New York City
Somewhere late on Day 1A of the PokerStars.com EPT Hungarian Open at the Las Vegas Casino in Budapest, Annette15 surged to the chiplead. While the Norwegian wunderkind was out in the tournament area schooling online qualifiers and other Eurodonks, an interesting prop bet germinated in the media room.
"I can eat fifty apples in ninety minutes," blurted out Rod in his very distinct English accent.
Like most Brits, Rod is a reserved guy. He's a veteran journalist with several years of experience at Blonde Poker and PokerListings. I saw him everyday at the 2008 WSOP in Las Vegas but it wasn't until the Main Event when I discovered that he was British and not Canadian. I just assumed he was Canadian since he worked for PokerListings. It's just that Rod is not a man of many words. He doesn't say much so everyone dropped what they were doing to listen after he uttered, "I can eat fifty apples in ninety minutes."
Over the next few days, the terms of the fifty apples prop bet were eventually worked out between Matt and Rodd. Matt didn't think he could do it. Neither could I. Rod was determined and over the course of a week, a philosophical discussion broke out about competitive eating. It was always on the back burner because we all had a tournament to cover.
The Hungarian team from PokerNews helped me figure out which local players to cover on Day 1A and Day 1B. Peter and I walked around the room and gave me a crash course on the locals. Europeans don't like to physically point at someone so he would whisper seat numbers to me. At one table, a gentleman who could have been an Elvis Costello impersonator quietly sat behind a stack of red chips. His name was Attila Foris and one of the best cash game players in Eastern Europe. Peter told me about Richard Toth sat. Among his peers, Toth was considered the best tournament player in all of Hungary. He's third on the all time Hungarian money list and almost won a bracelet in 2006, but finished in second place in a $1,500 donkament. Peter also showed me where Kwaysser Valdemar Akos was sitting. Otherwise known as Luigi at the virtual tables, Kwaysser won the first ever PokerStars.com Latin American Poker Tour in Costa Rica last May.
I only recognized one Hungarian pro... Denes Kalo who took second place at the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo earlier in the year, a similar feat that Brandon Schaefer did back in 2005. Kalo was the number one money winner in the history of Hungarian poker with almost $2.5 million in career earnings.
There was also one guy that everyone seemed to know. However, I had never seen him before because he was a Hungarian reality TV star. Peter 'Majka' Majoros was one of the most lively players in the room. Known around town as Majka, he was considered a huge celebrity in Hungary because of his appearance on the reality show called Való Világ. Majka came in second place but won the hearts and minds of all Hungarians. He parlayed his celebrity status into a music career and became an even more famous Hungarian rapper. I wish I was making this stuff up. Majka caught the poker bug and he was considered one of the noteworthy celebrities playing in the EPT Budapest.
One extremely loud Hungarian that stood out that Peter never mentioned to me. His name was Joseph Rutkai and he wore clothing that was as loud as his booming voice. One media rep described him as "looking like a total tool." He could be considered the Hungarian Mike Matusow but that's an insult to Matusow since Rutkai is no where near the level of skill as the real Mouth.
Dana and Matt witnessed one hand before the first break on Day 1A. It was a battle of the blinds between Rutkai and a young Scandi. Rutki's A-J beat out his opponents A-K. Rutkai four-flushed his opponent and busted the Scandi but not without a display of poor sportsmanship. Dana wrote...
"Not content with the outdraw, Rutkai went for the rubdown too -- he shouted something that sounded rather like, 'Hasta la vista, baby,' before getting out his car keys and offering them to his hapless and now busted opponent, saying, 'Here, take the keys to my Hummer, go see Budapest.' Extraordinary."Dana is from the UK and I love how the Brits drench their posts in utter sarcasm. I was told the poor Scandi kid was devastated at the bad beat and then stormed away after being humiliated by Rutkai.
"What a dick," described one member of the media.
From that point on we described him as Joseph "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai. He even parked his Hummer out front in an illegal spot. I told one of the Swedish reporters that the kid should get revenge on Rutkai and key his beloved Hummer.
Rutkai showed up on Day 2 wearing all yellow. Bright canary yellow pants and a matching shirt. I needed sunglasses to protect me from the glare. Change100 would have taken this guy behind the shed in one of her infamous fashion update posts. Garish clothing on a foul-mouthed man. Just another day on the tournament trail.
Here's a hand Joseph "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai had on Day 2 with Johnny Lodden...
The guy has tons of class as you could see in the above video. When he won the hand, he screamed, "I beat the pro!"
Overall, there were 71 Hungarians in the field. That was the second highest number of players from a single country according to PokerStars. The Huns were outnumbered by the Italians. There were 86 of them in total. EPT Player of the Year Luca Pagano bought into the event along with his dad. Two Italian bracelet winners were in the field including Max Pescatori and Dario Minieri. I didn't know Dario was playing until I saw him show up very late.
"I think Dario has officially lost his virginity," mentioned on member of the international press. "Look at that shirt he's wearing. Influenced by Isabelle of course."
It wasn't so much as Dario's shirt as it was the fact that he didn't have it buttoned all the way to the top. Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius can get away by showing off their chests. Dario? Not so much. An expensive and rather large silver crucifix dangled around his neck as he exposed his bare chest. It looked smooth, like a seal. I couldn't stop from giggling every time I walked past his table.
There are no racks in Hungary. At least, I did not see any. When a table broke, players were given a bucket. Similar to the one your grandma used to use at the slot machines to haul around quarters rotating from slot machine to slot machine. Yeah, you would frequently see players carting away their chips in massive cups and dumping them onto the table. It slowed down the game because players had to restack every time they got moved instead of sliding their chips out of racks.
This was an unconfirmed rumor.... but supposedly there was a local player who won a satellite to the EPT Hungarian Open from a different casino or maybe it was online. Anyway, the tournament was hosted at the Las Vegas Casino in Budapest which is a part of the Sofitel complex. Well according to the rumor, the idiot flew to Las Vegas, Nevada because he thought the tournament was there. Even if it's not true... it's still a funny story.
On Day 1B, the Hungarian press was buzzing because Andy Vajna was in the building. Vajna was the owner of the Las Vegas Casino in Budapest and also a major player in Hollywood. He produced several mega-hits and was a integral part of the "Rambo" and "Terminator" series. His current project is The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a popular TV program which is pulling in tons of dough. Vajna also produced art house films such an influential Hungarian film called Children of Glory, which detailed the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution and push for independence that was squashed by the Soviets in 1956.
Vajna's filmography as a producer is massive and includes such films as Basic Instinct 2 (2006), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), The 13th Warrior (1999), Evita (1996), Nixon (1995), The Scarlet Letter (1995), Judge Dredd (1995), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Color of Night (1994), Renaissance Man (1994), Tombstone (1993), Jacob's Ladder (1990), Air America (1990), Total Recall (1990), Red Heat (1988), Rambo III (1988), Angel Heart (1987), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), First Blood (1982), and Victory (1981).
I told him that Victory was one of my favorite Stallone flicks of all time. I wussed out and didn't tell him that I dropped acid the first time I saw Jacob's Ladder and it made perfect sense. I think it was a good idea that I held back that bit of personal information. The last thing he needs is a known acid freak running around his casino.
Change100 used to work in Hollyweird and mentioned that Vajna is an elite category. He's richer than rich. Vajna has what Hollyweird insiders call, "Fuck you money." When you have that much money, you can tell anyone to fuck off.
I briefly met Vajna and he was a polite and warm guy, nothing like the slithery snakes you'd find holed up in the hills of Hollywood. Vajna looked a bit like old Ernest Hemingway. The crew at Hungarian PokerNews conducted a brief interview with the legend, which they helped translate into English. Vajna was happy with the turnout since he heard it was not going to be a sell out. The EPT Budapest was actually oversold. He also said that he'd like to play but his skill level is nowhere near the superior levels of the European pros.
The EPT Budapest had plenty of members from Team PokerStars, but the event did not attract as many big names as other EPT events. The main reason was that although the EPT expanded into Hungary for the first time, they made a decision to not televise the event. It wouldn't be a part of the TV package. That kept a few named pros away.
Johnny Lodden from Norway used to play under Betsson, but he got sponsored by PokerStars for Budapest and Prague. Like his fellow Norwegian, Annette15, Lodden is a master at amassing a massive stack early on in a tournament. His hyper-aggressive style is tough to keep up with. Lodden's problem has always been his inability to switch gears and slow down. Selective aggression is the key to a winning formula. Guys like Lodden can only play one speed.... fast.
Perhaps he wants a full time sponsorship with PokerStars, or maybe he's evolving his game. Whatever the reason, Lodden played a lot different that normal. He picked his spots more carefully instead of trying to steamroll the table on every single hand.
As the field thinned on Day 2 and eased into Day 3, Lodden was still hanging around. He always had a ton of media around and as the action approached the bubble, more and more reps circled his table. He was one of the biggest names remaining along with Kara Scott. She's the EPT hostess and was able to play since they were not taping the Budapest event. She's been a fixture on the EPT and finally had a breakthrough in the US during this summer at the WSOP. Kara went deep in the Main Event and cashed. Norm Chad couldn't stop drooling over he and kept referring to her to "Kara Scott Chad." It was funny the first time, but got old after a while.
(Photo courtesy of Adam Steiner)
Anyway, Kara never had much to work with stackwise for most of the tournament but she's a true grinder. She was one of the notable who made the money which also included Sorel Mizzi, Ludovic Lacay, and bracelets winners Alex KGB Kravchenko and Ivo Donev.
Ludovic Lacay was involved in a wacky pro bet with one of his fellow Frenchman. Lacay lost the bet so he had to hold a toothbrush in his mouth for the entire duration of Day 3. Lacay busted out late in the night and finally removed the toothbrush.
Ivo Donev is a Hungarian who lives in Austria. He's known as the "Chess Master" and bubbled off the final table in ninth place. He loved to complain about the play of Zoltan Toth, the longest lasting Hungarian who made the final table as the chipleader. Donev repeatedly chastised Zoltan for being a calling station.
"He thinks he's playing bingo!" bitched Donev who got beat out in a few pots with Zoltan.
Alas, that's poker. The best player usually doesn't win. Zoltan advanced to the final table with the chiplead and properly imploded. He finished in 7th place.
Johnny Lodden was probably the best player at the final table. He was definitely the most popular. The 24-year old played in 15 EPT events and cashed in 7 of them. We were seeing the new and improved Johnny Lodden. Although he was in the middle of the pack in chips, almost everyone picked him to win it all. Sadly, Lodden was the first player to bust from the final table. It was a nasty beat too.
Here's what I wrote for PokerNews...
Hand #16. Johnny Lodden raised 55,000 from under the gun. Zoltan Toth called. Ciprian Hrisca made a few jokes with Johnny Lodden and folded. Martin Jacobson called.Lodden was a slight favorite after the flop. We expected he might get flushed out. No one saw the gutshot coming. Alas, Lodden was out and he quickly headed to the bar. Because when I saw him several hours later, he was three sheets to the wind or what the Norwegians say "beruset som skunk" or drunk as a skunk.
The flop was Jd-8s-2d. Lodden bet 125,000. Zoltan called. Jacobson moved all in. Lodden called. Zoltan called and had everyone covered.
Massive pot. Lodden was ahead with pocket Kings against Zoltan's nut flush draw and Jacobson's gutshot and smaller flush draw.
The turn was the 7h. And the river was the 9c. Jacobson won the pot with a straight. He doubled through Zoltan. Lodden was eliminated in 8th place. Jacobson took over the chiplead and has almost 2 million in chips. Zoltan was crippled and left with around 40,000.
The EPT Budapest final table went faster than usual final tables. 76 hands. 4.5 hours. As a tournament reporter, you couldn't ask for a better final table. Once action was three-handed, the remaining players took a break and cut a deal. They took almost 35 minutes to hash out the details. So out of a 4.5 hour tournament over 1/9th of that time included the deal discussion. Once the players agreed to a fair deal, the tournament was over shortly after.
Will Fry from Nottingham, UK won the EPT Budapest and a seat into the EPT Grand Finale next spring in Monte Carlo. Fry was involved in a controversial hand early on Day 2 with "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai. The floor made a sketchy decision against Fry. He was furious but he managed to stay calm and cruise to victory, while "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai busted out soon after.
Fry is one of the good guys in poker and a modern day Robin Hood. He said he was going to donate a percentage of his winnings to charity. He wants to help raise awareness to third world hunger. He's going to be researching various groups over the next few weeks to figure out which one he'll support.
Since the event ended early, my friends in the media had time to finish up their assignments and eat a proper dinner. Dana and I feasted at a local Hungarian restaurant before we joined the party. A group of 30+ took over a bar around the corner from the casino. Lucky for us poor journalists, a couple of the players who cashed showed up and help picked up all of the tab. Johnny Lodden, Kara Scott, and Will Fry all made cameos. A drunken Johnny Lodden sat next to me and chatted up a storm. Most Scandis are very reserved, but they finally loosen up when you get a few drinks in them. Lodden was telling me about playing a couple of hands blind and or raising a couple of times with the Hammer when he knew his opponents were weak.
The bar closed early since it was a public holiday. All Saints Day. Most of the locals went to cemeteries to pay honor to their loved ones who passed away. We still wanted to party, but options were limited. I offered up my apartment to host the afterparty. 20+ people showed up and we partied until sunrise including Will Fry and his entourage. They brought tons of beer.
At some point, the discussion came back around to Rod's 50 apples bet. Benjo and I wondered if we could get him to do it that night. The difficult part was finding 50 Granny Smith apples since that was the specific ones Rod said he'd eat. I snuck out and headed to the 24 hour store on the corner. Luckily they had apples, although most of them were bruised and shitty looking. I picked out five of the best they had and ran back to the party.
I offered Rod €50 to eat all five in 15 minutes, but he backed down. He had never eaten more than three apples in one sitting and needed tons of practice. He tried to eat one as fast as he could, but decided against taking the bet. I offered Matt Showell €50 to eat three apples in ten minutes. He quickly said yes. I got smoked. He ate three of them in roughly 8.5 minutes. He admitted that it was not an easy task and that Rod would have a tough time eating 25, let alone 50.
Rod is confident that he can train over the next few months and achieve his feat. I set the over under at 36.5 apples in 90 minutes. Despite pleas from various media reps to have the prop bet settled in Monte Carlo after the EPT Grand Finale ends, Matt wants a showdown at the 2009 WSOP in Las Vegas.
As the line in Cool Hand Luke goes, "No one can eat fifty eggs."
Yeah, no way Rod can eat fifty apples. No one can eat fifty apples.
I uploaded pics from my trip to Budapest. Check out the Budapest gallery.
I also have dozens of other galleries from various other trips and music festivals and different collections of food galleries and Pauly paintings. Click here to view all of my photo galleries.
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