Monday, September 08, 2008

Borgata Tales, Part I

By Pauly
Atlantic City, NJ

I began my journey in New York City. I found myself wandering the down trodden complex otherwise known as the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Bus travelers are a distinct breed of people. And the souls on the buses to Atlantic City are sometimes even more sketchier.

I sat across from a pregnant white girl with hoop earrings. She had the word "HOOD" tattooed on her forearm. A teenaged Puerto Rican girl and her portly grandmother took the adjacent row of seats. Within seconds of sitting down, the old woman spilled juice all over the floor. That pissed the bus driver off. He screamed and wouldn't leave until the girl cleaned it up, as she muttered curse words in Spanish underneath her breath.

A disheveled middle-aged guy with a copy of the NY Post sat in front of me. He could have used s splash of cologne to mask that foul odor which reminded me of a cross between a wet dog and a sour tuna fish sandwich. The degenerate looked like he was a step away from being homeless, yet he was headed down to Atlantic City... where the sand turns to gold.

I read a book on the bus and prayed that we wouldn't have any psychopaths traveling with us. Getting shanked on a Greyhound was not my ideal way to start a 16 day work assignment.

The bus dropped me off at Trump Plaza and I caught a cab over to the Borgata. Part of what makes the Borgata the most exclusive casino on the East Coast is their location... away from the Boardwalk and all the riff raff.

The Borgata put me up in a room on a top floor. 40+ stories up. It's technically an ocean view because I can see out to the Atlantic. I can't see the actual Boardwalk because the cluster of casinos are blocking it. However, I can see the plight peppered below me in the void between the Borgata and the Boardwalk. Somewhere out there, the infamous Atlantic City hookers were strolling the streets that have the same names from the Monopoly game.

My assignment was simple... cover the 2008 Borgata Poker Open for the Borgata Poker Blog. I worked with a great crew that included Friedman and Tropical Steve. The hours were long but the Borgata is a laid back environment.

Day 1.

Wednesday. I had not covered a tournament since the WSOP. I was rusty and still in vacation mode. I had to shake off the rust. Luckily, a familiar face stopped by media row. It was Action Bob. He handed Friedman a small rock.

"You gave me this as a good luck charm in Vegas during the WSOP. It didn't work. Now I'm giving it back," he said.

Friedman's card capper gave Action Bob some bad juju. Poker players are a superstitious bunch.

Jason Young won a bracelet this summer and stopped by to say hello. He was proudly wearing his WSOP bling. For the Borgata Poker Open, event winners won a watch instead of a bracelet. That's a much better winner's gift especially because more players would be inclined to wear a watch than a bracelet.

Dale Pinchot was hanging around. He told me that he was the first player to directly buy-into the $10,000 main event (also a WPT event).

I also spotted the first of many Brett Favre #4 NY Jets jerseys.

The first event was a $300 NL. Davidson Matthew and Robert Varkonyi were the notables in the field that day. One was a former WSOP champion and the other was a Canadian who sported an "Obama for President" hat. If only 50% of eligible voters in America actually exercise their right to vote, I say we let Canucks go to the polls.

A met a couple of readers. One guy looked like an extra straight off the set of The Sopranos with pinky bling and a Nike track suit. "Yo, Pauly. I hear you wanna get out of poker. Do you wanna job? You can come work for me. Whaddya know about pools and spas?"

Day 2.

Thursday morning I ate Fatburger for breakfast.

When I arrived at press row, I ran into another reader. His nickname was Ricky Bobby and he happened to have a poker blog called At Least They Were Suited. He wore a hat with a Superman logo on the front. (The next day he did not wear that hat after his subpar performance that day... in fact I have yet to see him wear it since. As I stated earlier poker players are a superstitious bunch.)

I love to eavesdrop on conversations. One guy was rattling off plenty of arcane football statistics like he was a cross between Rain Man and Beano Cook. The line that made me chuckle was... "You never pick a divisional game and you never ever pick an away game."

Gentleman John Gale from the UK made an appearance in the $500 NL event. The last time I saw him, he was in a wheelchair and hobbling around the WSOP after back surgery. He looked much better this time around.

Evy had made it to day two of Event #1. She had car trouble and arrived 45 minutes late. We finally met and I covered her progress as she advanced to the final table and eventually busted out in 5th place.

I met a local. We'll call him Coop. Anyway, Coop told me a hilarious story (dunno if it's true or not) that happened several years ago when he had a Party Poker account. He had not played on it in a while. He logged on to play but his account was emptied. He discovered that his 8-year old son was the culprit. What happened? The kid logged onto a 15/30 LHE table and lost the entire bankroll on one hand. The kid had his Aces cracked. Start 'em young.

And yeah, the kid who came in third in Event #1 was 21 and playing in his first ever live tournament. He said that third place prize money was more than what he made as a yearly salary in the insurance industry. He was thinking about quitting his job to play full time.

The quote of the day occurred after a guy sucked out on the river to bust an opponent who flopped a set... "This is so easy. Just like PokerStars."

Day 3.

"Fuck the economy," said Tab the TD. The numbers were up for his tournament series and unlike a lot of other casinos... he wasn't going to take a hit in this recession.

Derek arrived around Midnight on Thursday. We woke up early for breakfast when the Rooster called us. He had just arrived in AC and wanted to join us. Later on AlCantHang showed up with Riggs. Derek, Al, and the Rooster specifically showed up to see me. I was struggling a bit with some stuff... but their appearance definitely cheered me up.

I went to work and Derek and the Rooster wandered around the Borgata. I got a text from Derek saying that he saw Eskimo Clark by the gelato bar. I kinda ignored it because there's a guy who is a regular at the Borgata that is a dead ringer for Eskimo. I assumed that it was him and went back to work. That's when Ricky Bobby stopped by to tell me that he had just seen Eskimo. Two sightings inside a half hour. I had to investigate. I headed out to the floor of the casino and sure enough, Eskimo was there. He sat at a slot machine and chain smoked as he looked off into nowhere.

Robert Varkonyi made Day 2 of the $500 event. As soon as he sat down, he ordered a massage. It's good to be the champ. During one of the breaks, a fan wandered over and asked him for an autograph. Varkonyi obliged and went back to his massage.

Varkonyi made the final table and went on an impressive run. The deck also hit him in the face as he amassed a monster stack. By the time action was four-handed, Varkonyi had almost 70% of the chips in play. I went on a dinner break to meet Derek. Upon my return less than an hour later, Tropical Steve told me that Varkonyi busted out in 4th place. Wow.

Derek and AlCantHang were camped out a B Bar. Drinking. Heavily. For about four hours. When I walked inside, AlCantHang looked normal. Derek? Completely shitfaced. Derek attempted to go heads up and shot-for-shot with AlCantHang. Derek said that he drank 8 double SoCos. Al later told me that he thought that number was much higher. Good grief. Derek stumbled out of B Bar and we went to grab dinner. It wasn't even 6pm.

Before AlCantHang left, he told me that when he returned, he'd bring me a gift.

"So what's your favorite bottle of booze?" he asked.


And the quote of the day? One player lectured his table about moderation. "Everything in moderation," he said. "That's what's important in life. I don't drink anymore. I don't smoke anymore. I don't have sex anymore. All I do is play poker."

"That's not really moderation," chimed in one of his opponents.

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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