In our latest adventure, Jace and I head to the Las Vegas Strip to see flamingos and then to Town Square to play on the jungle gym.
As a hinted to last week, I am making a move in the poker world.
Thursday was my final day at the Mandalay Bay poker room. After almost 3 1/2 years I needed a change.
Frankly, I grew tired of wearing a suit and tie four days per week and managing people. I have been a manager of people every year of my life since I was 24 years old. Most of that time I have worn suits to jobs in college athletics, professional hockey, television and the casino industry. My plan when I moved to Las Vegas seven years ago was to never wear a suit to work again. Yet, due to circumstances — typically better pay or better insurance for my young son — I took the suit and tie job and sucked it up. No more.
I am going to be a worker bee for a little while as I follow a plan to build and empire for Jace and myself.
I went out with some style. Jace and I stopped by a Krispy Kreme and picked up three dozen donuts for the staff. Since I was the only person on the staff to work all three shifts (day, swing and into graveyard) every week I thought it was important to thank the entire staff there. We dropped off the donuts around 10:30AM and then had the day to ourselves before I had to work at 6PM as a dealer.
The 3+years at Mandalay Bay were great. The room is rarely super busy so you have time to monitors the players and the dealers. It is a lot of standing (usually 7 1/2 hours out of each 8 hour shift), but I also cherished the interaction with the regular guests. There was a lot of time to talk about poker, sports gambling, horse racing or just what was going on around Las Vegas.
I won’t miss the paperwork. Nevada gaming and each individual casino requires a certain amount of paperwork and signatures each day. Mandalay Bay poker takes it to the extreme nth level. You have to be meticulous every single day, and there was no such thing as a day where you did it all correctly. That is what I grew tired of dealing with. I take quite a bit of pride in how hard I work and how much pride I have in doing my job correctly. Unfortunately, I loved Mandalay Bay a whole lot more than Mandalay Bay loved me. Nevertheless, it was a great experience and I am glad I spent time there.
Now its on to Caesar’s Palace, where I got a job as a temporary dealer during the busy summer months. Caesar’s has a new room they built three years ago. A good number of the locals I used to deal to have migrated there over the past three years. I am looking forward to the new challenge of dealing center Strip and seeing if I can prove myself worthy of a permanent position. The new job starts Sunday and I am ready to go.
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.
Two thousand fourteen. Easily, the most eventful year in my life. As the final days of the calendar year burn away it’s a great time to reflect on the past 12 months.
That this was going to be a wild ride in 2014 was pretty much locked in when I found out in December 2013 that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant with my first child. At 44 years of age, I had thrown in the towel on having children and was enjoying my single life in Las Vegas. God had a different plan.
Having a child together wasn’t enough to bring my child’s mother and I back together in a relationship, no matter now much we tried. There was too much mistrust, animosity, anger and anxiety. In retrospect, we both should have tried a little hard and forgiven a little faster, but it didn’t happen.
By Spring we were trying to find ways to agree on a name, co-parenting and everything else through weekly doctor visits.
Meanwhile my plan to work part-time while pursuing some independent ventures got moved to the back burner (cause for some of the aforementioned feelings). Suddenly, I needed insurance and a full-time income to support this new little guy.
My best option was a full-time job as a poker supervisor at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Unfortunately the only available full-time job was on the graveyard shift. With some trepidation, I accepted the position. Suddenly, I was working 1AM-9AM five nights a week learning the poker trade in the center of the poker universe — The Las Vegas Strip.
I agreed to these graveyard hours because I wanted to provide for my son. I told myself I would only work on graveyard for 24 months before I had to find a new shift or a new job.
On July 16 — five days early — Jace Allen Harberts arrived on the scene. Born with a correctable health problem, Jace spent 49 days in the NICU recovering. The strain of a fractured relationship and a birth of a new child was only intensified by the twice-daily 35-mile round trip to the hospital while also working a full-time schedule.
Jace made it through everything like a champ. I was grateful to all the amazing NICU nurses at Spring Valley Hospital who taught me how to properly care for this fragile little life. And that full-time graveyard job I reluctantly took? MGM’s great insurance paid off in spades when my son was racking up $2,500 a day hospital bills.
After Jace left the hospital we had to try to figure out how to care for this little guy. It didn’t matter how much I had prepared, all the stuff I had read or all the advice I received, a single 45-year old man cannot possibly prepare for the task of taking care of an infant child by himself 70-90 hours per week. It is a daunting task. The crying, the screaming, the not being able to fix the situation no matter what you do. The only solution I ever found was a Jeep ride. A few minutes rumbling around the neighborhood had a calming and sometimes sleepy effect on my young son.
The year has ended on a flourish. My son is showing no signs of the being long-term affected by his NICU stay. He’s growing up to be a healthy, happy, good-looking boy.
Thanksgiving week I was offered the opportunity to leave the graveyard shift for a split shift during regular hours. Now I work two days and three swing shifts. I never work later than 1AM. Being back on a normal schedule has led to me being less tired, and by extension a better parent.
Twenty fourteen was a great year, but there are still dreams unfulfilled and goals undone. I am planning on working hard in 2015 to see some of these dreams and goal come to fruition. Still, it will be difficult to top the events of 2014.
I have had enough losing. It stings. It’s not profitable. And it is counter-productive to everything I am trying to accomplish in life.
Wednesday night I had another losing session at Bellagio. I had played $4-8 and $10-20 limit. I didn’t find much success in either game. My recent trend of losing from ahead was not erased by moving up games. It was amplified. My favorite loss of the night was somehow losing J-J to J-10 on an A-K-K-3 board when the other player rivered a flush.
I drove home in a funk. I was mad at myself for another losing session. I was trying to run through the hands in my head and figure out where I could have played better.
I woke up still thinking about last night’s losing session. As I do first thing every morning I went through my social media (feel free to following me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram) to check out the latest news and photos. It was on Twitter that I saw this:
The best player in the world had lost $21,000 and I was upset about a few hundred bucks? I decided the only thing I could do was stay positive and play through the losses.
I would make a couple of small changes — game selection and site. Instead of driving down to the Strip or to the Orleans to grind out low-limit hold’em I would switch to no limit. I also decided to play closer to home, option for the much shorter drive to Green Valley Ranch.
The change paid off in immediate results. I only played 2:21 this afternoon, but I profited $210. It was great to finally break that seven-session losing streak.
Current Bankroll: $1,043
If you have followed by Facebook or Twitter for any length of time you probably know I am always prattling on about the Neon Museum. It is simply one of the coolest places in Las Vegas. Every Friday at Noon I serve as a volunteer tour guide at the museum. And, every Friday I love it!
The Neon Museum Boneyard Park stores more than 170 signs from Vegas days gone by. The hour-long walking tour takes people from old downtown Las Vegas, thru U.S. Highway 91 — now called the Las Vegas Strip — and into the newer properties of Las Vegas.
The tour is nothing but “Wow!” You get to see up close and personal the large neon signs that reshaped Las Vegas: the Golden Nugget, the Moulin Rouge, the La Concha, Stardust, Showboat, Desert Inn and more.
Every tour comes with a history lesson — from the mob ties to the properties on the Strip to Howard Hughes purchase of the Desert Inn to the intricate neon tube bending of the Yucca Motel to the great changes people like Binny Binion made in how Las Vegas does business.
I don’t want to give away too much of the tour in his blog, because you really need to go on the tour to truly appreciate it.
I will show you a couple of my favorite signs.
The Green Shack restaurant is the oldest sign in Boneyard Park. This sign dates back to the 1930s. A woman named Mattie Jones came to Las Vegas from Colorado and opened a restaurant called “Colorado” on Christmas Eve 1929. When the restaurant expanded in 1932 it was renamed “The Green Shack.”
This restaurant was located downtown where Boulder Highway meets Fremont Street and was famous for its fried chicken.
Can you imagine how many Hoover Dam workers came downtown in the early 1930s, got a great meal at The Green Shack, then stayed for all the fun an frivolity of Vegas’ famous Block 16 of gambling and prostitution?
The Green Shack was on the National Registry of Historic Places from 1994 to 1999, when it was finally closed and demolished.
My other favorite sign is that of the Moulin Rouge, a truly giant sign inside the park.
The Moulin Rouge was only open from May-November 1955, but it has a huge historical significance on the history of Las Vegas.
When it opened it was the first integrated hotel in the United States. Performers like Pearl Bailey, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Armstrong all performed there.
Unfortunately the combination of skimming and threats from the white casino owners led to a quick demise of the Moulin Rouge. However, five years after it closed, the Moulin Rouge hosted a meeting between the governor of Nevada, local city leaders and leaders of the NAACP. The meeting was to head off a planned march by the city’s African American residents down Las Vegas Boulevard. From the meeting, all Las Vegas hotels and casinos became integrated.
Here is how the sign would have looked on the Moulin Rouge building when the building still existed.
The Moulin Rouge Corporation still owns the sign in Boneyard Park. However, most of the buildings at 900 Bonanza Road have been destroyed during a series of fires, including at least one arson.
The Neon Museum is a great secret to tourists and local alike. If you want to go on a tour, please plan ahead. Tours are usually sold out 2-3 weeks in advance.
Of all the gambles you will take when you come to Las Vegas, the $15 spent on a tour of Boneyard Park is a sure thing!
Don’t believe me? Check out Yelp!