Las Vegas, NV
I swear that every single piece of this story is true. Whether they stitch together into this particular storyline, well it’s part of a writer’s job to entertain you and spin a fascinating tale. Reality can be so boring; sometimes it needs a good director and some big red props. But Penny is real and Phil Ivey really didn’t have a tournament seat. Sorry about skipping over the girl-on-girl action but sometimes I do write for a PG audience.
It was the World Series of 2006, a small bunch of third string poker players and others of us were in a bar as the night dwindled down. As usual, as I was the permanent designated driver or I wouldn’t have been there at all. Our crew began to shrink as House of Cards van departed but then one of our extras noticed a couple of girls in another rag-tag group across the bar and our two smaller parties came together like drops of rain on a duck’s butt. That was how I met Penny.
As introductions were made, Penny’s was followed by a question: “You still having your boob job?” It seems that Penny was a dancer, which meant she still thought she could get a gig in one of the Vegas floorshows and she was not ready to strip for a living. So, new boobs were on the agenda. The rest of the intros lead to someone mentioning my Poker Shrink column and before long I got the oft-heard question: “You really a shrink?” It was Penny asking the question.
We can skip over the standard and boring conversation. Penny was having doubts about the breast augmentation, Penny was having doubts about her relationship with Doug, and the even more obvious: Penny was having doubts about her doubts. She told her semi-drunken story and I put on the ‘I am listening face’ and then gave her some compost pile of Freud-Jung-Dr. Laura counsel.
* * *
A couple of days later back at the Rio, I ran into Penny again at the WSOP Life-Expo. She was sober and in that condition, a lot more coherent and interesting. She thanked me for my advice and when I suggested that she was too drunk to remember it, she surprised me.
“No, I don’t remember a word of what you said, but I know you were telling me to think about what I was doing with my life. The next morning I canceled the surgery and dumped Doug.”
Well, this was an interesting lady. And no, before you go there. Penny is at least 30 years younger than me, so no we did not and never have. But we had lunch and kept up a casual email friendship and got together often when the poker circuit brought us into the same city. It turns out Penny was a fair poker player and her group of buddies included a house full of online superstars. I guess she was the equivalent of a poker groupie, which leads to Act II of my story.
* * *
One night during the doldrums of the World Series ’06, most of the poker boys were back at the house they were sharing for the summer. A beer pong tournament broke out, even though at least three of the players had their laptops fired up in various online events. Early in the first pong qualifier, a loud “Fuck Me!” was heard and Marcus tossed his HP onto the sofa and mumbled about some donkey call by some Internet moron.
“He busted you?”
“Almost but I got no chips left.”
“You just going to dump it?” Penny asked.
“Go ahead and play it out if you want, anything you win is yours.”
So Penny and Cheryl, the other house ummmm, lady? Picked up the discarded computer and starting playing the short stack. I happened to be at the house that night doing an interview with a couple of the Internet phenoms, so to this point I can verify the story. At one point, I remember Penny squealing after a double up and asking what they were playing for.
“Probably some cash but first place is a seat at the EPT Barcelona.”
At that point I checked the laptop and Penny had indeed doubled up twice and was now 798th out of 850 remaining players. About an hour later, while the beer pong was really heating up Penny and Cheryl went to bed.
One of the poker boys watched them head off to their bedroom and said: “You know we may have our priorities a bit screwed up, when those two cute chicks are living here but sleeping with each other.” They all laughed and went right back to the beer pong and I headed back to the sanity of my condo.
* * *
The next day I hear this scene retold a couple of times. About 4 AM, Cheryl came out of the bedroom and walked out to the hot tub where the beer pong combatants had now gathered. Her only words were: “Penny won the tournament.”
“You mean the seat!’
“Are you sure….”
Everyone rushed into the Penny’s bedroom and there on the screen was the frozen final table with only one player still seated. Penny had won a trip to Barcelona.
Marcus, who had gone to bed an hour or so earlier, stumbled into the room and after he got the gist of what had happened, he said:
“Wait, don’t you want to go, maybe send someone with a real shot?”
“Hey, Penny won the seat. She’s going.”
Which leads to Act III.
* * *
Now before you go running off to the Hendon Mob database looking for Penny in the money list – don’t, you won’t find her. But there is more to the story. Penny got some advice from a wise and well traveled someone -- that would be me. What I told her was simple. Book your flight to Barcelona to arrive a full day before the tournament but book your return flight for two weeks after the tournament. This was a chance to see some of Europe and that should be the prize she should focus on. Sure she got lots of poker advice from the boys too but her odds of doing it again where slim but her presence in Europe was guaranteed.
So, here is the final scene. Penny arrives in Barcelona and heads down to check out the tournament set-up. She soon discovers that the tournament is sold out and has been for awhile. For those who remember, back in 2006 the EPT was just getting started and they just didn’t have the venues, tables and dealers for all comers. So the field was closed up tight. No more tables, no alternates.
Just then Penny ran into a pro see knew, who wondered what she was doing in Barcelona.
“I won a seat online.”
“Are you going to play it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well they are sold out and you can sell you seat for cash and a piece of the player who buys it.”
“Anyone good looking for a seat?”
“How about me?” Penny heard from behind her and she turned to look at Phil Ivey.
So Penny sold her seat to Phil for cash and 10% of his action. Now you can check the Mob database and see that Phil placed second for roughly $440,000. Penny walked away with over $50,000 and a much longer and much higher class of vacation through Europe.
The Poker Shrink recently co-authored (with Amy Calistri) the Mike Matusow autobiography titled Check-Raising the Devil.
Original content provided by Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.