Los Angeles, CA
Sometimes poker pros are great actors and playing a fabricated and carefully concocted role for the cameras. Other times, what you see is what you get. Phil Laak? He is who he is.
Photo by Joe Giron
Courtesy of PokerStars Blog
I still haven't figured out Laak. My best (and most plausible) theory is that he's an alien. There's really no other way to explain his peculiar behavior that often times seems so ordinary.
So when Change100 walked over to me on Day 1B of the NAPT Los Angeles at the Bike and said, "You wouldn't believe what Phil Laak is doing right now...he spread out silly putty on the edge of the poker table and he's punching holes in it with a wooden spoon."
"He's either bored or the mushrooms just kicked in," I responded.
For Laak, his range of weirdness knows no bounds. In the last few months, he stayed up for like four days straight playing poker, cheated death after an ATV accident, won a bracelet in Europe, and now he's tripping balls at the Bike. He has to be extra-terrestrial. How else could you explain those super-human feats?
Day 1s are usually boring affairs and multi-opening flights are tough to endure because you have deja-vu moments every few minutes. So if Laak wanted to putz around with sticks and putty to keep things interesting, then so be it. At one point Laak hijacked one of the candy carts and navigated the cart through the tables as the perplexed candy girl didn't know what to make of the dude in the hoodie, wool hat and aviator sunglasses.
Day 1B attracted 371 players for 701 total runners at the NAPT LA. The price pool topped $3.2 million with $725K set aside for the winner, with 104 places getting paid. A total of 314 survived the cut and advanced to Day 2.
I've covered tournaments all over the world. Some things are universal, while it's the little things that make one event stand out from the rest. What will I remember about the NAPT LA? Meat on a stick in the players' lounge. The most effective way to win over any disgruntled and hard-to-please group is to offer them up free booze and free meat on a stick. In fact, PokerStars only had to placate us with a singular meat on a stick, however, they went the extra distance provided a choice between two different types of meat. Meatsticks, fresh seafood, and free drinks will earn yourself a couple of friends for life.
A couple of swarthy looking guys walked into the tournament area and made a beeline for the middle of the tournament room. They weren't looking for trouble, and instead took photos of Shannon Elizabeth. It occurred to me that they were the guys who had sponsored her into this event and stopped by to keep tabs on her progress. I gotta say, I never heard of her sponsor before. During the WSOP, she was touting Carbon Poker, but in the last few years she's run the gauntlet of online poker rooms.
The Grinder was another November Niner who made it to LA on Day 1B. John Dolan and Jason Senti were also in the field. The Grinder didn't last very long and departed after he ran Kings into Aces. He shrugged it off like a Zen master, "There's always another tournament."
Carl Olson sighting. I hadn't seen him in a while, and he sported a mustache. He looked like a cop. Olson has the most Scandi-sounding name for a non-Scandi. Speaking of Scandis, I thought that Soren Konsgaard was the token Scandi in the field on Day 1B, but Kim Frederiksen came out of nowhere late in the day to snag the overall lead. On Day 1A, Andreas Hoivold was the TSIGHWPMH (token Scandi in garish hoodie with perfectly messy hair).
Random orphaned sentences/notes from my notepad: Eskimo Clark wandered like a sad puppy on both Day 1s.... One dude got removed from the tournament area because he had a restraining order against him.... Jen Tilly happily bought a copy of Lost Vegas and said she has a massive collection of old gambling books. Honored that my scribblings made it into her extensive libray.... All of the massage girls wear orange and white t-shirts.... Foiled Coup made a cameo. Good to see him. We thought he was dead. Of course, he pointed out his "Hot Asian Du Jour."
That's all I got for now. For live updates of Day 2 from three of the best scribes in the business (Otis, Howard, Change100), visit PokerStarsBlog.