Saturday, October 16, 2010

Foxwoods on the bus, a Saturday trip

Well, I did not break the bank at Foxwoods, but I did break the seats in the Yankee Trail bus.  I was sitting by myself in the second to last window seat with two women in the three seats behind me.  I decided a few minutes before arrival that I would move to the aisle seat and make my exit effortless, so I stood and arranged my belongings and when I sat back in the aisle seat, the support snapped, putting the entire seatback as well as the seatback connected to it and me on the laps of the ladies behind me.  Luckily they were not hurt.  The heavier seat with me in it landed on the empty seat between them.  They were nice about it, but it did mean we all had to find different seats for the return trip and would not have as much space.

My day at poker was a very good one.  I drank a good bit of Myer’s rum, met some very interesting people, ate a large portion of free chicken at Pollo Loco, and left with a profit of $132 for the day.  All in all it was a success.

As the rum loosened me up, I engaged more and more of my companions, asking questions, joking, and having the experience I like, one of interaction and sharing that is similar to what happens around the televsion setting of Cheers, only with strangers.  Most people are more than willing to talk about what they know, so it is only necessary to find some opening and ask the right questions and follow up for more information. 
Soon they are telling life stories.
This Saturday group was more diverse and Cosmopolitan than the regular local rocks I usually encounter on weekdays at Foxwoods.  I joined a new table too.  I like that very much as no one knows anything about anyone and the folks who are programed to quickly lose their day’s bankroll have just started.  Joining a table in progress often means playing against those who have survived by using good play and while new bad players join, it is not the same as starting when everyone has fresh money.

The people were more fun than the poker.

I played poker with a Polish fellow from Warsaw, and so I got to drink my Myers Rum and say:
na zdrowie

He was a friendly fellow, and he told me that in Connecticut the good source of Polish food was New Briton, especially Broad Street.,_Connecticut

From his comments, I suspect that this neighborhood has experienced the same sort of problems as Polish communities in Utica with the end of factories in America, but perhaps the Polish community is a bit more vibrant and not hit quite as hard as those in Upstate NY.

Also it seems what the Guzik's call simply kapusta is technically bigos kapusta.  Kapusta is more generic for cabbage and when we add the sauerkraut, it is bigos kapusta.
That was a good key search word for more information on this delightful dish, and I liked the following particular blogged description of how it might be made.
Perhaps I'll try some of this bloggers variations one of these days.
My basic attempts at bigos kapusta are in my blog of recipes here:

We also talked about the rock concert son Dana had attended in Warsaw.  The Polish fellow livened up to talk about Warsaw, and it was very entertaining to listen to him between playable hands and hear the charm of his home city.  

He also was familiar with Dyngus Day, but not because of Buffalo, but because of coming from Poland.  He tried to teach me how to pronounce the full name, but said we Americans could not really ever pronounce it, and that is why in English speaking countries it shortens to just Dyngus Day.

He has children in Chicago and actually had shopped at Wally’s market in the Polish Community there.  I shopped there a few years ago when Wally’s had so many choices of kielbasa that it was impossible to chose one, and since the young, pretty blond girls behind the counter spoke only Polish, impossible for an illiterate fellow like me to get any help in the choosing.  I could not even manage to communicate the idea of barbecue grill.


While I was playing in the seat to his right, I learned a new rule, at least for Foxwoods poker.  I put four chips in my hand with the intention of calling, but before I could act, my Polish neighbor announced a raise.  
I wanted with this new information to fold, but the dealer would not let me fold.  I pointed out that I had not passed the chips over the labeled “bet line,” but she told me that line meant nothing.  It was just there for the convenience of the short armed dealers.  
Later, when the floor was around, I asked the question for clarification.  He told me that if the movement to bet took chips past my cards, I then had to make the bet.  
The dealer's name was Wilton (or something close) and she was from Haiti. She both knew her ability and was confident she was right. She was also delightful, and we laughed together at all of it and I overtipped her once later to show there was no hard feelings. Then she later helped me get seated for my last half hour.
So many times these discussions of rules leave either the dealer of the player outraged. It is so unnecessary in a casino where the floor is the final arbitrator. So, after that I put my cards far in front of me and just short of the "bet line", protected from being folded by my huge clay card protector, so that any action I might take would be on my side of the cards.  They let me do this.  In a sense, it allowed me to establish my own betting line.

Soon after, I moved down two seats to be more directly across from the dealer and had an Italian guy to my right. We had a fine time talking about Italian and Spanish and how both people can understand each other’s language, a speaker like me could not get by in Italy with my limited Spanish, but natie speakers have no trouble.  He taught me a few Italian words, and we spoke in Spanish occasionally, so that one of the other players asked me:
“So, do you intend to speak every language?”

And so the banter and laughter continued.

On my left was a very pretty girl who was quiet and reserved, reading a People magazine in between playable hands.  People magazine always reminds me I am now old because it never contains photos of any people I know, and after seeing page after page of young celebrities that I have never heard of, I sometimes get depressed because surely the world in this way is passing me by.
I kept glancing at the photos and finally saw someone I knew, Halle Berry with her new French lover Oliver and so I started to talk to the pretty girl about Halle.  
I could not remember the title of the movie that first attracted me to this actress, nor the name of her costar Billy Bob Thornton.  I could remember “Sling Blade” that Thornton had directed, and that prompted another player to name Billy Bob Thornton, but none of us could come up with “Monster’s Ball.” I kept coming up with "Midnight Dance" and knowing it was wrong. The girl had never heard of Billy Bob or either movie I described, and I knew that even these movies that I think of as fairly recent flicks were as ancient to her as “Hollywood” with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, which is the last movie I’ve watched here on the Roco.

One old fellow named Ascher, directly across from me, wore a cap that said Dave and Buster’s, so when I had an opening I asked him if that was a construction company or a sandwich shop.  He told me it was a bar where there was a Midway of new arcade games and that he had not been there, but his daughter had sent him the cap from Orlando. The pretty girl next to me chirped in with more information, that one existed in Providence as well and called it like a Chucky Cheese for adults.
A while later the girl stood up to proudly show us her beginning pregnancy, and it was so sweet to see this rather indrawn woman smile and share with us her coming baby. Her Asian husband was nearby and we congratulated both. She looked Irish.  
Ascher was a great comfort to me because here he was looking seventy and still playing good poker at 97 and could tell people about Dave and Buster's although I am sure there are no 97 year old people playing in that arcade. He was just a wonderful fellow.

One newbie to the game just kept catching full houses.  It was amazing.  He did not play poorly, but it is hard, after all, to play full houses poorly.  He walked with a good pile of chips.

Across the table was a young fellow named Shaun who could be counted on for a bet if no one else bet. He did accumulate chips when the table felt too weak to call.  Because of this and the general loose attitude at the table, even with good cards I rarely bet out, but let someone bet into me and then decided where to call or raise.  
Once I held jack/Queen and the flop came king/jack/XX.  It checked around and was going for the second time around when Shaun decided to bet the turned three.  I called.  He bet again on the river and I called and showed the winning jack.  He was surprised I had not bet the jack.  I learned then that he would always bet second best, so if he was in the hand, he would bet into me and I could wait for him.
It was hard to push anyone out, so raising did not often seem practical.  Only once did I push successfully.  I had 8-9 suited on the button and everyone put in the initial $4, so I button raised to $8 to build a pot and give me a chance of an after flop free card in a straight or flush draw situation.  The flop was A-A- X and everyone looked weak, so I took a shot at bluffing and bet my button.
The table folded.
It was a good pot because of my initial bet, but no one wanted to play with me, figuring I had raised earlier on an Ace.  This is another advantage to that button raise with suited connectors in limit.  We can represent the ACE.
Otherwise, I was not very aggressive except in the check raise.
My first twenty minutes at the table were brutal.  My very first hand (one where I had to post, so I saw a free flop)  I had 9spade-5heart  and the flop came 10-J-Q all spades.  The betting was frantic and I was squeezed, but I went along for the ride, thinking that the straight flush would be great and thnking I had the third highest spade if a fourth spade dropped.  
The turn gave me a straight, so I called with more hope, and I held at that point the winning hand.  
The river was an Ace which made bigger straights.  No one had a flush.

Then a few hands later I had K-4 of hearts, flopped 4-4-x, and bet, but lost to runner-runner heart flush.

So, as the day wore on my money dwindled as I'd get good cards and bad flops or bad cards that ate up my potential.  I was down almost $200 when the tide turned and I made it all back with profit.

Many writers say that we should not drink while playing, although some of the old players at the El Cortez have said that "no one  can beat a drunk."  
In no limit I would never drink, but in limit, I play better when I am drunk and happy, and I also manage to liven up the table a bit with my questions.  I find the wait between playable cards less boring, and I think that I disguise my ability to play and that helps me win more on good hands.
For example, in this game I had pocket kings and raised on the big blind.  It is the only time all day I raised a big blind.  I rarely do that because position is just so bad.  So it should have signaled that I had cards, pocket kings being one of the three possible  general hands to raise with in early position.
I ended up head to head with a very good player.  Perhaps he just put me on A-K as I slow played the trips when they came on the flop and just called his bet on his building flush.
He caught the flush on the turn, so I did another check/call.
The case king came on the river.  I bet out wanting to insure my $8, and he raised his flush.  With a pair of kings on the board, he should have just called my bet unless he had a full house.  I reraised, and he still called and I showed my quads.  
He was very annoyed, but polite about it.  I expect he was playing the drunk and not the cards. Why else would I bet out on the river?  I had to have a full house to do that unless I am too drunk, see my third king and miss seeing the flush he was betting.
I have often played this man and found him very disciplined and not at all like what he was in that hand.

Drunken play also gives me a chance to cover up why I bet with less power in the few instances when I am trying to push out the other player on the river.  As I turn my cards, I can say that I misread them.  I won a hand that I should not have bet and covered my push bet that way.

One bad poker decision was to throw another $4 at pocket sixes when the flop was 2--2-XX  The turn was free and the river dropped one of my two outs to give me the full house and a nice pot, but it was bad poker and I need to avoid it.  The table looked weak.  I did not think anyone had the trips.  I never knew since after I was called on the river, I was the only one to show. 

Most of the rest of the day I tossed stuff away.  Peter was teasing about playing 10-2, but I refused to play any A-small unless it was suited (I won once with A-2 of clubs just because I had the only Ace.)  I threw away any unsuited middle connectors which I am at times tempted to play.  I threw away even middle suited cards with gaps like Blowers favorite 5-7.  In early position I threw away anything less than picture cards, especially with Shaun doing his raising thing. 
It worked.  
I think at least in limit I just have been too often taking a chance with bad cards.  Once in a while I'll play them if I think that my reputation is as a rock, so any bet I make gets too much respect, but at this table, no one seemed to know I was a rock.  I  suspect they knew I was a talkative drunk who claimed to lose often and talked about getting the value of the rum to offset my losses.  They did not see me toss away so many of my hands.  But perhaps I tossed less than I remember.  It may be that the bad flops on high cards still kept me from looking like a rock.

Of course, playing once every three months on drink is easy, but playing everyday in Vegas for 17 day, I'd kill my liver with that much rum.  So I'll need to work out a sober table persona.

One fellow was called to the table as Mac, and when he joined us, he looked a bit like a fellow I had been to parties with twenty years ago, a friend of an old friend Wayne.  He had greatly aged, much more than me and much, much more than Wayne, but the resemblance was close enough, and finally I asked him if he knew our mutual friend Wayne.  It was the guy.  He did not remember me, but it was fun to have noticed and remembered him, and I'll pass on his greetings.  

The buffet was too crowded, so I went to Pollo Loco for my free food and that was a great decision. 
In line behind me was a Latino woman and her husband and eight others in the family all speaking Spanish and very excited because she had just won $250,000 at bingo.   What a party!!  She showed us the sign that she had to hold for her photo.  I am not certain I would want to advertise that I just won $250,000 but I suspect that she did not have it on her in cash and there were 10 people with her.

Even sober I can never figure out what to get on posted menus in fast food joints or how to maximize a coupon when it is ala carte.  So when the counter worker asked if he could help me, I showed him the coupon, told him I did not want a drink, and knew I did want the marinated and grilled chicken, and asked him to help me by maximizing my coupon without making me pay any more money.
He had me pick two sides, white meat or dark.  
What I got for $15 was an incredible amount of food, especially the chicken.  It came on two plates and was delicious as were the bean dishes I chose for sides and the cinnamon sticks he chose for my dessert.  Free water too and lots of salsa to add zest to bites of chicken or bean sides.   
It was so fast, that I was able to play another half hour of poker.  I lost $20 doing that. And the dealers were the worst in the world, slow and completely baffled by any little aberration so they needed to ask the floor.  I did not get the same kind of poker I had earlier.
Still it was a good day and I quit ahead $132 which included $3 I won at video poker using my freeplay.

I was just under the wire for the bus because at the last minute I discovered I was without  my nice warm pullover shirt.  I rushed to check security before going back to find it still on the seat at Pollo Loco where I had been eating.  The search for the shirt gave me just three minutes to board the bus.

I hurried and made it.
The ride back was less than ideal.  The bus was too hot for me, and I no longer had  my own seat.  It was dark and no movie was played this time.
I felt the beginning of the hang over, drank all my water and just drifted.  Next trip I need to bring some books on tape since on the way back it is too dark to read.
My companion was a woman who perhaps had had a lobotomy this past month and had recovered enough to ride the bus and play the slots.  She was pleasant but not engaging.
Still there were two talkative Black guys in the next row talking about fishing all the local shore spots in our area.  Many of those spots  I knew, but many were new to me.  They told some fish stories from Basic Reservoir of large bass breaking straightening the hook and in general entertained me with plenty of annecdotes.
One said he thought in Round Lake that the weed treatment had killed the fish and they would stock again in a couple years, but the fishing had suffered.
They talked about how an Asian guy they knew who prepared Carp by keeping them alive in his bathtub to purge them and then filleted them.
After the fish talk, one started to tell the other about street craps and how it is played, detailing how the bets are made and explaining how complicated it is with side bets on all sorts of combinations adding to the usual bets we see in the casino.  They talked about dice games with up to six die and combinations of numbers. I could not follow all of it, but it was a great conversation to overhear.
And behind me one woman was telling another all the recipes of things she made in her slow cooker.  While I did not hear of any I wanted to try, most being just put together meals with cans of this or that,  it was fun to listen just the same and it made the long, dull ride home more entertaining.

So I had quite a day of it.
I like Foxwoods.
I do well there and even if I don't do well, I have fun with the free rum, the free food, the free conversation.
This had been my fifth free trip, using points for the bus voucher, but I could not get another voucher this time as I had but 24 points to start and I needed 27, so I may have to actually pay to go in December or when I get home from Florida next spring.