Thursday, August 24, 2006

Treading Water in a Leaking Pool

I was looking back over my posts from the past couple of months and realized that I'd only written twice about my own play all summer. It doesn't mean I haven't been playing (though I did have a month in there at the WSOP when I didn't have the time to play online). I've played plenty of poker this summer. In fact, I played more live poker in July and August than I've probably played all year.

There just wasn't a ton I wanted to write about. Because I'm sick of writing about losing. I'm as sick of writing about losing as I am of reading about losing. But if anyone was curious about how I'm playing lately, that's what's been happening.

Here's what usually happens. I make a big cash in a tournament, repairing whatever bankroll losses I was suffering from at the time. I play more tournaments (since it's what i'm supposedly good at), going on a bad streak and losing maybe a third of my roll and decide to play some to cash games on the side to make it back. Then I lose about half to two thirds of the money I have left in my bankroll playing cash games and tournaments together. So I switch to SNGs to get a quick, low-variance cash infusion so I can grind the cash games again. Then I win a little in the cash games, restoring my confidence a little so I can afford to go back to tournaments again because it's where I've had the most monetary success. I play a few more, making marginal money finishes, getting incredibly frustrated at how all I do is tread water. So I play cash games on the side again and break even for a while, before losing a bunch more money on some horrifying series of suckouts. Then I lose my mind, realizing I've lost 75% of my bankroll and wonder how I'll ever get playing again. I proceed to waste a lot of time playing ridiculously low limits until making my next score. Lather and rinse, repeat.

It's a terrible pattern. It's busier than Pucci print on a leopard and more destructive than a night out with Lindsay Lohan's entourage. At every step of the way I'm chasing a loss. That's a pretty terrible way to approach poker.

Every time I come off a losing streak I feel like I've figured out what my problem is only to discover I have a new one. The first time I went broke back in November 2004, I realized that it happened because I moved up in limits too quickly. When I built a second roll up from virtually nothing and then lost almost all of it, I realized that tournaments were the leak in my game so I stopped playing them in favor of more limit cash games. Then my plans changed abruptly when I won a $1500 WSOP seat in 2005 and had to become a better MTT player in a hurry. And I came out of that summer and fall a pretty decent MTT player. But I was still dealing with an unstable bankroll. So I tried limit cash games again to build it up. And I went on a legitmate unlucky streak and lost almost everything again. At that point, I really thought about quitting the game altogether. That was right before the blogger trip last December.

Then, over Christmas I went on an unbelievable tournament run, winning over $2K inside of a couple of weeks. I had a bankroll again. I had somehow saved myself.

Then I lost my job.

It should have been a cue for me to take a long long break from poker, but I suddenly had all this time on my hands and a flush bankroll from my tournament wins. Lost and completely unsure of my future, I thought I could at least make some extra cash for myself when I really was in need of it. Of course I was going to drop half of that money within eight weeks. Had I taken this laptop, hurled it into the bathtub, and bought a new one two months later, I still would have saved money. I managed to replenish my roll by the end of April with a few final table scores on Full Tilt, and it was then that I decided to "play what I'm good at" and stick with MTTs for the time being.

As a result, I had a sick May, including my biggest tournament win ever. It should have been all I needed to not only recover, but to really be able to start growing my roll and moving up in limits instead of being perpetually worried about going broke. And if at that time I was a normal person with a normal life and a normal paycheck coming every two weeks, I might have been able to do it. But I'm not, and I wasn't.

Immediately I was faced with the snafu with the unemployment office that made me lose 4 checks, a $2000 emergency room bill after my slip n' slide at the drugstore, and suddenly I needed that money to live on. I hung on to maybe $2000 to play with, but I had no choice but to use the rest to bail me out of those unexpected situations.

One short but bad streak later, I barely have enough left to play $22 SNGs. And that's where I am today. I came back to L.A. from Vegas down several hundred. I played games out there I never should have been playing. It's not like I was suddenly kicking it up to $30-60 or anything, mind you. I just shouldn't have even sat $1-2 no-limit in my financial state, not to mention my mental state over my financial state. I wasn't even rolled for the $4-8 limit games and it both stung and embarrassed me. But I was in Vegas for a month and all I wanted to do was play with my friends.

With $120 in bonus and a week left to clear it on Full Tilt, I went back to girinding away playing $2-4 Omaha Hi-Lo and $3-6 LHE. Of course I lost. Not much at all, really but it was a lot compared to what I had left to work with. So once the bonus was cleared, I started doing nothing but grinding the $22 SNGs. 25 of them later, and I've almost recovered that loss. Always chasing a loss...

My leaks this year haven't been in my poker game. My leaks have been in my life. And that's just as bad as calling a reraise out of position with A7 offsuit. It's not that I'm a bad player. At this point, I think I'm actually a pretty good player. I'm just the worst money manager you'll ever meet and I'm almost always on some sort of tilt. I wake up in the morning and I'm already humming at about 20%. Though I've spent the last six months happier as a person than I've been in a long time, not a day has gone by where I didn't have at least a moment or two when I completely freaked out about money or my future.

So if I come out of this latest streak having learned another new lesson, I suppose it's to never play poker when you're unemployed. But like any Hollywood movie, there's always some glimmer of hope at the end of the third act.

I'm so pleased to tell you that after a long, bloody, soul-searching struggle, I'm well on my way to being fully employed again. I'll be continuing my gig as a featured writer with that I began during the WSOP and will be covering the L.A. poker scene. I've also picked up some freelance writing assignments on top of that job that will almost push me back up to an income level I can live with. Thank fucking God. I was just about to start buying soup and ramen noodles in bulk.

At the moment, I have a sad little three-figure bankroll. It sucks, but I know I'll be able to rebuild. After all, I've done it several times before. It's what I'll do when I'm actually rolled again that will be the real challenge. So it's all $22 SNGs all the time for me until I can afford the $33s. I'm avoiding tournaments like a smack addict does needles because I need every drop of ROI possible to go toward rebuilding. Though I still think they're my strongest suit, I can't handle their variance right now.

When I think about my bankroll and its fluctuations, I feel like I've been treading water in a leaking pool for two years now. I can get into the groove for a while and stay afloat, even swim around for a bit, but the minute I notice how far the water level has dropped, I panic, flailing my arms, wasting energy, and only make myself more and more tired until I can no longer paddle. And eventually, I sink until I reach that cement floor and I'm able to spring up to the surface again off the balls of my feet, letting the water carry me like it's supposed to.

I know I shouldn't panic because I can swim. But it doesn't make me any less afraid of drowning.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Jamie Gold: SUED!

I had a feeling this was coming, after hearing all the rumors as the Main Event final table progressed. Chip leader and eventual WSOP champion Jamie Gold only had half of his own action, having verbally promised half of whatever he won to his friend and fellow poker player Crispin Leyser. Speculation has been rampant about the reasoning behind and the specifics of Leyser and Gold's deal in the twelve days that have passed since he captured the largest cash prize in sports history. And now, Poker News is reporting this morning that Leyser has filed suit against Gold in the Las Vegas District Court seeking half of his Main Event winnings. Leyser claims to have copies of voicemails Gold left him on the morning of the final table confirming the 50/50 deal. Gold, who has yet to physically collect his $12 million in winnings from Harrah's, has been consequently blocked from doing so by a Nevada judge until the matter can be resolved.

So what's the backstory? Jamie Gold had some sort of arrangement with Bodog to procure celebrities to play under their banner in the WSOP Main Event. Gold ran into trouble getting it done and turned to his friend, Crispin Leyser (right) for help. Leyser, an instructor at the WPT Boot Camps, bailed Gold out of the situation by securing actor Matthew Lillard's participation. And as a thank you, Bodog offered to buy Jamie Gold into the Main Event. Gold was planning on playing the ME anyway, so he told the Bodog people to give the seat to Leyser. However, (and this is according to Gold himself in an interview on the Canadian poker radio show "Rounders") Bodog had such faith in Gold's poker ability that they wanted only him to take the seat. Straight from the horse's mouth:
"Bodog and I were involved in a production, that we're still developing, which is a radio show not unlike the Howard Stern show. It's an all-celebrity radio show. So we were in business anyway and they said they wanted me to play. They didn't know Crispin. But they knew that I was a great poker player and they'd heard all these stories about Johnny Chan and that I was winning all these tournaments and they said, "Listen, no offense to the celebrities we have on our team, we love them, but the chances of them getting deep in this tournament are very slim. The chances of you... everyone's telling us you're like Kobe Bryant coming out of high school... that you have a chance to make it. We want to see what you can do. You're not allowed to transfer this to Crispin.'"
Here's where it gets shady. Since Crispin was now shit out of luck in terms of a seat AND he'd already done a big favor for Gold in bailing him out of the promise to Bodog that he couldn't keep, Gold offered him half of his take in the Main Event. But, like the poker world itself, neither man imagined that it could get so big. Had Gold cashed for 30 or 40 or even 200 grand, we wouldn't be hearing about any of this.

Definitely check out Gold's lengthy interview on Rounders Radio. It's like pure, priceless verbal vomit for 30 minutes straight. The guy doesn't shut up and thinks he's the greatest player that ever lived. He also publicly challenges Phil Hellmuth to a heads-up match for $1 million and alleges that ESPN producers have already approached him about televising it.

Here's a few more quotes from Gold. Norman Chad allegedly said the following to him after he won.
"I gotta be honest with you, it was the greatest display of poker talent I've ever seen, and I've seen everything. Nobody's ever put on a show like that in the history of poker."
When asked if any of his famous former clients (a la James Gandolfini, Felicity Huffman, and Lucy Liu) had called to wish him well during the tournament Gold gave a classic Hollywood response.
"I am friendly with them, but unfortunately we don't keep up with each other. "
Then there are the questions about whether or not Gold was even a real agent or if it's all one big Hollywood exaggeration. Showbiz gossip giant Defamer was of course on the case, dissecting his client list, and later publishing a letter defending him from one of his actual ex-clients, former soap opera actor Lane Davies, who, according to Gold himself, was indeed the only actor who called and well-wished him during the Main Event.

Mo' money, mo' problems. No wonder he didn't want to win. He knew all this shit would hit the fan.

Ironic, though that he told ESPN that $6 million would be enough for him. Looks like it might be exactly what he'll get.

The 2006 WSOP Main Event premieres tonight on ESPN at 8 PM EDT/ 5 PM Pacific. Set your TiVos, poker fans.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fear and Loathing on Ladies Night

As I speak, the Legends of Poker Ladies Night tournament is in progress down at the Bicycle Casino. I am on my couch writing this blog and getting high. That can mean only one of two things, gentle reader. Either I didn't play, or I'm writing a bustout post.

Not that hard a guess, is it?

I got down there nice and early to buy in, unlike last year, when I was zigging and zagging down the 710 on freeway on tilt only fifteen minutes before the start time. There was a huge crowd as I approached the registration line and I prepared for a lengthy wait, only to discover that the herd of ladies jammed into one of the Bike's narrow hallways were crowded around various vendors and booths set up along the wall. It was the WSOP all over again. There was a booth for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (the very worthy recipient of 10% of the prize pool) where people could make donations, bid on items in a silent auction, and purchase T-shirts and pins. Poker-themed purses, jewelry, and tank tops were all available for purchase, as well as card cappers, sunglasses, and WPT-themed pastel drawings (aiyah). Absolute Poker's abominable ladies-only poker site was represented by their own Lacey Jones as well as perhaps half a dozen blonde model-types who wore purple "AP Lady" shirts.

After buying in, I went outside to escape the crowd, taking a seat on a bench in the valet parking area. I thumbed through L.A. Weekly and saw David Williams' mother, Shirley walking toward the casino entrance, struggling to read what appeared to be a blind structure sheet.

"I should know better than to try this without my damn glasses!" she remarked as she squinted at the page. Shirley cashed the Seniors Event at this year's WSOP and outlasted her bracelet-winning, young black ass-worshipping son David in the Main Event.

I was turning back to my magazine when I noticed the thin, pale fellow with the biker vibe sitting next to me. He was reading a script and looked familiar. The redhead girl sitting to his left had just struck up a conversation with him.

"What's that you're reading?"
"It's a script I'm supposed to direct."
"Oh, wow!"
"Yeah, I fly up to Toronto in the morning."
"Is it a movie?"
"No, it's TV."
"What's it about?"
"I don't even know. I just got it today."
"They don't give you a lot of time."
"Yeah, there's not a lot of choice. You book an episode and you know when it's going to start shooting because it's episode 9 or 10 or 20 or whatever but you never know what the script is going to be until right before."

I glanced down at the cover page. It had the name of the TV series, the episode title, the writer's name and the director's name. He was who I thought he was. I had heard a pitch from this guy maybe 3 1/2-4 years ago.

I went back inside and hit the restroom at five minutes to start. Lacey and the AP Ladies commandeered over half the mirror space. I listened as Lacey tried to explain the concept of a ladies-only internet poker room to a woman around my mom's age, who didn't understand why online poker needed to be segregated since no one knows who anyone really is on the internet.

I don't get it either.

As I washed my hands, I heard someone call my name. My jaw dropped when I looked up and saw Andie's reflection in the mirror. Andie was a longtime senior executive at the film company I used to work for. She had left the Big Man's fiefdom for a shitload more money at an animation giant about 4-5 months before my ass was booted off Wilshire Boulevard.

Andie and I caught up quickly in the couple of minutes we had before "shuffle up and deal." Though we didn't have a lot of projects together back at the Big Man's, we'd always bonded over poker. Back then, she had just started playing on Poker Stars and we'd always gab about the WPT on Thursday mornings after it aired. She gave me her number and a "let's do lunch."

Of all places to run into Hollywood people, I manage to do it twice in five minutes at the Bicycle Casino. And I'd only been home for less than 24 hours.

As I made my way to my seat, I spotted Barbara Enright, Camryn Manheim, and Debra Lalor, who was the third-highest finishing woman in this year's WSOP Main Event. She qualified on Poker Stars and finished 117th of 8773. I was in the 10 seat, which I don't love because it's always hard to see the players in the 1 and 2 seats from there. Here's my table lineup:

Seat 1: A young, put-together Beverly Hills girl in $200 jeans and a $500 hoodie. Gold filigree drop earrings hung from her lobes. She reminded me of Jules Leyser, aka the luckiest woman in poker. (Her husband Crispin had half of Jamie Gold's action in the WSOP ME).

Seat 2: An older woman who could have been Linda Johnson's less sassy sister.

Seat 3: A tiny, aggressive Asian woman in a black and gold tank top.

Seat 4: A potentially lesbian bottle redhead in her 40's who twice re-raised my late position raises. I mucked KT suited and pocket fives and it's a good thing I did. I heard her telling a friend at the break that she had aces both times.

Seat 5: Dame Edna in white cat-eye glasses with silver sequins.

Seat 6: Butch lesbian in Annie Duke-inspired military chic. I'd played with her before in ladies' tournaments and knew her to be a tight, reasonable player.

Seat 7: The butch lady's hot blonde lover. She wore a tight pink baby tee designed by Cyndy Violette that read "Peace, Love, Poker." I'm not making that up.

Seat 8: A very nervous blonde woman who had never played a tournament before.

Seat 9: A very nervous young brunette with wide hazel eyes who ended up playing on the weak-tight side.

Within 10 minutes I knew that the dead money was on my right. It was not going to be here for long, so I needed to focus on getting that instead of trying to outplay the more reasonable people at the table. In one of many early five or six-way limped pots, I joined the party on the button with the 7c-9c. The flop came 2-4-5 all clubs. The redhead bet 100, Dame Edna called, Weak Tight on my right called, and I raised to 400. Redhead and Dame Edna folded, but Weak Tight called. I put her on a strong flush draw and really didn't want to see another club on the turn. Thankfully, it was the 2h. She checked and I bet 800. She went into the tank for about a minute before folding.

"I know I was going to see that king of clubs if I called you" she said, as I stacked her chips. I had 2300 and was off to a good start.

Early into the second level (25-50), Butch Lady's Hot Blonde Lover raises to 200 from middle position. I have 9h-9d in the cutoff and decide to call and see a flop. It comes 4-4-4. Hot Blonde Lover bets 200 into the 475 chip pot. I need to find out exactly where I am so I raise to 600. She pauses and fiddles with her chips for just a little too long before pushing all-in just a little too reluctantly. Aiyah. I watch her for a little bit while counting out the 875 more I'd have to call. The raise is sending a message. She hasn't made any wild moves so far. And she looks pretty comfortable with her hand. I fold and have 1475 left.

There was a lot of limping going on at the table, and some of the more aggressive players responded to it by trying to make a "punishment" raises from position to try and take down the pot right there. Only they were usually getting called, mostly by the dead money to my right. After less than an hour, two players were already gone. I busted the 3 seat when my AQ took out her KJ. She was replaced by a quiet, more conservative-looking Asian girl who looked like she'd already doubled up. The rookie in the 8 seat was gone shortly thereafter and a pretty Filipino girl took her spot. She and the conservative Asian girl had played together at a Hawaiian Gardens tournament the previous night.

"How'd you end up?" conservative girl asked.
"We got to the final table and chopped 7 ways. I got like $3000."

It takes a lot of aggression to final table those SoCal daily tournaments with their notoriously fast structures. So I'd be watching out for her.

I won a couple more small pots before the first break. I called a 500 chip stack's all-in with JJ and it held against her AK. Then, with 50-100 blinds I raised to 300 on the button with As-Jc and was called by Linda Johnson's less sassy sister in the big blind. The flop was K-J-8 all spades. LJLSS checked, I bet half the pot, and she folded. I went to break with 2375.

Much to the ladies' delight, the mens' room in the adjacent hallway had been converted into a second ladies' room for the night. I folded my 26 of hearts and booked it out of the ballroom before lines could form. One already snaked out of the ladies, so I hit the mens. As I sat down to pee, I noticed there was some suspicious white powder on top of the stainless steel toilet paper holder. Sure enough, it was about a quarter-line worth of cocaine crumbs. So of course I took a picture.

I grabbed a Red Bull in the gift shop and headed back to my table, checking in with Andie on the way. Her table was two away from mine and was just being broken. So I didn't have too much longer with this lineup. She had about 2500 and had just doubled up with A-A on the last hand before the break.

On my first hand back, I was dealt 9-9 and raised to 700 from the hijack with 100-200 blinds. LJLSS moved in for 875 from the button and I called. She turned up QJ. I liked the A-A-7 flop. The T on the turn gave me slight pause and I prayed for no king on the river. It was another T. It took a few seconds before any of us realized who won.

"Ohhhh nooooo. You counterfeit!" said the dealer, as she pushed the pot to LJLSS. I hung my head in utter bewilderment. Any suckout stings, but having her crappy Q kicker play was just a totally unnecessary kick in the tits.

On the very next hand, I'm dealt As-Js in middle position and raise to 700. Dame Edna calls and the blinds fold. Dame Edna has been relatively tight preflop, having shown down KJ and a couple of pocket pairs, but she's played very poorly after the flop. I put her on a low to medium pair.

The flop is nice for me, Ts-8s-4h. If she has what I think she has, I have up to 15 outs. That, and this flop missed a ton of hands she was likely to play. With 1700 in the pot, I move in for 875 and she calls. I'm pretty shocked to see her turn over QQ, but I still have 12 outs to win. Brick, brick, on the turn and river and after a chip count, I have two $100 chips and a chair.

"No reraise with the QQ? Do I scare you?" I quipped in her general direction.

I toss in my last 200 with the As-Ts on the very next hand and get three callers. They check down the Ks-Js-8c-5s-7s board and I quadruple to 800 with the nut flush. On my big blind, there's an all-in and call and I get out of the way with the 3d-9d, and on my small blind, I fold 5T offsuit to a raise and two calls.

Then our table breaks. If I'd only taken a minute longer to find my new seat, I might still have one.

I sit down with the 500 I have left and guess what. It's my 200 big blind. Just great.

"Shoulda taken a longer walk!" chirped the dealer. I smiled tightly, seething with tilt.

So I know I'm all in with whatever I have. Someone in middle position makes it 600 and I chuck in my last 300 with the Q9 of hearts. She has KJ. Neither of us improve and I'm bounced out with over half the field remaining. A disappointing finish to say the least.

It's only been a couple of hours, but I've thought a lot about the way I played and there isn't much I'd do differently. These $100 buyin SoCal tournaments have a fast, steep structure (doubling blinds and 30-minute levels) that dictates aggressive play and I think I adjusted accordingly. Had I won either of those last two big hands (the 9-9 and the AJs) I would have had close to 4000 going into that new table. Who knows where I could have gone from there. I did the best I could. And I think I was reading people well.

I called Pauly on my way home and told him the bad news.

"At least you get to go home and get high."
"I suppose. Oh, you know what, I saw a quarter-line of coke on the toilet paper dispenser in the men's room."
"What were you doing in the men's room?"
"They made it a ladies' room for the tournament."
"Oh. So did you snort it?"
"Dude, I like drugs but I don't snort random bathroom coke crumbs."
"Awwwww BOOOOOOO!! Now THAT would be a blog!"

A few photos from Ladies' Night:

These card cappers also double as refrigerator magnets

My grandma would have dug these

Leftover party favors

Monday, August 14, 2006

The End

When it was all over, I slipped out the back door by the dealers’ tent to get some air. The 5 AM sky was growing light over the Strip, the first rays of pink peeking out from behind the mountains. I held the door open for a trio of ESPN cameramen as they loaded out their equipment and took in a lungful of arid desert air. Less than an hour after Hollywood agent Jamie Gold claimed victory in the WSOP Main Event, all who had made a home at the Rio over the last five weeks were dispersing to the winds. It was on to the next assignment, the next tournament, the next city on the circuit. The European media had been departing in waves all day, trying to make it onto the few London, Stockholm, and Dublin-bound flights that hadn’t been cancelled in the wake of the foiled terrorist attack. Ryan and Wil scrambled back to Los Angeles in the mid-afternoon, and Otis called it a Series around midnight, so hungry to return to his wife and son that he was prepared to drive the 2500 miles from Nevada to G-Vegas should he run into the slightest bit of trouble with the airlines.

Everyone was fried. Sleep-deprived. Tweaking on too much sugar and caffiene. Some were on tilt after watching Gold hit hand after hand after hand, seemingly invincible behind his mountain of eighty million billion chips, effortlessly swatting aside world-class opponents like Allen Cunningham with the turn of a card. I was one of them. I’ll admit being a little pissed that he won, and so easily. It made for a pretty boring final table. Sort of like a Lord of the Rings movie without the battle sequences. You know Frodo’s gonna make it to the volcano or whatever and drop that ring inside. Just imagine if he and his pals hadn’t run into the slightest bit of trouble along the way. Where’s your epic now, huh?

Pauly, however, was finally happy after more than a week spent at 70% tilt. As he typed in his last live update and uploaded the post for all to see, his face broke out into the widest grin I’d seen since I moved to Vegas a month ago. He smiled as if he’d made a touchdown reception at fourth and long and looked ready to spike the ball in the end zone. Instead, he gave a swift kick to the six foot tall inflatable Milwaukee’s Beast beer can that sat inside media room doorway. It toppled to the ground and and he left it there for someone else to deal with as he walked out of the Rio for the last time.

The sun came up as I drove down the 215 to Henderson in silence. Exhaustion, tilt, and half a bowl of Train Wreck made soup of my brain. As I tried to pin some meaning on the month I’d spent meeting new people, participating in some of the most ridiculous prop bets known to man, watching world-class poker, and getting paid to write about it, there was only one thought that ran laps through my mind.

What now?

The temporary purpose I’d enjoyed in my temporary move here was finished. Nothing left to cover. No more bracelets to be handed out, at least for another year. In six days I’d have to pack up and get on the road back to Los Angeles, crossing my fingers that my shitheap of a vehicle would survive the 280 miles of highway from the desert to the ocean. Pulling myself out of the vacuum of the WSOP, I’d re-entered the harsh reality of having to go home again and try to scrape by. Freelancing. Finishing my godforsaken script. Walking dogs with Showcase. Whatever.

I also couldn’t stop thinking about Jamie Gold. He hadn’t even wanted to win, and yet there he was, $12 million richer practically overnight. Just goes to show you, when you’re on a heater, you’re on a heater. For him, it was fate. Karmic destiny. Score one for the washed-up agents of the world. After all, it was probably his showbiz experience that gave him the edge he needed in poker. Hollywood taught Jamie Gold how to lie. It taught him to read people. It gave him a little of the necessary gamble, and it reinforced his bullshit meter. All are qualities of a great poker player. All are skills used day in and day out in the business.

Hollywood is all about separating the real truths from the semi-truths. Distinguishing reality from hype. Is this new comedian the real deal? Or is the agent just selling him so hard to me because he just stole the comedian away from a rival agency and wants to show his new client just how many offers he can procure for him? Is this writer really interested in my idea? Or, is he just using my project as a stalking horse– feigning interest and potential unavailabilty in order to get another studio across town to pay him more money on the thing he really wants to do? Did that queen of diamonds on the turn make him top pair? Or is he just pushing on a semi-bluff with the diamond draw? Before I even knew what a flop was, I had been reading studio executives’ “tells” and body language during pitches for years. I can still walk into a room of those douchebags and know within 15 minutes if they were buying or just feigning polite interest. I’m sure Jamie Gold can too.

I think it was the day we got down to three tables when I noticed that L.A. had invaded the Amazon Room. Gold’s entourage had flown/driven in and were taking up the better part of the center bleacher section. Everyone was a little louder, a little more tan, a little more made-up, and a little less judicious with their choices when it came to making and taking cell phone calls. Suddenly surrounded by his hometown posse, Gold went from waiting in line with everyone else for the john to having two burly bodyguards escort him into the mens’ room.

The true hilarity of it all? Two weeks ago, Jamie Gold couldn’t get arrested in A-list Hollywood. He was just one of hundreds of guys who are successful in the industry for a time as agents or executives or whatever and then just sort of slip off the Wilshire Boulevard radar after leaving a prestigious company to “go indie” and open their own shop. Or direct. Or write. Or sell real estate. Or produce reality television. I should know. I did the same thing myself not too long ago.

In Jamie Gold, we have something of an anti-hero as our new world champion. He didn’t win his way in to the Main Event on a satellite– he was bought in by Bodog in exchange for helping them procure C-list celebrities to play the WSOP under their banner. Gold doesn’t have the Cinderella quality of Moneymaker in 2003, already having won nearly $100,000 in L.A. area tournaments. He isn’t a poster boy for the cerebral internet contingent like Raymer. He doesn’t carry the torch for international players like Hachem. He’s an ex-agent who lives in Malibu. This is the guy who told ESPN that he didn’t even want to win because he didn’t want to deal with the fame that came with victory. If that makes a Hollywood snark like me a little nauseous, I can’t imagine how the Joe Sixpack poker players across America are going to feel.

No one can completely donk their way to a victory this significant. Lucky streaks like the one Gold enjoyed in the last six hours of final table play are part of what it takes to win tournaments. When the hole card cameras come out and the broadcast finally airs, we’ll get to see how well he really played. How many moves he made. And if Hollywood did instill in him a keen ability to read his opponents.

But here I am, three days later. Still in Vegas. Still wondering.

What now?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Red Rock Canyon

With Pauly on 70% work tilt and me on 30% life tilt, we had to get as far away from the Strip as possible on our day off from the Main Event, and a spontaneous drive up to Red Rock Canyon was just what the doctor ordered. Red Rocks is only 20 miles away from the city, yet while I was there, I felt like I was in another world. Huge swaths of land were burned last year in a fire and the scorched earth and trees left behind in its wake surrounded by the bright red hills made me feel like I was on Mars. In fact, I believe some of those crappy Mars movies from the late nineties were shot around there. We took the scenic 13-mile loop through the canyon while listening to a smokin' 1994 Widespread Panic show from Johnny's hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I took a ton of pictures, and these are among my favorites.

Vegas is somewhere down there

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The G-Vegas Effect

I was writing and playing a SNG on Full Tilt in the back of the media room when Pauly tapped me on the shoulder.

"G-Vegas is here."

I clicked "sit out" and popped out of my chair. G-Rob and Bad Blood were the two people I wished I had more time to hang out with on the December blogger trip and kismet had brought me to them and them to me in Las Vegas during the Main Event, a place none of the three of us probably thought we'd be if you'd asked us the same question six months ago.

G-Rob's glossy mane was tucked under a baseball cap. An early morning flight and some hair product error had led him to declare it a hat day. Blood's gunz are even more impressive in person. After chatting and catching up for a few minutes, they headed over to the MGM Grand for some 1-2 NL action, and the rest of us got back to work. We planned to meet up after play was done for the day in the Main Event. -EV gambling was a distinct possibility.

Cut to: 1 AM. The Gold Coast. G-Rob, C.J., Blood, and Otis are commandeering a $5 blackjack table. Ryan is sipping a drink and sweating them. April is at the bar with Easycure and Mrs. Easycure, whom I have the pleasure of meeting for the first time. And just as I get done telling Ryan that "I'll have none of that blackjack," I hear G-Rob call out, "seat open!"

60 seconds later, I'm handing the dealer $100 and getting 20 red chips in return. I'm sitting at first base with Bad Blood on my left. Pauly brings me a Corona, and the cocktail waitress brings Blood a dirty martini with two olives. As our dealer, Willy starts pulling cards out of the shoe, Ryan spots me, and we make eye contact as I guiltily shuffle my redbirds with my left hand.

"I thought you were having none of that."
"Come on. I'm a degenerate gambler."

I don't know if it was the presence of C.J. at our blackjack table or the heavens aligning, but Willy proceeded to deal one of the best shoes of Blackjack I've ever played. Every bust card we needed came at the perfect moment, with Willy prolonging the suspense with his dramatic "poker face" as he looked at the card and slowly revealed it to the table.

"BUST!!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.

Willy paused, looked at the card, mugged with faux disappointment and slowly turned over the Queen with a 14 showing, busting his hand.

"YEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!" the entire table cried in unison, high-fiving each other. Everyone in the casino turned around to see what the hell was going on.

"Oh my God, I won five dollars!" Blood declared, pumping his fist.

It went on for Willy's entire down. Every. Single. Hand. We all made money, especially Willy, whom we were tipping like crazy. We were "that" table. It's the G-Vegas effect. I walked away with $150 and let Easycure take my seat.

Fatigue creeping in after 16 straight days of work, I downshifted into $10 Pai Gow and took a seat between Zeem and Ryan. Pauly, April, Otis, and C.J. rounded out the table. The same redhead pit boss we had on the night Otis ate the crayons was on shift and instantly recognized us. We were on fairly good behavior, though and Otis managed to keep his hundreds in his pants. When I saw Pauly falling asleep at the table again, it was time to call it a night. I won about $40 at Pai Gow, pushing my -EV total for the night to a surprising +$190. Count the $11 I made in a half hour of $4-8 at the Rio playing against three shitfaced off-duty Asian dealers and I'm up $200 for the day.

Today is everyone's day off from the Main Event-- players and media. Pauly and I came back to Henderson from Treasure Island to do laundry and relax a little this afternoon before heading back to the Strip later tonight.

Best of luck (like he needs it) to C.J., who's playing in his first WSOP Event this afternoon. Suck out like a champ today!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Johnny 100K and More WSOP Photos

I'm blogging from the media room again today, as I can't seem to get a quality internet connection back at the hotel. I tried playing online last night, but kept getting timed out. When I called the front desk to see what was going on, he told me "it's all the Poker Stars people. They're playing on the internet in their rooms and sapping the bandwidth." Here in media row, I've been sitting next to a fifty-something sportswriter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He's been eating sunflower seeds nonstop for the last five hours. There's an entire 16oz plastic cup between our laptops containing their discarded, saliva-covered shells.

With every passing day, we all get a little more punchy in here. For example, every time Jay Greenspan walks into the room, the Pokerstars Blog Team greets him with a round of applause for absolutely no reason. Well, maybe some reason. He just wrote a helluva book called "Hunting Fish: A Cross-Country Search for America's Worst Poker Players." I'm about halfway through and really enjoying it.

Ryan and Tuscaloosa Johnny are both still going strong on Day 2A of the Main Event. Johnny just topped 100K in chips when he made quad tens. He flopped top set on a T-7-3 board and his opponent bet out. Johnny raised to 5K and his opponent reraised to $12K. Johnny smooth-called. The turn made him quads. He checked, his opponent bet 8K and he smooth called again. A K fell on the river. Johnny bet 9K, his opponent pushed, and he insta-called. He now boasts a $114K stack.

Ryan took a bit of a hit when he tried a check-raise bluff on the river after his opponent inexplicably checked his QQ all the way on a board with four middle straight cards and three diamonds. After showing weakness on every street, the guy called the raise and Ryan was down to $30K. He's still got plenty of chips and took it like the professional he is.

For Snakes on a Plane aficionados: the "Snakes on a Flop" shirt I posted a photo of yesterday is available for $22 at the official WSOP merchandise store at the Rio. Not sure if they're available online.

By popular demand, here's a few more photos I've taken at the World Series:

What 114K in WSOP chips looks like

Like Raymer's, only better

Cyndy Violette

Annie Duke perches on her chair

Offered without comment

Amy Calistri is still trying to get him a date

Kristy Gazes whispers to her opponent

"Aussie Sarah" Bilney

Is it 4:20 yet?

Porn star Ron Jeremy starts Day 1B


Oh, am I?