This summer, I kept a diary of my trip across the US with my daughter to start her freshman year at college in New York — and my return trip, too. After writing about the first 9 days (see those here), I’m finally getting around to picking up where I left off, in Philadelphia…

I check out of the Comfort Inn around 10am and head west towards Pittsburgh. There are two casinos there, and I’ve heard that at least one of them has a decent pot-limit-Omaha game weekdays. Five-and-a-half hours later, as I approach the city, I have to decide which one I’m going to, so I pull over and look at the Bravo Poker Live app, which tells me what games are going, what stakes they’re playing, and how long the waiting lists are.

It’s mid-afternoon, but I’m disappointed to discover that neither poker room has any PLO running, and none of their hold’em games are bigger than $1-3. Thinking that may change later, I call both rooms and am told they don’t expect any Omaha today, but there might be a $2-5 no-limit game after dinner. Maybe.

I check Google Maps to see how far it is to Cleveland. From the beginning of this trip, that was always going to be one of my destinations, because I’d met a guy from there a month ago in St. Louis, and he’d said that there’s a juicy $5-10 PLO game every night, and plenty of other action, too, at the new Horseshoe Casino. Located in downtown Cleveland, it’s the first casino in the entire state of Ohio, which means lots of new players who don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. Sounds like the beginning of a good poker recipe.

I’m already a little tired from the drive, but decide to continue on to Cleveland. I use the Priceline app on my iPhone to lock up a room at the downtown Marriott, three blocks from the casino, and pull back onto the highway.

Two-and-a-half hours later, I’m in the middle of rush hour, and it looks like I’m gonna get stuck on city streets because I have to drive right by the Indians’ ballpark just as the game is ending. In St. Louis, it’s impossible to go anywhere downtown for at least an hour after the Cardinals play, because they get 30-40,000 fans for every home game, and the roads are packed. This is a lot easier because, according to NewsRadio WTAM, there were only about 5,000 people at Progressive Field. I snake my way to the Marriott in 10 minutes. I check in and collapse on the bed, planning to sleep for an hour before checking out the Horseshoe.

When I wake up, I walk over to Public Square, looking for the casino. Every other place I’ve played has had big signs, flashing lights, something to indicate there’s a casino inside. The Horseshoe has none of that. Just a single sign on a downtown building that used to be a department store (The Higbee Company). Inside, a security guard tells me the poker room is on the third floor.

To get there, I have to wind through the place (which is full of people) to find an escalator to the second floor, where I have to ask yet another guard to point me towards the escalator up to the third floor, which turns out to be on the other side of the building. This kind of setup seems standard in department stores, but it’s a pain in the ass in a casino.

I finally get up there to find, happily, there is indeed a $5-10 PLO game that has just started, and there’s a seat open. I sit down, buy in, and proceed to play very few hands for the first half-hour so I can see how the action goes and how my opponents play. It’s quickly apparent that there are at least 3 guys here who don’t have a clue what they’re doing.

That’s good. What isn’t good is that I don’t get any of their money. Instead, other players are hitting their draws against me, while I keep missing mine. Worse, those three players all go bust within 90 minutes, and there’s no list for others to replace them. The remaining players are extremely tight and aren’t giving a lot of action, so the pots stay small. Since I haven’t eaten in a long time, and thinking the game will be better later in the evening, I decide to go to dinner.

Unfortunately, the only options at the Horseshoe are the buffet and a snack bar. I’m not in the mood for either, so I ask what’s in the neighborhood. One of the guys tells me about an area nearby called East Fourth Street, which is closed to traffic but has lots of restaurants. Sounds good to me, so I rack up, cash out, and head outside.

It turns out to be a great recommendation.  East Fourth Street is full of trendy restaurants, a comedy club, a jazz bar, a comedy club, and several other places. It reminds me of the Power & Light District in Kansas City, Fourth Street Live in Louisville, and Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis. It’s teeming with people, but I manage to get a table at an upscale Mexican place called Zocalo, where I enjoy a nice dinner and some people-watching.

When I get back to the Horseshoe, the $5-10 PLO game has broken because no one else showed up to play, and there aren’t any other games going except some low-limit ones. I’m not happy because I’ve just had my first losing session of the trip, but I hope the action’s better tomorrow.

I walk back over to the Marriott where, before sacking out, I go online to check e-mail and other things. As if my day hasn’t been frustrating enough, I discover that the Marriott charges $14.95/day for internet access. This is one of my pet peeves of travelling — motels like the Comfort Inn offer cheap accommodations and free wi-fi, while hotels like this one charge more for the room plus a fee for the wireless connection. Unfortunately, there aren’t any of those motels close by, so I grudgingly add the internet charge to my expenses for the day, which I hope to make up for when I turn things around tomorrow.

Mileage thus far: 1,881