Monday, April 19, 2004

On the Road Again

This weekend took me to Detroit for some poker at the Greektown Casino, followed the next day by a visit to my sister's family in Sandusky, Ohio, where we would continue on to Cleveland to see the Tigers take on the Indians.

Friday: The Greeks Made Me Meek

I got up Friday morning around 10, and then ran a few errands around town, so I didn't actually get to Detroit and the casino until about 4. I missed all of the traffic problems in Detroit by sheer luck. Usually, when I go to downtown Detroit, I take Interstate 96 all the way in. But, I really hate the stretch that runs along I-275. Four lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic going 75 MPH, my nerves can't take that after fifteen years of living in a city without serious traffic problems. So, this time, I decided to take I-696 to the Lodge freeway (M-10) downtown. And, wouldn't you know, when I left I-96 for I-696, the radio informed me about an accident further down I-96, and construction, besides. And when I left I-696 for the Lodge, the bit where they run parallel, I could see traffic backing up on I-696. And on the Lodge, the accident that the radio continued to mention, turned out in fact to not be there at all. So it was smooth sailing until I reached downtown, where I missed my exit and had to drive around downtown a bit, which is harrying in every major city's downtown when you have only a rough idea of where you need to be.

I hadn't been to Greektown in about six months. The room used to have two serious problems: it was so horribly overcrowded that a four-hour wait for a table was common, and the room was so thick with smoke that it made me physically ill on at least one occasion (and smoke doesn't normally bother me excessively).

But they cleared the slots out of the room next to the poker room, and put another six or eight tables in there, and turned the entire original room into $5/$10 Holdem games. (Maybe some stud, too; they called $1-$5 stud seats a couple of times, and I didn't see where they were dealing that.) In the new room, they deal (mostly) the higher-limit games, $10/$20 and up, and it's non-smoking. Apparently, most of the smokers were the higher-limit players, because I don't think the ventilation has changed, and the lower-limit room is tolerable now. And, with more tables, I walked more-or-less right onto a game, and had my choice of walking on to $5/$10 or $10/$20. I took the $5/$10, but they kept calling my name (L.G.W., on this day) for both games for some time. This compares very favorably to the old setup, where you had to be in the poker room to hear your name, because if you didn't hear it within about three seconds, they'd cross your name off and move on (and only agree afterward to put you back on the bottom of the—three hour—list).

I'd heard from a player at Soaring Eagle that the old manager of Greektown's poker room had been fired. I didn't play at Greektown often enough to get to know any of the staff, so I don't know who they meant, but now, overall, I am impressed with the room. They would not only start interest lists for things they didn't ordinarily deal, but they'd actually really try to get the games going. They called over the PA system to try to get players for a $75/$150 holdem game, they actually did have a no-limit game going, as well as $20/$40 and $30/$60 round-by-round Holdem/Omaha games. I saw the no-limit game on the way in (at least I assume it was the NL game), and there were a lot of green ($25) chips on the table. I asked what the blind structure was in the game, and it sounded reasonable but I don't remember what it was. Something like $2/$2/$4 blinds, maybe.

Anyway, I sat $5/$10, as I said, and mostly didn't get any good starting hands. I got AA once, and lost to a flush, and a QQ took the blinds. An AQ won about $50 when it hit the flop, but that was probably my big pot of the night. And so, I ended up down about $184. At least that's how I logged it; I might be off by a few bucks. There were always a couple of players who weren't very good, but never anybody that was truly horrible. Nonetheless, especially early on, the game was pretty passive with a lot of people seeing flops. Perfect for people who are getting cards, like ... well, not me, anyway.

I made a mistake: I was staying at the Hotel Pontchartrain, on the other side of downtown from the casino, and I was planning on leaving my car at the casino and taking the People Mover—Detroit's miserable excuse for mass transit—to my hotel. But, I neglected the fact that the People Mover doesn't run all night. In retrospect, it'd be kind of stupid if it did run all night, because nobody lives downtown, and it'd run empty during the entire wee hours. (On the other hand, the music on their web site is catchy.) Actually, I've made this mistake before, in DC about ten years ago. Their subway closes too. Anyway, there weren't taxis outside the building that I noticed, unless the taxi stand is somewhere other than where I'd think it should be, so I actually had to drive to the hotel. Driving to the hotel was more interesting than driving to the casino, because I've been to the casino before. I had a vague idea that the hotel was on the west end of downtown, and what it looked like, and that it was on Washington street. But I had no idea where exactly, so I just headed toward the west (southwest, really) until I came upon Washington street by chance. Fortunately, the hotel was right there, and I'd figured it out, but it was $20 to park. I really should have left the car at the casino, which was my original plan.

The hotel was pedestrian but was reasonably priced for a downtown high-rise hotel.

Saturday: Detroit 6 @ Cleveland 1

I awoke in the morning in time to head for my sister's and on to the game in Cleveland. Although the drive down was essentially uneventful, the construction on I-280 in Toledo was interesting. They are replacing a drawbridge with a much higher bridge, and while the construction is ongoing the temporary road surface all along the route slaloms in and out of the new concrete bridge supports. Interestingly, there are several exits from the existing route that won't be able to be exits from the new, higher bridge. Oh yeah, you know the route you've used to get home for the last 50 years? Well, sucks to be you!

Unlike in Toronto, we had no problem getting to the stadium and no problem finding parking. We got off the freeway and pulled into the first lot that had a guy waving a flag, which was a block from the stadium. Of course, will-call was on the completely opposite side of the stadium, so we had to walk all the way around, and then we got our seats near home plate (but thirty rows back).

We got to see an incredible performance from Mike Maroth, who is the Tigers' ace pitcher despite the big contract they just gave Jason Johnson. Not that Maroth didn't give up hits, because he did, but the way he got himself out of huge jams in inning after inning. Two men on with one out? No problem. Bases loaded with nobody out? Child's play. When he left in the eighth, he had left two men on and sentiment was clearly to let him work his way out of it again and complete the shutout, but he'd already thrown 117 pitches and the fatigue was showing. They brought on Al Levine to finish it, another of Detroit's winter acquisitions. The pitchers are still an unproven quantity for me, since one doesn't see them as often as one does position players, but it's pretty clear that the bullpen is (again) one of the weakest parts of Detroit's team.

The offense woke up, too, despite the Tigers using a .060 hitter (Greg Norton) as their DH. Despite only one of their 12 hits being for extra bases (a double), they capitalized on them with a couple of stolen bases and an error and a passed ball on Cleveland's part.

But the play of the game is one that the box score has wrong. Maroth handled poorly a ball to the mound in the early innings, slipping (it seemed) on the grass as he tried to field a roller to the mound, giving the batter an infield single. But on another roller, with runners on the corners and nobody out, he picked it up and whipped it to short—as he should—whereupon Omar Infante tagged the base and threw the runner out at home! My sister couldn't figure out why that play excited me so much, why I kept saying "Wow, that rocked!" after the play. I had to explain that a 1-6-2 double play … there is no such play! The way that play should have happened is that the pitcher throws to short, who throws to first, getting two outs but letting the run score, for a more usual 1-6-3 RBI double play. Maroth said after the game that he gave the runner on third a look that froze him for a moment, and then made the throw to second, which gave Infante time to throw the runner out at the plate: he was out by ten feet. (The box score should say Maroth-Infante-Rodriguez for the play, instead of Infante-Rodriguez-Maroth-Infante, which would be just goofy.)

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

With Friday's loss, I had three bad days in a row, followed by no play on Saturday. The magic seems to be gone; I'll actually have to work for my poker winnings now. For the first two hours today, even, on PartyPoker, I fluctuated between even and $50 down, before breaking through with a few big hands. I'm up a bit over $200 right now for the day, but even if I do the same tomorrow I will post a down week.

I did get an Email from PartyPoker, telling me I'd won a jacket in a contest earlier in the month. I told them I take an XXL—and that it was an expensive jacket, given how much rake I've paid in the last few weeks (easily over $1000).

I've always wondered where all the hats and jackets and crap I see people wear at the casinos, comes from.