Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Food Photos

Mom & Dad's Tree


Chateaubriand seasoned with salt, cracked peppercorns, and fresh thyme

Cherries reducing on the stove

Mandy's favorite--Truffle Parmesan Risotto. Not so photogenic but delish!

Finished meat... yum-o!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Everyone Loves a Mischa Barton Mug Shot

No, this is not your long-awaited first photo of change100 (though, form this angle, there is a certain resemblance). It's everyone's favorite O.C. toker Mischa Barton, who early yesterday morning, joined the Hollywood DUI club! Yayyyy!!

Beautiful, beautiful! Can you tilt your chin up just a little? Perfect!

Mischa also got caught with "illegal narcotics" in her car. Methinks it was the weed. Over/under on how many minutes she spends in jail?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blister in the Sun

What price beauty? What price uh... hairlessness?

At about 1AM this morning, I opened up a fresh case of tweezerless wax and headed for the microwave. Guys, this is the kind of wax girls use to do their eyebrows, get rid of that mustache, or generally, remove any small bit of unsightly hair with just a whip and a wince. I've used this crap dozens, nay hundreds of times.

First I popped it in the 'wave for the recommended sixty seconds according to the instructions:

Then I returned to the couch while it 'waved to catch a hand from a repeat episode of the World Poker Tour's "Poker by the Book." Daniel Negreanu's 4-8o sucked out on Tom McEvoy's J-J and made a full house by the river. Lucksack.

The microwave beeped and beckoned me to return. I opened the door and the wax was more than melted. It was steaming like a bowl of soup. I gingerly removed it by its handle and headed for the bathroom. Only I never made it there.

As I crossed the living room, I noticed that the container was starting to bulge from the heat. And quickly. Fuck, it looked like it was going to burst. And before I could set it down on top of an old copy of InStyle, it did burst. All over my right hand. I dropped it instantly and the remainder of the wax sizzled off the cool hardwood floors. Smoke actually rose from the ground.

It took about 30 seconds for the pain to really hit. Then I was yowling and staggering around like a wounded animal. I made it into the kitchen and stuck my hand under the faucet. But even that was excrutiating. I went into the cabinet and got out a mixing bowl with my one good hand and filled it with cold water. Submerging the hand was much less painful. I sat there for over an hour with my hand in the water, trying to distract myself with the WPT broadcast as I cried crocodile tears and started freaking out. How long would it be before I could pick up a pen? Type? What about the Aussie Millions? And FUCK, the pain was really not going away AT ALL.

So what's a girl with no health insurance to do when it's 1 AM, she doesn't want to freak out her parents, Showcase is dog-sitting in Encino and a trip to the Cedars-Sinai ER will likely cost well over a grand just for some creams and bandages?

I popped two Xanax, four Motrin, pulled the coffee table flush with the sofa and attempted to fall asleep with my hand in the bowl of water. Because taking the hand out of the bowl at this stage was far too painful.

I slept about three hours and woke up to some infomercial on the television. My hand was still in the bowl. Pieces of wax and skin were floating around. I took it out and the pain was bearable. I wrapped my hand in a towel and slept on and off for the next 2 hours.

When I got up the second time, I removed the towel and greeted two enormous blisters. One on the pointer finger, one on the middle finger.

Yup, they're still covered in wax. And will likely remain so for the next several days, as peeling off the wax would not only peel off the skin with it, it would burst the blister.

I called my mom when it finally became a reasonable hour and she put my dad on the line. He's had experience with burns. When he and my mom first moved into our house, a water heater exploded all over his arm, leaving him with second and third degree burns from his wrist to his elbow. He said not to pop the blisters and was going to send my mom over with the proper bandages and some antibiotic cream to stave off infection. Which is where I'm at now... waiting for mom to get here with supplies while I brainstorm how to wrap this hand to allow maximum typing ability. I wrote this post with six fingers and holy fuck did it take a long time.

I should be fine for Australia. The blisters should go down on their own by then. And everything should be OK if I keep the burns clean and change the dressing every day. I might have a couple of gnarly scars though when all is said and done.

And today was supposed to be the day where I post all my fabulous food pics from Christmas! The Chateubriand melted in my mouth and the port wine and cherry sauce was a hit!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The K-K and Q-Q Hands: My Answers

Thanks for all your comments on the two kinda bizarro hands I threw up yesterday. I think there's merit to playing it either way (calling the all in or folding) but here's how they actually went down:

I played the K-K hand. It really was the 4th hand of the tourney and my opening raise from MP was insta re-raised all in. Like Kajapoker points out, there are a lotta donks in these things that are more than willing to gamble early trying to work up a big stack. I have seen people move in with literally anything from A-A to 8-9 offsuit in this spot. Yeah, sometimes it's aces, but most of the time it's not. And the times that it is aces, I think a majority of players will make a smaller re-raise in this spot for value, instead of just rolling the dice and shoving-- as most hands worth an open-raise in this spot are just going to fold and those magic bullets will only turn a 110 chip profit on the hand. With K-K, though, I made the call relatively quickly and (of course) saw the bad news when my opponent flipped up A-A. The tournament started at 5:00 and I was out at 5:03. Weeeeeeeeeeee.

I witnessed the Q-Q hand only minutes later in the Full Tilt $24K that I was playing at the same time. It was literally the same scenario-- the Q-Q open-raised from MP and a LP player shoved all in. This time, the MP player tanked forever before calling with the queens. Again, the LP re-raiser had A-A. Only this time, the guy on my end of the 80/20 flopped a queen and rivered quads to get the early double-up and the guy with the A-A screamed at him in the chat box for five minutes after the hand went down.

In a SNG, I'm calling in both scenarios. In a MTT, I would have likely folded the Q-Q (though, would I have folded because I had just experienced disaster with the K-K or would I just make that play anyway?) I'd make the call again with the K-K, and I think I'll see A-K or Q-Q there a good percentage of the time. Hell, I'll see Q-J offsuit there some of the time since we are talking about early-stage play in a large-field, low-buyin online MTT. And sometimes I'll see A-A like I did this time. But I think there's enough of a case for calling with the K-K in this scenario.

I'm still running breakeven to mildly icky in single and multi-table SNGs. I'll sit down, play a couple, lose one, bubble the other, and then lose motivation to play any more. It's probably a good thing I've only got a week left in the States before I go back to Australia because I certainly won't have time to play while I'm down there.

(cue record scratch)

Holy fuck-all. I'm going back to Australia in eight days? Seriously? I mean, I have a plane ticket and I know I'm going, and I know Pauly's flying out here in 4 days because we're going together but I really haven't begun to process this prospect in the immediate. Another month on the road. The last of my great international poker trips for a while. I mean... wow, that was quick. I still have pictures of the last Aussie trip sitting on my digital camera.

Hopefully I'll get in at least one $5-10 session at the Crown. That was a good game. And maybe this time I'll try the Vegemite. And see a kangaroo.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

MTT Hand Conundrum

I saw both of these situations go down to very different results today as I simultaneously started two different tournaments-- the $24K on Full Tilt and the $25K on Poker Stars.

It's the fourth hand of a 1300-player tournament on Poker Stars. First prize is just over $5,000 and starting stacks are 3,000. You are dealt K-K in middle position and raise 4xBB to 80. The player in the cutoff shoves all in for 2,970. You have no reads or notes on anyone at your table.

What do put this player on and what you do?

In the exact same scenario, but holding Q-Q instead, what do you do?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hollywood Holiday

I can't get into Christmas this year. It's just not happening. I feel like I've been inhaling Christmas commercials and decorations and other assorted holiday cheer since I came home from Australia almost six weeks ago. And now that the day is almost upon us, I'm just sick of it all. Perhaps it's end-of-the-year malaise. Perhaps is because I've been sick for the better part of the last two weeks. Perhaps it's anxiety over having to do things like spend time with my immediate family and be on good behavior and make my token yearly appearance at church so my father won't get mad. I mean, I didn't even get a tree this year. The only thing that got me remotely excited about the holidays was planning a menu for Christmas dinner. Because I'd much rather eat stuff that I cook than whatever my mother pulls out of the oven.

Good lord. I am Scrooge. I should be dragged out into the street and shot.

One upside of the holiday weekend is that Los Angeles is well on it's way toward emptying out. The few natives that dwell in these parts stick around while everyone else goes back to Ohio or New Jersey or Iowa or whatever place they left behind to chase their Hollywood dreams. The streets become suddenly driveable. Metered parking is no longer a pipe dream. Even the striking writers have picked up their picket signs for the holidays. Last night at rush hour I got from La Cienega to Sepulveda in less than 10 minutes. That's nothing short of miraculous.

Anyway, back to that menu. Here's what I'm cooking:

Chateaubriand with a Port Wine and Cherry Reduction
Truffle Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Toast Points
Haricort Verts with Roasted Shallots and Pancetta

I've made port wine reductions dozens of times, but have never tried adding cherries. I'll have to be careful not to get it too sweet. It was my mom's suggestion-- she had it at some fancy-pants restaurant and thinks I can make it work. We'll see. The risotto is Mandy's all-time favorite thing that I cook. And the green bean thing is something I'm just making up on the fly. I'll be sure to post photos. Does pancetta qualify for the Tao of Bacon?

* * * * *

I've played a fair amount of poker over the last week. Nothing crazy, just a couple of hours here and there, mostly in single-table and multi-table SNGs. I had a nice run playing live tournaments in Vegas but all that good fortune has turned on it's head and I'm on one of those streaks where it seems like I'm losing every 80/20 and 70/30 pre-flop all-in situation. And while I'm happy that I'm getting my money in that good that often...FUCK I have bubbled a fucking fuckload this week. J-J vs. Q3? He'll flop two pair... oh wait there it is. A-A vs. J-T? Yup, there it is he flopped the straight. A-T vs. A-7? 7 on the turn. I think the best poker I played all week was in Sunday's $33 deep-stack H.O.R.S.E. "Blogger Skill Game." Pauly staked me at the last minute and I ended up finishing a respectable 15th... right behind my love who came it 14th. Derek was the highest finisher in our merry band, coming in 11th.

After bubbling a Stars 180 two nights ago (A-A vs. J-6... he flopped two pair), I was on such tilt that I needed a dark movie theatre to cool down. I immediately drove to the Grove and saw "I Am Legend" mainly because it was the next flick starting. I remembered reading the script maybe 8 years ago when it was being developed for Arnold Schwarzenegger, long before he became the Governator. Will Smith's charisma held the flick together and I admired how Francis Lawrence visualized a desolate, post-apocalyptic New York City. Still, it left me a bit empty and unsatisfied. I'd give it a B/B-. I think I left the theatre more on tilt than when I arrived though, thanks to the two Hollywood douchebags sitting behind me who took a half a dozen phone calls throughout the screening.

Yesterday afternoon I got back on the horse and things turned around a little. I took 3rd in a 45-player SNG on Stars and made the final table of a LHE tournament on Full Tilt that I played entirely by mistake (guess who can't read and thought it was NL?) While Pauly watched me bust out in 8th place, he played 10 or so hands of $8-$16 LHE and made $16, exactly $3 more than I made for three and a half hours of tournament play. And so the grind goes.

While I was writing this, Showcase called me to see if there was anything on the local news about a manhunt in the Valley. He had been stopped by a cop on his way up Woodman Avenue in Sherman Oaks and had his car searched. The cop said they were looking for a Mexican. Showcase had no Mexicans in his car so he was allowed to go. I turned on the TV and sure enough, the lead story on the mid-morning local news was that a parolee had escaped from police custody and was thought to be hiding somewhere in the Sherman Oaks sewer system near where Showcase was driving. They just cut back in to report the search was over as footage of a Latino man in handcuffs being led out of a tunnel near the L.A. river rolled across the screen. The valley is safe again.

I should text him the news.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Knocked Up: The Jamie-Lynn Spears Story

Say it with me, Jamie-Lynn.





It's really not hard to get your hands on one of the above.

Oh I'm sorry, I forgot. Morally upright Christian girls with spotless reputations don't need that sort of stuff.

Actually, yes they do. Especially if their batshit crazy mother lets her 16-year old daughter live with her 19-year old boyfriend.

Lynne Spears= mother of the year. What was that about a parenting book you were writing for a Christian publisher?

"But, your honor, they met at church, so that's OK. Jesus rocks!"

"Oh, and speaking of OK... sweetie, let's at least get paid to break this totally major gossip. I think I know a magazine by that name..."

"We'll put it toward the little bastard's college fund. Not like you really need more money, but hey, your sister's blowing through her fortune like Amy Winehouse does a bag of heroin. And Nickelodeon might fire you from your TV show. Because you're not really so much of a role model anymore. Sorry!"

So, let's go over those contraceptive options again, Jamie-Lynn.

One or more of them have worked for me and I don't even have health insurance.

I'm also twice your age. Wow.

Since you're keeping the kid, at least learn from your sister's mistakes...

Pepsi does not go in the sippy cup.

The kid goes in the car seat, not your lap.

Infants' teeth should not be chemically whitened.

And shaving your head might scare the poor thing.

(Jamie-Lynn Spears photo art courtesy

Monday, December 17, 2007

WPBT Holiday Classic Part II: Phat Limos and Final Tables

"OK... boots? Or pumps?"

"Whaaaa?" gargled Derek, as he exhaled a cloud of bong smoke. Pauly sat next to him on the gold and cream faux-silk couch in our suite.

"Boots? Or pumps?" I was wearing a brown knee-high boot on my left foot while I donned half of a new pair of snakeskin pumps on my right. "This is a very important decision."

"I don't fuckin' care. Whatever you're least likely to complain about walking around in" grumbled Pauly as he put on his jacket.

"You guys are no help at all" I spat, closing the bedroom door.

We were already late. Iggy, Boy Genius, and Maudie were waiting for us downstairs so we could head over to the MGM Grand together. We were all due for a grand dinner at Nob Hill with the G-Vegas boys and Al Cant Hang in about a half an hour. Of course, my face-painting and blow-drying and attempts at accessorizing my new chocolate brown Juicy Couture dress had delayed the entire party.

It was cold outisde. And the boots were warmer. But their heels were significantly higher and much more unstable. If only I'd brought tights that worked with the snakeskin pumps. Fuck. What would Joe Speaker do?

I went with the boots. Pain for fashion is just an unfortunately necessary part of a well-dressed life.

"So, you went for the hooker boots" said Pauly as I emerged from the bedroom.

"They're not hooker boots. You of all people should know that" I spat.

The six of us ended up at the back of a very long cab line in front of the IP. It was moving, but just barely. We'd certainly be late for the reservation.

Options were discussed. Should I just get my own car from valet and drive everyone? But six of us wouldn't fit in the Mazda. Oh hey, look there's a Town Car available! But it can only take five. Fuck. Guess we'll just have to wait it out. Should we call Otis and tell him we'll be late?

Then, like the Lord himself had sent it down, a white stretch limo rounded the corner, like a white ray of light from heaven. Iggy immediately inquired into pricing.

$65 for the six of us? That's like, $10 a person. We're taking a fucking limo to the MGM!

We stepped out of line and took off for our white stretch. As Pauly gave me his hand to help me in, I noticed a clump of slack-jawed bloggers at the end of the line starting at us as we hopped into our luxury ride.

Ship it! Holla!

As we crawled through traffic, I sat in amazement, thinking about all the over-the-top Vegas experiences I'd had in just the last few days. Comped room at Bellagio. Comped dinner at swanky five star steak place I could never afford under normal circumstances. Pimp-tastic IP suite with tub built for naughtiness. And now, a stretch limo to another five-star meal surrounded by some of the best people I've ever met. What did I do to deserve all of this? This is not my beautiful it?

Eleven of us sat down for dinner, as our party of six joined up with Otis, Dr. Jeff, Marty, Bad Blood, and Al Can't Hang. We occupied a long, grand table in the back of one of Nobhill's semi-private rooms. Before we could even order our meals, the prop bets were already flying. Pauly set the over/under at 4 on how many people would order Michael Mina's signature item: the lobster pot pie. I thought of betting the over since I already knew I was getting it, Otis was getting it, and I had the power of influencing a key swing vote in Derek, as I helped him navigate through the menu. But there would be plenty of time for gambling later. Though Derek ended up going with the Steak Rossini (which I'd enjoyed on a prior visit), Iggy tipped the scales in favor of the over when he asked the waiter, "so, am I just a just an idiot for not getting this pot pie?"

Another over/under was set on the number of vibrators and/or dildos Dr. Jeff had successfully removed from peoples' asses. It turned out he had attempted three times, but had unfortunately never succeeded despite having "girly hands."

The lobster pot pie certainly lived up to my expectations. And the conversation surrounding its consumption exceeded them. Dinners and conversations like this one simply don't exist in Los Angeles. People who have had dinners in Los Angeles know what I'm talking about.

After the meal, we headed en masse to the MGM Poker Room and it's adjoining Sportsbook bar, which, by this point in the evening, was overflowing with bloggers. I went to the bar to get a drink and ended up not leaving for hours. I immediately ran into Jen Leo, whom I hadn't seen in an age, and her husband Schecky, outfitted in a stylish suede jacket which I immediately complimented. Jen bought me a cocktail and we played catch-up while chatting intermittently with dozens of bloggers that wandered in and out of the bar. I even ran into Dave, who had worked with us covering the WSOP for Poker News. I was excited to hear that he'd be in Melbourne during the Aussie Millions.

With things winding down at the MGM, a trip to the Castle was in order. I hobbled across the Strip, the balls of my feet on fire from 5+ hours in 4 inch heels. After drinking at the Sherwood Forest Bar with Pauly, Mean Gene, California Jen, and Dave, I adjoined to a Pai Gow table where I took a seat across from Grubbette. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I was hallucinating when I saw Shane Nickerson at a Let it Ride table... but indeed, it was Shane Nickerson! At a Let it Ride table! Otis held court at an adjoining Pai Gow table and did a disturbing little dance every time he won a hand. He looked temporarily possessed, his eyes bugging out of their sockets as he pumped his fists and screamed unintelligible words of victory as he pounded his chest. I broke even on the table and Pauly would have too, had he not moved all in for $100 on his last hand and lost.

Somehow, I hobbled back to the IP with Pauly around 4:30 A.M. I feared I had done permanent damage to my feet from these boots.

And just as I stepped back into our suite for the night... the heel of the right one broke.

* * * * *

I slept in, finally gaining consciousness around 1 P.M. There was a note on the nightstand.

"Went to a strip club with Bad Blood. Seeya at tourney! - Pauly"

My beloved had gone and done The Procedure. God bless him.

In that moment, I was about a coinflip for playing the tournament. From a pure bankroll and life-roll standpoint, it wasn't a good decision. I figured I'd get showered, head over there, and make a final decision on the fly. If I didn't play, I could always hang out at the bar with the bustouts.

"You'd better play good today, you're on my fantasy team!" said everyone's favorite kilted thespian, Falstaff as I walked into the Venetian.

Fantasy team? People had fantasy teams? And someone had actually picked me? It turned out several someones had.

I guess I'm a pretty good dark-horse pick. Over the long-term, I'm wildly inconsistent results-wise, but when it comes down to it, I'm a solid MTT player and I've final tabled one of these before. And, as several bloggers pointed out to me, I've been tournament reporting for a couple of years now and might have picked up a couple of tricks from watching some of the world's best players day in and day out.

Fuck it, man. I was in.

I had Otis, April, California Jen, BWoP, Uncle Bracelet, and two of Falstaff's home-game buddies at my starting table. I played pretty tight to start and tried not to get involved in big pots. BWoP was wearing a black T-shirt with the words "Asian Jew" lettered in yellow on the front. A-J was the Asian Jew and she would squeal "ASIAN JEW!'' every time someone showed the hand. One time, California Jen turned over a set of Jacks and BWoP screamed "SHE'S HIDING THE JEWS!"

On a king-high, all-heart board, the five seat bet out from the big blind. I had A-T with the ace of hearts and moved in on him, thinking I could push him off his top-pair no-heart. It looked for a minute like he was going to fold. I mean, I had been playing pretty snug here. But he called, turning over K-T, no hearts. OK good read, but I'm in trouble here. The turn was a blank and I started thinking about what kind of cocktail I was going to order at the bar... until the Ace of diamonds fell on the river.

Whoa... I've got like 11,000 chips now. Guess I'm gonna have to play some poker.

The rest of the tourney was pretty much a blur. I remember busting Biggestron with K-5 against his A-rag, but only because he reminded me of my suckout so many times throughout the rest of the weekend ;) I remember tripling up when Dawn Summers moved in with A-7, Jordan called with T-T and I picked up K-K in the small blind at the perfect time. I remember chanting "noflushnoflushnoflush" as I took my A-K up against Instant Tragedy's A-K. And I remember looking down at pocket tens after a short-stack pushed and Otis quickly called. Remembering that this sort of laydown was what had won me that beautiful room at the Bellagio, I threw them away after hemming and hawing for several minutes. Otis had queens and I patted myself on the back.

I made the final table with about 55,000 in chips, facing 3,000-6,000 blinds. I was also STARVING-- it was 11 PM by now and I hadn't had a morsel since lunch. I ended up moving in with 7-7 from early position only to run into Otis' pocket tens. 9th place. I was proud of having made two final tables in four live WPBT tournaments, but was disappointed at yet again, just missing the big tournament money that so eludes me. I was ready to sit alone in the food court with my tray of Panda Express and beat myself up mentally about my performance, but I ran into Pauly and forgot all about that. What can I say, my boyfriend's drunken smile cheers me up instantly.

After downing some much-needed sustenance, we returned to the poker room to sweat the rest of the final table. It was a heads-up battle for the ages with the Rooster emerging the victor over runner-up Otis. Though most of the money had been chopped up three-handed, the Rooster earned the seriously cool prize of an American flag that had flown over Camp Cropper in Baghdad, courtesy of Dr. Chako.

From there, the party moved back to the Geisha Bar. The Rooster got tanked as he wandered the casino floor, paying off various old debts to bloggers with his newfound prize money. I drank the first of several vodka-and-7-ups, a drink that would be mercilessly ridiculed by Garth's whiskey-drinking girlfriend, Gretchen. At one point, I found a video poker machine someone had left a dollar in and ran that buck all the way up to $10.00. While I stabbed at the screen in a drunken haze, I became aware of a conversation that was brewing behind me between Derek, Bad Blood, and a hooker. She had scraggly platinum hair, wore white high-heeled boots over her acid-washed jeans, and said something about how her evening would be so much better if she were sucking both of their cocks.

Just another Saturday night in Las Vegas...

My evening came to an end at around 5 A.M. I headed up to the suite and Pauly said he would be up in about half an hour or so. I got changed and sat down on the faux-silk couch and loaded a bong. Just as I was about to take my first hit, he burst through the door... and headed for the balcony.

About 30 seconds later I realized what he was doing out there.

"Oh my God. Are you PEEING!" I squealed as I opened the sliding glass door. "There is a perfectly good bathroom 10 feet away!"

The look of ecstasy and relief on his face said it all. There is no substitute for public urination. Especially after taking that last shot at the bar that you really shouldn't have because it sent you over the end to that bad place.

Drunk Pauly tucked his penis back into his pants with a shit-eating grin. 10 minutes later, he was out cold.

And so was I.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WPBT Holiday Classic Part I: Craftsteak and Cowboydonks

There's something about pulling up to valet parking at the Bellagio that makes me smile. Correction... there's something about pulling up to valet parking at the Bellagio in a car that does not look like it could explode at any given moment. No raised eyebrows from the valet, no sideways glances that say "uhhh... what the fuck do you think you're doing here, filth, you peasant!" Just a smile, a friendly welcome and one simple question.

"Checking in?"

As a matter of fact I was.

Last April, while covering the WPT Championships at Bellagio for Poker News, I lucksacked my way to winning the media freeroll. There used to be one of these things at every stop on the tour. Basically, it's a four-table SNG with a shockingly fast structure designed to get the whole thing over with inside a couple of hours while providing a little friendly competition for all the writers and photographers covering the event. And since this was back in the days before the WPT sold out the exclusive rights to cover their tournaments to a certain poker publication owned by the Shulman family in a no-bid contract of questionable legality, journalists from all the different media outlets (Poker Pages, PokerWire, Poker Listings, various European publications, etc.) got to come together, have some fun and donk around before we all got down to business. Somehow I ended up winning the thing and received a complimentary two-night stay at Bellagio as well as dinner for two at any MGM/Mirage property restaurant for my efforts. Ship it!

Pauly and I drove out to Vegas on Wednesday morning to enjoy my prize before the masses descended upon Sin City for the WPBT Holiday Classic. I'd never stayed at Bellagio before and was all wide-eyed and ga-ga over our luxury room, complete with fluffy king bed, a marble hallway, and a studio apartment-sized bathroom. Best of all, Bellagio provides their guests with fluffy white bathrobes. I seriously dug the bathrobes and changed into one almost immediately.

That night, we redeemed the fine dining portion of my prize. I'd pored over the restaurant choices for months. Le Cirque? Prime? Picasso? Michael Mina? The possibilities were endless, yet all of those seemed too frou-frou for my beloved. I didn't exactly see him enjoying a caviar parfait or medallions of rare ahi served with seared foie gras and a pinot noir reduction. Ergo, being the Top Chef fan that I am, I decided on Tom Collichio's Craftsteak over at the MGM Grand. Craftsteak focuses on single-ingredient preparation done exquisitely well. I had a yellowfin tuna appetizer-- the fish was sliced three different ways and served with just a bit of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It was fresh, velvety, and melted in my mouth. For our main course, we both chose the 10 oz. Wagyu filet mignon. Pauly said it was one of the best steaks he ever had, and for me, it rivaled even the Wagyu we enjoyed at Nobu in Melbourne. I savored every bite and we washed it down with a bottle of 2002 Killikanoon Oracle Shiraz. On the side we enjoyed a medley of mushrooms (Chanterelle, Shiitake, and Hen of the Woods) and a potato-leek gratin. For dessert Pauly went with a chocolate souffle while I feasted on cinnamon monkey bread that came with a caramel dipping sauce. Heaven.

Thursday morning we met Gracie, Sweet Sweet Pablo, and Maudie for breakfast at Cafe Bellagio. Pauly won his first prop bet of the weekend when he ate a broccoli-laden bite of Gracie's omelet for $20, making some exquisite faces as he struggled to get it down. After our meal, AlCantHang and Derek met up with us at Bellagio and checked out our swanky room before we all headed across the bridge to Caesar's Palace to greet the G-Vegas crew, who were all about to play the afternoon tournament. When they left to go sling some chips, we adjoined to a nearby bar for a cocktail before heading over to the IP to enjoy some cheaper libations at the Geisha Bar while greeting the arriving bloggers. I ended up sitting at a $1-2 NL table with Sweet Sweet Pablo, Karol, Johnny Hughes, and a bunch of donktastic cowboys. Though I won a few pots early, I quit when I was even to go have dinner with the McGrupp brothers, Poker Prof, and Flipchip at Trevi in Caesar's Palace.

When we got back to the IP, Al was sitting in the same spot we had left him at the Geisha bar, only the single tower of empty shotglasses in front of him had grown threefold. I started hitting the sauce and had random conversations with a slew of bloggers and fans including hacker59, The Fat Guy, Irish Jim, Mean Gene, StB, Betty Underground, and Pokerpeaker. I played Pai Gow and blackjack at some point-- I think I lost at both.

Somewhere along the way, Derek was propositioned by a working girl at the Geisha Bar. She was wearing a midriff top that showed off a large "tramp stamp" on her lower back. She claimed it was a tattoo of her mother's name. It's always the mother with these whores...

Pauly and I stumbled back to Bellagio in the wee hours, ready to do it all over again the next day.

* * * * *

Sadly, Friday morning brought the end of our stay at Bellagio. I could hardly bear to leave. Fortunately, Pauly stumbled upon some sort of deal that got us one of the IP's holla-balla suites for only a few bucks more than a regular room. It had a living room, two balconies, a mirror over the king-sized bed and a super-sized bathtub that could fit at least three. After checking in and dropping off our stuff, we went downstairs to play some cards. I sat down at a $1-2 NL table with Pauly, Johnny Hughes, VinNay, StB and several cowboys. Poor VinNay lost a huge pot with bottom set against Pauly's middle set on an 8-4-2 flop. He fired out $60 on the flop, the cowboydonk on my right moved all in for $71, and I folded my K-8 only to see Pauly move all in for the remainder of his stack. VinNay somewhat reluctantly called and showed his 2-2, while the cowboydonk turned up... K-8.

"I had your hand" I quipped to the steaming cowboy as his chips were shipped across the table. He rebought short and I felted him a short while later when he fired three bullets with complete air and I called him down. I love cowboydonks. Did I mention that? I quit the game up a little over $100 to go change for what would be another epic gourmet dinner.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vegas Disease

I woke up in our holla-balla suite at the IP Monday morning and knew something was wrong. My head was pounding for the second day in a row and my throat was on fire. The combination of excessive drinking, smoking, and breathing in cigarette-drenched, bone-dry casino air had finally worn out my immune system after a five day bender. By the time we loaded up the car and drove back to Los Angeles, I had developed full-blown Vegas Disease.

I slept until noon today. Pauly and I hit the diner for some sustenance and I promptly passed out again within an hour of returning home. And now here I am at 6:30 PM on Monday evening typing this out.

Despite feeling physically awful at the moment, I had an amazing, epic weekend with the bloggers. It was the most fun I've had at one of these since the first one. I reconnected with old friends I hadn't seen since the WSOP and put faces to some of the newer names in the poker blogging world. My only regret was not being able to spend more time with everyone. It always is.

Highlights included:

- Making the final table of the WPBT tournament. I was considering not even playing but once I found out I was on some peoples' fantasy teams, I had to do it. Turned out to be a good thing I did, as I finished in 9th place.

- Going 1-2-3 in the Treasure Island nightly donkament with Maudie and Mean Gene. Maudie came in 1st, I finished 2nd, and Mean Gene earned the bronze medal.

- Eating lobster pot pie at Nobhill and drinking fine wine surrounded by friends. If heaven exists, I hope it's something like that night.

- Spending two nights at Bellagio with my beloved and enjoying another fine meal at Craftsteak. Laying down those pocket tens three-handed at the media event at the WPT Championships last spring might have been my best poker move of the year, as the prize package I received for finishing first brought us a taste of the ultimate in Vegas luxury.

- Meeting the great Johnny Hughes. A fascinating man with a wealth of stories. It was truly a privilege to spend some quality time with him.

- Playing blackjack with Sweet Sweet Pablo in the Champagne Pit as our 80-year old dealer lip-synched the words to the booty songs blasting over the loudspeakers.

More details to come when I feel a bit less like ass...

It sure was good seeing you all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Hangover

Back in my days at the Big Man's, the worst part of returning to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving was that long, slow walk I'd take up to the office from the parking garage. After four and a half days off, that walk was my last gasp of freedom before being re-chained to my desk. I'd smoke one last cigarette, listen to one last song on my iPod, take a few last gulps of carbon monoxide tinted air as I teetered down Wilshire Blvd. on my three-inch heels. Everyone around me had the same resigned look about them and as I stepped into the elevator someone would, no doubt, engage me in some awful small talk.

"Have a good holiday?"
"Go anywhere?"
"God I ate so much I'll need an extra Pilates class this week."
"Man, it sucks to be back."

My commute is a lot shorter now-- essentially the three feet between my bed and my desk-- but the holiday hangover remains the same.

Turkey weekend was thankfully mellow for me. No travel necessary, as my parents live a scant four miles down Olympic Blvd. And though I usually cook the majority of the Thanksgiving feast, I left that to my mom this year. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries, so I don't have any turkey-carving action shots. Mainly I watched football with my Dad and Mandy, as they peppered me with questions about my travels and when my passport would be stamped next. No fuss, no drama. Just the way I like it.

Unfortunately, I fared horribly with my Pauly's Pub NFL picks this week, making only 9 of 15 correct choices. I also bubbled out of my Sundays with Dr. Pauly match on Fantasy Sports Live, missing the money by a lousy 2.4 points. Had I kept the kicker (the kicker!) that I usually go with, I'd have found an extra $18 in my account this morning. See what happens when I decide to research my picks instead of going with my random blonde "I like those uniforms" or "he has a cool name" approach to fantasy sports? I'm totally going back to randomness next week.

I got back on the SNG horse on Saturday and Sunday, ultimately playing close to 50 of them on Full Tilt. I decided to take TripJax's turbo SNG challenge approach, starting with a $78 slice of my bankroll and the $6.50s, moving up to the $12s once I doubled that amount. Playing 4 at a time, I went on an insane run in my first 16 games, with 5 first place finishes and 4 thirds. However, it only took 12 games at the $12 level to blow all of that and nudge me back down-- only one 1st, two thirds, and an 8-game losing streak right in the middle of it all. Back at the $6.50s, things went a little better and I made another 3 1sts along with a 2nd and a 3rd. The one major thing dropping down in levels from the $22s and $33s I usually play is that I've become a lot more fearless and aggressive on the bubble. It's really amazing what pussies people can be on the bubble (I know, I was one of them!) and I'm learning how to better exploit that. I'm going to continue the experiment this week between writing sessions, seeing how I fare playing different styles, more tables at a time, less tables at a time. Not caring about the money has made me enjoy the game again and get more creative with my play.

I'm caffeinated, it's 67 degrees outside, and it's one more day that I don't have to be inside an office. That, and my loving, thoughtful boyfriend are what I'm thankful for this year (cue the "awwwwws").

I think I'll take a walk...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Showcase and the $54 Vitamins

I was scrounging through the pantry for something edible yesterday when I noticed a few bottles of vitamins on the shelf where there hadn't been any before. There were four of them. The largest was labeled "Every Man's One Daily." Another was a small jar that read "Inositol Powder Dietary Supplement." The third was 90 capsules of "StressAresst." And the fourth had a $54 price tag. It was called "Brain Vitale." They weren't mine and they certainly weren't Pauly's. So what the hell was Showcase doing with a $54 bottle of vitamins?

"Showcase!" I bellowed from behind my laptop, as he walked in the front door with a small dog on a leash.


"So, there's these $54 vitamins in the pantry..."

"Oh, God."

"Why the hell do you have a $54 bottle of vitamins?"

" you remember Suzie Bisset from college?"

"Of course"

"Well, she calls me up the other day and tells me there's this vitamin company in Santa Monica that her company might do some business with. So she asks if I can go down there, and just ask one of the associates for help and see if he hooks me up with the right kind of vitamins and she'll pay me back later."

"So you say you'll do it?"

"I say I'll do it. So I go to the vitamin store in Santa Monica and this totally nice guy helps me out, and I tell him that I need something for stress and something that stimulates memory and he gives me all this stuff. And by the time I'm done, I've spent like, $100."

"$100 on vitamins?"

"Well, so I call Suzie and tell her the store is really nice and I had this great experience there, and that she should do business with them. And she's like. 'Ohmygod thanks! I totally owe you dinner when I'm out in L.A. next!' And I'm like, 'How the fuck do I tell her I spent $100 on vitamins?'"

"You shouldn't have spent $100 on vitamins."

"Thinking they were free, though..."

"No, not even thinking they were free."

"Anyway, last night I take a shit and Change... I'm telling you, it comes out bright green."

"How bright?"


"Was it the vitamins?"

"I have no idea. I just took some more so we'll have to see what color my shit is tomorrow morning."

"If the $54 vitamins turned your shit green will you continue to take them?"

"I don't know."

Showcase took a normal-colored shit the following morning.

But he's still stuck with a $54 bottle of vitamins.

(And hopefully, he'll pull the trigger and finally book that $54 flight and $47 room at the IP to join us Saturday and Sunday at the WPBT Vegas! You reading this, Showcase?)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Get Over It

A funny thing happened today while I was procrastinating finishing up a crapload of freelance articles. I found myself one step closer to getting over Hollywood.

Seven years, two jobs and three apartments ago, I was at a weekend brunch/schmoozefest when I heard that Sabrina, the girl who worked across the hall from me at the studio, had landed a coveted creative executive gig with one of the producers on the lot. The news instantly threw me into a tizzy. I'd heard about the job myself, and under Charlie's sage advice, decided not to go for it for sort of the same reasons you don't play A-T offsuit from under the gun in the first hour of a tournament. Jumping ship from the studio to take on a better title and slightly more money at a small company with a deal expiring in a year and no "go" movies in the pipeline would be a premature move with an easily dominated hand. There was a huge chance that I could take that job and find myself unemployed in less than a year, with an executive stripe on my sleeve and a stack of business cards, but hardly the experience I needed to move on to a better gig at a bigger company.

"You're 23 years old for Christ's sake. This is not a race!" Charlie would remind me nearly every day.

I knew Charlie was right, but still I returned home from that brunch steaming like I'd been knocked out on the bubble with pocket aces, one singular thought streaming through my mind like a ticker-tape in Times Square.

"Why her and not me?"

Even though common sense told me that it wasn't a race... well, yeah... it still was for me. Be the first, be the youngest, be the best had been instilled in me since kindergarten. I still wasn't too many years removed from being a high school overachiever. I wanted those blurbs in the alumnae magazines of my snooty high school and overpriced college.

Sabrina and I had started at the studio during the same month, worked 80-hour weeks for executives at the same rank, and had been at the whole Hollywood thing for less than 18 months. I knew I took home more reading than she did, wrote better notes than she did, and inspired more confidence in my work from the senior-level executives than she did. Even Charlie thought she was completely mediocre at her job. And yet there she was, with newly minted business cards and buckslips in her purse, buzzing around the patio of whatever trendy Sunset Strip eatery we were in, fielding congratulations and hugs from all our peers. Goddammit I wanted that kind of attention.

I called Charlie from the car on my way home and he was completely dumbfounded at the news, but he could tell I was down about the whole thing so he started making jokes about what a cuntrag her new boss was and about how she had no power on the lot and how Sabrina would probably get locked away in a windowless closet, forced to do notes on the 21st draft of that mind-numbingly boring pirate movie they'd been trying to push into production for the last decade. That's my Charlie. Always there with a snide comment to give me a boost.

But it didn't help. Not in the least.

I arrived home and immediately closed all the blinds in my living room, shutting out the sparkling light of a March afternoon in West Hollywood. I turned on Radiohead's Kid A and started smoking a bowl. Midway through my second bongload, my smoke detector went off, it's wails piercing through the dark den of twentysomething self-loathing I'd created. The battery had been running out for days, causing it to beep for a few seconds here or there-- I'd just been too lazy to change it. So I got up off the couch and tapped at it with a broom handle and it stopped. But no sooner had I sat back down when it went off again. Sigh... broom handle...OK...

"I'm not here... this isn't happening" wailed Thom Yorke from the speakers of the Sony boom box I'd received as a Christmas gift from CAA.

But it went off again. And tapping it or nudging it couldn't get it to stop. I slammed the broom down on the floor in anguish, only to pick it up again and start swinging it at the smoke detector. It smashed into pieces, shards of plastic falling around me. What cords and wires were left of it hung from the ceiling like an open wound.

"That there... it's not me..."

Instead of just calmly pulling out the AA battery, I'd just smashed the thing to bits for absolutely no reason. I felt almost outside of myself when I did it, the rage was that consuming. And, over some D-Girl getting a promotion? Was I really that concerned with what everyone thought of me? That I'd somehow be less of a person because I wasn't the first in my "class" to become an executive? Was my identity really that tied to my career?

I went to a therapist a couple of days later. But it really was Charlie who was instrumental in helping me get over the "alumnae magazine curse." And he was right about there being a one-year expiration date on Sabrina's new D-gig, though she landed on her feet at a different studio. By that time I was getting my own executive stripe at the Big Man's. And, unsurprisingly, when I'd lose that job three years later, she was one of those people I'd never hear from again now that I was out of the game and of no use to her.

This morning I happened on a copy of one of those Hollywood trade magazines that does those "35 under 35" lists. And there was Sabrina. VP of some company with a billion-dollar financing deal talking about her goals and inspirations and what she liked to do for fun on the weekends.

I remember growing up as a girl who wanted nothing more than to be on one of those lists. To be recognized for something extraordinary at a young age. To be someone who didn't need those other trappings of life-- relationships, hobbies, a life outside one's career. Career and life were one for me. In this business, there was no separation. Work never stopped when I came home at night. Work never stopped on the weekend. And everyone I associated with was in the industry, so even when I wasn't working, I was talking about work, thinking about work, networking, creating political capital and planning long-term chess moves like I was possessed by Karl Rove. Even Charlie started calling me "Karl" for a while. Paying one's dues in Hollywood is such arduous work and personal sacrifice that at times, I'd fall asleep at night picturing the day I'd land on one of those lists. And then maybe it would all be worth it.

This morning, when I saw Sabrina's name on that list, I smiled. And really felt nothing. Except perhaps a tinge of nostalgia for that driven little ball of ambition I was at 23 and how utterly psychotic she would be reading this news. Sabrina looked good. She'd cut her hair. I wondered if she was happy. She probably was if she'd stuck with the D-game for this long.

All that mattered to me in that moment was that I was happy. That I wouldn't trade the last two years for the world. That I'd taken those first scary steps outside of Hollywood, a world I thought I wanted to dominate, and to my surprise found great friendships, great love, and the sort of happiness I never thought I needed, let alone deserved. And that was far better than getting on any list no one will remember in a week and a half.

The credit roll on a movie screen and in a deck of cards-- two places where it is so easy to expect fulfillment and yet, yield so little.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


You miss me?

I've been back from Australia since Thursday, but Pauly stayed on in L.A. through yesterday and I haven't had the chance to get in a long stretch of writing in until today. Having the opportunity to take a trip like the one I just returned from is extraordinary and I want to give it the treatment it deserves on paper. So you'll probably get to start hearing about that tomorrow.

I'll of course, be joining the WPBT party in Las Vegas in December. I live four hours away and really have no excuse. Like I'd need one anyway to party with you fine folks. But for all you donkeys looking for more tournament action outside of our humble affair at the Venetian, you should check out this new feature over at Las Vegas Vegas. Their new Vegas Poker Room Directory is incredibly comprehensive. Click on the name of any casino and it will give you a complete tournament calendar for their poker room. With some of the bigger rooms like Caesar's offering like, 6 tournies a day, this is a great resource for deciphering it all.

Speaking of donkaments, I played Hoy's turbo MATH tournament last night on impulse, having not played an online MTT in at least a month. I think I got my money in good exactly once-- with Q-Q against Donkeypuncher's A-rag. The rest of the time I won coinflips and sucked out spectacularly. I ended up bubbling the damn thing in 10th place when I tried to make a move on Daddy, open-pushing with 5d-8d from the button and having the misfortune of running into his A-T. T on the flop, A on the turn and I was gone. At least I doubled up an actual blogger (not to mention a world-reknowned donkey fucker and all around great guy), and this actual blogger went on to finish second. Congrats to Daddy, and to actual blogger jamyhawk that took it down.

I plowed through my Bloglines folder over the last couple of days. It had completely runneth over since I stopped checking it upon my departure from consistent internet in Melbourne. One thing I was saddened to read (aside from Britney Spears perpetually running over peoples' feet with her Mercedes) was the news of the departure of PokerWorks' sole remaining paid blogger, Craig Cunningham. I hope he keeps up his scribblings on his own site a la the rest of the departed PWorks gang-- Amy, Maudie, Grubby, Speaker, and everyone's favorite Guinness-guzzling dwarf.

The new Truckin' is out and I have a story in it about my Key West adventures. How my beloved got this issue out within 12 hours of our return state-side I have no idea. I was ready to pass out and was still hopped up on Xanax from the plane ride while he was already tap-tapping at the laptop. But it's a doozy and has pieces from Pauly, Al Cant Hang, Sigge, and an especially moving one from Sean Donahue. Go read!

Truckin' - November 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 11

1. Existentialist Conversations with Strippers: The Afternoon Shift by Paul McGuire
The club was just the type of seedy place where you might find William Kennedy Smith or any other soused heirs to the Kennedy name, knocking back cheap scotch at 3 pm while aggressively fondling the sketchy girls with visible c-section scars and multiple fresh bruises all over their cracked-out bodies.... More

2. Lonesome Cowboy Bill by AlCantHang
My comfort zone is a dive rock club where I can chain smoke, power drink, and have my head assaulted with decibels equivalent to a jumbo jet taking off. The next step down the ladder would be the pubs and bars the exist for sole purpose of its patrons getting blitzed on various hardcore drinks. Then comes the sports bars, strip clubs, snooty yuppie bars, and hotel watering holes. Near the very bottom would generally be any place that plays country music... More

3. Seven Minutes with Olga by Change100
Olga led me all the way to the back and sat me down. She took her top off and grabbed my hands, placing them on her very soft, very real breasts... More

4. The Sleep Deprived Memoirs of I by Sigge S. Amdal
I might as well go to sleep, I thought. And I thought about sleeping forever, the eternal sleep, and how it could feel – was it cold or was it cozy – had it not been for facts contesting life after death in terms of subjectively sensory experience... More

5. Their Father's Love by Sean A. Donahue
Tying to explain the differences and the complaints of a failed marriage is too complicated for a four-year old to understand. I think I heard the phrase, "But why daddy?" more than I ever thought I could. But it wasn't my kids' fault... More

OK, time to stop blogging and get back to writing. I did update my flickr page over the weekend, with 155 photos from Down Under to whet your appetite...

I will leave you with the only thing that has made me laugh about the current Writers Guild Strike. Over at the Bronson Gate of the Paramount lot a new craze has been born... Strike Dancing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Score One for the Bankroll-Challenged Guys

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a blogger at the final table of the Poker News Cup.

Jordan Lamberg, aka JL514, goes into today's final table second in chips with 1,619,000. Prior to this tournament, his poker experience was largely confined to multi-tabling $25 NLHE online. A student at the University of Miami studying abroad in Melbourne, Jordan wrote only a few weeks ago about having $200 to his name to last him to the end of the semester. Now he's guaranteed at least $23,880 for his tournament finish. And if he wins? Well, what college loans?

Lamberg acquired the majority of that big stack by making a sick, sick call. Here's what I wrote about the hand on Poker News:

With the board reading {10-Clubs}{6-Spades}{3-Clubs}{5-Hearts} on the turn, Con Angelakis moved all in for over 500,000 and Jordan Lamberg made the call. Lamberg turned up {5-Clubs}{8-Clubs} for a pair and a flush draw while Angelakis showed {K-Spades}{J-Spades} for king high. The river was the {7-Diamonds} and Angelakis was eliminated, while Lamberg's stack shot up to 1,800,000. He's our new chip leader.

Jordan thought for a long time on that hand, and his bullshit detector must have been in overdrive to make that call.

The final table kicks off at 4 p.m. local time (GMT+9). That's 10 p.m. Sunday night on the west coast and 1 a.m. Monday morning on the east coast. Pauly and I will be doing hand-for hand coverage live on Poker News. Tune in and cheer on one of our own!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Degenerate Things My Boyfriend Has Done This Week

Including, but not limited to:

- Sniffed a marker to stay awake.

- Bet on a team in the "Allsvenskan"Swedish Hockey League. Won that.

-Bet on Chilean Soccer. Lost that.

-Bet on South African dog races. Lost that too.

-Tried to tell me dog racing bad beat stories.

-Bet on Aussie Basketball and woke up in the middle of the night to sweat the results

-Urinated on the bathroom floor of our hotel room because he was too jacked up on sleeping pills to find the toilet

- Was told to shave by the Crown Casino brass

- Flipped a coin for $1,500. Won that and tilted Gaz.

-Flipped another coin for $2,000. Won that one too.

-Had beers bought for him by a fan called "Aussie Smurf"

-Was recognized by another fan at the Melbourne branch of the Spearmint Rhino...during the day shift.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

One Week Down Under

Wednesday did not start well. I woke up a couple of hours before Pauly and decided to play a little online poker. 45 minutes later, I was stuck $300 after taking a stupid shot at what I thought was a soft $10-20 LHE game. Dumb dumb dumb me. Seething with tilt, I walked into the bathroom only to step into a puddle of Pauly's cold urine. Evidently, he had taken a couple of sleeping pills the night before and missed the bowl when he took a piss in the middle of the night. Lovely.

But let's not dwell on the bad, or in this case, really fucking gross stuff.

It's been a whirlwind of a week here at the Crown Casino. I covered all five preliminary event final tables at the Poker News Cup, including a marathon nine-hour H.O.R.S.E. affair last night that saw a guy called Billy the Croc take down the title. Believe it or not, it was the first H.O.R.S.E. tournament ever held in Australia. My friend Slippers, who worked with Pauly and I at the WSOP this summer dealt the final table, though I was about to stab him with my pen when he kept dealing suckouts to all the short-stacks. In one Omaha 8/B hand, Billy the Croc had flopped the wheel, holding 4-5 in his hand with A-2-3 on the board and Slippers managed to pull a running 4-5 out of the deck for a split (the short stack had a 2-3). Now that's talent.

My editor, John Caldwell took down Event #4, $550 NLHE with rebuys for a $30K score. That was a fun one to report on, as I knew his wife, Jen Leo would be sweating the coverage from home in Las Vegas. Jen won a Planet Hollywood Daily Tourney earlier in the week, so kudos to both the Caldwells.

Another friend of ours, Barry Carter (aka "DaveShoelace") finished 4th in the $230 PLO earlier in the week. We met Barry in London and covered the WSOP-Europe together. He already had plans to come to Australia for a friend's wedding, so he decided to add a side trip to Melbourne to play in a few PNC events. Barry told me he ate kangaroo while he was up in Byron Bay for the nuptuals. He described it as "succulent" and best eaten rare. I'm an adventurous eater, but dude... I'm not going there.

I also ran into "Aussie Sarah" Bilney in the poker room. Though she had done quite well at the '06 WSOP, she had to skip this year's Series since she was in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She had a beautiful little girl nine weeks ago and just got back to the tables this week. For having a baby only a couple of months ago, she looks damn good. Sarah saw my Nobu pics from a few days ago and it was enough to convince her and her husband to dine there. I told her not to miss out on the Waygu steaks. I'm salivating just thinking about them.

Speaking of food, Pauly and I had the privilege of enjoying a home-cooked dinner at the home of Jules and her fiance Graham. They have an adorable cottage in the Melbourne suburb of Bentleigh and just got the cutest Dachsund puppy called Moe (pronounced "Mo-ey"). Jules made lemon-herb chicken, scalloped potatoes and a green bean, onion, and bacon relish. Soooo delicious. We washed that down with 4-5 bottles of Shiraz. It was so fantastic to spend time with those two. I could have stayed and chatted all night, but we had to work in the morning. We even got a dial-a-shot from Kat. Thanks again to Jules and Graham for the excellent conversation and for making us feel right at home.

I got to play a little live poker a couple of days ago. Though Jules had told me that the $2-$3 NL was as soft as a newborn's ass, there was a list 20 deep and I only had a couple of hours to spare. Instead I sat in a $5-$10 LHE game and finished up about $175. The quality of play felt like the good old days of Party Poker. Lots of calling and very little raising. After showing down A-K twice in the first hour, I had all the benefits of a tight image and was able to start betting out with second pair and draws and induce folds from my opponents. Just the way I like it.

In other Australia-related events, check this shit out. As most of you know, AlCantHang tirelessly organized the Battle of the Bloggers 2 Tournament Series on Full Tilt. There are some sick, sick prizes at stake, including a "Tournament of Champions" freeroll for the 27 winners of the individual tournaments. At stake? An $18,000 Aussie Millions prize package. Now here's what really depresses me. Two more TOC seats are going to whomever can write the best post about the Aussie Millions. Here are the details, courtesy of Mr. CantHang:

Write Your Way to Australia

Because the only thing bloggers enjoy as much as playing poker is writing about poker, we’re offering two free seats at the Tournament of Champions for the two bloggers who write the best posts about Aussie Millions.

Look into the future – how did the Battle of the Bloggers end? What happened at the Aussie Millions Tournament? Who were the victors and who were the defeated? What happened away from the tables in Melbourne? Your job is to create a completely fictional blog post reporting “what happened” during the 2008 Aussie Millions Poker Championship. You are only limited by your imagination.

Show us why you’re the blogger who should join Team Full Tilt for the largest poker tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. We want to hear what you’ve got that makes you the best person to head Down Under. This is how you make it happen:

* Write the post
* Include the following 2 links in your post:
Aussie Millions
* Post the entry on your blog
* Send a link to your post and your Full Tilt Poker username to
* Sit back and plot how you’ll drop the hammer on the competition

I committed to covering the Aussie Millions for Poker News months ago, so alas, I can't use the seat. I don't have time to play the blonkaments, but fuck... the chance to write my way into a 29-player $18K freeroll? That's my kind of satellite. And we all know I scribble a helluva lot better than I play poker.

I'm buckled down covering the Poker News Cup Main Event through Monday, but after that, Pauly and I will take off on a couple of side trips out of Melbourne. We're planning to drive the Great Ocean Road as well as spend a day on Philip Island. After that, we fly up to Sydney for a 4-day stay before heading back to L.A.

Hopefully by that time, it will no longer be on fire.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Melbourne Aquarium Photos

We've barely been able to get out of the casino, but Pauly and I squeezed in a trip to the Melbourne Aquarium the other day. It's only a couple of blocks from the Crown just across the Yarra River. I must have snapped 150 photos while I was there. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mr. Stripes here was one of my favorites

The Chark!!!

He is hunnnngryyyy!!

Big fishy!

Little fishies!

Bubble Boy

Scary crab


Silver fishies

Brave divers feed the sharks

Tree frogs... so cute!

Trippy Jellies

Friday, October 19, 2007

Aussie Arrival

Almost there

"I'm sorry, there are no window or aisle seats available."

"Whaaaat?" Flashbacks of being completely unable to move on that Amsterdam-LAX flight last month instantly plagued me.

"I can only give you a middle seat."

"Look, I called the airline earlier to get a seat, but they said I'd have to do it at the airport, and here we are, 2 1/2 hours early to do just that."

"Well, the desk has been open since 1 PM..." It was just after 9.

Apparently, arriving at the Qantas desk 10 1/2 hours before one's scheduled departure is the only way to ensure an aisle seat for the 15 1/2 hour trek from Los Angeles to Melbourne. I was absolutely ready to cry. Or scream. Or throttle this woman.

"How much would it cost to upgrade her to business class?" Pauly asked as he dug into his pocket, ready to pull out his gangsta bankroll. My eyes went wide.

"You're looking at about $3,000-$4,000 between the ticket change costs and the cost of the upgrade" spat the airline wench. A grand gesture on the part of my beloved... but it wasn't exactly practical.

"Well, if I'm stuck in a middle seat, could I at least have the middle seat next to him?" I said, pointing to Pauly.

"No, it's not available. It's a completely full flight."

"I'll take the middle seat, she'll have the aisle" Pauly said to the airline wench.

"No, don't do that. Just leave it as it is" I told her with eyes blazing, calling upon all my powers of patience to not flip out in the middle of the airport.

"Take the aisle seat, Change" implored Pauly.

"You're six feet tall. I'm not. It would be a lot worse for you. And I know how bad those middle seats are and you're not going to be able to sleep at all. At least I can drug myself into a stupor."

I silently fumed all the way through the security line and through the hour plus we waited at the gate. This was not how I wanted my first trip to Australia to begin. Pauly, gentelman that he is, must have offered to switch seats with me another dozen times before we boarded the plane, but I declined every time.

Once on board, the spacial situation in the middle seat was just as bad as I expected. The old guy who had the window refused to put either of his two bulky carry-on bags in the overhead compartment, despite the flight attendant's and my urging to do so. Naturally, some of his crap ended up underneath the seat in front of me. He also brought this seat cover thing with him that looked more like an inflatable raft. He sat there blowing into the tubes for thirty minutes before we took off.

At least there were no screaming babies or old women who smelled bad. I popped two Xanax and was out cold before the plane left the ground. I woke up near Hawaii and popped two more, knocking me out for another 6-7 hours. The only way I was going to survive this flight was if I was completely unconscious.

I finally woke up somewhere over the South Pacific and watched Ocean's 13 and a couple of episodes of The Office. I visited Pauly across the plane and discovered that he hadn't slept at all. See why I let him keep the aisle? Being awake and in the middle seat is just too much for anyone to bear.

"How do you manage to sleep so well on these flights?" asked the sixtyish woman in the aisle seat next to me.

"Pills. Lots of pills."

At Melbourne airport, we got flagged for a full search at customs. In the box on the immigration card where it asks where you'll be staying in Australia, we both put the Crown Casino. Apparently this raised some eyebrows. The security dude asked both of us how much cash we had on us.

"You wanna see?" said Pauly, semi-bluffing, as he reached into his jeans pocket.

"No, no. I don't need to see it. Just tell me how much."

Once he discovered that the two of us combined had less than the $10,000 per person limit on cash, he pulled out one of those swabbing devices.

"Do you know what this is?" he asked Pauly.

"Yeah, you're going to check for explosives and stuff."

"No. For drugs. Do you have any drugs in this bag?"


"Have you been in contact with drugs recently?"

Pauly thought about telling him about going to Amsterdam last month but wisely said "no." I held my breath as he swabbed Pauly’s bag. Thank God he didn’t go near mine.

Five minutes later we were in a cab on the way to the Crown. I was still super-groggy from the Xannies as we sped down the freeway into central Melbourne.

Our room at the Crown is pretty swank. It's big and roomy and has a view of the city and the Yarra River. The king bed is super-fluffy and the bathroom the size of some NYC apartments. Pauly checked out the TV channels and was stoked that Fox Sports carries the NFL games and the MLB playoffs.

The three-hour nap we intended to take turned into seven. We woke up as the sun was setting and got showered and dressed. Pauly took me on a tour of the whole Crown Complex. He knew his way around from his time at the Aussie Millions in January. This place is HUGE. The casino is as big as some Vegas properties and there are tons of shops and places to eat. The poker room is enormous and was decked out with signage for the Poker News Cup. There's a main room where mid-limit NLHE, LHE, and PLO is spread and a whole other room filled with about 15 of the PokerTek "Poker Pro" automated dealerless tables, that spread lower limits.

After grabbing a quick beer at the sportsbook bar, we met Schecky (our editor), Gaz, and Cory-Ann (Poker News marketing gurus) for dinner at Nobu. Gaz knew the chef and he prepared a special tasting menu for the five of us. I'd been to Nobu before, in L.A. and Vegas, but had never eaten like this.

For the first course, we had sashimi tacos, filled with lobster, crab, salmon, and whitefish topped with a spicy salsa, as well as Nobu's signature yellowtail carpaccio with ponzu and jalapeno slices. Heaven. Next, we were served a plate of oysters topped with a nest of crispy onion and caviar. I'm not even a big oyster fan but these were absolutely sublime. Two signature Nobu dishes arrived for the second course—crispy rock shrimp (Schecky's personal favorite) and the black miso-glazed cod. That cod is a desert island dish for me-- the fish was sweet, perfectly prepared, and melted in my mouth.

For the main course, we were each served a trio of beef. On the left was a dumpling with sesame sauce, in the middle were miso-glazed slices of kobe beef, and on the right was a skewer of kobe in a spicy chili sauce. As if that weren't enough, the chef prepared us a Waygu steak topped with onions and shiitakes. Waygu is like, beyond Kobe. It is the absolute pinnacle of quality, as our server explained.

"This is probably the highest-quality cut of beef in all of Australia."

I, for one believed him. I had never tasted anything like it. So much that the succulent lobster tail served alongside it was almost an afterthought. Almost.

As I said to Gaz as we all waddled out of Nobu at midnight, our bellies completely stuffed, "this was one of the great meals of my life."

Not a bad start to my 20 days down under. What middle seat?

Photos/food porn:

The view of Downtown Melbourne and the Yarra River from our room

Oysters with caviar

Crispy rock shrimp

Strawberry mojito