Category: Travelog

Game Changer

20131229-073925.jpg

I haven’t written much about Omaha, a close second favorite poker game of mine, (the first being Fixed Limit Omaha Hi/Lo). In Europe there aren’t a lot of people brave, experienced or dumb enough to engage in playing Pot Limit Omaha in the casinos, so on the rare occasions I do find a game and I’m sporting a decent bankroll, then I’m in that game like stink on cheese. Last chance I had to play was a single blind 2€ cash game at Lugner City casino in Wien a couple weeks ago…

I saw a play made by a fella which changed my entire perspective on Omaha, and I reckon on poker in general. Omaha is a real gambling game where when you bet big, you win large, but if you sneak into a lot of pots cheaply, you’ll whittle your chiplogs into a toothpick. Squeezing the field is more difficult, so there are more multi-handed flops seen than your average hold em round.

What I learned this day was that winning consistently at Omaha has more to do with the chips you save by folding better hands than the size of the pots you actually win. The pots you rake into your arsenal will provide for a nice fortress, but because you’ll find yourself seeing a higher percentage of flops, turns and rivers, you have to be prepared to fold the nuts to preserve the towers.

I learned this the old fashioned way… by not doing it.

The other come to Jesus or Buddha, etc lesson requires more resolve to not get wound up about the coulda/shoulda/woulda of seeing the rivers of the hands you surrendered. You mucked, walk away.
Don’t get upset, it’s Omaha.

Next chapter… The play by play commentary of said hand.
Next month: cashing out gracefully

Montenegro – Poker Myth-busting

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

 

Despite what the modern James Bond movies might have you believe, I am here to tell you, my faithful friends that there is NO SUCH THING as poker in Montenegro.  This is at least my third trip here, one of my very favorite holiday destinations.  The last two times I visited the casinos in both Sveti Stefan and Bar– tried to get into poker tournaments, but there were never enough players to complete even one table. At those times, I usually only played tournaments in casinos, and I wasn’t deep pocketed enough to play cash game.

This time, tonight I was prepared for any eventuality.  All of the billboards and posters around town for the Avala Casino here in Budva advertised itself as the place to be for poker, etc.  Not only that, but the casino is a 7 minute walk from the humble “Sobe” or apartment where my gal and I are staying– and being on holiday here for only one week, she found it in her sweet little heart to grant me one night of poker on this trip.

On Tuesday, we went in to scope out the action the day before, and among myself, the floorman, the conciergette and my attorney– using a mish-mash of English, German, Russian, Serbian and probably even a little Spanish thrown in just to keep it weird, we divined without a shadow of a doubt that there would be a tournament on Wednesday night starting at 21:00… and there was cash game every night starting at 22:00.

So armed with a nasty tourist raccoon-eyes sunburn, a loud Hawaiian shirt and a pocket full o’ Euros, (Montenegro’s official currency IS the Euro, even though they ain’t EU yet), I sauntered through the boom-boom tourist-filled summer night streets, into the air-conditioned gambling hall at 10 minutes to 21:00, ready for the tournament action, and/or cash game thereafter.

Ignoring my previous experiences, and ever the optimist, I still feigned disappointment when they informed me there WAS no tournament tonight.  Nevertheless, I asked if there would be cash game, and they assured me that by 22:00 there would be cash game.  Now this is where holiday casinos getcha… you wait around for players to show up, and once you get bored or ancy, you start throwing coins in machines or start buying chips for a few rounds of blackjack to kill the time.

Well, think what you want about your humble narrator here, but this aint my first barbecue, and I’ve long since lost the urge to gamble with money.  I’ll play skill games for cash anytime, anywhere– but I DO NOT play games against THE HOUSE.  If I have one rule in gaming it is that, and that alone.  That is the fundamental difference between Poker and other casino games like roulette, craps, blackjack or slots.  In those games, you are playing against the croupier, the slot machines or the tumbling ball or dice.  In those games, the odds are always mathematically stacked in favor of the house. That’s how those games function, that’s how the house makes money.  Poker on the other hand, is a game played between players only.  The house provides the table, the seats, the cards, the chips and the dealer– the dealer and/or the house do not play. In tournaments, a small fee is payed by each registered player, and the winners usually tip the dealer pool well when cashing out.  In poker cash games, the dealer takes a ‘rake’ or a percentage of each pot over a certain amount, usually 5%.  The house makes their money from the winnings of the players, and the only advantage one player has over another is his abilities and his/her BALLS.

So needless to say, I didn’t remain in the casino to get tantalized by the buzzing bells and boring bimbos– I went to the lobby of this overpriced resort and played Scopa on my iPhone for about 45 minutes.  I went back down there to see how many players were lurking by the machines waiting for sunburned fish like me to stumble in for a few drunken hands of Texas Hold ‘Em — and how many were there now by 21:45?  You guessed it: Zippity-Doo-Dah. Nil.

I couldn’t be bothered to wait around for another hour for more disappointment, so I headed back to the little bungalow to join my sweetheart and earn extra boy-friend points by blowing that popsicle stand to come hang with her.

Poker just wasn’t in the cards… and I was still the big winner after all!

The Villa in Valencia

The potent waft of orange blossom and honeysuckle breezing through this Spanish villa meeting the succulent kitchen contribution of asparagus, cauliflower and artichoke bathing in olive oil from the oversized paella pan in the kitchen where the best parties always end up in an intoxicating diversion from the rigors of the road the last few days.

Our host, Pistola and his amigos graciously invited and led us here. Fortunately, our gig tonight in Villareal is less than a two hour drive, but I guarantee you it will be muy difícil to leave this paradise in the orange groves of Valencia. I could see myself staying here for an extended sabbatical.

Last night’s gig in Valencia at the Durango club was spectacular. The band was on fire, and we had a bevy of Spanish beauties join us onstage to dance for the encore numbers. I’m sure that shit’ll end up on YouTube soon enough.

Certainly I always post about the good times and misadventures, and rarely do I post about the humdrum drives, the bickering, and other everyday routines that go into touring. It seems like it’s all fun and games, but make no mistake, this is WORK. One of the last few nights, some girls were trying to drag us to a disco after party, which fair enough coulda been fun, but my companions and I were somewhat exhausted. I said, “I’d love to come, but we still have work to do now and tomorrow.”

She said (en español) something to the effect of “you only worked two hours tonight” — I really had to think about it, and tried in my broken ‘gringlish’ to explain what went into the alleged two hours of work, which included waking up after 5 hours of sleep, reorganizing the tetris packing of the highway schooner, throwing out trash and cleaning the public van space, driving 6 hours directly to the club, unloading equipment, scrambling to grab a quick sandwich while soundczecking, playing a few songs to get the sound right, stuffing a backpack full of beer and snacks for later consumption, organizing everyone back to the bus, driving around in circles trying to follow an outdated gps to the hotel, checking in, dealing with incompetent and frightened hotel staff, squeezing in a 20 minute power nap, showering, shaving, making ourselves purty, following locals to our designated restaurant, eating a nice dinner then rushing off to the club to start our 2 hour set a half hour late, afterwards, drying off, signing autographs, talking to all the people as best we can with the mishmash of known languages, looking out for our personal bags, coats, equipment, each other, packing equipment from the stage, organizing plans for loading/partying, physically loading the van, Tetris again, all the while trying not to get too fucked up in the process that we can’t find our way back to the hotel… So next time someone says, “you call that WORK?” — I will backhand slap him/her.

That being said, it’s the rare little excursions like this that make it all worth the hassle. 😉

20120428-160242.jpg

20120428-160758.jpg

Madrid, 2012

Great venue last night in Madrid, the Carcol… Very professional crew, great sound, stage, spirited audience…

However, was very displeased to see that the support band was using my bass amp without my knowledge or permission. This is fucked for a number of reasons, respect being only one of them. In our tech rider, we are to be supplied with two guitar amps at every venue, and the clubs usually avoid rental fees by asking the support band to provide amps. Fair enough. This was also the case last night, so one can easily make the argument that we are using their guitar amps, so why shouldn’t they use our bass amp. If I were the support band I would use the same logic, BUT I would surely ASK before doing so, and not just assume that it is okay to use. I do not blame the bass player, though had it been me, I would’ve at least asked the sound man if it was okay. The promoter however never sent the club the tech rider, and everybody always claims they never got it anyway. In the end I only blame myself for not making it clear to the sound engineers that my bass amp is NOT to be used by support bands, and here is the reason why:

A support band is usually local, and if something goes wrong, they know where to fix it or get another piece of equipment. A touring band that carries their own gear is out in the wilderness with schedules that leave little margin for extra excursions. If a support band spills beer on or blows the speakers of my amp, I am fucked. I have no backup, and it’s not a rental I can just have replaced at the next town. It’s mine, and if it’s out of commission, then it’s an ordeal to wrangle one on foreign territory. If I myself fuck up the amp, then it’s my fault and still my responsibility to get fixed or replaced, but then I at least know how it happened and don’t have to deal with blame and extortion. End of story.

We stayed in a very crappy hotel though with no breakfast, so this morning I made a pilgrimage by public transport to one of the only Taco Bells in Europe… Only to find they open at :30, which is the time I was scheduled to be back at the hotel or at the club loading our gear. Thrilled to know it at least exists.

The tour is going well in most respects, and it’s great to be on the battlefield with the gang. I was never much into camping as a youngster, but touring is very similar in a lot of respects, and for me, this is roughing it. The iPad is an amazing companion when touring with a rock band, I gotta say. All the frustrations and mood swings that are par for the course can be assuaged easily with a game of scrabble or catching up on news feeds. It’s value increases tenfold if you can successfully get your mobile wifi devices working properly. I however am still part caveman.

Today we take a relatively short drive to the city of Valladolid, which I remember being a pretty wild and raucous time when we were there last in 2010. There is a bar called Fuzztones which seems like a lock for the after party…

20120425-114231.jpg

I think there are 4 more shows before we head back to headquarters before the brief Greek campaign. I am very much looking forward to the paella and the beach in Valencia this weekend.

Hotel recommendations in Spain

I’m not one to go plugging businesses very often, though I do occasionally contribute my thoughts and reviews on Qype… But I gotta say, every time the bus pulls up to an NH hotel, or one of their lower priced sister chains like Hesperia, I get very happy. Don’t let the 3 star rating fool you, these places are first class. The rooms vary from bitchen-ass pimped whirlpool tub suites to no-tell motel style, but the breakfasts are always top notch… We’re talking goji berries and fresh squeezed kiwi juice, eggs to order, fresh bread and the heavenly Spanish coffee…

Receptionists are always helpful, and they provide nice amenities like toothbrushes and sponges packaged in day glow orange plastic.

So far, Algeciras h been the highlight of this tour. The audience and the club were fully energized, and the band hit on all cylinders that night… What a crowd, what a night. So many fans who’d travelled to Granada or Madrid in the past to see the band got to see us in their hometown for the first time ever. Pretty frikkin’ cool!

We spent the night in Murcia, where I played poker in the local casino for 2 hours late last night (earning a measly 40€ after playing my aces poorly), and today, my taks are to find a tailor, a laundromat, a music store, and be at soundczeck by 19:00.

Wish me luck!

20120423-104059.jpg

20120423-103120.jpg

Algeciras, southern Spain

So riding into Algeciras, Vince and I were discussing what he thought was Gibralter across the bay & we’re still not entirely sure. It’s hot here, like Vegas hot. Today Real Madrid was playing Barcelona in football, so we were trying to get done with sound check by 18:00, but no one at the club or in the support band seems too interested, so we didn’t rush too much. Was a fiasco with the Fender amps, but we finally got it sorted and got a killer sound for the stage. We really had a lot of fun checking the sound today since we weren’t in a hurry… Soon we may be doing a Paul Revere and the Raiders toon.

Back at the hotel, an older biker fan found us as we were sitting down to a very mediocre dinner, and brought a stack of LPs for Rudi to sign. Guess we’ll have protection if we need it tonight. Happily we get a rest before the gig, so ima gonna power nap, maybe post some boring travel pictures and foodporn later. Tomorrow we have our only day off of the tour, so I guess we’ll go on a beach hunt and soak some rays.mor go see the monkeys on Gibralter. Tough call.

20120421-224333.jpg

Somewhere in France, 4:20am

It’s been a busy year so far, so I haven’t done much updating here. But now I’m back in my second home… The Road. Vince Dante, Rob Louwres, driver Eli, Lana, Rudi and your truly.on the way to Spain, we stopped for a sleep in a little town on the way to catch a bit of sleep before hitting the crock’more in Perpignan tomorrow. Since we’re only a few klicks away from the Val des Travers in France, we had a little nightcap party in my Etap room, & shared a glass of LeMercier Amer Absinth to christen the journey which will take us 2.5 weeks all over Spain as far south as Gibraltar. The Fuzztones are promoting the new release of Snake Oil, and are doing a full on rock set as opposed to the more psych shows we’ve done over the past two years. Looking forward to tomorrow night taking the new bass amp for the proverbial spin tomorrow too.

I’ll be posting more on this tour since acquiring my new iPad…(poker has been yielding good results lately), so be forewarned…

In Fuzz we trust,
In Fez, we must!

By special request

Today’s hairdo: “Post-Apocolyptic Zombie Waffle Asplode” — this one belongs in a museum. Think I’ll take it for a walk to the park.

More postcards – Rome and London

There were many, many more pictures taken of shenanigans and even sometimes the gigs themselves…

Hopefully they turn up in the next weeks, but for now, here’s what my ‘glorified Gameboy’ was able to capture: