Another Road Trip

Friday morning saw me up early and on the road for San Bernardino. The trip agenda included a planned meeting with friends for dinner and yet another excuse to go play poker. I do my best to take advantage of the three Fridays off a month (without pay) courtesy of the statewide furlough program for state employees

I was on the road after a long Thursday at work and an even longer evening working feverishly on my honey-do list that kept me up well after midnight. I managed four or five hours of sleep before jumping up raring to go at the first shriek of the alarm. On the road I faced bad weather with fog leaving visibility under 300 feet. I held out in vain for the fog to lift, but gave up and finally headed out just after ten.

About forty minutes into my five hour drive I realized how truly tired I was. I was dozing off at the wheel while driving 80 MPH in the Tule fog. I knew there was a rest area just miles ahead and I would be able to take a break. I forced myself to stay awake for another ten agonizing minutes. At rest stop, I took a walk and made a few quick wind sprints to get my heart pumping and invested in a couple bottles of Mountain Dew from the vending machine. Then it was back on the road.

The battle to stay conscious raged on as I sped down the freeway. I managed another forty minutes of DWSD (a.k.a., driving while sleep deprived) before I was forced to fork over $4 at Starbucks for coffee. Twenty minutes later I was counting sheep while behind the wheel (a.k.a., CSWB). Not being able to hold out any longer, I stopped just before the Grapevine and stocked up on a couple liters of Mountain Dew and some chicken. Another trip to Starbucks was mandatory and I secured a Frappacino to help power through the drive. Fortunately, somewhere near the Tejon Pass I found my second wind and woke up. I was able to make the last couple hours to San Bernardino without nodding off.

I pulled into my friend Vince’s place about 3:30 and tried to relax a little before we headed out to dinner. I am sure I dozed off a couple times and Vince was kind enough to let me sleep a few minutes. I jumped in the shower and freshened up for dinner and tried to find that elusive third wind. I slammed down the rest of my Mountain Dew and hoped for a caffeine jolt. I managed to drive us to dinner; I even stayed awake for most of the drive.

Dinner was a gathering of starved friends and unlimited food and drink. I did nurse one beer in hopes of waking up just a little bit more. I ordered way more food than I really needed to eat and that is one of the problems with ordering when you are hungry. I had the big rib eye steak with a cup of clam chowder, a baked potato, and corn on the cob. Just to make sure I would be full I added a half rack of baby back ribs. Vince went with the full rack of ribs and a side of shrimp scampi. In my very own episode of Man versus Food, I made a heroic rally to finish the last of my ribs long after I was sweating and uncomfortably full. The group was great and cheered one another on as we each stuffed ourselves well past the point of being uncomfortable.

Just as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel (not to mention, most of the bottom of my plate) and realized I would finish the ribs, Vince cut off two ribs and sneakily slid them onto my plate. Yikes! I manned up and took one for the team, managing to choke down two additional ribs. I had managed to eat nine ribs after finishing my entire steak dinner. The world will never know if I could have found room for a piece of cheesecake. I am absolutely sure if anyone had ordered dessert I would have given it a try.

After food it was time to head out to play. As we arrived at the casino, I realized I was still exhausted and miserably overstuffed from my food orgy. I signed up for the smallest game in the room and figured I would be in damage-control mode. Under ordinary circumstances I would not have played poker. I had everything working against me and really just needed to plop down somewhere and fall asleep.

I was called for $3-6 limit hold’em and found my table in the immense 67-table San Manuel poker room. The board did a really poor job of pointing out where my table was located, earning it its first bad mark. I guess the regulars know the lay of the land and the first timers are not worth worrying about. I wandered the room seeing many of the tables and squeezing between chairs located at adjacent tables that have been placed a foot or two too close. I pulled out a hundred dollar bill and slipped into the vacant seat.

The poker room received a second bad mark when the dealer was unable to get a chip runner to come to the table and sell me chips. I was seated for seventeen minutes and a full twenty five minutes after my name was called before I was able to buy chips. The dealer called for chips on five separate occasions and was never acknowledged. This was a busy Friday night with between forty and fifty games going and plenty of staff milling around the room. I continued to muck playable hands as a courtesy to the other players at the table and the dealer. Please do not interpret this as a one time glitch because the lack of chips was an ongoing theme throughout the evening with players owing other players chips from previous pots. This is not acceptable and was really annoying. One player managed to lose an entire rack before he was able to purchase chips and had to buy a second rack from the chip runner when his first chips arrived.

The third black mark, which is less egregious than the others, is that the casino does not track poker play and offers no comps for poker.

The players at the table were great and really made my time at the table enjoyable. I talked almost non-stop the entire time I was at the table and planned to play until around midnight. The players were having fun and I miss playing with those players at the lowest levels. The game was very loose-passive and table chatter was constant. I was in no shape to play poker at a high level and found myself content to muck it up with the beginners.

The key hand of the session for me came after about two hours when I was dealt kings on the button. Only one player folded and I re-raised making it nine to go and the original raiser capped it at twelve. Eight players saw the flop in a capped pot. I flopped the nuts with a set of kings. The hand was capped on the flop for another twelve with five players staying in the hand. The board paired nines on the turn and again it was capped with four players. I had the number two possible hand; second in strength to pocket nines. The river card did not change anything and my opponent check-raised me and I three bet the hand. I showed over the winner in this $216 pot.

I cashed out $270 winner for the evening and headed back to the apartment. We were asleep a little after two and got about five or six hours of sleep. I still felt full when I was trying to fall asleep.

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