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It's that time again...

Date: Wed, Jan 12, 2011

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: XXXXXX 973470

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How I Did It

Date: Sat, Jan 1, 2011

For those that have asked "how I did it" regarding my weight loss in 2010, here's the answer:

2010: How I Did It

I'm not done yet, so here's to continued success in 2011 :)

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Happy New Year!

Date: Sat, Jan 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's time for the 6th installment of my annual reflections and musings on the future. Previous New Year's posts: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

Looking back on 2010, for the first time in a few years, I actually played a bit of poker! Nowhere near as much as my love for the game would have me play, but I did play regularly (thanks in part to an online poker league I joined with a friend on Full Tilt). I also made it out to the local casinos a few times for live poker, and made my favorite trip to the poker mecca for the WPBT Winter Classic in 2010.

I feel like my game is improving, and not necessarily due to any studying or practice I'm doing. It's improving more because I'm maturing as a person. Maybe maturing isn't the right word - but a fatal flaw in my poker game is tied to a personality trait whereby I don't like to cause conflict. (So, yes - raising is hard for me to do!) But the older I get, the more I feel like in life that I will step right up and cause conflict if it suits my needs or my beliefs. (Get outta my way - I'm becoming a badass in my old age!) And that, my friends, is helping my poker game. I'm a lot more comfortable at the tables than I've ever really been in the past.

I had a really good year in 2010. It was an incredibly difficult year at work, but I channeled those challenges into fueling progress in my personal life. I lost 80 pounds in 2010, and settled into a whole-foods organic lifestyle. I went vegetarian in March 2010, and around that time, also completed the Couch to 5K running training program. I'm now a runner! I run at least 3 miles, 3 times a week, with my "long" run at the 5 mile mark right now. My race pace is around 11:30/mi and regular pace is around 12:00/mi. I ran four 5K races in 2010, with a personal best time of 36:32.

It was a pretty good year financially too. For me, "pretty good" means, I didn't struggle to make ends meet every month. In light of the economy and the general state of things, I consider myself very blessed to have solid full time and half time jobs. I was also able to earn some extra income with photography and portraiture, as I'd hoped in 2009 when I spent what would have been my Vegas money on a set of studio lights instead. I'm patting myself on the back. That was a good decision.

Travel was another high point of my year. At this time last year, I was hoping to make it on at least one trip in 2010. I managed to hit all 3 - a week-long photography workshop in New Mexico in February, an August trip to San Diego to attend the Syndicate World Conference and meet my guild mates in Ultima Online, and of course the WPBT Winter Classic in Vegas in December. And, miraculously enough, I came home from Vegas even - which means, 2011 begins with some money in the poker box!

You see, the poker box is my poker bankroll. It has been a few years since I've had a poker bankroll. When I moved into this house 4 years ago, I had a decent low-stakes bankroll, but spent it on new furniture. Then came some rough years financially, and I didn't have the extra cash to refill the poker box. This year, though, the poker box is starting out with a few buy-in's - which is a fledgling state at best, but it's a start!

So, what am I looking forward to in 2011?

First and foremost, I look forward to continuing this more healthy lifestyle that I've adopted. I plan to hit my final weight loss goals in 2011 - to hit the -100# mark this spring, and -15# or so more by the end of the year. (Hitting -100# puts me in the healthy range for my weight, so those last 15 are vanity pounds). I plan to run a 10K in the spring, and am considering training for a half marathon by the end of the year. Now that my finances are a bit more settled, I plan to make a concerted effort to pay down some debt and put more money into savings. (Wouldn't it be nice to be able to do that via poker!)

And yes, I do plan to play more poker in 2011, particularly live poker. The old Empress Casino Joliet is now a Hollywood Casino property. They spread NL now, and while there are only 5 tables, it's better than the 3 they used to have. It's a much nicer poker room these days, and I plan to play a bit more there. I've also heard rumors of a poker room opening at Harrah's Joliet this spring. That would be interesting. I'd love to have 2 close-to-home options, in addition to the Indiana boats (which are close to work but the opposite direction from home).

I hope that you've all found something to be thankful for in 2010, and something to look forward to in 2011! Here's to a happy and healthy new year to you and yours. Thanks for your support and friendship and for all the good times! And many more...

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Happy Christmas!

Date: Fri, Dec 24, 2010

Happy Christmas (or whatever your winter holiday of choice) :-D

Happy Holidays from HellaHoldem.com!

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Tea Time

Date: Tue, Dec 21, 2010

I've been waiting forever for Full Tilt to come back online! Of course, it's never down (unless I want to play!) I have renewed vigor to play since I realized that Poker Tracker is now available for Mac :)

It's also tea time. Tea is my new thing. I need to get some decaf chai tea, because the chai green tea I'm currently enjoying is caffeinated, and I cut out caffeine a few years ago. Luckily, I found a Tazo decaf chai (which is probably delish, as it's the Tazo regular chai that I fell in love with at Starbucks, per Maura's advice at the WPBT Winter Classic last weekend).

Tonight, though, I'm hitting an herbal tea - an apple cinnamon concoction - because it's too late at night to hit the caf-pow chai. I've got a KO SnG going on Full Tilt now. Watching Poker After Dark, and Jennifer Harman just explained that 6 pack abs are hard to pull off - a 5 pack is easy. It's the 6th pack that's hard. LMAO! I'll take 5. That's fine.

Poker After Dark seems very slow now, after I've grown to enjoy the PS.net Big Game with the Loose Cannon. I love Jennifer Harman though. I'll deal with it.

Oooh, Aces!

And, at this joker-riffic table, I doubled up. My competitor said in chat, "$!!@ing retards ONLY PLAYING ACES." Yup! 10 hands into the tourney. You know me so well. Keep on shipping with your pocket 5's 10 hands in, scooby. Doobeedooo!

I see Annie Duke is drinking tea too. So, who are my tea drinkers out there? I need some suggestions on how to become a tea aficionado.

So here's a question. Some people sit there with the same tea bag, filling their cups over and over. Yet, on the tea box instructions, it says 1 tea bag per 8 oz. cup. My mugs are 16 oz. so I'm using 2 tea bags. I tried using just 1 (thinking people make multiple cups out of their 1 tea bag), and it was too weak. Blech. So, what am I missing? Do those people just drink weak tea?

So, all you Chicago locals have to get with me this summer. I'm captaining a Relay for Life team to benefit the American Cancer Society, in honor and memory of my dad and other friends and family members that have been affected by cancer. The event isn't until July, so there's plenty of time to mark your calendars and come out and join Team: What About Bob? or donate :)

Chugging along... nothing doing in my FTP tourney.... I just labeled somebody an "aggro fish." Moving right along, about 20% above the average chip stack.

But man, the aggro fish is just getting smacked on the side of the head with the deck. Ugh.

Update: Sweet! I just knocked out the aggro fish! Trudging through hand-for-hand now.... and... on break! Bubble is next to go. I should be able to fold long enough to get past it, but you never know...

Whew! Would you believe I almost bubbled? LOL, AQ vs 99, but I flopped top pair. Wheee final table!

Alrighty, time to pay attention. Here goes!

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WPBT Winter Classic 2010: Day 4 - Score!

Date: Fri, Dec 17, 2010

Day 4:

Sunday started out as a bit of a cluster*#ck. Minneapolis Airport was completely shut down on Sunday night due to a blizzard, and Chicago was under a winter weather advisory with high winds. I really did not want to sleep in the airport, because I figured I'd eventually get to MN, but there was no way my evening Chicago flight was going to make it. So I tried to call Delta to rebook my flights for Monday. For 2 hours, I couldn't get through, because their phone recording said that they couldn't answer my call due to extreme weather. Their headquarters is in MN. Gah!

Eventually, I got through, and while the customer service rep initially said that my flights did not appear to be affected (they showed as "on time" online), I explained that by the time I have to catch the flights that afternoon, that situation would likely change. He put me on hold with his awesome Australian accent, and came back and agreed to rebook me based on the weather conditions in MN. I got an 11am flight the next morning, but then his computer wasn't working properly and he transferred me to someone else to do the actual booking. I had to go through the whole situation again with her, as she was of course saying, "Your flights don't appear to be affected..." After a few holds, she came back and rebooked me. Whew! I had no trouble getting a room at MGM, as the rodeo was heading out of town and MGM was glad to have me.

It turns out, my original flight to MN was delayed by 4 hours, and my flight to Chicago was canceled. (I would have missed it anyway, and it was the last flight of the day to Chicago). So I would have ended up sleeping at the MN airport. All hail proactiveness! (Is that a word?)

These new flight plans allowed me to make it to Legasse's Stadium at the Palazzo, Emeril's place (BAM!) Full Tilt was sponsoring part of the food/bar tab, and what great food it was! I had cheese pizza and some awesome hummus. For me to say the pizza was fantastic is a big deal - I'm from Chicago, people. I know pizza. Delicious. So good! I ate way too much and was finally able to pawn off the last two pieces of pizza to Alan.

I got to see just how awful the snow was in Chicago on the big screen (while the Bears were getting crushed). I was glad to stay in the Vegas weather for one more day!

April, Maura, and I bid farewell to the blogger-folk after a few hours and walked over to the Wynn. I'd never been there. Nice place. Like I said, I may check out their limit games next time MGM can't get anything going for me. Maura and April then headed back to their room and I headed down to the MGM poker room. I spent a few hours losing and winning the same $50 at 1/2 NL. April let me know that they were going to watch the Amazing Race finale and would come get me afterward. Sounded good to me - we had plans to find a cheap craps table!!

In the meantime, I hit gold. The fact that it was against a bunch of frat boys (one of which was so drunk he kept ordering Red Bull and vodkas, forgetting that he had one in his cup holder each time) was just a bonus.... set over set over straight, 4 way all in - and me with the nut flush draw. The pot was laying me 4:1 to make the call all-in after the flop, and I was 4-flushed. I was either gonna get up and go play craps, or win a shit-ton of loot. All in!

And... SCORE!

The three frat boys immediately left the table in disgust. I didn't notice until after I finished stacking all those pretty pretty chips.

I played for another 45 minutes or so, until April and Maura came down to get me. I made back my whole weekend bankroll right there. That's what I needed :)

First, we walked across the street to Hooters, hoping to find a cheap craps table. No luck - and, ewww. Hooters is so blah. I think even the restaurants are nicer than the casino. So we walked over to the "improved" Tropicana, and - wow! Very nice! Very clean, very white. I would definitely stay there! Many people noted how scummy the place was in recent past, but they've done a great job with the remodeling and redecoration. I liked it, anyway.

We played some slots to take advantage of a new player card promotion, and while we played, the craps tables dropped to $5! Maura and I played a little craps (it was her first time), and while we didn't win anything, we had some fun. It was a perfect, quiet table for learning the game. And I love rolling the dice!

And that was about it... I headed back to my room and crashed out, then packed up on Monday morning and headed out. All of my flights went OK on Monday with only minor delays. Still, it was 11pm before I pulled into my driveway at home. Long, long day.

Overall, a most excellent trip. I had such a blast seeing everybody, and it's always fun to come home even! :-D I can't wait till next year!

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WPBT Winter Classic 2010: Day 3 - Bubble!

Date: Fri, Dec 17, 2010

Day 3:

Tourney day!!!

First up: My very first chai tea latte ever. I had mentioned to my new favorite foodie, Maura, that I had been trying different teas lately. It's friggin cold in Chicago, and I don't like coffee. Hot chocolate has too damn many calories, so I've been trying to acquire a taste for tea. Maura suggested I try the chai tea latte at Starbucks, so I did, with soy milk. It was wonderful!! I cannot allow myself to get anything more than the Tall. At 145 calories, an occasional tall won't kill me, but I don't like to drink my calories (at least not while I'm trying to lose weight). But oh... so good! I've since bought some organic free trade chai green tea to make my own lattes, minus the sweetener. So good! It's my new favorite thing.

I was excited to check out Aria. Beautiful place. They really treated us right and had super comfy adjustable chairs in the poker room. I drew table 2 seat 3, up in the back room. Poker Grump was at my table, as well as Otis, Josie, and AlCan'tHang's personal assistant. Maigrey ended up at table 2, as well as BadBlood and briefly, Iggy. (I'm missing some people, but again... no notes. Sorry).

I won my first bounty from Poker Grump. Thank goodness, because I hadn't packed any extra clothes and so at least I had a clean t-shirt to wear when my flights got rebooked and I had to stay in Vegas an extra day!

I'm sad to report that I didn't bring a bounty prize. I had meant to - I was going to make a box of Scooby Snacks - but I just didn't have time. Next year, I promise!

The next bounty I picked up was after a table change. I can't remember who I won it from (somebody help me!!) - but it's the infamous Wild Turkey shooter that has passed through several hands, including those of Dr. Pauly and OhCaptain. I had to throw away a bottle of shampoo in order to fit the Wild Turkey into my liquid carry-on baggie, but it was so worth it! Now I have a must-attend order in place for the 2011 Winter Classic. :)

My favorite bounty, though, was a very cool photograph from OhCaptain. I didn't manage to get it signed - that means he has to come out to Vegas in 2011, too!

As we got later into the game, I was staaaarving! On a break, I ran around the corner and paid $20 for a falafel sandwich. I had no idea what falafel was, but it was the only vegetarian option available. It turned out to be delicious! I like falafel. The Aria folks pulled up a side table for me and I nom'd in between hands. I finally got to meet the real Dawn Summers at that table, too.

I was in good chip position as we broke to two tables, but a couple unlucky hits put me into bad shape as the bubble approached. I did what I could.... 9 places paid, but the bubble got a prize, so in my definition of the bubble, it was 11th place (i.e. the first place that gets no prize). Whaddya know... I finished 11th. That makes me the first blogger to bubble in two different WPBT tournaments!! Woohooo!!

I was hugely disappointed, mostly because my last-longer teammates were counting on me. We actually had a shot to make the top 3 teams, had I lasted through a few more bust-outs. Sorry, guys :( I tried!

CJ later told me that 10th place agreed to chop the bubble prize with me, since we busted at the same time (though s/he had more chips than I did - I'm not even sure who it was!) So, I got $50 for my 9 hours of play. Oy. Better than nothing, but still... I'm bummed that I let my team down. I wouldn't have done anything differently. Honestly, knowing my own weaknesses, I think I played my best game ever on Saturday. It just wasn't meant to be.

I watched a bit of the action and just couldn't get my head outta the funk, so I decided to walk back to MGM. I came across an art gallery on my way out of Aria and got my mojo back with some amazing nature photography. It was a nice walk back, and I decided to see what was happening in the MGM poker room.

Again, they couldn't get a limit table going, so I played 1/2 NL. Big mistake. I was very quickly exhausted, and I should have just left. I started getting all back into my head funk again, pulling that negative self-talk of, "Might as well lose it all... losing today anyway..." Thankfully I walked away after 1 buy-in and just went to bed.

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WPBT Winter Classic 2010: Day 2 - Evil Evil Pablo

Date: Fri, Dec 17, 2010

Day 2:

Started out with breakfast at MGM's Studio Cafe with CA April. I had a very pretty veggie frittata, though I did learn that I don't really like artichokes (or maybe I just didn't like them in this particular preparation - I'll try them again someday). We headed to the MGM poker room to have a look around, and ran into Sweet Sweet Pablo (and I'm drawing a blank on everybody else, but there were a few of us!). We sat down to a .50/1.00 beginner's NL table (LMAO!)

I gave Evil Evil Pablo like $40 when I called him down just to see it. I think he took a big chunk off me later on too with a boat! Then he gave it all to the crank old guy to my right (GAH keep it in the family, brotha!!) I ended up dropping a hundo at a game that was supposed to just be for fun, but it's all good. We had fun.

I'm trying to remember what we did next... What the heck did we do Friday?! Oh, I think I remember! We tram'd it down to Mandalay Bay to check out the Burger Bar. I had read that they had an excellent veggie burger (and they did!). Now, THAT was some good eats! Sweet potato fries... nom nom nom.

Then, it was back to MGM, where the mixed games were starting up. I decided to skip the mixed games this year. Played some NL (because MGM was completely incapable of getting a 3/6 or 4/8 limit table going all weekend - fail. I did later discover that the Wynn runs 4/8 limit, so I may have to keep that in mind). OhCaptain was getting kicked in the gut. I didn't fare much better. I did get to meet a drunk Waffles (finally!), who I doubt remembers meeting me until Saturday. :)

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WPBT Winter Classic 2010: Day 1 - Geisha!

Date: Fri, Dec 17, 2010

Day 1 - Geisha!:

It has been so long since I've written a trip report! That means I haven't been spending enough time in Vegas. Must rectify that in 2011.

Back in the day, I'd have a notebook full of scribbles to draw up my trip report from, but alas - I am an irresponsible blogger these days. Maybe if I carried one of those trendy moleskin notebooks, I'd take notes. And a fancy pen - I would need a fancy pen. But I didn't equip myself with such luxuries, so you're stuck with my powers of recollection.

The trip started out pretty bad. I've already bitched about my poor decision in booking a Delta trip with connections (since I had to pack everything in a carry-on to avoid the baggage fees). It turns out that Delta just sucked all around, and I'll never fly them again if I can help it. The first leg of my outbound flight to Minnesota was delayed by over 4 hours due to a mechanical problem on the plane. It wasn't a problem they were trying to fix, however - they just couldn't find a mechanic to override the automatic grounding function when a plane only has 2 of 3 de-ice systems working. They finally found a mechanic to override the system, and we flew to MN on 2 de-icers.

I was rebooked on a new connecting flight to Vegas with what appeared like it would be a 3 hour layover in MN. However, my first leg was so late that I had to play out that stereotypical scene of the girl running through the airport, bags in tow. I got to the gate and literally got right onto the plane. It was nuts. Off to Vegas.

The only good thing about the flight was that my second leg was on a wi-fi plane. It was my first time using in-flight wifi, which was free thanks to Google's holiday promotion. Of course, the flight was delayed sitting at the gate upon arrival because no crew was ready to usher us into the airport. Oy. Never again.

(Wifi, by the way, was pretty sweet. I'd say it was just about DSL-quality broadband speed. The only annoyance was that it kept dropping out and I had to keep re-signing in).

Since I had already missed CA April and Maura at the airport, I txt'd them to see where they were. Luckily, I'd arrived just in time to meet them for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris. I had an awesome roasted veggie platter (though anything probably would have seemed awesome - I was ready to eat my arm off by that point).

After dinner, I headed to MGM and checked in, then headed over to the Geisha Bar at IP. Make new friends, but keep the old.... I was lapping the craps tables when I ran into CA April and Maura. It was definitely a warm welcome to meet Numbono and be treated to a tequila shot. He didn't believe me that I didn't know the rules on how to do a tequila shot. Truth, yo. Also met OhCaptain, and Dr Chako and the Mrs. (BTW, the MGM wanted $25 to use their treadmills! Gah!). Compared tattoos with Falstaff, and solidified my newfound status as the third member of his last-longer team. Greeted Kat and talked Canada. Was Joanada there? Or was that the next day?

The best part of the night, though, was yet to come. After letting Iggy think I was some Geisha n00b for a while (hey, April must have told him 48 times, "You know this is Shelly, right?!"), I won a bet regarding my age. (It is quite handy to look a decade younger than I actually am!) Iggy checked out my driver's license and proceeded through a series of mortified apologies. (It's all good, dude!) With that, Iggy proceeded to challenge me to rock paper scissors. Can I just say - EVERY WOMAN'S DREAM! To just have the opportunity to throw down RPS vs. Iggy was momentous in itself, but...

To WIN?!

FIVE BUCKS! Wheeeee! I think I deserve a trophy.

Later on, two of my favorite peeps ever arrived: Gracie and Sweet Sweet Pablo! Chatted save-the-earth concerns with Gracie and old school metal with Pablo. I still think that guy totally looked like Bret Michaels and am only mildly embarrassed at how many of the lyrics to Unskinny Bop I remember.

I made it back to the hotel room around 3am and got some zzz's.

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'Twas the night before Vegas...

Date: Wed, Dec 8, 2010

... and all through the house, could be heard me screaming "Why the hell did I pick this stupid cheap Delta flight, and how am I going to survive with just a carry-on??!"

I fly out tomorrow for the WPBT tourney (VEGAS, BABY!). Though I've seen a couple bloggers here and there, it has been several years since I've officially made it to a WPBT event. I'm excited to see everybody again!!

But I should have just booked Southwest. No layovers, no checked bag fees... so that's me, trying to save a dime. I realized last night that I will have to spend the weekend without any of my hair care products. That. Sucks.

Or, I suck it up and pay $50 to bring a checked suitcase - which means, the flight is no longer cheap, AND it has stupid layovers! Ugh.

Me = not brilliant.

But this cranberry whipped banana oatmeal I just made is the cat's ass. (That's a good thing, even though it doesn't sound like it).

I think last time I went to Vegas, I needed a new couch. I still need a new couch. I have delusions of grandeur that involve the deck smacking me upside the head, and me coming home with all kinds of phat loot. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

I have a new cell phone number since last I met most of you, so if you're on Facebook and want the number, hit me up there!

See ya's soon!!!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Date: Thu, Nov 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Have a safe and peaceful holiday, and good luck at the tables :)

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While it lasts...

Date: Wed, Oct 13, 2010

Enjoy it while it lasts! I'm in 1st place overall in the online poker league I play in. It's very early in the season, and a big win this week pushed me up the ranks. So I'll enjoy my 5 minutes of fame before I fall back into the middle of the pack... :)

I've been watching the PokerStars.net Big Game on TV (the one with the whole loose canon thing). Week after week, it seems the players with the most cash in front of them are the ones 3 and 4 betting preflop. Now, of course, that only works because it's a pot limit game preflop on this show, but still. I think the message is clear: preflop aggression can be lucrative.

I've settled pretty comfortably over the years into a game that is a bit aggressive post-flop, but very passive preflop. And I do alright. But for the first time, I'm actually starting to believe that if I'd grow me a pair preflop, I could be more successful.

Can I beat my inner chicken and start raising a bit more preflop (and with hands other than top 10's?)

It sure would be nice to make some tweaks and get into a good groove for Vegas in December!

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Poker season

Date: Mon, Sep 27, 2010

Summer's winding down, kids. To me, that means, poker season!

I live in Chicago, and it gets friggin cold here. Miserable cold. So I spend a lot more time indoors in the winter. Someday I hope for this not to be true - because I hope not to be in Chicago! I hope to be someplace warmer, someday. But for now... Chicago it is.

I've started saving up my poker fund for December's WPBT gathering. I haven't made it out to one in a few years, and can't wait to see everybody again (especially Waffles! Dude, have I ever even met you yet?!) Would love to see all of my buddies again :) I can't wait! And I'll definitely need some recovery time from the Chicago weather by then.

Who's with me for Vegas in December?!

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Viffer = Goose

Date: Sun, Aug 15, 2010

Has anybody noticed that Viffer looks like Goose in Top Gun? I didn't see it until they started interviewing him on The Big Game, after he rivered a pot against Giang. The mouth hanging open all the time has to go, but when nicely composed, he totally looks like Anthony Edwards.

I finished in the middle of the pack in the online poker league I played in. I'm debating playing the next season. The problem is, the games are on Monday nights at 8pm, and I work until 7pm. By the time I get out of work and home, I'd be lucky to be home in time. I'd most certainly miss at least a few minutes. But a few minutes isn't that bad, and I could probably make it home for the start of some games. We'll see.

I've warmed up a bit to The Big Game. The commentary has gotten better, and like my initial impression, I do like all of the statistics they provide. I really enjoyed the week with Nadia.

I am, however, getting sick of the colon cleanse and hair restoration commercials.

I've got a trip to San Diego coming up. Looks like the Barona Casino is about a half hour away. Any opinions of their poker room? Or other nearby poker rooms?

Ahh well. My little micro SnG on Full Tilt has ended anti-climatically. Such is life.

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