Our first trip of the year, and we get the train for 2 hours all the way to Paris.
Weather was very good albeit chilly and despite the press suggesting the city had been closed since before the holidays, we managed to get around using public transport with no problems.
In short , a lot of walking and some amazing eating including the 15 euro cake (amazing), the savory buckwheat crepe with Egg, ham and mushrooms. Also amazing. And lastly a perennial favorite for us travelling to the French capital, Dim sum in the Galeria Lafayette.
Due to poor planning by British Airways we had to cancel a holiday to Dominican Republic and find somewhere else sunny and relaxing.
We decided on the Middle East. Somewhere we both know very well through work , but we hadn’t been to AD (together) since about 2006, so assumed it had changed a bit if the ever increasing size of Dubai was anything to go by.
We landed at about midnight, so it was collect the car, hit the hotel and it’s bedtime. A quick look around suggested standard top end ME hotel. Massive lobby, lots of staff buzzing around and copious gold fittings.
Our room was very nice, and quite sizable, with separate bathrooms, his and her sinks, and full wall windows. We were lucky enough to be on an”exec” floor meaning we didn’t have to go to a restaurant for breakfast, got snacks during the day and a few free beers pre dinner in the evening.
We did two trips during our stay, both recommended. One was the Formula One track your. Very knowledgeable guide, and there was stuff happening on the track, as well as preparation for the upcoming AD GP. I won a competition to do a lap (driven) of the Drift course. Great fun, not as terrifying as it looks. It was on the actual F1 track. So if anyone spins off due to excess rubber on the north end of the track, apologies.
The other was the Grand Mosque. Not normally a visit for me but the scale of this place is amazing, and just the fact they can keep the whole building that clean and white in a desert is amazing in itself.
The drive down to Dubai was strange, There only seems about 15 miles of gap between the two now, where it used to be long periods of open desert.
We arrived at the palm in no time at all. I discovered the joys of valet parking this trip, so we dumped the car and got our room. Once again very nice, but no fancy extras, but a balcony. This was nice as the weather got cooler.
Very little sight seeing, as we have spent so much time there, but we did find some new places. The pointe, a shopping centre on the palm, not so fantastic but functional.But it has amazing views of the Atlantis Hotel at night. Bluewater is another “coastal” location, but has what will be the Dubai “Eye” being erected currently. It also houses Caesars Palace, which for a country with no casinos, caught me a little on the hop.
We did manage to join friends one day for a boat trip out from Dubai Marina to roughly the length of the palm. A little choppy out to sea, but a great experience.
Last but not least we went to Dubai Old city one night for dinner. Its quite ironic to knock down old buildings, build loads of new restaurants in the same shape buildings and reopen the areas as Dubai Old City. But no one ever said the place was not ambitious.
We also made our usual visit to the Burk Khalifa but didn’t go up this time.
The day before we left it rained. Hard. Very Hard. In fact some of hardest rain I have ever seen. When you live somewhere where you hardly ever see rain drainage is not top of the list. Therefore after an hour, there was some pretty serious standing water. I only have video so cannot put up here, but google recent rain in Dubai and you will see some interesting sites.
Great trip, next up the good ole US for Xmas. Maybe.
Recently went over to Canada for some R+R, and started in Calgary and , headed North up to Jasper and Canmore and some places in between. Had a great time but the photos are the winner here.
So heres some notes I did for someone else, and the photos:
Johnson Canyon near Banff. Bit tourist, made paths etc. 2 Waterfalls. Not the end of the world if you don’t get there, but worth taking a look if its quiet. I say that as its one way in and out, and if it’s busy I imagine a nightmare.
Peyto Lake. Just off the Icefields Parkway North of Banff. Short walk from the car park but the view is amazing. Once again could get chaotic if busy, but worth it.
Further north around Jasper you have Valley of the Five lakes. Proper hike for about 5 miles, not surprisingly, around 5 lakes. Some great views, nice bit of countryside. Bring mozzie repellent. By the state of me once we had finished, bears would have been welcomed !
Maligne Canyon. Bit touristy and made paths but worth the walk along ever increasingly deep canyons and water just crashing through.
Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Lake Louise is the jewel in the crown and has a 5 star hotel attached. We blagged our way into the hotel car park for nish, but they will let you in for $20 if it’s not too busy. Else it’s get lucky in the nearby public car park, or its a 7km park and ride. Canoes for $100 an hour. No thanks !
Moraine is close by and more normal and worth the short drive. Also has a shuttle service but we managed just to drive on in. I thought the actual view and lake was better at Moraine but seemed to be in the minority.
Grassi Lake. We went here on a recommendation from an old friend who now lives in Canmore, just outside of Banff, who we saw for dinner. I didn’t even know she lived there until 1 week before we left. Hadn’t even spoken to her in 10 years ! Any way. It’s a locals hike, quite a bit uphill with 2 amazing smallish lakes at the end, but the view of the main lake from the top of the hill is worth it as well. Bear country, take your spray.
If you fancy something more hardcore in that area, there’s Ha-Ling peak
Last month we were lucky enough to go to Japan for a week or so. Absolutely amazing place and somewhere I need to spend more time. We based ourselves in Tokyo and and had a day in Kyoto.
Central Tokyo like most cities is full of shops and offices, but the sheer amount of different shops they manage to pack into one building through vertical integration does give that feeling of claustrophobia. We were staying just outside the centre in the Hilton , which is more in the business district of Shinjuku which gave us some relaxation away from the neon and bustle.
To most who know me, I am an Londoner / Southerner, with an definitive accent to match. To those that really know me, I have a big ole family in the North of Scotland and that is where we ventured to over the Easter weekend, to see places old and new, and visit family and friends. To truly appreciate this area could take about a million photos, but heres some from that fantastic weekend. Also, who thought not having a mobile signal for 4 days could be so great. Click on the photos for a better view. All taken with an iphone 6
So part 2 of the Autumn travelogue series is Barcelona. What a place. I had been here several times but always work related not as a tourist. So this time we put this right in style.
Another first was our flight. We used Southend Airport. If they have your destination on the their flights, and you are in the South East, I would use it. So easy.
We stayed at Hotel Sixty Two which was a smallish boutique place on Passeig de Gracia. This means basically you are in the middle of everything. The main attraction in town is the Segrada Familia, a cathedral that has been over 120 years in the building and still has 30 to go. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi and is still being built to his initial designs, with successive architects taking on the challenge and adding a small amount of their own ideas as well. Hence most of my photos are from there. We also went to Casa Batllo on our last day but I seem to have no photos but it is another Gaudi masterpiece.
On with the photos.
Didnt know he had a shop there as well !
No idea what it was, but the recipents ordered 2 more !
James Bond Villain boat
Just another Gaudi building near our hotel
Casa Batllo from the roofgarden bar of the Majestic
roll up roll up
the sticker actually has a phone number of someone who wants to buy this
Things have been pretty busy, so this is late, and forms part one of a 3 part travelogue, covering Vegas, Barcelona, and Versailles. Here we go.
On Saturday we travelled via Seattle, and enjoyed 2 on time flights and actually got to Vegas 30 mins early, which was nice as we were meeting my Brother In Law, who had come down from Canada for the week, for his first trip.
Quick dash to the rental lot to pick up my Dodge Charger (nice win) and we checked in, at what is now becoming our second home. Excalibur.
I have decided to split this TR up as there was some actual poker playing taking place, so i’ll come to that in pt 2. This is more the regular trip report with some photos and tips thrown in.
Day 1: We arrive via a direct VIrgin flight kindly covered by my Virgin Miles, which is always good. We also scored some v.cheap Premium upgrades, so quite relaxed on landing. The easiest immigration run ever, gets us in the terminal in record time, and then 30 mins to wait for our bags.
We then headed off to pick up our car. I had ordered a focus, but for $96 got an upgrade to a Grand Cherokee. Seemed churlish not to take it , especially as the Focus became a Yaris on further discussion !
Quick checkin at the Excal, and we retire to the room ,and then head out for a gamble. Pretty average, but the Dos Equis are flowing, and life is good. We retire for an early night, and hopefully try and avoid the jet lag.
Day2: Awake at 5am ! what’s a man to do prior to going out shopping. Craps at 6am can be a lonely experience, so sacked it off in favour of some sorting of the Sat Nav for our various destinations for the week. Breakfast was taken at Mr Mamas (last seen here) . We had a bit of an experience which was a little unfortunate, but resulted in a free meal. I wont go into details, as they don’t deserve it. Hit the outlets for what was for us quite a quick shop, and we are back at the hotel for lunch MrsMrBen had some friends coming into town, so I managed to get across to the MGM to play some pokers with @lightning36 and @robvegaspoker . +$17 later I headed back for some more gambols back at the Excal.
Day 3, We start the day at IHop and a lazy morning. From there, I played in the TI 2pm poker tournament with lightning and although I lasted longer and made the final table, i ended up with zip payout. Shame. On the way back I went to our room, but no one was about. We were on the 27th floor, so i called the lift. The lift doors opened and I was greeted by a bemused couple and a slightly rotund, drunk ,tattooed Aussie girl, sitting on the floor, shouting out me, “You must be a VIP, the lift didn’t stop at our f***king floor” Well, thank you maam. Anyway the couple get out, and its me and Jabba. She is still shouting at me, and then gets up to leave when we do reach her floor. Her last words are “Are you Australian ?”. Now i am used to, although confused to being asked this by Americans, but you are an Aussie love. Really ? That night was pretty quiet, with a few quid changing hands between some table games.
Day 4 Today was take a drive day via Jamms for Breakfast, home of the pot o bread apparently, of which I had the banana and nutella version, which was very nice thanks. And we then headed out to the Red Rock Casino. Which if it was closer to the strip would be a firm favourite. The pool alone is worth it. We have a free night available there and will take it up on our next visit. Post a quick stop at Trader Joes (for peanut butter !) we head back via dropping off some fine English corn snacks and real Kit Kats to the lovely @LVA_Tweet That afternoon I found a slot machine that liked me. Approximately 40 minutes on max credits did my comps with MGM no harm and netted me about $170. The evening was a grown up affair. We went to a show (for free). Namely LOVE at the Mirage, a Beatles homage delivered by Cirque Du Soleil. Fantastic is all I can say. If you like your Beatles post 68 and colourful, this is for you. Not a bad seat in the house either. Post the show, MrsMrben was v.tired so hit the hay. I stayed up and played Drunken Black Jack with p3 which was funny, for me at least !!
Day 5 was Saturday and saw breakfast at Claim Jumper at Town Square. Good but not worthy of a Steak and Eggs challenge. No macbooks in the Apple store, so no good for me. I played in the 11am poker tournament at the MGM, and made it just past the break. boooo.Had a very good gamboool in the afternoon (about bloody time). The evening was back at base post dinner at Rice and Co, and late on while I was winning hard on the craps table, a less wobbly P3 appeared and another night of BlackJacks commenced, while MrsMrBen was out on a ladies night out, with another profit for yours truly. We are back on track.
Day 6 Breakfast at the buffet at the Aria. Always nice. But as it was comped I had to produce ID. No driving licence. What!!!. Anyone who has been to the states knows you need this all the time, if not more. Its always ID this, and ID that. Panic sets it as i munch through my brekkie. Where did I last use it. Town Square. So we head off back to mall and draw a blank. Bugger. We then try Rice and Co. They are closed but tell us that all lost stuff is handed onto Casino Security. We go down to the floor, and eventually I strike gold and am reunited with my new best friend from the DVLA. That afternoon we head off to Primm for a nose around. Don’t bother is the best review you will ever get for this place. Dead, dead, dead. But we did go on the rollercoaster at Buffalo Bills. On the way home we went to the SLS and sampled the fayre at the Northside Cafe . Great grub and a great price. PRO TIP. Every Sunday, one of the restaurants in the SLS is half price for players card holders (free). We were lucky, but will phone ahead next time !.
Day 7 Lost most of winnings in the morning, so rested up for the afternoon. Early even we took in some fine Filipino fast food at Chow King in Seafood City. From there we went our for a strip cocktail wander. First stop Double Barrel in the Monte Carlo, then onto the Aria. Things started to get a little messy, as the old fashioneds kept coming and fun was had. We then met up with a group of bods from BMW Canada, who plied us with more beer. Also met one of the senior guys from this set up who is a scouser. Odd !.
Day 8 was a comped breakfast at the Bellagio buffet, which was quality as usual, but customer service was a little lacking. Not in numbers, we had a guy in our area, but he thought chatting up the two girls on their own was way more preferable than doing his job. For the whole time we were there. Back to the MGM and the poker tables with P3 for what will become the famous Aces folded session (more next time). We had more friends come in that evening so we had another adult night with more cocktails in the Aria and dinner at Julien Serranos. After dinner, I hit the Vegas wall. Hard. More than Hard. I went straight home and bed, pre 10pm. Hard.
Our last day was quite relaxed, with some more poker (solo) in the Excalibur and a decent profit, and then back into the comfy premium seats for the 10 hr flight home. Only one slight issue , was the call over the plane intercom of “Is there a doctor on board?” Luckily there was , and even luckier it wasn’t for the pilot. One of the Flight Attendants had taken a turn and was out cold in the galley. As we didn’t land in the States and ploughed on to Gatwick I’ll assume alls well, that ends well.
This ones a bit late, but I have some time on my hands and blogging about West Ham is getting a bit samey and monotonous. The Man City game was one of the worst performances of the season, but hey Sam’s nearly gone now, so onwards and upwards.
On the Friday of Easter weekend my wife suggested that a weekend away would be just the ticket and 20 minutes later via British Airways website we had a nice well priced trip to Berlin booked.
Warning: This post is pure poker. If you are looking for West Ham , Travel stuff and or photos, please click the links at the top of the page.
During our recent trips to Vegas , I have one day to play the Aria free from the distractions that being a tourist (am I still a tourist ?) brings. This means A) Have a good breakfast, B) No Drinking, C) Get your game head on.
This was my 4th attempt at this tournament, and was one that I had not cashed at yet. This is not too much of a surprise, as it normally has 130+ runners and is of a decent standard (146 this day), and if I’m honest is a bit of a step up from what I’m used to. And I don’t play many tournies these days, or much poker to be honest.
So bearing in mind points B and C (post A) I drove down to the Aria and was ready, with ticket for 12.45. Table 2 was my starting place, and was a nice spot out of the way on the upper level, in seat 1.
This did actually prove to be a bit of a pain as due to comfy seats, you tend to relax a bit and not being over endowed in the height department, I found I couldn’t really see if seats 9 and 10 (8 and 9?) had acted. This appeared to annoy my first dealer, and so I asked him if the players down the other end could push their cards out a bit and we could move on. On the 3rd request the players got the idea and life was great.
Because of the decent blind structure, you can ease into this game and bide your time. What became apparent was that the 3 guys to my left were regulars, and one of the 3, 3 bet me with nearly every raise I did. OK fine, we lock down and wait for premium hands. There was a guy at seat 6 or 7, who seem to go in with weird hands and sucked out a couple of times and then took a bit of a beating to get back to his opening stack. I had him targeted as someone I could win off of as he didn’t seem to like laying down. So I had chipped up to about 14k after a couple of small wins and looked down at QQ. This guy had raised the 50/100 blinds to about 500 and my 3 amigos had already folded and I was on the button. Nice. I reraised to about 2100. He insta went all in for about 6 k. I called and he turned over j9 unsuited. Thanks. The board blanked both of us and I am at 20k and change. This and the fact I wasn’t playing many hands got me a tight image, and I had 22k at the first break with an average of 12.
Post the break we got 2 ladies at our table. one was OK, and the other was noisy as hell. She had some interior design business in SF, and found out that one of the guys worked for google in SF ,and was just bugging him for leads and work. Then she started talking about cars. She had a BMW Mini. As does my wife. This was a fatal mistake for me to mention as she then went on this chatter about how rare they were. Really? I can look out of my front door and see 3 (not all ours !). And I’ve seen enough in the US to know they are not “that” rare. If she said she had a Hillman Hunter fair enough. Anyway as well as talking she liked to be involved in every hand and that suited me. She was also talking about meeting someone, so I smelled someone who wanted out. AK was enough when she pushed all in preflop, without really taking too much notice of her cards. She had AQ, and I win the race to go to 43k. Another interesting character joins the fray. A (I think) young Mexican guy (YMG), who when faced with a diamond diamond flop and a bet from his opponent, just grabbed a pile of chips and put out a crazy raise (about 12k into a 3k pot). He then said while collecting his chips “I never like someone trying to hit their flush, so I have to block”. I manage to chip up to the second break to about 53k with the tournament average being 19k. This was after knocking out a short stack with 10 10 to their AJ os. I got a 10, they got one jack. Better than the day before where my 3 10’s got unlocked by a straight !
Anyway, we then move table for the next session , and I end up again with our new friend YMG. I get a hand, suited connectors 9 10d, but I have a pile of chips, so I put out a min raise in a late position. He calls, and 2 of us see the flop. I have him covered about 2/1. The board whiffs massive for me, but there are 2 clubs out there and an Ace and a 10. So I have a mid pair, but there is a potential for a flush draw (if I had clubs). YMG checks, I put out a 3/4 pot bet. He instantly pops about 22k in 500’s on the table. That’s about pot *5. I have nearly 50k behind to his now 14k. Remembering his earlier statement I shove. This puts him over the edge. He starts figeting and telling me i don’t have a hand yet. Normally I adopt a completely neutral stance in this position, but just to get at him even more, I just stare at him with a huge smile on my face. After about 40 secs he bought my “I Have Aces, not a flush” look, and folded. He was gutted as hell, and I have 63k. Things are going well. YMG in a fit of pique went all in with crap and left the table shortly after. Who would do that? Push all your chips in with rubbish? Madness ! Hehe.
After all this good luck comes bad, and I got a little carried away, called a 5k opener with Jacks, and then 3 bet him 15 K over his 5k cbet post flop. He then went all in. The board was high and I had to fold. Silly boy but I made uncharted territory and the 3rd break with 30k. There were at this point 30 people left and the money began at 15. Time to work.
Basically, working meant making some serious all-ins after another table change. They didn’t know me, and I have a small stack, but not small enough to make rash calls against. Chip , chip chip up to about 40k. Another table change, another shove this time AJ into KQ. Hit the A to go to 83k. Happy Mrben. Its time to float to the cash. But the blinds are 2/4k with 500 Antes . There are over 1m chips in play, so I am actually below average. Not floating available ! It doesn’t take long to be at 58k but there are only 19 people left. A couple of very small stacks leave and we get to the bubble.
Now I have an admission to make here. Everybody was asked if they wanted to donate $10 to the bubble fund. I have no issues with this at all, but the question was “Does anyone have an issue with donating 10 bucks to the bubble fund ?” So I, correctly said No. Someone on the other table heard me say no and started a commotion to his dealer (I pieced this all together later). This meant no bubble payment. Our table complained a bit and eventually, they got out the vote cards. We got 8 yes’s as did the other table and off we go. But I’m sure I created that mess. Apologies !
Anyway I get moved again and make break 4 with about 26 k. I now have a cowboy to my right who has bundles of chips (5k chips ? Not on my stack sir) and the blinds are 3k/6k/500. I manage to bluff (literally) my way along until the min cashes have gone. There are 12 left and the next payment is 240 odd. not quite what I expected for being in this long but better than a poke with a sharp stick. I have to move again and we are at 4k 8k 1k and I have about 30k in chips. This table has the world and his dog of big stacks, so its go hard or go home. I went home about 5 minutes later when my K9 all in gets beat by 99. Boooooo.
So that took about 7 hours, to not even double my money. I believe someone else has a better Aria story from a couple of days later, but we are to to see it Rob
So once I got over the initial disappointment of my ROI, I actually realised that I can read people reasonably well, and can play real poker (again) and will be back for this one later in the year.