Florida Keys Turtle Hospital

6 Things Nobody Tells You About the Florida Keys

Paul and I are on a mini pilgrimage this week in southern Florida. We spent a couple of days in Miami playing poker, visiting the city and environs, and then drove down through the Florida Keys. In the weeks to come, we’ll share our adventures in Florida travel and poker. However, I couldn’t resist quickly jotting down some of the things that surprised us about the Florida Keys.

My image of the Florida Keys clearly was tainted by nostalgia and a failure to adequately research our destination. I imagined long open stretches of road with the ocean right out the car window. There would be sparsely populated islets peopled by fisherman and tiki bars featuring conch fritters. And after a three hour drive from Miami, we would arrive in the land of Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett. Key West, I thought, would be a bit touristy, but still a throwback to quieter times.

Nope!

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Our 10 Most Popular Posts of 2018

We headed out this week to Miami and the Florida Keys on our next poker/travel adventure.   We scrambled to finish last minute work tasks and remind ourselves how to pack for 10 days away. From this trip, we plan to add six more poker rooms to our list (room reviews to come!). But, while you patiently await those, we’d like to share our 10 most popular posts from last year. As 2018 was our first year of blogging, we’re guessing that many of you missed some of our earlier work. So, without further ado, here are our 10 most popular posts of 2018.

9 Truths We Have Learned in Our 12 Years of Remote Work

In this post, we shared some of the ups and downs of life after ditching the office. Many aspects of working from home are great.  Topping the list for us: not having a commute and jammies being the office dress code.  But there are pitfalls, such as realizing you’ve only taken 600 steps all day and that you can work ALL THE TIME.

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Single Day in Toronto - Casa Loma

A Single Day in Toronto

Spending a single day in a major city is the speed dating of travel. What can you report other than the city is “kind of attractive, and seems to have a decent personality”? However, after our day in Toronto, we had a love at first sight reaction. All four of our children liked it as well, with one of them coming away so enamored it instantly became her favorite city.

If you only have a single day in Toronto, here’s a quick game plan. If you have a more civil multi-day visit, these guidelines can give you a start as well. We visited Toronto in the middle of a week in Niagara falls with the kids (ages 12-20). For the poker players, Niagara has casino options on the American side, the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, and Canadian side, Casino Niagara. But take a break from the tables for a day and head up to Toronto for some culture, food, and fun. It’s a mere two hour drive up the road, and definitely worth a day visit.

The Toronto Metro System

Like everything in Toronto, the subway system is very clean, modern and convenient. The entire metro system is called the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and includes bus and streetcars along with the subway.  If in Toronto for a frantic day, grab a day pass, and, if you are traveling as a family, you can get group weekend day discounts.  Basically, park your car near your first landmark, and leave it for the day. In my visit to Chicago, I discovered SpotHero which allows you to reserve a parking garage spot ahead of time, usually at discount prices. Toronto offers a SpotHero subsidiary, Parking Panda.  We’d give that a shot. Or park at a TTC lot in the outskirts for $7 per day.

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Mohegan Sun Poker Room

5 Best Poker Rooms in New England

The New England poker rooms are our home turf. We’ve played at all of the major ones (10 tables or more), and several small rooms as well. Our go-to rooms have changed over the years, depending on budget, whether we were into cash or tournaments at the time, and staffing. Our very first go-to room, Rockingham, near Salem New Hampshire, no longer exists.

Nationally, the New England poker room scene has a lower profile than Florida, California, or Las Vegas. However, with 13 rooms less than a 2 hour drive from Boston, this region offers one of the most vibrant and diverse poker environments in the country. In southern New Hampshire alone there are seven decent to very good poker rooms within a 20 mile radius. With the Encore slated to open in Boston later this year, the  poker climate is only going to get richer in New England.

We have developed an approach to evaluating rooms, and written reviews of most of the New England poker rooms.  With dozens, if not hundreds, of New England poker room visits under our belts in the past few years, the time has come to name our favorites. We present them in no particular order, as some are favored over others for very different reasons.

The Poker Room at Hampton Falls

Why Top 5 in New England Poker Rooms?: The number of weekly tournaments, some with very good structures (see below). In fact, the best low-cost tournament structures in New England can be found not at Foxwoods or Mohegan sun, but right here in Hampton Falls. Hampton Falls has two levels, so the bigger tournaments have their own space downstairs apart from the cash and table games. The room is wood paneled, bright and airy and offers a nice atmosphere for tournament players. Finally, the floor managers at Hampton Falls are fabulous. We have not seen more professional, knowledgeable floors outside of a major casino.

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Weekend inPortsmouth - Music Hall

A Fabulous Winter Weekend in Portsmouth NH

Last month, in honor of one of those “big” birthdays, Paul and I spent a fabulous winter weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Portsmouth lies a little over an hour from our house. However, the real distance from suburban Massachusetts to this old New England town was obvious from the minute we crossed into the city.

Portsmouth, founded in colonial times, features restored 17th and 18th century houses, many of which are open to visitors. It also still functions today as a working seaport. Over the years, Portsmouth’s main industry has alternated between boat building and repair (during times of war) and tourism (in times of peace). In the weeks leading up to Christmas (which was the case during our visit), Portsmouth is decked out in holiday finery and hosts glittering evening tours of historic homes. In fact, Portsmouth has a lot in common with last year’s holiday destination, Mystic Connecticut.

Another plus to spending a weekend in Portsmouth is the proximity of two of our regular New England poker rooms. Portsmouth is less than a half an hour from both the Seabrook and Hampton Falls poker rooms. This was definitely a factor in our choice of locale for the weekend.

What to Do in Portsmouth New Hampshire

USS Albacore

We started our weekend in Portsmouth at the USS Albacore museum. We had seen the Albacore several times before, as it sits by the side of the main road entering Portsmouth from the south. However, we had never actually stopped to take a look. We figured it was time. The USS Albacore was built in Portsmouth in 1952 as a research submarine. After her decommissioning in the 1970s, she returned to Portsmouth and moved to where she currently sits. The USS Albacore museum offers the rare opportunity to walk through a fully preserved, formerly working submarine. For 8$ a person, we were able to stroll through the Albacore at our own pace. The sub features strategically placed recordings explaining key details of the ship’s history and functioning. At the end of our tour, we returned to the visitors center, staffed by former navy men who answered any questions that the recordings did not address. I have to say that this place blew me away. Also, I never want to be in a submarine underwater. Quarters are as tight as you would imagine, and I’d be pleading to get out about five minutes in.

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