Thursday, October 16, 2008

Brian turns 40 in Vegas

Seven donks from the Falstaff home game ventured out to Vegas this past weekend to help Sir Brian the Red (SBR) celebrate the end of his 40th year on this earth (he turned 40 on Sunday).  Falstaff, T, Jim the Knife, Big Nick, Blackjack Carl and myself made to trip to honor SBR.  It was to be a weekend of much eating, some drinking and maybe one or two things that will stay in Vegas until those parties out themselves. (Note to Dr. K: None of that would get me in any trouble).

For me, it was a great week of poker.  It was actually the most productive week of poker in my life.  I booked 3 losing sessions.  One was for about $10, another for $35, and my final session was a loss of $200.  I had winning sessions at the Venetian, Harrah's, Imperial Palace, Caesar's Palace, Mirage, and Hard Rock.  The net was way positive.  That makes up for the week a little over a year ago when it seemed that I could not win a significant hand and lost almost the exact same amount.

The breaks just went my way this time.  On my first night, I went head-to-head with a very aggressive player who had bet to put me all in on the turn.  I tanked for a few seconds.  There was a club flush possible on the board.  He had been bluffing quite a bit and I knew that, even if he did have a made flush, I had a few outs as I had the Qc and a draw to a boat.  I said "I call" and flip my cards over.  I didn't think I needed to move chips.  The dealer dealt another Q as the last card and the other player mucked.  He goes a little nuts when the dealer starts counting out his chips and pushing the big stack my way.  He thought I had folded and he apparently held the winning flush.  I don't like slow-rolling jerks and this was caused by his penchant for slow-rolling and not showing when he should, so I felt that it was justice.

I played in two tournaments while in Vegas.  Both were the 11 o'clock at Sahara, one Friday and one Saturday.  I got OK cards and a few good lay-downs  to get to the final table in both.  I got 5th on Friday and 7th for a $50 save on Saturday.  In both, I bubbled on our group's last-longer bet.  Congrats to SBR and T for cashing and taking the last-longers.  I think both when out directly after me (4th and 6th).

The Hard Rock has a new poker room, so we went to check it out before dinner on Saturday.  The crowd was much younger than the other casinos that we had seen.  The staff was especially good looking.  I found out later that hiring practices at the Hard Rock means that you only get hired if you are "smokin' hot" or you know the right person.  Most didn't know the right person.  The Hard Rock also has the coolest looking players cards of the 3 dozen that I hold.

There was one notable hand at the Rock.  I was holding 99 on a J high board.  I'd been playing TAG poker.  I got heads up with a LAG.  We had a big pot going and he bet out $50 on the turn. I had $98 in front of me so I said that I had about a hundred and pushed it in.  He made a short speech about respecting me and folded his AA face up.  He had gotten confused and thought the raise was for $100 and not less than a raise of his bet.  He felt kinda stupid, but took it well.

My biggest donk move of the week was also my funniest story.  The player on my right was playing very tight.  He was on the button for this hand.  I had QhTh under-the-gun, so I raise to $7.  The player on the small blind tries to give me a little grief by asking "What's with only $7."  That amount was small in this game (1-2 NLH), but I reply with a grin as we get 5 or 6 callers, "it's called a raise and it designed to keep weaker hands out of the hand."  About this time the action gets to the big blind (immediately on my right) and he bumps it up $20 more.  I'm about even at this point and my mouth is already in gear, so I lean over to him and say, "I don't have your aces or kings beat yet, but I'll know after the flop." With that, I call.  Two other players call the $20.  The flop comes down QQ4.  He bets $25 and I smooth call.  The others fold.  The turn was a 6.  He bets $30 and I push.  He insta-calls and turns over KK.  The river was not a K so I scooped a big pot.

The dinner for SBR's birthday was held at David Burke in the Venetian.  I think everyone had a good time going to a really nice place for a change.  Falstaff and I had the "oh my god" steak.  It was actually the filet, but everyone who tried it exclaimed "Oh my god."  It was that good.  I did play around a bit when SBR and I made the reservation in person.  The chief's name was on the menu in front of the restaurant.  I acted like I knew him, thinking that we might get a nicer table out of it.  The girl taking our reservation was sorry, but Chief T would not be working  that night and did I want to leave a message for him.  I said no, that I would just call him later.  We did get a good table, but I have no idea if the story had any effect.

My final session on Sunday night was a good olde-fashioned kick in the teeth that brought me back to earth.  No cards.  No good decisions on my part and no desire to risk any more.  The trip home had me and SBR on the same flights and in first class.  That trip went off without a hitch.  It was a good trip.  I hope SBR has a great 41st year.  It is shaping up a lot better than 39 and 40 for sure.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Danube, Part III - The Journey Home

I was feeling a little queezy when we arrived in Saltzburg. I was convinced that it was my turn to have the crud that Dr. K had a few days before, but I was fine for the tour and wondering around the city. The ride to Munich for our last night took about 2 hours. It was going well until the guide and driver decided to take us on a tour through the middle of Munich with its stop-and-go traffic and fumes. Again, I was feeling pretty ill by the time we finally arrived at our hotel. It was Octoberfest time in Munich and my brothers and I were making plans to attend. I figured that I would be OK after some rest and dinner.

I got some rest and I made it about half-way through dinner, but I was not feeling better, so I had to bag Octoberfest and headed back up to the room. I had just told Dr. K that I just could not get comfortable when my pipes reversed flow and I became violently ill. This was about 8 pm. Uncontrollable retching hit me again at 10, and 12, and 3. During the 12:00 session, I heard my brothers and their wives returning from Octoberfest. I felt like I had missed Christmas and a trip to Disney World. Arrg. I also had the trip home to look forward to in the morning. I had no idea how I would survive the 15 minute ride to the airport, much less getting all the way back to the USA in this shape.

Morning came and I was mobile, but that was about it. We got to the airport early and the fun really started. Our plane to Paris was late arriving due to fog in Paris. We were told that there were so many people from our flight connecting to the US, that our plane from Paris to NY would wait. Ha! We arrive at the gate an hour late to find that the plane had left on time. Rebook.

We get on a later flight to NY-Kennedy airport that gets us into the US about the time our Delta flight to Charlotte leaves. I'm feeling a little stronger by the time we get to NY, but still not great. As we expected, the flight to Charlotte had left without us. Worse yet, there were no other Delta flights out that night. Delta had no responsibility to help us with a hotel or food or booking on another airline. Air France had the attitude that they had done their job by getting us to NY and thay were no help either. We were stuck.

At this point, Dr. K made a wise decision and said "just get me home!" We bolted for the JetBlue terminal, threw down the credit card and $600 later, we were on our way home. We made this flight, the absolute last flight to CLT, with maybe 5 minutes to spare. JetBlue was wonderful. They had live TV on each personal screen. They left and arrived on time and kept track of our bags. We walked in the door of our home at 15 past midnight. My bed never slept so good.

It was a good vacation. I enjoyed spending time with my mother, brothers and sisters in-law. I always enjoy it when Dr. K and I get away. The ride home sucked and was completely avoidable, but that didn't change the great time we had.

Next, Vegas Trip Report

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Danube, Part II

We departed Vienna late in the day and cruised all night and much of the next day until we arrived in Budapest.  That is an interesting place.  The Danube runs between the ancient cities of Buda (the high mountainous side) and pest (on the low plain).  The communist era influences were striking.  Much of the art and monuments were hold-overs from that time.  They are doing there best to bring their economies up to speed.  The will soon join the European Union and begin using the Euro, but not yet.  Here are a few pictures from Budapest.

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As we returned from our half-day tour of Budapest, Dr. K starting looking pretty ill.  We had to bolt from the tour bus straight to our cabin.  Next thing I know, she is retching her guts out.  It turned out that she had picked up a stomach flu from another passenger or a crew member.  The illness only lasted a day to a day and a half.  She was back on her feet before we got to Bratislava, our next stop.  Unfortunately, the illness started working its way through our group.

Bratislava has a lot in common with Budapest.  They are both former communist areas and both are trying to get closer to the west and are having a hard time.  Bratislava does have a nice center city.  There are still a few building that are in need of renovation, but that served to show us how far they have come.  I believe there is even a European Poker Tour event scheduled for Bratislava very soon.  Here are a few pics from Bratislava.

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The last stop on the river was Melk, Austria.  Melk is a small town with a huge monastery as you can see here:


It was gorgeous.  I'll let more pictures do the talking:


These are Turks (invaders) that are depicted in their punishment of holding up the ceiling



Moses with horns (anyone know why he has horns?)

By the way, these low-light, high magnification picture are brought to you my my new 400 mm lens with Vibration Reduction.  It made many of these pictures possible. It gave me about 3 to 4 extra stops, so it absolutely rocks.

Our last stop on the trip involved a 2 hour bus ride to Saltsburg (Saltzburg), Austria.  We took a short tour and were left on our own for a couple hours to tour.  Dr. K and I got some lunch at an ourdoor restaurant and then wondered around.  I, of course, took a few more pictures.


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They like that Mozart guy.

Tomorrow, the last night and the trip home.  It's a dozy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Danube, Part 1

I've been home for almost a week now and I'm coming up on my next Vegas adventure. That means I'd better post my impressions of my Danube River Cruise before it gets too late. Here goes.

Actually, the trip could have had a much better start. The night before I left Jackson Hole I picked up a little cold. The cold never amounted to much more than congestion and a scratchy throat, but when the cold starts 24 hours before a vacation, the stress and worry about what it's going to turn into is awful.

I got home, did the quick turnaround and Dr. K and I were on our way at 10 am the next morning. We had decided to drive ourselves later rather than have my mother pick us up 3+ hours before the flight (we live 15 minutes from the airport). That decision would turn out to be very fortunate. We had no trouble getting parked, getting our tickets, bags checked and through security. The flights to Munich went very smoothly and we arrived right on time.

Then the fun began. All of the luggage arrived except for one bag - mine. I had a couple of conversations with the Air France rep. She seemed very competent and promised to get my bag to me as soon as possible.

The cruise started after a 1.5 hour bus ride to Passau. We cruised from there to Vienna, Austria. They call it Wein. Where do we get Vienna from? We had purchased tickets to see an orchestra in Vienna. 10 minutes before we were to leave, one of the ship's crew told me that my bag had arrived. Since all of my simi-dressy clothes were in there, I bolted to my cabin and got appropriately dressed for the evening. That was a huge relief. The evening was wonderful.

We toured Wein the next day. Here are a few pictures.


The challenges didn't end with the lost luggage. I'll continue with the adventure later.

Gambling Forum

This post is about  Read on to find out why this is coming up now.

I'm getting ready to head for Vegas on Thursday.  As folks on the trip (we've got 7 this time) start to get excited, the questions start flying.  Where are we going to eat?  What tournaments are we going to play?  How do you play (insert game here)?  Where can I get some practice?

For the first two questions, I usually just smile and watch the banter.  As for the second to questions and many others, I like to point folks to  The Gambling Forum is obviously a great place for message boards on gambling related subjects.  The General Talk forum is the most active and is wide open to most any questions that players may have.  It amazes me how many really good questions get asked and answered there as well as pointers to other sites that I would never have found on my own.

The focus of is online gambling, so they have a guide for the best online casinos (, a guide for online bonuses ( as well as reviews on many other online casinos.  The subjects are not limited to Poker, though there is plenty for the poker player.  There is information on Blackjack, Video Poker, Roulette, Video Slots, and much more.  You can also play and get the feel of many of these games via links right o the Gambling Forum's home page.

So Vegas, get ready for our crew.  Crew, get ready for Vegas at Gambling Forum.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Following up on yesterday's post - Who's to blame

This video goes down the same path I started down yesterday, but it goes further to the source with more details and it names names. The results are stunning. If you have any open mind about the upcoming election (sorry Tony, that leaves you out) then you should watch this video. It is stunning.

Thanks to 23skidoo for post this video where I would catch it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Who's to Blame

There has been a question rolling around in my head for the past week. It concerns the current economic crisis. To set the stage, let's go over the problems that led up to where we are in my opinion. It started with the banks loaning too much money to home-buyers who cannot afford to make the payments on the interest and the principle. This really kicked into high gear about 6 years ago. Since the terms for many of those loans were for zero interest for 5 years, many of those loans started to default about a year ago. (This is all just off the top of my head so feel free to correct if my misstatements make a difference to my argument below or sue me).

In other words, 6 years ago, many poor people (single mothers and african-americans among them) were able to buy homes for the first time.

Back when these loans were being written, the banks were repackaging the loans (bundling them up into groups) and selling that debt as investments to each other. These are shown as assets on the books of the holders of the repackaged debt (instruments or derivatives). When the holders defaulted, the assets became worth a fraction of their original worth and the banks began losing tons of money. Since they don't have enough assets, they can not make new loans.

With me so far?

Now here is my question: Who could have possibly stopped this from happening? President Bush? Congress? The Banks?

In a way, the answer is all of the above. Any of them literally could have stepped in and stopped allowing the loans to be made. But practically, none of them could have stopped it. President Kerry would have loved it if the mean-spirited GW Bush would have cut-off poor minorities from home ownership. Congress could have, but they have no political will. Had the banks done it, they would have been accused or red-lining and would have had to relent to pressure from everywhere.

I think that looking back in this case will help us to avoid this problem in the future. There will have to be national minimum requirements for obtaining loans. Notice I didn't say mortgages. There is a ton of other debt (credit cards) out there just waiting to cause the same or bigger problem. Just as banks have to have a certain level of assets backing the loans they make, consumers are going to have to have certain levels of income and or assets backing the loans they accept. Terms for those loans will also have to be more uniform. This will slow the economy in the short and mid-term, but will avoid a melt-down in the long term.

There will either be action on this, which will include hateful accusations against whoever tries to fix the problem, or we will be right back here in less than a decade. The era of creative and flexible financing is most probably over.