Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fill in the Blanks: WPBT Holiday Classic, Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued...

Friday, December 30, 2005

Now it's getting scary...

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

The streak continues!

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

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Junkgrabbers Always Draw

Back to back final tables!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fear the Junkgrabber: Change does the WWdN Invitational

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the room exploded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear change1OO,

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Plan B

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 26, 2005

O Holy Night

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

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

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

Cognac-Flambed Filet Mignon

Truffle Mushroom Risotto

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

We interrupt this trip report...

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

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

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

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

See ya on the flip side, kids.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

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

Friday Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued...

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

Prologue, June 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Back in L.A.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Five tips for Vegas you won't read anywhere else

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Friday Night on Murderer's Row

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Smooth-call or re-raise?

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

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

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

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

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

(Special thanks today to Iggy for the pimpage!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Brief Guide to Recognizing your Change

Drizz made an excellent suggestion on his blog that those of us new to the WPBT provide a bit of physical self-description before taking off for Sin City next week. Aside from the Murderer's Row gang, I haven't met any of you (and thank G-d that's about to change). There are absoultely no photos of me on the internet that I know of (aside from my old Friendster page, but you'd have to know my real name to find that. Heheh.) So how the fuck are you going to know that the young lady at the bar downing scotch and swearing at the video poker machine is the voice behind Pot Committed?

The easy decision would be to post a photo, but for professional real-life-not-poker-life reasons, I need to keep my secret identity a secret. I work for a relatively high-profile company and for my own creative sanity, I need to maintain the freedom to write whatever the fuck I want on this page, even if some of it could get me fired. That sucks for you all, because I happen to think I'm pretty cute. I'll tell you this, though. I'm not a midget. Or a sober housewife. (Duh).

Ergo, I present this brief guide for my tens of readers who may want to find me next weekend.

I'm 28, but people tell me I look a lot younger. Just ask the box office clerk at the AMC Century 14 who carded me when I went to see JARHEAD last week. The over-under on times I will get carded at the cashier's cage in one weekend is hereby set at 2.5. I'm 5'5ish with long straight strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes and fair, dare I say alabaster skin. I need my geeky tortoiseshell-frame glasses only if I'm driving or sitting in the 2s or 8s. I wear Burberry perfume and dark Joe's Jeans almost every day of my life and typically carry a large pink leather Marc Jacobs purse. If you don't know what those are, just ask JoeSpeaker. I hear he's good with designers.

Or, you could just walk around the Imperial Palace, sniff the air, and follow the pot smell. It'll lead you to my room. Or maybe Daddy's.

As of right now I plan on driving out early Friday morning, hoping for a noonish arrival. I have to depart with enough time to get myself back to Los Angeles by 10:30 Monday morning. Other than that, I have no planned itinerary-- I'm just gonna go with the flow and see where the nights take me. Though I would like to eat a nice meal and get a lap dance at some point.

I'm so fucking excited to meet you all.

Monday, November 28, 2005

More Conversations with My Intern

10 AM Monday. Entire office is hung-over and jet-lagged from the Thanksgiving break. Hollywood is rubbing the sleep out of its collective eyes. I've downed one cup of shitty coffee from the office kitchen and I'm working my way through the second. Returning emails. Catching up on blogs. Procrastinating the set of notes I need to finish by our 3 PM staff meeting. Outside my door, I hear my intern sneeze.

"I think I have bird flu."
"You don't have bird flu."
"But can't you get that from eating turkey?"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Big Empty (Part II)

I decided to get another hot dog before going back to the table. This time, a chili dog. I think it's gross when people eat at the tables, but I was willing to break my own rule just this once. I had to have the hot dog now, because I didn't anticipate getting up for another couple of hours, and I didn't want to have to sit there thinking about the hot dog and how delicious it would taste. It was about 11:30 and the room had really filled up. The list manager was constantly calling out initials and there was a decent-sized crowd around the board. The lineup at my table had changed only a little since I left to cool off. A black guy in a hockey jersey with fake gold chains around his neck had replaced Morris and a late-twenties Indian guy now occupied the once-empty 6s. He had a book of crossword puzzles with him that rested on the lip of the table. I counted out my chips. $53 left.

1st hand I get 99 UTG and raise. Got a bunch of callers. L.A. low-limit players rarely care about what position a raise is coming from, and for that, we love them. This time, though, the flop came KQA and I dumped the hand facing action.

77 a few hands later. I limp in MP behind 2 others. Two overs on the flop and no set for me. I dump it facing action.

The clock strikes midnight, bringing a new day but no playable hands for me. I see the jackhammer (J4) at least five times. (I don't care what you all think-- that hand is not playable for ME right now). I fold for about half an hour before picking up 77 and limping into another multiway pot. Flop is QQK. Red Sox guy wakes up from his nap and raises. Raising war breaks out and I dump my hand. Red Sox has KQ. Duh. I've bled myself down to only $18 in chips and rebuy $100 more.

I get threes once and fours once. No sets. 34c and 78h. No draws. So card-dead. I've only been back at the table an hour and I'm already thinking about another break. I'm actually thinking of calling for a new setup like some superstitious old bearded gambler. And then I'm dealt JJ. I'm UTG and I raise. The younger black guy with the pretty girlfriend looks at me and says, "girl, you haven't raised in half an hour! I'm scared but I'll play with you." He cold-calls. That puts me on guard. In my mind's eye I can read the page in Phil Gordon's "Little Green Book" that says "beware of the speech!" But no re-raise? My hand is probably still good here.

That is, until Fat Italian 3-bets from the BB. I cap and both of them call. Fat Italian is loose, losing, and frustrated. He could have anything here from AT-AK, to KQ to a suited ace to any pair. Flop comes 233 rainbow. Nice flop for my Jacks. Unless anyone has QQ, KK, AA, or a 3 I'm ahead. I lead out and the guy who gave the speech raises. Fat Italian 3-bets. What is going on here? It's $8 more to me and there's $72 in the pot plus the $4 more Mr. Speech will surely call. I have Mr. Speech on a medium pocket pair and I'm starting to believe that Fat Italian does indeed have one of those overpairs. I'm not reading anyone for a 3. So I'm relatively sure I'm beat here. But I can't be sure and the pot is huge. Wouldn't folding the best hand here be an ENORMOUS mistake? I call $8 more. Turn is a blank. I check-call for one bet. River another blank. I check-call again. We turn over and the $132 pot goes to...Mr. Speech who cold-called my UTG raise with Q3 offsuit! I read Fatass right on the flop-- he had AA.

One pot can turn it all around. I would have been almost even with that one. I look down at my stack with less than $50 left in it. Did I just totally fuck up in that hand? Should I have just dumped it on the flop? Do I situationally misinterpret everything I read in poker books?

Do I even know how to play this game?

I think about going home right now. But I'm wide awake and at a table full of loose-passives who have my money stacked in front of them. I tell myself that if I even win one decent-sized pot, I'll just cut my losses and leave. I just can't walk to my car without dragging ONE pot.

1:05 AM. As the cocktail waitresses mill around taking care of last call, I pick up KJs in EP and decide to raise. Four of us see a flop of T53 with one spade. I bet and everyone calls. The turn is a J. I check, intending to check-raise. A MP player bets, and I raise for my last $16. I get two callers. The final board is T53J8. One guy flopped a set of tens. The other had J5 for two pair. Yeah, he cold-called two PF with J5 off.

Some days, you fuck the donkey. Other days, the donkey fucks you. I was fucked. And down $300 in less than 3 hours. I hadn't won a single pot all night. Not one. Single. Pot.

Back to the ladies room for me. I write down hands again so I can have a written memory of this searing pain. Bobblehead comes through the door at one point and mumbles something unintelligible at me in Vietnamese before taking a piss. I sit there, just dumbfounded at what just happened. Not one set. Not one flush. Flops for my pocket pairs and suited connectors were in outer space somewhere, certainly not at table 67. Do I really suck this much? Huh? Well do I?

I momentarily think about a trip to the ATM for $100 more to buy in to the no-limit game. But that would literally be money I couldn't afford to lose. Somehow I convince myself that I'm actually playing well, that I've just gotten unlucky, when in reality, I couldn't have told you whether I played those hands well or not. I still can't. Though I believe if I had won even one pot, I would have been feeling OK about the whole thing. I would have thought I was playing well. God, if I could even get $100 back...

Ten minutes later, I'm sitting in the $100NL, twenty yellow $5 chips stacked in front of me. I fold for two straight orbits, trying to get a feel for the table. Turns out, it feels like a dream. The new lineup:

1s: Early-twenties fratboy in a USC hat. Typical cocky loose-aggro. Over $1000 in front of him.

2s: Quiet fiftyish Asian man. Less than a buyin left.

3s: Even quieter Asian man. About $150 in chips.

4s: Older grey-haired man wearing a suit jacket with a rhinestone American flag pin.

5s: Me.

6s: Big, round black dude with a perpetually furrowed brow. Total fish. Saw him call an all-in with only a gutshot.

7s: USC asshole's asshole friend.

8s: Smartly-dressed black guy who looked like Dr. Burke on Grey's Anatomy.

USC asshole loved the trash-talk. He told me flat-out that I could never hope to beat him. Then he pointed at his head and said "that's because I've got nuthin' in here."

"Well, that's pretty obvious, I replied. You go to SC."

ZING! He didn't even try for a comeback. The dealer smiled at me and chuckled.

I bled away about $70 in blinds and a couple of continuation bets that got raised on flops I didn't really hit with overs. Finally, finally I flopped trips with 46 and pushed my last $30 on the flop. Here it is. I got one caller. Turn K, river K.

The old man turns over K3 off. I go home now.

As I turned away from the table and headed for the door, I heard USC asshole say "I knew it. Weak, weak, weak." I didn't need that. Not now. Stupid shit like that doesn't usually bother me one bit because I know guys like that are a jopke. But as I headed off the casino floor, I just wanted to reach across the table and smash his head into the felt. I wanted to slap that ugly fucking hat off his head and knock out five or six of those teeth that his mama probably paid 4 grand to straighten. I wanted to ram each and every one of those yellow chips up his fat hairy ass. Which I would later subject to hot waxing. My night was over. My wallet, empty.

I pushed through the double doors and inhaled a cool blast of secondhand smoke. A couple of security guards were huddled together, sucking down Winstons. A thick fog had settled in and it was pouring rain. I headed straight into the downpour. I let it hit my face and soak my hair as I made a slow, catatonic walk toward my car. Someone in a passing SUV called out "lady, don't you have an umbrella?" but I barely heard them. By the time I arrived at my little green machine, I was drenched. I didn't even care.

I sat in the car, just staring ahead for a long time until my involutary urban paranoia kicked in and I became cogent enough to recognize that it probably wasn't a good idea for a little white girl to sit alone in a sketchy parking lot in Inglewood. I backed out and found the exit and headed for the freeway. By the time I hit the 405, I was sobbing uncontrollably. My glasses fogged up and I could hardly see the road. I was beyond anger-- this was just sadness. Thoughts like "should I even keep playing?" and "should I even bother going to Vegas, I'll just lose" ran back and forth through my mind taunting my broken self-esteem. I was glad Showcase wasn't home to see me like this. Swings like this are something that I think he'll just never understand.

Friday night left me at a crossroads. I'm at the lowest point I've ever experienced in 2 years as a poker player. And it comes at the worst possible time-- right when I'm about to meet 100 bloggers in Vegas for the first time and have an epic weekend only 12 days from now. What the hell kind of impression does this make? In the last six months I've endured two colossal losing streaks, broken up by only one good month. I have maybe three or four hundred left online and that's it. All of my efforts to grind up a stake for Vegas have gone up in flames. I have lost all ability to self-critique because the amount of junk-kicking I've endured has fucked up my head too much for me to clearly reason anything anymore. I don't think I know anymore what's bad luck and what isn't. I've been improving so much with emotional control only to collapse again. Perspective=lost. I need helllllpppp...

I got home at 3, smoked a bowl and watched Sideways on HBO. It felt good to laugh. When the movie ended, I thought for a moment about watching the sunrise and finding a 24-hour diner, but sleep came before I could roll over and put my shoes on.

Will I feel better tomorrow? Or will another 3-1 favorite get outdrawn and send me to the loony bin? Right now, all I know is that I can't stand to look at a deck of cards. I think I'd stand a better chance of doubling up if I bet it all on black.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Big Empty (Part I)

I took great care in preparing myself to play at Hollywood Park last night. Though I was only planning on playing the 4-8 or 100 NL games I've played live for going on two years now, the state of my bankroll made me feel as if I was "taking a shot" at a higher limit. So I prepared accordingly. I slept until noon, woke up to watch Colorado embarrass themselves against Nebraska, re-read the hand quizzes in Small Stakes Hold'em and squeezed in another short nap after dinner. I woke up around 8 PM,fresh and ready to play some cards.

I walked onto the casino floor shortly after 8:30. I threw my initials on the board, and grabbed a Pink's hot dog and a Red Bull while I waited. The room was packed and the degenerates and miscreants were out in full force. Hollywood Park is by far the nastiest of the major L.A. casinos. The crowd is rougher, the upholstery stained, and each air conditioning vent embedded in the ceiling is encircled by a ring of grey-black sooty looking crap. But no one comes here for the atmosphere. The true degenerates come for the ponies. The true card players come to fleece the 'tards who bet 9-2 suited to the river.

By the time my name was called for 4-8 limit, I was pumped and ready to go. I felt good about my game and great about my chances. I repeated my internal mantra as I tucked my feet behind my ass in the 2s. "Make good decisions. Play good poker, and the money will come. Play good poker, and the money will come."

The lineup was juicier than juicy. Quintessential L.A. low-limit.

1s: Directly on my right was a corpulent, sweaty Italian guy in serious need of a bath and a shave. He wore a yellowing v-neck T-shirt underneath an 80's-looking faded denim button-up and stained, baggy khakis. His stack was perpetually low and he rebought only $20 at a time.

2s: Yours truly.

3s: Another sweaty fat dude, this one red-faced, bearded and stuffed into a yellow golf shirt. He looked exactly like Tropical Henry from TILT.

4s: Twentysomething black dude. Obviously new to the game, as he asked me if I'd ever seen "that WSOP game on TV." His quiet, pretty girlfriend with the Louis Vuitton purse sat behind him and text messaged on her Treo the entire time.

5s: Older Asian lady also in need of a bath. She wore a grey wool Indian-pattern sweater that looked and smelled like she'd fished it out of a dumpster. She had some sort of tick or condition that made her head shake a little from side to side like a bobblehead doll.

6s: Empty.

7s: Black guy who looked like Morris Chestnut, only 20 years older. Losing. Frustrated. Flung cards at dealer repeatedly.

8s: Another older Asian lady whom I recognized from previous sessions. Definitely a crafty player. She had over $800 stacked in front of her in enormous towers.

9s: 30-something guy in a Red Sox shirt who looked like he was at the tail end of a 36-hour session. His eyes were glazed over and he looked like he could fall asleep at any moment.

The first hand I'm dealt is a J9d in the cutoff. I see a flop for one bet along with five others. Flop comes a 998 rainbow. BINGO BONGO BANGO. It's checked to me and I bet. Button folds, blinds call, Morris Chestnut calls from UTG. Turn is a 6. Morris bets, one call, one fold, I raise. Blinds fold and Morris calls. River another blank. Morris bets, I raise, and he calls. I table my J9 with a smile only to see the pot pushed in the other direction when Morris shows his Q9 offsuit. OK, OK, that's just unlucky. I didn't do anything wrong there. That's just a cold deck. My face remains cool and impassive as I watch Morris stack my chips. It's only the first hand.

A few minutes later I pick up ATo in the BB. The action is capped when it gets to me and I dump it. Not a hand to go to war with in this kind of huge, multiway pot. The flop comes KQJ, two diamonds. I stare ahead in disbelief. I would have flopped the fucking nut straight. God damn. Though, as it turns out, it was a good fold. Crafty Asian Lady made her diamond flush on the river. OK, OK, good fold there. Coulda lost a LOT on that hand. It's still early.

Very next hand I get AQo UTG and raise. 4 people cold-call, including Crafty Asian Lady. Flop is ugly-- 567, two clubs. I check and it's checked around to C.A.L. who bets. I muck and the other 3 donkeys call. Turn comes an ace. Steam begins to escape from my ears. But again, it was a good fold, as the river 9 made C.A.L.'s straight (she had 78 suited). Bitch is on one helluva rush.

KdQh in MP. It's folded to me and I raise. 4 cold- callers. A raggy flop with 2 diamonds is checked around. Turn is another blank diamond. Crafty Asian lady bets and all but Fat Italian fold. I call the $8, getting 7-1 with my two overs and second-nut-flush draw. I'm dubious at this point, but the pot is far too large to fold. A raise could work here in some situations but neither of these players are going anywhere. She could have a pair. She could have a draw. She could have already made her flush. River is a black Q giving me top pair. She bets, Fat Italian calls and I make the crying call, knowing I'm beat, but unable to fold in such a huge pot. Crafty Asian Lady shows 46 of diamonds. Those fuckin' suited connectors, man. Deal me some of THAT.

45o in the SB. Capped PF to me and I make an easy fold. Flop comes A23. FUCK!!! Please tell me this isn't going to be one of those days. Remember that one pot can turn it around. One pot.

I folded, folded, folded for about two orbits until I picked up KQ and raised. 4 cold-callers again. Flop AQX, no suits. Morris bets, Fat Italian calls and I raise to try and thin the field. No such luck. Turn is an Ace. That makes it less likely that anyone else has an ace, especially Morris, who was extremely likely to lead at the pot with anything from bottom or middle pair to a straight draw. Morris checks, and everyone else checks to me. I bet. Bobblehead Asian Lady calls and Morris calls. The river is a beautiful Q, making me queens full. Morris checks, I bet, Bobblehead raises, Morris folds and I call. She has AJ. Another pot pushed away from me. I grab my purse and head for the ladies room. Time for a breather before I start to tilt in front of my opponents.

I sit down at the long vanity in the restroom and scribble hands into my notebook. I'm already down $150 of my $200 buy-in, though I haven't made any major mistakes.

Or have I and I just don't know it?

This really can't be one of those nights. One pot would make it all better. One. Pot. I steadied myself and re-applied some lip gloss before heading back out to the table. It was time to turn this thing around.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Vegas is coming. Are you ready?

"I'm telling ya, the future is beautiful. Alright? Look out the window. It's sunny every day here. It's like manifest destiny. Don't tell me we didn't make it. We made it. We're here. And everything that is past is prologue to this, all the shit that didn't kill us is only - ya know, all that shit... You're gonna get over it." - Swingers

I'm over my shitty poker weekend, thanks in no small part to the support and encouragement of my fellow bloggers. I truly appreciate the kind words. By the grace of the poker gods, I won a SNG on Full Tilt and earned a $26 TEC. $14K tonight anyone?

Thanksgiving is alwas a little odd in L.A. Most holidays are. Not because it's 78 degrees right now under a darkening sky, but that the city will empty out halfway over the next day. Everyone goes back to where they came from. Because no one really comes from here. But I do. Instead of traveling with the masses, I'm looking forward to cooking and drinking some nice wine and spending time with my small immediate family right here in town. Showcase left for NY this morning, so it will be just me, my parents, my little Sis the camera operator, her photographer roommate Dillon, and maybe a couple of their holiday-orphan friends.

I ran into a poker-playing pal of mine as I was walking down Beverly Drive today. He used to deal at Hollywood Park and made a couple of final tables in some of their $100 NLHE tournaments last year. He took a long hiatus from poker after he just missed the $$ in the WSOP main event this year and has just started coming back. When I told him how cold I'd been running and that I'd pretty much stopped playing limit for now he looked like he wanted to slap me upside the head.

"When's the last time you played live?"
"I don't know, August maybe?"
"Are you kidding me? Fuck that internet shit. Don't you know that the 6-12 at Hollywood Park is pretty much an ATM for anyone with a little patience?"
"And a $500 buyin."
"Then play the 4-8, 3-6, whatever. That's how you're gonna fund your trip."

I think it's safe to say that after I've shaken off my turkey hangover, that's where I'll be Friday night.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Vegas is coming. Are you ready? A taste of what I'll be doing to prepare.


1. Put oil in wheezing car.

2. Light Jesus candle and pray that car does not break on I-15.

3. Contact various pharmaceutical representatives.

4. Purchase "Chaser" tablets at Rite-Aid to shield delicate system from anticipated sicko hangovers incurred via excessive partying with professional alcoholics.

5. Investigate return policy at Circuit City and potentially "purchase" digital camera for trip-recording purposes.

6. Freakin' decide whether I'm driving out Thursday late-night or Friday morning.

7. Beginning seven days prior to departure, reduce sleep hours by thirty minutes per night.

8. Make hair appointment with my favorite stylist at the Palms salon to trim blonde locks now reaching hippie-girl lengths.

9. Fleece crabby drunks and LAG fratboys at Hollywood Park this weekend to pad bankroll.

10. Play good poker and the money will come.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It Hurts

I hurt all over. My head hurts, my mind hurts, my spirit hurts. My stomach aches and turns and threatens to expel its contents whenever I think of the repeated beatings I've taken over the last three days. My eyes stare straight ahead in disbelief and I turn on music to try and drown out the sound of my own self depracating thoughts. I try not to cry like a girl. I ball my fists and wish I had a punching bag, like Ryan on the O.C. when he wanted to beat that surfer guy's ass, but had to keep his rage under control unless he wanted to get kicked out of school again.

I look at the wall where I kicked the hole and patched the hole and remember what anger cost me the last time.

I get in my car and escape into a movie to get off tilt. I eat lunch, buy a shirt, and watch the sun dip into the water. I breathe deep and drive home in the twilight, ready to begin again.

Only to walk straight into another punch. And fall flat on my back again.

This was my weekend, kids. Just skip this section if another bad beat story is gonna make you throw up as much as I want to right now:

- AA called down by 44 who hits runner runner straight.

- JJ vs. 66. He flops quad sixes.

- Queens full of aces goes down to quad aces.

- AA cracked by K5.

- KK cracked by 56.

- AA cracked by 77 turning quads.

- Two enormous inflection point tournament pots where I reraise a short-stack all-in from position, once with 99, once with JJ only to have the BB wake up with Aces.

Here's the thing that I really hate about bad beats. It's not the part where some assclown sucks out and makes off with all the chips I just worked so hard to get. I know the assclown will lose in the long run. I wasn't born yesterday. It's that it turns me into a pussy. I get scared. I play too freakin' tight. There are monsters around every corner. That spade made his flush. That king made her straight. If I had balls, they'd have shrunken up so far that they're never coming back down.

I thought I had worked out a lot of stuff when it came to my play. Refining play from the blinds, taking more advantage of position, pushing the smaller edges further. I even started winning a little again. I felt OK. Then 10 tournaments straight with zero cashes. Three bad cash sessions in a row. I looked at my PokerTracker and saw that I haven't won a cash pot bigger than $6 with AA since mid-October. AKs and AQs are overall losers for me. Whine whine whine. I'm already starting to regret this post but why censor honesty? Eh, fuck it.

This downswing just couldn't come at a worse time. I need dough for Vegas. And I need a serious injection of some self-confidence if I'm going to be able to stand up to all these bloggers on the felt. I already know I'm pretty much out of my depth (just check out Pauly's leaderboard to witness my utterly embarrassing performance in those tourneys). And I'm looking at the trip as more of a big fuckin' party with some poker hands in between drinks. I'd just like to not end up broke in the process. Jason Spaceman has been going through some similar stuff. I feel your pain, bro.

I swear I'll be back to my regularly scheduled snarkiness soon. Maybe once I win a SNG or something.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Malaise and the Beverly Hilton

The Big Man was feted at one of those rubber chicken charity dinners at the Beverly Hilton this week. Every single one of us had to go, and we were spread out across three tables-- Big Film Exec table, TV Exec table, and Little Film Exec table. I got there about 10 minutes late and nabbed two whiskey sours from the bar, chugging one and saving the other before taking my seat at the Little Film Exec table. I'm not the biggest drinker, usually preferring other sorts of libations, but I needed whatever I could get to make it through the next 2 hours of forced socializing with my colleagues and industry peers.

I took my seat and did my best to small talk my way through the salad course, which I didn't really eat. I was seated between two of the Big Man's special assistants, who remarked to each other that they just squeezed in that photo op with the underprivileged kids right under the gun, or else there would be nothing for the slide show. I looked up and images of the Big Man hugging poor Latino kids flashed across the two big screens set up on either side of the stage. Philanthropist, my ass. As more little execs arrived and the table filled, conversations broke out around me in every direction, and something inside me just shut down. My ability to fake it among these Pissed Off Showbiz People just evaporated. I felt more lost than I could remember as I sat there immobile, staring into space and sipping my whiskey sour. After I drained the glass, I excused myself to the restroom. I could kill at least ten minutes in there before the main course arrived.

The bathrooms at the Bev Hilton are super-luxe. Gold and marble everything, with gilded mirrors, white velvet sofas, and real fluffy towels instead of the commoners' paper. Each stall has a brass-handled wooded door that goes all the way down to the floor, and has enough space so the bulimics in the puffiest of designer ball gowns can push their trains sufficiently out of the way before yakking up their dinners. I picked the biggest one the furthest away from the entrance and locked myself in. I sat there for about 30 seconds with my head in my hands, feeling a little panicked and trapped before the ultimate form of comic relief descended from the heavens like a light snow. From the stall next door, I heard the unmistakable sound of lines being blown. I love cliches in action.

When I hear the coke snort sound in the bathroom, I love to play a mental game with myself and try to guess what the bitch looks like. Usually, I can see her shoes in the gap at the bottom of the stall wall, but this being a fancy-pants loo, I'd have to play this one blind. Celebrity? Probably not. Wasn't really that kind of event and most that were there would be schmoozing until the main course. Younger or older? She wasn't doing a damn thing to hide what she was doing, so my guess is older. The quick pace that she made with each line also said veteran to me. Sure enough, a bony, fortyish bottle-blonde in a satin gunmetal dress emerged from the stall, sniffing away and rubbing at her reddening nostrils. No ring, expensive purse. Probably husband-hunting on the $1000-a-plate circuit. I was sad for her.

Back out in the ballroom, dinner was served. Steak, some sort of fish, scalloped potatoes, and grilled vegetables. I ate the fish but the steak tasted odd. While we ate, an auction raged in the background, with people bidding anywhere from ten to a hundred thousand on shit they didn't need. I always wish I had a flashing sign over my head that said "The current bid surpasses my annual salary, no thank you" over my head during these things. After Hollywood's pockets were somewhat relieved of their excess, one of those poor underprivileged Latino kids got up and made a speech. An incredibly eloquent, emotional speech about growing up in a garage in East L.A. and seeing her best friend shot to death by gangs. As she spoke, the eight identically dressed, dark-suited agents at an adjacent table punched away on their Blackberries the entire time.

Finally the Big Man accepted his award (for...what?) and gave the same speech he's been giving for the last 3 years. And the audience was suddenly rapt. I thought about my last 6 1/2 years in the business and the five I've spent at this company and wondered if the future held anything for me in Hollywood. I wondered if I could get it up enough to keep grinding through the development world day after day. I wondered how much longer I could handle being surrounded by Pissed Off Showbiz People all the time. I wondered if I had finally reached my tipping point with Hollywood and all of its fakery, or if this was just another momentary dance with the cloud of malaise and self-doubt that walks three steps behind all of us who spend our lives in creative fields.

I drove home that night wanting to leave the business more than I ever have before. And if I had a dime to my name, I think I would. I just don't know what the fuck I would do.

Of course I felt better the next morning, after the malaise had eight hours to lift and hide back around the corner where I didn't have to look it in the eye. But I know that this coming year will be filled with a lot of soul-searching for me when it comes to my career-- a daunting task for someone who supposedly has known exactly what she wanted to do with her life since age 11.

So needless to say, I didn't play a lot of poker this week. Well... I played SOME, cautiously dipping a toe back into cash games and trying to grind up a little stake for Vegas (T-minus 21 days!). But that's a tale for another post. And I only have about 15 minutes before a meeting with some French director.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Phil Gordon leaving Celebrity Poker Showdown?

Somebody please explain this to me please?

Just when he was finding his confidence and sense of humor on camera... sigh. Though I suppose being bound to a shooting schedule must interfere with, you know, playing real poker on the WPT.

Phil, I will miss gazing into your dreamy blue eyes every week. That sound you hear? It's the April Twins fainting. Think I'll join them now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rock. Solid.: Change meets the LA Bloggers.

Friday was a night of firsts for me. It was my first appearance at the legendary HDouble home game. It was the first time I met fellow bloggers in person. And it was the first (and hopefully not the last) time I've won money from bloggers. I think they were as shocked as I was.

I parked on a hilly side street near HDouble's Westwood pad and lugged my chosen libations (Magic Coronas and Soco) upstairs. As I walked through the door, I immediately recognized Bill Rini and Poker Geek swilling beer and watching Barbara Enright try to bust Dutch Boyd on the latest episode of Poker Royale. The nattily dressed, well groomed, (but not nearly as metrosexual as I was expecting) Joe Speaker sat between them on the couch, while HDouble and Wampler played a little pre-tourney Chinese Poker. The rest of the gang, including Ephro, Franklin, Ryan, and the lovely MrsDouble filed in a little later after smoking and chatting on the balcony. Murderer's Row indeed.

We would be 15 strong across two tables for the tournament portion of the evening. I drew the 6s with Rini on my left and Lance "my starting hands are a random number generator" Pants two to his left. Greaaat. I bought in and gritted my teeth, deciding that until I had some reads on people, I would play a tight, solid game. Nothin' crazy, at least until I got drunker.

I won a small pot to start with AQ and then got into an early confrontation with Lance where I ended up folding the best hand. (Internal monologue= "Pussy pussy pussy. C'mon Change. Drink more. Pretend you're online. ") It was ages before the first bustout. NO ONE in this group wants to be the first out, that's for sure.

Then, somehow, I started knocking people out. Ephro and Rick in one hand. Then Franklin. Some beats were good. Others were simply hideous. like when my Q2 sucked out on AQ with a river 2. Finally we were down to five, as a HORSE cash game raged on at the other table. Ryan, HDouble, Rini, JoeSpeaker, and yours truly. Blinds were 500-1000 and we made a $50 save so we'd all at least break even. Speaker was first out in the money, when his Hilton Sisters ran into my Cowboys. Next out was Rini, followed by our gracious host, HDouble, but not before he raised my BB with the suited hammer. I tanked for about 30 seconds before mucking my Q8 off. Dammit.

At this point, alcohol had certainly taken its effect on me. Geek and I had dipped into the Soco and I was on my third glass. HDouble busted in third, but I can't remember for the life of me which one of us took him out. But it was Ryan and I at the end, heads-up. It didn't take long. I got 47o in the BB and saw a flop. The turn came a 7, and I moved in. It took Ryan about half a second to call and he turned up 58 for a straight. No gettin' around gettin' broke on that hand and I collected $210 for second place. Congrats to Ryan, reigning champion of Murderer's Row!

I lost $50 of it back in the Pot Limit Hold'em cash game that broke out afterwards. AA cracked by Lance's J9, which flopped a boat. Aiiii ya!

I felt great about cashing, but even better about meeting the fine folks who played. I've read so many posts about meeting poker bloggers for the first time, but one can't quite understand the mind-meld that happens until actually experiencing it. I felt like I knew everyone already, and in a way, I did. Blogs are deeply personal creations, and the writers who pen them hope to crack open a little window into their lives for their readers. It's a testament to all of you who played Friday night that I felt that way. I'm looking forward to Vegas more than ever.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Don't Cry for me Adam Friedman: the Rehab Wrap-Up

We've all faced that situation. Holding the King-high flush facing an all-in. When there's literally one card in the deck that beats your hand. One. Everything in your collective poker experience tells you to call-- every book you've read, every online tournament where this hand doubled you up, every late night B&M cash game session where the drunk guy with food in his beard turned up the Queen after you sucked it up and called. Poor Adam Friedman made the right play, but got the wrong result.

As his brow furrowed and his pale face twisted up in the sort of agony only poker players can understand, Friedman turned away from the table and the omnipresent cameras, berating himself for his play. While many viewers might label him a basket-case or just a colossal pussy for shedding tears over the hand, I wanted to wrap him up in a big hug and tell him that everything would be OK. Maybe I'm being a girl here, but I felt for Adam Friedman. Why? Because as he tried to hold back his emotions, I saw myself in his tear-stained face.

A little over 28 days ago, I faced my own emotional meltdown over my poker play. After a four-month post-WSOP losing streak (where I blew my brains out in limit cash games) I set five goals for myself on this very page. I wish I could tell you I accomplished them all, but then I'd be lying to you.

1. PLAY 100 SNGS. I didn't play 100. More like 65. I went on a streak where I didn't cash 15 in a row. I got burned out. I stopped playing them for a few days and took a swim (more like a bath) in the cash games. Then I went back and started winning again. SNGs are like weed in some ways-- too much of it just makes you dull and sleepy, but just enough and life's just that much more pleasant. And like weed, SNGs will always be a vital element in my poker pharmacy.

Lesson learned: Accept that you're sort of a schizophrenic poker player and do what you need to break the monotony.
Money won or lost?: Won. Added around $200 to the bankroll.

2. STICK TO A WEEKLY TOURNAMENT BUDGET. This one was easy until all those fabulous weekend blogger tournaments started popping up! It was a good month of tournament play for me. Several deep finishes and two cashes, one of them significant.

Lesson learned: This is one area of poker where I feel as if I'm steadily improving, not only in my play, but in my emotional control. Not one meltdown, or even a mini-one.
Money won or lost?: Won.

3. PLAY NON-HOLD'EM GAMES AT THE LOWEST OF LIMITS. Throwing a few bucks onto Poker Stars in order to donk around a little at micro-limit PLO and Omaha 8 was a good choice. I've come away from the month of October with a MUCH better understanding of Omaha, and I didn't have to hurt my bankroll to do so. Though I still have a long way to go at Hi-Lo and I'll continue to give myself an education at these limits, I actually came away a small winner at PLO.

Lesson learned?: I heart PLO.
Money won or lost: Won, but it'll barely buy a Frappucino.

4. PREPARE TO RE-APPROACH LIVE AND ONLINE CASH GAMES. I read some books, replayed a LOT of hands from Poker Tracker and stuck a toe back into the online cash game waters, even if only at $1-2 LHE and $25 or $50 max NLHE. I was a winner in the NL games, but still a loser at limit. This is incredibly frustrating to me. Despite all the strides I feel like I've made in No-Limit this year, my limit hold'em play has only lost me money in the second half of the year.

Looking at my results from this year, I'm noticing that my bankroll was far healthier back in the first half of the year when I played live on a regular basis. Why? For starters, I play bigger games live. Don't we all? While I can hardly bring myself to sit 2-4 or 3-6 online these days unless an uber-fish is spewing chips and making the game worthwhile, I don't give a second thought at sitting 4-8 or 6-12 at Commerce, simply because the play there is so friggin' God-awful. It's like Pavlov's freakin' dogs online for me-- I just know I'm gonna get electrocuted.

Earlier this year, I went broke online for the first time. I had run an initial $50 deposit at Pokerroom up to over $1300 playing 2-4 only to lose $1100 of it trying my luck at 5-10 before I was adequately rolled or mentally prepared to do so. Utterly broken by the experience and doubting my own abilities, I took my last $200 or so and hit the live games at Commerce during the L.A. Poker Classic. Now I don't know if those games were just especially juicy at the time due to the tournament, but I tripled my bankroll that month, and not a lick of it came from online play.

Case in point. Last night, after winning a buyin at $25NL and taking 2nd in a two-table SNG, I noticed that there was a 2-4 table on Full Tilt with no fewer than four calling stations, and one uber-fish, all with healthy stacks. I told myself that this was a good opportunity and bought in for $120. $115 of it was gone within two hours. QQ lost to runner runner flush. 66 turns a set that makes my opponent's flush. KQ makes 2 pair to be beaten by runner runner straight. K9 vs. QT-- another runner runner straight. I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!! Losing those pots would be FINE if I had maybe won a decent pot or two to offset the losses, but that wasn't happening. The five fishies swam away with my bankroll before I could even get a chance to mount a comeback and I fell asleep pissed off.

Looking at Pokertracker (which only has my results from late July onwards-- other database stolen along with laptop), I have lost over $1300 in cash games and made it all back and then some playing Tournaments and SNGs. I've only won 33% of my 2-4 sessions. I miss my old Pokertracker that reminded me that once upon a time, I was a winning limit player. I still have the "good player" moneybag icon autorated next to my screenname. But sadly, maybe those winning days are gone.

Who else has been repeatedly kicked in the junk as of late in the 1-2/2-4/3-6 universe? Are the games getting harder? Has NLHE irreperably fucked your LHE game? Should I just stick to B&M for limit and give up the ghost online?

Lesson learned?: Still pending.
Money won or lost: Lost.

5. POST A HAND OF THE WEEK. Well... I did it once?

In the end, Adam Friedman had nothing to cry about, and walked away from the Main Event in 44th place with over $235K in his pocket. I came away from my self-imposed stint in "poker rehab" short of some goals and not a lot richer, but with enough insight into myself as a player to make up for a few of those dollars lost. I will always be emotional, but now I'm more capable of controlling it. I'm not sweating my day-to-day losses as much, because I know it can turn back around in one session.

And I should get my ass to Commerce soon to get that $115 bucks back.