Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Summary

Here we are at the finish line of another trip around the sun.  Time to recap golf, poker, and travel from this year.

I added ten new golf courses to the played list.  I got a chance to play in Orlando, Charleston, Knoxville, Guatemala, and locally around DC.  I played at least once every month.  I think it added up to over 30 rounds.  Most scores were in the 80s with few in the 90s.  The handicap sits at 14.  Breaking 80 will still be the goal in 2018.

Moving on to poker.  I played 120 hours and won less than $15 per hour.  The hourly was around $25 earlier in the year but I couldn't sustain it.  I also played in four tournaments and didn't cash any.  In two of them, I had a nice stack and a potential to make the money.  I played aggressively but the cards didn't go my way.

At the end of last year, I said that tournaments are more fun and that I'll play more of them this year.  I played two in 2016, so technically I did play more this year 😃.  Going into 2018, the goal is to play 150 hours and 10 tournaments.

Moving on to travel and vacations.  Typically, every summer I go to Europe for vacation.  I didn't cross the Atlantic this year.  Instead, my parents came to see their first grandchild (my brother's).  I did go to Puerto Rico, where the lady and I got engaged.  We also went to Guatemala for a wedding.  And to top it all off, I went to Mexico City with a buddy.  It was an adventure exploring one of the biggest cities in the western hemisphere.

The Angel of Independence in Mexico City

Thank you for reading and have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Last Hurrah at Live

This year I've only played about 20 hours at the MD Live poker room.  I probably wouldn't have played that many if I didn't get free slot play from The Streak bonus.  I decided to drive up and put in a session while the $1000 (every 15 minutes) high hand promo was going on.

The lady at the podium sent me to a table on the second floor and I was dreading going up there.  Out of all the session I've had at MDL, I can't recall any where I did very well while playing on the second floor.  I've always preferred the first floor.  I climb up there, settle into seat 6 and prepare for battle.

I see the flop with K-Q and so does one older guy.  The flop is 10-K-4 and he bets $10.  I call and the turn is a blank.  He bets $20 and I call.  The river is a J and he bets $20 again.  This smells like a weak K-x so I raise to $70.  He says he thinks I caught a straight but calls with 10-10.  Down to $100, I start to think that I'm the sucker at the table.

Few orbits later, I make it $20 with A-K in the cut-off.  Four of us see the flop.  The flop is magical...A-K-K!  We check it around.  The turn is a 3s and I bet $10.  Only seat 7 calls.  The 8s on the river brings the third spade onto the board.  I move all-in and he calls.  He shows 3-3 and I increase my stack to $270.


The guy in seat 7 leaves and a southern guy, about 40, takes his seat.  He asks the dealer a few questions which give away his casino poker newbie status.  Wouldn't you know it, I get into a hand with him shortly after.

I call his small pre-flop bet with A-9.  The flop is A-7-7 and I think that my kicker might be too low.  He makes another bet and I call.  The turn is a wonderful 9.  He makes another bet and I call, planning to raise him on the river.  Inside, I'm just yelling for the dealer to put out a low card.  The river is a Q and he bets again.  I doubt he has a 7.  I was 99% sure I would raise him but the darn queen stopped me in my tracks.  I make the call and he flips over A-Q.  Back down to $165 for me.

I win few small pots and then with J-Q see the J♠-7-4 flop.  I bet $10 and get one caller.  The turn is a Q and I bet $15.  He calls and we see the 2♠ on the river.  I bet $50 and he calls.  I show and he mucks.  This gets me back to $270.


The big hand of the session is a blur.  I saw the flop with seat 3 and seat 5.  I don't have notes on the exact betting sequence pre-flop and on the flop.  I do remember that seat 5 bet $40 on the turn and I debated calling.  In the end, both of us called.  The river brought the K♣ and seat 5 led out for $50.  I raised to $120 and seat 3 called with 7-7.  Seat 5 folded showing only a 3.


Going into next year, I won't be getting any free slot play thru The Streak promotion since I didn't play 100 hours of poker this year.  With that being said, this was probably my last hurrah at the Maryland Live poker room.  What a way to go out...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Poker: Of Mice and Men

The holiday crowds were out in full force at the poker tables.  It wasn't hard to spot the players who were there to "give poker a try."  The lady on my right might as well had a lighthouse on top of her head emitting a I don't know what I'm doing signal.  She called three bets on a board of K-Q-3-7-8 with Q-10.  The opponent had A-K of course.

In the cut-off, with A-Q I bet $13.  I got a call  from seat 5 who looked like 14, no joke.  As soon as I sat down, I thought that he must have a pretty good fake ID.  Maybe because I'm getting older, the college kids appear younger than they really are.  Back to the hand, the flop was A-10-2.  I bet $15 and he called.  The turn was an 6 and we both checked.  The river was a blank and he checked.  I bet $40 and he called with 5-7 of hearts.

Few orbits later, I made a flop bet with A-8 on a board with A-9-4 and only the older guy on my left called.  The turn was a blank and he checked.  I made another bet that he called.  The river was the K and he bet $35.  I called and he showed me a queen high flush.

The ship was sinking fast thanks to the flush torpedoes being fired at me.  I was down to about $85 and decided to play some short stack poker.  In the next few orbits, I found opportunities to shove.  I was not called a single time and managed to build my stack back up to $135.

With $120 behind, I got into it with the guy on my left and the lady I mentioned above.  I was holding A-2 in the SB.  The lady was on the button and called for $3.  I don't remember if I made it $10 or the guy to my left.  Either way, the three of us saw the J-5-9 flop.  It was checked around.  The turn was the 4 and this is were things got interesting.

I checked and seat 8 led out for $10.  I was going to call.  The lady was also planning to call but accidentally threw out three red chips.  As soon as she did it, she tried to take $5 back.  She said that she was only calling and that the chips were stuck together.  The dealer told her that she had to raise.  Reluctantly, she put in another $5 chip which turned her action into a raise to $20.  This is where I put my thinking cap on.  Everything that I had seen suggested that my opponents were not holding big hands.  Plus, I was holding the ace of spades for the nut flush draw and also could hit a straight with any 3.

The more I though about it, the more I started leaning towards a shove.  I didn't think that my opponents could justify a call here.  The pot was $60 and I moved in for $110.  The guy called pretty quickly and the lady folded.  He flipped over K-J!  The river was no help.  Do you like his call?  How about my shove?

Of Mice and Men is a story written by one of my favorite authors, John Steinbeck.  The story's title comes from a line in the poem To a Mouse by Robert Burns.  The line reads, "The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew."  And that's how I felt about this session.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The 7000 Yard Challenge

While on vacation, I played a round at the La Reunion Golf Resort which annually hosts the PGA Latinoamérica Tour's Guatemala Stella Artois Open.

The PGA Latinoamérica is one of several third-tier tours.  It is a level below the Web.com Tour which directly feeds players into the PGA Tour.  From the championship tees the course plays 7,275 yards with a course rating of 75.4 and a slope rating of 150.  Typically, the courses I play are around 6,000 yards, rating below 70, and slope between 110 and 125.


Fuego Maya course scorecard

It was a really nice course.  It was not cheap.  A round with a cart, plus rental clubs, and a caddy came out to $200.  The price was quickly forgotten as I stepped onto the manicured fairways surrounded by three volcanoes!  The 75F temperature didn't hurt either.

Clouds hiding the volcano peak

I decided to play from the championship tees and try to break 100.  In the pro shop, I requested a caddy that spoke some English and they accommodated me.

I started out well by hitting the fairway and the green on the first hole.  Unfortunately I three putted for a bogey.  The second hole was a long 200 yard par 3 with an elevated green.  I ended up with a five.  I bogeyed the third hole and got my first par on the fourth that was a par 3.

The next hole was the hardest, a par 4 measuring 460 yards.  I earned my bogey.  The sixth had a blind tee shot.  I ended up hitting a straight drive but it landed in the adjacent fairway.  My second shot was a solid 3-wood.  I didn't reach the green and had a subpar chip.  The scorecard was marked with a double bogey.



Hole 7 was a long par 4.  I had a good drive and then a second shot with the 3-wood.  I ended up just short of the green and three putted from there for a bogey.  The next hole ended up being my first bad hole.  It was a double bogey but my drive was way right, the second shot wasn't good, and neither way my third.  I finally got on the green with my 4th shot from 80 yards out.

To end the front nine, I battled the 510 yard uphill par 5.  My drive ended up five yards left of the fairway and it just got more difficult from there.  I recorded a triple bogey.  I was +8 thru seven which was pretty good, but the last two holes pushed my score to 49.  I was on pace to break 100 but felt a bit disappointed based on how I finished the front nine.

It didn't get any easier on the back.  The 10th, a 427 dogleg to the right, was the toughest hole in my opinion.  The tee shot was downhill with a narrow landing area.  I managed to hit the fairway but from there it was all uphill literally and metaphorically speaking.  The second and third shots were poor.  After getting on the green, I three putted and a snowman (8) made it onto the scorecard.  That was my worst hole of the day.

I double bogeyed the next two holes.  One of them was a 219 par 3.  It was not looking good.  But I turned it around a bit by parring the par 5 12th.  The next hole was my best.  I hit the fairway and had a blind shot to the green.  I hit it a bit right of the green but with all the mounds around the green, somehow the golf ball rolled down to the center of the green!  With the caddy's help, I sank the birdie putt.  Then I parred the next hole.

Made this birdie putt

The 16th was the signature hole.  It was a par 5, 682 yard.  I hit the fairway and had a good second shot.  From there, it could have been better.  My chip was not good and I three putted.  


Paradise

17th was a short par 3 and I hit it ten yards left of the green and got a bogey.  The last hole was a downhill par 4, 491 yards.  And wouldn't you know it, I pulled my drive way left and out of bounds.  I added a penalty stroke and teed it up again.  It was a straight shot.  I missed the green and two putted for a seven.

When the dust settled, my score came out to 98.  I did it, I broke 100 on a pro course.  I played 15 holes at bogey golf but butchered the other three with a +10.  But the only ten that mattered was the 10 out of 10 golf experience.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Vacation: Guatemala - Part 2

Instead of recapping the trip day by day, here are some of the things that stood out: 

Cities Visited: Guatemala City and Antigua.  Guatemala City's population is close to 3 million while Antigua's is about 50 thousand.

Weather: The weather was fantastic.  Both cities are about a mile above sea level and the day temperatures were in the 70s while the nights were in the 50s.

Helicopter Ride: We got a chance to spend two days at a golf resort near Antigua.  We got there by taking a helicopter ride from Guatemala City.



Golf: I played a round at the Fuego Maya golf course which was spectacular.  The course is one of the best that I've ever played and I've played 60 different courses.


Fuego Maya #13

View from La Reunion Resort

Volcanoes: I got the chance to see three different volcanoes and one of them is still active!  We only saw smoke coming out of it, which is typical.


Volcano de Agua


Volcano de Fuego and Volcano Acatenango

Architecture: Antigua is known for its Spanish colonial architecture.  We saw many old churches and some of the ruins.  Interestingly, Antigua used to be the capital while the Spanish conquistadors were in control.  But due to several earthquakes in the 1700s, the capital was moved.


Cathedral de San José


Church del Carmen

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Church and Convent of las Capuchinas

Church de la Merced

Santa Catalina Arch

Natives: Living in Washington DC, you get to meet all different types of people.  But, until this trip, I did not realize just how small the native (Maya) Guatemalans are.  On average, a man is an inch or two above five feet and a woman is four and a half feet tall.


My golf caddy for the day

Novelties: I got the chance to visit a local chocolate shop in Antigua where they make all kinds of things from cacao.  We bought some Guatemalan coffee and I also enjoyed sipping the award winning Ron Zacapa rum.



On our way back, the connecting flight was thru El Salvador.  As we took off from the airport, the plane made a U-turn above the Pacific Ocean before heading back to DC.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Vacation: Part 1

It's Wednesday morning, early.  I look at my phone and it says 6:15.  Unable to fall asleep, I turn off the 7:15 alarm.  The next hour passes by quickly.  At 7:45, we head to the airport.  The lady has a morning flight to Guatemala City and I will follow in the afternoon.  We are heading there to attend a wedding.  It's my first trip to Central America.

We encounter some morning rush hour traffic but nothing to stress about.  After I drop her off, I start to dread the drive back because of all the commuters heading into DC for work.  Surprisingly, it is all clear and I'm back by 9:20.

I got plenty to do and the clock is ticking.  I start with breakfast, then some work stuff on the computer, and after 10 stop by the mall to exchange a dress shirt.  It all goes smoothly.

Back to the apartment and to the task I've been procrastinating on for days...packing.  I like to travel but I don't like packing.   It's a five day trip and I figure one large checked bag will suffice.  No carry-on at all.  I'm taking the metro (and an airport bus) and I rather just deal with one bag.  The flight is at 3pm and I should be on my way by 11:30.

It's 11 and I'm in deep thought, Do I take this, do I bring that, don't forget the wedding attire.  And then, out of nowhere, "MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE.  May I have your attention please.  A fire has been detected in the building.  Please exit the building using the stairs.  Do not use the elevators."

Wow, I think to myself, could there have been a worse timeCould it be a fire drill.  Usually they leave a notice or something as a heads up but nothing this time.  Crap, it could really be a fire.  20 story building, it was only a matter of time before some idiot accidentally burnt something.  I open my door and all is calm.  I don't smell smoke. The voice over the intercom repeats the message several times.  Fuck it, I roll the dice and keep packing.  Time is ticking away.  Five minutes later, the voice speaks again and says, "That completes the fire test."  I laugh and shake my head.  Back to packing.


11:45 and I'm finally out the door.  One final check, passport, wallet, phone, keys...off we go.  I luck out at the metro station.  The train arrives as I step onto the platform.  At the Reston metro station I catch the airport bus.  90 minutes after leaving the apartment and $9 less in my wallet, I arrive at the International Airport Dulles.

I had booked my ticket thru United with points.  I get to the United check-in kiosk and it's not busy at all!  Smooth sailing, my thought.  I input my info and I get a message that the flight is operated by a Star Alliance partner, Avianca.  I make a 180 degree turn and there they are.  About 100 people waiting to check-in.

I join the line but realize that there is a second, smaller, line just for bag drop off.  I switch lines and finish my online check in.  I drop the bag off and head to security and gate B50.

I reach the gate after 2pm and start looking for an outlet to charge my phone.  It only takes me a second to remember that the charger is in the checked bag.  Dagger.

Battery power is at 40%.  I have a 4 hour flight to El Salvador and a 90 minute layover before my flight to Guatemala City.  40% is like holding pocket jacks.  It's not bad but it can quickly go downhill.  I let the airport take advantage of me and purchase a USB-to-Micro USB cable for $10.  To ease the pain, I also get a bag of chocolate covered pretzels.  All set, I get in line to board the plane.


I end up getting a window seat which luckily has a USB port.   As I pull out the brand new cable, I think, Money well spent.

The seat next to me was empty so I had plenty of room.  I end up watching two movies.  Ex Machina was great and I recommend it.  Taken 2 was OK.

Five hours after leaving Washington, I find myself sitting in the San Salvador airport having a cold local beer and thinking, This is the closest I've been to crossing the equator.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Poker Exam

I was hoping that I would end the year without hitting a downswing but it wasn't meant to be.  Partially, I am to blame but the board has been as friendly as Gregg Popovich during an NBA game interview.  Here are some hands that I was involved in.  In some hands, you'll be asked to make decisions that my opponents were facing.  I tried using a video for each hand but the quality was very poor.

Hand 1: I wish I could give you some details on the players but this hand happened shortly after I sat down.  Seat 5 bets $10 UTG.  You have K-K and raise to $25, and get five callers!  The flop is 7-5-2.  You lead out for $75 and it folds to seat 2 who moves all-in for $173 total.  What do you do?

I call it off.  Turn is a 2 and the river a 10.  He calmly flips over 2-2 for quads!  Ouch.

Hand 2: Seat 8 seemed like a sound player.  Seat 2 was all over the place.  Some hands he played OK and some not so much.  In the BB, $200 behind, with J-9 you see the flop with seat 8 and seat 2.  The flop is Q-J-3 and seat 2 bets $6.  Both of you call.  Turn is a blank and seat 2 bets $6 again.  Both of you call again.  The river is a 9.  You lead out for $40, seat 8 calls, and seat 3 moves all-in for $110 total.  What do you do?

I should get a tattoo that says, When a player moves all-in after a bet on the river, FOLD!  We both call with J-9 and seat 3 wins with K-10.

Hand 3: Effective stacks $185.  Seat 10, which was me, opens to $12.  Let's play the hand as seat 1.  You call with 9-8 and so do two more players.  The flop is A-9-8 and seat 10 bets $20.  You raise to $50.  Seat 10 moves all-in for about $170.  What do you do?

He called and I showed A-9 for the win.

Hand 4: In this hand, I was in seat 9 but we'll play the hand from seat 10's point of view.  Seat 9 opens to $15 UTG.  You make it $30 with J-J and seat 9 calls.  The flop is K-7-5.  Seat 9 leads out for $30 and you call.  The blank turn is checked.  The river is a K and seat 9 leads out for $60.  What do you do?

I thought I did enough to represent a king but the old man wasn't buying it.  I showed A-Q of clubs.  The check on the turn was my mistake.

Hand 5: You have K-K UTG, $240 behind, open to $10 and get four callers.  The flop is 2-2-7.  You lead out for $40 and seat 1 goes all-in and covers everyone.  Seat 5 is all-in for $170.  Seat 8 is all-in for $215.  Seat 9 is all-in for $125.  In this hand, we are most likely behind.  The pot is almost $1000, can you justify a call?

We knew we were behind but called it off. Seat 1 had A-2, seat 5 had 7-7, seat 8 A-J of spades, not sure about seat 9.  There were several side pots.  It was a clusterf***.

Hand 6: Seat 7 was a white guy in his 40s.  Seat 8 was an annoying woman.  She was tight and he was playing plenty of hands.  Seat 7 bets $12 and you call with K-9 and so does seat 8.  The flop is K-7-3.  Seat 7 bets $18 and both of you call.  The turn is A and seat 8 bets $25.  I felt like the ace on the turn didn't change anything.  Both of you call.  The river is the 2.  Seat 7 bets $100 and the lady folds.  What do you do?

I had put him on a flush draw, stuck to my guns and called.  He showed Q-2 of diamonds for a missed flush.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Motley Crew

Sometimes I think that the word poker is defined as a game of skill until the opposing player calls with a terrible hand and the dealer performs a five card magic trick.

It's a $1/$3 game and I'm in seat 5.

Seat 5:  I am your average weekend warrior, be it in poker or golf.  At the table, most of the time, I prefer to tune out all the table chitchat and loud slot machine noises near the poker room by using earphones.  On this occasion, that was not the case.  Plenty of interesting stories and topics were being covered.  Since I didn't get many playable hands, I was happy to be part of the conversation.  Played reasonably well but in the last hour made some major mistakes.

Seat 1: Young black kid.  Probably just turned 21.  He was using that poker lingo and looking very confident.  And then I saw him play.

Hand: I open J-J to $12.  Only he calls with $90 behind.  The flop is J-2-4 rainbow.  I bet $15 and he calls.  The turn is a 5 and I bet $20.  He moves all-in for $63.  I call and he tables A-3.  A wheel for the win!

Seat 3: A retired white guy.  He plays several orbits and then gets up.  Loves to talk.  He is on first-name bases with every dealer, cocktail waitress, floorman, and the majority of grinders.  If one of them walks by the table, there was a 100% chance he would say something.

I'd love to share a hand that he was involved in but I don't remember him playing any during the five hours I was there.

Seat 4: A big rugged man.  Big in the sense that he is 50 lbs overweight.  Also donning a big fuzzy beard.  My guess is that no-shave November started in September.

Hand: It's opened pre-flop to $12, he calls, and I make it $30 with K-K.  Only he calls.  The flop is J-7-9 with two hearts.  He leads out for $20 and I call (that was a mistake).  The turn is the 3 and he moves all-in for $52.  I call and he shows A-8.  I table my K-K.  The river is a black 10.  Jack-high straight wins, brilliant!

Seat 6: A very friendly and talkative lady in her mid forties.  She was in shape, married, and her kids were in college.  Surprisingly, the husband wasn't into casinos or poker.  She even said, "I like visiting MGM.  Go Gamble!"  A reference to a Vegas YouTube poker entrepreneur?  I think so.  She also likes football and goes to UMD and Redskins games.

Hand: Four players call $3 and I open to $18 in the cut-off with A-J.  She calls and so do three more players.  The flop is Q-3-9 and it's checked to me.  I bet $40 and the lady moves all-in for $105.  I know I'm behind but make the call (another mistake).  The lady tables Q-7!  The turn and the river are no help.

Seat 9: He reminded me of Roberto Benigni but with glasses.  He showed up towards the end of my session.  The guy in seat 3 had left and was replaced by a 30 something woman.

Hand: I open J-J pre-flop to $12.  Seat 9 calls, the young black guy in seat 1 makes it $30, and the woman in seat 3 goes all-in for $130.  I fold.  Seat 9 and seat 1 both call.  The lady flips over A-A.  Seat 1 shows 5-5.  The flop is 10-7-3.  The turn is the 5.  The young guy jumps up out of his seat.  He puts his hands above his head.  The river is the 8.  Seat 9 shows A-Q and the dealer pushes him the pot.  Seat 1 starts to say to the dealer that he has a set of fives but then realizes that the flush came in on the river.  He can't believe it.  The lady in seat 3 is even more shocked and starts shaking her head.

Seat 10: Sixty years old and a poker veteran.  Best player at the table.  I've played with him before and he has the skills and the guts to put pressure on his opponents.

Hand:  I'm sitting on $300 in the big blind with 8-4.  The poker veteran opens to $10 pre-flop with a $500 stack.  Seat 4 calls with a $150 stack.  I call and so does the short stack in seat 7.  The flop is 7-5-10.  Seat 4 bets $20, I call, seat 7 calls, and the poker veteran makes it $90.  Seat 4 calls.  Seat 7 has about $40 left and will probably call.  What do you do?


Update:

I thought about it.  I just couldn't believe that none of the other players in the hand didn't have spades.  I folded.  At the end, poker veteran had 7-7, seat 7 had A♠-6, and seat 4 had J-J.  The board bricked out and the poker veteran won the big pot.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

20 Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, a plane full of passengers from Vienna, Austria landed at the JFK airport in New York City.  Amongst the passengers on that Delta flight was a family of four headed to Tennessee.

My uncle and his family immigrated to US in 1995 from Yugoslavia.  In 1997, they asked my parents if they would like to move to the US.  My parents had a hard choice to make but they decided to give it a shot and filled out the paperwork.  We also had an interview at the US Embassy.  After the interview with the consular officers, they told us that they would inform us of their decision in a few weeks.

The middle school year started in September.  My brother and I had to attend and study under the assumption that we were not going to emigrate.  Before that semester, I always tried to do well in school.  That last semester was different.  Within a few days, I gave up.  I couldn't bring myself to study knowing that we would be leaving before the semester was over.  It didn't feel good failing quiz after quiz but neither did the idea of studying for tests that would have zero meaning once (if) we left for the US.

I still remember coming home after school one afternoon in late September or early October and my parents telling me that the embassy had called earlier that day.  I was so nervous because this was the big moment.  Either we were leaving or I was going to have to hit the books day and night for the rest of the semester.  My parents tortured me for two or three minutes by not saying what the verdict was.  Finally they said that we were approved!  I was so excited that I started to run around the living room.  In a way, that was my first big gamble in life and I had won the coin flip 😃.

On November 12, we got to the airport and dropped off our bags.  Then it was time to say goodbye to our relatives.  Going through security was going to be interesting.  In my backpack, I had my favorite toy.  I had refused to put it in the checked luggage because I was afraid it might get stolen 😃.  The toy was a metal cap gun.  My parents agreed to let me carry it in my backpack and let security decide if it could go through.

It didn't take long for the security guy to ask me to open the bag.  They looked at it and we said that it was a toy.  Surprisingly, the guard let me take it onto the flight to Vienna.  Once we landed in Vienna, we had to go through another screening.  

This time around, the security guy was not as easy going.  Before we knew it, five or six guards had gathered around us and were asking us questions in German and maybe English.  Long story short, they took the toy gun away and said that we should ask for it once we arrive in NYC.  I was pretty sure that that was the last time I would see my favorite toy.  I was right.

After landing at JFK, we picked up our bags and went through customs.  After that, a shuttle drove us to a hotel where we spent the night since our flight to Knoxville was the following day.  In the morning, the shuttle dropped us off at JFK and we boarded the flight to our final destination.  

Growing up, my brother and I loved Coca-Cola.  If you had offered us Coca-Cola or water, every time we would pick coke.  It so happened that on that flight from JFK to TYS, the flight attendants were very friendly.  They kept offering us can after can of coke and we kept accepting!  After drinking three or four cans, the aircraft started experiencing turbulence.  All that coke started to feel pretty bad in my stomach.  Once we landed, I felt fine again but I had lost my desire for Coca-Cola.  That has not changed ever since.

My uncle's family and friends were waiting for us at the airport.  They had brought flowers for my mom and had made welcome posters.  From the first day, it has been an interesting adventure.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Valley of the Kings

If you are a history buff then the title of this post might be intriguing.  But the kings that I'm talking about are also knows as cowboys.  In a three hour session, I was dealt pocket kings three times!

There was some straddling going on and I saw a few flops but couldn't connect.  The first hand of significance I played:




I put out a blocker bet on the river and he raised.  This should have been an easy fold.  An orbit later I got dealt black kings:



Usually I prefer to rebuy instead of adding-on but in this hand, I wish I had added-on.  Two hands later, I got dealt two red kings.  Seat 9 was a calling station and he could show up with any two.




I got up to about $340 and then had several hands that were second best.  It was to be my last orbit before calling it quits when I looked down at pocket kings again:



I butchered the hand on the flop.  I was first to act on the flop and grabbed a stack of red chips with my right hand.  There is no betting line at the MGM.  I was going to cut-out $50 but by the time I had dropped two red chips, the villain moved his whole stack in.  I looked at the dealer who shrugged.

The villain said, "I am going all-in, no matter what you do."  He was telling me he had an ace!  So, I left the two red chips that were on the felt as my bet and moved back my hand with the rest of the chips.  The dealer said that the action was back on me.  I should have folded.

And the very next hand, I got the final nail in the coffin:




Just like the pharaohs in Egypt, I got buried with the kings.  I did my own digging though.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Crazy Game of Poker

Fall is settling in around Washington DC and the MGM National Harbor conservatory has a new theme on display.


I played a short session recently and it didn't go well.  I lost most of my stack in a pot where I thought the outcome would be a chop.  My A-A-5-5-Q was no match for A-A-Q-Q-8.  I played it bad and we all know that playing for a chop is a foolish goal.

This weekend I got a chance to redeem myself.  I was seated right away.  I took seat 4 since it was the only one open.  I had to double check that the game was $1/$3 because there were plenty of big stacks.  The player in seat 5 left shortly after my arrival so I scooted over to get a bit more legroom.

For the first 45 minutes the game was nothing special.  I was up $45 and sitting on $245.  Everything changed when a Middle Eastern guy sat down in seat 4 and bought in for $500.  Let's call him Amir.

The button was in seat 3 and the dealer asked Amir, "Do you want to wait one hand and play for free or play now and pay $4?"  Without hesitation Amir said, "I'll play now."  That was the first sign that he was not your regular poker player.

On that hand, seat 8 opened to $15, seat 2 made it $45, and Amir called immediately.  Seat 8 also called.  All the money went in on the flop of 3-2-5 and the pot ballooned to over a $1000!  Seat 8 had over cards A-Q (and a gutshot draw), seat 2 was in the lead with 9-9, and Amir held J-8.  Here is how the board ran out.  Seat 8 rebought.  


Amir was friendly and talkative.  He said he got lucky but that he was there to have fun and play.  After winning that pot, he started raising every hand pre-flop to $20 unless he was in the BB or SB.  Many times he didn't even look at his cards pre-flop.  He would just say to the table he was raising blind.

He bet pre-flop without looking at his cards.  The flop was 3-6-7.  He bet or called each street and at the end showed 5-6 for the win.  He also won with J-5 that turned into a full house.  His 10-4 became trip tens on the flop and won another pot.  His stack was above $1700 in less than 30 minutes from the time he sat down!


Here I was, sitting to the left of the most active player who had a huge stack and would open any two.  I told myself to buckle-up because this was going to be a wild game.

Seat 8 was Amir's biggest nemesis.  He bet and Amir called without hesitation.  The flop was 9-6-Q and seat 8 bet and Amir called again.  The turn was a 6 and seat 8 bet $150 and Amir called.  The river was a 9 and Amir bet $200.  Seat 8 wasn't happy then reluctantly called.  Amir showed 2-9 and scooped another huge pot!  Seat 8 darted to the ATM so he could rebuy again.  At this point, Amir was up to $2,200!

Then he went up against seat 6 who had J-J.  Amir won the pot holding 2-8 when the board ran out:


His stack went from $500 to $2,700 in less than 90 minutes.  But then his luck started to turn.  He bet blind and called a raise from the guy in seat 8.  The flop was K-10-2 and he called.  Seat 8 bet the 8 on the turn and Amir called.  On the river, Amir led out for $100 and seat 8 made it $355.  Amir called holding 10-x.


I got a chance to get in the mix.  I called $25 with 6-6 pre-flop after Amir bet.  Seat 7 also called and we saw a flop of Q-K-3.  Amir tapped the table once, I tapped right behind him, and seat 7 quickly checked as well.  But as the dealer was flipping over the turn card, Amir said, "Wait, I want to bet."  The turn was 6.  Apparently he didn't know that tapping the table was considered a check.  The dealer took the time and explained to him the rule.  He bet $40, I called, and seat 7 folded.  The river was another 3.  He bet $60 and I made it $170.  Unfortunately, he folded.

In the big blind with K-6, I saw the flop with seat 2, Amir, and seat 6.  The flop was K-6-8.  Amir lead out for $25, I called, seat 6 folded, and seat 2 called.  The turn was 3 and Amir bet $25 again.  I called and seat 2 made it $60.  Amir called and I took some time to decide what to do.  The board was getting sticky with two flush draws.  I doubt seat 2 had a set.  Most likely he had a king.  Not wanting to give any more cards for cheap, I moved all-in for $337.  Seat 2 took a while and said that I probably had a set and folded.  Amir folded as well.

In the last hand I was involved in, I had 9-8.  The flop was J-8-5.  On the flop, Amir bet $20 and I called.  The turn was 8 and he bet $20 again.  I raised to $50 and he called.  The river was K and he bet $20.  I raised to $80 and he called with J-x.  That got me over $800 and I cashed out an orbit later.


As for Amir, when I picked up, his stack had dwindled down to $300.  From $500 to almost $3,000 and then down to $300 in two hours, it was a crazy game of poker.