Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wok This Way

First of all, I'm not apologizing to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry like I did to Patsy Cline for bastardizing their song lyrics. They still haven't apologized to all of their fans for all that shiat they put out in the 90's...

Regardless, here it is, Saturday night at the Batch Pad, and I'm neck deep in the kitchen buffoonery. As I'm writing this, I've just finished all the prep work for tonight's project--Pineapple chicken and spicy coconut mushrooms. Oh, and rice, too. But I'm taking a little break for a couple of minutes while the chicken rests in the fridge with it's fresh coating of seasoned cornstarch.

I spent the better part of the last hour slicing and dicing chicken, shallots, yellow onions, chives, fresh ginger, red chili peppers, and cremini mushrooms. I think that's about it--well, at least all I can remember off the top of my ol' bald head. Dicing up the shallots damn near killed me--I swear it was like I got tear-gassed. And the yellow onion was even worse (no, it wasn't one of those sweet Vidalia onions with good manners that would never make me cry in my own kitchen). But I'll be the first to admit that I'm out of practice with the prep knife. I worked in kitchens all through college, but it's been years. So I think that I was prolonging the stinging in my eyes because I was so slow. Nobody is going to confuse me with one of those crazy Japanese chefs at Benihana. A sumo wrestler, maybe...

The funny thing is, as much as the onions got to me, the chili pepper wasn't bad at all. I'm guessing that it's actually pretty mild. Even sniffing the bowl that they're sitting in doesn't irritate at all--it smells like a regular old red pepper. We'll see how it turns out. On the other hand, I'd forgotten how strong fresh ginger root is. It smells good, but wow, it packs a punch.

Here are the ingredients for tonight's meal:

Now that I'm looking at it, I'm ashamed that it took me so long to get that far. But peeling fresh ginger isn't quite the same as peeling a potato, and we've already discussed the angry onions.

Anyhow, once everything was ready to go, I heated up a few tablespoons of peanut oil in my new pot, then added the garlic and chili peppers, and after just a minute or so, in went the shallots:

It was pretty straightforward after that. Once the shallots had sweated out a little bit, in went the mushrooms. They cooked for about three minutes or so, and then I put in about 3/4 of a cup of coconut milk. That was basically it--I just let it boil rapidly until the liquid was reduced by half, then I sprinkled on some chopped chives and it was finished.

Over in the wok, I heated oil, and then stir-fried the chicken for a bit until it was just barely cooked through. Then I took it out of the wok, brought the oil back up to temperature, and then added the garlic, ginger, and onions. A few minutes of stirring that around in the peanut oil hot tub, I added in two small cans of pineapple, along with their juice. I let that get good and hot, added soy sauce, then put the chicken back in.

Once the liquid reduced down to a glaze, I stirred in some scallions, and it was done.

That's the best pic I've got of the finished product, and those mushrooms, they weren't exactly photogenic. Gray and lumpy, but the chilies and chives gave the dish a bit of color. And I need to work on my food-photography skills, too. The 'shrooms looked like shiat in their bowl, and I needed to fill up the plate for the sake of a better picture, so that's what I got. It looks like a huge, unappetizing portion. The picture doesn't do it much justice.

Anyhow, the pineapple chicken was outstanding--two thumbs way up! It had a great balance of sweet and salty with the pineapple and soy, and then every now and then one of those ginger matchsticks would find it's way onto the fork and added a whole other layer of flavor. Very good--much better than I expected.

The mushrooms, on the other hand, were kind of a disappointment. First of all, they didn't have an appealing look once they got to the serving dish. I couldn't imagine somebody trying to feed them to a kid. Second of all, I think I needed more chilies. The mushrooms were actually a bit too bland for my tastes. Now, I love me some coconut, but mushrooms on their own need some help. I followed the recipe to the letter, but I think my chilies were just a bit too mild. That being said, every now and again, I'd get a bite and it would do that classic Thai move of being a harmless bite of food at first, and then a few seconds later, it brought the heat. But too little too late, I think. I thought maybe some cayenne pepper might help, but that's not gonna do it. I'm guessing that plain old salt and pepper would work, along with some more, or stronger, chilies. Overall, it was a good dish, but it didn't live up to my expectations. I wanted it to knock my socks off, but it fell a bit short.

So it was a good meal, and that pineapple chicken recipe is definitely a keeper. And yeah, I've got *lots* of leftovers, too. That chicken chow mein might have to wait a couple more days.


Stir Crazy

Wow. I think I finally found a topic that takes the comment crown away from coleslaw and crazy biatches. F*ck that guy Raymond--everybody loves Chinese food!

Anyhow, let's answer a bit of viewer mail this morning, shall we? First of all, yes, I'm hearing the critique of some of my ingredients, namely the minced garlic in a jar and the minute rice. And you're preaching to the choir. I'd *much* rather use jasmine rice and fresh garlic, but I have to use the stuff that's in my pantry first. I've been lugging that jar of garlic around for several months, same with the box of minute rice, because I use them for simpler recipes that don't rate a blog post. I mean, I could write about the rice, cream of mushroom soup, and chicken casserole that I made on a rainy day, but I wasn't feeling inspired. Or I could blog about the magnificent Rice With Leftovers that I don't tell anyone about. So yeah--I'll be using that stuff up first before I go with the better, fresh stuff that has to be used right away. Although, I came about thisclose to picking up a five pound bag of jasmine rice on Thursday, but I decided to wait. And just this morning I hit the grocery store again, and this time I picked up some whole garlic cloves. They're now residing in the triple-decker hanging veggie basket above the counter, along with a bunch of onions and some limes, too.

Also, instead of picking up a second smaller wok, I took Hoya's advice and went the multi-tasking route, getting a nice deep five-quart loop-handled saucepan with a rounded bottom. It'll work great as a backup for side dishes, and I can use it for all kinds of other sauces and whatnot, too.

As far as leftovers go, I'm partial to cold Chinese food the next day, but I have done the re-heat thing with no appreciable loss of taste or texture. The secret is to use a splash of water or two, medium-high heat, and stir constantly once it heats up. Let that water create some nice steam in the pot first, and it'll do most of the work. Alternatively, you can heat up a little sesame oil in the bottom pot before you dump in the leftovers, and that imparts a pretty damn good flavor, but you gotta work with it a little more than you do with just plain old water.

My plan on Friday was to make those amazing-sounding spicy coconut mushrooms, but when lunchtime rolled around, I was feeling lazy. So I ate the leftover cashew chicken and rice--all of it--so by then, I was set for the rest of the day. I didn't eat again until this morning. But this afternoon I'll be making the mushrooms, and simple recipe I found for pineapple chicken. On Sunday, it's chicken chow mein. I just got back from the store where I got the rest of the goodies I need (well, I just realized that I forgot to get celery), like water chestnuts, bean sprouts, and chow mein noodles. Of course I'll post pictures for all of you culinary voyeurs.

So what else is going on? Work was ultra-slow earlier in the week, so my shifts were pretty thin. I was tempted to go out and play some no-limit over at the M last night, but I had that feeling like I was gonna get called in to work. Besides, since I've been a good boy and sending all of my free cash to my E*Trade account, I didn't have much of a cushion on hand in case I took another ridiculous beat-down. And the rent is due on Monday, so I decided not to risk it. Instead of going out and earning a score, I just stayed home and played it safe, even though all of my degenerate friends were telling me to go for it.

The poker game will still be there next week. Even so, I still fell asleep around 8:30 at night, and slept until 2:30. Once I woke up, I was all about getting out of the house. So I showered and shaved, made a shopping list, and got dressed. On a whim, I decided to call down to the poker room to 1) find out my schedule for this coming week, and 2) see if maybe they had a 4-8 game going, thinking maybe I'd play for an hour or two just because the bad-beat jackpot is down to quad fives. As it turns out, when I called, they said "Hey, we were just getting ready to call you in!". They had a few games still going strong and not enough dealers after 3:00 am, so I said I'd be there in just a few minutes.

So I got a few hours of work in this morning, grabbed a bite to eat, and then did some more grocery shopping. I'm now home for the rest of the day, having spent all the money I made at work, so no, I won't be playing any cards tonight, either. But I may get called in again, too. You just never know. And we've got some kind of private tournaments scheduled this week, too, so I've got five days on the schedule. So I don't know when I'll be back in the game doing my Joey Knish imitation, but for the next couple of days at least, I'll be in the kitchen doing my best Iron Chef.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Go Wok-ing, After Midnight

First of all, let me offer up my apologies to Miss Patsy, but I just couldn't help myself.

Those of you who have been paying attention these past few weeks know that I've been craving some good Asian food. Not just plain old Chinese take-out, but some good hot-from-the-wok dishes with lots of fresh veggies and exotic spices.

Last week, while I was talking to my sister Amy on the phone one afternoon, I heard somebody at my front door. I got up to check it out, and I found a take-out menu from the local Thai-Chinese place I see every time I go to the bank (it's like five or six doors down in the same strip mall). I got all kinds of excited, because even though I was craving the 'good' stuff, some take-out would still give me a much-needed fix.

I was still on the phone, so we were discussing the different menu items, and I ended up ordering like three or four different entrees, because seriously, who doesn't love the leftovers? The whole order came to like $30+, but I didn't mind. I figured that I could stretch it out for a few days and really get my money's worth.

Unfortunately, the food was bland as hell. I mean, I thought it was literally impossible for Thai food to be bland, but it was just plain crappy. Oh, the garlic chicken was decent, but it didn't blow my skirt up, and it's hard to mess up crab Rangoon, so that was ok, but I had some sort of pineapple rice dish that sounded so promising but fell so very short. I can't even remember what the other box had in it, it was that unremarkable.

Luckily, I still have my trusty bottle of hot Sriracha sauce, so that helped. But overall, it was quite the disappointment. I decided that if I wanted some decent Asian grub, I'd probably have to either head over to the west side and go to Chinatown, or just cook it myself. And y'all know how I feel about crossing I-15. It's like my own personal electronic dog fence.

After Christmas, I picked up a few Asian cookbooks that have stoked the fire a bit. Browsing through them, I've found several interesting recipes that I wanted to try, but then again, I still didn't even have a wok. While out shopping over the past couple of weeks, I picked up a few odds and ends here and there--spices, oils, and other common ingredients that kept popping up in the recipes that tickled my fancy. I think that I mentioned that I also bought a new Santoku knife the other day, all in preparation to unleash the fury in the kitchen.

But I still didn't have a wok. So on Wednesday, I didn't have anything to do, so I figured I'd finally break down and clear that last hurdle. Amy said that they have a good selection of woks at Cost Plus World Market, and I thought there was an outpost here in Henderson, but checking the internet, it appeared that I'd have to cross the line and go over to the west side. I figured I'd make a day of it--if they didn't have woks at Cost Plus, well, then I could go wander about in Chinatown and do some shopping there.

On a whim, before committing to an expedition to the far edge of my Vegas map, I decided to check out the local Target first. Wouldn't you know it--they had a nice 14" commercial steel wok on sale for $29.99. Sold! I came straight on back to the house, planning on spending the rest of the afternoon browsing recipes and making shopping lists. And you wonder why my four-year-old truck still doesn't even have 25,000 miles on it. Heh--trip to the west side avoided!

Now, there are some great recipes to try--I have three cookbooks and two of them are HUGE--but I figured that being a novice at this whole Asian thing, I better start off with something easy and familiar. I'd hate to fark up a recipe that had a laundry-list of offbeat and expensive ingredients and then get discouraged with the whole process, so I decided to keep it simple at first. My first two recipes would be basic--Cashew chicken (piece of cake) and spicy coconut mushrooms (I'd never heard of such a thing, but the recipe looked so damn good that I had to give it a try).

Fast forward to Thursday, and once I got up and got myself dressed, I headed towards the Whole Foods market over in The District. I went there for two reasons--first of all, Amy loves Whole Foods and raves about it all the time, and she said I can find almost any hard-to-find ingredient or spice there. Second of all, I read--and totally agreed with--their CEO's common-sense approach to health care reform, and decided that I'd support that outlook with my wallet. He'd definitely be getting my business. (Oh, and third, and no less important, Linda Lou said that they have an awesome selection of beer).

I'd never even set foot in a Whole Foods before, and when I walked in, it was like Disneyland for the wannabe chef. I wandered up and down the aisles like a kid in a toy store, just imagining all the fun I could have in my kitchen if money were no object. Eventually, I settled on the produce area and went ape-shiat buying up all kinds of organic veggies--green onions, ginger root, bell peppers, scallions, chives, hot chilies, Cremini mushrooms, etc. Then I hit the Asian aisle with a vengeance, picking up rice wine, black bean paste, coconut milk, sesame oil, and other such odds and ends. Not wanting to make another stop at Smith's or Wallyworld, I bit the bullet and overpaid for a couple of pounds of hippie chicken.

Even after all of my shopping was done, I still wandered for a bit, drooling over all the good stuff they had in there, not to mention the hot and cold food bars that were doing a brisk lunch business. Yeah, I was smitten. I love me some Whole Foods. I didn't even mind the fact that I'd spent fifty bucks and only had one shopping bag full of groceries...

As soon as I got home, I realized that I'd made a tactical error in my planning--I only have one wok! All these recipes require a wok, and if I want to make two things at the same time, well, I'm just shiat outta luck. I decided that the spicy coconut mushrooms will have to wait another day. Besides--I'd planned on making enough cashew chicken that there would be plenty of leftovers. I could reheat that in a regular old saucepan the next day and make the mushrooms in the wok. Problem solved!

Cashew chicken truly is a simple recipe, and it really doesn't require much prep work, either. I just sliced up my chicken and red pepper, and while doing that, I toasted a bunch of cashews in the dry wok. After a couple of minutes on the heat, I set them aside, tossed a bit of peanut oil into the hot wok, and added some minced garlic. I let that sizzle for about a minute, and then added the chicken and peppers.

One thing--I'd never used a Santoku knife before, and all I can say is Wow! I love it--nothing cuts through veggies faster and easier. Oh, and it went through the chicken like a chainsaw going through butter. If you don't have one, go out and get one. It's worth it.

Here's the prep area--while the chicken and peppers were cooking I sliced up some green onions and mixed a little rice wine with Hoisin sauce. Oh, and while this was all going on, I had a pot of rice cooking on the stove, too.

Once the chicken was mostly done, the sauce went in and cooked for a few more minutes until everything was evenly coated. At the last minute, I added the scallions and toasted cashews, along with a splash of sesame oil. A few quick stirs, and it was done.

And here is the finished product on a bed of rice!

It was damn good--better than I've ever had from any take-out joint, especially after adding a few splashes of low-sodium soy sauce at the end. I think that next time I'll cut the peppers in half, though. The recipe said to cut it into long strips, but it was a pain in the ass to eat it that way. Also, I hate the fact that I don't have a gas stove at this apartment, but the electric one works just fine as long as you crank up the heat and keep stirring--just like if it were on a gas range.

Anyhow, we'll call experiment number one a total success, and I have plenty of leftovers, too!

Tomorrow, I'll make the spicy coconut mushrooms and apologize to Johnny Cash, because I wok the line.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


What kind of jackass pulls out his cell phone and high-limit credit card while riding a ski lift?

Seriously, that's another one of those classic blunders that rates right up there with getting involved in a land war in Asia. You know the commercial I'm talking about; that Chase sapphire one that's been run into the ground lately. Not only that, but the dude is double stupid because he pulls it out of his pocket--he doesn't even carry the card around in his wallet. Now why would you do that any time, much less during an afternoon on the slopes? And his wife isn't much better, grabbing the phone out of his hands while wearing mittens. You know that shiat would fall 30 feet and be lost in a snowbank until the spring thaw.

Just a hint to the marketing geniuses at Chase--those of us with triple-digit IQs wait until we're at the bottom of the run to call in and check our reward point balance. I'm just sayin'.

You're telling me that they couldn't film that commercial while sitting on a beach somewhere instead? Speaking as a sun-belt consumer, I don't want to be reminded of cold, snow, and winter when it's 36 degrees and rainy outside. Hit me with that one in July when it's about 115 degrees in the shade. Besides, if they would've done that, they could've easily knocked out a Corona commercial at the same time, all for the price of a couple of beers and a sliced up lime.

And another thing... I would never set foot in a Golden Corral, but do they have security on staff there? I mean, that waitress just loses her shiat when the guy says that he only wants to pay ten bucks for the Plate-o'-Meat. I don't know if I want to 1) eat in a joint that offers that much food for that cheap, unless there is a casino attached to it, and 2) eat anywhere that keeps a security staff on the payroll. A place like that would probably be full of screaming brat kids, anyways, and you couple that with an unstable wait staff, and well, I'll save up for a month or two and treat myself to Arby's instead. And is there nothing lower than being security at Golden Corral? I mean, even Mall Cops make fun of those guys.

To tell the truth, I *have* been to a Golden Corral. They used to have one up in Rexburg when I was attending school there. Every Tuesday at 2:00 pm, the whole damn campus would shut down for the weekly 'Devotional', which irritated me to no end, so my roommates and I would escape and head down to the Golden Corral to study and eat ice cream. It's been twenty or more years, but if I recall correctly, I thought the place was a buffet. But somehow we could pay just a couple of bucks for unlimited trips to the soft-serve machine. So yeah, I've been there, but I've never eaten a real meal in the joint.

Bank of America is also doing it's part to perpetuate the stupidity in their commercials. Every time they show somebody swiping their debit card, it's right-side up so that the logo shows. Seriously--that grates on me because whenever I go shopping, or get gas, or do any of the other things that I use a card for, I'm always stuck behind some old fart that can't seem to figure out how to swipe their damn card. I'm guessing they get that from watching the commercials during their Matlock reruns. Here's an idea--if you want the logo to show, put the magnetic strip on BOTTOM edge of the back of the card. Oh wait--the machines that produce them aren't set up that way??? Ok, then print the front of the card upside down! That would probably save me untold hours every year from standing in line.

Aside from these rants, there is some good news to report. I saw in the Wall Street Journal that Bud Light is ditching those god-awful 'Drinkability' commercials starting during the Super Bowl. They've bought five minutes worth of ad time, and I guess the new catch phrase is going to be 'Here we go!'. That's a step in the right direction, because the whole 'drinkability' theme went over with consumers about as well as the cast of Jersey Shore crashing a debutante ball in Georgia. (Although, the chick with the nail gun offering to fix her dude's zipper gave me a chuckle the first dozen times or so).

As far as other Super Bowl commercials go, I haven't heard of anything spectacular in the works. I'd like to see the E*Trade baby do another one, and I'm sure the folks at Pepsi will spend a small fortune reminding us that they have a first-rate advertising team for a second-rate product. And those of you local viewers who complain that we have so see that idiot 'Chop' from from Towbin Dodge on the tube constantly, just thank your lucky starts that we don't have to listen to Tom Shane (the rest of the country nods its head knowingly). Otherwise, I'm just glad that most of my TV-watching is done with the DVR, so I can skip the stupidity in the commercials altogether.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All Quiet on the Western Front

Sadly, I have absolutely nothing to report. I slept most of the day on Monday, kicked around the house for a bit, watched the latest episode of 24, and then AC came over after work and we sat outside on the patio sipping on Grand Marnier and smoking Black Labels. It's still pretty cold outside, especially in the middle of the night, but we were bundled up and the Grand Marnier warms you while you drink it.

Other than that, I didn't do a damn thing. Work seems to be a bit slow this week, so I'll probably spend a whole lotta time reading and working on my jigsaw puzzle that I haven't touched in two weeks. Oh yeah, it's still out there on the dining room table, and I'll probably spend a good chunk of today working on it.

Wish I had more...


Monday, January 25, 2010

A Big Purple Bruise

Hey, I wasn't the only one who got knocked the eff out this weekend. How awesome was it to see Brett Favre getting steamrolled in slow motion by a 300-lb lineman after throwing an incomplete pass?

To those of us who don't drink the purple Kool-Aid, sick to death of all the fawning and slurping of Favre that the national media does every year, tired of all the should-I-come-back attention-whoring that ESPN happily enables, there was nothing more enjoyable than watching the 'old gunslinger' getting his ass kicked and then--as a bonus to fans of all 31 other NFL teams--throwing that pick deep in Saints territory at the end of regulation. I'm sure that all of Packer Nation spent the evening burping up the taste of delicious beer, brats, and slow-roasted schadenfreude. The Pack may not be going to the Super Bowl, but then, neither is the purple Judas. And he choked away his opportunity in the most satisfying and delightful way. Plus he got his ass kicked, so that defeat was just full of Win!

Unsurprisingly, immediately after the game, while the confetti was still falling from the rafters of the Super Dome, the morons on ESPN had to devote five minutes of discussion as to whether or not Favre would come back next year. Let me speak for EVERYONE outside of Bristol Connecticut and the twin cities when I say WE DON'T F*CKING CARE! Seriously dorks, the Saints are in the Super Bowl! Did y'all miss that little nugget of info while you were circle-jerking to the realization that you've got another dead horse to beat for the rest of the off-season?

On the other hand, the Saints were damn lucky to win that game, and I think they know it. Any time a team has five frickin' turnovers and you still need to take it to overtime to beat them, well friends, you just dodged a huge landmine and should be thanking your lucky stars (and a few refs, too, from what I saw). That certainly wasn't the jaw-to-the-curb head-stomping that it should've been, but then, nobody ever wins the Big One without catching a few lucky breaks, either.

I spent the day watching the games from the comfort of my couch here at the Batch Pad, eschewing the temptation to hang with the crazies at the local sports book. I invited a few people over, but Falcon Rob had to work, and one of my other buddies called off at the last minute, so it was just me and AC.

As far as our in-game munchin' spree was concerned, the original plan was to order a pizza or two and supplement it with some home-made hot wings. But the wings turned out so damn good that we skipped the pizza altogether.

Y'all remember that Lisa Lisa the One I Adore up in Brownachussetts sent me that deep fryer for Christmas? Well, I finally had the chance to break it out and use it. I had a big bag of frozen wings that I'd thawed out on Saturday, and a couple of hours before kickoff, I laid them out on paper towels to pull the excess moisture away from the meat. While that was going on, I mixed up a bowl of seasoned flour, using stuff like garlic powder, white and black pepper, a little salt, and paprika to spice it up.

Once the raw wings were sufficiently sweated out, I put them in a Pyrex mixing bowl with the flour, snapped on the lid, and gave it a shake-shake-shake like it was a huge poultry martini. Then the whole thing went back in the fridge for an hour (a little secret I learned that keeps the seasoning stuck to the meat, instead of coming off and floating to the top of the deep fryer like a bunch of golden-brown lily pads in a pond of boiling oil).

Cooking was a snap--just twelve minutes in the fryer--and they came out perfectly. I had a bottle of Frank's Red Hot Wing Sauce to pour over the wings, and after making sure they were all coated in spicy red goodness, they were ready to eat. And they turned out damn good. Between the two of us, we ended up making several batches and went through the entire bag of wings.

Now that I've used the deep fryer, I'm looking forward to using it again. I have some frozen hash brown patties I can use at breakfast, but the other day when I was at the store, I picked up some hushpuppy mix, too. Once AC heard about that, he put in a request for catfish nuggets. So we'll see where this culinary adventure leads.

On the other hand, as much as I enjoyed the wings, I'm currently obsessing over getting a new wok and trying out a bunch of Thai and Chinese recipes. I've got several Asian cookbooks that I've been browsing through lately, and a few recipes have piqued my imagination. And I've been slowly stocking up on the Asian ingredients lately, too. Last trip to the grocery store, I picked up some Chinese five-spice, cornstarch, sesame oil, ground turmeric, hoisin sauce,and even a new Santoku knife, all in preparation for a chance to go stir-crazy. Basically, I have everything I need except for the wok, so once that little hurdle is cleared I'll be unlocking the mysteries of the Orient by way of my kitchen, or at least munching on some nice fresh veggies that aren't used as a pizza topping.

That's all I've got for today. After a full night's sleep, I'm free to goof off all day, but then my work week starts up again tonight. Y'all have a good one.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Coulda Been A Contender

Oh yeah, I definitely jinxed myself with that last post. Remember that part about 'Whoever the poker gods wish to destroy, first they make mad'? Yeah, well, there was some madness afoot last night, my friends. And as much as I would've been justified, I didn't lose my shiat and freak out.

Lemme esplain...

So I made my way down to the M around 7:30 again on Friday night. When I got there, the place was hopping. They were just about to start a new 1-2 No-Limit game when I rolled in, so I grabbed a seat at the empty table.

I hadn't been there but a few minutes when the SHCW (Smokin' Hot Cuban Waitress) found me and came over to chat. That was a nice way to kick off my evening. But we couldn't talk long--the room was busier than hell--so I ordered an 'M Cider', a sweet apple-flavored brew that looks like pink champagne but tastes like a combination of Oktoberfest and Thanksgiving. I like it a lot, but I swear it's brewed in Utah because I've yet to acquire the slightest buzz from drinking it.

Anyhow, the game got underway just a few minutes later, and I felt like I was off to the races when I knocked somebody out on the third hand of the night. Three or four players limped in, and I was on the button. I looked down to see Queen-Jack, so I raised it to $9. Two players called me, including the chick on the big blind.

The flop came out Jack-Five-Deuce. Big blind checked, other player checked, and I bet $17 with my top pair and overcard kicker. The big blind called, as did the other player.

The turn card was a Queen, giving me top two pair, and all four suits were on the board--no flush or straights lurking in the weeds. Immediately, the big blind went all-in for about $140. The other player folded, and I called, not the least bit afraid of what she was holding.

She announced "Two Pair!" and I replied, Oh, we're gonna chop it then.

The river was a useless Four, and she turned over her cards showing Queen-Five. I had thought for sure that we had the same hand, so I was quite happy, and surprised, when my top two pair scooped the entire pot. She started bitching at me like I did something wrong, but honestly, who throws a shoe? calls a pre-flop raise--out of position--with Queen-Five offsuit, and then calls another bet with just a low pair?

Maybe she thought I was bluffin'...

Of course, her mini-tirade was just sour grapes, but one thing I've learned from painful experience is if you play shiatty cards, expect to get beat even if you make your hand. Perhaps it was just her turn to learn that lesson.

Anyhow, after that hand, I was up about $170 and feeling like Hef when the latest crop of Girls Next Door roll up to the Mansion. That's right--I own you bitches!

I didn't get any good cards for awhile after that, but I was content to sit and watch and take the measure of my opponents. I could tell that there were a couple of terrible players in the game, and one guy who was fearless, but would overvalue his hands and overbet most pots he was in. Definitely an action junkie, so I figured I would just wait to pick my spot and maybe I could get him in a big pot.

Nothing happened for the first hour, although I had to lay down a hand after I'd already invested about $60 in it, so that put a small dent in my profit.

At the bottom of the hour, a new dealer pushed in, and it was the same chick who dealt that one-outer four-of-a-kind against me the night before. Ugh. I've never liked her anyways--she's about the sloppiest dealer at the M and makes mistakes all the time, so in addition to killing me on the river, she's kind of a crummy dealer. When she sat down, I leaned over and whispered to the guy next to me, I should probably get up and wander around for the next half hour--this dealer always kills me.

But I didn't. I got mad skillz, yo. And there was no way she could crush me again like she did the night before.

So a few hands into her 'down', I got Big Slick, a suited Ace-King in late position. A couple of people limped in, but then the action junkie raised it to $12. I just called, only because every time anyone re-raised him pre-flop, he immediately pushed all-in, and I hate going to war with Ace-King. So like I said, I just called.

The flop was ugly, but there was an Ace on the board. Nice! I flopped top pair, top kicker.

But the gal who is first to act went all-in. I had her covered by more than double, and I didn't figure her for a set, so I was absolutely gonna call. But I froze, waiting for Mr. Action Junkie to act. If he called, my plan was to push all-in also, forcing him to make a tough decision and either make him fold or get that big pot from him that I'd been thinking about for the previous hour. He ignored me--completely forgetting that I was in the hand it seemed--and after agonizing for about a minute, he finally acted, but just called her bet (he had her covered, too).

So I pushed my entire stack forward and announced that I too was all-in. He thought for a second, shrugged, and then said "Ok, I call..."

Immediately my opponents went into 'tournament mode' and turned over their cards. The gal had Ace-Jack, so I had her dominated, and the other guy showed pocket Jacks, so I have both of them crushed and there was almost $600 in the pot.

The turn brought a King, so then I had top two pair and I was doing the nekkid happy dance in my head because the gal who first went all-in was drawing dead, and I was holding Aces-up against a pair of Jacks with just one card to come.

But you know what happened next--that evil bitch dealer burned and turned, and the case Jack popped out on the river.


That's two nights in a row that skank did it to me! I know, I know, I'm the last person that should ever blame the dealer for the cards that come out, but holy Jeebus--what are the odds of that happening???

I sat there stunned, like Lewis Winthorp on the steps in front of the police station.

Thanks. A lot.


To compound my frustration, immediately after it was discovered that the the guy with trip Jacks won the hand, the dealer moved the gal's short stack of chips over to his stack from where they were sitting. Then she counted it all down and said "You owe $340".

I about lost it right there and said Look genius--you just moved that short stack over there into his pile--the dude didn't have but $200 when I moved all in--Come on--get it right!

She immediately realized her mistake, and luckily my opponent was honest and separated the two stacks, and it turned out that I only owed $203. But as a dealer, I can tell you that it was absolutely the worst possible time to make a mistake like that. Most other players would've cussed her out.

I just rolled my eyes and mumbled You're killin' me, Smalls. Killin' me!


I should've got up when I had the chance.

I had brought $275 with me, and bought in for $200, but after that hand, I only had $80 left. So I pulled out my last $75 and converted it into chips, reloading for another battle. While I was sitting there steaming, I eventually realized that even after an ass-whoopin' like that, I was only down $120 for the session. It just seemed like a lot more because I'd been well above par before that.

In just a few minutes, I raked a couple of small pots, so I was feeling much better about my situation. It would only take a couple of decent hands to make a comeback.

But when the button got back around to me, I looked down and saw 10-Jack of Hearts, one of my favorite late-position limping hands.

One guy made it $8 to go and got three callers, so I decided to join the fun.

The flop was interesting--Ace, Queen, Eight, with two hearts. I had a straight flush draw, and back door Royal draw, a plain old flush draw, and a double-gutter inside straight draw, too. Basically, all the outs.

But strangely, everyone checked. I did a $10 feeler bet, just to see who was still interested after that flop, but everyone called.

The turn brought a black King, giving me a Broadway straight--Ten through Ace. The first player checked, the original raiser bet $15. Since I had the Nuts with one card to come, I value-raised it to $45. That knocked out all the other players except for the original raiser, and he went all-in! He had me covered, but since I had the best possible hand at that point, I snap-called. I figured he was holding 10-Jack also and had put me on the flush draw, but he shook his head and bit his lip like he'd just stepped in a big steaming pile of dog crap. It was obvious that he did *not* want me to call.

Woot! I just doubled up!!! I thought to myself. I'm back, baby!

But then my least favorite dealer on the planet ran out the river card, pairing the board with another King.

My opponent grinned and said "Oh, you're gonna hate this" and turned over King-Queen for his six-outer full house, further evidence that straights are no good unless they come on the river. (Seriously, who was the last guy to win with straight made before the river? Mike McD at the end of Rounders???)

I showed my worthless straight before they went into the muck, and a huge groan went up from the table, as my other horrific beat was still fresh in everyone's minds.

Taking a roundhouse kick to the nuts again, I just shook my head and silently walked out the door. I was absolutely numb. I didn't say a word to anyone (which I'm guessing the dealer appreciated--she was probably expecting me to unload a stream of expletives at her that would've earned me a month-long ban).

So I drove home in silence. No radio, no Guns-n-Roses to help me vent. I just shook my head for fifteen miles and told myself that it just wasn't my night. I can't imagine what kind of odds came into play to take a couple of ridiculous beats like that, but all the talent in the world can't overcome the devastating miracle river card.

By 9:15 I'd ditched my preppy clothes and changed into some crummy shorts and an old t-shirt, and there I was standing in my tub holding a scrub brush and a bottle of bathroom cleaner, going to town on my tile, replaying both bad beats over and over again while I worked out my frustration on innocent soap scum.

A couple of hours later, I was lying in bed, still pretty numb, but slowly getting over it (it was only $275--a hit I could easily absorb, but not one that I wanted to), when my phone rang. One of my buddies was out and about and was calling to tell me about a juicy six-handed game that I should get into as soon as possible. But I turned it down.

I know most 'experts' and books say to get right back into it after taking a bad beat, but here's the thing--I'm not trying to be a pro or build a bankroll--I'm more like a Joey Knish without the cool hair. I pay the bills with what I make at the table. After my win on Thursday, the first thing I did Friday morning was put everything I made over the past week or so in the bank and wired it to my E*Trade account--allowing me to pick up a bunch of Citigroup shares. (It ain't gonna be a $3 stock forever. Eventually it'll come back). I think that's a much better use of the money than carrying around a few grand worth of Benjamins wrapped in a rubber band just so I have a 'bankroll'. This is Vegas; there will always be a good game to be found somewhere. I can wait.

My point is, as juicy a game as it was, I really didn't want to go to the ATM and take money back out of the bank. I took my beating and I'm going to take a few days off from playing. I'm spreading my risk around by investing my extra cash and using it for stuff like the phone bill or insurance. I'll go back again and play after my upcoming work week--I can raise enough to stake my next session in just a few hours of wearing the brown polyester clown suit, so I'm in no hurry. Besides, it's probably gonna take a few days to shake off the cloud of bad luck that's hovering over me anyways.

I'll pick myself up off the mat, lick my wounds, and be celebrating my Ali-like return to the ring before you know it. I'm 7-and-1 for the year, and after last night, it's pretty clear that I can take a punch.


Friday, January 22, 2010

I Don't Want to Jinx Myself

... But I'm afraid that I'm about to. I just got home from another very productive night in the poker room--playing, not working--and I thought I'd post a few thoughts before catching a catnap for a couple of hours. (I want to be up in time for the market open).

My Thursday was pretty unspectacular. I went in to work late on Wednesday night just in time to see the no-limit game breaking up and everyone going home. That's what happens when the big stack wins the multi-way all-in. It can't be helped.

I was really bummed, because we usually have a couple of guys that come in every Wednesday and play all night, but they were nowhere to be found. And oh yeah, I could've used the money, too. Anyhow, besides me, there were two other dealers, a floorman, and suddenly no game, so I didn't even take off my jacket.

Before I got too bummed out though, the floorman said that he had something for me--the tokes from the Heartland Poker Tour had arrived, and there was an envelope full of cash waiting for me. Now, I wasn't expecting much at all, because a lot of the tournaments were just satellites--nobody won any money, they just advanced to a bigger satellite or the Main Event. So I was expecting free-roll type of money, just a couple bucks per down. Imagine my surprise when I found out that we made over four times that amount. Yep, that suddenly improved my outlook, because on top of that, they paid us double our hourly wage, too (although that comes on the paycheck and gets taxed).

So instead of working all night long, I just wandered in, collected a couple hundred bucks, and wandered back out again. Not a bad night. Of course, I'd been sleeping for hours before that, thinking I'd be working all night, so I had no choice but to stay up. I briefly considered finding another 1-2 no-limit game somewhere, but I decided I'd just head home and not risk my suddenly inflated bankroll.

I watched some TV, did a bit of reading, a few chores, stuff like that. Once the sun started peaking out through the clouds, I made a pot of coffee and talked on the phone for awhile to the folks back east. Eventually, I went to sleep, but I kept waking up, reading some more, turning off the light, sleeping some more, and I did that for several hours. It was a cold, rainy, and dreary day outside, so there was no use getting out of bed for anything.

...Except to answer the door when the FedEx guy showed up. Amy had sent me a box she's been teasing me with for a month, and it finally arrived yesterday. Inside, there was a music stand, that Michael Crichton novel Pirate Latitudes, and a whole bunch of trash disguised as 'packing material'. Now that I have a music stand, I have no excuse for not practicing the guitar. Oh, my fingers are gonna hurt for awhile since the callouses have left my fingertips and made their way to my palms. (Have I used that joke before?)

Anyhow, eventually I got myself out of bed, showered, shaved, and dressed, and considered what to do with my evening. Of course I was gonna go out and play some cards. I didn't really want to go all the way over to the M because of the bad weather and all the idiot drivers on the roads (it's been raining pretty hard all week here), so I called a couple of my local rooms that were closer. I guess the rain was keeping everyone away, because I called one that usually has 2 or 3 games going every night, but they were still trying to get their first game going. I tried another room, and was told that they were just seating everyone and if I got down there right away, I could get right in. On my way! I told them.

When I got there, it was a different story altogether--there was no no-limit game going, and there were only five people on the list. I was told that they'd probably start a new game within the half-hour if I wanted to wait, but I didn't want to. Since I was already halfway to the M already, I called them up and told them to put me on the waiting list. But I was told they only had one game going, too.

Normally, I probably would've just gone home--I figured the weather was just keeping everyone home last night. But since I was already oot and aboot, as they say in O-Canada, I decided to just go ahead and drive over there. Once I pulled in and hauled my carcass up three flights of stairs to the casino, it was nice to see that not only did they have a full 1-2 No Limit game going, but there were ten people on the waiting list, and they were getting ready to fire up a second game.

So I found out which table they were going to use, and claimed the #3 seat. Just a few minutes later, we were underway.

I started off strong, up $40 within the first half-hour or so. With no smoking-hot Cuban waitress to distract me on Thursdays, and not giving a rat's ass about the Cavs-Lakers game on the TVs, it was easy to concentrate on the game. Sammie was there, but the line-up scrolling across the bottom of the room monitor showed that she was a good four hours away from dealing at my game.

It was a good game--one of those where I just knew that I was the best player at the table, so I figured I should do well.

Unfortunately, those who the poker gods wish to destroy, first they make mad...

On one particular hand, I looked down to see Ace-Seven of clubs. Not great, but not too bad. I hate Ace-middle card--it's always trouble--if you hit the flop, you're probably outkicked. It's only good if it's suited and you hit a draw, or if you get a miraculous two-pair flop, and then nobody can put you on it.

But nobody was getting saucy with a raise and I believe I was on the small blind, so it was only a buck to limp in and see a flop. The flop came out 7-7-6, rainbow--good news, bad news for me. I had trips with top kicker, but I was out of position. Any bet was likely to cause everyone else to fold and all I would get would be the $12 pre-flop limpin' money.

So I checked, as did everyone else. The turn brought another Six, so the board was double-paired, giving me top full-house. So I bet eight bucks, seeing if I could get anyone with a six to come along. Immediately, the big blind raised to $25.

Everyone folded back to me, and I pumped it up to $75 to go. I figured the worst-case scenario would be that I'd chop the pot, because nobody holding pocket Sixes on the big blind would've limped in, or checked the flop, or been dumb enough to overbet a four-of-a-kind like that on the turn.

My opponent immediately went all-in and I called, holding top full-boat. But he turned over his cards, showing King-Six offsuit, so I had him--boat over boat--and it was a nice fat pot with over $300 in it.

Sadly, that's not the end of the story, as the River had yet to be dealt. My least-favorite dealer in the whole joint burned and turned, pulling the case Six from the deck, hitting my opponent's one-outer, giving him the runner-runner four-of-a-kind.

I have to use the poker cliche I despise the most in order to describe it--It was sick!

A f*cking ONE-outer. One single card in the deck that would've awarded him the pot, and it hit on the river. Ouch.

I haven't had a kick in the balls like that since a blackjack dealer at the Vegas Club pulled an eight-card 21 on my ass six years ago.

Ouch. Instead of being up for the session, suddenly I was down $140.

I made a little bit of it back on the very next hand, when I got pocket 10's on the button. I raised it to $14 pre-flop, and a couple of people called, thinking it was just a steam raise. The flop was all rags, but I pushed it all the way to the end and won a decent pot when my Tens beat somebody else's pocket Nines.

Still, I was pretty pissed off.

I made my way back to profitability over the next hour or so with Ace-Queen twice, believe it or not. Longtime readers know of my aversion to Ace-Queen--it's lost me so much damn money over the years that it's a hand I've grown to hate. But both times, I raised pre-flop, hit the the flop and made an opponent pay dearly for a flush that never came. I even told one old dude after he checked the turn that "that third heart is gonna cost you $75" as I cut out three stacks of five redbirds and pushed them towards the center. He still paid it, holding the nut-flush draw. Thankfully it never came, and I scooped a decent pot.

My best win of the night came a little later, after I was back up into positive territory. I was on the button with Ace-Jack of Spades. A couple of players limped in, and when it got to me, I raised to $13. The big blind immediately pumped it up to $26 and two other players called. Since I had a good hand, a good price, and position, I gladly called the extra $13.

The flop came out Ace-Jack-Four, with two Clubs. The big blind, being first to act, bet out $35. The other two players folded. I had the original bettor covered, so I went all-in.

He paused for a minute and said "Man, don't tell me you have Ace-Jack..."

So I said Are you saying you can't beat Ace-Jack?

"No", he said.

Ok, then I have Ace-Jack...

He thought for a minute, and then said "Well, my hand is too big to fold, so I call."

He turned over Ace-King unsuited, the turn and river were rags, and I found myself with $500 worth of chips stacked in front of me, more than doubling me up for the night. Woot!

I didn't play another hand after that, just folded the next few and racked up. I went over to Sammie's table and tossed her a redbird, then headed for the desk to cash out. I was out of there by midnight, happy to book a solid win.

I drove home, wondering if I should've stayed and played some more. It was definitely a beatable game, but I was still stinging about that four-of-a-kind that crushed me, even though I made it all back and then some. I guess sometimes we're not satisfied, wondering what could have been. Oh well. I got out when the gettin' was good.

But like I said up top, I'm probably jinxing myself by writing it down and sharing it with everyone, but since the calendar has turned over to 2010, I have not yet had a single losing session while playing no-limit. Seven times in, seven times cashing out a winner.

Let's hope that the streak continues.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Preppy, Not Dorky

Wanna know a secret about Mikey? Besides bowling shirts, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, black polyester work pants, and t-shirts, I have an entire walk-in closet full of preppy clothes that nobody knows about.

I have lots of oxford shirts and Dockers, a few pairs of topsiders, and if I dig really deep, maybe even some argyle socks. However, as I write this, I realize that I have very few polo shirts. Sweaters? Only a couple--generally it's too warm out here to have sweaters (this year being the exception, of course). But I have to draw the line somewhere, so the sweaters that I *do* keep on hand are not argyle, and I would never go popped-collar with a polo shirt. Ok, I confess, I did back in 1985 or so, but then again, I was in high school and not responsible for my questionable taste in fashion. (Although, I really wish I still had that keyboard tie!)

When I'm working, it's the same thing every day, the nasty outfit I have to wear at the casino. When the weather is warm, I generally go with shorts and a t-shirt. But when I go out at night, I try to dress a little nicer than usual. One surprising side effect is that it helps my poker game immensely. Some people go for the sunglasses and the backwards hat, covering themselves with enough online poker site patches that they look like a third-string gas man on a Nascar pit crew.

But me? No, I prefer to wear a nicer camp-style short sleeve shirt (think modern bowling shirt), or an oxford shirt and a pair of Dockers. I find that when I'm dressed better, not only to I play better, but I have better manners, too. One sees all kinds of boorish behavior at the poker tables, and I try not to be one of those people. Besides, a lot of times, I'm playing in the room I work in, so rudeness and poor manners would only cost me money, not to mention irritate the boss.

I didn't discover the 'nice clothes theory' until a few months after I started playing more seriously. It was laundry day, so I dressed up a little almost by default. I got so many compliments from co-workers and fellow players about how I cleaned up so well that I started dressing better every time I went out to play. And as a minor side-effect, my game improved, also.

Most people want to just be comfortable when playing cards, and you can't blame them for that--you're sitting there on your ass for hours on end sometimes, so you might as well be comfy. I'm guilty of showing up to the poker room wearing swim trunks, flip flops, and a Jimmy Buffet concert shirt on many occasions. When you're dressed like that, it's easier to slouch--but then when you get a big hand, you almost automatically sit up straight. That's a huge tell that a lot of people don't realize. I've discovered that when I dress a bit better, I have better posture and don't give away as much info. And I look more serious, too. That's not to say I don't have a good time and laugh it up while I'm playing--poker would be boring as hell, otherwise. But dressing a little better is an easy way to improve your game.

Not only that, but being a dealer for so long and playing for years too, I can tell you with a certainty that the people who act like the biggest assholes and cause the most disruptions in a game are usually not the best-dressed people at the table. Dress better, act better, play better. It's almost a law of nature--Well, at least as far as I'm concerned. Don't believe me? Ask Crandell Addington.

Now, I'm not gonna go that extreme and wear a jacket and tie when I play, although I may go full-on James Bond and do the tux thing on my next cruise, but in the meantime, I'll stick with a nice oxford or camp shirt whenever I head out to the M to play some no-limit. And flirting with the cocktail waitress is much more productive when you don't look like you just rolled out of bed.

Why do I bring up the subject of clothes and their relationship with poker? Well, it wasn't my intention when I sat down at the keyboard, it just kind of happened that way. The highlight of my otherwise boring life yesterday was that I got online and found a nice pair of penny loafers on sale, so I ordered them. I've been wearing penny or tassel loafers as my dress shoe of choice for going on thirty years now, and needed some new ones. I like them because they work with so many things.

Back in the day when I worked at Schwab, we could wear jeans, but athletic shoes were frowned upon. So topsiders and loafers were the shoes of choice when I spent my days in the cube farm. When I worked for that small brokerage in Nashville, jeans weren't allowed except on Fridays, so my closet full of Dockers came in handy.

Now that I work in the casino, any shoes are fine, as long as they are solid black. Back when I was on my feet all day, expensive, comfortable shoes were the order of the day. But now that I'm sitting on my ass all night at a poker table, I just use some cheap synthetic clogs that I can kick off under the table when I'm locked down.

But I still need some decent shoes for when I'm out playing cards and hanging with my gals during my off-time. So I did a little shopping. And now the secret is out--I picked up a hundred-dollar pair of penny loafers on sale today for forty-five bucks.

Actually, $45.02. Gotta put a shiny penny in each one, you know. I wouldn't want to be under dressed when I leave the house.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

It's tough to come up with stuff to keep y'all entertained, believe me. Yesterday, I was kickin' it around the house, trying to think of something interesting to write about. But my mind drew a blank. And after that ridiculously-long post I put up on Sunday, it's hard to come up with material.

Today, the outlook hasn't changed very much. But then, because I've worked nine out of the past eleven days straight, with some really long ones in the mix, my life becomes rather dull. Since that last long post over the weekend, I've not participated in very much buffoonery.

On the other hand, I think I'm gonna save those really long posts for when I've got something important to say or a good story to tell. Going back and re-reading that latest one, it kind of meanders all over the map, and that's no good.


On Monday, I officially joined the Henderson Writers Group, paid my dues, and sat through the entire meeting. I'll probably do my first reading with them in two weeks. And I can guarantee you there will be no wizards, dragons, 'magick' spells, robots, or vampires in any of my work. Seriously--sitting through that genre, to me, is worse than dental work. Oh, there were a couple of *excellent* writers in the group--one guy in particular shared the first chapter of a novel he's writing, based in pre-WWI England, that was just fantastic. I can't wait to hear the rest of it. But sadly, there is an overload of fantasy/sci-fi/vampire fans in the group, and that stuff just bores the hell out of me.

I don't plan on writing a novel, and fiction isn't really my forte, so I'm probably gonna smooth the edges on the Reggie Miller at the Deja Vu story and have that be my first submission.

Other than that, work has kept me busy. I had one short night this week, but last night was one of those good nights I always hope for. I had a full, busy table with a bunch of nice folks and everyone got along and the game lasted all night long into the day shift. And I made some good money, too. Also, Joey D from Buffalo came and sat in for a few hours, dragging a few pots and catching up on old times.

Joey D was part of my monthly home game that I hosted back in Phoenix almost ten years ago. Any of my Original Gangster readers who read my old site and remember my Home Poker page, will remember that Joey was the one who looked forward to poker night more than anyone else, and started bringing the hot Italian beef sandwiches every month. I hadn't seen the guy in about eight years, so it was nice to have him come in and play at my table.

Anyhow, after I dragged my ass out of work this morning, I headed over to Costco to fill up the tank--all that driving to Red Rock and the M and back over the past week or so put me on the fumes. But when I got out of work this morning, I saw something I'd never before seen here in Vegas--dense fog. It's been raining and stormy for the past couple of days, and it got pretty cold last night, too. When I left for work late last night, it was misty and cold out, but when I hit the roof of the parking garage this morning just after sunrise, it was a site to see--the whole Vegas valley covered in a blanket of fog, like we were in San Francisco or something. It looked like the sun was trying to peek through, but still, it was pretty neat. Once I came down the hill, I was enveloped in it, but it looks like it's probably gonna burn off. But we still have a few days of rain ahead of us. And the surrounding mountains all got a fresh dusting of snow, too. So if it manages to get sunny today, it's going to be a beautiful day in Vegas, if not a little chilly.

That's all for now. I'm off to the bank to get rid of the hundies. If I have them in my coffee can, I start thinking of all the stupid shiat I can do with them. If I get them to the bank, I'll probably go ahead and buy a few shares of Citigroup this week.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jack's Back!

But more importantly, Renee is back!!! I mean, who doesn't love a bat-shiat crazy redhead with a nice rack???

I think I speak for all of us, when I say It's good to see you again, Agent Walker!

By the way, she's a homegirl from St. Louis.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Don't Call It A Throwback

'Cuz it's a neverwas...

After that much-too-long post I put up early on Monday morning about my meanderings of the past week, Rob chimed in about the Pepsi Throwback stuff they've got on the market now.

To answer his question, even though it's made with real sugar cane instead of high-fructose corn syrup, no, I won't be buying any or drinking any. As far as I'm concerned, Pepsi is still crap, not fit for human consumption, especially when compared to the Original Gangster of soft drinks, Coca Cola. Sorry, but as far as my taste buds are concerned, I just won't drink it. In fact, I'd rather drink RC than Pepsi (although I rarely see RC Cola outside of the South). It's just one of my preferences, but I seem to have an extreme preference.

It really sucks at work, because my casino is a Pepsi place. Ugh. All the fountain Pepsi you want, free of charge, 24-7. One night, I was back in the employee dining room, desperate for caffeine, and the Mountain Dew fountain was out of syrup. So I gave a furtive look around, like I was about to shoplift or tell a racial joke, and seeing that the coast was clear, I filled up my glass with Pepsi.

Ick. It tasted nasty and made my teeth feel funny. I'd say it's only good for cleaning battery terminals, but then again, Coke does a better job than Pepsi at that, too.

On the other hand, since there is a Fatburger outlet about 20 feet from the poker room, if I ever feel like I need a fix, I can go over there--they have a Coke fountain, the only one in the casino, and occasionally, it's worth the movie-theatre-prices they charge for a large one.

Now, the other day, when I was on my way to Red Rock and stopped to get a little wake-me-up, I saw that they had the Mountain Dew Throwback in 20 oz. bottles in the cooler. But I needed a big dose, so I went the regular version in a one-liter bottle.

Otherwise, I'll stick to paying $19 at Costco for 24 glass bottles of Mexican Coke. It's pretty damn tasty, and I have to admit, it mixes very well with premium booze, too. To me, it's worth the price.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Some Dance to Remember

Hey, whatever helps, right?

Right now, I'm trying to put together the pieces of the past four days or so, and it's all kind of a blur. If I thought it would help, I'd dig out the ol' Break Board and see if it could help jog the memory. It doesn't help that it's the middle of the night, I just got home, and I'm ridiculously tired, too. But since I've got all day Sunday to sit around and relax, I'll go ahead and see if I can piece together my whereabouts from the past 96 hours or so. If only I had carried a digital camera with me like those dudes from The Hangover, I could figure it all out...

I remember that work on Wednesday night was very good for me--I got called in early, and I had a great game that went all night long, so I made some good money that night. But I was locked down for about six hours straight, so when I finally got home, I was spent--shower, bed, snooze for about six or eight hours. After I finally woke up and shook off the cobwebs, I puttered around the house for a bit before heading down to meet Linda Lou down at the Freakin' Frog.

It was the one-year anniversary gathering of the Vegas Beer & Blogger crowd, and we were on the guest list. It was a nice mellow evening and I saw a lot of familiar faces, and it was good to be able to catch up with Linda again--we haven't hung out since the night before Thanksgiving when we had dinner at Casa di Amore.

I think we had a few rounds there, but then said our goodbyes to everyone else and drove over to Green Valley Ranch. Our plan for the rest of the evening was to hang out in the Ovation Lounge and watch the Lon Bronson All-Star Band. I've heard nothing but great things about them over the past several years, but I'd never gotten around to seeing one of their shows. And they play the same type of music that the Michael Grimm Band plays, who I loved--rock, soul, funk, etc.--, basically a big 'Blues Brothers' type of band. So I was really looking forward to the show.

They've got a huge following here in Vegas, and the showroom was packed, with lots of people standing in back, too. Unfortunately, they really didn't live up to the hype. I mean, the potential was there, but the show (well, what I saw of it) just sucked. They might've been having an off night, because they didn't seem very 'tight', and their song selection left a bit to be desired, too. There was one song they did that was just so bad it was almost embarrassing--kind of uncomfortable to sit though when everyone was looking at each other shrugging their shoulders and going WTF is this shiat? I mean, it was a big crowd that was looking to have a good time, but this one song (which I'd never heard before) just killed their mojo--everyone vacated the dance floor and just watched the musical train wreck unfold from their seats.

Another thing which really brought them down was the horn section. Normally, when there is a horn section in a live band, it's a good thing. But an angry horn section just sucks. You know what I'm talking about--where every musician has to do a ridiculous over-the-top solo that ends with that shrill screaming noise that just ruins an otherwise cool tune. It's like they're using every trick in the bag on every song, and it was just too much of a good thing. And don't even get me started on their 'dancer'. The whole experience was a synergy of suck, and oh my god, it was just too painful to watch.

Basically, as much as we wanted to dance and drink and carry on till the wee hours, we lasted one set--which by the way was only about seven songs--before we bailed out and called it a night. It was a surprisingly bad show, and it makes it even worse because I was really expecting to enjoy myself. I'm gonna think long and hard before I invest any more of my entertainment dollars going to see them again. Truly a disappointment.

Anyhow, Linda and I said our goodbyes, and just then I realized that I was still pretty tired. I was gonna go home, but instead of turning left on Paseo Verde Parkway when I left GVR, I turned right, towards St. Rose Parkway and the M Resort. I know it makes me sound like a huge dork, but I wanted to outsmart the light at Paseo Verde and St. Rose just one time. It's *always* red when I'm driving up St. Rose, and I sit there and get pissed because there are never any cars coming down Paseo Verde, yet the light is always green in that direction, even though there may be thirty cars in my line, just sitting there idling away. So just because I wanted to outsmart a stoplight, I decided to go over to the M and play some poker.

And of course the light was red when I got to St. Rose Parkway.


Anyhow, when I got to the M, there was only one 1-2 no-limit game going, but my gal Sammie was doing her brush-break, so we got to chat for a nice long time. Once she pushed into a low-limit game, I sat there and dozed at an empty table for about 45 minutes waiting for a seat. Finally, just as I was about to give up and go home, I got called over to the no-limit game.

A couple of the guys I played with the week before in that crazy all-night game were there, but it was a full table this time around and the play was a little more predictable. I don't remember any specific hands, but I did ok for the short time I was there. Sammie's table broke up, and she came over tell me that she was getting sent home instead of coming to my game on the next push. I was tired as hell anyways, up $68 for the session, so I decided to call it a night myself.

And you know that the damn stoplight on St. Rose and Paseo Verde was red for me on the way home, too. I've decided that it's my nemesis.

Anyhow, besides the crappy band and the stoplight giving me fits, it was a pretty good night. But I had to get home and get as much sleep as possible--Friday was destined to be a very long day.

Earlier in the week, my boss called and asked me if I'd be willing to work the Heartland Poker Tour up at Red Rock over the weekend, and when I heard that they were paying more than double what I made at the big free-roll the weekend before, I gladly accepted. So I had to be up there at noon on Friday to deal the celebrity-charity event.

Like I've said in the past--dealing tourneys is an easy gig, and players are much more well-behaved in an expensive tournament than they are in a drunken cash game on the graveyard shift. When I got there, I was glad to see that a couple of my buddies were also working it, so when we did the set-up, we all claimed table numbers that were four digits apart, figuring we'd get breaks at the same time.

I wasn't expecting much when I got there, but apparently, this was a big ol' shindig--they put some effort into it. I'd never before seen so many famous poker pros outside of the Rio as I did on Friday at Red Rock. And there were only 14 tables in the Celebrity-Charity tournament, plus I was locked down for pretty much the whole time, so I dealt to almost all of them. Just off the top of my head, at different times throughout the afternoon, I had the following people at my table:

Dennis Phillips
Kathy Liebert
Lou Diamond Phillips
Mike Eice
Layne Flack
Tiffany Michelle
Antonio Esfandiari
Laura Harring
and one of the dudes from Full Metal Jacket (no, not Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann or Private Pyle, one of the other guys)

There were also a couple of other internet heroes, poker writers, and C-listers who I can't remember, too.

Oh, and I also met Robin Leach. I was standing next to him for a few minutes before we got started, and I just thought he was some random player--he was wearing a ball cap, jeans, and a sweatshirt, but as soon as he asked me a question, I was like Oh yeah... But I totally didn't recognize him at first.

Of all the players, I had Dennis Phillips at my table the longest--since we were short on dealers, we didn't really push to different tables and we were locked down for hours at a time. But Dennis is a really nice guy--very gregarious and willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures with everyone. Not only that, every time he busted a player out of the tournament, he re-bought them back in out of his own pocket. I was talking to him at the end of it all, and he told me that he'd paid for 22 re-buys that afternoon. And don't let the nice-guy persona fool you--he's a damn good card player.

Besides Dennis Phillips, I also spent a whole lotta time with his brotha-from-anotha-motha at my table, Lou Diamond Phillips. He's a surprisingly good poker player, believe it or not. He went pretty deep in the Main Event at the WSOP this year, but a lot of people were saying he just got lucky. But I saw him play for several hours on Friday--he's got the chops. Hell, he made it to the final table of this event, too. He's also a very fun person to hang around with--he kept the table entertained all day long with one liners. Bummer for me though, I couldn't remember any good lines from Young Guns, but I got a laugh from everyone in one hand when he was distracted and I said The action's on you, Spirit World. I don't know if that one made it on camera, but I hope it did. (I had cameras on my table all afternoon).

I think the highlight of the afternoon was when it got down to the final two tables. Me and my buddy James we chosen to deal it down to the final ten, so we were locked in for over an hour. (A dealer from Red Rock dealt the entire final table). I had Dennis Phillips and Kathy Liebert at my table, and James had Layne Flack and Lou Diamond Phillips at his. BTW, a quick word about Kathy Liebert--she's very good. Head and shoulders above everyone else I saw that day. After about the first two or three hours, I decided that my money was on her to win the whole thing (and she actually ended up getting second place).

Anyhow, for a big tourney like that, it was a lot of fun, but it was unlike anything else I've ever done. I had two or three cameramen on my table almost the entire day, a producer standing behind me telling me when I could run out the cards, the host with his booming microphone talking the entire time calling the action, and I was working under the brightest damn lights this side of a tanning bed. Coupled with the fact that I had a famous poker pro or two sitting next to me almost the entire day, I find it amazing that I wasn't sweating like a contestant on The Biggest Loser.

But I brought honor upon my clan and didn't screw anything up all day long. Hell, I even corrected Kathy Liebert on a side-pot where she thought I'd done it wrong. I gave her a wink and said Ok, since you're new at this, lemme show you how we do it and I backed it up for her, earning me a laugh from the table. I also earned Most Favored Dealer status when she bluffed with 6-3 offsuit and ended up knocking a guy out who called her all-in.

Once they got down to ten players in the celebrity event, I thought my day was done. I couldn't have been more wrong. Friday night was the last session of the mega-satellite where you could play your way into the Main Event, and it was a total clusterf*ck. Just like the Main Event at the World Series, everyone waited until the last day to try and get in, and it was a zoo. People were waiting in line for hours and there just weren't enough seats to go around. They ended up putting several tables out in the pit, plus a few more in the regular poker room, in addition to the main room where I was stationed. When that didn't work, they put 11 chairs at each table. After that, they just said everyone else in line becomes an alternate. Seriously, it was a mess.

I think the folks at the HPT really underestimated how many people would show up at the last satellite, but after a rocky start, it went fairly smoothly. On the other hand, because so many people showed up, there were only four extra dealers after everyone was seated. So we were all locked down for over three hours straight before anyone got a push, much less a break. Thankfully I'd only had one bottle of water all day long, so I didn't have to pee, but damn that would've sucked because there was absolutely nobody around to provide relief. Thankfully, once the blinds started going up, people got knocked out and they started breaking tables.

Finally, after 12 hours, I got a break. The tournament director asked me what time I'd come in that day and when I was scheduled to come back on Saturday, and when I told him that I'd been there since noon and had to be back at 9:30 in the morning, he finally cut me loose.

Man, I was absolutely wiped out. Aside from the hour-and-a-half I had during the final table of the Celebrity event, I had been locked down dealing the entire day. I was spent. I could barely see straight and I was dead on my feet. But I was also starving--I hadn't had anything besides a Powerbar to eat since lunch the day before and I was mumbling to myself No more yankee my wankee, the Donger need food!

Luckily there was a huge food court on the way to the parking garage, so I treated myself to some midnight fish tacos from Rubio's. I was joined by a couple of my regular players from my home casino who'd been knocked out of the satellite about the same time I got cut loose, so we sat and told stories over our late-night dinner.

I managed to stay awake for that long drive back to Hendertucky from Red Rock, very happy to take a hot shower and crawl into bed. I was dead. I earned every penny on Friday.

A few last thoughts about that celebrity event; Tiffany Michelle gets pilloried in online poker forums and she gets a bad rap for a lot of stuff that happened away from the game, which is kind of stupid (also, she called a clock on somebody in the WSOP, and everyone acts like it was a disgraceful and heinous act. Whatever). But my experience with her was that not only is she cuter in person than she is on TV, but she's also really nice, and she has a whole helluva lot of personality which tends to make her more attractive. Her poker game is pretty good, but she's nowhere near Kathy Liebert's class. Also, while I was tempted to get photos of me with all the pros and such, I resisted the urge. I was working, for one, and I also didn't want to be 'that guy'. Besides, I dealt to and talked to them all day long, and it was an enjoyable experience that I didn't want to cheapen by asking for photos like everyone else did. It goes back to one of those timeless pieces of advice I remember from years back--Act like you've been there before... Besides, I'm sure I'll see them all again at some point, and I'm sure that they'll all remember me.

As far as the TV coverage goes, I never could get a definitive answer on when it would air. First of all, the Heartland Poker Tour isn't shown on any local station in Vegas, so I won't see it. I'm told that it's all over the midwest and south if you have DirectTV or the Dish Network satellite service. But they only filmed the celebrity-charity event and the final table of the Main Event. I only dealt Day One of the Main Event, so I didn't get any camera time there, but if sometime later this summer, you catch footage of the celebrity tournament, I'm all over that thing.

After just a few hours of sleep, Saturday came a little too bright and a little too early for my tastes. And I want to give a shout-out to my sister Amy and thank her for calling me about 20 minutes before my alarm went off. That was nice. Little Brat.

I crawled out of bed, much earlier than I wanted to, made my way to the shower, and just stood there in a daze like I was Han Solo getting thawed out of my carbonite block. I finally woke up enough to get myself dressed and out the door, but my first stop was at the convenience store on the corner where I grabbed an energy bar and a 1-liter bottle of Mountain Dew before pointing the truck towards Red Rock once again.

Saturday went much more smoothly than Friday did. The first session of the HPT Vegas Main Event started at 10:00, and there was a defined number of seats sold, so we didn't have the same issues as the previous night. On the other hand, not enough dealers showed up, so again, I was locked down at my first table for three-plus hours.

But the Main Event was sort of a deep-stacker type of structure with $15,000 in starting chips and 40-minute levels, so better play was a bigger factor than luck. I had a fairly tight table, and nobody busted out in the first hour. Also, since I was in the main showroom at a low-numbered table, there was no chance of breaking the table--it would be there until the end. On the other hand, I was waiting patiently for all of the tables out in the pit to break down, because then we'd get some extra dealers available and I could finally stand up and take a break.

Finally, around 2:30 or so, I got relieved and went up to the front where all of the dealers and tournament staff people were lurking around. When they asked who had worked the day before, three of us raised our hands, and when they asked how many hours we'd each worked, I was the winner with 12 hours, so I was the first one sent home. Woot!!!

That was a nice surprise, because I thought I'd be working until 5:00 pm at the very least. I hit the door before they could change their minds and instead of getting on the 215 and making my way home, I figured that since I was already on the West Side, I'd treat myself to lunch at NY Pizza & Pasta, the second-best pizza joint in all of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, due to the way the roads are laid out and the volume of traffic in the neighborhood, it is damn near impossible to get into the plaza where the restaurant is if you're traveling south on Jones or east on Sahara. Sitting there at the stoplight, I knew there was no way to get into the place from where I was, so when the light turned green, I just turned west on Sahara and kept heading towards the freeway, giving up on the idea of a pizza lunch.

I made it home at halftime of the the Cardinals-Saints game, but by the time the third quarter got underway, the game was a blowout and not worth watching. So I did household chores until the second game started. Just as the Colts game started, I grabbed and icy-cold Mexican Coke and sat down on the couch to watch. I saw them make their first drive that resulted in a field-goal, and promptly passed out until 7:30 that night.

I woke up in a darkened apartment, with only the flickering blue light of the local CBS affiliate providing any illumination, wondering for a second where I was and if I was late for work. I finally gathered my thoughts enough to realize when and where I was in the universe and thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my night. I figured I should go back to work at my second job and earn a few bucks.

Calling down to the M Resort again, I asked them to put me on the list for 1-2 no-limit, and I said I'd be there about 45 minutes later. Once I groomed myself and put on some clean clothes, I headed back out.

I was second on the waiting list when I got to the casino, but they offered me an open seat playing 4-8 while I waited. In the past, I would've been all over it, but after the series of ridiculous bad beats and suckouts that I've suffered in that game, I've given it up and focused exclusively on no-limit for the past couple of weeks. So I opted to wait. I grabbed a seat in the little lounge area right next to the poker room, figuring I wouldn't have to wait long--there were three no-limit games going, and it shouldn't take too long for a couple of people to bust out or call it a night.

While I was sitting there, I started talking to a good-looking older (by maybe two or three years) blonde gal named Tina. She was apparently exasperated by a slot machine and decided to take a break and get a drink. So we chatted for a few minutes while I waited.

Since it's the worst-kept secret at the M that I'm hot for Sammie, the floor person came over and told me that she had an open seat at her 4-8 table if I wanted it. I couldn't resist that, so I said goodbye to my new friend and made my way to the limit game. I bought in for a hundred bucks, had a few laughs, flirted with my favorite dealer, and ordered a drink. It was nice to be free from the tournament world and able to relax again. Of course, I didn't win a single hand, took another suckout beating, and was down $24 when they called me over to take my seat at the no-limit table a half-hour later. But still, I was having fun.

My new table was a good one, and again, my no-limit hot streak continues, knock on wood. I've played five times in the past two weeks, and each time I've left a winner. I scored my first decent sized pot when I flopped trip sevens with an Ace kicker and the other guy with an Ace just couldn't help but build the pot for me. I thought I was on my way to an ass-kicking night because he was obviously the best player at the table, and I had just snapped him off for about forty bucks.

After that, however, I went card dead for about 45 minutes. Part of me wished that I would've remembered to bring my iPod, but I've found that I pay a lot more attention to the other players when I'm playing no-limit, and it's probably a good thing that I didn't have it with me. At one point, I looked down to see pocket Aces raised the action to $13 to go and got one caller--the guy with the big stack who I'd already pegged as the best player at the table. He was on the big blind and called for $11 more.

The flop came out Ace-rag-rag, rainbow, giving me top set. He checked, and I checked too. Normally in this situation I'll check unless there are two suited cards on the board or perhaps a big straight to be made. There was no danger on that flop, so I hoped the guy had a pair or maybe would make two pair on the turn. If the board paired, I could then be way ahead set-over-set or boat-over-boat and could expect a HUGE payday, so checking there was a little-risk, huge reward move. I didn't want him to think I had an Ace in my pocket, much less two of 'em.

The turn brought another rag, but it was a second diamond. My opponent checked but I figured enough was enough and I bet $20. He snap-called, so I had to figure he had at least a pair but more likely a flush draw. There was no danger of a straight on the board, so I settled on 'diamond draw'. The river brought a diamond, and he was just a little too smooth with his check, and I wasn't going to take the chance. I said Yep, you made your flush, so you cracked my trip Aces. I turned them over for everyone to see, and he showed his 7-9 of diamonds for the flush.

He muttered Damn, I played that about as shitty as I could... And I replied with Yep, and I lost about as little money as possible for flopping a set of Aces, too... Whew, I dodged a bullet there, but thinking about it later, I couldn't have played it any other way. I didn't want to bet out on the flop and have him fold, only picking up his initial $13 bet and the blinds--that's a no-value play. And I couldn't put him on diamonds until after I made that $20 bet on the turn. He had me covered, so even a $50 bet wouldn't have scared him off. And I certainly wasn't going to go all-in with my set for a $29 pot. Only truly bad players do that kind of overbetting. (Which I see all the time). Besides, it's been said many times, good players will let you win the small pots, which he would've done had I pushed on the flop or overbet the turn. He wanted to check-raise me on the river, but me, being the good player, wouldn't fall into that trap, and I let him win the small pot. (The key being 'small pot', not 'letting him win'). Anyhow--it gave me a lot to think about as I sat there card dead, and I was pretty proud of the way I played that hand.

Anyhow, a little while later, the game got short-handed, and I was thinking about leaving, but just then another couple of players showed up, one of them being a gal who was maybe three or four years younger than me but looked, sounded, and acted like an overbearing 50-year old Jewish mother.

She talked constantly, and although she was friendly and outgoing, it was truly annoying. Well, at least to me. Watching her play, I was salivating--she seemed to overbet everything and raise almost every hand pre-flop. It was time to get paid!

A few hands later I had 9-5 suited on the blind, and she raised it to $10. There were three other callers, so I figured 4-1 on my money was a good enough price to see the flop.

The flop hit me right between the eyes, 2-5-9 rainbow. I couldn't believe it. She bet out $25 and the everyone folded to me. I raised it to $75, hoping to entice her to go all-in, but she thought about it for a second and then folded. She showed me the bluff, which was a bummer. I was hoping that she had an over-pair.

After that, I didn't get any playable cards for awhile. Sammie pushed in to my game and as soon as she sat down she said Wow Mikey, you get me twice in one night!

Just like back in college, said I...

Anyhow, as much fun as I was having chatting with Sammie, my cards were just dead--I had nothing to go to war with, and the Jewish Mama had pushed all in twice with junk and knocked out a couple of players. She suddenly had over $500 in front of her and was raising every pot, whenever, of course, she took a break from talking. My problem was that I just didn't get anything to play with.

Once the new dealer pushed in and dealt me one hand--Seven-Deuce offsuit--I decided to call it a night. I was up $78 for the session, the game was shorthanded, Sammie wouldn't be coming back for round three, and the smokin' hot Cuban waitress had also gone home. I saw no reason to stick around. I cashed out and hit the restroom before going home.

On my way out the door, I saw that gal Tina I'd met earlier in the evening, sitting at a slot machine. I said something like Hey--are you still here? and she called me over to join her. We talked for a bit and I found out that she was kinda pissed at her friend that she was there with--her friend had met a boy and they were over at the club and such. So she asked me if I'd be willing to give her a ride home.


Uh huh...

She texted her friend, said she was leaving, and we took off. Turns out, she lived about a half mile from my old place over on Horizon Ridge. And when I got there, she invited me in...

She had a nice place, and I parked myself on the couch while she put on a CD with some mellow piano music and offered me a beer. It would be ungentlemanly of me to share the details of the rest of the evening, but let's just say that I was glad I was wearing matching socks and my lucky Elvis boxers.

About an hour-and-a-half later, as I was trying to figure out a way to make a graceful exit (By the way, we can put a man on the moon, but nobody has yet to come up with a smooth way to pull the ripcord after a one-nighter), I realized that the music that was playing was the same exact music at the end of Ocean's 11, when they've pulled their caper and were savoring the victory out there in front of the Bellagio fountains. Quite timely and appropriate, I thought...

Anyhow, I came up with an appropriate excuse and made my retreat, getting back here to the Batch Pad around 2:30 in the morning. As tired as I was, I figured I'd go right to sleep, but that just wasn't the case. I stayed up and started writing this little treatise...

I tried to make it until the football games came on, but I ended up sleeping through both of them, waking up in time for the 4th quarter of the Jets-Chargers. That gave me plenty of sleep, so I'm good to go. I have to work the graveyard shift again tonight, and as much as I want a nice long and lucrative night at work, part of me would be totally ok with it if the game broke early and I beat the sunrise back to my apartment.

Y'all have a happy Monday--and I'll try and get back here again before another four days pass by.