Friday, April 21, 2006

Dazed and Confused: Day 3 at the WPT Championships

I am the Eggman, so I decided to valet at the Bellagio. I deserved the right not to park my rental car and take advantage of the free service. I guess I had been in Hollyweird too long that I had gotten used to the valet-centric lifestyle. Even the Ralph's in Change100's Beverly Hills neighborhood had a valet. I know, that makes me sick... a valet at the friggin' supermarket!

I arrived at the Bellagio much earlier for Day 3 of the WPT Championships. I took my time navigating the narrow aisles and snapping photos while looking for the luscious Carmel Petresco's table. I wanted to stalk her all afternoon, and take a few spankworthy photos for my thousands of horny readers. But I never could find her. The room was somewhat quiet aside from the clattering of the chips and the faint cry of "Cocktails? Cocktails?" from the busty Bellagio waitresses. Most of the media was spread out between the historic Fontana Room and the actual poker room, where they used a good twenty or so tables for the 473 players who started Day 3.

When I wandered around the poker room, I took a pic of Doyle Brunson sporting a big white Stetson. Evelyn Ng and TJ Cloutier played at the same table. I saw Max Pescatori with a short stack. He would end up getting busted early when his pocket Aces lost to Bradley Berman's K-K. Berman caught a four flush on the Italian Pirate and he got bounced on the worst Bad Beat of the Day. On Day 2, Liz Lieu had Aces cracked by Kings.

The Bellagio security added ropes in front of the Fontana Room to clear the clusterfuck from the previous two days. The railbirds flocked to the area in front of the Fontana Room where they gawked and sought autographs and tried to take pictures. When Daniel Negreanu busted out early, he quickly left the Fontana Room with a bag filled with homemade food from his Romanian mother.

"Daniel!" one lady shouted. She weighed about 350 pounds and the casino floor shook as she rumbled at Negreanu like a charging rhinoceros. "You have to sign my hat!"

A young black kid with a camera asked for a photo.

"Make it quick," Negreanu said as he eyed about thirty or so vultures with digital, disposable and cell phone cameras swarming his way.

As soon as the photo was over, Negreanu bolted through a row of $1 slot machines as a trail of autograph hounds followed behind him. The guy just busted out of a tournament and the last thing he wants to do is sign autographs for twenty minutes while he's bombarded with the same stupid questions.

Spaceman and I hit the hooker bar at the first break. He drank a Newcastle and I opted for a SoCo on the rocks which came with a call to AlCantHang for a dial-a-shot. AlCantHang was still at work and I got his voicemail. At that point, a slew of phone calls starting coming from the East Coast. It was 4:20 EST and all my pothead friends, fellow Deadheads and Phisheads all called up to wish me a Happy 420 Day. I even wore my Steal Your Face hat in honor of the special day. It's sorta become a national holiday for potheads in order to draw attention away from the fact that April 20th is both Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the Columbine Massacre.

"Mmmm.... he's walking sex," one unidentified female member of the media said about the young Patrik Antonius. He has been a model in Finland before he became a professional poker player. "Sex on a stick. Definitely."

Despite the boyish good looks of the young European players, I spotted another female member of the media who once offered me free sex in exchange for me writing one of her assignments that was close to deadline.

"What a shame. Prostitution for journalistic sake?" a perplexed Friedman said when I recanted that random night when I was offered a booty call for my writing skills.

Spaceman and Sharla were hanging out in one corner of the room next to the podium which the WPT live updates crew took over. CardPlayer had a team of reporters with a video crew and the radio crew occupying two tables near the stage. The PokerWire girls had one table and the rest of the media had to sit outside on the verandah or find space on the couches.

There were about ten more media reps I never met before wandering around. The newbies are easy to spot. They have badges that say "Day Pass" instead of one with your printed name and affiliation. I had two fucktards who were walking in front of me while I took photos. That's a huge pet peeve of mine... having a fuckin' rookie ruin a shot of Action Dan picking his nose because he walked in front of me instead of waiting a second or walking behind me.

During one of the breaks, Spaceman pointed out Capt. Tom Franklin's shirt that said, "I got blown by Katrina." I believe Capt. Tom lives down in the coastal Mississippi area.

Kenna James sat at a table nearby and bought drinks for everyone. He also bought lunch from PF Changs for a few media reps and players at his table. He was in a good mood and too bad he didn't last through the evening, otherwise Spaceman would have been drinking free all night.

I heard that the owner of Poker Pages called up one of the media liaisons for the WPT and demanded that they kick out former employee Steve Hall who had been sporting a Poker Pages press badge. Steve was covering the WPT Championships for Martin's Poker and was allowed access but his Poker Pages badge was confiscated and he was given a new one that said "Day Pass." His old badge was tossed in the garbage can.

I spotted James Woods, my main man Freddy Deeb, and Johnny Chan all sitting up front. That was actually bad because the lighting is the weakest in the front of the Fontana Room. I did my best and focused on the tables near the windows that was illuminated by natural light.

I wandered over to the conservatory to take some pictures of the spring floral arrangement. They had a weird insect theme and included a cage full of butterflies from all over the world.

As I shot the shit on the verandah with different members of the media, the infamous water show started as the fountains went off. It was a reminder that I was fortunate enough not to have to work in a cubicle, instead I got to call the Bellagio my office for a week. And that constantly rotated from tournament to tournament.

I saw the chick that Spaceman can't stand and I don't blame him. Some folks take themselves too seriously and she's one of them. I finally realized after a year that you need to have a light hearted approach to working at a poker tournament. I discovered the fun again by not taking myself so seriously. I also captured a rare rainbow on camera as the Bellagio fountains danced. It has nothing to do with poker, but was a rare moment and I'm shocked that I caught it on camera.

I chatted with William Rockwell in the hallway and he spoke about being able to act like a gentleman at the tables.

"Be a gracious loser and a humble winner," he added.

Too bad that's not what the producers want. Nice guys are boring for TV. There was one table in particular that could have been the scene for an explosion. Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow sat at the same table. They both kept relatively quiet and there were no major disruptions. Matusow was eventually knocked out by Hellmuth without any huge verbal tirades from either player.

Here are some of the better pics I took on Day 3:

A sleepy Dan Harrington calculates his M

The always sassy Joanne "JJ" Liu

Shirt of the Day: Capt. Tom wins!

Happy 420 Day, Phil!

About 2/3 of the field is gone. Out of 606 players, 204 remain at the end of Day 3. Patrik Antonius from Finland is the chipleader with actor James Woods sitting pretty in 15th place. James Woods made a run after he cracked the Hilton Sisters with a set of 9s. Plenty of big names are left. Make sue you stop by Poker Player Newspaper to read my bland end of day recaps. The top 100 players win prize money, so it's going to be an interesting Friday. I wonder if we'll bust the money bubble? Ideally they want to get down to 27 players at the end of Saturday... so 175 or so players have to be eliminated over the next two days.

Flipchip should be stopping by the Bellagio on Friday to snap some of the best damn photos in the poker industry. Hopefully he'll post some of them either here or over at Las Vegas and Poker Blog.

I left the Bellagio early again and on my way out tipped the pimple-faced kid at the valet $5 for bringing my car somewhat quick. I had another excellent dinner with Friedman in Summerlin again, this time at Kilroy's, a burger joint on Charleston and Buffalo that had one of the best burgers I have ever eaten in Las Vegas. It was over $8 and worth it. The catch is that it does not come with fries so you have to get a side order so it jacks up the price a bit. Their specialty is burgers and they were voted Best Burger in Las Vegas by some publication. I wanted a three-cheese burger and asked if I could get that with bacon.

"No!" emphatically shouted our waitress, who looked like a 45 year old version of Cheri O'Teri jacked up on Greyhounds and one too many Ritalins.

"It's too expensive. Bacon cost three bucks. Order a bacon burger and add cheese. You'll save money that way."

I agreed but after she left I was pissed. I hate it when servers talk you out of getting exactly what you wanted. I got a bacon cheeseburger with cheddar cheese when I specifically asked for a three-cheese bacon burger initially but got cockblocked by our freaky waitress.

My favorite pic of the day: Rainbow outside of the Bellagio

I will not be liveblogging anything about the WPT Championships until the final table begins on Monday night around 5 pr 6pm PCT. In the meantime, I'm using my time at the Bellagio wisely(drinking, gambling, bullshitting with pros, gossiping with my friends in the media, checking out the hot railbirds) and I discovered that you get to see and experience more aspects of the tournament when you are wandering around instead of being glued to a laptop in the corner updating chipcounts like a spider monkey jacked up on crack. I'll post more pictures soon. Stay tuned.

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