Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Amsterdam Photos

Canal Houses

Reflections in the window of Any Day Coffeeshop

Pauly @ 420 Cafe

17th-Century Church on the Singel Canal

Trippy mirror thing near the floating flower market


View of Hotel Ibis through the roof of a canal cruiser

Looking up at our apartment

Flower-adorned bike on Haarlemmerstraat

Pauly deals Chinese Poker @ Amnesia Coffeeshop

Amnesia Interior

Coffee with milk... and a biscuit

Fresh Mint Tea @ Rookies in the Leidseplein area

Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting Here was Not Half the Fun

I pulled up to the Northwest terminal at LAX on Wednesday morning a full two hours before my flight was scheduled to depart only to find the check-in line snaking all the way outside. It must have been over 100 yards long. My first thought was "are they fucking evacuating the airport?" before realizing no, this is just business as usual at a U.S. based airline that has laid off a significant percentage of their employees. I asked one of those employees if this was the line I needed to be standing in if I was flying to Amsterdam via Minneapolis and he assured me it was, despite the fact that everyone else in that line appeared to be heading for either Tokyo or Manila. There was a 30-strong Japanese tour group in front of me and a bunch of Filipino missionaries behind me loading dozens of boxes of medical supplies onto luggage carts. I stood and waited and sweltered in the heat, thankful that I had shown up with plenty of time to spare.

That time cushion completely evaporated in the time it took me to get through the outdoor portion of the line. It was 11:25 by the time I reached the inside of the terminal. A different airline employee asked me my destination and a panicked look crossed her face when I informed her that I was scheduled to depart in only 50 minutes. She whisked me and my luggage into the self-service check-in line.

When I finally reached the top of that queue, it was 11:35. I swiped my passport through the machine only to discover that it was now too late for me to do the auto-check in. "Please see an agent for assistance" the screen implored. But in this swarm of angry humanity, I'd need a bullhorn to get anyone's attention. Everyone was late. Everyone was fucked. The luggage tags weren't printing out of some of the machines, necessitating that the counter employees print them all out manually. Finally I got the attention of a thin, totally flustered fiftyish man behind the desk. After punching in my info, the best response he could come up with was "well, I might be able to get you on the 4:05 flight."

"No, that's not going to work. I need to get on THIS flight."

"Well, it's not my fault you got here too late."

"TOO LATE?!" I erupted. "I've been waiting in this mess since 10:15!"

"Well I can't check you in."

"Then get me someone who can, please. I'm not missing this flight."

He disappeared for about five minutes and did not return. My watch now read 11:45 and there was still the security line to get through, not to mention a lengthy hike to the gate. The other employees started helping the people behind me in line, just leaving me there, helpless and completely without assistance.

So, there were a few things I could do in this situation. I could get out of this line, cut in front of people in the next one and potentially start a riot. I could shout "WILL SOMEONE PLEASE CHECK ME THE FUCK IN" at the top of my lungs and potentially be detained by Homeland Security. Or, I could start to cry.

I chose option three. It worked.

An Asian woman who looked like a supervisor told me to follow her and I moved into my third line of the morning, something that looked like an emergency check-in line for fucked-over souls like myself. I got a boarding pass and a man in an orange vest personally escorted me to the baggage x-ray area and inspected my luggage before instructing me to go to the top of the security line and tell them my flight number so I could cut ahead.

"You might want to run" he offered as a parting suggestion. The clock read 11:55. The plane's doors would shut in anywhere from five to ten minutes. I thanked him and took off in as much of a sprint as I could muster.

I jumped the security line causing much grumbling from the people who had been waiting there but I had little time to care. Sweat dripped off my face and soaked the back of my shirt as I ran for the gate. There was a snack stand right in front of it and I grabbed a water and a protein bar... only to find that the line at the register was 15 deep! Nope... wasn't gonna get to eat anything before getting on the food-less first leg of my 14-hour journey. I briefly contemplated shoplifting the food (I was THAT starving and THAT late) but left it instead and continued my run to the gate... where there were a lot of people just sitting around. Shouldn't they all be on the plane by now?

Nope. It was delayed 40 minutes. Probably due to all the chaos and ineptitude downstairs. At least I had time now to go back for the protein bar. But this would mean that, in all likelihood, I would miss my connection to Amsterdam in Minneapolis.

I crashed into a chair and gulped down half my bottle of Aquafina. My face was purple, my eyes were red and my clothing completely sweat-soaked. I instantly pitied whomever would be stuck in the seat next to me for the next 4 hours.

We picked up a little bit of time in the air on our way to Minneapolis, landing at 6:30 PM. My flight to the 'Dam was taking off at 7, but I had no idea what gate it was at and how far away that was. As I was waiting to get off the plane, my phone rang. It was Pauly.

"Your flight is at Gate C-4. You're arriving into C-16 so it shouldn't be too long a walk" he said, reassuring me.

"I love that you're in Europe and know more about my gate information than I do" I laughed.

"You'll make it. Call me back when you get on the plane."

As I emerged from the jetway, I heard the final boarding call for my flight over the loudspeaker and took off in yet another Home Alone- style airport run. This time I ran up to a completely empty gate, and slipped onto the plane just as they were closing the doors.

I slumped into my seat in the last row of the plane, breathless again, and closed my eyes. When I woke up, this nightmare would be over and I'd be in Amsterdam. I slept most of the eight hours we spent in the air, with the exception of a two-hour window in which I ate dinner and watched Spider-Man 3 (not nearly as good as the first two). My seat-mate was an older Dutch woman who didn't speak English. Perfect.

When I saw Pauly just as I cleared customs, it was as if the previous 14 hours had ceased to exist. It didn't matter how I got here. I was here now, and I was with him.

In less than an hour, we'd be rolling blunts and playing Chinese poker at Pink Floyd's, kicking off a classic three-day bender.

To be continued...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Showcase and The Zen Pooch on Bravo's Flipping Out

I know you're all curious about Showcase. Who is this guy? What makes him tick? And, is he really as gay as you make him out to be on your blog? You're all about to get your answers.

Tune into Flipping Out on Bravo this Tuesday night, August 21 at 10 PM, where Showcase and his pet care company The Zen Pooch will be featured during the episode. Scarred from past acting experiences which found his performances unceremoniously left on the cutting room floor *coughlegallyblonde2cough*, Showcase has indeed confirmed with someone who has already seen the episode that he absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt is going to be on television.

Oh yeah, he'll be the 30-year old Jew in the Zen Pooch shirt.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wired for Travel

For me, the worst five minutes of the day by far at the WSOP consisted of the sweaty, uphill walk from the Rio parking lot to the Amazon Room. It was always hot, I was always exhausted from the night before, and I was always hauling a nearly 30-pound backpack loaded down with power cords, a camera, my purse, a hoodie to keep from freezing in the meat locker-like conditions, and my gargantuan 17-inch laptop. The Dell I bought two summers ago after my apartment was burglarized and my iBook stolen was purchased primarily for working from home and playing online poker (I can have four tables tiled on the screen with space to spare). I never thought I'd have to constantly lug it around through airports and casinos. I mean, the fucker weighs more than 11 pounds. That's a lotta laptop.

So with my four-week trip to Europe coming up and the prospect of covering more tournaments over the next several months, I took the plunge and my gargantuan machine now has a little sister. She's less than five pounds and can easily fit in my Marc Jacobs purse. Here they are together, during the ten-hour data migration marathon I endured two days ago:

So the big boy is staying home, waiting for me to fire up Poker Stars while the new kid is hitting the road with me on Wednesday morning. The first leg of our journey takes me on a 13-hour flight from LAX to Amsterdam. I get three full days in the 'Dam at Pauly, Benjo, and RK's swank canal-side flat where I will undoubtedly trip at least once on those narrow staircases and once on some fine Dutch mushrooms. This will be my third trip to the land of legal weed, and my second this year alone. From there we fly to Barcelona, Spain to cover the European Poker Tour event at the Casino de Barcelona for Poker News. In lieu of a hotel room, we rented a flat near Las Ramblas that looks very IKEA-chic from the online photos. I love Spanish food so I'm psyched to try the local cuisine, though Pauly is a bit leery since it doesn't exactly fall on the chicken-cheese-bread-tomato sauce spectrum that he usually sticks to. He's not a fan of fish or vegetables so there will no doubt be some excellent prop-betting opportunities.

The last leg of our Euro-Tour is in London, site of the inaugural WSOP-Europe where we'll spend over two weeks. I've been to England once-- over 18 years ago on a family vacation when Mandy was 9 and I was 12. I remember a lot of castles, cloudy days, Mandy whining about walking so much, the guillotine at the Tower of London, my father doing an awful job driving on the wrong side of the road, and the fantastic Indian food. No flat there, we went for a hotel super-close to the casino.

I think Pauly is going to Sweden this weekend for an online poker conference. If I were there, I'd pay him a tidy sum to engage in the local customs and wear capri pants. I got a quick call from him on his European bat-phone a couple of hours ago and he had just come home after spending the afternoon in Vondelpark. He was also eating mushrooms. Both of us were buzzing about Ryan, who chopped the $1,070 NLHE event at the Legends of Poker last night for over $25K! Along the way, he busted both Ted Lawson and Shirley Rosario. Head on over to Absinthetics and check out his Twitter feed where he posted live updates from the tournament. Congratulations, man!! It couldn't happen to a better player or a nicer guy.

And now I'm going to play with my new laptop all afternoon.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New York State of Mind

I've had a love affair with New York City since an early age. I suppose there's a part of all of us that wants the opposite of what we're dealt in life. At an age when most of my friends could hardly imagine a life off of Hermosa, Manhattan, Will Rogers or Zuma beaches, I was dreaming of Times Square and Central Park and the good Chinese Food my Jersey-bred mother always talked about whenever we'd dig into takeout from Panda Express. I lived out my high school and college years to a Broadway soundtrack and counted the days until I could pack it all up and move out there to work in the theatre. I even temporarily absconded from college to try out living there-- romantically poor of course-- and discovered that I didn't just like it out there. I felt more like myself when I was in New York than anywhere else in the world.

People were different. And there were more of them. A lot more. They walked around and listened to their walkmans all the time and read books because there was a lot of time to kill while waiting and riding around Manhattan. In a bus, in a subway, in a cab. Yes... there is no driving involved. No protective bubble of steel to shield you from the life going on outside. In New York City, forces greater than yourself control the way you get around. You're at the mercy of the train schedule if you want to catch the Uptown N/R on a Sunday afternoon or the weather that day if you have hope of getting a cab at rush hour.

Though I took a path out of college that led me straight home to Hollywood, I was still able to escape to New York a couple of times a year whether for business or pleasure. I'd see old friends, take in a Broadway show or three and come home with an extra suitcase full of stuff from H&M. But in recent years, my trips east had dried up. And until Pauly decided to fly us both out for a post-WSOP getaway a few weeks back, I hadn't been to New York City in almost three years.

* * * * *

Fifteen minutes after landing at JFK, Pauly and I were in a cab careening down an access road next to the Van Wyck Expressway. As we stopped at a light, a homeless man begged for change and made some sort of untoward remark about how the cabbies "just take and take the money, they never give it." This inspired quite the war of words between our driver and the homeless man that ended in a series of "fuck yous."

"Well, there's your instant 'New York' experience" said Pauly with a smile.

Pauly booked us into a hotel called On the Ave on the Upper West Side. It turned out to be such a fantastic location-- away from all the tourists in Times Square and close to dozens of quality eating and drinking establishments. It almost felt like having an apartment in the neighborhood instead of a hotel room. The bed was comfy and fluffy and white and we had a plasma TV and a marble bathroom. Derek met up with us at the hotel and brought us herbal supplies and we absconded to the Manhattan Diner across the street for a quick bite to eat. I had a burger deluxe (deluxe, I learned, means that it comes with fries) and I dipped those fries into ketchup instead of my usual ranch dressing for fear of being mocked by the New Yorkers.

After dinner, it was onto a bar that I've long been curious about ever since reading about some late-night antics that took place there last fall on the Tao of Poker-- Yogi's. Yogi's is on 76th and Broadway and on the door it proclaims that they proudly serve Pabst Blue Ribbon. The bartenders are borderline-skanky girls in cutoffs and midriff tops and they play country music off a jukebox. Once the Rooster arrived and joined us, I discovered that he knows way too many lyrics to these songs. They have special shots at this place where the girls pour liquor into your mouth while "Danger Zone" from the Top Gun soundtrack plays, but none of us partook.

After Yogi's it was on to Citrus, a much swankier establishment that the Rooster knew I'd appreciate. He ordered me one of their house specialties, a refreshing white sangria that I seriously enjoyed. This crowd was much more yuppie-professional, with a lot of girls on dates wearing black dresses. The Rooster was definitely on his game, flirting with nearly every woman in sight. I marveled at his energy and persistence.

Next we hit the Westside Tavern and switched to a familiar drink-- pints of Stella. I think the Rooster knew the bartender, as he spent an unusual amount of time up there fetching our beers. From there we moved on to the Dead Poet and took a seat outside on the patio. I had a Yuengling, a darker beer than I'd normally choose, but I found that I liked it. The Rooster spotted a little boy walking down the street with his dad, the new Harry Potter book clasped between his hands.

"Man, you already got it? What is it, 12:30?" said the Rooster. The little boy nodded his head excitedly.

"Hey lemme get a shot of you and your book." The boy's father nodded that it was OK and he posed for the Rooster and his pocket digital camera. All I know is that if it were my kid and the Rooster asked to snap a photo... I'd be high-tailing it for the next block before you could say "Dateline NBC."

We hung out at the Dead Poet until they started shutting down the patio at 1:30 A.M. Bars are open until 4 in New York, but I guess the outdoors has to come in after a certain hour.

* * * * *

Saturday morning was lost to sleep. We finally woke up around 2 PM and were starving.

"Take me on the Pauly tour" I answered when I was asked where I wanted to eat.

We took a cab to the Upper East Side and got out right in front of Pauly's private, Catholic High School, interestingly located only three crosstown blocks from the NYC branch of my private, Catholic high school. From there we walked over to Madison Avenue to an old-school NYC Greek Diner called the New Amity where I ate a cheese omelet and listened to Pauly tell old high school stories. After we finished eating I window-shopped in the boutiques that line Madison in the 80's while Pauly ran a quick errand. I drooled over the super-luxe shoes and purses at Searle though I had no hope fitting into their clothes. I think the largest size I saw was a 4.

We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing through the Met and walking through Central Park. I couldn't believe how many girls I saw decked out in wedge heels and designer sundresses just to hang out in the park on a summer afternoon. And the bags... oh man.

"You have to make like, seventy or a hundred thousand dollars to live in Manhattan" Pauly said, very matter-of-fact. It sure helped to explain why everyone was so dressed up and even the 22 year old girls with pink rhinestone-studded cell phones were carrying $600 Botkier bags.

Pauly showed me some of the park's finer nooks and crannies including the Alice in Wonderland statue, Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon memorial, and the lake where people rowed boats. I immediately recognized it as the location of a memorable episode of Sex and the City.

"Oh my God! That's the restaurant where Carrie and Mr. Big fall into the lake and she wrecks her new Richard Tyler dress!" I exclaimed as Pauly rolled his eyes.

Saturday Night was the Main Event, the spark the prompted the trip in the first place-- Widespread Panic at Radio City Music Hall. J.B. & Co. put on an awesome show (unfortunately sans Sunny, who had a death in his family) , the highlight of which was Imitation Leather Shoes> Chilly Water> Imitation Leather Shoes. The people in the row directly in front of us were an interesting bunch. One guy got caught smoking weed (discretion, please!) and was thrown out, while another girl was so high she couldn't stop screaming. She screamed during the songs. She screamed after the songs were finished. Sometimes she'd turn around and scream at us for no apparent reason. Her second roll must have kicked in by the 3/4 point of the show, causing her to strip to her bikini top. And, well, this wasn't exactly someone you're gonna get excited about seeing in a bikini top.

* * * * *

Sunday morning... again lost to sleep. We were still 1 week post-WSOP and still catching up on rest. Once we got mobile, Pauly took me to one of his all-time favorite New York eateries-- Big Nick's Burgers. This no-frills burger joint boasts a 27-page menu listing everything from pizza to Greek sandwiches. But everyone comes to Nick's for their legendary burgers, so that's what we ordered. Pauly opted for the Bistro Burger-- a patty topped with gruyere cheese, carmelized onions, mushrooms and tomato on challah bread, while I went for the Cajun Burger which came topped with a tapenade-like paste of onion, tomato, spices, and hot sauce. These burgers were sick. Like nothing I've ever eaten in L.A. and I'm including Tommy's, the Apple Pan and Fatburger in that mix. We enjoyed our meal at an outdoor table, watching all the yuppies go about their Sunday business. The street hummed with yuppie couples, moms with strollers, and twentysomething fashionistas who were all dressed up with errands to run.

After absconding to SoHo for a little retail therapy, Pauly and I got a drink at a bar called the Firehouse. Even on a Sunday afternoon, it was packed with locals. Why weren't there bars like this in L.A.? Or really ANY bar I could walk to? (Though a bar called The Firehouse in L.A. would likely be a gay one). From there, we took the subway up to Riverdale where we had dinner with Derek at the Riverdale Diner followed by a little Sunday night Entourage viewing party.

Back in Manhattan, we met up with Rooster around midnight and took a cab down to Chinatown where he knew of a bar so posh and secret it didn't even have a sign on the front door. We walked up to the front door of what looked like an abandoned building, and just like in Rounders, a little video camera was perched above the door. The Rooster buzzed once and was immediately let in. That's just how he rolls.

Milk and Honey is a dark, tiny, sexy little bar. There are maybe 6 tables, most of them high-backed, curvaceous leather booths. As we walked in, several model-like girls looked up and gave us the once-over. I barely looked at them, going for the "yeah, I'm dressed down because I'm actually secretly famous" vibe. Though I'm not sure it worked. These girls were seriously dressed.

While in Los Angeles, social lines are drawn by the make and model of one's vehicle, in New York that is replaced by the designer of one's clothes or purse. New York girls take their fashion very seriously. In three years away from the city, I almost forgot how much so. The target audience of the major fashion bibles-- Vogue, Elle, and InStyle-- are all those girls crowding into New York City bars on the weekends, teetering on their Roger Vivier heels that perfectly coordinate (not match) with their dresses fresh off the rack from Intermix. Yes, dresses. New York girls turn themselves out, even for a trip down to some random bar on a Sunday night. It made me feel positively touristy in my jeans and flat shoes.

We took a back table and the Rooster told the bartender to make his three best specialty cocktails. I had a sweet ginger-tinged concoction, Pauly had a Chilean mojito, while the Rooster had some sort of melon thing in a martini glass. The bartender gave a lengthy explanation of the ingredients and the mixing process, which I enjoyed in a Food Network nerd sort of way.

After finishing our drinks we got another cab and headed for the East Village where we hit up at least five but no more than seven additional bars. This is the point in the story where things get blurry for our spunky young heroine. I know one was Eastern European and one was sake-themed. I neither threw up nor suffered any sort of chemically-induced freak-out. But yeah, I was a 'lil hammered...

"It's raining" Pauly whispered as I stirred and awoke. There went any plans of walking around the city in the 5 hours before our flight back to Las Vegas. While I got dressed, Pauly heroically ran out in the downpour to a nearby Duane Reade to get us some umbrellas and then we headed to MoMa-- along with every other tourist in New York that day.

I loved the MoMa. I hadn't been there in about 10 years. We saw pieces from Monet, Matisse, Pollock, Warhol, Kandisky, Mondrian, Van Gogh, and dozens more. I took maybe 100+ pictures during our stay (many of which made it to the NYC set in on my new Flickr page).

After a stop to warm up with some coffee at an adorable UWS eatery called French Roast and a trip to Barnes & Noble for some in-flight reading, it was time to start the trek to JFK and thus, back to Las Vegas. The thought of returning to Sin City repulsed me. I wanted to stay and be a New Yorker for a few days more. I wanted to walk to bars and window-shop and read books in the park. Not sit in the $4-8 game at Red Rock one last time, praying I wouldn't lose what was left of my bankroll. At least we weren't long for Vegas. The WSOP was over. All we had to do was pack up and leave.

Three days later we were speeding west across the desert, all our stuff shoved into the back of my Mazda. For four straight hours Pauly sang along with his iPod in the voice of Chaka from "The Land of the Lost." I nearly drove the car off the Cajon Pass as he shrieked the high notes of a My Morning Jacket song.

Vegas was behind us. We'd made it through another World Series. And, as it would turn out, our travel whirlwind was just beginning...

Monday, August 13, 2007

September Truckin', European Travel and the Rebuy Answer

The September issue of Truckin' is out, and I'm proud to be included in it. My humble contribution is a story I penned about this summer about meeting Pauly's mother in Las Vegas.

Every single month for over five years now, Pauly digs in and takes the time and effort to publish and share travel stories from his friends-- even when he's knee-deep in shit like the WSOP. I honestly don't know how he does it (well, I sort of do... he doesn't sleep that much). I mean, somehow this month's issue hit my in-box while he was on a trans-Atlantic flight! If you like what you read, drop him or the writers a line.

1. Pyramid by Paul McGuire
I quickly discovered that Seattle was a bastion for the super weird. You needed to have layered eccentricies in order to stick out among the masses of freaks. Goth-dykes with foot fetishes might freak people out in conservative cities and small towns, but in Seattle, that puts you in the core group of "normal people."... More

2. Cross-word by Sigge S. Amdal
Her hair was in explosive disarray across the pillow like the blood spurt pattern from a shotgun blast. It was slightly blond, streaked with brown and very beautiful. It looked like the crossroad of infinite options where only a handful suggested returning to the bed. She was fast asleep... More

3. Meeting Mama McGrupp by Change100
I had yet to meet Mama McGrupp. Pauly assured me it was for a good reason. All I knew about this woman was that she was five feet tall, chain-smoked, had a wicked New York accent, was overly fond of Amaretto, and never had anything nice to say about anyone... More

4. Kansas Clouds by Susan B. Bentley
Click. I got a photo of Kat just before she gave me the finger. Lying back down, I moved the lens across the sky, trying to capture a cloud on its journey. I sat up and took a picture of the track ahead. Nothing but mud and dust, bordered by fields of corn slowly moving in the breeze, nothing but empty for miles ahead... More

5. Summer Story by May B. Yesno
Friends are a difficult thing. As a matter of fact they are almost impossible. Difficult to find for the first thing and just as difficult to keep - especially in a mobile society... More
Speaking of the Doctor, he's just arrived in Amsterdam where he's renting a flat with a malcontent French journalist and an Aussie poker pro. I'm joining him next week and we'll smoke our way through the 'Dam before departing for Spain, where we'll be covering the EPT Barcelona for Poker News. From Barcelona it's on to London for the inaugural WSOP-Europe.

Travel is wonderful. Getting paid to travel and write about poker is even better. Getting paid to travel and write about poker and getting to go see Europe with your boyfriend at the same time? Well that's just the stone cold nuts.

I'll take lucky in love over lucky in cards any day.

Speaking of cards...

Thanks to everyone who left their (extensive, thoughtful) theories on the Rebuy Hand from Friday. As Drizz or maybe Wil Wheaton would say U R TEH SMRT. I R TEH DNKAY. Maudie gets a gold star for correctly putting the UTG player on Ad-Kd, the hand that ultimately cracked my kings and the button's A-A. Here's the screen shot.

I had the distinct feeling that I was beat by the button, but not necessarily by the UTG player. I absolutely positively should have saved my 48,000 (which would have left me with a below-average, but not horrible stack with 1,200-2,400 blinds) but again, I think the problem was just all in my head. Having just doubled up, I was so pissed to go back to having to struggle to build a stack again that it played a lot into me making such a donkey call-off.

As I once heard Gavin Smith say, "no one can become a great tournament player without the ability to handle adversity." I totally failed at that here.

Where'd my patience go? Oh that's right. It's been playing limit hold'em. Could be time to go back to Harrington before playing more MTTs.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Hand from the Rebuy

Here's a hand I'd love some opinions on. I've been at this table for 20 minutes-- some reads but nothing solid.

I've just doubled up to 85,000 in the $3R on FTP. 648 started, there are 52 players left and I'm 17th in chips. UTG makes it 4,800 to go with blinds at 1,200-2,400. I raise to 14,000 from MP with K-K. The button moves all in for 35,000. UTG calls, I call 21,000 more.

The flop is 5d 9c Jd. UTG checks, I check. Turn 2d. UTG bets 2,400 into a 112,000 pot. I call. River 7h. UTG puts me all in for 48,000.

Who's folding, who's calling and why? What hands do you put these players on?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

American Idol Wednesdays (on Thursday): Crazy Woman Almost Gives Birth During Idol Audition

In the category of "so fucked up it must have happened on a reality show", today we learned that nine-months pregnant Antoria Gillon went into labor yesterday while waiting in line at American Idol's Dallas auditions... only the 20-year old refused to go to the hospital until she got the chance to sing for the power trio of Randy, Paula, and Simon.

In Gillon's own words:

"I gave it my all thru (sp) the contractions. They were back to back and getting harder and harder but I was more than willing to have my baby right there. I wasn’t leaving without my golden ticket to the next round"

Nothing like endangering your child's health, not to mention your own, for a shot at being on television. Ain't that America!

But Gillon claims it was worth it, as her performance managed to earn her a golden ticket to Hollywood. After being put through to the next round, she boarded an ambulance and at a nearby hospital, gave birth to her second child, a son, who for life must carry the unfortunate moniker of Jamil Labarron Idol McCowan.

I just want to know if there will be any footage of Ryan Seacrest subbing in as a Lamaze coach.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The FTOPS V Event #1 Not-So-Live Blog

"You gonna play any FTOPS events?" said Pauly through a scratchy cell phone connection. It was raining hard in New York and the way our connection bobbed and fizzed, it sounded like it was raining in the phone.

"No, probably not. Gonna hang onto the money I've got on there."


"Yeah, and the only one I'd want to play is the first one and that's like, tomorrow."

"Well I'll put you in."

"Seriously?" (Did he just say that, or was it a rouge crackle?)

"Yeah. Ride the hot horse, you know?"

So, along with 4,165 other donkeys, I played FTOPS Event #1 tonight courtesy of a stake from Pauly and was pretty pleased with how I played. The total prize pool topped out at $833,000 well eclipsing the $500,000 guarantee. I jotted a few notes down while I played and will share them with you here. Though things started off very smoothly, the going got much rougher when I was moved to an aggressive table of big stacks and short stacks in the third hour.

6:00 PM 3,000. First can of Diet Coke is cracked as we shuffle up and deal.

6:20 PM 3,100. Re-raised a weak-tight LP raiser with Q-Q from the SB. Best hand I've had so far-- nothing else has connected with the board in any way.

6:45 PM 2,490. A-K just missed for the third time. Can't hit a flop to save my life. The guy on my left is more tricky and aggressive than I'd like in a guy on my left.

6:56 PM 2,600. Made a straight on the turn in multi-way pot with 4c-6c from the BB, but didn't get any action.

6:57 PM
3,150. Q-Q in the SB on very next hand. The hijack opened for 180, I made it 480, he called. 8-8-7 flop with two hearts. I bet 660 and he folded.

1st break
3,150. Ordering Chinese food.

7:08 PM
I think my iPod is dead. It keeps showing a sad iPod face despite my attempts to get it into disk mode. Visions of standing in line at the Century City Apple Store are dancing in my head while I fold trash hands.

7:10 PM Some guy calledTHAY9R is in the observer chat on my table trying to get the attention of another guy called Richb5 who apparently owes him money. I tried (briefly) to help him out.

THAY9R (Observer): RICH this is disgraceful
THAY9R (Observer): can someone tell him to turn on
change100: turn on your chat rich

THAY9R (Observer): pitiful
change100: yeah, sorry man

THAY9R (Observer): no integrity what so ever

THAY9R (Observer): Rich have some courage an
andwer me
THAY9R (Observer): RICH
THAY9R (Observer): grow a pair
a_good_year: having a hot pocket right now... good stuff

THAY9R (Observer): RICH?

7:15 PM SHIP IT HOLLA! I raise to 240 from the hijack with T-T, the SB makes it 720, I go for it and call 480 more. Flop is T-7-8. He shoves for 1,940, I insta-call and it holds up, cracking his kings. I am repeatedly called a fish as he hits the rail. 5,770.

7:18 PM 5,850. Poker is fun when you hit flops. The SB completes, I check with Q-To. Flop Q-8-5. A bet of 120 takes it down after the SB checks.

7:26 PM First "go fuck yourself" of the night uttered in chat when the guy on my left gets bad beat. Opponent rivers bigger boat on him after he flops a set and turns a full house. The funny thing is, he lost about the minimum he could on the hand and still has 4,200 left! I have to get at least crippled to go off like that.

7:28 PM Chinese food arrives! Jamie Gold has his blueberries... I have braised string beans in garlic sauce.

7:35 PM 5,120. Saw a flop with 4-4. It wasn't a very good one.

7:37 PM
5,300. A raise with 5-5 gets me some blinds.

7:43 PM 4,940. I raise it up to 360 from MP with 6-6, button calls, BB calls. A-Q-T flop is perhaps the worst I could hope for and I drop it when the BB leads for 900.

7:49 PM 5,420. Ah-Jh in EP. Raise to 480, cutoff calls. A-7-8 rainbow flop. A bet of 750 takes it down.

7:57 PM 6,148. I raise to 480 from EP with A-Q. BB goes all in for 888, I call 408 more. I'm racing with J-J. Kc 4c 6d flop, 6c turn, I river the Qd! I am a lucksack.

7:59 PM. iTunes just shuffled to Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen. Schecky would be horrified.

8:04 PM 5,148. CO raises to 600, I see a flop from the BB with Jh-Th Flop is A-K-J rainbow. Shoulda re-popped him pre-flop instead and I check-fold to his 1,100 bet. (This is the hand I'll end up wondering the most about).

8:06 PM Chip Jett is the current chip leader with 27,166. You know, he has a lot less hair than you might think.

2nd break. 5,148. 1,922 players remaining of 4,165 starters. I need to get high now.

8:15 PM. Cards back in the air. Ante in effect. Third can of Diet Coke cracked.

8:21 PM
5,198. Stole blinds with the hammer! Weeeeeee.

8:24 PM
5,048. First table change. I was just getting to like those guys. Some dude called ArgentinaBoy with a Gold FTOPS champion avatar is on my right, but is shortstacked.

8:30 PM
4,923. Card dead. My M is 8.4. Approaching need-to-make-a-move time. Though, there are 4 stacks smaller than mine on this table... oops make that 3, one just doubled up.

8:32 PM
7,173. MP raises to 840, I make it 2,200 with A-Q. He calls. I push for 2,153 on 6-5-6 flop. My heart beats out of my chest. He folds!! Dude tilts the rest off in the next hand moving over the top of a button raise with K-J. The button calls with A-K and he's gone, daddy gone.

8:37 PM
5,663. I open from MP for 840 with Ks-Jh, guy on my left moves in for 4,000, I give it up.

8:41 PM
1,351 players remaining. 585 get paid.

8:42 PM
5,088. FUUUCK. UTG moves all in for 3,200. MP pushes all in for12,000. I have A-K offsuit. Aii fucking yaa. I fold like a pussy thinking I'm racing or beat by the big stack. UTG has A-3, MP has A-K and it holds up. Good decision?

8:44 PM.
I hate a table full of shorties and big stacks. They're impossible to steal from. Where are the average guys? I know they're out there. Can you move some of them over here please?

8:47 PM.
M=6. I need something of a hand sooner rather than later.

8:49 PM
6,718. Ask and ye shall receive. ArgentinaBoy makes it 1,020 from the cutoff. I move in for 4,300 with Ad-Td from the button and he folds. On the next hand I take the blinds with K-Q. Then get dealt A-Jo, but a tight player moves in for 4,500 from EP and I dump it. I'm looking a bit healthier than I was 5 minutes ago, but I still only have 2/3 of average.

8:53 PM
5,943. Dodged a bullet. Same tight guy made it 1,200 and I folded 5-5 in the SB, not wanting to call 1,200 or make the all in reraise with that hand. BB called and made a flush on the turn with his Ah-7h, cracking EP's K-K.

8:55 PM.
4,543. Raised to 1,300 from cutoff with Qs-Ts, button moved in for 10,000. I fold like a pussy. Blind steals are impossible from my seat, must rely more on re-steals. Though really it's just push and pray for me at this point with the blinds at 200-400/50.

8:58 PM.
This ArgentinaBoy apparently has quite a fanbase. Lots of spanish speakers are stopping by in chat.

9:00 PM
Greg "FBT" Mueller is our current chip leader with 47,028. 1,038 players remaining.

9:05 PM.
It's over. At least for me it is. It's folded around to ArgentinaBoy in SB. He's very aggressive and I know he's raising over 50% of his hands in this spot and he of course does, opening for 1,500. I move all in for 4K with K-T, he calls in a shot with Q-Q. I get a K on the flop... but it's accompanied by a Q. Heartbreak city.

And that's it. Out in 973rd place. At least I played well, outlasted over 75% of the field, and didn't donk it all off in the first hour. The only other blogger I saw in there when I busted was Hoy, who had about 25,000 last I saw. I'm sure you can head over to his blog and hear about how well he did. I'm sure he'll have lots more screen shots too ;) Here' s the only one I took, after cracking kings with tens.

A bong, a TiVo'ed episode of the World Poker Tour, and some sleep await me now.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Little Poker Before We Talk About the Travels

I left for the WSOP with $0.36 in my Full Tilt account. I hadn't made a deposit in about a year and a half and I finally busted it with a $5 SNG I bubbled on Memorial Day weekend. I wasn't going to have time to play online while I was in Vegas so I didn't bother to re-load. (Well, actually I traded some actual cash for a $200 transfer with a fellow journalist while I was there but donked that all off in short order). So when I got home all that was left in there was $100 from payments for that little red and white ad you see on your right.

I have close to $600 on there now. And I got most of it from winning 3 $22 SNGs in a row.

That's right. In. A. Row.

Didn't Noble Poker used to pay out a million bucks, seven virgins and a swag bag for a similar feat back in the day?

I was so stuck and sick of poker by the end of the World Series I wanted to leave Vegas three days early. But as I cashed out of that last losing session I had out in the desert (at Red Rock, while Pauly was tilting Crazy Asian Ladies) I had that feeling that I'd run so card dead and afoul of the deck that enough of that bullshit had transpired and I was about to turn around and be hit in the face by it. So I wasn't surprised when I won the first SNG. I mean seriously, it was about fucking time.

In the second one I very nearly bubbled. Then some poor donk with a dominating hand got sucked out on and I slipped into the money. Winning two coinflips got me heads-up with about a 2-1 chip advantage and my opponent was so weak-tight I was able to just slowly but surely whittle him down with aggression.

In the third I got heads-up with a guy who turned out to be a fan of both Pot Committed and the Tao of Poker. But I pretty much ran over him too. Pauly's jaw hung open in shock as I screamed "ship it!" for the third time.

It took me 3 days to play another. Because I knew, I knew I was guaranteed to lose. And surely enough, my K-K was run down by K-4 catching a runner runner straight.

So after all the SNG fun, I had about $350. A week of hit & run $1-2 and $2-4 LHE sessions later added another $200. Hey, this is starting to look like a baby bankroll.

And then, moments ago, I finished 39th of 601 in the Full Tilt $10 rebuy having not played a big-field tourney in months. I spent four hours and nine minutes in it and netted just over $30 after accounting for the $31 I invested in the initial double rebuy and the add-on. All I wanted to do was sit down and focus and not do what I seem to always end up doing in MTTs-- choosing a moment either just before or just past the money bubble to completely lose my mind and go off on one hand. I did it at the Treasure Island tourney I played with Benjo and Pauly right after the Main Event. And I'd done it just last night when I played an $11 180-player SNG on Stars. With blinds at 150-300 I had a perfectly workable stack of 9,000 with 29 players remaining and decided to re-raise a late position raiser to 2,700 with A-Q from the button. The small blind re-popped it to 6,000 the initial raiser folded. I have 6,600 behind here and every reasonable bone in my body is telling me to fold, while the devil on my shoulder insists that I need to gamble more to actually win tournaments. I don't want to see Q-Q, K-K, A-A, or A-K. Those are the only hands that would make this move... Jesus Christ why the fuck did I call of course he has A-K.

So yeah. Trying not to do that anymore. Didn't pull any stupid shit and actually played rather conservatively on my way to cashing the rebuy. My old problem of being a late-stage pussy is comparatively easy to deal with compared to the "change100 blowup."

On a slightly related note, I watched Annette_15, the 18-year old Norwegian online poker phenom take down the Full Tilt $500K Guaranteed last night. Talk about total domination. I could certainly take a few lessons on the position re-steal from this chick.

Two very necessary pimps here. I met pro poker player and Pokerati blogger Michele Lewis at the WSOP and she's just as lovely as you'd imagine. I mean, how can you look like that after having 3 2 kids? Seriously, she was far and away the best dressed lady at the Series-- always rocking chic little jackets and high-heeled patent leather slingbacks. Well, she's got a new website and started things off with a bang with her Jeffrey Pollack interview. It's a great read and spiced with the wit that makes Michele... Michele. An excerpt:

JP: If the GLE comes back next year I suspect it would just be “Games and Gear” based on this year’s experience. Some elements of that show were not The Rio’s prouder moments.

ML: I didn’t really find it that offensive.

JP: Well, you’re an open-minded Texan.

ML: I’m the only one. No, just kidding. I’m Jewish too. Actually, I converted.

JP: Really? Welcome to the Tribe. How does all of the guilt feel?

ML: It’s less now.

JP: That’s unusual.

ML: Well, I have kids (to pass it on to…) Do you have kids?

JP: No

ML: You’re married right?

JP: Yes

ML: Let’s see…so no more strippers?

JP: No, they won’t be back.

ML: No? No Chippendales? [Disappointed]

JP: No. Not my style…not my….No.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Tom Sexton this summer. Tom is Mike Sexton's brother and is nearly his vocal double. He worked for PokerNews at the Series and his presence was invaluable-- he knew all the top players, hell he plays golf on a regular basis with the top players, and has a wealth of phenomenal gambling stories. It would be two in the morning and I'd be half asleep covering some random stud tournament and Tom would come off the floor and tell me some insane Billy Baxter or Stu Ungar story and I'd be reminded of the depth of history of this great game and the insane personalities who played it. Now you can hear Tom's tales too in his new PokerNews column Sexton's Corner. Don't miss the first one when he tells about the phone call he got from his brother when the first Party Poker payment arrived.

Oh, and if anyone wants to bet on how long it will take me to donk off my newfound $600 online, I'm sure Pauly will book your action.