Flashback to about a week ago...
Las Vegas. Almost 2am. I sat in a circular red leather booth inside Planet Dailies, the 24 hour cafe at Planet Ho. Michalski was starving and dug into a plate of calamari. We had been playing in the poker room for Benjo's last night in America with a few other international media reps such as Benjo and Ed from Gutshot. I had a good session at the tables. Not only did I felt Michalski, but I also won a high hand jackpot with quad Queens. We left the poker room to take a break and wandered over to the cafe.
Red Auerbach, the legendary coach of the Boston Celtics, used to light up a cigar during the end of the game as soon as he knew that his team had clinched the victory. The Celtics blew out a lot of teams during those days, so it was not uncommon to see Red at the end of the bench smoking a stogie with more than half of the 4th quarter to go. Red celebrated his good fortune with cigars. I celebrate with sweets... and that night at Planet Ho, I celebrated my high hand bonus with a shake.
In the past, I had rewarded my good poker play with a victory dessert. No matter what time of the day, as soon as my live play ended, I'd get something to eat while I reflected upon my bountiful session. At Foxwoods, it would be a piece of cheesecake or at the Borgata I'd get gelato. If I did well at a Station's Casino poker room like Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock, I'd head over to Fatburger for one of their yummy shakes. At Planet Ho, their shake selection is the best thing on the menu at Planet Dailies, particularly the chocolate shake. They mix it with a full banana which adds flavor to the already tasty dessert.
As I slowly sipped on my shake, I realized that I was not just celebrating a winning session of poker. I was also acknowledging my entire output over the previous two months. I survived another scorching hot summer in Las Vegas I completed a brutal assignment at the WSOP (which I thought was a suicide mission when I first took my position with PokerNews). And I finally cashed in a WSOP event and earned enough money from freelance work that I could take off two full years and write. When that day comes, who knows? I put three years of research into this damn Las Vegas book and I still have no idea when I'll get six months of unfettered time to sit down and write the fucker.
My mission at the 2007 WSOP was finally complete. I was exhausted. Mentally drained. Morally bankrupt. My irritated eyes burned every second. My body was beaten down like an AC hooker limping away at the end of her shift. Once I finished the shake, I didn't want to gamble anymore. The passion for poker dried up. I slowly made my exit out of the casino through a labyrinth of zombies chained to slot machines. The itch to play cards had disappeared. My inner action junkie (who looks like Gary Coleman) had finally fallen asleep. It was time to leave the bright lights of Las Vegas behind.
I walked down the Strip past the shuffling tourists and the porn slappers, and made my way to the front of the Paris Casino. I grabbed a taxi back to my apartment at Del Bocca Vista. As the driver pulled out onto Las Vegas Blvd., I came to a realization that this city has affected me more than any other place that I lived or traveled. The metamorphosis has been occurring for the last couple of years. Maybe I'll understand it all... eventually. Then again, maybe not. For now, I'm as confused, terrified, aroused, and addicted to the sultry and dark side of Las Vegas just like millions of others who visit America's playground every single day by bus, car, and plane. I won't fully understand how much Las Vegas has changed me until years from now. How much of my soul did I lead astray in the middle of the Nevada dessert? Maybe I'll figure it out when I sit down to write.
Soren Keirkagard summed it up best when he said, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."
I took some time off from the grind as I fled to Los Angeles. You know you're in trouble when you're eager to escape luminous Sin City in order to be around normal people in Hollyweird.
I have been bumming around Zuma everyday reading books and basking under the sun in Malibu. I have been limiting my contact with the outside world to just an hour of email a day and less than an hour of chat on my cellphone... that is when I actually have the thing turned on. Unplugging is the only way I know that will force myself to slow down... stop... and listen to the waves roll up on the beach.
At the end of the week, I fly home to NYC to unload my gear and read all of my mail after being on the road since the end of May. It's been a long 10 weeks and after a short time in NYC to patch my bones, I'll be back on the road. This time, for almost six weeks. I'm tired but as Jack Kerouac wrote, "We lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
On the road. Again.
My next assignment is the European Poker Tour, which kicks off the fourth season of the EPT at the Casino Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain. PokerStars is currently running satellites as we speak. Hurry up for your chance to win a trip to Europe!
Barcelona is my second favorite city in Europe besides Amsterdam. This upcoming trip will be my second visit there. I'm part of the PokerNews coverage team for the EPT Barcelona and a couple of days after the final table on September 1st, the WSOP-Europe starts on September 6 thru the 16th in London, England. Since Bluff is the official provider of the WSOP, that deal with Harrah's also includes coverage of the various Circuit events and the WSOP-Europe. PokerNews will be the place to go for live updates for the EPT Barcelona and the WSOP-Europe.
I have about 16 days of actual work spread out over six weeks abroad. Should be a fun adventure. Of course, I'll be stopping off in Amsterdam at some point during my three-country journey. I will set aside time before and after the tournaments to explore the streets, museums, and bars of Barcelona and London. If you are a local of any of those places or know them pretty well, any suggestions for chill bars, rowdy pubs, and inexpensive restaurants will be appreciated. Shoot me an email.
PokerNews also hired for two more assignments in Australia. There's the inaugural Poker News Cup starts at the end of October and the 2008 Aussie Millions in January. I'm going back to the Crown Casino in Melbourne in mid-October and will spend another month down under to explore that amazing country. Check out my Australia 2007 photo gallery.
With two big trips on the horizon, it's important that I focus on decompressing from the Las Vegas existentialist meat grinder in order to get myself mentally and physically prepared go back to work. Back to eating healthy, working out, and reading.
For now, I'm in that murky place when the last thing I want to write about is poker and Las Vegas. I have been playing online the last few nights and have plenty of closing thoughts about the WSOP. But when I sit down to write, the words flow freely but very little is about poker. I'm not going to force myself to write about poker. That should change soon.
In the meantime, you should go over to see Flipchip's various Las Vegas photos or go read what Otis has had to say in TLDNR.
And if you haven't signed up for a Fantasy Sports Live account, then what are you waiting for? Football season is just around the corner...
Bonus Code: Pauly
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