Monday, July 31, 2006

Dodging Tourists, Main Event Bloggers, and how Cindy Margolis put me on tilt

Every afternoon at the WSOP is a game of dodge-the-tourist. I dodge them in the parking lot as I try to find a space that gives me something less than a quarter-mile walk to the media room. I dodge them outside the hospitality suites as I try to get to the ladies room. I dodge them in the hallways, where most of them just stand there, blocking traffic, ogling the spokesmodels and looking lost. I dodge them inside the tournament area as I try to squeeze my way up to the rail through guys in bad Hawaiian shirts stacked six or seven deep. They could give a shit if I have a media badge. They want their blurry photo of the back of Phil Hellmuth's head to take home. I have bruises in places I can't remember hitting but I'm sure some tourist put them there after smacking me in the shoulder for the 13,000th time.

I hate them all. Every single one of them. After enduring four day ones as a member of the media and watching what the players have to go through just to get to their table and back on breaks, I firmly believe that tourists and spectators should be banned from the Main Event, at least until Harrah's can find a facilty to hold this thing that is big enough for everyone. Though I'm not sure that place exists anywhere in the city of Las Vegas. In only two short years, the WSOP has pretty much outgrown its new home at the Rio Convention Center. The Amazon Room is barely big enough to hold the 2100 players that have started each day of the Main Event, let alone all of their railbirds. I can't imagine how much it sucks to be trying to think your way through a big hand in a $10K event with dozens of idiots with cameras gawking at you and talking amongst themselves. It's utterly maddening.

In other Main Event news, huge congrats to Ryan of Absinthetics and Tuscaloosa Johnny of Poker Nation and Pokerblog for making it to Day 2 of play with over $40K in chips apiece! More bloggers are in the field today including Zeem and Lucko21.

I also ran into Bill Rini a couple of days ago while walking the floor. What a great surprise! Looks like he's not moving to Dublin with the Full Tilt crew after all. Will Murderer's Row rise again?

For more stories, party reports and bad fashion from the WSOP, check out some of my posts on

WSOP Fashion Report: Potheads of Poker
WSOP After Dark
World Series of Prop Bets
Lucky You: The Five Signs of a Stinker
The WSOP Party Scene: Full Tilt @ Pure
The WSOP Party Scene: Bodog @ TAO
WSOP Fashion Report: Tragic Shirt Edition
Railbird Flashers
WSOP Fashion Report: Razz Edition
The Cash Game Scene: Big-Time Badugi
The WSOP Fashion Report: Today's Winners and Losers

* * * * *

We had a multi-way last longer going into Thursday's Media Event. Otis, CJ, Pauly, Tuscaloosa Johnny, Jen Leo, John Caldwell and myself put up $20 each, the total prize pool going to the last man or woman standing out of the seven of us. It was more for fun than anything, given that the structure of the tournament was akin to a dollar turbo tournament, with each of us starting with $1000 in chips and blinds at 25-50. The dealers put the over-under at the whole thing finishing at 3.5 hours. And there were at least 25 tables in play.

I didn't recognize a soul at my first table. The only "celebrity" seated there was this attractive black guy who I think is the host of one of those entertainment tabloid shows ("Extra?"). Aside from the guy in the 2 seat (who works for or something of the like) no one really knew what they were doing and I was able to pick up a lot of pots on continuation bets after raising from late position before the flop. I doubled my stack early when a guy raised to 500 with KQ, and I came over the top all in with AA. By the time we hit the first break, I was cruising with over 5000.

Then I got a table change. And all hell broke loose.

There was a tacky gold purse sitting on my new seat. I asked the lady to my right if it belonged to her and if I could tuck it underneath the table. When she looked up, I realized just why the photogs and media had descended like vultures over this particular table. I now had the world's most downloaded woman on my right. Cindy Margolis. And she had absolutely no idea what she was doing. A mess of uncounted, unstacked chips sat in front of her.

Cindy and I chatted briefly about our gold purses (though I think mine was a little more tasteful, thank you very much) while Pauly and Ryan eyed us from the rail. On my first hand at the new table, I was dealt two ren tens and raised it up to 1000 from UTG with 150-300/25 blinds. The SB pushed all in for 1500 and Cindy flat-called from the BB. She didn't so much as call, as she took a handful of chips and tossed them toward the dealer, asking "is that enough?" I called 500 more and a Q high, uncoordinated flop came down. Cindy grabbed a fistfull of green and black chips and tossed them toward the pot. It turned out to be only a 400 chip bet into the pot that was approaching 5000. The bet was small and could have meant anything, so I called. The turn was a blank. Cindy checked and I checked behind. The river was a J, a shitty card for me, putting two overs to my pair on the board. Cindy instantly announced all in. Now I really hated my hand and I'd put nearly half my stack into this pot. I folded disgustedly and Cindy turned over JJ for the rivered set. The SB looked utterly sickened as he tabled his AQ and watched her rake in the chips, which, of course, she couldn't be bothered to stack.

A friend of Cindy's walked over and saw the pile in front of her.

"How'd you get all those chips, Cindy?" he asked.

"I won them!" she giggled in reply.

Tilt. Tilt. Tilt. I glared at Pauly and Ryan, rolling my eyes. Somewhere, there is an awesome picture of it.

CJ was keeping tabs on Otis and I and live blogging our progress as we were the last two runners in the last longer. We were neck and neck for awhile, each with around 2500, until I saw CJ rushing towards me.

"Otis just doubled up. Wanna hold on to this for a while?" he said, handing me his shiny new silver Luckbox.

It worked.

With only 1500 or so chips left, I pushed in with A2 from somewhere in middle position and got two callers with KT and QJ. The flop came a beautiful Q22 and I tripled up.

But so did Otis, right before he was moved to my table, replacing one of the guys I just busted. The blinds were atrociously high at this point (300-600/75), and when I looked down at AJs, I felt there was no other choice but to push in with the 3500 0r so I had left. I ran them straight into QQ and unfortunately had the guy covered by only 350. With that, we went to break, which was doubly annoying, seeing as I'd have to wait around for 20 minutes just to go all-in blind on the first hand back. Boooooo. That hand turned out to be 37o, and Otis found A7 in the BB to take it. I flung the $140 at him with a "nice hand, donkey." (I keed, I keed...)

Otis went on to make the final table and finished 9th, earning $100 for the American Cancer Society. I went home and had a nice big bong hit.

* * * * *
I'll leave you with some of my favorite photos I've taken during the Main Event so far:

An ice bracelet sits on the bar of the Voodoo Lounge at the Harrah's party

My kind of guy

For Drizz and Chad: Painted Ladies

What happens when you prop bet Gavin Smith

Snakes on a Flop!

Obligatory dreamy Phil Gordon photo... sigh

Though Erick Lindgren's no slouch... double sigh

Seriously, you should. Some players are having the dealer sign a slip of paper with their chip count on it before leaving the room for breaks.

This one's for you, Mean Gene

Friday, July 28, 2006

The World Series of Prop Bets

Last night, Pauly and I had dinner in the Coffee Shop at Treasure Island. I ordered a typically Cali-girl dinner of a turkey burger topped with avocado and sprouts, while Pauly opted for his old standby, Chicken Fingers. The fingers came with two dipping sauces along with a side of tangy japanese cucumbers. Two carrot sticks and two celery sticks finished off the garnish. I tried the cucumbers. They were pretty tasty.

Now, we all know by now how Pauly feels about vegetables. They offend him. He'll pick them out of anything, including hamburgers, pasta, and chinese food. I've known him for going on 9 months and have yet to see him eat a salad. Seeing as he's down several bills in food-related prop bets, I offered him an easy way to not only make back some of that money, but to aid in his own health and digestion.

"I'll give you $100 if you can eat the whole plate of vegetables."
"The whole plate?"
"Yes. The cucumbers, the carrots, and the celery sticks. No water. No sauce."
"I don't think you're serious. If you're serious, you'll put that money on the table."

He thought I was semi-bluffing. And I sort of was. But here's the thing about semi-bluffs. Even if you do get called, a lot of times you will hit your draw.

I took a $100 bill out of my wallet and set it on the table between us. Pauly looked at the $100, looked at me, looked at a carrot, and took a huge bite. It only took about ten seconds before his face was frozen in a grimace as he tried to swallow. He made it through half a carrot, half a stick of celery, and one cucumber before giving up. I even offered to let him out for $50 if he just finished the celery. But he couldn't bear it anymore.

Watch it for yourself. What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't capture it on video?

Pauly eats vegetables for $100.

"What's wrong?" I asked, sweetly as he downed french fries and iced tea to rid his mouth of the vegetable taste.
"I'm just not finding you very attractive right now."

I dunno. I think the Benjamin becomes me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Confused Conventioneers and Keno Crayons

After eight days in Vegas, I'm amazingly still alive and not broke. Over the last week I've seen a grown man eat crayons for money, watched a hooker flash her crotch to a table of limit hold'em players, marveled at an 80-year old man dropping the hammer, and spent an inordinate time in a place called the Tilted Kilt. I drink more booze most days than I do in a month in Los Angeles, though consequently, my weed bill has gone down. And though I quit smoking more than a year and a half ago, the palpable aroma of fresh Malboros burning in restaurants has made it that much more difficult to resist.

I have about 30 minutes before I have to leave the comfort of the media room to go home and change for the Bodog party tonight, so I'll spit out as many words as I can before I'm whisked away in Pauly's rental Honda.

Thursday night, I played poker at Green Valley Ranch, a swank locals' casino in Henderson near Grubby's (former) apartment. I'd eaten a number of meals there in the Grand Cafe since arriving in Vegas and I was dying to check out the action in the poker room. I got there around 8:30 and there was already a list 10 deep for $1-2 No Limit, so I took a seat at in the $4-8 with 1/2 kill game. It turned out to be a very wise choice. Full of tourists and conventioneers, half the table had no idea what they were doing. The guy on my left had to ask me if he could bet more than $4 on the flop.

I had a rough start when I saw a five-way limped flop with A2d from mid-late position. The flop came 8 T 5 with two diamonds and three of us capped the flop. The turn was a black T. The small blind bet, I called and the third guy called. A beautiful six of diamonds fell on the river, making my nut flush. The small blind bet, I raised, the third guy folded, and the small blind 3-bet. I just called, since the board was paired and I'm glad I did. He turned over 8T offsuit for the boat, thrust his hands into the air and yelled "Yeah, baby! That's what I'm talkin' about!" Tersely, I gave the asshole a "nice hand, sir" and maintained an ice-queen stare. I would get those chips back. Not necessarily from him, but this game was too good to sacrifice to tilt.

For the next two hours, I went on a tear. I hit top pair with AQ and it held up. I flopped a set of sevens and got maximum value out of the hand against two other players. AA held up in a three-way battle and a free flop from the small blind with 34o brought me a straight, paid off to the max by a confused conventioneer. I hardly said a word to the table as I raked in their chips.

After the confused conventioneer gave up upon emptying out his second rack, an 80 year old man named George took the seat on my left. He pulled out two players' club cards. One was for the "President." The other, the "Chairman of the Board."

"How can you be the President AND the Chairman of the Board?" I asked, sweetly.

"Been askin' myself the same darn question," he said. "You know I have over 4 million player points? I bet I can get my own funeral comped."

A couple of hands later, I picked up AA and flopped a set on an A Q X board with two hearts. I got checkraised on the flop by the Gavin Smith lookalike in the small blind and smooth-called. The turn was the 5s. Gavin bets at me again and I raise. Gavin calls. River is the queen of diamonds. Sweet sweet boat for me. And even sweeter, Gavin leads out. I raise him and he calls. His forehead hits the felt when I turn over my aces.

"Nice hand, darlin. You played that perfectly," George whispered as he pat my arm with his wrinkled hand. Gavin muttered to himself as his friend chided him for betting the river.

"Why bet out there when you missed your draw? You knew she was coming!"

I racked up my chips at the end of the orbit and cashed out +202. But not before I saw George drop the hammer, and beautifully. I pointed to my pin.

"That's the hammer! Well played."
"I always raise with 2-7" he smiled.

* * * * *

On Saturday, Wil was feeling a bit down after busting early from the $2000 NLHE event. Pauly and I found him drinking at the Hooker Bar with Otis and cursing at a video poker machine. An intervention was necessary. What's the best cure for the poker blues?


Wil, Otis, Spaceman, April, Pauly and I departed the Rio for the Gold Coast and in short order the six of us took over an entire table. While most of us bought in for a couple hundred and were making bets in the $10-25 range, Otis was pounding Greyhounds and pulling wads of hundreds from his pocket. He was almost instantly stuck over $1000. This is when he decided that the only way he'd get unstuck was to bet $800 a hand. He did this THREE SEPERATE TIMES. He pushed twice and (thank God) won once.

Otis' atrocious Pai Gow play earned the six of us a $90 food comp that we decided to spend in the Gold Coast's diner. Before we could open our menus, Pauly set two Keno crayons on Otis' placemat.

"$400 if you eat them both."

Pauly pulled four $100 bills out of his wallet and spread them out on the table.

"You're seriously going to pay me $400 if I eat two Keno crayons?"
"Totally. But no water."

Otis bit into the crayons with total drunken abandon. I wondered how many people had touched the crayons as swished the black waxy paste around his mouth. Pauly offered to let him out of it multiple times (for a price, of course) but Otis would have none of that.

The now-legendary video, can, be found here. It is the cure for all tilt. My sides ached for hours afterward I laughed so hard.

Alas, it is time for me to leave for Bodog's fete at TAO. If only I knew what I was going to wear.

More soon from the City of Sin.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

WSOP Photos

A few random photos from today at the Rio:

She's currently the chipleader in the $5K Stud

Doyle takes a phone call

Joe Reitman's tragic pigtails

Wait list for the high-limit side games

Danny wears lavender and signs autographs as he goes on break in the $2500 PLH

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Credentials, Aussie Sarah, Ladies-Only Online Poker and the Worst Prop Bet Ever

I got my press badge last night, and can now post from the relative comfort of the WSOP media room. Everyone has warned me about how much it’s going to suck when the main event starts and every outlet in the known universe decides to set up shop in here, squeezing journalists who have already been there for five weeks straight out of the spaces they’re accustomed to. The media room is sort of like the study lounge in your college dorm. Everyone’s trying to get their stories out, yet at the same time, everyone really wants to gossip and socialize. Headphones seem to be the universal “do not disturb” sign.

I sat between April and Steve Hall today. Steve, aka Foiled Coup is a trip. He’s a British photographer with a serious affection for Liz Lieu. In fact, the first time I was ever introduced to him (back in February at the Commerce Casino) he was toting a perfectly rolled up autographed Liz Lieu poster. Pauly just posted a hilarious interview with Steve where they dissect the different types of models/ex-strippers/future strippers that work the WSOP hospitality booths. Check it out.

My new editor, Dan Michalski played in the $1500 NLHE event yesterday and unfortunately busted out somewhere around the second break. He drowned his sorrows with a bunch of us at the Hooker Bar around dinner time. He had scotch, I had Coronas, and Jen Leo went for double White Russians. After downing three or four of them, she grabbed Pauly's junk. Twice confirmed now. Watch out Bobby Bracelet! I also saw Otis hit quads yet again on a video poker machine. Wil joined us later and I met his beautiful wife, Anne. Pauly explained to her why it was called the hooker bar and helped her spot a few.

While we were there, I met the lovely Sarah Bilney. Sarah is an Australian pro who finished in 63rd place out of 5619 entrants in last year’s WSOP main event and has since made four additional WSOP cashes, including a 12th place finish in last week's $2500 NLHE event. And... she’s a fan of my blog! Sarah is playing in today's $2500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event. I just peeked into the Amazon Room and saw her seated at the same table as Vanessa Rousso. The photogs will surely be descending on that one! Oh wait. Pauly already did.

Sarah Bilney, playing in the $2500 PLH
(photo by Dr. Pauly)

Check out her blog, Aussie Sarah, where she has been writing about her play in this year's series.

I lost $20 to Pauly in perhaps the worst prop bet I’ve ever made. I bet that he couldn’t throw an empty water bottle into a trash can across the Rio Convention Center hallway. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the wall behind the can would make for such an easy bank shot. He’s missed a bunch of times when we’ve had props involved throwing things in the past. But those were only for a dollar. Aiyah. I’ll have to find some way to earn it back, preferably involving him consuming green vegetables. I'm such a fish.

Finally, Absolute Poker just annouced today that they're creating a Ladies'-only online poker room. Now that's one of the most insulting things I've read about lately in the poker world. Look, I'm fine with Ladies'-only live events simply because they're good for bringing more women into the game while taking away the intimidation factor some may feel upon entering a 98% male tournament. But ONLINE? Are you KIDDING me? There is no intimidation factor online. No one sees you. And if you're that freaked out about it, you probably shouldn't be playing in the first place. No one is going to know if you have tits or a dick unless you tell them yourself. I play on Full Tilt with that little devil girl avatar and most of my opponents STILL think I'm a guy. If I had a dollar for every "nice hand, dude" I could afford to install central air conditioning in my apartment.

So tell me, what the fuck is the point in segregating an online game? Are there going to me ladies' only online backgammon rooms? Ladies' only chess? I hope AP Lady's traffic is as dry as a Vegas afternoon.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thunder and Lightning

I’m on Grubby’s balcony in Henderson, Nevada watching a thunderstorm. We got back from dinner at Ellis Island just before the sky opened up and marveled at nature’s light show with “oohs” and “whoas” as we cruised down the 215 East in my rental Chevy Malibu. And now I’m sitting out here, not only to bear witness to the sky’s theatrics, but because the temperature has dropped perhaps twenty degrees from the 113 I avoided all day, getting myself from air-conditioned apartment to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned casino as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s nice out here for once. The heat has temporarily left us, the air tempered by humidity and cool wind. Every few seconds a lightning bolt pierces the desert sky revealing diagonal sheets of rain that pound onto the aluminum-roofed carports outside the building. It creates such a din that it sounds like a flash flood is coursing through the streets of our little suburban development.

I got to Vegas yesterday in record time– three hours and forty three minutes. I pitied the fools that would be spending their entire Sunday and then some in the 200+ miles of bumper to bumper gridlock that lined the southbound 15 toward L.A. as I flew by at 90 MPH on the other side. This is what happens when idiots check out of their hotels at 11 AM or noon on a summer weekend and decide to drive back to Los Angeles. Massive. Angry. Clusterfuck. Overheated cars every couple of miles. I saw one Mexican family’s van pulled over on the side of the road, each of the four kids screaming and crying as clothes blew out of their two open suitcases onto the freeway. Drivers honked and swerved at 80+MPH as T-shirts and stuffed animals blew into their lane.

How the suitcases got open on the freeway shoulder, we’ll never know.

When I got to the Rio, I met up with Pauly and Wil for a beer at the Tilted Kilt. Our young, nublie waitress was named Stephanie, and the guys flirted with her mercilessly.

“Don’t you know who this guy is?” Pauly queried, aghast as he pointed at Wil. “He’s won bracelets.”
“Oh are you all with the poker thing?”
“Yeah. We come in here like every day. I’m serious, watch out for this one. Two final tables already this year.”
“So what days do you work here? I want to make sure to sit in your section.”

We all had pints and Pauly and I got food. Wil asked Stephanie if he could order eleven french fries. Eleven. Precisely. She was going to palm him a handful, but Pauly and I decided to donate some of ours. Certainly we could spare eleven between us.

* * * * *

I spent this afternoon up at the Rio covering the action for Though Phil Hellmuth made another final table and took his second shot this year at a tenth bracelet in the $3000 Omaha Hi-Lo, he came up short, losing most of his stack in the early going and ending up sixth. Had he succeeded, it would have been Hellmuth’s first bracelet in a non-hold’em event.

Today’s real story, however, was the mass confusion surrounding the $1500 Pot Limit Omaha event. It’s been listed as a $1500 freezeout since the WSOP schedule came out months ago, but evidently someone upstairs decided at the last minute to change it to a rebuy format. Naturally, a lot of the registered players were upset by this decision, as a rebuy event requires much deeper pockets than most of them had. So a lot of them (including Pauly) decided to unregister for the event. By the time morning rolled around, everything was so fucked up that the powers that be decided to ADD another bracelet event to the schedule ($1500 PLO w/ rebuys kicking off at 4 PM) in addition to the one they said they’d run all along ($1500 PLO freezeout starting at noon).

So there’s event 26, and what, event 26 ½? It’s like the freakin’ train platform in Harry Potter. Only wizards can see it. Muggles beware.

After Pauly busted from the PLO in the second level (I ran his bustout hand on and he got his money in as a 95% favorite vs. the Eurodonkey) we ducked out for a bite at my favorite new eatery... Sonic! I am in love with their Texas Toaster sandwiches. Pauly ordered the bacon, egg and cheese while I opted for the Chicken Club.

Tonight, we said goodbye to Grubby with dinner at Ellis Island. I had a surprisingly delicious sirloin for only $4.95. It was a sincere honor to have Grubby as my guide on my first visit to one of Vegas’ most storied locals casinos. While we waited for our table, Grubby collected his final players card bonus and Pauly donked off $20 at Mr. Cashman. As a woman played Little Lucy nearby, Grubby knew what round she was in without even looking at the machine.

“I can tell by the music” he grinned.

I'm getting better at posting photos. Here are some from the last few days:

Moonrise over Downtown L.A.

The Road to Vegas

Action at the Rio

A picture of food for Daddy: these sirloin tacos al carbon from El Cholo contain BACON

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pauly PLO

Last night, Pauly thought he'd be skipping today's $1500 Pot Limit Omaha event, since the powers that be decided to make it a rebuy event instead of a freezeout less than 24 hours before the cards went in the air. We came over to the Rio early so he could unregister, only to discover that a whole new PLO rebuy event, now scheduled to kick off at 4 PM, had been added. The freezeout was still happening at Noon. Our lunch plans with Grubby now foiled, I ran back to Henderson to grab him his laptop and the snazzy black Poker Stars polo he'd be wearing at the table.

When I returned, he was already up to T$2000 from his initial starting stack. "I busted some dude with AA23. Everyone's playing so loose." he said, smiling.

European star Noah Boeken is at Pauly's table so he has his work cut out for him. I also hear that Cyndy Violette was "Gigli" busting out only six minutes into the tournament. Looks like she'll be ready in time for the rebuy later this afternoon.

UPDATE 1:18 PM: "Some Interpoker douchebag just busted me. I can't talk to the media right now..."

Boooooooooooo! Looks like I'm buying lunch.

Friday, July 14, 2006

WPBT Summer Classic, Part I

Smoke poured from the green hood of my 13-year old Saturn as I idled in front of the Rio. Though the heat needle hadn't moved past the dreaded "H" during the four hour and seventeen minute ride from Los Angeles, something in the poor car's system must have snapped the instant I turned off the freeway and onto the streets of Las Vegas. I stared at the smoke, shaking my head as Pauly emerged from the casino's revolving doors and hopped into the front seat.

"You know your car is overheating, right?"

Yeah. Despite the $600 I'd dropped at Hottie's Lube only the day before, at least I made it to Vegas and didn't spend the day broken down on the side of I-15 in triple-digit heat. I manuvered my heavily smoking vehicle to the self-parking lot at the back of the casino, near the new "WSOP Valet Parking" entrance. I popped the hood and Pauly took a look at the engine, which was now covered in slimy green coolant.

"What's wrong with it?"
"I don't know. Let's ask Otis. He's a redneck, he'll know something."
"Hey, don't tilt about the car. At least you're here, right?"
"And I'm staying totally in denial about what just happened."

As we walked across the parking lot, a silver Mercedes SL500 paused at a stop sign, allowing us to cross. Behind the wheel was Chau Giang, who I'm guessing was headed home after busting from the $10K Pot Limit Omaha event.

"Chow Gang!" I exclaimed.

I'd been to last year's World Series, so I was prepared for the poker circus inside the Rio Convention Center. Almost immediately, I spotted Mark Seif, Marcel Luske, and Erik Seidel in various stages of mood, trudging through the long hallways. What surprised me was how much fancier everything was this year. Sure, there was a Full Tilt hospitality suite at the 2005 WSOP, but not one with plasma TVs, white leather couches and nonstop free booze. In 2005, each suite was marked with a placard, or maybe a banner. In 2006, each guest is welcomed by neon-lit archways at the entrance, bearing the site's logo. 18 year old models with fake tits stand guard outside, enticing passers-by with iPod giveaways and complimentary cocktails. Between Full Tilt, Poker Stars, Ultimate Bet, Doyle's Room, and Bodog, there is absolutely no reason to pay for drinks at the WSOP.

Pauly went back to work and I met up with Derek, Al, StB, and Byron. The final table of the $5000 NLHE tournament was down to three-handed play and Phil Hellmuth was chasing his 10th bracelet. Poker history could potentially be made tonight.

"I'm bored. Anyone want to go to the hooker bar?" said Al.
"Sure!" replied everyone.

I played the role of pied piper and led everyone to the Shutters Bar at the Rio, or the now-legendary "Hooker Bar" to the readers of Pauly's WSOP coverage. It was a bit early for the ladies of the night to be roaming the casino floor. Good hooker sightings don't happen until at least 11 PM. We took over one end of the bar and I deposited $20 into one of it's notoriously loose video poker machines. Apparently that term only applies when Otis is sitting with you, as my Andrew Jackson evaporated in less than ten minutes of one-credit betting. As I sipped my Soco-cranberry, StB gazed at my metallic pouchette that was resting on the bar.

"Did you intentionally match your shoes to your purse?" he queried.

Soco almost came out of my nose. That's the last thing I thought I'd hear coming out of the mouth of a beer-drinking, jean-shorts wearing sports-loving guys' guy from Milwaukee.

Of course I had matched them. Who do you think I am?

After a few cocktails, the five of us piled into a minivan cab, bound for the Excalibur. The first-night bar gathering had been moved to the Castle's Sherwood Forest Bar, since the Fontana Lounge was already occupied by some sort of horrifying band. Some of the veterans remarked how returning to the Sherwood Forest was only fitting, since it was the site of the first official WPBT all-night drinking binge.

This time would be no different.

There was already a crowd around the bar when we arrived. Ryan had brought his lovely wife Kim. Both Aprils were deep in conversation at the bar with Shelly. I bearhugged Bill Rini, whom I hadn't seen since the last Murderer's Row game back in February, and met his dad! The resemblance is uncanny. Iggy was perched atop a couple of phone books, a cigarette dangling from his lips. I met the totally awesome GarthmeisterJ only three or so hours into his bender that would last 34, and bounced around the bar, to chat with Heather, Human Head and Mrs. Head, Donkeypuncher, F-Train, StatikKing, Zeem, Katitude, Weak Player and Mrs. Weak Player.

Later in the evening, Pauly finally returned from the Rio. He'd called before leaving the tournament floor and was so on tilt that he hung up on me when I asked who won. Needless to say, poker history was not made that night, at least not the kind that the WSOP's hungry media were looking for. Phil Hellmuth did not win his tenth bracelet, losing his heads-up match with Jeff Cabanillas, a young unknown from East L.A. Spaceman would later recount to me the fans' resounding chant of "Phil's on tilt! Phil's on tilt! as Cabanillas claimed victory.

After a quick smoke break, Pauly was off tilt and apologized for the hang-up. The rest of the evening was a blur of stories, booze, and laughter at the bar. I imagined I'd be playing poker all night, but as more flights landed and more new friends and old shot Soco and bought this poor (formerly) unemployed Hollywood blonde cocktails, I just couldn't tear myself away to pick up two cards. There would be a whole weekend to do that.

The sun rose for me around 11 AM Friday morning. As I got dressed to go to lunch with Pauly at the Sherwood Forest Cafe, I heard that people were still down at the bar. StB still had a beer in front of him, Al was deep into his second fifth of Southern, and Iggy had gone on Roshambo tilt, spewing about $150 to F-Train. Small fortunes had already changed hands at the poker tables. Some folks had already been loaded for 24 hours straight.

And it was only the first day.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I went to Vegas for a tourney and came back with a job

I'm back in Los Angeles. But not for long.

Somewhere in between drops of the Hammer, shots of Soco, drunken Pai Gow, final tabling the WPBT Summer Classic, and $1200 in car repairs, I managed to get a gig. Thanks to the fabulous Dan Michalski at Pokerati, I'll be covering the World Series of Poker for starting this coming Monday. I'm joining a tremendous lineup of writers including Amy Calistri, Jen Leo, Tuscaloosa Johnny, and Dan himself.

So, yeah. I'll be living in Las Vegas for the next four weeks. God help my liver. And my bankroll.

As you can imagine, I have a ton to write in the 96 hours I will be home, not to mention entertaining my recently out-of-the-closet cousin Bobbo Downey Jr. who is in town from Jersey for a visit. I'll be reaching deep into my energy reserves to make it through this weekend before driving back to Vegas on Sunday.

Speaking of new gigs, go over to Poker Grub and congratulate Grubby on landing his dream job. He's going to be designing slot machines! Fuck Mr. Cashman, I can't wait to donk off money in a Grubby-designed game. Now that's following your passion, kids.

Stay tuned for trip reports from this past week of Vegas madness!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Theiving Douchebags, Panic in L.A., and a Vegas Cautionary Tale

While I was running around L.A. with Pauly this weekend, one of poker's nicest guys won his first WSOP bracelet and in the process, possibly put his best friend on such mega-tilt that he may never recover unless he wins his own piece of gold jewelry this summer.

I'm of course talking about "Tiltboy" Rafe Furst (and his dreamy, but braceletless pal Phil Gordon).

Then some theiving douchebag had to go and win one, re-cementing his position as a TV darling despite a seriously checkered past that the ESPN-Harrah's corporate junta would rather you not hear about.

I'm of course talking about Dutch Boyd.

The Doctor first alerted me to Olver Tse's letter to the ESPN brass, detailing how Boyd, while operating the online poker room, used his players' deposits to pay off company debts. When the room went belly-up, so did its players bankrolls. These players never recieved a dime back from Boyd, despite his promises to return their money if he was ever in a position where he was financially able to do so.

$475K for first place money in a WSOP event might help. Lord knows what he owes his backers, not to mention loan sharks, psychiatrists, and the manufacturers of whatever mood-stablizing drugs he's on at the moment, but I'd say he's in a better position now to right his many wrongs than he was a week ago.

Of course, ESPN and Harrah's don't want you to know this. That's why they're now threatining to revoke Oliver Tse's media credentials.

Welcome to the Sports-Entertainment Media Machine, the clumsier step-child of the Hollywood Media Machine. This fall, they'll try to convince you that Dutch Boyd is just a troubled kid who worked hard and overcame adversity to become a champion.

In related news, Tom Cruise is straight, Nicole Richie eats cheeseburgers, Scientology is a religion, my ex-boss never fucked 20-year old actress wannabes while he was still married to his second wife, and I've never smoked pot before.

I think Benny Binion just rolled over in his grave.

* * * * * *

Pauly and I put a capper on an epic, music-filled month of June with two Widespread Panic shows at the Wiltern Theatre. Though they've been playing and recording for decades, I got into Panic only about a year ago via my Phishy Intern at my old job and my sister, whose ex-boyfriend used to follow them around on tour. Sis copied a bunch of their live albums onto my iTunes and I was hooked.

The Wiltern is one of my favorite concert venues in L.A. It's only about 4,000 seats, ensuring intimacy, and the sound is incredible. The floor seating was torn out a couple of years back and its now all general admission. We were able to get within maybe 50 feet of the stage for both shows. Acquiring street parking on Wilshire both nights was perhaps just as amazing a feat.

Setlists courtesy of Phantasy Tour:

6/30/06 Widespread Panic, The Wiltern Theatre. Los Angeles, CA

Set 1 - Disco* > Papa Legba* > Good People* > When the Cows Come Home, Rebirtha* > CBrown**, Dyin Man > Holden Oversoul > Dorethea > None of Us Are Free

Set 2 - Lawyers, Guns and Money > Diner > Stop Breakin' Down > I'm Not Alone > Tie Your Shoes > Drums**** > Drums and Bass**** > Junior > Pilgrims > Climb To Safety

Encore - Trouble > One Arm Steve

* w/no JKeane - **w/JKeane on Pedal Steel - ****w/ Matt Abts

CBrown>Dyin' Man got the crowd dancing early and the second set absolutley smoked starting with Lawyers, Guns and Money>Diner. Climb to Safety is my favorite Panic song and was such a huge treat for me. I spun around and squealed like a wide-eyed little girl at Pauly as I heard the opening riff. He, of course "totally called it" earlier in the day.

7/1/06 Widespread Panic, Wiltern Theatre. Los Angeles, CA

Set 1- Surprise Valley > Ride Me High, Crazy, Weight of the World, Let It Rock > Radio Child > Greta > Flat Foot Flewzy > Love Tractor

Set 2- Second Skin > Thin Air, Baby Let Me Follow You Down > Driving Song > Smokestack Lightning > Drums > Driving Song > Give, A of D** > Visiting Day** > B of D** > Chilly Water**

Encore: Dream Song > Ain't Life Grand

** w/Sam Holt on guitar

This one was full of my favorite Panic tunes. I don't think I stopped dancing for a minute during Greta>Flat Foot Flewzy>Love Tractor. It was great to hear Driving Song live and I got completely drenched during Chilly Water. Apparently, it's a tradition at Panic shows to fling whatever you were drinking across the crowd during this song. I know I smelled beer on my shirt afterwards, though Pauly warned me that there's something of an urban legend that at Panic shows people piss into bottles and toss them into the crowd during Chilly Water. Well, the shirt went into the laundry and I the shower.

We recovered from the shows at Zuma Beach on Sunday, though the drive up the coast on Fourth of July Sunday was naturally hot and gridlocked. The more time Pauly spends in Los Angeles, the funnier Entourage becomes for him. The valley is indeed hot as fuck, the drive into the city from Malibu "exhausting" and an opening gross one dollar below expectations will make you want to put a gun to your head. Like I'm sure the producers of Superman Returns are feeling right now.

* * * * *

Are you still reading this? My God.

I sit here in utter disbelief that in less than 24 hours I'll be heading to Las Vegas for my second blogger trip. While I've been looking forward to it for months, the immediacy of it just crept up on me in the last couple of days. I mean, I was JUST THERE, right? Nearly being ejected from the MGM poker room, grabbing Pauly's junk, and passing out in a cab with hookers? Well shit. Here we go again.

I hope to be on much better behavior this go-around. I don't have to tell you that it's not that smart to start downing double shots of Soco with professional alcoholics after driving through the desert all afternoon and forgetting to eat. It's an even worse idea to do this while playing 2-4 hold'em at the MGM, not because I might lose money (I mean, it is 2-4. You're asking for it.) but because I might forget altogether that my chips are sitting on the table as I pass out in the Ava Gardner stall in the ladies room. I still owe Joe Speaker many hugs and Newcastles for cashing out my chips, shoving the money into my purse, and putting me into a cab back to my hotel, even if it was occupied by two black hookers. (If this man isn't a catch, please tell me what is.)

Ladies and gentelmen, I am the cautionary tale.

For the first-timers. Drink lots of water, don't forget to eat because it's so easy to do that in Vegas, make sure you know where your money is at all times, get fucked up but not too fucked up, introduce yourself to anyone you don't know, don't be embarrassed if you forget names because I'm going to do that a lot myself, don't worry about playing serious poker, and open your minds and your hearts because you're going to come away from this with dozens of new friends-- kindred spirits, really-- from all walks of life and all spans of experience. It's been said before and better than this, but that's what it's really about.

Tomorrow, Pot Committed turns one year old. It's the ultimate full circle for me to be able to spend that day with so many of the people who inspired me to create it.

I have outfits to plan and skin care products to pack. And trip to make to (no joke) Hottie's Lube to get my poor car's A/C compressor replaced. He might have it in by 4. Otherwise it's a trip to the Enterprise rent-a-car at the end of the block for a Ford Festiva.

I also just met our new upstairs neighbor girl. Very mousy. Very Jewish. Showcase is going to cry. I set the over-under on her calling the cops on me for noise at three weeks.