Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Miami Trip Report Part I

The High Life

I exited the subway and rushed up the stairs at the Times Square station past a few tourists and an old lady with a cane. I glanced down and saw an orphaned playing card. It was the Jack of Clubs. I snickered. I few weeks ago my brother told me he saw a random card in front of our mother's apartment building. It was the Seven of Spades. I thought about picking them up and starting a collection of found art objects. I wondered how long it would take before I found a full deck. Five years? Six years?

As I reached the top step and bolted towards the Shuttle to Grand Central, one of L. Ron Hubbard's low-level thugs nearly tackled me. The Church of Scientology gave free stress tests to any busy New Yorkers who took the time to chat with them. A black woman sat in a chair while an older woman with blonde hair asked her a series of questions and took her blood pressure. She was holding a free copy of Dianetics. I shook off my mark with a juke step and blew past him.

I stopped off at Hot N Crusty in Grand Central Station for a black and white cookie, an orange Gatorade, and a chocolate donut before I walked outside past the lunch crowd over to the airport express bus stop. I bought a copy of the NY Times from a blind street vendor and gave him an extra $1 as a tip. Really it was a bribe. A pathetic one at that.

The security checkpoint at LaGuardia airport was backed up. I estimated the delay at 35 minutes. With plenty of time before my flight, I read the rest of the Times and dragged my bag behind me. A little girl back in line was whining incessantly. I sighed not because she was annoying, rather I felt sorry for her mother who was doing everything to get her to relax and wait in line like the hundreds of other passengers. The mother promised everything under the sun to the young spoiled princess yet she still continued her tantrum.

"Mommy, everyone is staring at me."

"Yes they are dear. Because you are making a scene."

"It's not polite to stare. No one is polite here."

That got a few chuckles from the crowd.

When I got to my gate, there weren't too many empty seats in the small waiting area. I found one, but it was next to a family who had a dog sitting in their lap. I had a bad feeling I was going to get stuck to them on my flight. The majority of the people on my flight looked like families on a mid-Winter vacation. I wandered over to the Air Canada gate and they had a lot of empty seats. I sat down and read the last fifty pages of Small Stakes Hold'em, hoping that a cute Canadian girl would sit down next to me and start a conversation about Marshall McLuhan and the new Degrassi show. That never happened, so I fielded a few last minute phone calls and ate my black and white cookie. I whipped out a notebook and jotted a few things down.
1:31pm EST... Sometimes airports can be depressing in a solitary kind of way. Not everyone who travels is going on a vacation. And even those who are on vacation, some of them are a little sad that they have to go back home to their real lives. One suit sits across from me eats an over-priced craft services sandwich and tries not to get mayonnaise on his tie. Another suit talks on his phone about his breakfast meeting at the head office. A young woman stares at one of the TVs and tries to lose herself in the CNN broadcast. A lot of sullen faces today at the airport. It's 32 degrees and I can almost feel the warm Florida sun on my skin.
I requested an aisle seat something I like because I frequently get up to stretch my legs and hit the bathroom. I drink a lot of water on flights so I'm always pissing. The family with the dog took up five out of the six seats in front of me. The father looked like Neil Diamond and he was taking the wife, three kids, and Arnold the dog to Florida.

Do I have to tell you what it was like to sit behind a dog who whined and barked the first hour of the flight? I'd rather not relive that awful experience. The flight was full so I could not change my seat. Sure, JetBlue has their own direct TVs for everyone on board, but not even watching the Big Lebowski could prevent me from thinking of 101 ways to silence the pooch. Someone on board had to holding valium. We could give that to Arnold the dog. How about locking the dog into one of the bathrooms?

In the back of my mind I began writing the first draft of my complaint letter to the suits over at JetBlue, how I wish their changed their pets policy and go back to the old days when you chucked Rover or Fluffy down below with everyone's luggage. At least the flight was only two and a half hours and the dog only ruined 40% of my flight.

Jerry picked me up at the airport and it was good to be back in warm Florida. My last trip was special and I had not seen Jerry and his wife Sarah since then. It was Thursday night and we ordered some local Italian food at Steve's. That was one great chicken parmigania sandwich, lemme tell ya. We watched The OC and I saw my first episode ever of CSI. I know that Wil just taped his spot so I know have a rough idea what the show is about. I'm looking forward to seeing how his episode turns out. The one I caught was freaky. First of all, I had no idea it took place in Vegas. Second, the episode had this weird baby fetish thing where people gave each other LSD enemas and shit themselves in adult sized diapers. I'm not making that up either. I was tired and crashed after I wrote for a little bit.

Jerry woke me up early so I could drive him to work. He gave me his car so I could hit up the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. I went back to his house, took a dip in the pool, busted into the liquor cabinet, sat out in the sun for a while, took random pictures, and read. I avoided the temptation to check my email and read my favorite blogs. I focused on watching Dawson's Creek instead and ate cold pizza. I found out that the poker room at Seminole was 24 hours so I jumped in the car. The drive was 25 minutes up the Florida turnpike to the Hard Rock. I parked in the deck and wandered into the casino.

My initial impression of the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood was that it was much bigger than the one in Vegas. In Florida, they only allow slot machines and poker, so there are no table games. It was around 11:30am and I briskly walked past hordes of senior citizens pissing away their social security checks with each pull of the level. I found the center bar, which was empty and looked cool with dozens of TVs everywhere. I asked the bartender where the poker room was located. He pointed and I found it.

The Hard Rock has at least 50 tables. The highest limit is straight $2. They have $1-2 Omaha, Stud, and Hold'em and Straight $2 Hold'em where every betting round is $2 and the blinds are $1/2. I missed the Friday tournament and noticed they ran a $135 and a $250 sit n go. The juice on that was horrible! First place only paid $560 or 41%. The casino kept $245 in juice or 18%. For the $250 SNGs they keep 14% and pay out 43% to the winner. Very profitable for the casino, not so for the poker player.

In case you were wondering, here's the Hard Rock's multitable tournament schedule (subject to change):
Mondays 6:30pm: $250 + $50 entry fee NL freezeout
Tuesdays 6:30pm: $50 + 15 with rebuys
Wednesdays 6:30pm: "Ladies Only tournament" $30 + 10 with rebuys
Fridays 11am: $50 + 15 with rebuys
Saturdays 11am: $165 + 35 freezeout
I never had a chance to play in the tournaments, but next time I'm down there I will.

Anyway, I was shocked I had to wait a half hour before noon on a Friday to get a game. The Hard Rock has an electronic waiting list and they give you beepers that let you know when your seat is ready. I wandered over to the food court nearby. The pizza looked good and I settled on some Chinese food. The General Tso's did me right.

I was finally paged. I played for about three hours before I had to leave to pick up Jerry. My table was nothing special. Aside from one young guy who looked like Frodo from Lord of the Rings, it was all retired guys. One guy resembled Morty Sienfeld. Another one I swore was one of those older doctors from St. Elsewhere.

In the first orbit I had 47o in the LB. In my head I asked the dealer for a 568 flop. And sure enough that's what I got. I maxed out the betting on the flop and had two callers all the way to the river. Two pair and top pair lost to my flopped straight. That was one of the only decent hands I got. Frodo in Seat 3 kept doing chip tricks for the table. Too bad he couldn't keep his stack. He lost $150 in 90 minutes and left.

I lost a big pot with AJo. The flop: 27A. I know, I wish I had The Hammer. Some guy in seat 6 was the Rebuy Guy. By the sixth or seventh rebuy, I was rooting him to stay at the table. He kept pulling $20 out of his wallet and instead of rebuying in once for $100. He insisted that he was playing his last hand but would dig back in when he lost all his chips. Anyway, Rebuy Guy called me with bottom pair on the flop and all my raises with 24o. The turn was a 7 and the river a 2. Oh well. That wasn't as bad as AQ losing to J8o after flopping trips and losing to a one outer gutshot on the river. The guy next to me lost with pocket tens. Overall, I ended up down $50. I gave away a $2 tip for every pot I won, so the majority of my loss went to tips, my bar bill, and the rake.

The players were loose and not paying attention at all. Hey it's low limit madness. The majority of the players were locals, a mix of very young college aged guys and retirees. The Hard Rock offers drink service. Unlike Vegas, you have to pay for bottled water, beers, and liquor drinks. Coffee and soft drinks are free. I got great service because I tipped my girl well when I ordered my first Corona. She always came to me first when she hit the table up for drinks. The dealers were fair. One looked like Jessica Alba and she called me "New York" for her entire down.

I fought a little traffic and picked up Jerry downtown. We hung out for a bit until Sarah came home from work and then we hit up South Beach for some sushi. We found a mellow place, nestled in between a chic French bistro and a Cuban restaurant. Jerry ordered a bottle of Sake right away and a mellifluous conversation ensued. I ordered an Ashai and I happily wolfed down some salmon, tuna, whitefish, eel, and a spicy tuna roll which I couldn't finish. The eel is my favorite. Desert was green tea ice cream and Jerry and Sarah split an order of Thai donuts. If you ever had them, you know that they are delicious.

Coming soon... Part II. In the meantime, you can check out Pieces of Pauly: A Photo Essay of some of my meals from this weekend.

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