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 7,000 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 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 caddie 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 caddie 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 off 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 from 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.  It landed near the green but with all the mounds around, somehow the golf ball rolled down to the center off the green!  With the caddie'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.


17th was a short par 3 and I hit it ten yards left off 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 semi-pro course.  I played 15 holes at bogey golf but butchered the other three resulting in a +10.  But the only ten that really 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

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 caddie

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 Guatemala: 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, 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.