Monday, November 03, 2008

Budapest Part I: Danube Waltz

By Pauly
Budapest, Hungary

I party frequently. I'm a multi-bracelet winner when it comes to throwing down and having a good time. However, there are a couple of times a year that I think I'm 18 years old again and can drink anyone under the table. I've come a long way the mid-1990s when I had Jim Beam pumping through my veins and I ran through the streets of Atlanta like a lunatic. Boys will be boys and former frat boys are a dangerous pestilence upon this land. I know because I am one.

Alas, my thirtysomething body takes a pounding whenever I found myself caught up in a whirlwind bender. I've been wiser and more self-aware about those epic moments of celebration and do my best to avoid a hellacious hangover of the Category 5 variety. Pace myself and drink lots of water. Don't mix and all will be well. Ah, of course I forgot all of those basic rules to drinking. I have those mental lapses about twice a year. It's the my former teenaged soul trying to escape from my body. Everyone once in a while, he takes over the bus and I just go along for the savage ride as I embark on a bender of all benders. A bender of Barbaric proportions.

The last mishap was in Melbourne during the Aussie Millions. I has a momentary black out and made a run to McDonalds in the Crown Casino and totally forgot about the 4am munchies until I woke up the next morning and discovered a grease-stained McDs bag on the floor next to the bed.

Hmmm, what else did I do last night that I don't remember? That's one of the most humiliating conversations to have with yourself, usually done in the middle of a wave of dry heaves as you clutch the porcelain god. Check your pockets for clues. Inspect your bodies for UDIs or unidentified drunken injuries. Look at your cell phone for traces of drunken texts or phone calls and get those apologies ready for the next day.

The culprits were Palinka, Unicum, and two salacious Hungarian women that I was convinced would make out on camera for me if I got them shitfaced enough. The locals drink the local liquors such as fruit-flavored Palinka with ease. Me? Well, I foolishly attempted to run a marathon in flip flops. And my innards were spewed across the tiles of my bathroom floor. There's a reason why it's called Black Death. And my Hungarian landlady is gonna be wicked pissed when she has to clean last week's goulash off of her walls.

Dana saw the shoddy condition of my soused self during my first night in Budapest. 'Peaks Too Early' should be my Native American name. It was not flattering. I fell down. Hard. I couldn't get up as a seizure of laughter fell over my entire body. I fell down again. Otis would have shook his head. I was more than Bad Iggy drunk, hell, I flew past that truck stop on the edge of the Nevada desert miles down the road. I found myself at a destination where no one ever intends to wind up.

I couldn't believe that I puked on that naked chick and got tossed from a strip club. In the same night. Bad bad, Pauly.

There's always a price to pay for your actions. I didn't have to wait until karma swung its sledgehammer down upon my cranium. Splintered into thousands of shards piercing my brain. I woke up on the first day of an assignment on the verge of death. No,wait... death would have been a plausible alternative to the living hell I had to endure over the next horrid day. The longest day of the year is always the day after you get flagged for multiple excessive celebration penalties. Alas, I chose a path and had to endure the pain. The throbbing. The waves of nausea. Ghastly pains from the spots where I fell. And not to mention the utter torture of being locked inside the sweltering basement of a casino for 12 hours to watch the opening flight of a poker tournament where I only knew a dozen or so players. Pure fuckin' joy.

I rented a flat with my work colleague Dana from London. She is also known as Snoopy's girlfriend and best friends with Jen from Blonde Boker. She's an amazing musician by trade and does a few freelance writing assignments on the side to pay the bills. We were teamed up together by PokerNews for the EPT Budapest. We decided to stay off the casino property at an apartment. It was cheaper than staying in a hotel near the Las Vegas Casino adjacent to the Sofitel. And the Sofitel is fuckin' pricey. A baller, I am not. I'd rather save my money on less wasteful things. I didn't want to have to take taxis everyday so staying in a fleabag on the other side of town was not an option either. Schecky suggested an available apartment to rent near by. I contacted the owner. He was German and owned a two bedroom flat which he would rent to me for next to nothing.

The swanky place was a block from the Danube and about a twenty minute walk to the casino. It ended up a clutch move. The best in a very long time. Staying in hotels has worn thin on me and I've been opting for short-term apartment rentals like Change100 and I did in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and London over the last year or so. The alternative to a hotel is cheaper and puts me in a better mindset. Makes me feel normal while I'm on the road following the circus. Yes, the circus came to town. This stop was Budapest and I was about to begin the show with a sadistic hangover. Clown music drives me me to thr brink of utter insanity.

Dana and I slowly walked from our rented flat in Budapest to the Las Vegas Casino through the winding shopping streets that catered to tourists such as plenty of crappy Hungarian folk art souvenir shops with overpriced scarves and chess sets. Those were too many to count and were sprinkled in between the collection of old buildings, department stores, tourist trap restaurants, and dozens and dozens of money exchange booths that offered up shitty rates to convert Greenbacks to Forints.

Dana and I stopped at Subway for a meal to go. I did not want to eat it in the media room for fear of embarrassing myself and yakking it up on my new British laptop while chatting with Bartley or Howard from PokerStars. I struggled to eat a bland and rubbery my six inch Subway as I sat outside and groggily gazed at the Danube. The last time I ate Subway in Europe, I watched in amazement as a lewd sex act was performed in front of me.

Hungover in Hungary. A stranger in a strange land trying to drink strange drinks with strange women. I knew if I could keep down the sandwich then I could make it. I had to rally for work. I get paid a lot of money to travel the world and cover poker tournaments. The G doesn't care what I do in my spare time but when cards go in the air, I'm on his dime. I glanced back at the grey waters of the river that split the sections of Buda and Pest. I didn't want to become a floater in the Danube. Time to suck it up and rise to the challenge.

I struggled on Day 1A of the EPT Hungarian Open. I had a new photographer to break in for a second event in a row. He was a local who spoke great English and played some poker which helped immensely. I also had to quickly get to know the Hungarian crew of PokerNews. Peter and Monika gave me the rundown on the local players that I should keep an eye out. 71 Hungarians played in the first ever EPT stop in Hungary and represented 1/8 of the field. I only knew about one or two Hungarian players and got an intense crash course in the history of Hungarian poker.

The free drinks in the media room saved me especially the Hungarian version of ginger ale. For the first time at the EPT, the media room had assigned seating I was in the first row out of five. I noticed that they also grouped us by languages, or maybe it was just a coincidence? The front row had all English speaking media which included folks from Canada (Matt), UK (Dana & Rod), Ireland (Brenden & Rebbecca), Scotland (The SikTilt gang), and of course myself... the lone American in the room full of Europeans. The members of the Italian and Hungarian press were behind me along with Caco from Portugal. The Germans were huddled together, while Benjo sat in the back with his fellow Frenchman nearby along with the Scandis and reps from Poland and Serbia. The air was cluttered with a mixture of poker slang and foreign words. I enjoyed covering tournaments in Europe. It's a totally different vibe than the hackneyed scene overrun by nimrods in America.

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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