Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Vicky Lustrum

How awesome is the word lustrum? It means half-decade. Get more time-period names here.

I might as well type it out while it's all still fresh. Today marks the end of a 5 year relationship. Vicky is the third girl I've ever truly loved. The first being Lily and the second being Linda.

When I first met Vicky my past really shaped the person I was. I was all about Single Life, and honestly I was pretty jaded and hardened from my past. Because Vicky is a masochist or likes puzzles (or who knows why), she decided to get involved with me and figure me out. It was a long process but she really managed to break down my barriers and got to know me better than anyone else ever has. Once we figured out we were a good match we decided we'd stay together as long as our relationship was healthy, happy, and productive. It was. For a very long time too. I look back on our relationship and I see two people in their twenties figuring out their lives and growing and learning off of each other. The way I like to think about it is: we weren't perfect for each other for the rest of our lives, but for that moment in time we were exactly what the other person needed.

When you're doing all this learning and growth it's natural to change as people. That's the point, it's expected. I'm not talking small change (liking new foods or whatever), but I'm talking about real change from deep within. The stuff that shuffles up your core values and makes you evaluate the things that truly matter to you in both life and relationships.

If you manage to stay together through all that change then I guess you're meant to be. Sometimes you grow too far apart. When the realization hits that you aren't meat to be with each other it's time to move on. We knew each other so well and we both saw the writing on the wall... signs too obvious to ignore. As it turns out, breaking up is much easier when both people see things the same way. It's not a surprise that my best relationship also had the best breakup.

I'm less than a few hours removed from uttering the words, "It's unfortunate I couldn't love you the way you wanted me to... but that doesn't mean I didn't love you with everything I had."

Vicky I know you'll end up reading this and I really do hope you find what you're looking for. With you I've learned that real relationships are worth having. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurting a bit, but like my entry about grief, I don't want to be unhurt by it all. Feeling hurt and sadness means that I felt some great things in the past... and for that I'm grateful. My world is still somewhat spinning around but as I type this out I feel a sense of calmness and relief washing over me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Card Counting: Beyond the Game

The third Entry in my series of Card Counting.

Card counting is not only great because you make money in the long run, but Casinos operate on a system of "comps." From a business perspective: it's a loyalty program that rewards people for gaming at the same place (or family of casinos).

They will give out players cards to anyone in order to send advertisements in the mail and coupons for stays. On top of this though - players cards are used to determine complimentary services that can include everything from your hotel stay, meals, or other amenities that the casino offers. Contrary to popular belief, the amount casinos comp is not tied to how much you lose. It's actually tied to statistics that are easier to track - buy-ins, average bets, and time spent.

These statistics are great for card counters, because we're often spending large amounts of time at the table waiting for favorable counts. While a pit bosses main job is to resolve issues, manage the dealers, and prevent blatant cheating, they also track your average bet and buy-ins on screens connected to the tables.

Keeping players fed, drunk, and close to the action is favorable for Casinos for obvious reasons. For counters this is a great way to enjoy the process of Card Counting which would otherwise be a very grindy process.

To make it fun for myself I get to know the dealers, pit bosses, and the players to turn the experience into a social one. Also in order to mask the fact that I card count I act like your typical superstitious blackjack player that believes in streaks or other non-math based things that don't truly effect you. I'll act bothered or happy when someone hits or stands incorrectly. I'll talk about luck or "felling it" as an excuse to bet big or walk away when I feel that it's a good stopping point.

With all my entries on Card Counting it may seem like it's easy or that you're guaranteed to win every single time and if any card counter tells you that then you know they don't know what they're doing. What makes card counting profitable is playing perfect and consistent over a long period of time. I do have losing sessions and I do track my winning and losing. With the amount that I bet (conservative) I do not make enough to sustain myself as a "professional player." The better game right now to play professionally is probably poker as that is a much more consistent game where you can consistently outplay opponents. That being said, blackjack is also a great table game when played correctly and if you're gaming the comp system it can lead to a fun and profitable experience in the long run.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

American Pharoah and the Triple Crown

As a person who lives in San Diego and frequents the Del Mar Race Track, I've always enjoyed going to the races and betting on horses.

First of all what is the Triple Crown? There are three races: Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes which are the three biggest races of the year. Only the elite horses are invited to participate and it's a rare feat for any single horse to win multiple of these events due to the fact that the races are held within weeks of each other. The Triple Crown is awarded to a single horse that wins all three races. Since 1875 there have only been 12 horses to ever accomplish the feat:

Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), and American Pharoah (2015)

Since Affirmed in 1978 there have been 13 unsuccessful bids (winning both Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but failing at the Belmont) at a Triple Crown. Since I've started watching horse races I can remember two heavily favored horses to attempt the Triple Crown and both Big Brown and California Chrome came up short in the end. Finally, last Saturday, I got to see a Triple Crown in my lifetime.

The horse alone is such a great story which I'm sure will eventually be turned into a movie. Beaming with character, American Pharoah has tons of unique traits: His sweet temperament, short tail, and overcoming an injury early in his career. "Pharoah" has a permanent but inadvertent misspelling in his name. The owners are Arab, the jockey is Mexican, the trainer is an old white man, and the horse has "America" in it's name... American Pharoah embodies the United States.

So what does the Triple Crown mean for the sport? Well I suppose it depends on what you think of horse racing to begin with. For an average consumer of sports/news, it can be hard to relate to what my friend calls "a bunch of billionaires racing their ponies." There's also a camp that claims the sport is animal abuse. To clarify (this is fact) not all owners are millionaires and certainly not all the people involved are millionaires. From equine nutritionists to the stable and barn hands to the track photographers and judges all the people involved are typically there because they love the sport or they love horses. Also (this is opinion) these horses lead fantastic lives and are cared for better than your average human being... but that'll be a rant for another time.

The Triple Crown, no matter how you look at it, is good for the sport. For some it will get them into horse racing when they otherwise wouldn't. Perhaps a young jockey will be inspired by the story and generosity Victor Espinoza. Perhaps a trainer or an owner will take their passion to the next level. For a large majority it's a small blip on the radar but it's a reason to celebrate because we got to witness a fun, unique, and rare experience.