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.