Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vegas Day 8

Thursday was a day that would leave a poker player bummed. I bombed out of three more satellites, two close to the win, and bubbled in the second chance tournament.

It was a busy day at the WSOP. There was the final of the limit tournament on the TV stage, the razz tournament next to that and the no-limit six-handed table tourney to the side. The last I heard, Doyle was the chip leader with about four tables remaining. ESPN has decided to televise this one too.

I saw Phil Hellmuth wallowing in the floor as I walked by the six-handed affair. I couldn't tell if he was doing yoga, pushups or was perhaps imitating a walrus flopping across rocks. Either way, my camera would not turn on in time and he got up when he saw me trying to take his picture.

A guy from Tuscaloosa I know flew into town just to play the razz event, but it sounded like he had the kind of luck I usually have at that horrible, wicked, horrible game. Or maybe it was Chau Giang sitting at the opposite end of the table that did him in.

Several of my Tuscaloosa poker compatriots have landed in Vegas. Hopefully we can take the town by storm. We sure didn't yesterday. Mark and I both entered the second chance tourney for $225. He could catch no cards, but I caught enough to build my stack from 1,000 to 8,000 at one point. I busted in 20th, however, when I was in the SB with QQ and had 6,000 chips left. A guy with 3,500 goes all in with A-10, button calls with A-Q, I re-raise all in and the button calls. The first card off the deck was the ace. If I win that hand, I have about 17,000, putting me among the chip leaders in the race for the first place prize of $14,000 and change. The top 18 paid out of about 225 entries.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Vegas Day 7 and Roy Cooke interview

Talked with Roy Cooke this morning. You Card Player readers know of whom I speak. Born in Atlanta, but raised in England and later Seattle, Cooke honed his card skills in Washington state card rooms. At the age of 26, he took off for Vegas to play professionally.

“Those were very enjoyable years,” Cooke said. “I brought the woman down from Washington who would become my wife (Misty) and we started a new life.”

Even though Cooke thoroughly enjoyed poker and played it very profitably, he decided to start a real estate business seven years after moving to town.

“I didn’t want poker to be my only source in life,” he said. “I didn’t want to grow old and get burned out on it. I know guys who got tired of it and were trapped because it’s the only think they knew. I didn’t want to be 65 and having to win to eat.”

Cooke has recently written a series of columns in Card Player imploring someone to help unify the poker community by forming an organization that would represent the best interests of the game. Cooke called out Doyle Brunson as the man for the job, but he told me this morning that he hasn’t heard from him, and in fact, says that Brunson is looking to start a new poker tour of some sort.

“Right now there are several groups fighting over pieces of the pie and they are looking out for themselves and not for the game of poker,” Cooke said.

ESPN has the World Series of Poker Circuit, Travel Channel has the World Poker Tour. Fox Sports Net has Superstars of Poker. Card Player and Bluff have different ranking systems for tournament players. Cooke is afraid as the poker world becomes increasingly splintered, it will follow the path of boxing, which has myriad different associations and champions.

“You’re going to have mishmash of rules and champions,” Cooke said. “We’re already getting there. You can be ranked number one in place and off the list in another.”

Cooke said one unifying organization could give players more leverage in benefiting from television contracts.

“Right now the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour need to talk to each other and work together,” he said. “I’m not sure they like each other much.”

I’ve spent the last couple of days venturing out to some of the nice poker rooms in town that actually spread the limits I want to play, that being $10-$20 and $15-$30. I sat down in a loose $10-$20 game at the Mirage the other night and this Asian guy two to my right kept calling me down with who knows what because he always folded on the river. When the man pulled out a flush on the river against a guy to my left to keep from going broke, I leaned over and whispered to the pot winner, “Don’t be offended, but I was rooting for him. I didn’t want you to bust my ATM.”

The dealer gave me a disapproving look, she of the plastic face and DDs, her features voluntarily destroyed by the hand of a surgeon, creating a mask that would make Michael Jackson proud, but which I found hard to gaze at.

I won a few hundred there and headed to Bellagio for $15-$30 action. I recognized a guy in the nine seat, a young Asian man I had seen on a WPT final table but I couldn’t recall his name. He later got up and I saw him dealing at another table.

It never ceases to amaze me how bad some people play, even at a limit as high as this. One man wearing a roofing company hat blew through three racks in just a few hours. That’s $1,500 worth. He was friendly though. He told me he was from Toronto and used to have a roofing company. The man said he used to play in games around Toronto with “Danny.”

“Now he’s rich and I’m sitting here,” he said.

“I may have to go back to work,” he said with a laugh.

Keep it up man and that could prove true.

I caught fire early, and was up $700 at one point, but I went card dead and cashed out a $155 winner.

I then went to the Wynn, which is a very nice casino, as well it should be, having cost $2 billion. The poker room is nice, though not as good as the Bellagio. I couldn’t get a $15-$30 seat so I sat down in the $1-$2 NL game. I booked a small win of $25 in a couple of hours play.

Just outside the poker room, Wynn has a Ferrari on display on one of those turntables. The view is free, but the gift shop next door charges handsome prices. A red polo with the Ferrari logo is $70 and a cheap looking cap is $32.

I capped the night at the Nugget in unlucky fashion, my flopped two pair losing to a river straight, my flopped set losing to a flush and the most inglorious of all – my flopped set of aces losing to a gut straight. A drunk, albeit friendly drunk, in the eight seat called my $15 pre-flop raise after several limpers to see a flop of A-J-Q rainbow. He bet $20 into me and I went all in for $80 more. He calls with K-3 and spikes a 10 on the river. The woman sitting beside him told me she threw away pocket 10s. Great, the two outer busts me. The drunk cracked my aces and others’ kings twice. Later, he disappeared for several minutes and when he returned threw a handful of candy bars on the table, perhaps trying to atone for his misdeeds. I ate a $300 M & M’s Amazing bar before heading back to my bed at the Four Queens.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Unfortunately, this one is out of focus because some dumbass got in my way, but trust me when I say Jennifer Tilly is pretty hot. Posted by Hello

Jennifer Tilly during a break in the action. Posted by Hello

Clonie Gowen getting a massage during the Omaha tournament. Folks, this is as hot as the girl on girl action gets at Poker Nation. Posted by Hello

More shots from that table Posted by Hello

Ivey (in blue cap), John Phan, Hellmuth and the legendary Doyle Posted by Hello

Hellmuth and Brunson at the Omaha table Posted by Hello

Vegas Day 6: Poker goes Hollywood

Monday had to be one of the most exciting days of the 2005 series so far. Actress Jennifer Tilly winning a bracelet, a star-studded final four tables in the pot-limit Omaha event, the addition of more tournaments to satisfy the crowded masses.

I started the day playing some small satellites to get my feet wet, after bombing in a $225 affair earlier in the trip. Tournament organizers have decided to play a $500 NLHE tournament every day at 5 p.m., which began Monday, and are running $65 satellites now constantly for it. I played two of those, as well as two of the $50 ones in which the top two get $225 vouchers for entry into a super satellite or nightly second chance tournament. Of course, I bombed out of all four. Not my week for tournament play.

I headed over to the TV table to check out the ladies only final. The event was not originally scheduled for air on ESPN, but after Tilly made the final four, the network decided to bring the women back Monday to finish it in front of the cameras. Cecilia Mortensen, Carlos’ wife, was among that final four.

Mere yards away, the final five tables of the pot-limit Omaha event was being played. When the tables were combined to four, Phil Ivey was moved to a table with Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth and John Phan.

“No, not here,” Brunson said, laughing, as Ivey was moved to his table.

Meanwhile, the $5,000 limit tournament was taking place on the other side of the stage, and Phil Laak, always a bundle of energy, kept running back and forth to play his hands and check up on his girlfriend’s play.

I walked back toward the satellite area and ran into one of the players from my table, who told me he busted out second to the rather obnoxious Lenny Kravitz lookalike sitting between us.

We struck up a conversation about poker and he graciously agreed to be interviewed for my book. His name is Joe Fleming, from Fairfax, Va., and like many at the WSOP, he likes to travel around the country to participate in the major tournaments. Fleming regularly travels to Tunica, Atlantic City, Foxwoods, California, even Costa Rica. He’s one of those players no one outside of poker would have ever heard of. Fleming plays only smaller tournaments and the occasional big one, like last year’s WSOP main event, in which he made it about halfway through the field. He owns a real estate business back home, so money is not an issue.

“The only way to get out of work is to get out of town,” Fleming said. “This is what I like to do on my vacations.”

“I like the camaraderie of people, meeting you and meeting others. I probably know 200 people here,” he said.

As if to prove that point, Fleming called over Minh Nguyen, a two-time WSOP bracelet winner. Nguyen and I shook hands, but he had to run back to the limit tournament, which was returning from break, so we promised to chat later.

Fleming said poker is only fun if not taken too seriously by the recreational player. He knows some who have lost a lot, noting that a friend won $150,000 in a May tournament and was busted two months later.

“The downside is you see people destitute trying to hit fame and fortune,” Fleming said.

Will Fleming enter the main event this year? Not unless he wins a satellite. He said he can’t see plunking down $10,000 for one tournament.

“If I felt good enough to compete with these guys I would,” he said.

“Not yet anyway,” he said with a grin.

As we completed the interview, the ladies event got down to heads up, so Fleming and I headed to the back of the room to watch.

Tilly, who held a commanding chip leader through the final table, finally vanquished her opponent (sorry I do not currently know who it was) and stood up and spun around for the adoring audience. Laak hurried to the table to place the bracelet around her wrist. Tilly took it off and proclaimed in her Betty Boop voice, “This is excellent.”

She was handed the announcer’s microphone for her victory speech.

“This was really rough. All we talked about were clothing and shoes. There was a little bit of RRRRUUUUHHH,” Tilly said, holding her fingers out as a cat’s claws.

“This is actually better than an Oscar,” said the “Bride of Chucky” star, who in truth probably had better odds to win a bracelet than an Academy Award, given her cinematic track record.

So closed, for me at least, a mighty interesting day at the WSOP. I headed for the exit.

As complete novices played low limits and satellites in the front, as the big name pros played for the final table in the Omaha event and as Hollywood celebrated its first bracelet winner under the glare of the television cameras, I couldn’t help but think to myself what a hell of a game poker is.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Vegas Day 5

I checked out a couple of more poker rooms on the Strip today and hit MGM again briefly. I haven't mentioned yet that I am putting together another book proposal, this one called Pocket Guide to Vegas Poker. It would be a pocket size book (obviously) that would detail each Las Vegas poker room -- what games are offered, what tournaments are offered, the room's atmosphere, the quality of the players, etc. -- as well as provide need to know information for the poker newbie who wants to play poker in Vegas for the first time (that game they've seen on television.) I think this ought to be an easy sale. I sent the proposal to my agent this morning.

I finished the evening at the Golden Nugget for some 1-2 NL, running into Tim, a guy I played with a couple of days earlier at the Plaza (I'm starting to run into several people I had met days before at this point.) I doubled my $200 on one hand, receiving the A-4 of hearts in early position. I limped (there was a lot of that in this game so I didn't have to worry about a raise behind me very often) and several others did the same. The flop was 6h-7h-10h. Hello! I checked and a guy a few seats to my left bets $15, which is called in three places. I risk a check again on the blank turn (risky because it could have been checked around) and the original bettor also checks, but the guy in last position goes all in for $85. Yes! Now do I call or raise? I decided to just call. Even if the original bettor has something like a set, he's about a 4.5 to 1 dog to fill up on the river and he's only getting 3 to 1 on his money to call the $85 bet. To my delight he calls and the river is another thudding blank. I go all in for $100, hoping he has something he can call that with, but he folds. I happily take the pot. I won about $300 on the day.

Heading back to the Rio today to see if I can find more pros open for an interview and play some satellites for tomorrow's $2,000 NLHE event.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Vegas Day 4 and Raymer interview

I decided to hit the Plaza noon tournament before heading to the Rio. I did okay, finishing halfway through the 31 man field, but got busted with 7-4 in the big blind with a flop of 7-6-3 when the small blind went all in and I didn’t think he wanted a call. It turns out he didn’t as he had a 5-8 for an open-ended straight draw. But a turn 5 for my straight and then a river 4 for his higher straight did me in.

I made it to the Rio about 3 p.m. after the $2,500 NLHE field had dwindled, providing more open tables for the satellites and cash games I wanted to play. I spotted Greg Raymer leaving a table so I grabbed him for a golden interview opportunity. He and I had chatted via email so he knew who I was.

I asked him how things have changed for him since last year’s World Series, when he wasn’t a total unknown on the tournament circuit before his main event win, but also wasn’t an easily recognizable face to many.

Raymer said he’s now the target of the “touristy types.”

“Now I get asked for pictures and autographs pretty much constantly,” said Raymer, who doesn’t mind the attention and is very accommodating to those fans. “A girl licked me the other day.”

A comment like that doesn’t go by without a follow-up question so I inquired further. Raymer said the woman requested a photo, and a friend of Raymer’s who was trying to take the picture couldn’t get the camera to work. While the woman waited she cuddled up to the poker pro and asked if she could lick him.

“She just licks me before I can say a word,” Raymer said, laughing.

Regarding the World Series of Poker’s new home, Raymer pointed out things he likes and dislikes. He noted that an event this large could never be held at Binion’s, or anywhere downtown, for that matter.

“I like the fact we’ve got all this room,” he said. “If you took all the slots and tables in Binion’s out, you couldn’t fit this in there. There’s not enough floor space.”

On the other hand, Raymer liked the convenience of downtown. He could walk across the street and buy a soda and beef jerky in a souvenir shop across the street.
But given the two options, Raymer prefers the new location.

“I would rather it be bigger and here than smaller and down there,” he said.

I asked Raymer if it is a realistic goal for him to win back-to-back World Series main events. His reply? Of course not.

“My goal is the only goal I ever have when I play poker – that is make good decisions,” he said.

Raymer said tournament players who come into a tournament with a mindset that they are going to win it are doomed for failure.

“You can be the greatest player in the world and not meet those goals,” he said.

Raymer was able to accomplish a feat on Friday that was never reached before. He made the final table of the $1,500 NLHE event that began on Wednesday, becoming the only player to make a final table in two events with more than 2,000 players. Only three times have tournament fields been that large – last year’s main event and this year’s second event, another $1,500 NLHE, were the other two.

Raymer started the final table as the chip leader, but finished sixth.

As we concluded our meeting, Raymer added, “Oh yeah, Poker Stars, Poker Stars, Poker Stars.”

After my brief chat with Raymer, I was finally able to grab a $10-$20 seat (my favorite hold’em limit.) I had a great three hours, pocketing $415. I then proceeded to enter a $225 satellite to attempt to win some tournament chips, but I could not catch any hands and went out 5th when my K-7 that I called with in the dark from the big blind was vanquished by 8-8.

I ran into Andy Bloch on the way out and gave him a copy of the Sims article. Still no word from Bluff on that. Bloch was wearing his Full Tilt Poker jersey like most of the rest of that group. He ended up with lucky No. 7 on his. We talked about how much FTP has grown since he first told me about it last April, when it was just an upstart. I thought it had grown more than it has. Bloch said it’s more toward the lower part of the top 10 of online poker sites.

He went on a bit of a diatribe about the U.S. government’s stance toward online poker and we both agreed that it will never be legalized with Bush in the White House. (Bloch has a running count of the cost of the war in Iraq on his home page, if that tells you anything about his thought on the president.) He said the Party Poker IPO, about to take place on the London stock exchange, will open some eyes. It will be interesting to see what happens with that.

Raymer hunts his next big game. Posted by Hello

Raymer and some other guy who walked up and started talking to us. I have no idea who he is, but he and Raymer are buddies. If you look closely, you can still see the saliva on Raymer's check. Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Vegas Day 3

I braved the bus system and the riffraff reeking of body odor Friday to explore the Strip fully for the first time on this trip, collecting freebies along the way. I started the excursion at Circus Circus and spent the afternoon walking south, stopping in occasionally at various casinos. The ice cream cone I got at McDonald’s melted in my hand by the time I ate half of it in the 102 degree heat.

I arrived at MGM Grand around 2:30 p.m. to check out the casino’s new poker room, in a nice central location where there used to be a stage and musical acts. I was disappointed to find no higher limit games. The highest one was $3-$6 and there were numerous $1-$2 NL games running so I sat down in one of those. No limit appears to be taking over, for better or worse.

It was a fun table, with a nice group of friendly people, both young and old. Amazingly, there were four Southerners among us – North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama (twice) were represented. The guy to my right was from Selma, home of the country’s most famous civil rights march, but has lived in Vegas for several years, doing some sort of stock trading. When I told him I was from Tuscaloosa, he responded with a cry of “War Eagle.” Ugh.

I won several chips off of a young woman when I flopped a set of 4s and she flopped top pair queen with an ace kicker. When I raised her $50 bet on the turn to $100 she folded. It was a great fold from her that saved her money.

She told us later that she is celebrating the one year of her re-birth on this trip from Missouri. She suffered from a brain tumor that was removed last year. The Ken lookalike on the other end of the table (of Barbie’s Ken I speak) hit her up for clubbing on the town later.

I won the brunt of my chips from the guy from N.C., who everyone simply called “North Carolina.” He had downed numerous beers when the following hand occurred. I limped with K-Q suited and he made a sizable raise from the small blind. Figuring him for a medium pocket pair or something of that ilk and having position on him the rest of the hand, I decided to call the additional $20, putting $50 and change in the pot. The flop was K-8-9, with two clubs. He bet $25 and I raised to $60 to figure out where he was. He thought for a long time and called. The turn was the 5 of spades. He checked and I bet $60 again. Again, he thought for a long time and finally called. The river was the 10 of clubs. He went all in for his last $100 and change. Hmmmm…didn’t know what to think of that. If he had fewer Budweisers in him I would have been less apt to call, but I also thought about it mathematically and I was getting about 4-1 odds on the call. He didn’t have to be bluffing very often for this to be a correct call mathematically. So I called and he turned over the A-Q, only one club. I got lucky on the flop and then N.C. pissed the rest of his chips to me with nothing but a draw to the ace.

So I left MGM with $320 more dollars in my pocket and hit the bus again for the ride back. For some reason I was totally drained when I got back to my hotel room at 9:30 p.m. so rather than go out for dinner or another quick card game I hit the bed.

Today I’m going back to the Rio to check out the WSOP action. Hopefully, I’ll run into Andy Bloch so I can show him the article I wrote about Tom Sims and his Andy Bloch Project for Bluff magazine. Still haven’t heard from Bluff if they are going to run it.

The sun sets on Vegas as I walk out of the MGM in search of a bus. Posted by Hello

The combination of the New York skyline and palm trees always entertains me. I'm an easily entertained person. Posted by Hello

There is an art to passing out the stripper cards on the streets of Vegas. It's not enough to just hand them out. No, you must flick them, creating a sound effect that makes passersby want to grab them out of your hand. If you've ever been to Vegas you know what I'm talking about. Posted by Hello

What more could a man want? Posted by Hello

Here is Daniel Negreanu's poker home. I haven't been in it yet, but will see the poker room soon. Posted by Hello

There are a number of acts performing on the stages on Freemont Street during the International Folk Festival. Posted by Hello

This is the entrance to my room, with the scrawled room numbers. Not sure what to think about that. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Vegas Day 2

I moved rooms yesterday because they gave me a smoking one in mistake, the cigarette residue that covered the furniture stopping up my lungs. They gave me room 911, the number scrawled in black crayon not once, but twice on the wall outside because the number plate is missing.

I decided to eschew public transportation and the Strip on Thursday after my bad start on Wednesday. I just hung around downtown. I started with the 11 a.m. tournament at the Golden Nugget. After viewing the heads-up championship on NBC, one might believe that the Nugget would probably have a nice poker room considering the impressive show that they put on for that tournament. But in truth, they have a small, cramped poker room wedged in between slot machines. There are several plasma televisions on the walls, however, where several players and I were entertained by trick bowling on ESPN during the 11 a.m. tournament. As for my results, not much to speak of. I busted out shortly after the break.

I decided to walk a couple of blocks up to the El Cortez, past the pawn shops and liquor stores, since I had a coupon for a free funbook. (I am a freebie whore, let me tell you.) That proved a disaster after I sat down to use a blackjack matchplay. One Benjamin lighter, I headed to the other end of Freemont, to the Plaza, to check out their tournaments. Despite their rows and rows of poker tables, the tournaments are actually quite small. I was informed that there are usually only two tables in the 7 p.m. affair. I decided to sit down for a 1-2 NL game, however. It seems all the poker rooms spread this particular game these days. I lost a big pot early when I flopped a set of 5s and let a man with a 9-10 see the turn cheaply after a flop if J-5-8. He caught his straight and took most of my chips. I worked my way back up and then won a big pot with a Jc-Qc after a flop of 8c-9c-Jd. We got all in on the flop. My opponent turned over 10-Q for the flopped straight, I caught a J on the turn that gave me myriad more outs and then spiked the deuce of clubs on the river for the win. I left up $150, my only win so far this trip! Ouch.

I played the Horseshoe 8 p.m. tournament again without success, making it to the final 25 or so of 70 players.

Today, I plan to hop on the bus to the Strip (I figured out a better route, no more Key Largo bus stop waits) and hit the $10-$20 game at the MGM. I figure there should be plenty of young, dumb tourists in that game. We’ll see soon enough.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

That's the Rio in the distance in a view from my craptacular room at the Four Queens. Posted by Hello

Finally a reason not to hate Party Poker. They are giving away a Porsche at the WSOP. Posted by Hello

More WSOP action Posted by Hello

Action from Wednesday's WSOP event Posted by Hello

This is the bus stop of the infamous 40-minute wait. Posted by Hello

WSOP Day 1

Sometimes it just isn’t your day. I couldn’t catch a cold at the NLHE event at the WSOP Wednesday.

But let me digress and share my enjoyable bus experience yesterday. I left downtown at 10:20 a.m., giving me plenty of time to make it to the noon tournament on time, right? Not. I rode one bus to the corner of Paradise and Flamingo and waited patiently for the route that would take me to the Rio. I waited, and waited and waited. Forty minutes later a bus finally arrives, immediately followed by another one. The doofus driving the first bus would not let us on because he was running late. No shit. Don’t you think the people wanting to ride the bus are also running late asshole?

To quickly end this story, I make it to the Rio with 15 minutes to spare, but by the time I walk the 26.2 miles to the convention area and complete my registration I make it to table 24 just before the tournament director says to, “Shuffle up and deal!”

Unlike the WSOP tournament I played in last year, in which at various times I sat with Phil Hellmuth, Amir Vahedi, Dewey Tomko, Blair Rodman, Charlie Shoten and David Plastik, there were no names at my table Wednesday. The table was full of rather nondescript characters – the guy in the Cubs cap, the European wearing a Knicks sweatshirt – except for one Spaniard with an exquisite moustache and goatee that conjured visions of Cortez. There was another guy immediately to my right wearing a Poker School Online cap, who was playing very tightly. Why wear a cap to the table that essentially says “I am a doofus.” Everyone at the table stole his blinds repeatedly.

They stole a few of mine as well because I couldn’t get crap. The one decent hand I had was KK and an ace flop, I was check raised and had to muck. I got a lot of trouble hands like A-10 suited that didn’t pan out on the flop.

Overall, a pretty tight table, but whenever I tried to steal with moderate hands someone woke up with a hand. It was a day in which I could do no right.

Early on there was an interesting hand where the European made a straight on the turn and another guy made three kings on the river. The European bet and the old guy raised all in. The European called, or at least he thought he did. He forgot one green 25 chip. The old guy argued that his opponent conceded the hand and wanted the European’s hand declared dead. After the floormen were brought over – it took two to make a decision – the European was awarded the pot, but was given a 10-minute penalty for exposing his hand before all the betting was completed. I hate angle shooters like that old timer. He knows the guy wasn't conceeding the hand.

After two hours and the first break, my 1,500 was dwindled down to about half. I got a chance to finally explore the tournament area at break. There are several vendors selling poker related merchandise. One buxom blonde standing behind a table wore a shirt that read, “I have a nice pair. Want to see them?” I heard her say to another woman, “They’re all staring at me” as the tournament players walked by. Is that surprising?

Most of the big names are here. The Full Tilt Poker pros are all wearing jerseys with their names on the back, except for Chris Ferguson, dressed to the nines in his black cowboy hat and suit. He attracted a pretty good crowd of autograph seekers. One had him sign a 9 of diamonds. I would think Ferguson would be worth at least a jack.

Now Mike Matusow would be more of the 9 of diamonds speed. He sat down beside me as I talked on my phone, tied his shoe and promptly laid his head against the wall as if taking a nap. He looked like a man who needed a friend. Later, I saw him wave to someone down to the hallway, to whom I could not tell. No one waved back.

When we returned to the tables, the blinds had risen to 500-100 and still there were no cards for me. About halfway through the third level I finally went all in for 550 with the A-5 of spades in the cutoff seat and was called by an A-K on the button. Sayonara Johnny.

I thought it fitting to cap the first full day here with a trip to Binion’s (no longer called the Horseshoe after its sale) for the 8 p.m. tournament there. I made it more than halfway through the field, but that’s it. Unlike earlier in the day, I caught a few hands, like KK in the first hand of the tournament and AK about seven or eight times. But AK also proved distastrous when I lost to a KQ on a river queen after a king on the flop.

Binion’s just isn’t the same. The poker room is a ghost town compared to last April. Benny’s Bullpen, once home to the main action at the WSOP is now the home of The Vinnie Favorito Comedy Show (only $29.95 plus tax, dark on Saturday.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Squeaky wheels

Here I groggily sit in the Krispy Kreme at Fitzgerald's, having just downed two nutritious doughnuts and a pint of chocolate milk. I didn't have the most restful nights of sleep in my mouse trap room at the Four Queens last night. I didn't get in it and unpacked until about 12:30 this morning and the squeaky elevator near me kept me up for awhile. I guess I'll get used to it, or request a room change.

I'm not too tired really, though, because I think the excitement of the impending WSOP tournament has my endorphins flowing. Only 150 minutes away. I'm heading to put my laptop up and figure out the bus route to get me to the Rio. Later.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Vegas, baby, Vegas!

I leave for the airport in a few hours for the flight to Vegas. My nearly month long trip has finally come. Hopefully, I won't go stir crazy out there.

It felt pretty weird waking up yesterday morning without the sound of an alarm clock on Monday morning. It still felt pretty weird to wake up this morning sans alarm. I imagine my new routine will become more and more normal as the time passes, but right now it's strange. It sort of takes me back to the college days, when I never scheduled a class before 11 a.m. if I could help it.

It was sad leaving work last week, packing up my stuff after five years. I might go back there in a year. I might not. Part of me wants to go back today, but I assure you that is only a very small part, and I think that feeling is only brought on by the immediate sadness that was inevitable at my departure. After a couple of months, who knows how I will feel about that?

I've posted several pictures below from my going away parties at work and at a friend's house. I hope to bring you many more photos and updates from Vegas beginning tomorrow or Thursday. Stay tuned.

Ready for action. Vegas, here we come. Posted by Hello

My goodbye cake Posted by Hello

Notice a certain newspaper tacked to the cubicle wall. Yes, I have fans. Want an autograph? Posted by Hello

To prove his coordination, Anthony smokes a cigarette and hula hoops at the same time. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005

One week

I can't imagine what it's like for somone, such as one of my predecessors, Ed Watkins, to leave a job after spending more than 50 years doing it. As I began cleaning out my desk this week in preparation for my last day next Friday, memories of five years of news reporting in Tuscaloosa and the friends I've made came flickering into my mind. An article here, a note there, these artifiacts made it seem like yesterday I was new on the job. Human emotion is a curse. We get bored with working a job for awhile, but we feel sad when we leave that job to try something else. I'll probably be an emotional wreck next week.

As I took my soon-to-be replacement around West Alabama to introduce her to people in the region earlier this week, I explained to many for the first time that I was leaving and the reasons why.

"You see, I'm...uh....working on a book," I stammered to the salt of the Earth types.

I got at least a couple of blank stares. Had I been writing about the state Baptist convention more than a few ears would have undoubtedly perked up.

I've been reading more and more Vegas trip reports lately as my own trip draws closer. (Now 10 days and counting....) It sounds like folks are having a great time and I can't wait to meet some people I chat with online. I hate that I was unable to attend the bloggers trip, though there may still be a few hangers on in Sin City, trying to beg for enough money to buy a Greyhound bus ticket back home.

Still no publisher yet. My agent, Sheree, sent the proposal to Kensington a couple of weeks ago, but it seems they will probably pass on it. Two strikes so far, but considering they were HarperCollins and Kensington I shouldn't feel too bad. There are a few hundred publishers out there so I'm not terribly worried. You only need to hook one fish to have a meal, or one publisher to write a book. The fact that I have a successful agent taking interest in my work should be a sign in itself I'm doing something right. Right?

I bought into the June 22 $1,500 NLHE through PokerStars. The great thing about that site doing this for you is that you can buy the W$ from one of those sites that exchange them (or another player) for less than the dollar value. I was able to get $1,500W for $1,410, saving me $90 on the entry. Anyone planning to play any events that PS will buy you into and who already has the money for the entry should definitely go this route. It's a money saver.

I hope to play at least one more WSOP event, a $2K or $2,500 one perhaps. As of now, no main event entry yet. Other than playing around with those Party Poker steps I haven't tried all that hard. I may play one of those $1,000 supers the two days before the main event begins, but I wonder if they will even have any of the 6,600 seats left by then?!? You'd think they will have all been gobbled up by online qualifiers before July 5.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Bloggers as journalists

I envisioned all the RGPers and bloggers and their ilk living it up in Vegas as I circled the yard on my mower today. As I clipped every spot on a journey through the one-acre lot, I thought of all the poker players sitting in that cavernous ballroom in the Rio, with its decadent carpet and lighting fixtures hung above every brand new table. I can't help but be envious, especially as I worked on a warm and humid Saturday afternoon.

If there was any doubt how high interest in the WSOP is this year, it was answered quickly not only by the 2,300 plus who entered the first event, but also by the Web updates and coverage the WSOP has gotten in its first couple of days. It also reminded me of Oliver Tse's asinine comments on RGP regarding bloggers and their lowly status. To be honest, I've never thought of poker bloggers as journalists before and if you want to be honest about it few truly are. (And as someone who practices journalism daily at a newspaper I sometimes felt a condescending feeling come into my mind, ala someone like Tse, and that creeps me out a bit.)

Up until this point, most blogs have been solely about the author's wins and losses. People love to brag on themselves and be lauded (you can see my "Recognition" post for my thoughts on that) and I haven't been shy about talking about my own game either. Others, like Pauly's taopoker, provide a great narrative experience of poker and life in general. Iggy's blog has become a hub for a reason, but to be truthful he isn't doing much original reporting, but rather providing a very useful clearinghouse for poker news.

But now that the WSOP has started I'm seeing blog reports that go beyond the "this is how I did" discussion and instead focus on the WSOP as a whole and provide a good rundown of what is happening in Vegas right now. It seems for this event that is universally loved by poker players and one that even picques the curiosity of the non player, there are many bloggers and RGPers who want to help everyone be a part of it by reporting the goings on at the WSOP, and the reports I've seen have been as well written as those from the "professional" poker related Web sites.

As for me, I've got two weeks left on the job and then it's off to Vegas for 26 days. I'm in the process of getting PokerStars to buy me into the $1,500 NLHE on June 22 and I will try to provide my own daily blog reports from the green felt.