Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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

"Poker always exacerbates even the smallest of emotional difficulties, its is never a panacea, and the quick fix money in the world of gambling is no fix at all to problems." -Some chap calling himself "thehotspur" on 2+2. Also a psychologist.

Almost 2 years ago, I was playing a 4-8 limit game at Commerce one January afternoon just as the L.A. Poker Classic's preliminary events were getting underway. The action was as juicy as I'd ever seen it and I'd turned my $200 buyin into a $700 chip castle. My checks, stacked in long towers of 40s, were a clay and plastic fortress, and I sat behind them in the 3 seat, propped up on my feet Annie Duke-style just so I could see the flop. I felt as confident as I ever have as a poker player.

After dragging another pot and selling one of my $40 towers back to the grumpy Asian man I'd just busted, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I swiveled my head and it landed on the fifty-something face of a tall, gray-haired gentleman in a Bellagio jacket. He held out his closed fist to me.

"I'll trade you everything you have in front of you for everything in my hand."
"Seriously? I've got a nice stack here."
"You do. But you just should have just said 'yes.'"

He opened his palm, revealing four $5,000 chips and one yellow $1,000 chip.

"Wow. Very nice. Must have been a good game."
"It was. $40-80 limit hold'em. And let me tell you a little secret" he leaned over and whispered, "the players are just as bad as these guys."
"Come on... no one's as bad as these guys."
"Sure they are. Come sit behind me and watch.
"No, I should just play my game. You go ahead."
"C'mon... when do you ever get to see someone's hole cards in a game that high? You're a serious player. Just 30 minutes, you don't even have to pick up your chips."

That much was true. When would I ever get to sit behind someone in a Commerce game that big? I hardly knew any other poker players and blogs weren't even a glint in my eye. I felt I could handle myself with this guy.

"Sure... why not." The dealer tossed an absent button in front of my castle and I followed Mr. 21 Grand into the high-limit area.

"I'm Jim, by the way" he said.
"Diana" I replied. Total lie.
"Where are you from?
"Manhattan Beach." Another total lie.
"I'm from Vegas, but I'm building a house out here." That's OK. I already understand you have money.

$21,000 Jim showed me his hole cards as he played and as promised, the players were almost as bad as they were at $4-8. I watched as he jammed with a nut flush draw and got paid off by a lower flush and two pair. After 30 mins, $21,000 Jim was almost $24,000 Jim and he opted to cash out. I neeeded to head back to my game anyway before the floor picked my chips up from the table.

"Nice meeting you Jim. Good luck."
"You know what I always treat myself to after a long session? A massage."

Cue the record scratch.

"You deserve one too. My treat."


I knew when Jim approached me that he only wanted to get in my pants. Why else would a fiftysomething guy approach the only twentysomething blonde on the low-limit floor at Commerce? It certainly wasn't for my mad poker skills, despite how well I was doing. I thought I could at least learn something from watching $40-80, so I indulged him in that, but once the conversation turned to spa treatments, I knew I had to extract myself from the situation.

"I'm afraid I'm going to pass and go back to my game. Maybe I'll see you around."

I was back a few days later since the games were so good. I came in through the valet parking entrance and crossed the high-limit floor on the way to the $4-8 tables. Jim saw me, and instantly stood up from his game and approached me again. This time, he offered to stake me at $20-40.

"Don't waste your time down there. It's not real poker. You're gonna do great at the bigger limits. You're ready."
"It's a generous offer, Jim, but I'm going to build my bankroll on my own, OK?"
"Then how about a drink?"
"You should really go back to your game. You're gonna miss your blind."

I had another boffo session that night, but after that conversation, $21,000 Jim didn't seek me out again.

One year later, I took a break from my $3-5 NL game to check on Pauly's progess in the WPT Commerce Media Event. They were playing upstairs in the ballroom adjacent to an area set up for satellites to the remaining LAPC events. I had just noticed that they were already down to three-handed play, with Pauly facing Barbara Enright and some random fat guy when a tall, gray haired man caught my eye.

It was $21,000 Jim. And by his side was a girl who could be my stunt double. He was buying her in to a satellite.

The way the media frames it today, it's too easy to forget that the poker world is full of shady people. Just like Hollywood isn't all premieres and dress-up, poker isn't all bricks of hundreds and Budweiser with Mike Sexton. It's treacherous. Insanely competitive. Loaded with angle-shooters and con artists. Everyone is desperate on some level, everyone has a plan, and most have no qualms about stepping on whomever they have to in order to succeed. The rewards at the top are what dreams are made of, but few will ever see them.

I wish it didn't need to be said, but ladies, please. Use your common sense. If a strange man offers to stake you there is a 99.9% chance that he wants to get laid in return.

Then there is Brandi Hawbaker. She's this 24-year old girl who may or may not have been a stripper at some point. She won one of the daily tournaments at Caesar's and decided that poker was her calling to fame and fortune. She won a super into the WPT Bellagio in October and placed an astonishing 35th for a $20,000+ cash and got her photo splashed all over Card Player before it all went to hell. She is also the subject of the longest, juiciest, most controversial thread in 2+2's history, which began with her bad beat story of how... well, I'll just let "Aggrofish" describe it.

"Brandi is one the circuit w/ 12k
Capt. tom offers to mentor her, nothing sexual
brandi give the captain her roll
brandi plays some sats but busts out
Capt wont give her the money back
Capt gets her friend drunk
Capt climbs into bed with Brandi naked and his penis is placed on brandis back
brandi spends the night in the bathroom shocked
capt has his "daughter" in town and sleeps in the same bed but cant get action because brandi and her friend are in the same room.
brandi still cant get her money back
brandi gets doyle brunson and phil gordon to give her money
brandi is hanging out with dutch boyd because boyd is going to help her get her money back
brandi goes ape [censored] and someone steals her passport
she punches some dude and has a panic attack
hooks up with newhizzle, her latest victim
loses ~30k in his acct and changes his password
she cuts herself
he feels bad and pays her way into a satellite
her ex boyfriend agrees to buy her into a sat for anal, but she'd rather have newhizzle do it
newhizzle buys her a plane ticket
brandi claims to have $43
she's probably cutting herself right now"

So yeah. WPT Borgata Champion Mark Newhouse, Dutch Boyd, Gavin Smith, Doyle & Todd Brunson, Phil Gordon, Card Player Magazine, Shane "Shaniac" Schleger and a 22-year old girl named Amanda all eventually tie in to this delicious poker soap opera when all is said and done.

If you thought the thread was good last night, this morning Brandi hopped back into the fray and denied writing "I will fly one day" in blood on a bathroom mirror in Mark Newhouse's room at Commerce. She also confessed to giving Newhouse a hand job, denied the buyin-for-anal story, and stated that her lifetime number of sexual partners is no greater or less than 12. She attacks Newhouse's hygiene and tells the three people that don't already know that Shaniac smokes some dank weed.

Then there are the poems. The song lyrics. The poster for "The Captain, the Crackhead, and the Suicide Queen" starring Juliette Lewis, Dakota Fanning, and Tommy Chong as Dutch Boyd. There is also more than enough vitrol on there from angry men who think she deserved everything she got. Angry men who have icons of bouncing boobies and womens' asses.

Are there naive young women out there in the poker world who are being taken advantage of by scumbags like Capt. Tom? Sure. Is Brandi that naive? I don't think so. No one should have to deal with an unwelcome penis on their back, but Brandi appears to milk her sexuality as far as she can for money and acts all shocked and apalled when men reciprocate that flirting. And if she WAS actually that naive and didn't suspect any sexual element to her "arrangement", she should have high-tailed it out of that Indiana hotel room the second Capt. Tom's wrinkly member touched her flesh. Instead she locked herself in the bathroom and cried. I don't understand. Could she not walk? Was there something heavy against the door? Poor thing should really get herself out of poker and into a therapist's office.

Props to Iggy for discovering this jewel.

Seriously, go read it all for yourself. It is just not possible to be disappointed.


Otis said...

gawd damn that was a good post.

on_thg said...

Whoever did the movie poster with the picture of Tommy Chong as Dutch Boyd is a genius. Possibly an evil genius, but genius nonetheless.

Great post!

Mr Subliminal said...

"No one should have to deal with an unwelcome penis on their back"

I agree and it's one of the downsides to sleeping in a shelter.

Gene said...

Great stuff.

I'm hoping to Christ no member of Congress reads that thread. Else we're never gonna get online poker legalized. Because they'll think (with justification) that the poker scene is exclusively populated with dirty old men, girls on the make, and misogynistic can't-get-laid losers with way too much time on their hands.

Diana. Nice name for an alias.

BadBlood said...

I echo the choir with "great post."

Anonymous said...

i'm mildly aroused.

Gil said...

great perspective and well said!

Joe Speaker said...

a tour de force, change. Bravo.

Matt Piazza said...

I had my dealings with Captain "Con" Franklin 17 years ago at the Regency Club in Bell and Bell Gardens.

He "borrowed" $5,000 from me after we had a friendship going and then never paid me back. When I went to his house one night to ask for the money, he actually pulled a gun at me and pointed it straight at my face.

When I sued him in small claims court (I had him sign a loan) and won, he filed bankruptcy. Anyone could look up this case in the early 90's and see my name as a creditor (my name is Matt Piazza).

Many people from the Bicycle Club, where Captain "Con" used to be a poker dealer, know what a sleaze bag this guy is. I used to say that "everyone has a Tom Franklin" story.

The shocking thing is that Doyle Brunson was backing this loser of a person.

My new hero is Brandi Hawbaker. There is no question that her version was the truth.

Unknown said...
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Matthieu said...

still a great post... 6 years later :)
I'm a poker writer from France and your article about brandi hawbaker is one of the best about those trouble times and the destiny of her ;)