Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Poker News Cup and Other Dysfunctional Gambling Tales Down Under

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

A couple of hours before I flew to Melbourne, I went to Century City in L.A. to see Wes Anderson's latest flick Darjeeling Limited with Change100. As I rounded the corner, I nearly ran into a Spice Girl. Posh Spice was pushing her hipster kid in a funky stroller with a bodyguard not far behind her. Anytime I can integrate a random Spice Girls reference into the Tao of Poker, I quickly take that opportunity.

I'm used to long flights by now. Six hour flights from coast to coast are a breeze these days, so the 15 hour journey to Australia wasn't difficult at all. Change100 got a bad beat from the start and was assigned a middle seat. The flight was full and they couldn't seat us together. I offered her my aisle seat but she knows I barely sleep on planes and declined. She popped a few Xannies and passed out for like 90% of the flight.

I watched a bunch of flicks such as Ocean's 13, Spiderman 3 and two documentaries. One was The U.S. versus John Lennon, which detailed his deportation trial in the early 1970s after he started supporting big figures in the anti-war movement such as Bobby Seale from the Black Panthers. I also watched a documentary on the life of French painter Toulouse-Latrec, the short hairy dude who lived in brothels in Paris, where he painted plenty of hookers. My kind of artist.

Our flight arrived in Melbourne ten minutes early. Immigration was a breeze, but we were flagged at customs. I wrote down on my entry card that I was staying at the Crown Casino and that got both Change100 and I sent to a line where my bags were inspected. Initially, I thought they were swabbing my backpack for explosives. It happened the last time I was in Oz and happens from time to time during random searches at different airports domestically and internationally. The customs agent told me that he was looking for drugs.

"Have you been in contact with any drugs?" he asked.

That's when I put on the poker face and said, "No, sir."

My backpack passed the drug test and then he quizzed me about money.

"How much cash are you bringing into Australia?" he asked.

"A few grand," I said.

"More than $10,000?"

I offered to show him my roll and he declined. He said he believed me and let us go. I was allowed entry in Australia for my second time inside of ten months. Maybe he reads my blog and knew I'd donk it off at the sports book.

Downtown Melbourne from the Yarra River

We arrived at the Crown Casino two days before the Poker News Cup started. I got a room on one of the top floors with a magnificent view of downtown Melbourne and the Yarra River. We crashed for a couple of hours before we met up with some friends for dinner at Nobu. The waitlist was a couple of months long, but Gaz is like Superman down under and has all the right hook ups. He got us a table and we joined him, Schecky, and Cory-Ann for a magnificent dinner. Change100 wrote about our fantastic meal and posted pics on her blog. The kobe and waygu beef was close to $400. Expensive but magnificent. Thanks to Gaz!

During the meal, I won a $1,500 coin flip from Schecky. The $1 AUD coins have kangaroos on it. That's the tails. There's a head of someone and of course, that was heads. You always have to go with the kangaroos down under. Home field advantage. I picked kangaroos. The coin came up... kangaroos. Ship it!

Gaz was in shock. He wanted in. Schecky told him no mas coin flips.

* * * * *

We had a full day off before our assignment began and did some sight seeing. We headed over the aquarium where we watched divers feed the sharks. We also had plans to visit Jules and Graham at their house for dinner. They invited us over for a home-cooked meal and to meet their new puppy. When I was in Melbourne in January, Jules fired up the BBQ and I had my first Aussie BBQ experience. She traveled a lot for work in the past and knew the value and importance of a home-cooked meal when you're on the road. That's why I couldn't wait to head back to her place.

Jules is an amazing cook and prepped chicken with potatoes, onions, and bacon! She was kind enough to exclude veggies from my plate. We sat around and drank several bottles of Shiraz while we caught up on my previous travels. Kat called us for a dial-a-shot. Sort of. It was 8am Canuck time when she called and she said she was still in bed.

We eventually stumbled out of their house after Midnight super drunk and passed out as soon as we got back to the casino. Nothing is better than starting your first day of work with a hangover.

* * * * *

I was up early on Monday morning to catch the football games. I was also sweating the ALCS. I bet the Indians with the money line +160 to win the series. It appeared to be a lock when they went up 3-1, but they choked and lost three straight. I flushed that ugly bitch of a bet down the toilet.

I managed to get $200 back when I took a 5% piece of Gaz in a $1000 SNG. He played with a bunch of Aussie high rollers, such as Sam Khouiss and Jim Sachinidis (who bubbled at the WPT LA Poker Classic in February). Shane Warne was also at his table. Warney as he's known in some circles is sort of like Mickey Mantle meets Michael Jordan of the cricket world. Warney was in town to appear at the opening of a brand new Krispy Kreme store at the Crown Casino. He decided to head to the poker room and play an SNG with Joe Hachem. He got knocked out and played another one at Gaz's table.

Gaz won a big hand which pushed him into the chip lead. Jim Sachinidis raised. One player re-raised and Gaz moved all in. Sachinidis went into the tank for a while and agonized over the call. He eventually folded Q-Q face up. Gaz tabled J-J and his opponent flipped over A-K. Gaz's Jacks held up which tilted Sachinidis. Gaz went onto to win the SNG and Gaz took down $4K.

The casino's sportsbook charged 20% juice on bets, so I was told to use one of the local bookies. I had to go see a guy named Billy the Croc (I swear I'm not making that up) to get in on the action. Aussies love sports. They also love to gamble. And they have an odd fascination with American sports, which means there was a lot of gambling on NFL games. There are three FOX Sports stations and one ESPN channel. One of the FOX stations regularly shows American sports like the NFL and MLB. ESPN also showed the NBC feed for Sunday night football. That was cool and I didn't miss out on any of the games.

Obviously, due to the time zones, I was up at odd hours watching the games and sweating out bets. I didn't get much sleep the first few days. I had a lot of action going this weekend with the ALCS, Sundays with Dr. Pauly, the BFFB on FSL, and my other fantasy football team with my buddy Senor. We're in a highs takes league with friends from college. We were up by a few points going into Monday night football. Our opponent had three players going (Addai, Wayne, and the Colts D). We had two... Jones-Drew and Clark. We coughed up the lead early on but made a late surge courtesy of TDs from Jones-Drew and Clark to win by 3.8 points. That pushed us to 6-1 in our league. We also had the highest point total of the week which netted us a bonus payment.

I won my Sundays with Dr. Pauly contest and finished third for the week. Stay tuned for the official update. I'm second overall to Bayne.

Johnny Moss once said, "Action is action." Words to live by. Since I haven't had much time to play cards due to work obligations, I have been laying bets all over the place from the NBL (Australian hoops league) and on various cricket matches.

I'm a complete degenerate. I was betting on greyhound racing that was simulcast from South Africa. Or maybe it was from New Zealand? Who cares. Action is action. I lost, of course. My dogs finished in second and third. Both of them were leading their respective races until... ah, I'll spare you the bad beat stories. Greyhound racing is so fuckin' rigged.

* * * * *

The Poker News Cup got off to a hot start. There have been more entrants in the preliminary events than expected, which is great news.

My buddy Barry Carter (a.k.a. Dave Shoelace) flew down to Australia to attend a wedding and decided to stop by and play in a couple of events. Carter is a British poker writer and we covered the WSOPE for Poker News together. He plays plenty of PLO cash games, but has never played a tournament. In his first ever PLO tournament, he made the final table and took 5th. A couple of hours after his bustout, he played in a NL event and made the money in that tournament finishing in 14th place. He was playing great poker until he lost a race with 10-10 against K-Q to end his amazing run. Barry Carter was the point leader in the Poker News Cup through three events. He played two and cashed in both.

One of my assignments was to cover the Australian Bad Boys of Poker, a televised $10K SNG featuring Tony G. Here were the odds from BoDog:
Jeff Lisandro 4/1
Tony G 4/1
Mark Vos 5/1
David Saab 5/1
Gary Benson 10/1
Arul Thillai 10/1
Emad Tahtouh 10/1
Billy "the Croc" Argyros 10/1
Sam Khouis 10/1
Joe Hachem was originally supposed to play but backed out at the last minute. There was a rumor that his agent didn't want Hachem to be labeled as a "bad boy" so they decided to pull out. Hachem said that he had a family engagement to attend to. Who knows what really happened? Lee "Final Table" Nelson was Hachem's replacement. He won the 2006 Aussie Millions.

There was plenty of side betting on the Bad Boys. Sam Khouis and Emad Tahtouh had a $5K last longer. There was other bets on whether one of the young guns would win or if one of the veterans would take it down.

I'll be live blogging the Bad Boys of Australia event for Poker News.

Anyway, The G has been on a rush. At one point he was up $6 million for the week playing cash games in Russia. He wrote on his blog about winning a $3.5 million pot in PLO. Talk about action. He said the games were juicy. Anyone wanna stake me a couple of million to play PLO against the Ruskies??

I loved this line from The G's post titled From Russia with Love...
"Playing in USD is cheap as the dollar is a 3rd world currency these days the way it depreciates daily."
I'm going to start asking to be paid in Euros. The Swedes are already paying me in Euros. Heck, since The G is up 6 million, I might ask my boss for a raise. Bottom line... if The G is happy, that makes us happy.

* * * * *

Oh, I almost forgot. I did something that would make Lewey and the entire AlCantHang crew extremely happy. I headed to the Spearmint Rhino to check out the afternoon shift. Yeah, they have a franchise in Melbourne, just a couple of blocks away from the Crown Casino. I wandered in at 4:45pm and tagged along with Jonno and Shronk, who were shooting an interview for a video for Poker News. I didn't really need to be there, but I went anyway to investigate the afternoon shift.

Sometimes, life can be good.

There was a DVD release party thrown by James Potter, a wealthy Aussie who put out a series of instructional poker videos that were filmed at the Rhino. While I was there, I bumped into a fan of the Tao of Poker. In a strip club. In Australia. Too bad it wasn't a stripper. Instead, it was a degenerate poker player. Go figure.

* * * * *

By the way, I was asked to participate in something called The Well. Tom Murphy is a friend of mine that I met several years ago through poker. He's from Ireland and runs a site called Antes Up which caters to Irish poker players. He also runs a forum and they have a running series called The Well, where they invite someone in and their members ask a series of questions. Sometimes it last for a few days. Sometimes it lasts for over a week. The questions start out with basic poker stuff and eventually branch out into other topics.

Anyway, check out my session in The Well.

* * * * *

Random Update... It's 3:13am on Thursday. John "Schecky" Caldwell just made a final table of Event #4 $500 NL rebuy. He's third in chips! The final table kicks off at 9pm on Thursday.

I've been covering the Australian Bad Boys of Poker event across the room. The wheels fell off of Tony G's bike and he busted out in 6th place. No worries though. He only lost $10K which is peauts compared to the $6M he won earlier in the week.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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