Thursday, August 30, 2007

August winnings, September simplicity

Ignoring tomorrow, the August Happy Days bonus numbers are in. It was a little bit better than July. I went 45-41, +$570. I lost about $70 on tips and Fortune side bets (a positive edge when there's a full table, but huge variance -- you're waiting for someone to get quads or better) and lost about $105 on a night of poker.

Overall, the last three months I've gone 123-121, and am +$1335. A good chunk of that has gone away at the poker tables, but I'll still have a good bankroll to lose on my trip to Vegas at the end of September.

For September, Happy Days has made it even easier. For the last three months, I've spent many lunch hours searching for copies of the Gambling Journal so I could get enough coupons. How's it easier? Here's the coupon from the August ad:

And here's the same corner from the September ad:

Yep: no coupons, just show up and ask.

I was wondering... perhaps they'd be checking ID to prevent someone from using more than two per day? (I still haven't asked them how they define "day" yet.) But no, they just write the date on two match play coupons and hand them over. September's looking like it's going to be good, and I get my lunch hours back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No notels soon?

Two weeks ago, I blogged about the Rose Garden Motel being closed by the city, which comes on the heels of the Colonial (re-opened), Fort Clark, and Vagabond. What's next? It's gotten the eye of the Seattle PI:

LAKEWOOD -- Rundown motels are vanishing from this Tacoma suburb near Fort Lewis to make way for redevelopment along Pacific Highway South and Tacoma Way.

The 28-unit Rose Garden Motel and its 15-unit recreational vehicle park were closed last week. The Fort Clarke Motel and Budget Inn, with a total of 72 rooms, closed after state health inspectors reported serious problems, including uncollected garbage, unsafe electrical wiring, dirty rooms and other violations.

The owner of Victory Motel [near Schucks and the 7-11] decided to close voluntarily, and the buildings will be torn down within two months, city officials said.

The closures have reduced the number of rooms in Lakewood to 533, down from 648, records show. Operators of the Budget Inn say they are working on repairs and plan to reapply.

Somebody ditched a broken down camping trailer filled with trash in the alley behind our house last week. An unconfirmed neighborhood rumor is that it belonged to someone who used to live at the Rose Garden. My tax dollars worked: I called the cops on Thursday, and it was gone by Monday.

The Biltmor's still open. And the Fort Lewis is in business (and I've noticed it has had a lot less garbage overflowing their dumpster lately). The Western up on 112th is open (which used to be the Quality Inn). Is that it now?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Final PAX posting

I'm back home, done with PAX for this year. It was a lot of fun, very high energy, with a lot of memorable moments. I got Wil Wheaton to autograph my copies of his three books, I'm still raving about his keynote (MP3 here), I played Gauntlet Legends for way too long, I played Ticket to Ride the fastest I'd ever played it with some guy from San Francisco I'd just met (it reminded me of the Boston University Games Club), and I feel like I kind of caught up to all the happenings in the world of video games, a world that I don't know nearly as much about as when I was younger, was the target of their marketing, and talked video games with my friends on a much more frequent basis.

I'll be back next year, definitely. Maybe only for one day, though, depending on the schedule. Good times.

To wrap up, I compiled a list of the best t-shirt sayings of the weekend:

  • Girls Gone WoW
  • Live in your world, get pwned in mine
  • It's not you, I needed gold pieces
  • I'm in ur [blank], [blank]ing ur [blank]
  • Sex, drugs, and D&D
  • I digg your mom
  • Real gamers shower
  • You had me at Halo
  • Will play for mushrooms
  • We prefer to be called buccaneer-americans

But my favorite: Mal Shot First

Trade show schwag

Time was, I used to collect every hoohaw and doodad that booth vendors gave out (aside: if this is the new E3, why doesn't it have all the booth babes like Comdex used to?). After losing most of the worthless schwag in a house fire a few years ago, and having a refreshing I'm-tired-of-geocaching-so-I'm-dumping-my-schwag-in-this-here-dumpster session, it's been pleasant to go without, to look at the pins and buttons and other stuff and realize that it won't make me feel better to have it.

That said, I did pick up a few LotR Online demo CD's (I'll play them or toss them within the month, I'm sure), a Big Buck Hunter coaster for the canal collection ("who would you pick for your hunting partner; Boba Fett, a ninja, or Dick Cheney?"), and.a couple of free t-shirts (pajamas for the kid). A couple more hours to go.

Notes from "Finding Time for Gaming"

Notes from the old peoples' "Finding Time for Gaming" panel, some serious, most tongue-in-cheek:
  • Have your two year old farm for you in WoW.
  • Play more sports games, and games with frequent save points
  • Spend lots of time in character design, like costumes in the new Band game that I can't remember the name of), or car painting in racing games
  • Buy your wife a DS and PuzzleQuest and see her three months later
  • In order to improve your family and your relationship withthem, spend more wime with them, and improve another family by outsourcing your farming to a chinese family.

Lunch time at PAX

It's been a slower morning than yesterday. Three friends and I drove over, parked in a $6 garage, and amused ourselves with a random door at the end of an open wall; the door opened to the other side of the wall, which could be walked around faster than opening the door.

We waited in the same long line as yesterday, which broke down as we approached the end. Bah.

In the expo hall, I got a free t-shirt and bough Unexploded Cow, a Cheapass Game. I'm thinking about getting my daughter a Halo 3 t-shirt, but it's $20.

We then headed over to the tabletop games area, and were amused that among the four of us, we owned almost every game the North Seattle Gaming Group had brought. We played Ticket to Ride; Steve kicked butt when Bill forgot to connect LA to SFO. Jeremy, a guy we met from SFO, was a good, capable player.

Good times so far.

I'm in Joystiq

Someone took a photo of the line for the Wil Wheaton keynote. That's my back, on the left, with the messenger bag.

Heading back for day 2...

Friday, August 24, 2007

30000 geeks, at least two cachers

Hey, I can tie this one into the theme of my blog.

Its been 20 minutes standing in line to get Wil Wheaton's autograph, and I'm halfway there. Who do I see but fellow geocacher Romulus cutting through the slow moving line to get to the convention hall.

He's one of those guys in my life that I know from seeing him a few times, but don't really know. We found a few caches together during some cache machine events, and we've found some of each others' caches, so we said hi, made small talk for a few minutes, and he went on his way. Cool.

Surprise: movies suck

There was a surprise Q&A with director Uwe Boll, who has made some critically panned movies based on video games, such as Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, and Bloodrayne. He's got a dark comedy coming out, based on the mid 90's game Postal, which, from the trailer, looks neither comedic nor game-ish.

He got several boos, the hall pretty much cleared out, and got called "racist" and "idiotic.". I left early, too. Maybe he's right that nobody in the room understand satire.

Wave your gadgets in the air

At a Q&A, prompted by an audience request, Jerry sang the complete My Belruell. About two verses in, the audience started waving their screens and lighters in the air. As you'd expect, there were a lot of gadgets.

Awesomest speech ever

Wil's speech better make it on YouTube quickly. I've been to several keynote speeches in several venues, and this was easily the best speech ever.

He talked of Jack Tompson, and of strip Atari Combat; he spoke of Excitebike and ofthe fact that video games are social activities, not the antisocial pox that some politicians make them out to be. Video games like GTA 3 are interactive art, which give even more of a sense of loss at the end than a long novel (a few hours) or a movie trilogy (LoTR, not Star Wars), because of the time and effort involved.

Find it, watch it, enjoy it.

(Wil said there's 30,000 people at the conference. Wow.)

Well, the line went out the door, past the escaltors, across the area in front of Subway, through a tunnel-like corridor, and across the Pike street skybridge.

The exhibit hall seems about as big as the bank of exhibit halls at the Puyallup Fair, but without the straw and food scraps on the floor (but, oddly, with a similar animal smell). Lots of console games, fewer tabletop games, although the maker of "Pirates of the Spanish Main" (Yarrrr!) has a new expansion set out. On a nearby table, there's another new constructable card game (not Racer Knights - carrrr!) based on Star Wars. Obviously, I'm christening this one as "Yarrr! Wars")

There's a surprising amount of very short pleated skirts. Mostly on women, but a few kilts, too.

I'm now in line for the keynote to open. Of the seven people closest to me in line, six of us are using our gadgets. Me on my blackberry, three on their Nintendo DSes, and two PSPs.

Looks like Wil will have a table out here on the skybridge for autographs and his new book once the keynote's over.

Lines and Bawls triangle

I'm bad at coming up with estimates like this, buut assuminng we've got 15 rows of 125 people each in the line that snakes into the center, that's about 2000 people in these two rooms waiting to get in. The the line appears to go back outside, and perhaps up the escalators.

90 minutes to Wheaton.

They came back with more Bawls and are handing it out. About 400 people past the handout point -- drinking distance -- there's a growing well-packed triangle of the empty blue bottles on the floor. Some guy who set his empty Sprie bottle next to it got booed by the crowd.

The constant background sound seems to be the clanging of kicked Bawls bottles. I'm surprised there's none broken yet.

Sweet. I just spotted somebody older than me.

welcome to PAX

Here we go... My first liveblogging experience.

I'm at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle for the next two days. At this moment, I'm in a liine of 1500 or so people waiting to get into the exhibition hall, which is the first step towards getting into the theater where Wil Wheaton is giving his keynote in two hours. I've given up trying to reach the first presentation (Speed Demo: Quake in 13 minutes)

Apparently, they were giving away free bottles of Bawls to some of the people waiting in line, but ran out before we reached the right spot.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hello, Mr. Franklin

At Happy Days last night, they were having some kind of player appreciation day (as indicated by the 100% I'd check at the door), and when I sat down at the empty high limit pai gow table with my two $10 match play coupons, they gave me two $25 match play coupons, and let me use all four.

Both $25 coupons won, for a juicy $100 payout. The $10 coupons went 1-1, for another $10. I tipped the dealer $5 for persuading the pit to let me use all four, and left quickly. Four hands, +$105. Nice to see you, Benjamin.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Caching at lunch

For the first time in almost two years, I went geocaching at lunch. I searched for North Lake Woodland Walk. My log follows, Blackberry typos and all:

[found] August 17 by travisl (1165 found)

It's lunch time, and I'm faced with two options. I could go to the new Round Table Pizza for the third time this week, and have all I can eat yet again. The latitude of my pants have been strongly opposed to this idea, and if my bathroom scale were a GPS, it would be throwing longitude errors ("max value 180").. That idea's out. I could head over to PJ's and play poker for an hour. Nah. I've told myself that if I ever do that, it's proof that I am indeed the degenerate everyone suspects I am.

A third option comes to.mind: I could go geocaching. I haven't done that at lunchtime in ages. The weather's cool, and although I don't have my geopack, my GPS has been rattling around in the car since the Spokane Cache Machine.

This one fit the bill perfectly. It's close by, a short hike, just off the trail, it's not a bleepin' micro. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to lose a pound and not a dollar. TNLNSL.

(And this is the first cache I've ever posted a find to from a cache site. Technology's getting cooler every day.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

A $100 lesson: the idiot at the table

When I asked my friends for advice on finding the hole in my poker game, they suggested I take notes at the table (or to play no-limit instead of limit). I did neither: I played $3/$6 limit at Palace on Saturday night, and lost $100 over the next two hours. I think, however, that I've clearly identified one big leak in my game, the same one I mentioned last week.

Most poker books advise,* as rule number 1, to start by picking a good table. The 10th best player in the world will suck at a table against the best 9. The 10th worst player in the room will bake big money against the worst 9. Pick a table with bad players. Avoid tables with thoughtful, smart players.

You can identify a good table easily: there's a lot of banter back and forth, a couple of friendly drunks, and frequent overly-dramatic congenial outbursts. The last two times I played at tables like this (against a drunk who told us that money didn't matter and against The Walrus), I did really well. The three games after that, the table was almost silent, contemplative, and I did poorly.

Problem is, with a small poker room (Washington state law limits to 15 tables total, including blackjack, etc.), you don't get much choice of which table to sit at.

The problem, therefore, isn't that I'm not following the books' advice -- that's tough to do in this state -- but rather that I'm not adjusting properly to the tighter, smarter tables. This is the exact same problem that I've faced this year in online play. When I have a decent hand (top pair top kicker), I take the perspective that unless someone else is raising, I've got a monster, and the other players in the pot are idiots. The problem with this? Most of the other players aren't idiots any more.

Two illustrative hands which cost me $27 each. I'm in late position raise pre-flop, and get heads up on the flop. Early position checks and calls my bets through the river. I lose:

Example 1: I've got AJ, and the board is AT3/T/8. I lose to TT which hit quads; he was check-calling so not to lose me and hit the $133 quads bonus.

Example 2: I've got A9o, and the board is 945/2/K. I lose to 54.

When my bet gets check-called on the turn, should I be checking the turn? I think so. I've got to stop and ask myself "why are they calling?" And "because they're an idiot" isn't a good answer any more.

A third example with different circumstances: I'm in early position with 33, heads up on the flop, and the board is 449/K/K. I bet the flop, get called, bet the turn, get called, and then without realizing that my hand's been forfeited by the two pair on the board, bet the river, and get beaten by A7o. I'm showing agression, and getting called on the flop, which means he either has a 9 (I'm dead), overcards (I'm about a 70% favorite), or a flush draw (I'm a 60% favorite). It's pretty close to even odds that I'm going down here, so I should slow down. I didn't.

(He won't have a 4 or an overpair, or else he'd have raised.)

Against better-than-mediocre players, I need to play smarter post-flop. If they're raising, they've got a reason. If they're calling, they've often got the right odds to do so.

It cost me $100 over two hours, which is twice as good as I did the last two times (where it cost me $200+ in the same time period). I did win a few hands, and won a partial pot with my ace-high flush against an all-in full house and a two pair). Although I didn't like my play in the examples above, it reinforced my learnings from the home game at OS17: if you play like everyone else at the table is an idiot, you'll learn that there's only one idiot at the table.

* Sklansky's and Carson's Low Limit Hold Em titles, for example.

What's a crackhead to do?

Another Lakewood slum motel is closing its doors. The Suburban Times is reporting:

The City of Lakewood Community Development Department will proceed with the abatement of a public nuisance and dangerous buildings in addition to the revocation of the business license for the Rose Garden Motel located at 11701 Pacific Highway SW on August 14, 2007.

Existing unsanitary conditions and numerous building violations with existing structures identified by the Washington State Department of Public Health have prompted the City’s actions. All patrons and residents of all existing recreational vehicles have been required to leave the premises by 5 p.m. on August 13, 2007.

Man, first the Colonial Motel gets shut down and is reopened under new management. The cops cut off the back-door sales of bulk Sudafed from Joon's Variety Store (great URL!). The Fort Clark motel gets burned out. The Vagabond gets closed by the health department. And now this. What's a crackhead to do?

No problem. You can always turn to the nearby crackheads from downtown Tacoma, or the other Tacoma druggies who can roll you one at the South Hill Taco Del Mar.

(Other closures previously mentioned.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bingo bango bongo

My brother's girlfriend's family has a place out on Fox Island, and they invited us out for hamwiches and the Fox Island Fair, and warned me that the main feature was 25 cent bingo, with prizes that aren't worth the money. However, they said that the fun part is hooting and hollering for the young kids who win, and second best is trying to pick the worst, dumbest, or most offensive prizes possible. Apparently last year, one of the cousins won Fixident and a ceramic doll, and used them together.

I played for about two hours, winning twice late. I ended up with a jumbo ballpoint pen (my wife said that it would be a much better prize if the long plastic cylinder took batteries) and a set of dollar store BBQ tongs. I also lost $15.50 playing, but it was a lot more fun -- because of the social aspect -- than the bingo game I'd played on my computer in December 2005, which I'd described as "a pointless, mindless game. How can the old folks find this stimulating?"

Ironically, my dad stopped by the bingo room partway through the fair, and although I offered to buy him a card, he replied "nah... I'm not old enough to play bingo yet.". Touché.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Grays Harbor Cache Machine

After two years off, I'm hosting another cache machine event: the Grays Harbor Cache Machine on September 22. It's not likely that I'll actually make it to dinner that night, because I'll need to be in Vegas by 9:00 a.m. the next day (a six day computer forensics class), but for me, planning is just as fun as the event itself.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

With a little help from my friends

I went on my 17th annual camping trip with a group of friends this weekend, and they helped critique my poker game. One hole we identified is when I'm ahead on the flop, I don't admit to myself that I fell behind on the turn or river, even when it's obvious. It's something to work on.

(Also, there's the fact that I play limit poker, not no-limit, which gives the maniacs the right odds to call more often, but what can you do about that?)

For dinner, 15 of us stopped at the buffet at Little Creek. Yum. They also helped me pick up 49 match play coupons for Happy Days for August. Yep -- it's back, and I went 2-0 tonight.