Los Angeles, CA
I missed out on the incendiary Table #16 at the MGM poker room and followed the play-by-play via Twitter. After a fantastic dinner at Emeril's (with Derek, Kat, Maudie, and Change100), I arrived at the MGM poker room much too late to join in on the hijinks, but then again I would have lost my shirt playing chicken with those kamikaze dive bombers.
The MGM never saw the storm coming. Railbirds stood three and four deep to glimpse the insanity. The bloggers at Table #16 caused a ruckus led by The Mark's astute chip arrangement after being chastised for playing with a filthy stack. Just when things were heating up, Table #16 vanished into thin air when majority of the players headed to a Steel Panther concert at Green Valley Ranch. The rest of Table #16 integrated themselves at the mixed games.
I took up my usual spot at the sports book bar and chatted with friends when I got wind of the Rooster's ejection from the poker room after he went ballistic ensuing a bad beat. The cagey Rooster snuck out of the MGM before security hauled him off into the back room and broke his kneecaps. It's not easy to get bounced from a poker room these days especially in this troubled economy, but the Rooster managed to put himself in early contention for the Lewey Award, a distinction that lampoons excessive binge drinking at a blogger-related event.
Over at the the bar, Waffles held court with Jordan and I in wonderment as he graphically detailed his (few) sexual conquests. Some of Waffles' statements are simply not blog worthy. It was like if Pee Wee Herman met Charles Bukowski at a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting. I do not want Waffles incarcerated at Gitmo for his outlandish and freakish sexually deviant behavior, which will happen if I reveal some of his misogynist rants including a harangue on the downside of bad fellatio where his partner (presumably a non-paid romp) used way too much teeth.
The icing on the cake was Waffles boasting about his proclivity to arouse women.
"I'm really bad at poker, but I'm good at making women scream..."
"Yeah," said Jordan. "They're screaming 'HELP! Police!!'"
After we cut him off with the sex chat, an inebriated Waffles waxed poetically about his many online enemies. It was as though he was channeling Winston Churchill when he uttered, "I am the truth... that's why everyone hates me."
"At least you didn't fire bomb Dresden," I remarked.
We eventually fled the MGM. On weekends, the casino becomes a hub for douchebags as the hills of Hollywood empties out and scensters flood the Strip, while extras from The Jersey Shore are chasing the muff around and cold-cock women with too much hairspray. Where did all the cowboys go and why where they replaced with Ed Hardy-clad muscleheads?
We returned to the Imperial Palace of Inbred Peasants as a fattened version of Garth Brooks belted out songs for the hootin n' hollerin cowboys. Within an hour, Waffles was passed out at the Geisha Bar. The edge of the bar is padded and he rested comfortably. If we were on Phish tour, my friends would have issued Waffles a "Wook Ticket" for his uncouth behavior. Waffles was lucky that the security guards were more concerned with keeping the Geisha Bar hooker-free otherwise they'd whisk him away in a wheelchair and dump his limp body on Koval... where he'd be stripped naked and rolled by whichever saw him first; love-struck teenage vampires, pock-faced tweakers, and the CHUDs (cannibalistic underground humanoid dwellers).
My spies inside Green Valley Ranch told me about the continued downfall of the Rooster. He was 86d from a second casino within hours of each other. Wow. Bounced from a Strip casino and a locals casino in the same night. Obviously he didn't read Rule #34... "Don't be a dick." That pretty much locked up the Lewey Award... and it was still Friday.
Iggy continued his losing streak at Roshambo when the IP bartender beat him yet again. I headed out to the pits to scratch my Pai Gow jones. I found a fun dealer who let me do my thing and did not pester me about the Fortune Bonus. After getting cold-decked, I finally woke up to a hand.... trip fours and a middle-Ace up top. I usually almost always forget my Pai Gow hand after I set it. I cannot explain that phenomenon considering I'm diligent about memorizing my regular poker hands but constantly forgetting Pai Gow hands. "Set it and forget it," as Otis would say. But I remembered that hand. I had trips and A-9. I locked up a win yet I told the dealer that I couldn't beat her pair of Queens and a baby Ace. She was surprised when she turned over my hand. I outkicked her on the top and destroyed her on the bottom.
I slow-rolled her and expected a brick wall of karma to fall on me.
In previous years I stay up all night on Friday and roll into the tournament with no to little sleep. That all began the first trip when the Sherwood Forrest Bar sucked us in. Everyone had arrived that day or evening and since everyone was meeting each other for the first time -- no one wanted to leave. A couple of years ago, Bad Blood, Grubby, and I embarked on the first ever Las Vegas version of The Procedure -- booze, strippers, and poker -- in that order. During my first Procedure... a stripper squirted on Grubby's chest, an anonymous blogger shoved his thumb up a stripper's ass, and Bad Blood told his girl that he was a hot air balloon pilot.
I wanted to play better in the 6th Annual Holiday Classic. In previous years, I went deep a couple of times but ran out of gas due to a wicked hangover and sheer exhaustion. I essentially was giving my money away. We had a team element to this event which I felt gave me a slight edge since I previously played in three Dream Team Poker related events. Hey, after all I was the reigning Dream Team Poker champion (along with Michalski and LJ for the Tao of Pokerati. I spent my cut of the team winnings on self-publishing Lost Vegas and blew the rest on Phish tour).
My team this year... Tao of Pot... included Derek and Change100. I felt strongly about our chances after a strategy-planning session during our team breakfast meeting at the Hash House (which replaced that diarrhea-inducing-24hr-dive formerly known as the Teahouse). The brand new Hash House did not serve the kind of hash that they would in Amsterdam.
I popped a Perc before we sat down to play to ward off the back pain away but refrained on any pre-game boozing. I love the tournament room at Caesar's Palace. It's the perfect area to contain our rambunctious crew -- sort of like the game room at a mental institution. However, our gang was smaller this year and a lot less inebriated. The pinnacle of craziness was the 2005 Holiday Classic at the IP when they gave us an OPEN BAR. Talk about getting shitfaced before cards went in the air.
The 6th Annual Holiday Classic had 86 runners. I think the buy-in was $70 + $30. The top 9 were paid and first place collected $2,400. Otis' connections at PokerStars got the bloggers an added $2,000 to CJ's team last longer pool. The top 3 teams would win prize money. Tao of Pot had their eye on that juiced-up side pool.
Otis by far had the best bounty...
We pretty much had the same players at my table for a couple of hours until our table broke.
My starting table:Gigli was locked up by Travis this year. He busted on a blind hand. Nice work, bro.
Seat 1: Astin. Did you know that Astin is Latin for "guy who wears sweaters". I find his photography fascinating. Check it out sometime.
Seat 2: Penner3. The third son of the powerful Penner clan. We battled many times online at PokerStars.
Seat 3: Melissa Hayden. Melissa was the only pro in the tournament. She's also Allen Cunningham's girlfriend. If you didn't know, she's currently 17th in All-Time Female Money Winners.
Seat 4: Marty. The quiet guy from the mean streets of St. Louis recently ended his professional Pai Gow career and currently hit up the Let It Ride tournament circuit. Marty and I are writing a book together (due out in 2010) called "Pai Gow, Excellence, and Other Life Stories."
Seat 5: Edward. He's a Canadian. Quiet guy who never talked much, but he laughed at my jokes.
Seat 6: Empty > Elissa. The 6 seat started out as a dead stack until Elissa, one of my colleagues in the poker media, got moved in when her table broke.
Seat 7: Joe Speaker. Speaker wore his soccer club's jersey... Scribes. The coach of the Scribes was LA Times sportswriter Mike Penner, Speakers' mentor and close friend who passed away after Thanksgiving. Speaker was playing in Penner's memory.
Seat 8: OhCaptain. Representing Minnesota, OhCaptain brought along an airport bottle of Wild Turkey. It's 4 years old. I know because I originally bought it at the gift shop at the IP. It was my bounty for the 2005 Holiday Classic. VinNay busted me and I signed over the bottle for him. VinNay brought it to the tournament last year and passed it onto OhCaptain when he got busted. This year, OhCaptain continued the tradition.
Seat 9: Marie. She was friends with Linda and a dead-ringer for former First Lady Nancy Reagan. I got freaked out for a second because Nancy Reagan started those staunch JUST SAY NO ads. I was sweating like a whore in church.
Seat 10: Your Hero. PKPNF calls me a "jaded vet"... fitting.
My teammates doubled up quickly. Change100 doubled through Carter and Derek busted two players (Drizz and Pebbles) and held Aces both times. Derek took the early chiplead while I had a lot of work cut out for me at a tough table.
I drew the ire of Melissa when I made a move on her. I opened with Ks-Js. Melissa popped me on the button. I told her, "I'm making a donk-call out of position." The flop was As-10s-rag. I check-raised (almost) all in. She folded A-K and I showed my hand.
I went heads up against Marty on two occasions. I had monsters, K-K and A-A, both times and won. I picked on Speaker a couple of times. During my big blind, he had the cutoff and position-raised a few times. I let him know right away that I was going to defend hard.
At the first break, 80 players remained. I had built my stack up to 12.8K. Shortly after the break, I lost 40% of my stack to Penner3. I opened with Qc-Jc. He called. The flop was A-K-10. I bet. He shoved. I snap-called. He tabled A-K. And yes, an Ace fell on the river. Pow.
I took out Melissa Hayden. My Jacks held against her Q-J sooted and I jumped back up to 18K. Then our table got broke with 63 players to go. I was moved another tough table... Old Joe, Astin, Blinders, Bayne, Smokkee, Garth, Obie, Iggy, and Maigrey. I had an average stack but the blinds were creeping up.
At the second break, 56 players remained. I slipped to 9K after I lost a hand to Old Joe. He limped and I raised like 5x his limp with As-Qs. He called. The flop was Q-10-9 and one spade. He checked. I bet 80% the pot. He moved all in. His hands were shaking. Did he really call a big raise with K-J or Q-10? Was he slowplaying Aces? At any rate, I knew he had a big hand so I folded. He showed me his flopped straight with K-J. Didn't matter. His physical tells were screaming that he had a monster.
When the blinds jumped up, I had to make a move. Action folded to me in the small blind. I shoved without even looking. Bayne called when he woke up to A-Q. I picked up a gutter on the turn but whiffed. I busted in 39th, but my Tao of Pot teammates were still alive.
At that point, I hung out at the sportsbook with Joe Speaker's lady friend, E. Speaker knew she was a cooler so she kept her distance and bet on the ponies. She was on a streak and even saw Pete Rose lingering around. When Derek busted in 26th place (taken out by Change100), we watched the Heisman ceremony before we returned to sweat the final two tables. CJ told us that we had a shot at making the money for the team last longer. Change100 bubbled off the final table in 11th place. She missed the money but secured us third place for the team category. At least we won 50% of our buy-in back. Thanks again to CJ for running the pool and thanks to Otis for securing us the added money from PokerStars.
CJ has a list of overall places, but Team Roach (Bayne, Gnome, Ramapge) took it down while the Hammer Girls (Kat, Maigrey, Maudie) finished in second.
The 6th Annual Holiday Classic Final Table:
Seat 1: AlCantang
Seat 2: FTrain
Seat 3: Chilly
Seat 4: Astin
Seat 5: Alceste
Seat 6: Perry
Seat 7: Joe Speaker
Seat 8: ObieVIP
Seat 9: Poker Gnome
Seat 10: Elissa
I didn't take many notes because I was pulling double duties entertaining Mrs. Speaker at the sportsbook ("Will Joe win enough money to win us a new fridge?" was my favorite question) and sweating AlCantHang. As the final table progressed, Al's stack swelled but he also grew a little more tipsy after he took a few beats - the worst being A-J to Gnomes J-rag. The rag hit and Gnome doubled up. Like I did for the Rooster during his march to victory in the 2007 Holiday Classic, I acted as Al's corner man whispering him reminders to stay focused. If you don't know, Al is colorblind so luckily Love Elf helped Al sort out all of the 10K chips from the 1K chips. They were too similar shades of orange which Al was unable to distinguish.
The final three were Speaker, Al, and Astin. Since Astin won it, you should check out his recap. But the last hour or so was emotionally charged. Astin is a serene person when he plays. It must be the origami card cappers that he makes to calm him down.
Al was all fired up. He didn't care about the money. He just wanted the trophy. Al told me on Thursday that he was going to make the final table... or but out first. His pyschic abilities were working but once he advanced to the final table... the winning instinct took over. Al wanted to win. Badly.
Speaker was struggling with his own emotional turmoil. He also wanted to win -- not for himself but rather in honor of his mentor Mike Penner who committed suicide a few weeks earlier. Speaker can be as cool as a Scandi at the tables, but it wasn't until he busted in third that the floodgates opened. It was impossible to hold back the tears when you see your friends in pain.
Al lost to Astin when his A-Q could not chase down Astin's A-K. And it was over. Astin brings the Hammer trophy to Canadia.
Congrats to Astin and thanks to April/FTrain for arranging the tournament.
Also my sincere apologies for my laziness in linking up bloggers. Check my blogroll on the side.
Stay tuned for Part III. To be continued...
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