Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The curtain closes on Reno

Last night was an alcohol induced blur, but here's a few things I remember:

Watching Barry Greenstein bowl demonstrated what a perfectionist he is. Jason, Allie and I watched him roll a number of strikes and saw him return from the lane shaking his head. Even though he knocked down all the pins, Barry knew he had gotten lucky and he wasn't happy he had not rolled a perfect ball. He was there bowling with a lady friend and his son, Joe Sebok. Barry left early as he was still in the main event. As I write, he leads with nine people remaining.

Gavin Smith is not such a good bowler. He and Paul, a cameraman for the WPT, competed against Jason and Allie for smallish wagers. Gavin and Paul won both times, though only because Allie is apparently terrible at bowling. I didn't get in the game except to fill in for Allie while he fetched drinks and I rolled a strike on that one bowl. So therefore I had a perfect game. (Like that logic?)

When I met Gavin he asked me, "Do you play poker?" My response? "Not very well."

Shawn Rice and Hoyt Corkins made it down to the lanes. (Natalie, Hoyt's girlfriend, was already there rolling with the rest of us. She graduated from the same Memphis high school class as Allie. Small world me thinks.) I saw that Shawn was wearing a Texas Tech cap and I, wearing my Bama cap, asked him how he liked the Cotton Bowl. (About as well as Jim Anderson I suspect.) Shawn didn't seem to enjoy my teasing as I patted his meaty shoulders in jest.

There were a number of attractive females among the poker media at the lanes and most everyone was wondering who the heck I was. I tried the James Spader bit on Lena, an editor of some sort with All-In who is stunning, but it wasn't working. Gavin tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Leave her alone. I'm banging that tonight." I think he was joking. I think.

Later at the craps table, Gavin, Allie and Kenna James were throwing big bets down. They were being antagonized by a fellow in Cincinnati Reds garb on the opposite end. I don't remember exactly what Gavin told him, but it was something to the effect of "The dark side's going down Spiderman." Or something like that. Got to love the guy. He is a bit of a nut. You may recall from my previous posts that I saw him chewing on some of those plastic fish at BARGE last year.

And one other thing, Courtney Friel is smokin', I mean SMOKIN', in a pair of jeans.

I awoke around noon today and headed down to the poker room. And it was almost completely dead except for the furious action around the three remaining tables. They played from 27 down to the final six today, with the WPT taping tomorrow. What must it be like to be a player in that situation? I would love to find out. I decided not to bother playing in a game. I bid Jason adieu until New Orleans in May and headed toward the room.

On the way I ran into Kyle, a dealer from Cincinnati I had befriended on the trip. He told me he might not be dealing at the WSOP this summer because he's thinking about just playing. Yep, he's considering moving to Vegas and turning pro. The poker hype keeps churning out dreamers. May Kyle's dreams come true.

Hoyt's musings

I kicked back with Jason Kirk, aka the Tennessee Spaceman, and his buddy Allie (sp?) from Memphis last night. Jason is now THE tournament coverage guy for Bluff magazine and got here Monday to cover the main event.

We played some SNGs with some of the fellows who had busted out of the main event as the 590 player field was cut to 200 by day’s end. One of those, Gary Gibbs, finished 10th in the main event of the World Poker Open in Tunica in January. (Allie took 15th in said tournament.) He was eliminated by Gavin Smith in a hand that has been much discussed in the poker world since it was played, a hand in which Gibbs rivered a straight and Smith rivered a flush. Rather than try to explain it here for the uninformed, I’ll send you to this link for a comprehensive examination of the hand:

As Gibbs explained to us Monday night, “Gavin was playing for the takeaway and I knew where he was. He didn’t know where I was, but I didn’t know his suit.”

Not surprising in a SNG that featured two final table finishers from Tunica and several participants in the main event in Reno, I did not cash.

I spent most of Tuesday at the Peppermill, playing in a poker and blackjack tournament (though not at the same time), but saw T.J. Cloutier and Mark Seif playing craps before I left. Jason told me T.J. busted out this morning.

His craps play is legendary. I believe Andy Bloch wrote something on his WPT Fan Web site to the effect that if you haven’t been asked by T.J. for a loan you haven’t really arrived in the poker world.

“T.J., you roll more sevens than anyone alive,” I heard someone say as I passed the craps table on the way to catch the shuttle bus.

I was relaxing in my hotel room this evening when I got a call from Natalie, Hoyt Corkins’ girlfriend. The reception was garbled, but I made out that they were in the poker room. So I threw on my shoes and headed downstairs to find Hoyt without his trademark cowboy hat. Clad in a baseball cap and leather jacket, he was chewing on a cigar while sitting in the ten seat in a $25-$50 blinds no limit game. To his right sat Lee Markholt and in the five seat was Kenna James, getting a deep back massage.

In the first hand I observed, Kenna raised under the gun to $400. The action moved to Hoyt and he tossed in $1,600 in chips. The action returned to Kenna, who thought for a moment.

“How much you got behind you Hoyt?” he asked.

Hoyt picked up his stack of hundreds and did a quick mental count.

“Ten thousand,” he replied.

“I raise,” Kenna said. He counted out thirty Benjamins and dropped them into the pot.

Hoyt thought for a minute and then picked up his stack of hundreds as if to call or raise before tossing his cards into the muck.

“Your kings are good,” he said.

I didn’t want to bother Hoyt in the middle of a game, but he welcomed me to sit beside him and ask some questions. So I took Natalie’s seat as she went to Johnny Rocket’s for a milkshake and began prying.

His initial answers were simple and amusing. What’s the hardest part about life on the circuit? Losing. What’s the best part? Winning. Hoyt laughed as he answered.

He explained further.

“When you’ve got your confidence and you can feel things and you’re in the zone,” he said. “That’s the good part about poker.”

“Making a bluff and catching that magic card.” I thought immediately of the trips he made against Phil Hellmuth at the World Poker Finals a few years ago that had the Poker Brat fuming.

Hoyt used to focus on Omaha, and his only WSOP bracelet was in that game back in the 1980s. Back in his cattle farming days, Hoyt played a lot of Omaha in Tunica and Philadelphia, Miss. He finally decided to play no limit hold’em.

“When I saw the TV coverage of the tournaments kick in I thought I would give it a shot,” he said.

Now NLHE is his focus and he loves it.

“It really is the Cadillac of poker. I has a lot of moves and it changes so much.”

Suddenly our interview was interrupted.

“Are you being interviewed?” a played I didn’t recognize called out from the three seat. “You know we’re going to needle you now.”

“I’m from Alabama too,” I told the guy. “So don’t give him too hard a time.”

I asked Hoyt what’s the hardest part about the travel.

“I couldn’t make it without Natalie,” he said. “She takes care of the planning and the packing. Half the time I don’t know what airline we’re flying on.”

He believes having someone to take care of the travel arrangements gives him a small edge.

“Every small edge helps,” he said. “I just come and play poker.”

Hoyt said he plays about 30 major tournaments a year, a mix that includes perhaps 10 World Poker Tour events, 12 World Series of Poker tournaments and a handful of WSOP Circuit events.

“I try to keep the tournaments down because they are mentally draining,” he said.

His advice to young aspiring pros: “If you’re going to school, stay in school. Forget about it.”

That statement is a testament to how difficult it can be to make it on the poker tournament circuit. Hoyt believes some people are born with the ability to succeed while others are not.

“There’s a lot of people trying, but there’s not too many make it,” he said. “The odds are not good.”

Monday, March 27, 2006

I also played poker the other day with Ken Shamrock, a former professional wrestler and current Ultimate Fighting stud. He's not too bad (it was a 10-20 limit hold'em game), but he's still a little rough around the edges. He did put four aces on me though. Posted by Picasa

This is the man, the myth, etc. He needs no introduction. Posted by Picasa

This is NOT James Spader Posted by Picasa

This is James Spader Posted by Picasa

The main event begins

Finally, it feels like a real poker tournament is taking place here. There was action. There was urgency. There was Eric Lindren hugging Evelyn Ng and giving Carlos Mortensen a high five. There was Barry Greenstein walking through the room carrying a couple of copies of his book.

And once again, I'm left on the curb. Still disheartened from my bad luck, I didn't even attempt either of the two mega satellites that were held on Sunday. Like Ted and Stephen, I plan to re-focus my energy toward the WSOP. Hopefully, I can win a seat in the main event, as well as some other tournament entries online in the next few months.

Ted just missed getting his seat in today's main event last night and so decided to take off this morning on his seven hour drive back home to Oregon. I'll miss the old fellow. He would make a good father figure -- if my father were a pervert.

We plan to room again in Vegas, at either Binion's or the Plaza.

I saw Hoyt again today, but he didn't have time to talk as the tournament was about to begin. T.J. Cloutier told me last night that he would talk with me this morning, but I didn't see him until he was already seated and ready for the tournament to begin.

"Guess I'll have to catch you another time," I said as I walked up to him.

"I'll be around," he replied. "I've got to teach this WPT Boot Camp after this thing is over."

Other than that, I've just sat up in my room all day, playing online poker. I figured out I can get net access for $11 a day so I decided to take it easy today and use my computer.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A hand from a WPC event

I posted this hand on RGP minutes ago. It's how I busted out of a tourney the other day. This play could be questioned, but most of my other defeats were just plain bad luck (I promise.)

Earlier this week I'm playing in a $330 NLHE event at the World Poker Challenge in Reno when this hand occurs. Comments and criticisms are welcomed and appreciated.

I'm dealt Q-K in the BB when big bully raises from the cutoff seat. Our bully has won some monster pots and has about 6,000 in chips (we started with 1,500) and makes it 150 to go on the 25-50 blinds. I call to see a flop. It comes T-T-5 (rainbow) and I check to bully. He bets 250. I think he could have anything and I would really like to show some cojones so I call, planning to take the pot on the turn. The turn is a J and I check as planned. He bets another 250, a bet that seems to just want me to go away. I pause and then check-raise all in for another 700. I had hardly played a hand and hoped he had noticed my tight image. I think he has to believe I have a T or J and fold given his less than 3 to 1 pot odds. Guess not.

He calls with 8-8.

The river is a blank and IGHN...or up to my room anyway.

What is poker?

What is poker?

It’s an old guy in a trucker’s hat that reads “You should have been a hemorrhoid because you’re such a pain in my ass” laughing with his poker buddies.

It’s the matronly woman who looks like June Cleaver with glasses who plays ok, just well enough to make the final table of a women’s event, but not good enough to compete with the tournament regulars.

It’s the brash Italian who criticizes the June Cleaver type for the questionable plays she makes while the hypocrite calls off many of his chips on even more questionable plays.

It’s the intermediate player in the Alabama cap visiting a far away state and observing all of these characters while wondering himself, “why do we all do it?”

It’s the players of a weekly tournament at the Eldorado Casino in downtown Reno, buying in for $65 and trying to win about $1,300 as the neon lights flash outside and pedestrians brave the cold on their way to and fro.

Three times Tuesday I could have made a sizable score and three times I lost. Never is poker more humbling than when you can’t catch a single break, no matter how many times you try or how well you play. Every time you’re in a big pot or a big hand you just know the river card or the flop is going to turn against you. First, there was the $110 SNG in which I lost on the river, costing me at least $400. Then I played in a 10-20 Omaha H/L game in which I had it on the turn and lost on the river. The pot was about $300-$400. And lastly there was the aforementioned Eldorado tournament, in which the blinds got ridiculous and I raised in the cutoff with A-4 and the guy in the big blind had to call with Q-2 and he won the hand. The next hand I’m in the big blind and most of my chips are in the pot. I lose that one with A-6 to J-J. Bye bye $1,300 pay day. Meanwhile a couple of young players with no clue what they’re doing were still in the thick of things.

Is this what I left my job for? To watch my dreams of riches disappear in the flash of a river card. Am I that bad or just unlucky?

Yesterday afternoon, I came up to the room to rest for awhile and Ted was lying on his bed watching his ubiquitous Fox News. He has to take some pills on Wednesday that kind of conk him out so he usually just takes it easy. As he and I lay on our respective beds watching Bill O’Reilly, Ted said something that chilled me.

“I think of that grandson of mine. He’s 12 now. You fuck around for a couple of years and he’s 14. There’s something missing in that equation.”

My mother is having some heart troubles and is going to a cardiologist in Birmingham next week. It was heart problems that killed her mother. Meanwhile, I’m goofing around in Reno. What the fuck am I doing?

I’ve only spent about three months on the road in the past year, and it’s only a one-year adventure (plus a couple of months), but Ted stays gone six months out of the year on his poker trips.

“I could be making a lot more money at home than I could out here playing poker,” he continued.

“So why do it?” I asked.

“Sometimes you’ve got to get away from the rat race.”

I can’t argue that point. The newspaper began to feel like a rat race after awhile, but I have to wonder if we all spend too much time away from the race in our quest for poker dominancy.

I see so many of the same faces on every tournament stop. How many families is this quest breaking?

I have to think the dealers are the smart ones. Granted, many of them play when they’re not working, but I suppose they watch enough poker that they are good enough to at least break even. When they are working, they make pretty good money.

I finally got the chance to interview Connie Mertens, the dealer from DeValls Bluff, Ark., who I met at the WSOP and saw again in Tunica and here.

She and her husband used to own some businesses in their hometown, but they sold them and she decided to try dealing poker. Mertens trained in Gulfport and dealt at the Isle of Capri Casino in Lula, Miss. (just south of Tunica) for awhile and then decided to try the tournament circuit.

“It’s a tough job because you don’t know what it’s like until you get there,” she said. Like Reno, for example, where the crowds are not very large and there are more than enough dealers.

The 2005 WSOP was Merten’s first big tournament. She said John Bonetti was intimidating.

“He was a mean old man,” she said. “Any dealer can’t say they’re not intimidated when they first walk in.”

Mertens said she misses being away from her husband and her grandkids, though her husband often travels to the tournaments near the end of the affairs for a little R and R.

Although Mertens said it’s tough to live out of a suitcase, but she plans to continue the circuit for another few years. She likes the camaraderie with her fellow dealers and the money is good.

“The advantage of this is you make a lot at one time. What job can you work three weeks on and five weeks off?”

She makes a good point. I wish I could find one of those jobs.

Instead, I’m walking out of the Eldorard on a Tuesday night as Italian blowhard, who finished fifth after losing with a favorite, paces the sidewalk mumbling to himself.

May I never become that guy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mark Twain worked as a newspaper reporter in Virginia City as a young man, but he wasn't into molestation (unless it involved a cigar.) Posted by Picasa

The so-called "Suicide Table." This faro table allegedly caused the financial downfall of numerous men, who killed themselves afterwards.  Posted by Picasa

One of the saloons of VC Posted by Picasa

Downtown Virginia City, an old mining town where loads of silver were discovered. Posted by Picasa

Your hero on the shores of the lake Posted by Picasa

Lake Tahoe. It really is quite breathtaking. Posted by Picasa

On the way from Reno to Carson City Posted by Picasa

There was a St. Patty's Day celebration going on last weekend in front of Fitzgerald's. Posted by Picasa

The famous sign Posted by Picasa

Sadly, the Horseshoe in Reno is a pawn shop now. Posted by Picasa

Another view of good ol' trashy downtown Reno Posted by Picasa

Downtown Reno Posted by Picasa

The Truckee River winds through downtown Reno Posted by Picasa

This was the view from the hotel room my first morning in Reno. Dorothy, we're not in Alabama anymore. Posted by Picasa

The Buss, dealer complaints and a little high low

Rule No. 45 of Poker: If a player uses comments usually reserved for online play, such as “nice river” or “nice catch,” at a casino poker table, that player is generally a fish and easily beaten.

I should add as an addendum that this player I have in mind as I write this used the “nice river” comment to me after I made a four flush on the river with my pocket aces, after he had made a flush on the turn with Jd8d. Sorry for being such a fish, sir.

In the meantime, as we move away from the rules of poker, let’s welcome Jerry Buss to town. Ted played a SNG with him yesterday and I saw him this morning as Ted and I played a SNG. Clad in an untucked collared shirt and worn out blue jeans, Buss clenched a fistful of hundreds on his way to sign up for today’s $330 limit hold’em event.

Buss (the owner of the Lakers for those not in the know) looked like a guy who just walked in from the street. An odd look for a man with multi-millions in the bank.

Buss is the only “celebrity poker player” I’ve seen since I’ve been here, unless we count William Hung (and let’s don’t.) I don’t imagine we’ll see many come to town until next week right before the big one starts.

As for me, I continue to lose to players who play poker worse than Stephen Hawking plays Pictionary. I did find some success in a $10-$20 Omaha Hi-Lo game last night and will use the proceeds to play the $330 O H/L tourney tomorrow morning. Ted and I both agree that the overall play here is better than you would find in Vegas. Fewer tourists, more real poker players. And when the few who can’t play keep lucking out on you, you know it’s going to be a bad trip.

The Hilton is also not nearly as crowded as any other poker stop I’ve been to. If you play past midnight, you’ll find that the poker room is nearly dead at that point, with few games still running. It’s very strange. I guess Reno is one of the more isolated stops on the tour. The others, like Foxwoods or Tunica, are close to a large segment of the country’s population. That’s my best guess anyway.

I played with Jen, a former dealer here, in a $4-$8 game on Sunday. She travels the circuit, dealing the WSOP events, and came here for her first WPT tournament. But her box was $60 short one night and she flipped management the bird rather than make up the difference. Now she just plays poker.

When I told here I was trying to interview some dealers for a possible poker magazine story, she started going off.

“Harrah’s has ruined the World Series. And they don’t help us out on rooms or travel costs….”

I always assumed that the casinos put the dealers up for the duration of the tournament, but apparently the dealers have to pay their own way. Jen stayed with a friend at Arizona Charlie’s for about $40 a night, $20 after the rate was split between them. I didn’t get a chance to ask her how much dealers make a day, but I figure after minimum wage and tips, they should get around $20-$25 an hour.

Jen told me that the dealers got shorted at the WSOP last summer from the main event. She said their envelopes of cash were about $1,000 short of what they should have been after the 2 percent was taken out of the prize pool. She also told me that Joe Hachem didn’t leave any extra tip on his $7.5 million victory.

“A writer for Card Player told him we were already taken care of,” she said.

I’ll leave you with my favorite dealer story of the trip. One night I sat at a table with a fellow who was drinking heavily and acting very slowly. The dealer, a guy who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, leaned over to the player to his right and asked, “Is he drunk or just stupid?” loud enough to be heard by me, sitting at the center of the table. I laughed so hard I squirted Guinness out my nose. (Believe it or not, they serve that beer here at the Hilton.)

Yesterday, the same dealer was off duty and sat down in my game. Shortly afterwards, a complete fish busted out and left the table.

“That guy,” I told the opinionated dealer, “he was just stupid.”

Sunday, March 19, 2006

That sickening feeling

Rule No. 126 of Poker: If a player is wearing a T-shirt that reads, “World Poker Tour Texas Hold’em Player,” he probably sucks at poker.

That thought crossed my mind as I watched this fashionista drag in a monster pot with 5-7 offsuit, which he had limped with from early position in this $4-$8 game.

Sometimes this game makes me want to throw up; I mean I just want to barf all over the table. I’ve played practically nothing but small stakes for several days as I protect my bankroll and see if my luck will turn around, and while I grind out small wins, the aforementioned champion rakes in hundreds of dollars.

Some people, it seems, are just luckier than others.

I made my way downtown to some of the other casinos on Friday. The few that feature poker rooms have little action. I saw a $2-$4 limit game at the Circus Circus and two $3-$6 games at Harrah’s (of all places.) The only decent poker room downtown is apparently at the El Dorado, which has a very nice and busy room. I took off the training wheels momentarily and sat down in a $3-$5 NL game with a short buy-in of $200. For once, I was the lucky one. My A-K of hearts turned a flush after I got it all in on the flop by betting the pot. The fellow who flopped a set of queens wasn’t too happy about it.

As usual, I am running into the same dealers and players that seem to pop up at every tournament stop. Kyle, a dealer from Cincinnati who is about my age, was in Tunica in January and at the WSOP last summer. I’ve seen him play more than deal as they seem to have more dealers than they need around here. He and I plan to talk more in depth about the dealing life later.

There’s the guy with the Eastern European accent and the wide-brimmed hat that I kept running into at the Plaza last summer, Michael something or other. He looks and sounds like a guy who ought to be chasing teenagers through a wheat field with a scythe in a Hollywood production, but apparently he plays good poker instead. He won one of the early events here in Reno and I recall him telling me last summer that he was running well in the WSOP until he took a bad beat.

The best bad beat I heard at the WSOP, however, was from the Texas exterminator with the long hair and the white tank top and blue jeans who was obviously going for the Kid Rock look. I had also met him at the Plaza, but ran into him again while playing a tournament at the Sahara.

Kid told me he flopped a flush and got it all in on the flop and a guy called him with two pair.

“He rivered a full house and I went in the bathroom to throw up,” he said.

See, I’m not the only one with gastrointestinal troubles in this game.

Friday, March 17, 2006

March Madness

I got up early Thursday to grab me a spot for the day in the Hilton sportsbook. Being in Nevada in March, I didn’t plan to miss my chance to catch all of the NCAA tournament action amongst the degenerate sport bettors of the country. The sportsbook was unsurprisingly much busier than I had seen it earlier in the week.

I ended up sitting in the third row beside an accountant named Dave from Oakland, a congenial 38-year-old who works for a maker of fine chocolates – the kind of chocolates not sold in stores that either Dave or I would frequent. Dave said he takes the first two days of the tournament off every year so he can watch without interference, and he often goes to a sportsbook so he can watch all of the games at once. We both had our stacks of betting slips handy as we followed the action. Mine included a couple of $5 longshot 12-team parlays that would pay $5,000 if they hit and, of course, a $25 bet on Bama at +2.5 against Marquette.

I only had a passing interest in most of the early games, but enjoyed listening to the cheers and groans as the bettors reacted to how their horses were faring. If you’ve never watched a major sporting event in a sportsbook, I recommend it.

Bama opened strong, taking a 44-30 halftime lead. Guard Jean Felix, one of our top bricklayers, whose philosophy is shoot until you hit, couldn’t miss a three. He poured in something like 35 points as Bama held on for a 90-85 win. I let out a big “Roll Tide” that was followed by another “Roll Tide” from a woman across the way. No doubt her return call was based on finances, not a fan’s emotion.

I’ve found I don’t like Reno too well because it looks too damn much like downtown Vegas. You’ve got pawn shops and wedding chapels intermingled with the casinos in downtown. It looks like a dump. Only the snow-covered mountains in the distance provide a scenic respite. I also like this coffee house, Java Jungle, I use to log on to the net. As I type an Irishman clad in green is singing “I Would Walk 500 Miles” while strumming his guitar, providing some free St. Patty’s day musical entertainment.

The Hilton is also on the other side of the interstate from downtown and, I’m told, a 25-minute walk to the other casinos (through an area much like that between the Strip and Downtown in Vegas.) Without my own transportation and economical travel available, the place feels like an island. You can get to downtown for free from here, but you have to take a shuttle from here to the airport and then another shuttle from the airport to your downtown casino of choice. I tried it today and it took about an hour. That’s no problem when you’re in no hurry.

Ted drove me in his big Ford diesel to find the coffee shop on Wednesday so I could post my earlier blog entries and check email, and then we headed to the Peppermill to play a NLHE tourney. The casino is a feast for the eyes, with a low ceiling and dark atmosphere that is interrupted by the bright neon lights that are everywhere in this joint. The poker room is also dark with bright lights with green shades, similar to what you see above many pool tables, providing adequate light for the games. As usual, I started well in the tournament, lost a couple of coin flips, and finished out of the money. Ted took second for $350 or so.

I haven’t played much poker since, choosing to spend most of the last couple of days watching basketball and protecting my bankroll to ensure it will last for two more weeks. Oh to be broke with a week left to spend in a town like Reno. I perish the thought.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

He bangs

I played Tuesday night with the man, the myth, the legend. That’s right readers…it’s William Hung.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, here’s four words for you: American Idol & “She Bangs.”

It hadn’t been a good day. I busted out of the $330 NLHE about halfway through and lost some river suckouts in the 10-20 game to drop another $200. I was taking it easy in a $4-$8 game when I heard Hung was in the room, so I decided to get on the list for the $2-$4 game.

You may recall that Hung parlayed his 15 minutes of Idol fame into a recording contract where he butchered some other cheesy pop songs. He’s continuing that parlay. Hung said he’s in town to play a private concert tomorrow night at a conference center in town and I had to wonder how that works. Does he sing a selection of cover songs and then comes back for an encore to sing “She Bangs?”

Hung may have made the most success of mediocrity than any person since Pauly Shore.

And yes, he’s just as geeky in person as you might suspect, but he gets plenty of attention. A group of poker personnel that had just finished their shifts invited him to sing karaoke with them.

“That’s not really my thing,” he said.

Others came up for photos and autographs. The real question: does he get the women?

A dealer who had never heard of the kid, asked him about his success.

"They said you were on American Idol. How did you do?"

"Pretty good," was Hung's reply.

Sure, kid.

When Hung checkraised a guy in front of him, I couldn’t resist. “He bangs,” I said.

Kids say (and wear) the darndest things

The first at the Dallas airport, where I had a four-hour layover Monday, looked like he just stepped out of the deep woods of Arkansas. With his parents and brother, the bucktoothed kid wore a blue T-shirt that read, “I (Heart) Hot Moms.” Probably his Sunday best.

On the plane to Reno, I sat beside a Hispanic kid of probably 12 years. He used his food tray to play some weird solitaire game I couldn’t quite figure out so I taught him to play tonk. He didn’t seem very interested so I let him return to his game. He repaid me by laying two of the foulest smelling farts I’ve ever had the displeasure of smelling. His father sat across the aisle, watching the Season 1 DVD of “Lost” on his laptop.

“You’re watching a show about a plane crash on a plane,” the kid told his father.

Thankfully, we made it safe and sound.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A new life at 30?

After much pondering, I've decided to attend grad school in the fall. I'll stick around Tuscaloosa (since I now have pretty thick roots here) and study marketing. It's a one-year program that will hopefully open some new doors for me.

This also means that despite my whining and sputtering, I'll be earning my bread next year much as I have done the last --playing poker and performing whatever odd jobs I can find. TV work = good money. Hopefully, I can get more of it and worry less about trying to keep the money flowing in with poker.

My decision not to return to the paper also means I have my summer free again, so unless I go broke I'll be back in Vegas for much of the WSOP, as well as BARGE, which ends three days before grad school begins. What sweet timing.

Flying to Reno on Monday and will be there for a few weeks. Hopefully, I'll provide better reports and a few pro interviews than the Tunica trip. I seemed to be in a fog in January.

The past two months haven't been much better as I've struggled since that 3hr. $2K win. Taking other people's money can cause conflicting emotions, but it's not as bad as losing your own.

A post two months too late

"Imagination is at the heart of poker. Just as there is no right way to write a song or paint a picture, there is no right way to play poker. The best players are experimenting and adjusting all the time. The beauty of the game lies in this ever-shifting landscape, and it keeps us interested each time we sit down." --Erik Seidel

That quote I lifted from Iggy's last blog post, not because I was deeply moved or affected by it, but just to juxtapose it with this quote:

"Erik Seidel is a pussy!" --Iggy

Sadly, I did not blog about my last night in Tunica, after my paltry $1,250 tournament win and insane head cold had me ready to head home. But trust me, it was a fun evening, hanging out with Iggy, Otis, Badblood, CJ and Gordon, talking poker and playing Roshambo.

We give $60 to Gordon to sit down and try to buy into the $400-$800 limit game at the Gold Strike with Mimi Tran, Hasan Habib and a few others.

"You can't sit here," I believe Chad Brown told young Gordon as he spread three Action Jacksons across the felt.

But the highlight of the evening for me was Iggy's two attempts to get Seidel to play Roshambo with him as he walked by.

"That's really not my thing," Seidel said as he strolled by on the later attempt.

As Seidel started descending the escalator, Iggy shouted that previous quote. Those present nearly rolled.

Anyway, that's the story in brief.