After a goodly amount of time spent searching for the hotel, Brian and I stepped out of the car and breathed in the air.
“Smells like New Jersey,” I said.
But I digress. I figured I’d hear “fuck you” as much as “thank you,” but people here are generally nice and so is the scenery. I have received a few honks as I wandered the roads, trying to figure out my way around. Once I blocked traffic momentarily at a toll booth as I fruitlessly tried to toss pennies, nickels, dimes and any change I could find into the toll basket. I may have tossed $2 in change to pay a 50 cent toll.
Our arrival in New Jersey was several days into a trip that saw us go south to Florida before hitting I-95 up the eastern seaboard. Our first stop was Orlando, where an old college friend works at Walt Disney World. She gave us free passes so we took advantage, hitting the Disney parks for two days.
I was delighted to play the new Who Wants to be a Millionaire game that was recently added to Disney-MGM Studios. I’ve always been a game show junkie. During college I watched the Game Show Network religiously, going to bed to Match Game and waking up to Card Sharks. When Millionaire aired on ABC I tried in vain to get on the show, qualifying at least 60 times through the call in number, but never receiving a call back.
So this seemed to be the second best thing. No money is given away at this game, but participants can win a Disney cruise if they climb to the top. The stage is built to closely resemble the real thing and about five hundred people can fit into it.
Each game lasts about 20 to 25 minutes and only two people will usually reach the hot seat. A keypad rests on the back of each chair so everyone can participate. Brian and I tested ours to make sure they were working and prepared for the fastest finger. It proved to be an easy question – put these four states in order from west to east – so it was a matter of speed. The big screens above our head showed the seat numbers and times from 10th to first. Brian popped up in ninth and I showed up in….second. Oh well, may as well have been last for all that got me.
The second hot seat participant is selected by high scores as the first person plays. You have to get all the questions right to have a chance and you also have to be the quickest. Since the first five questions are usually very easy, it’s a crapshoot to see who will be in the top 10. Neither Brian nor I succeeded in getting to the hot seat the first game.
But we came back. The second time was not the charm, but the third was. We both missed the fastest finger question, but after the girl in the hot seat hit the 1,000 point mark, the updated scores showed Brian in first. I whispered to him that I would help ensure he stayed that way. But Brian knew the answers to the next two questions and the girl missed the 4,000 one (she thought a slumping stock market was called a black market, go figure.) Brian had retained his lead and got in the seat.
He breezed through the first five questions, but got stumped on where a cornice was in a house, having to ask the audience to discover it was above a window. His undoing was the 16,000 question, which asked which of four countries was not a member of Great Britain.
If you like Millionaire on television, you’ll love playing this in Orlando. Don’t miss the Tower of Terror or the Rock ‘n Roller coaster either.
On Saturday, we went to Gainesville for the Florida-Tennessee game, teams that as Bama fans we both hate, but that’s not going to stop us from working the TV production and collecting a paycheck. I was able to catch brief moments of Bama’s dismantling of Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks, a delightful way to start the afternoon. Florida has a really nice press box, for those who are ever in such places.
Traffic was a bitch, and we didn’t get to Jacksonville until 3 a.m. Sunday morning. After five hours of shut eye we headed up I-95. It was a 13+ hour drive from Jacksonville to Atlantic City through hellacious traffic in D.C. and Baltimore. I don’t know why people want to live in a place where it can take an hour to go five miles in peak times. But hey, we Southerners are the dumb ones.
We drove to the Taj Mahal on Monday morning and I registered for the $300 + $40 limit hold’em tournament. They only had 344 players so first was only about $35,000. To the left of me initially was a friendly senior who called himself “Dr. Will.” He told me he was a retired surgeon who is often called upon to assist during any medical emergencies in the poker room. Apparently, he plays here a lot. Dr. Will said he contacted various agencies after Hurricane Katrina hit to offer his services, but was virtually ignored. I shook my head at the story, as I did again an hour later when he told me the exact same story. Two things were quickly obvious about Dr. Will – he likes to brag about his good deeds and he is extremely forgetful.
I was moved to another table where a guy in the center had a mountain of chips while I was just hanging on. He wore a cap that said “International Society of Poker Players” so I inquired what precisely that was. The man, Charlie Brahmi, told me it’s a fairly exclusive club for only winners of WPT and WSOP events. He won a bracelet in limit hold’em in 1999. Great, and now he’s at my table.
Once I got Charlie started he couldn’t stop, sharing his victories with all at the table. He said he’s made seven WSOP final tables, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. He recently played what he called a “billionaire” in a big tournament in A.C. and offered the guy the tournament bracelets in order to earn more money for himself.
“You only care about the money when you’ve got a mortgage and kids in college,” he told me.
I made the final 12 tables of the tournament before finally busting out. As I was explaining to Fell Knight online the other night, I’m becoming very good at finishing in the top third to one quarter of the field, which ain’t exactly profitable.
Brian and I went to Harrah’s on Tuesday to play their noon tournament. It has a super slow progressing structure, giving participants lots of play. The thing lasted about six hours and Brian came in fourth. It seems whenever he and I play a tournament together he always outlasts me. I took a chance with AK suited against pocket jacks and lost.
I really like Harrah’s poker room. It’s the classiest in town.
On Wednesday I drove Brian to the airport in Philadelphia. A one-way ticket was $200 cheaper there than flying out of AC. Unbelievable. But I didn’t mind the drive, and I stopped to visit Independence Hall and see the Liberty Bell while I was there (and as the pictures can attest.)
Today I’m going over to the Borgata to see the finals of the Borgata Poker Open so you’ll get an inside look on what it’s like to see a WPT final in person.