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Posted by on Jul 24, 2014 in Blog, Rants and Raves, Travel | 3 comments

Rental Car Hell

 

2012-Toyota-Prius-Dashboard

 

I don’t fly on discount airlines and sleep in cheap hotels just to amuse you.  I reluctantly torture myself to save money for far more meaningful priorities — like booze and gambling (not necessarily in that order).

But each time I cut corners, something really bad seems to happen which makes me blow a fuse and I end up writing and ranting about it.

And so here I am.  My story begins two hot and sticky summer nights ago when I arrived in humidity-drenched Dallas at way past midnight, long after the rental car location was supposed to close.

Of course, my flight was late.  Which always seems to happen when you have somewhere to go and important people to meet.

Fortunately, Hertz Rent-a-Car did the right thing.  They left the light on for me.  Making a reservation does offer some guarantees.

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Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in Blog, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 2 comments

Review: Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse Barbecue (Dallas)

 

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Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse Barbecue is one of those hidden dives in a lousy part of town that serves not only outstanding food, but also once institutionalized a specific cuisine and way of cooking.

It’s been a Dallas mainstay since 1910.  The original store opened on Inwood Road and Mockingbird Lane, near Love Field Airport, adjacent to Parkland Memorial Hospital, notable because that’s where President Kennedy was pronounced dead all those years ago.

Several other locations have opened up since then — all of them in Dallas.  Why they don’t expand to other markets is a mystery.  I think this establishment and recipe would drive every all the other frauds out of business.  The original family that started the grand tradition of smoking beff retains ownership.  Moreover, the Bryan Family has maintained the same cooking techniques that made this place world-famous.  It’s been featured on The Travel Channel, The Food Network, and in all the popular cuisine press — justifiably so.

Every time I go back to Dallas, I try to make at least one trip to the best (beef) barbecue place in the world — and that’s Sonny Bryan’s.

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Posted by on Jun 12, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Travel, Video 1, World Series of Poker | 0 comments

Uneasy Rider: Alexander Villegas’ Amazing Journey Across America on a Dirt Bike

 

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If given the chance, most of us would love to do what Alexander Villegas did.

He just spent the past 16 days and just as many nights crossing the American continent on a motorcycle.  Not riding on smooth paved roads or crusing interstates littered with gas stations and junk food joints.  But rather scaling hills on dusty backroads, often far from familiar comforts of civilization.

There’s a certain romanticism attached to the thought of just turning loose and letting it all go.  Imagine putting your life on hold for a while, saying to yourself that your problems can wait, and instead living it as it should be experienced.  How often do we get a chance to do that?  How many of us make time for such a journey?

Alex did.  He’s better off for it, and now so are we, for the privilege of reading about his amazing story.

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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Blog, Rants and Raves, Travel, Uncategorized | 3 comments

The Kindness of Strangers

 

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“All people are the same; only their habits differ.”

― Confucius

 

I’m unaccustomed to the kindness of strangers.

What this means is, people being nice to each other, just for the sake of being nice.  Gasp!  Imagine that.

Fargo, North Dakota is a place where people behave nice to each other, just for the sake of being nice.  The locals here seem kinder than other cities and towns where I’ve been.  Other places share these same virtues, I suppose.  But there seems to be something special about Fargo, where I’m visiting this moment, and I’m going to tell you a short and simple story which happened while I was here.  Perhaps this common, yet so utterly uncommon experience, reveals something insightful about this special place and the people who were raised here.  Who knows, maybe kindness might even be contagious, sparking some of that same magic in other places.

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Posted by on Mar 26, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Travel | 1 comment

News from “Poker Night in America” at Maryland Live Casino (Baltimore)

 

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The typical “Poker Night in America” production meeting.

 

We just completed our fourth “Poker Night in America” television shoot, this time at Maryland Live Casino.  It’s located about halfway between Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD.

Although I spent 12 years in the area — this was new experience for me.  Back when I lived here, more than a decade ago, there were no legal casinos.  There were no public poker rooms.  Every poker player who lived in the National Capitol area was forced to commute up to Atlantic City (three hours away), usually on weekends.

Well, times have changed.  Consider this.  In terms of sheer volume (overall number of games per week), Maryland Live Casino is now the second-busiest poker room in North America.  The Commerce Casino in Los Angeles is still the biggest, by far.  Maryland’s position is impressive, especially for a poker room that’s been open for less than a year.

Of course, Maryland Live Casino has a lock on all the poker action stretching all the way from Northern Virginia (a sprawling urban area), the District, Mongomery County, Prince George’s County, then all of Baltimore City and the suburbs, all the way up to near the Delaware border.  That’s about 6-7 million people within a two-hour drive.  The casino is jammed, especially on weekends.

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