Friday, December 29, 2006

2006: The Year in Food

For Derek and Daddy, here are some of my favorite pictures of food from 2006!

Steak and bacon tacos. El Cholo. Los Angeles, CA

Pasta Salad. WSOP media room. Las Vegas, NV.

Steak and eggs. Los Angeles, CA

Keno crayon. Las Vegas, NV

Crispy bacon and corn maque choux. Los Angeles, CA

Club sandwich. Carnegie Deli. Las Vegas, NV

Kaas. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Mushroom and bacon pizza. Los Angeles, CA

Brownie sundae. The Mirage. Las Vegas, NV

Sushi. The Bicycle Casino. Bell Gardens, CA

Onion ring tower. Henderson, NV

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Mike Matusow's MySpace page plays that cheesy Snow Patrol song?

While a photo slideshow of him playing poker scrolls by?


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!: Joe Hachem wins WPT Bellagio

Mad, mad props go out to 2005 WSOP Champion Joe Hachem, who just won the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship's $15,000 Main Event at Bellagio. Hachem adds $2.18 million to his lifetime winnings, which have now soared over the $10,000,000 mark. That puts him at #2 on the all-time money list, leaping past legends like T.J. Cloutier ($8,714,759) and Phil Hellmuth ($8,574,217). The #1 spot is, of course held by Jamie Gold, who will find out on Thursday whether or not he gets to take back that $6 million he promised to Crispin Leyser.

Like Greg Raymer before him, Hachem has now more than proven that he's not just a one-hit wonder with 2 WSOP final tables, a WSOPC final table, an EPT final table, and now, a WPT Championship since his $7.5 million Main Event win.

Curiously though, Hachem was one of seven poker pros who sued the World Poker Tour this summer over their "in perpetuity and throughout the universe" image release form and encouraged fellow players to join in their boycott of WPT events. The other six plaintiffs, Phil Gordon, Annie Duke, Howard Lederer, Greg Raymer, Chris Ferguson, and Andy Bloch, did not participate in this tournament, and have not played any WPT events this year.

I wonder what changed Hachem's mind about the suit? Clearly he's dropped out.

Finishing second was Jim Hanna, a tournament rookie with no major cashes on record. According to Linda Johnson's announcement from the tournament floor, his brother, professional player Mark Hanna, staked him in this event (and will get a nice return on his investment-- 2nd place paid out just shy of $1.1 million). A little Googling revealed that he also played one year of professional football, as a defensive end for the New Orleans Saints in 1994.

Some kid named Daniel Negreanu took third place and $592,000 after losing a K-T vs. 44 coinflip against Hachem. I think he's won a few tournaments before.

Finishing in 7th place was Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo, who added another $152,000 to his quarter-million plus haul from this tournament series. Bonomo made three preliminary event final tables over the last two weeks for an additional $116,000, though he is still best known as "the guy who cheated Party Poker by playing multiple accounts, got banned from online poker, and had all his winnings revoked." All that and he didn't even have to have his back poked by Capt. Tom's penis.

Or DID he?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Brandi Hawbaker, Capt. Tom's Penis, and $21,000 Jim

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

WPBT Winter Classic, Part I: "I Gotta Get Unstuck"

It's true that you never forget your first. First crush, first kiss, first lover, first drink. First drag off a Camel Light. First all-nighter. First double-down on an 11 to hit blackjack. First big pot you ever won playing poker. First time you woke up in the grips of a pre-dawn hangover with sections of the night blacked out like phrases in a classified document. First time you grabbed a blogger's junk in a bar. First time you shot Soco with AlCantHang. First time you were ejected from a strip casino.

Firsts carry all the novelty.

The 280 miles I drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas one year ago to meet my peers in the blogging community was the first step in what would become a giant leap for me. Unbenknownst to me, it set events in motion that would dramatically change my life. I drove alone through the desert last December questioning everything: my passion for my job, my friendships which were increasingly clouded by Hollywood politics, my abilities as a poker player after going broke for the first time, and my own potential as a writer. And on top of that, I was about to meet 100 strangers who only "knew" me through a BLOG of all things.

One year later, here I was-- about to do make that journey for the third time. Only this time I wouldn't have to do it alone. All my anxieties had been replaced by excitement. I was getting to spend time with people who had become some of my best friends. I had no agenda. Just a hotel room, $500 in my pocket, and the vague premonition that the Imperial Palace's Geisha Bar would become the centerpiece of the weekend's action.

Saturday, 10 AM

"You don't look so good" Pauly said, as I staggered out of bed.

Though my blood-alcohol level at the previous night's MGM drink-fest didn't nearly rival my display a year ago, one only had to glimpse the bags under my eyes, the pale pallor of my skin and hear the groggy slur of the words disjointedly escaping my mouth to realize that I. Was Hurting. 20 minutes under a scalding hot shower head got me mobile, and a couple of layers of Stila foundation and concealer rendered me at least halfway presentable to the outside world.

"Listen, were you and Schecky fucking with me last night about the drug test? Because that would be a great way to do it. " Pauly asked.
"Dude, I was too hammered to pull one over on you like that. That requires careful execution."
"C'mon, are you sure?"
"I swear to God it wasn't a prop bet."

Relatively early in the previous evening's festivities, Shecky pulled me aside at the MGM sportsbook bar and mentioned that it looked like Pauly would have to take a drug test in order to cover the Aussie Millions in January. The Australian government required subcontractors of the Crown Casino to get gaming licenses in order to work there, and a piss test was supposedly one of the required steps.

"He's not going to pass it."
"Well.. yeah. What if he stopped smoking tomorrow?"
"Like that's going to happen. He's gonna have to buy some clean pee off some random dude in Melbourne. Or maybe Tim Lavalli."

After hearing the news about the pee pee test, Pauly's Soco intake increased by approximately 300%. A couple of hours later he staggered back over to Shecky and proposed a solution.

"Liiisshhhtenn, I'ma willinggto forghooo fifthy percent of my compizensation to bribe whooooever I hafta down there, mkay?"
"Iam totallllly seriousss. I'll bribe allll the gaming officials!"
"It's suppppposed to be liberal down there, man... if I were a cokehead that shitttedbeoutta my system in three dayss..."

(As of press time, the good doctor did discover that a piss test would not be required of him. This news was met with cries of "SHIP IT!" and a happy dance around my apartment that closely resembled Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series home run. There will be NO bribing of Australian gaming officials.)

Saturday, 1 PM

Bacon, eggs and about 32 oz. of coffee courtesy of the Teahouse cafe made me feel better. After spending the morning on the fence about playing in the tournament, by 1 PM I finally felt well enough to commit to it and we headed across the street to Caesar's. I milled around, chatting with bloggers before "shuffle up and deal" and got my first glimpse at Maudie's kick-ass tattoo. Otis, Dr. Jeff, and Drizz played in a $1-2 NL cash game while I spotted my pal Friedman jumping in for a quick $4-8 session before the tourney kicked off.

I drew a table that included Iggy, Grubette, G-Money, Lucko, and on_thg. Our table was sqeuaky-tight in the early going and I couldn't get any action. Stole a lot of blinds, though. By the time the ante hit I had doubled my stack after two key hands. Michael Craig, who had just been moved to our table, open-raised from MP to 300. Everyone folded to me in the CO and I looked down at two red aces. I re-raised to 800. He called and gave me one of those "I'm gonna stare into your SOUL" looks as the flop came down three baby hearts. Hoping I had A-K or at least no heart in my hand, Michael fired out 1300, which was actually a little more than I had left, and I insta-called. He looked none too pleased to be a 6% favorite after we turned over our cards. My rockets held against his 8c-8s and I was up to around 3500 or so. My other big pot came when I raised to 600 with the Hammer and the SB (Riverchasers guy) flat-called. I never hit hammer flops, so imagine my delight when it came down a beautiful Q-7-7. Riverchasers checked to me, I bet 1000 and he raised to 2500. I re-raised all in and he laid down what I'm pretty sure was A-Q. Had to show the hammer, of course to ooohs and aaahs and applause.

I was up to about 9K or so after that hand and felt good about my chances. By then, however, the blinds were getting up there and I knew I'd have to win a couple of coinflips to become a factor. Early in the 200-400/50 level, I open-raised to 1200 with A-J. Riverchasers moved all in and it was 1875 back to me. With 5300 in the pot, I was getting a significant price and knew I pretty much had to call. He turned over 3-3. Yup. Race. The K-T-K flop gave me 15 outs twice, but a 7 on the turn and a 2 on the river didn't do it for me. I was left with about 11 BB after that hand. A couple of orbits later, I pushed my last 4100 with A-J and SoxLover called with 8-8. I didn't improve, and was bounced somewhere around 40th place.

Congrats to our new champ, -EV, as well as Veneno who came in second. I was so thrilled that Friedman came in third because I know firsthand how much sweeter a tourney score is when you're recently unemployed. Fuck Card Player, and their holiday layoffs, BTW.

Time for a nap. I'm a sprinter, not a marathoner like GCox. I mean, did that guy sleep at ALL? If we're giving out awards, he gets my vote for rookie of the year.

Sunday, 1 AM

The wee hours of Sunday morning were all about PAI GOW. Pauly let me play his chips while he went to the bar to mingle and I promptly started hitting every single hand. I finished up about $200 plus the expected value of four or five white russians. Mrs. Head was playing StB's stack and hit both a straight flush AND quads on the Fortune Bonus.

Pauly eventually rejoined our all-star table, including JoeSpeaker, StB, Maigrey, Daddy, and F-Train. He had been cold-decked for 48 straight hours and was desperate to get unstuck-- so desperate that anyone within earshot of Pauly that night likely heard the phrase "I gotta get unstuck" an average of 2.3 times per minute. As his Pai Gow losses hurtled toward the -500 mark, his tilt-monter emerged, just as a moderately intoxicated Daddy started to slur to me his plan for cheering Pauly up.

"Dude, I can hear what you're saying."
"Relax, man. We just want to cheer you up?"
"I don't care."
"C'mon, man. Tell me, what would cheer you up."
"Getting unstuck."

Eventually, Pauly pushed his remaining $100 or so in chips into the middle with what turned out to be a king-high pai gow. He set his cards and departed the table in a tilty huff as he walked off his steam.

The dealer made a straight for the high hand with a crappy 7-9 low and Pauly got a miracle push.

"I'll just pull those chips back if that's OK..." I said to her.

Around 4:30 AM, I saw the first pimp cross the IP's casino floor. He was wearing a full-length brown fur coat and a floppy white hat that evoked J.Lo, circa 2003. Derek hadn't been shitting me when he reported that in the late late-night hours, the pimps and hos all came out and congregated around the Geisha Bar. Hours later, one of these hos would cause poor Al to break Rule #20.

Speaking of pimps, Michael Craig spent much of that evening at the Geisha Bar playing wingman to Dick Bro, who was clumsily trying to pick up women. I had been introduced to Dick the day before at the blogger brunch at the Wynn. I totally got that "I'm undressing you with my eyes" vibe as he gently shook my hand. I got chills, but not the good kind.

My eyes closed around 6 AM Sunday morning as the party still raged on downstairs. There wasn't much time for rest before the next big push... NFL Sunday.

To be continued...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Quick Point of Order

Thursday night... Geisha Bar... much drinking. I am currently a winning Pai Gow player... hope to keep it that way. Drizz celebrated his birthday at midnight with multiple kamikaze shots to go on top of his Captain & Coke IV and is still piecing together the details of how he returned to his hotel that night.

Friday morning... Daddy and G-Money blew into town. Tried to convince me to play in the IP daily tournament with them but my growling stomach won out. Had a delicious brunch at the Wynn with 20-odd bloggers. I highly recommend the teryaki steak and the rock shrimp ceviche. Hit Sephora with Gracie and Mrs. Human Head on the way back to IP. About to head out to MGM for more mixed games and madness.

A quick (but important) reminder-- I maintain a "no photos" policy when it comes to blogs. Feel free to snap a shot of my druggy mug or squeeze me into a group shot, but if I could ask you all please to respect my wishes and keep them off the internet.

Kthxbye I'm gonna go drink and gamboooool. Weeeeeeeee.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The E. Coli Taco and the Mirage Rock Garden

The drive out was easy and took under four hours, even with a stop for gas. There was a Taco Bell attached to the Chevron station in Baker where we stopped to re-fuel and Pauly recoiled in horror as I devoured a taco supreme.

"You're eating an E. coli taco!" he squealed as I doused it in hot sauce.

Thankfully I woke up this morning free from disease.

After checking into the IP and taking a quick power nap, we headed across the street to grab a bite at the Mirage and play some cards. While Pauly took a $1-2 NL seat, I settled for a $3-6 limit table populated by a few local rocks and a couple of clueless cowboys. The one directly to my right didn't understand limit betting structure and I had to remind him on more than one occasion that he could not lead out for $12 on the turn. He lost his whole buyin inside the four hours I spent there, but unfortunately very little of it was shipped my way. Though I flopped a set of queens at one point and turned a boat, that's the only decent hand I remember playing. I do recall the old half-asleep Asian lady who cracked my J-J with 2d-5d when she turned two pair and the clueless cowboy's grandma whose Q-J made two pair to river my K-J. Mainly I was just card-dead and folded a lot.

Pauly joined me after his NL game turned decidedly less juicy and took the seat to my left. He tried to drop the hammer on one of the rocks, who gave him a look that said "are you an escaped mental patient or what?" as he tabled his 2-7 at showdown. Pauly paired his 7 on the flop and the guy called him all the way down with K-Q high which unfortunately improved on the river when a red king fell.

"Hey, at least I raised with it!" Pauly muttered as the confused old man stacked the pot.

We went back to the IP around 1 AM and played Pai Gow for a couple of hours. Pauly won about $75 after a rush of cards and I squeaked out an $11 win. Combined with my 3-6 losses at the Mirage, I'm only down $58 in my first 24 hours in Vegas. It could (and has been) a fuck of a lot worse.

We're about to head out to McCarran to pick up Derek, who is presently zipping his way to Vegas from NYC via flying death tube. There have been promises of breakfast at Green Valley Ranch where I almost always indulge in their decadent chocolate chip pancakes. Ship it!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vegas Eve

20. Don't get rolled by a hooker.

Though there are any number of shameful things that can be said about my recent past involving bloggers and the city of Las Vegas, including extreme tilt, the near-destruction of my car engine, and multiple-day drug benders, none is more humiliating than the crown I wear as the blogger who came the closest to violating Rule #20.

It can happen to anyone. Even a sweet blonde girl from California. Drink enough double Socos and next thing you know, you're in a cab sandwiched between two big black hookers with no control over (a) your motor functions or (b) the words coming out of your mouth. Hookers are crafty, wily bitches, so just steer clear of them altogether if you can. But if you do find yourself in the back of a vehicle with one, please make sure you know the whereabouts of your wallet or purse at all times.

* * * * * *
Pauly and I spent a mellow weekend in L.A. On Saturday we drove up to Malibu and stopped at Topanga State Beach in the late afternoon. Just as we got home, the USC-UCLA game was ending and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw that UCLA was up by 4 with less than a minute to go in the 4th. I imagined every bar in Westwood literally exploding with joy as Bruin fans rushed the field at the Rose Bowl and the Trojans dragged themselves back to the locker room with any hopes of a national title erased. What can I say? I'm still smarting from that 1996 Rose Bowl game that my Northwestern Wildcats dropped to those pompous snooty fucks.

The next day, right before taking in a matinee of Bobby at the Grove, I got Pauly to do the right thing and spend invest $100 in a quality pair of hipster jeans. I dragged him into the Lucky Brand Jeans store and before he could make a move for the door, I had him whisked into a dressing room with half a dozen different styles and washes-- everything from a relaxed fit bootcut to one pair straight out of Marco Traniello's closet. He took to a dark, straight-leg cut and both the salesgirl and I nodded in approval. Total selection time? Less than 10 minutes.

"So, what are you doing later?" the waify clerk with dark eye makeup asked Pauly as he forked over his credit card. My jaw hit the floor and I dropped the buttery leather purse I was fondling.

"I'm gonna go get high and write" was his bone-dry reply.

"Good to see you're getting your shit done" she said with a smile.

I walked out of the store on 20% tilt. 10% for the flirty salesclerk, 10% for the buttery leather purse I can't afford.

* * * * * *
In terms of game selection and variety, the poker I've played in the last week has been all over the map. I booked a couple more final tables in those 90-player SNGs on Full Tilt and I've been sucking down triple draw on Stars like a loaded bong. I'm up 200 bets in a limit game on Full Tilt that is so juicy I'm afraid to talk about it and jinx myself. I'll be arriving in Vegas tomorrow however, with people more on the brain than poker, so look for me more at the bar than at the tables this weekend. Though I will definitely be playing the tourney and attempting to chase back-to-back WPBT final tables ;)

May your travels be safe, my friends. See you in the City of Sin.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday Blurbs

Some dude got unhappy with me last night for cheering on Pauly and StB at the final table of the Wheatie. "Cheering goes both ways, you know" he spat in the chat as he finished out of the money. Guess I need to check if my friends are in a hand with a Grumpy McGrumpster before (God forbid!) I type in a "weeeeeeeeee" or "nh."

Congrats to Pauly on his 2nd place finish and StB for taking 3rd! Well played, guys.

* * * * * *

Earlier in the afternoon, I was feeding my triple draw addiction on Stars when some dude sits down and buys in for $30,000. Keep in mind I'm not exactly playing at Chris Fargis levels here. This was at a $0.50-1.00 table. Take a look for yourself.

It's funny when Drizz buys in for $1K at the MGM 2-4. Because Drizz is a funny guy. Plus you get the visual of the ten racks of blue and the bewildered floor guys and dealers wondering what sort of crack we're all on. It's just pathetic when guys like this one start swinging their bankrolls around to compensate for their tiny dicks and poor self-esteem.

Though on the table I played before that one I managed to convince one noob that the game is called 2-7 triple draw because deuces and sevens are wild.

I'm evil.

* * * * * *
My handsome, well-dressed and perfectly coiffed friend, Joe Speaker has started a new blog. A sports blog. It's called Walking Mike Davis. If you like sports, I suppose you'll know what that means. Me? No clue. Speaker, however is a writer par excellence so you should check it out and link it up. If you like sports. And I'm sure most of you do.

* * * * * *
Guess what? Bill Frist is not running for President in 2008. Thank God for small miracles. Instead, he'll finish out his term in the Senate before going back to being a below-average doctor in Tennessee. Or, in his words, "return to my professional roots as a healer." So, yeah. Frist's little plan to curry favor with Jim "click your mouse and lose your house" Leach and the Iowa caucuses and set up his '08 run by sneaking the UIGEA through the Capitol back door netted him nothing but a ticket back to Nashville. Oh yeah, and Leach lost his seat too. So much for that plan, guys. Ship it!

* * * * * *
Spaceman and his lovely wife Mrs. Spaceman, though not cat people, have taken in a poor little hungry stray out of the goodness of their hearts. Spaceman is holding a naming contest for the little kitty on his blog. Winner gets to play him in a heads-up NLHE freeroll. Check it out.

* * * * * *
Vegas is in 10 days, people. Cut back on your sleep immediately. Exercise is probably a good idea too. If Pauly can eat salads and run, well goddamn it so can you. Even my lazy ass went and walked a couple of miles this morning because it actually felt like fall outside with the temperatures below 60 and the gusting winds and whatnot. Everyone in L.A. is trotting out their scarves today.

Next Vegas task, preparing outfits.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thrown from the H.O.R.S.E.

It's just like me to be at or near the chiplead for an entire tournament and totally blow it around the bubble. That's me. No other poker ailment is more "me" than that. Witness the following finishes from this weekend:

$10+1 90 player SNG, Full Tilt: 24/90 (18 paid)
$5+0.50 H.O.R.S.E. MTT, Full Tilt: 21/138 (18 paid)
$5+0.50 90 player SNG, Full Tilt: 18/90 (18 paid)
$10+1 90 player SNG, Full Tilt 18/90 (18 paid)
$20+2 90 player SNG, Full Tilt: 18/90 (18 paid)
$20+2 90 player SNG, Full Tilt: 7/90 (18 paid)
$24+2 WPBT Circuit H.O.R.S.E: 6/28 (4 paid)
$24+2 $11K Guaranteed, Full Tilt: 74/924 (90 paid)

So deep, every single time. So little money to show for it. So trying to be more aggressive to make the bigger money and not play for cashes. So not working. At least I can say I've never finished worse than 24th in one of those 10-table SNGs. The players in them are so terrible, but the ante-less structure morphs the tourney into a stall-fest crapshoot near the bubble where the average stack might be 7 or 8 BB. To counteract it, I play those bubble situations more aggressively than usual, because everyone is just trying to survive. It's when the bubble bursts and I finally get my money in ahead when I've been losing. AK vs AQ and a Q on the flop, and such. So it goes.

I contemplate this question, as of late, with regard to my late-stage MTT game: Am I just not putting myself in enough positions to suck out?

I was pretty pissed not to cash the WPBT H.O.R.S.E. event, because I did a lot to prepare for it, including playing micro-limit stud and stud 8 on Poker Stars and running two warm-up tourneys (the aforementioned $5 one and a Full Tilt freeroll) beforehand. I was happy to see Pauly cash, though, since he was hands-down the best all-around player on the final table. Pauly plays stud. Most of us are like, "uh, is that the one with the up-cards?" Mean Gene totally rocked the tourney and finished 2nd. Thanks to Byron for hosting.

The $11K was also a disappointing affair for me, though Otis and I both managed to at least cash. During those critical high blind levels in the third hour (300-600/75 through 1,000-2000/100) I caught AT twice and KJ once, only to be met with a raise and a reraise before it was my chance to act. With my sort of stack, they were hands I'd have loved to push with, but I folded all three times. Of course it was the correct fold every time, though I would have massively sucked out in all three hands and tripled my stack. Left with less than 10 BB I picked up A-A and got no callers. I picked up A-K and got no callers. I picked up Q-Q and got no callers. I just couldn't double up. Ultimately, I pushed all-in from MP for about 5 BB with 10-10 (about 10K). The chipleader (on my immediate left, who had over 80K behind) flat-called and it folded to the BB (2nd in chips, about 60K behind) who pushed all-in. I knew I was doomed at this point, but I literally jumped out of my seat when the flat-caller OVERCALLED THE RERAISE and turned over 8-8. The BB had Q-Q, and an 8 on the river rewarded the mind behind the worst NLHE play I've seen in months with a 130K pot.

Is it just me, or are these Full Tilt Guaranteeds not what they used to be?

It was also a day of high hands that yielded nothing in terms of monetary gain or bankroll growth. Here's the quad aces I made in the H.O.R.S.E. freeroll when I was trying to get knocked out so I could take a shower:

And here is the steel wheel I made in the $11K en route to el busto:

At least I cooked myself the most scrumptious dinner ever--NY steak, cajun-spiced scrambled eggs, rosemary-onion potatoes and buttermilk biscuits with fresh O.J-- which I devoured during the first three levels of the WPBT event.

Lastly, have you guys seen the new Bodog TV ad with Jamie Gold? The first time I saw it, I was pretty high and totally laughed out loud at the image of Gold stepping out of a limo, his thinning, cowlick-prone hair begging to be concealed beneath a baseball cap once again, a plasiticine six-foot tall model leading him inside with fuck-me eyes. Give me a fucking break. In the real Hollywood, those kind of girls are inviting that kind of guy inside only if he has either (a) pre-paid or (b) just got a TV series greenlit. Hilarious stuff. I'm surprised no one has You Tubed it yet.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful for my parents. They're quirky and odd and my mother can talk your ear off like you wouldn't imagine, but never once did they doubt or judge me in a year where I made a massive, unexpected career change. I'm thankful for their trust and fact that they could care less about what my alumni magazine says about me, as long as I'm happy.

I'm thankful for my little sister. She's 26, but a buck-o-five soaking wet so I can still say "little." I'm thankful for her quiet wisdom and calming spirit. I'm thankful she can make me laugh at myself when I'm taking the world too seriously.

I'm thankful for the incredible opportunities I've had this year. To write, to travel, to meet new friends. To cover the World Series of Poker and live in Las Vegas. To get wasted in Dutch hash bars and dance barefoot in a field in Tennessee. To hobnob with professional keno players and witness a grown man eat crayons. And for all of that, I suppose I'm thankful for the Big Man's hatchet boy who fired me last February. Were I still trapped in my ivory tower on Wilshire Blvd., it's safe to say I wouldn't have experienced 10% of the beautiful madness I have this year.

I'm thankful for the low-limit online poker players so ravaged with insecurity that they feel the need to throw their entire bankroll on the table in a $0.50-1 game when I beat them a pot. It tells me everything I need to know about their poker game and their penis size. I'm also thankful for the ones who stack off with top pair weak kicker in the first level of a tournament, since I really enjoy doubling up early.

Most of all, I'm thankful for the people I've met through this very space. The men and women who have bucked me up when my game was down, bought me shots of a certain sweet amber liquid, put me in cabs when I was too drunk to function, and with whom I shared many many laughs and pints at the Tilted Kilt. You have enriched my life in ways I can barely express without my eyes welling and a lump forming. I can't wait to see you all in two weeks' time.

And lest you think this post is wholly sentimental, here's some pictures of food from last night!!


Crispy bacon and corn maque choux

My sister's boyfriend made this chocolate pie AND invited me to his home game. Yum yum!!

I learned last night that this candlestick got its dent when my granmother hit my grandfather over the head with it. I always thought it fell in an earthquake.

The spread!

Enjoy your long weekends, people. And thank you.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Played More Poker Today

After a $165.00 loss on Saturday, which is no small sum given my current less-than-a-month's rent bankroll , I took a breath, dug in and tried to get back on the horse today. It was a noble pursuit and a psychological challenge, for sure, and like most things poker-related for me lately, turned out like crap.

Goddammit I want to write that shiny happy poker post.

First stop, the $22 SNGs, which are more or less the poker equivalent of a part-time job at Wal-Mart. There's absoultely no challenge to them, you don't get health insurance, and if you're lucky you'll net $4 an hour after taxes. Low limit SNGs are frightfully boring but unfortunately they are, for me, by far the easiest way to unstick myself after a bad run. I won the first one. That was nice. Left me only stuck $97 from last night. I also ground out 13 bucks at $1-2 O8 on Stars while I played the first SNG.

The next three SNGs-- not so hot. A 5th, a 6th, and a 3rd. I flipped from the Stars O8 tables to clear bonus at Full Tilt, where a $1-2 game had finally come together. My bonus was dropping $40 in THAT game. One more SNG, one more 6th place.

Seeking a break from the Wal-Mart checkout counter, I took a leftover token and bought into the $35K guaranteed on Full Tilt. 1,906 runners. Most I've ever seen in that tourney. $45K prize pool. 308 paid. Was doing well until I took K-K to war against T-T preflop, flopped top set, and lost to a runner runner straight. 20-1 flop favorites like that are the stuff dreams are made of. Special thanks to the Full Tilt RNG for crushing what's left of mine.

2-4 LHE. Same damn thing happens. Top set eights 3-bet preflop, capped on flop, three bets on turn. J7 gets runner runner straight. -76.

Back to Wal-Mart. Put on my checkout girl apron. Two more SNGs. Another 1st, but also another 6th. That's 1, 1, 3, 5, 6, 6 for the day. +18 for 6 SNGs. (See, this Wal-Mart metaphor really isn't that far-out.)

-68.50 today. Add it to yesterday and a third of my roll went poof this weekend. Pa-thet-ic, I know. Variance, variance, everyone has bad runs, you're still a good player, you did your best, it'll turn around it always does, yeah yeah whatever whatever.

So much for rolling up a stake and going to Vegas. I may be there in body in 3 weeks time, but any gamble I possess will be locked up here at Wal-Mart.

Paper, or plastic?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Played Poker Today

I want to write a shiny, happy poker post for you guys. Really I do. For a while today, I thought I would be. First thing I did today was play the Full Tilt double-stack $11K guarantee. I like double stacks. I tend to do well in them. Played a great tourney, got in with the best of it and busted out after 3 1/2 hours, 93rd of 764. 72 paid.

Undaunted, next up for me was a $14+1 super satellite that awarded entry into a $100+9 satellite to the $500+35 FTOPS Main Event. I decided to try the satellite after realizing that even cashing in the FTOPS ME would more than double my bankroll. I came in 3/68 in the first satellite and got my seat to the $109, where 465 runners and 86 seats awarded was a payout ratio I could more than live with.

Yeah, busted from that one in 189th. I think I made one pair the whole tournament.

Played three peeps after that. Bubbled one for cash, won tokens in the others. Took one of the tokens and rolled it into the $24+2 "superpeep" only to bust out 15th when double-belly-buster plus nut flush draw plus overcard fails to hit. Damn. Really wanted to play Don's tournament. Oh well. Saved the remaining peep for another day.

Later in the evening, I ran into Donkeypuncher playing $1-2 O8 and I managed to turn a $25 profit after a couple of hours. Right before he sat down, I flopped a straight flush. Played triple draw on Stars for what seemed like forever and broke even. All the while, I was grinding 2-4 LHE, just to try and clear some of that slow-as-molasses Full Tilt bonus. Just grinding, ABC poker. Nothing tricky.

Can you say -120 in 2 hours? That's a dollar a minute. I won 4 pots out of the 201 hands I played and saw 23% of flops. Cold deck after cold deck. Bad bad bad shit. Really didn't think it was possible to lose that much, that fast, at online 2-4 for fuck's sake. When I got a walk in the BB with AA and won half a big bet with KK on the very next hand I thought I'd start taking hostages.

I guess it is possible.

Then I tried the $14+1 FTOPS super again and busted out 2/3 of the way through the field.

And the University of Spoiled Children beat my Cal Bears despite a great start.

Back to the $22 SNGs... yet again...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Twelve Bars (Part II) and more 'Dam photos

"You know, if Starbucks opened up a chain of hash bars in America, I'd be hopelessly addicted." - Pauly

Halftime was a great idea. After an entire afternoon of power smoking, the food recharged our bodies and parted the clouds of our addled brains. After polishing off some frites with mayo (sweeter and allegedly less fatty than the American version), we turned off Damrak and headed down a twisty alley to my favorite stop on the hash bar circuit, the 420 Cafe. If the 420 Cafe existed in the greater Beverly Hills adjacent area, I'd set up shop/move in there to an extent that would likely require the permission of the management. Not only could I write there during the day, but I'd be able to do so while simultaneously enjoying my favorite cannabis and guzzling down copious amounts of caffeine. Pretty much what I do in my living room most days, only in a more social, gently-lit locale, complete with a long, antique oak bar tended by effortlessly chic Dutch girls who poured 1.80 half-pints of Amstel to a friendly, international clientele.

Pauly bought us a gram of NYC Diesel at the counter and ordered up a balloon for me, as I grabbed us a low corner table in the back. I watched as the British hippie guy behind the counter attached a plastic bag to a vaporizing device called "The Volcano" and inserted a nug of the weed into a little chamber. As the weed vaporized, the balloon filled with the resulting smoke. It's a clean, intense high and actually much easier on your lungs since you're only inhaling the pure THC, not the burned-up stuff.

After an hour, we took a stroll toward the Leiseplein Square area and made our 7th stop at Dampkring. With it's dark, trippy interior and notoriety from appearing as a location in Ocean's Twelve, Dampkring makes all the travel guides and was completely packed. Pauly nabbed a gram of our new favorite strain, Buddha's Sister, while I watched Damon, Clooney, and Pitt's coffeeshop scene play on a loop on two flat screen TVs behind me. I loved the vibe of the place, but there was literally nowhere to sit. We smoked a bowl in the center of the room, nestled against a pillar that looked like a mushroom stem opening up on the ceiling before deciding to move on to our next destination.

The Bulldog in Leiseplein Square was the site of several matches in our roving international game of Chinese Poker. I'd done much better there than at the Pink Floyd, where I think I must have dropped at least 30 points over the course of the trip. We sat out on the covered porch, next to a threesome of American fortysomethings who had not toked up in the last decade or so (and couldn't stop talking about it). We smoked two joints of the Bulldog Bio in the time it took them to get through a half , and they stumbled out shortly before we did. Pauly had been eyeing the Haagen-Dazs across the street and we succumbed to the munchies by ordering two scoops of exquisite Belgian chocolate ice cream.

"I just got an erection," Pauly said, as he took his first bite.

From the Bulldog we took a walk down one of the side streets looking for a new place to try and ended up at the Rokery. More club than coffeeshop, Rokery's interior is Euro-castle meets Far-East temple. Tall, while pillar candles and blue stained-glass hanging lamps glowed against the bar at it's center, while Hindu designs and paintings cover the walls. Nearly every table was packed and a live D.J. spun mellow house music for the inebriated crowd. We purchased a gram of one of Pauly's favorite strains, Sour Diesel. It's always high on his request list when we send Showcase out to the medical pot stores in L.A. for provisions.

From the clubby Rokery, we started heading back in the general direction of our hotel and made a stop at La Canna on Nieuwendijk. We'd already clocked in some hours at La Canna on our first day in the 'Dam, when we had 5 mid-morning hours to kill before we could check in to our hotel. Spread over three floors with food, bar, and cannabis options, at that time I mentally dubbed La Canna the "TGIFridays" of hash bars. It was a little overpriced, full of tourists, and had an entire floor devoted to pool tables. At night, however, the entire place transformed. When we arrived, Pauly grabbed a table and I headed for the third floor to hit the WC. Dozens of Dutch African men were crowded around the pool tables, where a rather competitive billiards match was coming to a close. Half the crowd looked pleased at the result. The other half did not. We smoked a quick joint and decided to move on to hash bar #11. As we exited the place, a fight broke out on the street in front of it.

Down the street, we settled into a table the Cafe Kroon, another establishment we had visited on Day 1 of our trip. The Kroon was home to a sweet, pertpetually stoned gray cat, who contantly slept next to the scale used to weigh out the weed. The cat was in the same position we had seen him in days earlier, curled up on the bar, oblivious to the hip-hop blaring through the speakers and the smoke swirling through the air. We bought a small bag of AK-47 and burned through a joint while a group of Iranian guys remained deep in discussion around the cafe's small bar.

Our 12th and final stop of the day was the Kadinsky Cafe, a tiny little place tucked into an alley. Pauly said he wanted to stop off there since it was named after one of his favorite painters (Kandinsky), though I had to gently point out to him that there was only one "N" in "Kadinsky." We were so high by this point, I'm not sure that even registered with him. We got a 7 euro bag of the Kadinsky special-- super skunk-- and with the place entirely to ourselves, we rolled our final joint of the day and gazed out the window into the night. Pauly was up for more, but I was done. Twelve was a good number to end on.

Here's a few more photos for you from the trip:

Pretty leaves!

People actually live on these things

View from Pink Floyd's

Canal in the Jordaan district

Converted jail cell at the Bulldog, which is housed in an old police building.

Cafe Kroon's stoned, sleeping feline

Van Gogh museum mural

The Holland Casino Amsterdam


Dutch road sign

Prop bets waiting to happen...

Raw herring...even MORE prop bets waiting to happen

Monday, November 13, 2006

Twelve Bars (Part I)

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
With friends surrounded
The night of wonder

- Pink Floyd

"Twelve hash bars in twelve hours. You think you're up for it?" Pauly asked as we readied ourselves to depart our room at the Victoria Hotel in Amsterdam.

"Of course I am. It wouln't be very Pot Committed of me to wuss out, now would it?"

I pulled my black corduroy trenchcoat on over four carefully chosen additional layers of clothing. I'd poked fun of "Pauly-three-shirts" all week, but my east-coast bred companion obviously knew much more about dressing for the elements than this Hollywood blonde. It was now, on Day 5 of our European getaway, that I was finally reaching an understanding of why such layers were of vital importance to remaining comfortable outdoors the whole day through.

Our morning ritual remained the same. We'd exit the hotel, the crisp breeze off the North Sea stinging my cheeks pink and opening my eyes the final 20% of the way after the previous night's bender. After a brief walk down Damrak, we'd hit our favorite French bakery and grab baguette sanwiches and chocolate croissants to eat while sitting in majestic Dam Square. Pigeons lurked at our feet, waiting for crumbs to be brushed off our laps. In an attempt to snatch away his sandwich outright, one of the saucier, more aggressive birds flew right up in Pauly's face. I'm entirely positive I let out a girly squeal as we batted him away.

From Dam Square, we walked a couple of blocks south to our first destination of the day, Abraxas. Tucked into a tiny alley off Kalverstraat, it's a warm, funky little two-story coffeeshop filled primarily at that early hour with several groups of Euro-tourists. We picked up a gram of Kushage with our coffees and carefully carried them up the steep spiral staircase to the second floor, a cozy loft space. I took a seat on the long Afghan-pattered couch at the back, while Pauly packed us our first bowl of the day. Next to us were a trio of twentysomething Scandi guys who were rolling what was perhaps the largest joint I've ever seen. We're talking Snoop Dogg size. They were so baked they could hardly move by the time we left for our next destination.

At 1 PM, we rolled into our second hash bar, the American-run Grey Area on the outskirts of the Jordaan neighborhood. About the size of my freshman year dorm room, Grey Area only had room for three tables and a tiny bar big enough for only a couple of stools. The interior was completely covered in stickers. Along with the typical pro-pot slogans and 420 references, there were stickers advertising some of my favorite bands, like Widsepread Panic, as well as stickers from Southern California institutions like Wahoo's Fish Tacos and the radio station KROQ. Every time we'd been to Grey Area, the place was packed and this time was no different. Clearly the secret is out that this tiny little coffeeshop sells some of the best weed in Amsterdam. While Pauly was up at the counter purchasing us 15 Euros of Recon, a small miracle happened and a table full of French guys got up. I snagged the table for us and we were able to relax and smoke while gazing out the window at the street scene. While the Recon gave us a powerful high, I still emerged a bigger fan of their special house strain Grey Haze. One of the best strains I've smoked in my live, that stuff got me completely lit off of one bowl. Me. Lit off ONE bowl.

We stumbled out of Grey Area around 2:30 and headed for an old favorite-- Pink Floyd. Situated on Harlemmerstratt, this three-story coffeeshop is famous for their house hash, called Umma Gumma. We couldn't get enough of it's warm, spicy taste and stopped in almost daily for refills. An eccentric Dutch man ran the weed counter and always greeted us warmly when we stopped in. Pink Floyd's was also the site for many sessions in our roving international game of Chinese Poker, and had been terrible for my luck, despite my love of their great weed and friendly atmosphere. Though we'd usually take a table in the back on the first floor, this time we decided to venture upstairs. Most staircases I'd encountered in Amsterdam wer really more like ladders and I took slow, deliberate steps upward as I gingerly balanced our hot drinks in my hands. I did not trip or injure myself this time, though there are other stories to be told of me tripping over cobblestones in some unweildly leather boots.

We played Chinese Poker again. Pauly scooped me as "High Hopes" off Pink Floyd's Division Bell album played. Sunset was already approaching at 3:15 PM and the late afternoon light poured through the window behind me. I thought my 2-7-7 top hand would at least save me one point, but it fell to Pauly's 9-9-4. In the middle hand, his A-A trounced my J-J and his 4-8 straight on the bottom crushed my 2-6 straight. I was still down 20 points or so, but that tilt was dulled by several bowls and joints of my favorite weed in Amsterdam-- soft, plump, crystal-covered buds called Buddha's Sister. Delicious beyond any medicinal stuff I've had in California, it's perhaps the best stuff I've smoked in my life.

By 4 PM it was time to start drinking as well. There are a number of hash bars in the 'Dam that serve both liquor and weed, though that heavenly juxtaposition will come to an close at years' end when a new Dutch law allowing the sale only of one or the other in any given bar will take effect. The Doors is one of those bars. Dedicated in decor to all things Lizard King, the Doors boasts a trippy low-lit interior with a full bar at the back. (They even have Southern Comfort, Al!) We took seats at the bar and each ordered a pint of the local rotgut, Heineken. Heineken flows like water in Amsterdam and more often than not costs less to order than a Diet Coke. As we sipped our beers, an episode of MTV's "Yo Momma," hosted by Wilmer "I shtupped Lindsay Lohan" Valderrama played on the TV above us with Dutch subtitles. Yo Momma jokes are surprisingly easy to follow, even in a foreign language.

From the Doors, we made our way to Pablow Picasso, another coffeeshop we'd passed umpteen times, but had never tried. We picked up a gram of their Picasso house weed and headed up to the second floor to smoke. Picasso murals covered the walls and graffiti covered the old wooden tables. We broke out the cards and continued our Chinese Poker match as a couple of German guys played chess at the table behind us. With a cozy atmosphere and a lovely view, Picasso ended up being that bar we wished we had discovered earlier in the trip. And for 7 Euros, the weed wasn't bad either.

By now, it was about 6:30 PM and with the munchies coming on, we declared "halftime" and grabbed dinner. I indulged in some schwarma while Pauly opted for a slice of pizza that had a lot of meat on it. Both of us shared a bag of frites with mayo as we dodged raindrops on the way to our sixth destination, the 420 Cafe. Our journey wasn't even halfway over.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amsterdam Photo Preview

Here's a taste of Amsterdam for you:

Pink Floyd coffeeshop

Dam Square at night

Amsterdam's Rodeo Drive

Leiseplein at twilight

Grey Area door. Note the KROQ sticker.

Canal Pauly

Pot Wodka

Pot Change