Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

WSOP Swag Report

Good thing the luggage I took to Vegas was packed ver-r-r-r-r-y loosely; the bags came back stuffed. Matter of fact, the bags came back not even the same bags, since an inexpensive red duffel was folded down and tucked within, superceded by a new Mansion Poker Dome duffel that the show provided to each of the lucky participants.

Thirteen days in Vegas, mostly at the WSOP. I did not try to accumulate swaggage; nonetheless, an assortment of trinkets 'n' trash found its way into my possession and made the trip with me back to the dreary Midwest. Let's see what the bags provided, once re-opened...

From the WSOP:

Two --- count 'em, two --- official WSOP media kits;
Gutshot.com World Series of Poker 2006 Souvenir Programme;
Card Player 2206 WSOP Official Event Program;
Magazine: Woman Poker Player;
Magazine: Top Pair Magazine;
Magazine: American Poker Player;
Magazine: Poker Life;
Magazine: High Roller;
Pokernews.com t-shirt, dark green;
Harrah's Rincon Casino ballcap;
Flopgear "Antonio 'The Magician' Esfandiari" card cover;
Paradise Poker tote bag (useful for carrying all the other stuff!);
Deck of Cards: Bodog "Forbes" design
-- the backs of each card feature a mini version of the Forbes cover featuring Calvin Ayre. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha;
Deck of Cards: Full Tilt;
Deck of Cards: Bodog Poker;
Deck of Cards: Bet Hold'Em Poker;
Deck of Cards: PokerListings.com;
Absolute Poker baseball;
Poker Player's Alliance lapel pin;
WSOP "Lucky You" card cover;
Pokershopping.com casino-chip keyring;
Bodog.com WSOP shot glass;
Full Tilt card protector;
Bodog 2006 WSOP card protector;
WSOP $500 souvenir chip;
Bodog Lounge entry dog-tag #219 (drink chip);
Full Tilt Lounge poker drink chip;
Bodog Loung white drink chip;
Atomictables.com holographic souvenir chip;
High Roller Magazine souvenir chip;
Party Poker money clip;
Atomictables.com mini-frisbee
-- it's either that or the top to a microwave-soup can... I'm not really sure;
Warner Bros. Pictures "Lucky You" trailer DVD;
Red Line Films "One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stu Ungar" DVD
-- Nolan Dalla dropped a batch of these off in the media room. Thanks, Nolan!

From the Mansion Poker Dome excursion:

Mansion Poker Dome duffel bag (as mentioned above);
Bottle of champagne (now deceased);
Mansionpoker.net Ultimate Guide to Poker;
Mansion Poker Dome bomber jacket
-- heavy, black leather/felt, designed a bit like a letterman's jacket;
Mansion Poker ballcap, black;
Mansion Poker t-shirt, black;
Mansionpoker.net oversized lapel pin
-- "If you want you vs. me...let's go. Welcome to the game." (???);
Mansionpoker.net pen
Mansionpoker.net Poker Dome Media Photo CD
-- a few of these were left lying around at the press conference --- darned if I didn't help myself to one!

Wheeeee.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Table Talk at the WSOP

Hooked you in with one of those double-meaning titles, didn't I? Well, this time out, it's on to another pair of anecdotes from the floor of the WSOP's Main Event.

So, color me naive. I figured that the players, for the most part, would be pretty durned serious and focused on their games, and that irrelevant table talk would be at a minimum. Wrong-o.

Anecdote number one begins on either the third or fourth of the official Day One sessions, and T.J. Cloutier is in a highly visible spot --- his shoulder is literally against the rail of the main north-south aisle splitting the Amazon Room. Jen Tilly plays a couple of tables away, though she's not long for this tourney. T.J., though, waxes long on whatever topics come to mind, fielding questions from his tablemates about his past tournament experiences, interesting situations, whatever comes along.

I'm working the room --- he's one of perhapd 30 players I'm keeping a light watch over. Another is Barbara Enright, but my reasons are more personal here --- I'd played against Barb and hubby Max Shapiro several times in the now-defunct Expert Series on Royal Vegas Poker. I'd already met Max, but hadn't yet stumbled across Barb. The first time I locate her, I grab a quick photo but don't do much else; she looks focused and I'm not going to bother her with personal matters. But just as the dinner break arrives, her table breaks and she's carded... to T.J.'s table.

I run into Max during that break, too, and tell him where Barb's new seat happens to be. Barb is back a few minutes before the cards are dealt for the evening session, so I take that moment to introduce myself --- she remembers me from my Prima nickname (CawtBluffin) and my poker crosswords, which are on the main www.hintzes.com/poker site. Soon enough play resumes, and I wander off elsewhere, but return a little while later, just as Max himself checks in to see how Barb is doing. T.J.'s still telling his tales, of course, and the poor guy caught between T.J. and Barb --- and their what, nine bracelets? --- now has Max and me behind him as well. T.J. only knows me from one brief photo request, but Barb includes me (standing next to Max) in this strange conversation as well. Barb looks up at me and says to T.J., "She does poker crosswords. Good ones."

Well, that's just a hook into a new tale for T.J., about his uncle who did the New York Times crossword every day, and got so good he could do them in pen. I don't have much of a response for that --- I'm acquainted with one of the guys who creates the Times crosswords, Ray Hamel, but it's pretty much as irrelevant as the rest of this conversation is to poker.

But that doesn't slow down T.J. From there he's off into another tale, and then another. Even when he loses most of his stack when he can't knock another player off an overpair (T.J. held a pair plus an open-ended straight draw), he's off into another tale. Maybe about poker. Maybe not.

However, as for weird topics discussed at the table in conversations I was part of, that one ranks only second best. It's now late on Day Three, not long after the bubble has burst, and I'm doing a slow walk of the room, looking for someone to write about who's not wearing a Party or a Poker Stars shirt. (They were legion, and they had their own writers covering them, and I tried to keep my distance unless there was some unrelated reason for my being there.) Off toward the back wall, again, not far from the rail, I chance onto a guy from Houston, named Isaac "Scott" Lidji. He's not wearing some online site's gear; instead, he's got a powder-blue Terrell Owens #80 jersey on. (You know the team.)

When I ask about Lidji's experience in the tourney so far, I stumble into something unusual: His wife had just called to inform him that her recent in vitro implantation procedure had been successful, and she was now expecting; Scott got to relay his own good news (about making the money) in the same phone call. Scott's table neighbor is a nice man named Alan Resh, a 59-year-old developer from Virginia Beach who offers his own personal aside --- he's a decorated war vet. It's a good tale, but I can't write it up; the timing between Lidji and wife trumps Resh on the coincidence scale. It turns out though, that Resh has knowledge of in vitro procedures, and I do, too: I've had medical training. So darned if we don't end up in a discussion, promppted by Resh, of in vitro techniques and practices, this at a post-bubble table at the WSOP's Main Event.

Now that's unusual.

Also unusual is Lidji's tournament tale --- never deep-stacked, he just kept finding a way to hang on, hang on, hang on. He hangs on all the way to the late stages of Day Four, when I believe he's knocked out by Annie Duke, finishing somewhere inside the top 150. His seat just outside the ESPN area is filled by another player I'm following, Norway's Per Erik Loeff, and Loeff meets the same fate, only minutes later. Bad seat, ba-a-ad seat.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Waist Deep in the WSOP's Media Event

Media Day at the WSOP normally occurs on the day preceding the kickoff of the $10,000 Main Event. 2006 followed form, and on the 27th of July the press festivities came in two parts: the press conference itself, dealing with the World Series, the year's Poker Hall of Fame inductions, and the kickoff for the sure-to-be-a-dud Lucky You, and the Media Event, where writers and photogs and celebrities slug it out, the winner able to make a sizeable charitable donation.

I'll be writing about the press conference in one of my "Diary" pieces over at the KAP blog, but since the actual media poker event is more of a personal tale, it's better fodder for this site.

I didn't have much poker in my own plans during my first three days at the WSOP; I'd only managed one super-satellite and an impromptu FL session over at the Imperial Palace, while I waited to be able to check into an early-promised room that never materialized. That day, I'd made it to the Rio, hours later than planned, just getting my creds before the press office closed for the day. When it turned out I could play in this, I said, sure, why not? I knew it had the reputation of goofball poker, but then again, I'll try anything once.



--- What a draw! I end up next to Jay Greenspan's new book and disembodied backpack.

The registration card we received said play would begin at 5:00, but it was a soft start, post-conference, meaning 5:15 or 5:30 or whenever most of the celebrities scheduled to play could be rounded up and herded into their seats. James Garner's at a table about three behind me (he's always been one of my favorite actors), and he gets a nice round of applause as he takes his seat. We've got no celebs at our table, and only one writer I've met, that being Amy Calistri. On my left a rapid-talking East Coaster shows up, props his new book upright on the felt, and runs off again to give a couple of early copies to nearby friends. It turns out to be Jay Greenspan. I'm not sure I like him at first meeting (which is probably how he felt about me, too), but I get to know him a bit more in later days. Jay's alright. I also learn there's a little white lie somewhere in his book, but I won't spill the beans on that one.

Half the writers and photogs are running around taking photos of everyone else --- Pauly's everywhere with his photo lens. CC swoops by, as does Mickey Wilson (though she's too bashful to play), and that's about half of the writers I've met at this point. Overall, the scene is like an alumni banquet with card tables replacing the posh dining settings.

It takes a bit, but the cards do get dealt. At our table, one of the photogs must feel his time is more valuable elsewhere; he pushes all-in on the first hand with 10-3, gets called by QQ, and goes bye-bye. Nope, this ain't gonna be good poker. I'm down to about $800 (from my initial $1,000), when I limp into a pot with a baby pair, flop a set, and bust a player who pushes top pair. I'm at about $1,600, but then the table is broken and I'm shuffled off to other parts.

A strange table awaits me. It has two players who are literally asking the rules, and two seats with chips, but no players, one of those immediately to my right. That mystery is solved a few hands later --- Vince Van Patten slides in across the way, and his father, Dick Van Patten, moves in next to me.



--- At my second table, this guy's across the way...



--- ... and this one's on my right.

We all say our hi's and shake hands, the usual meet-the-celeb ritual. I bluff Dick off one hand for a small pot, holding garbage, when he checks a junky flop to me, but I miss a couple of other flops myself --- my chips are sliding a little bit. A few hands have gone past, and all of a sudden Vince notices that his father's chip stack is about half what it should be --- he'd been blinded down to about 850, while father Dick was down somewhere under 400. I figured it was the woman across the way, on Dick's other side, simply not knowing whose was whose and what was what; she'd also managed to grab chips from another player's stack when he was away, mis-anteing the whole table into confusion.

But Vince stands up and calls a tournament director on his father's behalf; Dick seemed a little bit out of it in the way that older people can sometimes get, pleasant but way-y distracted, and he'd "snap to" whenever he was spoken to or asked a question or when the action came round to him. But he's 77, and those things happen. He might also just be a little hard of hearing --- that happens too.

The end result of Vince's calling for the tournament director is that Dick is given an extra $500 in chips. Whether that was correct or not, no one knows. It's like everything else in the media event... just sort of made up on the spot. No one cares, either.

Oh, yeah, but then I'm about to get knocked out. I'm down to $1,200 in chips, the blinds are already $150/300, and I'm in middle position. I find A-J, but decide to limp in --- I'm just enjoying the bizarre table and not caring much about the correct play; everyone else has been limping in and seeing flops as well. Besides, the big blind only has another $300 in chips. Oh, and I hate A-J.

The small blind limps in as well, but he's short-stacked too; I've got him covered by a couple hundred.

The flop comes A-J-10, giving me top two, and as I expected, the big blind pushes his last $300. The only thing I really fear is K-Q, and even then, at least I'd have four outs. So I call behind again, and the small blind also calls, for $300 of his remaining $700. Now that's weird, but I'm pot-committed; I'll push the rest on the turn if a K, Q or 10 doesn't arrive.

The turn card is a 7, seemingly safe. I push. I get called --- have I indeed been trapped by a slow-played K-Q?

The small blind turns over 7-7.

Oh, come on now. How could the guy possibly think those sevens were good with an all-in push and a call-behind in front of him? And with so few chips, how could he justify the payback odds for his two-outer?

Well, that's why it's the media event.

I roll my eyes, chuckle; it's about what I expected. Vince makes a lot of squawking noises at me, commisserating. "Oh, that's an ugly beat! I mean, top two! And the seven --- I mean, top two!"

I just smile and shrug --- I've still got $200, and three hands until the big blinds eat me up. On two of those hands I find junk and worse junk. On the third hand, under the gun, I look over at Vince, say, "I don't think it matters much," followed by "all-in, blind." I toss the two $100 chips to the middle. Vince looks at me and nods --- at least he respected the move.

By some miracle of chance it's folded all the way around to father Dick in the big blind, and he turns over... A-J. Bad omen. I grab one of my cards, flip it over. "A deuce!" I grab the other card. "It's another deuce! At least it's a race!"

But not for long. A jack flops, an ace turns, and I'm gone. I shake hands and depart. Thus ended my hour or so of play in the media event, a true goofball spectacle of poker.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Corporation and the Counter-Culture: In-Fighting at the WSOP

One of the benefits of not being a part of anyone's camp is that one can comment on both sides of a situation with equal, blithe abandon. Such is the case with the recent behind-the-scenes battles between the media "haves" at the WSOP (personified by ESPN and Card Player and to a lesser degree Bluff, though they straddled the line), and the "have-nots," represented by pretty much everyone else. There were layers and pecking orders within the have-not side as well, that being the main "other" outlets, down to many of us red-badged newbies that showed up for a few days, here and there. The biggies on the have-not/counter-culture side were Poker Stars, Party Poker and the Pokerati/Pokerblog.com crew; most of the others were foreign crews, smaller mags, online sites and independent journalists, though I am skipping a big name or two. That have-not, counterculture side centered around Otis and Pauly and April and Dan Michalski and Change100 and Wil and CC and whatzername-the-Brit-woman-from-Party and so on. Spaceman I never met. Nor did I have the chance to catch up with Sin City Carmen, for which I apologize. Things have a way of spinning out of control.

I did meet most of them... on both sides. The blogger types were your normal writerly mix: business-polite in the way all media people are when they meet others, with about four or five friendly exceptions; the others pretty much had their work to do and their friends to share their spare time with, and I was the late-arriving, not-hot newbie, and therefore not to be trusted. When I turned up onsight again for another eight days, thanks to Damon Rasheed and pokernews.com, the walls came down a tiny bit at a time. The others could see that I was indeed not fucking around, and I knocked out over 20 published pieces in the seven days I had proper 'Net access from the Rio. (Many more since then, too, all from my notes.)

Of course, after some French jackass decided that my shoulder was an appropriate resting spot for his chair after he leaned back, I did most of my writing from the auxiliary media room. Better crowd (as in lack thereof), and I'd have stayed there around the clock except for spotty 'Net access and a lack of security for my just-purchased machine, so late at night I'd return to the main room for an hour or two when the Tilted Kilt beckoned those others. On the official Main Event "off day," the one day I used the main room most of the day, I knocked off 9,000 words in a little over six hours. On that day, the main media room was the place to be. Because it didn't have any writers, including occasional;y cranky blogger types whining about the things they didn't have the power to change.

The ugliness leaked out in the writing in weird spots --- even in Pauly's stuff, to cite just one example. Pauly's the most gifted writer among all the people in the room, and I read everything he wrote from the Rio, but even he's capable of the occasional "what the hell?" moment. Like when he writes, way back on July 31: "Harrah's tossed us a few stale sandwiches on the banquet table in the media room. The animals swarmed."

Neat image, concise and gritty. Also skewed. The sandwiches were damned nice for freebies --- go ahead, call me a cheap animal, I can take it --- but it doesn't mean that we didn't get sick of them, each in our turn, after a day or two. Nor does it hint at the fact that in the pressure-chilled air of the Rio, bread goes from oven-fresh to crunchy in about four hours, so stale's a relative measure, nor that if he could still get to them and find them stale, then they had to be present for at least some period of time, nor that, media expectations be damned, Harrah's has no obligation to feed us. See, Pauly was on writer's tilt, even way back then. It's what the zoo can do. Later on, when the media net gets really tight and I ask him how the hell he can meet all his deadlines, he just shrugs, figures he'll find a way, heads out the door with Change100. In early August he looks like his gonzo writing style come to life, as if he's plowing a broad plowshare's swath through the desert, at the end of which we'll find his bones. "I made it this far!" the nearby sign will say, just like the old postcard image.

But I digress.

Think that all the ESPN and Card Player folks were evil corporate toadies, smashing everyone out of the way? In one sense, yes, but in another, not at all --- they'd paid the big bucks for the rights to get first access to the story, and whether they fucked some things up is always a judgment call. That the Card Player system didn't work as idealized now seems an easy call, but it was like a lot of other things at the '06 WSOP, a band-aid fix applied to a monster grown too large for many previous systems to work.

ESPN? Swatting people with equipment? Yes, I believe it --- there was one crew that was a pack of officious punks. But on the other side, one of the ESPN crews was a pleasant, professional crew who'd been on the job for 12 years running; I had no problem getting answers and advice for them as chance allowed, just as they knew I wasn't camera-preening, the way a couple of the red-badged writers were. (Bet you didn't hear about that, but it happened.) I don't want to be on camera, yet nonetheless I stumbled into a couple of shots, had a couple of others where rushing players managed to trap me in front of the lens. For the record, I'm not there to be on camera. But it happens.

Another instance involves the Card Player group --- they gave off nothing but an air of being besieged, being defensive, of being a general target for hate and derision without understanding what they'd done wrong or what they could do to change it. The interns on the floor and the mid-level players at the CP table took a lot a heat for their bosses' decision to pay big up front, then do the nuts-and-bolts floor work on the cheap. But if you were civil with them, besieged as they were, they'd be civil back. Mildly informative, even, on non-chip-count matters.

It held with the WSOP tournament directors, too. Despite the fact that I had to write up one terrible episode of chip non-security for a piece over at the KAP blog, the vast majority of the directors were great sources of information, friendly, helpful, and as courteous as they could be under the circumstances. From Nolan Dalla and Jack McClelland on down, they did everything they could to answer my questions --- and questions, even stupid ones, I often had. Here's something else you haven't read: By the time the worst of the media-crush problems arose, the directors had everything else pretty well in hand.

Jack McClelland said as much, a moment before he waded into the midst of the remaining action. "So tell me, Haley," he said, "would you rather be anywhere but here?"

And I had to tell him the truth, that it'd become such a tightly crushed zoo that I was ready to hit the road.

"You disappoint me. I thought you were a fan." But with a twinkle in his eye as he said it.

Oh, I am, Jack, you need not worry. But the space for fans was slim, the space for marginal writers (and distinctive tales) slimmer still. From a distance, watching, I didn't need to be there to do it anymore.

It was time to leave.

* * * * * * *


Oh a couple of mythbusting notes: The famed "hooker bar" isn't an enclosed bar at all --- it's an open-air bar built along the casino's north wall, just a little bit to the east of where the main concourse heads to the Convention Center and the WSOP action. The "Shutters" sign is not prominent.Across from the bar is one of those mini-stages built inside a small bank of slots, where an appointed Rio dancer can punch a song request into the digital control at the base, step up, and gyrate away above the slot-feeding patrons. And yes, there really are hookers at the hooker bar, any time from seven or eight p.m. on. One night, on my way up to the Voodoo Lounge, I saw a tired blonde working a guy straight from Central Casting, with his taped, hornrimmed glasses and three inches of underwear riding up out the back of his pants.

The Tilted Kilt is an enclosed bar, way down at the east end of the serpentine-styled casino, as far from the WSOP action as one can get on the main floor of the Rio. It's not far from several banks of Mr. Cashman and Hot Hot Penny 1-cent slots, and it's the loud end of the casino proper, where a rotating series of floor shows occurs. Some of the shows are off-floor, too, mainly three different gondolas that ride the ceiling rails as more dancers, uhhh, dance and toss plastic Rio bead necklaces to pleading casino patrons on the casino floor and the balconies just above. The gondolas make lap after lap after lap, a different mix of the Rio's scantily-clad sextoys appearing on each lap the gondola makes, each dancer with an OSHA-mandated safety strap around her waist, securing her to the ride. (Occasional hims ride, too.) The Kilt's just a bar. Had a beer there, one night. Happily alone. Outside the "Rio Grande" ceiling gondola whirred by, and a cacaphony of whistles went off as the heart of that lap's production began. No doubt, beads were tossed.

End of beer. Off to quieter climes, old, old me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Trying a Sample of Satellites at the WSOP

Well, I had to sneak in some poker on my recent Vegas trip, which grew in increments from two to five to thirteen days. With a bankroll of only a few hundred dollars, playing in one of the small last-chance $1,500 events wasn't an option. I also knew I'd be playing in the media event on the 27th, but as you all know, that ain't real good poker. And I needed to do something to satisfy that poker jones, besides the wandering around and taking notes and photos of everybody else's fun.

So along about suppertime on the 26th, I wander over to the satellite corner of the Amazon Room, very near where the doors lead out to the Beast Light beer garden. My bankroll says 'cheapest only,' so I cough up the $175 fee, draw a card and end up in the three seat. I'm nervous as hell. I've heard that the players in these aren't the greatest, but that description fits me as well. I also know that there a few people who are pretty good players, who do little else during the WSOP but hang around and play the supers and regular sats, accumulate a batch of the $500 buy-in chips for use in other events, and sell those chips to other players.

I don't recognize any of the nine men at the table, but they all look like lions and tigers to me. I check my $1,000 in chips --- eight $100's and eight $25's --- and the cards are dealt.

Not much happens the first lap or so. I see one flop, but have to get away from it when a scary board arrives. I notice one thing, though: Compared to online players, these guys are chronic underbettors. Limping and creating 5-way flops is commonplace, as are min-raises, which usually means at least four people stay. I don't plan on doing that, once I see what's going on, but I don't have much choice --- after the better part of two laps we've lost only one player (on a donkey call of another player's all-in, the guy calls with his paired ace... and a 7 kicker), and I'm down to about $775 when the big blind rolls around again.

I've got 7-4 off, but four people limp, and the small blind and I see the flop for cheap.

7 - 7 - 6. Now things are interesting.

The small blind fires in $50, only one third of the pot, and I just call behind. Two others do, too. The turn is a most heavenly 4, giving me a garbage-y boat, and now the small blind fires $350 at me. I move in for the couple hundred more than that that I have, knowing the other players are going to give credit to one of us for having the third seven, if not a junk straight. Besides I don't want three people drawing at my baby boat, if I can help it. Any overpair offers more outs against me, and I know I'll get one caller already.

As expected, the others fold and the small blind calls, and he has the case 7, but his kicker is a Q. He's dead to three outs for the win, three more for the chop, but it doesn't come up --- my baby boat holds and I'm up over $1,800. A short while later I flop top two and take another okay pot, moving to about $2,600, but there are five of us left, all hovering around that 2K mark. And I drop two small pots, win one, steal another pot --- and I finally knock out another player when my overpair (JJ) takes out top-pair-top-kicker on an 8-high board. I look around --- there's only three of us left, and I'm the leader with almost $4,000.

I take the chop --- the -EV, utility-function decision it might have been. But dammit, it's mt first-ever super, my first-ever WSOP action of any kind, and I have no bankroll, besides. (It turns out that the few hundred dollars I make is just enough to allow to me to buy the inexpensive notebook computer I later have to procure.) I'm the official winner of the super, too, so I guess I now have the smallest of all WSOP histories, along with 100,000 others.

I go on to play two more satellites at the WSOP, a week later, both of them $175 sats for the $1,500 last-chance events. One of them is purchased for me by a very nice man from Florida, named Vern Toland, who I played next to for hours at a Caesar's tournament and who thought enough of my play to want to risk $175 of his own money on me when I run into him at another of the last-chance events. I let him down, though, when short-stacked, I run jacks into kings and get no help. But thank you, Vern; I just wish I'd picked a better spot to push.

The other last-chance sat goes not much better, but at least I go out of that one after having gotten all my money in with the best hand not once, but twice. I end up my satellite experience a very forgettable 1-for-3, with a tiny overall profit. Forgettable by all except me, of course. There's something special about sitting down at a WSOP table for the first time, no matter how small the stakes. And if I have the chance, I'll try it again next year.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Kleenex Girl

"If you can't pick out the fish at the table, it's you." --- classic poker saying

And here's the flip side of how a newbie writer rates, out on the floor of the WSOP.

I'd been at the Rio for no more than a couple of hours, basically long enough to register for my press credentials and start the process that writers and fans alike do on their first trip to the WSOP: a search for familiar faces. The hallways are busy. It's the afternoon of the 25th, three days before the Main Event starts. A couple of other tournaments are in progress, the satellites and cash-game areas have good traffic, and the hallways are busy. The first face I recognize is Robert Williamson III, posing for a photo.

The second face is Amy Calistri's, though it's her ever-present black hat I recognize first. Third is Pauly.

Soon enough, though, I'm back out on the floor, imagining that the security guards are wondering whose badge I've stolen, so lost and wayward I must appear. So I dig out my memo pad and my cheapie camera, take some notes and a photo or two. Amazon Room lap completed, I wander back over to where one of the tournaments is winding down to about 18 tables, but I'm out of practice and I'm new to recognizing these players' faces in real life. (I'm a bit out of practice as a live reporter, too, but that's another story.) I'm happy, though, because I see that they're still outside the 15-tables rule, and I verify with a guard that I can enter the area.

Surely there's someone in there I'll recognize, so I search and search, and right in front of me, it's Phil Laak! Photo time! So I sneak around to the far entrance, too new and nervous to do the rail-climbing one gets used to later on, make tripledamnsure my camera is set for "no flash," and slide in on the opposite side of Laak's table to grab a photo... or two.

I don't get the chance. He looks up at me and gets up from his seat, walks around to me.

Have I violated some unwritten rule on my very first steps inside the rail? Laak approaches; I move to the side to let him pass, but he stops in front of me. Shit. Busted. "Hey, could you do me a favor?" he asks, more quietly than I expect.

"What, Phil?"

"I'm all plugged up in here," he says, looking up at where the hall's fans hum away. "Can you find me some Kleenex?"

I chuckle just a bit, knowing he sized me up as a newbie on the spot, and tell him that I will, though I end up chugging down to the vending store down by the casino (I forget that the souvenir store is closer) and buy one of those little tissue vending packs. Cost: $1.37, with tax. I'll write it off. By the time I get back, the word has just been passed that the 15-table level has been reached. The security guard lets me inside anyway, long enough to drop off the damn tissues.

No more photos, however, at least in that tourney. Later on, during the Main Event, Laak lets me shoot a couple of great, close-up "Unabomber" poses and lets me have his all-in chip --- he doesn't want the thing. For me, I sort of like it: it's a funny reminder of my pathetic, newbie, first moments on the floor.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Latest From Yadda, Yadda, Yadda and McCormack --- and Pepaj's Response

Frivolous Lawsuit Dropped Against Bodog.com and Fox Sports Net (FSN)

For Immediate Release

August 09, 2006

A lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court against Bodog Entertainment Group and related parties by BlueMoon Entertainment of L.A. was dismissed on Monday. BlueMoon also dropped its lawsuit against Fox Sports Net (FSN). The lawsuit against both Bodog Entertainment Group (and related defendants) and Fox Sports Net was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that BlueMoon cannot later re-assert its claims.

'My client takes accusations of this type extremely seriously and will fight to whatever extent the law allows to ensure that frivolous claims brought against it are dismissed,' said Bodog Entertainment Group attorney James Nguyen, a partner at Foley & Lardner LLP and co-chair of the firm's Entertainment & Media Industry Team. 'Bodog Entertainment Group wants to make clear that entities who decide to pursue litigation against it for capricious reasons or to try to get a quick nuisance value settlement payment will not be rewarded. My client believes the lawsuit by BlueMoon Entertainment was frivolous, and will vigorously defend itself from such baseless litigation. The case brought against Costa Rican-based Bodog and U.S.-based Fox Sports Net had no merit and it is telling that BlueMoon Entertainment abandoned the lawsuit.'

Filed in April 2006 in Los Angeles Superior Court, BlueMoon Entertainment's lawsuit alleged that Bodog Entertainment Group and its CEO Calvin Ayre were in breach of contract, breach of confidence and misappropriation of ideas in relation to Mr. Ayre's self-produced reality television series, which aired on Fox Sports Net (FSN). BlueMoon Entertainment claimed that it had proposed a similar show to Bodog Entertainment Group, though never had any written contract with Bodog Entertainment Group to produce any television program or to enter into any other business relationship together.

The Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker show was significantly different in numerous respects from the show proposal alleged by BlueMoon Entertainment. The only similarities were the involvement of Mr. Ayre and poker.

Immediately upon filing the suit in April, BlueMoon Entertainment sought a temporary restraining order to halt the broadcast of Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker on Fox Sports Net. But BlueMoon Entertainment lost that effort, when a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled against it at the TRO hearing. After that loss, BlueMoon Entertainment sought to extract a significant monetary payment from Bodog Entertainment Group, which was flatly rejected because Bodog Entertainment Group had no liability.

'This is just yet another case of a producer coming out of the woodworks to file a baseless lawsuit against a successful entertainment project because the producer somehow, somewhere met someone involved with the project,' Nguyen said. 'In reality, BlueMoon Entertainment raced to the courthouse to file this lawsuit before the Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker series was aired on Fox Sports Network, and therefore without even knowing what the show looked like. Before actually seeing the Bodog program, how could BlueMoon Entertainment reasonably believe that its supposed show proposal was strikingly similar to Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker? The answer is BlueMoon could not have, and my client believes that shows the lawsuit was baseless to begin with.'

On Monday, BlueMoon representatives appeared in court and voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice, thus agreeing not to pursue any more litigation against either Mr. Ayre, any member of the Bodog Entertainment Group or Fox Sports Net in relation to the television series.

The fact that BlueMoon dismissed the lawsuit so quickly, without even requiring Bodog Entertainment Group S.A. to file a response to the complaint, just confirms the weakness in the case. Equally telling, is that BlueMoon filed its lawsuit, lost hearings in the case, and then promptly gave up on pursuing the case.

'It is very rare for a plaintiff to just voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit with prejudice so early in the case. That is a testament to the weakness in BlueMoon's legal position,' Nguyen said.

Mr. Ayre and Bodog are not afraid to fight frivolous lawsuits, and will not settle frivolous claims just for efficiency's purposes. This lawsuit was baseless and appears to have been a cash-grab attempt.

The Bodog Entertainment Group continues to expand its digital entertainment division with a list of new television shows slated to kick off in the fall. The Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker television series, which showcased Mr. Ayre's billionaire philanthropist lifestyle, aired on Fox Sports Net (FSN) in spring of 2006.


* * * * * * * * *

Nothing like a release full of half-truths, and love that badly-written title, too. Babette Pepaj of Bluemoon had contacted me about this twice in recent days, the first to point me to the notification of the dropping of her suit itself, and the second, to advise me of the "smokescreen news release" (as she put it), reprinted above.

Smokescreen, no. Cobbled-together selection of half-truths and misdirections, yes. For nowhere in the above does the Bodog machine choose to address the one point that was cited as the reason for Bluemoon's dropping of the case, the ability (for better or for worse) of Bodog to dance outside the reach of U.S. legal judgments.

Bluemoon has also revised its press release on the dropping of the matter, which is available here. In addition to reworking the title of the release along the lines of the above --- "Update: Bodog Uses Offshore Status to Evade U.S. Lawsuit, According to Bluemoon Entertainment," followed by the deck, "Statements by Bodog Attorneys Obscure the Legal and Financial Hazards of Working With the Costa Rica-Based Online Casino" --- the release throws a few parting shots over Ayre's head. Here's the meat:

"Statements made by Bodog lawyer James Nguyen of Foley & Lardner in a news release dated August 9th refer to the case as 'frivolous' and 'baseless.' But a detailed breakdown of the similarities between the Bodog and Bluemoon programs proves otherwise (a breakdown is included in the lawsuit -- case #BC 350152). The fact is that during a series of in-person meetings that occurred May-August 2005 with senior Bodog representatives, Bluemoon provided Bodog with complete project disclosure, and submitted numerous proposal and development materials, including project overviews and synopsis, episodic outlines, distribution and marketing breakdowns, and production schedules with full budget analysis. Prior to providing these details, Bodog representative Susan Mainzer entered into a non-disclosure agreement on behalf of Bodog. It has been reported that prior to Bluemoon's development of the original poker-themed reality series, Bodog's only other foray into reality television involved a proposed but never produced series in which women would compete to bear Mr. Ayer's child in exchange for a $10 million prize.

'Bluemoon elected to dismiss this case because Bodog and Mr. Ayre have shielded themselves from U.S. civil as well as criminal law,' said Bluemoon spokesperson Grace Williams. 'Bodog's lawyers can spin the dismissal any way they choose in the press, but their PR efforts won't change the fact that Bodog deliberately maintains all of its assets outside the reach of U.S. civil court judgments. Even serving routine court papers, let alone trying to collect a judgment, was a challenge.'

It has been reported on several online poker news sites that Mr. Ayre, whose earlier legal problems involving insider stock trading in Canada are well documented, is reportedly avoiding entry into the U.S. due to concern over the Justice Department's crackdown on online gambling."


Ouch.

What to say, what to say. My research has led me to believe the Bluemoon version of the story more than the Bodog one, but the events of the last 48 hours are what I believed would happen all along. It was, for all intents and purposes, an unwinnable suit.

I'd like to thank Ms. Pepaj here for taking the time to keep me abreast of developments in the case in recent days. Unfortunately, when you lie down with dogs, you're likely to wake up with a good case of Calvin-faced fleas.

After all, quality of character can't be measured at the bottom line.

It Wasn't Quite Dannemann's Home Game, But...

I walked into the Rio's Convention Center a few minutes before play was to begin on Day 2-A of the Main Event. The players were drifting back and forth between the Amazon Room and the various suites, the bathrooms, or to whatever other last-minute preparations needed to be done. A guy calls over to me, in a calm voice, steps into my path toward the media room. "Hi, how've you been?"

"Randy?" I pop back, a bit incredulously.

I'm a bit taken back --- it's a guy from my old Wausau, WI home game, name of Randy Lang. Shortish, balding on top, mid-forties, but it's Randy, and here he is in a black Bodog shirt getting ready to start Day 2 play. "But not for long," he says, "I've only got around 12,000 in chips." It turns out it's his third trip to the Main Event, not his first, although it is his first time to make it through to the second day's play.

What's odd, though, is that I figured Randy as the player from that old group of mine who was most likely to have made it to the WSOP, but I'd checked the player lists and found him not listed. Mystery solved, in parts One and Two: the overall sheets reported him as "Lung, Randall," and though he was a Bodog qualifier, he seemed to have dropped off their scope entirely, not being on their list of 131 Day-2 survivors.

Randy was always a hard-edged card gambler with an angle-shooter's mentality toward everything he's done; there's a few of them in every small city. Still, Randy was always able to back up his hustle and the fast talk with real results, and that's the difference, why I learned to give him his dues even if he occasionally drove me nuts. Back in the days when baseball cards reigned supreme, Randy ran much of the central Wisconsin show action, and he played the back markets as the Beanie Baby craze came and went as well. One of the funniest lines about Randy I ever heard came from Jeff Fritsch, the son of Larry Fritsch, of Larry Fritsch (Baseball) Cards* fame. Jeff said about Randy: "That Randy Lang, he's so crooked that when he dies, they're going to have to screw him into the ground."

[* The senior Fritsch amassed one of the world's most valuable sports-card collections, worth millions, and built up a mail-order business which his son runs to this day... or at least the last time I checked. A visit inside the Fritsch vaults --- and I've been there --- is the equivalent of opening up and handling those trophy cases full o' WSOP bracelets that were on display at the Rio. Within its own world, it's the same type of rarified air.]

A typical Randy Lang story: he needed to make a trip to an East Coast card show to set up shop, and had no vehicle. So on the day before the trip, he goes down to the dealer and forks out cash for a new SUV, from dumping some old ballcards through his dealer network, then hits the road. Randy once hosted a game in the strangest location I've ever played --- the subterranean chambers (the word "basement" doesn't do them justice) that ran beneath and interconnected many of the stores in the oldest part of downtown Wausau. We might have been playing under 3rd St., but we were not going to get busted, that I can assure you. And Randy's been tossed out of one of the Wisconsin tribal casinos for life, for purportedly capping a blackjack bet; he has had his drunk and stupid moments through the years.

Still, Randy's always shot straight with me (well, maybe excepting a small gin game or two), and despite his own hell-in-a-handbasket attitude toward the world, he did me any number of small favors over the years. And yet Randy is still Randy, too sharp-edged for most people to handle. It's no surprise when he gives me a chuckle and says, "Ehh, three people at the table already hate me." I learn later that Randy plays under the name "Wausau" on Bodog, and under different handles on other sites. But his "I won't be playing for long" prediction for Day 2 turns to be right on the mark. He doubles through once, then gets caught running a naked bluff with 5-2... and he's out the door.

It's a blast from the past when I've done nothing for days but swim in a sea of strange new faces.

And the next day, it happens again....

Day 2 is underway for a couple of hours when I'm accosted by a tall gentleman with a graying blond moustache, who greets me with a loud "Hey, how's it going?" in a basso profundo voice. And this one is Patrick Schmitt, another Wausau native, another player in that same semi-regular, built-from-a-batch-of-bowling-friends card game from years ago. It takes me a moment to recognize him behind his moustache, and I have my second double-take in as many days. He'd made Day 2 as well, after qualifying through Party, but his own Main Event came to an end when he ran A-Q into A-K. Pat ("Schmitty") is not inconsolable, however; he's still enjoying the scene, sent to the rail or not. It's his first trip to the WSOP, and he utters a line that I find funny enough to work into a piece I do for John Caldwell and Pokernews.com, although it's one of the three pieces I send to Caldwell that he doesn't run. Schmitty is quite sincere when vows that he's coming back, whether he satellites in or has to fork over the ten grand on his own. "It's the last great American gold rush," he says, and he believes it. It's the best Everyman touch I hear on the day. Schmitty also goes on a corn-pone run about wanting to find Nolan Dalla, to ask him if it's true that they they wouldn't let Mikey the Chimp play "because he wasn't 21." Well, that one didn't even make it by me.

Schmiity is backwoods/farmboy Wisconsin come to life, tall, lean, tough as nails. I've known his whole family for many years --- his father a dairy and ginseng farmer, his mother a working country wife and antiques dealer, his two brothers factory laborers. I once saw his foot after his toes were crushed under the extensible support legs of one of those giant grader/haulers used for clearing trees and cutting fire trails. He went to the hospital, had the injury set and cleaned, went home, got his normal two or three hours of sleep, then wedged a boot over his injury and limped out to work his two fulltime jobs the next day as well. A few days later I saw pus oozing out of his toe... and he'd stood all day and worked on it.

He's backwoods true, but no dummy; he's as likely to be checking on a stock option or a hot sports tip as he is milking the cows or weeding shang (ginseng), tasks he's done with equal aplomb. But he's out of the WSOP, and he has to be on his way, and I have to patrol the aisles, looking for other poker stories. Still, I give him my business card, and tell him to call me if anything comes up, or if he knows of a good card game the next time I'm up that way.

Later on that day a Party Poker rep drops into the media room and issues a room-wide invitation to attend that night's Party hoopla; he's got an open list and he's taking names. I've been skipping the WSOP party scene, but I decide that, what the hell, I'll go to one and see the fuss and bother. But only about 20 minutes after the Party rep leaves my phone rings, and it's Schmitty on the line. He'll be flying out in the morning, but he's just found out that he's got $280 of hard comps at the MGM Grand that he's going to lose if he can't burn them up. Can I get myself over to the MGM Grand for dinner and drinks?

Hmmm. I can party with Party, or I can get together with an old friend that I haven't seen in at least eight years.

It's not even a choice. I take my laptop back to my room at the Gold Coast, then cab over to the MGM. Pat and I end up at one of the nice steakhouses on the main floor, burn through a couple of $80 steaks, reminisce about the old days. He's relaxed and his voice is low and carrying; I have to shush him a couple of times when his yarns include his unique northwoods injections; lines like "Oh, my aching junk!" uttered loud and low, bring looks of scorn from tables all around. But I'm laughing, too. Same old Schmitty.

For a group of five or six friends who used to play some poker together, I guess that old north Wisconsin group had a respectable showing in big-time poker. Two of the small group made it to second-day play at the WSOP, at the same time I was making my unsuccessful trip into the nationally televised Poker Dome, though I fell short in that one as well. But I got there, and that's still a small something. Just as my old friends "got there" to this other stage.

Not quite Dannemann's home game, but not bad for a small group of players from a small town, far off the beaten path. We could've done worse.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Batch of Pieces for PokerNews.com

What should one do when an unexpected opportunity knocks? The answer for me was to seize it --- even though it left me in a precarious situation. Due to an odd commingling of circumstances, I stayed in Las Vegas for an extra eight days, pulling together a few back stories for John and Damon at pokernews.com. One thing pokernews.com had going for them throughout the tourney was the best chip-count information that the fans could see and access, displayed on a giant-screen plasma monitor suspended at the top of the pokernews.com booth. Card Player may have had exclusivity for real-time chip-count reporting, but they did squat with it, not offering it to the players or fans in any visible manner, so a few minutes after the fact the information popped up elsewhere at other spots.

I was given relatively free reign to chip in content as I found it --- and there's a truism of the WSOP: there are stories everywhere early on, and all you need to watch out for is not repeating someone else's efforts. When Day Three arrives, and growing worse thereafter, the media net is drawn so tight that new angles are a precious commodity. Not only do ESPN and Card Player have the inside-the-rails stuff sealed up, but the other big sites are also guarding their own, such as the Stars and Party crews, who are mostly nice folks but who need to track their herds. No hu-hu; it's just that in the jet wash, the tag-end scraps grow mighty thin, a collection of well-gnawed bones with not much worth the time to explore and type. So how's that for metaphors mashed and merged?

As it was, John Caldwell ran fifteen of my pieces in the eight days I was on the floor, turning down perhaps three others. My favorites are the Luske piece and the two I wrote on the first "off day," one of which has that in the title, the other the "Feel Good Stories" item nearby. I also made a point of making friends with a few of the tournament directors as I worked the floor, and that'll let me uncover more good items the next time I have the chance to cover the event. This time was a learning experience, but 15 pieces published isn't bad output for a first-timer under these conditions, and that doesn't count the normal week's load over at the Kick Ass blog and that major piece --- nearly 6,000 words --- that I've sent off to Mickey Wilson at Pokermagazine.com, although she might run it over at pokertv.com if she accepts it. (Maybe she'll have to serialize it.) In essence, I did my job, even if I did sneak in a little poker and other stuff on the side. More tales to come, of course, as promised.

Here are some links to pieces of mine that you can see on the pokernews.com site:

Away from the Spotlights, the WSOP Marches On
WSOP Updates - Day Four a Wild Ride for Team PokerNews' Per Erik Loeff
WSOP Updates - Miracle Run Over for Diamond, Chiu Plays Big-Stack Poker
WSOP Miracle - From 1,100 to 97,000 – The Story of Day 3 – Jonathan Diamond (w/ John Caldwell, who wrote the piece's published lead-in)
An Exit With Class: Ferguson to the Rail at the Main Event
WSOP Bubble Boys to Enjoy Chance at 2007 Seat With Milwaukee's Best Light (press-release pap, no biggee)
WSOP Updates: A Day of Rest
The Day Off: Feel Good Stories Another Side of the WSOP Experience
For Kathy Liebert, a Tough Second Day's Task
WSOP Updates - Phil Ivey Survives, Annie Duke Grinds Forward
Team PokerNews' Per Erik Loeff Knocks Out Scotty Nguyen, Builds Sizable Stack
WSOP Updates – Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson Doubles Through at Start of Day Two
For WSOP Vendors, it's the Same ol' Story - Location, Location, Location
WSOP Updates – The Tale of a Mismarked Chip
WSOP Updates - The Flying Dutchman and the Splendid Start: Marcel Luske

Older, wiser... and not a bit richer. I came, I saw, I wrote and I survived. A good two weeks at that.

Bluemoon Drops Suit Against Bodog, FSN

Yesterday, on Monday, August 7, Bluemoon Entertainment dropped its ongoing lawsuit against Bodog and Fox Sports Net, ending one of the most interesting poker-legal battles of the year. Bluemoon's press release, which took one last shot at Bodog, cited the defendant's "offshore status and business practices" as primary causes for the dropping of the suit, conceding that is "very unlikely that Bluemoon could collect any potential judgment in the U.S."

The release continued by summarizing some of the obvious points in the matter and mentioned previously reported items as well, including the short and acrimonious May 3rd meeting where Bodog reps were reported to have vowed to keep their assets beyond U.S. reach. That this case's result was predictable doesn't change the fact that Bodog hasn't done the greater poker world any good in this or other matters. It's a matter of short-term gains, from the Bodog view, even if that means cutting off one's nose to spite the face.

As Bluemoon spokesperson Grace Williams said, "This case should serve as a wake-up call to U.S. companies considering doing business with such firms." And, this writer adds, to serve as additional fodder for legislators seeking proof of the predatory nature of certain "offshore" sites.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tools and Wankers

As the crow flies, it's not a long distance, perhaps 500 yards. At one end sits the Rio Convention Center, where every day lately the world's best poker players mix it up, and on the other is the misnamed "Poker Room" at the neighboring Gold Coast. 500 yards? It's parsecs, whether or not Wil is in the house.

The Gold Coast's poker room represents the bottom rungs of casino poker. It's not a room at all, but a roped-off area at the far back of the casino, beneath a faux neon sign in classic display-board cursiff --- the sign uses the same font that PokerHost.com uses for its emblem. Nine or ten badly worn tables occupy the space, back amongst the penny slots and video-poker machines. The felt on each table is so worn and thin that thousands of inches-long scratch marks show through, by-product of the millions of fingers and fingernails scraping cards or chips to different spots. The carpet below is worn and dented where the chairs' caster wheels have stayed too long in certain spots, and gravity pulls your seat back to those spots again and again as you play.

It's two a.m. and there's four tables in action, a couple of 2-4 half-kill limit games, another at 4-8, a desultory 1-2 no-limit game. Donkeyball all. Next door to the Rio, during the WSOP, and there's not a big game in sight.

It ought to tell you something.

At one of the tables sits a dark-haired guy, late 30's, full of bravura, full of shit. He's a never-had-his-prime type, an obvious room regular who plays half decent poker and who thinks this gives him the right to redraw the world according to his design. He's on a alcohol buzz and is out to tilt as many people as possible... and it's easy to do --- he's flat-out obnoxious and his own biggest fan. During one hand he asks an open question of the table, and when he gets an answer from one of middle-aged locals across the way, it's his license to go on a rant. "Were you in the hand? Shut the fuck up!" The ensuing argument and continuing rant sends the other player from the table, the second one our hero's dispatched in an hour. Of course, hand-participation status doesn't prevent his own running commentary, or helping his evening's companion in playing her cards, a clear violation of the rules which the room's tired dealers repeatedly remind him of but can't be bothered to enforce. Calling out his own cards as he folds them pre-flop or miscalling others' winning hands are an everyhand occurrence, too.

The tool's companion is a work of art herself, Somewhere around 60, perhaps, with bad platinum-blonde hair and skin so leathered and wrinkly it's clear she's spent decades as a southern-clime sun bunny. She wears a yellowish tank and a gold pendant that dangles above her mottled bosom as she leans forward to play her cards, a not-pretty sight. At least she's not the plastic-surgery type, being rather under-endowed, and I'm praying she doesn't do any shaking and strutting --- the imagining of a Hershey's kiss wrapped in wrinkly, twisted leather, popping free of an overloose tank top, is an image I dread. And whether she's the cretin's mother or his whore is never quite clear. The looks she gives him are of the "sugar daddy" variety.

It only gets worse when a British woman of mixed descent --- a little bit of Tiffany Williamson in her features --- takes a seat, and she's joined minutes later by her friend, a tall blonde with a nose piercing and a pissy attitude. The blonde's been around the Rio's media room in recent days, and while her friend is merely loud and pickled, the blonded is sloshed and obnoxious. In the meantime, the first woman gets called a "wanker" by our self-elected hero, trying to impress the touristas with his worldly charm, and it's clear that he genuinely doesn't know that not only is this not a term of endearment, it's not even applicable in the specific case. Bloody moron, wot? And as the blonde borrows $40 from her wanker-called friend to take a seat, the table degenerates into an argument of slang-term definitions and personalities.

The floor supervisor stops by, asks the dealer, "Are you in control of the table?" The dealer nods his yes, but it's a bad joke. The super's not doing his job, either.

Worse, it turns out that the addition of the British blonde is the pouring of gasoline on the flames. She's not there to play the game, she's there to insult it. On her first hand she pushes J-3 throughout, then claims she thought there was a J on the board, and in the second hand she just pushes all her chips to the middle. "Let's play some bloody no-limit. That's the real game." After her chips have been sorted out, most pushed back, the next player, a modest-looking dude with a blatant tell, makes a reraise, and most of the rest of the table folds. Our original hero fires off an insult at this guy --- just because --- and in the meantime, the tanked Brit pushes all her chips to middle again and again, causing the already stressed dealer to sort and re-push with every bet. It's capped pre-flop as the arguments rage, so loud and unruly that play on the other three tables has ceased, with even the old cowboys up out of their seats, trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.

As for me, I've quietly racked my chips and prepare to leave, as do two others at the table. The floor super says, "Wait, I'm taking her off the table," but her junk holdings suck out and win, and as another hand starts the trash-talk battle swells to include more direct insults and physical threats. It's an ugly scene
and I'm out of there.

40 minutes of poker at the Gold Coast, and I'll never do it again.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hang in There, Kiddies

Readers waiting for tales from my unexpected Vegas trip, encompassing the WSOP and my trip into the MansionPoker Poker Dome will have a few days longer to wait. I'm still in Vegas --- and have been, for close to two weeks now, having signed up to provide content for additional outlets.

I have a hundred tales, ready for the sharing, each of them wonderful or miserable in a very special way. A few of the best will appear over at the Kick Ass Poker blog, as always --- http://kickasspoker.blogspot.com --- but I quite literally had to rush out and by an inexpensive laptop on the fly in order to do what I now need to get down. I don't have an HTML editor installed on this machine, and so updates here and to the original Haley's Poker Blaug-gh! will have to wait until my return.

In the meantime, you can find a number of new pieces of mine over at Pokernews.com, where I've tossed in perhaps a dozen columns over the last four or five days. And I may have a long piece appearing very soon over at Mickey Wilson's Poker Magazine, or on her related site, pokertv.com. I'm pretty sure you can guess what that's one about, and while I can't guarantee that it'll be published, I'll offer you this much: it's one of the most heartfelt pieces I've ever written.

I also owe a deep debt of gratitude to Mickey and to poker author Gary Carson, who took time out of their own busy schedules to help me bail myself out of a fix. A few days back, when opportunities arose and my plans changed, Mickey and Gary sacrificed a couple of hours out of their own busy schedules to shuttle me to a Best Buy a couple of miles east of the Strip. I needed Internet access NOW and I needed a machine, and I approached the Nevada land-speed record for hauling an inexpensive Compaq Presario notebook out that Best Buy's door.

There's much more coming, peepuls, so much, much more. It's been a crazy couple of weeks.