Sunday, February 19, 2012

All Work and No Play Makes Cranky Even Crankier

Caregiving is hard work, let me tell you. It's not continuous effort, but you're always on call to help. There's a strong but invisible tether that keeps you close by so you can lend a hand when needed. Being on call 24/7 is wearing.

So, yesterday I cut the cord for a bit and went to Foxwoods. Skip's aide/friend, the intrepid MW, was staying with her until I got home, so I knew she was in good hands.

I haven't been to a casino since early 2007 when we last went to Las Vegas. And, I stopped playing poker online over a year ago, before the federal government shut down the 2 biggest online poker sites for US players in April 2011.

First, I stopped off in central Mass to drop things off at the two spots where I have stuff for sale. One is associated with a flea market, so the stuff I put there is generally household items and low-end items. I dropped off about 50-75 baseball caps that I'd purchased for Skip over the years. She had me get them wherever I traveled to during my many years of heavy business travel. Then, I went further west to the antiques/collectibles shop where I just set up a small space last week. I brought all the items from our Kennedy memorabilia collection there last week, among other things. It was fun to see that some of the stuff had already sold. Yesterday, I dropped off a bunch of fruit crate labels Skip collected many years ago. I found them shoved away in a closet I cleaned out at home last week. They'd been there for 20 years.

So, following those errands, I headed off to Foxwoods. I realized just how long it was since I'd been there when it came into sight. There was a huge new hotel, the MGM Grand, that wasn't there when last I was. And, all new roadways had been added to make traffic flow around the casinos much better. I swooped right into valet parking and headed into the complex.

The first thing I noticed was the smell of stale smoke. I forgot how casinos are just about the last indoor places that people can smoke. Fortunately, the poker room is completely non-smoking. I wasn't sure whether I'd play poker or craps first, but as I ventured inside, almost the first thing I saw was the poker room entrance, so that was my first stop.

I really prefer pot-limit omaha over all other poker games, but I've never played PLO in a live casino, only online. Online, it's much easier to keep track of the pot size, which is a very important consideration in the betting rounds. Most of the Omaha spread at Foxwoods is limit and is also the high-low variety, neither of which I like anywhere near as much as PLO. So, I wasn't sure if I would play Omaha or just stick with no-limit holdem.

When I got into the poker room, it was huge huge huge. I found the desk for signing up. It being a Saturday of a holiday weekend, there was a dizzying array of games offered. I hate to admit it, but I found the environment a bit intimidating. I signed up for 1/2 PLO, 5-10 Omaha hi-lo limit and 1/2 no-limit holdem. But really, I figured I'd play holdem as that's the simplest game of the 3 and good to start with for my first visit in millions of years.

In about 5 minutes, I got called for the NLHE and went off to a table where I was fortunately seated in the center, across from the dealer, which made viewing the cards on the board easy. I've found in the past that if you're at one of the ends, it can be difficult to see the suits and even occasionally the numbers of the cards. I was 2 from the dealer position on the first hand and posted to get started right away. AQo ... nice! An ace came on the flop. A short-stack in early position went all-in and one other person besides me called. I bet out on the turn and the other guy called that bet, which was fortunate, since the shorty rivered 2 pairs with his A6 so I only won the side pot.

It's funny, in my first 7 hands I got AQo, AQo, xx, AJo, AA, xx and JJ. My $200 buy-in went up to $550 in the blink of an eye. I joked that I'd now seen all the good hands I'd get for the rest of the day and, unfortunately, I was right. Over the next few hours, I managed to give back about half my winnings before I finally picked my remaining chips and headed off to the casino to find a craps table.

In a few minutes, I located a busy craps table that had a spot for me to sneak into next to the stick man (the dealer at the table who holds the stick to move the dice around and who controls the action). The first few folks who rolled the dice did okay, so I made a bit of money. The next shooter was a crazy guy (there's one at every table, it seems). He bet $100 on the pass line and always slowed down the action putting his place bets as he gave poor instructions to the dealer, so there was always confusion to resolve before the game could get moving again. He was a generous soul in an obnoxious way. Every payoff he received, he threw the white ($1) chips back into the center of the table, shouting "dealers!" Great for them to get tipped but a pain for them to retrieve the chips that have knocked other chips around and such. At one point, he took a handful of pinks ($500 chips) out of his pocket to cash one for smaller chips. At least $10k there.

I have a love/hate relationship with rolling the dice. To me, it's all random. I don't carefully position the pips on the dice in certain patterns like some folks do. I just pick them up and throw. I'd guess my experience with dice throwing is similar to everyone else's. Sometimes I completely suck. Based on averages, you have to 7 out immediately after setting the point over 15% of the time. Sometimes I am awesome. I had a roll at the Rio in Las Vegas that I recall where my name was being chanted before every roll. It went on for more than an hour and I made myself well over $1k. Oh, and made everyone else at the table a load of dough. My first roll last night was better than average. I made a few points and the third point I set was the 4, which is hard to make (as in, it's twice as hard to roll a 4 again before rolling a 7). I kept rolling 5's, 6's and 8's, all of which was making us money on place bets. Finally, I sevened out without every making the 4 point, but I'd made all of us a good amount of dough.

I played craps for 2-3 hours and managed to leave with a decent amount of winnings. Not the most of the night, but not at the low point. In fact, thinking about it, since I won the side pot on my first hand at holdem, I had no point during the day where I was losing. Nice!

Getting the car from valet was a snap. I'm doing this if I ever go again. Got out onto the highway. Put on Miles Davis. And headed home. Almost all highway driving. Home about 10:40. It was a fun day and a chance to really get away from the chores and responsibilities of my typical day. I've already suggested to Skip that another trip in March would be fun.


Muffie said...

That was a healthy decision you made.
Sometimes you really just need to get away. Glad you enjoyed yourself and made some money in the process!

Patrick said...

Interesting! As the math fan in me just never 'gets' gambling but on the other hand as you point out casinos are not only one of the few remaining places Patti can smoke indoors anymore, but the most wheelchair accessible places on Earth - so we use casinos as a kind of reward based physical therapy. If Patti wants to smoke she has to pull the slot machine lever alternating left and right arms.

The math fan in me rolls Patti to the penny slots. As casinos in PA are programmed by law to pay 96% on single line bets on penny slots - having fun is never a gamble.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

kmilyun said...

Wooo getting away is a good thing :) that you came home ahead :).

Penny slots? I do not think I have seen one of those in a long time!

Then again I tend not to gamble.
except on guessing what the word verification is wanting me to type??


Cranky said...

Muff - you're so right - it was healthy to get away.

Patrick - Casinos most definitely are accessible. It's one of the reasons we used to visit Las Vegas twice a year for many years. With everything there so new, it all had to be ADA compliant.

Jan - those word verifications are a gamble. Ha! :-)

Rob said...

Nice story, glad you could have some "me" time and have some fun too. How does Foxwoods compare to a Vegas casino? Does it have all the games?

Nice that you were able to play craps so long and come away with a profit. Not easy to do.

Regarding holding the dice for over an hour and coming away with over $1k, that's great. But I bet you were betting fairly small. I imagine some of the folks at that table won a lot more than that. Did they applaud when you finally 7'd out? Did anyone throw you a tip? Great story.

lightning36 said...

I think I might have mentioned to you that my brother is a caregiver for my Mom. Our Las Vegas (and sometimes Harrahs Hammond) trips help keep him sane.

Great that your "reentry" trip was so successful. Maybe I need to rub your shoulder to get some of that luck heading my way. lol

Webster said...

Sounds like an excellent day off to me, except that I can't stand the noise of casinos. It was especially nice that your day trip was paid for!

Gary said...

I too will chant your name.

Cran-kee! Cran-kee!

Thank you.

steve said...

I want to go! I don't have much of a Poker face, so you are guaranteed a win.

How is Skip's recovery progressing?

Cranky said...

Rob - the Foxwoods casino has the same range of games as any LV casino. At one point, it was the largest casino in the world, now it's "one of" the largest. It's so large, it's like multiple LV strip casinos folded into one.

You're right that some folks were betting much heavier at the Rio when I had that great roll. I started with 2 units ($10/$12) on my place bets, but slowly crept them up to quite a bit more, so each was over $100 when I 7'd out. No tips for that roll, but I have been tipped before. One memorable time was when a guy kept betting $100 on the 3-way crap (why? such a bad bet) and I kept rolling craps. He was one happy camper! But there was applause when the Rio roll ended. Man, that was fun.

And, Rob, thanks for stopping by. I've been lurking, reading your blog for a few weeks but haven't left a comment yet.

lightning - I definitely can understand how this trips help your brother. I was able to completely get away from my demanding life.

You are welcome to that shoulder rub as long as I can get one in return when reality hits in the future.

Webster - casinos are very noisy and that's bothersome, like the smoke. I guess I enjoy the gambling enough that those issues are only minor irritants. I did have very happy thoughts on the way home about how MW's time, Skip's and MW's dinner and my gas were all paid for and then some. :-)

Gary - *bows* you're welcome. :-)

Steve - Skip's stitches come out tomorrow! The incision never had any trouble, except it hurt Skip. All the funky side effects from the IV antibiotics (such as itchy skin) have faded.

Rob said...

Thanks, Cranky. Yes Craps is unbelievable fun when someone is having a great roll, especially if it's you. The few really good rolls I've had, I always ended up winning less money than most of the folks of the table. Once made around $500 on my roll (it was a $2table back when they existed in Vegas) and some high rollers took away tens of thousands. But no one tipped me.

We have casinos and card rooms in California but due to state law, no dice games are available. They tried to play craps with decks of cards, but nobody liked it. That's why I was curious about Foxwoods.

Cranky said...

Rob - Foxwoods was originally a high-stakes bingo place. When the Foxwoods casino opened about 20 years ago, they had only table games for gambling. Lots of slot machines set up, but only for fun. The Mashantucket Pequot tribe had a long wrangle with the state of Connecticut before they could have folks gamble with the slots. It was all about taxes. Now, there are 7,200 slot machines there! The tax revenues are absolutely mind-boggling.