Viva Las Vegas

It’s been a little while since my last blog, a reflection of my crazy life!

It’s been almost a year since I moved to Las Vegas, and my life as been on fast forward.

I moved here with no job, no house, no career whatsoever. Within months I had gone to poker dealing school and gotten a job at a North Las Vegas casino. In the worst job market in the country (over 14% unemployment), I have moved on to another casino and been promoted to dual-rate poker supervisor/dealer.

Alas, I had to get the TV suits out of storage for my new position. Part of me was hoping that those TV suits would stay in storage forever!

I’ve taken up hiking, lost 25 pounds, given up fast food and soda, and now live in a rental house. The only drawback so far has been the challenge of finding a house to buy. Although there are thousands of empty houses in the Las Vegas valley right now finding the perfect one for me has been a little difficult. The short-sale process throws up a lot of hurdles, but I am working through them.

For now, I am house-hunting and playing poker.

Hope all is well with all of you!

Losing Weight: Hard, But Rewarding

After years of hoping, wishing, lamenting, procrastinating and just plain being lazy I have reached my tipping point with being overweight.

I want to be heathy and have more energy, so I’ve gotten back to working out. But more importantly I have started eating right. And that is hard as hell!

My steps so far:

1. I stopped drinking diet Coke. Depending on who’s research you believe, diet Coke can cause cancer. There is no arguing that diet Coke and any other soda product is basically just a batch of chemicals. I think we all remember that Nancy Reagan warned us to not put chemicals in our bodies. My last soda was July 25, 2010.

2. I gave up fast food. This was actually easy when I gave up the diet Coke. Fast food and soft drinks go hand in hand. That food is not only chemically-enhanced, but it’s fattening too. I didn’t have to watch Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me documentary to known Mickey D’s was bad for me. Heck, baseball reliever Goose Gossage told the world year’s ago. My last fast food meal was sometime before July 25, but I don’t know what date exactly.

3. If it comes in a can or a box, it is probably bad for you. This is my grocery shopping rule. Although there are exceptions, a majority of the things that come in a box or a can at a grocery store are high in sugar, chemicals, fat or all three.

This does make it a little difficult to eat while I am in the process of losing the weight. I’ve had to stick to apples, string cheese, yogurt, chicken, bananas and salmon thus far. I am single, and cooking for one can be difficult. But I haven’t been going hungry. And when I do eat, I get full much faster.

4. I do 45 minutes of cardio minimum every single day. This was the easiest one to achieve. After I stopped eating and drinking all the junk, I had a lot more energy to go to the gym.

I am sure I am on the right track. I’ve lost 9 pounds in the first 10 days I’ve done this. It is the incentive to keep going.

I Never Drank The Kool-Aid

As the Brett Favre saga continues to drag into the final days of July it’s time for real Minnesota Vikings fans to shake off their embarrassment of pouring so much love on the formerly hated Packer and realize that Favre didn’t take the Vikings any further than they had been before.

I’m a lifelong Vikings fans. I will probably be a Vikings fan until the day I die. I never drank the Brett Favre Kool-Aid.

I was embarrassed to see Brad Childress pick Favre up at the airport for training camp last year. Can you imagine Tom Landry or John Madden doing that?

I was more embarrassed by the legion of Vikings fans cheering Favre’s arrival, buying purple no. 4 jerseys and cheering his every throw. Have you no shame?

I understand how desperate Vikings fans are to win a Super Bowl? The Vikings were born just eight years before I was. I have been alive for virtually every agonizing moment in Vikings history. The losses to the Raiders, the Dolphins, the Steelers and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Fran Tarkenton and Alan Page being traded, the Steve Young TD, the Michael Vick TD, the McMahon game, the freakin’ fourth and forever TD against Arizona, Wrong Way Marshall’s TD, the Whizzinator, the Herschel trade, the Les Steckel era, the Mike Tice era, the 2001 NFL Title Game, Korey Stringer’s death, Robert Smith’s retirement, Drew Pearson pushing off, et al.

After all those years of suffering with the Vikings together, I still can’t believe that a legion of Purple Pride faithful would so quickly sell their collective souls to the ultimate Benedict Arnold to try to win a Super Bowl.

I spent the entire 2009 season cheering for the Vikings will quietly continuing to loathe Brett Favre.

In the end, Favre added nothing to the Vikings. Absolutely NOTHING!

Brett Favre in 2009: 13-5 overall, 363 of 531 passing for 4,202 yards. He passed for 33 TDs against seven interceptions. Two of those interceptions came in the NFC Championship game, including the critical one on the Vikings game-winning drive attempt in the fourth quarter.

Favre was 28 of 46 in the NFC Championship game for 301 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Vikings lost the title game in overtime in New Orleans, and the Saints went on to win the Super Bowl.

Wait, I’ve seen this before. It was 1998. Vikings’ starter Brad Johnson is injured and Randall Cunningham takes over.

Cunningham, like Favre, had his best years somewhere else. In this case it was the Philadelphia Eagles, not a Vikings’ rival like Green Bay.

With weapons Cris Carter and Randy Moss, Cunningham had a career year. He led the Vikings to a 13-1 regular season record.

He would finish the season 259 of 425 for 3,704 yards. He tossed 34 TDs with just 10 interceptions.

The Vikings lost in the NFC Championship game that year, too. Inexplicably, the Vikings played very safe in the fourth quarter against Atlanta. Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the year, and the Vikings lost in overtime. Atlanta went on to lose to Denver in the Super Bowl.

The NFC Title game was hardly Cunningham’s fault. He was 29 of 48 for 266 yards in the final game, with two touchdowns and throwing zero interceptions.

Cunningham was already a much more likable guy when he QB’ed the Vikings. He didn’t have the prescription drug problem, the messy divorce from his first team, the awful season playing for someone else and a history of killing the Vikings.

Favre was a rent-a-QB in the worst way. The Vikings turned their back on everything they hold sacred — tradition, loyalty, their fans — and turned the reins of the team over to a guy who intentionally skipped camp, openly battled his own head coach and eventually cost the team a chance to go the Super Bowl.

A number of years ago I went to a Bears-Vikings game at the Metrodome. It was one of those let’s-just-get-cheap-tickets-and-go games where I ended up with three friends and their wives in the top row of the upper deck. The upper deck was probably 50-50 Vikings and Bears fans, which is what you expect from a great rivalry game.

Before the game a guy and his girlfriend came to the upper deck to find their seats. Because this guy was in his early 20s and didn’t no better or because his girlfriend appeared to be way out of his league, he had allowed her to leave the house and come to the game wearing a green Favre no. 4 Packers jersey. She was wearing a Favre jersey to a Vikings-Bears game at the Metrodome! As you might expect, Bears and Vikings fans agreed on something for the first time in history. Thousands of fans heckled and tossed garbage at the idiot and his girlfriend in a Favre jersey. That’s how much Brett Favre is hated within the division.

Favre’s never going to be remembered as a Vikings great. On the all-time Vikings quarterback ladder, he has to fall below Fran Tarkenton, Tommy Kramer, Joe Kapp, Brad Johnson and Daunte Culpepper. Maybe tied with Cunningham. Probably ahead of Warren Moon. Definitely ahead of Steve Dils, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon and Sean Salibury.

I hope Brett Favre stays retired. I would rather go 8-8 this season with real Vikings, than back to the playoffs with a Green Bay Packer.

How To Felt Yourself On The First Hand Of A Tourney (and how to avoid it)

On a little recon mission yesterday I entered in a $28 tournament (with a $10 rebuy) at Joker’s Wild casino in Henderson, NV.

There were just 12 people to start the tourney, which is not rare at a local’s joint. We started out with 2,500 chips and 25-50 blinds.

The opening hand I was the button and was dealt 7h-7s. There were two limpers to me. I was not really interested in building a big pot with a medium pair so I limped as well. This allowed the small blind to come in cheaply and the big blind for free. (Mistake #1).

The flop was Jc-7c-10s. Both blinds check. Middle position bets 100. The cutoff calls 100. On the button, I raise to 500 to protect my set against both flush and straight draws. Middle position calls, cutoff folds.

The turn is the Qs. Middle position checks. I check (Mistake #2).

The river is the Jh. Middle position checks. I bet 1,000 into into the 1,350 pot. Middle position snap minimum raises to 2,000. I snap shove and get called (Mistake #3).

I show 7s full of Jacks. Middle position shows J-10o for Jacks full of tens. I am felted on the opening hand.

Mistakes I made:

Mistake #1 – Not raising on the button. 7-7 is a middle pair and on the weak end of starting hands. However, the combination of being on the button and it being the first hand of the tournament (where no one wants to bust out) should have led me to raise. With two limpers already in and the two blinds left, a raise to 300 would have probably driven out the blinds, and perhaps the J-10 that ultimately felted me. The other player told me he held K-Jo.

Mistake #2 – Not betting on the turn. The queen of spades froze the betting on the turn, but it should not have. If the opening bettor had held 8-9, the Qs didn’t change much. Its unlikely the middle position player held A-K since he didn’t open raise preflop or bet against two flush draws on the turn.

I needed to bet here to further define my hand. I had 1,900 left in my stack and the pot was 1,350. A full shove here is not out of the question since a pot-sized bet is more than 70% of my remaining stack.

Mistake #3 – Snap shoving to the minimum raise on the river. This is a rather common play in a low buyin tournament because you don’t have a lot of chips to begin with. The minimum raise had me covered. I didn’t even take a beat to think about folding my full house. If I fold I still have 950 chips, which is 19 big blinds.

What beats me: J-10 (which did), J-J, Q-Q, 10-10, J-Q. I could automatically eliminate 10-10, J-J and Q-Q because of the lack of a preflop raise, or a reraise on the flop. That leaves J-10 and Q-J. What doesn’t beat me (but it still a possible holding): A-K, A-A, K-K, 8-9, 9-9, 8-8, Q-10, A-J, K-J. I eliminated A-K, A-A, K-K immediately due to the lack of betting. 9-9 and 8-8 would have probably been thrown away after the flop raise. A-J, K-J and Q-10 might have played out the same way.

In the end, I should have taken a beat to consider J-10 and Q-J. These are easily two possible holdings in a low buyin tourney on the first hand. J-10 flops top two pair and would definitely lead out, call a flop raise and check on the turn out of position. Q-J flop top pair and turns top two pair. It’s unlikely that Q-J would check the the turn and risk the check behind, so it’s a less likely holding on the river.

The really leaves A-J, K-J, J-10 and 8-9 as the only real holdings that could have been played out that way. I beat three of the four hands that are likely to be held, I lose to one of them. The other player held that one.

That’s poker.

Playing Low Stakes Series: Starting Out

Although I have played poker recreationally and semi-professionally since 2004, I still play  a lot of low stakes poker, $2-4 limit, $3-6 limit, $4-8 limit and $2-6 spread limit. Depending on where you play these games can be straight limit stakes, half-kill or full-kill games.

Low stakes poker is a fantastic way to get introduced to the game. You can learn how the game is played and managed in a brick-and-mortar casino without being overwhelmed by massive amounts of money on the table or hyper-aggressive players.

A lower stakes game can be bought into rather inexpensively. At the casino I deal in, the minimum buyin for the $2-4 limit game is $20. Although I would recommend buying into any game for more than ten big blinds, I see it done quite often. Realistically, you should probably buy in to a $2-4 limit game for between $60 and $100. For a $3-6 limit hold’em game, I would suggest buying in for $100. Many people buy in to a $4-8 game for $100, but I would recommend $200.

If you have only played in home games or have just watched poker on television you are going to find casino play quite different. Casino cash games are faster paced than home games. (though quite a bit slower than online poker rooms). Casinos try to get out 35-40 hands per hour in order to rake enough to pay for the dealer, the floor supervisor and (in some cases) the rent on the automatic shufflers.

Instead of a table of your buddies and co-workers, the table makeup of a casino low stakes game has infinite possibilities: retirees, newcomers, action junkies who leave the game every 10 minutes to play a slot machine, players who slow the game because they can’t see or hear very well, social butterflies, players who think they are the next Phil Hellmuth…the table will run the gamut.

Now that you have the bankroll and the urge, it’s time to check out some low stakes poker.

Next time on Playing Low Stakes: Starting Hands

The Montana Banana

I was playing/supervising a $2-$4 limit Texas Hold’em game last night. One of the more entertaining players at the table would often say before the flop, “I think my 9-2 is good.”

It reminded me that although most poker hands that have names are above average starting hands (i.e. A-A, Q-Q) but some very weak preflop holdings also have unique names.

The 9-2 offsuit is referred to as the Montana Banana. It’s a hand that is better suited for the casino game blackjack (for a double down bet or just to draw a face card for a 21) than any poker game, and that is where the name derives from.

The 9-2 offsuit is called the Montana Banana, as the legend goes, because banana will grow in Montana before it ever wins a hand of poker.

There is also a myth that the 9-2 offsuit is called the Montana Banana because poker player was legalized in Montana by Proposition 92. However, poker was actually legalized in Montana through the Card Games Act, 23-5-311.

The next time you get dealt a 9-2 offsuit, don’t slip on the Montana Banana.

%d bloggers like this: