Before we moved out of the canal apartment on Sunday morning and flew to Barcelona, we had a last minute gambling binge in Amsterdam.
I had been waking up super early to play online poker over at PokerStars. The Left Coast is nine hours behind, so I have to be up around 6am to catch them at prime time and those wacky East Coasters donking around at Midnight. I actually did the same thing on this morning in Barcelona, in order to get an hour or so of playing in. Once my work assignments start, I don't have time to play online poker, and whatever free time is set aside for partying or catching up on deadlines.
Anyway, over the past two weeks, I played three different Chinese Poker games. The first was a three-way match between myself, Benjo, and RK (who had picked up the nickname Johnny Mushrooms courtesy of Benjo and over the last few days, that's the only name he'd answer to). Johnny Mushrooms was the big winner there and Benjo had skipped town without settling up. I hope that Johnny Mushrooms does not dispatch a pair of Aussie thugs to northern France to collect a Chinese Poker debt.
The second game was another three-way match among myself, Change100, and Johnny Mushrooms. I was behind for most of that match and stormed back to take the lead. The third game is a heads-up match between myself and Change100, which has now spilled over into a second country. We expect to continue it all the way to London. At last check, I cut a 22 point deficit in half and only trail by 11. I picked up a flurry of good hands at the airport and again at a cafe on La Rambla in Barcelona.
On Friday night in Amsterdam, I fell down in true Otis-fashion. There's a trendy bar/cafe a couple of blocks from our apartment called De Vergalde Gaper. The main menu was in Dutch, which meant it was a total locals place. They had outdoor seating with slanty tables and chairs overlooking a canal. We drank and played Chinese Poker for a couple of hours. The cards kept falling to the ground. At one point I bent over to pick up the five of hearts and leaned the wrong way. I started to fall and was forced to make a quick decision. I could have balanced myself by grabbing the table, but that also meant I would have spilled our pints of beer. I decided to take the fall and tumbled sideways onto the cobblestone street. Someone on a bicycle swerved out of my way. I popped back up as the waitress rushed over to ask me if I was OK. The owner and her stood near the entrance and saw everything happen. He said something to her in Dutch that maybe I was too wasted. Far from it. I was relatively sober and the waitress told him that she had just brought over my second pint.
That could have been embarrassing... falling down in front of a restaurant full of people. But since the "almost shit my pants" incident, falling down was minor.
In my notes, I scribbled down...
11:20pm... fell out of chair playing Chinese Poker.After that, we headed to another bar where we drank at a week earlier. Johnny Mushrooms wanted to do more Absinthe shots. Even for fake Absinthe, those get me super wasted. Change100 had never tried it and we gobbled down two rounds. On the TV above the bar, EuroSport broadcasted Sumo matches from Nagoya, Japan. Johnny Mushrooms and I wagered on a dozen or so. Since we had no idea who was who and the majority of sumos looked alike, we'd shout out, "Fat guy on right!" or "Left!" to indicate who we picked. After a while, I had all the guys on the left of the screen, while Johnny Mushrooms had the guys on the right. After several exciting matches, I had pulled ahead by four units. Yeah, my sumo guys went 12-8. Ship it.
"Live sumo is so fuckin' rigged," muttered Johnny Mushroom as we stumbled out of the bar.
When he was in Sweden, Johnny Mushrooms picked up a book called Dice Man. I thought it was a biography on comedian Andrew Dice Clay. It's not, and instead it reveals the story of a character who becomes addicted to dice and makes all his decisions based upon the roll of the dice. I found an old backgammon set in the basement and gave the dice to Johnny Mushrooms. He took one with him at all times and would occasionally roll it to make life decisions. Here's an example... when we couldn't figure out what to eat for dinner, Johnny Mushrooms assigned each number a different type of food. 1 was shoarma. 2 was Chinese. 3 was Indian. 4 was Italian. 5 was fast food and 6 was "roll again." We stopped on a canal bridge as he bent over and rolled the dice, which spun on a cobblestone and then stopped at 1. Shoarma for dinner!
Since we also ate near the Leidseplein, we wandered over to Rookies to continue our Chinese Poker match. We alternated between coffeeshops and bars and eventually found ourselves in the Red Light District around Midnight. Prime time. Hordes of horny wasted guys wandered up and down the streets looking for action, while curious tourists sauntered by, and there was even a tour group going on at that hour. The women look more like animals in the zoo and have become part of the freak show. They should get a cut of the tour group fees. But then again, I'm the last guy who should be standing up for hooker's rights. They have unions for those sorts of things.
Placa de les Drassanes
Change100 found us a nifty apartment in Barcelona. The rent is super cheap (less than 70 Euros a night compared to the hotels neat the casino that were over 200 Euros). The apartment is much smaller than our digs at Del Bocca Vista in Las Vegas and substantially a lot smaller than the 5+ story canal house (where my roommates and I each had two floors) in Amsterdam. The walls are pink in our Barcelona apartment. The lovely female rental agent suggested that the colors might inspire me to write better. The apartment is equipped with wifi and a balcony which overlooks the bustling street below.
The apartment is a few steps behind the Santa Maria del Mar church and just off El Born. If you know Barcelona, you know that we're smack in the middle of a nice little area with plenty of gelato shops, bars, and tapas restaurants. The Barcelona Casino is about a twenty minute walk down the road. The Picasso Museum is a few blocks up the street and La Rambla is a ten minute walk from the apartment.
I officially end my hiatus and return to work on Tuesday, when the EPT kicks off their fourth season. I was here in Barcelona two years ago for the start of the second season. Both the international poker scene and the EPT have come a long way since then.
Day 1a of the EPT Barcelona starts at 5pm local time on Tuesday. Since Barcelona is a late town, the tournament will be held from 5pm to 4am every night... no exceptions, since the casino closes at 4am. We're not in Las Vegas anymore.
You can follow the action by checking out live blogging updates over at PokerNews.com. We don't have the massive army of reporters like we had during the WSOP. This unit is much smaller and the vibe is more relaxed in Europe, so that should reflect upon the coverage and the event itself. I'm not too worried.
This is just a warm-up for the WSOP-Europe in London in about two weeks, where PokerNews will be providing live updates for that event. I have been on the sidelines ever since Jerry Yang won the 2007 WSOP and enjoying every moment of my time away from poker. I have one full day to soak up Barcelona before the tournament begins. Hasta luego.
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