Los Angeles, CA
Remember this guy?
Photo by Joe Giron; Courtesy of PokerStarsBlog
Chris Moneymaker is one of the reasons I finally got paid as a writer after struggling for a decade trying to catch a break. The poker boom created jobs for many creative types like myself. I've made a decent living poker the last six plus years and had the benefit of visit a dozen countries I would have never been to otherwise.
Moneymaker was among the 330 players who walked into the events center at the Bicycle Casino on Friday for the start of the NAPT Los Angeles. The 2003 World Champion, unshaven and clad in a hoodie and sweat pants, took his seat at a table not too far from press row. Moneymaker was not exactly thrilled with his table draw that included Hungarian cash game legend Richard Toth and a couple of supreme online mercenaries in Ryan "g0lfa" D'Angelo and Alec "traheho" Torelli. Despite the high-caliber opposition Moneymaker survived the cut and advanced to Day 2.
Moneymaker wasn't the only one who had a stacked table on Day 1A. The field at the NAPT LA is anything but a pushover. I scanned the list on online qualifiers and almost 50% of those were recognizable internet pros. The NAPT LA attracted talented local players and online grinders, not to mention the usual cast of pros on the traveling circuit and the Vegas-based pros who made the quick trip to play in this event.
The majority of PokerStars Team Pros (Greg Raymer and Barry Greenstein to name two) fell to the wayside on Day 1A. Only Moneymaker, Chad Brown and Jason Mercier made it to Day 2. The latest addition to Team PokerStars, Liv Boeree, fizzled out early. Vanessa Selbst, fresh off her victory at on the Partocuhe Poker Tour (in France's version of the November Nine), also failed to string together a run in LA. She hit the rail when her A-K ran into Aces.
When I think about LA card rooms, the aroma of Korean BBQ quickly comes to mind. If you've never been to an LA card room, one of their claims to fame is the ability to get food delivered to the table -- and at the Bike the food is not only inexpensive, but it's pretty damn good. Greg Raymer took advantage of the "curbside dining" and chowed down on a delicious bowl of ice cream. The breakfast burrito in the deli is packed with bacon, eggs, and cheese and less than $4. You can add your own jalapenos. Luckily, I got access to the player's lounge out back that included free wine and beer, and also served up sushi and random meats on a stick. Wanna win over poker players? Meat. On. A. Stick.
There's also a tiny Asian woman pushing around the candy cart inside the tournament area Too bad they don't have someone pushing around samples of California's finest medicinal marijuana. Someday if Prop 19 passes, perhaps we can get table side delivery of OG Kush. Or maybe that is just a pipe dream. By the way, parts of the tournament room reeked like it was the hallway of a Phish concert. A couple of online kids were holding some skunky ass buds. Next time, don't be shy -- I love to trade nugs.
A couple of November Niners, fresh off the pinnacle of their "15 minutes of fame" were in the field at the NAPT LA including Matt Jarvis and SoCal locals Joe Cheong (everyone is still talking about the six-bet shove with A-7) and Soi Nguyen. Newly crowned champ Jonathan Duhamel is being a good company man hitting up the press junket in his home country of Canada. Duhamel was absent from the NAPT festivities. For now, he's the face man for Stars an integral part of their "Where the champions play" shtick. But, in a short time he'll be the monkey with the grinder, just like Moneymaker and Raymer, and they'll ship him off to exotic lands to promote Stars. Scott Montgomery, one of the original November Niners, was present with his new lady friend, Annette Obrestad. Annette busted out early when her Kings were snapped off by Isaac Haxton's A-Q. She was among the handful of Full Tilt pros who bought in. Phil Ivey? He couldn't pull himself away from nosebleed cash games at the Aria in Vegas to get to LA in time to play in this event.
A random Eurodonk recognized Matt Affleck, who was sporting an old school Seattle Supersonics hoops jersey. The Euro rushed up to Affleck and shouted: "I know you! Saw you on TV. You looked so sad when you lost that hand." Affleck handled the encounter like a true champ and shrugged it off. Me? I would have slugged the Eurodonk for bringing up one of the worst bad beats of my life.
Men the Master lives right down the street and didn't miss up an opportunity to play a 5K tournament in his backyard. The old school pros know about Men's murky past, but he's not very popular among the newer generation of players either. The internet savvy twenty-somethings did their due diligence and swapped their own stories about Men's angle shooting and other inappropriate shady behavior. Men didn't last very long on Day 1A. The quote of the day came from one of the online grinders: "Men just busted, but they wouldn't let him buy back in with his own set of chips."
Out of 330 runners on Day 1A, 147 players advanced to Day 2. Since Day 1B is on a Saturday, numbers are expected to surge past 400. For live updates from three of the best scribes in the business, visit PokerStarsBlog.