Monday, October 20, 2008

London Leftovers

By Pauly
New York City

I'm in one of those phases were I'm constantly on the move. The next three weeks will find me in New York City, Providence, Budapest, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. It's been two weeks since I left London and a week since I departed Amsterdam. And somewhere along the way, I let this post slip on by. It's really a collection of my notes from the EPT London assignment which I used to piece together a column for Bluff. I used some of the tidbits and cut the others.

Here's a glimpse of some of the things I took note of during my time in London covering the EPT London at the Vic...

A couple of celebs were in the field on Day 1A including actor Michael Greco who was most famous for his work on East Enders. Although I didn't see famous skier Alberto Tomba in the mix, Max Pescatori told me that he played and busted early.

French Actress Alexia Portal was also playing despite being seven months pregnant. Even with a bun in the oven, she's still hot. She was seated at the same table as Vanessa Rousso.

John 'The Razor' Phan showed up as an alternate. The EPT London was originally capped at 500, so each flight would be 250 max. However, they allowed approximately 40 or so alternates. One of them was the Razor. He stood at the bar and sipped coffee while he wondered when he would take his seat. When his name was called he sat down at Frenchman's Nicolas Levi's table.

Phan might know my real name but he's been calling me "Poker News" for the last two years. When I'd pass him in the hallway at the Rio he'd nod and say, "What up, Poker News?"

As I wandered by his table at the Vic, Phan called me over. He stood up and handed me his iPod mini. "Hey Poker News, I'm out of juice." When I returned to the media room, I powered up his iPod on my laptop. I checked out some of his music library. Tons of Vietnamese pop, but not one track from Thao and The Get Down.

Patrik Antonius was seated at the same table as Erica Schoenberg. Her guy, David Benyamine, was seated nearby and would wander over to check on her progress. At one point, Benyamine walked up to Patrik Antonius and kissed him on top of his recently shaved bald head, which was immediately followed up by a huge smile from both players. Those two guys, like most Europeans pros, rarely show emotion at the table. Yet those two were all shits and giggles. A rarity indeed on the tournament trail.

Katja Thater was milling around Day 1A despite the fact she was playing on Day 1B. She told me that her horses back in Germany were not doing well. A few were sick and one needed an operation. "I need to make some money in London to help pay for my animals' medical bills," she said. "If anyone tries to steal my blinds I will tell them that is cruelty to animals."

The staff at the Vic fed the players during action. They brought over bowls of curry or salmon. A waitress also wandered through the cramped aisles with bottles of wine. Red in the left hand and white in the right hand. One local member of the media joked that the wine was a special touch added by management to loosen up the action.

"Get a couple of more bottles of wine flowing and we can go home early," he said.

It didn't matter. The action was super fast with one hour levels and the field flooded with 'Eurodonks' which was a term dubbed by many of my colleagues to describe the play of newbie poker players scattered all over Europe with more money than they knew what to do with.

A gaggle of Eurodonks were seated at former EPT London champion Vicky Coren's starting table. She had a great read on them and was slowly adding to her stack when a floor person came over with bad news. Her table was next on the list to break. She vehemently protested. She wanted to stay with her batch of Eurodonks. She was eventually moved to Beth Shak's table.

If you have not been to the Vic, well there's a dining room adjacent to the poker room. The staff added several tournament tables to the dinning room to accommodate the overflow. I didn't focus on those tables for the first couple of hours of Day 1a. I finally wandered over and sweated a table that included Chad Brown and Sorel Mizzi. Former world champion Joe Hachem (scheduled to play in Day 1b) stopped by the table to chat with Chad Brown, a fellow member of Team PokerStars. Several photographers from various European outlets cluttered the sparse space in between tables to snap photos. The dining area immediately became illuminated with flashes as they rushed to shoot Joe and Chad shooting the breeze.

While the media seized an opportunity for a quick photo op, there was an ongoing hand. I caught the action a little late. An unknown player raised from the button. Sorel Mizzi reraised from the small blind for 6,000 more. His opponent went into the tank for several minutes while photographers continued to snap photos of Hachem and Brown. Eventually the player from the button called.

The flop was 6h-5s-3c. Mizzi fired out 3,500. His opponent moved all in and Mizzi called for the remainder of his chips, or 7,450 in total.

Mizzi: 9h-9d
Opponent: 10d-10s

The turn was the 7d and Mizzi picked up a gutshot draw. The river was the 8c. Mizzi spiked his straight and avoided elimination. He doubled up and increased his stack to over 33,000.

"I love this game," declared Hachem as the dealer pushed the pot towards Mizzi.

The Vic is so classy that they have a small plate of mints at the end of the Roulette tables. That shit would never fly at the Bellagio.

On Day 1b, a confused Ylon Schwartz wandered around the crowded poker room at the Vic unable to find his seat. He stopped and asked me, "Do you know where I'm supposed to be?" I pointed him to the list that was projected on a big screen on the wall of the poker room. He thanked me and looked up his assignment. A couple of other November Nine players were in the mix including Chino, but it was fellow Nov Niner Ivan Demidov who was making waves across town as he advanced to the final table of the WSOPE.

Boris Becker and Joe Hachem were seated at the same table. Lots of ginger jokes in the media room about Boris. The former German tennis pro loves to compete.

My colleague Snoopy ate some of the bowls of fish that were going around the poker room. He had a knack for knowing the exact moment of food service particularly dessert time when the Vic served ice cream. Snoopy also wore purple socks one day.

Benjo looks a little bit like Antonio Esfiandari. He's been mistaken for the pro on a few occasions, especially at the Bellagio where a bunch of frantic poker fans once stopped Benjo and asked, "Can we have an autograph, Antonio?"

"Benjo has an alluring French accent. Antonio can't compare with that," added Homer.

One local photographer was crouched low trying to get a good shot of a semi-famous player. A waitress did not see him as she scooted by the very narrow areas in between the tables. He stood up as she tried to pass with a tray of drinks. The result? He accidentally hip-checked her and the tray of beverages fell onto a cash game table.... PLO to be exact.

I also watched Devilfish felt a guy at that same table shortly before the accident. Devilfish flopped a set of Queens without any redraws. It held up against his opponent who managed to miss a ton of outs.

Conrad suggested a good book for me to read about cricket by E.T. Smith. Sadly, he did not give me any tips on fixed cricket matches to bet on. I have been curtailing my sports betting these days and only bet on games/matches/fights when I hear that the fix is in. I did hang out out at a couple of the betting shops. Billy Hill and Ladbrokes are all over the place. I put in a couple of small bets on NFL parlays or what the Brits call accumalaters.

As I walked into the Vic one day and made my way upstairs to the tournament area, a sizzling hot blonde walked by. I mentioned something to Benjo and he said, "Ah, so you met Devilfish's jailbait girlfriend?" A couple of the young Scandis had their hottie girlfriends hanging around on the rail. That's what I lovea bout the EPT... an influx of hot Swedish ass.

On the start of Day 3, Rich from Full Tilt, Dan Shak and I stood on the rail together. Dan was sweating his wife Beth and I was trying to get descriptions down of the few players that I did not know left in the field. One superpokerfan held out a copy of UK Poker News magazine and asked Scotty Nguyen for an autograph. Scotty flashed his big smile and accommodated the fan's request. The fan turned to Dan Shak and asked him for his autograph. Rich joked, "Why do you want Dan's autograph? Pauly is more famous than him!" Shak let out a hearty chuckle and the fan handed me the magazine and asked me to sign it. Just below Scotty's signature, I scribbled down "Avoid the clap!" and then added my John Hancock.

The final table coincided with Day 1 of the High Rollers event which was a who's who of not just British poker (Neil Channing and Devilfish) but the field included the big dogs like Phil Ivey, Jesus, and Gus Hansen. WPT Borgata winner Vivek Rajkumar decided to throw down with the big boys.

Philippe D'Auteuil from Canada is a prankster. He made the final table of the EPT London and he's buddies with American Eric Lui. They supposedly play big cash games online together. D'Auteuil's bustout interview was super short after he got cut off by the production crew. He was trying to be funny, but the folks in charge didn't know and took his offcolor remarks at face value.

Moments after his departure in 5th place, hostess Kara Scott asked D'Auteuil about the EPT London which appeared on the live internet feed. He said, "This tournament structure sucks." She quickly followed up with a slightly different topic and asked him who he thought was going to win.

"The Chinaman, you know that Japanese guy," D'Auteuil joked alluding to his buddy Eric Liu.

The producers gave him the quick hook and ended the interview. Were were sort of baffled in the media room and hoped that the kid was just trying to be a funny guy. British poker writer Homer turned to the Canadian writers (Owen and Martin from Poker Listings) and remarked, "You see? This is why we don't let Canadians speak on the telly..."

I love British sarcasm. They are truly the kings and queens of the backhanded compliment.

* * * * *

And here's some orphaned quotes that I scribbled down in my notebook but never got to use...

"Look at the hot German girl smoking a cigar," said Benjo as we stood in the smoker's lounge.

"Don't shove stuff up your nose in the bathroom of speakeasy in Soho that you just scored from a dodgey looking guy," said one wise anonymous media rep.

That same night another anonymous member of the media whiffed on a chance to hook up with a certain promiscuous female who frequents the tournament circuit. We gave him a ton of shit for actually using the line, "Can I go up to your room to use your internet?"

* * * * *

Saving the best for last. This risque bit appeared on Tao of Pauly but it was cut from the final draft of the version of my column that I sent to Bluff.

I had a couple of drinks one night after work at the bar with some of my fellow writers from Canada, Sweden, and the UK. Pinky and Mrs. Pinky joined me for a couple of shitty French beers and we chatted a lot about different London neighborhoods, the media, and British TV shows. I had a nice buzz when I left the casino. I missed the last tube and took a night bus back to my flat in Soho that I shared with Gloria and Change100.

The night bus let me off in front of McDonalds. It was Friday night in London. The binge drinkers were out in full force. The lines at McDs were out onto Oxford Street. There was a 24-hour Subway next door. I had the munchies and ordered a six inch meatball sub for £3.50 or almost $7.

I ate the sub as I sprinted past Charing Cross Road towards my flat. There's a club in the ground floor of our apartment complex. The music pumped out into the street as party people stood outside smoking cigarettes. Two old immigrant women attempted to sell everyone roses and other assorted flowers. One stopped me as I passed by eating my meatball sub.

"£3 for one," she said.

I counter offered £1. She refused to budge. I walked away and she grabbed my arm.

"£2. I have five children to feed."

I repeated my counter offer. She refused to let me go. I took another bite of the meatball sub and asked her where she was from.

"Romania," she said.

"Ah, Romania.... Chauchescu?"

"Chauchescu is dead!" she screamed and then angrily spit on the ground.

I tried to walk away and she finally caved in. She handed me a rose (which I would give to Change100) and I gave the old woman one quid.

I walked about forty feet when I saw two people. One guy leaned up against the wall while another figure pulled down the guy's pants. It was another guy and he began blowing him in full view of the smokers and the Romanian flower women. They were engaging in a lewd sex act only few steps from the entrance to my flat. I had a couple of bites left in my meatball sandwich and finished it off as I stood in amazement as I watched one guy blow another guy. Ah, just another glimpse into the streets of Soho at 3am on a Friday night.

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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