Throwdown Thursday: Are We Made for RV Living?

Throwdown Thursday: Are We Made for RV Living?

Paul and I have been reading a lot of articles about RV living. I’m intrigued by the idea of making our poker pilgrimage in an RV. The thought of being able to bring my house (albeit a very slimmed down house) along on our travels like a very ambitious turtle appeals to the part of me that hates to leave the couch. Paul, however, is pretty sure that this particular journey would end in homicide.

Heather: Don’t you think it would be nice to sleep in the same bed every night, no matter where we wake up? And to have our own little stocked pantry that we take along with us? No need to rely on hotel food or an AirBnB kitchen to have the right sharp knife?

Paul: Listen, if we have to share the same 300 square feet for 12 months, all the knives will be kept very dull. We get edgy and claustrophobic in our 3 bedroom, 1,200 square foot apartment now. What are we going to be like when our couch and kitchen table are one entity?

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6 Travel Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

6 Travel Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Heather and I generally travel well together. We do our research, weigh our options, and come to decisions that we both feel good about.  On trips we often praise ourselves for the fine job we did planning such a spectacular vacation. (Sadly, that’s true. We actually do.)

But, nobody’s perfect.

We have made our share of travel mistakes. We share them here in the hopes that you can avoid them on your own travels.

1. Traveling North for New Year’s

Our most recent oops. Last month we reviewed our impressions of Montreal. The city certainly has a lot of destination appeal. However, amid a record breaking cold snap this appeal plummets. We thought: how much colder can Montreal be compared to Boston at New Year’s? Answer: Nose snapping instant frostbite colder.

There’s a reason that people in the Northeast go south in the winter. I accept the logic now.

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Chasers Poker Room Review

Chasers Poker Room Review

In the fall of 2017, Chasers entered the competitive Southern New Hampshire poker scene with a bang. Granted a smallish bang, at only 16 poker tables, but the immediate returns have been very good. On any given night Chasers fills a large portion of those tables with active cash games. Although, we don’t play a lot of cash poker, we came away impressed on the Tuesday evening we stopped in to the new venue for a tournament. There was a lot of energy in the room and the cash players were clearly excited about this new Salem, NH poker room.

Setting

Chasers Poker Room occupies the basement of a now defunct Chinese restaurant.  From the outside, the building does not inspire confidence. As you enter, the initial impression is “this is dark.” But the dark feeling quickly yields to a nice homey feel, atypical for your average poker room.  There is a small bar immediately to the right of the door, with seating and a few high top tables. Along the right wall is an attractive brick fireplace which we assume will never be used. In front of this wall are the table games: roulette, blackjack, and a couple of poker variations played against the dealer.

Although the room has a dark feel, the tables are very well lit from above. We had no problems seeing the cards. The chairs are padded and very comfortable, especially in comparison to some of the surrounding New Hampshire rooms. The footprint of the room is not huge, however, so the tables are a bit cramped.

Chasers Poker Room

Chasers Poker Room

Chasers Poker Room Staff

For the 42nd most populous state, New Hampshire has a large and vibrant poker community. In a very small radius, there are currently at least seven active poker rooms, including one of our favorites Hampton Falls and another, Seabrook, that has seen better days. Many of these rooms lie close to the Massachusetts border, still waiting for legal casinos, and pull from the the northeastern Mass poker population. The upshot is that everyone knows one another: players, staff, owners. The competition for quality dealers and floors is as intense as the play at the tables.

Chasers did well in securing some of the better available talent when it opened. Being first to market, ahead of down-the-street rival Cheers, certainly helped. Chasers managed to lure some of the friendliest and most skilled dealers from existing rooms, and clearly trained their new dealers well. We played a tournament without issue. Floors were visible and active. The wait staff seemed a bit stretched thin, but were attentive and working hard.

Players

Clearly Chasers has overcome the pre-opening concerns that its branding and logo are insulting to its potential clientele. A lot of the better cash players in the area have made their way here. The tournament we played had very few weak players as well.

However, any poker room draws the gamblers. Along with the typical high hand promotions that fuel the active cash rooms in New Hampshire, at one of our tournament breaks Chasers had a single hand event, the No Chip Flip. In the No Chip Flip players buy in for $50 each. One Hold ’em hand is dealt and the top two hands win with the cash, after the house rake of course.  Not our cup of tea, but the room was abuzz as it played out, and the house grabbed like $130 for 3 minutes of action.

Chasers has made an immediate impact on the New Hampshire poker scene, and is clearly here to stayClick To Tweet

Tournament Structure at Chasers Poker Room

Frankly, it is clear that tournaments are not the focus at Chasers. Understandably, the success with cash, and the room’s small number of tables, would make focusing on tournaments unwise. Currently, Chasers runs regular tournaments on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. As with most new rooms, tournament offerings are in flux month-to-month, so check before you go.  Most of the current tournaments are $100-$125 buy-in for 20k-25K in chips and 15-20 minute blinds. On the higher end of buy-ins in the area for 15-20 minute blind levels. Certainly nowhere near the value of the Hampton Falls $90/30K chips/30 minute blinds events held at 1pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  But that Hampton Falls tournament is one of the best regular structures I have seen across the country, so not the standard by which any room can be held.

On the Tuesday night we were there, the tournament got 34 players. Not a great field, but not atrocious for a weeknight in New Hampshire. There were no dead stacks, so in the early stages we played shorthanded for awhile. Because tables are at a premium at this venue, they fully filled the first two tables before opening a third.

APT

Overall Chasers Review

In a crowded and competitive poker landscape, this new seemingly humble room has made its mark. Starting with creating a comfortable environment and hiring good personnel, Chasers has made all the right decisions. On any given night, Chasers rivals Hampton Falls and the Boston Billiards Club in Nashua for the number of active cash tables. Management knows what works and how to get the players in the seats. While some other local rooms look vulnerable long-term, Chasers seems to be here to stay.

Chasers Poker Room Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Ways to Save Money on Gas

6 Ways to Save Money on Gas

Gas is one of the most unpredictable and challenging budget items to control. We’re all at the mercy of fluctuating world markets. Just when you think you have a handle on your gas expenditures, prices jump 50 cents per gallon and there goes the budget. However, there are definitely ways you can save money on gas. In 2016, our household’s average monthly gas spend for two cars was $218. In 2017 we brought it down 26% to $162 a month, despite an increase of average gas prices from $2.18 in 2016 to $2.45 last year. If prices had remained at 2016 levels our raw gains would have been more like 32%. As it was, we saved close to $700 on gas in 2017.

How did we do it? Well, buying a more efficient car was clearly the key. However, we also used a number of other strategies that really solidified our savings:

1. Buy A Gas Efficient Car

The vast majority of your potential gas spending is determined by the car you drive (and, of course, the distance you drive it). At the start of 2017, we planned to give our second car, a 1998 Toyota Camry, to my teenage daughter when she got her license. Our 2011 Honda Accord had shouldered most of our distance travel for 5 years. With close to 200,000 miles on the odometer, it needed to move to its rightful spot as a cart-children-to-their-local-events car. We needed a new primary vehicle.  We dallied with a joint midlife crisis convertible – oh Mazda Miata I still mourn for you – but righted the delusion ship and realized we still needed four doors and a back seat for the kids.

Obviously, hybrids got into the discussion, but most were above our price range. We settled on a 2017 Mazda3. Despite being smaller than we are used to (our children are not huge fans of the back seat), we have been thrilled with our choice. The Mazda is zippy and fun to drive, and best of all, incredibly gas efficient. Our Honda Accord gets a respectable 23mpg, while the Mazda3 has gotten 34mpg over its first year of use. This alone represents a 32% decrease in gas outlay each month. That’s a game changer in any budget line.

Of course, if we could afford a Tesla, or lived in a walkable place, we would be saving even more on our gas bill. But if your budget is limited, and walking isn’t an option where you live, buying a gas efficient car is your best bet to keeping your fuel budget low.

 6 Ways to Slash Your Spending on Gas

2. Find Gas Stations with Low Prices

When you are out around town, record the current prices for regular unleaded at every station you see. A 10 cent difference from one station to the next may not seem critical, but that represents a 3%-5% difference overall. If you drive a lot, finding cheap gas will turn into $10-$15 pretty quickly. There are also several online search tools for identifying the best local gas prices. Our favorite, and one that passes the test for accuracy in our area, is provided by Geico. Also, check out the prices of places that may not be near your house, but that you go regularly. The gas station a quarter mile from our favorite poker room consistently has prices lower than our home town. Every time we play, we fill up.

3. Save Money on Gas by Using the Cash Price Option

Our closest gas station offers a decent base price and then takes another 10 cents off if you use cash/debit card. The combination of convenience and cash discount makes it our most frequented gas station. Entering the station to pay adds a minute to our trip, but the extra $10 to $15 a month in our bank account makes it worth it.

Buy a gas efficient car, then work the edgesClick To Tweet

 

4. Credit Card Cash Back

Be aware of your standard and rotating credit card cash back offers. Most standard cash back offers are 2%-3%, but periodically offers as high as 5% arise. Our Chase card is currently running a three month 5% off gas purchases deal. If we’re not paying cash for a discount, we’re pulling out the Chase card every time we fill up. Of course, all your gains are lost if you carry balances month-to-month, so pay that card in full!

5. Errand Efficiency

Our discount grocery store is about 15 minutes from our house; so we stock up on staples when we are already going in that direction. Another location of the same chain is right next to our primary poker venue. When one of use gets knocked out of a tournament, off we go with list hand. We work hard to organize our errand list to minimize our mileage. We figure it can’t hurt!

6. Keep Up with Your Servicing

Obviously there is a cost for servicing your car regularly. But if it keeps your car efficient – never mind giving it a longer life – it will be worth it in the end. That does not mean you have to be fanatical. We definitely space servicings beyond manufacturer recommendations.  But periodic oil changes, keeping your tires optimally filled, and getting your basic 30,000 mile check-ups should help stretch your gas dollar even further.

Overall, it comes down to this: buy the most gas efficient car that works for you and then work the edges. But don’t dismiss the edges, you can slash another 15%-20% off your overall gas spending with consistent attention to the other five items above. These are really the best ways to save money on gas.

Next up: How we saved huge on our Dream Wedding in New Orleans!

6 Ways to Save Money on Gas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Throwdown Thursday: Cutting the Cord

Throwdown Thursday: Cutting the Cord (Or Not)

This week, Paul and I would like to introduce a new feature to Poker Pilgrims. Throwdown Thursday will be a place where we debate ideas related to our poker pilgrimage. We will discuss ways to save money, side hustle ideas, places to visit on our journey (or not), and pretty much anything else that strikes our fancy and engenders a good argument. This week we consider the idea of cutting the cord and getting rid of cable for the thousandth time.

Paul and I look in horror upon our monthly cable bill. Both children of the 70s, we remember the day when television was free (unless you count the labor costs of physically turning the channel knob and constantly rearranging the antennae). We keep trying to get that bill down, but over time it pops back up again. We regularly contemplate just cutting the cable and living a better life. A life of the mind (cue bluebirds fluttering above the couch).

Only we like TV. We really like TV. We love and worship TV like the pagan god it is. To the extent that we have to put hourly limits on ourselves, as if we were thirteen year olds who would watch 24-7 if given the chance (yes). While we have scaled back from having all the channels, we still co-dependently cling to HBO and Showtime. We’ve pondered at least dropping the premium channels, but then we remember that no Showtime means no Billions, and no Shameless. And no HBO means no Last Week Tonight, and no access to The Wire which we are finally watching about 15 years late. We say to each other “we could just wait until these things get to Netflix.” And then we laugh and laugh.

 

Throwdown Thursday: Cutting the Cord

 

Paul’s oldest is heading off to college in the fall, causing us to re-examine every item on the budget, and we are once again considering just how much we need our cable TV. Perhaps it is time for us to consider finally cutting the cord. Paul is advocating walking away from the madness. I, however, am having anticipatory withdrawal (is that a thing?), and am resisting what I know to be the voice of reason.

Paul: Frugality and addiction are meeting on the battlefield for me, and frugality is currently winning the day. We are looking to save pennies everywhere we can for the poker trip. And Penelope* is about to head off for college. Paying over $200 a month for television is just absurd. Something has to give, and I’m ready to go all Che Guevara on Verizon.

Heather: I have to admit, I see your point. But SuperstoreJeopardy! You would have to give up watching the Celtics’ rebirth. And I would have to release my hold on my beloved, long beleaguered Redskins. I just don’t know if I can do it!

Paul: Sure there’d be losses, but we don’t watch a lot of network TV anyway. And once we finish The Wire, we will have binge watched pretty much every desirable series. We only follow a few shows now and some of those are on Netflix, like Peaky Blinders and Stranger Things. But we need some limits. Left to our own devices we’ll watch anything: see Norwegian thriller about cops and ancient demons and that German one with the depressed time travelling children.

Heather: Hey – I liked those German kids zipping through the wormhole and fathering themselves. Deep stuff!

We look in horror upon our monthly cable billClick To Tweet

Paul: Enough said.  We can just be patient and wait for things to make their way to Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Believe me, I am shocked that this latchkey adult is advocating such a path, because it means I may have to consider reading on a regular basis.

Nothing scares me more.

Heather: Patient? When has either of us EVER been patient about anything? Max’s* grades come out in 28 minutes and I swear the clock is ticking backward like in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (which I would no longer be able to find deep in cable-land if you cut me off).

I think I’m starting to develop an eye twitch.

Paul:  There’s likely a 12-step program for that. Hopefully after a couple of years, the phantom remote control clicking would subside. No doubt there would be initial pain, but we could focus on things like say…oh I don’t know…writing better blog posts. Oh, and there is always the potential for improved parenting skills and more quality time with our kids. I just threw that last one in for a good laugh.

Heather: I’m going to have to ponder this one. You make excellent points, but I think I feel a panic attack setting in at the idea of cutting the cord. I’m going to go watch old episodes of Battlestar Galactica until I feel better.

*Names of children have been changed to protect against future intrafamily litigation.

Next Up: To RV or not to RV: That is the Throwdown.

Throwdown Thursday: Cutting the Cord
 

 

 

 

 

 

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