April 30, 2003
- You all have only one more day to e-mail me your address in order to be sent a souvenir or two from my Las Vegas trip.
- My epic tale of high-stakes poker action, "40,000 Feet Below Binion's: Low-Rolling Near the World Series of Poker," has been posted over at Paul Frankenstein's Mimeograph, thus fulfilling my contractual obligation to said Mr. Frankenstein.
April 29, 2003
I guess I should point out the obvious, namely that the citizens of the Strip are far, far more attractive and stylish than their Downtown counterparts, making me wish I had put a little more care into my choice of eveningwear and not simply grabbed a clean Gatlinburg, Tennessee t-shirt from my suitcase. A favorite moment of mine was when I watched an innocent, tow-headed ten-year-old pass by the Strip's ubiquitous newspaper-style racks filled with escort ads and assorted porny goodness. The racks are set about ten-year-old-boy-head-high, and I swear I could see that little boy rocket prematurely into puberty after about six feet of those ads.
I didn't do any heavy-duty gamnbling that night, just checked out the big beautiful behemoths of the strip, with a few hands of blackjack here and there, a little roulette, even some craps and three-card poker when I was feeling crazy. Not sure if I wanted to spend big bucks on Caesar's seafood-filled buffet, I decided to let fate decide for me. I placed $25 into a circle on an empty blackjack table, won with a 19 against the dealer's bust, and hey! Crab legs for everybody! I sat down for a little while in the Mirage poker room, but after two or three dumb table arguments (and a small loss) I realized I wasn't having any fun so I left. The long walk back to the San Remo was made easier by a few cheap margaritas.
Another early alarm, another baggage check, and then it was over to the Luxor for breakfast and Mandalay Bay for a small-stakes poker tournament (the details of which will eventually be posted over on Paul Frankenstein's Mimeograph). Again, nothing too thrilling, just five hours of wandering the east side of the Strip. I decided not to boycott the Paris Casino and had a blast with my eensy little $5 craps bets while waiting for my free Corona; there really ain't nothing like throwing the dice. I stopped by Excalibur and spent ten bucks in their arcade, winning a pile of stuffed animals that I handed out to grateful kiddies. I played a little something in the Aladdin, Bally's, Harrah's, Bourbon Street, and a few other joints, and it seemed like whatever I'd win in one place I'd lose in the next, and vice versa, so that for pretty much my entire Strip trip I ended up around even (maybe a little up, counting that buffet and all those $1 margaritas), leaving my big Downtown winnings to pay for the trip. Frankly, it's all pretty much a blur now, and my notes are no damn help at all. I'm pretty sure I had fun though.
And, like on all Vegas trips, I needed to make one official final bet. This time it was after my final prime rib dinner, at an empty craps table back at the San Remo, where the staff seemed thrilled to have me. I put down $10, rolled a 6 as my point, rolled a 9 and a 5, then made my point. That $10 paid for my cab, which was nice, and then it was to the airport and off to Seattle, a happy, happy man.
After enjoying the sights and fried Twinkie offers of Fremont for a while I headed into the belly of the beast: Binion's, home of the World Series of Poker. Over a month of daily tournaments — including such events as the $1500 entry Pot Limit Omaha and the $2500 Stud Hi/Lo — would culminate in the championship $10,000 No-Limit Hold `Em, and pretty much every top poker player in the world would be inside this building over the next month. And like the giant schmuck that I am I decided to take them on. Unfortunately, the tightness of my schedule kept me from playing even one of the small-limit tournaments that take place after hours, so I had to make do with some regular live action Hold `Em. (Brief explanation: in Hold `Em, each player gets two hole cards and can use one or both of thern in conjunction with the five 'community' cards that are dealt face up on the table.)
I'd rather not say what limit I was playing, but it was a bit more than I normally play for. The table was good but obviously tough, the dealers and players were friendly, I was having a fine time except that...well...I was getting absolutely no hands. I literally did not show a winning hand for the first two hours, which is never a good thing. Occasionally folks would fold to my raises and I'd pick up some small pots, but nothing even slightly impressive as I just kept bleeding chips. Once I had pocket jacks up against Ace-King of hearts when the flop came a King and two hearts; great flop for him, another loss for me. My pocket 10's seemed safe when the flop came 234, but a raise and a reraise got me to fold, fearing an Ace-5; I was close, pocket 4's (a flopped three-of-a-kind) took the sizable pot.
With a large percentage of my bankroll circulating in the other players' stacks, I figured I'd try to build it back up with the remaining weak stack in front of me, and if that failed spend more time on the streets than at the tables. On the next hand it started, and while it started innocently enough — my pocket 9's hitting a 9 on the turn (the first three of the five community cards are called the flop; the fourth the turn; the final card is the river) to beat pocket Jacks — my Best Hour of Poker Ever had indeed begun. My 34 of hearts somehow managed to make two pair against a couple of players who never knew what hit them. I raised with pocket Aces only to get reraised and reraised again; when the shooting stopped it turned out one of them had pocket Kings and the other Queens, and with no card higher than a Jack on board I pulled down a monster. In a hand I misread and had frankly had no business being in I caught a 9 on the river to give me a winning three-of-a-kind against an on-tilt opponent. I raised with Ace-Queen to see the flop come Ten-Jack-King, a dream flop with lots of callers. There were one or two others, but for that hour I couldn't lose, and when I was finally able to count my chips I had not only won back what I had lost but enough to pay for my airfare. Knowing when to walk away I stuck a souvenir chip in my shirt pocket, grabbed some empty racks and headed for the cashier.
After that little miracle I headed upstairs to the tournament area to see how the pros did it. The tournament area is fascinating for a low-roller like me who checks out the events on ESPN and the Discovery Channel whenever I can. There at the final table of the Pot-Limit Omaha event are Erik Seidel and Men "the Master" Nguyen going at it, while over on the first day of the $2000 H.O.R.S.E. (rotating rounds of five different games) tourney I watched 1998 champion Scotty Nguyen and 2000 champion Chris "Jesus" Ferguson play at the same table. (Hall of Famer Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson would eventually win the H.O.R.S.E. event, an emotional victory similar to Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters in 1986.) I sat in the bleachers watching the Omaha final table for over an hour, chatting with a nice guy from Minnesota, trying to figure out if The Master was bluffing.
But goshdarnit, there was a whole Strip waiting for me! I headed back to the El Cortez, played a little $3 blackjack to wish it farewell, picked up my bags and hopped a bus down to the southern end of the Strip.
Day One. A half day at work, then a train, subway, shuttle bus, plane, another plane, and then...there it was. Glowing like a shimmering tiara on an endless expanse of barren desert, Las Vegas never fails to shock its millions of visitors, whether by land or by sea, when it first appears like a blah blah blah enough already GET ME OFF OF THIS FREAKIN' PLANE AND GET ME A STRONG DRINK TWO STRIPPERS AND A POCKETFUL OF CHIPS RIGHT NOW!!!
It always seems to take much longer than necessary to get off a plane, and never so long as when Vegas is waiting outside for me. All my carefully reasoned schemes about shuttle buses and finding somebody to split a downtown cab were tossed away as I threw my bags in the trunk of the first yellowish vehicle I saw and asked that all applicable traffic laws be ignored to get me to the El Cortez pronto! As I've mentioned, the ElCo was a highly suspicious $12 a night, with part of that low price explained by its location at the northernmost edge of Downtown, giving me plenty of time to get to know my cab driver, a former Newark cop who had driven the Pulaski Skyway more times than I've hot meals.
And what do you get for $12 a night? A decent enough room I suppose, especially considering that I didn't plan to spend more than 10 conscious minutes in it. And though I was exhausted from my early EST morning and my travels, of course I threw my bags on the bed and ran downstairs to start Vegasing it up. First things first: a little spin of the ol' Donk Roulette Wheel. I dutifully put down the 11 chips I had doled out, each matched up with a chip of my own. The ElCo croupier spun that little white ball and on behalf of all of you I watched that little white ball bounce around and land in good ol' #10. Hmmm, you're thinking, I didn't have #10; I wonder if anybody else did. The answer is no. We all lost. Oh well. I figured there'd be plenty of time to hang around the ElCo later, so I staggered out onto the street and headed over to the main Fremont Street drag.
I bounced around from casino to casino (unlike the Strip, the Downtown joints are very close to one another), from the Four Queens to the Golden Nugget to the California to the Las Vegas Club. I played a few hands of blackjack or a little roulette in each one, consistently losing whatever I tried. I forget the exact place, but the lowlight came when a roulette croupier stopped all bets before I had put down all of my chips, which wouldn't have been so bad except that I was the only one at the table. I stopped by Binion's with the hope of playing in a World Series of Poker satellite (a small tournament with the prize being an entry to a larger one), but when I realized I'd probably collapse in an hour I decided it wasn't a good idea to begin any longterm plans. I did stroll into the Golden Gate, home of the legendary 99-cent shrimp cocktail. I tacked on three more to their over 25 million sold, then headed back to the ElCo and bed, stopping only to let a Wheel of Fortune slot machine give me back everything I had lost so far. I slept like a shrimp-filled baby that night on my ElCo bed.
You can buy the book at Barnes & Noble or get off your lazy ass and check out one of the readings he'll be doing in the Boston area. (There's something called "Books and Brews" that sounds promising, though I'd probably recommend waiting for the June 18 Roslindale reading he'll be doing with Steve Almond, another excellent writer whose book I actually paid hardback money for. Hey, wait, I just noticed that he'll be doing a Manhattan reading as well, so that's cool, too. Why don't you figure it out for yourself.)
Hey, here's something exciting! While I was away my good pal Bob Kodner over at The Crack Team (yes, the very same Crack Team that's an industry leader in the field of foundation repair) sent Donk HQ a shiny new pair of T-Shirts, one each of the black and the white, featuring their timeless slogan, "A Dry Crack Is a Happy Crack!"
Now, to get one of these stylin' shirts you can take the route I took — namely, make with the funny-ha-ha day after day after day for over a year until you catch Mr. Kodner's roaming eye — or take the easy way out and just check out TCT's fine selection of apparel. And if that isn't enough, franchise opportunities are available! Sweet mother of pearl!
April 28, 2003
Trip details later.
April 25, 2003
April 23, 2003
April 21, 2003
Wish me luck!
April 18, 2003
Travel Commentary by Big Jake
You travel like I travel and you start to think of cities like people, like Philadelphia’s your uncle when you were a kid, you see him for the big holidays, he gets two drinks in him and he starts to pull quarters out of your ears and do some card tricks, except he gets half the tricks wrong but it’s okay because he lets you keep the quarters and tells you a really good story about a London whorehouse during the war. Or like Seattle’s some guy people are telling you about on the way over to the bar, about what a great guy he is, how you got to meet him, what a pisser he is, etc. etc., and then you actually meet him and the guy spends half the damn night talking about his job at the rendering plant or the weather or last night’s episode of Friends or some other damn thing, plus he’s got this wad of onion dip on his chin for two freakin’ hours and then on the walk home your friends say Well, you shoulda met him before the leukemia. Or like St. Louis is the third cousin who shows up at your sister’s wedding and hassles your Aunt Edna for cash until your dad slips you ten bucks to rough him up a little in the john.
So when you start talking shit about Atlantic City, then you and me we’re gonna have words, because you’re not talking about some buildings and crap tables, you’re talking about a buddy of mine, a goddamn war buddy who pulled me out of a trench!
Now before you start getting all confused, keep in mind that I’m not talking about a friend. Friends I don’t need. To me a friend is some guy you’ve known for years who says he’s buying you dinner but he’s really just yapping your ear off for two hours about every goddamn thing in his life that you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about until even the bourbon won’t tune him out. And then he calls you up all weepy 3:00 a.m. with some sob story about his wife screwing her chiropractor like the rest of us haven’t known about it for months. Baltimore — there’s a friend…
So what makes Atlantic City the best goddamn city in the world? Because it’s true to you, like a good buddy. It’s always there when you need it, any time, day or night. It’s never too busy to take a few minutes to make you feel wanted. Need a good stiff drink? Here you go, pal, all the bourbon you can stomach, brought to you by one of my beautiful, tunic-clad daughters. Need a few brief moments of hope? Just put a few quarters in the slot and watch the reels spin while dreaming of what you’ll do with that Mgamillions Jackpot. Need a little something extra in the ol’ loving department if you know what I need? Here you go, buddy, sample one of my thousands of whores.
And what does Atlantic City expect in return? Not a goddamn thing. Oh sure, a few times I’ve gotten back on the Expressway a few bucks lighter in the wallet, but hell, the same thing happens when I play poker with the guys from the plant (and at least Atlantic City doesn’t keep “accidentally” knocking his pretzels to the floor to try and sneak a look at my cards, like that cock Joey MacDougall). Atlantic City’ll play fair with you.
So when I hear people talking about where they’d like to go when they get that week’s vacation and I hear places like Florida, or Arizona, or California, or even Paris for crissakes (though if you ask me, anybody who’d want to leave the good ol’ U.S. of A. to spend their dollars in France ain’t nothing more than a goddamn frog-loving red), it just makes me want to smash them in the face with my coffee mug.
So Jake, I hear you asking, if Atlantic City is such a paradise, such a heaven on earth, then what the hell are you doing in this lousy dive? Well, I’ll tell you…there’s only so long a man can look at the heavens before he is blinded by the light of the sun. Or, to use a more applicable example, there’s only so long a man can play the video poker with Necco Wafers before the boys in the dark blue suits start showing you the special underground exit they keep for their special guests, if you catch my drift.
But don’t you worry none for me. I’ve got my wig and fake mustache ready, and I’ve got $23.75 that I’ve fished from the honor system donuts-and-coffee can in the breakroom. Once that sun goes down I’ll be on the Parkway again, and maybe this’ll be the time my old buddy Atlantic City sees clear to lend me a few G’s until payday, or at least leave me enough for gas and tolls on the ride north.
[Editor's Note: This piece, written by Big Jake and edited by me and my friend Gary Schwartz, originally ran in the zine Bleak House a way's back It is the first of a series of 'classic' zine pieces that I might be reprinting here.]
April 16, 2003
For the remainder of the day, I would like everybody to call me "K-Dog."
Thank you, that is all.
April 15, 2003
Oh, and speaking of Vegas, we have our ten entries into the Illuminated Donkey Travel Buddy Contest (though I'm letting one more person send her numbers because either my friend Keith or Frankenstein insulted me, and damn if I can remember which one to kick out). So now it's all over but for the spinning!
April 13, 2003
As I've mentioned, next week I will be spending 40 glorious hours in the greatest damn city on God's green planet, Las Vegas. Now, I don't want to go out on any kind of a limb here, but it's entirely possible that I might be partaking in a little gambling while I'm there. If you're like me — namely, a filthy degenerate gambler who'd palm an ace to cheat his own mother out of her insulin money — you're thinking, "Hey, I sure as heck would like to do a little gambling in Vegas myself!"
Well, folks, you can!
The first ten folks who make a comment to this here post will each earn themselves one shiny $1 roulette chip, to be played on the number or numbers of their choice! Now, you can play that chip on one number (which would pay $36), between two numbers (for example, 20/21 or 20/23; pays $18), on a 'street' of three horizontal numbers (10/11/12; pays $12), or on a corner between four numbers (31/32/34/35; pays $9). No outside bets (Red/Black, Odd/Even) allowed, I'm afraid. You can check out this link to see the table layout and choose your numbers (warning: obviously links to possibly NSFW gambling site).
I will be taking this list of numbers with me to Vegas, and playing them all on one spin of the roulette wheel at the fabulous El Cortez! I'll be matching all of the bets with a chip of my own, and if your number comes in...we win! Maybe even enough to pay for my dirt-cheap hotel room! And even if your number doesn't come in, you'll still get a little souvenir from my stay in Vegas. It could be a swizzle stick, a deck of cards, or maybe even a restraining order filed by Celine Dion, but whatever it is it's gonna be Vegastastic! (Note: any commenters after 10 will also be eligible to receive a Vegas Travel Buddy souvenir.)
And as for those naysayers who have hinted that I might not be completely honest about what number comes in, that I might just pocket the cash myself and send the real winner some crappy drink coasters or something? Well, go screw yourself, deek. No roulette chip for you!
But as for the rest of you fine folks: just remember: when The Donk goes on vacation, it's like you're going on vacation, too! (Except that we get to actually see the strippers.)
First, unscramble the below Jumbles, one letter per space, to spell out a blogger's name.CHARKTE: _O _ _ _ O _KYWBHAR: _ _ O _ _ O _FIITHSHS: _ _ O O - _ _ O _ KGLHCCGIEG: _ _ O _ O O_ _ O _ _ Then arrange the circled letters to spell the mystery answer. If you need a hint, the phrase is mentioned on D'Lish's site.
"Gosh," said Jahna D'Lish, "I had no idea that posting about B _ _ - G _ _ _ _ _ - P _ _ _ _ could get so messy!Okay, that's enough of that...
Let's start off with a Cryptogram! In case you've forgotten, a Cryptogram is a hidden phrase or quote made using a simple substitution code, where each letter of the alphabet is replaced with a different letter, with each letter only being used once. Okay, let's go!
OQS ZUJK FHZS XV OQS HJUYH HRVXJLUOHXR LHRHFOSJ HF MQSR DXG'JS OJUTTSZ HR OQUO MXJNZ, MQSR ESNHSWHRI DXGJ SDSF HRFOSUZ XV DXGJ SUJF HF U CJHLS TGRHFQUENS ED ZSUOQ, NHKS MQSR FOUNHR FUHZ OQSJS MUF RX VULHRS FX FOUJWHRI OX ZSUOQ MUF U CJHLS.The link is your big hint to the code. Answer to be posted tomorrow!
April 08, 2003
April 07, 2003
"Be reassured, Baghdad is safe, fortified and great. There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!And the early favorite for quote of the year:
"They tried to bring a small number of tanks and personnel carriers in through al-Durah but they were surrounded and most of their infidels had their throats cut. "We made them drink poison last night and Saddam Hussein's soldiers and his great forces gave the Americans a lesson which will not be forgotten by history. Truly. [...] "As President Saddam Hussein said: God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis.
"What have the desperate Americans done? They said that their soldiers have occupied the airport since the beginning of the attack. They had their forces at the VIP lounge just to say that leader Saddam Hussein used to frequent this place. See how petty and lowly these Americans are?" [...]Ya know, if this guy can somehow get out of Iraq, I know about 50 companies that would love to hire him for their PR departments.
"They speak about buildings and walls instead of a VIP lounge. Instead of showing the tragedy of their soldiers, they speak about a lounge - does a lounge represent the dignity of a people?
April 06, 2003
April 05, 2003
- The almost unbelievable number of CVS Drugstores and Starbucks in the greater D.C. area.
- My search for a consumer-sized freeze-dryer so I can enjoy astronaut ice cream every single day.
- The necessary introduction of mandatory jail sentences for motorists who break down on the Pulaski Skyway during rush hour.
- Whether Hiram Bithorn Stadium will count for those hearty fans who try to see at least one game in every major league ballpark.
- My attendance, along with my brother and sister, at the taping of a special "Variety Show" episode of Last Call with Carson Daly, featuring Robbie Williams, Colin Quinn, penguins, and 6-foot-5, 400-pound subway conductor Eric "Badlands" Booker, the American competitive eating champion in such varied fields as hot dogs, matzoh balls, chicken wings, and god knows what else. I chatted with Eric for a bit during the taping; he's a really nice guy, as serious about his sport as any Olympic athlete, and focused on bringing the hot dog title back to the U.S.A. And the funniest part of the night was when Badlands stood in front of my rather small sister during the second Robbie Williams song. Anyway, if for some unknown reason you're watching Carson Daly next Friday night, the Goldstein family will be sitting in the back corner, near the hibachi grill.
- Why, even if Sammy Sosa needs only one homer for #500, you should never sit in the upper deck at Shea on a freezing early-April night.
- On a related note, before you start screaming your lungs out about Sosa hitting his 500th homer, you should really pay attention to the left fielder calmly circling under the wind-slowed ball.
- Why, even though Jahna D'Lish is a ticking time bomb of embarrassing secrets from the Ken Goldstein past, you still shouldn't believe a single word she says.
- And finally, why Mike Whybark is the best darn techfriend a guy can have!
April 03, 2003
Update - for some reason, the template is only keeping one post upfront, clearly not what is called for.
Update 2 - trying with the default now.
Update 3 - maybe I fixed it. an open SPAN or DIV looks like the problem.
Update 4 - I'd like to thank Ken for the two round trip tickets to the greater Bayonne municipal area, but regrettably, I'm already booked into a home yogurt makers convention (I'll be giving a presentation on deveoping household strains of live cultures from common household molds, algaes, and fungi such as red bloom and black mold). I would like to note that Ken's housekeeping skills have been invaluable in developing this presentation. Thanks buddy!
Update 5 - cheez, it's back. *&^%$#@#!!
Update 6 - that's better. Say, ain't he got the cutest mug?
April 02, 2003
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