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So for Mark's bachelor party, we flew into Reno on Friday and then took the shuttle to Tahoe. We were supposed to fly back on monday, but our flight ended up getting cancelled due to weather, so we ended up sticking around for one extra day in Reno, where we stayed at the Nugget.

there was a lot of stuff packed into the trip and i think the easiest thing to do is to do it by category as opposed to chronological order. The categories break down into four: skiing, poker, photos, and other.

skiing first.

i've been looking forward to doing the skiing thing for a while now, to experience that sort of new sensations and awareness of my body that i've gotten out of skydiving, ice skating, and go-cart racing. Someone mentioned something about me being a thrill-seeker, but i don't really see it like that; i'm looking for new experiences, but it doesn't necessarily need to be thrilling in order for me to appreciate it. it felt similar to when i was first learning to play DDR or pool or even now when i end up playing ping pong against someone whose style i haven't played with before or sitting down at a poker table with people i'm not used to. there's something abou how it turns my brain on, how much more i have to pay attention, about how i have to actively change or shift my perceptions.

the experience of skiing reminded me very much of when i went ice skating with kim, and the parallel was strong enough and striking enough that it solidified why i was searching for this sort of experience. When Kim took me ice skating, she spent some time being convinced that i wasn't having a good time because i was concentrating so hard. My brain was in total overdrive because of how foreign everything was - the feel of the skates on my feet, the motions i needed to work on to propel myself forward, the things i had to monitor that i normally don't even think twice about. I was asking all of these questions about subtle things that she couldn't explain and overthinking about the sensations, the process. i was soaking so much in, and it was... wonderfully overwhelming.

When i had my skis on and i was trying to learn what i was doing with my skis, that rush of brain overdrive came back to me and instantly reminded me of that ice skating session, and mark remarked in a similar way to kim at sine point saying that i was thinking about it too much, and it was at that moment that i could put into words why i did it, why i approached it first as if it were a complex cerebral experience more than a physical feel.

it's my natural high.

I kept on asking questions. david kept on answering. Mark kept on reminding. I would do something maybe right, i would do something wrong, i would fall, i would try to get back up, i would ask more questions, i would try to make adjustments, i would sometimes succeed, i would sometimes fail. But the whole time, what struck me was that my brain was soaking in everything, was hypertuned to everything happening. The times that i fell, in the two seconds it took me to fall, i was already asking myself five questions, trying to answer them, trying to get answers when i couldn't figure it out. And the times i would latch on to something right and i'd have no idea what i did, i'd hone in on it, try to figure it out, fail, try again, maybe get it, rinse, repeat. And the whole time, my brain was thinking, calculating, experiencing, working, sensing, controlling, not controlling.

it was awesome. the sensation of absorbing all of that information in a flood like that made me wonderfully drunk. And much to my surprise, i even started to figure it out and started to be able to relax - until i took a fall that popped something in my knee and crippled me.

it was at the very end of the second run i was doing on the easy slope. The second tactic that David got me to focus on was the idea of angling my weight on each ski but without actually physically changing myself out of the wedge form. That and the idea of using my knees not as a direct weight but a pivotal weight made something click in me and i started to figure out what i needed to do and resultingly my brain relaxed some and was able to translate it into a more instinctual muscle memory. At one point, i was coasting and i tried to brake. I felt myself go out of control, and my first instinct was to try to fix it as opposed to allow myself to safely fall, and as a result of trying to fix it, i tumbled in s such a way that i felt a small "pop" on my right knee and it started to hurt.

At that point, Mark and David spent a lot of time with me already and they wanted to ski on their own, so they left me. I felt somewhat confident on my own to figure shit out, and i really wanted to go on another trial, but i decided to wait out my leg to see how it felt, and unfortunately it got more painful, and in a way that was key to the whole technique that i was using, so i didn't end up doing another run.

which ended up being okay, because what it brought me to was a pond skimming competition that happened to be running, something i had never seen before. I ended up taking a bunch of video of a bunch of the pond skimming affair and compiled into a youtube video:

my knee started hurting more but now it's settled down into a generally dull throbbing sort of pain that only hurts a lot if i move it the wrong way. I'm going to give it another week or so of being wrapped up and popping advil before i get concerned enough about it to see a doctor or anything - i've twisted my ankle that felt much worse than this and all it needed to recover.

and there's no doubt that i'm going to try it again. it may be more scary the second time, actually, but it will be worth it.


as far as poker went, i ended up playing five or so sessions overall between three different casinos: the Montbleu and Harvey's/Harrah's in Tahoe, and the Nugget in Sparks/Reno, NV.

The rooms were much different than what i'm used to at Harrah's in New Orleans. The games were different, the players were different, the attitude was different. One thing that struck me was that all of the casinos were generally more procedurally friendly to the players, something that i'm fairly sure is a product of having to compete with other casinos in the area (whereas Harrah's in New Orleans has no competition). The easiest example was the Nugget. When i was there, the only game that was running was a 3/6 limit game, and i decided to sit down and play just because i felt like playing cards and because it was fairly relaxing. When i first sat down, there were maybe three or so open seats, and two of the people that were *playing* were the floor boss and one of the other dealers.

it was shocking. at harrah's, none of the employees are allowed to be a customer of any Harrah's or Caesar's anywhere even when they're off duty. And here, people on duty were playing to fill up the game as if it was nothing at all.

The other thing that they did was that when people would drift in and out and the table would go to five players or less, the dealers and the floor guy would automatically change the structure to a single $1 blind and offer a rake reduction of $1 per pot. No one had to ask. I commented on the leniency and friendliness of it all and they said, "it's in our best interest to keep the game going, right?" and it was. Again, unlike Harrah's in New Orleans which is the only big casino in the city and always has at least 5 tables running 24/7, this casino had competition with lots of other casinos in Reno and had more incentive to create a relationship with its clients and give them more concessions.

The other two casinos i played at weren't as lenient about rake reduction and all that, but they definitely had a similar sort of customer service attitude and a game structure that felt more akin to a poker room that needs to find ways to create an edge against its competition. It was an interesting and refreshing sort of change to the New Orleans Harrah's, even though i still enjoy their game quite a bit. The Montbleu had a community sort of feel to it and i ended up liking that poker room pretty well. The daytime floor person gave me a couple of free token gifts when i cashed out once, smiling as she did - a card protector that had the emblem of the Montbleu on it, and a Nevada quarter done up in some sort of metal keychain charm. I appreciated the gesture a lot.

Out of all of the sessions i played, i ended up profiting about $250, mostly playing $1/2 NL and $2/3 NL. The first session i played at Harvey's and at the Montbleu, i was fairly confident that i was the best or second best player at the table, and even though i suffered some beats, their play was overall so straigtforward and generally passive that it made me seem of my passive play issues in my game miniscule in comparison. The second day of sessions definitely had better players, but nobody particularly threatening.

One of the players at the Montbleu was an interesting character. I put him in his 40s. He was one of those types who complained a lot about not getting good cards or getting outdrawn or whatever, but it went beyond that. He had a chip on his shoulder against other players the entire time and wouldn't let it go. At one point, some guy hit quad 9s and raked a fairly decent pot from it, over $250. The Montbleu has a "high hand per hour" promotion, but that promotion ends at midnight (i had won the last one) and he got the quads around 00:30. A couple of the players told him and empathized with him that he wasn't going to win the high hand jackpot since they had finished it, and the one guy looked at all of us incredulously and then said really sarcastically,"oh yeah, it's a real shame that he didn't get his extra money from hitting quads. I wish *i* had that problem, not getting an extra $100 because of quads. Your situation sucks for getting a hand like that." and so on for a good five minutes, arguing with us. He had pulled something like that before too, where his sarcasm was dripping about other people getting big hands, clearly bitter about him not getting any of those hands.

At one point, i ended up being in a hand with an older guy, fairly tight but solid player. I had about $350 in front of me, i was in the ssmall blind with Q7s, and he was on the button. He made a small raise, which was his habit late in the game because he had changed up his play to take advantage of the passivity of the short-handed table, a strategy shift i picked up on, so i tried to make some adjustments to that, calling more often with trapping hands and trying to turn over the initiative at times. I called his raise as did angry asshole, and the board came out J22 with two spades. I wanted to control the bet of the pot and see if i could get him to fold, so i put out a $15ish bet. Angry asshole folded, button guy called. Turn comes out K of spades, giving me the flush. I check to induce him to bet. He frowns a little, then bets $25. I reraise to $65 or something similar, expecting him to either fold or call for a river card. Instead, he reraises me for $100 on top.

i thought about it for a long time. He's been sitting at the table with me for hours, and knows that i don't check-raise without something strong. Despite the fact that he's been more liberal with his preflop and flop betting, those have been all for small steals rather than large commits. We both know that if i call his reraise, the river is likely to commit the rest of my chips if it's a blank and even if it's a scare card (he has me covered), and he's not afraid of that, which means that he isn't afraid of my range of hands, which is (to him) trips or a flush, maybe even a strong one.

Right then based on his play i put him exactly on pocket Kings. It's possible that he's holding the nut flush, maybe JJ. But i don't put him simply on trips. I make the tough laydown,a nd he turns over his hand. pocket kings.

i didn't show my hand when i folded, but he asks me, "you fold a 2?", and i said, "no, i folded a queen high flush." And the angry asshole guy looks at me and says, "you didn't fold a flush."

i looked at him with light amusement and said, "sorry dude, i did." and he looked back at me confidently and said, "if you folded the flush, you would have shown it. you didn't have it. you didn't have shit." and for him that was that.

he ended up busting out and later i talked to the guy who beat me in the hand and said, "you believed i had the flush, right?", and he said, "yeah. you wouldn't have thought about it as long if you didn't. If i had known you'd be able to fold a hand that strong, i would have just called your raise on the turn." i asked him if the other guy was a regular, and he said he'd seen him a few times, and that he was always like that, always drinking a lot of beer and always muttering to himself about how much of an idiot all of the other players were while he slowly and steadily lost his stack. i shrugged and felt good about my play overall, and was glad i didn't sit down with him ever for any of my remaining sessions.

a good change from my new orleans pokering for sure, and i'm glad i felt pretty confident about my skill level to the other players. i know that i still have a lot to learn if i'm going to actually take Poker Seriously, but it wasn't a problem with 95% of the players i dealt with there. makes it an appealing place to return if i want to go skiing again.


as far as other elements of the trip, i took probably 300 or so pictures, 100 of which made it to my facebook album. a lot of it was mountain and snow pictures. it was frickin' *gorgeous* up there, and going up mount heavenly gave an awesome view of the lake and the mountains below. We additionally ended up taking some time to drive up to a lookout area to grab some pictures and get some drinks, and it made me realize how much i had missed having mountains and lots of trees around. i do love new orleans for what it is, but this trip definitely filled a void that i hadn't realized i missed.

The other notable thing that spent collective time on was gambling on this thing called Sigma Derby, which is one of the remaining sigma dirby machines left in the united states, if not the last one. It was a pretty ridiculous thing, but also ridiculous in how addicting it was. I'll post some video of it up on youtube eventually, but the basic premise is it's an old electro-mechanical horse-racing simulation in which you bet on the combination of first and second place wins. Each race offers new odds for each win ranging from 2:1 to 200:1. You can place as many bets as you like on all of the combinations, and you get paid back based on the odds. So if you put 2 quarters down on a 10:1 combination, you win 20 quarters. If you put down 1 quarter on the 200:1 and it wins, you win $50.

i looked it up on wiki afterward and discovered that the house edge on sigma derby could be anywhere from 10-21ish percent depending on the machine. The one that we had seemed fairly soft; i ended up winning $100 overall from two sessions, and mark did better than me. THe funny thing was that at one point, i had run out of quarters, and was considering going to get more or calling it quits. Mark had $1.25 left in quarters and decided to give it to me to play, so i did, and placed 1 on the 200:1 odds, and then 2 each on some others, and the 200:1 ended up hitting. About twenty minutes later, a few people came around to sit down and after some conversation, it came out that one person had been playing this sigma derby for over two years and had never seen the 200:1 hit. And he missed his window by twenty minutes.

it was a pretty great trip, and the timing was interesting because in the time that we had gone it seemed like new orleans decided to dump all of its pollen thus pissing off my allergies like mad. I had started to get some signs of it beforehand, but it literally ramped up from a little sniffly when i left to OMG-i-want-to-scratch-my-eyes-out when we landed. As a result, i've been dead tired and sleeping a whole lot ever since i got back (allergies and spring weather tend to make me incredibly tired), and i haven't quite kicked back into a regular rhythm yet. I'll get it figured out over the next few days, though. Busy times with the concert band, and my birthday party is this weekend. Lots of shit to figure out.

life is good like that. :)


( read spoken (4) — speak )
Apr. 6th, 2010 07:08 am (UTC)
I check to induce him to bet. He frowns a little, then bets $25. I reraise to $65 or something similar, expecting him to either fold or call for a river card. Instead, he reraises me for $100 on top.

What a fucking tard. He was in position right? Smooth call that shit, raise the river.
Apr. 6th, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
skiing for the first time is quite an experience! I just tried it two years ago. It's so strange how you have these long things on your feet, slipping out from under you, but people can control them to do so many cool things!
I remember trying to get down mountains and not understanding what I was doing wrong that caused me to fall. Usually I would be 10 feet away from the edge and panic because I was sure I couldn't turn fast enough and imagined myself in that tree 20 feet ahead. My first mountain I crawled down it, crying for about half of it. Awesome.
It's funny how little adjustments can make a big difference. And how, when you panick, it's better to bend your knees to regain control than stand up straight.
After more practice on the bunny hill I got a lot better and stopped panicking and now I can't wait to try it again!
Sorry you got hurt but I hope you get to try it again!
Apr. 6th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
I LOVE the pond skimming video! What a unique event - I had no idea it existed. Thanks for sharing!
Apr. 10th, 2010 02:26 am (UTC)
Agree, i'm really impressed that people made it all the way across and out!
( read spoken (4) — speak )


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