Thursday, September 27, 2007

See You in Key West

My mother will be here in about 20 minutes to take me to the airport where I'll board a flight to Miami and hopefully make my connection to Key West, arriving there around 9:30 this evening. These increasingly frequent rides to LAX she takes me on are really the only times we've had to catch up over the last couple of months. Hopefully the pot brownie I'm eating for breakfast will sufficiently knock me out for the duration of the flight. And hopefully I'll have a window seat, as I have now triple-checked with the airline.

Amidst the usual pre-travel errand-running and laundry-doing, I played some poker and actually took down an $11, 90-person SNG on Full Tilt. It's been a while since I won anything of the multi-table variety, so how about a celebratory screen shot?


I win!

I got heads-up with the guy who had held the (significant) chip lead the entire tourney at an 10-1 chip disadvantage and still managed to take it down. I hadn't played good poker like that in a while.

More tomorrow from Key West. Pray for my liver...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And Who Said Chivalry Was Dead?

How about one last tale from the Euro-Adventure before I head down to the ACHC (Al Can't Hang Compound) in Key West, Florida, where I may do irreparable damage to my internal organs, respiratory and/or circulatory systems?

This is the story of how my boyfriend nearly punched out Thierry Van Den Berg.

The scene? The downstairs bar area of the Empire Casino in London, on Day 2-something of the World Series of Poker Europe. The ten or so tables that fit into the room have been broken down to maybe three or four, and the absence of a security presence (since almost everyone has been moved upstairs to the main tournament area) has led to a bunch of Dutch guys doing a major no-no under the New World Order of exclusive poker media coverage: live blog on their laptops from the rail. These guys had been caught and admonished several times before, but decided to roll the dice again. I tried to be the nice guy and whispered a warning to one of them.

"You know, you're not supposed to have that out on the floor" I said, eyeing his computer.

"And who are you, the police?" said the burly Dutch dude with the military haircut, his stale, lager-tinted breath curling my nose hairs.

"No, I'm just trying to be nice and letting you know."

And with that, I went back to the hand I had been watching. They made no move to put away the laptop. And every time I passed by, Burly Dutch Dude would make eyes at me and say something like "There goes the police!"

So, after a few minutes of enduring that bullshit, I called down the big guns. And a couple of Bluff media reps arrived downstairs, just as the Dutch guys hid their laptop inside a backpack... and promptly pulled it back out as soon as they left, pointing and cackling at me.

"Ha! Ha! The police can do nothing!"

Drunk, immature Dutch guys are really not something I'm interested in dealing with on the tail end of a 12 hour day. And it's certainly not anything I'd have to take were I not a woman. These drunk imbeciles just wanted to fuck with me. If I were six feet tall, looked menacing enough, and had a penis, they probably would have packed up and left at their first warning.

Well, try all you want to fuck with me. But under no circumstances will Pauly let you get away with that crap. He's from the streets, yo.

"Which one is it?" Pauly said, breathless.

"The one in the polo shirt with the blue collar" I said, pointing at Burly Dutch Dude.

Unfortunately, Pauly walked up to a different Dutch dude than the one I'd intended him to.

"OK, man. Let's step outside" he said, to a very confused Thierry Van Den Berg, a Dutch poker pro who has made a number of WSOP cashes.

"No, no not him!" I cried. "The OTHER one."

But Pauly was too focused on his target. The two "had words," with Van Den Berg protesting all the way that he'd done nothing wrong.

Somehow in all of this fracas, Pauly figured out that the OTHER Dutch guy was indeed the culprit, and offered to settle things outside like men. And Burly Dutch Dude instantly turned into Burly Dutch Pussy the minute it became clear that fists and hitting would be involved in "settling" this matter.

"I leave because I choooose to leave! Not because of you!" he slurred on his way out.

That's right, bitch.

Later in the evening, Pauly tracked down Van Den Berg and offered his sincere apologies for the case of mistaken identity, explaining that he took the harassment of his girlfriend very seriously. When Pauly told him that he had covered his WSOP final table near-miss at the $5K 6-handed event this summer, Van Den Berg was actually impressed that an American journalist knew who he was.

This, however, would not be my last scuffle with burly Europeans with military haircuts.

The next day, I come back downstairs to the same area after dinner break to find some Scandi guy looking at a Swedish website on my colleague Jen's computer, which was set up next to mine. Having one's computer annexed by random railbirds and/or pros is unfortunately, a very common happening while covering poker tournaments. Some (Daniel Negreanu, Kirk Morrison, and Roland de Wolfe come to mind) are nice enough to ask "hey can I check my e-mail/Facebook/football bets/fantasy stats?" during obvious downtime. Others will just walk straight up to an open laptop while it's owner is off getting hands or counting chips and start surfing.

"Hi. Did Jennifer say you could use her computer?" I asked. He gave me a completely blank stare, then returned to what he was doing.

"Excuse me, did Jen say you could use her computer? Do you even know her?"

OK, maybe this guy didn't speak English.

"Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Are you sick in the head?" replied the Scandi guy.

"I am not sick in the head. You, however, are using a computer that does not belong to you and without it's owner's permission."

"I just want to check my horse racing bets."

"I don't care! It's not your computer!"

"What is wrong with you?"

"With me? What is wrong with you just walking up here and surfing all over the internet on a computer that's not yours? This is someone's personal property! It's wrong, and you should leave."

"Really, are you sick in the head?"

"Do I have to go get her, or better yet, security?"

"Whatever... fuck you crazy bitch" he said, on his way out the door.

Guess his English was fine.

The two photographers from Image Masters, who were seated at the end of our little "media row" completely cracked up once he left the room, as did poker pro/energy trader Dan Shak, who was working on some sort of complex spreadsheet thing on a laptop next to mine.

"This computer's mine" he deadpanned to me.

"Yeah, those don't look like horse racing bets, either."

The next day, as players were taking their seats I was milling around the tournament area, taking stock of the players I had to cover when the burly Scandi dude at Table 4, Seat 1 stood up and extended his hand to me. It was the guy on Jen's laptop. And in the light of day, I recognized him as Jan Sorensen. He apologized for his behavior and I shook his hand.

"I was very rude and drunk" he said.

"You do get what I was saying, though? I mean, people keep their personal information on their computers, it's not right to just walk up and use one."

"Yes, I apologize."

I wished him good luck and that was it. Less than two hours later Theo Jorgensen took him out of the tournament en route to his final table finish, and I never saw him again.

The Burly Dutch Dude did, however make repeat appearances throughout the rest of the event, sweating a friend who went deep. But he avoided me at all costs.

And who said chivalry was dead?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Time Zones

Today marks the sixth morning in a row that I've woken up before 7:00 A.M. Believe me, it's not intentional. Even back in the days when I had a "traditional" job and an office, I wasn't rolling out of bed any time before 8:30. And even that was a stretch.

Wednesday morning I was up at 6 in a London hotel room to catch my flight back to the States. I got home around 5 in the afternoon, which was more like 1 A.M. U.K. time, and after that flight from hell, fell asleep within 30 minutes of sinking into my couch. The next morning, I was up at 4, having slept the better part of 11 hours and enjoyed what is becoming a just-back-from-Europe ritual-- a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast biscuit from Jack in the Box (Because really, what else is open at that hour? My local diner, Nick's doesn't start serving until 6.)

Thursday night I managed to stay up all the way to the end of the Jean-Robert Bellande edition of Survivor and dozed off around 9 P.M. Which meant I was up at 5 in the morning again on Friday. Another bacon, egg and cheese biscuit for me. I played online poker that night staying all the way up until 11 P.M., but was up again at 6. Same thing on Saturday night-- I started watching a movie with Showcase and Tina, but was unconscious by 10:30. Which led to waking up at 6 on Sunday morning. I took two bong hits and saw that Field of Dreams was just starting on HBO. I love that movie and always cry like a little girl at the end when Kevin Costner plays catch with his dad. Only, thankfully I fell back asleep before James Earl Jones started hearing "the voice" at Fenway Park.

Last night, passed out at 11. And now, awake at 7. I seem to be beating this jet-lag back by only an hour a day. On my way out, I had no problems adjusting to the 9-hour time change. Coming back... well that's just a bitch.

With the time change screwing with my internal clock, I have found time at odd hours to start playing poker again. During my entire time in Europe, the only poker I played were two $22+2 turbo SNGs on Full Tilt. The first, I won while sitting in our kitchen in Amsterdam ripping bong hits with Pauly and Johnny Mushrooms. The second, I bubbled while on dinner break at the Fifty Casino during Day 1B of the WSOPE.

While I was up at 4 AM on the first day of jet lag, I found a rockin' $3-6 Omaha 8 or better game on Poker Stars and after about 45 minutes, hit and run for just under $100. Then I dicked around for a while playing $2-4 LHE on Full Tilt and broke even. I played LHE and LO8 at strange hours over the next couple of days and racked up a few hundred bucks before deciding to take an under-rolled shot at a $5-10 LHE game with two fish I had previously flagged sitting in, but I couldn't hit a flop to save my life and ended up dropping $250 over the course of about 3 hours.

With almost half my balance on Full Tilt gone poof, I turned back to the ye olde reliable $22 SNGs to grind it back up. The first day I went 4-4-1. And the second day I went 1-1-3-5. And this morning, I woke up and found an email from Full Tilt that went something like this:

Hello Change,

Upon the conclusion of a recent investigation we have determined there were players involved in collusion against you.

In this instance, we have seized the winnings of the players involved and your tournament placing has been adjusted. You have been refunded $59.40, which you can find in your Full Tilt Poker account.

Please note, for various reasons, we are unable to advise you of the names of the players or any other information regarding this case. We thank you for your understanding in this regard and hope you will accept the refunded money with our best wishes.

Sweet... I get second place money back in my account, which happens to completely unstick me from my $5-10 losses. But which SNG was tainted with colluders? (And seriously... why collude in a lousy $22 SNG?) There are only 7 to choose from and I only had the hand histories for the 5 I played on the mega-laptop (I hadn't set travel-laptop to save them yet). This was the only hand that looked a lil' fishy to me from the 5 transcripts I reviewed. It was the one where I finished third. My two opponents had barely played a pot against each other once we reached the money, but were very eager to get involved with me. Though in this hand I'm the short stack, I was a steady second in chips until the hand immediately before this one. Both were playing multiple tables, with Ass Hat #1* playing at least 12. And both had been playing very tight for three-handed play...that is, until this shove-fest:

Full Tilt Poker Game #3649987000: $22 + $2 Sit & Go (Turbo) (27841379), Table 1 - 300/600 - No Limit Hold'em - 16:07:47 ET - 2007/09/23
Seat 4: change100 (3,000)
Seat 5: Ass Hat #1 (6,140)
Seat 9: Ass Hat #2 (4,360)
Ass Hat #1 posts the small blind of 300
Ass Hat #2 posts the big blind of 600
The button is in seat #4
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to change100 [Ah 6h]
change100 raises to 3,000, and is all in (standard shove with 5 BB from the button)
Ass Hat #1 raises to 6,140, and is all in (OK...)
Ass Hat #2 calls 3,760, and is all in (O RLY?)
Ass Hat #1 shows [As 9c]
Ass Hat #2 shows [4d 4s]
change100 shows [Ah 6h]
Uncalled bet of 1,780 returned to Ass Hat #1
*** FLOP *** [2h Ts 8c]
*** TURN *** [2h Ts 8c] [5s]
*** RIVER *** [2h Ts 8c 5s] [9h]
Ass Hat #1 shows a pair of Nines
Ass Hat #2 shows a pair of Fours
Ass Hat #1 wins the side pot (2,720) with a pair of Nines
change100 shows Ace Ten high
Ass Hat #1 wins the main pot (9,000) with a pair of Nines
change100 stands up
Ass Hat #2 stands up
Ass Hat #1 stands up
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 11,720 Main pot 9,000. Side pot 2,720. | Rake 0
Board: [2h Ts 8c 5s 9h]
Seat 4: change100 (button) showed [Ah 6h] and lost with Ace Ten high
Seat 5: Ass Hat #1 (small blind) showed [As 9c] and won (11,720) with a pair of Nines
Seat 9: Ass Hat #2 (big blind) showed [4d 4s] and lost with a pair of Fours

So Ass Hat #1 wins, Ass Hat #2 takes second since he had me out-chipped at the start of the hand and I finish third.

At the end of the day, who knows? A re-shove over the top with pocket fours is a lousy play, but it is a $22 SNG and I've seen a helluva lot worse. More likely than not, the two colluders were caught doing something even sketchier at some other table and Full Tilt looked into all the SNGs they'd played that day and decided to seize their winnings and refund them to their opponents.

Hell, I'm just happy for the $60 surprise in my account this morning. This... EARLY... morning...

Oh... one final note. My beloved is in Key West with Al Can't Hang. God help him. After only 48 hours in Florida he's been nearly jumped by hooligans in a liquor store parking lot in North Miami and dropped over $400 on lap dances from dirty strippers (his words not mine). I join the party in 3.5 days and began training my own liver last night for the inevitable damage with a bottle of Australian Shiraz.

(*= not his real name, but perhaps a real Ass Hat)

Photo: Dali Sculpture on the Southbank, London, U.K.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Long Day's Journey

I don't fly well. I never have. And when I do, it's almost always under the influence of copius amounts of pharmaceuticals that ensure that I spent the vast majority of my airborne time asleep. I love to travel. I just hate to fly. It's an unfortunate, inconvenient dichotomy given the time on the road I've been spending as of late.

My journey home from London involved 13 hours on a plane, 11 1/2 of them in one stretch. It was something I had been dreading since I set foot on British soil. I just had a bad feeling about it, especially given the mad-dash ordeal I went through at LAX and in Minneapolis on my way to Europe last month. And the moment I stepped on the plane, my pessimistic thoughts were confirmed.

"32F isn't a window seat, as I requested and confirmed THREE TIMES!" I seethed at the model-attractive Dutch flight attendant. "It is a MIDDLE seat! Do you think I would book myself 11 1/2 hours in a MIDDLE seat!"

"I'm sorry ma'am but the flight is completely booked. I am sorry for the mistake but there is nothing I can do."

"Easy for you to say when you're not the one who's going to lose all feeling in her legs."

There was really only one thing I could do if I hoped to sleep at all on this flight. Pull out the Benjamins.

"$300 US for anyone in a window seat to switch for a middle!"

I walked the length of the plane down both aisles. I even upped the price to $400 through the last ten rows. Not a single taker. I don't blame them.

Forced to take my seat, I wedged myself between two old women who smelled bad for vastly different reasons. One wore so much perfume that if I opened my mouth in a yawn, I could actually taste it. The other wore some sort of burka and hadn't bathed in at least a week. There was some sort of metal box attached to the seat in front of me that stuck out where my legs would be able to stretch out at least a little bit. And when the guy in front of me leaned his seat back, it was practically in my lap. I didn't even have room enough to open up my 12" laptop to write. Even worse, there were NO individual TV's attached to the backs of the seats. No movies on demand. No little screen that showed where the plane was. Just the old-school drop-down video screens attached to the cabin roof. All that played were re-runs of Friends and Everybody Hates Chris, as well as Spider-Man 3, which I'd already seen on the flight out. And given the two smelly snoring women between me, there was no way to easily get in or out of my seat. I was trapped, literally staring at the walls for 11 hours straight.

And then, there were the babies. Two of them. Devil-possessed. These things wailed like they were under rendition at Guantanamo Bay. Non-stop. By hour 6, I was completely pushed to my limit and stood up in my seat screaming "WILL SOMEONE SHUT THOSE KIDS UP!" to a smattering of applause from my cabin-mates and glares from both mothers.

I was ready to kiss the ground when we landed. My body was twisted and cramped from the top of my neck to the base of my spine.

"Welcome home" said the Homeland Security official who stamped my passport in the basement of Terminal 4 at LAX.

"You have no idea how good it is to be home" I replied.

My mother picked me up and drove me home up La Cienega through miles of rush-hour traffic. And once I walked through the doors of my apartment, it took maybe 15 minutes for me to sink into my couch, flip on CNN, take a massive bong hit, and fall asleep for the next 14 hours straight.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Annette_15 Wins WSOPE Main Event, Grown Men Weep

Annette Obrestad hoists her WSOP Bracelet in victory

She didn't stand up during the final all-in. Instead she remained in the "thinker" pose she had adopted for the entire tournament. Calm, impassive. Her head resting on her left hand balled into a fist. Eyes invisible behind dark, square-shaped sunglasses. Thin lips neither smiling nor frowning. Her opponent stood and paced, no doubt thinking of the the miracle the dealer would have to pull out of the deck for him to survive this hand. But she barely moved a muscle.

When the final card was dealt, locking up the hand for her, there was maybe a minute before the officials counted down the two stacks to make sure she had her opponent covered. And still she barely made a twitch. When Jack Effel got back on the mic and announced to the crowd of spectators that she had indeed won, that was the moment that Annette Obrestad's stone face melted and she burst into tears.

I almost wanted to cry myself when she won, and I know it wasn't alone. Read any poker forum this morning and you'll find a number of accounts of grown men tearing up as they followed the coverage and read of Annette's victory. I don't think such emotion could be stirred by the victory of any other player on the circuit today. It took an 18-year old, five-foot tall Norwegian girl to move the poker world to such emotional heights.

Annette Obrestad not only won the first-ever World Series of Poker Europe Main Event last night, she shattered maybe half a dozen records in the process that won't easily be broken again. Obrestad became:

(1) The first-ever female champion of a WSOP Main Event (or, if you want to split hairs and argue that this wasn't a "real" WSOP Main Event, the first-ever female champion of a WSOP event with a buy-in of $10,000 or higher).

(2) The youngest WSOP Main Event Champion in history at 18 years, 362 days old. That's one less record for Phil Hellmuth.

(3) The youngest WSOP bracelet winner in history.

(4) The top money-earning woman in WSOP history. Annie Duke held this record for exactly one day, with the $61,000 or so she won for her 21st place finish in the WSOPE Main Event inching her over the $1 million mark.

(5) The largest single-tournament female money winner. This also erased another one of Duke's records, the hideous GBP to USD exchange rate making Obrestad's one million pounds the equivalent of $2,005,552.00, just inching out the $2 million Duke won at the 2004 WSOP Tournament of Champions.

(6) The only midget to win a WSOP bracelet.

OK, that last one is some drunken B.S. Snoopy came up with while guzzling victory Coronas with the Poker News crew last night.

I'm a journalist and I'm supposed to be impartial, but I was secretly pulling for Annette. I personally watched her knock out three of the world's most successful female players along the way-- Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman, and Beth Shak. Sure she sucked out a few times. Sure she made a couple of mistakes. But who doesn't in a five-day tournament.

When the final table resumed after dinner break, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack took a ringside seat next to me and my laptop.

"Hey, can you stick this behind your computer?" he asked, holding out a sleek wooden box. It was the bracelet.

"You know, this is probably the closest I'll ever come to one of these" I deadpanned.

A while later, after Annette dragged a big pot, I leaned over and whispered to him.

"You know, when I was 18, I was working at Barnes & Noble."
"I was at Haagen-Dazs" he replied.

2007 is turning out to be poker's "Year of the Nice Guy." Just look at Tom Schneider's two WSOP bracelets and Player of the Year victory, Bill Edler's WSOP and WPT titles, Jerry Yang's myriad of charitable contributions after his $8 million win in this summer's WSOP Main Event, and now, the London coming-out party for the shy, soft-spoken Annette Obrestad. It's always sweeter to see the nice guys have success in the poker world so often dominated by the "ship it holla ballas."

Congratulations, Annette. You are scary good and an inspiration to all of us internet donkeys.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


So... can anyone recommend some cool shit to do in New Zealand?

Last night I got hired to cover an event in Queenstown, New Zealand, putting two trips down under on my rapidly expanding travel schedule. I get to spend about a week in NZ, before flying up to Melbourne and covering the PokerNews Cup at the Crown Casino with Pauly. Three weeks down under in October, another four in January. I'm a lucky, lucky girl-- though I fear I'll need to install a sidebar on this blog like the one Pauly has telling people where in the world I am. After returning from London, I get a little over a week in Los Angeles before going away for a weekend trip to Florida, then eight more days home before the 17-hour flight to New Zealand takes me away until the end of October. I think I get all of November at home (we allllmost had a Thanksgiving-week gig in Moscow of all places) before heading back to Vegas for the December blogger trip. Then back home for Christmas before leaving again for Australia the day after New Year's.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it! So yeah, any recommendations on cool shit to do down there would be most welcome.

For now, it's back to the grind in the Empire Casino for Day 2A of the WSOPE Main Event. We're all reunited in the same venue today after being spread around London for the last two days. Plenty of poker luminaries are still in contention including a number of poker's most talented women-- Jennifer Harman, Vicky Coren, Annie Duke, Isabelle Mercier, Beth Shak, and Annette "Annette_15" Obrestad. I met the latter a couple of days ago while she was sweating friends in the 2,500 H.O.R.S.E. event and she's sweet as can be.

"I watched you win the $500K on Full Tilt a few weeks back. You're a sick, sick puppy!" I said. Annette blushed and smiled.

"Aw, thanks. I couldn't believe I won. I got some pretty sick hands at the end of that one."

Destroy your workplace productivity and tune into Poker News for all the skinny from London! You didn't want to file those TPS reports today anyway, did you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September Truckin'

Truckin' is here! Stop multi-tabling SNG's and go read! Especially since Pauly has written about drug benders and Otis has penned witty prose about condoms-- my kind of stuff.

Truckin' - September 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 9

1. Monk's Siberian Dream by Paul McGuire
Brain dead. Deep into the sixth day of a foggy bender, I had forgotten the day of the week. Frisatursunday? I’d successfully lost time. The demoralizing result was that my conversational skills had dwindled down to a few muttering sentences... More

2. The Rubber-less Traveler by Brad "Otis" Willis
Breathless, confused, and sick to my stomach, I arrived at the British Airways gate and looked at the departure board. The flight was delayed for an hour. This is how I travel. I run to nowhere to fly to somewhere where I see little, do much, and find myself asking questions like, "Why do they sell condoms in airport bathrooms?" ... More

3. It's Not Like I'm Dishonest; Honest by May B. Yesno
I'm a private investigator. A damn good private investigator. I have a wife, a very expensive wife. She likes the good things in life. We're matched. I like good things too... More

4. Coming Home by B Kemp
Some of my former friends think that she is using me for my money. It doesn't seem right to them that a man my age would "throw it all away," leaving my career for a life of unpredictability and adventure. My old friends are naturally suspicious of younger women wanting to spend their money, rightfully so I suppose... More

5. The Confetti of Life by Sean A. Donahue
I read the love letters that my grandfather sent to his wife. I could see the tears in my grandmother's eyes as she read them, touched them for one last link to him. I shed many a tear today, ones that no one saw, because I left the room before they fell... More

Monday, September 10, 2007

Jennifer Harman's Almost-Win and How I Got a Drunk Asshole Kicked Out of the Empire Casino

"I want this so bad" said Jennifer Harman in a tight, determined voice.

She stood in a huddle with her husband Marco Traniello and best friend Daniel Negreanu in a corner of the strip club/bar that had been transformed into a disco-chic final table area at the Empire Casino. Harman was about to play heads-up for her third WSOP bracelet in a game where she had an undeniable advantage-- H.O.R.S.E. Her regular $4,000-8,000 game at the Bellagio had hourly swings greater than the approximately $140,000 USD first prize, but for Harman, the money was of little concern. She wanted that bracelet. So bad.

A couple of hours before I had walked up to Daniel Negreanu on one of the breaks as he was practicing his golf swing. Two of his best friends were at this final table-- Harman and Kirk Morrison, whom Negreanu has known since his early years as a pro in Las Vegas.

"So, if Kirk and Jen go heads-up who do you root for? Or does your head just explode?"

"Nah. I root for Jen. I want her to get that third bracelet to put some more distance between her and the other women."

It would have been a record-- three WSOP bracelets in open events-- and for most of the evening, it looked like that piece of history would be made. Harman ran over her opponent, Thomas Bihl of Germany for the first two hours of their 100+ hand heads-up match, whittling him down to 170,000 to her 720,000 at one point. But as the blinds escalated and the hour grew later, luck began to play more of a role, and Bihl finally began to play back at her.

After the final hand, an Omaha one where she got her money in with two pair against Bihl's straight and flush draws, Harman seemingly disappeared into the crowd. It's often easy to lose track of her in a crowded room given her diminutive size, but coming so close, nearly tasting the victory and having it slip away... it must have been just wrenching. And had Harman won, I'm sure the celebration inside the casino would have continued until dawn. Instead, most of the fans and media alike, simply packed their things and headed back to their hotels after a long, grueling night.

On our way back home, Pauly and I ran into Wendeen Eolis in Leicester Square. We're all staying at the same hotel and she was delighted to run into us, not wanting to navigate the dodgy streets of Central London on her own at 4:30 A.M. She shared my disappointment at Harman not winning.

"I know all the female players were really pulling for her" said Wendeen.

Well... maybe not all of them. I can think of at least one who is likely breathing a sigh of relief.

I covered the H.O.R.S.E. final table hand for hand with the lovely and capable Jen Mason, who normally does blogging duties for Blonde Poker, but joined the PokerNews team for the WSOPE. Jen is also quite a player in her own right, having won over € 30,000 for first place at the Green Joker Poker Festival in Ireland last May and most recently finishing second at the Party Poker Women's World Open last month. That particular tournament will hit the European airwaves in October, and I imagine Ms. Mason will be getting recognized a whole lot more at the tables.

After that grueling affair, I got the day off on Sunday. Good thing I did, as I woke up with a completely stuffed head and spent the afternoon injesting a combination of orange juice, tea, and cold medicines while watching NFL football and fighting the internet connection in our hotel room. Literally the only way to get a signal inside our room is to wedge oneself against the door or go out into the hallway altogether. I inquired at the front desk about a room change and almost went for it, but thought it wouldn't be a good idea to have Pauly arrive home from the PLO final table without a key to the new room. Still, we might do it tonight. A shame really, since our current room number is the hammer-tastic #727.

* * * * *

Today, the Main Event started. Ten thousand pounds, which is about $20,200 U.S. I moved casinos and am over on St. James' Street at the Fifty, very posh card club within about a 15 minute walk of the Empire at Leicester Square. Schecky and I are ensconced in a corner next to the bar on the second floor, and the charming fellow behind it asks us about every half hour or so if we're OK on beverages. They also fed us at the dinner break-- mini hamburgers, bowls of onion rings, and some sort of sausage and cheese confection. Schecky wouldn't try the latter dish, as he had a bad experience with the local sausage over in Barcelona. It's really calm and mellow over here compared to the spectacle of the Amazon Room in Vegas. We have seven tables in play here and every single one is peppered with at least two or three name pros. Gus Hansen, Liz Lieu, Erik Seidel, Jan Sorensen, Robert Mizrachi, Greg Raymer, Noel Furlong, Farzad Bonyadi, Thomas Wahlroos, Sorel Mizzi, Pascal Perrault, and Jeff Lisandro all sat down to play today at the Fifty.

Funniest thing I've seen so far at the WSOPE? While blogging the H.O.R.S.E. from the "Shadow Bar" (we were literally sitting on barstools with laptops) WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack kept slipping behind the bar to raid the fridge for bottles of water. One drunk guy assumed he was the bartender and attempted to order a cocktail from him!

Oh, and speaking of drunk guys, I got one kicked out of the final table area. He started annoyingly chatting to me on one of the breaks while I was desperately trying to catch up on posts. I tried the graceful brush-off, but he was persistent.

"What are you doing?"
"Covering the tournament for Poker News."
"Oh brilliant. But really, who watches poker?"
"Millions of people."
"Did you come here from America for this?"
"You Americans really take poker too seriously. I can't believe you have a job doing this."
"Sometimes, neither do I, but it is a job and I have to do it now, so..."
"I mean really, who watches this?"
"Look, I have to work here"
"I'm just being friendly"
"And I was trying to be, but now I have to ask you to bugger off."
"Whaaaat?! I'm just trying to make conversation."
"And I politely told you I didn't have time for it. So leave me alone."
"God, you're so bitchy"
"Look man, you're drunk with your friends on a Saturday night and I'm on the tail end of a 14 hour day, so just please let me be."

Well, he wouldn't. And just got nastier and nastier. I told him to fuck off at one point and two of his (more sober) friends tried to get him to leave to no avail. But this asstard just wouldn't let up. So I threatened to call security. And he went apeshit.

"SECURITY? What the hell have I done to you! I didn't touch you!"
"But you're preventing me from doing my job, so yeah, I'm gonna get you thrown out."

I waved over one of the Harrah's suits and they immediately radioed for the muscle. Jonno, my bald-domed, tough-as-nails Australian colleague was sincerely disappointed that he didn't get there in enough time to head-butt the little bugger.

Ah, the workplace hazards of a casino....

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Short Cuts: London

Ben on Tilt

A few observations from the first 2 days in Britain:

They have Diet Coke in London. Real Diet Coke. Not that Coke Light crap they sell on the European Continent. Diet Coke>Coke Light.

I am taller than Johnny Chan. At 5'5 1/2 that's not saying much... for Chan.

Subway sandwiches taste exactly the same in England. Except they call the veggie toppings "salad" and potato chips "crisps" since "chips" are actually "fries" here.

At the WSOP Europe launch party last night, a tipsy Joy Miller came running up to me, saying "Shelly!" "Um... no" was my response. This is the same woman who coined the phrase "You're Terrence Chan, not Johnny Chan" so I wasn't offended in the least.

The Brunsons made London a family trip of it. Doyle, Todd, Mama Brunson, and Pam Brunson are all here. Pam came up to her brother Todd during the H.O.R.S.E. event after an afternoon of shopping to see how he was doing. Todd was quite short stacked and not happy about it.

Todd: So what did you buy?

Pam: All afternoon and I only bought about $200 worth of nuts.

Todd: Nuts?

Pam: Yeah, I know.

Todd: What, did you get like 400 pounds of them?

Pam: They're really good nuts.

My first glimpse of Annie Duke at the WSOP-E was of her bitching out a dealer. ("He has the king of spades so he's the bring-in not the king of hearts." she cawed.) Duke bitching at dealer stories are really almost cliche at this point.

Scott Fischman got faaaat. I wonder if it's too many Cheetos while 12-tabling or the adverse effects of psychotropic medications?

Robert Williamson III put on some pounds too, but I know that's from fast food. The last time I saw him before today was in Vegas in the drive-through lane at the Taco Bell on Decatur and Flamingo ordering a Crunch Wrap meal.

I saw a guy walking a ferret on a leash in Leicester Square. All I could think about were the nihilists in The Big Lebowski unleashing that thing on The Dude in the bathtub. "Next time we cut off your Johnson!"

Phil Gordon is here. With his wife. Booooo. I think I'm moving on from Phil to Paul Wasicka.

Here's a few shots from the last couple of days:

Obligatory Big Ben Postcard Photo

Trafalgar Square

The London Eye

Bacon Cheeseburger from Hamburger Union

Random Horse Statue near Westminister Bridge

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Welcome to London

Pauly and the WSOP Showgirls outside the LCI Empire Casino, Leicester Square

I offered my beloved 20 quid to take this photo. He said he'd do it for free.

We arrived safely last night in Jolly Olde England and a 60 pound cab ride later (that's $120 U.S., folks) we were ensconced safely in our (surprisingly posh) hotel just off Trafalgar Square. We're in the middle of tourist central, but less than a 5 minute walk from the Empire Casino where the inaugural WSOP-Europe will kick off tomorrow. I've already enjoyed some of the best Indian food of my life in my short time here (though Dr. P did not agree) and the weather is blissfully fair after sweltering for a week in Spain.

Our 30 hour jaunt to Amsterdam absolutely hit the spot for me and I'm thankfully back off the cannabis wagon. The trip was absolutely a blur and I think we hit up at least 7 hash bars (a far cry from the record 13 in 10 hours we did a week ago, but that's a blog for another time).

We took a lovely walk to the Southbank this afternoon and snapped photos of the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminister Abbey. Hopefully I'll have a bit of time tonight to upload and edit them.

Now we're off to dinner. Italian food I think. After making Pauly suffer through curry, it's his choice tonight.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Adios, Espana

Huge, huge congratulations to Kristy Gazes for taking down WPT Ladies Night V at the Bicycle Casino! Kristy continued her 2007 hot streak by besting a field of talented women including runner-up Linda Johnson, Pamela Brunson, J.J. Liu, Mimi Tran, and Melissa Hayden. I only wish I could have been there to see what pair of fabulous Jimmy Choos Gazes chose for the televised final table and/or what sort of shoe-based side bets were made between the six ladies.

Of course, it took me almost 15 minutes of Googling and surfing various poker websites to find the results, since only "official" poker media were allowed to cover the event and the rest of my contemporaries were banished from the premises. Going to overseas automatically re-directs people to sign up for their online casino, so it took some creativity to find the live updates page. The front page of website of their partners-in-crime CardPlayer told me nothing, as did their tournament results page. If you're gonna be "official," can you, I don't know, AT LEAST report the results?

Thanks for everyone's comments and emails regarding my tumble at the Casino Barcelona. My ankle is still a bit sore especially in the mornings and I have to be very careful walking on these cobblestone streets, but I'll live. For what it's worth, someone took notice of the deplorable reporting conditions for the media and the final day went much smoother. We had a roped-off media area once we were down to the final 13 players and badge-holding media were given permission to kick out spectators from our area. Poker Stars' Mad Harper was working overtime pulling railbirds off the ropes and if you take a look at the coverage, you'll see a noticeable improvement from the reporting on Day 3. I did, however get my ass grabbed by a dirty old man on the rail after politely telling him that he wasn't permitted to stand there. I turned around and hit him after it happened. Thank God Pauly wasn't there to see it or this asshole would have been drop-kicked to the floor and we would have likely been ejected from the casino. Wouldn't be my first time getting kicked out of a gaming establishment.

Today was our last day in Barcelona. Though we booked ourselves here through Tuesday, Pauly and I made an impromptu decision to return to Amsterdam for one day before heading up to London for 15 days for the WSOP-Europe. Gee, I wonder why? Here's a clue. My week-long stint of sobriety is the longest stretch I've gone without my beloved cannabis since the late nineties. Not very Pot Committed of me I know, but I did a helluva lot better than I thought I would.

After sleeping in late, we got tapas for lunch at a fantastic place on the Placa del Palau. The crispy prawns were perhaps the best bite of food I've had in Europe, and we downed an entire pitcher of perfectly sweet sangria. We hit the Picasso Museum after that, and finished the afternoon with a long walk around the Barri Gotic and up La Rambla to the Placa Catalunya where we stopped at a cafe for beers and Chinese Poker. Though I left Amsterdam up 22 points after a sick run at the Abraxas coffeeshop, I've had a horrible losing streak in Spain and now I'm only up 8. Perhaps our return to the 'Dam will turn things around.

I'm behind on stories of my Euro-travels, I know but I'll do my best over the next few days to catch you all up before we tumble back into the abyss of the casino. Until then, here's a few Barcelona photos to sate you all. There are many more to be found on my Flickr page.

View from our apartment balcony

La Sagrada Familia

Monument al Colom

Stained glass windows inside La Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia windows

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Unruly Railbirds, Change Falls, and Why I Respect Harrah's a Lot More Now

Two WSOPs, half a dozen World Poker Tour events and who knows how many rinky-dink L.A. area tournaments I've either played or covered... yesterday was the worst day I've spent in poker.

Let me preface this by saying I love Poker Stars, I think the EPT is by in large a fantastic tour and I'm incredibly lucky to be here thanks to John Caldwell and Poker News. But the staff and spectators at the Casino Barcelona, well, they can blow me.

Our stint covering the EPT Barcelona has been rife with problems. The internet connection in the press room has been beyond lousy and there is nary an IT person to be found. About half the time we can't even load a simple web page. Posts have been eaten left and right. Pages time out constantly. I've dealt with shitty wireless internet before on tour and it's one of the things I'm usually pretty patient about. Pauly gets his testicles in a twist every time it goes down, but techie things rarely tilt me. It comes with the territory.

What I have absolutely no tolerance for is being pushed, shoved, elbowed, stepped on and kicked by unruly drunk spectators with absolutely no respect for the people around them who are trying to do their jobs.

My frustration began when we were lined up to get into the casino at 3 PM yesterday. Yes, lined up. By Spanish law, the casino opens at 3 PM and must close by 4 AM. Everyone also must show their passports to get a ticket that is scanned before you're allowed to enter. The cash game area is very small, so players arrive early in order to get a seat. Otherwise, you might be stuck in a 100-deep queue. These guys act like the world itself will stop turning if they can't get in. While trying to get my ticket scanned yesterday, I was getting pushed and shoved so much by the guy behind me that Pauly punched him on the shoulder and warned that if he tried that again, there would be serious trouble. I though European men were supposed to be chivalrous and respectful of women. I've encountered exactly the opposite in my stay in Spain.

But that's not even the worst of it.

The media were kicked out of the ropes midway through Day 2. The tournament area is small and the players were understandibly getting frustrated with the crush of humanity surrounding the tables. We were forced to report from the rail, and the tournament staff refused to move the spectators back so we could do our jobs. Every time there was an all-in, spectators would rudely push over everyone and anyone in their way so they could see the action. By the time we were down to 5 tables, the only possible way for me to record hands was to stand on a chair.

During one particular all in, I was up on said chair and some asshat flew into both me and the chair and knocked me to the ground. I landed awkwardly on my right ankle, weak from previous injuries and re-sprained it. The fucker ran off before I could call him out or Pauly could punch him in the face. Two floor guys saw it happen and didn't even help me up. As I stood up and put the first bit of pressure on my ankle, pain surged up my leg and I burst into tears before limping off the casino floor.

The only person in the entire casino that tried to help the deplorable situation on the floor was Mad Harper. She talked to the officials to try and get a roped-off media-only area, but they really could have cared less. Once I walked off some of the pain and downed a few aspirin, I went back out there. The conditions deteriorated even more as the day went on. There were piss-drunk Danes and Swedish hookers with better views of the tournament than I had. And while many would just throw their hands up in this situation, I wouldn't do that. I have a responsibility to Poker News, who flew me 6,000 miles to cover this tournament. I take pride in my work and didn't want my coverage to suffer despite the circus on the ropes.

At one point I went up to Tournament Director Thomas Kresmer and calmly told him that I'm a patient woman, I've covered poker in all sorts of venues and I've never seen the media treated this poorly. I asked if there was any way to move the spectators back and he just sort of shrugged his shoulders at me and turned away to talk to someone else.

A lot of the people in the poker media like to trash Harrah's and nitpick at every little thing that went wrong at the World Series. But after my experience here, I have much more respect for how they organize such a massive event and run it so smoothly. If I had been knocked to the ground by a spectator at the Rio, I have no doubt that the asshole would have been immediately removed from the premises by security. But here, they just don't care.

My sore ankle and I are back at the Casino Barcelona for the final table today. And unfortunately, I'll leave this place with a bad taste in my mouth.