A Stroll Down Memory Lane En Route To Thunder Valley


So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The incoming 2003 UC Davis Philosophy Phd students

Whenever I come back to Sacramento it stirs up all sorts of memories. I came to Sacramento in the Summer of 2003 to study Philosophy (Phd) at UC Davis. And I lived here until the end of 2011 when I moved to the Bay Area. During that time, I completed my MA in Philosophy, started my Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) and started playing poker avidly.

When you drive from the Bay Area to Thunder Valley in Lincoln, you take the 80 freeway most of the way. Just west of Sacramento is the beautiful college town of Davis. I generally stop at Davis to eat at the In N’ Out which is just as popular with the college students now as it was when I attended.

Once I get back on the 80 the next milestone that elicits memories is Reed Dr. – the exit where Big Time Bill used to hold his legendary Friday night poker home games. There was a $35 tournament at 7:00pm and another at 10:30pm. Those who busted formed a cash game table as they waited for the second tournament – as well as late into the night after the second tournament ended. That was the highlight of my week and I used to play deep into the night every Friday.

It was there that I met the cast of characters that formed the core of my Sacramento social life. In addition to Big Time, there was Eric Sprague, Mark Cabrera, Andy Milleville, Brian Bartholomew, Mike and Jacqueline Bowman, Matt Francis and his wife, Darryl Williams, Marlene Scott, Adrian Dresel-Velasquez (who made a WSOP final table), Dave Dilman and his daughter Kerry, Kenny, Sarah, Lisa, Paradox, Chucky and so many more. I have amazing memories playing poker with that group over the years.

Me and My Sacramento poker buddy Mark Cabrera at Casino M8TRIX in San Jose (October 2021)

The next exit that stirs memories is Douglas Blvd – which leads to Granite Bay where I lived along Folsom Lake for many years. I used to hike, bike and kayak in the Folsom State Recreation Area. I started Top Gun and got my first office there in 2006.

When I first lived in Sacramento, Thunder Valley did not have a poker room. I used to play downtown at The Limelight, Capitol Casino, Casino Royale and at The Lucky Derby in Citrus Heights. It was only in 2010 that Thunder Valley opened up its poker room and became the center of the Sacramento poker world. At the beginning there was a beautiful floor woman named Marisol who I had a huge crush on but could never overcome my anxiety to talk to.

I also played a hand I’ll never forget. I was playing $2/$5, opened with AQhh and got a bunch of callers. The flop came down three hearts and I led into it. Everybody folded except one player. The turn was a blank and I made a big bet which she called again. I started to wonder what she could be calling with with three hearts on the board. It was only when the river came – another blank – that I surmised a remote possibility. The flop was 764hh. I hadn’t in fact flopped the nuts. 85hh made a straight flush. But what were the chances of her having that? I bet big on the river and to my surprise she shoved All In. I called and was shocked when she turned over the one hand that could beat me. It was one of – if not the – biggest pots I’d lost to that point in my poker career.

And so here I am – almost 20 years since first coming to Sacramento – back to take my shot at a preliminary event at Thunder Valley this morning leading up to NorCal’s premiere poker tournament, the World Poker Tour (WPT) Rolling Thunder in two weeks.

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