Monday, January 14, 2008

Back to Australia and Week 1 at the Aussie Millions in 4,500 Words or Less

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

There are somethings about traveling frequently that gives you specific perspective on things. One of that is locale and the people who inhabit said locale.

I've been to some shittowns that had some of the most amazing people in my life, and there have been majestic places that had the worst kinds of people. Fortunate for me, Australia is one of those rare places with an stunning locale and amazing people.

Getting to Oz is not an easy task. It requires a 15 hour flight from the Left Coast of America as you cross the Pacific Ocean hurtling through the air in a metal tube and secretly praying that the pilot is having a good day and got some solid sleep the previous night.

Change100 and I both had aisle seats, as we had requested when we booked our passage on Quantas. I've flown United and Quantas to Oz and I prefer Quantas, although I flew business class at United on my way back to LAX and that was a divine experience. I hear that business class on Quantas is a step up. Friends of mine have flown Air Singapore or Cathay Pacific business class and say that's the best way to fly. It's too expensive for me to waste the cashola on that luxury. I've done enough flying over the last decade that I can suck up a 15 hour flight in regular seat. The problem is the unwashed mashes with you at the back of the plane.

I got issued a passenger bad beat right away. The guy next to me annoyed the fuck out of me. He took up the entire arm rest and kept invading my space... and that was before we even took off. I knew it was going to be a long 15 hours. Say hello to Mr. Xanax to ease the pain.

I read Sports Illustrated's year end issue and tried to ignore the guy spilling over into my personal space. I also read an entire Jack Kerouac novel, The Subterraneans, before we even reached Hawaii. Most folks overlook that minor piece of Kerouac's work, but the characters in the book are based on his friends including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Larry O'Hara (the owner of the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco).

I avoided the inflight movies and held out to the last minute since I had seen most of them before. However, after the meal service (a shoddy piece of rubber chicken whose taste was enhanced by the free red wine), I started The Bourne Ultimatum, which I had already seen three times. I passed out halfway and slept for almost three hours - which is almost the same amount of sleep I usually get.

I popped a second Xanax and passed out during the first few minutes of The Simpsons Movie. I woke up with about thirty minutes to go in the flick and was up for the rest of the flight.

The guy next to me kept spilling over into my seat. I'm repeating that same sentence from before, because it kept happening. I got up a lot and walked around when he put me on tilt or when I got totally bored. Change100 had slept most of the flight so we didn't talk much or get a chance to play Chinese Poker.

I listened to my iPod for the rest of the flight (I'm on a Sly and the Family Stone kick) and kept the guy next to me on his toes with an occasional elbow. I barely ate the crappy breakfast they served which included rubbery undercooked bacon and some sort of egg concoction that they also serve to malnourished children at inner city schools.

I got flagged at immigration because my visa didn't match my passport. I was told to sit off to the side while one guy snatched my passport and disappeared for about ten minutes. There was a slight error in the first initial of my middle name on my visa and I had to wait until everything was cleared up. When the immigration official returned, he grilled me about why I was in Australia and where I was going. He wanted to see my return ticket, so I showed him my e-ticket and a printout of my itinerary (which has me flying up to the Gold Coast and then to New Zealand). He eventually approved my visa and allowed me in the country.

As I told Andy Black when I saw him a couple of days ago, "I'm surprised they let you back in the country."

"I'm surprised too," he said.

Well, it was good to be back. Melbourne had become sort of a second work base for me outside of Las Vegas.

In my previous two trips, I spent my first meal with Jules and Graham, which has become a tradition. In January of last year, they took me out to an Italian place on Lygon Street then cooked me a BBQ the next day. In October, Change100 and I went to their house for dinner and wine. So it was fitting that we ate together at Rock Pool on our first night in town.

Rock Pool which is one of the best restaurants in all of Melbourne. They wanted to celebrate a few things... they both just got new jobs and had gotten married a few days earlier in Tasmania.

I posted pics of the meal on Tao of Pauly. And what a fantastic meal it was. I ordered a plate of San Daniele Prosciutto for my appetizer, while Change100 and I shared a "Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Beef Rib-Eye on the Bone." Amazing.

We also drank three bottles of Shiraz (which Jules picked out) during dinner and had another after dinner. We had no idea... but the dinner lasted almost four hours long! When we left, it was almost 11:30pm. Time flew. We had so much fun hanging out and talking and catching up. Jules and Graham are tons of fun, and spending quality times with them are one of my favorite things about Melbourne.

We're staying at the Crown Towers, which is the swankiest hotel in all of Melbourne. The Crown Casino has two hotels and in my previous trips I stayed at the Promenade. It's nice, but the Towers is definitely a step up... sort of like the difference between the Mirage and the Bellagio. The Towers are almost on the same level as the Bellagio or Le Meridien in Monte Carlo or the Princess in Barcelona.

Our room has a fat ass Plasma screen and the beds are super comfy. If there's one thing I know about - it's different beds. Sometimes, I sleep in ten different beds a month. When I happen to discover a place on the road with a great bed, it's a blessing.

There's also a very comfortable reading chair by the window where I have been sitting and thumbing through my New Zealand guide book every morning. We also have an actual "changing room" with a big closest and space for multiple sets of luggage. That's also where the safe is located, just in case you wanna break into my room and steal my iPod and bankroll.

Ah, you can tell the opulence of a hotel by the size and detail of the bathroom. The Towers has an amazing bathroom set up. It's spacious and bigger than some bedrooms I've lived in during my life, with marble floors and a jacuzzi/bathtub. There's a TV in the bathroom and you can sit in the tub and watch the boob tube. There's a "private" shitter inside the bathroom with a glass door, along with a separate shower which is as big as some NYC studio apartments. I mean our entire bathroom from our apartment in Barcelona could fit inside the shower here.

We also have a scale. It lists weights in Stone and Kilos. It's slightly off, but according to the scale, I lost almost a 1/2 a stone since I arrived.

I always get confused when I'm in Australia. When I work on my laptop, it's set up for ET, so I always know what time it is in NYC since it's the center of the universe. Poker sites base their events on US ET, as do all sporting events (which I may or may not bet on).

I also rig the clock on my laptop so I know the time to make sure I meet specific deadlines. So I'm looking at it and it says 2:50pm on Sunday but it's 6:50am on Monday in Australia. I know. I know... just add 8 hours and subtract a day to figure out what time it is in NYC.

I preferred living/working in Europe because we're ahead of the US by five or six hours. I could actually make phone calls at 3am because friends were still up back in the States.

Alas, my new friend has been this site... World Clock.

Some of my clients are based out of Las Vegas. One is based out of Sweden another in the UK, and then I also do work for an Australian based company. My friends are scattered about the US in various time zones, my girlfriend lives on the West Coast, and my brother is in NYC. It helps me when I get lost. Some people turn to Jesus. Other turn to the bottle. I turn to the world clock to help soothe my lost soul.

Yes, life gets confusing for me sometimes when I'm rapidly jumping time zones and zig zag across international datelines, but the World Clock instantly tells me what time it is in that particular city, so I know if it's too late or too early to call someone. Without it I'm lost.

My vivid and bizarre dreams have returned. For some odd reason, I recall more of my dreams in Australia. This is my third trip inside of 13 months and that's been the one theme that has been common among all of the trips. Change100 experienced the vividness during her last trip and she's experiencing the same thing on this trip. Conversely, when my friend Ali from PokerStars (who's from Sydney) travels to America, she has extremely vivid dreams. I think it's some sort of dream exchange program with Aussies and Americans.

Schaubs and my buddy Jerry mentioned to me that it's marijuana withdrawal that makes you have vivid dreams. Perhaps that's the case? Who knows. But one of my dreams involved me losing a chunk of hashish in a mailbox and the hijinks that ensued while I tried to get it out. Another one had me backpacking in Germany and getting drunk with locals and taking photos on my cellphone with all my new friends.

* * * * *

On the night before the Aussie Millions kicked off, I had a staff meal at the pub where we got to know some of the Aussie members of the Poker News. Our crew is great with Amanda doing interviews with Tom as our multi-media guru. Garry, Heath, Change100 and myself are on blogging duties, with Damo, Shane, Brendan, Theo, and Dave as floor reporters. Dave (from The Bankroll Experience) was my right hand man during the WSOP this summer when we were assigned a slew of Day 2s. We have two photographers, Jamie and Kirsten, but both Garry and I have been taking photos as well. All in all it's a great crew.

Jonno, who had been head of tournament reporting at Poker News for almost a year, had returned to the Crown as the director of their tournament operations. I was sad to see him go, but it was cool to have him running the show. If we had any problems, we went right to Jonno, who understood what our job entailed, so he did his best to help us out with logistics.

Our staff dinner was short and followed by drinks in the Velvet Lounge. Jen Leo made the trip down under and tagged along with Schecky. In the past, Change100, Schecky, Jen Leo and I have played Chinese Poker in a sort of couples night out in Hollyweird. We resumed our roving game in Australia at the lounge.

My roommate from Amsterdam made a cameo. Johnny Mushrooms rented an apartment across the street from the Crown casino and was tanked when we finally met up. He's a poker pro and has a similar grueling traveling schedule like mine. He spent a total of 10 weeks at his home in Australia in 2007. He wanted to scale back the travel this year and I didn't blame him.

Anyway, after the Chinese Poker game broke up, we got smashed with Johnny Mushrooms and his buddy Luke as we recanted stories about our time in Amsterdam and how I almost shit my pants and took a dump in between two parked cars along the side of a canal or how our other roomie, Benjo (everyone's favorite French poker journalist), would fetch him fresh croissants every morning or we'd make fun of all the hookers who worked around the corner from our apartment.

I have woken up in Oz with a minor hangover most days. I had two wicked hangovers as well. I had only been in Oz for a couple of days, and almost drank a case of wine and a keg of beer. Alas, that's what I do down under... drink. A ton. I'd say that 75% of my total alcohol consumption in 2007 occurred in Australia.

I was excited for work because we had a good crew for PokerNews. I was also apprehensive because I was a bit rusty. That's why the early events in a "tournament series" like the Poker News Cup or Aussie Millions are usually like spring training for me. The first event was a $1K NL event which kicked off the entire Aussie Millions.

The big buzz of the day was that actor Michael Vartan (best known from Alias although I only saw one or two episodes of that show... but I know him better from flicks such as The Pallbearer and Never Been Kissed) was playing in the first event. Since his current show had halted production due to the writer's strike in Hollyweird, he flew down under to play some poker. He admitted that he developed an addiction to poker and said that he played a lot of online poker.

Of course, both Change100 and Amanda were swooning over his appearance at the poker tournament. They couldn't stop talking about how dreamy Michael Vartan was and we snagged him for an interview with Poker News. Too bad, but the pretty boy busted out early, yet Change100 and Amanda still kept talking about him.

Vartan read PokerNews' live reporting coverage and he liked the things that Change100 wrote about him. When she found out, she couldn't stop blushing.

Jules played in event #3 $500 Mixed Stud (Stud/Stud9/Razz). She busted out shortly before the dinner break, but it seemed like she had fun. I got to snap a cool pic of her. Sometimes you get lucky and can capture someone's personality with a picture. I managed to do that with Jules.

In the first three events in the Aussie Millions, Timex, an 18-year old kid from Canada who wore braces took second place in Event #1; Chris Cronis, a local famous fashion designer won event #2; and Jimmy "Gobboboy" Fricke, a 20-year old internet pro from Illinois won Event #3. I covered Gobboboy's run and his mixed game skills impressed me. He went deep at the WSOP-E HORSE event in London and cashed there. Gobboboy gets a lot of shit. He's an easy target because of how he looks, but most of the haters are jealous about his ability. I've had the opportunity to slowly get to know him and he's a great kid that loves playing poker. He turns 21 this spring, and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes at least one final table at the 2008 WSOP.

* * * * *

If you want a random celebrity sighting in Melbourne, just head on down to the Crown Casino.

I ran into Jen Tilly in the poker room. She had a casino host with her and I cut through a crowd of people and nearly smashed into her. She was in town with Phil Laak to play the Aussie Millions. I've spotted them a lot at the different Asian eateries in the food court.

Michael Vartan has been hanging out occasionally in media row. He's digging PokerNews since he never knew it existed before we told him. And yes, Amanda and Change100 are still swooning whenever he walks by.

There was a rumor that a knocked up Pam Anderson would be in town too to play, but she couldn't get sponsorship. Several Aussies have wandered up to the media desk and asked me if Shannon Elizabeth would be here. She attended the event last year and magically appeared one day as she played in a satellite. I heard that she's being sponsored by Mansion Poker.

Schecky said that he saw Andy Roddick. Of course, the tennis pros are in town for the Australian Open and a lot of them are staying in one of the two hotels here. Last year, I saw Roger Federer and rode in an elevator with Maria Sharapova.

My buddy Brandon Schaefer is in town to play in some events. He's being staked and admitted that he didn't have a hot 2007 and has a huge make-up. Too bad that we can't do some traveling this time around since he has to get back to the States for a wedding.

His good friend Carl Olson is here as well. Olson has mixed feeling about poker these days.

"Sometimes I love poker, and most days I'm thinking... what the hell am I doing? Poker is such a bad thing," he mentioned.

Olson doesn't travel as much as some pros on the circuit and only plays in events where he can win a package. We briefly talked about his future, which involves less poker and the possibility of opening up a business in Seattle with Schaefer. It felt good to be able to talk to some pros about how too much poker sucks the soul out of you.

It's kinda funny... but "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" totally applies to poker. Most cubicle monkeys and suits I know what to quit their jobs and become a professional poker player. While most pros that I know are trying to find a way out of poker and start a business or get a real job as they get back into a life of normalcy.

Johnny Mushrooms has been playing a lot of the tournaments and I'm pulling for him and Brandon and Olson to go deep and make at least one final table each. And if they win... maybe they'll throw a victory party at the Spearmint Rhino down the street!

I covered the $100,000 buy-in event, which I think is one of the coolest events in all of poker. I know that Gary Thompson (from Harrah's) reads my blog, so Gary, how about a $100K event at the WSOP? That would be cool and I betcha you'd get almost 100 players.

Last year, the Aussie Millions 100K event drew 18 runners. Erick Lindgren won it and took down $1 million AUD. This year, there were 25 runners. Here's the original seating assignments...
Table 29
Seat 1: Nickolaus Jedlicka
Seat 2: Joe Reina
Seat 3: Jeff "ActionJeff" Garza
Seat 4: Emanuel Seal
Seat 5: Jeff Lisandro
Seat 6: Erik Seidel
Seat 7: Sergey Rybachenko
Seat 8: John Juanda
Seat 9: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson

Table 31
Seat 1: Michael "Timex" McDonald
Seat 2: Howard Lederer
Seat 3: Michael Sampoerna
Seat 4: Tony Bloom
Seat 5: Allen Cunningham
Seat 6: Eli Elezra
Seat 7: Dan Shak
Seat 8: Phil Ivey

Table 32
Seat 1: Tony G
Seat 2: Tom "Durrr" Dwan
Seat 3: Masa Kagawa
Seat 4: Mark Teltscher
Seat 5: Andy Bloch
Seat 6: Sandor Demjan
Seat 7: Erick Lindgren
Seat 8: Gus Hansen
The top 5 would win prize money in the $2.5 million prize pool. First place would win $1.25 million, which at the time would be the second largest prize ever awarded at the Aussie Millions (Gus Hansen won $1.5M for winning last year's main event and this year's main event winner is expected to win more than $1.5M).

Timex drew a monster table. I was interested in seeing how the young internet pros would hold their mud against the established Las Vegas veteran sharks. ActionJeff, Timex, and Durrr took a shot, which was admirable. But their willingness to play big pots ended up being their downfall. Although ActionJeff doubled up early on and held the chiplead for the first couple of hours, the young guns failed to advance to the final table and make the money. Compare their style of play to Howard Lederer's patient and disciplined strategy... and in that instance, slow and steady won the race.

Lederer put on an impressive display of Zen patience and living in the now. He never faltered or panicked with a short stack... something he had for the majority of the tournament. At one point, he never had more that 250K (the starting stacks were 100K). When it was four-handed he had about 250K and that's when he shifted gears are started playing some pots.

Erick Lindgren did not repeat, and it was Lederer who took down the first place prize of $1.25 million after he beat Mark Teltscher heads up to win. Michael Sampoerna took third and Jeff Lisandro finished in 4th place. Nikolaus Jedlicka finished in 5th and got his money back minus the juice.

Teltscher was banned by PokerStars and cannot play on their site or at any of their events. Like JJProdigiy (who turned 18 recently), they were unable to play at the PCA in the Bahamas, since Stars banned them from all live events that they sponsor as well. Alas, Australia has become a refuge for shady online players. That's the only place they can get a game since the PokerStars sponsored APPT and EPT won't let them in the mix. Yeah JJProdigy had been playing in some of the events. When I asked him how come he didn't play in the 100K he said that he wanted to. However, he didn't have enough cash on hand to play. He called up his parents and asked them to wire him some money. When they found out he wanted $100K to play in a single tournament, they denied his request.

The main event of the Aussie Millions starts on Monday. There are three starting flights and the final table will be on Monday. Check out our live reporting coverage at Poker News.

I managed to bump into jeciimd, the fellow blogger who won the BBT2: Aussie Millions Challenge. We chatted for a bit and he's playing on Day 1a.

* * * * * *

I have been gambling a bit since my arrival in OZ. I'm up about 2K in combined poker and sports betting. I played 2/3 NL in the Crown poker room three times. The players are horrible at that level and it's a very profitable game. I won a bunch my first two sessions and donked off some of my winnings in the infamous Gavin Smith/Paul Wasicka donkfest.

I played at the same table as Change100 and flopped quad Kings on hand and didn't get paid off. I felted two guys who were bluffing into me when I had made hands. Sometimes poker can be fun and easy when you have bad players wanting to give their chips to you.

Most of the Aussies I know dig American culture include entertainment (music, books, movies, TV), sports (NBA + NFL, and even MLB), and especially politics. The politics buzz in Australia was about Obama. Everyone's been asking me if that's going to be our new President. Bush isn't the most popular guy in the world and they are hoping we can get a change in the White House and help improve our faltering image overseas. I thought it was interesting that the average Aussie knows more about our political process than most Americans. What a shame.

So, I'm betting on sports again. Albeit, small bets. I started betting on the NBA with Schecky. He picks a random game on the card to bet on. We'd look up the point spread and he'd let me pick a side. So far I'm 0-1 because Memphis fuckin' blew it against Golden State.

On the first weekend of the NFL playoffs, I went 2-2 betting with the local bookies. I had Jacksonville against Pittsburgh and they didn't cover by a half a point. I would have gone 3-1 if it weren't for that game. Regardless, I turned a small proft the first weekend.

Now, the real money came in this weekend after I went 4-0. San Diego, Jacksonville, Green Bay (in the snow), and the Giants. It was one of those rare times when every pick I made turned to gold. It's Murphy's Law... as soon as I starting betting small, I began to hit more of my picks. had I been betting two or three dimes a game, I would have lost all of them.

The biggest clutch bet was taking the money line in the NY Giants-Cowgirls game. Damo, one of our Aussies working at PokerNews, is a huge Giants fan and told me that the money like was +385 for the Giants. When I got my bet in, it had dropped to +325. I knew that was a longshot, but I had a gut feeling about the Giants. Who would have thunk that Eli would be the one Manning that went to the final four this year?

I dunno who I'll bet on next week's games... I might not bet at all. I'm up a bit and won enough to pay for my trip to New Zealand at the end of the month with Change100. I'm gonna use some of my winnings to go bungey jumping off a bridge.

Ah, I forgot to mention that at any given time, either cricket or The Simpsons is on the TV in my hotel room. There's was a controversial match the other day between Australia and India which seems to be making headlines down under. I'm still a cricket novice but I'm slowly learning how to gamble on it. I have a softer and milder approach to sports betting this year, in hopes to curtail my degenerate behavior.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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