Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Worst Poker Room in the World

By Pauly
Sydney, Australia

I would have written more about my Sunday in Sydney but the hand was bothering too much. I typed what I could and took some time off to heal. I'm only typing with one hand. Anyway, here's a more verbose explanation of the events.

I woke up hungover on Sunday. Change100 and I had arrived in Sydney the night before. We checked into our hotel in Kings Cross and headed out to dinner. In January, Brandon Schaefer and I stayed in a hostel near Kings Cross and we got to know the area pretty well. I remembered a delicious and inexpensive Italian restaurant named Fellini's on Victoria Street and took Change100 there. We drank a ton of wine then wandered around Kings Cross. We found ourselves at a cafe with a covered awning. We played Chinese Poker and then the sky opened up and rains came pouring down. We were sort of stuck there until the rain let up... which it never did. Alas, we continued to drink and drink. One of the waitresses was a cute German girl who looked like Cate Blanchet. She dropped off our drinks and then got real close up to my face and asked what we were playing. She had been making eyes at me since we sat down and I told her it was Chinese Poker. She said she didn't know how to play and wondered if I could teach her. That quickly tilted Change100, who was ready to gouge out her eyeballs.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, my body was paying for all that Shiraz and bottles of Carltons that I consumed. I did what I could to shake off the hangover and fired up my Betsson account. I put a bet in on another Allsvenskan Swedish Hockey League game. I befriended a Swedish fan of the Tao of Poker who used to play professional hockey in Sweden. All he does these days is play online poker and watch hockey. He gives me tips from time to time and by taking his advice, I ran 200 Euros up to 2.2K since my arrival in Australia.

Change100 woke up and we got ready to meet my buddy Nigel down at the Sydney Fish Markets for yum cha, or dim sum. Nigel is a local and the editor of a Aussie travel magazine, who happens to be an avid reader of my sites. In January, we met for the first time. He invited Brandon and myself over to a BBQ at his flat and we had our Almost Famous moment as we mingled with real locals and made mojitos in his kitchen. I was looking forward to hanging out with him again.

There was an idle cab in front of the hotel and we jumped in. I slammed the door on my hand and my pinky quickly dislocated. It's a recurring injury that I've had for almost 15 years. Josh Webber originally knocked it out during my fraternity's flag football practice. Since then it has popped out during hoops pick up games and other random times like when I was moving to Seattle or once during rough sex.

I usually pop my finger back in place but it wouldn't budge. The second bone on my finger was wedged above the third bone. And it hurt like a mother fucker. In the past it would slide back into place after a hard yank. But I couldn't get it to snap back.

I was distracted for most of our lunch and excused myself to the bathroom. I tried and tried to snap my finger back but no luck. I gave up. Although I play a doctor on the internet, in real life, I'm just a regular guy. I couldn't get my finger back in place and needed the help of a professional. Upon my return to the table, I asked Nigel if he could recommend a good doctor or perhaps the closest ER. We quickly finished up lunch and then took a taxi to the ER near Sydney University.

I don't have health insurance and in the past if I made a trip to the ER to get my finger fixed and it cost me over $2,000. That's why I always popped it back in myself. To save money. Lucky for me, Australia has an amazing health care system. Even though I was not a citizen of their country and even though I was without health insurance, they treated my injury and didn't make me feel like a piece of shit. The last time I went to the ER in America and said I didn't have insurance, they put me at the bottom of their list and barely paid attention to me.

All I had to do was pay a $100 fee to see a doctor in Australia. Compared to a $2K bill in NYC or $3K bill at Cedars-Sinai in Hollyweird, that was a sweet deal. Nigel was enraged that I had to pay one cent. He was used to the amazing free health care system in Australia and felt I should have been given free care. I explained to him the god awful situation of the health care fiasco in the US and suggested that he see Sicko.

The triage nurse checked out my finger and told me that I had only a few people ahead of me. The entire trip to the ER took about ninety minutes and that included treatment. As I waited to see a doctor, a second nurse came out to the waiting room and handed me two pills and a cup of water.

"Take these," she said.

I quickly popped them and mentioned, "Er, so what am I taking."

"Oh," she laughed. "I guess I should have told you that they were pain killers."

"Why didn't you say so," I blurted out. "I could really use two more."

She said to wait until they kick in. I didn't want to tell her that there were instances when I'd pop two before I got out of bed that day. I was a veteran pill popper and needed a higher dosage.

Another nurse appeared and took me to get x-rays. That would be a fortune in America. In Australia, the cost was... free. The radiologist said that nothing was broken and that the doctor would see me shortly. Five minutes later, the doctor appeared. He asked me to call him by his first name. I explained what happened and he peeked at the x-rays. He gave me more painkillers and asked me if I wanted a local anesthetic to numb my finger. He pulled out a huge needle and I fuckin' hate needles. He shot me up and he accidentally hit the bone and a sharp pain rocketed throughout my body. Instantly, I became lightheaded and woozy. I wasn't looking at the doctor injecting the needle because that would have freaked me out. Instead, I focused on the curtain in the examination room. It had a trippy pattern and as soon as he took out the needle, I had a vivid acid flashback. The entire curtain rippled in a psychedelic kaleidoscope as I uttered, "Sweet!"

I had not seen that many vibrant colors since I followed the Grateful Dead. The doctor let the injection sit for a couple of minutes as my entire hand went numb and most of my forearm up to my elbow. That's when he snapped the finger back into place.

I thanked the doctor and asked about check out procedures. He told me to just walk out the front door and that if I owed the hospital anything, they would send me a bill. I had used Change100's mailing address, so maybe they'll send me a bill for $100. Nigel thought that they wouldn't even bother billing me and that I probably got treated for free. Ship it!

I just had a $2,000 swing. Had this happened in America, I'd be stuck with an expensive ER bill and they would have only given me extra strength Tylenol. As is, I was treated extremely well by the Australian health care system and became even more angered at our politicians and the suits at insurance companies for fucking us over. I'll save that rant for another time.

Moving on...

The painkillers had kicked in and I was floating about a foot off the ground. Nigel, Change100, and myself had made plans to hit up the poker room at Star City Casino after yum cha. Although we had a brief detour, we decided to continue with our plans. We caught a taxi and headed straight to the casino.

Star City's poker room has the reputation for being the worst poker room in the world. Ask the locals and they will tell you. The wait list is always long. The players are atrocious. And the rake is insane. For a 5/10 limit game, you have to pay 75 cents just to get dealt a hand! There's no rake for that game, but it cost you $7.50 to see a full orbit. The low limit NL tables charge you $5 an hour time charge plus a 10% rake while they 2/5 NL tables charge you $10/hour plus 10% rake. Since there is zero competition, they own the monopoly.

There was a huge wait so we put our names down. I intended to play the 2/5 NL game, but since I was shitfaced and could barely see straight, I opted for an $80 buy in 1/2 NL table. They text you when your table is ready and we used Nigel's mobile to get our update. We headed to the bar and started pounding beers.

Change100's 5/10 limit seat was available and she headed over to play. Nigel and I continued to drink. I told him that I needed some action so we walked over to the sportsbook and bet on the races. We thought it was a greyhound race, but we ended up betting on the ponies from Hobart in Tasmania. I picked a horse named Miami Jack. It went off at 9-2 and it won by two lengths. Before I left, I put a bet in on am NBL game. The South Dragons were a -7.5 favorite over the Wollongong Hawks. I thought it would be a lock. (Sadly, Wollongong only lost by seven and I lost my bet by a friggin' half a point!)

We left the sportsbook and I stumbled back to Change100's table. We sweated her for a bit and watched as she went up $350 in the first hour of play. I finally got called for my game and got seated next to Nigel. On the second hand that I played, I was all in with 8h-3h. I had flopped second pair with a flush draw and a guy who looked like Ross from Friends called my all in bet with 10-8o. I missed my flush, but the turn and river were both paint so we split the pot. The river saved me.

That would be one of two pots I won all day. It was pretty much me, Nigel, Ross look-a-like, and a slew of crazy Asian gamblers. Since it was a 1/2 NL table with an $80 buy-in, any re-raise was virtually and all in shove. Yes, the table was a push fest. I got stacked by one CAG when I got all my money in with a flopped spade flush. He called with Ks-Qh. I held 6s-4s and also redrew to a gutshot straight flush draw. He rivered a spade to bust me. A few hands later, I got all my money in with two pair against another CAG who flopped bottom pair and a flush draw. He rivered me as well. Rebuy!

Nigel took a slew of bad beats as well. He got all his money in with A-K against a player with K-2 and lost. The sickest beat I saw was when Ross look-a-like called an all in bet with just a gut shot on a paired board with two flush cards. His opponent held K-K and Ross rivered his straight. Unreal. These players were willing to gamble and piss their money away. But I didn't catch any cards in three hours and when I got my money in ahead... I couldn't keep the lead. I ended up losing about $300. The painkillers wore off and I decided to leave.

Change100 was up a bit and cashed out. She had been on a good run playing in Oz. Me? I played twice. I had won a drunken SNG with a bunch a dealers in a casino employees bar in Melbourne and got my ass handed to me in Sydney by CAGs at the worst poker room in the world. Thank God for Swedish hockey and the amazing health care system in Australia. If it weren't for both entities, I'd be stuck big time.

We left the Star City Casino and headed back to the hotel room. I popped a couple of Vicodins and drifted as Change100 watched Breakfast at Tiffany's. I liked the flick but was angry that the film version of the book omitted the fact that Audrey Hepburn's character Holly was actually a prostitute. I eventually feel asleep muttering, "She's a fuckin' hooker! George Peppard is in love with a hooker."

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

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