Sunday, April 30, 2006

Truckin' April 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 4

It's another "better late than never" issue of Truckin' featuring your favorite Norwegian word wanker Sigge S. Amdal, along with returning veterans such as Change100, Falstaff, and Sean Donahue.
1. Bloggers and Bunnies Part II: Where's AlCantHang? by Tenzin McGrupp
Yeah if I could pick two worthy souls who deserved to live at the Mansion after Hef died, it would be Bill Clinton and/or AlCantHang. Those two know how to throw a party...More

2. It's a Matter of Perception by Falstaff
You wanna talk about white trash hallucinogens, you can't really go any further into the trailer park than chuggin a whole bottle of cough syrup with a Dr. Pepper chaser at 1PM on a Tuesday... More

3. Outfitting the Doctor by Change100
Sending an unemployed studio executive with a fashion-induced credit card addiction into Ralph Lauren is like handing Robert Downey Jr. the keys to a suitcase full of blow. The temptation is almost too much for one human being to handle... More

4. Man, I Love Tits by Sigge S. Amdal
There's a variety of tits that slip away from most men's conscience, as most men tend to grow weary of illumination and would rather leap into action. But I do love tits, and I appreciate their fulfilling diversity... More

5. The Debt I Should Have Never Paid by Sean A. Donahue
I can remember the day I fell in love with my ex-wife. It was like it was yesterday. We had talked and talked over and over again on who would make the long trip to see the other one, me from Lubbock or her from Indiana. I decided to make the first trip. There was a writers' convention in Indianapolis so if for some reason she flaked out on me I could go spend time on that... More

Thanks for returning back to the corner of the universe called Truckin' as we're approaching our 4th birthday. I'm currently seeking submissions for May and I'm going to need to stockpile stories for the summer issues (June, July, and August) when I'll be in Las Vegas covering the WSOP. So now's the time to muster up enough courage and submit that story idea you've been kicking around. I'm looking for travel stories, Las Vegas stories, summer stories, and anything else like poetry, letters to an ex-spouse, hard-core porn... anything! You can always check out our submission guidelines if you are lost.

Anyway, I ask that if you like the stories in this issue, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorites. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again for your support and for the writer's who shared their blood work. I really wish that I can pay them! I'm grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Glass Eyes, Red Rocks, and Omaha Suckouts

I sat on Grubby's couch with a sizzling Miles Davis bootleg from Paris echoing loudly throughout the apartment. Grubby's living room has become a graveyard for old issues of Poker Player Newspaper, several film magazines, fast food coupons, and promotions for various casino comps like a free room at Harrah's or free tickets to the Amazing Jonathan. Strewn around the room were various casino gifts that he's collected over the last 16 months, like a luggage set from Palms, a crystal vase from Monte Carlo, and jumper cables from Fiesta Station. That's just some of the things that doesn't fit in his "prize closet" which is stacked from the floor to the ceiling with casino freebies such as soap dishes and ear hair tweezers.

I was finishing up the last two paragraphs of my magazine article on the WPT Championship that was supposed to be due in 10 hours. "It needed more hot sauce," as Change100 would say in her cryptic Hollyweird-speak.

She was right. I could have done better, but my editor put a word restriction on this article. He was holding the entire issue of the magazine as he waited for my contribution. Talk about a moment that was both flattering and terrifying. He estimated that with a few of my pictures, he had about 1300-1500 words of space remaining. The last three articles I submitted were 2,000 to 4,700 words in length. Most editors struggle with lack of content and writers submitting short pieces. Not me. I give them as much as I can and let them make the decision to cut it up. Although I get paid by the word for my highest rate too, there's a max on how much I can make per article. I get paid to write double the rate as I do for other places and usually I max out my pay at the 1,500 word mark.

I glanced at my cellphone that danced on the table in "vibrate" mode for a few moments. It was Grubby. When I answered, I could hear the muffled noise of ambient casino sounds and slot machines in the background. The majority of my conversation with Grubby over the time I've known him have either been conducted by him on a casino floor somewhere or in the Diamond Lounge at the Flamingo.

"I'm at Red Rock playing poker with Carla. Come by after you finish your article," he said before he quickly hung up.

I had not played live poker in days. Whenever I cover a lengthy poker tournament, I have a dire urge to play. I felt like a junkie sweating out the shakes before scoring a few grams of black tar heroin smuggled in the anal cavity of an illegal immigrant scurrying across the border near Nogales.

I quickly wrapped up my piece and sent it off to my assistant Jessica for editing and Change100 for notes on the content. That's when I realized I had to go feed Friedman's cat in Summerlin. Fortunate for me, Red Rock Casino is just ten minutes from his house and I wouldn't have to be running around.

Red Rock Casino opened up the week before and draws it's name from Red Rock Canyon national park which is located only a few minutes away. I went hiking and rock climbing at the magnificent Red Rock Canyon last Saturday.

The new Red Rock is a local's joint owned by the Station Casinos but having the flair of a Strip hotel. In fact it's the most expensive and luxurious hotel and casino off the Strip. It cost twice as much as Green Valley Ranch (also a Station property) to build at $925 million. Back in 1946, mobster Bugsy Seigel spent $6 million on construction costs and bribes to build the Flamingo. The pool alone at Red Rock probably cost twice as much.

I wandered into the casino and got lost immediately. Red Rock was packed for a Tuesday night. Usually I ask for directions, but I felt adventurous so I took the scenic route and checked everything out. Red Rock reminded me of a cross between Green Valley Ranch and the Palms. The latest trend is to try to attract younger visitors to an off-strip property by providing extra luxuries such as a kick ass pool, an acclaimed spa, excellent restaurants, and a trendy club or lounge. Green Valley has the Whiskey Bar and Red Rock's version is Cherry.

There's a circular bar located in the center of the casino which is surrounded by endless rows of slot machines. There were plenty of elderly gamblers chained to the slots and they looked like locals. Over the first month or two, a lot of the locals check out a new casino for the free stuff and because it's something different. Plus if you live in Summerlin, there's a new place to gamble nearby. I spotted a lot of 20 and 30-something Las Vegas locals drinking and eating, but not really gambling. I found the food court next to the movie theatre and like all Station casinos, there's a Fatburger in there. They also had a Ben & Jerry's. I liked Red Rock already.

I found the poker room located just to the right of the sports book. It's over twenty tables and they have an electronic queue system like at the Borgata or MGM. Grubby was playing at the same NL table as Carla, who's a local radio DJ in Las Vegas for a rock station. I asked the floor person what games they spread.

"We have 2-4 Hold'em, 4-8 Hold'em with a 1/2 kill, 10-20 Hold'em, 10-20 Hold'em with a 1/2 kill. We have 1-2 NL and 5-10 NL. We also spread 4-8 Omaha Hi/Lo and 4-8 Omaha Hi," he answered.

"Put me down for 4-8 Omaha. Hi!" I said nearly ejaculating in my pants.

"It's a long list," he said.

"Keep me on it. And I'll sit 4-8 kill while I wait."

There was open seating and I got my chips. I was seated at the table right next to Grubby and Carla. I could lean back and turn around to talk to Grubby who had doubled up on his NL table. I noticed that the waitresses were not overly attractive. They looked like women who "were hot once" before squirting out their second or third kid.

I waited a hand and posted in the Big Blind. I found two Kings before I could size up my table. It was all locals with two guys younger than me in their 20s, three guys my age, and the rest of the guys were 50 and up. The kids were listening to iPods and wearing sunglasses. If I was online, I'd make a note that included words such as "douchebag", "tool", or "watches too much poker on TV."

Four players limped in and the button raised. I three-bet it with K-K and we had a six-way pot. All rags hit the 10 high flop and I bet out. Three guys folded and two called. The turn was a Queen and I bet out and got one caller. The river was a King. I had my set and one guy with A-J rivered a straight on me. When he reraised me, a sick feeling splashed around my stomach. That nimrod had A-J and I knew it. I lost about 1/3 my stack on the first hand I ever played at Red Rock.

I won most of it back when I scooped a huge pot during a kill pot which upped the stakes to 6-12. I had 10-8s and raised in late position. I turned the flush. I padded my bankroll playing 4-8 with a half kill at Mandalay Bay last summer. It's a juicy game that has a steady flow of people who have no idea what they are doing. Plus even experienced players don't understand a few strategy twists involving hands during a kill pot.

By the time my Omaha Hi game was called, nearly two hours elapsed and Grubby went home to sleep. I was only stuck $6 and sat down with $194 in chips. Very few casinos spread Omaha Hi, which is a game I prefer to Omaha Hi/Lo. It's more of an action game and goes quicker because the dealer doesn't have to take time to split or quarter the pots.

I heard rumors about the crazy Omaha Hi games at the Horseshoe. When Mike Matusow first started playing poker, he sat in the 4-8 Omaha Hi game at Sam's Town. Flipchip has been playing at Sam's Town for years and witnessed Matusow kill the Omaha Hi game on several instances.

I first played Omaha Hi before I ever played Omaha Hi/Lo or Pot Limit Omaha, so I felt comfortable playing the game. I've been playing a lot of PLO this year (especially PLO SNGs... don't ask why) and it's much easier getting people off of hands when you get to re-raise the pot. But in Omaha Hi, the pots get so big because people chase everything to the river. Sometimes they hit and the swings are immense. It's the perfect game for me. I crave the action.

I lost about 20 BB inside of thirty minutes. I won a hand with 3-3-8-8... double Snowman Tater Legs (SMTL). The flop was K-8-3. The turn was 3 and the river was an 8. Yeah, I had double quads with SMTL but only won a small pot. I was the youngest guy at my tale and no less than four of the guys were WWII vets. They all had blurry tattoos on the arms that must have looked cool 60 years ago. These days, it's a splotchy area of ink.

The table talk was non-existent until I got rivered by one guy who looked like Greg Norman who chased a 10 high spade flush to the river. I flopped a Broadway straight and turned a heart flush redraw and trips for a boat redraw just in case he hit his. The river was a spade and sure enough he scooped the pot. One of the vets began berating him as I ordered a hot chocolate. They serve it with whipped cream and cherries.

I started up a conversation with the guy to my left who looked like Captain Stubbing from the Love Boat. I'm usually friendly at the table and old guys normally like to talk, especially if they are lonely or have wives that drive them nuts. I particularly like talking to the guy on my left to seek out information and get a better indication of the his style of play. Is he going to let me steal his blinds? Will my raises get him to fold a marginal hand? Has he been drinking? Running bad? Getting lucky? You'll never find out unless you open your mouth.

Within a few minutes he offered me $100 to guess which one of his eyes was a glass eye. I figured I was getting set up so I counter offered $20. He thought about it for a few hands then agreed. Capt. Stubbing and I stood up as I tried to win $20 guessing which eye was fake. It was his left eye and that was my initial gut reaction. According to Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink, he said that we usually make up our minds within the first few seconds and that we should go with that gut feeling since more often than not, it's usually the correct. I inspected his right eye then left once again.

"It's your left eye," as I pointed to the eye that looked fake.

"You sure?" he said offering me a chance to change my mind. Capt. Stubbing tried to mess with my head.

"I'm positive," I answered confidently.

"OK, let's go," as he walked to the bathroom.

When we got in, Capt. Stubbing washed his hands then nonchalantly pulled his right eye out of the socket. I dropped a $20 bill on the counter and walked out. I'm running so bad in prop bets that I can't even pick out a glass eye.

When I returned to the table I ended up losing most of my stack to another river suckout. The glass eye bet put me on tilt so I walked up and cashed out. I headed over to Fatburger for an iced tea and a hamburger. When I finished, I treated myself to a shake at Ben & Jerry's. When I was done I decided to go back to the poker room to find any free poker magazines. I noticed that they had open seating at 10-20. I considered playing the 10-20 with a half kill to 15-30, but the glass eye prop bet loss was still bothering me. I'm gonna be on tilt for that ass whipping through 2009.

I sat at 10-20 and did a hit and run session that got me unstuck for the day at Red Rock. I flopped a big hand with "The tourist" when I had my big blind raised by a forty-plus year old porn king from the Valley who continuously boasted that he was married to a 19-year old up and coming porn star. He looked like a shady used-car salesman, wore loafers without socks, and drenched himself in cheap cologne. A knock-off Rolex wrapped around his left wrist, something that I see street vendors sell in Chinatown back in New York City for $40. I can spot a fugazzi a mile way, just like my female friends can sniff out a fake Kate Spade handbag.

A baneful child pornographer like that has to take penis pills to keep up with a teenage porn star. Penis pills make you more aggressive in nature, so I assumed that I was ahead and quickly called his raise. I flopped two pair and we went back and forth all the way to the river. He missed his flush draw and made a crying call on the river just to see my cards.

"I got the tourist," I muttered as I flipped over A-7.

"What the fuck is that?" the child pornographer said.

"A-7 is the tourist hand. Only a tourist in Las Vegas would play it, especially to a raise."

"A-7? Shit, they'll play Ace-anything," he grumbled.

"And yes, I'm a tourist," I added which drew a huge chuckle from the cute female dealer.

When I got even, I cashed out and got lost on my way out of the casino. I left Red Rock with a positive feeling. I wished it was closer to where Grubby lived in Henderson, but Green Valley is less than 5 minutes from his apartment.

My friend Diane was in town for the Broadcaster's convention. We play at the Blue Parrot together in NYC and she was playing in the 11pm tournament at the Sahara. By the time I got there, it was past the first break. I sat down at a 4-8 table while she played. I flopped a nut flush with my first hand A-10s. An orbit later she sat down.

"Busted already?"

She shrugged her shoulders and bought chips. I went on a mini-rush and caught cards. I flopped three sets including a hefty pot with 5-5. I also chased a "bloody gutshot" to the river and hit it. No one suspected that I was playing 10-7o. In my defense, I raised with it only because I didn't like the old man sitting in the Big Blind. He made several racist comments during the few minutes I was sitting there. He was pissed when I made my hand. He actually had something decent and flopped top pair. He busted and left.

I played for a little while longer before I got tired. I had about 4 hours to go to my deadline and I had to go back to Grubby's to read the edits and notes on my WPT Championship piece. I got home and quickly looked everything over and wrote the second draft in less than an hour. I sent it in two hours before the deadline at 2,400 words or twice as much as was requested. I have a hard time censoring myself and I didn't know what to cut out. I'm the writer, not the editor. That's his job. My job was to tell the story of the WPT Championships. Too bad I can't tell a good of a story as I did on the Tao of Poker this past week.

As I went to bed, Grubby was getting up to go to work. I forgot to tell him about the guy with the glass eye to warn him not to fall for the same bet or if he did, to make sure he bet the guy $200 or $300 so I can get some of my money and dignity back.

Meeting guys like Capt. Glass Eye at a local's casino or busting racists at the Sahara is why I like playing live poker. You just don't get that enthralling interaction when you play at home against ADD-riddled 16 year old kids on the internet.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

WPBT-POY Stud Event #4 on Sunday

Just a quick reminder...
What: WPBT-POY Seven-card Stud Event
When: Sunday April 30th at 9:30pm EST
Where: Poker Stars
Tourney Info: #21991049 (Look under Private tab)
How Much: $20 + 2
Password: email me for details
Attire: Pants optional
I slipped from 8th to 13th in the WPBT-POY rankings when I was busted in 50th place on Monday. I'm hoping to make a final table in this event. I began my poker career as a Stud player. The first time I sat down at a poker table in a casino, it was on a riverboat in Biloxi, Mississippi. I used a fake ID to get in after I ate a handful of magic mushrooms and I played Seven-card Stud with guys three times my age. I think Hurricane Katrina sent that particular casino about ten blocks in land, well what's left of it that is. The first time I played poker in Atlantic City, it was Stud at the Taj.

And yes, I'm back in NYC after almost two months on the road. I spent more days in L.A. this year than in NYC. On my JetBlue flight from Vegas, I watched the entire episode of the WPT Bellagio from last December, the one that Rhene Pedersen won. The Unabomber, JJ Liu, Doyle Brunson, Patrik Antonius, and Darrell Dicken also made the final table. I sat in the last row in the stands directly behind Dicken's head. I saw myself in two or three shots. I saw Heather from Poker Wire and BJ (when he worked for CardPlayer) in several audience shots too.

I'm blogging this from JFK airport while I wait for my luggage, which is taking forever. I have two or three posts to write up over the next few days, including a recap of my trip to Red Rock Casino to play Omaha High with WWII vets.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

WPT Championship Pictures

Here are some pics that I took during the taping of the final table last night. The WPT Championship will air on June 28th on the Travel Channel. You can click on the pics to enlarge the view.

WPT trophy

Winner's photo

The Final 2: Davidson Matthew and Joe Bartholdi

WPT Paris champion: Roland de Wolfe

Bellagio Babes bring the beer

John Vorhaus snaps a close up of WPT CEO Steve Lispcomb

I'm still working on an article about the WPT Championship which has a 6am deadline. I have less than 12 hours to complete it. The editor of Poker Pro is holding the issue for me. Talk about pressure!! In the meantime, feel free to re-read my coverage fo the first few days on the 2005 WPT World Championship.

Monday, April 24, 2006

2006 WPT Championship: The Final Table

The final table of the largest tournament in the history of the WPT begins tonight at the Bellagio. 6 players are left out of the original 606 who bought in for $25,000 each. The prize pool for the 2006 WPT Championship is in excess of over $14 million, with $3.7 million awarded to first place.

The action started last Tuesday with a shark infested field that was top heavy featuring the best pros in the world, along with a few satellite winners, online qualifiers, and daring souls who bought in directly like 23-year old law student Vanessa Rousso. By the end of day three, the unknown player quickly caught the attention of the media and her fellow players. She ended up bubbling out of the TV table last night, but took home over $260K for six days of work.

The media swelled to record numbers and the tourists and fans flocked to the tiny Fontana Room seeking out photos, autographs, and glimpses of their favorite pros. Poker players are the new rock stars, and I witnessed the affect of poker's popularity first hand. People from all over the world are hooked and fixated on poker in a not-so-healthy addictive way. I see the same glimmer in these people's eyes that I used to see in the bloodshot eyes of crackheads back in the late 1980s in NYC. Or they had the same look in the eyes of devout Christians jacked up on the power of the Lord.

There's no stopping the poker bug. It's become a part of our entire culture. And just over night, unknown players can become super stars. It almost happened to Vanessa Rousso and it could happen to you. That's why you keep playing...

Anyway, back to the final table... James Van Alstyne will begin his second day in a row as the chipleader. He coughed it up a few times yesterday, but managed to end the day with the lead. Men the Master started yesterday as one of the short stacks. He was sandwiched in between the two remaining female players at one point. With Coronas in reaching distance of his chips, he hung tough. Although he was always one of the short stacks, Men the Master avoided elimination. Roland de Wolfe won the WPT Paris event at the Aviation Club this past summer, and is seeking his second victory on the WPT this year.

Here are the chipcounts for the final table:
1 James Van Alstyne $8.07M
2 Joseph Bartholdi $ 7.135M
3 Claus Nielsen $ 5.875M
4 Davidson Matthew $ 5.765M
5 Roland De Wolfe $ 1.86M
6 Men "The Master" Nguyen $1.49M
Here's the payouts for the final table:
1 $3,760,165
2 $1,903,950
3 $1,025,205
4 $659,120
5 $439,375
6 $292,915
Stay tuned for live blogging updates starting at 5pm PCT. I have been experiencing technical issues all morning and will do my best to provide coverage.

* * * * * Live Blogging Update * * * * *

3:33pm... I arrived in media row to set up in the Tower Ballroom. It was nice to see a spot reserved for me thanks to Aimee from the WPT. This is her last event for the WPT. She's leaving and I'm gonna be sad. She was an amazing media liason and always made sure she saved me a seat in media row. I'm in between Steve Hall and BJ who is freelancing this event. Spaceman and the PokerWire girls are sitting in front of me. I got to the Bellagio early and ate some chocolate mint gelato, which rocked. I ran into Thang one of the floor people here atteh Bellagio. He hooked me up with a food comp for the day. It expires at Midnight.

3:35pm... I almost got a lapdance from one of the Poker Wire girls. The lights went out as she was plugging in her power source and she nearly tripped. I broke her fall. Jen had one of the random wildSunday nights in Las Vegas. She joked, "I was so drunk last night that I was dancing on a pole..."

3:38pm... The crew is doing last minute prep on the set including the lights. All the players chips are getting unbagged and stacked up. There's very little room to walk in media row, which is actually two rows with very little walking space.

3:41pm... Here's the final table seat assignments.
Seat 1: Joe Bartholdi (Dan Diego, CA) $7.135M
Seat 2: Roland De Wolfe (London, England) $1.86M
Seat 3: Men "The Master" Nguyen ( Bell Gardens, CA) $1.490M
Seat 4: Claus Nielsen (Aarhaus, Denmark) $5.875M
Seat 5: James Van Alstyne (Las Vegas, NV) $8.07M
Seat 6: Davidson Matthew (Toronto, Canada) $5.765M
3:40pm... Andy Bloch gave me a his Expert Insight DVD on Blackjack. I'm gonna do a review soon. I joked that I'm gonna watch it tonight with Grubby, then run out and use his methods. Andy Bloch was part of the MIT blackjack team and is boycotting WPT events.

3:45pm... Marcel Luske sighting here in the Tower Ballroom.

4:01pm... I just got back from the stage and snapped pictures as the players sat down. Mike Sexton would go over some things with them. Men the Master was the last to show up. He walked in with Scotty Nguyen. James Van Alstyne's stack wasn't right and he was trying to get the proper amount of chips that he ended Day 6 with.

4:05pm... Steve Lispcomb took the microphone and spoke to the audience. He was stalling for Linda Johnson who was running late. He said how cool it was to see the stage get set up for every final table over the last four years.

4:12pm... Linda Johnson is here now. Her flight arrived only a few minutes ago. She's literally out of breath as she took over the mic. "She's exhausted," commented BJ as she ran down the rules for the audience.

4:15pm... If you have never been to a WPT event, there are bleachers on three sides of the final table with cameras and the announcer's booth on the fourth. Before the action starts, Linda Johnson asks the audience to do a few things so they can tape it for the episode. We begin with a round of light or casual applause for a minute followed by a thunderous applause and standing ovation. It was fun the first time I saw it and I used to participate. Now I write through it as everyone in the crowd does their best acting performance. This goes on for a about ten minutes as the crew logs crowd shots.

4:20pm... Smoke break.

4:29pm... Vanessa Roussou was introduced to the crowd and stood up. She was wearing a black juicy sweat suit.

4:30pm... Players were announced to the crowd. Men the Master had the loudest railbirds. One of Claus' fans waved a Danish flags. The final table has an international flair. Men was born in Vietnam and three other players who made the final table are non-Americans.
Seat 1: Joe Bartholdi (Dan Diego, CA) $7.135M
Seat 2: Roland De Wolfe (London, England) $1.86M
Seat 3: Men "The Master" Nguyen ( Bell Gardens, CA) $1.490M
Seat 4: Claus Nielsen (Aarhaus, Denmark) $5.875M
Seat 5: James Van Alstyne (Las Vegas, NV) $8.07M
Seat 6: Davidson Matthew (Toronto, Canada) $5.765M
4:31pm... Media Row Prop Bets: BJ and I have a last longer, out first prop bet of the night. He's got Claus Nielsen and I'm going with Joe Bartholdi. "Watch out for Claus," said Heather from PokerWire, "I gave him a lucky hug. He said he can't play each round until I give him a lucky hug."

4:32pm... Cards are in the air. "Millionaires are in the midst at the Bellagio," announced Vince Van Patten, "Let the games begin!"

4:33pm... "I have a special request," said Steve Hall, "I want to make sure none of you take my computer and throw it up against the wall." He's not joking. It really happened back in December. A member of the media flipped out on Steve and tossed his laptop against the call like it was a Roger Clemens split fingered fastball.

4:34pm... James Van Alstyne takes down the first pot.

4:38pm... Courtey Friel walked behind us in media row. We're up on a perch and she was below us. "Perfect spot to look down her dress," mentioned Steve Hall. Lucky BJ. He got tickled by Courtney in December at the WPT Bellagio event. "A very playfull, flirty tickle," described BJ. I'd sell my left testicle on eBay just to have that chance. It's not everyday a WPT hostess tickles you in media row.

4:41pm... We had a flop and a huge pot between Joe Bartholdi and James Van Alstyne. It was over $7.2 million. Bartholdi showed 8-8 on the river with a board of 4-4-3-A-6. Van Alstyne mucked. My pick Joe Bartholdi is the new chipleader with over $9M in chips. Van Alstyne slipped to $5M and 4th place.

4:45pm.. Liz Lieu sightng in the Tower Ballroom. I think Steve Hall just wet himself.

4:50pm... Vanessa Rousso walked out behind us in media row. "She just showed up to stand up so we can feel sorrry for her," said Steve Hall as she left the Tower Ballroom.

4:54pm... Media Row Prop bets: I set the over/under for tonight's event at 10:40pm. BJ took the over. I got the under.

4:58pm... Steve Hall told me about a girl he knows who happened to be hanging out with some high rollers over the weekend. They won $2 million throwing dice. They took her shopping ans she picked up a $4,500 handbag at Chanel. That means nothing for us straight guys, but I know Change100 is drooling right now.

5:00pm... Lynette Chan and Joe Cassidy sighting here at the Tower Ball Room.

5:03pm... "Time for dinner. All you can eat, baby!" shouted Men the Master as he moved all in for all his chips wrth a little over $1M. Everyone folded. Fear Men!

5:11pm... Roland De Wolf did not get any action with his pocket Kings.

5:13pm... Recent Elimination: Men the Master and Claus Nielsen were both all in preflop. Men had 10-10 and Claus had the Hilton Sisters. Men was still behind on the flop of A-9-5. The turn was a 4 and the river was a King. Claus Nielsen's Q-Q held up and Men the Master was wliminated in 6th place. Men Ngyuen won $292,915.

5:34pm... I just yelled at Amanda from Poker Wire for reading my blog, when she should be working. Action slowed down since Men was busted.

5:35pm... Players are on a short break as they race off the blue chips. Joe Bartholdi is the leader with over $10M. Here's an updated chip count:
1 Joe Bartholdi $10.265M
2 Davidson Matthew $8.75M
3 Claus Nielsen $6.M705
4 James Van Alstyne $2.455M
5 Roland De Wolfe $1.845M
6:00pm... There's a slowdown due to a technical error. Please stand by. While I was outside in the hallway, I was hanging out with Flipchip. James Van Alstyne came over to talk and said, "I'm playing the worst poker of my life."

6:05pm... Still no poker. Looks like this delay is going to kill the over/under prop bet. BJ brought a box of Pirates of the Caribbean cereal that we're eating. Nothing is worst than getting the munchies in media row in the middle of a tournament.

6:14pm... James Van Alstyne made a move with K-6 and pushed his chips all in. Roland De Wolfe quickly called with K-K. Van Alstyne had him slightly covered and flopped a gut shot draw. His hand did not improve and Roland De Wolfe doubled up. Van Alstyne was crippled.

6:21pm... Recent Elimination: James Van Alstyne had A-K and moved all in with his shortstack. Joe Bartholdi called with J-10. Bartholdi turned a ten and Van Alstyne's hand did not improve. He busted out in 5th place winning $439,375. He left the table with a dejected look on his face. Van Alstyne originally made a large sum of money in the stock market several years ago. He let it all ride and lost some of his huge gains. He's a gambler/investor at heart. He was hoping to win it all here at the WPT Championship, especially since he ended the last two days as the chipleader.

6:30pm... The PokerWire girls in media row requested a chipcount. Linda Johnson did a quick one for us.
1 Joeseph Bartholdi $11.3M
2 Claus Nielsen $8M
3 Davidson Matthew $6.5M
4 Roland De Wolfe $3.5M
6:35pm... Roland De Wolfe took a huge pot when doubled up with J-J against Claus Nielsen's 7-7. De Wolfe has over $7M in chips now.

6:40pm... We're devouring the Pirates of the Caribbean cereal that BJ brought. It's like chocolate flavored crack. I haven't been this jacked up since the Playboy Mansion.

6:50pm... Davidson Matthew picked up two pots but aside from that, action has slowed down.

7:01pm... Jen from PokerWire brought pretzels to media row. Liz Lieu is also here and she's noshing on pretzels with us. She was watching me sweat Derek's table in the blogger's WSOP event. Derek had K-K and got Easy Cure to shove all in with A-Q and a Queen on the flop. Easy turned trips and sent Derek to the rail. There were only a few players who had more chips than Derek and Easy was one of them. Liz Lieu was pissed! She's probably Derek's biggest fan. She loves his writing. She wants to kick Easy Cure's ass now!

7:07pm... Roland De Wolfe had been building his stack over the last thirty minutes until he ran into fellow European Clause Nielsen. De Wolfe was all in with Claus Nielsen. He had A-10 to Nielsen's 9-9. Claus Neilsen doubled up to over $6M in chips.

7:13pm... We're on a new level. Antes are $30K with $150K/$300K blinds.

7:20pm... Players are on a ten minute break which means play will resume in 25 minutes. Here's a updated chipcount:
1 Joe Bartholdi $11.215M
2 Davidson Matthew $9.4M
3 Claus Nielsen $6.84M
4 Roland De Wolfe $5.665M
7:25pm... Courtney Friel and the Bellagio Babes are practicing the money presentation. She's sizzling tonight in a sleek Versace dinner dress.

7:27pm... I just got busted from the blogger's WSOP tournament. I had Q-Q and moved all in against StB's A-K. He flopped an ace and rivered a King. I was out in 50th out of 78th place. No POY points for me.

7:50pm... Recent Elimination: BJ's pick Claus Nielsen was busted by Joe Bartholdi in 4th place. Bartholdi rivered a flush with Kd-9d against Nielsen's A-Q. Nielsen caught a Queen on the river on a board of 9x-7d-2d-7x-Kd and moved all in. Nielsen won $659,120.

8:00pm... At this point, Joe Bartholdi has over $18M in chips with Roland De Wolfe and Davidson Matthew with about $6M each.

8:26pm... The WPT crew is having technical difficulties. Action has been suspended until they figured out what happened.

8:30pm... Roland de Wolfe came up to media row and asked PokeWire to send a message to Juha Helpi who's following Poker Wire on his flight home. Luftansa has wi-fi on their flights so he can keep tabs on his friend Roland. Ironically, Jen from PokerWire did some work on the technology programs that enable planes to get internet access. Oh and Wolfe pointed out that his name is spelled with a "small D" and not a "Capital D."

8:35pm... Media Row Prop Bets: There's an old pretzel with a bunch of ranch dressing and nasty ass mustard. Liz Lieu brought it over for us including all the nasty mustard. Jen from PokerWire offered BJ to eat the pretzel for $20. He has until the end of the tournament to finish it. "It's the nastiest mustard ever!" added Jen. "And he has to eat it all."

8:37pm... The sound mixer is broken and they are re-installing another one. We'll be back in 5-7 minutes which means action will resume in 20 minutes.

8:45pm... Amanda from Poker Wire told me about a prop bet involving Gavin Smith. He bet some woman in Reno that she couldn't eat 200 peeps in and hour. She did 60 and stopped. I think she puked too. Since she lost, she not has to do Gavin Smith's laundry for 6 months. The funny thing is that Mike Sexton offered her $500 not to take the bet. She did it anyway.

8:47pm... Chris Bigler, Bobby Baldwin, Evelyn Ng, and Patrik Antonius have all been spotted in the Tower Ballroom.

8:49pm... Cards are back in the air. We've been on break for about 40 minutes while the crew fixed the sound problem.

8:53pm... Davidson Matthew took down a pot against Bartholdi.

8:58pm... Recent Elimination: Roland de Wolfe moved all in with 6-6 against Joe Bartholdi's Q-Q. The flop was Q-8-5 and all of Bartholdi's railbirds jumped to their feet in jubilation. Roland de Wolf turned a gutshot draw when a 4 fell. The river was a 3 and Roland Wolfe was eliminated in 3rd place. He won $1,025,205, which is not bad for third place! Joe Bartholdi now has over $21M in chips to Davidson Matthew's $8M.

9:05pm... Media Row Prop Bet: BJ won $20 after he ate the hard pretzel and all the nasty ass mustard.

9:06pm... Play has stopped as the crew sets up the money presentation featuring Courtney Friel and the Borgata Babes.

9:20pm... Spaceman is losing it. He has his hands buried in his face. I guess he can't take the constant delays. We all want to go home at this point. I'm sitting in between Jen from PokeWire and BJ. Flipchip is in meda row with us too.

9:23pm... Prop Bet Update: Pauly 1, BJ 0. I won the last longer. I picked Joe Bartholdi. I'm also looking good on the over/under at 10:50pm. I hope so. I have a food comp that expires at Midnight.

9:25pm... OK, after another delay, we're ready to play heads up. We're currently on hand #74.

9:30pm... Davidson Matthew won a pot after he went all in over the top of Bartholdi.

9:36pm... We're on a new level. Blinds are $250K/$500K with $50K antes.

9:48pm... 16 hands into the heads up match and I'm bored to death. I finally got to read a lot of stuff in my bloglines folders.

9:59pm... In the past half hour, David Matthew slowly fought his way back. He's only down $17M to $13M in chips after he took down two huge pots re-raising Bartholdi who folded both times.

10:10pm... I have 40 minutes left on my prop bet with BJ for the O/U. After 25 hands, Davidson Matthew closed the gap $16.4M to $13.8M.

10:11pm... We're on a new level. Blinds are $400K/$800K with a $100K ante.

10:12pm... Steve Hall brought us food in media row. I think he laced it with ecstacy in an attempt to get the PokerWire girls to take off their tops.

10:21pm... Say hello to our new chipleader... Davidson Matthew. He took down an $8M pot.

10:31pm... 39 hands into the heads up match and it's still pretty much even in chips. Davidson Matthew has $14M to Bartholdi's $16M.

10:36pm... On Hand #116, Davidson Matthew moved all in with 10h-4h with a flush draw on a board of Ah-9c-8h. Joe Bartholdi called with 9-5o and just top pair. The river did not help Matthew and Joe Bartholdi won the WPT Championship. Davidson Matthew won $1,903,950 for second place. Joe Bartholdi picked up $3,760,165 for first place.

2006 WPT World Champion: Joe Bartholdi

Congrats to Joe. That's it for now.
WPT Championship Day 6: Does Cinderella Wear Dolce?

The Bellagio was unusually quiet as I walked inside after dropping off my rental at the valet. It was a sunny Sunday morning in Las Vegas and mostly everyone was sleeping. The lobby was crowded with weekend warriors waiting in the packed check out line, ready to catch their 1pm flights back to the East Coast. The geriatric gamblers were addictively focused on their slot play and that seemed to be the only degenerate action going on. Even the Fontana Room seemed tame compared to how it had been all week. There were some die hard railbirds gawking, but there weren't too many big named pros left in the tournament to hold their short attention spans, so the turnover on the rail was constant. By mid-afternoon the spectators were several people deep as they tried to peer through the sea of reporters and photographers. The surly security guards in the maroon blazers make sure that only legit press got full access to the tables.

I spotted more wedding parties snapping photos and wandering the floor of the Bellagio. Between the conservatory and the veranda, the Bellagio is a popular place to take photos. I also saw the tail end of a wedding reception. The bride look disheveled. As I peered into her glassy eyes, she continuously puffed on a Menthol cigarette like David Williams sucking a hooker's big toe. She sipped on a light beer and looked like she was eight months pregnant. At least her cigarette was a menthol. I know that's as poor as an excuse as "But they were sooted!"

Pregnant and chain smoking chicks drinking cheap beer out of the bottle... this is what Britney Spears' wedding must have been like. Speaking of Britney, her husband K-Fed was seen at Pure the other night. Britney never bothered to show up. They are having marital issues. She realized she married a pot-head doofus, while he hit the lottery. Anyway, my favorite saggy pants-wearing, wife-beater t-shirt sporting pot fiend sang two of his new songs, and didn't perform Popozao which happens to be my all time favorite song from guys who have corn-holded Britney Spears.

The press now outnumbered the remaining players by a 3 to 1 margin. Plus the suits are out in record numbers. The WPT folks always come down on the day before the final table, which means that the normal WPT crew are extra-stressed out and the remainder of the press have to be on their best behavior.

The Scandis that are here covering the event for the European press were sitting on the veranda and playing backgammon. I think they were playing for 50 Euros a game or something like that.

Erica Schoenberg, Men the Master, and Vanessa Rousso

With Erica Schoenberg and Vanessa Rousso sitting at the same table, most of the photographers were camped out there. Rousso sported a gaudy white D&G hat. Sure it must have cost four figures for a designer trucker's hat, but it reeks of hipster poker fashion wear. I was digging part of Erica Schoneberg's outfit. She wore tight jeans with black hooker boots. She also wore a faded black Pink Floyd shirt. I wondered if she was a toker? I do know she likes French guys. She's recently been linked to WPT Paris champion David Benyamine and the too were seen canoodling during the early rounds.

"She's got a great body, but no butt," a female member of the media commented. She asked to remain anonymous and added, "But she's no 'sex on a stick' like that Patrik Antonius. I could nibble on him all day."

"I want a female to win the WPT Championship," said The Grinder. "That way women will think how easy it is to win poker tournaments and more of them will play."

I couldn't tell if The Grinder wanted to see more women at the tables or more dead money. And I don't want to catch any flack from feminists for that comment. The majority of deadmoney in poker happen to be middle aged guys with a Chris Moneymaker complex. Perhaps if Vanessa Rousso wins, there will be an influx of soccer moms and twenty-something women trying seeking fame and fortune in the poker world.
Here's the payout for the 2006 WPT Championship:

1 $3,760,165
2 $1,903,950
3 $1,025,205
4 $659,120
5 $439,375
6 $292,915
7 $263,625
8 $234,330
9 $205,040
10 $175,750
11-15 $146,460
16-20 $117,165
21-30 $87,875
31-40 $73,230
41-50 $58,585
51-100 $43,935
You never know what's going to happen on the day before the final table. Play can go quickly or it could slow down to a snail's pace. I've had a 17 hour day at the Borgata once last September and that was brutal.

"Everyone is playing more careful today," mentioned Poker Wire Jen. "No one wants to make a crucial mistake."

That quote summed up the action. There was a thick cloud of tension filling the Fontana Room. Aside from the clatter of the chips and the clicking of cameras, there was very little chatter at the table. Even Vanessa Rousso who had been very talkative all week had toned down her act. Perhaps she was tired or just trying to conserve her energy.

Surrinder Sunar was the first player busted. Chad Brown took him out. The two Bronx boys were trying to make the final table. Both Chad Brown and Victor Ramdin are fellow Bronx boys so I've always been rooting for those guys who represented the "Boogie Down."

Joe Bartholdi picked up aces on consecutive hands and they both held up that started his run and he would end up being the first player to hit the $7 million chip mark. Patrik Antonius wished his Aces held up. He had them viciously cracked by Vanessa Rousso. On Day 5, Antonius took several tough beats and lost his massive stack. His bad luck continued on Day 6, when he found A-A. He raised preflop and Rousso smooth called on the button with 10-9s. She flopped top pair and raised Antonius all in. He quickly called but stood up and began to pace when Rousso flipped over her cards. I think he knew what was coming. Most of the media sensed the impending suckout as they converged on the table snapping photos or scribbling down notes. The turn was another 10 and the crowd erupted as Rousso turned trips. The Europeans grumbled as the Vanessa Rousso fans jubilantly cheered. Everyone roots for the hot chick in poker, even at the Bellagio.

A dejected Antonius walked to the rail as his manager Wendy consoled him. 17th place for the kid from Helsinki. Despite his luck, Patrik Antonius could not make another final table. I think he's the one of the best young European NL players on the tournament circuit. He kicked ass in Barcelona. I watched him play when I announced the final table. He's not afraid to throw his chips in the pot. He also won the EPT Austria. The quiet kid has skills. And Finnish people are known to be stoic.

As that old joke goes... "A Finnish man loved his wife so much that he almost told her."

An Icelandic bartender told that joke to me and Senor in Reykjavik shortly before we went on a Midnight tour to find the Aurora Borealis. I'd been waiting to re-tell it for five years.

"That's a good looking kid," one member of the media said out loud pointing to Antonius.

"Maybe. But is he ruggedly handsome like me?" added Gavin Smith who was one of the random poker players who showed up to check out the action along with Gus Hansen, Young Phan, Jean Gaspard, Evelyn Ng, and William Rockwell.

PokerWire girls in action

I like the day before the final table in WPT events because that's when Courtney Friel hits the floor and shoots various promos. She wore tight jeans and a tight pink shirt and the entire casino went silent as she made her entrance. Her infectious smile always makes me melt.

Spaceman (or Spacemonkey as Gavin Smith calls him) and I headed to the snack bar on one of the breaks. We sat down with Steve Dannenmann and shot the shit. We wondered when his sex tape was going to come out. Since David Williams took second at the WSOP and made a sex tape, it seems natural that whoever comes in second at the WSOP must do porn.

I wanted to gamble on what Dannenmann ordered. He ended up getting a Rueben sandwich. I thought he was going to get the Omaha Burger, which is one of the better things to get at the snack bar next to the Poker Room at the Bellagio. The other night Dannenmann was at Pure and he kept getting recognized.

"You're that poker guy!" is probably the phrase he's heard the most since ESPN aired the WSOP main event.

By the way, back by popular demand...
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next to at the Bellagio:
1. Men the Master
2. Johnny Bax
3. Chad Brown
4. Patrik Antonius
5. David Sklansky
I was wandering in and out of the tournament area taking photos and talking to the other reporters getting hands and specific information. At this point, these stats have more significance for me in trying to figure out the story and flow of the last two tables. The media reminded me a flock of pigeons in Central Park. When a crazy lady would toss bread in one spot, the pigeons would flock and peck away. That happened when pots would build or players moved all in. The attention flocked from one table to the other, back and forth, like pigeons in the park. When the flock went one way, I went the other. The other table would have more space for me to stand and I could get better pictures.

The room buzzed when Erica Schoenberg busted out in 16th place by Victor Ramdin. She had hung on for the last few days and at one point was the top 10 in chips. Earlier in the day she tripled up to stay in the game. Victor Ramdin busted her when his pocket Kings held up against her A-Q. As she headed to the rail, the room filled with applause. She won $117,165 for six plays of poker.

At that point, all the eyes in the room were focused on Vanessa Rousso. She was the last woman standing. Everyone in the media had a collected hard on. Especially the suits at the WPT. With a pretty face and a feisty demeanor at the tables, she'd be a ratings bonanza. She was fodder for the media hounds. We all plastered her photos on the websites. That gets hits. She was something to write about. And the best part... she really came out of nowhere.

I never even heard of the chick. On Day 2, Jen Creason kept asking me, "Who's that girl? The pretty one. Why don't I know her name? Who is she? You know her. She's from New York City. She's friends with those Russian guys, right?"

Russian guys? Svetlana?

Jen thought she was Sweet Svetlana. Vanessa and Svetlana are two different people. Sweet Svetlana is an Atlantic City legend. She took third in a tournament at the Borgata and was so pissed when she got busted she refused to pick up her check for days. But Vanessa Rousso was a big question mark until we figured out who Vanessa Rousso was. Her manager, a slick law student wearing all black, befriended Spaceman early on. He clued us in on the facts of the bombshell from Miami. We knew a little bit, but only what he told us. That's when Jen recalled that they were at Duke at the same time.

James Van Alstyne came into Day 6 as the chipleader. Joseph Bartholdi jumped out to the lead. He caught cards in a flurry like a Russian submarine sailor catches the clap in a Bangkok whorehouse. Bartholdi made an impressive move when he took down a monster pot. He bluffed with Queen high and showed it. After he scooped the pot, he had over $5 million. He'd build his stack up over $7 million with 13 players remaining.

Here's some pics that I took on Day 6:

Vanessa smiles

Hat of the Day

James Van Alstyne's stack

Espen Saltnes, the dude from Norway I started calling "ESPN" busted Johnny Bax aka Cliff Josephy. Then the first Bronx boy was eliminated. Victor Ramdin failed in his attempt to win back-to-back events on the World Poker Tour. He took 11th place at the WPT Championships after winning the Fowoods event a few weeks ago. Vanessa Rousso added to her stack when her A-Q busted Ramdin's A-10. Rousso flopped a Queen to seal his fate. Rousso jumped to 4th in chips with $4.3 million. The erections in the crowd grew stronger than the junk of a porn star from the Valley who's jacked up on two hits of Cialis.

Vanessa Rousso is a great story I love typing her name. Sometimes I cut and past names because it's quicker than typing it out. Not for Vanessa Rousso. I get enjoyment with every key stroke.

Vanessa Rousso is the Cinderella story of the year. She's the unknown who walked into the Bellagio and sat at the same table with Doyle Brunson, the Babe Ruth of poker and biggest swing dick in poker history... and the 23-year old law student held her own. Her mere existence gives me something to write about. It gives all of us hope that really anyone has a shot at the big time in poker. Anyone fool with $25,000 could have sat down and played. Some pros skipped the event. They knew it was -EV and stayed away.

Vanessa Rousso gained more confidence after each player was busted. It's like getting into a fight. After you take the first and second punch you realize that it hurts, but that's the worst it's gonna hurt. You can take the pain and you're ready to dish it out.

So is she lucky or good? It doesn't matter when it comes down to the final ten players. It's about who gets cards and who makes the best laydowns at this point.
Final Table Chipcounts:
1 Joe Bartholdi $6.2M
2 James Van Alstyne $5.47M
3 Davidson Matthew $4.41M
4 Vanessa Rousso $4.315M
5 Claus Nielsen $3.7M
6 Espen Saltnes $2.465M
7 Men "The Master" Nguyen $1.555M
8 Roland De Wolfe $1.27M
9 Chad Brown $700K
10 Carlos Zambrano $685K
Carlos Zambrano the poker player finished in 10th place when his A-Q ran into James Van Alstyne's Hilton Sisters. Carlos Zambrano took down $175,750 as Van Alstyne jumped into the chip lead with $6.4 million.The other Bronx guy Chad Brown went out in 9th place. He won $205,040 and promised a portion of his winnings to charity. Davidson Matthew flopped a boat to send Brown to the rail.

Espen "Espn" Saltnes lost most of his stack when his 7-7 ran into WPT Paris champion Roland De Wofle's J-J. Davidson Matthew eventually finished him off in 8th place, winning $234,330 for 8th place. Matthew continued his rush and took control of the game as he jumped to the front of the pack with a momentary chiplead.

With seven players remaining, it appeared that Vanessa Rousso was extremely close to breaking out as a huge poker star. The entire room tucked its collective erection under their waistbands and prayed that Vanessa could survive one more bustout. If she did, then she'd make it to the final TV table. Like a fresh starlet rolling into Hollyweird, the vultures swarmed around the brushfire success of Vanessa Rousso. If she made the final table, endorsement deals and partnerships were just around the corner. Pretty faces sell magazines too. She hadn't even made the final table yet everyone was lining up to exploit her and take a piece of her action.

The Cinderella story would end as Vanessa Rousso bubbled out of the TV table. She won $263,625. That's not a bad paycheck, especially for 7th place. She was bad beated too. With A-K, she got all her money in the pot against James Van Alstyne's A-J. The turn paired his Jack and that was it. Rousso had failed to improve and she was sent to the rail.

The final table was set and Vanessa Rousso is not going to be at this one. The entire crowd filtered out with the largest case of blue balls after Vanessa Rousso's run. She failed to advance and a lot of media reps were bummed out that she's not going to be on TV.

The final table of the WPT Championship will start on Monday at 4pm PCT. Here's the final table chip count:
1 James Van Alstyne $8.07M
2 Joseph Bartholdi $ 7.135M
3 Claus Nielsen $ 5.875M
4 Davidson Matthew $ 5.765M
5 Roland De Wolfe $ 1.86M
6 Men 'The Master" Nguyen $1.49M
Van Alstyne started the day as the chipleader and ended the say as the chipleaer. Check back here on Monday at 4pm PCT for live blogging updates of the final table as long as there are no techical difficulties.

Someone is going home $3.7 million richer. And it's not going to be me.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

WPT Day 5, Young Black Ass-Worship Slaves, and Dead Sharks
"It's my big dick and I say when we roll!" - Dirk Diggler, Boogie Nights
I wish I could make this stuff up, but the story of the day has not been Day 5 of the WPT Championships. Instead, the folks in media row have been paying less attention to chip counts and continuously watching this video.

We analyzed it all day at the Bellagio in the Fontana Room. The reaction is mixed. I found the link on this thread over at Neverwin Poker. Even The Poker Prof wrote something about the porn rumors, as did the guys over at Wicked Chops.

There's one phrase that has been on everyone's mind... "Is that really David Williams? And did he really jizz on that chick's foot?"

It doesn't matter at this point... to jizz or not to jizz.

Even if it's proven that the kid in the "young black ass-worship slaves" video is not David Williams, and just a near identical amateur porn star who happens to look a lot like David Williams... the damage has been done.

Or maybe not.

This could end up being amazing publicity for Williams. After all, his story has been blowing up all over the internet like a case of the crabs at Tara Ried's Fourth of July beach party.

I still don't think it's him. Here's why... I just can't bring myself to accept the fact that someone who used to play in Magic the Gathering tournaments could actually shoot a porn video. There, I said it. Geeks are not porn star material.

Editor's Note: I'm getting a slew of emails telling me that it's David Williams and that this foot fetish video is old news. It's been circulating in the Magic community for a few years and even last year this video resurfaced. For some reason this has been a hot topic this weekend.

Speaking of porn, one sleazy guy that's been hanging around the Fontana Room offered Steve Hall $10,000 to be in a porno.

"I'd do it for free. Just for the sex," admitted Steve Hall in his classy British accent.

* * * * *

My day started early. Too early for a Saturday in Las Vegas. I agreed to head up to Red Rock Canyon to go on a hike with my buddy Friedman. I woke up at 7:30 so we can beat the crowds that would infest the park that's about 30 minutes from Las Vegas. I posted some photos on the Tao of Pauly of the trippy and magnificent red rocks (such as the pic I took that appears to the right). I did a little climbing and have been sore ever since. I used muscles that I haven't used since I did the freaky freaky with one of my former roommate's sister who happened to be a ballerina.

By the time I arrived at the Bellagio, I had written an article, hiked through Red Rock Canyon, took almost a hundred photos, and watched the Rangers get their ass spanked by the Devils in the first round of the NHL playoffs. I was exhausted, so I hit the hooker bar right away for a welcomed energy boost. The bartender that Spaceman and I had been greasing all week, was not working. It was his day off.

Since action of Day 5 of the WPT Championship was reduced to eight tables, security allowed spectators to enter the Fontana Room and watch the action unfold. Railbirds flocked and stood four and five people deep. Whenever a player would move all in, the media would swarm over the table and scribble down the hands. I sat in the corner and tried to utilize the zoom on my camera to spot any high quality female talent on the rail.

The tournament staff limited access to the floor. If you had a "Day Pass" press badge that meant you had the same access as a spectator... nothing. I was pleased by their decision. Why let a bunch of flunkies tool around inside the ropes? The spectators were trying to snap photos and begging pros for autographs and pictures, something that had been going on all week. I saw Scott Fischman posing for a few photos.

"How many picture requests do you get a day?" I asked.

Without looking me in the eye he muttered, "Too many."

Flipchip came by to shoot some more pics and I asked him to focus on the chicks. He told me that he played in a tournament the night before at Sam's Town and he ran into a fan of the Tao of Poker. He told him that I'd be at the Bellagio and sure enough, Tommy showed up. He sent me an email last summer giving me a heads up on a special Jerry Day celebration at Wild Wild West Casino, which was across the street from where I lived at the Redneck Riviera. He offered to buy me and Spaceman a drink at the hooker bar. We quickly accepted. Thanks again Tommy and shoot me an email when you get the chance.

Heck, if you can get pros to buy you drinks, getting fans to do it is just as good.

Just after 4:20pm, the faint aroma of dank nugs made its way through the Bellagio which meant that Brett Jungblut was making a rare appearance inside a casino instead of playing online and yanking tubes all day.

71 players started Day 5 and only 19 would survive. I expected one of the big sharks to make it to Day 6. I was wrong. Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson won 5 WSOP Championships and have 29 bracelets in total. However, they only have one WPT victory combined, and that was courtesy of Texas Dolly. If you don't know Doyle Brunson is one of two players with a WPT title and a WSOP Championship. The other is Carlos Mortensen. Anyway, I was rooting for at least one if not two of the sharks to make the final table. I would have loved to see a Hellmuth and Johnny Chan heads up rematch. Alas, it is not going to happen anytime soon.

Johnny Chan, sporting a psychedelic patterned Versace shirt and a lucky orange headed to the rail in 34th place after Chad Brown flopped a full house against him. Doyle Brunson unfortunately ran into pocket Aces and as eliminated in 47th place. Hellmuth was out in 50th place. Of course it was a bad beat when James Van Alstyne called Hellmuth's all in bet with the nut flush draw. Hellmuth flopped a set of 7s and shrieked, "God dammit!" when Van Alstyne made his flush on the turn.

If you found yourself seated at Table 63, you would have pissed your pants. Rhene Pedersen is no slouch. The kid from Denmark won the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond Champion in December. The table also included Norway's Thor Hansen, Vinny Vinh, Phil Hellmuth, my main man Freddy Deeb (with over $1 million in chips) and Chad Brown. I forgot to mention that the hot chick du jour Vanessa Rousso was also at Table 63. Having Hellmuth and a bunch of uncircumcised Europeans at your table is tough enough, but then you throw the hot chick into the mix and you're totally on full blown tilt.

Vanessa Rousso

By the end of the day, the non-porn story involved the two women who are still left. Erica Shoenberg is 7th in chips and Vanessa Rousso is 9th. Erica is a former blackjack whiz and has been tutored by Marcel Luske. Vanessa is a third year law student from Miami. She's 23 years old and likes to talk smack. She even jawed with Texas Dolly who jokingly called her an "wiked witch." Spaceman introduced me to Vanessa's agent/manager. Yep, she's already got representation. Her poker skills were equal to her breath taking looks. Vanessa is not a complete unknown. She cashed in the 2005 WSOP Ladies Event and made the final table of a WSOP circuit event in Atlantic City.

Finish stud boy Patrik Antonius lost nearly his entire stack. He had his Hilton Sisters snapped off by James Van Alstyne's K-10s in one of the largest pots of the entire tournament. Then Antonius lost a coinflip to Vanessa Rousso when his A-K couldn't win a race against Rousso's 10-10. That hand propelled Rousso into the top 10 in chips.

When action resumes at Noon on Sunday, James Van Alstyne will try to protect his chiplead. He was the first player to amass $4 million in chips and he's looking to hold off two players who won events on this season of the WPT. Roland De Wolfe won the WPT Paris at the Aviation Club and just a few weeks again, Victor Ramdin won Foxwoods. He's trying to win back-to-back WPT events which has never happened before. That's like watching a pitcher throw back-to-back no hitters. And Johnny Vander Meer has been dead for almost a decade. Ramdin is 4th in chips and trying to pull off the impossible.

Here's some pics that I took on Day 5. You can click on the photos to see an enlarged view of them.

Moving all in...

Action on Day 5

Johnny Chan and Patrik Antonius' big stack

The Master and His Corona

Enjoy the pics. If you want to see some of Flipchip's photos stop by Las Vegas and Poker Blog. If you want to read my end of day recaps of the Day 5, head over to Poker Player Newspaper.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hump Day Friday at the WPT Championships
"Asked how he became a writer: In the same way that a woman becomes a prostitute. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and finally I did it for money." - Ferenc Molnar
The fourth day of a seven week tournament is hump day. Some players make the money, others don't and get fucked. After four grueling days of mental torture, the last thing any player wants to do in a tournament with a $14 million prize pool, is to bubble out and go home with absolutely nothing. That demoralizing feeling fell on the faces of at least 104 players who left the Bellagio under a dark cloud of gloom after they were eliminated on Day 4 of the WPT Championships.

As the tournament gets close to the money, players start accumulating chips while building up massive stacks. When I walked into the Fontana Room the cries of "All in!" from various dealers echoed through the room as small stacks made moves to double up. Within the first hour almost 45 players were busted out and by early evening the money bubble burst with each player remaining was guaranteed at least $43K.

As the intensity of the action magnified with each bustout, the media slowly started to outnumber the number of tables remaining as the ring of reporters around the surviving players grew larger and thicker and more intimidating.

"The wall of ignorance," I muttered to Flipchip.

An army of photographers with digital cameras snapped two hundred versions of the same picture of Doyle Brunson. Heck, even I took a few. Seven to be exact and only two came out halfway decent. He's got his eyes closed in one and looks bored as shit in another. I'm amazed that a guy as old as Texas Dolly can have the patience and discipline of a Buddhist monk and still have some gamble in him and "the heart of a cliff diver" as Amarillo Slim would call it. Brunson survived another day and sits in the middle of the pack. He had to fight through hundreds of the best pros in the world along with fending off internet hotshots with bigger bankrolls than the GNP of Peru and who have played a million hands in a weekend while jacked up on Adderalls and Red Bull.

Don't forget about the international invasion of European and Asian poker players seeking the WPT Championship and the $3.7 million first place prize. Along with the Europeans came a slew of European press. There are a bunch of Scandis here doing their own thing along with a few Brits from Gutshot. During the first break I overheard Men the Master complaining about one hand. I don't speak Vietnamese, but the tonal inflections of his voice indicated that he was pretty pissed off.

I must have seen a dozen or so wedding parties slide past the tables over the last few days as they had to cross the Fontana Room to get outside to the veranda for wedding photos. Some of the brides looked amazingly beautiful. The hotter the bride meant the dorkier the groom. I was perplexed. One wedding party wore 1970s era tuxedos in a weak attempt to stand out. Sigh. Hipster weddings and high stakes tournament poker. Only at the Bellagio.

I wrote on the veranda for a while as the water show went off in the background. Lisa Wheeler sat at the table next to me. She's working for CardPlayer and told me about all the awful things people wrote about her on the internet regarding her coverage of the Andy Beal and Corporation heads-up matches at the Wynn. She joked about being called Deepthroat in reference to the manner in which someone suggested she got the details of the private game.

I've known Lisa since the 2005 WSOP. She worked for PokerWire then and told me some of the craziest stories about the poker business. Our discussions also tailed off into odd topics. When I once asked her what was the weirdest thing she ever thought about during sex was, she didn't hesitate and blurted out, "Trimming my cat's toe nails."

Flipchip navigated the room and took pictures for a while. The Poker Prof left his top secret bunker in a non-disclosed location in the Nevada Dessert (rumored to be in the Valley of Fire) and made a rare appearance to the Strip. We all had a brief meeting over coffee in the Italian pastry shop that overlooks the pool. We talked about the 2006 WSOP, mostly about how excited we were to get to cover it. That is going to be their third WSOP and my second. For a while I was dreading the 2006 World Series of Poker, however I'm in a much better headspace and now I can't wait for it to begin.

I was constantly distracted by the sensational quality of talent that soaked up the hot Nevada sun and absorbed skin cancer as they lounged around the Windex-blue Bellagio pool, which contained decadent boobage both God-made and man-made. I prefer natural breasts over fake ones, but I'll never deny the opportunity to inspect the goods myself and come to my own conclusions. I'm fortunate enough that I get to hang out and cover poker tournaments but getting to write about ogling the magnificent breasts on twenty-something year old tourists with ugly back tattoos as I eat a cinnamon scone is definitely one of the perks of getting to do what I do. I mean, are chip counts in the middle of Day 4 really that important? That's what PokerWire is for.

After my late afternoon meeting, I found myself back at the hooker bar drinking Red Stripes with the Poker Prof. By now the bartenders know what we drink. They toss Spaceman a Newcastle and get the Red Stripes ready for me. Al Ardebili walked up to the bar as we were about to pay.

"Put your money away. I'll put it on my room," the always generous Al said.

Some pros treat us media folks well. They feed us, get us drunk, and never ask for anything in return. I've met a few pros that have asked for preferential coverage and those are usually the guys who never buy you anything. Most of the pros I've encountered are totally cool and are willing to give you chip counts, make themselves available for interviews, and help you out with piecing together a hand that happened. Other pros are totally stuck up and some are always in a foul mood. Sometimes the cards are running bad and their negative energy affects how they treat the dealers, the cocktail waitresses, the other players, and the media.

Spaceman got his balls busted by David Grey today and Spaceman brushed it off. That's what professionals do. Pros have jobs to do and so do the media reps, that's why I usually have compassion for anyone who has to cover a poker tournament. It's hard work with long hours filled with gaps of sheer boredom and moments of utter confusion. But some people are just plain stupid and their unprofessionalism hurts the image of the media in general.

Some of poker media outlets hired their reporters off of Craig's List which is why most of them are dumbass morons who couldn't even write up a hand history without cutting and pasting from Poker Wire. I mean Craig's List is great if you are looking for deviant sex with strangers in the "Casual Encounters" section. If you get off on having anal sex with a Llama while a swinging couple from Tenafly, NJ watches and takes turns shitting on each other's genital areas as Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries plays in the background, then Craig's List is for you.

Man, either these media outlets are looking for reporters in the wrong areas... or they are purposelylooking for people with no experience who will work for peanuts, which is happening. In order to cut costs some of these media outlets are flooding the floor with brain dead minimum wage flunkies.

I'm lucky that I'm getting a decent rate from the various places that pay met to write. I can see how getting offered $100 a day to cover a poker tournament seems like an awesome deal... at first glance. But that enthusiasm ends quickly. I basically have to follow every move of some people who should probably be sitting at an AA or GA meeting instead of sitting at a poker table. The good tournament reporters work like dogs for six days straight without breathing a whiff of outside air. That's borderline sadism, especially if you have to sit and listen to the bad beat stories that I get stuck listening to.

Reading about bad beats on blogs is painful enough. Trying having to feign sympathy when a pro that you see on TV all the time, who makes millions of dollars a year, bitches to me about a bad beat on a hand when he was not as big as an underdog as he claimed. That's like removing my fingertips one at a time with rusty pliers. I'd rather get a vasectomy without any anesthesia, than have to hear a world class pro whine about one more bad beat. Yet, I seem to be the magnet for suckout stories. The way I see it, they are professional poker players and bad beats are part of the job; like a surgeon losing a patient on the operating table, or a lawyer losing a big case, or a dogwalker losing his dog.

Anyway, the media is resembling the paparazzi more and more everyday. I know of at least one journalist who has gone through Clonie Gowen's garbage. Every time a player goes all in, the WPT cameras swarm in and the rest of the media elbows for space trying to get a glimpse of the hand.

"Who has A-K?"

"David Williams bet what on the turn?"

"What's a dry side pot?"

Those were actual words I've heard uttered from the mouths of my fellow media reps. No wonder we get a bad rap from the players and tournament staff. Media on the whole are treated like 45 year old hookers. Some days I feel like an old French whore, just like Ferenc Molnar's epic quote. We're all scumbags in the media, right? We let all those people die in New Orleans too. We're nothing but "left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers." And the time will come, when someone is going to make a solid argument that the poker media is ruining the sport of poker. For now, we're vultures or as one fellow reporter succinctly put it, "We're entertainment writing hacks. We're the lowest rung on the ladder."

Writing about the WPT Championship on the Tao of Poker in the rambling style and manner that I want to cover poker has been freeing, inspiring, and invigorating. I'm finally reenergized and I'm covering the largest tournament ever in the history of the WPT much more effectively while focusing on my strengths... which is writing and telling you the story. Sure, I set the bar as far as how to successfully live-blog a tournament or any event for that matter. But with 40 people cramped into the Fontana Room trying to do the same thing, I found something that would make my coverage stand out from the rest of the pack. If you haven't noticed by now, the over-saturated live-blogging updates have been replaced with these long-winded rambling posts that appear at the end of the night. With more free time to roam around and drink and socialize, I'm getting a better vibe of what's going on.

With this fresh approach, I can paint the word picture of what it's like to be at the Bellagio from a different angle. Plus, I'm having more fun which allows the words to flow smoothly. I'm not exhausted like I have been in the past when I was handcuffed to my laptop for 16 hours straight. Giving you a chip count or a hand history that you can find on six other sites (which you are probbaly reading anyway) is utterly worthless and a waste of my time. However, trying to describe the carnival-like atmosphere to you is a lot more challenging than regurgitating facts and outdated chipcounts.

So before I go, back by popular demand...
Last 5 Pros I Took a Piss Next to at the Bellagio:
1. The Grinder
2. Dan Harrington
3. Tony Cousineau
4. Men the Master
5. James Van Alstyne
That's it for now. If you'd like read an end of the day recap of the WPT Championships from yours truly, visit Poker Player Newspaper. If you wanna see some of Flipchips's kickass photos from today's action, head over to Las Vegas and Poker Blog.

I will be live-blogging the final table on Monday night on the Tao of Poker at 5pm PCT or 8pm EST. If you are jonesin' for that type of coverage, you'll have to wait a few more days to get it.

Action for Day 5 resumes at Noon on Saturday with 71 players trying to survive one more day as they get closer to making the final table at the WPT Championships. When play stopped for the night, WPT Foxwoods Champion Victor Ramdin wrestled away the chiplead from the young Fin, Patrik Antonius. My main man Freddy Deeb ended the day with over $1 million in chips. With sharks like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, and Men the Master still lurking, it's not going to be an easy Saturday of poker for the remaining players.

With three more strenuous days of poker still left to be played, we'll see who really wants the $3.7 million first place prize.

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.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Money, get away. Get a good job with good pay and you're okay." - Roger Waters
I thought L.A. traffic was bad. Las Vegas traffic is getting ridiculous. Without traffic, it's 15 minutes from Grubby's apartment in Henderson to the Bellagio. It took me almost ninety minutes when I got stuck in the bottleneck of 215 merging with 15. Then I got fucked on Las Vegas Blvd. stuck in a standstill behind a new double decker city bus. I ended up listening to an entire set of Galactic from their epic Mardi Gras show at Tipitina's in New Orleans and parts of Widespread Panic's Halloween show from a few months ago. As the music kept me mellow and away from traffic tilt, an endless stream of pedestrians five and six deep walked in front of the Bellagio fountains as I waited for twelve minutes to reach the entrance. I can't wait until they open up their new parking deck and I can take the super shortcut the backway via Frank Sinatra Drive.

The Bellagio's security guards stop you before you enter the self-parking. They ask to look into your trunk before you can pass. I wonder what they expect to find? It's the illusion of safety and that allows people to sleep at night and feel more comfortable losing their money at the Bellagio since it's terrorist free.

The lower levels were all packed and I had to park up near the top. That's an indication that people are losing money at an astounding rate. Everytime I've been to the Bellagio over the past six years, it's been packed. Mid-afternoons at the Bellagio are populated with sunburnt tourists with digital cameras snapping multiple photos of the aromatic flower conservatory and the psychedelic Chihuly ceiling sculpture in the lobby. After covering several events at the Bellagio and playing in the poker room for a plethora of sessions, I know the floor layout fairly well, which includes the shortcut from the parking garage to the Fontana Room. You still have to navigate the lobby filled with slow-walking sightseers. Some actually go into the casino and lose their money. Most of them don't take the bait and just snap photos then leave.

As I got close to the Fontana Room, I pulled my press badge out of my sports coat. I wore jeans and my Vermont hockey t-shirt. I threw the jacket on to look slightly more classy and like an official member of the media, instead of a hack blogger with too many spelling errors and delusions of grandeur. I had a camera slung around my shoulder with a pad and pen in one pocket and my voice recorder in the other. I didn't bring a laptop since I wasn't going to be doing any live blogging. It felt good traveling light. With so much media cover the WPT these days, I figured what's the point? It's like forty squirrels chasing after the same nut, or forty horny guys trying to fuck the same girl.

Besides, with all the lackluster coverage out there from new and old media outlets (including some I've never even heard of before) it might make my previous work stand out even more. Besides, I was taking a new approach to covering tournaments... less work and more fun.

"I never show up on day one anyway," I told Spaceman when he called me this morning wondering when I was going to show up.

"You're the Phil Hellmuth of the media. You come late and still win," he joked.

So I skipped the first day of action on Tuesday to stay at home and write all day. My strategy was to spend more and more time at the Bellagio as the tournament progresses. With 90 minute levels and $50K in chips to start, sitting around waiting for something to happen in the first three days of a seven day tournament is like trying to watch water boil. I've covered enough tournaments to know it's worthless for me to live blog anything until the last three tables. My goal was to take photos and talk to pros and my friends in the media.

I spotted a crowd of poker fans and enthusiasts milling around the front of the Fontana Room like a a rabid circle of vultures ready to devour a dying carcass. A few random poker pros smoked cigarettes near slot machines and I quickly realized that they were on a break. I spotted Jen Harman taking photos with a few fans as they whipped out their cell phones and took several blurry photos.

"One more photo Jen, please! You're my favorite poker player!"

More fans circled around Marcel Luske, sporting a $4,000 tailored suit from London. Marcel always looks like a million bucks and always accomodates picture requests. He had his arm around two fans on each side of him as he blinked when the flash went off from one of the cameras. The Unabomber posed in front of a dozen tourists as they snapped photos like a drunken menagerie of Japanese businessmen. I elbowed and sidestepped my way past the carnage towards the entrance of the Fontana Room. It was a cluster fuck there too, with players leaving and entering and fans gawking and relatives of players trying to get quick updates. The geniuses who set up the tournament decided to place a souvenir stand right in front of the entrance to maximize profits, but made it almost impossible to get by. I walked past the embankment of star gazing tourists hopelessly cluthcing sharpies and random poker magazines and desperately seeking autographs from their favorite pros.

I flashed my press badge to the large security guards in the maroon blazers. They didn't blink as I walked right by them. I took two steps into the Fontana Room when Spaceman and Joy stopped me. They were on their way out.

"Wanna get a drink?"

I've been on the job for less than thirty seconds before we hit the bar right in front of the Fontana Room. Late night it's usually filled with working girls, but at 3:30pm on a Wednesday, it was packed with poker people. As we sat down, Scotty Nguyen was getting up. He had a drink in one hand and some serious bling dangled around his neck.

"Scotty my man," I said as I shook his hand.

"What's up baby?" he quickly answered.

We ordered beers and I considered a SoCo, but declined at the last second. The SoCo meant a commitment to serious drinking. I can't just have one of those and if I did I get sucked into a dozen of dial-a-shots. I can hit and run with a beer and picked a Corona. I paid for the first round, $21 for three beers. I tossed $25 on the video poker machine in front of me and the bartender swooped it up. I thanked Joy again for getting me into the Playboy Mansion. She told me that I could come back again next year. Joy fuckin' rules. I made a secret pact with myself to buy her drinks whenever I see her for the remainder of both our lives.

I spotted Steve Hall who told me he was working for Martin's Room. He pointed out where Liz Lieu was sitting. After our drinks we stood out front for a few minutes. I saw Gavin Smith who was busted yesterday. His shot at winning Player of the Year is in jeopardy if The Grinder and Barry Greenstien do well at the WPT Championships. I began to see random people wearing press badges that I had never seen before. That's how it's been this year. Every event more and more squirrels are showing up trying to hump the same nut.

Steve Rosenbloom appeared out of nowhere as he stepped out of the dense crowd.

"It's good to see you Pauly," he said as he shook my hand and chewed gum at the same time, "Nice of you to end your early retirement."

Word got out in the media that I had been skipping events. Somehow my hiatus got blown into a rumor that I quit which was partially correct. At any rate, it was an honor to be missed by Rosenbloom. He's the only legitimate journalist covering poker today. I'll always have images of him at the 2005 WSOP, chomping on a cigar and sipping a glass of scotch in the hallway of the Rio writing his column because the media room was jam packed with media types the majority of which couldn't even write a coherent paragraph, let alone snap a decent photo.

The rest of us media reps are two-bit shysters and hacks compared to Steve Rosenbloom. He's still a Chicago Tribune columnist with a syndicated poker column in over 50 national newspapers. He also has a book out called The Best hand I Ever Played. He's covered baseball, hockey, and even the Chicago Bulls during their halcyon championship years.

And he gave me some amazing advice about writing and dealing with incompetent superiors.

"Get to them before they get to you!"

I asked him how he never went crazy in all the years he's covered sports under the biggest scrutiny and immense pressure of writing for the Tribune.

"I love what I do and realize there are a thousand guys who would kill me to get my job," he said straight up. "And poker is great because the players are much more interesting that professional athletes."

He pretty much summed up why I should be grateful for what I do and he shined a light on the aspects of my good fortune and position in the poker media. In short, he told me to have fun with what I'm doing and don't be afraid to pitch exactly what I want to do to my editors.

Spaceman, Rosenbloom and I ended up talking about sports for a good twenty minutes. We started on baseball and he told us a few tales about covering the California Angels back in the 1980s. The topic quickly got steered to the upcoming NHL playoffs and we marveled at my NY Rangers implosion and about how hot the NJ Devils have been playing. Rosenbloom thought that it could be possible to see a Devils and Redwings Stanley Cup. Sure, the Redwings have to get past Edmonton, but I understood where he was coming from. Oh, and before I left the Bellagio, I went to the sportsbook and put money on both teams. A tip from Rosenbloom is better than gold.

I decided it was time to actually do some work and I went inside to the Fontana Room. Since the buy-in was $25,000, all the riff-raff were not around. There were a few internet qualifiers and satellite winners, but not as many as the $10K events on the WPT. 606 players entered trying to win the first place prize of $3.7 million. The majority of the entrants were the top pros minus Isabelle Mercier who chose not to play. I saw NYC's Shane Schleger, Erik Seidel, Chau Giang, Huck Seed, Jen Tilly, Per Ummer, and Freddy Deeb right away.

As I went to snap a photo of Evelyn Ng sitting next to Carlos Mortensen, I realized my camera was out of batteries. I made a rookie mistake and forgot to check my batteries before I went to work. Oh well. I turned off the camera and slung it around my shoulder. I decided to talk to my fellow friends in the media who were scattered on couches that encircled the back wall. In previous events, Poker Wire and Cardplayer shared the small desk on a perch. BJ and the girls would let me stash my bag back there and power up my laptop when it ran out of juice. The WPT took that over and over thirty media people were spread out fighting for space. I took pleasure in knowing that I didn't have to worrying about that.

I talked with Jen and Heather from Poker Wire. Jen wondered where my brown jacket went. She went to Duke and I joked around about their lacrosse team. Heather told me about her new apartment in Summerlin as I said "Hi," to Sharla from PokerPages. Spaceman and I wandered out to the patio as Andy Black walked past us with shades sitting upside down on his head. We saw Juha Helpi giving an interview with the WPT crew. In the corner, Gus Hansen conducted an interview as Chau Giang stood outside and chain smoked. He'd smoke a full cigarette, go inside and play a a few hands then come back out for another smoke. He knew it was more important to survive the first day and smoke cigarettes than play too many hands and risk all his chips in the first few levels.

"I thought you were retired?" wondered CardPlayer's Scott Huff as he wandered by.

"Nope. Men's Urology Magazine is paying me $1,200 to write 2K words on the peeing habits of professional gamblers."

The last time I saw Scott Huff was at the Playboy Mansion a few weeks ago. His girlfriend was drinking heavily and tried to talk to the spider monkeys. I spent too much time down there getting wasted myself.

When I walked back inside, the all blonde Liz Lieu smiled and gave me a four fingered hello wave. I wandered over to the Poker Wire girls and chatted with Heather and Amanda.

"We missed you Pauly," said Amanda in her subtle North Carolina drawl, "and I've been reading your blogs everyday."

Amanda first cut her teeth in tournament reporting at the LA Poker Classic two months ago. In a short time, she became a veteran and told me how much fun she was having getting to travel all over America and staying in nice hotels and being around poker. She reminded me how cool it was that we got to do what we do. I'm sure it was her fresh perspective on things since she's still new to the business, but like my conversation with Steve Rosenbloom, a few things Amanda said struck a nerve. She was right. We had a cool job, despite all the bullshit we had to put up with.

The Poker Wire girls told me that I needed to come back to the circuit. It made me feel a little guilty about taking time away and I also felt humbled that I was sincerely missed over the last few events. One of the hardest parts of cutting back my schedule was not being able to hang out and see some friends that I made in the trenches over the past year. I cannot tell you how many late nights I bonded with the Poker Wire girls and BJ at 3am, as we sat glued to the laptops with our eyes on the tables waiting and praying for something to happen. Although we all had different personalities, we all got along and respected each other's work and individual talents. That's rare these days.

I had dinner plans with my buddy Friedman in Summerlin and left the Bellagio early. Again I felt guilty that everyone was hard at work while I took a lax approach to the event and drank on the job and bullshitted with Gavin Smith and William Rockwell while worker bees ran out onto the floor to get obsolete chip counts. I became the guy that I fuckin' hated during my previous tournaments, the one who did not work and had all the fun. I reminded myself that I was there to enjoy myself first and work was secondary. Shit, I was at the largest WPT event of all time and I wanted to live in the moment and survey the carnival like atmosphere. It reminded me of that night I slipped two hits of liquid sunshine under my tongue and watched one of my fraternity brother's hamster eat three of it's babies as we listened to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

As I walked out of the room and walked past the hordes of fans and tourists held back by the surly security guards in maroon jackets, a warm feeling settled in my stomach. For the first time in months I noticed the little things that made this job simply amazing and fun.

Life is about small simple pleasures.

I forgot about that and allowed negative thoughts to clutter my mind for months and I finally got to focus on what's amazing about doing what I do. It's the little things like drinking with Spaceman on a break at the hooker bar or dishing dirt and gossip with Joy. Or hanging out with the Poker Wire girls. Or getting a smile from Liz Lieu when I waved at her. Or talking playoff hockey with a real sportswriter like Rosenbloom. Or staring at the fake boobs the size of Volvos on some of the models that random poker rooms hire to pimp their product.

I had a great dinner and a few hours of conversation with Friedman during my post-Bellagio trip to Summerlin. We went to some Nevada themed tavern and he told me that I seemed happier and in a good head space. I was for the first time in a while. I finally got to watch the Sopranos and it was one of the better episodes of the year. As I drove home from Summerlin to Henderson from one edge of the Las Vegas suburbs to the other, I drove past the exit on I-15 where the Redneck Riviera was located and pulled off the highway. The blinking In-n-Out Burger sign made my mouth salivate like Pavlov's frothing dog. I stopped for a chocolate shake to enjoy for the rest of the drive back as I listened to the Beatles' Abbey Road.

That was the same In-n-Out Burger where I ate at twice a week when I lived a few blocks away during the 2005 WSOP. I was tempted to drive through and check up on my old stomping grounds at the Redneck Riviera, but I wisely decided against it. I didn't want to get carjacked by a shirtless tweaker with a tear-drop tattoo who had been up for two weeks straight or get caught up in a drug sweep during a meth lab bust from Las Vegas's SWAT and anti-narcotics team.

I drove back to Henderson as Polythene Pam blasted on the CD player. With the windows down, the cool Nevada air swirled around my rental car. I sipped on my thick shake and thought about what I was gonna write for the Tao of Poker, LasVegasVegas, and for Poker Player Newspaper as I glanced at the glimmering lights of the Strip fading away in the rearview mirror.