Los Angeles, CA
It took a while, but there's finally a PokerStars sanctioned event in my adopted hometown of Los Angeles as the Bicycle Casino hosts the NAPT LA. California is sort of like their own country that is leveraged to the hilt -- their citizens willingly elected a former actor with a Austrian accent as their Governor, if you have a headache in California you can get prescribed marijuana to ease the pain, the lawmakers categorize poker as a game of skill, and then there's In-N-Out Burger. Aside from Amsterdam, I couldn't think for a better place to have a poker tournament.
I've flown all over the world covering various events on the EPT and LAPT, but this is as close to home as it gets. Random fact, I was the first ever independent American to apply for a press badge on the EPT, in 2005 for the EPT Barcelona. At the time, the press registration process entailed me shooting an email to John Duthie, the founder the EPT. Aside from Otis covering EPTs for PokerStars Blog, Americans weren't covering events in Europe. Duthie was thrilled that I was interested in covering his tour and simply said, "Just show you and I'll sort you out." And that's what I did -- I showed up in Barcelona and sat a small table underneath a large staircase behind a large Chris Moneymaker banner with the Brits from Gutshot, Howard from PokerStars Blog, and Dutch pro/author Rolf Slotbloom.
Since 2005, PokerStars expanded their tournament circuits to the farthest corners of the world - EPT APPT, LAPT, and the NAPT. There are also more regional circuits than I can count these days.
Flash froward to 2010. The November Nine hangover is still prevalent, with Johnathan Duhamel's reign as World Champion just then a week old. Twenty-five feet away from the press area sits Chris Moneymaker, who perpetually looks hungover. Greg Raymer stopped by his table and the two heartily shook hands. Even though they are two different personalities, not too many people on this planet can understand what it's really like to carry on the burden of being a former WSOP Main Event Champion. If there's anyone who has logged more miles than Moneymaker since he ignited the poker boom, I'd like to meet them. I'm sure Raymer comes close. Seems like where ever there's a new event, Moneymaker or Raymer are playing. I saw Moneymaker on a few random stops in Latin America, but now he gets a relatively easy journey from Tennessee to Los Angeles. Sure, most Southerners will tell you that visiting LA is like showing up in a foreign country, but as long as you have a pair of sunglasses, drive like a maniac, talk exclusively about yourself, and know a little passable conversational Spanish -- then you'll fit right in with the locals.
The $5K buy-in NAPT LA is split into two Day 1s. Day 1A kicks started at 1pm local time with Day 1B's flight to be held on Saturday. There's also a Bounty Shootout side event that will go down next week at the Crystal Casino in Compton. I'm doing my best to refrain from tossing out obscure NWA lyrics or Eazy-E references -- for now.
There's about 300 or so players inside the events center but registration is still open for Day 1A. The field is a mixture of local SoCal pros, Team PokerStars Pros and PokerStars Online Pros, online grinders, and a slew of dead money qualifiers.
I dunno exactly what or how I'll be covering the NAPT LA on Tao of Poker. I'm sure I will come up with an overall summary of events when all is said and done. For now, you can always follow me on Twitter (@taopauly) for random updates. I also highly suggest you head over to PokerStars Blog to read live updates about the NAPT LA from three of the best writers in poker: Otis, Howard, and Change100.