It felt weird attending a PokerStars player's party in North America. Then again, we were technically on a Native American reservation in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut surrounded by woods with America a few miles away. The PokerStars.net North American Poker Tour brought the traveling freak show to Mohegan Sun casino. The best part about this sojourn? I only had to board one airplane for a mere five hour flight and then drive two hours to get to here on a route that I used to traverse too many times to count. Mohegan Sun's location was much easier to get to compared to the three flights and a van ride during my previous assignment for the LAPT Uruguay.
The only downside to a non-LAPT event... no Brazilian and Argentinian models trying to improve the overwhelming male to female ratio at the Players' Welcome Party. I wandered into the club fashionably late after a dinner at Bobby Flay's joint with my buddy Senor and Change100. On my way inside the party, I passed Chainsaw Kessler, who was on the way out. Chainsaw was the first pro I crossed paths with at Mohegan Sun, which obviously set the tone for this event, sort of like coming across a black cat on Friday the 13th.
As per usual, most of the people inside the party hung out in their own cliques. I found my friends huddled in a circle and consuming free booze at a near-record setting rapid pace. Mohegan Sun instituted a Draconian law that prohibits patrons from consuming more than one alcoholic drink at a time. No double fisting (well, at the bar...if you want to pay a high-end escort for double-fisting duties -- that's still fair game). Yep, you are unable to get a head start on the next cocktail while finish up your original one.
Busty waitresses carried trays of random foods and aps. Men the Master chowed down on shrimp cocktail. It was almost like a scene out of The Simpsons, when Homer gobbles up two and shoves it in his mouth then grabs the arm of the waitress as she attempts to walk away. Men was maximizing his consumption of free shellfish. I'm surprised the waitress didn't just leave the entire tray with him. And yes, I don't want to be the guy who got stuck next to Men on Day 1. Men's shrimp farts is something I don't wish upon my worst enemy.
A couple of us left the party early and retreated to Leffingwells on top of Wombi Rock. It was like we were drinking on a mountain top with stars projected on the dome-like ceiling. I watched the end of the Yankees-Red Sox game with the score tied 4-4 and held my jubilation when the Yanks emerged victorious for their first victory of 2010.
The first day of any multi-day tournament is always rough: I'm hungover, wrought with insomnia, and bombarded with a begrudging desire to lock myself inside a casino for almost a week straight. Alas, this is the life I have chosen. This is what we do -- shake off the hangover and head to work. After all, we're professionals aren't we?
An hour before start time on Day 1, I arrived at the media registration desk and found Otis standing in front of a neutral background. He was in the middle of having his head shots taken by Joe Giron, one of the best in the business.
"Make sure you capture the bulge in his pants," I hinted to Joe.
I checked in with Garry, the Mad Harper of the NAPT, and I had my badge all squared away. I set up shop in the press room which appropriately had padded walls on two sides of the room. Lord knows that by Saturday, we're all going to be stir crazy. That's the problem with being in the poker media... if the booze and the gambling doesn't get to you, your sanity will eventually succumb to the dark side... and the next thing you know, you''re carving hand histories into your forearm with a tooth pick and splattering blood all over the cocktail waitresses. That's the kind of avant-garde "statement" that get's you an exhibit at the Guggenheim, however, in the gaming industry, any sort of public display of mental deficiencies is highly frowned upon. And that's why I'm pumped we have padded walls in the media room so I can bang my head repeatedly without fear of long-term injury.
It was still 11am when I spotted that 2009 Main Event Champion, Joe Cada, in the middle of a sit-down interview. Unlike the rest of his fellow pros, Cada did not have the luxury of sleeping in on Day 1 and arriving an hour or two late to feast on the fishy qualifiers. As the World Champ sponsored by PokerStars, Cada's schedule is dictated by certain obligations including having to sit through a blitz of pre-Day 1 interviews.
I walked into the tournament room with 60 empty tables. The calm before the storm. The big screen listed 603 runners with 30 minutes to go. A total of 716 players bought into the second US-based event on the NAPT for a prize pool of over $3.2 million (minus 3%). The numbers failed to surpass the Venetian's 872, but 700+ is still an impressive field for a $5,000 buy-in event on the East Coast. The winner of the NAPT Mohegan Sun will walk away with $750,000 (minus expenses, taxes, make-up, paying off backers, and whatever other odd debts they might have incurred).
When the players eventually took their seats, the event resembled the PCA minus the Island vibe and without a bunch of 19 year olds pros wandering around in flip flops. The veterans arrived late including Barry Greenstein. He mentioned that he forget to reset his watch and he was stuck on Pacific time. He was so tired that he admitted (via Twitter) that he mistakenly wandered into the ladies bathroom. He realized he was in the wrong spot after he discovered zero urinals and Kathy Liebert standing at the sinks. Barry busted early and he should hang out with my buddy Senor who knows all these hot Thai chicks from Providence. If all else fails, there's always the Foxy Lady.
Phil Ivey turned heads as waltzed through the convention area and signed a couple of autographs while Heather B. quickly slapped a Full Tilt patch on him and pulled a black hat out of her bag. Tom Dwan, also among the late arrivals, showed up in normal clothes and quickly changed to fulfill his losing end of a prop bet. Durrrr donned a Team Canada hockey jersey and a Canada hat for the entire day before he busted out near the end of Day 1.
I bumped into Chau Giang who clutched a Starbucks cup. Chau looked dazed. I didn't know if he was blazing up with the hippie girls who work at Ben & Jerry's or hadn't slept after playing cash games all night. Or how about both?
Sean Deeb came out of retirement to play Mohegan Sun. He opted for a hipster-look instead of the typical collegiate stoner get up and tossed aside his usually hoodie, shorts, and NY Yankees cap. Instead, Deeb wore shades, a straw hat, and a striped dress shirt. He must be buying clothes from Jeff Lisandro's favorite mail order clothing company from Staten Island... L.L. Goomba.
I also saw Action Bob, the Atlantic City legend, who told me that he was stuck in the poker room with about ten spillover tables.
"My table is tough," Action Bob said. "It's filled with solid online pros. Men the Master being the only soft spot."
That's when I began to hear disgruntled whispers from tournament players who drew the poker room, which included players who registered last night or on Day 1. That meant no internet qualifiers. The pros were miffed. They wanted to feast on some of the fishies, but got stuck on the spillover tables. When some tables (with higher caliber pros) were broken before others, those pros cried shenanigans. The gang at PokerNews tried to get a definitive answer on breaking order, but it seemed that there was no clear answer. Perhaps the staff could have reserved a couple of the #10 seats in the tournament room for last minute qualifiers and tardy pros? On the flip side, some of the internet pros who qualified or bought in directly days earlier, were irked because they were stuck playing against other internet players when they wanted to maul the stack's nitty live pros.
Who knows what was going on, but the pros quarantined in the poker room were not happy campers. Wait, unhappy poker players? Old news. Man bites dog.
David Williams, sporting his Nat-X look, emerged as the chipleader in late afternoon. He finished up atop the leaderboard with over 230K. A total of 443 players made the cut for Day 2, including Phil Ivey and LJ (with a shortstack).
End of Day 1 - Top 10 Chip Counts:That's it for now... check out PokerStars Blog for live updates from Otis, Howard, and Change100.
David Williams - 230,900
Vanessa Selbst - 214,200
Lars Bonding - 177,100
Matt Woodward - 165,500
Firas Massouh - 157,000
Dennis Tuttle - 155,300
Brandon Cantu - 145,500
Eric Levesque - 134,000
Christopher Lindh - 128,400
Clayton Mozdzen - 127,700
You can always follow me on Twitter (@taopauly) if you want real-time snarky and random comments from the floor of the Mohegan Sun.