Sunday, July 30, 2006

I seem to be about to fall asleep. No, that's not a gold bracelet on my wrist, merely a watch. Posted by Picasa

WSOP Day 1B report

The tension in the tournament room was thick as we waited to begin play on Day 1B of the WSOP’s main event. I surprised myself because I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be as a first timer, perhaps because I knew I had more experience in big casino tournament play than the great majority of the Internet qualifying field present for the festivities.

The table was filled with fellow ‘net qualifiers as I had hoped, and one pro, Patrik Antonius, himself a cool customer. I rarely saw his expression change and he didn’t crack a smile until the board came 9-7-7-9-9 in a hand in which he held a seven and another player tried to bluff him on the turn with 4-4 and sucked out for a chop.

I was hopeful coming in that I could either steal a lot of blinds or limp pre-flop and steal a lot of small pots, but this proved not to be the case. The players were aggressive in defending blinds and stealing blinds, so it seems they shared some of the same strategy.

I earned my first notable pot when I limped for 50 with 9-9 and Antonius raised it to 225 or so in the cutoff seat and it was folded to me. I decided to see what would develop and called. After a flop of K-7-5 rainbow, I checked to Antonius and he fired out 400. Unsure where I stood, I called to see what he would do on the turn. That turn card was the oh-so-creamy nine. I checked, he bet 1,400 and I check raised to 3,200. He thought a long while and called. The turn was a jack of hearts and he folded to a 3,000 bet. This put me up to 15,000.

A loose player to my right managed to take most of my profit back with 10s-6s for a flush and Jc-4c for two pair.

As we played in the second level, Nolan Dalla announced that Phil Hellmuth, who was on the featured ESPN table, had busted and the room was filled with cheers.

And soon after I make my move up the charts. I pick up my second pair of pocket rockets on the day and raise it up to 525 and the loose player to my left smooth calls. After a ten high flop I bet 900, he raises to 2,500 and I push him all in for 4,000 more. He shows A-T and the aces hold.

A few hands later I’m in the SB with 2-2. Antonius makes it 600 and the button, another loose player, calls. I call as well and we see a flop of A-2-2. I check to Antonius, who bets 1,200 and the button raises to 3,000. I smooth call and Antonius wisely folds. The turn is double checked and my 3,000 bet on the river is called. I had hoped for the case ace to river so I could push. No way that player is going to fold in that spot.

Antonius cracks another smile after I turn over the quads. “I had a big ace,” he said. “I knew you had something.”

“Yeah, what else could I have had? You had an ace and you know he had an ace,” I said in agreement.

Our table is broken soon after and I take my 32K chips back near the featured table area. The table is full of internet qualifiers – two from Poker Stars, one from Party Poker, two from Poker Room, one from Interpoker, one from Poker Share and one from Ultimate Bet.

I find this table to be even better than the last one – no pros, and a happy go lucky bunch on top of that. I’m able to build my stack up to 36K when I hit a bump in the road.

A player in middle position raises to 1,000 and I find aces for the fourth time on the day and pop it to 2,500. He calls and then pushes for 10K on a flop of 5h-6h-Jc. I call immediately, but get a disgusted look when I see 7h-8h. Too many damn outs. He hits the Th on the turn and I can’t catch up on the river with my nut flush draw.

That pushes me down to about 23K and around that time we hear loud applause begin across the room that soon spreads across the pavilion.

“Doyle must have been eliminated,” I said, and soon thereafter a tournament director announces the departure of “Texas Dolly,” who also started us off this day with the line “Shuffle up and deal.”

“The difference between Doyle and Hellmuth,” one player opines, “is that they cheer for Doyle when he busts out because they respect him and they cheer when Hellmuth busts out because they hate him.”

Meanwhile, it’s getting late. We begin the sixth level at 1:20 a.m. and two hours are still left before the play ends. I meander for the last level until I get aces for the fifth time and raise the 400 BB to 1,200 under the gun. A Sweedish kid, who to this point had played well, decides to double up or go home and pushes his 10K into the pot. After I call he turns up Q-J offsuit. Huh?
He’s drawing dead by the turn. Thanks for coming, have a nice flight home.

I finish the night with Q-Q and a player folds to my reraise. The tournament directors announce that play has ended and the room cheers. Hand shaking and congratulations commence between all the players at my table. The player in the Yankees jacket who folded to my reraise on the final hand comes over, shakes my hand and tells me he thought I was the best player at the table. I was obviously honored by that gesture.

I count the chips before bagging them and receiving my new table assignment. The finall tally is 40,825, my high point of the day and tops on this table. We are hustled to our new tables to leave our chips and sign some documents. My second day on Tuesday looks promising as I saw no familiar professional faces.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

It's D-Day

It's funny how interested people around this town get when they find out you're playing in the main event of the WSOP. I met a man in a laundromat Tuesday who excitedly shook my hand and asked my name when I told him I was in the big one. (I don't just volunteer the information, but people see my WSOP cap and the conversation starts.)

People are so enthused about celebrity that they hope to say they met that guy back when...before he won the WSOP and was known to millions. In my case, I hope this guy at the laundromat gets his wish.

The dog-eared copies of Harrington on Hold'em have been studied and re-studied. Small tournaments around town have been played. It's finally time for me to take my seat at Table 98 today and my first chance to play on poker's biggest stage. I'll report back on what it's like for a main event virgin to compete.

I have a game plan in place and I'd like to have 30,000 chips by the end of the day, which would put me at about an average stack when Day 1 action is complete. We'll see what the cards dictate.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Some of the sweet Poker Share swag included those cool straw hats, decks of playing cards, T-shirts and sunglasses. Main event players also got backpacks with polo shirts, a beach towel and flip flops. Girls not included. Posted by Picasa

Mikey themed snacks for party patrons Posted by Picasa

Real World suite Posted by Picasa

Views of the Real World suite Posted by Picasa

Mikey and WSOP dealer Art Bracken at the Poker Share party Posted by Picasa

Otis, the blogger last longer champion Posted by Picasa

...then again, Miss American Pie is pretty hot. Posted by Picasa

I'll take Robin Tunney over Shannon Elizabeth any day... Posted by Picasa

"Don't mess with the king's blinds!" Posted by Picasa

"Lucky You" director Curtis Hanson makes a point, while Texas Dolly, Jennifer Harman, Drew Barrymore and a producer watch. Posted by Picasa

Dueling cameras....starring Kristin and Pauly Posted by Picasa

Celebrities, monkeys and donkeys

Thursday was a busy, but fun and eventful day, from the annual WSOP press conference and media/celebrity charity tournament to the Poker Share party.

We were directed to the showroom at Masquerade Village in the Rio for the press conference where the slick looking and talking commissioner, Jeffrey Pollack, bragged about the WSOP’s success. He harped on the first every players’ advisory council and the $50,000 HORSE event (which will go to four days next year), as well as a special section on the WSOP that will appear in Friday’s USA Today, a first for the game.

Pollack also mentioned a possible champions’ reception next year, in which Harrah’s would bring al former bracelet winners together.

Tournament director said participation had increased 8 percent for the preliminary events from 2005, while the prize pool has also increased. There were 7,600 entrants in the main event as of 2 p.m. Thursday.

“At least 12 players will become instant millionaires,” Daily said.

Last year, each of the final nine made at least $1 million, with Joe Hachem earning the top prize of $7.5 million.

The proceedings then moved to the Hall of Fame inductions, where Billy Baxter and T.J. Cloutier were honored.

Baxter moved to Las Vegas from Georgia in 1975 and became a force in the WSOP, cashing 34 times and winning seven gold bracelets, all of them in lowball events.

“Players began calling the lowball tournament the Billy Baxter Benefit,” said Harrah’s executive Tom Jenkin.

Baxter was the litigant in a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1987 that compelled the IRS to treat poker winnings as earned income.

“It’s certainly an honor to be included with all these great players of the past and present,” Baxter said of his induction.

Cloutier is one of the legendary road gamblers and is often considered the best player never to have won the WSOP main event, with two seconds and a third on his resume. The native Texan has won six WSOP bracelets.

“It’s one of two things I always wanted to win,” Cloutier said of HOF induction, noting that the other was the main event.

“I’ve still got a chance and I’m still kicking.”

Cloutier quickly reiterated, however, that he now wants to win the HORSE event. One out of three isn’t bad.

Harrah’s brought reigning champion Hachem to the stage and the three men fielded questions from the media, including one dimwit who congratulated Baxter and Cloutier on being inducted yet couldn’t remember Baxter’s name.

Baxter said he disagreed with the prospect of raising the entrance fee to the main event to narrow the field. “This is a world championship that should be open to everyone and I think they’ve got it right where they need it to be.”

“I’m proud to be the reigning champion even it it’s only maybe for another week…maybe,” Hachem said in reply to a question, drawing chuckles.

“Trying to repeat a victory is hard. Trying to repeat a main event victory…is almost twice as hard.”

Pollack said there could be an announcement in the coming months of an event that may be only for amateurs who haven’t won a bracelet or made a final table. “The World Series of Poker is a work in progress that we will improve every year,” he said.

As for Poker Share’s attempt to enter the chimp Mikey, Pollack was adamant that no monkey would play in the WSOP. “There’s been no chimp entered into the WSOP, nor will there be.”

“But there are fish and donkeys everywhere,” quipped blogger C.J., sitting next to me in a showroom both. Pauly and fellow Poker Blogger Kristin were also there. (As an aside, Poker Stars recently hired Pauly and C.J. to blog for them, while Party Poker hired Iggy and a few others to join us at Poker Blog. It’s an arms race unseen since USA vs. USSR!)

Cloutier and Baxter discussed the importance of the WSOP in the poker world.

“I don’t think there’s any event in the world that will ever top it,” Cloutier said.

“It’s like the majors in golf,” Baxter added. “You always want to win the major.”

A reporter asked about trickle down money from sponsors reaching players via the prize pool.

“We might not see that part of it, but it’s definitely coming,” Cloutier said.

Media director Nolan Dalla took the last question.

“Who’s going to win?” he asked the players.

Cloutier thought for a second. “One of the 8,800 players who’s going to enter,” he said.
“I agree with him,” Hachem said.

Curtis Hanson, director of the new movie “Lucky You” that centers around poker, then took the stage to promote the flick, which opens Sept. 8. The movie centers on the relationships between a longtime player (Robert Duvall) and his son (Eric Bana) and the son’s love interest (Drew Barrymore).

“The ability that every poker player tries to develop…would be hateful away from the table,” Hanson said.

Barrymore was brought onto the stage to discuss the movie, but didn’t get off on the right foot when she opened with, “I’m extremely honored to be here at the World Championship of Poker.”

It’s World SERIES of Poker, dear.

Barrymore said she watches poker on TV obsessively and plays with friends.

“Thank you for being here because poker is cool,” she said.

Um, ok.

The gathered media mass then watched a trailer of “Lucky You”, as well as a clip from the movie that featured a recreation of the Bellagio poker room, in which poker pros like Jason Lester, Sammy Farha and Barry Greenstein sit around the table with the characters played by Bana and Duvall.

Doyle Brunson and Jennifer Harman are also featured in the movie, though Harman plays a fictional character and actress Jean Smart plays a poker player based on Harman. Confused yet?

“Doing a movie was a lot of fun,” Harman said after she, Brunson and Lester were called to the stage. “Watching everything involved in it was quite interesting.”

Lester praised the efforts that went into making the poker scenes look authentic.

“I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity,” Brunson said, “and I’m certainly not an entertainer. I’m just a poker player.”

Then we all hustled back to the tournament room for the media/celebrity charity tournament, though crapshoot would be a more apt name. We get 1,000 in chips with 25/50 blinds and 15 minute levels. It’s truly a shove in fest.

The celebrity turnout was much better this year and this probably not so comprehensive list included: Norm McDonald, Robin Tunney, Ron Jeremy, Shannon Elizabeth, Jennifer Tilly, “Amazing” Jonathan, Carrot Top, James Garner, Cindy Margolis, Anthony Michael Hall, Penn Jillette, Ryan McFadden and Dick and Vince Van Patten.

Once again, I had no bigshots at my table, unless you include poker writer Barry Tannenbaum, a woman who is the president of Corum, a watch company and WSOP sponsor, and some guy dressed as Elvis.

Elvis doubled up early and then serenaded the woman he busted, to the delight of the ESPN cameras.

“Don’t mess with the king’s blind,” he often said.

“I wouldn’t think of it,” I replied.

I lucked up a few times and was hanging in until I tried to take the blinds from late position with A8 and ran into AJ and then lost the rest of my chips with a push with AT that ran into the same woman, now holding AK. Ten of us bloggers had a last one and I was the third to last out. Brad “Otis” Willis was the standing winner, making the final table in the process.

I hurried over to the Palms for the Poker Share party after I busted. The soiree was held in Room 28101, otherwise known as the “Real World” suite, after the MTV series was filmed there several years ago. It was nice meeting the guys I played against day after day for weeks, trying to earn a main event seat, since there were only a few dozen of us playing those tournaments.

I also got to meet Mikey, the prohibited chimp. He didn't show off his poker skills, but he did insist on hopping into the arms of everyone in sight. He particularly loved Art Bracken, a longtime WSOP dealer.

Max Wright, poker room manager for Poker Share, said he was disappointed by Harrah's decision. "I think they've got a lack of a sense of humor," he said.

Alex Van Klaveren, the site's spokesman, said a lot of training was put into preparing Mikey for the WSOP. He told me that Mikey would have been able to play on his own without his trainer assisting him.

Van Klaverern said Pollack hasn't replied to emails from him asking for an explanation. The spokesman suspects Harrah's could use the rule that a player has to be 21 to enter to bar the chimp.

"This is not the end of it," Van Klaveren said. "When he turns 21 we're going to enter him again."

When I asked him how old Mikey was, Van Klaveren hesitated.

"He's four," he finally replied.

"Four and a half," Wright corrected him.

The WSOP tournament area was a madhouse Friday morning as players and spectators convened to begin the biggest poker tournament in history.

The main event was about 15 minutes late getting started thanks to the crush of people trying to get to their seats. Security tried to keep all non-players out of the tournament room to no avail, leading to one massive traffic jam and fire code violation.
Media director Nolan Dalla announced that all people wearing poker clothing with .com on it had to take those articles off or turn them inside out. One major online site experienced a major snafu when it handed out thousands of shirts, baseball jerseys and caps with .com on them, leading many players to put tape over the suffix of the URL.

Finally, when most of the players had found their seats, Dalla opened with, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the World Series of Poker," which was followed by hearty applause.

Actor James Garner, playing in his first WSOP at age 78, was given the honor of announcing, "Shuffle up and deal."

The first player was eliminated six minutes later.

"Congratulations everyone," said a tournament director. "You have outlasted one player."

Alternates were then called to be ready for placement.

An interesting addition to the mix this year is an all-in button provided to each player (which can double as a card protector.) If a player wants to go all-in, they can toss the button into the pot. Players were also provided with seat cushions for added comfort.

Later in the media room, tournament director Daily told me that there were 8,570 players in the main event, a figure that’s still expected to climb. Harrah’s will continue to accept alternates until the end of the first level on day four (Monday).

The sun sets over Ventura. Posted by Picasa

No cameras were allowed on the lot, so this is the closest shot I got of CBS Studios, from the sidewalk in front of our hotel. Posted by Picasa

We walk back to the hotel Posted by Picasa

Winners Posted by Picasa

The shrine to winners and Bob in the lobby of the Farmer's Daughter Posted by Picasa

Part of Wisteria Lane on the backlot tour Posted by Picasa

Some idiot thought it was amusing to put his head in the mouth of a fiberglass shark. Posted by Picasa

Universal Studios Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

L.A. and The Price is Right

Now, Las Vegas is a busy place, but L.A.? Get out of here! You better get moving or get run over. The traffic there makes Vegas look like Tuscaloosa. Not to mention that you have to pay a mini fortune to park anywhere.

We found a hotel on Saturday night and then made our way to Hollywood Boulevard and walked along the Walk of Fame to see the stars. I had hoped James Spader might be in there somewhere so I could get my picture with his star, but he either doesn’t have one or I didn’t see it. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is on the street. It’s the old home of the Oscars and the place where many stars have put their footprints, handprints, noses, dreadlocks and who knows what else in cement in front. The Kodak Theatre, the current home of the Oscars, is nearby. There’s not much else to see here but a bevy of souvenir shops.

We then drove through parts of Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive…you know….swimming pools…movie stars…and up through Mulholland Drive, which winds through the mountains. The pictures I took do it more justice than I could with words. The views and the homes (and the prices) are breathtaking.

On Sunday, we went to Universal Studios where Brian’s friend Tony got us free passes. Tony works with Brian for the Memphis Grizzlies, as their sideline reporter, and in the off season gives the backlot tour on the studio lot. The park had many of the same shows and rides you’d find in Orlando, the greatest exception being the backlot tour where you can see many locations where various movie scenes have been filmed. Sadly, the courthouse square from Back to the Future was being used for an episode of The Ghost Whisperer and Wisteria Lane was being used for an episode of Desperate Housewives so we didn’t get to see either.

We made our way to Beverly and Wilshire Sunday evening to the jewel of our quest, CBS Studios. Our hotel, The Farmer’s Daughter, was conveniently situated across the street (there is a farmer’s market behind CBS, hence the hotel’s name). Thanks to my former boss for sending me the New York Times article about The Price is Right that mentioned the hotel. We walked down to K-Mart for various needs and I grabbed a plain black shirt for the show. I had forgotten to bring a Bama shirt like I had intended and had to find a quick replacement.

I left Brian and Heather and drove an hour west to Ventura to see my old co-worker and friend Stephanie. I used to have a thing for her, a very serious thing, but it was one of those situations of one-way interest and didn’t lead down a good road. We were able to be friends, however, and it was good to see her again two years since she left The Tuscaloosa News.

Stephanie once had dreams of working for The New York Times, but as we discussed Sunday night, dreams sometimes change. She loves Ventura and doesn’t want to leave. I can see why. The downtown is gorgeous and her apartment on the hill has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. We walked down to the beach and then had dinner. It was a lovely evening in a lovely place, but I had to get back to L.A. The location wasn’t the only reason we chose The Farmer’s Daughter; the hotel holds a nightly seminar on being a TPIR contestant.

I was already running behind when I made it back to L.A., then got lost trying to get back to the hotel, and the traffic pouring out of the Hollywood Bowl didn’t help my progress. I arrived an hour late, but the Q & A was still taking place in the hotel lobby. A balding, chubby guy named Ted sat backwards in his chair barking tips at the crowd of perhaps 20, a mix of Canadians, locals, Midwesterners and Southerners listening intently to Ted’s every word.

I only caught a few minutes of the discussion before the meeting broke, but Brian and Heather filled me in on the gist. Don’t bring your camera or cell phone. Don’t chew gum. Be there early. Be happy and excited.

We headed up the room for our short rest and then stumbled out into the street at 3 a.m. and took our places in line outside CBS. There were already about 70 people in front of us. I walked across the street to a bakery/coffee shop to rent some chairs (1 or 2 for $5, so I spent $10.) This was another Ted tip. This bakery makes a killing on his TPIR customers as nearly everyone in line walked over to rent chairs and at least half bought coffee or bagels.

The would be contestants formed a quick camaraderie. There were a few Utahans in front of us and nine Kentuckians to our back. The Utahans consisted of a couple with T-shirts that said “Pick Mommy” and “Pick Daddy” and sported a photo of their toddler with his finger up his nose. With them was an 84-year-old grandmother with another cute shirt, but I never saw everything it said. No doubt it mentioned the words “Bob Barker” or “The Price is Right.”

I’d estimate that about three-quarters of the crowd had some sort of homemade shirt professing their love for Bob or the show or with some clever phrase or slogan trying to get them picked. I remember one group with the phrase “Plinko Champion ’84”on their duds.

One group of about 15 all wore yellow shirts that said, “Pick Josh” and listed the things he could do on Monday, his 18th birthday. Among that list were the ability to vote, join the military, and, oh yeah, be on The Price is Right.

The nine women from Kentucky sported glitter-covered shirts that said they had traveled 3,000 miles to see TPIR and “Kentucky (heart) The Price is Right” on the back. (Tis a lie, as it’s maybe 2,300 miles from eastern Kentucky to L.A.) One of the women told me the group flew in to L.A. Sunday and was leaving on Tuesday. They came specifically for this show, so it would have been a mighty disappointment if they had not gotten in the audience. Ted warned us that it was a realistic prospect because large tour groups get first priority for the studio’s 325 seats and don’t have to wait in line at an ungodly hour. Even though we were early in the queue, it would be possible we could get left on the curb – literally.

We continued to wait for 6 a.m. when a man would come to the gate and hand us an order of arrival pass. This didn’t guarantee us anything; it merely allowed us to come into the studio lot at 7:30 a.m. to get our tickets numbered.

There was rustling in the tree above me and down popped an oval black object onto my lap. Yep, it was a rat turd. I never knew rats climbed trees and I certainly didn’t expect to get defecated on while waiting to be a contestant on TPIR.

“You know, rats have no bladder control,” Heather told me.

I scooted my chair back a couple of feet.

Later, a police car drove by and an officer said over his speaker, “Come on down!” Several cars honked horns as they drove past.

Everyone in the area is used to this daily routine as hundreds of Americans (and a handful of Canadians) come to this shrine to what is perhaps the greatest game show of all time. After spending only minutes with this crowd, it’s obvious how much people love Bob Barker and The Price is Right.

“This is Americana,” one woman told me. “Everybody loves this show.”

Finally, we got our order of arrival sticker and headed back to the room to shower. We then walked back outside to the TPIR studio and took seats on benches in the Bob Barker Promenade. Two of the red-coated CBS attendants took our stickers and numbered our tickets. We were told to come back again at 9 a.m. with those.

The hoops you jump through to get on this show are ridiculous, but we knew what was in store after listening to Ted. We headed back to The Farmer’s Daughter to check out and grabbed some food and drink at the bakery. We then returned to the benches and waited again. We discussed game strategies and what we’d say during our interviews.

Finally, Chuck, the red coat who had explained most of the instructions to us, came by with a clipboard with price tag stickers on them. At that moment we knew we were going to be in the studio audience. There was, of course, a large cheer from the crowd.

One red coat took our name, social security number and such while Chuck handed out the name tags. He handed me mine and I stuck it to my shirt with pride.

“How does it feel to be official?” I asked Brian and Heather with a huge grin on my face.

We were then lined up in groups of a dozen to speak with another man who was conducting quick interviews of possible contestants. Here was our chance to shine, our chance at possible selection. I mentally prepared for questions and remembered to answer with vigor and vitality.

Brian flubbed a bit when the guy asked him what he does for a living and I knew his chance was shot. The guy was quick with Heather, which also was not a good sign. Then he came to me, the last of the group.

“Where are you from, Johnny?” he asked.

“I’m also from Tuscaloosa,” I said, pointing to my posse.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a poker player.”

At this point, he had an interested expression so I continued, “I’m playing in the main event of the World Series of Poker next week.”

“You’ve got quite a poker face,” he said.

At this point, I didn’t know what to say. I had a huge grin on my face, so I didn’t have much of a poker face going really. I should have said, “Not today, I’m too excited to be here at The Price is Right to have a poker face!”

Here’s what I really said: “It just broke.”


We were herded around the corner past a security checkpoint. Dozens of people had cell phones and cameras on them, including the 84-year-old Utah granny that everyone thought was a shoo-in to be picked. According to Ted, not following instructions was a big no-no that kills your chance of being selected.

More waiting was in store for us. Chuck came by and started a dance off between a college girl from Georgia and Maria, a 60-year-old Italian by way of Canada. The curvaceous Georgia peach was quite pathetic while Maria hoofed it up to the delight of the crowd. (She was later picked as a contestant. Coincidence?)

After waiting about another hour, at 1 p.m. we were finally led up a flight of stairs and into the studio. Could it be? Could it really be the set of The Price is Right? We were transformed to children again as we took our seats.

The studio is much smaller than it appears on television. I’d say the stage is 50 to 60 feet wide and 40 feet deep. I guess not seeing it all at one time creates that illusion. Another trick that may add to the effect is that many of the games and the spinning of the big wheel take place in the same spot in the center of the stage, but the wheel is filmed at a different angle. So while it may look on TV as if it’s in a different location, it’s not. Meanwhile, a few of the games and the Showcase Showdown both take place on the elevated part to the left of the stage, but it’s only steps away from where the rest of the action takes place. The doors are now decorated in 35th anniversary regalia. We were one of the first tapings of the new season.

Rich Fields, the announcer, came on stage to welcome us to the show. He said that as an 18-year-old he sat in the audience for the first time and asked then announcer Johnny Olson, “How do I get your job?”

Olson let the teen come on stage and announce, “Johnny Olson, come on down. You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right!”

The players take the stage as Fields entertains us – the four cameramen get into place, while various people sit behind computers operating controls. In just a few minutes the time has arrived. Fields goes behind his podium to the right of the set and begins announcing and the music starts to play. The crowd goes wild, so wild that one man has to hold up cue cards with contestants’ names on them so they can know to come down to contestants row. Unsurprisingly, Josh of “Pick Josh” fame is the first one selected.

After the four players take their place, Fields introduces Bob Barker and the host walks on stage. The noise from the crowd now reaches jet takeoff level. The man they’ve all come to see has now shown his face. At 82, the tall, lean Barker looks like a walking corpse, but he’s still spry and witty.

The show moves quickly. An item is presented and Josh wins immediately, as if by providence. He takes his place on stage and is presented with a game I had not seen before called Flip Flop. Josh must decide if an electric car is worth $7,629 or $6,792. He flips one number, then the next and back to the first.

“He flipped, he flopped and then he flip flopped and flip flopped,” Barker quipped.

Josh finally decides on $7,629 and his choice is revealed to be correct. Josh goes wild. The crowd goes wild. Barker promises more pricing games are the commercial break. At least, I guess he does since we could rarely hear him when the audience was cheering.

Never again would I be in a place where people shout with emphasis, “Foot powder!” or “Trail mix!” Microphones hung above our heads to capture our every utterance of prices or instructions.

A prop comes down over the center of the stage to hide the workers back there changing out the set for the next game and Barker walks front and center. He takes questions from the audience during each break or tells a few jokes.

Such as, “I was driving down the road the other day and saw the red lights blinking behind me. The cop pulls me over and gives me a ticket. He says that will be $50 and I say, ‘Lower’.”

Fields keeps calling down the contestants and they continue to not be us. Greta, one of the Kentucky crew sitting beside us, is called and makes it on stage to play a pricing game. She wins, but barely misses the Showcase Showdown by five cents.

Finally, the ninth player is called and more than 300 dreams are dashed. The hope of being a contestant is over. One could notice a measurable decline in audience enthusiasm after that, which Barker noted after the sixth pricing game was played. He encouraged the crowd and thanked the gathered masses for making TPIR what it is today.

Josh just missed winning a PT Cruiser, a computer and six months of Krispy Kreme doughnuts when he overbid and a snappily dressed black woman won a trip to Mexico and other prizes, despite underbidding by $10,000.

The music played and the curtain dropped (though not literally). Barker and Fields thanked us again and we left the studio. More than 300 people didn’t make it on stage, but I didn’t see any disappointed faces. We had all come to take part in this national institution, this slice of Americana as the Kentucky woman called it, and we had done our part. In this Democratic game, we had not been one of the chosen few, but we knew coming in our chances were slim. We had come, and that was the thing.

The show airs October 12.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Johnny Kampis, come on down?

Sadly I didn't get to go to contestants' row, but we did attend a taping of The Price is Right today. Since we only got three hours of sleep last night (had to get in line at 3 a.m.) and traveled back to Vegas this afternoon, I'm pretty tired and will try to blog about the trip tomorrow.

I will leave you with this Bob Barker gem, however. The 82-year-old host fields questions during breaks in the action and one audience member asked him about his role in "Happy Gilmore." For the unenlightened, Barker gets in a fight with Adam Sandler's character and kicks his ass.

"We were going to do Happy Gilmore 2," Barker said, "but Adam Sandler's doctor said he couldn't take another beating like that."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A view from Muholland Drive Posted by Picasa

A palm-lined Beverly Hills street Posted by Picasa

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills Posted by Picasa

Captures in the cement in front of Grauman's Posted by Picasa

Would-be musicians stand on the street, handing out copies of their CDs Posted by Picasa