Monday, October 20, 2008

D.C. and New York City in September

During these crazy economic times I got the opportunity to go to two of the busier spots in the country as far as the topic of economics is concerned: Washington, D.C. and New York City. I was working in the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, D.C., and while I was working in New York I was working just a block away from the New York Stock Exchange in the Financial District. Very interesting!!

This is the third time I've gotten to D.C. in the past 1+ years, so I knew where to head to see some of the stuff I had missed the first time around. Unfortunately, there is still a lot more I wish I could see. Before I left for D.C. I was able to get online and get a reservation ticket to go to the top of the Washington Monument. It's a neat view from up there, and I've posted some pics here showing some of what you can see from the top of the monument.

On the way down the elevator inside the monument, you get to see some pretty neat rock carvings donated by each state as part of the monument. Some are very impressive!

While in D.C., one of the people I was working with was kind enough to give me a tour of the Federal Reserve Building. I was fortunate enough to get in to the Board of Governors room just after they had completed a meeting and got to sit in the chair at the head of the table there. In New York, I mentioned already that I was working very near to the New York Stock Exchange. I was about 2 blocks south of the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway where Trinity Church is located. I was even able to spend some time to go to Liberty Island and Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty and the building that was used for immigrants arriving in New York. The statue was neat to see, and I was able to spend some time on Ellis Island trying to track down my great-grandfather, who came to the U.S. in the early 1900's through Ellis Island.

I had a great time in both cities. It was fun getting around on foot and using the subway systems that both cities have. You get to experience so much more of the cities that way. I'm looking forward to going back again!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vegas with the Squirrel (and Vegas Jimmy), Pt. 3

With the Squirrel at her conference I thought it would be a good time for me to try and make back some of what I lost yesterday. With my bankroll somewhat diminished I thought the smart play would be to go over to the MGM and play on the $1/$2 No Limit tables there, and so I did. That decision worked out great for me, as I managed to win about $275 while playing on the tables there. Not bad for a $100 buy in! There was one hand that stuck out for me. I was dealt pocket Aces (AA) when I happened to be in first position. I decided to limp for the $2, hoping that someone would raise and then I would reraise when it got back to me. The table had been fairly active so I felt that this would be effective. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong! One by one, every player at the table just called the $2 and no one raised! We now had 9 players getting to see the flop. Against a single opponent, pocket Aces are about an 80-87% favorite to win. Against two opponents, Aces drop to about 70-75%. Against three opponents, it goes down to about 60%, and with four opponents it is less than 50%. So here I am, holding Aces, and I'm not even the favorite to win against the whole table, and I'm out of position after the flop hits, too! Awesome! (note the sarcasm).

So to the flop we go. I've already made the decision that I'm not going to go broke with Aces here since I decided to play coy before the flop and got caught by my own cleverness, but maybe the flop will help. Well, the flop comes: 6-6-4. The blinds check, in staying conservative here I check, and everyone else checks. This actually gets a small chuckle from the table when the last player checks. The turn is a 7. Once again everyone checks until we get to the end, where one player decides to bet $15, slightly less than the pot. The action folds to me, and since it wasn't too much I decide to stay conservative and just call. Everyone else folds. The river puts a Jack out there, so now the board reads: 6-6-4-7-J. I check, being content to show this down cheaply. My opponent decides that a $45 bet is warranted. Well, it's still not that much considering the way things have gone for this hand, so I decide to make the "crying call". As soon as I do, my opponent mucked his cards! He was on a stone cold bluff! I never even had to show my Aces to win! I was happy to take down the pot, but a lesson was reinforced here...Don't limp with Aces! If you do, be prepared to throw 'em away. Now I didn't throw them away, but the pot was kept small enough to stay in the hand. Had he thrown out $75, $100, or more, I think I may have been forced to accept my preflop mistake and fold. Oh, well. I got lucky that time. It sort of makes up for a little of what happened at the Wynn, or at least that's what I was telling myself.

After wrapping that session up I met with the Squirrel back at the Excalibur. We both wanted to play a poker tournament, and I had found some tournaments with decent structures that I thought we should consider. One of those was at the Hard Rock Casino. They were opening a new poker room, correction, a poker "lounge", and we decided to cab it over there to check things out. All I can say about it is "Wow! Gotta like that eye candy!" It turns out the room hadn't "officially" opened yet, and they only had one cash game going. The tournament was only expected to have a handful of entrants so the Squirrel and I opted for a different tournament. We decided to head downtown to Binion's, where I thought I remembered that they had a nightly tournament with a good structure. The Squirrel hadn't seen the Fremont Street Experience either so this would give us something to do while we waited for the tourney to start.

Well, we checked out Fremont Street, grabbed a bite to eat at Binion's diner, and when we got back to the poker room we found that there were only 10 entrants for the tournament! The tourney would still take entrants through the first three levels, but that wasn't the turnout we were expecting. We started as two tables of five, and luckily we weren't at the same table to start. That would have sucked. Levels were half an hour each, we started with 6000 chips, and blinds started at 25/50, so there was plenty of time to be patient. One more player did sign up during the second level, and with one player's elimination we all got to go to the final table! Woo hoo! Ok, I'm sort of kidding, of course we made the final table.

Because of the structure and the small number of players we had plenty of time to chat with everyone at the table, and when we combined at the table I drew the seat to the Squirrel's immediate left. Often times when talking to her I would call her by her nickname, "the Squirrel", and before long the entire table was calling her the Squirrel. The Squirrel also has a heavy weight to protect her cards, and, of course, it's a little squirrel. She likes pointing the squirrel at her opponents and the table was getting a kick out of the use of the squirrel. So much so, that one of her opponents, who the Squirrel eventually eliminated, gave the marker the name "Vegas Jimmy". The Squirrel was doing a good job of amassing chips, too, having doubled through someone with AK when the board hit her for two pair, and also when getting someone to get it all in with her when she had pocket Aces. For a brief period of time I think that the Squirrel and I were the two chip leaders. Because of the small number of players only the top three places were getting paid. When we were down to five players I was the chip leader, and had a comfortable lead over everyone else at the table. When we hit the break a couple of us started discussing possible "chop" options. We had been playing for over 4 hours at this point, and we were thinking that we felt it would be good if everyone came away with something. We decided to put to a vote the following: Taking $100 off of the 1st place money and paying 4th and 5th $50 each. The entry to the tournament was $125, so although it would be a loss, everyone would still get something. The table agreed, and play proceeded.

I was fortunate enough to find myself in first position, Under the Gun, with pocket Queens (QQ). I raised, and the player behind me immediately went all in for his remaining chips. Everyone else folded back to me, and I called and tabled my Queens. He turned over Ace-King, also known as Big Slick, and off to the races we were! The flop produced a King, and I was down to two outs to knock this player out of the tournament. I didn't get there on the turn or the river, and I suddenly found myself in 4th place in chips out of the five of us. Since 4th and 5th were paying the same thing it didn't matter to me what spot I ended up in if that was to be my fate, so I knew that aggressive play was the way to play. About a dozen hands later, everyone folded to me in the small blind (SB), and I looked down to find pocket 6s. I moved in, and the big blind (BB) woke up with Big Slick...again!! He called, and I was off to the races one more time with this guy. This time the river was the King, and I was now eliminated from the tournament. Now it was time to be a cheerleader/observer from the rail. The Squirrel was still alive.

The position I had on the rail was allowing me to observe the player who knocked me out and the hands he was playing/folding. He was an older gentleman, and he was playing very tight, folding his blinds to almost every raise. The other three players hadn't really picked up on that yet, and I was hoping that the Squirrel would as I knew she was going to need some chips soon. Eventually, the short stack and the player that was 2nd in chips at the time got it all in, and I got the opportunity to tell the Squirrel that I thought she should be stealing more. I wasn't going to tell her what the older gentleman was folding, but I was hoping that she would be able to chip up a little bit. They were now down to three players, and each of their games had to be opened up a little bit more.

It was only a short time later when Dave, the player on the Squirrel's right, raised from the button the minimum amount. From the rail I had guessed this was a steal, since it appeared that Dave had also picked up on the fact that the older guy was folding everything. The Squirrel was next to act in the small blind and she just called. She was also the short stack in chips. I didn't know what she had yet, but I probably would have pushed all in..."if it's good enough to call, it's good enough to raise". If it wasn't that good, then folding was the play. It didn't matter, as the older guy moved all in after the Squirrel's call. I knew that had to be a huge hand. In that spot facing a raise and a call in front of me, and as tight as he was playing I was expecting him to turn over AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK, or AQ. Dave immediately folded, sort of confirming that I thought he was stealing, and now the Squirrel had a decision to make for all her chips. She eventually called and tabled: AJ. The older guy turned over JJ, which is almost as bad as it could get there since that left the Squirrel with only the 3 Aces to catch or to make a straight or flush. None of that hit the board, and the Squirrel and Vegas Jimmy were out in 3rd. The only thing I would have done differently was probably shoving preflop after Dave's raise, and I'm sure the old guy calls anyway and the result would have been the same. She did get $220 for her efforts. I was happy for her considering the lost wallet and cards thing had happened I did want something to go well for her after that.

Not too much to tell after that. We played some craps at Binion's, and the next morning The Squirrel (and Vegas Jimmy) headed off to the airport early because of the lack of ID. I had another brief session at the Wynn because I needed to hit the Hooter's casino to get my stamp for a contest that Hooter's is running this year, and I headed home that afternoon. It was a very entertaining trip.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vegas with the Squirrel, Pt. 2

That next morning the Squirrel headed to her conference. I was going to hit the pool for a little while so I headed down a little before 9am, but the pool at the Excalibur doesn’t open until 10am. I really didn’t want to just wait an hour up in the room to go to the pool, so I cleaned up and headed down for a late breakfast and a leisurely stroll over to the Wynn for an early session of poker.

I got a seat at a $2/$5 No-Limit table and bought in for $300. As I got to my seat I was witnessing someone’s pocket Aces being cracked by the player who was going to be on my right’s hand of 2-6. I don’t know all the details of that hand, but it was a huge pot, and my first impression of the player on my right was that he was loose. This was confirmed during my first half hour at the table. He was a foreign gentleman, and had a friend sitting behind him. He was also playing almost every hand. Often times he would show his friend his cards at the end of the hand, and because of my position at the table he was exposing his cards to me as well. Since it wasn’t during the middle of play I decided to just make mental notes about what he was showing. More often than not he was usually bluffing on the river by just placing a large bet out there. No one would call and he would take down the pot. Using that information I was planning to try and get involved with him in a big pot when I was holding a huge hand.

Things appeared to be going my way when, after this guy raised to $25 to open the pot, I looked down and found pocket Kings (KK). I just called the $25, hoping that he would follow up on the flop with a bet. Well, both the blinds called after I call. The flop came: Jack-8-3. Both blinds check, and my “mark” bet $125. I was up a little since I sat down, but I only had $350 or so, and I decided that now was the time to try to take this pot down in case he had a piece of it already I didn’t want to allow him to draw to a better hand for free. I moved all in. The first blind folded, but the other blind moved all in for less than what I had. THAT wasn’t good. I was almost certain that I was beat when that happened. About the only hand I would be beating there would be AJ, but I was guessing that the blind had either 8-8 or 3-3. Then it got back to the initial raiser on my right. I was initially hoping he would call since he had enough chips to cover me, and I could still win a side pot (although the side pot would be about $200 and I’d still lose on the hand overall). Well, he’s thinking about it when he asks the dealer if he can show me his hand. Since all the other action was complete the dealer informed him he could and then he showed me…pocket Aces!! He still hadn’t called yet, and now I was praying he’d fold since I basically had no shot at either pot. After a couple minutes he came to the conclusion that he couldn’t fold for the $200 or so it would cost him and he called. My instincts were correct about the other guy, too, unfortunately, as he turned over 8-8 for a set of 8s. No King arrived, and it was time to rebuy.

The decision to rebuy was easy with the action that table was generating. I felt I just got real unlucky that both Aces and Kings happened to be dealt at the same time (with me getting the Kings). So I bought back in for $300, and started working my stack up, slowly, but I had managed to get it up to $540. The foreign guy on my right had left about 1½ hours ago, but he had been replaced by a player who was just as aggressive, but wasn’t playing as many hands, although he was playing more than most players at the table. It was at this point when I was dealt KJsuited and this player raises to $25. I decided to call and see what the flop would bring. Everyone else got out of the way, and the flop was: K-J-4. Wow! Top two pair! My opponent led out and bet $50, and with my two pair I thought I’d lay a trap and call. The turn card was a Jack! This now gave me a full house, Jacks full of Kings. My opponent led out and bet again, this time $75. I decided to make the minimum raise to $150. I’m really hoping he’s either got a King or a Jack. I was hoping it was the Jack since it would be very hard to get away from trip Jacks here. Well, he thinks for a minute and decides to raise to $400. To call that it would only leave me with $100, so I knew he would call my reraise of all in and that’s what I did almost immediately. He called just as quickly and turned over…pocket Kings! ARE YOU F---ING KIDDING ME?!? Obviously, his pocket Kings gave him a better full house, and since the last Jack in the deck didn’t hit the river (why the hell should I get lucky?) to give me four of a kind I lost that pot. Yes, I’m bitter. That one hurt. If I had been thinking a little earlier, I would have gone and grabbed something to eat as it would have given me the opportunity to pull chips off the table; something you cannot do during play. It was getting close to time for me to leave so I could be back at the Excalibur by 5 o’clock, so I decided NOT to rebuy again and I headed back to the Excalibur to meet up with the Squirrel for dinner.

I got back to the Excalibur, and while I was in the room waiting for the Squirrel, the room phone rings, and it’s the Squirrel asking me to meet her at the elevator to let her up. I agreed and headed down. I assumed that she had left her room key in the room, and the guard at the bottom by the elevators won’t let you up without showing a room key. How I wished that were the case! I found out when I got down there that the Squirrel had dropped her wallet in the cab and had lost her cash, ID, room key, and credit cards! We tried to see if the cab was out front, but no such luck.

Here I thought I was having a bad day because of poker! My day sounds pretty good compared to that! We got back up to the room and called all the cab companies to report the lost items, but we weren’t getting anywhere as far as tracking the items down. Then she called to cancel her credit cards. There was also a new problem. I had cash on me, but when I go to Vegas I typically leave my credit card and debit card at home to not be “tempted” to use them, so I didn’t have an easy way to access cash. The Squirrel had no way of getting any, and I just lost $600 playing poker earlier. I was slightly worried that we might have to get by on what I had left for cash. I had plenty for gambling for myself, but to cover both of us along with meals and hotel, that would have been another story. After canceling the cards and after she had called home to apprise her hubby of the situation we got a late supper and turned in early for the night.

As it turned out, the next morning, the Squirrel was able to hit a bank in Las Vegas that also has branches back home that she banks at, explain her situation, and cash a check, so that part of the problem was now resolved. I did find out during the course of this that this wasn't the first, or even the second time that this has happened to the Squirrel, but actually this was the THIRD time this happened to her while out of town. Note to self: pick up a wallet with a chain for the Squirrel for Christmas, unless she's going out of town before Christmas, then get it sooner. :) We never heard back from any of the cab companies, and the wallet and credit cards were never recovered. That really sucked. Our trip wasn’t over yet, though…

Vegas with the Squirrel, Pt. 1

I had an opportunity to go to Vegas in early September and decided to go. A friend of mine, the Squirrel (a nickname, obviously), was attending a work-related conference there. Her husband, with whom I bowl with and also play poker, was unable to go to Vegas, and she didn’t really want to go to Vegas by herself, so the opportunity for me to go with a room all set was there as long as I could come up with the flight. I used some of my frequent flier miles, and lo and behold, I had a very cheap Vegas trip!

The trip occurred during the opening week of the football season, and the Packers were playing that Monday night against the Vikings. We couldn’t miss that, so after I had my first poker session in the books and after the Squirrel had arrived we headed to the ESPNZone at the NY, NY casino to eat and take in the game. Of course, we got some wagers in on the game and some other games, too. I even was able to bet on the U.S. Tennis Open Championship thanks to the Sunday rainout in New York. I was fortunate to win on most of the sports bets. Packers win: check. Raiders get blown out by Denver: check. Federer wins U.S. Open: check. Packers cover prop bet: oops. Brewers win to give me my 3-team parlay: oops. Oh, well. Can’t win ‘em all.

After the game the Squirrel and I played some craps at NY, NY, and at the Excalibur. The Squirrel hadn’t played a whole lot of craps before so I played the role of instructor and guide while we were playing. For those of you that don’t know I also have served the function of a craps “dealer” at parties over the years. I used to work about 15-20 parties a year, with most occurring during the holiday season, but now I probably work only a handful during a year, if that. Now that I think about it, I think the last party I worked was this past January. It’s been a while. Anyway, I know the game rather well, and can follow pretty much every bet that’s on the table at any given time so not only can I help a person play craps to reduce the house’s edge as much as possible, I also make sure all the bets are placed properly and paid so that my friends don’t get overlooked. At a busy craps table a bet can sometimes be missed by one of the dealers, and if you don’t point it out you could very easily miss out getting paid. The Squirrel and I had a good time playing craps, and with the Squirrel’s conference starting early, we called it a night at a reasonable hour.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I know, I know...I've been busy.

I know I haven't posted anything new in the last couple weeks. I'll try to take care of that this week and weekend. I've been real busy since the second week of September. I've been to Vegas and have a couple good stories from there, had a pair of work trips in Washington, D.C., and NY, NY, went to the Packers-Cowboys game, went to the second to last game of the regular season for the Brewers in conjunction with a very long bachelor party, and went to the Brewers first playoff game at home. I do have some pictures from most of the stuff and I'll be posting those, too. I need to get this stuff posted because at the end of the month I'll be traveling to the United Kingdom for work, and I don't want to be too far behind before I go! I'm so excited about that trip!