Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Anatomy Is Destiny

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Barricaded in my office, I waited for the brownies to kick in and cranked up a Dead bootleg to drown out the gayness echoing from the living room where my girlfriend was catching up on episodes of Glee.

That's when I did something that I haven't done in a very long time -- online poker. And it wasn't a private tournament or anything of the sort. I player a proper cash game. A legit session. First one in months. I knew that I'd be rusty, but you gotta start somewhere, right? The lack of mid-level limit hold'em games was a bit of a bummer, because those formerly-juicy middle limits dried up over the last few years with the expansion into Rush Poker junkieland and addition of other more exciting games.

I wasn't paying too much attention with two tables and trying to read a book. No bullshit. I as thumbing through a book about a crime reporter and probably irked my tablemates because I'd always be late to act and needed the alert sound to prompt my action, but a few times that didn't work, my time bank expired, and they automatically sit me out. After twenty minutes of failing to multi-task, I realized that I should be paying more attention -- even though folding hands and playing ABC LHE was boring as shit.

After another few orbits, I grew even more restless I usually ignore the chat, but one bully was lighting it up with harsh criticisms of everyone's play. I thought he should of kept his mouth shut for two reasons... 1) most of the time, his opponent's play wasn't as bad of a beat as he claimed, and 2) even when his opponents made a bad decision, the bully should had adhered to the "don't tap the glass" mantra. No one wants the fish scared off, but that's what he was doing.

I drew much of his ire in a hand that I won because he played poorly. I had Ad-8d in middle position and raised. The cutoff called and the bully called from his big blind. The flop was A-9-5 with two diamonds. Bully checked. I bet. Cutoff called. Bully called. The turn was the 6. I picked up a gutter and still had a nut flush draw. Bully checked to me. I bet. Both players called. River was an 8. I back-doored two pair. Checked again to me. I bet. Both called. Cutoff had A-K suited and Bully had Ah-Kh. I won the pot with two pairs. The bully flipped out and berated my play.

The barrage of insults began. At that point, I usually turn off his chat and just go about my business but something inside me said, "Fuck this you motherfucking whiney bitch. Dunno why you're going off on me, because you played the hand like a pussy."

I decided to fight back. I could say that my original intentions were altruistic, and if I were a politician, I would run on a platform highlighting my willingness to stand up to table captains, bullies, chat beggars, and other shit talkers. But, in all reality, I was more bored than anything else and pissed that he was costing me money because his negative attitude was turning the bad players away.

Besides, I've been on a mission this year to stand up to bullies. I don't believe in resolutions, but firmly believe in upholding principles -- particularly this one: don't take shit from anybody. I've been vigilant in dealing with bullies and passive-aggressive jackals -- both for myself and especially for my friends.

I decided to fuck with the bully, who was one of the lowest form of poker player on the intertubes -- the crybaby. But, this guy was looking for trouble. For one, bullies don't like to be bullied, and I hoped that I could tilt him. I told him that his insults were a cry for help and that he was obviously a mentally disturbed person. He went for the lamest attempted at a dig. He called me... a donkey. Jesus, so uninspiring and uncreative.

"That's Dr. Donkey to you pal," I barked. Nothing irks trolls when you side with them. They thrive on opposition.

He accused me of being a proctologist. He must have an anal complex, because he wanted to invite me over to check out his ass. He opened himself up to a few witty responses from yours truly about being a closeted queer or a latent homosexual.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm a shrink... a psychiatrist."

I'm not a real doctor, but I play one on the internet, especially when diagnosing bad poker-playing delusional hate monger that wants to have his anus explored by strangers.

But it's pretty easy to diagnose people these days, even without a degree. All you have to do is listen and observe -- seriously listen to what people are saying and carefully dissect their body language (or in this instance their use of words and phrasing). That will reveal all of their secrets and you get sort of x-ray vision into their psyche and see right through their fragile facades.

My bully seemed desperate for attention. Most bullies are hopelessly seeking attention and lash out as a defense mechanism. They deep down seek out intimacy, but they have been hurt in the past, so it's been easier to just act like a dick than let anyone be nice to you.

The fact that the bully felt as though he was entitled to berate his opponents when he lost was completely delusional and selfish. I pegged him as a persecutory delusional -- someone who was convinced that everyone was out to get him.

I diagnosed him as delusional in the chat, and he shot back with a fourth grade response.

"You live in delusional land," was his best thought-up response.

"Yes, you are correct. I live in delusional land. How did you know that I live in Los Angeles?"

That got a a few chuckles.

"I love LA," I continued. "The weather is awesome, but traffic sucks. The best thing is that everyone out her is crazy, which means my services are in high demand."

"I don't know any idiots who would pay you."

"You're in luck that I'm not charging you for this session. You have so many mental health issues that I don't know where we should begin."

That's when he returned to the proctologist stuff. That bully had a real ass fetish. I told him that he should get his ass checkout the same way he always does -- waits for his welfare check to arrive, so he can pay the crack whores/tranny hookers who lived next door to give him a prostate exam with an empty can of Red Bull.

I didn't let up and ripped into him pretty bad -- so much so that I had my own horrifying moment when I thought, "This has gone beyond self-defense.... all of a sudden I went from the victim to being the bully."

I was about to stop, but when someone else at the table laid a vicious beat on the bully, he went off on him. My fleeting moment of compassion evaporated and I returned to giving the bully shit.

"More anger management issues," I responded. "You should learn how to take a beat like a man."

"This is such a tragedy," he bemoaned.

Tragedy? He's got the good life compared to 99% of people on this planet -- he's inside, on a computer, plying online poker. We're all members of the "haves" while the have-nots are riddled with daily hardships (poverty, famine, war) that put all of us to shame.

Whenever he lost a hand, I'd type "nh" into the chat to congratulate his opponent. That's a cheap trick, but it has proven in the past to induce tilt. A couple of times, he took a bad beat, which really fired him up some more. He accused Full Tilt of being rigged, and that it was full of donkeys and idiots. He obviously has not been playing online poker for too long.

"Take a beat like a man," I barked.

I dunno why people complain about bad beats as much as they do. I'm all for let out a little anger and emotion as a step toward closure and just one of the things you have to do to re-gain focus and prepare for the next hand. But those who dwell on bad beats, especially at online poker and feel compelled to bring up that bit of history is beyond me. If anything, I want to play against people who whine about bad beats that happened hours earlier, because it means they are distracted and not paying attention to the present moment and obsession with something they can no longer control -- the past -- it's over and what's done is done. There's no bad beat appeals court where you state your case to Jesus and he makes a ruling to refund your money, or awards you compensation for pain and suffering.

This is poker. You win hands and you lose hands. When you win, you act humble. And when you lose, lose with dignity.

All of my banter in the chat must have drained the bully. He spewed 30+BBs in less than twenty minutes. I won two pots from him. Those were some of the most satisfying moments I've had in poker in a while. The money didn't mean as much to me as the fact that each hand I won sent him deeper and deeper into tiltdom.

The bully with an ass fetish went busto and finally left... in silence.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Pai Gow Diaries: Lucky Cards

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"These are lucky cards," Mai said. She winked simultaneously and pushed forward cards to Otis and myself.

Mai was my favorite Pai Gow dealer at the Gold Coast. It's no coincidence that I won the most money when she was in the box. The more that I win, the more I like a dealer. It's nothing personal, but if I get cold decked, it doesn't matter who is across the felt from me -- I hate them to eternal hell. That's the biggest difference between online casinos and real life -- the intimate relationship between the dealer and gambler which makes the gambling rush a more visceral experience than the repetitive nature of online gambling, which is just like more like a video game (and therein lies the danger).

I think Mai had a thing for Otis. I wasn't jealous. If anything, I encouraged it. The more she got smitten with Otis, the better hands she'd deal to us.

"I like lucky cards," I blurted out, one of a hundred words that rolled off my tongue in a short spurt. Machine gun bursts of speech and unfiltered thoughts are my downfall during the tail-end of Vegas benders. I had a little secret how I got ahead of the pack, but none of that mattered as dug in deep for one final binge before I called it a night. I had been in Vegas for three days and got around six hours of total sleep and squeezed in a 19-hour work day on Saturday that included doing a shit-ton of press for Lost Vegas. The rest of the time was spent catching up with friends and indulging in as many hands of Pai Gow as humanly possible.

Otis had been bribing the dealer with tips on the Fortune Bonus. Essentially, he was gambling on a tip for the dealer -- if he lost, then the house kept the potential tip, however if he won, then the dealer got paid out anywhere from $3 and upwards depending on the strength of his hand. At heart, Pai Gow dealers are some of the most degens on the planet. Those are the feisty middle-aged Asian women who make up the bulk of the Pai Gow revenue at off-the-Strip locals' casinos like the multiple Station properties.

Otis slid a stained $1 chip an inch above the Fortune Bonus that contained a single red chip, worn down and smooth from years of abuse. If Otis hit a big hand, both he and the dealer got paid a bonus. Otis was running good from the moment Mai relieved the previous dealer who had been treating us like we were new arrivals at Gitmo.

Even when things didn't work out at Mai's table, everyone was jovial about it. She made us feel better even when we lost. Most men have to pay a few hundred dollars in Vegas for that sort of intimacy.

For the most part, we were riding a wave of good cards. "Very lucky cards," as Mai explained.

Mr. Gold Coast must have realized how much he was paying out to our Sunday late afternoon crew at the Pai Gow tables, so he called in a cooler. I'm paranoid about the random bots that they send into the pits to decimate the morale of anyone on a hot streak. This bot was non-Asian, which through me off for a few minutes because she looked like someone I knew. That's when I figured it out -- my dealer was the 40-year old version of Kelly Osbourne. She was relentless. She was brutal. She was an incorrigible and continuously beat down any of my stellar hands. I got caught in that horrible bad trip where she constantly beat me out by the slimmest of margins. If I had a straight and a pair of sevens, well she had a bigger straight and a pair of eights. If she showed J-10 up top, I was behind with J-9. I couldn't win anything. Even when I tossed in a desperate chip to the Insurance circle, I came out a loser.

Otis had a rough time as well. He had lost a hand, but he hit a straight bonus to cushion the blow. He was also gambling the $1 toke for the dealer and Kelly Osbourne the Bot Cooler also got paid off for the bonus.

"I'm sorry I only won you $4," apologized Otis.

"That's OK," said the dealer. "You lost $25."

What a heartless twat.

Despite the hurricane, we were all fairly calm and just weathered the storm. We counted down the minutes until our rough dealer finished her shift and a new dealer took her place. The Asian guy in the first seat was on mega-tilt. He had been betting small -- no more than $25 a hand, and then all of a sudden, he jacked up his bets to $250 to $300. When an Ethiopian dealer took his turn in the box, the Asian guy lost his cool. He was a cook. I could tell by his checkered pants -- standard uniform for someone who toils away in a kitchen. He wore a green sweatshirt, but no one paid attention to his pants. I wondered if he worked in one of the kitchens at the Gold Coast. Maybe he was a Rio cook responsible for those awful kangaroo burgers in the Poker Kitchen? Just like my colleagues in the poker media looking to blow off steam, the cook also headed to the Pai Gow tables to have a little fun and excitement. Except this guy's patience had worn thin after the brutal mugging from Kelly Osbourne. The new dealer didn't help things. He kept fucking up Otis' hands. He scooped up his cards twice without properly paying Otis. He also forgot to pay Otis' bonus on more than one instance. One time when the Ethiopian didn't pay Otis, he unleashed a growl that sounded more like a wounded jaguar. The Ethiopian nervously apologized and paid Otis his bonus money. Even the most even keeled Otis was getting testy with the inept payout procedures from this dealer. We longed to have Mai back. She was sweet. She took care of us. She knew exactly what we were about and the purpose of our agenda -- to hang out and get free drinks and gamble as long as possible without losing much money. Mai joined in on the fun, but all of the other dealers didn't want anything to do with us, which created large gaps in my session when I was bitter about the silent and humorless bots dealing to us.

We held one table for over six hours hours. I started on the table around 4:30-5pm and didn't leave until close to 11:15 or so. My session had lots of twists and turns, but I ended up a bit because I maintained discipline with the size of my bets. I kept them small and didn't let the outcome of the previous hand (or hands) affected the amounts of my wagers. I maintained a limit and stuck to it. That's a difficult task in the land of indulgence.

The Gold Coast uses commission squares to indicate how much you owe in past due commission. Other casinos take out the juice when they pay you, but the Gold Coast waits every thirty minutes to collect from you. In one way, I prefer the delayed commission payment because you can see whether or not you're doing well for a particular dealer. If you have nothing in your square, it means you've been getting violated by the dealer. If you have any red chips, it's a sign that you've been running good.

Considering the maelstrom of non-sexual pain that Kelly Osbourne inflicted upon us, I stumbled upon a stunning realization -- for the first time in a long time, I had red chips in my commission square. Somehow, I caught a few lucky cards at the right time. I paid my juice, colored-up chips, slid the blackbirds into my pocket, and shuffled off to the cage.

Lucky cards.

Editor's Note: This is another edition for a series of posts on Pai Gow addiction. Other installments include Cult of the Dragon, Dilettante and Mr. Pai Gow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dr. Chako Wins Turkey Cup 4.0! Turkey Cup Expansion Planned for 2011

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Despite the late start time, almost Midnight ET, Turkey Cup 4.0 kicked off with 56 runners -- at least six more than I had projected. I'm more than pleased that we surpassed expectations on a day when it's tough to stave off fatigue due to over-eating, traveling, and the combined stresses of the holidays and dealing with insane family members that you're forced to mingle with a couple of times a year. But that's why Turkey Cup is so much fun, because it gives you a chance to blow off some steam and just kick back and relax after a hellacious holiday. As far as online tournaments go, Turkey Cup is by far my favorite.

My performance is something totally different. I was out so fast that I was compelled to create a new private tournament, a second chance event which I dubbed Turkey Cup Reprise. That second chance event was such a big hit, that I'm going to expand Turkey Cup to 55 events next year with the final table of the Main Event delayed until New Year's Day, and it will be televised on Svenka 3, which is Sweden's version of ESPN 3, with Johnny Lodden doing the color commentary in a drunken combination of Swedish, Norwegian, and English.

OK, I'm obviously joking about the final table delay. That was my original vision, but Johnny Lodden is booked to be the grand marshal in a New Year's Day parade in Oslo, and I couldn't nail down a broadcasting contract with the Swedes, so the final table delay will not happen in 2011. And 55 events? Another pipe dream. If I had no social life and didn't have three books and a screenplay to write, I might have a 55-tournament bonanza sponsored by Broke Dick Poker.

In all honesty, next year I'm gonna do a series of four or five events for Turkey Cup 5.0 spread out over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

But what happened in Turkey Cup 4.0? Well, the winner was none other than Dr. Chako. Yes, I'm glad that the Doc won because he knocked me out (and at the time, it thrust him into the chip lead) and my chips went to a worthy cause.

My starting table included... laserguy2020, peacecorn, lhuntertwo, o-hole-ne, heffmike, Raubgraber, and nealdo56. Gigli honors went to lhuntertwo, who had Kings snapped off by Gracie's 9c-8c. She turned a straight. All the money went in on the river, and that's all she wrote.

I busted out shortly after when Dr. Chako got moved to my table. He opened in early position with Ac-Jc. I popped him in late position with Queens, and he called. I couldn't get him away from his hand -- he flopped a gutter and turned a flush draw. I expected my demise would come via one of Chako's draws, but my fate was determined when one of his overs hit and an ace spiked on the river. Out in 52nd place. That sucked. I love hosting private tournaments, but one of the worst things is busting out early from your own tournament.

That's when I decided to create a second chance event -- for anyone who missed the registration for Turkey Cup and anyone else who busted early. To sweeten the event, I made it PLO to attract any junkies seeking a fix at 1am.

Meanwhile, over in Turkey Cup, the top nine places paid out. With ten to go, the bubble play was fierce. I had never seen a bubble last that long in one of my hosted tournaments. As one player observed, "Y'all taking Turkey Cup seriously."

Like most blogger-centric events used to be, they start out breezy and fun oriented until the final table, and then it's cut throat city. The bubble went on forever, and it was Joe Speaker who busted out in 10th place. He secured Bubble Boy honors only a few hours before he was set to get married.

The final table was set and my brother, Derek, had a chance to become the first multi-winner of Turkey Cup. He shipped the inaugural event in 2007, and was seeking a second title. He didn't make the final table without a little luck -- he rivered a one outer earlier in the tournament to avoid elimination.
Turkey Cup 4.0 Main Event - Final Table Chip Counts:
Seat 1: HermWarfare (3261)
Seat 2: funchbox (14373)
Seat 3: Idiottax (12971)
Seat 4: Shackedin05 (24334)
Seat 5: scottc25 (5177)
Seat 6: DrChako (11893)
Seat 7: laserguy2020 (6730)
Seat 8: **GMONEY*722 (2651)
Seat 9: Garthmeister (2610)

You can click here to see a screen cap of the final table.
Shackedin05 began the final table as the chipleader, with almost 2x as much as Shane Nickerson in second place. But Nickerson would quickly make a run for the lead.

Derek went on a rush. He busted Garth and Laser to get to 2nd in chips behind Nickerson. He lost a decisive pot with AK against Snuffy's AKs. Snuffy flushed him out and Derek lost his momentum.

Nickerson eventually fizzled out 4th. With three to go, Shackedin05 held a monster lead over Derek and Chako. Derek busted out in 3rd when his A-K lost to A-8. A nasty 8 on river sent Derek home in third and his dreams about becoming the first-ever two-time champion were dashed.

When heads-up began, Chako and Shackedin05 were almost even in chips. The two didn't sit back and try to feel each other out. They quickly rumbled. On the final hand, Chako was ahead with Q-Q against pocket treys. Shhackedin05 picked up a gutshot, but Chako faded the gutter to win the hand, and the tournament, and Turkey Cup!
Turkey Cup 4.0 Main Event - Final Table Results:
1. DrChako
2. Shackedin05
3. HermWarfare
4. funchbox
5. **GMONEY*722
6. scottc25
7. Idiottax
8. laserguy2020
9. Garthmeister
Dr. Chako is bulletproof. He survived a tour in Iraq, and now he can add a Turkey Cup victory to his resume. Congrats, Doc!

By the way, I found this pic on Doc's website.

It's circa 2006 Vegas when we officially met each other for the first time (even though we had been playing online together for over a year, in addition to Doc also being a contributor to my lit rag Truckin'). We've known each other a few years, and it's always great when an old friend runs good.

* * * *

In case you were wondering about the second chance PLO event...

I busted in 11th place in Turkey Cup Reprise. I got it all in with top 2 and zero re-draws against Jess Welman's flush draw. I couldn't top the "Ginja Run Good" and hit the road.
Turkey Cup Reprise - PLO Final Table:
Seat 1: Shizzmoney (3778)
Seat 2: uscjess (11220)
Seat 3: kcs25 (1323)
Seat 4: HermWarfare (1549)
Seat 5: c2d2 (3130)
Seat 6: HippoCrittic (5473)
Seat 7: JoeSpeaker (1205)
Seat 8: peacecorn (865)
Seat 9: change1OO (5957)
My brother advanced to two Turkey Cup final tables in the same day. But he failed to make the money, because only the top 3 spots paid out. Derek finished in 5th, while Shizzmoney bubbled and took down Bubble Boy honors.

With three to go, Jess held more than 66.6% chips in play. The devil stopped influencing her run good, and she ran out of gas. Jess bowed out in third place, while HippoCrittic beat c2d2 heads-up for the crown.
Turkey Cup Reprise - PLO Money Winners:
1. HippoCrittic
2. c2d2
3. uscjess
Congrats to Hippo for dominating PLO and the Reprise event.

And congrats again to Dr. Chako. Thanks to everyone who played the events, and special thanks to everyone who helped pimp Turkey Cup 4.0 -- especially those who didn't play but went out of their way to plug it anyway!

See you next year for an expanded rendition of Turkey Cup 5.0!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas Sale: Lost Vegas for 15% Off

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Great news. After months of waiting, Lost Vegas is now available on Amazon.com! If that's where you do the bulk of your Christmas shopping, then stop by my page and pick up a copy or two.

If you would like to save $3, you can buy copies of Lost Vegas for 15% off via Lulu.com. At checkout, you use coupon code STOCKING305.

The 15% off coupon is valid through December 15th. Don't worry... the discount comes out of the publisher's pocket and I get my full cut.

Just a reminder... Lost Vegas is cooked to order, which means it's Print-On-Demand (POD). Due to high volume of orders with my publisher, I encourage you to buy the book before December 5th to ensure a Christmas deliver.

The e-book version is $10. Right now, I only have PDF's available, but an ePub version will be released shortly.
Click here to buy an e-Book.

Click here
to buy a copy on Amazon.

Click here to buy a copy on Lulu. Don't forget to use code STOCKING305 for 15% off.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Cup 4.0

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Turkey Cup kicks off at 11:55pm ET on PokerStars. Visit the PRIVATE tab to find this tournament listed under Turkey Cup 4.0.

The origins of Turkey Cup: I taught my brother how to play hold'em over Thanksgiving weekend seven or eight years ago in his new apartment, and we played heads-up LHE with chips to get him up to speed for our upcoming annual December pilgrimage to Vegas. Since then, poker has been a part of our Thanksgiving.

In 2007, I moved the game online so more of my friends could play and thus, Turkey Cup was born. Had no idea that the event would become so popular.

Please note that we're playing at a much later time this year (so I can watch the Jets game without any distractions), so I guess you can call this the "Almost Midnight" edition. See you at 11:55pm ET!7

Click here to open a PokerStars account.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bingo Hall: Dots Across America

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The walkway from the parking lot to the Crystal Casino in Compton is on the slight incline, interrupted by a row of four palm trees, which is set in the middle of the path. You have to walk around them and you immediately notice the little grease stains on the ground -- either superfluous bird feces or fallen dates left to wilt in the ominous California sun. The glass doors to the casino's side entrance are blacked out with two distinct messages -- one politely tells you about the dress code that shoes and shirts were required including no muscle shirts, and the other noted the strict curfew. Shoeless gamblers have never been a problem at any stops on the circuit, but not too many joints issued a disclaimer about a curfew.

The gamblers who stood in front of the casino were the types of people who did not want to be bothered. All in their sixties and older, they each stood about fifteen feet apart from each other, flashed cold stares from their vacant eyes, and huffed down on their cigarettes. Those were the regulars in the low-stakes bingo world.

When Barack Obama spoke of hope in his election speeches, I don't think he was discussing the atmosphere inside the bingo hall at the Crystal Casino. The sullen bingo hall is one of the first things that confront you upon entering the casino. The gigantic room had the charm of a third-rate nursing home. I was forced to walk by hundreds of plastic banquet tables lined up on shoddy and frayed continuous foral-patterned carpet. Each table had a mixture of colored chairs. Purple was the least popular, while red and green chairs dominated the landscape. Losing sheets cluttered the carpet, even though each table had a trash basket next to it. Elderly gamblers dotted out their sheets with jittery anticipation, like a junkie setting up a needle to get his first fix of the day. Even though it was a non-smoking casino, the dense odor of tobacco permeated the room and vaguely covered up the stench of feces from the incontinent woman in the wheelchair slumped in the corner. That's the standard scene in any bingo hall across America -- someone sitting in their own shit chasing down a jackpot.

When religious right wingers condemn internet gambling as the scour of our society, they always overlook the bingo halls that pump dollars into church tithes and instead they go after the scum of the earth -- online poker players. At the worst, a few online poker players smoke too much herb and a few others act a bit douchey, but as a whole online players are everyday people. Most of them are a bit smarter and nerdier when it comes to things like mathematics, statistics, game theory, and data analysis, but these are hardly the criminals that the anti-gaming pundits tried to pawn off as the domestic axis of evil.

If the moralists want to go after degenerates, then they need to pick on the lottery addicts, those sad cases who create long lines at gas stations because they're busy getting their fix and clutching their car keys and scratching away $40 worth of scratch tickets as sprinkles of grey flakes flutter to the ground. The sepia-tinged somberness of any local bingo hall should be enough to warrant it to be shut down.

The World Series of Poker is the largest room of gambling rooms that I've ever seen with an equally deafening and sometimes annoying nonstop clattering of chips. Also impressive was the spread inside the Asian gaming section in front of the poker room at Foxwoods Casino, filled with the chatter of multiple Chinese dialects mixed with the clinking of Pai Gow tiles and the rattling of dice that the dealer used to determine the dealer button.

The players are almost all silent inside the Crystal's bingo hall with a chaffing lack of jubilant gambling sounds aside from the faint echo of the voice announcing the action.

"B-24. Bee. Twen. Tee. Four."

Bingo players are a competitive breed. Everything is eerily quiet and tense. I carefully walked through the hall and carefully clocked everyone at one table. Which ones would slash one of their opponents with a box cutter if they were issued a bad beat? Which ones were the weak links, and couldn't endure the frustration of another losing night? Slumping gamblers are inherently irritable and it doesn't take much to set them off. It's been months since some those blue hairs haven't shouted, "Bingo!" Bingo suckouts are brutal and detrimental to one's health., especially if you miss out by a millisecond. Just last month in Simi Valley, a deadly incident occurred at Saint Miguel's weekly Bingo Bonanza when an 83-year old great-grandmother was stabbed with a a knitting needle after she disputed a winning card from her neighbor.

On my first night at the Crystal, everything seemed rather smooth and nothing resembled the sketchy scene like so many stories I've heard before. That was until I heard about the fisticuffs -- apparently someone was ejected for beating up another patron. Maybe they gloated about a bingo victory? Then again, who knows if anyone has been knocking back Four Lokos in the parking lot before they stumbled in to play their Bingo sheets?

Four Loko is a dangerous energy drink, sort of like the PCP of Malt Liquor, and it will put hair on your chest -- that is, if you can actually wake up the next day after blacking out, but not before you chugged three Four Lokos, took a dump in the back of a taxi cab, then punched three holes in your bathroom door by head-butting it.

I don't recommend the deadly combination of Four Loko and Bingo unless you have a high tolerance and a decent health insurance plan.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin Wins NAPT Shootout in Compton

By Pauly
Compton, CA

I thought drive-bys in Compton were quick affairs?

I found myself in the city of Compton way past Midnight on two out of the last three nights. Both of those nights, the Bounty Shootout at the Crystal Casino ended up a prolonged affair. $5,000 buy-in. 81 runners. Winner take all. Well, mostly all. $4,000 of the buy-in went towards the prize pool, while $1,000 went towards the bounty side. Everyone who advanced to the final table netted $20,000 and only the winner would walk away with cash -- $134,280. Of course, the players kept whatever money they won for collecting a bounty. PokerStars threw in a bonus for the player who collected the most bounties -- a seat to the 2011 PCA Bounty Shootout in the Bahamas.
NAPT LA Bounty Shootout Final Table:
Seat 1: Justin Young
Seat 2: The Grinder
Seat 3: Clint Coffee
Seat 4: Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin
Seat 5: Tom Marchese
Seat 6: Moshin Charania
Seat 7: David Williams
Seat 8: Kevin MacPhee
Seat 9: Pat Pezzin
All players began the final table with 100,000 in chips.

The Grinder was the second player to bust from the final table. He had been running as good as you could since early June, but he couldn't keep it up for just one more day.

Three-handed action (among David Williams, Eric Baldwin, and Justin Young) actually went for almost four hours. Wanna talk about tedious small ball? I had a ring side seat for all of that inaction. That's what happens when you have three methodical players nursing their big stacks with blinds puttering along.

David Williams busted out in third a few minutes past the 1am hour when his A-Q did not improve against Young's pocket tens. His life coach escorted the "RugDoctor" out the door. Justin young locked up the bonus for the "most bounties" in the Shootout. Yep, he collected the most scalps and got a free ticket for a Shootout in the Bahamas. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it as a Shootout in Compoton.

A heads-up match was set between Justin Young and Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin. The two were actually friends off the felt, and actually neighbors. They drove out to LA together, so it was a little weird that that they were fighting each other to the death.

Young had almost a 3.5-1 chip lead over Baldwin. Young looked like a Russian. If I saw him on the EPT, I would have pegged him as a former chess player turned online pro because of his velor sweat suit jacket that bag men from the Russian mob back in Brooklyn have been known to wear. In case you were wondering, he's an American. Across the table sat the phenom known as Basebaldy. He is someone that typifies Americana - Apple Pie, Baseball, Poker. He kept his attire very simple -- jeans, black t-shirt (with a small gold UB logo), and a red Arizona Diamondbacks hat. Five or six years ago, Baldwin had aspirations of appearing on ESPN during a major league baseball highlights package on SportsCenter. Alas, he'd get notoriety on ESPN for his poker skills. Only Justin Young stood in his way from winning a televised event on ESPN (actually it will be ESPN2).

It didn't take long before the two got it all-in with a flip: pocket sevens versus A-Q. Basebaldy raced with the pair -- and it held up. He doubled up and nearly pulled even in chips. And that's when the action hit a wall. A brick wall. Reinforced with steel. In case you were wondering if the two buddies cut a deal, well, it did not happen. Sweet Jesus, two hours later, they were still at it. Maybe they made save for a much smaller amount, but it wasn't significant enough for them to get it all in with rags.

I had to step outside to get some fresh air -- but then talked myself out of it. I didn't want to be wandering around the parking lot at 3am -- even if I wasn't holding. By the 3 o'clock hour almost every single spectator was gone. Even the ones from central casting had clocked out (union rules). The only chumpstain left in the crowd was some sort of sleazy used car salesman-type, who got shitfaced at the bar, and then passed out his business card hoping to get a piece of the eventual winner.

With 55BBs each, the tournament didn't have any inklings at ending before 6am. I had a bad feeling this was gonna be one of those instances when you were driving home at sun up. Man, I worried that we wouldn't get out of Compton before the LA morning rush hour kicked off in a few hours.

A member of the film crew wandered over to the press row and said, "What are we doing with our lives? Why did we pick this profession?"

I tried to be upbeat -- had I not been fortunate enough to fall ass-backwards into the poker industry, I'd still be grinding out a commission check in a boiler room down on Wall Street. Sure, it's 3:30am on the Left Coast, but if I was working in NYC, I'd would have already finished the 3s (Shit, Shower, Shave) and swiping my Metrocard en route to the trenches, where I'd spend the next 12 hours cold calling random names from a list of leads and begging my sales manager for the Glengarry Highland leads.

And just when things started to look even more grim, we finally had an all-in and a call at 3:47am. Basebaldy held the lead and woke up with Kings against Justin Young's A-Q. Basebaldy's Kings held up and he collected his only bounty at the final table -- but it was the one that counted the most. Basebaldy won the Shootout in Compton for a cool $134,280. He better run to his car with that bag of cash! Justin Young finished in second place and went home with just $20,000 (for making the final table) plus his bounties and the bonus for most bounties.
NAPT Los Angeles $5,000 Bounty Shootout - Final Table Results and Payouts:
1st - Eric "basebaldy" Baldwin - $134,280 + ($3,000 in bounties: Brown, Esfiandari, and Young)
2nd - Justin Young - $20,000 + ($6,000 in bounties: Montgomery, Stein, Clements, Williams, Coffee, and Mizrachi)
3rd - David Williams - $20,000 + ($4,000 in bounties: Affleck, Barbero, Marchese, Charania)
4th - Mohsin Charania - $20,000 + ($5,000 in bounties: Woodward, Ramdin, Habib, Pesek, Pezzin)
5th - Tom Marchese - $20,000 + ($4,000 in bounties: Obrestad, Robl, Shak, Bardah)
6th - Clint Coffee - $20,000 + ($3,000 in bounties: Jaka, Bonomo, MacPhee)
7th - Pat Pezzin - $20,000 + ($2,000 in bounties: Laak, Richey)
8th - Michael Mizrachi - $20,000+ ($4,000 in bounties: Shorr, Aguiar, Selbst, Kornuth)
9th Kevin MacPhee - $20,000 + ($3,000 in bounties: Deeb, Binger, Lamb)
With the conclusion of the Shootout, the NAPT Los Angeles has finally come to an end. That will probably be the last live tournament that I cover in 2010. Maybe I'll be back to the tournament reporting grind in the Bahamas in January with the 2011 PCA? Who knows for sure, but satellites are currently running on PokerStars for the PCA as we speak.

And who knows, maybe I'll start covering high-stakes cash games. Anyone want to buy me a ticket to Macau?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dispatches from NAPT Los Angeles: Joe Tehan Wins NAPT LA Main Event

By Pauly
Compton, CA

The NAPT Los Angeles Main Event changed locales from the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens to the Compton, CA, where the final table was played out under the bright lights of a TV set and recorded for an ESPN2 broadcast sometime in December. The venue change gave me flashbacks of the 2005 WSOP, when the Main Event began at the Rio and then the final two days returned to Downtown Las Vegas and it's former home inside Benny's Bullpen at the Horseshoe. The Crystal Casino gave off a bit of seedier vibe than the Bike and usual stops on the tour. The massive Bingo Parlor attracted swarms of elderly bingo degens driven en masse to the Crystal in church vans. They were the perfect display of the eccentric indigenous locals who frequented the Crystal for nightly low-stakes Bingo.

The circus moved to the hood for the latest installment of the NAPT. Compton is not often muttered in the same breath as the Bahamas, London, Sydney, Las Vegas, and San Remo when you think about hotbeds for poker. Yet for a brief moment, a small group of poker media, agents, executives, hanger-ons, and genuine fans converged on the Crystal Casino for the final table of the NAPT Los Angeles. At one time, Compton was the epicenter for the worst gang violence in the nation, but lots of things have changed since that low point in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For a brief hiccup in 2010, Compton became the crossroads of the poker world.
NAPT LA - Main Event Final Table Chip Counts:
Seat 1: Jake Toole - 1,975,000
Seat 2: Joe Tehan - 1,907,000
Seat 3: Mike Binger - 1,670,000
Seat 4: Anh Van Nguyen - 1,058,000
Seat 5: Jason Mercier - 3,800,000
Seat 6: Al Grimes - 982,000
Seat 7: Ray Henseon - 3,268,000
Seat 8: Christopher DeMaci - 6,283,000
Excerpts from my notes about the final table...

- The TV set was located in a far corner of the casino and blocked off from the outside world. It wasn't exactly sound proofed. The Crystal Casino bar behind us was separated by thin cloth. You could hear the bartender tossing empty bottles into the trash, and the later it got, the conversations from few inebriated locals increased in volume.

- The smallness of the tournament room reminded me of the cramped Benny's Bullpen, especially the continuing floral patterns of the stained red carpet, not to mention the low ceilings with some of the tiles slid out in order to accommodate lighting rigs. Even the jig cam seemed constricted and didn't have the swooping mobility that you'd see inside the Amazon Ballroom. The temperature inside the tournament room resembled a sauna. The bright lights and closed set will do that.

- Team PokerStars Pro Jason Mercier was on a mission and seeking a victory in another event on a PokerStars sponsored tour. He shipped the NAPT Mohegan Sun $25K High Rollers Bounty Shootout earlier this spring. A second NAPT title in 2010 seemed possible. Even though he wasn't the chipleader, Mercier entered the final table as one of the favorites to win. When you have a knack for closing out tournaments (he's got a WSOP bracelet and an EPT title on his impressive resume), you're always a favorite at final table regardless of chip count.

- Joe Tehan made a cameo at the final table. He's been grinding out the tournament circuit since I started covering poker. Tehan has a WPT title under his belt and over $2 million in career earnings. Ray Henson has been around the block a few times. He used to manage a Foot Locker in Texas and posted a deep run in the 2007 Main Event. Henson was considered an outside favorite to win the event.

- Two rows of spectator seats flanked the final table with three rows of spillover seats behind a fake half-wall. Chipleader Christopher DeMaci drew the largest contingency of supporters, many of who drove up from the OC to railbird his run at the final table. TD Mike Ward called them "Percentage Fans", which is a semi-joke because in all reality it is hard to distinguish the real friends from those who have a piece of a player. Whenever DeMaci won a hand, his fans waved a handmade sign, "YAWN! Too Easy." DeMaci's friends hung right in front of the secondary press row which I dubbed the "peanut gallery."

- Slow start. We were joking around about the lack of flops and the small number of hands that actually went to the river. The final table kicked off at 2:24, and it took until 3:14 before we had a first all-in and a call. Joe Tehan five-bet shoved with Kings for almost 2 million and Chris DeMaci had called with Ac-Kc. Tehan's Kings held up for a double up. DeMaci retained the lead, but definitely took a shot on the chin.

- At 3:27, Joe Tehan found himself on the other side of pocket Kings. He was all in with pocket sevens against Anh Van Nguyen's Queens. The flop was Q-J-10 and the turn was an Ace, which improved Anh Van Nguyen's hand with a Broadway straight draw. Tehan was seeking outs for a chop, but it didn't happen. Short-stacked Anh Van Nguyen doubled up to over 1.5M, as Tehan slipped to under 3.5M.

- Almost ninety minutes into the final table, Jake Toole was the first player to bust out. He got it all in with pocket Jacks against Joe Tehan's A-Q off. An Ace on the flop gave Tehan the lead, but Jake picked up an OESD on the turn. Tehan faded the straight and won the pot. Toole headed to the rail in 8th place, good for just $60,000 (12x the buy-in). Tehan seized the lead and pushed over 5M. DeMaci slipped to second with a shade over 4M, while Mercier and Henson hovered around 3M.

- On the break (or any break), there's a surge toward the Players' Lounge and make a beeline for the free food which included savory fried chicken wings (with a little spicy kick). Yesterday during the Shootout, the Players' Lounge offered up spaghetti and meatballs that were surprisingly good.

- Lots more inaction after the break as the tedious pace continued. DeMaci regained the lead against Ray Henson in a hand that went all the way to the river. Henson had his Kings snapped off by A-J when DeMaci flopped an Ace.

- Jason Mercier had been wearing a LeBron James Miami Heat jersey during the opening rounds, but he switched to his infamous lucky striped shirt, which he had been wearing for all of his major wins. Alas, the lucky stripes didn't come through in the clutch for Mercier because he busted in 7th place. He got his 3.65M stack all-in with A-K against Joe Tehan's pocket Jacks. Mercier had been the master of flips for most of the tournament, heck for most of his career, but this was the one flip that he could not win. The board bricked out for Mercier. Tehan's Jacks held up and he surged to around 8M in chips. Mercier won almost $85,000 but looked absolutely bummed. Amateurs and slumping pros would be thrilled to final table a televised event and win 17x their buy-in, but Mercier had his eyes on the top prize and another title. Compton was just another stop on the tour for Mercier, who is a regular on the different international circuits. He'll pack up his stuff and head to Europe to play in the EPT Barcelona next week.

- It took only two hands after Mercier busted before we had another all-in and a call. Joe Tehan won a race with A-J against Michael Binger pocket tens. The flop was all rags, but Tehan's run good was solidified with an Ace on the turn. Binger failed to suck out on the river and he was eliminated in 6th place. Tehan's stack grew closer to the 10M mark. The pace at the final table languished until two players busted inside of three hands. With five to go, one of the agents lurking in the shadows piped up, "Now we're moving boys!"

- With five to go, the battle of the haves versus the have nots emerged. The Haves: Tehan led the way with 11M and DeMaci held over 6.6M for almost 85% of the chips in play. The Have Nots: Henson was in the best shape with 1.5M, Al Grimes had more than 1M and Ahn Van Nguyen dropped under 1M.

- Ahn Van Nguyen four-flushed Roy Henson to flip spots. Nguyen was racing with 4-4 against K-Q. Henson flopped a King, but the board was all hearts and Nguyen flopped a flush draw. He got there on the river, doubled up, and no longer occupied the basement.

- Short-stacked Roy Henson was on death watch and caught a break when doubled up with J-9 against DeMaci's A-J. He flopped a nine and turned a Jack to avoid elimination.

- The Haves clashed in a hand...but never saw a flop. DeMaci got sick and tired of Tehan steamrolling the table with a blitzkrieg of opening raises, and finally stood up to the bully. Henson opened, DeMaci three-bet, Tehan four-bet to 1M, Henson bailed, DeMaci five-bet shoved for 5M, and Tehan folded. DeMaci picked up almost 1.5M on that hand, but Tehan was still ahead with over 10M.

- Double rainbow elimination. Tehan the raising machine open-shoved. Ahn Van Nguyen insta-called. Shortest stack Roy Henson tank-called. Tehan was behind with K-5 against Nguyen's A-Q and Henson's A-J. But you knew that the King was gonna get there, because the poker gods were shining down upon Tehan. The flop was 9-9-4, which added a little drama until a King spiked on the turn, giving Tehan the lead. The river was a blank and Tehan won the pot. His decimation of the final table continued and he knocked out two players in a double elimination. Henson finished in 5th place and PokerStars Team Canada Pro Ahn Van Nguyen finished in 4th. With three to go, Tehan held over 13.5M with DeMaci behind in second with 6.5. Al Grimes, the quietest and nittiest guy at the table, was the shorty with 1M. He was a dead man walking.

- Al Grimes made a stand with 8s-7s, but Joe Tehan took a shot with J-9 and was surprised to find himself slightly ahead when Grimes tabled his suited connectors. The flop was 10-7-3. Tehan flopped a gutter, but Grimes paired his seven to take the lead. The turn was a 9, and Tehan improved to a better pair, but Grimes re-drew to an OESD. The river was a King. Tehan's pair of nines held up and Grimes was busto in third.

- With two to go...Tehan had almost 15M, while Chris DeMaci had over 6M. The players were then sent on a one-hour dinner break. A few groans came out of the peanut gallery. They wanted to keep playing on.

- When play resumed, we got were treated to a lot of min-betting from the aggressor in the hand. Tehan won the first sizable pot in excess of 1M in chips, and methodically chipped away. DeMacis crew didn't have much to cheer about and the heads-up match lacked any sort of enthusiasm. You could hear the idle chatter of a few railbirds and someone in the peanut gallery was watching an episode of Glee.

- After about 40 minutes of heads-up, the chip count was about the same as it was when it started. Zero gain on either side.

- Tehan picked off a river bluff from DeMaci with just King-high. Tehan gained some ground chipwise moving up to over 17M while DeMaci's slipped to under 4M. However, losing to King-high was also a major blow psychologically as DeMaci emphatically shook his head and flashed a look like, "How can I beat this guy?"

- The final two went on a schedule break. Two cameramen headed to the pisser and discussed the passive play from DeMaci. "He should just give up," one of them said just as DeMaci walked into the bathroom. If anything DeMaci failed to adjust to heads-up play and Tehan ran right over him extending his lead 18M to 2.4M lead.

- It didn't take too long after the break before Tehan put DeMaci out of his misery. On the final hand, they got it all in on the flop of Ks-5h-3s. Tehan was ahead with K-10 vs. DeMaci's K-4. The turn was another 5, and the river was a 4. The kickers were essential in this hand. Tehan won with Kings and Fives and a ten-kicker topping DeMaci's four-kicker. Chris DeMaci from the OC collected $440,000 for his runner-up performance. Joe Tehan added a NAPT title to his resume and won $725,000 in cash for his victory in Compton.
$5,000 NAPT LA Main Event - Final Table Results:
1st - Joe Tehan ($725,000)
2nd - Chris DeMaci ($440,000)
3rd - Al Grimes ($250,000)
4th - Ahn Van Nguyen ($195,000)
5th -Roy Henson ($145,000)
6th - Michael Binger ($114,000)
7th - Jason Mercier ($84,857)
8th - Jake Toole ($60,000)

Joe Tehan - 2010 NAPT Los Angeles Main Event Champion
(Photo courtesy of Joe Giron/PokerStarsBlog)

The NAPT Los Angeles attracted 701 runners and Joe Tehan was the last one standing. The 2010 PCA in the Bahamas was billed as the opening event on the NAPT, where Harrison Gimbel faded a field of 1,529 to win $2.2 million. Vanessa Selbst took down the NAPT Mohegan Sun, with her hottie girlfriend on the rail. Selbst bested a field of 716 for a $750,000 payday.

That's it for now. The final table of the Bounty Shootout starts at 2pm on Thursday. Signing off from Compton...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dispatches from NAPT Los Angeles: When I Called Off, I Got a Sawed Off

By Pauly
Compton, CA

"I'm gonna open a weed dispensary," thought Daniel Negreanu out loud. "Costs $50,000 and we can make $1 million a year. I want a bunch of them."

"Are you only saying that because you have some potential clients at this table," deadpanned Barry Greenstein.

Welcome to California, aka the land of medicinal marijuana. Who knows if Kid Poker was just messing around for the cameras (even though he was not on the TV table, he still had a second unit hovering near by ready to capture any witty repartee from Negreanu and/or Greenstein), or if he was thinking about branching out into new business opportunities cultivating California's cash crop...for medical purposes only.

The NAPT Los Angeles $5,000 Bounty Shootout was held at the Crystal Casino in Compton. The event was filmed by the crew at 441 Productions and it will appear on ESPN2 sometime in mid-December. The Shootout was capped at 81 players. A TV stage was constructed in a small area off the casino floor, only thirty yards from a Pai Gow table where the Joker can be any card at any time (and not just used to fill in flushes or straights). Action was divided into two flights. Flight A started at 11am and included five tables and Flight B started at 7pm and had four. The set included a featured TV table, flanked by two single rows of chairs. The rest of the tables were located right behind the TV table.

When I initially walked into the casino through the darkened bingo hall, at least thirty or forty people of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities were seated at the tables. They weren't gambling and it looked like they were waiting on something. The way a few were dressed, it almost looked like they were attending a job fair. I'd discover later on that they were hired to fill seats in the audience as the organizers saw fit. The TV table was now guaranteed to have spectators, because it was difficult to fill empty seats because of the early hour of filming and the not-so-favorable locale. The Shootout started at 11am and poker players are not an early breed of animal. Their friends were not gonna get up early to rail them for just the opening flight of a Shootout. Plus, the location in Compton was also a deterrent for suburban folks who only conjure up images of ghetto plight from NWA rap videos whenever the word "Compton" is uttered in a sentence.

Luckily, the Shootout was located only a few miles from the hills of Hollywood, where people fight each other to the death for camera time. A quick call to a central casting agent instantly netted the Crystal Casino a live studio audience. The only drawback -- no one told the actors to pick a specific player and cheer for them when they won a pot. Watching poker is one of the most tedious things to do for an experienced reporter -- that's why were all either booze hounds, pill poppers, or potheads -- and some of us are all three or a combination of at least two depending on the time of day. I can only imagine how unexciting tournament poker can be for civilians who have no clue about the intricacies of poker. One guy wearing a suit in the crowd had his eyes closed and somewhere deep in dreamland. Either he had been chasing the dragon and nodded off, or he was bored to death and fell asleep. Whatever the reason, that clown still got paid to keep the seat warm. Sometimes, I fucking love Hollywood.

During Flight A, the featured TV table included three ladies: Jen Tilly, Annette Obrestad, and Vanessa Rousso. Jen Tilly is awesome because she bought Lost Vegas on Saturday at the Bike because I happened to have an extra copy on me. As she sat down at the TV table, she mentioned that she read the first five chapters and was loving the book. Man, talk about a surreal scene.

The rest of the TV table included Scott Seiver, Greg DeBora, Ronnie Bardah, Dan Shak, Andrew Robl, and Tom Marchese. Shak was two-tabling it -- he was playing the bounty and on breaks fired up his laptop to check on his open positions in different financial markets. The $5K he had on the line for the Shootout was small peanuts compared to his bets on Wall Street. The Player's Lounge had an oversized-Jenga set. A few of the players played high-stakes Jenga on the break, or heads-up after they busted out.

Sorel Mizzi was the first casualty of the day. Vanessa Selbst quickly went to work and claimed two bounties including one for busting November Niner Jason Senti. Jason Alexander got his hands dirty when he sent Ali Eslami packing, but Costanza didn't last very long and busted out soon after. Jen Tilly took out Vanessa Rousso, but she then got picked off by Annette Obrestad.

The Grinder was the first player to win an entire table, and he collected four boutnies for busing Jon Aguiar, Vanessa Selbst, Shannon Shorr, and Chance Kornuth. Tom Marchese deafeated Ronnie Bardah heads up to win the second table. Also winning their respective tables were Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin (defeating Antonio Esfiandari heads-up), Clint Coffee (defeating Justin Bonomo heads-up), and Justin Young (knocking out Scott Montgomery heads-up, with Montgomery's lady friend Annette15 on the rail keeping a close eye on her boy toy).

In Flight B, Bobby Bellande was the first player to bust out, just nine minutes into the first level. On a board of Kh-Qc-3c-3h-5d, Jon Little shoved on the river with Ks-Kc and induced a call from Bellande, who held Ac-Qs. A visibly pissed Bellande shook his head and he knew he made the wrong read. Bellande departed as Little collected his bounty button. Every player has a bounty button with the PokerStars logo and an actual photo of themselves. When they bust out, they ship the button to their executioner.

I wondered if Bellande headed up to the second floor for a little relaxation therapy? You know what, I'm really not supposed to talk about what goes on upstairs behind closed doors. We already got hushed in media row for even broaching the subject.

Bellande was seated on the TV table with a very quiet Chris Moneymaker, Phil Hellmuth, Liv Boeree, Shaun Deeb, Jon Little, and Ben Lamb. Hellmuth was elegantly dressed, enough that he impressed fashionista Change100.

"Hellmuth actually looks classy today," remarked Change100.

Hellmuth wore a black jacket with elbow patches. He almost looked like a college prof. For all of you UB conspiracy nuts, Hellmuth was NOT wearing a single UB logo. He wore his PH logo'd hat and the only visible patch/logo was on his chest as he pimped out the WSOP Academy. Yep, UB and Hellmuth are in the middle of a power struggle. The story I've pieced together is this: Hellmuth left UB weeks ago because they didn't show him the money. He stopped wearing logos, but they are still trying to come to terms with an agreement. Until then, he's an unaffiliated man. I dunno if PokerStars would ever want to sign Hellmuth, but he could easily be snatched up by Full Tilt. But would Hellmuth's ego want that? Or rather want him in a much smaller pond where he's the biggest dog? In that case, UB was ideal for him. Who knows where he ends up? I'm sure the Grinder's buddy who owns the patio store would love to have Hellmuth pitching furniture.

Hellmuth busted out with 5 minutes to go in Level 2. He got it all in with K-10 against Liv Boeree's A-Q. Liv's hand held, Hellmuth was eliminated, and Liv collected his bounty button. Hellmuth took three steps away from the table, ripped off his microphone, then barked, "Can you get me a limo? I wanna head to airport. Immediately!"

"Get me the hell out of Compton!" one of the online kids yelled from the peanut gallery amidst a cluster of laughter.

They might have been joking, but something went down later that evening when word got out that someone was ejected from the casino for fighting with another patron. It must have been one wicked bad beat in the Bingo Hall to cause two people came to blows. Then again, who knows if anyone has been knocking back Four Lokos in the parking lot before they stumbled in to play Bingo.

* * * * *

By the way, here's who advanced to the final table of the Bounty Shootout:
NAPT Los Angeles $5,000 Bounty Shootout Final Table:
Seat 1: Justin Young
Seat 2: The Grinder
Seat 3: Clint Coffee
Seat 4: Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin
Seat 5: Tom Marchese
Seat 6: Moshin Charania
Seat 7: David Williams
Seat 8: Kevin MacPhee
Seat 9: Pat Pezzin
The Shootout final table will resume Thursday at 2pm. Winner gets over $130,000.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NAPT Los Angeles Main Event Final Table Moved from Bike to Crystal Casino in Compton

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The final table of the NAPT Los Angeles will be played out at the Crystal Casino in Compton on Wednesday at 2pm. Much of the assumption going into the NAPT LA was that the final table would be played out at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, since that's where the tournament began on Friday. The official statement about the new location of the final table was released on Tuesday afternoon. The powers to be are calling it a "venue change", which is a fancy PR term for switcheroo.

I guess you can file this under breaking news, although there were whispers and rumors about the final table being played out in Compton began swirling around the Bike last weekend. The reasoning for the venue change is obvious -- the Bike has a contract with the WPT, which gives the WPT an exclusivity for televised poker tournaments at the Bike. Well, the loophole that the NAPT found was to start the tournament start and then end up at the Crystal Casino in Compton, where they do not have any exclusive contracts with the WPT.

When a televised $5,000 Bounty Shootout at the Crystal Casino was added to the schedule two weeks before the NAPT LA kicked off, all anyone could talk about was the fact that it was in Compton. Shootout in Compton. Sure, it's lazy and cheap joke, but that's what anyone was talking about. The schedule mentioned that the Shootout would start on Tuesday and the final table would be played out on Thursday. That should have been a "tell" that the Main Event final table could, at least in theory, be played out on the TV set since it was scheduled for Wednesday and that the top-notch crew at 441 Productions already constructed a final table stage/set for the Shootout.

I dunno what happened exactly behind the scenes but for now, the Crystal Casino has become a remote TV set for the NAPT Los Angeles, filming both the Shootout and the final table of the Main Event.

OK, so here's who advanced to the final table...
NAPT Los Angeles - Main Event Final Table Players & Chip Counts
Seat 1: Jake Toole - 1,975,000
Seat 2: Joe Tehan - 1,907,000
Seat 3: Mike Binger - 1,670,000
Seat 4: Anh Van Nguyen - 1,058,000
Seat 5: Jason Mercier - 3,800,000
Seat 6: Al Grimes - 982,000
Seat 7: Ray Henseon - 3,268,000
Seat 8: Christopher DeMaci - 6,283,000

NAPT LA - Main Event Final Table Payouts:
1st - $725,000
2nd - $440,000
3rd - $250,000
4th - $195,000
5th - $145,000
6th - $114,000
7th - $84,857
8th - $60,000
Follow along with the action at 2pm Wednesday over at PokerStarsBlog with coverage from three of the best scribes in poker: Otis, Howard, and Change100. I almost forgot about Joe Giron, one of the best photogs in the industry, helping tell the story with his exquisite photos.

Shootout in Compton; NAPT Los Angeles Bounty Shootout Begins Today

By Pauly
Compton, CA

Straight out of Compton...

Yes, action for the NAPT Los Angeles moved to the Crystal Casino in Compton, CA for the $5,000 Bounty Shootout. There will be two flights in the Shootout (five tables start at 11am and four tables start at 6pm), which was capped at 81 players. The nine single-table winners will earn $20,000 for advancing to the final table -- which will be played out Thursday.

Bounties are worth $1,000. The player with the most bounties will also win a seat into the 2011 PCA's 5K Bounty Shootout. The field is stacked, which is why it's a televised event. 441 Productions is here filming the Shootout.
FLIGHT A - 11am

Featured TV Table (aka Table #3):
Seat 1: Jennifer Tilly
Seat 2: Scott Seiver
Seat 3: Greg DeBora
Seat 4: Ronnie Bardah
Seat 5: Dan Shak
Seat 6: Annette Obrestad
Seat 7: Andrew Robl
Seat 8: Tom Marchese
Seat 9: Vanessa Rousso

Table #1:
Seat 1: Sam Stein
Seat 2: Scott Montgomery
Seat 3: Pat Walsh
Seat 4: Andy Frankenberger
Seat 5: Greg FBT Mueller
Seat 6: Justin Young
Seat 7: Scott Clements
Seat 8: E-Fro
Seat 9: Will Reynolds

Table #2:
Seat 1: Sorel Mizzi
Seat 2: McLean Karr
Seat 3: Clint Coffee
Seat 4: ElkY
Seat 5: Marcello Del Grosso
Seat 6: Andy Seth
Seat 7: Olivier Busquet
Seat 8: Faraz Jaka
Seat 9: Justin Bonomo

Table #4:
Seat 1: The Grinder
Seat 2: Chance Kornuth
Seat 3: Shannon Shorr
Seat 4: Jason Senti
Seat 5: Aaron Gustavson
Seat 6: Tyson Marks
Seat 7: Jonathan Aguiar
Seat 8: Lauren Kling
Seat 9: Vanessa Selbst

Table #5:
Seat 1: Jason Alexander
Seat 2: David "ODB" Baker
Seat 3: Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin
Seat 4: Tom Koral
Seat 5: Antonio Esfandiari
Seat 6: Matt Woodward
Seat 7: Aaron Jones
Seat 8: Ali Eslami
Seat 9: Chad Brown

* * * * *

FLIGHT B - 6pm

Table #1:
Seat 1: Joe Cheong
Seat 2: Matt Keikoan
Seat 3: Matt Affleck
Seat 4: Jared Jaffee
Seat 5: Adam Junglen
Seat 6: Nacho Barbero
Seat 7: David Williams
Seat 8: Isaac Haxton
Seat 9: Frank Kassela

Table #2:
Seat 1: Bob Lauria
Seat 2: Daniel Negreanu
Seat 3: Barry Greenstein
Seat 4: Phil Laak
Seat 5: Alex Keating
Seat 6: Brett Richey
Seat 7: Pat Pezzin
Seat 8: Darus Suharto
Seat 9: Tim Begley

Table #3:
Seat 1: Aurel Bogdan
Seat 2: Todd Terry
Seat 3: Dan Suied
Seat 4: Victor Ramdin
Seat 5: Hasan Habib
Seat 6: Michael Pesek
Seat 7: Dan Woodward
Seat 8: Chad Batista
Seat 9: Moshin Charania

Featured TV Table (Table #4):
Seat 1: Jonathan Little
Seat 2: Nick Binger
Seat 3: Ben Lamb
Seat 4: Shaun Deeb
Seat 5: Jean-Robert Bellande
Seat 6: Chris Moneymaker
Seat 7: Phil Hellmuth
Seat 8: Liv Boeree
Seat 9: Kevin MacPhee
You should follow PokerStarsBlog for updates on the Shootout. I'll be do some tweeting (@taopauly) from Compton, along with dropping random NWA lyrics.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, the NAPT Los Angeles Main Event is still raging at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, which seems like a paradise compared to Compton. The Main Event has 19 players remaining with Christopher Demaci playing the role as the chipleader. They will play down to a final table of eight today. Eventual champion wins $725,000.
NAPT Los Angeles Main Event - Day 4 Chip Counts:
Christopher Demaci - 3,783,000
Micah Raskin - 2,310,000
Jason Mercier - 2,150,000
Michael Binger - 2,026,000
Jacob Toole - 1881000
Joe Tehan - 1,250,000
Jimmie Guinther - 1,098,000
Anh Van Nguyen - 834,000
Anthony Nardi - 800,000
Jonathan Gagnon-Villeneuve - 711,000
Carlos Watanabe - 678,000
Joseph Melancon - 660,000
George Lind III - 538,000
Matt Affleck - 447,000
Al Grimes - 429,000
Thomas Young - 390,000
Carl Beliveau - 348,000
Ray Henson - 326,000
Alan Myerson - 317,000
Click here for a table/seat draw for Day 4. Don't forget to follow PokerStarsBlog for those updates.

Tuesday Nugs: Poro Report, Amy Calistri's Lost Vegas Review, Fixing WSOP Ratings, Olliewood Wins Season 2 of SWDP, and Tao of Bacon

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's Tuesday and I've been sick the last few days with the Vegas crud. I always get sick after I cover the November Nine. Not enough time/energy to write, so here's a few links to kill some brain cells with...
How to Fix the WSOP Ratings Problem? is a must read and one of the best pieces of constructive criticism I've seen about how to cover the Main Event from the TV angle. Well done, gents, well done. (Wicked Chops Poker)

Thanks to Amy Calistri for a warm fuzzy review of Lost Vegas. Reading the manuscript caused groovy flashbacks for Amy and she shared her thoughts on what it was like to be a member of the poker media in the immediate years after the poker boom, especially in 2005, which she dubbed the poker media's "Summer of Love." (Aimlessly Chasing Amy)

Let Their Hearts Rule Their Heads is an eloquent piece by Vicky Coren about how professional poker is slowly becoming on honorably choice of professions. (The Guardian)

My favorite breaking poker news site is the Poro Report. Poker finally has its own Drudge Report. Well done, chaps. (Poro Report)

Sorry for the lack of updates in regard to Sundays with Dr. Pauly on Fantasy Sports Live. You should check out the FSL blog because that's where you can find weekly updates and an overall standings. Season 2 of Sundays with Dr. Pauly is complete and Olliewood took it down and locked up a seat in the TOC. My brother Derek, playing under HermWarfare, won Season 1. The third and final season starts this Sunday and will run for five weeks (NFL Weeks 11-15). Feel free to join us. Click here for rules and more information on Sundays with Dr. Pauly. If you don't have a FSL account, you can sign up for a FSL account today. Funding your account is easy -- just use your credit card. It's 100% legal in the US. (Fantasy Sports Live Blog)

Do you like the Simpsons? Fan of Goodfellas? Then check out Goodfellas at Moe's a remix of the infamous "shine box" scene from Goodfellas featuring some of your favorites from the Simpys. (Tao of Pauly)

Bacon freaks rejoice. Tao of Bacon has been updated! And I officially own TaoBacon.com. Bookmark that juicy nugget for future food porn viewing. (Tao of Bacon)
That's it. You know what's up next... NGTFOOMO!

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Limp-Check-Reraise" and "thejackstraw" Dominate Tao of Poker's November Nine Pool and Win Autographed Copies of Lost Vegas

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Congrats to Limp-Check-Reraise (EasyCure) and thejackstraw (D. Brown) for taking down the Tao of Poker's November Nine Fantasy Pool that was hosted on ESPN's Poker Pick'em contest. Those guys faded a field of 92 strong to each win an autographed copy of Lost Vegas. Man, I announced this contest at the last moment and much much later than I did last year, so thanks to so many of you for signing up on the day before the November Nine.

I already know EasyCure and shipped out his copy, but I don't know thejackstraw aka D. Brown. If that happens to be you, please shoot me an email to claim your prize!

I didn't do so hot with only 9 correct picks out of 20. My pool was Joe Cheong-heavy, so when he busted in third place, I knew that I was toast. Once again, great job to Limp-Check-Reraise (EasyCure) and thejackstraw (D. Brown) for going 14-6.
Tao of Poker's November Nine Pool - Top 10 Finishers:
1 Limp-Check-Reraise (E. Preedin) - 14
1 thejackstraw (D. Brown) - 14
3 JGJBL2007 (J. Mangis) - 13
3 alexwarner87 (A. Warner) - 13
3 GillyGator (G. Wolchock) - 13
3 bunkerz (r. lee) - 13
3 herly33 (S. Herlickson) - 13
3 hozzleshank (K. Darbyson) - 13
3 irongirl01 (L. Christina) - 13
3 hazey88 (A. Hayes) - 13

For complete standings, visit the pool's home page.
Don't forget that you can also follow @LostVegasBook on Twitter.

Lost Vegas is the perfect stocking stuffer, so get a jump on your Christmas shopping and pick up a copy now.

The e-book version of Lost Vegas is currently available for $10. At the moment, only PDFs copies of the e-book are available. All of you iPad and Apple nerds are gonna have to wait a another week or so before my publisher gets around to creating an iPub version. My apologies.

Monday Morning Nuggets: Ali Tekintamgac Partouche DQ, Maria Ho Joins UB, James Frey's Sweatshop, and Prince Funk

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's been a while since I offered up some juicy nuggets of information for y'all. In honor of this lovely Monday morning, here are a few items that should keep you content for a while, especially a batch of new (yet old) music to help lift your spirits at the onset of the week.
Another shootout at an underground poker game. This time, it turned deadly when guns went blazing at an warehouse in Anderson County, SC. (Pokerati)

If you haven't heard the recent sponsorship news... for the last couple of years Maria Ho was considered as one of the better and most marketable female players without a sponsorship. But that's not the case anymore because Maria Ho is joining UB in yet another attempt to help clean up their controversial image after the superuser scandal that nearly destroyed the legitimacy and respectability of online poker. (Wicked Chops Poker)

If you can read French, then check out Benjo's take on the recent cheating scandal, Affaire Tekintamgac in Europe, where Ali Tekintamgac got disqualified from the final table of Grand Final of the Partouche Poker Tour because he used "faux poker media" to stand inside the ropes and help tip off opponents hands to him.. Shamus wrote (in English) a two-part series on the scandal titled No Cannes Do (Part 1 and Part 2). (Off the Record, Hard-Boiled Poker)

Most of you already knew that author James Frey was sketchy. Now word is out about the horrendous conditions in his publishing sweatshop where writers are bound to immoral contracts. In short, they do all the work while Frey gets all the money and credit. He's currently trying to exploit the youth adult market (one of the few sections of consumers that actually buy books) with an rip-off version of "Twilight" -- instead of vampires, he's replacing them as aliens living among brooding teens. Writers from Ivy League and other top MFA programs are selling their souls as indentured slaves in Frey's sweatshop, where they get paid $250 to write a book (half up front, half upon completion). $250 to write a book? Are you fucking kidding me? But that's what happens when people will do anything to get ahead or become famous. Shit, Frey should branch out into poker, because the James Frey Problem is already rampant in poker media. (New York Magazine, Maureen Johnson Books)

I have an amazing music collection mainly because my friends tip me off to new, obscure, and forgotten about musicians and bands. The Joker came through in the clutch once again with a blast from the past -- Prince funk. Seriously, how about some delicious slice of funk to liven up your Monday? Let's flashback to 1977 when Prince was a 19-year old aspiring musician and he busted out some serious funk with a few other musicians during the Loring Park Sessions. (Coventry Music)

I wrote a short story titled Hot August Night. I might of pimped it before, but I have no shame plugging it again for the recently published November issue. (Truckin')
OK, you know the drill. NGTFOOMO!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dispatches from NAPT Los Angeles: Meatsticks and Spoons

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sometimes poker pros are great actors and playing a fabricated and carefully concocted role for the cameras. Other times, what you see is what you get. Phil Laak? He is who he is.

Photo by Joe Giron
Courtesy of PokerStars Blog

I still haven't figured out Laak. My best (and most plausible) theory is that he's an alien. There's really no other way to explain his peculiar behavior that often times seems so ordinary.

So when Change100 walked over to me on Day 1B of the NAPT Los Angeles at the Bike and said, "You wouldn't believe what Phil Laak is doing right now...he spread out silly putty on the edge of the poker table and he's punching holes in it with a wooden spoon."

"He's either bored or the mushrooms just kicked in," I responded.

For Laak, his range of weirdness knows no bounds. In the last few months, he stayed up for like four days straight playing poker, cheated death after an ATV accident, won a bracelet in Europe, and now he's tripping balls at the Bike. He has to be extra-terrestrial. How else could you explain those super-human feats?

Day 1s are usually boring affairs and multi-opening flights are tough to endure because you have deja-vu moments every few minutes. So if Laak wanted to putz around with sticks and putty to keep things interesting, then so be it. At one point Laak hijacked one of the candy carts and navigated the cart through the tables as the perplexed candy girl didn't know what to make of the dude in the hoodie, wool hat and aviator sunglasses.

Day 1B attracted 371 players for 701 total runners at the NAPT LA. The price pool topped $3.2 million with $725K set aside for the winner, with 104 places getting paid. A total of 314 survived the cut and advanced to Day 2.

I've covered tournaments all over the world. Some things are universal, while it's the little things that make one event stand out from the rest. What will I remember about the NAPT LA? Meat on a stick in the players' lounge. The most effective way to win over any disgruntled and hard-to-please group is to offer them up free booze and free meat on a stick. In fact, PokerStars only had to placate us with a singular meat on a stick, however, they went the extra distance provided a choice between two different types of meat. Meatsticks, fresh seafood, and free drinks will earn yourself a couple of friends for life.

A couple of swarthy looking guys walked into the tournament area and made a beeline for the middle of the tournament room. They weren't looking for trouble, and instead took photos of Shannon Elizabeth. It occurred to me that they were the guys who had sponsored her into this event and stopped by to keep tabs on her progress. I gotta say, I never heard of her sponsor before. During the WSOP, she was touting Carbon Poker, but in the last few years she's run the gauntlet of online poker rooms.

The Grinder was another November Niner who made it to LA on Day 1B. John Dolan and Jason Senti were also in the field. The Grinder didn't last very long and departed after he ran Kings into Aces. He shrugged it off like a Zen master, "There's always another tournament."

Carl Olson sighting. I hadn't seen him in a while, and he sported a mustache. He looked like a cop. Olson has the most Scandi-sounding name for a non-Scandi. Speaking of Scandis, I thought that Soren Konsgaard was the token Scandi in the field on Day 1B, but Kim Frederiksen came out of nowhere late in the day to snag the overall lead. On Day 1A, Andreas Hoivold was the TSIGHWPMH (token Scandi in garish hoodie with perfectly messy hair).

Random orphaned sentences/notes from my notepad: Eskimo Clark wandered like a sad puppy on both Day 1s.... One dude got removed from the tournament area because he had a restraining order against him.... Jen Tilly happily bought a copy of Lost Vegas and said she has a massive collection of old gambling books. Honored that my scribblings made it into her extensive libray.... All of the massage girls wear orange and white t-shirts.... Foiled Coup made a cameo. Good to see him. We thought he was dead. Of course, he pointed out his "Hot Asian Du Jour."

That's all I got for now. For live updates of Day 2 from three of the best scribes in the business (Otis, Howard, Change100), visit PokerStarsBlog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dispatches from NAPT Los Angeles: Moneymaker Survives the Cut, Meat on a Stick, and the Ice Cream Man Cometh

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Remember this guy?

Photo by Joe Giron; Courtesy of PokerStarsBlog

Chris Moneymaker is one of the reasons I finally got paid as a writer after struggling for a decade trying to catch a break. The poker boom created jobs for many creative types like myself. I've made a decent living poker the last six plus years and had the benefit of visit a dozen countries I would have never been to otherwise.

Moneymaker was among the 330 players who walked into the events center at the Bicycle Casino on Friday for the start of the NAPT Los Angeles. The 2003 World Champion, unshaven and clad in a hoodie and sweat pants, took his seat at a table not too far from press row. Moneymaker was not exactly thrilled with his table draw that included Hungarian cash game legend Richard Toth and a couple of supreme online mercenaries in Ryan "g0lfa" D'Angelo and Alec "traheho" Torelli. Despite the high-caliber opposition Moneymaker survived the cut and advanced to Day 2.

Moneymaker wasn't the only one who had a stacked table on Day 1A. The field at the NAPT LA is anything but a pushover. I scanned the list on online qualifiers and almost 50% of those were recognizable internet pros. The NAPT LA attracted talented local players and online grinders, not to mention the usual cast of pros on the traveling circuit and the Vegas-based pros who made the quick trip to play in this event.

The majority of PokerStars Team Pros (Greg Raymer and Barry Greenstein to name two) fell to the wayside on Day 1A. Only Moneymaker, Chad Brown and Jason Mercier made it to Day 2. The latest addition to Team PokerStars, Liv Boeree, fizzled out early. Vanessa Selbst, fresh off her victory at on the Partocuhe Poker Tour (in France's version of the November Nine), also failed to string together a run in LA. She hit the rail when her A-K ran into Aces.

When I think about LA card rooms, the aroma of Korean BBQ quickly comes to mind. If you've never been to an LA card room, one of their claims to fame is the ability to get food delivered to the table -- and at the Bike the food is not only inexpensive, but it's pretty damn good. Greg Raymer took advantage of the "curbside dining" and chowed down on a delicious bowl of ice cream. The breakfast burrito in the deli is packed with bacon, eggs, and cheese and less than $4. You can add your own jalapenos. Luckily, I got access to the player's lounge out back that included free wine and beer, and also served up sushi and random meats on a stick. Wanna win over poker players? Meat. On. A. Stick.

There's also a tiny Asian woman pushing around the candy cart inside the tournament area Too bad they don't have someone pushing around samples of California's finest medicinal marijuana. Someday if Prop 19 passes, perhaps we can get table side delivery of OG Kush. Or maybe that is just a pipe dream. By the way, parts of the tournament room reeked like it was the hallway of a Phish concert. A couple of online kids were holding some skunky ass buds. Next time, don't be shy -- I love to trade nugs.

A couple of November Niners, fresh off the pinnacle of their "15 minutes of fame" were in the field at the NAPT LA including Matt Jarvis and SoCal locals Joe Cheong (everyone is still talking about the six-bet shove with A-7) and Soi Nguyen. Newly crowned champ Jonathan Duhamel is being a good company man hitting up the press junket in his home country of Canada. Duhamel was absent from the NAPT festivities. For now, he's the face man for Stars an integral part of their "Where the champions play" shtick. But, in a short time he'll be the monkey with the grinder, just like Moneymaker and Raymer, and they'll ship him off to exotic lands to promote Stars. Scott Montgomery, one of the original November Niners, was present with his new lady friend, Annette Obrestad. Annette busted out early when her Kings were snapped off by Isaac Haxton's A-Q. She was among the handful of Full Tilt pros who bought in. Phil Ivey? He couldn't pull himself away from nosebleed cash games at the Aria in Vegas to get to LA in time to play in this event.

A random Eurodonk recognized Matt Affleck, who was sporting an old school Seattle Supersonics hoops jersey. The Euro rushed up to Affleck and shouted: "I know you! Saw you on TV. You looked so sad when you lost that hand." Affleck handled the encounter like a true champ and shrugged it off. Me? I would have slugged the Eurodonk for bringing up one of the worst bad beats of my life.

Men the Master lives right down the street and didn't miss up an opportunity to play a 5K tournament in his backyard. The old school pros know about Men's murky past, but he's not very popular among the newer generation of players either. The internet savvy twenty-somethings did their due diligence and swapped their own stories about Men's angle shooting and other inappropriate shady behavior. Men didn't last very long on Day 1A. The quote of the day came from one of the online grinders: "Men just busted, but they wouldn't let him buy back in with his own set of chips."

Out of 330 runners on Day 1A, 147 players advanced to Day 2. Since Day 1B is on a Saturday, numbers are expected to surge past 400. For live updates from three of the best scribes in the business, visit PokerStarsBlog.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NAPT Los Angeles Kicks Off Today at the Bike

By Pauly
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.