Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fill in the Blanks: WPBT Holiday Classic, Part III

The phone rang about four hours later. I had no idea why it was ringing, or really, why there was a phone next to me. I opened half of one eye and discerned that I was in a bed, and that I was alone. On about the fifth ring, I groped blindly for the receiver.

"This is your...9..20...A.M....wake-up call!"

OK... that’s nice... but, how did I get here? And who ordered this phone to ring?

Ohhhhhhh...the MGM. Right. Oh, fuck that’s right! My chips! I’m afraid to look in my purse. It’s gonna be empty. My heart pounds. Shit shit shit. Was I in a cab with black hookers? Is that how I got here? Jesus Christ... what have I done...

I gathered every vestige of strength I had and sat up. The first thing I noticed was the one knee high black stiletto boot I still had on along with my "I busted Rafe Furst" t-shirt, which was inside out and backwards. The second thing I noticed was that I didn’t have a headache. And the third was that I was still pretty drunk.

I found my jeans and dug into the left pocket. My bankroll was still there, less the $200 I bought in with at MGM. There was an appropriate amount of small bills in the other pocket. The hookers didn’t rob me. That was good. Now for the purse. I braced myself for the worst as I unzipped my gold leather pouchette. My cigarettes. And another pack of cigarettes that weren’t mine. Credit cards, ID, quarters, perfume, sunglasses, bag of pot, wad of money... wait a minute! I pulled out the cash and counted out $158. It must have been the money I left at MGM! But how did I get it back? I couldn’t remember cashing out.

I staggered up to the tournament at a little after 10, making a beeline for the buffet of stale cookies and bad coffee along the back wall of the poker room. Food, water, and caffeine steadied me a bit, but I was still pretty much a disaster. I had one of those moments where I really thought I wasn’t going to make it before my eyes focused in on my chain-smoking, hung-over bretheren huddled around the doorway. I was nauseous and miserable, but certainly not alone.

JoeSpeaker turned from his conversation and grabbed my attention as I was going inside to register. "How are you feeling this morning?" he queried, with a knowing glint in his eye.

"Dude, I don’t know what the fuck happened. How I got so wasted, how I got back here? I think I was in a cab with hookers and may have ordered myself a wake-up call in a blackout."
"I put you in the cab."
"You did?"
"The floorman told me you were about to pass out somewhere, so I cashed out your chips and put you in a cab."

"It was you! Oh my God it was you!" I wrapped my arms around my hero and savior JoeSpeaker as anxiety drained from my body. That’s Murderer’s Row taking care of their own. And they say there are no good men in L.A.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Joe Speaker. You’re a true gentleman and I owe you big time.

Michael Craig was speaking as I entered the tournament room. Each blogger I spotted looked more hungover than the next. I saw Joe Sebok talking with Derek and thought he was pretty cute, though I may be taller than he is. I filtered in and out of the tournament room through most of the pre-game show, stopping to chain-smoke with people around the trash cans outside the door. Almost everyone was drinking again already, but I was having enough trouble managing with bottled water and dry peanut butter cookies.

107 bloggers started the tournament. I was seated with Donkeypuncher, Alan, Ryan, Jen Leo, Amy Calistri, Russ Fox, and three guys I met only as Brian, John, and Mark. I folded my first four or five hands before picking up AA in the cutoff. Fuckin’ gold. There was an EP raise of 150 and I bumped it to 450. Brian, the guy on my immediate left, immediately pushed all in. The EP raiser folded and I insta-called. He showed the two Kings that I thought he would.

The flop came Q-T-blank. The turn, a nine. The river? A jack. Runner runner straight. Even the dealer couldn’t believe it. I shipped all but three green chips over to our table luckbox.

A couple of hands later I’m UTG+1 and I look at two sixes and toss in the three chips. Amy Calistri and one other guy call. Amy’s pair of queens takes it and I’m bounced in a hundred and something place. Total freakin’ downer but I got my money in ahead– nothing else I could do. At least I wasn’t Gigli.

I wandered around for a while, snapped a few photos, and gave my bustout story to CJ, who was recording everyone’s finish. With my tournament plans cut short, I jumped into a $2-4 LHE game with Linda, Jason Spaceman, and Biggestron. Spaceman was pounding Heinekens and started straddle-raising every chance he could. He even managed to drop CJ’s favorite hand with a rousing "You just got JACKHAMMERED!" right as Joe Speaker came over to say hello to us. Mrs. Spaceman still had a strong stack in the tournament and Jason grabbed updates from bloggers on his tiny, adorable wife’s progress every chance he could.

Right before the final table began, I took a break from the cash game and peeked in on the remaining players. Pauly was doing his tournament-coverage-thing with camera and notebook in hand, despite his warm, dare I say giggly, Soco-induced state of being. He walked over to where I was standing and put his arm around me.

"How you doing? You OK? Yeah?"
"Tell me something, Pauly."
"What did I do last night?"
"You don’t remember?"
"No. I really don’t."
"Do you really want to know?"
"Yes! But don’t lie to me."
"Are you sure?"
"Come on I can handle it."

Pauly walked me two steps away from the crowd and looked me in the eye.

"OK. Well, you were pretty wasted and you came up to me and pinned me against the bar in the MGM. Then you said something like, ‘I wanna fuck Phil Gordon so bad.’ And then you grabbed my junk."
"Come on..."
"I’m serious!"
"Wait a minute..." I squeezed my eyes tight and tried to remember. "Was Phil wearing a blue shirt?"
"It’s OK."
"Are you fucking with me?"
"Not at all! You had like 30 witnesses. Ask anyone. Ask Jaxia."
"Is this true, Jax?"
"Yeah. I saw it."
"Ohhh Goddd... I’m sorry, Pauly. I’m such a fuckin’ idiot."
"Don’t apologize. I enjoyed it."

And thus, my reputation as poker’s most notorious junkgrabber was cemented.

To be continued...

Friday, December 30, 2005

Now it's getting scary...

The Luckbox jumped online just in time to see me go heads-up at a 5-1 chip defecit. I couldn't get any traction against this guy, but I'll take the $720! I'm just so happy I finally cracked one of these things after so many near-misses and bubble finishes.

The streak continues!

(Ed. note- Showcase called me from a bar in Santa Monica while I was writing this. He's standing five feet from a chain-smoking Britney Spears. No signs of Federline or his weedman.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Junkgrabbers Always Draw

Back to back final tables!

I decided to play Jordan and TripJax's fabulously titled "Donkeys Always Draw" tournament at the very last minute. Al Can't Hang had alerted me to it last night when I called him for a dial-a-shot following my third place finish in the WWdN tourney. I was already an hour into the Full Tilt $10K tournament with April, who busted out on a terrible beat when her set of sevens was sucked out by a runner runner flush. The dude had T4! Aii yaa. With my short stack on break at Full Tilt, I jumped into the foray on Stars with the rest of bloggerdom. Pauly popped in the IM window and we made another last longer bet.

In the early action, I picked up AKs and raised to 80. Heather popped me to 200 and the big blind went all-in. I didn't want to play this hand against both of them, and I thought a large raise could move Heather off. So I went all in. Heather tanked for a long time before mucking her QQ. The BB had pocket tens and I lost the race, though I picked up the side pot. Don't think the Princess was too happy with me on that one. Then, with AA in middle position, I made a standard-size raise and JoeSpeaker called. We went heads up to a J 5 2 rainbow flop. I bet out smallish (120) and Speaker popped me to 360. I smooth-called. Turn a 2. I checked, he bet 600 and I pushed in. He called with 77 and my aces held with a 5 on the river. With T3000 or so in my stack I felt pretty comfortable.

I chopped out smallish pots on preflop raises and flop bets until the ante hit. The deck decided to smack me in the head about then and I became, in Jordan's words, "a one-woman wrecking ball!" I took out Vennor with AA vs. his AQ and put a big hurt on Penneriii with a set of Queens vs. his 66. GCox's AT fell to my pocket jacks, and Mrs. Sox Lover's AK was sucked out when my KJ found a jack on the flop. I hit the final table with about T28000 after that little run.

Immediately I lost two big hands. AJ fell to Scott McMillan's KT when a ten flopped. Then I flopped a set vs. on_thg's nut flush draw that got there on the turn after I put him all-in on the flop. I notice that JoeSpeaker is down to 2700. I really don't want him to double up because I know just how good a closer he is. But luck and fate were on Speaker's side tonight. All-in with JJ vs. Facty's pocket rockets, Speaker spiked a jack on the river in a fit of voodoo magic and suddenly had a healthy stack. "Fuck," I wrote to Pauly on IM. "Speaker has chips."

Like I said yesteday, any tournament victory involves at least one world-class suckout. This one was no different. Down to T10000 chips, I re-raised all in with pocket sixes and got called by Jestocost's pocket nines. A 6 on the flop and I'm saved! And back up to 21K.

In tonight's "Final Table Turning Point," I look at AA (again) and made a standard raise from MP and got reraised all-in by on_thg. I insta-call and he shows KK. The aces hold and I double to 42K. That's a helluva bad way to go out. Sorry about that one!

After busting Scott with trip aces on the flop to his KJ, I picked up JJ vs. Mowenudown's QT. The board came a bunch of baby cards and I was heads-up with fellow Murderer's Row assassin JoeSpeaker. You know, the one I'd been worried about from the beginning. I tried to keep my shit together as we started battling. I looked up at QJ on the button and raised to 6000. Speaker pushed and I called 10K more. I was feeling behind there and saw that I was when his K5 turned up. The flop came 6 T 9, giving me an OESD and eliminating three of Speaker's outs. I need paint or an eight...

The turn is a King. And I celebrated my first MTT win since the freakin' summer! Dial-a-puffs for everyone!!!

Thanks again to my awesome railbirds-- your support these last two nights means so much to me. Wins are so much sweeter when surrounded by friends. Huge congrats to JoeSpeaker (2nd), ScottMcMillan (4th), on_thg (5th), Facty (7th) and our host TripJax (9th)on their final table finishes. Well played, everyone.

(I also cashed in 31st in the Full Tilt $10K tonight. Talk about a rush!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fear the Junkgrabber: Change does the WWdN Invitational

I have a terrible record in blogger tournaments. I came thisclose to taking the boobie prize in the "Saturdays with Dr. Pauly" series, only I was in a drooling, hungover slumber at the last tourney's 10 AM PST start time, so I had to unforturnately relinquish THAT honor. Then there was my infamous AA vs. KK knockout hand at the WPBT Imperial Palace tournament two weeks ago, only 6 hands after they called "shuffle up & deal." Out in the first fucking orbit to a runner runner straight!! I'm still not over that one.

This afternoon, I got what was coming to me. A final table. And in the WWdN Invitational, no less, which boasts a crafty, hammer-weilding field of fellow bloggers and degenerates.

I'd like to thank the Academy... and a certain luckbox.

With 20-odd minutes to go before the start time, Wil had yet to register for his own tournament. Pauly bet me a dollar that he wouldn't show and I jumped on that action. Wil signed up with 8 minutes to go and I booked my first win for the session. I knew he'd never let Lee Jones down. To keep the action going, Pauly and I made a last-longer for double or nothing.

60 players bought in. I had a slow start and a pretty tight first table. Russ Fox was there, as was Alan. I couldn't really get anything going except to chop out a few small pots to stay alive. My raises got almost too much respect. Pauly was cruising in the top 5 with 3500 or so and I knew I'd be giving back my hard-earned dollar if I didn't pick up something soon.

Then, there were the two hands that turned everything around. Tanya raised in LP and I called from the SB with 99. The flop was ten high with a nine in there to make my set. I checked and let her come at me, which she did with a bet around 3/4 of the pot. I called. Turn was a blank diamond, putting 2 diamonds on the board. Still, I checked and let her fire another shell, before check-raising all in. She called with 8T-- top pair and a flush draw. The river was a blank and I picked up a nice pot. Maybe 3 hands later, I limped into a multiway pot with 55. I flopped middle set. Boobie Lover pushed in on the turn with his OESD, but didn't get there, and I'm suddenly the chip leader with around T7800.

Pauly busted in 17th and I won our last longer and $2. Down to two tables, I was sandwiched between Iggy on my left and Tanya on my right. I don't know what was worse, being pummelled by Tanya's late position raises or Iggy's re-raises from the blinds. He played back at me a couple of times, popping my ass all-in from the BB and I laid down a couple of decent hands around bubble time. "I will not be bubble girl," I typed into the chat box to Pauly. Tanya busted in 10th and I squeaked onto the final table and into the money with a very short stack.

With about T3400 left and 300-600 blinds, I was looking for a "push & pray" hand. Jesus must have been feeling benevolent (must have been that whole church on Christmas thing) because I picked up AA in the CO. Instead of pushing, I just raised it to 1800 into Iggy's big blind. He pushed with 88 and I called, having him slightly covered. I survived the flop and I had T6500 to work with. That was the turning point in the whole tournament for me. CJ and Pauly had been telling me to win it and now I actually felt like I could.

By now, I had attracted a flock of funny little railbirds. I checkraised all-in with AA on a J T 2 flop, crippling eventual 5th place finisher Gilain, who had A8. Then I lost a big hand trying to bust SeedyV with A4 vs. his QJo. The K T 2 flop gave him an open-ended straight draw and he filled it with the Ac on the turn. I'm back to push & pray mode and I do so with 77, winning a coinflip against another QJ. But I'm still pretty short with T10600 and 400-800 blinds.

CJ keeps telling me to hang in there. I joke that I need to channel the powers of the luckbox. Down to five-handed, I get A4 in the BB. It's folded to the SB, who makes a standard raise to 2400. He's loose and I think I have the best hand, so I pop his ass all-in, and he calls showing AQ. Shit.

The flop comes 7 5 K. The turn, an 8. The river... a 4.

And the room exploded.

peacecorn [observer] said, "wowee change100!"
AlCantHang [observer] said, "come from behind!"
ScottMcMilla [observer] said, "wow"
DrPauly [observer] said, "riverstars"
HermWarfare [observer] said, "wow"
yestbay1 [observer] said, "aiyah, as Wil might say"
HermWarfare [observer] said, "nh"
Up4Poker [observer] said, "she's my luckbox tonight"
AlCantHang [observer] said, "that's my girl!"

One suckout? Hardly enough. To win a tournament, you need at least two of significant quality.

7d 7c UTG and I make it 3600. Gilain raises to 9600, I push and he calls, showing AQ. Flop is Q high, but all diamonds. No diamond for Gilain. The turn, a black ten. The river... the three of diamonds!!!

And the room exploded again!!! Poor Gilain, twice my victim. Though I did have the best hand both times when the $$ went in against him. So I don't feel TOO bad.

Down to 4-handed, I'm chipleader with 38K. I busted SeedyV with AJ vs his A4 for a huge pot. I got my money in with the best of it again when the SB pushed for around 8K and I was up to 51K. A8 vs. QTd, but he got his Queen on the turn. I picked up the Jackhammer on the button an orbit later and raised 3X BB to 6000. The BB pushed, and I called 3000 more. "You're gonna laugh at this one," I wrote to CJ as the cards turned over. My opponent had... 56 offsuit? I got money in ahead with the JACKHAMMER? Well, the flop brought a 6, so that was the end of that.

I'd go in one more time with the best hand and lose. Three handed, I get 88 in the BB. The button folds, JeffSmith raises to 6000, I push, and he calls with K3h. Flop is 2 5 6, but he turns a King and I'm out in 3rd place for a $72.00 cash. Not bad!!

PokerStars Tournament #16809136,
No Limit Hold'emBuy-In: $10.00/$1.00
60 players
Total Prize Pool: $600.00
Tournament started - 2005/12/27 - 19:00:00 (ET)

Dear change1OO,

You finished the tournament in 3rd place.
A $72.00 award has been credited to your Real Money account.


I was pretty happy with my play overall, especially at the final table. Can't do anything more than get in with the best of it, though it also helps to be sweated by a luckbox.

Hugs to everyone who railed me-- Gracie, Derek, AlCan'tHang, Spaceman, Drizz, Heather, Facty, Scott, Pauly, and CJ. I hope I'm not forgetting anyone. And congrats to Scott, StB, Iggy and sweeeet sweet Pablo who cashed in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively!

(P.S. - I have a screen grab of the final standings, but I'm so web-tarded that I can't figure out how to get it into the freakin' post. Fear the junkgrabber. But not her technological skills.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Plan B

I just took a scalding hot shower to get off tilt. I can still see the steam coming off my forearm if I hold it up to the light. I busted out of a 20-table SNG on Stars a few minutes ago going into the river as a 9-1 favorite. So it goes. As I'm still up a nice amount online since getting back from the second Vegas trip, so I'll refrain from further bitching.

I talked to Charlie for a long time this morning. His wife is mad at him because he decided to start a "Master Cleanse" right in the middle of the holidays. This involves consuming two tablespoons of a vile mixture of maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice at different intervals during the day in lieu of, you know, normal food. I told him that if I was his wife, I'd be pissed as hell too. I understand the human predeliction toward healthier eating rituals surrounding the onset of a New Year, but first, give me my chocolate and Christmas cookies.

I did win $30 off of Charlie on Christmas box-office props. I hit the under on KING KONG, FUN WITH DICK & JANE, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2, and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA with Charlie taking only one victory with the over on NARNIA (and it only squeaked past $30M). This more than unsticks me from the disastrous Thanksgiving weekend I had against Charlie when I foolishly took the under on Goblet of Fire to do $100M on the three-day. Such a sucker.

San Francisco may not be happening for Showcase and I after all. He came home from work at lunch for a quick toke & chat, and broke the disappointing news that it's supposed to pour rain in NoCal for four straight days, just as we'd be driving up. Everything we had planned for the weekend involved being outdoors-- walking around the city, sitting in cafes, taking a side trip to Half Moon Bay and doing the 17-mile drive, hitting a winery in Napa-- all a downer in the rain. The best alternate we've come up with is taking a shorter trip to Joshua Tree and just staying one night. We're open to suggestions, though per Showcase, Vegas is off the menu :(

I'm digging this Widespread Panic live album Sis threw on to my ITunes while I was cooking Christmas dinner. Her ex used to follow them. I had never heard much of these guys before now, but what I've listened to so far is pretty groovy. I think I'll keep it on for Wil Wheaton's tournament on Stars in an hour.

Speaking of which, I'd better get some lunch before this thing starts.

Monday, December 26, 2005

O Holy Night

I pulled up to my parents' house as darkness fell on Christmas Eve to find their quiet West L.A. street blocked by two cop cars and a tow truck. A sparkling new silver F-150 with a smashed-in front grill was being forcibly loaded onto the back of the tow vehicle while the cops took notes and muttered into their walkies. My dad told me that earlier in the afternoon, two guys had screeched up to the curb in the truck while he was outside doing yard work. They got out of the truck, walked around the front of the car, briefly inspected the damage, and took off, abandoning it in front of our neighbors' house. Probably some sort of hit & run.

I spent Christmas as I usually do, quietly and in the company of my parents, my little sister, and Showcase. I managed to survive Mass without bursting into flames for all my heathen behavior this year, though my Dad and I spent most of the service trading barbs about the cantor with the speech impediment and the faygola music director's excruciating penchant for requiring a sung response to every freakin' prayer, spiced with bad Jesus-pop melodies. There were enough quilted Chanel bags in my immediate eyeline to stock Barney's for an entire season, and the eight-year old girl in front of me revealed a pair of Dolce & Gabbana fringed suede boots as she climbed on top of the pew trying to grab a better view of the processional. Though it's been over 10 years since my Catholicism lapsed and I disappointed my parents by ceasing my attendance at Sunday Mass, a ritual they had instilled in me since birth, very little has changed in the Westwood parish where I grew up. Same rich kids, different year. New pint-sized replacements of my former peers.

On Christmas Day I cooked a grand meal for everyone. I've been handling the holiday meals in my family for maybe the last four or five years, and I make a once-a-year splurge on some premium ingredients. In honor of Grubby I decided to try out my new digital camera and take a few shots of my handiwork:

Cognac-Flambed Filet Mignon

Truffle Mushroom Risotto

Salad of New Potatoes and Spinach with Walnuts, Blue Cheese and a Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Showcase and I are going to catch a flick tonight... Munich I think. We head up to San Francisco on Thursday for New Years'. We're thinking scenic coastal route on the way up and 90 MPH through Steinbeck country on the way back.

I'm going to do my damndest to finish up both Vegas trip reports tonight and tomorrow. I still can't sleep. I think Pauly's insomnia has rubbed off on me.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Props, Pai Gow, Poker, and Pauly: A Vegas Return Engagement, Part I

The idea of a return trip to Vegas came to me as I blasted past Barstow at 95 MPH on the drive home from WPBT weekend. I always make note of my “split time” in Barstow, being the approximate halfway point on the 280-mile, Vegas-to-L.A. haul. I was on pace to make the trip in only 3 ½ hours, certainly not world-record speed, but quick and painless enough in the company of good weed and great music to make me contemplate making the same journey in a week’s time, despite my utterly exhausted physical and mental state. I still had a week of work to muck through before Hollywood went on a 17-day, year-end break, blessing me with the time and freedom necessary to engage in a second consecutive weekend of gambling, drinking, and depravity. The minute the thought entered my head, it never left, gnawing at me in the days to come. When ideas that good come to me, I'll rarely ever let them go.

I barely made it through the week. My eating and sleeping cycles were turned inside out and scenes from the blogger trip swarmed my thoughts when I should have been concentrating on other things in my 9AM-7PM world. I sat in meetings and met a couple of directors and sleepwalked my way through notes sessions. I went to a premiere in Westwood on Wednesday night and ended up dozing off through half the movie and staying at the post-party for only 15 minutes. And I’m hardly ever one to turn down free food, an open bar, and random celebrity sightings, especially all at once.

Pauly sealed the deal for me when he rang me up on Friday. I was sitting in mid-day traffic on Wilshire Blvd on the way back to my office when the call came in. “Come to Vegas. We’ll get silly and play cards. And Grubby’s got a free room at Excalibur for three nights.” Sold! I told Pauly I’d see him Monday afternoon.

The drive out was one of the worst I’ve ever had in terms of the sheer amount of time it took to get there. An accident in Cajon Pass along with two lane closures between Baker and Barstow turned last weeks three and a half hour jaunt into this week’s six and a half hour nightmare. At one point I was moving at a steady five miles per hour for 45 consecutive minutes. My leg was cramping from holding the clutch and the five-hour mix I had made on my Ipod ran out before I hit Baker. I fired up a live Pink Floyd album as the traffic finally abated and I cruised over the mountains, aiming for the sky-high spire of light from the Luxor pyramid that teased me from behind the final ridge, before the lights of the Strip opened up along the desert floor.

I pulled up to valet parking at Excalibur around 8:30. Pauly and Grubby met me in front of the big purple dragon and the three of us went up to the room. I decompressed for about an hour while we chatted and smoked. After I was sufficiently relaxed, we adjourned to the poker room, where we all sat 1-3 NL. Grubby and I were seated at the same table, while Pauly played at the table behind ours. The two of them continued a weeks-long stretch of prop betting by wagering on my first drink order. Grubby won by taking the more practical choice of Red Bull and Vodka to Pauly’s Soco rocks. The Dr. was thinking with the wrong head on that one.

The guy on my left hit on me incessantly. He tried about six different approaches, each one worse than the next. At one point he actually leaned over and sniffed my neck, asking what perfume I was wearing. When I told him it was Burberry, he didn’t know what that was. Grubby and I locked eyes as I tried to explain and I almost busted up.

Not too long after he sat down, Pauly got recognized by a fan. He is, after all, somewhat of a journalistic celebrity in certain Vegas circles, not to mention a huge cult figure in Canada. Of course I had to grab a cocktail napkin and a pen and run over and ask for his autograph to tilt him a little. We played for about 3 hours before grabbing a snack. While we ate, Pauly asked me what sort of salacious nuggets of Hollywood gossip I had heard lately that could not be found in the tabloid press. I told him that a certain A-list actor that you wouldn’t think is gay actually is gay and he couldn’t believe it. As we walked from the food court to the Pai Gow tables, Pauly kept intermittently mumbling “I can’t believe ____ is gay!”

Grubby and Pauly coached me in Pai Gow, which in all my time in casinos, I had never tried. I had played Chinese Poker before, so I was a pretty quick study and I manage to book a $27 win. Poor Pauly dropped his entire buy-in. His six-week losing streak wouldn’t end tonight. The guys went home around 4:30 in the morning and I crashed out shortly before dawn.

Whooooop whooop whoooop. Ehhhh, ehhhh, ehhhhh. What in God’s name was that fucking noise? Then a voice over a loudspeaker. “We are couducting a test of our life safety system. Please disregard any alarms you may hear at this time.” Whoooooop whooooop whoooop...

I rolled over and squinted at the red LCD on the alarm clock. 12:15 PM. I was about to get really pissed, but I needed to get up anyway. Besides, if I was testing an alarm system myself, I’d probably do it at 12:15 PM on a Tuesday during the slowest week of the year. I took a shower, dressed, and headed out for the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. I had a lot of Christmas shopping still to take care of. Like, all of it.

On my way back to valet, I sorrrrt of got waylaid at a Blackjack table. I had been so good on my last couple of trips and fastidiously avoided -EV games, but I was seriously itching. I am Change100 after all. I did get that name somewhere. I bought in for $100 and ordered a Corona for breakfast. A sweet, corn-fed couple from Chicago sat in the two seats to my left while a loud Armenian guy with a stack of hundreds sat to my right, betting anywhere from $200-500 on three separate hands. He knew next to nothing about basic strategy and kept staying on hard 14s and 15s when he should have hit against the dealer’s face card. Worst of all, he wasn’t tipping poor Karen, our sad-faced, bespectacled dealer. Her dishwater hair was pulled back tight into a long, limp ponytail and fastened with an ancient black scrunchy, the wispy bangs that framed her face curling downward in a fresh-from-the-curling-iron half-coil and doused in cheap hairspray. Once I won a couple of hands, I started betting silver dollars for Karen, and the Armenian finally tossed her a green chip as she was pushed. She was replaced by J.R., a slight, but jolly older man who looked like Joe Lieberman. Every time I hit and busted, he’d say “rats!”

By the time I ran through my $100, the Armenian was down over $11,000. “That is nothing,” he said to me as I got up to leave. “I lose $25,000 last night on the roulette. I was very, very drunk.” He moved a white $500 chip into each betting circle on the last hand I saw him play. The dealer pulled a four-card 21 and his $1500 moved into the tray. “That’s OK, we get it back right now!” He sipped his red wine and went for his checks again as the pit boss indifferently gazed on.

I spent the bulk of the day shopping at Caesar’s and gawking at expensive finery that I can’t afford. I got a gorgeous silk top for my sister on sale at Nanette Lepore and picked up a cashmere cardigan for my mom at Ralph Lauren, also on sale. I got back to the room around 5 and Pauly came over after writing all day. After missing twice, I gave him 4-1 odds that he couldn't toss his wad of gum through the three-inch crack in the window from his seated position at the edge of the bed. He fucking makes it on the third try and I fork over $4. We walked over to an Italian joint in the Excalibur and carbo-loaded for our poker session with some pasta and canoles. The waitress seated us in one of those huge, round booths with a tall back and Pauly joked it must be the “canoodling booth.” So if you see any blind items in the Review-Journal in the next couple of days about a gonzo journalist and an unidentified blonde dining together on consecutive nights, that was me. Such a starfucker.

We hit MGM that night and met up with Grubby. Grubby and I sat at different $1-2 NL tables while Pauly went for the $4-8 with ½ kill. I had a table of douchebag fratboys on Christmas break with a few locals mixed in. On one of my first hands, I picked up AJ in the cutoff. The douche two to my right with artfully messy hair and a rumpled button-down shirt raised it to $10 and I called. We were heads up to a 2 9 5 flop. He checked and I bet about 3/4 of the pot. He called. Turn was another blank. He checked again, I made a pot-sized bet, and he check-raised me all in. I mucked the AJ and he showed the exact same hand as he glared at me and stacked my chips. The look said, don’t fuck with me, girlie. I’m the table captain here and I’ll have you stealin’ none of my mojo, ya hear? Less than 10 minutes after his supposed big- boy move, he lost half his stack overplaying QQ. It was then that the mirrored sunglasses came out and the staredowns got all the more dramatic. What a fuckin’ clown.

I lost a huge pot when my AK lost to J7 rivering a flush on a K J 6 flop. I visited Pauly at his table and he looked miserable, down a buy-in as well. We decided to split around 3 AM and try our luck back at Excalibur while Grubby stayed and played with a college friend for a few more hours. We had a short session there where he got sucked out. Pauly left around 5 and I counted out the rest of my paltry bankroll before turning in. With only a couple of buy-ins left on me, I was in serious need of a double-up. Cards flew behind my eyes and I wished for good luck as I closed my eyes with CNN droning on about the NYC Transit strike in the background. Mayor Bloomberg was walking to work and thousands traversed the Brooklyn Bridge in the 16 degree cold. As I was wondering just how high the cabbies were scalping fares, sleep mercifully descended.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

We interrupt this trip report...

Because... I'm going back to Vegas. (I know, right?) I have 17 days off from work and I'd be a fool to spend it fighting L.A. traffic and dodging angry mall shoppers.

Showcase calls two Vegas weekends in a row "the heights of degeneracy." I call it a great fuckin' time. I'm driving out tomorrow afternoon and staying in a free room at the Excalibur that Grubby was cool enough to arrange. Pauly is still out in Sin City as well and I can only imagine the trouble we'll get into this time around.

I'll try my best not to get ejected from any more casinos.

But no one's junk is safe if I dip into the Soco again.

See ya on the flip side, kids.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Change Can't Hang: WPBT Holiday Classic, Part II

Friday Night

The monorail deposited me at the edge of the MGM Studio Walk, where I grabbed a Nathan's hot dog and jotted a few notes before heading into the poker room. The Rooster was kind enough to arrange for three private mixed-games tables for us degenerates. Before I could even get my name on the list, I spotted a certain Princess sitting at a 2-4H table. I ran up and introduced myself. As I expected, Heather is all sorts of fabulous. She had two tiaras with her-- one on her head (natually) and the other for whomever would bust her from tomorrow's tournament. She got up from her seat and introduced me around to April, Helixx, and Daddy the donkeyfucker. I took a seat at 2-4H next to Helixx and across from Daddy, bought in for $200 and ordered my first Soco and Coke.

I hardly remember a hand I played that night, primarily because once more people started arriving, I was getting up every 5 hands or so to meet someone else. I saw a tall, bespectacled young man with seven racks of blue at Heather's 2-4 table and leaped out of my seat to meet Drizz, who introduced me to Chad and Gamecock. I went back to my table, played another orbit, drank another Soco-Coke and ordered shots for the whole table. Pauly interrupted Jaxia's Stud 8 lesson to come over and raise a glass.

I met Al Can't Hang and sat on his lap for a few orbits. I took a cigarette break with April and EvaCanHang just as Wil Wheaton showed up with Paul Phillips in tow. I drunkenly shook Wil's hand, deciding it was probably not the right moment to bring up the fact that I took an acting class with his TV mom back when I was 14. Paul Phillips was a lot shorter than I thought. Oh, and P.S.-- I got carded for those cigarettes.

I met the one the only Iggy, who does indeed have a Patrick Swayze thing going on. Less than two seconds after we exchanged names, I was wrapped in a bear hug. What a cool fuckin' guy, so utterly welcoming and easy to talk to. I checked in on Pauly, Derek, and Jaxia, who were playing on the TV featured table but being a shitty stud player, I wasn't having any HORSE. I was only having Soco. I ordered another round for the whole table and downed another double shot. Or was it two?

The G-Vegas crew made a grand entrance straight out of "Swingers" and I met its three legendary ringleaders. Otis and CJ greeted me with huge hugs. Man, do these bloggers loooove their women. G-Rob's hair is, indeed perfect. After chatting it up with everyone for a while, I realized I did have chips on the table and I should probably play at least a little bit. Daddy had quit the game and Helixx needed company.

Here's where things start getting a little fuzzy. Here's where rumors begin.

I was playing a hand. I couldn't tell you what the cards were. I think I got outdrawn and I let an f-bomb escape from my lips as the tall, irritable floor-lady passed by our table.

"Please watch your language. I'm going to have to warn you."
"I can't fucking believe this." (Uh oh).
"OK, now that's two. One more and I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Helixx's head dropped into his hands and he let out a small sigh. Was it really gonna be one of those nights? The floor lady walked away and my tablemates laughed at my mini Matusow blow-up. I played a few more hands before getting up and taking another walk-and-chat. Or should I say stumble-and-chat.

Here's where the time-space continuum parts ways with my memory.

I remember being in the bar behind the poker room with Iggy, Pauly, and Joe Speaker. I remember making plans for a smoke break with two of those three gentlemen. I remember Pauly telling me that Phil Gordon was sitting at the 5-5NL table with Hank and some of the Full Tilt crew. I remember the blue shirt Phil wore that perfectly matched his dreamy eyes.

Then I remember being in the Ava Gardner stall in the ladies room where I may or may not have temporarily passed out. The booze just hit me so fast. I didn't think I had drank enough to do this sort of damage.

The next thing I remember is being in a cab sandwiched between two big black hookers. The hookers were talking to each other about my state of conciousness and I think one of them sort of poked me to see if I was at all alive or cogent.

"Man, this 'lil thing is WASTED!"
"How'd she get like this?"
"She don't even have no coat on!"

The hookers' banter brought me around a little bit, and as my head lolled from sideways to upright, I noticed that one of Hooker #2's two-inch fuschia acrylic nails was touching my gold purse. That brought me around a little bit more, and I told myself that I needed to wake the fuck up and pay enough attention to get myself back to the Imperial Palace without being robbed by these ladies of the night.

That's really the last thought I remember having before crashing out in the wee hours on Saturday morning. I have no recollection how I paid the driver. Or how I navigated the IP maze and found the correct elevator. Or how I got up to my room, took off and untangled six necklaces, and ordered myself a 9:20 AM wakeup call.

At dawn, I woke up in a panic, believing that I still had chips on the table at the MGM Grand. I must have had over $150 still in my stack. There was nothing I could do about that right now. "I'll just write it off as a loss," I muttered to myself before rolling over and falling back into a fitful sleep as the sun rose over Sin City.

To be continued...

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?: WPBT Holiday Classic Part I

Prologue, June 2005

My last trip to Vegas was for the WSOP. Late last April, I won a "Bracelet Race" satellite on Full Tilt while reading a bad romantic comedy spec and watching American Idol with Showcase. About two hours into the tournament I busted Rafe Furst with my QQ vs. his JJ and found myself with a huge stack. I put down the script, turned off the TV, went to town on the short stacks, won a key coinflip, and cruised to the finish. I had been playing No-Limit seriously for only four months and I had a $1500 World Series seat. What the fuck? I was dead money but utterly stoked.

I wanted Showcase to come with me, but he had just taken a week off and couldn't take another. It was just as well, because now I could treat this all-expenses paid trip to Vegas as the serious gambling excursion it needed to be. I crammed for the tournament like a final exam. Harrington. Brunson. Sklansky. Hours and hours online and even more at Commerce. I got Pokertracker. I got the Pokertracker Guide. I played SNGs and $20 tournaments until my eyes bled. I played two $125 tourneys at the Bicycle Club and got deep in both. My learning curve was nice and steep in those 10 weeks and as I sat down at Table 160 with a pounding heart and fidgeting hands I almost felt ready for what I was about to do.

Turns out that I wouldn't last that long in the tournament. The hands that I got, I played well and the hands I was sucked out on, well, that's poker. I walked out of the cavernous Rio Convention Center through a half-mile of hallways, past baton-twirling pre-teens and paunchy guys on cell phones telling their bad beat stories to one of the bars in the middle of the casino. I ordered a tequila and a Corona and donked off $20 at video poker while I decompressed, rewound all the hands I'd played in my head and momentarily wondered if I should have made the more practical decision to sell my lammers and pocket the cash. But that wasn't the point. I had played in the World Series and on a freeroll, no less. Wasn't that something to be proud of? I'd probably have been more disappointed had I not played at all.

But here I was, tipsy at 3 PM in this hooker bar that I'd been reading about online with no further agenda for rest of my trip. I had a gorgeous suite upstairs, a decent bankroll in my pocket and 48 hours to play whatever I wanted for as long as I wanted. This was supposed to make me happy.

Instead, I found myself awash in the sort of Las Vegas malaise that can unexpectedly descend once the fleeting highs of gambling and booze and freedom dissapate and leave you to wrestle with your own inner demons. Especially when you're there alone. I had a tragic moment when thought about just going back to my room, injesting every gram of drug I had on me and sleeping for the rest of the trip. Instead, I managed to pull myself together long enough to get up from the hooker bar and begin a long, sweltering trek across the freeway to Bellagio. This was my cherished time away from work and Hollywood and all that fucking bullshit I had wanted to escape for months and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to put it to good use. I was here to play cards.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Six Months Later

Room 235 was in a remote, forgotten corridor of the IP adjacent to what looked like a crack alley. The clueless lady with the bad dye job at the front desk obviously had no idea where it was either, because I managed to go up and down every freakin' elevator in this two-star maze of a hotel, while dragging my heavy, overpacked suitcase behind me before wearily asking for a second set of directions from one of the pit bosses. I finally found the right elevator after about 20 minutes and squeezed inside along with about a dozen Stetson-clad cowboys.

When I opened the door to my room, the scent of stale unfiltered Camels nearly knocked me all the way back to the elevator bay. The walls were yellowish and my king bed was covered in a garish floral comforter. After setting down my suitcases and hanging up the garment bag I wouldn't touch again all weekend, I rummaged through my makeup bag for the cheap bottle of Gap Scents: Dream that I knew was in there. Cheaper than perfume and more pleasantly scented than Lysol, it comes in handy in removing offensive and/or illegal scents in confined spaces. I doused the room in Dream and flung open the curtain, revealing a small balcony. There is a God. And some much-needed ventilation. After a quick smoke break on the balcony, I changed clothes, sorted through my cash, and decided it was about time to find the poker room and meet some bloggers. Somehow I had left Los Angeles without any phone numbers. Aside from Pauly and the Murderer's Row gang, I hadn't met anyone and was relying on posted photos and a little faith to hook me up with the group. I suppose this was my first real gamble of the weekend.

The Imperial Palace poker room is an odd one. Unlike most Vegas poker rooms, the IP's room is actually separated from the main casino floor. It sits on the third floor next to a broken escalator and a few dozen old Keno chairs. If I needed a treasure map to find my room, I needed a compass, a magic 8-ball and a trail of bread crumbs to lead me to this place. As I stepped off the elevators, I saw about 10 tables largely populated by cowboys, still in town for the rodeo. I milled around the rail for a couple of minutes seeing if I could recognize any bloggers. Aside from the cowboys, there were a number of twenty and thirtysomething guys in poker hats and shirts that easily fit the type, but I couldn't be sure. I panicked for about thirty seconds. Shit. What if I couldn't find anyone?

Then I saw Joanne. I recognized her from her photo, but her smile was bigger and her hair redder in person. Next to her was none other than Derek McGrupp. I steeled my nerves and walked up to both of them.

"Excuse me, are you Joanne?"
"I am!"
"I'm Change100."

And I was greeted with a huge smile and a warm hug. I introduced myself to Derek next, and mentioned that I had met his brother in L.A. Almost on cue, Pauly stepped out of the elevator and joined us. Another huge hug. He was waiting for a call from Jaxia, who was due to land at McCarran any minute. Hank and Rick Wampler stopped by next, then I met Maudie and Gracie. The general consensus was that everyone would be heading over to the MGM that night for donkey poker and the H.O.R.S.E. game that Joaquin had set up.

Pauly left to meet Jaxia, the gang dispersed, and I decided to sit $100 NL with the cowboys for a couple of hours. I won about $50 before cashing out and hitting the monorail to the MGM.

It is there, my friends, that our story really begins.

To be continued...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Back in L.A.

I pulled into my driveway around 1 AM last night-- back from Vegas, more or less in one piece.

I may or may not have been ejected from the MGM Grand at one point...

I may or may not have grabbed a fellow blogger's junk...

Trip report to come once I've had a few more hours of sleep...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Five tips for Vegas you won't read anywhere else

1. Invest in a good moisturizer. The parched Nevada desert will do a number on your skin so prepare accordingly. My personal favorites include Philosophy's Hope in a Jar, Keihls' Ultra Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15, and for the more budget-minded, Neutrogena Day Cream. Slather your face in it first thing in the morning and again at night, before you pass out. You'll look a helluva lot better when you get up even if you feel like shit.

2. Drive 85 MPH on I-15, NOT 95 MPH. Between these two speeds is a vaguely-defined threshold where "driving as fast as every other douchebag on the freeway" becomes "speeding." Avoid this by keeping the spedometer around 85, slowing to 80 near major overpasses. For a fun prop bet, pick out an idiot who cuts around you to pass and wager with your driving companion whether or not you'll see him pulled over on the side of the road within the next 50, 75, 100 miles.

3. Try not to stop on the drive from LA to Vegas. It only puts more time between you and your first free drink. But if you must stop, stop at the Harvey House in Barstow. Air conditioning, great patty melts and plenty of people-watching.

4. If you're walking the center Strip and feel the need for a toke, your best bet in terms of location is in the parking structure behind the Harley-Davidson restaurant. The stairwells are well-concealed and the view from the roof is pretty decent.

5. If you need to hide a bong in your hotel room, conceal it within your own luggage! Empty the water, remove the slider, and wrap it tightly in a towel or a plastic garbage bag. Place the wrapped bong inside your empty suitcase and zip shut. Do NOT put a naked bong (a) under the bed, (b) inside the night stand or (c) behind the curtains. Housekeeping WILL find it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Friday Night on Murderer's Row

"Someone's gonna have to get lucky to win this one" - HDouble

The LAST place I thought I'd scrape up some coin for Vegas was on Murderer's Row. But by the grace of the poker gods, a half a bottle of Soco and some fine tokes of cannabis, that's exactly what happened.

I had $100 in my pocket. Before I walked out the door to head up to Westwood for the LA Blogger Home Game Showcase made me promise I was comfortable with losing it. I said that I was about as comfortable losing it as he was with shelling out almost $700 for the new headshots he was taking in the morning.

"Fine. Just don't come in my room if you're drunk or on tilt."

I got to HDouble's at 7:45, packing a fifth of Southern Comfort in my purse. I greeted the usual crew in the living room before stopping in the kitchen to pour myself a drink. That's where I met Pauly. He had a bottle of Soco too. Great minds think alike.

"Hey Pauly, what are you mixing this shit with? I forgot my Diet Coke."
"Then ice it is."

Before the tourney got underway I grabbed a smoke outside with the good doctor. We were 19 strong for the $50 tourney and I landed at the kiddie table with Geek on my left, Lance on my right, and Pauly on his right. Grubby, Grubette, Franklin, Mike, and Shawn rounded out the table. Unfortunately, Lance was first out when his pocket sixes ran into Geek's rockets. A few hands later, Grubby's AT fell to his sister's 77. Pauly was raising with all sorts of trash hands, and came after the blinds again-- I called him with A7d in the SB and Geek folded. Flop came QJ8 all diamonds and Pauly fired out 500. I moved all-in over the top with my nut flush. Pauly looked at me with a crooked grin and slyly flashed his Jackhammer to HDouble before folding. That gave me a nice stack to work with.

A few hands and another smoke break later, Pauly moved all-in with his short stack and I called with 55 with about 15BB left. I thought I'd be racing, but Pauly had AA! As Mike burned and turned, I saw a beautiful 5 of clubs on the flop, the Dr. was out, and I was near the chip lead. Hank joined our table a few hands later. He opened in EP and I re-raised him with AK. Grubbette came over the top with 77, Hank folded and I called. I won the race with an A on the flop and a K on the turn.

Final table. Now this is where things start to get a witttttle fuzzy. It all seemed to happen so freakin' fast. First, there was the hand where I cracked AA with A5. Then Geek moved all-in and I insta-called with AA. Finally it was down to Kori and I heads-up after Grubette busted in 4th and JoeSpeaker took 3rd. I won a couple of small pots before making a dumb move all-in with 37 offsuit. Kori called with QQ and doubled up. Within four or five hands after that, we were both even with about $16K each in chips and decided to chop.

Yes, you read that correctly. I am the reigning co-champion of Murderer's Row!! And during WPBT week no less. I took home $305 for my efforts and picked up another hundred bucks or so in the cash game. Check out Pauly's trip report for more details and photos if you haven't already.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Smooth-call or re-raise?

I haven't played much since Black Friday. And I probably won't play much this week, save for the weekly Murderer's Row gathering at HDouble's on Friday. Two blogging legends will be putting in a special guest appearance, so I'm up for bleeding away a little cash in their honor.

OK, so I did play a LITTLE on Tuesday night. I won two $11 SNGs on Full Tilt to start, which gave me a nice shot in the arm. Then I blew all that profit trying to grab the $1080.00 brass ring in a couple of $22 180-person SNGs on Stars. These 180s are a thing of beauty and soft, soft, soft. I lost an early race in the first one (AK v. 99) but managed to get a hold of a healthy stack in the second one when this hand came up.

I have 6000 in chips, 13th of the 62 players remaining. It's folded to me in MP, where I pick up KK. I raise 3x the BB to 450. A loose-aggressive player with a similar stack size to mine two to my left re-raises the minimum to 900. I smooth-call the extra 450. At this point, I'm putting him on 99-QQ, AK or AQ. Of course, he could also have AA with that min-raise. The flop is Js 9c 7c. I check my overpair, both wanting and expecting him to bet the flop. He does, throwing out a pot-sized bet of 2200. Seems defensive to me and I re-raise all-in for my remaining 5100. He calls instantly, showing 77 for the set.

OK, I know a lot of that result is simple crap luck, but there are two points in this hand where I think I possibly made a mistake and may have been able to save myself from busting. (1) After the villain's PF min-reraise (that makes Baby Jesus cry), is reraising him a better choice in this spot given his loose-aggro image? (2) Once he bets the 2400 on the flop, is calling the better choice than the all-in reraise?

Or am I just destined to go broke with this hand on this flop? I open it up to the floor.

(Special thanks today to Iggy for the pimpage!)