Saturday, September 18, 2010

A road trip (Part 1)

Back in 1998 a buddy and I decided to take a road trip centered around poker. We were winning low stakes poker players living in Los Angeles and thought it'd be cool to spend the summer driving around North America playing poker in casinos, bar rooms, poker clubs, etc. while taking in all the sights Canada and America had to offer. We didn't have much money at the time but thought we'd be able to win on the road to sustain our trip. Anyway w/ a couple thousand dollars each in our pockets, we hit the road in my Nissan Sentra.

Starting from Los Angeles, the logical place for our 1st stop was Las Vegas. I remember we stayed at the Flamingo for free because my traveling buddy Dexter had some comps. I also remember going out on the balcony looking out towards the strip and taking in the view while thinking we were going to conquer the world, one poker hand at a We were young and foolish and I guess at that age you tend to have a sense of invincibility and confidence. Anyway back then the only games spread were all limit games and we played limit hold'em and limit stud, stakes ranging from $3-$6 to $20-$40. We decided to pool our enormous resources, all $4k of it and make it a bankroll for both of us to use. I knew right away I was the better player and felt confident I'd be able to add to our roll, but did not feel the same way about Dexter, even though I felt like he was a winning player. He had tilt issues and a propensity to play higher than what our roll could manage.

Vegas was fun and we did what guys our age would do...gamble all the time (mostly poker but a little bit in the pit), drink when not gambling and hit up some of the strip clubs. This lasted for about 3 or 4 days and we set off on our adventure again. We drove past Hoover Dam and headed toward Arizona to take in the Grand Canyon. When I laid my eyes on the Grand Canyon I was in awe. It really is magnificent and for those of you that have not been there, it is definitely something that should be on your bucket list (things to see or do before you die). I know atheists point to the Grand Canyon and say that's a reason God doesn't exist because the bible only dates back a few thousand years while the Grand Canyon is evidence that the earth is millions of years old. I like to think something that magnificent and spectacular had to be created by a higher entity, and in my case God.

We decided not to head down to Phoenix and hit the casinos there because it was kind of out of the way. We headed to New Mexico next and thought we might come across some poker rooms or casinos on Indian reservations there. Wrong.

Next stop Texas. Now for sure there would be casinos or poker rooms in Texas, after all it is called Texas Hold'em...wrong again. Anyway we hit up Amarillo 1st where I almost got a speeding ticket but managed to talk my way out of it. Probably had something to do w/ the fact we were asian and the cop knew we were just driving through...after all, it is Amarillo, Texas. I remember we drove for countless hours in open grass land through Texas. I recall trying to keep myself awake driving during the day because there was nothing to look at for hours. We did end up spending some time in Dallas mostly because we were relieved there was an actual city in Texas after all the driving. We visited Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository. For non history buffs, the Plaza is where JFK was shot and assassinated and the Depository is where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly fired the gun that killed JFK.

Our next stop was Louisiana. We hit up Shreveport and Bossier City and found out this is where Texans came to gamble, and gamble they did. The games were very good. We played $20-$40 limit hold'em and remember the games having lots of gamblers. Next stop was Tunica, Mississippi. Tunica is a weird place in that it is a very small town comprised of 4-5 large hotel casinos. To be honest, I don't even think there are residential areas in Tuncia. Now we did ok playing poker but Dexter, being the degen he was, decided to make $500 bets on the Don't Come #4 in craps. Based on our roll, he had about 10 bets before going broke. Luckily he broke about even but more importantly, we got comped for a really extravagant suite in the Horseshoe. It beat the cheap motels or nights we spent sleeping in my car in order to save money. That was one of the best nights of sleep I ever got!

We also got comped for food and ate all the crawfish we could handle. It is the south after all and they make crawfish in every flavor you can think of. We hit the road afterward and stopped by a little southern town in the middle of nowhere to grab a bite. It was a small mom and pops BBQ place and when we walked in, we were surrounded by black people. That's right, 2 young asian guys in a small BBQ joint run by black people located in a small black southern town. Now if that isn't fish out of water, I don't know what is. I don't consider myself having a racist bone in my body and treat everybody as I would like to be treated but I'm not gonna lie and say we didn't feel a little intimidated being there. I will say this though, the BBQ was good and I can see where the term southern hospitality comes from. They were very friendly towards us, in fact I can't ever remember another time in my life where I got friendlier service. We left the place thinking that was awesome and I for one wouldn't mind going back.

Next we headed north. Along the way we took a detour and ended up visiting a monastery. I did not know about it but Dexter had visited it before. It was a unique experience being in a place where everything was deemed holy. There were a bunch of monks that lived there and travelers were welcome to sleep the night in one of their many dormitory like rooms but you were expected to give a donation. They also fed you lunch and dinner w/ food they harvested. The monks did a lot of farming when they weren't praying or worshipping. I did find out they made most of their money in technology (I think it was running a printer cartridge company)...go figure. I definitely took it as an opportunity to try to find the inner peace within me (along w/ trying to get closer to God) and enjoyed the experience. Anyway after spending a night there we made a fair donation and headed our way.

We ended driving up to Dexter's home city of Chicago next. I gotta say Chicago is one of the coolest cities I've been to. We drove through the north side and got to see Wrigley Field from the outside, but alas did not catch a game. Also we got an awesome view of Lake Michigan driving along some of the freeways. We also hung out at Michael Jordan's sportcafe 23. I left Chicago thinking it was one if not the best city I've ever been to.

Pokerwise it was not a very good time. We ended up visiting some local riverboats in the area and Dexter ended up losing nearly all our bankroll. We had to stay a couple of more days in Chicago waiting for money that was owed to him. After collecting we decided to head east, notably New York.

I felt the opposite toward New York w/ how I felt toward Chicago. I did not like New York at all. I remember being stuck on one of the bridges due to traffic and having to go bad. I ended up emptying a soda cup and relieving myself in it while stuck in the middle of traffic. We spent most of our time in Manhattan which was very crowded w/ cab drivers trying to run you off the road. I can see why everybody takes the subways. We spent a couple of days there visiting people we knew. Anyway the next logical place to go was Atlantic City and that's where we went.

We headed down on the New Jersey turnpike and ended up in Atlantic City. We spent a whole lot of time just playing poker and didn't really get to see the city. I'm pretty sure we didn't miss out on much though. Next we headed back to NYC for another day then headed for north of the border.

We reached another beautiful destination in Niagara Falls. It was another break taking site. I remember seeing scenes of it in Superman 2 and to see it in person left me in awe, again. Anyway Niagara Falls stood at the border of America and Canada and we decided to cross the border into Canada, eh.

Now this would be the mid point of our summer journey. Along the way we visited numerous casinos, riverboats, public poker rooms but for the most part we avoided any shady places that had poker. If you were expecting something akin to Doyle Brunson's travels through the south back in the 50's and 60's where he and his friends visited a bunch of shady places that spread poker, I'm sorry to disappoint you. After all it was the 90's and why risk getting cheated or robbed when you can go to a clean establishment.

To be continued... including how I met my wife and how I officially started my poker career.


  1. what would it take for me to be ur disciple?

  2. This is a great blog. Enough said.

  3. What a great story. Interesting that you just started posting it now.

  4. Thanks guys. I never plan ahead when it comes to posting stuff on my blog...usually just comes down to what's on my mind at the time. Once in awhile I have an idea that would make for a decent read. I actually had a different topic I was going to write about but right when I started writing, it just occurred to me that maybe writing about my road trip that started it all may be interesting and went w/ it.

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