Archive for the 'Diary' Category

Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part lucky 13!

June 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 9, 2019

Upon reaching my car, the first order of business was driving out the main entrance of the casino property, turning right onto Pennsylvania Route 315, driving about 700 feet and depositing my winnings in the nearest automatic teller. Having done that, I grabbed the receipt and restarted my car and made my way back onto southbound 315.

From the bank, it’s only about a mile until the interchange with Pennsylvania 309. Unfortunately, it was coming up on 4:30 by this time, meaning that I had to wait nearly five minutes before I could make the left turn onto the state road.

Route 309 extends only a half-mile to the east it terminates at Interstate 81. You can go straight past the highway, but the road you continue on becomes Pennsylvania 115. Right around the moment I got onto the highway, my phone informed me that I was getting an incoming call. The area code was 570, which I correctly thought was local. I pulled over to the side of the highway just before the exit lane for the interstate.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 12

June 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 8, 2019

Remember when I busted out of the national Tournament of Champions finals? Yeah, me too. Well, long story… er, long… after that happened, I circuited the main casino floor and got a quick meal at Johnny Rockets.

A choice among three options lay before me. I could leave the casino and drive to Virginia in plenty of time to have dinner with my hosts and friends; I could play in one of the last two non-invitational tournaments remaining on the event schedule and depart after that; or I could sit down in the poker room and play at a cash table for a while.

Well, I didn’t just want to leave. I typically visit a casino exactly once a year, and I still felt a competitive urge.

However, the penultimate tournament was slated to begin at 3:30, and the last at 6 p.m.; the entry fees were $65 and $50, respectively. Since it was just approaching noon, I’d need to kill more than three hours. And unless I busted early, which of course I didn’t want to do, I wouldn’t be able to reach my friends in Northern Virginia until well after dinnertime. Worst of all, I suppose, was the possibility that, as on the previous evening, I could play for four hours and not come away with any money.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 11

June 7, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 7, 2019

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in this series of posts, the last five springs running I’ve attended a national World Tavern Poker event at a particular casino in Pennsylvania. That venue is Mohegan Sun Pocono in the hills above Wilkes-Barre.

(This facility, I ought to note, is distinct in location, if not name, from the top search result for Mohegan Sun.)

(I also ought to note, being the pedant that I am, that the precise location for Mohegan Sun Pocono is the township of Plains.)

The facility incorporates a racetrack, a casino and a hotel. The racetrack betting floor and the gaming areas of the casino are, as is typical for such venues, barred to those under the age of 18 or 21, depending on the exact location. The racetrack has its own building, which can be reached without stepping outside by way of an enclosed sky bridge.

The casino and hotel are set side by side. Excluding what I think of as the racetrack annex, which houses the poker room and a bunch of slot machines, the casino’s main public area is set on a single floor. You can walk directly from the casino to a corridor that leads directly to the hotel’s reception area. Continue past the hotel for another few dozen strides and you’ll find yourself in the lobby of a set of meeting areas, which include a spacious ballroom.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 10

June 4, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 4, 2019

I reached my seat for the National Tournament of Champions finals on Thursday morning a little after 9. I think the first hand was under way when I arrived. My cards had been mucked, but this was the only hand I missed.

Unlike the national championship finals, which had been staged over three segments spanning Monday and Tuesday, this set of finals would take place in one marathon event.

In the first blind level, 100–200, a woman out of Ann Arbor, Mich., raised to 800 in early position from seat six and got at least one caller. My hole cards were jacks. I raised to 2,600 or 2,800. I was called by Cedric, a.k.a. C.J., in seat one and maybe someone else. The flop went 10-6-3 or something like that; it was a rainbow. I put in a 5,000 chip and got a fold.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 9

June 2, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 2, 2019

I went back to the casino a little after 7 Wednesday evening to play in the Dream Team tournament, which had a separate prize for the four-person team that collected the most cumulative points. (Each player was given a certain number of points for each blind level he or she lasted.) My quartet included Penny Z—, another player from the bar where I direct tournaments on Sunday evenings, and a fourth player whom I did not know.

I was not exactly thrilled with the dealer at my first table, whom I recognized from previous year’s visits to the casino. At one point, I told the dealer that he could collect the cards of the player to my left, who had departed the table, but the dealer responded, incorrectly, that he had to wait until it was that player’s turn to act.

The casino’s actual rule for tournament poker is that a player’s cards should be mucked if the person is not within arm’s reach of her or his chair at the end of the initial deal (i.e., once each player has received two hole cards). I knew this playing at the casino five springs running and because a manager had stipulated the rule over the public address system moments before the tournament began. Kyle, the player to my right, backed me up, but the dealer was not moved. I shrugged and let things stand.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 8

June 1, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 1, 2019

Depending on the tournament, a blind at these national World Tavern Poker event can last 15, 20 or 30 minutes. (Meaning that whatever the blinds — 100–200, 3,000–6,000, anything — they stay at that level until the new blinds are announced.) Regardless of the blind length, however, a 15-minute intermission is staged after every fourth blind level.

I played past a trio of 15-minute breaks in the Patriot Poker tournament. Twice, the very last hand prior to intermission proved to be quite dramatic.

Near the end of level eight, with the blinds 4,000–8,000, Jackie raised to 14,000. I looked at my hole cards: a pair of jacks. Jackie had a pretty healthy war chest, and I didn’t want to limp in. I shoved all in for 31,800 — 17,800 more than her raise.

Glenn, a veteran, was sitting in seat one on the opposite side of the dealer. Like Jackie, he had a bunch of chips. With very little hesitation, he said he was calling my push. He moved about 35,000 past the commitment line.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 7

May 31, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 31, 2019

After busting from the national championship, I headed out from the casino to decompress for a few hours. After whiling away some time in Wilkes-Barre’s main public library and in a local coffee shop that I like, I decided to spend a little time playing at the $1–$2 cash tables.

I spent about two hours, roughly doubling my starting stack of $120 before losing most of my gains. I stepped away from the table after about two and a half hours, cashing in $241 in white one-dollar and red five-dollar chips. Of the specific hands I played during this span, I can tell you approximately nothing. (I think I had pocket jacks and pocket queens and/or pocket kings during this span. But really, that’s about it…)

Actually, that isn’t entirely true. I remember raising preflop with pocket nines, possibly from the small blind. The man to my immediate left, in the big blind, reraised, and I called. Much to my delight, the flop included a nine, giving me a set. I bet all my chips, and my foe dithered a bit before calling, apparently against his better judgment. He never showed his hand, but I think he had aces. I raked in quite a big pot.  Read the rest of this entry »

Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 6

May 29, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 29, 2019

The national championship dealers were told to stop dealing cards about 10 minutes after noon on Tuesday, May 21, only a little while after I’d relocated to my second table of the day. Moments later, we were told that we’d made it into the Pit. After relocating, we filled out a short questionnaire, took a group photograph and made pit stops.

Play began in the Pit around 12:35; I occupied seat four or five at table 141.

On the first hand, I folded queen-nine, both hearts. From the small blind, with no callers, Adam T— shoved queen-five off. Fellow New York player Jim M— was in the big blind with ace-king or ace-queen unsuited, I believe, and it held, eliminating Adam.

Later, I shoved with ace-queen and got no callers.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 5

May 28, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 28, 2019

I thought I’d fall into bed around midnight on Monday, if not before then. But I was extremely excited about the conclusion to the national championship and how it would play out the next morning. I think it wasn’t until around 2 a.m. that the sandman visited me.

I woke up a few hours later and had trouble returning to sleep. I decided to skip that day’s 9 a.m. meeting for World Tavern Poker tournament directors and just show up around 10:30 to check in for the finale of the finals. I ran a little late, getting in line around 10:45, but I was in my seat several minutes before cards started flying.

There were 50 players still competing for the championship. The most prosperous of us by far was Gerald F—, a gentleman I did not know who possessed more than 518,000 in chips. Shaun, the victor in Monday’s infamous “man storms off and flips the bird over his shoulder” hand, was in fourth place with 300,000, while Jeff H— was two spots behind him with 274,000. Thirteen of our number had 49,000 or fewer chips — not a favorable situation with blinds at 10,000–20,000 with a 2,000 ante.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 4

May 23, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 23, 2019

After about three hours of play in flight one of the national championship on Monday, May 20, my first table was broken up. I went to seek my fortune at seat eight at table 151. Nancy A— sat to my immediate left. We were both seated between the button and the small blind, which meant we had to sit out a hand.

The very first one that we saw, but did not participate in, turned out to be dramatic. The man in seat four pushed all in. The man in seat 10, name of Shaun I believe, contemplated what to do and then called. “Good call,” the aggressor said before displaying king-ten off-suit.

Shaun rolled over the queen and ten of spades, and the flop contained two spades. The river was a king… of spades. Seat four initially thought he’d won; he was extremely irate when it was explained to him that Shaun’s flush was in fact the best hand. He shoved his chips toward Shaun and then angrily flung his commemorative marker in the same direction.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 3

May 22, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 22, 2019

Nancy A—, North Carolina player, was moved to our table perhaps 90 minutes into the national championship finals. At some point, a universally beloved World Tavern Poker employee named Scooty walked up to our table with a smirk on his face and told her, “You drive however many hours and end up playing with this yahoo?” The three of us chuckled.

There was a wild hand sometime around noon. A man in late position made a big bet. Action folded to Mickey, the woman sitting on my right, who was in the small blind. After some consideration, she pushed all in.

I had Mickey covered, and I think she had the aggressor covered, but there were a lot of chips at stake, and I turned out to have unsuited seven-two in the hole. That’s the worst starting hand in holdem (check the bottom-right corner of the chart on this page), so after a fleeting flirtation with making the call, I mucked my cards.

The dealer sorted the pots. Mickey showed her cards, which were pocket jacks. The original bettor showed his cards, which were the other two pocket jacks. The table gasped when when we realized that pair was pitted against identical pair.

In a heads-up all-in situation like this, the pot is typically chopped, meaning that the chips in the middle are split equally between the participants because their hands are of the same strength. In fact, in a these circumstances, there’s only one way to avoid a chop: Four cards of a single suit have to appear on the board, thereby giving one of the players a flush.

There was a seven on the flop. If I’d called, I would have been extremely excited. Mickey and her rival could not hit a set or four of a kind because all of their outs — the cards that could help them — were in their hands and therefore no longer able to be dealt as a community card. However, a third player who hits a pair on the flop has as many as six outs. In my case, had I participated, my outs would have been the other three sevens and the other three deuces.

The river, of course, was a deuce. “I would have had two pairs!” I exclaimed. “I folded seven-deuce! Of course, that’s what I should have done, but…” I shrugged; the pot was chopped; and play continued.

Around 1 p.m., our table — which still had five of its original 10 players — was the scene of a dramatic hand involving yours truly. It would turn out to be the last hand at that table.

Mickey, the woman to my immediate right, shoved all in for 82,000 in early position. I looked at my hand as her chips were being counted and discovered pocket jacks. “I’m going to need a minute,” I mutter, half to myself, half to the dealer and the rest of the table.

Mickey did her all-in chair dance, patting her shoulder blades with alternating hands and saying, ”Good luck, Mickey. Good luck, Mickey.”

I had 55,000, and my sneaking suspicion was that Mickey had shoved somewhat light, meaning that her hand was not super strong; I put her on pocket nines.

After a minute or two, I called. Everyone else folded.

We put the cards on their backs. She had pocket kings, meaning that I was in a world of hurt.

Mickey addressed Brian, our dealer. “No jack, no jack,” she implored.

The flop included a jack. I turned my head and looked away, over my left shoulder, as the next two streets were dealt. Mickey asked for a king, and I think she also tried some reverse psychology and asked for another jack, but I could tell without looking that my set remained good. The win was a huge relief for me, not to mention a big score chip-wise.

And that was a wrap for that table. We racked our chips, collected the laminated red-and-white cards bearing our seat assignments, and went looking for our new spots.

To be continued

Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 2

May 22, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 22, 2019

Shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday, May 20, flight one of the World Tavern Poker national championship finals got under way. For this, my second event of Open 26, I was assigned seat six at table 124, which was located in the back of the ballroom, near one of the large video screens. I would keep that seat for the better part of three hours.

I got into trouble during an early level when I woke up on the button with the ace and seven of hearts. I raised, deterring perhaps two limpers but leaving us four-handed going to the flop.

The flop featured two hearts, which left me this close to securing an ace-high flush. Of course, a third heart never found its way to the board, although an ace appeared on fifth street, giving me top pair with a weak kicker; the community cards also included a pair of deuces. My rival, a guy sporting a Boston Red Sox T-shirt and baseball cap, made some sizable bets on the turn and river — 3,500 each time, I think — and I called. Ultimately, he turned over ace-nine; unfortunately, his kicker played, leaving me roughly 10,000 chips poorer than when the hand had begun.

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Pennsylvania pokerpalooza 2019: Part 1

May 21, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 21, 2019

Author’s note: This post contains some profanity near the end. MEM

Seconds before the digital clock metaphorically struck 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, I started my vehicular conveyance and began driving from my parental unit’s domicile to Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The skies were bright and clear, the weather was warm and the drive was fairly straightforward.

I got to my lodging a little after 5:30 p.m., checked in, shuttled a whole mess of stuff from my car to the room, changed clothes and took a load off my feet for a little while. Around 6:50 p.m., I made my way through one of the expansive parking lots that surround Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, moving briskly because the once sunny skies were now heavy with rain.

I walked toward the casino and found one of the players cards terminals. I have two players cards for this venue, thanks to my participation in national World Tavern Poker events the past few consecutive springs. The first card I swiped instantly displayed my name; I stowed the other.

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Cheeps and Chirps for May 11, 2019

May 11, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 11, 2019

Let’s fire up the old tweeting machine.

• Politics

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Poker postseason stories, winter 2019: Part 4

March 9, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 9, 2019

Saturday inevitably leads to Sunday — that’s how weekdays work. And a tournament of champions is supposed to be followed either by another tournament of champions or the regular season — but not invariably.

Because of a Super Bowl–related closure, the venue where I usually run poker tournaments on Sunday nights pushed back its postseason schedule by a week. Which meant that, unusually, the tournament of champions that I won on Saturday evening was succeeded the following night by a tavern championship.

In Sunday night’s event, I did well in the early going, one of three that were used in the tournament. I had a healthy stack when my first table broke and I shifted to my second one. There, when sitting in the small blind, I made a mistake.

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Poker postseason stories, winter 2019: Part 3

March 6, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
March 6, 2019

When last I chronicled my poker misadventures, I had just shoved pocket sixes into pocket aces and busted in third place in a tournament of champions at a Saturday-afternoon venue where I rarely play.

Following a pinball-playing interlude, I drove to a Saturday-evening venue where I rarely play. I took possession of a minimum stack — starting chips in TOCs are based on a player’s number of top-three finishes at the tavern that season, of which I had one at this spot — and took a spot at one of three tables that were in use.

I got off to a poor start, losing a non-trivial portion fo my stack pursuing a busted flush draw to the river. Fortunately, because of bust-outs at one of the other tables, I was moved to balance the number of players.

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Poker postseason stories, winter 2019: Part 2

February 21, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 21, 2019

Every six months, World Tavern Poker concludes a regular season and transitions into two weeks of tavern-level championship events. The first postseason week is dedicated to tavern championships; the second, to so-called tournaments of champions.

Each week has a slightly different format and eligibility criteria. But the goal every game is always the same: To win the tournament and collect some hardware, at minimum a medallion. Unfortunately for me this year, I started out with a number of frustrating near-misses.

I ended my first tavern championship, on a Monday night in late January, with a sixth-place finish. The next evening I finished in fourth place. On Wednesday, I didn’t even make it to the top 20. On Thursday, I barely cracked the final table, going out in seventh place. I got up to fourth place on Friday night and sat out the next two nights.

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Poker postseason stories, winter 2019: Part 1

February 20, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 20, 2019

I was involved in a remarkable World Tavern Poker hand the other evening.

Playing the button — that is, dealing, which puts me last to act after the flop — I saw four players limp into the pot for 400 chips. When I looked at my hole cards, I had eight-six off-suit. I decided to limp in, meaning just call for the amount of the big blind. The small blind and big blind, who act after the dealer before the flop, did the same. That left us seven-handed going to the flop.

The flop came seven, nine and 10 with two clubs. It was a pretty good board for me, giving me a 10-high straight right out of the gate.

Much to my delight, M—, in the small blind, bet 800. Then the big blind, D—, bet 1,600. One of the table’s short stacks, P—, playing in first position, called. Two players folded; then H—, seated in the cutoff, called.

I paused. I had a made hand, there were a bunch of chips in the pot, and I didn’t want someone to hit a lucky draw and beat me out. I figured that P—, who began the betting round with 7,100 chips, was going to call me no matter what; the trick would be to get everyone out but him.

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Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 3

December 12, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 12, 2018

So, about our time in Tiberias…

I’ve already chronicled many of the hitches and goof-ups that threatened to complicate my 2009 trip to Israel with Lady X. But I haven’t written about the sticky situation we got into on our first morning in the city nestled on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias, a.k.a. the Kinneret. (And it has a few other names to boot!)

After a leisurely breakfast, X and I drove down the hill and into town without much of a plan. After exploring a bit in our car, we strayed south of the main town and spotted an intriguing road leading toward the top of one of the picturesque grassy hills that loomed in the middle distance. We decided to head up the road without knowing what was there.

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Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 2

December 11, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 11, 2018

Some of the glitches on the Israel trip that Lady X and I took in 2009 involved airports. I’ve already recounted my possible (likely?) anxiety about not having booked a rental car in advance, but there were two further incidents that had some potential to go badly.

The first one was a discrete incident that occurred as we were waiting in line to be screened at Ben Gurion before flying back to the U.S., I suddenly became fixated on some knotted leather strings on X’s backpack that weren’t fastened to my satisfaction. It was a small thing, but I must have looked like a bit nutty. When the screener started quizzing us, X quite sensibly told me to cut it out and help her answer the questions like a normal person.

The other hiccup — which, like everything else on our trip, worked out fine in the end — occurred at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where we needed to clear customs and immigration before we could catch our flight back to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. However, this problem stemmed from a decision X and I had made, at my urging, upon our arrival in Israel.

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Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 1

December 8, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 8, 2018

Lady X and I flew into Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Dec. 4, 2009, and flew back to the States on Dec. 11. It was a wonderful trip, but there were a few moments that left me feeling anxious or frightened. This is an account of some of them.

I can’t remember whether I booked a rental car in advance; if not, I was certainly freaking out about transportation as we deplaned and went to pick up our luggage. Nor could I tell you if I got a good rental price. Regardless, we obtained a Fiat Punto without trouble and were soon on our way.

The car, which was white with a few sporty red and green stripes, served us well. We drove more than 300 miles in the course of a week: From the airport east to Jerusalem; after a few days in Jerusalem, east and south to Ein Gedi, a beach on the Dead Sea; then, on the same day, north through the West Bank to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, which is also known as (among other things) the Kinneret or Lake Tiberias; after a few days there, west and southwest to Nazareth, then west and northwest to Haifa, and — still on the same day! — south along the Mediterranean to Tel Aviv; and after a few days there, southeast back to the airport.

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Vignette: Flowers, movement, (failed) joke

November 30, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 30, 2018

Sometime in early or mid-November, on a relatively pleasant fall afternoon, I parked my car on Iredell Street in Durham and walked the long way around the block to a local coffee shop.

After turning the corner onto West Markham Avenue, I proceeded up the incline toward Ninth Street, where West Markham becomes Hillsborough Road. As I closed in on the intersection, I noticed a man walking toward me who was carrying at least two floral arrangements.

I decided to be a comedian. “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” I exclaimed as we neared each other.

His face twitched. I couldn’t tell if he’d gotten the joke — which was that he needn’t have brought me all those flowers — or if he had completely failed to get what I’d been saying.

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Cheeps and Chirps for Nov. 28, 2018

November 28, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 28, 2018

The finest hand-crafted autumnal tweets.

• Politics

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Cheeps and Chirps for Oct. 31, 2018

October 31, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 31, 2018

 

Chirping from the hip.

• Politics, Supreme Court edition

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Vignette: Lunch, itch, polo shirt

October 20, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 20, 2018

One afternoon this summer, I was having lunch with my Parental Unit in a restaurant in a mall near PU’s home. I was wearing one of my favorite shirts, a sky-blue cotton Land’s End polo. And something was bothering me. Specifically, something was irritating a patch of skin on my chest.

I kept looking down and tugging at the neck of the shirt, but the sensation persisted.

Eventually, I inspected the inside of the shirt, in the area where the buttons fasten. I felt goofy doing so, since the spot where we were sitting was visible to all sorts of passers-by in the mall, but the sharp prickly feeling was just too bothersome to let go without any investigation. Alas, I failed to identify whatever was provoking the itch. Perhaps it was all in my head?

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