Monday, July 27, 2009

Actually Winning

The last 4 days have certainly been nice. Saturday I went to a water park with Danielle and her dad (which would have been awesome had I not managed to lose my iPhone....details are obviously not completely known, but long story short that shit is gone), and on Friday, Sunday, and Monday I posted 4 figure wins at various Bay Area casinos. Friday I took my car in for service and played some Artichoke Joe's 15/30 (not losing and finding the game to be lol soft), then went up to The Oaks, took some play money in the 1/1/2 No Limit game (which again was just like, whoa, you guys are bad level play), crushed the 15/30 for over 2 racks in under 1 hour, then broke even in the 30/60 game all afternoon. Winning in the 15/30 game was fantastic. I just absolutely crushed it for the entire 45 minutes (winning 200 chips in a 3/6 chip game pretty much requires that), and remembered what it's like to run good. My favorite hand of the day though was a fold I made at no limit. I limped along like a good little boy with KT suited, and proceeded to watch a flop of T64 with one of mine hit the board. The pot was 6 ways and I was out of my element. One of the blinds donked for 10 dollars (there was something like 20 out's 1/1/2 but 4 to go), and the next player raised to 25. I sat for a moment thinking with the gears turning, realizing that in limit this is a pretty easy 3-bet. In no limit...I mucked. They got it all in and showed JT and AT, and I felt pretty darn good about myself.

Sunday opened with me playing 15 minutes of 6/12 with Mila and a couple of other 20/40 regulars. My friend and softball captain Andrew walked by and commented "Worst 6/12 game ever....". Curiously I raised my first 4 hands (KT suited in the big blind 6 ways, AQo in the sb that I 3-bet, aces on the button that I got 5.5 bets in with as the dude was going all in, and 99 that I 3-bet, got capped, and mucked a QJX flop and eventually saw the capper's KQo) and was involved in a few hands after that (remember, I played for 15 minutes), managing to lose about $70. Next I spent 6.5 hours in the Neal Game at Bay 101, winning something like 3 racks (actually probably more like 4+, since I was stuck before he sat down). It was just one of those dream spots, where Neal sits down on my immediate right and just starts hemorrhaging money. Eventually he switched from the 1 seat to the 6....but wait, the guy in 5 wants the 1. Oh, well in that case Neal wants the 5. Now the lady in 4 thinks she's taking the 6 to which I respond "Oh no no no....I'm first up" while flinging my Steeler's chip to the 6 hole. Neal managed to take 3 hands with me jesus seating him. Eventually I left to take care of our dogs (that's a funny part too...Ed was next up to switch to the Neal game, but his table was short and he was gonna have to wait, possibly never getting the seat if his game couldn't fill up. I offered to switch with him so he could move immediately just as a gesture of good will to the Ed-JS-Jeff triumvirate, and Ed shipped me $20 for my troubles) and waddled my 7 racks away from the table happy as a clam. As usual though, I had bought an extra 2 racks after my 2 rack start, signaling the chip runner with two fingers and, upon the delivery of $200, saying "No, no, no...two RACKS. Do you know who this is? I can't be buying two hundred in the Neal game" while gesturing at Neal. He came back with the full grand.

Today was more of the awesomeness. I had a ton of things to take care of though (I started the morning with a trip to the AT&T store, followed by a haircut and a trip to the gym) and made a deal with myself that just for today I could protect a win. I decided that if I got up $1000 (not much in the 30/60 game), I'd rack up and go home. Well 2 hours into my session as I stared at a board of:

As Jd 3d 8d

With two red aces in the hole and two opponents of the original four still calling my bets, I realized I was basically gonna make it. I made the nut flush on the river and Ben managed to fold his hand, so I wound up a few chips short, but I decided to pick up anyway. Then under the gun I found KQo, raised, got one call from the button, flopped Kc 3s 2s - 8s (again for good measure I held the K of spades) and took the pot down on the turn. And like a ghost I was gone, 2 hours and 15 minutes of poker played and looking at a solid chance to post a winning July. I spent the rest of the evening doing various odd jobs, such as taking Clint and Tyson roller-blading (separately), spending literally an hour downloading the latest iTunes and then putting the 3.0 operating system on Danielle's old non-3G (original? 2G?) iPhone, then wiping the phone and synching it, yada, yada, yada, doing 2 loads of laundry, planning a trip to Reno, and writing part 9 of the trip report. All in all, a very productive day.

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Nine

The final full day of our trip started in the Days Inn next to Canyon de Chelly and a realization that the Navajo really do like to tax the white man. The bill for our room (which was already the most expensive night's lodging since the Bellagio) included a special "Navajo Tax" somewhere around 6%, which as far as I could tell was basically "We will tax you because we can" tax. That was kind of irritating, but whatever. I suppose it's a small price to pay for the whole "devastating exploitation" thing that happened over the last 200 years. We sat down for a breakfast buffet and proceeded to consume an insane quantity of food (apparently basically eating only a single meal the day before had caught up to us), then loaded our rocks back into the Highlander for the drive to the Painted Desert, a short two hour cruise down our new friend I-191.

The Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest are actually part of the same National Park, which straddles the old passage of Route 66. The park is about 30 miles from end to end, and we came upon it from the Painted Desert side. Our first stop was the visitor center, at which we bought our customary smushed pennies and Danielle picked up her very own piece of petrified wood. It is illegal to remove wood from the National Park, but many specimens from other locations (private land, for example), find their way into the gift shop, as it serves as an obvious location for many people that might be interested in such a souvenir. Danielle actually ended up with two pieces from that day, both purchased legally in gift shops, that ended up putting her checked bag very close to the allowable limit on the way home (petrified wood is not light). We then set about "hiking" the Painted Desert Rim Trail, which is basically a concrete walkway that overlooks some of the more picturesque sections of the park and winds around to the Painted Desert Inn, which to be blunt was very disappointing. The top floor was basically a book store with some large framed pictures on the walls detailing the history of the inn. The bottom floor resembled the basement level rec room of a church, complete with spiderwebs and non-functional sinks. Needless to say we moved along quickly, stopping outside to look at the scenic overlook point (where we ran into a junior ranger in training and his grandparents) before retracing our steps back to the Highlander. Along the way we took some more pictures and learned a good deal about the local flora and fauna by way of small wooden signs along the trail. We also noted that my shoes were quite the worse for wear.

Once we got back to the Highlander, we loaded up and drove about halfway through the park, stopping for a short hike to Puerco Pueblo and Newspaper Rock (not the Newspaper Rock as my little google search just now is telling me...rather just a Newspaper Rock). The pueblo was interesting, and it was augmented with signs that gave information about the people who lived there, why they left, and how they survived in the forbidding environment around us. Newspaper rock was also quite cool, with literally hundreds of pictographs all in one place (and even one that you'd swear looked like a stork delivering a baby, which obviously makes absolutely no sense whatsoever). They even had one of those view finder things that allowed you to get a closer look at what appears to be a pushmi-pullyu (which is apparently something from Dr. Doolittle that I'd never heard of), which, again, makes no sense whatsoever.

After the pueblo and the pictographs, it was back in the Highlander for a drive across the rest of the park to the hike the Blue Mesa Trail, which felt like walking through a construction site dump, with the addition of thousands of pieces of petrified wood of all shapes and sizes literally strewn everywhere. We learned on this trip that the "petrification process" is actually a really simple one. In this case, the specimens we saw around us fell into a river and were carried to where were standing, which at the time was a large lake/bog/generally wet place. They became waterlogged and eventually sunk to the bottom and were covered by sand and silt. In this oxygen free environment, and under pressure, the logs were eventually petrified by way of silicon replacing the plant matter literally atom by atom.

The hike through the Blue Mesa area was only a few miles long (perhaps three), and the weather was very amenable (it was cool and overcast....this was the only day of the trip on which we actually got hit by a little bit of rain). The theme was basically looking at one astonishing piece of petrified wood after another. Some of them, like the piece above, looked exactly like a tree stump from ten feet away. You had to get very close to most of the specimens to tell you weren't just looking at a piece of a tree that had fallen on the ground ("From what tree, exactly?" would be a fine question, as there weren't any as far as the eye could see). Some pieces, however, were so colorful that it was impossible to mistake them for anything but stone.
After the hike we stopped at an overlook from which you could see almost the entire area we'd just walked through. We got to read about a man who had visited the park twice, nearly 60 years apart, and had taken pictures from identical spots on the very spot where we were standing. The pictures were striking, in that erosion really had run it's course on a very human time scale. The hills in the background looked very different in the second picture (taken with his grandson) than the first (taken when he was a child). Neat. Very geek, but also very neat.

The next stop was a second visitor center, this one on the other side of the park (the site of Danielle's second petrified wood purchase, and, now that I think about it, our smushed pennies. The old man who ran the store spent what felt like 15 minutes explaining to us why it was better to use older pennies than newer ones, and told us a story about play-acting a riot scene in San Francisco, which apparently people did back in, jeeze, he was real old, like the 50s or something). Also, the small matter of lunch was taken care of by delicious chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. It's funny now that I think about it. On the first 4 nights of the trip we treated ourselves to delicious steak dinners. Over the course of the last 36 hours, however, we'd eaten two meals in the car and had taco bell and ice cream for lunch.

Lunch in tow (and petrified wood in the Highlander), we moved from the gift shop to the actual visitor center for our first (and only) ranger talk of the trip. The visitor center itself had all kinds of cool stuff to look at, including complete (with missing pieces replicated) skeletons of a few extinct species that had lived in this badlands area millions of years ago. Specifically there was a skeleton of what looked like a crocodile, and another that literally resembled the animal version of a tank, a large herbivore with plated armor surrounding it's entire abdomen. For the life of me I couldn't figure out how this creature could have supported it's own weight, and our ranger wasn't a whole lot of help on the matter. The indoor portion of the talk was brief, after which we headed outside to hunt for fossils. Our ranger (a woman who was working as part of a transfer program with some university in Europe) taught us the all important lick-test. Apparently, if you find something that you suspect might be a fossil, the most definitive and expedient way to tell is simply to lick the thing. If it sticks to your tongue, you've got a dino bone. Otherwise, it's just another rock. Danielle and I both eventually managed to find a fossil (which we confirmed with the lick test), and the teenage boy in group found something like half a dozen. After 20 minutes or so, the official talk was over, and Danielle and walked the trail near the visitor center before setting out for another hike (or this point our day was pretty free flowing, with us just planning to see as much as we could and still leave time for tonight's attraction).

The hike we settled on called Long Logs, mainly because it meandered past some very long petrified logs that had fractured into pieces (as if cut by a chain saw), but still very much resembled the trees they used to be. On the path that lead to the beginning of the hike we spotted a horned lizard and managed to take a picture. Later in the day we ran into our ranger and told her about it; apparently she'd been telling people there were no such lizards in the park, and upon seeing our picture proclaimed "Now I have to walk over there and try to find him!" The Long Logs hike did not disappoint, as we did in fact walk past a ton of very long petrified logs.
The "destination" of the Long Logs hike was Agate House, a mostly reconstructed house built almost entirely out of, you guessed it, petrified wood. The house was originally built around 900AD, and by the time the US park service found it had fallen into considerable decay. This was back before the standard operating procedure was to leave things be, however, so the rangers decided to rebuild the thing, attempting to make it look like they thought it might have nearly 1000 years ago. The result was actually rather impressive, making me kind of wonder about the new policy of leaving piles of rocks as you found them.

During the walk back Danielle and I ended up chatting about our high school days, talking about AP tests, Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, and all manor of other dorky pursuits that dominated our teenage years. Actually, none of that stuff dominated my years, as really the only thing I did from age 12 to 16 was swim. Apparently, her high school had just been deemed officially awesome (being ranked in the top 1300 schools in the country, or the top 2.5%), while mine...well let's just say it doesn't have a Wikipedia page. Right towards the end of the walk we were hit with the aforementioned rain (just a sprinkle) before getting back in the Highlander. We headed over to see Crystal Forest and Jasper Forest (which is where we actually ran into our ranger), determined that at a certain point one could only look at so many petrified logs, and got back into the Highlander for our trip to the Wigwams. That's right, we were going to sleep in a Wigwam!

Upon our arrival the clerk running the show, whose father apparently built the place, invited us to take a look at his private collection. I wasn't expecting much through the small wooden door in the back of the office in which he was watching an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation, but apparently I should have been. The man had probably half a million dollars worth of petrified wood (some of the pieces we saw at Bryce were offered for $20,000....this guy had at least 20 pieces, many of which were even more impressive), which didn't even dominate the room!

He had arrowheads. Literally hundreds. He had old license plates. Dozens. He had artwork of all kinds, including an original sketch of the Andersonville Civil War Prison Camp done by an artist who'd spent time imprisoned there. Rifles. Bullets. Medals. The small room was just packed with so much history of so many kinds I was beside myself. In retrospect, in a trip filled with great experiences, the 15 minutes we spent in this room was definitely one of the highlights. After an appropriate amount of gawking we made our way to our specific Wigwam, number 2 as it were, which had one of the many antique cars (apparently on loan) parked outside it.

After settling in (the inside of the Wigwam was, unsurprisingly, a bit cramped), we decided that dinner would be two buildings away at the Butterfield Stage Coach Steak House. Curiously, after spending the last week hiking upwards of 15 miles a day, we opted to drive the 500 or so odd feet. With the possible exception of the meal at Phantom ranch a week earlier, this was probably the best meal we had all trip. The atmosphere of the restaurant was fantastic; a lone guitarist played live music for almost our entire meal (actually hitting on several songs we both liked), and the steak and ribs were both excellent. The decor was incredibly corny, which was exactly the sort of thing we were looking for. Each table had a sign made up with pictures and text about some legendary character or aspect of life in the wild west. The signs were so interesting that after we finished our meal we walked around the restaurant reading the ones at vacant tables (which happened to be almost every one, another reason we had such a great time). Eventually we drove the tenth of a mile back to the Wigwam and fell deep asleep, happy we'd been lucky enough to experience a little bit of Americana.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

[ ] Dead Yet

Wow am I behind. First, a few random points:

1. I am taking my car to Melody Toyota for service on Friday morning. The $100 bounty on my head if anybody sees me in the 15/30 game at Artichoke Joe's is suspended that day, since it won't be a waste of time, but rather my only option for playing while my car is worked on.

2. The trip report is almost done. I probably only have two more installments.

3. I was in Pennsylvania for a wedding from July15th until July 20th and didn't play any poker for 6 straight days. The wedding was very cool, and I promised the bride that she'd made the blog and that tens of dozens would read about it.

4. My one year anniversary as a pro is August 1st. There might be a party.

I went to Bay 101 yesterday (a practice of mine that is growing more and more rare, as I've rediscovered the wonders of Garden City and am making a point to play in the 30/60 game at the Oaks as much as possible) and for a while it looked like I had finally turned the corner. I got seated at 10:45am and was in a fantastic 20/40 game. Throughout the course of the morning and early afternoon I could do no wrong, flopping pairs and winning large pots with relative ease. After changing to Pete's table mostly for social and anit-boredom reasons, I eventually ran my win up to 4.5 racks, or about 2200 American Dollars. I tweeted about this, and the impending doom switch that was about to ravage me. So let it be written, so let it be done.

At my table is a player I will refer to only as Heineken Man. He played for a bit with Pete and I, then went seemingly busto. After Pete left he came back to the game, apparently for the sole purpose of running like Jesus against me. In was ordering beers as fast as the waitresses could bring them (and I think even got cut off). He was....not good. Here are some choice cuts. The first hand occurred before I had truly grasped the level of his insanity.

I open As Jh in pretty late position. A poster behind me folds, and Heineken Man goes into his customary 4 seconds of deliberation about his cheese ball hand on the button. Dude is slow and drunk, and people who slow the game down cost me money which upsets me. He is about to call but Gino (of loose passive fame) 3 bets out of the small blind all in....out of turn. Heineken Man makes a speech about how he "really hates this you want me in or do you want me out? I don't know...." and then just calls because as I said before he's a complete idiot. Gino then does in fact 3 bet (big surprise), and some random aggro Asian calls 3 in big blind. I cap for value. All call, with Gino all in for 12 of the 15 small bets in the pot.


I bet and both call. 18 small bets now, Gino all in for 12 of them.


Again the big blind checks and I have a decision to make. The side pot is still small, and I don't have much. Without the 3rd heart I'd certainly check, but now I rate to have a lot more equity and neither of my opponents has shown any strength and it's practically impossible for either to have a pair. So I bet. Heineken Man now raises, and the Asian calls 2 cold. Craptastic indeed. I go into the tank for a second, then suddenly realize "WTF are you thinking about? Call you idiot" and call.

443-6-9 with just the 3 hearts

Heineken Man bets and the Asian mucks. I see little choice but to muck my hand, as the action is clearly telling me I'm crushed. I fold, and Heineken Man says "Phew, give me the side pot, all I've got is this" and rolls the Queen of spades and the Ten of hearts for...queen high, dominated heart draw. Gino drags away 6 of the 14 big bets in the pot, and the Asian guy and I are flabbergasted. Next up....

Someone open raises and Heineken Man makes the call with 86s. I 3-bet because I have Kings in the big blind, and the opener only calls. We see the flop 3 ways:


I lead and the preflop opener just calls. Heineken Manraises. I 3-bet. He caps. The preflop opener is now almost all in. The turn is:


With a flush draw now and I'm not sure what to do. It's hard to believe he has a draw, but he also could have gone batshit with pocket 8s. I check, planning to raise, and the preflop opener flings his last 4 chips into the pot. This baffles Heineken Man, and he goes into a big speech about not knowing what on Earth could make the guy do that. Heineken Man is clearly retarded....this is limit hold em, and there are 22 small bets in the pot. You think that guy is gonna fold? You think he thinks there is a non-zero chance those last 4 chips aren't going in eventually? Yeesh. So Heineken Man just calls and now I'm SOL. The dude is insane and I almost certainly have the best hand, but raising is not allowed. I already checked, and there is only a half bet out there. Bay 101 does not permit a raise. I call meekly.


As the card hits Heineken Man declares "Spike!" and I pull back my fingers and check. He bets and I call. Of course his straight is good.

The next hand brings about a ray of sunshine in my day, and sort of demonstrates the type of shit I am starting to resort to to win pots. I complete the small blind with KJo and we see a flop 5 or 6 ways. The cards come out

442 with a flush draw

I check and it checks all the way around to Ravi, a pretty decent player on the button, who bets. Now most people would look at this spot and say "Well Jesse, you have King high with 3-4 people (you can't even remember how many!) left to act behind you. Mucking is probably a good idea" to which I would respond "WWPD?" Well I don't think Pete would throw this hand into the no, he certainly would not. I raise. Everyone folds back to Ravi who calls meekly.


I bet. Ravi calls. This is a little concerning, as he was kinda supposed to muck here, but my bet also has some value in it. I start thinking about what the heck I'm gonna do on the river but don't get closed to finished before it arrives:


I opt to check and soul read, but he checks behind. I table my hand and Ravi mucks what he claims was 53. As I'm dragging the pot, Heineken Man asks "Now Jesse, I have a question and answer honestly because if you say yes it's gonna blow my mind. Did you just value bet your King high?" I cannot tell a lie....."Yes sir." He is riotous with laughter.

Next up Heineken Man puts in like 5 bets with the worst hand, then I improve on the river and still lose. The story plays out like so:

Stoney limps UTG. I once watched this guy play in hyper nit mode, failing to 3-bet KK preflop and never entering the pot with less than a god damned monster. Today he's playing a bit looser, but I'm still a little weary of his UTG limp. The problem with dudes like that is that very big hands (like AQ and AK) are sometimes in their range when they limp in early position. Today Stoney is playing more hands and making a flush every 10 to 12 minutes, but still has somehow turned his 3 rack buy in (lol, he is the only human I have ever seen who buys this much) into just 4 racks. Any other player would be up twice that...but not Stoney. Anyway, Heineken Man raises in late position with what HAS to be the worst hand. It folds to me in the big blind and I find KQo. If the limper were anybody but Stoney I'd 3-bet here, but as it is I opt to just call and resolve to check/raise most flops where I end up with 2 over cards. Stoney calls.

K73 rainbow That's right. Rainbow

What a delightful turn of events. I consider donking, but given Heineken Man's propensity to 3 bet bet bluff (so I could cap) I opt for the check um and raise um line. He dutifully bets after Stoney's check, and I dutifully raise. Stoney folds and Heineken Man calls only.

K73-6 with two spades now

I lead and he raises in rhythm, something that struck me as odd. I contemplate a 3-bet, but realize with this guy there isn't much value in it. He's capable of stone cold bluffing here, and if I 3-bet he might fold where as if I just call he'll fire the river and I'll get an extra bet. Plus I mean I do only have that one pair and he could easily have 2. So I call only.

K73-6-K with three spades now

Wow. I check. He bets. I call. He tables T8 of spades for the runner runner. I cringe as the horror of it all. The guy called my flop check/raise with Ten high no draw. Seriously. Then the turn "bailed him out", giving him a solid 12 outs to win (or raising his equity from basically 5% to around 25%). With this gift he opts to raise and run a bluff, lighting a full $20 on fire instantly (his raise has us both put $40 into the pot....75% of that money is mine) and planning to burn $40 on the river 75% of the time. Again, I am annoyed.

And finally, the capstone of the day, the hand that reduced my once proud $2200 win to a $700 one, came just before I left for the day. Before the hand, Stoney and I were chatting (he's a very nice guy, and I'd positioned myself to his immediate right, exactly where you want to sit in relation to the tightest guy at the table) about the fact that every single time I see his cards (he's peeled them back so I could see them twice since I moved over) he has had the Jack of clubs. Once early in the session I had even 3-bet Heineken Man's live straddle (with pocket 2s no less) and Stoney had called 3 cold on the button (which horrified me, and was before I'd realized he was playing looser today). The flop was like KJ8 or something and I just checked and folded. Stoney flashed the JT of clubs. He comments that "yeah, that card's been coming over here a lot". He proceeds to open limp UTG, and Heineken Man raises in late position, and I call in the big blind with 97 of clubs. We see the flop 6 ways, so big pot coming....

Kh 6c 5h

We check it all the way around to Heineken Man who bets. I call, as do Stoney and this guy named Vu, an Asian player who is actually pretty decent. I do a small prayer dance for the 8 of clubs to roll off the deck.

Kh 6c 5h Ac

I said eight of clubs dealer, not ace. Nonetheless this is obviously a good card for me, as I now have a gut shot and a flush draw in an 8 big bet pot. I check, Stoney checks, Vu checks, and Heineken Man acts confused on the button and checks. card. That's probably a good thing, as I do have 9-high.

Kh 6c 5h Ac 8c

Better late than never thank you dealer. I donk, and Stoney calls with what I assume is two pair. Vu no raises and Heineken Man mucks his cards with great vigor. I cringe and call basically without thinking, hoping (with a decent change of success) that Vu has either made merely a straight or somehow has one of like 2 or 3 flush combos that I actually beat. Now Stoney goes into the tank and I start to get worried. He's talking and yammering on and finally says "well only the queen or the king of clubs beats me, I guess I call" and I cannot believe what is about to happen. Vu rolls 97 of diamonds for a straight. I roll my 97 of clubs for a small flush (that also made a straight). And Stoney guessed it. Jack Ten of clubs. He and I have a good laugh about how on Earth it was he was able to keep a straight face while picking up that hand at the exact same moment I was commenting on the fact that he'd had it so many times. Crazy game.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Post From Two Plus Two

I made this post on 2 plus 2, and it turned out well enough that I decided I could just put it up here in full. So here you go:

Live 30/60 game that is full to the brim with 10 asses in 10 seats. Regular named Rich opens UTG. Literally under the gun in a 10 handed game. Dude is not a nit by any means, but opening up in this position is showing some strenf. I 3 bet the Jack and the Jack of the something or other UTG+1. Because it is live 30/60 and this is where they respect your raises, only two players call the 3 bets cold. One of them is a regular named Rod who is not overtly insane, the other is a Crazy Asian Lady wearing an Ed Hardy hat about which the same cannot be said.

At this point I set about my customary 5 seconds of hand reading before the flop comes out (the blinds are taking their time to fold, and then Rich calls my bet). Crazy Asian Lady is not worth the effort...50% of all holdings will do for her. Rod is worth a shot though...what do people call 3 cold with? Well he could have AK....people do that. He could probably also have something silly like AQ. And people love to make the gamboool with the suited broad ways. That's possible. And the 3 to the face bread and butter, 77-JJ. OK, so...sure, he's got a hand, carrying on....

665 with two red pointy things
. Rich checks and I bet my nuts. Rod...raises. Looking like we're right in the bread and butter section, 77-TT. I have you now (said in Darth Vader voice while acquiring missile lock)! Crazy Asian Lady still has cards and it's not the turn yet, so she calls. Rich mucks and I 3-bet. They both just call and I start looking at my stack to see where I'm gonna fit all these chips...we're going to need a serious expansion on the west wing, or maybe we'll just go ahead and file for the permits to add a second level.

665-T with four red cards now, two curvy two pointy

My hand reading skills are so excellent (and why would they not be) that I now have a slight concern. What if he has the Ten and the Ten? Bah, hogwash! I bet. Rod raises and Crazy Asian Lady, having fulfilled her responsibility to see every single turn, now folds, satisfied that her Q8 or whatever just isn't going to get there....this time. Into the tank I go. Odds on the call down are 16:2, and immediate odds right now are (you guessed it) 15:1. Any sane human has me beat here, but that's where shit starts to break down. This man called 3 cold. Who does that? The whole "sane human" assumption should have gone right out the window right then and there. Why did I waste time trying to read this guy's hand? I could have used those brain cells for something useful, like thinking of something witty to text to Captain R about his busted ass motorcycle. But no! I sat there for fully 10 seconds thinking about what the brain behind that smug ass grin would instruct it's hands to call an UTG+1 3 bettor with. At this point I'm just pissed off and don't know what to do, so I revert to the basics....big pot me has pair me call.


LOL OK OK, nice hand sir. The gods of poker seem to think you deserve the full $120 for your expert slow play, and who am I, but a humble servant, to deny their wishes. I call. What's that you have?



Redonkulous Hand

I played about 7 hours today in the Oaks 30/6o game. Early in the session, this happened.

A crazy Asian lady (CAL) open limps under the gun. She's been playing about 70% of her hands, and recently was "caught" open raising 98o in pretty early position (another player cold called and I 3-bet with AQo because I knew full well I had them both crushed...I got some funny looks from the cold-caller, who sorta has a clue sometimes maybe, and just winked back). Reza, a regular player, god bless his heart, folds. The aforementioned cold-caller raises in the two seat, and the next two players cold call. I look down at the 66 in the high jack and call the two bets, as we're looking at what one might consider a "multiway" pot. The high jack calls, and Al (a large older black man who often plays the 20 and 40 at Bay 101) calls on the button, both blinds call, and CAL calls and all of a sudden we've got ourselves a little 9 way raised pot going on up in Emeryville. One time dealer!

Qd 9d 6c

Yahtzee! The blinds check and CAL donks right into the preflop raiser, who is next to act....this is simply absurd, and probably means she a pair. But who knows, she's bad enough that it could be anything. The preflop raiser mucks, saying "I should call, but this is gonna get very expensive." A dude calls, another dude (dude b) calls, I raise, the cutoff 3 bets, and Al caps it on the button. Al is a pretty passive player, and is not one to put in a bunch of action lightly. His cap is serious business, meaning he has at least two pair or a strong draw (either a flush draw or maybe even some sort of combo draw). Crazy Asian lady calls (duh), dude A calls, dude b folds, I call, and the cutoff calls. That's 39 small bets for those of you keeping score in the audience, and I have a set.

Qd 9d 6c - 4d

This is where things go a little weird. You see, there are still 5 people with hands, and I'm 3rd to act. My hand is actually still pretty well disguised, as all I did on the flop was raise one time, then call two bets back to me getting like 19:1. I could have just about anything. The first two players (crazy asian lady and dude a) both check, and I...wimp out and bet. I probably should have gone for a check/raise here, as Al probably has two pair back there on the button, but this turn checking around would qualify as a natural disaster, fully deserving of FEMA support items being shipped to my seat. At least 3 of them call, perhaps 4, I honestly don't remember. The whole time I was just praying toe dealer to one time throw another 4 out there.

Qd 9d 6c - 4d - Ts

And Crazy Asian Lady turbo donks. Like, I haven't even fully seen the card yet and she'd slid 6 chips into the freaking pot. Dude A makes a bit of a scene before mucking, and a horrific card flips over as he does so....the Ten of Clubs. Why is this horrific, you ask? Well, crazy asian lady has one of two things; a straight, which I can't beat, or two pair, which I can. But if she has two pairs, one of them is tens, by simple deductive logic. So seeing that ten definitely qualifies as more bad joojy. I just call, and Al, on the button, goes into the tank before eventually folding, while I continue calmly accepting the fact that I not only loused the hand up, but also lost it. I'm following Tommy Angelo's advice here, making a plan for how I'm going to react (for once, perhaps, not poorly), when crazy asian lady quickly says "Top Two?" and rolls QT. I am stunned and can only respond "nope" and table my set. Victory!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

There is No Theme

This post is probably going to be very disorganized, because there are about 5 or 6 things I want to say that seem interesting, not a single one of which is even close to big enough to be an entire post. Some of them are only here goes.

First of all, I'm engaged in an interesting (to me) conversation on the mid stakes low content thread about win rates and how long it is that you can or cannot run bad. The general argument from the online players is always "you live players are lucky you ever win at all, because the long run is 100,000 hands and you could lose for that long". In truth you never really hear about live players running this badly for this long, but that might be because all the ones that do simply give up. I don't really know, but in my experience, and the experience of the few people who have let me know something about their data, running bad for 100,000 hands (well over a year's worth of full time play) just doesn't seem to happen. This simulator can be used to get an idea of what I'm talking about. If you want to see how 100 of me might run for a year, use a win rate of 50, a standard deviation of 440, for 2000*100 = 200,000 hands (here you are tricking it to use 2000 units of 100 hands, when in fact you just want results for 2000 hours), and leave the number of players at 100. The results are usually pretty promising, in that all 100 guys win at least 50K, with almost all of them coming in over 70K.

Anyway...I've been "running bad" for a while now (I did post a $2800 win at the Oaks on Friday, but followed that up with a day off yesterday and a 3 rack loss in the 20/40 at Garden City today), but the conversation on the 2 plus 2 really has helped me realize that that's all it is. I'm getting unlucky. I haven't gotten any worse, and my opponents haven't gotten any (or at least much) better. I just have to keep playing, keep learning, and things will turn around. Friday at the Oaks reminded me just how it feels to "run good". I played a 7 way limped pot with 54 suited and turned a full house. I flopped a nut flush, and did on occasion connect with my flush draws. I made straights, I turned pairs, and when I called down with ace high (something I've been doing more with mixed results) I was actually correct; twice! Everything was just clicking, and by the end of the day I had 5 racks of chips in front of me and was feeling great about life.

Then today at Garden City was quite a different story, however. KQ suited? 753 rainbow flow thank you sir may I have another? Flush draw? Ha, you'll have jack high on the river and like it! Call me with ace high? I have two pair. Not one...two! Things just didn't go my way, and all of a sudden (well, not really....I played for 7 hours), I was in 6 racks and had only 2 left in front of me. My final hand, however, was humorous.

I picked black aces under the gun and open-raised. Kelvin the dealer raised next in (I was in the 9 seat, he in the 1), and then it folded to Shannon, who called all 3 bets in the 8 seat as the big blind. I capped it, both of them called, and as the dealer dragged in the chips I noted that since all three of us had overs buttons, the rest of the hand would be played at 30/60. "That's great" I thought, since I have a monster and all. I counted the pot as 12 bets, multiplied by 2/3rds to get the new number of small bets for the increased bet size (12*20 = 240 = 8*30) and prepared to auto-bet the flop. Shannon checked, I looked out and saw nothing terrifying (3 cards of different suits all with numbers on them) and fired a bet. Kelvin called (by capping I've basically turned my hand face up against him), and so did Shannon. The Ordeal was the Queen of Hearts, putting up a flush draw and bringing a set of queens from Kelvin to the forefront of my mind. Shannon checked, and I fired $60 dollars into the $330 pot (8 small bets, plus the $90 from the last street). Kelvin folded and so did Shannon, and I started to push my cards with $1 chip towards the dealer when suddenly I realized he was...burning and turning the river. WTF is going on here? A quick glance around the table was all I needed to figure this one out; seat 5 still had a hand, and had (presumably) called 6 bets so far, including the turn. Yikes....The river was a brick, I bet, he called, and my hand held up to drag a pretty big pot. I sat out the next hand and racked up my chips, as it was pretty obvious I had slipped a little past my A game.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Ocho

The drive to Monument Valley was fairly uneventful, except for our gas stop. While Danielle was filling up the Highlander, I went inside to buy a coke and use the restroom. On my way out, I picked up the soda and went to stand at the checkout counter...and the other six people inside, two groups of three, simultaneously walked out the two exits, leaving me completely alone inside the convenience store. I don't really know why, but I found this incredibly creepy; coupled with the fact that there was no attendant in sight, and it took all of about 30 seconds for me to pull a $1 bill out of my wallet, drop it on the counter, and scurry out the door. It was just...creepy.

We managed to get to Monument Valley several hours ahead of time (Danielle had built a lot of padding into the schedule throughout the trip, making sure we were never truly rushed), catching a view of The Mittens from the car (which was kind of cool, since of all the attractions in the entire southwest, the author of our guide book had chosen to grace his cover with the same view). Now, we had a choice to make. The plan called for us to go on a Moon Light tour, but neither of us was convinced this was the best thing to do. It was scheduled that way because it was really the only way she could make it fit into the schedule. Now that we were arriving around 6pm, it seemed like a sunset tour, during which we could actually see the valley, might be possible. We drove to the visitor center and Danielle went inside to see what our options were.

Twenty minutes later, Danielle came out of the visitor center/lodge/hotel/maze more than a little frustrated. She apparently got two things; lost, and inconsistent directions on where to find a tour guide (if you followed them on the way back out, you'd basically end up driving into a ravine). We deduced that "left" actually meant "right" and found our way to a small building (a shack really) where a Navajo man approached our rolled down window. By this point we had learned that you had three options for seeing the valley; you could drive yourself and see some of it, take a half day tour and see more of it, or take a full day tour and see almost all of it (it being 2.5 hours from sunset, this was not an option). The man who approached our window was clearly used to visitors attempting to see it themselves, and was already in full sales pitch mode before we said our first sentence, which was "Yes, we'd like to go on a tour". For $65 each (yeesh), we were told we had time to go on the sunset tour, which would be leaving in a few minutes and on which it looked like we'd be the only people. This sounded great to us, and 10 minutes later we were inside a 1985 Chevy Suburban bouncing down what had to be the bumpiest road either of us had ever seen.

Our tour guide's name was Ernie, and he was a very pleasant gentleman in his late 50s. He'd been giving tours for several decades, and explained that he used to do hiking and camping tours back in his younger days, but that his legs were no longer up to it. The tour started out down the main road of the "see it yourself" option, and at first Danielle and I were both more than a little disappointed. We had just paid this guy $130 dollars (and were probably going to tip him on top of that) to take us on a tour. Standing on an overlook we could have driven to ourselves was not really what we had in mind. After our first two stops, however, we turned off the main road (and I use the phrase very loosely here) and onto an even less maintained one with a sign forbidding entrance to anyone without a certified Navajo guide. Then we started to see some cool stuff.

As we wound our way through the valley in Ernie's Suburban, he answered all of our questions and pointed out all the interesting "monuments" in the valley. Everything in the valley looks like something if you stare at it long enough, and he was able to point out just about everything. There was Elephant Butte, along with the Indian Head and the Sleeping Dragon (shown below). We also saw the Eye of the Sun, the Ear of the Wind, and Big Hogan.

Our tour also wound past an oasis (which Danielle and I were able to predict the presence of after seeing a cotton wood tree, which we had learned only grew near water and were actually incredibly helpful to early settlers for this exact reason; if there was a cotton wood tree, all you had to do was dig a little bit and you'd find water), near which we saw a Navajo woman with her three children having a picnic dinner of some sorts. We also ran into some cows, and even a group of horses, both of which Ernie explained belonged to local farmers and were allowed to roam freely in the valley. The tour also has a musical tilt, with Ernie singing a funeral song for us in the Suburban (which lasted for what seemed like almost 5 minutes), and another tour guide playing some sort of Navajo traditional instrument inside of Big Hogan (we were lucky enough to be there at the same time he was playing for his tour group). We saw petroglyphs from the 1300s, and passed an old fenced off dwelling that looked oddly out of place. Ernie explained that the Navajo custom from long ago was to simply abandon a house once someone who lived there died. The person was buried under the house, and the rest of the family had to move on, building a new dwelling elsewhere. "We don't do that anymore," lamented Ernie. "Now we use cemeteries." Our last stop brought us right to the base of a large butte, which we walked around on foot to catch one of the more stunning views of the entire trip (and from which you could also see the area where part of Back to the Future 3 was shot).

By now, as you can see, it was getting on towards sunset (we were in a time zone where this happened just before 9pm), and it was time to get back. Ernie drove us back to our starting point, passing some of the same monuments and giving new meaning to the term "long shadows." The tallest formations in the park were over 1000 feet high, and as you can imagine something of that size casts a pretty hefty shadow just before sundown. Eventually we made it back to the parking lot/shack area where we had picked up Ernie, thanked him profusely (and tipped him) and drove the Highlander back up to the visitor center/lodge/restaurant. We went inside and eventually decided to buy another Christmas Ornament (we garnered four throughout the trip) and decided to pass on food; tonight, we would dine on trail mix. We had a long drive ahead of us to Chinle, AZ, but were a few hours ahead of schedule and therefore had time to watch the sunset to one side of the building, then the moon rise over a butte in the park.

After a noble, if relatively unsuccessful, effort to capture the moonrise with our $90 digital camera (there were lots of photographers out with cameras that were probably worth almost as much as my car), we were on our way to the Days Inn in Chinle, which happens to be right next to the Canyon De Chelly, which we were staying right next to but weren't actually going to see because of the more pressing business of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. We ate trail mix in the car (specifically, I poured some into my hand, ate it, then poured some more and handed it to Danielle while she drove the Highlander). Eventually Danielle got too sleepy to drive (remember, we started this drive around 10pm, which had been admirably serving as our bed time for the past week) and I had to take over. Eventually we made it to the Days Inn, and were asleep within minutes, ready for the final push of our 11 day excursion.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

3 Hands to Sum Up the Week

So far July has been no better than June. Today I did actually post a (small) winner. Yesterday, however, I played 5 hours in the Oaks 30/60 game and blew through 2 racks. This 3 hand sequence typifies the things that have been happening to me. Since I've been running bad, I've been making an effort to tighten up a bit, mainly to avoid difficult situations and make my life a little easier. It's possible (probable) that in doing so I've been giving up a little bit of expected value, but in the name of reducing life tilt this is totally worth it. Also, I'm looking for spots where I do in fact play too loose, as those are leaks that I can seal up for free.

Under the gun I am dealt Ace Four of clubs. This is usually a limp for me, but Pete has been counseling me on tightening up my early position hand ranges, so I toss the hand into the muck. I proceed to turn the stone nuts, and the pot gets to showdown two ways, with two pair beating one pair. Should I limp Ace Four of clubs under the gun at a loose and passive 10 handed 30/60 game? Honestly, probably not. But I usually do, and this time I didn't, and it cost me a large pot.

The very next hand I am dealt 43 off in the big blind and get a free flop of:


5 players remain, and the first 3 of us check. The next player bets, the last player folds, and the small blind calls. Time out.....there are 7 small bets in the pot, and I have 5 outs to improve to 2 pair or better. If my implied odds are positive, this is a call. If they are zero or negative, this is a fold. Usually I chuck in a call here, as the price is about right, it's easy to play if I hit, and sometimes I even get to see a free river if the turn checks through (this last part is hugely valuable and often overlooked). With one player left to act, however, I opt to fold. He could raise, which really blows up my plans. Also, someone could have me drawing all but dead already with 76, and A2 is not out of the question should a 3 fall off. Of course the next card off the deck is a 3 and the pot gets dragged by one pair. Not really a huge deal, but still $400 or so that I often drag goes elsewhere all in the name of tight play.

The very next hand I am in the small blind and two players limp. It is fine to call with any two cards here, but I decided yesterday that I'd fold the crappiest of my hands, even though in this situation I only have to throw one chip into the pot, when 11 others are already out there, all to see the entire flop (this is of course assuming the big blind doesn't raise). Anyway, I have Jack Four off and muck it. I promptly flop two pair and the pot is eventually dragged by...a lesser two pair. This pot would have been pretty big, actually.

Nothing devastating here....actually, I only lost $50 and got through my blinds. But my efforts to tighten up cost me something like a rack of chips in less than 5 minutes, and I really couldn't shake the feeling that I'd loused up my whole day in the name of saving like 2 small bets.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Lately most of my sessions seem to go either one of two ways. The first way goes like this. During the first 4-6 hours, everything will be going great, with my Ace King sometimes flopping a pair and winning and the occasional flush draw coming, and I'll be up a rack or two. Then, in the last few hours, the wheels will completely fall off an I'll go home even. The second option for the day is much like the first, except for the whole "winning" part in the first 4-6 hours. That plan has me breaking even for 4-6 hours, then losing a couple racks right before I leave. Yesterday was kind of a hybrid.

I started out at 10:30am in a new 20/40 game with a bunch of props and otherwise not horrible players. Thanks to my excellent game selection, I quickly won a ton of chips by way of flopping and turning very, very well. Eventually a second game started and I moved to it, and my good run continued. By 2pm I was up almost 3 racks and considering heading home. Unfortunately, I'm not stupid, and this would come back to haunt me throughout the rest of the day. You see, when you're running bad, the best way to get through it quickly and end the pain is to play as many hours as you reasonably can. For me this is 7 or 9 hours a day, not 4 or 5. So I carried on, eventually moving to Pete's table, which was decidedly a -EV move but a fun one nonetheless. There I played in a holding pattern, losing and winning, and eventually still holding a $1200 win when the real decision point came. It was 4:25pm and Pete was about to leave. If I stayed, I was committing to 2.5 more hours, as I never want to leave between 5 and 7 because it takes me an extra 30 minutes to get home (on top of the 30 it usually takes) and that causes life tilt which isn't something I want. Also, I know in my heart of hearts that it's all one big session, and that two weeks from today I won't even be able to remember how I did two Mondays ago. So I decided to stay.

At this point it's worth noting that I decided not to play 40/80 today, or any time in the near future, until I regained some of my confidence (and bankroll). You see, it's kind of silly. Even with my current downswing, I am still comfortably life-rolled for 40/80 (figuring in living expenses and like a 500 big bet bankroll). But I just don't think playing that game and risking further damage is in my best interest. So even though the must move 40 looked really good, I kept my name off the list, which basically ensured that I'd never be called.

I changed back to my previous table (which honestly leaving in the first place was one of the worst table changes I've made in a long time. My old buddy Tom B was there, along with a hyper-lag fish who's cold-capping range apparently included 54s) and slowly but surely lost most of the chips I'd accumulated throughout the day. The beats just kept rolling in. His 54s flopped JJ4 and my ace high calldown was no good. Tom B's 32 sooted cracked my Ace-Jack by flopping a pair and a straight draw, and then won 2 more bets because I turned a flush draw on the same card that gave him the idiot end of the straight, then rivered a pair of jacks. Another player who was seemingly competent had the Jesus seat on the hyper lag, and promptly cold-called his under the gun raise with pocket 3s. The board ran out 662-6-2 and he and two others called my bets on the flop and turn (I had 3-bet with AK and was value betting both streets), then when the river counterfitted my hand I took solace in the fact that I'd at least get my money back....until he rolled the 3s. Cold calling first in with 33 Joel? Sorry, if you're reading this, you're now formally a tag-fish. I don't care if you think you used to beat the 100/200 game. Tag. Fish.

Then it happened. The hyper lag moved to the 40/80 game. At first I didn't notice it, but the aforementioned Joel put his name up on the list and commented to me about "look who moved over". The guy was out of his seat, so I didn't see him, and I was planning to pick up my now less than $500 win in one or two orbits anyway, so I didn't really flinch. Whatever, Joel leaving was good for me, as he was still the 3rd best player at the table (behind Torello, a 2p2er, and I). With two (2) hands to go, I already had my chips racked up and ready to walk to the cage when the floor announced "Players, we have immediate seating 40/80." I had to look. The game was unlike any I have ever seen. I realize this is a bad idea, but I'm going to do it anyway. Here was the lineup:

Seat 1: Empty for me
Seat 2: This random laggy guy who plays 40 and is not very good at all.
Seat 3: Young Jae the Prop
Seat 4: RU the floorman
Seat 5: Joel
Seat 6: RJ, a 40 regular who WTK has described as "Yum yum!"
Seat 7: Short stout bald dude whose name escapes me but bad play does not.
Seat 8: The hyper lag fish who I must stress was a top 10 worst player ever.
Seat 9: Igor

If you don't know who any of these players are, that's fine. If you're a regular in these games, you no doubt cannot believe what has just happened. Not only was the table better than any of the 3 20/40s that were currently running (in terms of BB/hour, not just $/hour), but the best possible seat was open for me. I picked up the $1400 I had in front of me, turned it into $10 chips, and buckled in.

3 players went broke on my first hand. The hyper lag capped preflop and the flop with 8-high no pair, and runner runnered trips (which actually lost to a straight). Honest to god on the turn 5 people still had cards and 3 of them were all-in, with betting going into a side (4th) pot. One of these players didn't rebuy, and the other two walked to the ATM to extract more funds. Things were looking great already. 20 minutes later, I was busto.

Joel limped in EP and the hyper lag raised. I 3-bet with AJ of hearts in the SB, and Joel capped it, making some dumb ass speech about how "he's gonna do it anyway". Nice hand Joel, you have a monster, good for you. The flop is 885 with two hearts and I just donk. Unless Joel has AA or the hyper lag has an 8, my equity is something like 40% here. Joel just calls (lol), and the lag raises. I call only (bad play on my part were it not for the telegraph Joel was sending about his 3-bet) and Joel 3-bets. The hyper lag just calls, and I just call (actual bad play on my part). The turn is a black Ten, for


I check, Joel bets, and the hyper lag raises. I call two cold because I still have a slew of outs and this pot is humongous, and Joel just calls (again, lol). The river bricks off a black queen and Joel value bets his pocket kings for one of the weirdest hands I've ever played. I ask to see the hyperlag's hand cause I'm kind of steaming and he shows a ten. "Both cards" I say. T3. Sooted.

A few hands later I 3-bet the hyperlag with 88. Joel calls 3 cold in the small blind and the board runs out 994-9-5. I have no choice but to call him down and get shown Q9s for...quads. Then I 3 bet the maniac out of the small blind once more, with A9 of clubs. RU the floor man calls the 3 cold after open limping under the gun in a 6 handed game. The flop:


Is to my liking, and I bet-3-bet RU. The turn 2 looks harmless enough, but RU raises me. I call him down and am shown 62 sooted for the frag. I play til my next blind, then pick up my $200, now stuck $800 for the day and unable to rebuy without risking my ability to play the following day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Seven

The next day of our trip we allowed ourselves a rare late start, with no alarm set and a breakfast of leftovers (trail mix, bagels, and a few slices of pizza for those party members who did not consume their entire half the evening, me). We were due at Antelope Canyon sometime around noon (at this point I can't exactly remember) and only had a 2 hour drive or so to get there. Danielle spent some time with the guidebook once we had loaded up the Highlander (after a more serious session of rock pushing than usual, as we'd actually been checked into this hotel room for more than our customary 10 hours) looking to add a stop on the way there. We passed some signs for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and, after a quick check of our map, decided that we might have enough time to drive the 10 miles off the freeway, check out the park, and still be on time on our tour. We turned off the main road, however, with me noting that we didn't have time for the 10 miles to be traveled at 20 MPH. If the spur wasn't a decent road, we weren't gonna make it. Our good luck continued, however, and my back country driving skills (which have eroded since I left Pennsyltucky, but not by much) were more than adequate to hum along the road fast enough to ensure we'd have something like 30 minutes to spend at the park. After paying the modest entry fee ($5 at most if I remember correctly), we parked the Highlander in an empty 20 car lot and took in the scene.

Apparently this state park was actually created because enough people wanted to keep some sand dunes as is so that they could ride their ATVs on them. You can see a fence off in the distance in the above picture (basically right along the line where the vegetation ends) that separates the part you can ride your quad on from the part you can't. Danielle and I walked all the way to the fence (and actually a little past it) through the sand that was, true to it's name, rather pinkish.

After playing around on the sand for a few minutes, we walked our way back to this strange sort of observation deck (it had a sidewalk leading up to a large metal platform, on which there was actually a set of old style bleachers on which you could sit and watch...the sand) and read a little more about the park. By now, though, it was time to get moving, as we were getting close to "out of extra time" to make our tour. We were both glad we made the detour, but to be honest if you're making a trip out west and trying to fit everything in, this is one you can skip. For a one hour stop though, it was top-notch.

We arrived at our tour company just minutes before the scheduled departure and had little time to spare; as usual, though, there was rock pushing to do. Once we got into the tour company's office were were astonished by just how many people were milling about. The final head count for our trip was something like 70 people, all loaded up similarly into the back of trucks like the one pictured above. You see, Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land, and you aren't allowed to visit it without some sort of "guide". Basically, the Navajo have realized they can exploit this natural wonder for (a lot of) profit, and have acted accordingly. To be honest it didn't bother me that much at this point, but after getting ripped off to take a tour of Monument Valley later in the day, and then noting the extra 9% "We are the Navajo so you owe us more money" tax on our hotel room that night (which was like a Day's Inn and the second most expensive night of lodging for the entire trip, right behind Saturday night at the friggin' Bellagio), I eventually got a little bitter. Anyway, after confirming that we'd each paid our $35, we loaded into the back of our truck for a particularly bumpy and dusty 20 minute ride to the canyon.

Antelope Canyon isn't really a canyon in the traditional sense of the word. It's a slot canyon, basically just a narrow slot carved through a large slab of sandstone by rushing water during (infrequent) rainfalls. In some places the thing is only about a meter wide, and at it's widest point there was no more than 20 feet between the walls. The last serious flood of the canyon happened in 2004, and apparently events such as that are no joke. Rainfall accumulates and runs down a narrow (a few hundred feet wide) valley leading to the upper end of the canyon. Once the water reaches the entrance to Antelope Canyon, however, the effect is similar to what happens after cars go through a toll plaza. Only like 100 times worse. The water is funneled into the canyon, and in some instances actually fills the entire thing and overflows the top (the canyon itself is probably 50 feet tall. Fortunately the weather was bone dry on the day we visited, so there was no chance of us being thrown out of the canyon like rag dolls.

The walk through the canyon, which only took about 30 minutes to complete, was absolutely spectacular (other than the 100+ other people walking around trying to take pictures...we came at the most popular time of day, the reason for which should be pretty obvious from the picture above. At mid-day, the sun shines directly down into the slot). Our tour guides took turns throwing sand up into the light beams, which allowed for some pretty spectacular pictures to be taken. I don't think I can really do it justice here, but I'll put up a few of the choice cuts that our cheap-o digital camera was able to capture. Note to Danielle: if you think there are some better pictures among the 50 some in your album, just say so and I'll add them, too.

Eventually we made it all the way through the canyon and were back out in the desert, which was kind of weird and pointless. Everyone was just milling around and stuff, so I just went right back in and started the return trip, strolling very slowly and stopping often to get a closer look at the rock formations and the coloring of the sand stone. Everything was just surreal, so much so that eventually our guide had to come back in to find Danielle and I, as we were late for the trip back (oops). We did make it on the truck, though, and were actually rather pleased with our tour, even if it was the most expensive thing we'd done since we left Las Vegas. Once we returned to the office, we thanked (and tipped) our tour guide (as we'd been reminded that while we were being exploited pretty badly, not much of our $35 was going to make it to the tour guide's pocket), we grabbed a quick lunch at Taco Bell and headed to our next stop, Horse Shoe Bend. The place is well named, like most of the stuff in canyon country. It is basically a place where for some reason the Colorado River runs in the shape of a horse shoe. Danielle and I parked the Highlander and carried our lunches the mile or so down to the lookout/holy-freaking-cow-why-is-there-no-railing ledge. We sat a little ways back and enjoyed our burritos and tacos, and encountered another very intelligent raven. I've heard that ravens are actually very impressive mimics, and this one did not disappoint. He had apparently, through extremely repetitive exposure, learned to mimic the fake shutter sound of a digital camera, along with some other interesting sounds. Eventually, though, he found some food and flew it out of earshot to enjoy his meal in peace. Our camera really couldn't capture the spectacle, since it covered close to 180 degrees of our field of vision, so here are some stock images.

Moving right along (we had quite a busy day), it was time to drive to Monument Valley. I'm tired of writing for right now, though, so I'll end this part and pick up here tomorrow.

Jesse Goes to Vegas, Loses Thousands

That pretty much sums it up. But here are some details. Pete, Eric and I loaded up onto our flight at 11am Thursday morning and were playing 15/30 in the Bellagio before 2 o'clock. At first, things did not go horribly, as I played some 15/30 and then 30/60 and actually jumped out to a slight win. Then I decided to do something catastrophically stupid, inspired by Pete's recent foray into stud. I sat in the 30/60 Omaha 8 game. At first things were going well, and it was clear to me that a few of the players had some very fishy tendencies. I even won for a while. Then the game got short, I was still deep on the 15 and 30 lists (I of course relisted myself) and I got stubborn, and lost the requisite rack of chips. I ran bad (I got quartered HU with a made A2, I tried to steal with QQ64 on the button and ran into AA33 and got a board of AKQ-8-9, twice the flop checked through and I bet my two pair on the turn as the best hand, only to lose the whole pot on the river, and my AAXX flopped ATT and both guys mucked), played a little bad (the quartering was predictable and I could have saved $20, and I missed a river bet because I forgot I had a live Ace), and remembered that while I'm OK at Omaha, I need terrible players to actually have any sort of edge.

We had dinner at the buffet (while you're inside the Bellagio the buffet is actually one of your cheaper options for dinner) and then set off in search of low stakes mixed game action. We found it at the Venetian, to the tune of a 6/12 HORSE game (to which I managed to convince everyone to add 2-7 Triple Draw) and played for 3.5 hours, basically 3 on 3 with these Australian dudes from Poker News. We won (I lost, but Pete and Eric posted wins, just like the 20 minute black jack session right before hand). Then it was craps until WAY too late, then back to the Bellagio for some much needed sleep.

The next day brought a late start and the arrival of leo doc, a southern gentleman of the highest caliber and rather fun dude all rolled into one. After another buffet meal (this time for lunch), I played a little 30/60, then hung out in leo's room for an hour or so before heading to the 2p2 meetup at the Hard Rock. Leo, being the baller that he is, booked a limo and we rode over in style, along with DougL, Mrs DougL, and Mrs Leo Doc. The meet up was absolutely packed, with the lounge full to the brim of poker players basically playing 4/8 mixed games with 10 rack stacks of chips. I didn't actually play, as I couldn't get a seat at any of the fun tables (like the one with Professor Ben, "shaunfuckingdeeb", Sir Felix, and Greg Raymer), and instead spent my time trying to meet people. I succeeded in talking to Greg Raymer ("I'll never vote republican or democrat's just tweedle dee vs. tweedle douche"), some of the founders of Deuces Cracked (Joe Tall and Death Donkey), Nate the Great, and various other poker players of various levels of fame, before deciding to bail out with Pete, Doug, and leo for some semi-actual serious business poker at the Mirage, where I lost a serious amount of money despite the semi-seriousness of the stakes (10/20 and 20/40).

I called it a night early (12:30ish) because I was still exhausted from the marathon craps session of the night before (note to self...don't do that again), but woke up early and actually managed to win a rack of chips in the 15/30 over 4 hours of play the next day before flying home with Pete. Upon my arrival at Bay 101 (I left my car there), I had little choice but to stick around and play with Neal, who promptly left 90 minutes later with 5 racks of chips (one of them mine), and then go home stuck even more. Today went no better, as I posted a 4 rack loss in the 20/40 game. Running bad is really starting to wear on me, and I'm questioning everything. Have my opponents figured me out? Are the games not as good? Am I tilting? Am I just unlucky? Is it some of everything. Things need to turn around soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Much Awaited and Equally Overdue Trip Report - Part Six

When last we left our young heroes, they were driving 85 miles per hour in an effort to reach Bryce National Park with enough time to hike the Navajo Loop Trail. Well, we did make it in time (although a little bit more sunlight would have been nice), and promptly set out into the hoodoos.

Bryce is one of the most sublimely bizarre places on the entire planet. The entire landscape honestly looks like a Hollywood set depicting some alien planet. Were it not for the trees, you'd swear you were on Mars. The Navajo Loop trail gives you a quick and jarring introduction to the environment, dropping you quickly down a set of switchbacks and then right through Wall Street. We were in a bit of a hurry, as we knew light was fading. The area near Wall Street was very crowded actually, with a large group of German tourists ahead of us. Rather humorously, one of the women fell flat on her butt (just as if she'd stepped on a banana peel in a cartoon) and all of a sudden we had the views to ourselves.

Once you're out on the other side, you're walking around in a valley just filled with hoodoos and rock formations of all shapes and sizes. The colors are astonishing, and because of it the sky appears more blue than any I've ever seen.

Continuing on, well, we just kept taking picture after picture of hoodoos because it was simply so astonishing. Eventually we made our way back up and out of the canyon (this hike was only about 2 miles long), and loaded back into the Highlander for the trip to the lodge for dinner. After a fairly disappointing meal (at least by my standards....Danielle loved it because the food was so bland) we drove to our room in the Bryce View Lodge which was just past a small group of buildings that seemed to be known collectively as Ruby's Inn. Ruby's Inn was strange, offering a restaurant our guide book said served "consistently atrocious" food, a fast food joint, and a creepy general store at which we purchased some supplies for the day of hiking we had ahead of us (a few thousand calories of trail mix, granola bars, and bagels). We were asleep in our room just after dark, which in this time zone happened around 9:30pm.

After a breakfast of bagels and granola bars, we set out to hike the Fairyland Loop Trail, our biggest endeavor so far on the trip save the ride down the Grand Canyon on Dan and Gizmo. The 8.5 mile hike offered consistently spectacular views, with so many opportunities for pictures it would be impossible to put even a representative sample of them here. One interesting thing to note is that it was cold; very friggin' cold. I did alright in my shorts and fancy REI shirt, but Danielle actually had to wear her jacket for the first hour or so of the hike, as it was windy with temperatures in the 50s. As we wound our way past Boat Mesa, Tower Bridge, and various other named formations in the park, we had several encounters with the local wildlife. First, a cicada landed on Danielle's shirt and basically refused to fly away. Then we passed a pronghorn antelope, something Danielle had only seen for the first time from a distance leaving the North Rim just a few days earlier.

After we completed the Fairland Loop (which took us something like 4.5 hours), we went back to the lodge for our second meal in a row. This time Danielle had the taco bar and I ate a hamburger, and I was much more pleased with my experience. Then it was back out for more hiking (unlike Zion, Bryce's shuttle bus system offered sparse enough coverage as to be practically non-existent, so we were merely driving around in the Highlander all day), with Bristlecone Loop and some other lookout points on the agenda. We saw some bristlecone pine trees, and learned about Witches' Broom, which apparently has taken a serious toll on the population around Bryce. Bristlecones supposedly can live to be several thousand years old, but the one at the end of our trail was...dead. Kind of anticlimactic if you want my opinion. At Yovimpa Point I was convinced we were about to get a good old fashioned thunderstorm (it was probably about 45 degrees with 30 MPH winds), but thankfully we escaped back to the Highlander dry and free of static charge. This point also marked our highest elevation on the trip, at just a shade over 9100 feet.

On the drive back through the park (it was tens of miles to get out to the end), we stopped at a few more lookout points and had an encounter with the bravest raven I have ever seen. This bird had apparently learned that approaching cars on foot was a good way to end up with a free meal, as people were apt to throw food out of the car to him. Eventually his raven friend showed up and the two of them were tag-teaming a group of tourists parked at the lookout.

Then we reached a decision point; our feet were sore but we were otherwise in pretty good shape, and the hour was not yet late enough that we needed to go back to our hotel room. So what should we do? How about another 4 mile hike, a redo of the Navajo Loop Trail combined with Queen's Garden Loop. After some hemming and hawwing we decided to just do it, and we were thankful we put out the effort. We walked through Wall Street again, following our tracks from the night before, then diverged where the two trails intersected and headed off down the Queen's Garden Trail.

After the hike we visited Ruby's Inn once again and took a peek at the menu of the restaurant. Seeing that it was also expensive, combined with our guide book's low opinion, was enough to make us head over to the fast food joint and order a pizza. While Danielle waited for it, I attempted to gas up the Highlander. This was no small feat. First of all, the gas was only 85 octane, something I don't think I've seen for 15 years or more. Second of all, not only was there no option to pay at the pump, but I couldn't even prepay; I had to leave my credit card inside, pump the gas, then come back in to get it. It was just all so totally 1994, just the way I always feel when I visit Reno. So eventually I had gas and went back to pick up Danielle and we retired to our room, pizza in hand. At this point I realized the Penguins game was on at that very moment, and Danielle consented to let me turn on the television. That lasted for about 15 seconds, as the Pens were down 5-0 halfway through the 3rd period. We decided not to do laundry, as we both had enough clothing to squeek by thanks to repeated wearings of our fancy REI shirts and some bathtub scrubbing of underwear and socks, and actually relaxed for an hour or two in the hotel room, with Danielle reading one of the thirteen books she brough on the trip (she didn't even finish one, to my knowledge). This was the only leg of the trip outside of Vegas where we stayed in the same room for two nights in a row, and it was certainly a nice break. The next two days were going to provide a whirlwind finish to the trip, and we were thankful for the extra rest.