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.

1 comment:

  1. Spaceman8:34 PM

    <span>Jason Alexander got his hands dirty when he sent Ali Eslami packing, but Costanza didn't last very long and busted out soon after.</span>

    Makes me wonder which is worse for Eslami - being busted by Costanza or just barely squeaking out a win against a poker-playing computer?