Before we begin, you can read Otis' recap of the Poker Stars event at Poker Stars Blog. There are a few pics of me posted there.
Last night, I was fortunate to get an invite to a swanky party that Poker Stars threw at the W Hotel in Times Square. It pays to know people like Otis and Nolan Dalla who both work for Poker Stars. Of course they were both there and it was awesome to catch up with them along with plenty of familiar faces I met in Las Vegas during the 2005 WSOP.
Poker Stars was pimping their WPT event shceduled for January 4-11, 2006 in the Bahamas. They got me all liquored up in hopes I would write about the event. So here we go.
I showed up at thirty minutes late to the party and when I checked in, they had "poker blogger" down as my affiliation on the name tag. I reluctantly put it on and headed for the free bar. Inherently, media cocktail parties and press conferences are boring affairs. The best ones have an open bar. I opted for a Heineken although the bartenders were mixing various beach-style drinks in honor of the Poker Stars Caribbean Adventure. I found Otis right away and we chatted while the waiters brought over trays of random food items like shrimp, crab cakes, nachos with kick ass guacamole, Beef Wellington, and some other fancy thing which I kept eating but no one seemed to know what exactly it was. If you ask me, the moose was excellent.
I saw Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, Isabelle Mercier, and Joe Hachem and all of them were busy talking to different media types. ESPN was there. Along with Vanity Fair, Stuff, Bluff, the NY Daily News, and several other media outlets. I saw Peter Alston, who co-wrote One of a Kind with Nolan Dalla. Wendeen Eolis from Poker Player Newspaper and Larry Kang and his brother Will from Bluff. Otis introduced me to one of Poker Stars' photographers named Jodi. She said that I looked familiar. I've been getting that a lot recently and inside my head I heard Phil Hartman's voice from his infamous Simpson's character Troy McClure say, "Hi, I'm Dr. Pauly. You might remember me from several WSOP episodes."
It turns out that Jodi and I used to play at the same underground club here in NYC about a year and a half ago. Good memory. Speaking of underground card rooms, Otis pointed out one women in particular at the party who was the real life person that the character Petra from Rounders was based after. Pretty cool, huh?
I spoke with Lee Jones for a bit about the future of poker. He described it as a big wave and said when it eventually reaches the beach he's gonna look back and say, "What a ride!"
The press conference was delayed because Chris Moneymaker's flight was delayed. He eventually showed up, but by then, I had half a bag on. After two beers, and four Absolut cocktails, I was pretty much toast. With enough liquid strength to drown several small Malaysian villages, I chatted up Isabelle Mercier. I got a double kiss which is the best thing that's happened to me in the last five years. Otis was slick and snagged a photo and she told me about her recent trip to South Africa.
Nolan Dalla started the press conference with Moneymaker en route from the airport. Nolan introduced Lee Jones who's the poker room manager at Poker Stars. He spoke about a lot of different things including the fact that they keep records of every single hand that's played on their site. He also said that Poker Stars reviews every hand to insure that there's no colluding going down. From my understanding, Poker Stars is the only site that freezes colluder's accounts, but they also refund the money to the players that were cheated. That's just another reason why Poker Stars has probably the best support staff in the online poker industry.
Lee Jones introduced the stars who were there... Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, and Isabelle Mercier. They all spoke briefly and Isabelle was a little nervous. Then the Q&A started. It went a little slow, so Nolan Dalla whispered to me, "Ask a question. You're a smart guy. Come up with something."
Great. I love being on the spot. Any chance I can make a jackass out of myself, I'll do my best. Good thing I was drinking. With my cocktail in one hand (by the way, the bartender was mixing stiff vodka drinks in pint glasses which is almost a double drink) and the microphone in the other, I asked my standard A-K question. The same one I asked Tom McEvoy at the WPBT Holiday Classic last December... "It seems that I get knocked out of tournaments with A-K more than any other hand. Am I overplaying A-K or is it just an overrated hand?"
The crowd got a chuckle out of the question and Joe Hachem said it was better that I was playing A-K than getting busted with 2-7o! Too bad he didn't say, "The Hammer!" Greg Raymer added that it's a good hand and that's why people get knocked out of tournaments with A-K, KK, and AA.
Chris Moneymaker eventually showed up and he was pretty funny. He told everyone that he used to gamble a lot on pro sports and he hoped that the score in the baseball game would hit the over.
After the press conference ended, it was pretty obvious that Joe Hachem is a part of Team Poker Stars. It's not official according to my source at Poker Stars. Anyway, they had a few poker tables set up. They ran live turbo SNGs. Each table had a Poker Stars team member. Table 1 was Greg Raymer. Table 2 was Chris Moneymaker and Isabelle Mercier. Table 3 had Joe Hachem. I drew Seat 1, Table 1. Yep, I sat right across from Fossilman. Play was ten-handed. Everyone started out with 750 chips. If you won your table, you won a set of poker chips. If you busted a star, you got an autographed copy of One of a Kind.
I was very drunk by the time the tournament started. On the second hand I found The Hammer and raised to 100. The blinds were 25-25. One chick called and we were heads up. The flop had an ace and a seven. She bet out 25 and I raised to 125. She called. The turn was a blank. She bet 25 and I raised to 125. She called again! On the river she checked and I checked. She showed A-Q. Ouch. I mucked and lost half my stack on a Hammer bluff.
When were down to five players and Fossilman put on his shades as he raised my blinds in LP. I found A-J and moved all in for the rest of my chips. Fossilman's raise had me covered. He showed K-9 and I flipped over A-J. He turned a King and I was out. I got busted by a World Champion.
Here are some pictures from the Poker Stars event. You can click on the photos for an enlarged view...
Team Poker Stars: Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, and Isabelle Mercier
3 WSOP Champions
Nolan Dalla introduces Lee Jones
Fossilman explains what blinds are to a media rep
Nice suit, Otis!
Me and Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier
After I was busted by Raymer, I hung out with Otis and drank a fruity rum drink that they served in fake plastic coconuts. Eventually the event ended and we decided to do a little barhopping. That's where things get sketchy as I began a Tuesday night bender with Otis.
Otis has an excellent post on his regular blog called Tuesdays with Pauly. Here's a bit:
"Pauly takes notes. His life is a yet-unproduced or written off-Broadway play about drug-addled strippers and strung-out stockbrokers. At first glance someone might think his notepad is some affectation to make him look serious about his craft. It's not that. It's that too much happens in his presence to remember it fully. What's more, life around Pauly is awash in carefully controlled but occasionally wild abandon intoxication. Failure to properly document the activities risks losing them completely.Part 2 of my post is continued over at the Tao of Pauly. To read about our drunken hijinks, check out: Barhopping with Otis.
Pauly takes notes. He takes pictures. He takes video. And I've appeared in a few too many recently."