Thursday, May 25, 2006

Return to the Big Easy

As terrible as the destruction in Biloxi was, the scene on either side of I-10 coming into New Orleans was somehow worse. After I crossed the long bridge over Lake Ponachatrain last Wednesday for my first trip to N.O. in a couple of years, I entered a twilight zone. Only a few buildings were torn down or gutted, as in Biloxi. I passed mostly empty houses with weed filled yards, huge empty parking lots and empty streets. The Chalmette area was among the worst flooded areas of the city and now looks like a post-apocolyptic ghost town. It stands as a sign of how far this city must come to return to some sense of normalcy.

The scene in New Orleans proper was not as depressing. While not filled with the hustle and bustle of old, Canal Street had its share of pedestrians and vehicles. Most of the ubiquitous convenience stores, camera shops and restaurants were now open and other prominent landmarks, like the Ritz-Carlton, plan to re-open in the coming months. I drove the several blocks from the interstate to the Harrah's parking deck and stowed my car for the weekend. Inside the Harrah's, it was business as usual -- or perhaps more than usual. Since several area landmarks had yet to re-open (such as the aquarium and IMAX) or were open with limited hours (such as Riverwalk, a shopping mall) the crowds seemed to be gathered at the casino.

Of course, hosting a major poker tournament can't hurt either.

If you've never been to Harrah's, let me inform you it's nice. Not Las Vegas nice, but quite nice compared to your average casino on or east of the Mississippi River. The poker room could use some expansion, as its 20 something tables were filled to capacity all weekend. I signed up for several games, including $1-$2 NL, after finishing Friday's tournament as was 74th on the list. Yikes.

The tournament was held in a theatre, away from the cash games and poker room. In the theatre, only tournaments, satellites and super satellites were taking place, and a bar was set up just outside. Overall, one of the nicer tournaments setups I've seen.

I sat down in a $2-$5 NL game Wednesday night and managed a nice haul thanks to some stones and another hit of the luck fairy's hooch. I was dealt T-6 in the BB and everyone limped. The flop came down T-6-J. I led out for $25 and the guy to my right called. A player with a huge stack pumped it to $125 and the action returned to me. As I had bought in for $300, a pretty paltry sum in this game I thought that either a) big stack thought he could muscle me out or b) he had a really big hand. I chose the former and pushed all in after thinking for a couple of minutes. The player to my left folded, but told the dealer to hold his cards for show after the hand. Big stack thought awhile and finally called, turning over KJ. My two pair held up and I took down a nice $600 pot. Meanwhile, my Cajun friend to the left told the dealer to turn over his hand -- ten, jack. Whew. He obviously put either me or big stack on pocket sixes. My lucky day.

I listened intently as Cajun explained his fold, and he really gave me a hard time after I told him where I was from. LSU and Bama don't have the friendliest of rivalries. The odd thing about the speech of Cajuns, is they sound a lot like someone from Jersey. How that came to be is anybody's guess as I don't think the French settled the northeast. Surely, my history teachers can't be wrong.

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