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

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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.