Dodgin’ storms in the U.S.A.

Two Sets of Fireworks

As we finished the last of the vanilla ice cream and blueberry cobbler, it began to rain. And not just a light drizzle – a pretty serious summer downpour, even by Florida standards.

We hadn’t seen this one coming on the radar and then it was right on top of us, soaking everything only 30 minutes before we were supposed to take the boat out to the Gulf to watch the fireworks.

What we had here was a classic Florida pop-up shower, which is usually a quick-hitter sort of thing. You don’t see them coming, then you get drenched for a few minutes, then they’re gone.

We had a decision to make: Go out on the boat as planned, or watch the fireworks from the porch? Although there was a pretty dark group of clouds behind us on the horizon, we decided to head out and chance it. Even if we got hit by a couple small pop-up showers, at least we’d get a great view of the fireworks.

As you can see behind my friend Jenn and me, the sky wasn’t too bad as we made our way out. We barely made it out to the Gulf before they blocked the channel, and we went to our spot where we would watch the show that would begin in about 45 minutes.

But then, that dark gray storm began drifting in from the west. And we noticed another storm to the north. We started getting a little nervous: Those weren’t little pop-up storms; they looked pretty nasty.

But our intrepid captain had a plan: “I’ll shoot the gaps!” He told us how he would hop around to avoid this storm, then that one, then pop down to this other gap, then back over and we would be fine.

And then the rain started.

No problem! We would just “shoot the gaps!” So we punched it and got to the first gap. Nice! The sky was actually pretty blue and the rain stopped for a minute.

But then it started up again, so we had to try to find another gap. This time, instead of following the coast, we headed seaward. But the gap we were heading for closed, the rain got heavier and colder, and the sky got darker.

Uh oh. In hindsight, playing Boat Frogger with thunderstorms probably wasn’t the best idea. Hindsight is 20/20, of course.

The ponchos and towels came out, albeit a little late. I was wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt. There were not enough ponchos. Did I mention the rain was cold?

We spotted another gap and headed that way. This time, we arrived in what felt like a sort of clearing. It was dusk, so the sky above us was dark blue and calm with a few whispy clouds. But this was little solace because we were now surrounded by storms on all sides—there were no more gaps to shoot and it seemed like our present gap was closing even as we arrived.

Justin, who was huddled in a sort of parka fort on the floor of the boat, got out his iPhone 7—they’re water resistant now!—to take a look at the radar and see where our gaps went.

Sure enough, we were in a teenie-tiny gap which was literally surrounded by red storms. This was not good. Red basically means “THIS IS VERY HEAVY RAIN AND WIND! YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE OUT IN THIS STUFF!” But we were out in this stuff. On a boat. In the Gulf. At dusk.

Suddenly, there was a lot of lightning and things went from bad to worse.

I grew up in Florida. Heavy rainstorms happen here all the time. In the summer, they happen pretty much daily. So being stuck in a rainstorm in a boat on the Gulf isn’t like FANTASTIC or anything, but it’s not too far away from what a typical Floridian experiences once every year or so as they make an afternoon run to Publix.

Of course, as a Floridian who grew up with frequent intense rainstorms and hurricanes, I also learned to have a healthy respect for lightning because it will kill you. This lightning was probably 5–10 miles away, which meant we were in striking distance.

Where do I go from “Uh oh.”?

Things got nastier still.

“I think we should go south!”, Justin shouted from his parka fort as he stared at the ever-updating radar. Then he showed us the radar, which showed that things were about to get considerably worse. But maybe there was a gap down south, so we headed south.

As we were heading to our new southern destination, Justin showed us the latest radar. The area we had just evacuated was now PURPLE. This is worse than red. According to Weather Underground, we were experiencing the second-most-intense level of rain they measure. On a boat. In the gulf. At dusk. Plus there was lightning everywhere.

The rain was steady, though less intense than it had been earlier in our ordeal. But now we were literally surrounded on all by sides by dark skies and lightning.

Here’s a video of one of the bigger, more surprising strikes. You can hear our intrepid captain’s concern excitement as he and his dad marvel at Mother Nature’s fireworks as she tried to kill us.

This meant that although we were hopefully headed for a gap, we first had to head directly into a lightning storm. Still, the floorboard-parka-fort command center said to go south, so we went south.

After 10 or 15 minutes of heading into a lightning storm at full throttle, we found the gap the radar had foretold. It was near the shore, which happened to be one of the only stretches of uncolonized beach in the area. It was beautiful and eerie. The clouds had dissipated overhead, so we were in a sort of void, surrounded by lightning storms, next to an empty beach as the sky got darker.

We waited and watched the radar, hoping that no more storms would pop up and that the storm we had escaped would continue moving westward into the Gulf.

After 20 minutes or so, a few small fireworks popped just inland of us—a good sign. The gap we were in began to grow so that we could see several miles up the shore to the original position we had abandoned earlier.

We could see that the people who had stuck it out were getting absolutely hammered by an enormous storm. The sky above them was black, constantly lit by lightning strikes. As bad as our situation had been, theirs may have been worse.

More fireworks began dotting the shoreline to our north, and we consulted the radar to confirm the worst had passed. The red was all to our west, so we began creeping northward along the sleepy shore, dodging the beach’s outstretched piers as they reached for us.

Things still looked pretty bad by the channel where we naively began our journey—dark skies, lightning and rain—but then we saw some bigger fireworks that seemed like they would be part of the big show. Our technicolor lighthouse showed the way, so we pushed the throttle, heading back to our starting point.

When we finally cut the engine a few hundred yards short of the police boats and buoys that cordoned off the splash zone, we got to see not one, but two spectacular fireworks shows: In the foreground, the man-made one we had come to see; in the background, the lightning that had chased us from gap to gap, into the Gulf, then south, and finally back to the shore we followed home.

Two Sets of Fireworks

Why I cut my 2014 WSOP trip short

NOTE: I wrote the first draft of this on Sunday morning, July 6.

I’m in Atlanta, waiting on my 8:00 AM connecting flight back to Gainesville. It’s been a while since I took a redeye, but this is the real deal. I took this flight because I didn’t have many other options when I decided to cut my annual WSOP trip to Vegas short.

Why did I do that? To be honest, I’m really not sure, and I’m processing that question as I write this. I was really excited to head out this year, and I’d been looking forward to it since I returned from last summer’s trip. So I packed my bags, flew to Vegas, and immediately just felt… off. Instead of looking forward to playing tournaments, I sort of dreaded it. I was there for three days before I played my first tournament (the $1,500 Monster Stack, where I hung out for 10 hours and busted at the end of Day 1). It was another four days before I played my second tournament (a $300 tourney at the Wynn, where I busted on a bad beat after about four hours).

After playing only two tournaments in a week, I thought the remaining 11 days of my vacation could be better spent than puttering around Vegas, playing a tournament every few days. I decided I would rather spend my final week off in Gainesville, where I can relax and work on TaskBook. So here I am.

But I can’t help but wonder if there’s a little more to it. I’ve been playing poker for 11 years, and I was really, really fascinated by it when I began playing in little home games in college. I was the guy who went out and bought books and started reading poker forums to get better in my five-dollar home game. When I graduated from college, moved to Dallas, and started working full-time, I also started playing a lot of poker online at night after work.

I played a lot and read a lot, but I never went all-in the way some online pros and grinders did. I just didn’t have the will or desire to grind eight to 10 hours a day online. That didn’t sound fun to me.

I continued playing a lot of poker online for the next several years, and started visiting Vegas for the WSOP beginning in 2009. A couple months after my WSOP trip in 2009, I was let go from my job and started playing a lot more online poker. I still enjoyed playing, but not nearly as much as I had when I began, and playing online started feeling like more and more of a grind. I think that’s when I began to burn out.

My poker reserves began running low late in 2009, then my online time tapered a bit through 2010 and had all but disappeared by the time Black Friday hit online poker in April of 2011. From then on, I would play the occasional cash game in Florida, but mostly just played during the summers in Vegas.

Late in 2011, I began writing Heads-Up Tournament Poker and building my first web application (ShareAppeal). Pretty much all of my poker energy went into the book, and the remainder of my creative and intellectual energy went into learning Ruby on Rails. I never really saw poker as a way to create a dependable income, but I felt differently about web applications – I felt there could really be something there for meaningful future income. I began shifting my energy and interest from poker to app development and stopped playing poker entirely except during the summers in Vegas.

My 2012 trip was a month long, but I was working full time for the entire month, so I didn’t play much poker. I almost didn’t make the trip in 2013, but was persuaded by a friend to make the trip (and I’m glad I did – that was a fun two weeks). I think my 2013 trip emptied the tank, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t play a single hand of poker between the WSOP 2013 and my trip this summer, or maybe I would’ve realized sooner that I had used up most of my interest in poker for now.

I’m not saying I’ve quit poker, or that I’m over it. I just wasn’t feeling it this summer. I’ve been working hard on TaskBook, and that takes a lot of energy and can be sort of distracting when playing poker. I see TaskBook in particular, and app development in general, as a way to generate real income on the side, and it’s still very interesting to me. Unfortunately for poker, app development uses a lot of the same creative energy as poker does, so there’s just not enough room for a deep interest in both.

I hope that I can replenish my poker-energy reserves over time. I may play some cash games around town, or jump into some Florida tournament series this fall, or I may not. But for now, I’m just not as interested in poker as I used to be, and I’m more and more interested in app development. So my guess is my energy will be focused there for a while, and poker could be on the back burner indefinitely.

Off to Vegas for the 2012 WSOP and lots of work

I’m writing this post from a plane somewhere over New Mexico, and I’m on my iPad, so this may not be the best-written or -formatted post I’ve ever written.

Anyway, I’m heading to Vegas for my annual trip to the World Series of Poker. This is the first year I’m staying in a condo instead of hotel hopping like I usually do. My typical routine is to hop back and forth from the luxurious Gold Coast to the Rio (where the WSOP happens) since they’re right across the street from each other. I will usually stay at the GC on the weekends (when it’s significantly cheaper than the Rio), and at the Rio during the week.

This year, I have a job, so I need a place where I can work without the sounds of slot machines and depression in the background, so I decided to rent a condo. I managed to talk Luckbox Larry into splitting it with me, so I’ll even have a roommate. The bottom line is we’ll probably both feel like we’re living in the lap of luxury since we’ll have our own rooms and, you know, the creature comforts like a fridge and oven. My guess is it’ll cost 30-50% more at the condo than it usually does I’m the hotels. But it’s hard to compare because we’ll have much better accommodations, WiFi, laundry, a gym and that sort of thing. All in all, I think it’s a good value.

Originally, I booked this trip so I could be here to promote the heads-up book, which we were trying to release before the WSOP Main Event, but that ain’t happening so I’m just here to work and pay poker this summer. When I say “work”, I really mean several things: my “day job”, of course; ShareAppeal, which is really getting rolling; writing a new book about my career so far (I’ve already written about 2,000 words since we took off); and editing the heads-up book so it’s ready to release later this year. I’m keeping pretty busy, as always.

But of course there’s poker too, right? I hope so. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to play with all the other stuff I have going on, but I’m going to at least try to play a few WSOP events and some side tournaments. I would like to play the Main Event again, but I have no idea if that’ll actually happen. Last year, I didn’t decide to play until about three hours before the beginning of Day 1 D (scroll down to Day 18), some still have about three weeks to figure out a way to play again this year.

We’re starting our descent, so I’m going to sign off. I don’t know if I’ll do a daily diary this year, but I’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date one what’s going on.

Oh! But I would like to give people a better sense of what the WSOP is like, and what it’s like for me every summer I Vegas. So, if you want to know more about that sort of thing, leave some comments with suggestions on what you want to know or see. I’ll do my best to create some content to give a sense of what it’s like out here at the WSOP.

2011 Seattle Trip Diary (cont’d)

I ended up getting almost two more days in Seattle after Vancouver, so I figured I should capture that. I didn’t think I should append two more days to a weeks-old post, so I’m creating a new post.

Day 7: I took the bus from Vancouver back to Seattle, arriving around 3:30 PM. That was my first time taking a (non-charter) bus between cities and it wasn’t bad at all. I had loaded up my iPad with some TV shows, and I was still working on “The Big Short”, so I had plenty to keep me busy.

Once I was in Seattle, the food tour continued with a stop at a Vietamiese place called “New Saigon Cafe”. They had really, really cheap sandwiches (like $2.50) that were pretty tasty. Since we had some time to kill, we hit Molly Moon’s on the way back to Case de Huge (@hugepoker‘s place). I went a little nuts, getting a “split single scoop” (which is just a “single”, but two flavors instead of one) plus an extra kid’s scoop. I got Scout Mint, Vivace Coffee and Salted Caramel in a waffle cone. It was delicious.

After a quick food-coma nap, I headed over to Dan and Maya’s place, where we had another excellent salmon experience. I’ve already mentioned (in my 2011 Vancouver Trip Recap) that I’ve been inspired to learn how to make delicious cakes, and word had gotten back to Maya, so we made a carrot cake. It was pretty delicious and I learned a lot about cake making.

This cake making thing could be dangerous for me because I’m basically incapable of ignoring any dessert or sweets if it’s in my vicinity. Acquiring the ability to make my own delicious cakes could be the end of me.

Anyway, we had dinner and dessert, and then I went and crashed back at Case de Huge.

Day 8: I started off the day at Lighthouse Roasters, where I did a lot of reading and a little work. Then it was time for lunch.

Some friends of mine are involved with a start-up, and I was invited to tag along to a meeting among a few of the investors. It was really interesting as I got a chance to see and hear how investors think when considering their options for funding a company. I’m really interested in that sort of thing, so it was cool to eavesdrop on a real-life meeting of investors (as opposed to discussing “start-ups” in a business class).

The afternoon was pretty laid back and mostly consisted of walking around Seattle.

For dinner, the intrepid Jimmy Trent picked me up and I got to have dinner with his family. It was crazy to see how much his kids have grown since I saw them last in Gainesville (in late May). We had some good taco soup and brownies for dessert. Well, the brownies were really our second dessert because Jimmy stopped by Top Pot on the way to his place. He got us all donuts, and mine was a giant Boston Cream donut that looked more like a small cake than a donut.

On his way to drop me off back at Case de Huge, we made a couple stops. First, we dropped by his new employer and church home, Mars Hill Church. He showed me around and got to show off some major renovations they’ve been doing. Next up: more Molly Moon’s!

Then it was back to watch an episode of Dexter with Laurence and wife before getting some sleep before the long (full-day-wasting) trip back to Gainesville.

Things in Gainesville should be pretty typical for a while. I’m still writing a couple of books and working on some of my own stuff for the blog. I should jump right back into the old routine and hopefully we can get one of these books knocked out before the end of the year.

2011 Vancouver Trip Recap

I just got back from a two-week trip to Vancouver, so I might as well recap it for posterity. I didn’t do a “diary” because there just wasn’t enough going on to justify that format. It would’ve all been like, “Day N: Woke up and went to Starbucks to do some work. Talked poker and watched my friends play online. Watched Netflix.” I realize that most of what I write is boring, but even I wouldn’t sink so low as to write that particular diary.

So anyway, I stayed with some friends who recently relocated to Vancouver. I went to Starbucks a lot. I talked about, wrote about, learned about and watched a lot of poker. I specifically worked quite a bit on my heads-up game since I’m writing a book about heads-up strategy and both of my Vancouver friends have had very good results in heads-up play.

Otherwise, I went to see three movies: “The Help“, “Drive“, and “Moneyball“. They all appropriately received good scores on Rotten Tomatoes, so I was looking forward to all of them. “The Help” was a good movie with pretty solid acting. The story was the most compelling part, and it was a good story. “Drive” was excellent. It was violent and dark, but very, very good. Some of the acting was excellent, some was just good. “Moneyball” was really good. It’s a great story (as most of Michael Lewis‘ stories are – I’m reading “The Big Short” right now, and it’s excellent). The acting is pretty good. It’s not terribly wonky or sportsy.

As I mentioned above, I also did a lot of reading. I also watched a lot of Netflix (mostly “Parking Wars” and caught up on TV shows online. “Breaking Bad” is awesome this season.)

I also started watching “Top Chef: Just Desserts“, which is another good show from Bravo. I love desserts, I like reality TV, so this show is pretty much made for me. I decided I want to learn how to make good cakes. I mean, I eat more cake than most people, so why not figure out how to make really good cakes? On the bus trip down from Vancouver to Seattle yesterday, I brainstormed some good cake flavor combinations. The one I’m most interested to try is a ginger cake with green tea icing. Hopefully I’ll get to take a crack at that soon.

That about sums up my two weeks in Vancouver. It was nice to visit, especially since I’ve never previously been to Canada. As you can see from the pic, it was mostly dreary and rainy, but at least it wasn’t 90+ degrees and humid. Now I’ve got a day in Seattle, then I head back home to Gainesville.

Who’s the chicken NOW?!

While I was in Seattle, I had a couple of meals over at Dan‘s (of Fat Yeti Photography) place. On the last night I was there, he was giving us a tour of his studio and we ended up doing a quick, impromptu photo shoot (see Day 5 of my 2011 Seattle Trip Diary post for the story). Here are a couple pics he took. I thought they were both pretty funny, and it’s always great to have my picture taken wearing a chicken head.

This one is actually my favorite (and I think everyone else liked it the best as well). I think we all like it because the chicken (I?) looks pretty confrontational.

2011 Seattle Trip Diary

Day 1: Today started pretty rough, but got better as it went on. I went to sleep about 2:00 AM and had to be back up at 4:00 AM. My plane left Gainesville at 5:20 AM and I arrived in Seattle at 9:30 AM local time. The Muckleshoot Casino, where we’re playing three tournaments this weekend, is pretty close to the airport, so Luckbox Larry and I swung by to register for Friday’s $300 tournament (we heard it was likely to sell out). Wow, that sentence was awful. So, once that was out of the way, we headed up to Seattle so I could get settled.

Once I dropped off my stuff at Luckbox Larry’s place, I met Jimmy Trent for lunch at the Green Lake Bar & Grill. It was good to catch up on Jimmy’s life since he and his family relocated from Gainesville to Seattle. After lunch, we met up with the rest of his clan at Seattle’s version of Mochï (I can’t remember what it’s called).

On my way back to Luckbox Larry’s place, I stopped off at Herkimer Coffee (recommended by Jimmy) to pick up a couple lattes (one for me and one for Luckbox’s wifey). I figure I’m basically in the coffee capital of America (the world?), so I might as well sample the goods while I’m in town, right?

By then, my head was more or less spinning because I hadn’t had much sleep. The entire afternoon is pretty hazy, actually. I did some work on the super-long post about the big hand between Vanessa and David and then managed to get a nap on the “Futon Bed”, which is the odd combination of a futon with a giant full-size mattress on top of it. It sleeps normal-er than it sounds, so I was out for an hour or so.

Next up, we all headed off to a Team Huge (Luckbox Larry’s poker-playing crew who often visits Vegas for the 4th of July festivities) dinner party, where we had some chicken stuff, some bread, salad and corn. (Did I mention my memory gets a little fuzzy from the afternoon through the rest of the day?) Then we played a quick little poker tournament (I busted first), and finally left to head back to Luckbox’s place around 11:00 PM. By now, I’d more or less been awake for 24 hours except for a nap on the plane and another nap on the Futon Bed. I guess we drove back home and I went to sleep or something.

Day 2: I originally scheduled this to be an off day so that I could adjust to the new timezone and see a bit of Seattle. That’s more or less how the day turned out. I managed to sleep till about 8:00 AM. I considered this a coup since I was afraid my body would be stuck on East Coast time. I wandered out to find a coffee shop and landed at Lighthouse Roasters. They didn’t have WiFi, but that’s no biggie since I have MyWi on my iPhone. I spent a few hours there (more editing on the Vanessa v. David piece) and then headed back up to Luckbox’s place.

I spent a few more hours getting some work done (including some work for the next phase for this site) and then we went and got takeout at Paseo, which is a kind of Cuban-Caribbean fusion and Freemont institution. In a word: superdelicious. I had the Cuban Roast sandwich and it basically blew my socks off. Then I took a nap.

For the evening festivities, Luckbox and I decided to go play a tune-up $130 tourney at the Tulalip Casino, where they HATE, HATE, HATE bags. All bags. Do not bring a bag to our casino! Uh, so neither of us cashed in that tournament and then we left WITH OUR BAGS. Hopefully my 0/2 start isn’t a harbinger of things to come this weekend.

On the way back to the abode, we stopped in for dinner (?) at Molly Moon’s. I got a 2-scoop waffle cone with Salted Caramel and Maple Walnut. It was incredible, and quite a bit more than I was prepared to eat since Luckbox’s wife was supposed to help out, but ended up bailing because she wanted to sleep instead of eating ice cream at midnight or whatever.

Then I did some reading and went to sleep.

Day 3: We had to be up pretty early today because the $300 tourney started at 10:00 AM and we were about 45 minutes away. We dropped off Alfie and then drove down to the Muckleshoot (with a Starbucks stop on the way). We walked in just as the tournament was getting under way and it was more or less like playing poker in an igloo. I felt I played pretty well, but just ran kind of bad. I took a couple nasty beats (for example, one gentleman check-called my bet with KhQh on a J52 flop and then hit runner-runner hearts to make a flush on the river) and just had trouble getting traction. My final hand, I moved in with JJ to isolate against a late-position short-stack who had already moved all-in. Of course, another dude called my all-in with AK and he hit an ace on the flop. To add insult to injury the short stack also turned a set of sevens (although it didn’t matter for me). So, my streak of sucking at coinlfips continues and I was out somewhere around 175 of 250.

I headed over to Starbucks to kill time and ended up spending about seven hours there. I got some work done, caught up on Big Brother (yeah, I watch that show, Big whoop, wannafightaboutit?), did some reading, and wrote up this here diary.

Once Luckbox Larry busted from the tournament (narrowly missing the final table), we headed back into Seattle to meet his wife and another friend for dinner. We went to May, I great Thai place that was even greater thanks to a Restaurant.com coupon. Dinner wrapped up pretty late, so we promptly headed back to the house and called it a night.

Day 4: Today was the $500 tournament at the Muckleshoot. I’ve been running pretty badly since before I went to Vegas earlier this summer, and I was hoping my luck would finally change today. As it turned out, I was in for more of the same. I ran into a few sets (once with top pair, top kicker in a spot where I could have played for stacks but managed to lose the minimum) and ended up busting on another coinflip (QQ < AK). I think I went out with about 100 left and we started with 230 or so. This coin flip thing is getting kind of ridiculous: I'm pretty sure I've busted in about half of the last 10 tournaments on a coinflip where I was ahead and where I was the one who moved all-in. I keep getting called by overcards and they keep hitting. This isn’t a situation where I’m all-in every other hand. I’m usually all-in and called maybe two or three times per tournament. Today, I was all-in once (the hand I busted). Yesterday, I think I was all-in once (when I busted with JJ < AK) or maybe twice (I don’t remember for sure). In the WSOP Main Event, I was all-in and called twice (once when I actually won a coinflip with 99 > AQ, then on my bust-out hand with AA < KK). I'm just not all-in very often, so to be constantly busting on coin flips (especially where I'm ahead every time) is just really bad luck. Anyway, I feel that I'm playing good poker, and I'm just not getting any breaks. Tomorrow is the $1k main event, so hopefully things will turn around then. The good news is that my bad run isn't affecting my play as far as I can tell. If I keep playing good poker, I should eventually have a nice score. This afternoon I watched the Gator game online, then we went to dinner at Ray’s Cafe. We sat out on the deck, which overlooks Puget Sound. I’m not really one to talk about sunsets, but we got to see a pretty spectacular sunset:

Afterwards, we all went back to the Huge Mansion and sat around talking for a while. I got a salted caramel milkshake from Molly Moon’s and Luckbox made some kind of crazy drink concoction thing complete with rosemary and a bunch of berries–it was pretty darn good.

Time to sleep. I’m going to keep playing good poker, and hopefully I’ll have a nice score in the $1k tomorrow.

Day 5: Today was the $1k Main Event at the Muckleshoot. We were expecting a smallish field, but ended up getting about 155 entrants. This tournament turned out to be a great deal because the casino added $25k to the prize pool. That worked out to $165 or so for each player, which means we essentially played rake-free and had an overlay. Pretty good deal.

WARNING: Things are about to get poker-y here. If you don’t care about poker stuff, scroll down to where you see “BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING”.

The field also turned out to be a little softer than we expected. It wasn’t a crazy donkfest or anything, but there weren’t too many good, experienced players to be seen. My table was a good table (pretty soft) as I saw some players playing really big pots with relatively weak hands like top pair or even second pair. I figured if I could just catch some hands, I’d have not trouble chipping up.

Well, I did catch some hands and they were either second best or got outdrawn on the river. I had a couple funky AJ hands where I was in the blinds against a middle- or late-positionr raiser. Once, I flopped second pair (KJx board) and check-called to the river. The other guy had something like 96s and rivered trip sixes. So, my play was good – I had him betting at me as a big underdog – he just happened to get there. Another time, I flopped top pair, top kicker and check-called a bet on the flop. A king hit the turn, I checked, the guy made a very big bet and I folded. This seems a little tight, but he had already seen me pay off a few times in other hands in similar spots, AND I suspected his big bet meant business. I saw him say something to the guy next to him, and I’m pretty sure the king improved his hand. I also flopped several big draws that didn’t get there. I flopped a gutshot straight flush draw (I had AdTd on a KdQd9x board) and just called bets on the flop and turn because my opponent had raised UTG and was likely very strong. Of course I didn’t improve and had to fold to his bet on the river.

In another hand, that same dude check-called my flop bet when he had Ah8h on a Th9s2s board. I had 8s2s and had flopped a flush draw and he had flopped… ace high. Anyway, he check-called my flop bet with nothing, then he led the turn when another heart hit. I called because I had a gutshot straight draw and a flush draw. My plan was to bet the river if I missed and he checked to me. Then a heart hit the river and he led out again, so I folded and he turned over his flush. What he was doing on the flop, I don’t know. So anyway, that’s how my day was going.

I went into the first break with about 13,000 chips. This was kind of short because we started with 20,000. Obviously, I was short because I’d just been slowly losing chips in the pots I described above. The first level after the break, we would have our first ante level, and I planned to step up my aggression to start chipping up. I had seen some good spots to 3-bet light (or squeeze) and I was going to exploit the next spot I saw. The second hand after the break, I had the button and the player to my right raised to 500 (the blinds were 100/200 with a 25 ante). I 3-bet him to 1,500, the SB cold-called the raise and the original raiser also called. First of all, I should say this was my first 3-bet all day, and my image was pretty tight by this level. So, it’s a little unlucky that both of those players called this 3-bet. The flop was JcJs9c and both players checked to me. I c-bet 2,400 and both players called. The turn was a Ks, the SB checked, the guy to my right bet 11,000, I folded and the SB check-raised all-in. The SB had KK (he turned kings full) and the guy to my right had QcTc (he turned a straight plus a straight flush redraw against the other guy’s full house). The kings full held up. I like my 3-bet (it was a good time to try it), but my c-bet was a mistake: The SB was a tight player and his cold-call pre-flop should have been a red flag for me. After the hand, I knew I’d screwed up with the c-bet because the SB’s range is really small when he cold-calls my 3-bet pre-flop. I had thought maybe he cold-called with something like AK or AQs, thinking he didn’t want to 4-bet, but he also didn’t want to fold. The guy to my right could have had a pretty wide range because he was getting such good pot-odds to call my 3-bet (he had to call 1,000 to win 4,000), and a lot of his range is stuff like AK/AQ/KQ and medium pairs. So I c-bet because I thought there was a good chance they both had either big cards or medium pairs that missed the flop. But, in hindsight, the SB was obviously stronger than that here. It’s a small mistake, but it cost me 2,400 chips and I don’t like that. Also, I know it’s bugging you that I haven’t mentioned my hand – that’s because my hand didn’t matter since I had planned to 3-bet light. But if you must know, I had 8d3d (it was soooooted!).

Ok, so we fast forward two hands. I start the hand with about 8,500. The guy two seats to my right open limps (he’s done this before and I’ve raised his limp before), and I raise it to 700 (blinds still at 100/200/25) with AKo. It folds back to him and he calls. The flop is AT5, he checks, I bet 1,000 and he calls. The turn is a king, so I’ve got top two pair. He checks. There’s about 4,000 in the pot and I have about 6,500 left, so I decide to just move all-in both to protect my hand (there was a flush draw out, and possible funky straight draws) and for value (he might have a weaker ace or funky two pair, and I don’t want him getting scared off if he does have one of those hands and another big card hits the river putting a four-card straight on the board). He thinks for a while and then calls with AJo. So he needs one of four queens to knock me out, and I’m a 92% favorite to double up. If you’ve ever met me, you know that a queen hit the turn and I was out.

So, I played three tournaments at the Muckleshoot ($300, $500 and $1,000). I was all-in and called three times: JJ < AK; QQ < AK; AK < AJ on a AKT5 board. Or, in numbers: 55% favorite; 55% favorite; 92% favorite. I lost all three all-ins. It’s important to note that in all three cases, I was the one who moved all-in and my bet or raise was big enough that my opponent could legitimately fold. Yesterday, I mentioned there may have been another all-in, but I can’t remember it. You may recall that I busted from the WSOP ME with AA < KK (80% favorite) a few tournaments ago, and before that I min-cashed and had three final table bubbles at the Wynn. So I’m on a little bit of a cold streak right now.

BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING

After the pokerz, we headed back into Seattle and took a detour so I could finally meet The Freemont Troll. I’d been hearing about this guy since I arrived in Seattle, so it was nice to finally put the name with a face:

Yeah, that’s a VW Bug he’s crushing with his hand. A real VW Bug.

Then, Luckbox Larry and I stopped off at Theo Chocolate to get his wife a birthday present (she was kind enough to let him play the $1k main event on her birthday). Can I just say that Theo Chocolate is an amazing place where they literally just have piles of chocolate sitting around, waiting to be eaten for FREE?! It was a good thing that Luckbox Larry already basically knew what he was getting because I could’ve put away three or four pounds of chocolate with no problem if we’d stuck around long enough. It was awesome. Here’s a pic of a couple of their caramel selections:

Uh, so anyway, then we headed back to the palace and I took a nap while they went for a stroll to the market.

Some time in the evening, we all headed over to Dan (AKA, Fat Yeti of Fat Yeti Photography) and Maya’s place for a birthday dinner for Rachel (Luckbox Larry’s heretofore unnamed wife). I’d say the two highlights were the salmon that Dan cooked on his Big Green Egg (see below) and the S’mores Cake that Maya made (I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get a picture of it).

After dinner and dessert, we all went to Dan’s studio so he could show us some pretty awesome pics of him and some friends shooting giant guns. While we were browsing the gun pics, I scanned the walls and noticed some random-looking pics of people wearing a chicken head mask, but otherwise looking pretty normal. I asked Dan what was up with the mask and he said something like, “Yeah, we like to take pics of people wearing the chicken head. Do you want to take a pic wearing the chicken head?”

“Sure I do.”

That’s just one of two that we did. I’ll post the other one in its own blog post because it’s JUST THAT AWESOME.

Day 6: Today was pretty laid-back since we didn’t have any poker to play. I spent the morning over at Caffe Vita doing some writing and reading. I started “The Big Short” last week, and I’m starting to get into that.

We went for pho for lunch, but I didn’t catch the name of the place. It was good pho. Afterward, we went for gelato at another place whose name I didn’t catch. I had white chocolate and orange (one flavor) gelato and it was really good.

Then we ran some errands on foot, and ended up cruising around for about an hour, going store to store to get stuff done. It turned out to be a pretty good workout, so hopefully I burned off some of the calories I ate for lunch.

For dinner, we went for burgers at Uneeda Burger, and it was really good. We took Alfie with us, and he was just relaxing on the deck while we ate… until Bentley the local cat came along and started making trouble. Eventually, we ran Bentley off and Alfie stood his ground next time Bentley came around.

We just spent the rest of the evening chatting and I finished up re-packing my stuff for the second leg of my trip. I’m off to Vancouver at 7:40 AM!