Monday, October 23, 2006

L.A. is Wired for ePoker

My first glimpse of an ePoker table came amidst the crazed, frenetic energy of the Gaming & Lifestyles Expo at this year’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Ten guys sat hunched over a space-age poker table, its felt lined with shiny monitors instead of chips. Two dozen more railbirds and curious onlookers craned their necks to see what the fuss was about, their glances leaving the action only to catch a glimpse at the scantily-clad trade show models who cruised past, hocking their online poker wares. The table was called “Poker Pro” and it hybridized online and live poker– all of the card action proceeded on screens in front of each player much like an internet game, but players enjoyed all the benefits of a live setting, where personalities and tells can influence decisions. The action also proceeded much faster than in traditional live poker. Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time, and I learned that a dedicated ePoker Room would soon be opening at my home casino, Hollywood Park.

The gracious folks at Pokertek, the company behind the Poker Pro table, invited me down to Hollywood Park last week to attend the grand opening of the ePoker Room. And who, really am I to decline an invitation to go gamble in the middle of the afternoon? Just twist my arm, why don’t you? I got down to HPC just after one in the afternoon and the room was already packed with hungry degenerate gamblers.

The ePoker room is situated directly in front of the main casino entrance right by valet parking so you literally can’t miss it. I walked into the crowd and immediately ran into my pal Johnny, who had come in from Las Vegas for the event. “Run into” is probably a poor choice of words. More like he came at me all smiles in a lateral bear hug. We hadn’t seen each other since Legends at the Bike and we chatted excitedly about the upcoming Vegoose music festival and the Hollywood Park-meets-Star Trek poker tables we were both about to try.

“So how do we do this thing?”
“Let’s get you a card.”

Getting the card was a simple process which involved filling out a form, presenting my drivers’ license, and choosing a PIN number. The next step was to deposit money onto the card. I went over to the special ePoker window at the cage, gave the lady inside my card and $200 and I was set. Cash can stay on your card from session to session, or, you can withdraw any portion of it on the same day. I went back to Johnny and we waitlisted ourselves on the little kiosk next to the front desk. $2-4 and $5-10 limit hold’em and $1-2 and $3-5 NLHE were available as well as several sit-n-go options. $65 and $120 SNGs paid the top three spots (50/30/20 payouts just like online) and the $30 turbo variety was a winner-take-all affair (though chops are allowed, and went on). I soon found myself sitting in one of those $30 turbos, surrounded by an eclectic group of poker enthusiasts.

I was sandwiched in between two older gentlemen who had just gone heads-up in a previous SNG. One had a beard, the other wore a straw hat and had racing stubs in his front pocket. The bearded guy had won and they were looking for a rematch. I swiped my card as I said hello, the $30 immediately debiting off my balance. My name popped up on the screen underneath my starting chip count of 1,000. The interface made it look like we were playing an online SNG, just face to face. My hands fidgeted as I reflexively reached for chips to shuffle, but none were there. So, instead of getting lost in my own little iPod and chip-riffling mode as I usually do while waiting for “shuffle up and deal” I found myself checking out my opponents. The young Asian guy in the polo. The bearded guy in the hoodie that was a dead ringer for Spaceman. And the Inglewood version of Dmitri Nobles, complete with the flippped up visor and the air of invincibility. Only this guy had a five-strong posse that looked like the USC defensive line sweating him from the rail . A tiny, shrunken hands-free cellphone was hooked on to Inglewood Dmitri’s ear at all times.

The process of checking my hole cards onscreen and figuring out how to bet and raise took really only a few hands to get used to. I immediately picked up AA and doubled through courtesy of the SNG “Gigli”–Mr. Straw Hat who had hoped to do better than second this time around. Then I picked up AQ vs. Dmitri and played it a little crafty. I knew he had a decent hand, probably a big pair when he called my preflop raise so quickly and he suddenly got all serious after yucking it up with his friends. The flop came ace high. He bet a little less than the pot and I called. Turn was another ace. He checked to me and I checked it back, going for the reverse-delay “gotcha!” The river was a blank and Dmitri instantly pushed in and I instantly called. He showed QQ and his stack electronically evaporated. Ship it!

“Daaaaaammmmn. I knew you had that ace!” Dmitri exclaimed.
“If you knew she had that ace, what you doing pushing in on her, fool?” his friend replied.
“Shut the fuck up, Leon! ” Dmitri was red from tilt as he left us in seventh place.

As we continued on with our SNG, the table talk centered around how great the structures were on the Poker Pro table, but how steep the juice was in return. Compared to live single-table satellites, where dealers are shuffling after every hand, we got in maybe twice as much actual play on the ePoker table, and we were playing in a turbo structure. Several people commented how great it would be to use these tables for satellites to live events and I totally agree. Personally, I avoid the $40 crapshoot satellites to the $200 and $300 events at HPC because they’re just that. If you don’t pick up a big hand and double up in the first 10 minutes or so, you’re pretty much toast, but the PokerPro table’s ease and speed of play could really transform the live satellite experience.

The juice, however, left much to be desired. The $30 turbo SNG I played was, in reality a $20+10 affair. That’s 50% juice, and that’s absurd. The $65 SNGs were $50+15 while the $120s were a slightly more reasonable $100+20. To their credit, the Pokertek reps on hand heard everyone’s comments and criticisms, and are in the process of lowering the juice on all the SNGs. (Hollywood Park actually sets the juice, and believe it or not, these things have to be approved by the California Department of Justice.) In retrospect, $20+10 wasn’t altogether surprising at HPC, where their daily rebuy tournaments charge that same buyin and entry fee, but I’m glad to know not only that it’s being reduced, but that Pokertek listened to player feedback and took it seriously.

I finished a disappointing third in my SNG after jumping out to that early chip lead. Unfortunately a big late-stage coinflip failed me. After saying goodbye and see-you-in-Vegas to Johnny, I headed outside into the afternoon sunlight to drive home before rush hour hit. Guess who was hanging out at valet parking? Dmitri and his posse.

“Hey! Hey lady– did you win that tournament?” Dmitri asked, with hopeful eyes.
“Nah... lost a big coinflip late.”
“Daaaaaaammmmmmn!” Dmitri winced, as he turned back to his friends and peeled a bill off his roll for each one, as they razzed him. Poor Dmitri had bet on me to take it down.

I’ll definitely be back to try out the PokerPro table again, and I’m sure many of Hollywood Park’s regulars will be doing the same. I wouldn't mind tilting Dmitri again, either.

Can you spot Spaceman's doppleganger?

**Editor's Note** Pursuant to player feedback, the new SNG rake structure has just been implemented at the HPC ePoker Room. The $30 turbos are now $25+5 instead of $20+10, the $65s are now $60s with a $50+10 buyin, while the $120s are now $115s with a $100+15 buyin. MUCH better!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Hairdresser, The Waxer, and the Chimp Lady

Last December, only a scant few hours before I was set to meet 100 poker-blogging strangers that I had previously only communicated with via the anonymous cloak of the internet, I decided I needed the kind of confidence boost that was not found at the bottom of an an amber-tinted bottle or a sweetly scented Ziploc baggie.

I got my hair done.

The women who are reading this know what I'm talking about. Getting some snazzy layers and a professional blow-dry can lift a girl up in a way no fruity cocktail can. In the hands of a brush-and-dryer expert, my fine, board-straight blonde locks enjoy a sort of follicular CPR, emerging full of thebbounce and shine and life they'd been missing before I stepped through the salon doors. The last time I had my hair done at the Palms Las Vegas, I left feeling like the goddamned prom queen, headed straight for the $1-2 NL table and hit the high hand jackpot with quad aces.

So you could say I was looking for some version of that before meeting 100 strangers.

I had no appointment, but they were able to squeeze me in. My usual stylist wasn't there so I was turned over to a tall brunette named Krista.

"So what brings you to Vegas?"
"Well... poker really. I'm meeting up with some fellow poker degenerates for a private tournament." (I mean really, like I'm going to geek out and explain blogging and the internet to some incredibly chic, perfectly coiffed 25-year old hairdresser?)
"Poker, huh? You play?"
"My ex-boyfriend plays."
"He any good?"
"Oh my God yeah. He plays like really high stakes at Bellagio."
"Did he play the World Series?"
"Only a couple of tournaments. He was back in Copenhagen for most of the summer before that."

It was then that it dawned on me.

"Who's your boyfriend?"
"Who's your ex?"
"His name is Gus Hansen. Have you heard of him?"

Um, yeah!

An hour later I headed over to check in to the Imperial Palace with a fabulous head of hair, courtesy of Gus Hansen's ex-girlfriend.

So yesterday, I'm in a different kind of salon. Just as hip, just as chic-yet-reasonably priced, only in this place, a different sort of thing is done to a different sort of hair.

Rrrrrrrrrrrripppp!!! (Owwwwwwwww...)

Again, my usual, uh, "stylist" wasn't there, so I got Melanie, a sparkly little pixie of a girl in faded jeans tucked into tall, cuffed brown leather boots. She talked a mile a minute in endless runon sentences punctuated with childlike giggles, all to distract me from what she was (owww!) doing.

"So tell me something interesting."
"Ummm...I play poker?"
"Really? Wow! Are you like a professional?"
"Hardly. But everyone likes to fantasize."
"How often do you play?"
"It used to be every single day, now it's maybe 5 days a week."
"I know some professional poker players, well really I know their wives! Or ex-wives! Heheheheheeee! (Rrrrrrrip!) Like, do you know Bobby Baldwin?"
"The dude who's like Master of the Universe at Bellagio? Well I know who he is."
"I do his ex-wife all the time. When they were married, it was like so cool because she'd like, send the jet for me (rrrrrrrip!) and I'd go to Burbank Airport and fly to Las Vegas just to wax her, right? And I'd get put up at Bellagio and get to go shopping and stuff."
"That's pretty sweet."
"Totally. So like, just how high stakes does Bobby play? (Rrrrriiip!) Is he really good?"
"He plays the biggest game in the world with the best players in the world. Four and eight thousand limit. You could win or lose a million dollars in that game in a night."
"Oh my God."
"Like, oh. My. God. (Rrrrrriiiip!)"
"(Owwwwwwww) Yeah."
"I could never gamble that kind of money. Hehehehehe! I mean never! Would you ever gamble that big like if you had the kind of money Bobby does?"
"Never that big. I honestly can't fathom a world where I'd ever play bigger than 100-200. Even with that kind of money."
"One and two hundred what? (Rrrrrripppp!)"
"(Ohhhhhhhhhh Kelly Clarkson!) Never mind."
"OK! You're done! Wasn't so bad, right!"

I left that particular salon not feeling so much like the prom queen, but the prom queen's whorey porn star sister.

Finally, I was falling asleep on my couch last night around 1 A.M. while watching the new $10K PLO episode of the 2006 WSOP. My eyes were about to finally shut when "The Nuts" segment arrived, featuring Lee Watkinson and his creepy cage of scary monkeys. I had heard some freaky stories about Lee and the chimps back in the media room at the WSOP. While shooting this very segment, one of Lee's monkeys bit a young female ESPN producer and she ended up in the emergency room. Though the whole backyard-zoo scene was incredibly bizarre, I wasn't as fixated on the chimps as I was on Lee's freaky girlfriend, whom I instantly recognized from my first table at the Queen of Clubs event I recently cashed at the Bike. She designs these studded, graphic-printed hoodie sweatshirts that I proclaimed quelle tragique in one of my initial WSOP fashion reports for Pokerblog. She's as nutty as her designs, one of which Lee sported on the PLO final table, and spent the forty minutes she lasted in the tournament babbling through a champagne haze, as she hadn't realized that those "little glasses full of O.J." had booze in them.

I guess Lee was home with the monkeys that night.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Which Do You Wannabe?

Which Spice Girl would I want to be? I wouldn't want to be Posh Spice.

After watching her husband's adulterous affair splashed across the tabloids, Posh grew anorexically thin, and got hideous fake tits that look like cantaloupe halves stuffed beneath her chest wall. She spends an inordinate amount of time at Tom Cruise's scientology compound in Telluride and has cameras stuffed in her bony, Botoxed face as she sits front-row with cult war-bride Katie Holmes at Paris fashion shows. Then once re-ensconced back in her suite at the Ritz, Katie's Scientology "handler" chloroforms Posh and hooks her limp body up to an E-meter. Once Posh awakens with no memory of the incident, she eats half a cookie and throws it up. Who wants to be Posh? Not me.

Which Spice Girl would I want to be? I wouldn't want to be Scary Spice.

Scary does have the best Spice hair. And a tongue ring. But again, with the rock-hard, hideous cantaloupe-halves she calls breasts! Not to mention that she's engaged to Eddie Murphy. And you know that's been with tranny hookers. Next!

Which Spice Girl would I want to be? I wouldn't want to be Sporty Spice.

Though Sporty was the best singer of the five, there's the matter of that gold tooth. Gold teeth just don't belong on white girls, even athletic ones dogged by lesbian rumors. Sporty also had to deal with also being called "Mel" in the non-Spice world. Just like Scary. So there was the whole Mel B./Mel C. thing. Very confusing. I'm also not fond of active-wear as a permanent fashion statement. Unless Sporty Spice is going to suddenly turn into Cashmere Spice, the whole track suit thing is just not for me.

Which Spice Girl would I want to be? I REALLY wouldn't want to be Ginger Spice.

After abandoning her fellow Spices in the middle of their 1998 North American Tour, Ginger embarked on a disastrous solo career that spanned three albums of progessively worsening quality. She became a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to only get TOTALLY upstaged by Angelina Jolie in the international do-gooder derby, and still couldn't sell records despite a classy makeover. Worst of all, Ginger had a child and named the poor little thing Bluebell Madonna, ensuring further generations of Spices who will need mid-life therapy.

Which Spice Girl would I want to be? I think I'd want to be Baby Spice.

Baby Spice never had to suffer a major media scandal. Unlike her four fellow Spices, Baby emerged from her fifteen-minutes-going-on-three years of global fame with nothing but a short, forgettable solo career and a whole lotta Spice cash in her bank. She's still cute, still bouncy, still blonde, engaged to some musician chap, and hopes to have all the Spices sing at her wedding. She's been nowhere near the cover of US Weekly in the last five years, has her own real breasts, and has yet to declare bankruptcy.

I'd call that a victory.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Not Such a Slow News Day

It appears that the era of the mega-WSOP is over.

Harrah's just announced that they will not be accepting third-party registrations for next year's World Series of Poker. Meaning, that only you can buy yourself in. Not an online site. Sure, sites could try and award cash instead of entries, but with $10 or $12K in your pocket in cold, hard cash instead of a direct buy-in? Come on, you're keeping the money and so am I. This decision was made as a result of the recent passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

Apparently, the same goes for online satellites to WSOP Circuit events as well as U.S.-based WPT events. Online satellites to events outside the U.S. are unaffected--e.g. EPT, Aussie Millions, Aruba, and the PokerStars Carribean Adventure to name a few off the top of my head.

As a result of this decision, Full Tilt sent emails to all players whom had won a WPT/WSOPC "Winner's Choice" $216 super satellite with the news, as well as other options for redeeming their prize (take it in cash, play WPT Niagra, or play their Dublin All-Stars tourney and they'll kick in some extra travel dough).

Here's the email in it's entirety, which I found over on 2+2:

Unfortunately due to the upcoming change in legislation Full Tilt Poker will no longer be able to satellite US residents into live tournaments in the US. This policy will be effective immediately. There are currently 3 options that you have with your winner's choice package.

1. We can credit your account with the $10K buy in. This money would be yours to do with what you please. We will also send you a full assortment of Full Tilt Poker gear and accessories.

2. You can choose to attend the WPT $10K tournament at the Falls View Casino in Niagra Falls, Canada. This event starts on the 24th of Oct and we would need to know by this Wendesday, the 11th if you would like to play in this tournament.

3. You can choose to attend the Dublin All-Star Tournament in Dublin, Ireland. This tournament beings on the 17th of Nov. The prize package for this event is $8K so in addition to the $2K that you have already received and the entry into the tournament, you would be credited another $6K for travel expenses and spending money.

We are extremely sorry for this inconvenience and we hope that you can understand the position that we have been pout in because of the current legal situation.

Please feel free to respond with any questions you may have along with your decision about what you want to do with your prize package.

Thank you,

Team Full Tilt

Phil Gordon and his dreamy blue eyes also addressed this policy change on this week's edition of ESPN Radio's The Poker Edge. For quotes and even more details on the whole shebang, hop over to Pokerblog.

Commence speculation on my part:

No online satellites? No more 8900 entrants in the WSOP Main Event. Maybe 2000, if that. Phil Gordon predicts 2200 on the broadcast, but I think that number is optimistic.

No online satellites? No $20M Party Poker logo on the tables. No more growth incentives that made corporate sponsorship attractive to the likes of Degree, Milwaukee's Best, and Corum Watches. Jeffrey Pollack told the media at the beginning of this year's Main Event that “We are at the very beginning of what this tournament can be from an economic standpoint.” In years to come the 2006 Main Event may be seen as not only the WSOP's peak, but the peak of the poker boom in general.

No online satellites? BIG dip in attendance at WPT events. WPT shot themselves in the foot on this one and only exacerbated it with "we-don't-care-about-the-legislation" press releases like this one. Joe Sixpack's dream of playing on a WPT televised final table has been effectively ended, and almost a dozen of poker's most high-profile pros are continuing to boycott WPT events pending the resolution of their lawsuit. Whom, exactly does the WPT expect to play in these tournaments? With the amateur "juicy" factor down, will pros be running to them in droves the way they did before now that they face significantly diminished EV? And what "young guns" will WPT have to coronate with Budweiser as their new stars when their primary route to a seat has now been completely shut down?

Of course, seeing as Harrah's was a quiet proponent of the UIGEA, there is likely some Level 17-corporate maneuvering going on behind the scenes. By geting the major online sites out of the satellite game, might Harrah's be taking the first step in clearing the path to their own online poker presence? Just imagine...

"! The ONLY place you can win your seat to the WSOP!"

WSOP tourney juice + all online main event satellite juice? That's a lot of extra dough for Harrah's.

Look, I'm so far from an expert on all this stuff. Frustration and anger and disbelief and even shame chokes off the section of my brain that forms eloquent-yet-witty one-liners when I start thinking about the sinister forces at work in both corporate America and the U.S. government today. And it goes way beyond fucking internet poker. The anti-gambling legislation just parks this political ugliness in my back yard. It affects my livelihood. It affects the livelihood of many of my friends. All of us are about to become a little less free on Friday when W. signs this thing into law.

No one wins from this thing. No one benefits. Unless you count corporations and extreme right-wing politicos. There's just a whole lot more economic uncertainty and hardship on the horizon for the thousands of Americans who make a living off the online gaming boom. You can't just squash out a $12 billion industry--an industry driven by America--with a piece of paper in the middle of the night and just pretend that Americans aren't going to suffer from it. The religious right may be holding a temporary victory party for continuing to legislate their own version of morality on the population but it's not going to (a) last for long or (b) affect a damn thing at the polls. Frist looks like an idiot for jamming the legislation through the way he did. 71% of Americans believe that they should have the right to gamble online, and they're not all Democrats. It WILL come back to bite him in the ass.

Even staunch conservatives take issue with the UIGEA. I mean, when was the last time everyone on The McLaughlin Group agreed on something? Well, almost. Check out this YouTube clip that Bill Rini dug up. Everyone from the liberal dude from Time to the conservative Washington Times reporter agrees that the bill is B.S. That is, everyone except for resident nutjob Pat Buchanan. But that was predictable, right? Rini also has some awesome clips up on his blog from C-SPAN cointaining Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul's floor speeches opposing the UIGEA.

I may sound worked up right now, and I sort of am, but not all gaming news was bad today. According to Card Player's sources, Poker Stars is about to finally announce that they're staying in the U.S. market. Neteller appears to be all-systems-go as well. Kudos to them.

As a player, I'm largely unaffected by a lot of what is happening. I don't play satellites to $10K events. In fact, my bankroll is so freaking pathetic I'm not cashing out any of it. Two of the three sites I play on are still open for business, and I live in Los Angeles, where the world's largest poker room is only a 30-minute drive away.

But as an American, I feel all at once angry and helpless. I joined the PPA (and so should you), but until they're strong and well-orgazined enough to have a real lobbying plan, there's not a lot of concrete things I can do to fight this thing except get to the polls on November 2 where my Democratic representative and senators, all of whom supported the UIGEA, will likely be re-elected in a landslide. Heh... I don't even live in a swing state.

For tonight, I'll be playing my final games on Party Poker before cashing out that balance and bidding my super-secret, pre-blogging screen name adieu. Here's to the memories...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


This is probably the only time this is ever going to happen for me, so allow me to revel in my dumb luck for just a moment. This week I had a 100% perfect sheet for the NFL games in the Pauly's Pub Pool. I arrived at these results through a complex formula of flipping coins, making less-than-educated guesses, and favoring teams that play in domes. I also went with a few blogger favorites, with Drizz's Vikings, C.J.'s Eagles, Pauly's Giants, and Donkeypuncher's Bears all pulling out victories. Look at all those beeeeauuuutiful green dots!

Guaranteed there's no way I'll do this well again, but for now? 14-0, baby! Ship it!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pigs on the Wing

"Goddammit. We SO should have taken that spot back by Ivan the Russian drug dealer's building" sighed Showcase, as we sat in gridlock on Franklin Avenue on our way to the Hollywood Bowl.

We had noticed only moments ago that this particular slice of the road was home to no less than half a dozen out of work actors and narcotics salespeople that we'd befriended over the years since Showcase migrated west from New York City. There was Ivan, of course, and sketchy Mario, Elisha, the girl from our college theatre program who took her top off for art in a little-seen indie film and Zack, who got dropped by his acting agent and started writing scripts for the Russian version of The Nanny. All on one block.

This very scene-- the two of us stoned out of our minds while sitting in pre-concert traffic for a Roger Waters show-- had played out nearly six years ago, shortly after Showcase made his home in Los Angeles. Only that time, the scene of the crime was the far-right lane of the 405 freeway in Irvine, where a mile-long line of hippies, ravers, and other assorted drug-friendly folk, pulled out their pipes while sitting in gridlock and flashed each other the thumbs-up as they snuck a few tokes during the wait at the exit for the Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre. Which, back then before corporate buyouts and Degree all-in moments was better known as Irvine Meadows.

"Dude, it is still WAY too far to walk and with our luck we'll get a parking ticket. Just keep going to Hollywood & Highland" I said, as I bent down to pull a hit of Super Silver Haze. "At least this time you don't have to pee and require a Chinese fire-drill in the middle of the freeway so I can drive while you urinate in the bushes."

It took us 30 minutes to inch the last mile or so and we parked in the structure at the Hollywood and Highland shopping mall. After grabbing takeout from CPK, it was another 20 minute walk up the canyon to the concert past a legion of ticket scalpers and T-shirt salesmen.

I have a special affinity for the Hollywood Bowl. It was the site of my first summer job over 12 years ago. Ushering wealthy season ticket holders to their boxes for minimum wage and enojying a full menu of free concerts six nights a week was (and still is) the best gig a 16-year old performing arts junkie could ask for. I saw everyone from Bernadette Peters to The Who in those mid-nineties summers, and all from the prime perch of the first level of seats. Most of the money I earned was promptly dumped off in the used CD section of the late, great Aron's Records on Highland Ave.

Showcase had never been to the Bowl and was instantly impressed. The place is huge-- an 18,000 seat ampitheatre sunk into Cahuenga Pass in the Hollywood Hills. The two lowest sections are made up of four-person boxes where can yuppies enjoy gourmet picnics before showtime. At a show like this, however, wine and cheese are scarce and the boxes are primarily home to celebrities whose agents got them good seats. Like Lisa Loeb, whom I saw waving for a friend just before the lights went down. Our seats were pretty good for commoners-- in the first section of benches above the boxes toward the stage right side.

Roger Waters, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles CA. 10/5/06

I) In the Flesh, Mother, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, Shine on You Crazy Diamond > Have a Cigar, Wish You Were Here, Southampton Dock, The Fletcher Memorial Home> Perfect Sense (Parts I and II), Leaving Beirut, Sheep

II) Dark Side of the Moon: Speak to Me > Breathe > On the Run > Time > The Great Gig in the Sky > Money > Us and Them > Any Colour You Like > Brain Damage > Eclipse

E) The Happiest Days of Our Lives > Another Brick in the Wall (Part II), Vera > Bring the Boys Back Home > Comfortably Numb

Roger Waters draws an eclectic crowd-- hippie kids, indie rock kids, forty and fiftysomething parents with their teenage sons, entertainment industry douchebags, L.A. Weekly-reading NPR-listening Silverlakers that valet-parked their Priuses and strung out, glassy-eyed wookies who looked as if they'd crawled out of the hills themselves. At this point, Pink Floyd songs, especially those of their magnum opus Dark Side of the Moon, are, in a way great muscial equalizers. Whether it was in your parents' basement with an apple bong, at a light show in Griffith Park or synched with The Wizard of Oz in the dorm lounge, everyone has their story about the first time they listened to Dark Side. It transcends genres and generations. My 59- year old father loves it, I love it, and if I'm ever sober long enough to bring a child into this cruel world, I'll make sure it loves it too. Even Showcase, who infamously thought that Trey Anastasio was a member of the Beastie Boys pretty much knows all the words.

Waters doesn't vary his setlists too much, opening as usual with a hard-charging "In the Flesh" that got the crowd fired up. We sparked our first joint during the sweet acoustic opening of "Mother" and the long haired high school kid in front of us begged for a toke. I passed to him and made his day as Showcase cringed.

"I want a new joint. God knows what diseases he has."

"Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", while not one of my favorite tunes, was a dark, trippy excursion into the early Floyd catalog, while "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", "Have a Cigar", and "Wish You Were Here" satisfied the crowd's appetite for the classics. About halfway through the first set, the dippy blonde girl in the tight pink sweater sitting two seats away from me experienced a personality transplant as her roll kicked in. She started spastically dancing at completely random intervals, occasionally, during the spaciest musical passages that are usually more, well... swayable than danceable. She was in her seat... she was out of her seat. Oh wait, she's standing on top of the bench... oh now she's down. Her enormous breasts bounced freely inside the sweater's clingy rib knit as a lascivious man with a goatee stared slack-jawed at her from the row behind us. Showcase and I started prop betting the over/under on how many seconds she would remain seated before experiencing another urge to dance.

A definite anti-war sentiment ran through the show, beginning with "Southampton Dock" and continuing with the new Waters song, "Leaving Beirut." He wrote it about a day he spent in Lebanon as a 17-year old when his car broke down and an Arab family took him in for the night. It was also one of the more unabashedly anti-Bush rock songs I've ever heard, with lyrics such as "Oh George! Oh George!/ That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small" and "Don't let the might, the Christan right/ fuck it all up for you and the rest of the world." Naturally, the California hippie blue state crowd (including myself) ate that shit right up.

The first set ended in stunning fashion as Waters broke out into "Sheep" off the Animals disc. During the song, a giant inflatable pig flew across the audience, the phrases "Impeach Bush," "Kafka Rules OK" and "Vote Democratic Nov. 2" graffitied in black on its sides. Thousands of cell phone cameras flew open as the pig traveled around the ampitheatre, and was finally released into the night sky during the song's killer coda.

After a quick setbreak, Waters and his band lit into Dark Side. And while hearing it live is always thrilling, there was something too clean about their rendition. David Kilminister, tackling David Gilmour's guitar solos, had every note down perfectly, but was missing the spontenaity and soul that could have taken those elegant riffs to a whole other level. Carole Kenyon, however, ripped the shit out of the vocal solo on "The Great Gig in the Sky." Girl can belt a perfect high F like it's nothing. During the finale of Brain Damage > Eclipse, a black pyramid rose out of the top of the stage and a neon rainbow of light burst from its right side, mirroring the album's famous cover.

The encores all came from The Wall, beginning with a smoking rendition of "Another Brick in the Wall." More anti-war sentiment was abound during "Bring the Boys Back Home" as images of Iraq flew by on the video screen behind the band. Comfortably Numb closed the show in a thrilling fashion as fireworks shot into the sky from behind the stage shell.

As Showcase and I maneuvered through the buzzing crowd back down the hill toward Highland Avenue, I wondered aloud if the old black man with the dog puppet was still around, singing improvised gospel songs to the departing concert-goers. Not a night had gone by back in the summers of 1994 and 1995 where I wouldn't walk out of the theatre, bound for the bus to the employee shuttle lot and see this guy belting his heart out, a tattered gray dog puppet, mouthing the words along with him, an open suitcase on his lap for donations. Sure enough, he was there. He looked almost exactly the same. The puppet, however was rather worse for wear. I tossed a dollar into his case as we passed by.

As we headed back in to Hollywood, we trudged along with the rest of the audience, all in various states of intoxication. Approaching Franklin Ave., Showcase suddenly seized my arm and pulled me around to walk on his other side.

"What the fuck?"
"See that guy up there? "
"He has grabby hands."
"Grabby hands?"
"Yes. Grabby hands. Look at him. He is fighting one hell of an urge to grab that woman's ass."

Showcase was totally right. This dude looked like a total child molester and walked with both hands cupped out in front of him, as if he were about to do the deed. Buzzing from the joints we'd enjoyed inside, we got a serious case of the giggles and Grabby Hands must have heard us, because he shoved his hands in his pockets and took off running down a side street.

Just as we turned to look at each other in surprise, a six-foot tall platinum blonde feat of plastic surgery with glossy fish lips so collagened they were about to burst squeezed right between us in the crowd, heading "upstream."

Only in Hollyweird. We laughed so hard it hurt.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


If the curtain's coming down on internet poker, this was a pretty nice swan song.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Sky is Falling

We interrupt this poker sitcom to bring you a special report... because how I did in a tournament last night is so getting bumped off the front page and into the "Lifestyles" section.

I didn't sleep much last night. I'm sure the same goes for a lot of you.

This actually isn't the first time I've worked for a corporation that has seen its stock lose over 50% of its value. A long time ago, back in the late 20th century, I was a tiny cog in the wheel of a giant media conglomerate that did just that. I saw young executives who had finally graduated to that company stock portfolio lose thousands overnight and Senior VPs and Division Presidents put their houses on the market. Directors and VPs burned up the phone lines to rival studios, reaching out for whatever potential employment scraps were available. It wasn't mass hysteria, but it was close.

The stock never reached its high again, but it did rebound. A lot of people lost their jobs, but the vast majority were unaffected. Mostly, everyone just freaked out until the dust settled and we got a clearer picture of the future.

I don't have a lot of faith in my government anymore. We go to war with a country that never attacked us while 9/11's mastermind still drinks tea and eats llama with his cronies in a cave somewhere. 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. 37 million live below the poverty line. There is a hole in the sky that is slowly giving us all cancer and Republicans with their hands in the oil industry's deep pockets are still telling us that global warming doesn't exist. People can still get weapons and explosives on airplanes. A bodybuilder-turned-action star governs the state I live in. And our elected representatives are jerking off to IM conversations with 13-year old boys.

Still, with all those problems, our Congressional leadership finds it more important to sneak online gaming legislation through the back door of the Capitol like a $200 hooker. Just so Bill Frist can curry favor with Iowa politicians right before he prepares to barnstorm that state for the 2008 Republican primary. Personally, I hope he runs. Democrats couldn't ask for a better opponent.

Ladies and gentelmen, we are IN the Twilight Zone.

As I watched the London markets open and the initial reports roll in on CNN in the middle of the night, even the broadcasters themselves were completely taken aback by the news. Online gaming is a $12 billion industry, and Bill Frist just hacked it to pieces overnight.

I'll admit, I'm scared. After all, I currently make a living in the poker industry. But I'm not going to panic. I'm not going to cash out my accounts yet. Here's why.

While Party and Stars feel like they have to legally cover their asses at this point in time in terms of suspending U.S. accounts, I can't believe for one minute that they will walk away from this fight, leaving literally billions of dollars on the table. American poker players are these companies' life blood. They love us the way Chevron loves SUVs. If SUVs were sneakily banned overnight, do you think Chevron would just say "oh well" and move on? Despite their falling stock prices, the gaming giants have a lot of money. If I were one of their execs, I'd be finding ways to stuff that money into the pockets of whatever politicos in Washington I needed to in order to get a poker exemption or work-around put in place.

There are ways to get around stupid laws. I'm smoking this joint right now, aren't I?

Let's all take a deep breath and ask what we can do. There has never been a better time for activism. And I'm not just talking about poker.

Same Story... New Ending (Part I)


Our blonde heroine sits in freeway traffic, a pot pipe on her lap, driving the familiar route to the Bicycle Casino. Introspective music swirls out of the speakers.

Another ladies event. Why do I do this to
myself? I might as well take that hundred
in my wallet and run it through a shredder.
Or use it to feed the homeless. Or buy pot.
Anything but donk it off to some bulldyke
when I overplay A-Q in the first ante level.

Well that's no way to go into a tournament.
If you're going to be like that, why not just
turn the car around?

Change SCREAMS and slams on the brakes. Suddenly, there's another blonde riding shotgun. She could be Change's better-rested, more glamorous twin. In fact, she is.

Who the fuck are you?

I'm your better self.

Holy shit. I've finally lost it. I'm
hallucinating in narrative decives.

It's hardly that dramatic. That dank
Showcase bought you last night is just
a pretty wicked high.

So why are you here?

I'm your hallucination. You tell me.

Why am I playing this event? I
should just go down there, get a
story to write about and go home
and watch The Amazing Race.

Because you know you're capable of

But all that ever happens after one of
these things is that I end up sad or on

Because a good result in one of these
things is important to you. If winning
wasn't so important, then losing would
never hurt.

Well duh, I know that.

Of course you do. How else would I
have said it?

Good point.

You are so your own worst enemy.
Give yourself a little credit. You
know how to play this game.
And you know you're capable of
outplaying a lot of this field.

Yeah, you're right, you're right I
know you're right.

So suck it up and shut off this
whiny fuckin' indie rock and get
yourself ready for this thing.

You don't have to get snippy.
I secretly sort of like Death Cab
for Cutie, which means you do too.

Change pulls into a parking space near the far end of the lot and takes one last toke.

Wanna know something?


I have a feeling you're going to get
back into this car with more dough
than you got out of it with.


Really. Try not to fuck it up, OK?

Better Self disappears in a puff of smoke. Change shakes off the hallucination, and gets out of her car. Ten yards in front of her, a MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN with a bad red dye job waddles toward the casino entrance. A smile spreads across Change's face.

You're mine.

To be continued...