"Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left." - Victor Hugo4am. I stood at the front desk in the lobby of Le Meridien Beach Resort, my four star hotel located on Princess Grace Avenue next to the Monte Carlo Bay Casino where the EPT Championships were held. That's when I spotted Otis stumble into the lobby followed by several inebriated Brits, one of whom carried a silver case.
Only a few hours earlier Gavin Griffin won 1.8 million Euros as he took down the EPT Grand Finale. Since that moment, I sat through a boring press conference, drank several beers in media row with Stephen from Gutshot and Benjamin (a French poker journalist and blogger), and started the toughest part to covering any tournament... fulfilling deadlines for my current employer (PokerNews.com) along with any other news organizations and publications that I promised a story or article. I was scheduled to leave Monte Carlo at 11am and was on the clock with multiple deadlines. I always overextend myself and have to write my way out of a jam. The completion of any major poker tournament is like reaching the top of Mt. Everest. Writing everything up after sheer exhaustion and minor jubilation is like making your way down from The Mountain. And that's when most climbers die... on the way down.
I wrote as much as I could in media row, then headed back to my room so I could watch the Championship game of the Final Four. I did not have a bet in but one of my sheets was still alive. If Florida won, I had a shot at securing second place in the Pauly's Pub March Madness Pool behind Change100 who had a shot of winning it all. If Ohio State won, I was shit out of luck as Ferrari from the Blue Parrot fame would pick up the $400 first place prize.
I blazed through one deadline while the game flickered on NASN (North American Sports Network) in the background. Usually NASN showed hockey at weird hours but in that instance, they gave me a live feed of the NCAA hoops championships as I rushed the last bit of my work. I was in slight awe as I watched the game in Monte Carlo of all places. Most of the time I watched American cartoons or Beverly Hills, 90210 dubbed into French. The few English-speaking channels were CNN or the BBC which focused on the hostage crisis involving Iran and those 15 British sailors.
"The start of WWIII," I muttered to myself as I jotted down a note to get my broker on the phone ASAP to pull all my money out of the US stock market and decided to press it heavily on companies that fed the war-machine.
Halftime of the Florida-OSU game appeared out of nowhere and I went down to the lobby. Part of my duties at the EPT Championship involved handling payment of the hotel rooms. Originally it was a five day tournament and less than two weeks before it went off, it was bumped to six days. Poker News booked and paid for everyone five days at Le Meridien. They added an extra day but had not paid for it. That's where I came in. A popular European pro gave Shronk 2K in Euros of which the bulk was for me too use to pay the rooms. Since everyone was checking out early, I had to pay their rooms before they left while I slept. For most of the week, I walked around with three 500 Euro bills in my pocket. Of course that amount of cash got you jack shit in Monte Carlo.
I paid the room bills for Poker News which included our photographer, Filipe, along with our on air talent, Tiffany. I waited for the front desk guy to print up a receipt when in walked Otis. Or shall I say... in stumbled Otis.
"Doctor!" he shouted as the Brits headed directly to the bar.
They were all staying next door, but their bar closed at 2am. They drank for free after hours until they were finally kicked out. The best thing about my hotel was the 24 hour cafe and bar in the lobby. That meant random sketchy characters showed up looking for overpriced food or someplace to drink when all the other bars closed.
As I walked to the bar area, I spotted Andy Black leaning up against the bar. He tossed aside his raggy Eminem shirt and wore a smart and sleek blazer. He was hoisting his glass and making an inaudible toast with his friends. Otis and the gang were off to the side and huddled around a plush leather couch and an antique coffee table that probably cost more than your car. A burning Chesterfield dangled off the lip of Ed, one of the British media reps, as he carefully set up chips.
"200 Euros. Max buy-in. 1-2 NL," said Otis as he handed me a Monaco beer.
Not only were we going to drink, we were going to play poker at 4am in a darkened corner of my hotel's lobby bar.
"Sure," I said as I opened up my wallet and saw less than 160 Euros. I stashed some cash in the safe and only had a grand in American bucks on me. I peeled off three greenbacks and slyly handed it to Ed, who acted as the banker. Maybe I was buzzed, or brimming with confidence, but I knew I didn't have to go to the front desk to change my US currency for Euros. I knew that I was going to get my original $300 back.
"300 US gets me more than 200 Euros," I said as Ed nodded.
The rest of the players were hammered, including Otis. They had been drinking for three or four straight hours while I frantically rushed three writing assignments and watched the Florida-OSU game.
The Late Night Bar Lineup:Before we started the action, the concierge wandered over and said, "Monsieur, the game is not for real money?"
Seat 1: Simon... One of the many Brits at the EPT, he's also known as The Suffolk Punch and was the first blogger to post the now infamous pic of a drunk Bill Chen sans shirt.
Seat 2: The Swede... Like most of the Scandi poker pros I met, they spoke near perfect English, were certifiably crazy, played any two cards, and wore Izod shirts one size too small.
Seat 3: Otis... For a guy who spend most of his working life on tilt, Otis was reasonably calm during the EPT. In a scene out of Star Wars or Casablanca, Otis had to sneak out of Monaco over the Italian border in order to secure safe passage to America due to entanglements with the French government who may or may not have pegged our favorite G-Vegas personality as a criminal. Then again, who in Monte Carlo isn't a criminal?
Seat 4: The Luxembourg Pro... At first glance, the Luxembourgish fellow walked right out of a James Bond flick. He was well dressed, friendly and cheerful, but you knew you couldn't trust him. Was he a good spy? Or bad spy? Or was he just working both sides and might sell you out in one instance, and save your ass the next? As a rule of thumb, I read enough WWII spy novels and seen The Bourne Identity enough times to know that you can't trust anyone from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, let alone anyone who brought his drunken Eastern European sizzling blonde of a girlfriend to the game.
Seat 5: Pauly... Your hero should have been in his room writing, but instead he was getting drunk with Otis and playing poker with a menagerie of ebullient Europeans. At least it wasn't PLO.
Seat 6: Ed... The author of the infamous Ed Reports was also one of the drunkest at table. Good thing we let Ed act as the banker and set up the chips.
Seat 7: London Writer... I forgot the guy's name but he said he had to leave at 6am to catch a ride to Nice airport so he could get an early flight home back to London. He said he was going to work that day. What a trooper.
"Just for chipzzzzzzz," slurred Ed. "See? Chips. No money anywhere."
The concierge gave us a skeptical nod and slithered away into the darkness. If that situation happened in Las Vegas, we would have stood up and slipped the guy a Benjamin. Of course, if you tipped a Vegas concierge three more, he'd offer you an eight ball of Pervuian blow and point out a place to get a moderately priced hooker. But we weren't in Las Vegas. We were in its weird and decadent twin sister. Where trim and tanned puerile offspring of barons with Swiss bank accounts run rampant and where that one millionth of a percent of the world's population burns money like toilet paper for fat guy on the shitter with a bad case of Montezuma's Revenge. Alas, Monte Carlo is a non-tipping culture. And besides, $300 US won't even get you a half-assed handjob from the portly French maid with Diabetes that left chocolates on my pillow every night.
Our table was poorly lit and we played by candle light. I sat back and folded the first few minutes as I sized up the table. A bunch of drunks and a Swede meant plenty of raising.
I finally picked up a hand. Pocket Eights. In games like that instance, I like being he first to act. Instead of having to make tough decisions on making calls, I'd rather put the decision making on everyone behind me. I raised to close to 12 Euros which was the standard pre-flop raise. Everyone folded except Simon and The Swede. The flop was Q-6-2. I bet out 30 Euros. Simon called and The Swede folded. The turn was 6. There was an overcard on the flop and a paired board. I bet out 50 Euros and Simon moved all-in. I knew from the way he took a drag on his cigarette that he was bluffing. If I had trips, I would have smooth called unto the river. If he a weak Queen, then so be it. My gut said he was bluffing. I glanced at Otis and smirked. I flashed him my cards and he shrugged.
"I call. Show me your Queen!" I said.
Simon let out a disgusted look when he tabled 10-7s.
"How could you make that call?" he said as he took an even deeper drag on his cigarette.
"I knew you were bluffing," I said as Otis nodded in his approval.
Hey, it was around 4:20am and everyone was drunk. How could I not make that call?
The river did not help Simon as I jumped out to an early chiplead. I almost doubled up and saw a couple of flops over the next thirty minutes. I watched The Swede tilt Otis have he issued a wicked bad beat with a junk hand.
Otis took a few more bad beats. He'd get his money in with the best hand and he was run down time and time again. I slowly added more chips to my stack. I slowplayed The Swede when I flopped second set against him and he called me all the way to the river with top pair. Or I should note, he said he had top pair. I couldn't put him on any hand. I simply got lucky that time.
By 5am, my stack looked healthy and was on its way towards the 600 Euro mark. I nearly tripled up and then it slowly slipped away. I think that The Luxembourg Pro called in the Cooler. His girlfriend magically appeared out of nowhere and sat down on the arm of my lounge chair. Yes, she was blonde and had a funny accent from one of those "stan" countries or from a Soviet Bloc country.
She spoke several languages and was fascinated with Belgium. She would not stop talking about Belgium frites, "Zo much better zan French Fries."
She was also a connoisseur on Belgium Beer.
"La Chouffe," she said, "It iz zee best beer. Tastes sweet and za little spicy."
"Just like your pussy," I said.
"Just like Monaco Beer," I said as I hosted my bottle.
"Zat is shit beer," she said. "La Chouffe. Drink it in Amz-erdam."
Was she The Cooler? I dunno. Maybe she was just a drunk, bored, Eastern European blonde who would not stop talking. She was dirty hot for sure, didn't mind when I stared at her tits, and gave me a crash course on all things Belgium especially on their chocolate.
I caught Otis occasionally checking her out. He gave me a look like, "Good God, she's hot."
I was distracted but still managed to play tight. I lost one big pot to the London Writer when I flopped a King high flush draw with Ks-Qs and two spades on the flop of Js-8s-3c. I jammed on the flop was re-raised all in by a short stack for about 100 Euros more and I called. He flipped over A-J with no spades. I had two overs and a lot of outs for a flush. The 9 of hearts fell on the turn. Sweet Jesus, I picked up two more outs. I didn't get there on the river as I lost about 1/3 of my stack.
I lost even more chips around 5:45am when I was all-in preflop with J-J against Ed's K-10 and The London Writer's A-K. In a 500 Euro pot (or "monsterpotten" as the Swedes would say), I led all the way to the river until an ace spiked. Sacre bleu.
"Fuckin' Riverstars. This game is rigged, just like PokerStars," I joked to Otis.
All I know is that before the blonde started lecturing me on Belgium, I was up three buy-ins. After she sat down I was minus 60 Euros as the London writer won another big pot from me. What the fuck? Maybe the Luxembourg Pro was a bad guy after all who did his homework and prayed on my weakness for blondes and lengthy discussions of Belgium food stuffs and beers.
I won a small pot on the next hand and was -41 when the time reached 6am. I still had two deadlines and the game looked like it was about to break. I cashed out and gave the banker 41 Euros in cash and the rest of my stack worth 159 Euros. He handed me $300 US back.
That was the only poker I played in Monte Carlo. Aside from a couple of bets on the initial Final Four games, I only did some minor prop betting in media row. I guess the karmic balance evened out. I schooled the British press for a few quid during props, but when it was all over, the Brits got it all back in poker.
I went back up to my room and wrote until 9am or so as I watched the sun slowly creep over the Monte Carlo hills and through the crevices created by the high-rise hotels and apartment buildings. I packed my gear and then passed out for an hour or so on one of the most confortable beds outside of the Borgata, before the phone rang indicating my wake up call. I jumped up and out of bed. After a long week, I finally got to leave Monte Carlo. I didn't spend as much money as I anticipated and made every deadline.
I didn't get arrested or detained by French customs agents. I didn't have to avoid France and sneak out into Italy like some friends were forced to do thanks to the French government's anti-online gaming hard-on as they fined and harassed several gaming officials. Me? I was "un inconnu" or an unknown. My departure was simple. All I had to do was make it to Nice's Aeroport Cote d'Azur on time and board a flight to Amsterdam. That's when the rest of my time in Europe gets a little fuzzy.
I uploaded 34 Monte Carlo pics to my Flickr account. Take a peek at my Monte Carlo photo gallery. You might have seen a couple, but you have not seen the rest like the pic of the 23 Euro cheeseburger from Room Service!!
Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.