City of Chicago Skyline

4 Fabulous Days in the City of Chicago

Last month my daughter and I visited the city of Chicago in celebration of her high school graduation. While I had been to the city of Chicago twice before, both were very brief trips.  I have always considered Chicago one of my favorite US cities.  However, my impression was based largely on walking around the Loop, visiting the Art Institute, and taking the architectural boat tour. Fortunately, my limited positive experience held up.

Chicago is America’s most miraculous achievement: a business, artistic, intellectual and cultural mecca 1,500 miles from any ocean. There are so many great things to do in Chicago. The museums, attractions, and experiences are as great as those in any American city. The number and variety of restaurants is impressive. And there are numerous places to stay, from budget to luxury. If you’re looking for accommodations, AllTheRooms offers a search engine which will show all of your options, from hotels to hostels all in one place, and recommends some of the best. I’m happy to say that my daughter and I had a fabulous time in the city of Chicago. And if you follow in our footsteps, I guarantee that you will as well.

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Keene Casino Poker Room

Keene Casino Poker Room Review

The Keene Casino poker room lies on the periphery of the New Hampshire poker room scene.  Located in southwest New Hampshire, Keene draws  a completely different player-base than the highly competitive central-eastern region. Unsurprisingly, this gives it a distinctive character.

Unfortunately, we visited Keene Casino on a very slow Saturday (it was a very nice day in June).  We registered during the first level and were the 6th and 7th people to do so. Although management assured us that people would continue to buy in, the tournament maxed out at 9 entries.  No cash tables started while we were there. A couple of people wandered in and played blackjack. There were a lot of staff milling about with little to do. So this review should probably come with an “incomplete” stamp.

Setting and Non-Poker Amenities

The journey to Keene provides a pretty, bucolic ride. There are no major highways that run through Keene, so you’ll approach from one of the smaller New Hampshire country highways. Keene itself has about 23,000 residents and is the seat and largest city of Cheshire County.  As with many former mill towns of New England, the area swooned with the manufacturing declines of the 20th century.

Keene has successfully recreated itself into an artsy, bustling destination. It is now a quaint college town (Keene State College and Antioch University New England are located there) amidst the scenic Monadnock mountain region. Although there are signs that Keene is still in transition. Several storefronts on Main Street are looking for tenants, and social services buildings abound.  On the other hand, there are a number of interesting restaurants and clearly an active arts culture.

The Keene Casino poker room is housed in an attractive brick building a half mile west of Main Street.  Directly across from the front door is the Elm City Brewing Company. Inside, the poker room is no less attractive, with a brick interior and skylights in the ceiling.  The 4 table cash area is on the first floor, has an all glass sunroom with roulette and blackjack tables. Upstairs is on open loft with a 6 table tournament area. The wood beams further the rustic warm appeal.  It is definitely the sunniest card room we have ever played in. However, the random clutter propped up against the walls does distract from the positive feng shui a bit.

There was space for a restaurant and bar.  But there was so few players, and little eating, that it’s hard to assess food quality and service issues. A waitress did not visit the table at any point during our play.

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College Tuition Savings Challenge

The $6,000 College Tuition Savings Challenge

The specter of college tuition has been breathing down my neck for several years now. I, like many parents, spent my daughter’s high school years living in dread that she would get into her dream school, but that financial aid would fall short of what we could actually afford. If you are also looking down the tunnel at a potentially sizable college tuition, this challenge is for you.

In April, my daughter did get into her dream college. Fortunately, the financial package was very generous. College tuition might not be the massive financial hit I feared after all.

The College Tuition Situation

Starting in September, my daughter will be attending a school whose ticket price for tuition, room, board, and fees is north of 70K. I know that sounds crazy-town. But after the school’s hefty scholarship offer, my daughter’s reasonable student loans, and some grandparent contributions, the  out of pocket cost to my ex-wife and I is only about $18,000.

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5 Best Poker Movies of All Time

5 Best Poker Movies of All Time

Poker movies just don’t get it right most of the time. Poker is a fascinating game filled with great real life characters. Doyle Brunson, Stu Unger, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Scotty Nguyen and Daniel Negreanu to name just a few. What’s even more amazing is that most small stakes poker rooms are filled with more of the same. Complex, interesting characters that can’t possibly be real. Only they are.

Despite such a rich landscape, there are precious few good poker movies.  Sports like boxing, basketball, and baseball have produced a stunning number of good films. But poker seems to be resistant to the movie genre. There may be more good chess films than quality poker movies.  There are a few nuggets out there, and we hope the recent release of Molly’s Game brings renewed interest, but it won’t take you very long to work your way through the entire poker oevre.  We think these five movies are the best out there. And we’ll be watching and re-watching them until we can live our own poker travel dream.

5. Big Hand for a Little Lady

Big Hand for a Little Lady portrays the Western archetypal spin on poker with a side of comedy.  The iconic American journey of a couple and their son moving west to buy a farm (of course) near San Antonio is interrupted by a poker game in Laredo (where else?).  Meredith (Henry Fonda) is a recovering gambling addict who wanders into a, you guessed it, saloon. He extracts permission from virtuous wife Mary (Joanne Woodward) to watch a high stakes poker game. You can probably guess where it goes from there.  Meredith enters the game, ends up putting the entire family fortune at risk. Then there is a big hand….and the “little lady” takes over when Meredith suffers a sudden attack.

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Manchester Poker Room Table 2

Manchester Poker Room Review

The Manchester Poker Room and Casino is one of the longstanding members of the active New Hampshire poker scene. Among the larger, most active rooms (15 or more tables) in the state it occupies a unique niche.  It is the one room without a competitor within several miles.  Less than half an hour south in Nashua the Boston Billiards Club and Casino is yoked with The River Casino. Newcomers Chasers and Cheers lie two miles apart, battling it out in Salem. While over on the coast, about 40 minutes East, the Hampton Falls and Seabrook poker rooms compete for both cash and tournament players.

But in the center of  southern New Hampshire, the Manchester Poker Room and Casino stands alone. The room shows signs of that independence: confident, unique, but perhaps a bit insular. All told, Manchester offers an alternative poker experience in New Hampshire.

Setting and Non-Poker Amenities

The Manchester Poker Room is just a minute off Route 293, an offshoot of route 93, the major north-south expressway that bisects New Hampshire.  Despite its geographic convenience, when you leave the highway it’s a bit tricky to find.  The poker room sits behind a set of retail stores, and its sign is not very prominent from the road.

South Willow street is packed with strip malls, fast food outlets, car dealerships, and gas stations.  On the opposite side of Route 293 is the Mall of New Hampshire. So if you have shopping and dining needs, you will be well-served in the immediate area.

The poker room used to be a small movie theater and retains tell-tale remnants of that history, such as box office windows.  The Poker Room shares the building with the Manchester Bingo Room. The poker room itself hosts a few table games as well.

The South Side Tavern also lies between Manchester’s two separate poker rooms, and provides food and beverages to the poker rooms. The Tavern’s menu is extensive, with a wide array of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, pasta, pizza, and dinner entrees. We have not eaten there, but we have heard positive reviews of the food. A full bar is available, and the tap and bottled beer selection looked good. You won’t go hungry or thirsty here!

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