HBO heavily promoted their new series, Luck, for months preceding the premier. Being a gambler, I was intrigued and hoped for a memorable series. Luck features great stars in Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina and Richard Kind, among others. The series is produced by Michael Mann and created by David Milch, who is purportedly an avid horse-player, although probably not a successful one, as the show focuses on the dark side of the horse-racing industry.
February 23, 2012 · By Blair Rodman · 845 Comments
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January 20, 2012 · By Blair Rodman · 573 Comments
If you’ve been around Vegas for a while, you’ve likely met, or at least heard, Richie Sklar. He’s loud, and never afraid to speak on a variety of gambling subjects, the primary being golf gambling. Specifically, matches or gambits he’d like to play against PGA Tour golfers.
Richie has a beautiful, effortless golf swing, hits the ball as far as probably 40% of the top 100 pros, has an excellent wedge game, but is a horrid chipper and mediocre putter. Playing one ball he’s not that good. I’m ( a 5-handicap) a small favorite against him. But that’s not his thing. He’d rather scramble his ball. This is where he hits two shots off the tee, chooses the best one, plays two shots from there and so on until he holes out. After the tee shot, he gets to place both balls within one club-length of his lie, as long as he stays in the same cut of grass. He’s a great scrambler and I’m a pretty solid dog against him in a scramble match. He just has too much firepower.
Richie’s been going on about scrambling against tour players for so long that we all pretty much shine him on. Regardless of whether he could win any pro tournament if he was allowed to scramble his ball against the field’s one-ball, the argument has become trite because the chances of him ever getting the opportunity to try it seem very small.
However, from what I hear there’s been a million-dollar bet proposed and accepted for Richie to play the Olympic Club, the site of this year’s U.S. Open, the four days after the tournament. He scrambles his ball and must shoot better than the winning score of the Open..
There are certainly lots of hurdles to clear before this could ever come off, the first being the ability to gain access to the course for those days. The Olympic Club is the oldest athletic club in the U.S., dating to 1860. It’s certainly populated by lots of old-money people who would frown on the prospect of a bunch of gamblers descending on their private enclave right after one of the most important weeks in their history. And gamblers as a group are loud, argumentative and notoriously non-proponents of tradition golf etiquette. However, guys who can afford to make million-dollar bets are generally well connected, and I hear that they believe they have to connections to gain access. (If they did get on, whether they could last four days without getting booted would be another question.)
Assuming they could get use of the course for four days, there are other issues. Would Richie get to practice on the course, or would he be playing it for the first time? Could he use a caddy to help him with course knowledge and green reading? Would they maintain the rough as it was during the Open, or cut it back. Likewise, would the greens be as hard and fast, and where would the hole locations be?
Assuming all the logistics could be worked out, and the conditions would be similar to those during the tournament, what would Richie’s chances be?
The course plays to 7170 yards, so it’s not unreasonably long, and Richie could drive in it the area of most of the pros. If he got one of his balls in the fairway, he could probably hit the majority of greens in regulation. (He’s also proposed a bet of hitting over 48 of the 72 greens.) When he has to play from the rough, even though he gets to tee it up, it would be difficult to hold his ball on Open-style hard, fast greens. It’s when he misses greens that the problems could start. Richie’s pitching and chipping issues could cause big problems with the long rough (even though he can place the ball, he’s not going to have a perfect lie) and fast and tricky greens. And his putting won’t bail him out. He will definitely make some bogies. The question is whether he can make enough birdies, especially on the par-5’s, to shoot better than 5-under for the week, which I think will be the neighborhood of the winning score (unless the USGA decides to respond to the criticism of last year’s Open at Congressional being too easy by going to the other extreme at Olympic).
Another question is stamina. Even riding in a cart, playing four rounds in a row, and hitting two balls on a torturous Open layout can be exhausting, especially if the weather is wet and heavy, which is likely in San Francisco that time of year. And Richie’s in his late ‘50s and not in top shape.
I’m not really sure which way I would bet. I know how good a scrambler Richie is, but I also know he’s never played on anything like a U.S. Open course. Although the bet is a long shot to ever happen, it’s fun to debate and I really hope it does, if for no other reason than to shut Richie up!
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December 08, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · 1 Comment
A friend told me to watch a movie I knew I didn’t want to watch. The subject of the documentary film is the senseless slaughter of dolphins by the Japanese. I can’t think of a more cowardly act than wanton cruelty toward defenseless animals, and the thought of it sickens me. While I knew it would an uncomfortable thing to watch, I also knew the purpose of the film wasn’t to revel in the atrocities, but rather to bring them into the public spotlight as a step toward a solution.
Dolphins are a very advanced animal species, highly intelligent and showing every sign of being self-aware. I was introduced to the wonders of dolphins from watching the TV show “Flipper”, as was most of my generation. Ironically, Ric O’Berry, the man who captured and trained the dolphins (there were five) used in the show is now the leader of the movement to stop their capture and slaughter. He realized that the popularity of “Flipper” led to the demand for dolphins for aquatic shows around the world, and to the horrors perpetrated in a small cove in Taiji, Japan, from where come the vast majority of dolphins used in the shows.
O’Berry’s conviction that dolphins shouldn’t be held in captivity came from watching, Kathy, one of the dolphins from the TV show, commit suicide in his arms. While dolphins appear to be happy and even smiling in water shows, it’s not a happy smile and is very misleading. Captive dolphins are highly stressed, developing ulcers that must be treated with high doses of ulcer medicine. Their highly developed auditory systems are compromised in enclosed spaces, and they long for the freedom of the open seas. Dolphins and whales, unlike humans, make a conscious choice whether to breath or not, and this dolphin decided to not take that next breath. And Kathy was well-treated by his captors, unlike many dolphins around the world who are treated poorly.
But the real story isn’t about the small percentage of dolphins from the cove that are bought for shows. It would make sense, at least in human terms, to release the thousands of unbought dolphins back to the wild, but that’s not the case. Instead, they are cruelly slaughtered by so-called fishermen. It’s a heart-wrenching scene that was captured on film due to the heroic efforts of O’Berry and his team, who risked arrest, or worse (two activists have been murdered), to obtain the footage.
And the story doesn’t stop there. It’s well-known that the higher up the aquatic food chain, the greater the levels of mercury in fish. Dolphins and whales, which are also a target of the Japanese, have some of the highest levels of mercury, making them highly toxic and dangerous to consume. Yet, corrupt Japanese officials who profit greatly from the dolphin harvest and want to justify it to their population went so far as to mandate that dolphin meat be served to school children throughout Japan, thereby poisoning their young generation.
The motivations behind the Japanese governmental insistence on continuing the slaughter of whales and dolphins are complex, going beyond simple greed and corruption. There are deep-seated cultural motivations, many of which involve tradition, “saving face” and not letting the outside world tell them what to do. Unfortunately, that means the issue is bound to become a political football, with all that entails, and while it is being kicked around the slaughter continues.
“The Cove” came out in 2009 and is fairly easy to find. It won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2010. I watched it on Netflix on demand. Yet, if a friend hadn’t steered me to it I might have missed it. So I’m returning the favor. You may not want to watch it, but you really should.
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November 07, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · No Comments
Much of the history of our country is defined by our wars. Our connection to most of them is the stuff of history books, movies and novels. The Revolutionary and Civil Wars seem distant, and the last WWI combat vet died earlier this year, at age 110. But the more recent wars live on with the survivors who walk among us. The defining war of my generation was Vietnam. It’s a topic that kept popping up during my recent trip to Costa Rica (CR). (See previous blog).
On the flight down I was sitting next to an Asian lady and we got to talking. Turns out she was one of the Vietnamese boat people who escaped the country as it was falling to the Communists. She told me the fascinating story of her journey. After many days at sea, her boat of 40+ people capsized near the shore of an Indonesian island. She recounted how she thought she was drowning, but was pulled to shore by the island’s natives, who took them all in (no one died). After several years on the island, her parents arranged to come to the U.S. and she built a solid life here. Many of the Vietnamese poker players I've met have similar stories.
One of the people I’ve met and enjoyed spending time with in CR is a retired two-star general named John Granger. He had extensive Vietnam duty and an amazing career. Among other stories, he related to me the saga of his adopted daughter, whom he rescued from a pile of dead villagers, nursed to health and managed to get back to the U.S., where she has grown up to be a fine citizen.
While in CR I did a lot of reading. One of the things I happened to pick up was Up Country, by Nelson DeMille, a novel about a man returning to Vietnam on a modern-day secret mission and reliving his combat experiences. It’s an excellent, but chilling book that I recommend to everyone, especially the younger generation who could gain some perspective on what those times and that war was like, and what the soldiers of my generation went through.
When I was in high school I remember being in our local bar (yes, I was in bars in high school, and was even legal at the end of senior year) and seeing the older guys who had been to ‘Nam. I had known them before they went and most were normal teenagers, but their adolescence ended quickly. When they came home they pretty much stayed to themselves and got drunk every day. The ones who would talk to me about their time there told some chilling tales. Everybody of draft age was afraid of being sent there to fight and die.
When my draft year came around, I ended up with one of the lowest (worst) numbers. I wasn’t of a mind to dodge the draft, at least at that time, and was in real danger of being shipped off. The war ended just in time. I haven’t always run good in my life, but I did there! I often think about how I and my life would have changed had I gone to war and survived. I know a lot of guys slightly older than me who were there, and it will always be with them, especially those who were in the real bad stuff.
Another book I read while in CR is The Next 100 Years, by George Friedman, a very well-respected scholar. He deals mainly with geopolitics, the forecasting of changing world political power. The point he makes that really caught my attention is his theory that America’s strategy to remain the world’s dominant power is to find ways to keeps other countries in a state of conflict with each other so that they don’t have the opportunity to form alliances that could become powerful enough to challenge us. He purports that we really don’t care so much about winning wars such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq as much as we want to keep them going. The more unrest there is in other parts of the world the better it is for us.
When I was a naïve young kid I understood that there was evil in the world, but believed that people in power in America would never do anything that cost unnecessary lives. How wrong I was subscribing to that bit of idealism! The super-wealthy have little compunction about safe-guarding their super-wealth by sending others’ kids off to war. I don’t know what would have happened to me had I gone to war, but I’m sure that if I had gone I wouldn’t have been fighting or dying next to the son of one of the people who made the decision to send us there.
The’60s were a unique time in our history, as would-be sacrificial lambs rose up against the war-mongers. It was an interesting, exciting and frightening time. Unfortunately, the lessons of those times are largely lost on the younger generation. That’s largely because they weren’t lost on the people in power. The young generation of the ‘60s not only rebelled against an unjust war, but against the draft and the idea of being forced to fight and die in a war they considered unjust. The elimination of the draft and going to an all-volunteer armed forces stemmed much of the protest, allowing the people in power to go on their merry way. We’re fighting two wars at this moment, yet the fact that thousands of our young men are being killed or sustaining devastating physical and psychological damage is way down on the list of things in the public consciousness.
I don’t want to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon and postulate that the economic crisis was created to keep people’s minds off the bigger picture, the “Wag the Dog” theory. I think for the most part our leaders have been corrupted by the system, and are either incompetent or too busy feeding their greed to do what’s right for the masses, economically or otherwise.
The bottom line is that the 1% couldn’t care less about the other 99%, unless we get in their way. The result is that America as we’ve known it is swirling the drain, and unless things change radically, there are some very hard times ahead for every day Americans. Don’t worry about the 1% though, they’ll be fine.
Unfortunately, world peace is just the stuff of John Lennon songs. Violent conflict has always been a part of human nature. Reminders of Vietnam and our other recent wars walk among us. The treatment of our war vets, and their families while they’re off fighting, is often appalling. Perhaps those in a position to do more to help would rather sweep under the rug the evidence of the damage they’ve wrought. Maybe they just don’t care. But, if we as a people object loudly enough against those in power using the masses to further their agendas, perhaps the world would begin to swing toward Lennon’s ideals. Imagine that.
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October 01, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · 2 Comments
The problem—I had some major dental issues that needed to be addressed. Including replacing a 6-tooth bridge, two crowns, a root canal and three fillings, I was looking at a bill of around $12,000 from my dentist, of which my mostly useless dental insurance would pay a small fraction.
The solution—I have a friend in Costa Rica who has a dental lab and connections with several fine dentists, where I can get the work done for much less.
I remember when I was in college in the ‘70s a professor saying that rising health care costs in the U.S. would cause extreme problems in the future. I didn’t think about it much at the time, but the future is here. In other parts of the world medical care isn’t a huge issue. When I was in New Zealand (my all-time favorite country) writing Kill Phil with Lee Nelson, I asked him if he had health insurance. He replied that other than a catastrophic policy, he didn’t need it. The cost of routine medical care was so reasonable that most people didn’t carry comprehensive insurance. Break a leg in NZ and it’ll cost you a few thousand. In the States you’d need to take out a mortgage. How can this be? The simple answer is sue-happy lawyers and their sue-happy clients (who were convinced to be sue-happy by their concerned attorneys), the AMA and political corruption (ok, lobbying).
I booked a flight to Costa Rica. Frequent flyer miles can be a godsend sometimes. I was able to book a one-way flight (since I didn’t know how long the dental stuff would take) on Continental for the minimum miles. I had a stopover in Houston, where I love to have some time between flights so I can go to Papadeaux’s for some southern food. It’s in Terminal E, check it out! Then it was on to San Jose, Costa Rica where I was met by my friend Mike, and old buddy Joe, who was an awesome host at his beautiful house for what turned out to be a two-week stay.
Costa Rica is a very interesting country. I’ve been there several times on big golf and gambling trips, but except for a few tours we didn’t get far away from the craziness of downtown San Jose. Joe lives up on the hill away from downtown, where it’s saner and safer. Somewhat. Costa Rica is indeed a third-world country. Driving reminds me of a video game; you never know what’s going to pop out at you. Traffic laws are merely suggestions, although they just installed a few traffic cameras and wrote thousands of tickets in a few hours! There’s an obvious lack of urban planning; beautiful estates are mixed in with shacks, and there are little local bars tucked in all over.
Costa Rica’s the noisiest country I’ve ever been in. Early morning weed-whacking is a national obsession. (They seem to have an aversion to lawnmowers.) The sound of dogs barking is constant throughout the night. In fact, there are dogs everywhere. Street dogs are as numerous as pedestrians, (and a lot more traffic conscious). It seems everyone wants to have a dog, but they don’t pay any attention to them, which is very sad, especially because they soon grow tired of feeding them and dump them on the streets.
Don’t get me wrong; Costa Rica’s generally a beautiful country, especially the further you get from San Jose. Some of the beaches are awesome and the fishing is world-class. The local people are very friendly and generally like foreigners. The weather is very temperate, although they have a rainy season, which happened to be the time I was there.
In Joe’s area there’s an interesting group of expats, mostly retired Americans who grew tired of the US and sought a little slice of paradise. They range from a retired two-star general and DOJ prosecutor to ex-drug runners, some men of mysterious pasts, and a very interesting and fun group of Texans. They’re a pretty tight-knit group who have one thing on common; they’re strangers in a strange land. They start gathering at the bars around 2:00 in the afternoon, drink and shoot the shit, and go from there. While this was fun for a while, I don’t think I could make a steady diet of it. But, to a man, or woman, every expat I met there said they love it and would never return to the US to live.
The dental work turned out great and I got it all done for less than $3000. Many others I talked to had similar experiences. I wasn’t familiar with the term “medical tourism”, but it’s a growing industry. As with many products and services in the US, we’ve overpriced things and people are seeking other options. My friend Fred Sorrell is a North Carolinian who owns the dental lab. My dentist, Dr. Carlos “Charlie” Larios Mejia, is a native Costa Rican who was educated in the States. They will arrange for transportation, lodging, and any touristy things you might want to do while getting your work done. If you want contact info, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m writing this on a plane coming from Costa Rica, where it rained every day I was there, to Houston, where it hasn’t rained in about a year. (Doesn’t seem right—who’s in charge here?) I have mixed feelings about coming back to the States. I have spent my whole life here and love my country, but have serious concerns about the people who are leading us into the future and the direction the country is headed. I hope not too much of American culture spreads throughout the world, such as fast food (too late!) and sue-happy lawyers. That way there will always be different options. I don’t think I could be a full-time expat, but there are lots of foreign places where I’d love to spend significant time, and Costa Rica’s high on that list.
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September 06, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · 1297 Comments
During my years of living in Vegas I’ve heard from many old friends and acquaintances who are coming to town, some of whom I haven’t seen for many years. I always make an effort to meet up with them. Occasionally it’s kind of a drag, especially when they expect you to drop everything and take them on a tour. But it can, and often does, turn out to be a great experience, which was the case this Labor Day weekend.
One of the kids from my old neighborhood in Troy, NY has gone on to be very successful in the corporate world, rising to be the #3 man in a major international corporation. I got an email from him telling me he was coming to town and would like to get together. The occasion—they were coming to celebrate his 25-year-old son’s winning of over $100 million in the lottery! And you think Jason Mercier runs good?
I went to meet Bob at the Cosmopolitan, where he, his fortunate son Brian and about 15 of their friends were staying. I hadn’t seen Bob in about 40 years, but it wasn’t hard to recognize him in the lobby. We don’t change that much! I had a drink with him and his younger brother Kevin, who I also knew growing up. We chatted about old times for a while and were about to part when he asked me if I’d like to join them for dinner. Sure, why not?
We had a nice Italian dinner at Scarpetta, where I met a couple of Bob’s friends our age who came out for the weekend, his son Brian, Brian’s younger brother Kevin, and a bunch of their invited friends who were about to embark on the weekend of their lives. Their plan for opening night was to go see a DJ called Deadmau5 (pronounced dead-mouse, the first thing I didn’t get about this whole DJ deal), someone I’d never heard of who’s apparently very famou5. Brian had reserved a table with bottle service for the show and they invited me along. Sure, why not?
Their VIP host led our party into the show, which was in a big convention room. Three attractive Siberian girls, who were in Vegas looking for love and money and who latched on to our group in the restaurant bar, didn’t make the cut. But don’t worry, there were plenty more where they came from! Our table was next to Deadmau5’s guest table, which included the Hilton sisters and Tommy Lee.
I’ve never been around the DJ/club scene, and I have to admit I really don’t get the DJ thing. I don’t understand where the talent lies in spinning records and screwing around with the turn table. Give me the Beatles or Rush any day. But ask anybody who doesn’t know who Rush is and they’ll tell you this is the greatest thing ever! And if enthusiasm is any indicator, maybe it is! (Ask anybody my age for a one-word review, and I’m betting 90% will say “loud”.) The whole place was dancing and bopping non-stop, with lots of fluorescent things, including simulated mouse ears, everywhere.
Tommy Lee was performing as the warm up act when we got there, although I don’t know how anybody would know because the stage was dark. There were two video screen flashing all kinds of weird images that I’m sure would have been really trippy had I ingested some of the stuff that was coursing around in the veins and brains of much of the crowd.
Brian ordered a $5000 bottle of Dom and some other ridiculously priced bottles of booze and everybody had a great time. I hung out until the “mouse” finally came on well after midnight, because I wanted to see if his show was anything that would rock my world. It wasn’t. Bob’s brother invited me to play golf with the old guys the next day at Spanish Trail. Sure, why not?
While we were playing golf, the kids were at a VIP cabana Brian rented at the Marquee Day Club at the Cosmopolitan. They invited me down after the round. Sure, why not!!
I’m sure many of the throngs of young girls who were at the Deadmau5 show were now at the pool in full (well, not so full) beach wear. I never knew there could be concentrations of incredibly hot girls like this east of the Playboy mansion. The cabana featured a TV, bar, and a Jucuzzi, which was overflowing with guys, girls and hormones. The kids regaled me with tales of their conquests from the previous night, and their intentions for the coming one. The ever-present bass beat emanated from the pool DJ’s stage, and the music and dancing never stopped. (Do they ever take a break?)
While I have little in common with these girls, who could be my daughters (or granddaughters), I have to admit I was enjoying the scene, and the scenery. I admire the female form, and as I was admiring, this thought invaded my mind; could it be—say it ain’t so--is it possible--am I really becoming…the creepy old dude? Damn, I hate getting old! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t consider my self creepy, don’t do creepy things, and don’t feel that old, for that matter. But it crossed my mind that any guy approaching 60, no matter how hip, suave or young-at-heart, who’s hanging around gaggles of hot young chicks could be considered a COD. As far as I could see, me, Bob and his cronies weren’t within a generation of the rest of the crowd. I felt so bad that I stayed there until there was nobody left but the clean up crew.
I went up to Bob’s awesome suite and hung out with him on his wraparound balcony that overlooked the Bellagio fountains. We talked about Brian and the dangers that come with such a sudden, life-changing infusion of money. While I know this is a problem almost anybody would love to have, many lottery winners quickly find it’s not the blessing it initially appears to be. Brian went from a kid making $40k a year to someone who never has to work again, is a target (as evidenced by all the girls who knew nothing about him but thought he’s such a great guy!) and needs to find a purpose for his life. But he’s a grounded kid who has a solid support group to keeps the sharks at bay, and I think he’ll handle it fine. He’s already adopted and given significantly to two charities. Sure, including the private jet ride, the clubs, and so on he probably spent over $200,000 for the weekend, but he assured me it was a celebration, not a gateway to a lifestyle.
The kids had another big DJ concert that night at the Hard Rock, this time somebody called Tiesto (who I was assured was the absolute best!), and a cabana the next day at the Encore Beach Club, but I had a golf event the next day and decided I’d better go play with kids my own age and then get some rest.
I won’t forget the weekend for a while. For one thing, my ears are still ringing and I can’t get that beat out of my head, as well as other images of the weekend. But mainly it was great to see old friends, meet new ones, and experience different things. And if they decide to do it again at some point and are nice enough to invite me along, sure, why not!
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August 27, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · 1406 Comments
Ok, maybe fabulous is a bit strong, but it was a great time. I love these gambling-golf outings for several reasons: I love golf (I’m one of the few gamblers I know who would play golf without a wager), the camaraderie is great, and sometimes I make some money!
This time we went to the Ike (Eisenhower) course at Industry Hills. This used to be one of the best and hardest courses anywhere. Unfortunately, new owners decided to make it a resort-type, more player-friendly course, so it’s lost some of its teeth. However, it’s still a good challenge.
I stayed at the Pacific Palms hotel, which is right at the course, sharing a room with my buddy Spencer Mohler. It cost about as much to stay for one night at Pacific Palms as it would to stay a week at Lake Elsinor (see previous blog), and was not remotely worth the price. For example, even Lake Elsinor had flat screens in the rooms. Pacific Palms had small, old tube TV’s. Although in a very nice setting, the hotel itself was very disappointing.
The golf tournament was set for 3 days of play. Players in each of four foursomes had an 18-hole match-play match against the other three players in his foursome. Two players advanced out of each group to the next day. There was a points system that was kind of complex and unfair and won’t be used again, but the essence was that if you beat two players in your group you’d advance. The was also a loser’s bracket to spread some of the entry money around.
I played pretty well the first day, fading in the last three holes, but had a big enough lead to advance. The second day I played one of my better rounds in recent memory, shooting 1-over par and getting to the four-man final. Spencer made the final also, along with Johnny Scharber and June Yang.
A major issue in all amateur golf events concerns handicaps. Most amateur tournaments where there is any kind of prizes are plagued by “sandbaggers”. A sandbagger is someone who deliberately understates or manipulates his handicap in order to get more handicap strokes than he deserves, therefore gaining an edge over the field. Anybody who plays amateur events will have stories about the 22-handicapper who comes in and shoots 76, or something like that. Palm Springs is one of the worst areas for sandbaggers, and is one reason I gave up playing tournaments when I lived there. There were guys who actually made a living going around taking off tournaments.
Gamblers are a bit of a different story. I’m one of the few gambling golfers I know who actually has an official handicap. Most gamblers don’t understand the handicap system. They think, for example, that if an average round for a golfer is around 90, his handicap should be 18. That’s not the way golf handicaps work. A player should only shoot his handicap about 20% of the time. Therefore, the player above should probably be a 14 or 15.
I was given a 5 handicap for the tournament, and since my official handicap has bounced between 5 and 6 for several years, I can’t complain. Johnny was 7, which may be a tad high, but is close. Spencer was a 13, also very close. June, however, was given 19, at Ralph’s insistence. Ralph claims he plays with June regularly and knows how he plays. We all know how he plays too, as he’s played in several events, and it’s not to a 19. June was the favorite coming in, everybody knew he was the favorite, and he won easily, shooting below his handicap all three days. The odds of a player shooting below his handicap three rounds in a row are well over 1000/1. June is a very nice man, and he just played to what he was given, but Ralph is going to have to make some adjustments for his next event, if he’s to have a next event.
How did I do? In the final round I hit a great shot out of a fairway bunker on #1 to make birdie, drove the green on #2, a short, downhill par-4 over water (I was the only one to go for to all three days, going birdie, birdie, par), then hit it way right up a hill on #3. I made the mistake of climbing a steep slope in a futile search for my ball, and I was pretty much done. It was very hot, and I’d played five rounds in seven days, and I just ran out of gas. I ended up shooting 82, coming in 4th.
Of course, the tournament was just part of the story. There were a ton of side bets, with Ralph, Mike Sexton and the ever-entertaining Richie Sklar generating much of the action. A lot was bet on me and Johnny as a team, but he made the mistake of climbing the hill with me, and if you’ve ever seen Johnny you’d be wondering what the hell he was thinking, as he was pretty much gassed also. But, we’d had the same bets the previous day and Johnny had played well also, so it turned out ok.
Overall we had a great time. Sexton was telling some great stories at the post-round drink-em-up. Here’s one to finish up with:
Back in the ‘70s the WSOP was small and the rail was very close to the tables. Mike and a Texas played named Champ, who I’ve played golf with and ran into at the Rio this year, were sitting net to each other in a side game. They were talking golf, as is often the case in poker games, and a guy leaned over the rail and said that a friend of his had just bought a new set of Ping iron for $350, didn’t like them and was looking to sell. Champ asked him how much the guy would take for them. He replied that he didn’t know but probably wouldn’t take less than $300. Champ said he give him $200. The guy said he didn’t think he’d take it but to give him $200 and he’d go ask. Champ gave him $200 and the guy went to check. Everybody told Champ he was crazy to give a stranger $200, but sure enough the guy came back. He told Champ the guy would take $250. Champ gave him another $50 and the guy left, naturally never to be seen again. The guy had $200 locked up but figured he could squeeze out another $50 so he came back!
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August 26, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · No Comments
Just got home from a week on the road. While it’s not like the old days of the road gamblers, as a professional sometimes you need to venture out and find profitable opportunities. The first part of my trip was spent at the Lake Elsinor Casino (LERC), between Riverside and San Diego. (The second was in LA at Ralph Rudd’s golf event, which I’ll cover in another blog.) The LERC is a 28-table operation with an attached hotel. While it will never be confused with the Ritz, the rooms are being renovated, and you can usually score a $25/night room rate if you ask in the card room.
I went there primarily to check out the PLO game, which they spread on Friday nights. (There’s a PLO 8-or-better game on Wednesdays night, but I missed that.) The PLO has $2-3 blinds, but you must come in for $5, so it’s essentially $5-5. The game was fairly lively and the stacks were pretty deep, but I didn’t play late as I made a little score and had a golf game in the morning. I heard the game got really good late at night.
After golf on Saturday I got in one of the numerous small no-limit games. The primary game is $2-3, of which there were five table going strong at 8pm. The “big game” is $3-5, and although I’ve heard it gets really good at times, it broke shortly after I got in. There was one memorable hand where two players limped for $5, the button made it $275 and got four callers!
I moved back to one of the $2-3 games, and it was truly nuts. There were several players drinking pretty good, and it was unusual to see a flop for less than $13, or with less than three players. This is the kind of game you need to be able to overcome the rake, which is $4+$1 for the jackpot on any flop. While pretty standard for Ca. card rooms, it’s very hard to beat this kind of rake in a semi-tight game. A big part of my normal strategy is built around picking up small pots, but with this kind of rake it doesn’t make sense, as the rake eats up too much of the pot. The basic strategy is to win fewer, but bigger pots, and that is what crazy games are tailor made for. While it was obviously a game that played bigger than normal, with wild fluctuations, it was an opportunity to make a really big score. I played as long as I could stay awake, booked a small loss, and got some sleep before heading to Industry Hills for Ralph’s tournament on Sunday.
I enjoyed my stay at the LERC, and will make the trip again, next time catching the PLO-8 game. The people are interesting (there’s a 100-year-old lady who lives in the hotel and plays every day), it’s a pretty area and there’s lots of good golf nearby.
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August 12, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · 648 Comments
While I love the WSOP, my favorite time of year is the 2-3 weeks I spend winding down from it in the Northeast, where I grew up. I love getting out of the Vegas heat (although this year I caught a heat wave back there), seeing old friends and playing some great golf.
I allot most of my vacation to Babcock Lake, outside of Troy, NY., where I spent my summers as a kid. Babcock is a small lake, about a mile long, but it has a rich history. It was developed in the ‘20’s as a summer escape for people from New York City. The Olympic swim team trained there, and Johnny Weissmuller practiced his Tarzan moves off the 40-foot diving tower. Popular big bands of the era played at the lodge at the end of the lake, and camps sprung up around the perimeter. We started going there when in 1958, and my folks bought a camp in 1960. Poker was a popular pastime at the lake, and from about age twelve (the regulars in the game were 5+ years older than me) was the source of much of my early poker education. Babcock is an awesome place with much beauty and very special people, and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do much of my growing up there.
The other main stop on my trip for the past 5 years is a week spent at the fantastic Golf Club of Cape Cod, owned by my friend Kenny Scheval and his family. They roll out the red carpet for us and it’s a truly wonderful week. Check out the course at tgccc.com, and if you’re on the Cape, contact me and I can probably help you get a reasonable rate.
I clock my summers by golf majors, and this week is the PGA, the final one of the year. Hard to believe the summer has gone by this quickly. The WSOP has become a beast that eats up a large chunk of it. It’s so consuming that I hardly notice the time slipping by.
I need to sharpen up my golf game for Ralph Rudd’s tournament next week, get to work on my new book, and get back to playing poker.
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July 17, 2011 · By Blair Rodman · No Comments
Between getting up really early to watch the British Open and staying up late to watch the live broadcasts of the Main Event I’ve hardly slept this weekend. But it’s ok, it’s been great!
Fellow Irishman Darren Clarke’s a good guy and I was happy to see him win the Open, even though he wasn’t one of the many players I bet on. So much of that tournament depends on the weather and the luck of the tee-time draw. But it was great golf and worth getting up at 2 am.
The poker broadcasts have been awesome! Between ESPN 3 online and ESPN 2 on TV, the coverage has been extensive and riveting. The commentators have turned it into a virtual poker school. Olivier Busquet is the most technical, and really knows his stuff. Antonio is more entertaining, but his knowledge is solid and insightful, and his hand reading has been spot on. And Phil Hellmuth has allowed us to spend some time inside his mind and the world of Phil, a nice place to visit, but…… If you’re a poker fan and not watching, you’re really missing out.
I think live broadcasts are the future of televised poker. The first one was the PCA in January, and the experiment was a big enough success among avid poker fans for ESPN to devote expansive prime TV time for the ME. It adds so much to the ME to have fans be able to follow the progress all the way through. Stories are developed and I’m sure fans are picking their favorites to root on to the November Nine.
I really like the idea of not seeing the hole cards until the end of the hand. It lets viewers try to work through the hands and test their reading abilities. I wish all poker shows were like this, and maybe they will be in the future.
Props to ESPN to following through on their plans for the WSOP, even in light of Black Friday. Hopefully the positive response has been enough for them to follow up next year, as well as including other major poker events.
Vacation time for me, back to upstate NY where I grew up and a golf week on Cape Cod, where my friend Kenny Shaeval owns the Gold Club of Cape Cod, one of the best courses I’ve ever played. (Kenny’s son Jamie came in 100th in the ME and got some ESPN face time on Day 5.) Then it’s back home to get to work on the Poker Player Academy, about which I’ll post a blog soon. In the meantime, if you want info, send me an email at email@example.com or follow this link:
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