Five Years And Going Strong

Today is the 5-year anniversary of me waking up at 5AM in Prairie Village, Kan., shoveling away the seven inches of snow around my moving truck tires, and rolling out of town to Las Vegas.

I had a great 17-year run in Kansas City. I moved seamlessly from the UMKC athletics department to the now-defunct Kansas City Blades to Metro Sports to owning my own business. I lived in Independence, Overland Park, Merriam, KCK (Kansas City, Kan.), and owned homes in Waldo and Brookside.

I met some wonderful people and made many new friends.

By 2010, I was ready to break away from the cold and snow and head to the desert.

The first five years in Las Vegas have been amazing. I went to poker school and got a job immediately. I was a manager by 18 months. I jumped from my first job in the suburbs to the world-famous Las Vegas Strip earlier this year.

I have made a slew of new friends. I had a son. We live in a great house in Henderson with a huge backyard and a pool.

There was one significant loss. Pirate, my beloved German shepherd mix, passed away after almost 12 years together. I still miss him.

Overall, however, Las Vegas has been very good to me.

This is how deep the snow was the day I left for Vegas. It had snowed 7 inches overnight.
This is how deep the snow was the day I left for Vegas. It had snowed 7 inches overnight. I miss Pirate. He enjoyed his retirement to Las Vegas.
Heading out on Interstate 70 across Kansas.
Heading out on Interstate 70 across Kansas.
No, I don't think I will.
No, I don’t think I will.
The next stop after six hours across Kansas.
The next stop after six hours across Kansas.
I spent the night on the Colorado/Utah border, then headed out the next morning to complete my trip.
I spent the night on the Colorado/Utah border, then headed out the next morning to complete my trip.
Utah is pretty nice.
Utah is pretty nice.
Out of Utah -- and briefly Arizona -- and about to enter Mesquite, Nev.
Out of Utah — and briefly Arizona — and about to enter Mesquite, Nev.
a.k.a. The Las Vegas Strip.
a.k.a. The Las Vegas Strip.
Pirate and I posing at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
Pirate and I posing at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.

Crazy Ace Starting To Figure Things Out

Taking me to the brink of complete craziness, Ace has made a remarkable comeback and is starting to figure things out.

Ace — or “Crazy” Ace, as he has been referred to since joining the clan — is a 15-month old Jack Russell terrier mix I adopted from Petsmart in Henderson, Nev., a few months ago. He is equal parts rambunctious and energetic, while sadly also showing signs of previous abuse and neglect. Jack Russell’s can be incredibly tough to train/control due to their high intelligence and abundance of energy. But to release one to the streets, like this little 16-pounder was, is just plain dumb.

Ace with his duck and frisbee. Unfortunately neither toy lasted more than 10 days.
Ace with his duck and frisbee. Unfortunately neither toy lasted more than 10 days.

After I adopted Ace we had some trying moments. Since he was turned out by a previous owner and then caged as a rescue, he was used to going potty wherever and whenever. No part of my house was safe for awhile. He also was incredibly good at tearing stuff up. In his first few weeks he destroyed a pair of Beats headphones (which cost more than his adoption), a backpack, two rugs, three door stops, so many toys I’ve lost count and a workbook for a class I was taking.

He has the agility of a cat. I have found him standing on my high kitchen table stealing a Kings Hawaiian roll and also on my desk. He bounces through the house like the combination of a roadrunner and a kangaroo. He loves to chase toys, the squeakier the better.

Ace doesn’t like to be kenneled up. Even though the ‘kennel’ in my house means two 10-foot hallways with all his toys and bowl of water while I go to work.

There are times when he has frustrated me beyond belief. I couldn’t get him to go in the kennel so I could go to work. By his thinking if he never went in the kennel I would never leave. When I would pick him up to carry him there, he would piddle on the couch/floor.

But just when I thought he might have to be re-homed to someone with more patience and more time, Ace started to show signs of figuring it all out.

It’s quite obvious that his original home was fraught with punishment and yelling. A dog as strong and brave as a Jack Russell should not roll over on his back, play dead and pee himself when he’s yelled at for a misdeed. It was a sad sight to see. I completely switched my training to no punishment at all. Even when he does something wrong like destroy two rugs and a roll of toilet paper in my hall bathroom I just tell him its okay. It was my fault for leaving the door open and tempting him.

Ace likes it when I am home with him.
Ace likes it when I am home with him.

This has led to a much more behaved dog. When it’s time to go to bed, he goes to the bedroom, walks into his bed, curls up and goes to sleep. When we go for a ride, he runs to the car and waits to get in. Then he stays in the back seat the entire time. When we complete a walk be getting back to our house he just walks up the driveway, turns onto the sidewalk and walks up to the front door.

Today we ran three errands. Not once when I got out of the truck to go into a store did he whine or cry. He simply kept and eye on the door and waited for my return.

I couldn’t be more proud of the dog Ace is becoming.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be The Black Sheep

The other night I was doing some research on unique business cards. I was looking for something to showcase my business skills and send people to my website.

I came across a unique business card for Jon Acuff. Mr. Acuff is an author I discovered in the past couple of months and a speaker I have watched in the Financial Peace University series presented by Dave Ramsey.

Here is his business card. It’s unique, in part, because his wife reminded him, “We don’t do boring.”

Looking at his business card and reading his wife’s comment reminded me of a conversation I had with a couple of friends at a casino bar two years ago. I told them that the appeal of Las Vegas to me was that you could be from anywhere and be anything. In this town, nobody really cares if you are different.

I am proudly a black sheep.

I have been the black sheep for as long as I can remember. I remember an arts and crafts project way back in kindergarten or first grade. We were all supposed to pick out a egg from a container. They were going to be hard-boiled and we were going to paint or draw on them. Too the shock of my classmates, I picked out a brown egg. I had never seen a brown egg before. I thought it was unique and different.

I am adopted. From a small town (population 2,700) in Eastern Iowa it is a rarity to be adopted. Whenever it would come in up in a conversation with my friends and classmates I would always get looks like I was an alien. I was the only person anybody knew who had been adopted. I never thought it was different.

Forest stopped running. What are we supposed to do now?
Forest stopped running. What are we supposed to do now?

When I was a teenager I decided one day to walk from my house to my grandmother’s house for no particular reason. Like Forrest Gump and his running I just started walking. Eleven miles from my house to my grandmother’s house two towns over. I didn’t take any water with me. I didn’t think about how far eleven miles was. I just put on some tennis shoes and walked all the way there.

When all my classmates went off to Iowa State, Iowa, Northern Iowa, Drake or some other four-year school in Iowa I chose to attend Marshalltown Community College. It was smaller, it was more affordable and I had opportunities to play baseball and be on the school paper as a freshman.

After two years at Marshalltown CC and three more at Northern Iowa (I was not the most dedicated student) I moved to Kansas City. Iowans take vacations to Kansas City. They don’t typically move there.

My entire family still lives in Iowa. My father and one sister live in the same hometown in which I grew up. My other sister and my brother live in towns not more than 30 minutes away from my hometown. They are happy there. I am happy for them.

I live in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada. Iowans don’t live in Las Vegas. They might visit Las Vegas once in a lifetime.

I’m 44, and have never been married. One of the reasons I have had so many failed relationships has to do with how many women I’ve dated who just wanted to have a job, a family and go through a mundane life. I tell them I want to be a professional poker player. I tell them let’s rent a jeep and drive all the way to the Florida Keys with the top off. I say lets travel to Macau, Boracay and Spain. And their eyes almost pop out of their heads. They say they want normal. Then I find out later that those normal relationships they wanted instead of being with me failed. Because normal is boring.

I definitely don’t do boring and am certainly embracing my black sheep-ness.

It’s funny to me that the phrase black sheep is an idiom used to describe someone who won’t comply with the group or with society as a whole.

Name me one person who has ever achieved greatest by complying with a group? Different is memorable. Different sets trends. Different is the focus of inventors, architects, scientists and business leaders.

Don’t be afraid to be a black sheep.

Another Cash At Golden Nugget $25K Tourney

It was a good day with good friends at the 8th Golden Nugget $25,000 Gauranteed Prize pool poker tournament Saturday. And it got even better when I finished 21st overall, doubling my buy-in for the event.

Overall, the tournament generated a prize pool of more than $28,000 and paid 27 spots.

A gaggle of Henderson- and Boulder City-area poker players headed to downtown Las Vegas to play in the event. The Henderson mob included JP Delay, Jerry Flannery, Rocky Graham, Brad Miller, Mike Ross, Ed Dimpel, Aaron Wrightsman, John Kaposta, Grady Prestwood and others.

I played steady throughout the tournament. Starting with 12,000 chips I improved to 16,000 at the first break and 42,000 by break two.

At the dinner break I was at 43,500 chips with 40 players left. A double up with J-J vs K-Qo earned my enough chips to make a run at the money bubble. With 28 players left I folded a pair of sixes from the big blind facing two calls and an all-in raise.

After the money bubble burst I struggled to find a hand in which to push all-in. Desperately needing a double up to make it down to two tables (and get a needed seat change), I woke up with Ah-10h facing an all-in from a stack slightly bigger than mine and a call. I decided to make the call and hope for the best. I was up against As-Ks and A-8o. I flopped two hearts but bricked out the rest of the way to finish 21st.

It was a great capper to a successful week of poker.

Current Bankroll: $2,103

 

Play Like A Donkey And Your Ass Goes Home

It’s been a rough week on the poker table for me. First, I got crushed in my own home game, including getting doubled through by this guy on the second hand of play AK vs JJ. It’s perhaps what I deserve for trying to sit a table with a guy who’s had more than $720,000 in just tournament cashes since last summer.

Despite the loss in my own home Wednesday night, I decided to spend Thursday night at Aria grinding in the $1-$3 NL game and make back the money I had lost the night before and try to win some more to play in the Friday night tournaments.

My bad play made sure that wasn’t going to happen.

Poker is a game of information. With that information a player can make the right decisions at the right time to maximize wins and minimize losses. Even a momentary loss of focus can lead to failure. Here’s how.

I was down about half a buyin from early in the game. By the time this hand came up I had folded 20-25 hands in a row as my cards were not worth playing.

In between hands I was changing a song on my iPhone to something else when I didn’t notice that under the gun (UTG) +1 had raised the $3 big blind to $15. I also didn’t notice UTG+2 call the raise. I am not sure how I missed both of these actions, but I just didn’t see them.

A mid-position player called the $15 and the player to my right folded. That’s when I looked down at Q-Q. Since I had missed the first raise and the flat call while fiddling with the music on my iPhone, I believed there was only $19 in the pot (the $15 flat from the player to my right and the two blinds). With that incorrect knowledge I raised to $35, a raise of not even 3x the previous bet.

If I was heads up with one other player, he would have to lay $20 to win a $54 pot. But there was $30 in the pot I didn’t even know about. I had just bet $35 to make the current pot $84. All three players with $15 in the pot would surely have to call with those odds.

Unfortunately for me, it gets worse.

The last player to call $15 before I raised said something to me, only I didn’t hear him due having my headphones on. I pulled off one earpiece and told him I hadn’t heard what he said. He told me an oft-heard phrase at the poker table, “I wish you had told me you were going to raise before I called.” We both laughed and I put my headphones back on.

As the action moves back around the table both blinds fold. The original raiser goes all in for $175. Again, I miss this action completely. And that is really hard to do at Aria, because it is one of those poker rooms that tosses out an ALL IN placard when a player goes all in.

I look up to see the 10 seat, who was the second caller, ponder a call. He’s Hollywooding it a little bit but then he also elects to go all in for around $300. That is more than I have left.

The joking tourist to my right folds. I was still thinking I was heads up with just the 10 seat for all my chips despite the fact that there are now two ALL IN placards sitting on the other end of the table when I decide to go all in.

This is a terrible play for the following reasons:

A. These two players were the first raiser and a flat caller of a 5x preflop raise.

B. Both of these players are all in, and they both have me covered.

C. Neither player apparently thinks much of my tight image or the fact I have folded every hand for the previous 20 minutes.

D. Q-Q cannot possibly be the best hand here preflop.

E. I’m only into this hand for a total of $35. If I fold I still have plenty of chips left to play in this game.

None of those thoughts even crosses my mind as I push my stack in the middle.

There was no more betting since all three of us were all in. The board ran out K-10-2-Q-J rainbow.

Player A had K-K for a flopped set. Player B had A-A for a rivered nut straight. Player C (me) was in third place before the flop, third place after the flop, second place on the turn (when I hit my Q) and third place again on the river.

I had disobeyed a basic principle of poker: I didn’t even bother gathering all the information I needed to play this hand.

A great player — even an above-average player — would have flat called the preflop bets with QQ and/or folded to the two all-in raises preflop.

Because I didn’t gather the correct information to play the hand, all I was left with was a long walk to my car and a simmering drive home from the Strip to my house in Henderson.