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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

California 2005 trip report

O.K. folks - here's my trip report. Beware - it's a long one an it has little poker content as this was a vacation with some side action in poker!

It started like expected: The Condor flight was a real pain. The flight was delayed for more than one hour and the didn't tell us until shortly before boarding. So we waited and waited... Service was as medicore as expected. But it was a free flight on freemiles so I really can't complain. The only thing I know is that I never would pay to fly with Condor! What I like at Condor is their monitors: They provide a real-camera view from the front during take-off and landing. Especially the arrival at McCarren (from the west) was a great experience.

As we stayed in Vegas for only two days we didn't had a rental car and had to take a cab. And of course the cabby tried to talk me into the tunnel route. The have a new trick now: They tell you there is a big convention (there's allways a convention) and they aren't allowed to take Swenson/Paradiese except on special request. And he won't take the highway as he would use Frank Sinatra Drive. Well, sounds great - but unfortunatly Frank Sinatra Drive (which is the former south end of Industrial Rd.) can only be reached via the tunnel ;-)) Even Tropicana to Industrial would have been bettter than his suggestion. I requested the Swenson/Paradiese road and it was my lucky day (as the cabby said). There was no traffic at all on that route. The cabby wasn't happy about the $1 tip (they expect much more) but I don't like to tip long-haulers at all. On the way back we had no problems. That cabby was a nice guy (we talked about poker as he plays himself) who took us to McCarren via the Strip (which was fine at that time of the day). I don't think he was the typical long-hauler but more important: Most cabbys don't try to long-haul you on the way back as they think you may be more aware of it.

We had a nice comped suite at the Venetian. Great rooms and great location! Breakfast at Starbucks in front of Fashion Show Mall, poker at the Wynn and a great Pool area for my girlfriend.

As we arrived late afternoon we had some dinner and a short stroll on the strip before I went to the midnight tourney at the Imperial Palace. I must admit I was really lucky in that one - beside playing good poker of course ;-)) No rebuy needed for me at this tourney. About half to the tourney I got my lucky minute and busted to people on the river with just 4 outs left (making a needed straight). If I had lost that one I doubt that I would have made the finals. In addition this play made me chipleader until we arrived at the final table. We went down to 5 people (4 got paid) and it became a roller coster. I went from chipleader down to almost broke, back again into business, down again ... and so on. The same happend to the other four. It took us about one hour from there to burst the bubble. I finished third - great start for the trip :-)

Next day - 10am morning tournament at the Aladdin. Did I say I was a little lucky the night before? Well, I was unlucky this morning. At first two Queens lost vs. a rivered second King and later AK with a flop of AKx lost vs. pocket Aces.
The cash game at the Wynn wasn't great either. Well, the game was good but I ended with a small loss after 5 hours of play.

I cashed some of my poker comps for a nice dinner at the Terrace Point Cafe with my girlfriend. Food was good but I was somewhat dissapointed about the way they handled the comp. At the poker room you don't get a comp slip - they just authorize your players card for the amount and place. There is a $20 max. per purchase - so don't try to get a Ferrari with your comp-balance ;-)). But the waitress at the coffee shop told me that this was a comp for only one person (and it couldn't be used for alcoholic beverages either). So I wasn't able to use the full $20 amount. It's fine if it's done that way if they tell you that upfront. So be carefull and tell them to authorize your card for the correct amount of people in your party!

After dinner we had a great time at David Copperfield's show (sitting almost in the front row). He's a little bit older now (no magic here) and he is still great. The only complain would be the fact that he needs to brush up his programm somewhat. If you know him for longer you can feel that he rushes somewhat through the show. His jokes are still great but you can feel that he tells them twice a day for a long time. But for me he is still the greatest magician I ever saw!

Next day we went to Oakland for the second part of our trip. If your only interested in poker than skip this and go to the last paragraphs as there will be no poker in that section.
We were lucky with our rental car. Rented 2nd smallest and got a Chrysler Voyager. Nice Hotel in the middle of San Francisco. But don't be fooled by low room rates here. The room at the Ramada Plaza was fine but you have to pay $20 / per night for parking space :-(( We found a less expensive parking lot nearby ($6 weekend and $11 weekday) but this had a downside: The rate was from 5am to 5am. So I had to wake up at 5am every morning (for 4 days) to get a new ticket.
The first night was awful for me as I had a severe headache and stomach problems (probably due to some bad food I ate the evening before). And the next night: Firealarm at 4am. Nothing severe or even a false alarm but I was happy that we got more sleep the next nights. What I liked at this place was the built-in Starbucks next to the lobby. Yes I am Starbucks addicted.

I showed my girlfriend the interesting parts of San Francisco (Fishermans Wharf, Lombard Street, the Victorian Houses, Golden Gate, Alcatraz etc.). It was quite cold for that time of the year but the weather was sunny so we had a great time. Oh, and of course some shopping. Finally I got a new Apple iPod. I don't think I will use the iPod at the Poker tables but it's a cool piece anyway.
We spent the next 4 days at a dance camp in the Redwoods.

For those how don't know - my girlfriend and I love to dance to swing music and this camp had great teachers. Unfortunatly the weather was still cold and the wooden chambers in the YMCA camp weren't highclass (especially if you went to the Venetian before). It was a great dance camp but we enjoyed the nice hotel room we got in Mariposa after the camp. From there we visited Yosemite National Park. If you go to Yosemite I reccomend to take the drive to Glacier Point. One of the greates views in the world.

At Glacier point we met another couple from Germany and they told us that they saw a bear in the woods about half an hour ago. I would have been as scared as they had been. But I'm a bit jealous too. I allways wished to see a bear in free nature. All we saw was the raccoons in the camp. BTW - If you go to Yosemite I suggest to stay in Oakhurst (Southgate) instead of Mariposa (Westgate). I avoided Oakurst because there was nothing there on my last visit - but that really changed. Oakhurst is now a little city with a nice infrastructure. And even Starbucks and TacoBell is there ;-)

Now let's continue with poker. I didn't play in the San Francisco area as I was to tired for the almost 40 miles ride to the possible places from our location. But I booked a hotel in Los Angels close to the Commerce and the Bike for our last two days of the trip. You may remember from older blog entries that I don't like the Commerce but I had to go there again. I was frustrated by my big loss from the last visit but I realized two things: I got frustrated due to bad beats. I just had an awful night there on my last trip. And there is no reason to get frustrated by bad beats (even or especially if you play with stubborn californian poker players). And second: a big part of my loss went to a good asian player just because I played bad poker due to my frustration.
This time was better and I went home with a nice win after three hours. I busted some californian wannabees that left frustrated upon their "bad luck". One of the best hands: two nines that beat two eights. The other guy had A8s and got his second eight on the flop. The rest of the board was some low cards (no flush or straight possible) and I was sure he didn't had a high pair (due to the way he played his cards). He was shocked to see the pocket nines at the showdown. Nice big pot as several chased their straight or flush draws. Risky but worth the reward. The other one: A flopped full house with some pocket crap (in the big blind). Again several chasers and a big pot. A nut flush on the river completed a great night.
I went to the Commerce for the second night too as it was the shorter ride (compared to the Bike). It was already 2am and we had to checkout at 11am and drive to the airport. It became another nice night. Not the same big win than the night before but still a decent win.
Do I like the Commerce more after that? Not really. I don't like the people there. I like aggressive play (as it creates big pots) but I dislike aggressive people. And a lot of people at the Commerce are aggressive. Lots of bad language against dealers or other players. "What's the best way to win against a dealer - kill a dealer" - That is not funny in any way! And I don't like the semi-collusion I saw: Two players that choped the pot if they were heads up as they don't wanted to play against each other. Nothing wrong with the fact to be friends (and they didn't hide it) but that leaves a lot of possibilities for REAL collusion. But I can now appreciate the bad quality of the players at the Commerce.

At the end this trip was small success and I feel that my poker play gets better and better. You remember: I said that I will take one year of time to show that I can play a +EV game. I am still down but I am still confident I will make it.

Finally we had met a person that I wished to met for several years but missed everytime: Fayard Nicholas (the older of the Nicholas Brothers). For those who don't know - the Nicholas Brothers had been a tap dance duo in the 30's. They are well known for their acrobatic tap performances with a lot of splits etc. They are not that well known as Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly due to the fact that they are black. But in my opinion they are equal or even better tap dancers. Fayard now is in his 90's (his brother died a few years ago). Meeting him in Los Angeles was such a great experience. He is such a nice guy. He can't dance anymore but you can feel how much he enjoys life and loves to watch other people dancing. There are things you will never forget in your life ... and this is one of those things for me.


Anonymous,  8:17 PM  

Very nice write up, Shadow, and just curious, how much do you have to pay for the "dance outing" ? Was that held in Yosemite ? I stayed at Mariposa - great place, but the drive to Yosemite was just too far - an hour + if I remember. Anyway, very nice to read your report, and next time you are in Vegas, if you want to play agressive poker, try Palms, 2-5 NL game - very agressive players, but not too smart either !! (Pigeon)

Shadow 12:11 AM  

No - the dance workshop was held in the Bay Area (near Redwood City)

Anonymous,  1:11 AM  

Hi Shadow!

Nice trip report. Next time you're in the Bay Area, look me up. I think it would be fun to hit the local poker rooms with you.

All the best,


Shadow 10:59 AM  


that would be great!
Hope you still enjoy the book.


Anonymous,  2:43 PM  

Netter Trip-REport, weiter so!

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