks before mucking.

From there on the floodgates simply opened up for me. I raised KQo, got raised on the flop, then spiked one pair of kings on the turn and got called down for 3 big bets. I raised TT and watched the flop run out AAT, then watched in glee as the player on my immediate left smoothcalled the flop. This is almost always an ace, and sure enough he popped me on the turn. I had 3 bets out there before he knew what happened. When he finally did, he dutifully called me down muttering something about the Q9s hand from above. I also manged to flop a nut flush draw after raising preflop and getting five (5) callers, then proceeded to spike said nut flush immediately on the turn. Things were looking good, and in the middle of all of it, I committed the following sin against my fellow man.

The hand started off simply enough. He limped, someone else limped, and I raised with QT of diamonds. This is a standard raise for me, almost regardless of the number of opponents, especially in a loosey goosey 20/40 game such as my current spot. Somehow everyone else at the table folded, including the blinds, and we saw a flop 3 handed:

Ad Jc 4d

That, ladies and gentleman, is about as good as it gets short of flopping a full house. My fellow man checked, the other limper followed suit, and I bet. He called, and the other player folded, leaving us heads up in a 9 small bet pot.

Ad Jc 4d - Ks

Ding Ding Ding Ding! Not only did I have the nuts, but they were incredibly well disguised on a board with only one flush draw; that I had! This is a dream spot if you're lucky enough to get action. My fellow man checked and I bet rather non-chalantly. He made a speech and raised, at which point I have to admit I got a little excited. I 3-bet him quickly, again basically before he was even finished 2-betting (this is something I think I might be getting carried away with). He looked back and asked "Did he re-raise? Well then let me see here. I think I can re-raise!" At this point I was 100 percent sure he had the same hand that I did, except for the critical aspect of not having a 4-flush to go with it. While he was fumbling to put the 4-bet into the pot, I smoothly cut off 4 stacks of 4 chips in front of the 6 stacks of 4 chips that were already there. At this point the old black man between us made some comment about "macho poker" and us "havin' the same hand". Don't ever do shit like that. Let people play their hands, and don't ever assume that something that's obvious to you is obvious to everyone else. Trust me, sometimes it ain't obvious. My fellow man announced another re-raise, 6-betting the turn, and I smoothly cut out another raise, making it 7 bets total. Something clicked in his brain, and he mentioned the fact that I could have the Queen Ten of diamonds before saying he'd "just call". One time dealer!!

Ad Jc 4d - Ks - 8d

He checked, I bet, he called, and somebody let out one of those whistles people like to make when they've seen something worthy of instant replay but are watching the event live and have no choice but to turn to their neighbors and say "Did you see that shit?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Deux

The main (and really only) attraction of the second leg or our trip was the Grand Canyon. After leaving Frye's (and then rocking out to some 90s tunes like we always do), Danielle and I soon found ourselves in a big construction zone. For literally 20 miles our roadway was reduced to a single lane, with large pieces of equipment scattered about and not a single soul using any of them. Perhaps Nevada is out of money, too. We were confused, also, by what goal the equipment was there to pursue. It seemed that the road we were on was fully functional; were they just pushing rocks around for the hell of it? "That's basically what the New Deal was, right? Pushing rocks around?" I asked Danielle. "Yup"

After 10 miles at 30 miles per hour, we realized we were actually going to drive over the Hoover Damn. Not near it, or by it, or somewhere close to it; right freaking over it. This struck me as odd, to say the least. Shouldn't there be another road, one which doesn't pass over one of the greatest engineering marvels (not to mention important power producing plants) of our time? Sure enough, they are building another road, but for now a steady stream of cars putters over the bridge at nearly zero velocity. We vowed to stop and take a look around on the way back, in 9 days.

We rolled into the South Rim of the Grand Canyon substantially ahead of schedule (for the entirety of the trip after the Hoover Dam I was able to drive substantially in excess of the posted 75 MPH speed limit) and Danielle found it hard to believe just how little warning we received. Literally one minute you're driving along on this desert like plateau, with some trees and shrubs around you, minding your own business, and then BOOM, there's this 200 mile long hole right in front of you. As you can see, I'm quite astonished. That or Danielle just made me take off my sunglasses for the picture and my retinas are about to melt; take your pick.

We parked the Highlander at the visitor center and our running gag of the trip was born. Danielle needed to organize her stuff, something that she does a lot in her life. She likes to move things around, making sure everything is in the right place, because once things start to get just a little bit disorganized it's not long before our entire apartment looks like a small neutron bomb went off in it. Anyway, I'd hit upon the idea of dividing the Highlander right down the middle (instead of the more obvious approach wherein one of us had the trunk, the other the back seat). While watching her transfer stuff from the trunk to the back seat and vice versa, it occurred to me that this was going to be a common theme; we'd park the car, then we'd have to get out whatever we needed, be it for hiking or dinner or checking into our hotel or whatever. Since we were only staying in the same room for more than a single night once for the remainder of the trip, we were going to spend a quite a bit of time pushing our personal rocks around, without really any discernible gain.

So after we finished rock pushing (admittedly I had some stuff to move around also) we checked into our room at the lodge and received our Mule Tour orientation. This basically involved telling us to wear long sleeves, sunscreen, and to bring the water thingy they gave us back full. It also involved stepping on a scale, as the weight limit is only 200 pounds. After finishing up in the lodge, we set out to "hike" the Rim Trail. I use the quotations because, let's be honest here. The trail goes around the rim. It's flat by it's very definition. The scenery was fantastic, though, with one awesome panoramic postcard level view after another for the duration of the walk. Eventually we took the shuttle bus back to the lodge and decided we had time for a sit down steak dinner at the restaurant (what would be our first of three consecutive steak dinners).

After a delicious and filling meal, and another round of rock pushing, we retired to our rustic room in the lodge (we didn't even have our own bathroom). Danielle went off to take a shower and I decided to check in with my Dad from outside the room. It was at this point that I realized our room was about 30 feet from the rim of the Grand Canyon; pretty freakin' cool if you ask me. I gazed at the stars for a bit, then ran into a family with a 14 year old boy who wanted to go to MIT (I was wearing my Property of MIT Athletics Shirt). We chatted for a few minutes, and they asked if I had heard about the mule rides or knew where and when they could watch the group leave. I pointed them toward the head of Bright Angel Trail and assured them I'd be there at 7am, getting my tutorial on the stop and go mechanics of nature's first 4 wheel drive vehicle. They promised to show up in the morning to see us off. I resolved not to freak out about the prospect of riding a mule 10 miles into the Grand Canyon.

My resolution lasted about 9 hours. After bagels and fruit at the coffee shop, we headed over to the coral. I was immediately struck by how many other idiots had signed up for this preposterous adventure. The mule ride wasn't cheap (~$360 per person), and it looked like nearly 50 people were going to be riding into the hole with us. It became apparent, however, that about 2/3rds of the people were just there for the "day trip", which was a 12 mile round trip into the Canyon, stopping at Plateau Point. We were going 10 miles one way and spending the night at Phantom Ranch. First, we got the orientation, which went something like this.

"Keep your mule close to the mule in front of you. If he falls behind, hit him with the whip, or 'motivator' as we call it in this day and age"

"This trip will be fun."

"Keep your mule close to the mule in front of you. If he falls behind, motivate him"

"Don't worry, the motivator doesn't hurt him."

"Keep your mule close to the mule in front of you. Keep him movtivated."

And so forth for about 30 minutes. At this point I was really, really freaking out. My life time horse back riding experience totals about 30 minutes, all of which came when Danielle bought me a lesson in college (probably in the hopes that I'd suddenly become so enthralled with the activity that I'd take it up in earnest and start riding around with her in the coming months). Much like the quartering of William Wallace, this lesson did not have the intended effect. I left that day even more sure that equestrian activities were not for me. I did realize something, though, looking at the 50 or so odd people around me. Most of them looked pretty average. In general, I'm a pretty smart guy, and despite my lethargy of late, I'm actually in pretty good physical condition by way of simply being young. If these people can do it, and if nobody has ever died doing this, surely I can manage to remain alive. I resolved to remain calm and not freak out.

Then the first group of day trippers mounted up, followed by the second, then the first group of the overnight trip. Somewhere along the way the family from the night before showed up and I gave them my email address, mainly so I could think about something other than my mule spooking on the train and starting to gallop downward, falling off the edge, tossing me into the ravine, and generally turning my innards into a feeding frenzy for the recovering California Condor population. Eventually it was time to mount up, and I met my mule, a grizzled old codger named Dan. Danielle's mule, Gizmo, also seemed a bit on the older side, and I decided that having an older mule was a good thing, as it meant he'd be sure to know where to go...as if you could possibly get lost. And as a final note, just before we left Danielle took an oath and was thus sworn in as an official carrier of the United States Mail. That's right, they still use the mules to bring the mail in and out of the Grand Canyon, and Danielle carried a couple satchels of it right next to her water bottle and plastic bag suitcase.

So away we went. It had been explained to me several times that the mules were in fact trained to walk as close to the edge as absolutely possible. No amount of explaining can really prepare you for it, though. The claim made by our guide was that this was done for the safety of the pedestrian hikers. Imagine, he said, if the mules tried to go inside the hikers instead of always walking closer to the edge. How long would it be before somebody fell over the edge? Truth be told I think the mules just liked to screw with us. Also, whenever we stopped along the trail, which wasn't often on the way down, the mules all pointed themselves out over the canyon. Again we were assured this was for safety, as apparently if a mule spooks he always takes his first step backwards, and again, I wasn't so sure.

The first few miles were rough, but eventually I did get used to the concept of being on top of a 1200 pound animal that seemed not to really care whether I was there or not. Dan was a bit of a problem mule, however, needing of frequent motivation. I probably hit him with the thing 100 times on the way down, undoubtedly more than the sum total of the other 7 riders in the group. He simply wouldn't keep his face close enough to Gizmo's butt, and this much had been beaten into my head; the only way the mule will get 20 feet behind is if he's first 10 feet behind. And the only way he will run to catch up is if he gets 20 feet behind. And let's just say that while I didn't really relish the idea of sitting on top of awalking mule, sitting on top of a running one was another matter entirely. Danielle took lots of pictures on the way down, and only a few choice ones are scattered about here. We saw a good bit of wildlife, too, starting with this big horned sheep.

Eventually we wound our way past the first two rest stops (at 1.5 and 3.0 miles) and arrived at Indian Gardens, which is basically an oasis that exists almost inexplicably 4.5 miles into the canyon that was, you guessed it, originally a garden kept by Native Americans. We stopped for about 30 minutes and ate a boxed lunch provided by the guides ($360 does get you something here folks) and spent most of our time fending off the population of squirrels that have realized it's much easier to steal Oreos than it is to hunt for nuts in the middle of the freakin' desert. Then we got hosed off, which our guides assured us was a good call. The temperature was rising quickly, both as the sun got higher and our elevation got lower. One part of the trail that was in our immediate future was even nicknamed "The Furnace".

So anyway, onward and downward we went, passing through Devil's Corkscrew and the Bright Angel Shale Layer and Tapeat's Sandstone Layer. We saw 3 California Condors in search of their lunch, which was pretty astonishing given that Wikipedia lists there numbers at less than 200 in the wild. Eventually we made our way all the way to the inner gorge, home of the mighty Colorado River. At first I thought we must have been close to our destination, then realized I was perhaps in for quite a bit more bumping around on the back of this mule. A bridge was off in the distance, but I remembered something about the mules not liking that one much, mainly because it had slats on it's floor through which you could see the running water below. Mules, being most sensible creatures, don't think too highly of that set up. Given that we weren't taking that bridge, I surmised that I couldn't even yet see our path across the river. And boy was I right. After dropping all the way to the level of the river, we spent the next mile or more climbing up the side of the inner gorge until we were several hundred feet above the flowing Colorado. Then we went down some switchbacks, through a tunnel, and across the more mule friendly bridge. I had a bit of a scare in the tunnel when Dan ended up 20-30 feet behind Gizmo, mainly because I messed up and pulled back on his reigns while simultaneously motivating him. Eventually I figured it out, and we practically gallopped out of the tunnel and onto the bridge. Once again, however, nothing bad happened. By this point I'd begun to treat Dan with the same attitude I would a roller coaster. Sure they're fun, and sure they feel dangerous, but only if you think about it. In actuality you have no control over what's happening, and what's happening is actually very safe.

After a long walk back along the other side of the Colorado, we finally arrived at Phantom Ranch, a total of 9.8 miles from our starting point at the head of Bright Angel Trail. We dismounted our mules, me barely able to walk but Danielle happy as a clam. I could hardly walk; my ankles hurt, my knees ached, my butt was sore, and to top it all off I had a pretty bad crick in my neck. The ride was a ton of fun, but after 5 hours on top of the mule, I was ready for a relaxing afternoon at Phantom Ranch.

We intended to go to both ranger talks, but neither actually happened. Supposedly the rangers were changing posts or something, but we also caught wind that some hikers were lost and that the rangers might be out looking for them. Instead, we took a walk back out to the Colorado, waded in Bright Angel Creek, and settled in for a short nap inside our private, air conditioned, stone cabin. Around 5pm (yeah...we got down there at something like 1:30pm. Sure felt a lot later than that to me) we went to the canteen for a delicious steak dinner. Later in the evening we bought some post cards and mailed them, which amounted to dropping them into a box, where they sat until the next morning, at which point they were loaded onto Gizmo along with Danielle for the journey back out.

My Apologies

Apparently composing the initial version of this post in Microsoft Word was a terrible idea. When I published I got this weird html error, complaining about some of the tags that were in place. I didn't think much of it at the time and just went ahead and published, as the post itself looked pretty good. However, two people have already reported to me that "your blog crashed my computer."

My bad. I got rid of all the tags and am no longer being warned about the error. Hopefully this should fix the problem. Sorry for the inconvenience. Also, here is the link to the actual evolved blocks world beings that I intended to include last time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part 1

As everyone is aware, I recently went on an eleven (11) day trip with Danielle to the American Southwest. This trip was, top to bottom, a fantastic experience. Danielle set about planning the entire thing around Thanksgiving of last year after I told her that it was absurd that she’d never seen the Grand Canyon after growing up in Southern California and that I’d like to go with her. As some of you can appreciate, I’m not a salaried worker with vacation time and the like, so the concept of taking over a week off is a bit of a scary one. To run out the math would be a bit silly, but suffice it to say that such a venture figures to cost me several thousand dollars, and Danielle was thrilled that I was even willing to do it. So, without (even) further adieu….The trip report.

The trip started on a rather ominous note, with Danielle and I ending up at our gate some absurd amount early due to a late delay that we didn’t know about. So we got some iced coffee and tea, I grabbed a salad, and we set about sitting about. The only entertaining thing we saw was a toddler whose method of locomotion was nothing like I have ever seen before; basically, he sat with one leg straight out and the other bent at the knee so that his foot was basically touching his butt. Then he swithed the positions of the legs, and in process moved forward about 3 inches. It was not unlike something you’d have seen in Patrick Winston’s Blocks World AI Program, where “beings” evolve in a constant battle over a pellet of food in the middle of their plain of battle (I can't find the video for this, but rest assured it's pretty cool to watch these things try out new strategies of procuring the food pellet). Anyway, we did eventually get to Las Vegas (after miraculously getting an exit row to ourselves), and proceeded promptly to the rental car center, at which the ominousness continued.

Our reservation didn’t start until Sunday (it was Saturday), which was done in an effort to save us a little bit of money. We didn’t really need the car, since we were staying at the Bellagio and it was pretty unlikely that we (or at least I) would even go outside. However, we forgot to take into account that fact that there is a free shuttle from the airport to the rental car center, which pretty obviously does not exist from the Bellagio (ditto on any sort of free shuttle from the airport to the B). Therefore, not renting the car for Saturday was going to cost us a pair of cab rides, or somewhere around $30, and a lot of Danielle’s time on Sunday as she went to pick up the car. Since our rate was something like $37/day, it made more sense to just try and get the car a day early, and we were assured by Dollar that we could extend the reservation at the same rate. Sadly their use of the word “extend” was a bit misleading; we were welcome to keep the car an extra day, but starting a day early required an brand new reservation, from scratch. This information was disheartening enough, but coulping it with the fact that we had to stand in line for over 20 minutes just to get it made for a real KITN. A plan was hatched to split up and stand in line at a few other companies to see if we could get a reservation on the fly. After a few quotes north of $600 (our original number started with a 3), we decided to bite the bullet and take a cab back to the Bellagio. The lesson here….well, there are a few that should be pretty apparent actually.

The first 2 days of the trip were booked for Las Vegas, primarily so Danielle could take a 10.5 day vacation while I took only a 9 day one. As it turned out, this was one of the worst ideas I’ve had in my entire life. But first, a small victory did occur. The rates at the Bellagio are, as you are likely aware, generally absurd. Specifically, our quoted rate for the two nights (Saturday and Sunday), was $359 and $169. We were, however, assured by the poker host Eva that all I had to do was come to the office, get myself a tracking card, play 6 hours a day, and then our rate would be reduced to $259 and $109. So after putting myself on a list that was longer than my johnson, I walked back to Eva’s “office” (really just a room in the back behind the cage with a computer in it) and was greated with a scary sentence. “Our rates have changed since you booked.” Oh boy, I thought. We’re gonna end up spending $600 on two nights of hotel; I better run good. Much to my delight, however, the rate change was in the other direction. Our new charge would be just $159 and $99, and there was no need for a tracking card; the room was so busy they didn’t have time to track everyone and I should just “play and have a good time.” Nice hand, Jesse! I hadn’t even been dealt a card and was already ahead over $100.

So back into the war zone that apparently passes for a poker room at the Bellagio I went, only to find myself on the second page for both 15/30 and 30/60. I went to the pool to find Danielle but failed, as she was actually in it, not laying beside it, and thus didn’t have access to her cellular telephone. I ate a sandwich (the second time that day I’d eaten out of sheer boredom). I considered blackjack. Then eventually I decided to play some 4/8, because what the hell, I have to stay next to the poker room anyway if I ever want to play. I promptly turned a straight flush in a blind defense, laughed a little too much, then realized there had been a changing of the guard at the “mid stakes” floor person station. The new guy calling names didn’t have a damn clue who I was! Fantastic. Usually I don’t do stuff like this, but it was gonna be literally HOURS until I got into the 30 game (the 15 didn’t look quite so grim), so the next time he read a name and said “last call” I shot my hand up in the air and locked up a seat. Problem solved, if unethically. I didn’t feel too bad, as I had actually waited over 90 minutes, which to me seemed more than reasonable.

Originally I was planning to regale you with stories of 2 outters and suck outs and missed OESFDs, but after the ass-kicking that was laid upon me today I think just noting that I lost 3 racks of $10 chips in 5 hours should be sufficient. The only really interesting thing was that I ran into a veritable who’s who of NorCal mid stakes hold’em, including Ali the Bay 101 Prop, Ed Hardy John, JS, AC, Tom G, Sarah who plays the 80, and, everybody’s favorite, Frank the prop from Garden City. That’s right, I flew 500 miles, waited in line for 90 minutes, and got to sit down with Frank the prop calling my early position raises with 54s and T8o. I discovered the nutritious (relatively) and delicious secret of the orange and strawberry juliuses (and was accidentally served a daiquery once), and generally had an awful time until about 10pm, at which point I retired to my room wondering if I’d brought enough cash for the trip.

The next day went a fair amount better, with me finishing the day up about $600. I won a little at 15/30, then eventually went on a pretty big run in the 30/60 to come within about $1000 of even for the trip. It was not to be, however, as I managed to leave the game with the fewest chips I’d had in over 5 hours around 7pm, probably after taking some re-donkulous beats that I can’t even remember anymore. At this point I was incredibly hungry, since I'd skipped lunch in favor of about a half dozen juliuses (julie-i?), and Danielle and I made our pilgrimage to the world famous Bellagio Buffet.It was just as good as usual, and I ate way too much as usual, focusing mainly on the crab legs and sushi (which as it turns out I really like but just don't eat that much in real life). Afterwards I convinced Danielle to play a little blackjack with my money (we sat together and took 2 hands at a $10 table, but all the money in play was mine). A small loss later, we headed outside to watch the world famous Bellagio Fountain Show, which we thought went off every hour. Much to our surprise as we ambled down at a quarter til the show was already starting to the tune of "Proud to be an American". Turns out it runs every 15 minutes, so Danielle and I just stayed for the next one (pictures). Afterward we walked back to our room and went to bed, me secure in the fact that I had both gone outside and failed to lose the entire $5000 I brought for the trip.

The next day started with a trip to Frye's on our way out of Vegas because Danielle had forgotten to bring some important widget that allowed her iPhone to connect to our Toyota Highlander's speakers and thereby produce music. From my last trip to the southwest (with my parents in the 4th grade), I knew that Navajo Nation didn't really have a whole lot of selection around the radio dial, so I deemed this a pretty worthwhile stop. While in Frye's, Danielle walked past digital camera paraphernalia. This is called foreshadowing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Worst Day Ever

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has gone wrong since I got back from vacation. The first couple of days went kind of OK, with me even posting a largish win on one of them. Then I spent Saturday hanging out with my dad (I went to the Aquarium of the Bay and bought a little penguin I named Max) and drove him to SFO around 9pm. I played 4 hours in the AJs 15/30 game and lost 2 racks. OK, no big deal. However, I'm formally posting a bounty on myself in that game; if you see me in it, just come over and say the word "elephant" and I'll hand you $100. It's that easy. The game is not worth my time, even if it isn't rigged, which is pretty hard to believe, so I shouldn't be wasting time in it.

Moving right along, Sunday was a grade B cluster fuck. I rolled up to Bay late. To quote my buddy Sunil, "About $3000 late". You see I called ahead and actually asked Sophorna "Is Neal there" to which I got the resounding "Yes". Sadly, however, my run bad and the tax man had reduced my cash reserves below the acceptable minimum. I had to go to Garden City to cash in 3 big ($1000) chips. So to Garden I went, hitting only the cashier, then off to Bay. But what's this? Where is Neal? $3000 late indeed (apparently that's how much Neal lost). Never mind the fact that if I take even a single hand in that game everything changes and (in all likelihood) Neal loses far less money (or even wins). Still made me feel like an ass hat.

So I play 20/40 for a bit, then play 40/80, and watch a new fish I've never seen before get absolutely destroyed against everyone except me. I only lost $1600, which in 40/80 is really a very small loss, but to sum it up:

I see the flop with T4cc. He is the SB (my selection is top notch as per usual). Flop is:

AKQ with two clubs

He bets and I just call. Some people call cause we're like 7 handed even though it's 40/80. The turn is the Ace of clubs. He bets and this time I raise. Remember there was no raise preflop so nobody can possibly have a full house, so basically I have the second nuts, losing only to a jack high flush. Everyone else folds, which is fine by me, and He calls. The river is the 4 of spades, for a final board of:

AKQ-A-4 ccscs

He donks! I look at him, look at the dealer, look at him, and raise. He calls. I table my hand, and he rolls A4o. Nice hand sir. WTK laments my bad luck, and I point out that "I even had a 4!".

Then there was today, which will require me to reset the curve on the clusterfuck grading scale. I spent about 7 hours at live 40/80. I lost $2500 in the first 90 minutes and was down to having basically every dollar in my wallet on the table. I asked Sophorna "So when I go bust and have to run to the bank, how long do I have?". She laughed and said 30 minutes. Fortunately Pete came to my rescue and loaned me $5K without blinking, with me never actually getting all in (despite playing 2 orbits with less than 3 bets). Thanks Pete.

I spent the entire day playing with the fish from yesterday, who said and I quote "I lost $10K yesterday and am in $5K today", in response to our general astonishment that he had 12 racks on the table. That's right...12. It was the sickest heater I have ever seen in probably now 2500 hundred hours of live play. He just won...every...single...hand. Runner runner? No problem. Drawing dead? Not quite....he simply could not miss.

So eventually as has been my custom lately I lost 2 racks in the last 60 minutes of play before this guy racked up his STACK of purple chips and a few more racks of red chips and I decided that I'd go try and play 20/40. Then, after all the 2 outters and suckouts and running into aces and everything that I had endured to allow me to lose $4300, this happened.

I get to the 20/40 table and am behind the button. I usually post in front, but if I get there and am in the CO or HJ 8 or 9 handed I'll post behind. So I toss Frank E. the hold button and get dealt 93 of spades. Two players call and I muck. Then a bru haha ensues, as it becomes apparent that in my general daze and confusion I did not post. A ruling is made that I should just post next hand (thanks Far...even though I'm pretty sure you didn't know I looked at my hand), despite Marco (a general curmudgeon) wanting my hand dead AND 4 chips from me (which honestly would have been kind of fair). So OK, no biggie, except I realize what is about to happen as the flop goes off without a raise (meaning I'd have seen it for free):


55 shows down against 68 and I am unamused. The very next hand I post in the HJ and get Q6o. It folds to me and I raise, cause that's what you're supposed to do, and Marco (who if you don't remember is a weak passive fish) 3-bets. I call only, already lamenting the fact that, had I just posted last hand and dragged that pot, I'd be stacking chips right now instead of trying to crack Marco's aces. The flop is:

Q52 and I call him heads up. The board runs out something like 3-8 and I call the turn, then, when he checks the river, I bet because I hate money. He calls and says "No good. Aces" in that general smug way of his that makes me want to gouge out his eyes with a spoon. A few hands later I raise AJ of hearts, he flat calls, and proceeds to win the minimum $40 from me post flop with KK. I decide enough is enough and go home, discouraged but not broken.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'm Officially a Twit

I've decided I can no longer resist the tidal wave and have registered on Twitter. My username is jessesmithnosky, and I would think it not inconceivable that some of you use the service as well.

Today was a good day. Most of the 80 players are in Vegas, so no game has been running, but somehow the must move 40 was great. I won almost a rack, plus a few hundred at 20, for my first biggish win in almost 3 weeks.

My favorite hand of the day was this:

CW limps in EP. Folds to me and I check the BB with 83o. Headsup.


I check call. His bet is very fast, in such a way that suggests bluffing.


Same action. This time I think a minute before resolving to call down.


I check and again he turbo bets. I call, and watch in horror as he rolls 65s. Nice hand sir.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gutshotting 101

Today was my first day back at Bay 101. I played 4 hours and 15 minutes and won a whopping $9. This was actually less than I spent on lunch (that Bay 101 Cobb Classic Salad ain't cheap), so....yeah. One humorous hand though.

I'm at a pretty fishy table with Pete (actually I think he was racking up his chips to leave and wasn't even dealt into this hand) and I pick up 98o in the small blind. It folds to the cutoff who is probably just barely able to dress himself in the morning, and he open limps. This is of course ridiculously awful, but I'm happy about it as I chuck in 2 chips to see a flop after the button folds. The big blind obliges me by knuckling the table, and we see a board of:


Most of the time I'd just check and fold here, but I've been working on looking for spots to take down more of this retarded orphan pots that get created by bad players open limping in EP. The key is to know exactly when you'll quit fighting for the pot and stick to your guns. I decided that I can fire one time, as my opponents shouldn't really have that many aces in their ranges. The big blind's range is actually weighted against them (he didn't raise) and the cutoff...well who knows but he probably at least doesn't have like AQ or AK. So, to close this rambling monologue, I bet, planning to shut down if anybody calls me. The big blind folds, but the cutoff calls. "Way to go, self" I say to myself. "You're short another $20." As I'm finishing this little scolding the dealer burns and turns:


Well look at that, I have the nuts. Time for plan B. I bet, and my opponent hems and haws in that way that I can tell he's gonna raise. He reaches down and picks up an entire stack of 20 chips and starts cutting them off into the pot. While he's doing this (he's a big clumsy), I pick up an entire stack, place it out by my first bet, and retract 4 chips. The effect is that when he looks up from finishing his raise to see my reaction, he is met by me absently staring at the felt having already 3-bet him. Normally I might try to hollywood a bit here, or at least pretend, but doing weird stuff like that throws people off sometimes and this guy wasn't going anywhere. He dutifully called, and as he did so I noted that there was in fact a flush draw on board. To the river....

A65-7-3 with no flush

I still have the absolute nuts. I bet, and my opponent does the exact same thing. He thinks for a second, hems, haws, and reaches down and akwardly picks up a whole stack of chips, then sets to raising me. Again I push a whole stack of chips forward and retract 4, causing the same confusion to happen; this time he actually asks, after he finishes his raise "Did you raise or just call?" to which the dealer replies "He raised you, again." He calls and I table my nuts. He mucks A4o in disgust (talk about a money river card) and Pete gives me shit for playing the hand badly while selling his 3.5 racks of chips to Sophorna.

One other quickie....

This pretty tight guy opens in EP and I 3-bet black jacks in late position. He calls only and we see the flop heads up, which is:

Q94 with two diamonds

He donks, and I call, which is probably a mistake. This is AQ like always, but sometimes it's a flush draw and I don't really know I just called....anyway.

Q94-8 with 3 diamonds now.

My opponent goes into the tank. He thinks and thinks and thinks and I'm looking at him and I guess he decided that I had the flush because he eventually checks. The instant his finger touches the table to check I check behind and the dealer burns and turns the river:


My opponent checks in disgust and I bet. He calls and, upon seeing my rivered gutshot, looks at his cards, shakes his cards, mutters under his breath, and mucks aces face up. I can only snicker at how badly he just got owned.