Friday, August 23, 2019

"Christmas Eve"

"I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut, my weakness is, that I care too much, and my scars remind me, that the past is real, I tear my heart open, just to feel..." -Papa Roach- (Scars)

"That's when she said, 'I don't hate you, boy, I just want to save you, while there's still something left to save,' that's when I told her, 'I lvoe you, girl, but I'm not the answer, for the questions that you still have'..." -Rise Against- (Savior)

Good afternoon everyone.  It's shocking not to see "Vegas" up there in the title of the post, isn't it?  : )  I figured that I'd do some catching up on me today, and then I'd return to backtracking to write up my visit to Texas, my poker forays in Las Vegas, etc...  I'm not going to make any promises, but I'm going to ATTEMPT to write at least one blog post a week once football season starts.  I've written so many posts recently summarizing my trip to the desert that banging the keyboard once a week should be a breeze.  We'll see..  I need to give y'all credit for showing up and reading about my visit to Las Vegas.  Barring some unforeseen catastrophe (like the internet completely crashing), the views that this blog receives for August 2019 will be the most in a month for the last FIVE years (since August 2014).  

I teased my trip to Texas, and like I said, I'll write a more detailed summary in the near future.  I hadn't been to the San Marcos/San Antonio area for any substantial length of time for at least five years.  I left my job at the University of Texas four years ago next week, but my Montero Sport had died long before that.  Since I didn't "need" a vehicle, living so close to campus, I didn't buy one (and still haven't, as I keep landing jobs in a fairly close proximity to where I live).  Between that and good friends who are willing to give me a ride every once in a while (or even lend me their car), I'm just saving up my money for something nice (plus it gives me a healthy bankroll for betting football games, which we'll get to shortly)...  : )

Anyway, the Cliff Notes version of my trip to Texas is that the visit was exactly what I needed.  Although I went to Las Vegas for a week and a half in June (read the last seven entries here if you want to catch up on the details of that trip), I always held out hope that I would be able to make a quick trip to Texas before football started.  I have a niece and nephew who graduated from high school in June, and they are both attending college this fall.  I never mailed them any congratulatory money, as I wanted to deliver it in person.  My nephew skipped town to Colorado, as I had wavered on making my visit a complete surprise, and then I finally thought better of that to make sure I had a place to sleep while in Texas.  However, I did get to see my niece, and gave her the "standard" uncle line, "I couldn't find an envelope or a stamp, so I decided to bring this to you myself."  You're accustomed to my amazing sense of humor by now...  : P  Regarding my family and the people in San Marcos, everyone is cool, just like always.  Like I said, I hadn't visited San Marcos, America in at least five years (WAY TOO LONG), but it didn't matter if I was seeing old friends or meeting new Bobcats - everyone was just awesome...  Go figure, we didn't get a family picture at any point (although we do have a picture of Dazie here for you, because you HAVE TO take a snapshot of the cute dog), but I've got one shot with an old friend and one shot with a new friend from the 78666 here for you.       

NOTE:  I have to stop wearing my yellow Texas State shirt if there's a possibility of a photo being taken.  If you follow this blog or you're part of my Facebook world, you've seen this particular shirt several times...  :D

Like I said, we'll have more details on this trip in the future, but for the limited amount of time that I spent in San Marcos, I had a great time.  For those of you I didn't get in touch with before making my way to Texas, again, it was a short and hastily planned trip, and I absolutely plan on visiting again in the future when I have much more time to visit.  I was telling people on the Square that if Texas had casinos and legal sports betting, I'd be living there in a second...  : )  Oh, and the song lyrics at the top of the page are brought to you courtesy of 94.5 The Buzz, a station out of Houston that I listened to during my travels.  Depending on traffic, construction, etc, the drive from Biloxi to San Marcos/San Antonio is about 9-10 hours, and you can tune in The Buzz for at least a quarter of that time due to it's signal strength on either side of Houston.  Somehow I missed knowing the artists for both of these songs during their heyday, but I'm sure that I'd heard both of them, and I had the volume cranked up as I cruised along I-10...

"Christmas Eve..."  Believe it or not boys and girls, we have REAL FOOTBALL TOMORROW!!!  The reason that I'm not working today is that my schedule is being realigned to its fall/winter version, where I work on the weekends.  Most of you already know that I would rather work on the weekends if it means that I can have football.  We have two college games to kick off the meaningful football tomorrow, and the fun will last until February 2nd this season, when the Super Bowl is played in Miami.  Again, the poker is coming to you in a future blog entry, but with the variance that poker brings, I really like my chances better when I bet on football games right now.  Lucky for me that it starts tomorrow I guess, huh?  : )  If you weren't aware, we've got Florida vs. Miami from Orlando at 6:00 p.m. CST, followed by Arizona at Hawaii starting at 9:30 p.m. CST tomorrow.  The schedule will start ramping up on Thursday, including Texas State at Texas A&M, and the NCAA will offer a jam-packed schedule next weekend.  The first NFL game is Thursday, September 5th.

That's all for now boys and girls,  Due to this schedule readjustment, I only have one day off before working five more in a row, so I probably ought to get some chores done today.  Have a great football weekend and I'll see you soon!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Vegas 2019: Pt. 7/The Delta Nightmare

Good morning everyone.  I didn't intend to wake up this early and type this blog post, but 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' just started fifteen minutes ago, so I have ample background noise to get me through sharing this horrific story.  When I left you yesterday, I had spent several hours betting horses at Paris with my friends (they were working, I was betting), and now it was 8:00 p.m. and time to head to the airport for my flight home.  My flight wasn't leaving until 10:30 p.m., but I'm the person who always gives himself ample time in case the TSA lines are long, etc, etc...  Traveling is stressful enough, and there's no need to add to it.  My friend and former coworker Mike picked me up at Paris for my ride to the airport.  Again, if you've been following this little vacation miniseries, I was so blessed to have friends giving me rides everywhere.  Mike and I caught up and made it to the airport without a hitch.  And then........

Now my BELIEF was that taking the 10:30 p.m. red-eye flight nonstop from Las Vegas to Atlanta, followed by a more than three-hour layover before my connection to Gulfport, THAT would be the punishment for saving some money, the inconvenient flight times.  OH BOY, was I wrong...  I guess that if you're one of those "look on the brightside" people, I had seats on both airplanes and I got home safely.  However.......

So they announced that our flight was going to be full, yada yada yada.  I didn't have a specific seat assignment (shown in my app), but I was assured that I had a seat.  When it was time to board, I received my assignment, and walked to the back of the plane..., the VERY BACK of the plane.  Funny thing when you're seated in the last row on this flight:  your seat doesn't recline.  Your seat is basically backed up against a wall, at 90 degrees, right angle style.  This was awesome, since I would only be in the air for hours, from Las Vegas to Atlanta...  My plan was to sleep on the airplane.  You know, I hadn't been sleeping the greatest, I had a three-hour plus layover in Atlanta.  Good time to catch some zzzzzz's.  I closed my eyes for a little while, and then, BAMM, BAMM, BAMM!!!!  GOODNESS GRACIOUS, WHAT THE ????  I was seated on aisle, and I turned to see the flight attendant wielding an ice pick, BANGING on a block of ice.  Apparently Delta is squeezing every cent out of this flight, and ice cubes just aren't in the budget, so they have blocks of ice, and this poor young lady has to slay them, meaning that yours truly wasn't getting any sleep.  The flight was on a modern plane (minus the ice and the non-adjustable seat), so I had a touch-screen in front of me with games that I sleepily played for most of the flight.  Then we landed in Atlanta...

Now the one thing that I had on my hands was time.  No stress leaving the plane, I've got more than three hours to spare.  Everyone exits, I look around, get the directions to my next gate, get on the tramway, and off I go.  No problem.  I look at the food options (it's like 6:00-something in the morning), and at the very end of the row, with no one in line yet, is an Italian place.  Pizza by the slice - TOUCHDOWN!!  I get my slice of pizza, grab a table near the window, and look out over the MONSTER that is the Atlanta airport.  The next hour and a half was pretty peaceful, just me playing in my phone.  I had my charger with me, so no issues here, just surfing the net.  Then......

I found out that my flight to Gulfport was going to be delayed.  I've only been awake for the most part of the eighteen hours, so whatever.  A little while later, we had a gate change, to another gate in the same terminal, less than a hundred yards away.  Alright, our flight was delayed, so they're rearranging things, so whatever.  About fifteen minutes later, they announce another gate change.  and THIS change is to a gate in a different terminal.  I wasn't happy...  This change involved walking several hundred yards to the tramway, riding to the terminal (duh), and then walking another several hundred yards to the new gate.  LOVELY......  I'll give you ONE GUESS what happened within five minutes of my arrival at the new gate.  Tick tock, tick tock....  They SENT US BACK to the original gate............  I was LIVID.  After making the announcement, the gentleman and lady at the counter were smiling and cracking jokes with each other, having some sort of wonderful conversation, and I was giving them a DEATH STARE across the seating area as I started hiking BACK to the tramway.  The lady at the counter caught my eye, my evil eyes, and I didn't break my focus.  I was composing nasty e-mails to Delta in my head (the Atlanta airport is Delta's hub), getting ready to DESTROY THEM on social media once I returned home, as I once again trekked back across the airport, and to the new gate.  Just because this sundae needed a cherry on top, about fifteen minutes after returning to our original gate, they switched our gate again, to another one about a hundred yards away.  And despite the extra pounds I'm carrying, I've been a lifelong athlete, but they've got elderly people, and children, hiking around the airport.  It's a good look.  Way to go Delta...

Long story short (too late for that), the flight from Atlanta to Gulfport was fine.  I got some rest, picked up my rental car with no problem (this turned out to be easier than having someone pick me up at the airport early that morning, plus I had some errands to do (grocery shopping, etc...)).  When I returned my rental to the airport the next morning, my friend Don picked me up.  All of that rage and anger, and my plans to light Delta up.  Don talked me down from the ledge really quick.  As we traveled back to Biloxi from Gulfport (a fifteen-minute drive), I bombarded my friend with the details of this travel nightmare.  Don actually lived in Atlanta for several years, and with the nonchalance of a person who is checking their mailbox, or flipping a light switch, Don informed me that the Atlanta airport has always been like that.  That took the hot air out of my balloon instantly, and figuring that contacting the good folks at Delta would be fruitless, I just decided that I would wait until I did my little trip write-up to vent...  :D

An interesting (to me) side note to this trip...  After completing a pretty normal work week following this vacation, on one of my days off, I slept for SIXTEEN hours straight.  I've done my share of sleeping, but even I was impressed by that.  : )  I hope that all of you have a great week, and I'll see you soon.      

Monday, August 19, 2019

Vegas 2019: Pt. 6/Cars & Horses & Fridays

Good morning everyone.  It's sure looking like this recap of my trip to Las Vegas is going to slide right into football season...  : )  Honestly, I've been watching as much football as I can already, with all of the preseason games being rebroadcast on the NFL Network.  Basically, it's already football season for me, aside from the amount of money that I'll be betting on the real games (right now I'm most just studying).  So I'm seeing this post, and an entry about my trip home, and then a write-up that is just dedicated to poker, and that's if I'm not neglecting any odds and ends (which I surely will).

I think you've figured out already that I've mixed and matched days when recounting my little Vegas Vacation (my summary hasn't been in sequential order).  I'm saying that just to say that my friend Geoff didn't hang out with me every single day of my trip, although his name is popping up in pretty much every blog entry.  : )  On the morning of the Blues' Stanley Cup ticket being cashed, Geoff picked me up at Harrah's, and we ventured down Flamingo Road out towards Sam's Town.  Just shy of this casino in eastern Las Vegas, my friend Joey has opened up an auto shop called ATL (All Tune and Lube) Vegas.  His shop is located at 4728 E. Flamingo Rd. for those of you who live in the desert and might need an oil change or some work done on your car.  If you mention my name, Joey probably won't charge you more than double the normal rate for any work done on your vehicle.  ; )  For those of you who have been following this blog for a while (Bikini Hill turns eight years-old next month), this is the same Joey who made weekly football picks here (along with myself and my brother Pete).  I decided to stop posting the weekly picks because it started to seem like a homework assignment, having to meet the deadline every week, but Joey is still going strong.  I worked with Joey at the Riviera when I dealt poker (going on fifteen years ago now), and from there, Joey went to Palace Station, working as a ticket writer in their Race & Sportsbook (speak up when this starts sounding familiar)...  Geoff and I got to spend significant time with Joey when we visited, and we got to see his whole operation.  If you've followed my adventures, you know that I'm good at DRIVING cars, but repairing them is a whole other world to me.  It was cool to roam around in the "back of the house" and see what an auto shop looks like behind the scenes.

Joey is the superstar pictured on the left, and if you need any work done on your car, the number to his shop is shown in the top left of the photo.

Fridays.  Now we're fast forwarding to my very last night in town.  I had planned on being at the Ladies' No-Limit Hold 'Em event at the World Series of Poker right when it kicked off at noon, but my sleep was all out of whack (neverending story), so shortly after my alarm went off, I vetoed it and went right back to sleep.  Later in the day, my friend Mike (who I met at my orientation in Las Vegas when I became a part-time employee with Caesars's) and I made plans to meet up later to go check out the WSOP and get something to eat.  As any good blog writer should, I'm COMPLETELY BLANKING on his friend's name right now, but the three of us met at the Flamingo poker room (total miracle that I was able to find that, huh?), and we ventured over to the Ladies' event.  Since I hit the 'publish' button earlier this morning, we"ve confirmed that Mike's friend is named Geoff (yes, the same as my friend!).  I thought it might be Jeff, but I couldn't pull the trigger...  :D  Once we arrived, they were at the point in the tournament when players were beginning to drop like flies, fast approaching the pay bubble.  Once we had roamed our way through the tables at that event, we ventured around the action in the other convention rooms (hosting the WSOP), and we collectively saw several people that we knew.  Our visit was capped off by a visit to TGI Fridays at the Gold Coast Casino.  Our meals were fine, but what made this visit memorable was that we were all starving, and having been slow, the restaurant had just cut a bunch of their staff.  Sure enough, after you cut people, that's when you're going to get a rush...  : )  Regardless, it was great hanging out with Mike and Geoff, and afterward I went straight back to my room, because I had a long day on the horizon...

Now the day after the poker and Fridays was ACTUALLY Friday, which meant that it was time for me to check out from Harrah's after my mammoth eleven-day stay.  The problem was, what was I going to do all day after I checked out?  Check-out is at 11:00 a.m., but to make my trip cheaper, my initial flight for Biloxi wasn't leaving McCarran until 10:30 p.m. that night.  I only had one carry-on bag, so it wasn't like I was lugging a bunch of bags around, but still.  Long story short, I made some phone calls (Jonni) :D , and the result was that I found out that I was allowed to bet horses at one of my former properties.  So I ventured to Paris, knowing that there was no conflict of interest, and after hanging out with my former coworkers for SEVERAL HOURS, I felt lucky to have lost only $20.00.  : D  Now this was on a Friday, and there weren't many tracks running, so I was betting on EVERYTHING, but I was only betting a few dollars at a time on everything...

Alright boys and girls, that's all for today.  Next time we'll talk about my LOVELY trip back to Biloxi, and then we'll summarize my poker and this trip at a future date.  Have a great week everyone!  

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Vegas 2019: Pt. 5/Blue October & The Blues

"First time I've seen this band and I have to say ... VERY IMPRESSED !!!  I've been going to the Brooklyn Bowl since it opened and I've seen a lot of great bands there but I don't think I've ever seen it as crowded or as enthusiastic as it was tonight.  Crisp, tight, powerful set ... good show. Check out "Hate Me" and "Your Love is Like A Car Crash" for a taste on YT..."  -Dennis Macklin-

Good morning everyone.  It's slowly but surely sinking in that I can't spend eleven nights in Las Vegas, and then wrap my whole trip up in two blog entries...  : )  I'm still determined to summarize this trip by Christmas..., ummmm, the beginning of football season.  In today's edition of 'What I Did On My Summer Vacation,' we're going to combine two completely different events because we're playing on the word 'blue...'

So Blue October has been my favorite band for quite some time.  I first saw them perform live about twenty years ago, and WOW...  Back when I started seeing them in San Marcos, tickets were $8.00 presale and $10.00 at the door, and I have friends who have an even earlier history with the band.  Actually, I've seen them perform live probably 30-40 times, and that could be a whole other blog entry in itself, but I have to FOCUS...  :D  Knowing that Blue October was going to be in Las Vegas on June 14th is one of the major reasons that I booked my trip when I did.  I also knew that the World Series of Poker would be going on, and my friends were going to be there regardless of when I went (although I'm not going anywhere during football season or that big college basketball tournament in March, so that easily eliminates more than half of the year that I can travel and visit people...).

I was content to attend the concert myself, but I was fortunate to meet my friend Dennis at the show.  Dennis was a ticket writer with me in the sportsbooks of Caesar's Entertainment, and he now works for our 'hub' (the group which puts out our betting lines, among their many jobs).  Usually when I attend sporting events and concerts, I prefer getting to venues really early and watching everything unfold.  It's almost empty when you arrive, you get to watch the crowd file in, take in warm-ups, watch the roadies set up for the band, etc...  With Blue October, you get to watch an opening act, etc...  On this particular night, I wasn't feeling any of that.  The last time that I saw them perform at Brooklyn Bowl, I stood outside in a really long line for over an hour, which didn't really make much sense, because I had no desire to fight for a position right by the stage (been there, done that), or to see the opening act.  No offense to the opening act, but on this day, my gameplan included a pre-concert nap, a meal at Outback Steakhouse (one of seven during this trip), and then I'd casually stroll in about the time that the opening act finished.  Plan worked LIKE A CHARM.  : )  I told Dennis that I'd be sporting a Texas State t-shirt, and right after I cleared the last ticket checkpoint, there was Dennis.  Easy peasy...  Dennis had never seen Blue October in person, and it was cool to take in the show with someone who was about to be really impressed.  The review at the top of this entry was written by Dennis, and he gets to see A LOT of concerts in Las Vegas, so I was really glad that he enjoyed it.  We were lucky to get a really good spot where we had a wall to lean against, unobstructed view, and like I said, the band didn't disappoint.  Lucky for y'all, Dennis got some great photos from the show.  When I go see Blue October, my phone normally stays in my pocket, as I'm just trying to take everything in, but as I said, Dennis was a team player, so here you go...

Transitioning from Blue October to the Blues...  First off, I was already going to write about this event, but since my friend Jordan was so excited about making it into a blog a few days back, I thought to myself, "Why not twice in one week?"  : )  That day that I wrote about recently, when I first went to visit my friends, and the news of the Anthony Davis trade broke, etc...  Well, I also learned of this event taking place a few days later.  Surprisingly enough, this story hadn't hit my radar until I was in Las Vegas, talking to my friends.  At some point during the hockey season, the St. Louis Blues weren't very good evidently.  Now I don't usually start paying too much attention to hockey until the NCAA basketball season has come to an end, but the Blues were actually 250 to 1 to win the Stanley Cup with Caesar's at some point during the season.  I don't know if they were ever a longer shot to win it all, but I know that the gentleman in the photos below bet $400 on the Blues when they were 250 to 1.  400 x 250 = ???  Anyone wanna guess?  Yep, he won $100,000, plus he got his $400 back.  $100,400.  I seemed to have an opening in my vacation schedule, so I decided that I was going to go check it out.  I was with my friend Geoff again, and after we went to see my friend Joey (who we'll talk about in a later episode), we thought that we'd catch the big payout before we went to the buffet at Paris (because heaven knows that I wasn't eating enough on this trip...).  At my property here in Biloxi, we had a customer bet $7,000 on Tiger Woods to win the Master's Tournament at 14 to 1, so he won $98,000, plus got his $7,000 back, for a total of $105,000.  However, I wasn't at work on either end of that fun (the bet being placed, or the cashout), so this was kinda cool to see.  And hey, if it meant Jordan could make it into the blog again...  : )  Here are a couple of photos with Jordan and the happy winner...

I actually have to work today myself, so I'm going back to sleep now. :D  Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Vegas 2019: Pt. 4/Representing Texas State Pays Off

Good morning everyone.  I didn't know that I would be writing again so soon, but if I'm going to finish telling you about Las Vegas, and then start telling you about San Marcos and visiting my family (with football right around the corner), the words have to start hitting the computer screen.  I really intended to write more yesterday, but I "hit the wall" as far as my sleep goes.  For the second night in a row, I will be awake in the middle of the night, but I will take a long early morning nap this time, waking up around noon, to get me closer to my work sleep schedule.  Returning from San Antonio to Biloxi, I left at about 8:30 p.m. and reached Biloxi before 7:00 a.m., so that's the current sleep pattern that I have to break.  Luckily I cut my overgrown grass this morning, as the forecast for rain did come through, and it would have been a real pain in the a** to do so after the rain.  Much like last night, the NFL Network will be along for the ride as I type this entry.  Honestly, in my mind, it's football season already (minus me making bets).  The NFL Network replays every single preseason game, and since I was driving Thursday night, I haven't changed my channel, watching EVERY SINGLE GAME that they've been showing in my waking hours.  Okay, off we go.......

As my most recent stint in Las Vegas was coming to an end, I ordered a handful of Texas State shirts so that I could represent my alma mater when I was at the poker tables.  Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you:  On this day (August 11th) "a couple of years" ago, I graduated from college.  This is a photo of me during my college days, and one at my graduation...

I wonder why this is the story I chose to share with you today....  : )  Anyway, this story occurred during the wee hours of Sunday morning, in-between visiting my friends at the sportsbook, and attending the birthday party at Sunset Park (both topics that were covered in yesterday's blog post).  My friend Geoff (who for working two full-time jobs during the World Series) was a great friend in helping me get around the desert during my visit, and we got the chance to hang out quite a bit, considering his work schedule.  I arrived at the Rio after midnight on this Sunday morning, my first visit to the World Series of Poker during this trip.  I wanted to check the scene out while things were more quiet, hoping to catch my friend during his lunch break.  I also knew other people who were working the series, and I thought I might run into some of them.  In addition to the well-publicized bracelet events that many of you are surely familiar with, there are also round-the-clock cash games and "daily tournaments" during the series, so there's never really a complete shutdown of action while the WSOP is running.  As luck would have it, Geoff was going to forego his full lunch break and seek an EO (early out) since things weren't hectic at the Rio on this particular night.  He told me that he would give me a ride back to the Strip if this happened, so I was watching some poker near his work area when this occurred.......

I was on the rail (there was literally a small wall in this case) of a high limit PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) cash game, wearing one of my Texas State t-shirts.  There were MANY black ($100) and green ($25) chips on the table.  FYI, these are much higher stakes than any games that I play in.  The player who was the most talkative was really giving a hard time to the player that I was standing right behind on the rail.  I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, other than to say that the words "sister" and "whore" were used in the same sentence, when referencing the player's family.  Now the guy that I was behind was REALLY calm and collected, at one point replying, "Hey, she's got to live her own life..."  After a while, the guy who was doing all of the chirping suddenly exclaims, "HEY, TEXAS STATE!"  I instantly responded, because..., DUH, we know he's talking to me.  Then the guy goes on, AGAIN targeting the player sitting in front of me:  "Hey, did you know that he was cut from the gymnastics team at Texas State in 2003?"  The table starts laughing, and the player in front of me replies, "You know, that's the funniest thing you've said all day..."  And then every few hands, the chatty player resumed his conversation with me.  "Where is Tecas State?"  I told him, "It's between San Antonio and Austin, a half-hour between each, in San Marcos." After a few more Texas State and San Marcos-related questions, he asks if I play poker.  I respond that I do, but for MUCH smaller stakes.  Then he asks if I'm up for the trip, and I respond, "Yup, a little."  I even used a hand-gesture to explain this, like the team needs an inch for a first down....  "How much?"  I finally tell him that I'm up just over 100 bucks.  THEN he reaches down, grabs a black chip from his stack, and TOSSES IT ACROSS THE TABLE towards me!  He must have been throwing into the air-conditioning, as the chip falls short, hitting the other side of the short wall, before falling to the floor.  I was that close to 100 dollars.  But wait.  A player on my side of the table picked up the chip, and handed it to me.  Then the player who tossed the chip, knowing that it had hit the wall, asked where it was (I believe he had gotten into a hand).  I showed him that I was holding the chip, and at that moment, one of the floor people came over, to take the chip from me.  Seeing this, the player said, "NO, NO, let him keep it."  The floor walked away, and I kind of sheepishly shrugged, like, "Are you sure?"  I guess since I had been watching the game for about half an hour, he thought that I was down on my luck.  I actually enjoy watching people play poker, whether I have money or not, which I did in this case.  I watched the game for a few more minutes, and then Geoff finished his shift and motioned for me that it was time to go.  And that's how I left the Rio a hundred dollars richer....

That's all for tonight, but I'll have another installment for you soon.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Vegas 2019: Pt. 3/This Is the Best Day of My Life!

Good morning everyone.  I've got myself in the position where I still have a lot to tell you about my trip to Las Vegas, and I also just returned from my first visit to Central Texas in over five years.  That being said, the NFL's preseason schedule is in full swing, and the college football season begins two weeks from today (with a handful of games).  I'm telling you all that just to let you know that this blog post is going to be a little longer than normal.  I don't want to shortchange you on my trip to Las Vegas, but I also don't envision myself writing the seven-to-eight post series that I had originally planned on.  If football gets into full swing and I have a logjam of events that I've yet to write about, who knows what will happen...  : )  I recently upgraded my cable service to include the NFL Network, so I have some sweet, sweet preseason football to accompany me while I write tonight...  : )

When we last visited, I had arrived in Las Vegas, and I had eaten a BUNCH of fried food while watching the replay of that night's NBA Finals game (the Warriors won, but Durant came back and seriously injured himself).  During the next few days, I had planned treading pretty lightly, as I had errands to do ahead of seeing my favorite band, Blue October, perform at the Brooklyn Bowl on Friday (my flight arrived late on Monday night, and the fried food bonanza was being consumed early Tuesday morning).  I also wanted to play twelve hours of poker at the Flamingo by Friday so that I would be eligible for their freeroll tournament in the morning.  So I had three days to shake my jet lag, play my twelve hours, and do errands.  My errands included shopping for the room (I needed to buy some snacks for an eleven night stay), getting a haircut (at the inexpensive place I went to for the past two years in Vegas prior to moving), and buying my Blue October ticket.  All of these things went as planned, no problems.  Okay, well ONE PROBLEM.  During my first or second day in town, I was walking through the Linq.  I was entering fron the north side, coming from Harrah's, and there was enough foot traffic that we had a line of people entering the casino, and a line exiting.  After I had entered the building, a guy from the oncoming line turned his head to the left, facing me, when he proceeded to...., SNEEZE ON ME!!  I don't know about you, but having taught and coached for nine years, dealt poker, worked in sportsbooks (i.e., having been in the close vicinity of people), I have been coughed and sneezed on before, and then just KNOWN that I was going to get sick (which I did).  This was one of those instances, and with my crazy Las Vegas sleep schedule (I usually tend to get sick when I'm tired, immune system is weaker, etc....), I just knew at that moment...  I really wasn't affected until the second part of my stay, and because I was disciplined and made myself stay in my hotel room a lot longer than I would have liked considering that I was on vacation, I shook the bug and I was fine by the time that I flew back to Biloxi.

For now we're going to skip my poker playing and the Blue October concert, and fast forward to Saturday, when I first went to visit my friends and former coworkers.  I waited until the weekend to start seeing people because that's when the sportsbooks schedule more workers due to having more business.  I didn't get to see everyone that I know, but considering the number of friends that entails, having worked at three different books, I did see most everybody.  Saturday was the first of three different times that I went to the books, and I spent several hours there between those days, as reconnecting was as much a part of the trip as anything else.  Friends, concert, World Series of Poker, playing poker...  It's a pretty good reason to spend eleven days in Las Vegas.  : )  While I was at Bally's on Saturday, the news of the Anthony Davis trade broke, and we had just been talking about the Lakers five minutes earlier.  I will go on the record right now and say that I don't think the Lakers will be the team on the court that is favored to win the NBA title.  There are several older players on this team, and many that already have an injury history, but it should be interesting to watch (after football of course)...  : D

After I made my way to Paris (when I worked in Las Vegas, I could be scheduled at Bally's, Paris, or Planet Hollywood), I saw another friend and coworker (Jordan) who was throwing a birthday party for her daughter the next day at Sunset Park (a little south of the Strip).  I was invited (see, I have friends), and I went with my friend Geoff (the same Geoff that picked me up at the airport).  He worked at the World Series of Poker, and I have a whole other story about visiting him that Saturday night/Sunday morning, but we'll save that for later...

So now it's Sunday and we're at the birthday party.  Sunset Park turned out to be HUGE compared to my expectations, there was a nice breeze, and it was a very pleasant birthday party on a Sunday afternoon.  There were several pizzas, and after having already eaten $100 in Outback gift cards during the week, I only had two slices, but that's also a story for another day...  : )  Jordan's daughters are young, which is relevant to the story I'm about to tell you.  The girls had a blast, playing with the birthday gifts, eating, taking a trip over to the water park, etc... (in case you're not familiar with the concept of birthday parties)...  :P  ANYWAY, the party was coming to an end, and Jordan was helping others load up their car (chairs, etc...).  The girls were on the grass in front of me and Geoff playing with what is basically a souped-up Etch-A-Sketch, and Geoff and myself were standing behind them.  This is important to the story, because what happened next, it's not like our heroine was doing something for attention, or an audience, because she didn't know that anyone was watching her.  So the girls are playing, and suddenly the older sister stands up, extends her arms and looks up to the sky, Shawshank Redemption style, and EXCLAIMS, "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!"  I started laughing and turned to Geoff, asking, "Did you see that?!"  The best part is that it wasn't even her birthday, but her little sister's...  : D  I'm not crazy about using children's names in the blog, and I didn't think they were necessary to tell the story, so I hope that wasn't too confusing.  Here's a photo from the birthday party...

My initial thought looking at this photo is that I own a combination of at least TEN Texas State t-shirts and jerseys, but every time that I end up in a photo, I always seem to be wearing this yellow shirt...  That is something that I'll have to remedy.

I'm going to give up for now (I'm starting to yawn again, and it's 3:15 a.m.), but I'll see you soon!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Vegas 2019: Pt. 2/Takeoff

The last time that we visited, I was getting ready to go to Las Vegas.  My ride to the Gulfport/Biloxi airport was my friend Nick.  Nick was also a valuable source of information seeing that I had not flown for several years.  The last time that I was in the friendly skies, downloading your boarding passes to the app on your smartphone was not a thing.  Nick also assured me that the size of my carry-on bag was fine.  Helpful Travel Tip:  If you do not have to check any of your luggage, bringing just a carry-on bag saves you a lot of time after arriving at your destination, since you get to skip the carousel.  It also eliminates the chance that the airline will lose your luggage.  It also eliminates baggage fees, if your chosen airline charges you for the privilege of bringing some things with you.  : )  Okay, so my friend Nick dropped me off, and the cool thing about flying out of a small airport - there was NO LINE for the TSA security check.  ZERO.  NONE.  As I was being processed by the four TSA agents who were working, one of the men said that I looked familiar.  I told him where I worked, and then he asked me what I did.  I then told him that I work in the sportsbook, and he lit up, and said that's where he knew me from.  At work my hair is gelled and combed back, and in real life I'm wearing a ballcap about 100% of the time, so I've got one of those Clark Kent/Superman things going.  ;)

I flew American Airlines on both flights to Las Vegas, and people would LOVE traveling that much more if their trips went as my smoothly as my trip to the desert.  First, I would highly recommend flying into and out of small airports if you can afford it.  As I said in my last post, I booked so far in advance that my flights were pretty inexpensive, which offset the costs of leaving and returning to Gulfport/Biloxi.

Look at that peaceful airport!  The plane was probably the smallest that I've ever flown on.  The left side of the plane had single seats (every seat was a window seat).  The right side of the plane had two seats (an aisle seat and a window seat).  My table tray was broken and safety-taped to the back of the seat in front of me.  That table tray was the EXTENT of my problems on my trip to Las Vegas.  Very smooth flight.  Before takeoff, I had posted that photo above on Facebook.  When I landed at the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) airport, I had a message waiting for me.  My friend Geoff asked me if I needed a ride when I landed in Las Vegas.  There is so much transportation to the Strip from McCarran International in Vegas that I had never worried about finding a ride, but HECK YEAH, I'll gladly take a ride to the Strip.  As my vacation approached, the most worrisome aspect was making my connecting flight at DFW, because the airport is simply HUGE, and I had just a little more than an hour til takeoff after arriving from Gulfport.  However, once I exited my initial flight, all of the gate information and the airport tramways (skylinks) at DFW were well-labeled, and I reached my connecting flight in plenty of time.  Unlike my first flight, this plane was BIG, and modern, with headphones being passed out for the video screen in front of you, on which you could play music, or watch a movie, etc...  I thought that I would sleep most of the way to Las Vegas, but I ended up watching about half of the movie 'Glass' once I realized that sleep simply wasn't going to happen.  Geoff has been to McCarran in Las Vegas several times, and finding him after I arrived was simple.  Geoff zipped me to Harrah's while giving me a flawless update on that night's Warriors/Raptors game.  This was the game where Durant came back and REALLY screwed up his health, yet the Warriors pulled out a victory.  Oh yeah.  Another factor in my flights to Las Vegas being so cheap was the times that I chose to fly.  I didn't leave Gulfport until about 7:30 p.m., and I didn't arrive in Las Vegas until almost midnight (and that's WITH the two hours in time that you gain by flying west), so yep, I completely missed Durant's return to the Warriors lineup.  However, I know that Geoff's recap of the game was flawless, because I watched the replay of it once I arrived at Harrah's, eating the first of what would be SEVERAL healthy meals during this trip...

Just note that a hidden layer of french fries is underneath all of the fried food that you can actually see pictured on top right there.  : )  This is a good time to give a shout out to the food court at Harrah's, which was open til 3:00 a.m. nightly, and had a pretty good selection of items to choose from (I had several).  That's all for now, but I'll start hitting you with some of the highlights of my trip the next time that I see you.  Have a great week everyone!