Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dispatches from the PCA: Divided Sky

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Paradise Island, Bahamas. It's hard to write every morning when you wake up hungover to all hell and snap off a half of a codeine before you even open your eyelids, just to be able to function and crawl across the room to sip on a $6 bottle of water. The TV was left on to a local channel that I dubbed the "Dead People Channel" because it broadcast ads for recently deceased locals. "Religious" wouldn't be the correct wording, rather "spiritual" seems to be the best way to describe the locals. Call if a deep-rooted faith in Catholicism brought over by Spanish missionaries centuries ago, or some sort of Anglican derivative influenced by the British colonialists, not to mention a few dabblers into an offshoot of Haitian voodoo, where the Ghede rules over the contrasting aspects of fertility and death.

When my father was a broke college student in the 1950s, he and his buddies would read the local newspapers in search of funerals to crash. Irish last names were a lock for an open bar with two chances to drink at the wake and again the next day after the funeral. Flash forward 60 years later and I was scanning the local TV station for funeral announcements, which displayed photos of the deceased along with specific times and locations of the funeral services. It would be intriguing to crash a Bahamian funeral, but not for the free booze, rather to experience the spiritual flavor of the islands. Nothing is more stimulating to me than the presence of death. After being surrounded by the fabricated cheeriness of the tropical paradise called Atlantis, I felt as though I needed to get off the island and hop over to one of the locals' islands to witness a dose of death/revival in order to peek into the true side of humanity.

OK, that's not necessarily true, after all, I was on a vacation and not really there for an existential expedition. It's hard to question the whys of the universe when digging your toes into the white granules of sand while chugging a fruity rum concoction. But I definitely considered sitting in a sweltering hot church for a local funeral instead of standing on the rail sweating Change100's run on Day 2 of the PCA Ladies Event. It's no secret that I feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed at any Ladies Only events because I'm getting thousands of daggers shot at me from evil glances from the players, many of whom on principle hate men, not to mention a slew of female players who think I'm an asshole because my writing glorifies misogyny and the poor treatment of women by condoning prostitution and promoting stripping. If you don't believe me, I should show you some of my hate mail.

Yes, now you know why I wanted to crash a Bahamian funeral. The prospects sounded like a lot more fun. No one wants to be in a place where they are not wanted, yet that's what I walked into.

"Get the fuck out!" jokingly shouted Maridu on Day 1.

Brazilian Team Pro Maria "Maridu" Mayrinck and I are friends and go way back to the 2006 WSOP when she was shooting a documentary film. We fall into "it's a small world" category because she went to high school in Manhattan down the street from mine. On Friday night as the opening day of the Ladies event reached the Midnight hour, Maridu kicked me out of the vast tournament room. Heck, I wasn't even close to her table where she sat to Change100's right. I stood at least a few tables over and chatted away with my buddy and fellow author, Storms Reback. I actively attempted to avoid becoming who I loathed the most -- the annoying drunk guy on the rail wanting a chip count every five fucking minutes. I kept my distance and hung out with Storms while we caught up on life and future writing assignments. I knew that Change100 didn't like railbirds so early in the tournament, so I maintained a safe distance -- so I thought. My lil sis Mo was still alive too, and I stopped by her table to watch her play against the legendary Kathy Liebert. Mo held her own against the consummate professional and was genuinely excited when she described winning a pot against Kathy.

Although Change100 couldn't see me, Maridu spotted me mucking it up with Storms in the corner. Maridu's voice is distinct with an almost perfect East Coast American accent and just a hint (2%) of a Brazilian spice. It boomed over the clattering of chips.

"Get the fuck out, Doct-ah," she screamed and pointed at Change100. "You stay away... she wins pots. You come in here... she loses pots."

Apparently Change100 had surged to the head of the pack until I walked in the room. As I sipped my pink cocktail in a plastic cup (I should add that the security guards were mostly sitting down and not looking too authoritative, unless you stumbled into the tournament room with any sort of glass in your hand, and then and only then they quickly pounced and kindly asked that you poured whatever booze you were consuming into a plastic Atlantis cup), and I tried not to spill it on me. Nothing is worse than a sloppy drunk on the rail and that's the territory where I was headed. Ah ha, then Maridu 86'd me before I could get really obnoxiously drunk.

"You better go," warned Storms.

He was correct. No one wants to be on the shit list of a pissed-off Brazilian. Besides, if I was being a cooler to my girlfriend, then it was probably wise that I fled the scene. I took up refuge in the Coral Lobby Bar, where behind every nook and cranny you could find an online regular holed up in a makeshift grind station, usually within 5-10 feet of a power outlet. The writers and international media who were done with their shift all sat at the same table. They were amidst a gambling frenzy on the last bits of their per diem. Ah, one of the negatives about having the itch to gamble while binge drinking is that you might get stuck with a hefty tab while playing the Bahamanian version of credit card roulette -- each drinker tossed their room keys onto the waiter's tray, then the waiter fished out one by one, eliminating the lucky drinker from having to pay for that entire round, and once the waiter had a single room key left, that unfortunate sot who owned said key got stuck with the round -- which could have been anywhere in upwards of fourteen cocktails. No wonder some of my colleagues ran out of per diem more than half way through the trip. For poorly paid writers, that's as high-stakes as we're going to get. At the rapid rate of rum and whiskey consumption from that crew, some of them were going to actually lose money on the assignment with their salary going to cover their exorbitant tabs from the Coral Lobby Bar. And yes, the rumors were true. In order to improve service, the Atlantis assigned a personal bar manager to the media. He followed them around from bar to bar expediting drink orders and facilitating rounds of Bahamian room key roulette.

While I sat with my colleagues pounding pink bombs of spiced rum, they were all curious about Change100's progress. We considered migrating to the tournament room, but the last thing I wanted to do was lead a charge of rowdy drunks into the room to hoot and holler on the rail. For the few left in the field who hated me, that would give them even more reason to think that I'm a jerkoff. Instead, I snuck back into the room for an update and hoped that I wouldn't draw the ire of Maridu. Upon my arrival, I noticed that she was gone. Change100 snagged the chiplead after busting Maridu in the biggest pot of the tournament. Maridu had her Kings snapped off by a runner-runner flush.

I learned that they were going to wrap up play around 1am and I quickly left. Maridu was right because Change100 played better when I wasn't in the room. I returned to the bar. When play was suspended at the end of Day 1, only 16 ladies remained including Change100 (chipleader) and Mo (short stack).

Upon her arrival at the Coral Lobby Bar, Change100 got plenty of congrats from her peers and friends. They were all gushing and hyper excited about her run. If they were all sober, they would have been a lot less vocal about her holding the lead in hopes of not jinxing anything, but with the booze flowing they tossed all forms of superstition out the window and they acted as though like she had already won it. If anything, we raged hard with a cause to celebrate, that is everyone except Change100 who kept her Bahama Mama consumption in check to insure that she did not wake up the next morning with a throbbing headache.

Nope, that was my job. Morning headaches in the Bahamas are a given. By Saturday morning, I had almost gotten used to waking up for a third day in a row with a wicked hangover. It's all that excess sugar in the rum and fruit punch that makes the dehydration even worse, hence the pounding headaches that make you want to crawl up in a ball and die, unless you quickly jump back on the horse and start drinking rum again, where as the hangover begins to let up and you return to a near-nirvana state of inebriation. Yes, to avoid hangovers in the Bahamas, you have to continuously drink.

Luckily, I have a friend who is an amazing chef and whipped up a batch of special cookies for the excursion in the Bahamas. Let me tell ya, the Atlantis should sell groovy edibles to their highly toxic rum-infused patrons because it will instantly cure any symptoms of any hangover, and thereby allow them to drink more booze. I only nibbled on a half of a cookie because any more would make me fall over and cause a ruckus on the rail. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass my girlfriend even further, so I moderated my special cookie intake and only sipped the fruity drinks instead of pounding them like the night before.

I also had a major sweat on the NFL playoff games. Saturday's action included Green Bay in Atlanta and Baltimore playing in Pittsburgh. I made a play in the Balt/Pitt game with a small moneyline bet and a huge bet +3.5. I somehow managed to persuade one of the staff members to put the game on one of the big screens in the tournament room so I can sweat both the game and my girlfriend playing in Day 2's re-start of the Ladies Event. I spent the majority of the time divided between the tournament and my eyes locked onto the TV screen. If you didn't know any better, it looked like I was just gazing up at the sky.

The tournament was very stressful because I knew how much Change100 really didn't want me there until it reached the final table, and I hate not being able to control the outcome of events, especially when the Ladies Event slowed down as played approached the money bubble. Unfortunately, Mo was the first one out and lost with a race to finish in 16th place. They had not reached the money yet (the final table of 8 paid out) when the Balt/Pitt game kicked off. In order to stave off any anxiety about the tournament, I threw most of my sweat energy into the football game.

"Did she win a big pot?" asked Storms.

He walked over to me and noticed that I was pumping my fist.

"I have no clue, but Baltimore just scored a TD."

Baltimore expanded their lead to 21-7. At that point, Change100 had lost the lead to Rikki Lake's stack in excess of 200K. But Lake took a hit in a hand against Lauren Kling, which propelled Kling to near the front with Change100.

When the broadcast for the PCA Main Event final table got underway, I lost the ability to watch the football game inside the tournament room and they aired the final table feed instead. I popped up to my room to publish a Twitter update and check the score. As soon as I left the tournament area, Change100 won a decisive three-way pot to re-take the chiplead. She also knocked out two players on the bubble. When I returned to the tournament room, six players remained and Change100 sat on the lead. I hung out on the rail with Jen Shahade and Daniel, not to mention a gaggle of random media friends who hovered nearby.

The rest of the tournament and evening was a bit of the blur. Apocalyptic anxiety took over and discomfort ensued with the nervous energy that I unleashed with every hand that was dealt. The cookie hit me harder than I thought and the booze intake increased from sipping to heartily drinking to pounding as the night wore on. The football game eventually got tied at 21 all, meanwhile Change100 found herself in a heads-up battle with Lauren Kling.

Two big moments were on the cusp of resolution -- the bet on the game and the conclusion of the Ladies Event. It would be nice to say that I made a silent prayer to the gambling gods and humbly asked them to give whatever run good I had in me and transfer it over to Change100. But I didn't because she had increased her lead to almost 8-1. She definitely didn't need any of my help. She was on the verge of locking up the win. If anything, I was the one floundering and in desperate need of charity.

I never saw the touchdown from the Steelers which sunk my bets. Instead, I was silently screaming "Hold! Hold! Hold!" when Change100 got it all in with Q-Q against Lauren's pocket eights. The cards were a blur as the dealer dealt out the flop, then the turn. I couldn't see the river and instead watched Change100's angelic face. Her reaction told me the result. She took a couple of steps, embraced Lauren, and a tear trickled down the side of her cheek. The tears swelled when she finally found me and ran over to the rail. I whispered something to the effect of, "I love you dearly. I'm proud of you. Enjoy your moment."

That's when I stepped back into the crowd of media and well wishers. I snuck away to find the final score of the Balt/Pitt game. Alas... I had lost. Normally being on the shit end of a losing streak is one of the most depressing feelings that a gambler can experience. I can't think of any instance when the pains of losing were diffused and thwarted. I should say that was until Change100 shipped the PCA Ladies Event because the brilliant joys of her surreal victory were enough to numb the sanguine agony of defeat.

Congrats to Change100 for an amazing and inspiring run. I'm glad that I skipped the funeral and hung out to watch the tournament. She thinks that all this was supposed to happen. How can I argue against that?

* * * * *

If you haven't read the initial installment of Dispatches from the PCA: You Enjoy Myself , then I encourage you to do so. In addition, I wrote a bit more about the wild weekend in the Bahamas over at the Tao of Pauly in a post titled The Ramblings of the Bahamas: Sweet T'ings.

Also, check out Change100's two-part stunning recap of the PCA Ladies Event... Beyond the Fairy Tale, Part 1 and Part 2.

1 comment:

  1. congrats to your lady, and by transference, to you.

    I was in the Aria sportsbook for that Pit-BAL game. talk about sigmas. it was IMPOSSIBLE for BAl to not cover that game, even when it was tied with 2 minutes left. all they had to do was not give up an 80 yard bomb... and yet...