Sunday, November 30, 2008

Run-Good: Dominating the Also-Rans

It's 70 degrees and sunny outside right now. A sparkling Southern California day. Just like the one before it. And I've spent the majority of the weekend indoors, hunkered down writing. The rest of the country can collectively give me the finger right now.

The majority of yesterday, however was spent on the virtual felt, first playing in the second week of the Poker Listings Run-Good Challenge 2, followed by my weekly $11 PLO donation at Saturdays with Dr. Pauly.

Last week, in the first Run-Good tournament, I was clawed by the Cougar, her A-K brutally cracking my A-A with runner-runner Broadway to bounce me out in 9th. She went on to cash in third place, behind Matusow biographers Poker Shrink and Amy Calistri, who went 1-2 respectively. When I checked out the recap on Listings, I was surprised to see I'd picked up one point-- at least I was on the board.

I started off this week's event pretty strong. I flopped good, hitting a set of sevens against Michalski for a nice early pot, then flopped sevens full against him only a few hands later to claim the rest of his stack. Now armed with one of the larger stacks at my table, I started raising a lot of hands, but didn't get much action, save for Luckbox re-popping me from the button when I opened J-T suited in the cutoff. I folded and was really card dead after that, save for picking up A-Q suited and whiffing the flop. Ultimately I open-shoved about 10BB from the cutoff with A-9 suited, Luckbox re-shoved on the button with tens, and I couldn't improve, despite picking up a flush draw on the turn. I was out in 6th, but picked up a few more points.

After I was eliminated, we were left with four short stacks and Benjo, the Eurodonk chip vacuum. The voice of French poker mowed down the field after getting off to a roaring start when his Q-Q snapped off Kid Dynamite's A-A with a two-outer on the river. As Benjo reported on his blog, his friend Davidi Kitai, a Belgian poker pro, was standing behind him and summoned all his infamous luckdonk powers to conjure up that Queen on the river. Congrats to everyone's favorite Frenchman on a spectacular victory. That $600 USD should be able to buy him two baguettes, a pack of cigarettes, and a lap dance.

With Week 1 point heavies Poker Shrink, Amy, Michele, and Luckbox going deep again and Benjo's win, the five of them have essentially locked up five of the six seats in the Grand Final. As the Poker Shrink wrote on his blog:

"There will be a wild scramble for the remaining three open spots with
Change100 holding a dominating position among the also-rans."

I like dominating the also-rans. I guess it worked for me last time.

After the Run Good, it was on to Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. It's no secret I totally suck at PLO and I'm usually a lock to be one of the first 10 players out. This week, though I actually made some hands early and even held the chip lead for a while, but ended up bubbling. I think it was like the fourth or fifth time I've bubbled this tournament. Boooooooooooo.

I looked up at the clock and it was nearly 4:00. The sky was already darkening, the day having nearly slipped away. Which is when I decided to hunker down and spend the rest of the evening writing as movies I've seen a thousand times like Speed and Juno played out in the background. Lately I've been working on an old project like my life depends on it. Well, actually it kind of does.

I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble, Gobble

I am so in love with this picture. Aren't they soooooo cute?

Hopefully by 6 p.m. PST I'll have a head full of chardonnay and be able to join in the pokery festivities while wading in a tryptophan haze. That is, if my parents can get their shit together and get the food out in time.

This year, color me thankful for another year not spent in a cubicle, the opportunities I've had to travel, my family's continued good health, and especially, for that guy on the right with the missing tooth. On a day when my worst fears were entertained, he ended up walking away from a car wreck without a scratch on him. I can never repay the universe enough for that one.

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans. And all you Eurodonks--enjoy fleecing the drunk Yanks on PokerStars tonight. I hope to be there with you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tales from the Hooker Bar and Other Tuesday Pimps

I'm still in Warsaw and have finally found some edible food in the form of a chicken, proscuitto and parmesan sandwich on whole grain bread sold at a local coffee shop for only 9 Zlotys ($3 U.S.!). We'll set the final table today, play it tomorrow, and I'll be on a plane back to my fire-scorched hometown on Thursday. Pauly said the air in L.A. is so bad he can't even open the windows in our apartment, despite the blazes being over 40 miles away on either side of the city. Yiiiikes. Dana and I will be doing the play-by-play over on Poker News.

Speaking of my beloved, he's penned one of his best pieces in recent memory. I was present for at least some of the antics at the hooker bar last week in Vegas, but the really juicy shit went down after I went upstairs to pass out at 5 a.m. Hit up the Tao and check out Existentialist Conversations With Hookers: Maelstrom at the Hooker Bar.

Both of us will also be playing in the second edition of the Poker Listings Run-Good Challenge starting this Saturday. As you may know, I miraculously took down the first edition last month, defeating everyone's favorite cougar Michele Lewis heads-up and will be back to defend my title. This round is going to be a wee bit more difficult with pros like Liz Lieu, Lacey Jones and Matt Stout in the mix. Some of your favorite bloggers (and mine) will also be playing, including Luckbox, California Jen, Dan Michalski, Benjo, Amy Calistri, Poker Shrink, Short-Stacked Shamus, Spaceman, and Kid Dynamite.

And now, it's time to head downstairs and watch some Scandis check-raise each other into oblivion...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Polish Observations

In the last few days, I've covered the WSOP Main Event final table, driven the 280 miles from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, and had a 16-hour stop at home to do laundry and re-pack before getting on a plane to Poland to cover the EPT Warsaw. Until this morning, I was cranky, starving, and jet-lagged to say the least. I finally feel somewhat human again, due in no small part to the excellent coffee here in the media room.

As for Vegas, I thought the Main Event final table was a success from a spectator standpoint. Amidst a climate in the U.S. where the poker boom is essentially over and mainstream interest in the game wanes by the day in the face of a slumping economy, there were thrilling hands, spectacular suckouts, and for the most part, great poker was played. Ratings for ESPN's "plausibly live"telecast were up over 50% from last year and nobody got whacked during the 117 day break so I'd bet on another delayed final table next year. Me? I'm just glad the damn thing is finally over.

The real highlight of that weekend in Vegas were the late night hijinks with fellow bloggers, which Pauly has written up in his inimitable manner over on the Tao of Poker. Go read Emissaries from the Land of Indulgence because it's better than anything I could write about that weekend.

And now, some observations from my first day in Warsaw:

In Poland, I easily pass as a local. In most of the European locales I've frequented (Barcelona and Monte Carlo especially come to mind) I kind of stick out and instantly appear American. Waiters in restaurants, hotel concierges and cab drivers take one look at me and start speaking English, despite my attempts to communicate in the local tongue. Here, where my pale skin and blonde hair cause me to blend in quite well, people just start rambling at me in Polish, a language which to me sounds like Russian spoken with a heavy lisp.

Polish food is scary. I've been on what my friend and fellow reporter Owen calls the "EPT Starvation Diet" since landing here - which I'm cool with. Between the added walking and the significantly decreased food consumption I usually drop 4-6 pounds per EPT event and consider that an added bonus. On my first morning I was up in time for the hotel's breakfast buffet and was sufficiently horrified at the spread, which consisted of several strange cold salads, a fish terrine, egg rolls, mini hot dogs, cold-cut salami, a selection of cheeses, and very stale toast. I'm usually a pretty adventurous eater, but I draw the line at fish salad for breakfast. I emerged from the buffet with a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. I would have gone for the pre-packaged yogurt, but I saw a picture of what looked like a peach on the front of it-- a fruit to which I'm violently allergic. Couldn't chance it.

In Poland, Pizza Hut is a sit-down restaurant.
There's a Pizza Hut around the corner from my hotel and while it was closed by the time I got off work last night, it was open this afternoon and I popped in for lunch on my way to the casino. The interior looked like a Chili's or an Applebees or any other sort of American chain restaurant-- no take-out counter in sight. After the waiter greeted me in Polish, I was seated in a large leather booth and ordered off a rather extensive menu which included pasta and salads. Total cost for a green salad, a small pizza and a Diet Coke? 24 Zlotys, which is about $8 US. Which brings me to my next observation.

Poland is quite inexpensive. Fancy a vodka from the hotel mini-bar? Only 12 Zlotys, or about $4. A cab from the airport to the city center? 35 Zlotys or about $11.50. I brought about $500 with me and I doubt I'll spend even half of it here.

Poland is fucking bleak. Back in college when I spent four frozen winters in the midwest, I'd often play that Counting Crows song "Long December" on my walkman as I chattered my teeth on the way to class. It made me think of home, the Hollywood Hills and reminded me how long it had been since I'd seen the ocean. When I think of those winters I see gray skies, leafless trees, people in parkas shuffling around. I'll probably come away from Warsaw with similar memories. I have seen the sun exactly once since being here, and it promptly hid behind a cloud about ten minutes later. Tonight, it was pitch-black by 3:45 in the afternoon. With sun-up around 7 a.m., that's less than nine hours of daylight.

I don't know how those Swedes and Alaskans do it.