Los Angeles, CA
"We've been demoted," joked Dan Michalski.
"Hollywood is a brutal fucking town," I reminded him. "Looks like we've reached the 14 minute and 20 second mark on our '15 Minutes' of fame."
Last year we were both invited to play in the WPT's Celebrity Invitational at Commerce Casino, one of the most popular events in the L.A. Poker Classic tournament series. It's a freeroll with only the final table getting paid out prize money. For many poker pros, the Celebrity Invitational was their favorite event of the year because they could actually have fun playing poker by getting schwasted and flinging around chips around with television and motion picture stars.
Alas, this year Michalski and I didn't get the nod. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining because we never should have been playing in the first place! If anything, we were invited as a nice gesture from tournament director extraordinaire Matt Savage.
In the bigger scheme of things (i.e. Hollywood's fickle ranking system), we are a bunch of nobodies. Zeros. Heck, I'm less than zero -- one of thousands of wanna-be screenwriters huddled at the bottom of the hills of Hollywood writing our asses off in hopes that some day we'd reach the misty mountain top. But somehow, while trying to win the lottery (selling a screenplay) or doing something meaningful with my life (penning the Great American Novel), my life took an unexpected detour and I ended up as a shill for the poker industry.
I took my shot and missed, but even though I fell short, I still landed head first in a desert oasis. If anything, I'm eternally grateful the the tribal nation of poker overlooked all of my idiosyncrasies and accepted a known-drug fiend with peculiar sense of humor and tempestuous mood swings.
Ah, so last year at this time, I got an invitation to the Big Ball and felt like Cinderella on Oxycontin. My girlfriend made me change outfits three times before we even left our apartment in the Slums of Beverly Hills.
The highlights from the 2010 Invitational included meeting William Hung and getting busted by Joe Toye from Band of Brothers. I wrote about playing in last year's event in a two part series...
The WPT Celebrity Invitational, Part 1: Welcome to HollyweirdAh that was 2010. Now, it's 2011 and my fifteen minutes of fame are coming to a screeching halt. But... I still had a chance to play in this year's WPT Celebrity Invitational if I was one of three lucky souls who won a seat in the LAPC Media Tournament. Although I've been bogged down editing/re-writing a novel, I decided to escape my office for a few hours to play some cards.
The WPT Celebrity Invitational, Part 2: I Could Use Some Brass Knuckles
My girlfriend is currently in Brazil covering the Latin America Poker Tour for PokerStars, so I had to drive to Commerce Casino by myself on a rare rainy afternoon (which also meant that I couldn't get blitzed and play poker because I'm a responsible citizen when it comes to driving, especially on a freeway in Los Angeles once the spraying has been done). It took me 1:50 to drive from the Slums of BH to Commerce during the heart of rush hour (twice as long as it should have). When I woke up on Friday afternoon, I really didn't care if I won a seat or not, however, all that changed after wasting almost two hours of my life stuck in dreary traffic on I-10 and I-5. I wanted to win a seat if only to justify why I was foolish enough to navigate a pair congested Los Angeles freeways in the rain.
I wandered into Commerce Casino and was greeted by a flood of memories and a wave of nostalgia. I covered my first-ever LAPC in 2006, right around the time I starting "dating" Change100. I was living in Las Vegas at the time (as Grubby's roommate) and never imagined what my life would be in the future, five years down the road in 2011 -- celebrating my 5th anniversary with Change100, living together one block south of the Beverly Hills border in a cool apartment where I finally finished my own personal while whale Lost Vegas.
Friday nights at Commerce are always a zoo, especially during the LAPC. I wandered upstairs to the ballroom and checked into the media event. I found Matt Savage and shook his hand. I wasn't the only one as others stopped by to pay their respects, sorta like that scene in the Godfather II when Don Fanucci walked down the street and someone kissed the ring on his hand.
I ran into WhoJedi, who asked how to buy a copy of Lost Vegas. I told him it's available on Amazon.com. But he was in luck because I had a copy on me (as a bounty prize). WhoJedi is one of the few good guys in poker, so I gave it to him instead.
The media tournament was comprised of 55 or so runners including Foiled Coup and Joe Giron. I didn't know anyone at my table, but later discovered that John from Pokulator's girlfriend/wife sat to my immediate right. She went on a heater and ran over the table!
I sat in the 10 seat and one of the dealers said something rather funny.
"You're all nice to deal to," she said. "Why is that?"
"We're VIPs." I snarked.
"Not really. Most of us are writers, reports, and photographers."
"Ah, that's why you're all nice. You have a real job. Not like those bums," said said pointing at peanut gallery screaming at each other in the satellite section.
At one point, Wendeen Eolis joined my table. Wendeen is a veteran in the poker industry and we worked together at Poker Player Newspaper. If you didn't know, she's the first woman to ever cash in the WSOP Main Event -- and told everyone at my table in case they didn't know.
The highlight of the tournament occurred when Alexis Gilbard got moved to my table. We're practically neighbors and she joked that she always waves at our apartment building when she's taking a morning jog. With the exception of a little chit chat with Alexis, I was a morbidly bored because I forgot about how frigging slow that live poker can be at times. I hadn't played much poker in the last few months, instead, I got my gambling fix wagering on commodity futures (silver is trading at a new high) and on sportsbetting. I tiled a bit because the ballroom had a dozen TVs, yet not one of them had on the only game that I had bet on (Louisville-UCONN). I had to sweat the game on my CrackBerry and spent most of the time refreshing the score.
AlCantHang popped by to say hello. I wished that he stayed around because I always play well when ACH is one of my railbirds. I actually saw him drinking an Amstel Light. I did a double-take. Even the bartender was surprised when he ordered the beer and said, "What? No double SoCo?"
Media tournaments have horrible structures and you gotta play fast. I lost most of my stack after flipping with A-J against 8-8. On my bustout hand, I had 3BBs and shoved with 10-5 sooted. The guy who called me held 7-5 sooted. I stood up because I sensed it coming. A seven on the turn nuked my goose. I busted in 25th place or so. At least I lasted 2.5 hours -- longer than it took me to drive to Commerce.
Shirley Rosario and Max Shapiro won two of the three seats. I dunno who won the third one. Anyway, I had a fun time playing and it was cool to see familiar faces and even shoot the breeze with KevMath.
By the way, Shirley Rosario is en feugo. She won the LAPC $1K HORSE event the other night. Her run good continued last night when she won a seat into the Celebrity Invitational.
Here's Shirley's winners interview with Matt Savage moments after her HORSE victory in the LAPC Event #38...
The majority of people I admire and/or inspire me are non-poker people (artists, musicians, writers, philosophers, and my favorite politician Thomas Jefferson). However, Shirley is one of the rare exceptions from poker. I'm fortunate that we're friends. Not only is she one of the sweetest people that I've met in this nebulous poker world, but also her story is simply amazing -- a single mom who beat cancer and supported her family through poker. Along the way, she also built up Poker Babes, one of the most successful poker-themed sites on the web during the height of the poker boom. Her diligent work ethic has always inspired me.
Shirley has more than paid her dues grinding it out in SoCal casinos over the last decade, so I was super stoked when she won the HORSE event. And now, I'm sending out more good vibes to her today in the WPT Invitational. TID!