Monday, June 22, 2009

Let's talke Vegas meetups FINAL

I leave for Vegas in five hours and I am not sure how my internet situation is going to be in the next week so this is probably my last post on the 25th meetup. We never set any definite hours, but based on the discussion I'll throw this schedule up that I think will work for most so if you're coming to part or all of the festivities here it is:

June 25th

4 p.m. Blogger mixed games at the IP. If no one shows up this early at least I will be around playing some 1/2. Look for the dumb looking white as a sheet guy in the beige old school WSOP cap.

9 p.m. Leave IP for the Hooker Bar at the Rio for drinks and revelry.

11 p.m. Head to the Gold Coast for some late night bowling. Bring your $20s to destroy Dan "Wolfman" Michalski at bowling prop bets.

See you there!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Mission Trip: Into a Foreign Land

I have taken my time getting to this trip report simply because it is hard to write. No words, no pictures, no first-hand account can fairly describe the magnitude of the poverty in Nicaragua or the emotional impact it had on those who took this mission trip. It was particularly tough on me because I had never undertaken such a project as many in the group had done.

Because of the late start typing up this report I may not finish it before I leave for Vegas, so I might conclude it while in Vegas or after I get back. I just hope you will read it whenever I do get it all together because I hope in some small way this might spur you to take some action to help your fellow man. I know I've been searching my brain since I got back, trying to deal with the mixed emotions I am feeling. To be honest it's been hard to get "up" for Vegas because I keep thinking about the people we met and the situations in which they live while I enjoy the cool air-condtioning of my home while drinking my morning coffee and playing Scrabble on my computer...and then I head off to Vegas. It seems overly extravagant after spending more than a week in Nicaragua.

The first day was an early one, as we met at our church, Trinity United Methodist (less than two blocks from Bryant-Denny Stadium) at 2 a.m. for the drive to Atlanta. It saved us almost $200 per ticket to fly out of Atlanta instead of Birmingham so we made the three-hour commute over the state line, beating rush hour traffic for our 8 a.m. flight.

From Atlanta we flew to Miami (first time there for me, although just being in the airport doesn't really count) where we waited more than three hours for our next flight. Our already long day was made longer when our flight to Managua was delayed for nearly two hours. Our plane to Managua was the largest in which I had ever ridden, with three seats on each side and a middle row of four seats, and it was nearly full. Having never flown in one of these, it made me think of the "movie" planes. Note how movies set on planes never take place on one of those six seats per row types.

We finally arrived in Managua late in the afternoon after a two and a half hour flight. After going through customs (much easier leaving the U.S. than it is entering it, more on that later) we met our bus driver, Juan Pablo. That's him on top of the van loading our stuff.

Our pastor, Wade, has worked with Juan Pablo since he took his first mission trip here earlier this decade. The two have worked together several times since then. Not only does Juan Pablo drive us around, but he is also active in the home construction, having been a construction worker in his younger years. He is very friendly and a true man of God. When we met him at the airport I reached down to shake his hand and he gave me a big hug. Juan Pablo's English is about on par with my Spanish, which means he won't be giving speeches anytime soon. We also met the second local member of our team, Tonia, who would be our translator on the trip.

We loaded up and headed on the two-hour drive to Leon, the cultural capital of the country, a city once considered to be the capital itself. Our final destination would be Chacraseca, one of the poorest areas of what is considered the poorest country in Central America. As we traversed the streets of Managua, we came across several kids begging. We passed out a few coins and snacks, but were told that adults often farm out kids to beg for them. There were few traffic lights, as drivers here just tend to sort out the traffic details themselves, creating some hairy situations.

We drove through the countryside, spotting several volcanoes in the distance. Most of them are dormant, but some have erupted in recent years, killing people in their wake. Most of the volcanic areas are remote and sparsely populated, however.

We arrived in Leon and dined in a local restaurant, which would be one of the last fancy meals we would eat in a while. One thing I learned was that Coca-Cola tastes the best when it's poured out of a glass bottle in a foreign land.

After our meal we headed down bumpy dirt roads to our final destination, the Casa de Paz in Chacraseca. Created by a nun in the 1980s, the Peace House serves as a boarding house for missionaries in the area doing projects. It would be our home for the next week.

That's team member Wes on the left, our translator Tonia in the middle and Wade on the right.

We got to the Peace House at about 10 p.m., after 20 hours of travel. We were all dead tired and quickly got out sleeping clothes out of our bag. The room for the men was tightly packed with bunk beds and storage containers so four of us decided to sleep outside.

It was much cooler out here on the porch, and as we prepared to bed down for our first night it began to rain. The drops hitting the tin roof made a peaceful sound that quickly put us all to sleep.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vegas plans

It's now five days and counting until my trip to Vegas Monday afternoon and night. I always like to fly in at night if possible, when the city is lit up and at its most beautiful. It's a tough adjustment to go from the mindset I had in Nicaragua to get my poker game face on for Vegas, but I have this week to prepare. Watched some Ocean's 11 Tuesday, probably watching my old 2004 WSOP event DVD later this week.

Like many of you, I've had some problems with the recent money grab by the feds, but it looks like I'll be able to get my bankroll out and ready to play next week. I hope that this overstep by the NY DA's office will actually help our cause and make the good folks of Congress realize that peer-to-peer online poker (the new buzzword) should be legalized and regulated in the United States.

We made some tentative plans for the 25th, but I would like to nail down some definite (or at least good estimated) times for anyone else who might decide to join us. (I've also sent this as an email to the people who have expressed an interest in this.)

What time do we plan to start playing mixed games at the IP? I figure we ought to cut it off around 9 or so to move west for drinking and bowling. My thoughts are to drink at the Hooker Bar at the Rio as some in the group may have never been to the "legendary" setting, and it might be easier to pick up more for our group among those working at the WSOP. Spend some time there and then walk over to the Gold Coast for bowling. Thoughts?

I recently heard that my good friend Brian and another friend are coming out to Vegas for a couple of days, something like June 28-30. We are planning on playing some poker tournaments at Binion's on the 28th and Venetian on the 29th. If I recall correctly, this will be the first time Brian and I set foot in Binion's at the same time since our first trip to the WSOP in 2004.

By the way, people have left comments or emailed me about helping me with my link and color issue. Please send any helpful hints my way as I am HTML deficient. I have been trying to change my background color in the main heading so that it matches the color of my sidebar, but it always seems to go back to the default color when I preview the changes. What do I need to do to get the colors the same for the main and sidebar? Thanks for the help, and continue to send feedback regarding the 25th.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back from Nicaragua

First of all, thanks to the very kind donations and well wishes from all who contributed. This trip was an amazing, amazing experience. Words and pictures truly cannot describe the conditions and my emotions and experiences in a just manner, but I will post the best trip report I can over the next several days.

I see I have missed a very interesting week in online poker, with the seizure of players' money. How sick is it to think that my own money is safer in an offshore online poker account than it is in the hands of the federal government? Oh wait, never mind...

It is unfortunate that this has occurred here at WSOP time although highly unlikely the timing is coincidental. There are an awful lot of $10,000 checks floating around in the ether, you know. I am surprised by the lack of articles I have seen in poker media on how this could affect main event turnout. It certainly affects me as I now have to scramble around to gather up the bankroll I need for my Vegas trip that begins next Monday. I hope everyone is still able to make it out to Nevada who planned to. Meetup post coming.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Nicaragua mission trip

As some of you who have talked to me recently know, I am soon embarking on a mission trip with Trinity United Methodist church here in Tuscaloosa to Nicaragua where we will be helping to build a house for a family and donating money to a project to bring clean water to thousands more families in the Chacasecra area. We have done a number of fundraising projects toward this effort and have been quite successful. However, each of us is tasked with our own personal fundraising to pay for the trip and I am kindly asking if any of you could help me in this regard. $5, $10, $20, anything you can give will be greatly appreciated and I will email you a receipt for the tax deduction when I return. Any donations can be sent to me via PayPal at I will hammer some nails in your honor.

Thank you very much and God bless.

Johnny K.

Veteran Vegas tips

Here's another one I put together last month that may not run anywhere. Perhaps in the next issue of Rounder. Here's a sneak peek, just in case:

Veteran tips for the WSOP

By Johnny Kampis

I’ve been traveling to Las Vegas for the WSOP every year since 2004, and with so many players new to the game it practically makes me a veteran. Having navigated my way through the halls of the Rio and the streets of Sin City without going broke, I felt I could provide some tips for those making their first trip to Vegas for the WSOP. Even if you’ve been a time or two I hope these tips will provide some help for survival in the poker jungle.

Make a plan of attack before you go. Before flying into McCarran Airport, learn all you can about the WSOP and other poker options in Las Vegas. Which WSOP events would you like to play? Can you afford them? Should you try to satellite your way in? How about the cash games? There are a number of other tournament series taking place concurrently with the WSOP with lower buy-ins. Consider playing in some of these during your trip. I like to look at all of the tournament schedules and see which events work best for me on each day and make my own tentative playing schedule during my trip. My plans always change somewhat, but it gives me a good roadmap from which to start.

Pace yourself and your bankroll. First, make a budget and stick to it. If you have $5,000 to take to Vegas to play at the WSOP for two weeks don’t blow through it and take out another $5,000 at the ATMs. The key to this is to pace yourself. If you hop off the plane, throw your bags on the hotel bed and head to the nearest $2/$5 NLHE table enjoy yourself, but if you lose $500 right off the bat go take a break. Don’t lose a big chunk of your bankroll the first couple of days after you arrive or you may end up going broke during the middle of your trip if your luck doesn’t turn.

Don’t get star struck. If this is your first trip to the Amazon ballroom the WSOP can be overwhelming. The room is big, really big – 200 plus tables big. You’ll see many of the poker stars that are regularly on TV and if you enter some bracelet events you may be pitted against some of them. Always remember, though, that you’re still sitting at a standard looking poker table and playing with the same standard 52-card deck. It’s like the scene in “Hoosiers” when Coach Norman Dale has his players measure the height of the hoop in Indianapolis – still the standard 10 feet. The competition may seem greater, but the game is still the same.

Enjoy the city. Especially if this is your first trip to Vegas, please don’t spend all your time at the poker tables. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest cities in the world and I look forward to the trip every summer. There is so much to see and do here that you should definitely soak it in rather than play cards all day and night. See a show, walk through some casinos and hit the clubs. That being said…

Watch out for the dark side. By that I mean the pit games. Many a poker player has lost a good portion of his bankroll at blackjack, craps, pai gow, and so on and so forth. By all means enjoy yourself with a little table game or slot action, but don’t blow a healthy percentage of your bankroll on the games where you are bucking impossible-to-beat house odds.

Follow this practical advice and I hope you hit it big in Vegas this summer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's over... more ways than one.

The Battle of the Bloggers Tournament Series 4 is now in the books, at least the regular season is, with the postseason coming up Sunday. It was another dandy and I plan a complete wrap-up and awards aplenty after the TOC and my trip to Nicaragua.

Great finish Sunday. QueensUp had won back-to-back events to take over the May and overall points leads, but HighOnPoker came in third in Brit Blogger and neither made the points in the Big Game so HOP was able to reclaim the lead and the May win. I still had a chance to retake my overall points lead with a final table run in the Big Game after not being able to play in the Brit Blogger, but my 12th place finish was not enough and I ended up 12 points behind QueensUp. Congrats to QueensUp and HighOnPoker for their respective wins.

Because his week was so strong last week, I give the Week 13 Player of the Week award to QueensUp (but don't worry HOP there are MORE awards to come later this month). Sorry Brian, I am lazy today and did not update a graphic for you...

Al posted today that this marks the end of not just the BBT4, but the BBT in general, but all good things must eventually come to an end. I think we all knew this gravy train wasn't going to run forever. I personally did not become involved until last year for BBT3, which I think was the first really big year with points standings and many, many prizes. Obviously, I have been very fortunate in my results in winning March and May in BBT3 and April in BBT4 (heh, does that make me a Triple Crown winner?) and the writing prize last time. If not for a one outer by Loretta8 against me in the TOC last year I may have also won another $10,000. There is still, however, a chance of that this year.

I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at the six months of results over BBT3 and BBT4 to see how everyone stacked up against one another (and, yes, as a total brag on my part because I knew going in what the numbers would show). I saw how many players from BBT3 were scarce or non-existent (or just plain ran bad) this year and how others came on the scene in full force in BBT4. Here is the top 10 points leaders for the last two BBTs combined:

1. Tuscaloosa John 3,776
2. Shabazz Jenkins 2,634
3. heffmike 2,480.5
4. QueensUp/PokerBrian 2,442.8
5. twoblackaces 2,220.3
6. lucko21 2,203.6
7. lightning36 2,128.4
8. NumbBono 2,023.8
9. hoyazo 1,941.8
10. ChippyMcStacks 1,879.2

Yep, total brag. ;)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Let's talk Vegas meetups Part 4

So the 25th seems to work for several people. I was hoping to send out an email soon with everyone's email and phone numbers for easier communication, so if you want to be on that list and haven't given me your contact info do email me at If you don't want your phone number disseminated among the group please say so. (And if you want CK's SSN shoot me a line.)

Here is who I think are "yeas" among BBT players--

APOSEC72, I have email and no number
SmBoatDrinks, email and no number
Queens Up, got all yours
Lex Luther, no contact info
CK, don't think I have any for you either

Oh, and feel free to also share your first name if you want. Hi, I'm Johnny.

We should have others join us as well. Perhaps some CELEBRITY POKER BLOGGERS!!!

I had suggested dinner, then a handful of hours of mixed games, then drinks and bowling at the Gold Coast (or drinks at the HB in the Rio, the moving over to GC perhaps). CK thought that might be packing in too much, and she may very well be right. I believe her thoughts were skip dinner, go straight to mixed games, then drinking and bowling. I guess it all depends on how much time everyone has and how long they wish to do each activity. Let's start hammering out a more definite schedule so folks will know when to be where. Please leave some comments with timeline suggestions.