Friday, February 25, 2011

Delta Gold: A poker date with my Mom. Converting her to the dark side.

My mom and I don't hang out a lot. We're so similar, and yet very different.  Probably like everyone and their mom.  But my mom is actually pretty cool.. and exceptionally smart.  I took a friend, who is a dealer, out to the farm to visit with her this week.  Dayan is a circuit dealer from Syria, and he was kind enough to run through some dealing technique of the more difficult games (Yes yes, the triple draw games still boggle my mind).

Mom, in her younger days. Pretttty girl.

We went to the farm because Mom has bigger tables, and because I wanted to multi-task a far too infrequent family visit in with my hectic workworkpokerwork schedule. Mom got involved, grabbed a notepad and starting taking notes.  Okkkaaaayyy.  Then she started asking questions, and before long she had her OWN deck and was practicing her shuffle.

Keep in mind this is a woman who has never been to Tunica.  Well, once she ate at Paula Deen's with Bex and I.. but she literally rolled into Harrah's ate and split. 20 years the casinos have been 30 minutes from her house and she's never been down.  So needless to say, she isn't a gambler.

She's always been supportive of my poker "career".  When my first story came out in Poker Pro Magazine (Cover story, SCORE!) years ago, she trudged through hand recount after hand recount to be "supportive" and gave my work a thumbs up.  I have no doubt she had no idea what she was reading, but her feigned interest meant the world to me.  I was living a thousand miles away at the time, but I wouldn't have been surprised if the story ended up on the refrigerator. With the implied note "I have no idea what it is my kid does, but I'm proud of it!".

She's been on the line when I've called her to announce I'd made a final table, or that Scott had.  I'd try to relay how exciting it was for Scott to make a ring event final table in his first-ever WSOPCE. She'd wish either of us "luck" and write nice things on Facebook in support.

Dayan really perked her interest when he mentioned that many "seniors" deal occasional circuit events.  Extra income, some modicum of socializing, a bit of travel. Her eyes lit up. Mom has been a bit of a recluse the last few years, sequestered on her farm with her critters.  But the idea of "learning" something new and getting involved in something really genuinely appealed to her.

A recent pic of Mom, building a dog house. Very crafty, she is.

I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. but perhaps I should have.  This is the same Mom who discovered Ultima Online and World of Warcraft and became a hardcore online Internet gamer about 10 years ago.. complete with the nerd-head-sets and voice to voice communication.  She has a Wii and she kicks my ass at Wii Bowling. (I hate that stupid game). And she grew up playing Stud and Draw games.  None of this new fangled Texas Hold'em business, but poker nonetheless.

Tonight on my way home from work, I called to tell her that I'd dealt today.  My first official "dealing" shift at Horseshoe (I'm a floor supervisor, but I have a great interest in dealing and improving my dealing). In talking, she inquired about dealing school.  That's right boys and girls, my sixty-something-year old mother inquired about going TO DEALING SCHOOL.  Which I think is pretty damn cool.

I invited her down to Tunica to check out Casino College, and introduce her to the nice folks over there. I figured she could pop in, we'd grab a quick bite and she'd high tail it back to the confines of her Cordova estate. Then she said "Well, I was thinking.. maybe I could go into the casinos and maybe, hang around a bit and see how they do it.  You know, watch some poker.  Watch some dealers."

Immediately, I kinda panicked. Am I ready to bring my mother into the foul-mouthed, alcohol ridden world of poker?  Into my world that has inspired such legendary blog posts as "The Genitalia Buffet: Sex and Poker" or "Why Do Poker Players Smell so Bad?"

Then I have to remind myself that she raised a daughter who has a 14 inch tattoo of a chicken on her right arm. I've candidly discussed with her my less than perfect judgement calls involving drinking and recreational activities, in the past. Though I've never deliberately used the dread "F" word in the presence of my mother, she's overheard more than her fair share of vivid conversation from me otherwise.  I don't need to SHELTER this woman, SHE created ME!

The other two members of my family-of-three. Mom and Bex, circa 1990. 80's hair ROCKS.

So I went one better.  I invited her to come to Tunica on Thursday, tour the Casino College, join me for dinner and then railbird me while I make a disastrous attempt at the Delta Gold's 7 pm event, and stay the night with me at Goldstrike.  She's never watched me play, obviously, or has ever done more than read online. (God if you're ever going to let me build a massive chip stack in a tourny, please let it be this event! I'll owe you more frequent prayers! Or a goat sacrifice! Or Scott! You can have Scott's soul to do with as you please! Just do this for me! I wanna look cool!).

I called Goldstrike and told them of my plans and had them line out a nice room and dinner arrangements for the two of us.  I don't make this many preparations for a date.. but this is my MOM, the most important date.  So when ya'll come up to say Hi at the Delta Gold, be sure to say Hi to her too.  We'll have her converted to the dark side in no time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Delta Gold at Goldstrike & Why Do Poker Players Smell Bad? A financial offer.

The Delta Gold starts this week at Goldstrike.  I like the buy-ins because they're low and attract a lot of the nightly-players.  I do not, however, like the timing.  A week and a half after the end of the WSOPCE?  Really?  Do you all in marketing think that any serious out-of-towners are going to go home for 9 days and turn around and come back to Tunica?  Nope. So the fields are pretty much limited to locals and those that couldn't manage to play during the 17 day spread at Harrah's.

Or those die hard Tunica vacation enthusiasts.  All three of them.

I do like Goldstrike though.  I was recently chastised (gently) by my favorite Goldstrike dealer Rita Baker for saying the payouts on the nightly tournament I won were "weak". (And they were, but this isn't the fault of Goldstrike.. I elected to play a nightly exactly two days after the WSOPCE ended.. bad timing & poor turnout = bad payouts).  I got a three minute lecture about being part of the "Tunica Family" and that even though Horseshoe and Goldstrike are technically in "competition", we've gotta have each other's back. So let me go on record as saying that Goldstrike is the second best poker room in Tunica. (Oh come on, you knew I was gonna say THAT!) and among the card rooms I am allowed to play in.. Its my favorite! I've worked with Ken Lambert a handful of times for different stories and event coverage pieces and he's always been helpful and quick to return my phone calls. (I tend to wait until about four minutes AFTER deadline to start getting my quotes, so everything is a last minute emergency.  Fortunately, he's patient with me).

The tournaments Goldstrike puts on throughout the year, or rather, MGM's lineup of tournaments ARE my favorite.  Even over those Harrah's offers.  I like the vibe, and if we somehow managed to put a muzzle on Brannen during his "single table sales pitch", it might possibly be my favorite series anywhere. I love the Beau Rivage. It ranks right up there with the Borgata and the Venetian in terms of luxury, which for Mississippi is saying a lot.

If you plan on coming out for the Delta Gold, I look forward to seeing you.  I'll be there, snappin' pictures of whatever oddities I see and gathering notes for my column.  Be sure to say Hi! :)

My next topic is more of a rant.  Poker players, if you're not taking active measures to smell GOOD, you probably smell bad.  There are ten of us (usually) crammed up next to each other, which is theoretically less space than necessary to share body fluids. Why is hygiene a recurring issue here?

I have taken to carrying Febreeze with me.  According to WSOP ethics policies (I inquired of the floor at the IP Biloxi event), the first time I Febreeze someone (assuming they complain), I will incur a warning.  The second time, depending on the ferocity in which I deploy the Febreeze, could result in a penalty or even expulsion from the event.  I'm counting on my adorable negotiation skills to keep it to a penalty.  Either way, this is something I'm willing to risk.

You can avoid smelling like canned "Fresh Linen" by simply showering. Cologne is a very nice touch, but I don't want to push my luck here.

This isn't just limited to body aromatics. Your breath.  It should be a concern. Especially if you're drinking coffee or a smoker. Just because you don't notice it, doesn't mean the rest of us don't. Seeing as how you can't tip your dealer after a particularly great hand in a tournament, do them another courtesy and stock up on the Tic Tacs.  I can't tell you how many conversations I've had this week where the way of describing a particular poker player went something like "You know, the guy with the hat and the backpack and the really bad breath..". 

I understand that this isn't always a high priority to some of you.  I, however, have oddly delicate sensibilities.  You can pepper conversation with me to include words that would make a sailor blush, and I'm fine. Skip a shower and I'm making a mental note to unfriend you on Facebook.

I'm willing to meet you in the middle with a financial incentive.  Consider it partial backing, if you will. At all events I will have in my bag a large selection of gum, tic tacs, febreeze, Irish Spring and a variety of expensive fluids with first names that include Giorgio, Ralph and Calvin.  Come see me, I'll hook you up. If you elect not to participate in my generous offer, should we end up next to each other at a table I will discreetly snap your photo, use my mobile blog app to post it remotely as a public service announcement to others.. right before I take my penalty and Febreeze you.

You've been warned.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poker Image & Health: Experiment on My Body & How Ugly People Fail

Poker anymore is all about the image. With trendy clothing lines, designer eye wear and rockin' hot superstars of both genders splattered all over magazine advertisements for card rooms wearing anything other than something practical, there is a definitive message here: You wanna be good, you gotta look good.

I sort of despise this methodology. Don't get me wrong, I like gazing upon a good lookin' guy as much as the next gal.  I even joke about the list of poker players I fully intend on seeing naked at some point or another.  I can think of about 12.  Don't judge me, I just said "See", not "Sample the Goods". But really, who wants to look at someone all the time who only magnifies your own flaws?  I spent the last ten years dating guys who were so ridiculously gorgeous they both made me feel honored and simultaneously like an ugly duckling. To hell with that.

I'm sort of getting to the point where really good lookin' guys trigger acid reflux.  I know, without delving any deeper, what sort of issues come with those who are genetically gifted. For the most part.  If you can list on your resume, anywhere, "Personal Trainer", "Model" (Even if it was for Hostess Cup Cakes - Jody) or if ANYONE has ever referred to you as a "Pretty Boy".. I have to fight every instinct in my body to not make fun of you. A lot.   Now before you all start pointing out that several of my friends are in fact drop-dead-gorgeous poker players, I would like to point out the key word there: Friend.  These are not people that I'd solicit for relationships. Though I probably wouldn't delete a naked picture or two.  Nothin' says "You're a good friend" like iPhone Porn.

I work with a guy who tonight asked me how I "rated" him. I told him a 7.5, because 7.5 is a nice way of saying "You were probably really hot once, but the years are taking their toll" and also because I genuinely like the guy as a friend. The truth is, I'd never considered it, because well.. I just haven't. I've been busy. So sue me. But when he asked me how I rated him, all I really heard was "I'm insecure. I feel inferior. Be gentle."  It tugged at my heart strings a little bit.

Of course, once he put it all out there, I started evaluating my insecurities. I haven't done this in awhile. I'm one of those rare people, who despite obvious flaws, thinks I'm pretty damn awesome. Sure, there are plenty of better lookin' girls. But I've been to WalMart on government check cashing day.  I know I'm no where near the bottom of the aesthetic food chain.

(photo courtesy of People of Walmart .com )

It got me to thinking.  If I could change things about myself, what would I change. I'm going to do something that a lot of women probably wouldn't, because we all live in this bubble of illusion that says "If I don't admit out loud whats wrong with me, no one else will notice."  But before I launch into my issues, I should comment on the dual purpose of this post.

Dr. Frank Toscano, who writes one of the other columns for Ante Up Magazine, focuses on "Poker Health".  This has me fascinated, because who really thinks about poker health?  The first few times I read his work I disregarded it entirely.  Then I got to thinking.  His philosophy isn't unique, but because I like to keep up with my colleagues, I tend to follow his line of thinking.  He writes that in order to be successful at poker, you've got to be in excellent health.  Physical, mental and emotional. You have to train for it, as if it were any other sport, and that if you're balanced in all other areas.. you will find a greater level of success.  Now, I'm sure he doesn't mean that if you're a complete dumb ass with six pack abs and an account at Whole Foods you're headed for a bracelet. But I get what he's saying otherwise.

So I'm proposing an experiment. On myself. To steal from Beth Gain's "Eat Play Love" philosophy, an obvious play on words for the Liz Gilbert self-exploration novel "Eat Pray Love".  I'm going to work on finding balance in the areas I want to improve.  Some of these are pure vanity.  Some are for prolonged health and happiness and some are just because I simply need to make some changes.

The end goal?  I want to be a better poker player. But really, that will just be a side benefit if it actually helps me improve my game. The absolute worst case scenario is that I'll be a healthier more balanced person, even if I can still only dominate the nightlies. I want to FEEL better.

So here are my flaws, in raw unabashed abuse of the fact that I have no idea who is really reading this. (Or IF its being read at all... which might be okay too!).

  • I want to be thinner. Specifically, I'd like to lose about 40 pounds. More so than this, I want to be in better physical condition and have a higher energy level.
  • I want to boost my immune system so my disease bag friends stop giving me colds.
  • I want to balance my emotional health so that I don't feel the pangs of the "Highs" and "Lows" so significantly that come with everyday stress and excitement.
  • I want to reduce the amount of things I worry about.
  • I want to have cosmetic surgery. On my face. (And before you all say ANYTHING about this or give me a speech about self love, does it SOUND like I have anything other than a borderline ego problem here?  Four of the last five poker players I've spent any amount of time hanging out with have confessed to nose jobs. That's 80%! And mine isn't a nose job. Hey, at least I'm being honest).
  • I want a tan, without skin cancer, but my vanity says I'm willing to risk a little to gain something other than translucent Irish skin.
  • I want inner peace. But who the hell doesn't?  I mean I want to find a way to kick the insomnia demon and rest without nightmares.
So this is what I'm going to do. I'm not going on a crash diet, hitting the tanning bed and financing surgery. Nor am I seeking a therapist or going to start chewing Vitamin C tablets religiously.

What I am going to do is focus on total wellness, making more time to focus on myself and beginning with a nutritional redesign to balance key elements that are obviously off. I'm going to consult with a doctor, actually use the gym membership I purchased, the services of my friend who is in fact a personal trainer (but not an annoyingly hot one), and maybe explore some spiritual opportunities as they present themselves in traveling, reading and writing.

I'm writing this all down because there is a really good probability that one of you out there also have some things you're insecure about, or would like to fix.  Or maybe you just want to go halves on a case of Centrum - Not-Yet-Silver but Not-A-Spring-Chicken multi vitamins. Or maybe you've found something that has helped you tremendously in your efforts for sustained wellness. If so, please message me. Privately on Facebook if you prefer, or however works best. I'm not above taking guidance nor lending any as I fail repeatedly over the next year in this mission.

On a parting note, as an example of how the little things can make an impact.. two different friends who I won't name, inspired me recently without meaning to.  The first was shirtless and just coming out of the shower. I looked at his tattooed torso and the little gleaming droplets of water and thought.. "Damn, what a pretty human being."  He saw me looking and immediately said "I know, I've put on weight. Its amazing what turning 35 will do to you. I really need to hit the gym." And he immediately covered himself up.  This is someone I've known and cared for as a friend for ages, so he had no reason to feel so insecure. Right then it occurred to me that our own flaws are magnified ten fold in our brains, and the root of the issue is not the perceived flaw but the way they make us feel.  There is no way a person with this sort of inner inferiority can be wholly successful.  At anything. This is the same friend who will having exceptionally long periods of "Running Bad" and being "Card Dead".. and I wonder if his brain isn't what needs fixing, more so than the cards?

The second friend shared with me a list of commandments he carries with him when he plays poker.  I read them, though I'm not entirely sure he would have readily offered them up for my observation if he weren't impaired at the time.  Most of them were exclusive to him, and held little personal value for myself.  There were a few that did. But it reminded me of the philosophy that if you write something down, make an intangible concept a concrete reality, you can then begin to practice it. Develop it. Deploy it.  So patient blog readers, by writing this down.. here, and by carrying my bulleted list with me (along with a set of "commandments" tailored to my specific needs), I'm going to set out to balance my brain.

And with it, enjoy whatever heightened levels of success are to follow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tunica Part 2: Bustout, Sharkady, Scotty's Proposal, Kai is Satan's Minion & Unibrow

A series of short stories from the WSOPCE Tunica, February 2011.
This will be an incredibly long blog post, intended to sum up the entire event.
Broken into groupings of tales, for your navigational pleasure.
I saved the best for last. The story of a journey, through Tunica, camera in hand.
If you can muster the energy to just read one of these tales, I recommend the Unibrow.
It's fairly epic.


In 2008 (For Poker Pro Magazine) I did a piece on the Borgata Winter Open that started like any other, and ended up an epic poker history moment.  I did a running parallel between the event and the weather. At this particular event, Gavin Griffin went on to capture the first "Triple Crown of Poker" (An EPT, WSOP and WPT title). So with that appropriately foreshadowing this event, I knew we were in for an adventure in Tunica when the last weekend kicked off with SNOWPACALYPSE 2011.

The morning was clear enough, though they were calling for snow. It took me approx. 3 hours to make the thirty minute journey from my house. 5 inches of snow in an hour, and I literally thought I was going to die. See, my Jeep overheats when it's idling, and driving 2 miles per hour in half a foot of snow behind 8,000 idiots who have never been further north than the Mason-Dixon, meant I was perpetually in the red.  I'd have to pull over and cool down. Pulling over meant sliding into snow banks. So my trip went something like.."Drive three miles, slide into guardrail. Drive three miles, flip off passing motorists. Drive three miles, call Scott crying. Drive three miles.." You see where this is going. When I finally arrived in Tunica, you'd think I'd have reached the pearly gates of heaven.

Except, it wasn't heaven at all. It was TUNICA. Tunica is definitely a portal to SOME version the netherworld. Which leads me to... 

Kai Landry is Satan's Minion.

I hadn't seen Kai since the Beau Rivage.  Which has pretty much limited our communication to late night ramblings on Facebook and second hand relays through Monkey. I'd never really spent time one-on-one with him, but aimed to do so on this trip simply because more than a handful of people have said "Oh, you and Kai are so much alike!".  This fascinates me, because I think I'm pretty damn swell, and if someone is going to be compared to me (or vice versa) I need to do some quality control. 

He arrived Sunday and managed to sneak up on me. I didn't see him coming, and looked up at the approx. moment I was going to be pulled into a hug with or without my consent.  I walked with him to his table to find that he'd drawn a seat directly to the left of Scotty. 480 people and these two are side by side? Way to screw the odds up on my picks all making the cash.

Not two minutes after walking away, (and apparently moments after Kai commented on how eerily quiet it was in the event center), all the power went out. Not just a rolling lull in electricity, but total loss. Darkness descended. Action halted. Someone yelled "Count your chips!". I couldn't help myself, I laughed out loud. And alone. It echoed, which delighted me even more.

Power resumed and I thought to snap a picture of the boys sitting next to each other.  I posted the picture on Facebook without looking at it, and had several people send me insta-messages asking WTF that THING was at the table in front of the guys'. Remember those posters where if you stare at something long enough you see a hidden picture?  Or the old lady/young beauty queen optical illusion? This picture is along the same lines.

Apparently, to the vast majority of people who viewed this picture, the dealer at the table in front of the guys appears to be some sort of Feline-Demon.  I see it too. Upon closer inspection, its really just a dealer with her head tucked in such a manner that it meshes appropriately with the chair behind her.  However, in going with the theory that demons and ghosts sometimes reveal themselves in photos, the eerie almost-demon here coupled with the power outage has me pretty well convinced that Kai Landry is a portal to hell. After our weekend hanging around one another, I'm okay with the likeness comparison between Kai and I. We are similar. In a lot of ways. Sense of humor being foremost. So in this twosome of likemindedness, I will fancy myself to be the "good" counterpart.  The poker Angel to his demonic force in Jackie O glasses. I'll keep tabs on the Northern end of the state, and he can stand guard over the South.  Where its significantly warmer.

BUSTIN' Out Everywhere - Bustout Poker Wear

Earlier in the week, prior to the main, I had dinner with Jeff Griffith and a dozen or so other friends. I did a blog post about the dinner already, so I won't get into the details again.  Before Jeff left town, he was kind enough to hook me up with a a Bustout Hoodie and hat. Sportin' the logo must have heightened my sensitivity for spotting the Bustout brand.. or else, its just taking over in popularity.  Either way, I don't think there was hardly a table in Tunica where I didn't spot someone wearing the B.

The final table was no exception.

9th place finisher John Holley was wearing the Bustout Logo loud and proud.  Bravo, John on both your success and fine eye for fashion!

Scott Williams was also wearin' his gear. And even though the shirt if BROWN, I still thought it noteworthy.

Not to be undone, I did my reporting with my hoodie in tow.

Picturepalooza, Al, Dolores and Mike.

Al Theriac, his beautiful wife Dolores and Mike Shafer all came into town for the main. They popped into Horseshoe Poker room and we snapped a few shots I will present to you here.  Though neither Al nor Mike survived into the bubble of the main, they're both two of my top ten regional poker players and I look forward to seeing them next time.

Al Theriac is a prankster as well.  He was kind enough to sneak-attack me with a photo where I was texting at work. (Hey, it was work-related!) and post it on Facebook.  Payback is coming, Al. Payback is coming. ;)

Christina Sharkady. A girl's girl. And not in that exotic adult rated way.

Poker is so political,. People are nice to your face because who you are and where you're ranked almost directly correlates to your popularity.  For a player, you can be immensely talented and if you've pissed off the right people, you can be banned without reason from participating in an event. For someone who works in the industry, there are constant daggers being thrown in the general direction of your back whether you see them or not.

Christina is a circuit dealer associated with Jimmy Sommerfield's independent company, who exclusively deals WSOP Circuit Events.  She dealt a 2 pm restart for Scotty back at the IP and I immediately took a liking to her because she manages to keep her sense of humor even when faced with pain-in-the-ass players.  She also has that fresh-faced beauty that gives her a "I don't have to wear makeup. I woke up lookin' like this, bitch." look.  Which usually makes me want to punch someone in the nose with jealousy, but really, you can't hold it against this girl. After befriending her at IP, I facebook stalked her and became her friend there.  We've bonded over baked goods, typical-female-emotion and Dexter.

I heard from a couple different people that my name came up at a table she was dealing and she gave me a "glowing" review. Specifically, she had some really heartfelt and genuinely kind things to say about me.  This sincerely touched me. People rarely take the time to brighten someone else's day, and even though I wasn't in earshot.. so her commentary wasn't designed to warm my cold, cold heart, it absolutely put a smile on my face. I wanted to take this time to let her know it was appreciated. <3  

Scott Williams Turns His Luck Around, A Man-on-Man Marriage Proposal.

Scott is not lucky. I get tired of hearing how lucky he is, in fact, because I'm actually there.. on the sidelines, watching. And it simply isn't true.  For the duration of the Tunica event he ran like hell.  Unable to catch a break.  Then, in one day, he rocked out $3,000 in winnings by cashing 20th in a ring event and then winning a main event seat in a 4 pm Mega Satellite. I was so happy to be privy to his modicum of success that I made the trek to Harrah's in 9 degree weather to root him on.

The morning of the main, I convinced him to be my date to a Valentine's Brunch thing for Platinum Members at Goldstrike.  Despite the fact that we were both so late, we only had like twenty minutes to eat and we nearly scrapped the entire occasion altogether. Our table was boring, until we kicked in with our usual antics and the elderly gentleman to Scott's left became so enamored with our humor that he actually suggested marriage. To Scott. The man started out a stranger, and left by handing us his business card and presenting me with a Valentine's rose he'd stolen from the centerpiece. I mention this because it sums up the dynamic that Scott and I have when we're together.  This is why he's my favorite person. 

Red Snappers, Fat Albert, Unibrow and Paula Deen's. Valentine's Day Massacre, Circa 2011.

I haven't spent a Valentine's Day without a significant other since I was 15. True story. I've always had a boyfriend, or in the case of last year.. an un-boyfriend I was still spending quality time with (generally between the sheets, and only until we fully accepted the demise of our relationship). This year I was pretty specific with myself that I wanted to make it through the couple-holidays (Christmas, New Years and Valentine's Day) all single.  I wanted to see what sort of debauchery I could get into flying solo.  What I discovered was, I'm just as fabulous by myself as I am coupled up. 

I had no definitive plan for this Valentine's Day even 12 hours prior to the sacred Hallmark occasion. I railbirded the main. I was treated to dinner by Kai and Preston at Paula Deen's, and I took a moment to look around at all the miserable two-somes staring blankly at one another in a forced effort to celebrate their canned "love". After dinner, once the boys had departed, I was approached by two orthodontically challenged cowboys and solicited to "party". Flattering, but no.

Kai busted shortly after dinner and we retired to the bar at Harrah's for a few Red Snappers and Madres. Kai was busy "decompressing" after his AJ was beaten by KJ.  He'd cashed an impressive $5K plus, but when your last run in this same event was $183,000.. I can understand how this victory paled in comparison.

How can you feel anything but pity for a broken hearted man holding a mere $5,000 in chips?  So, we softened the blow with a cocktail buffet.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what two Red Snappers, two Madres and $5,000 looks like.

Kai's sadness quickly lessened when we spied to his left, a character from our youth.  Fat Albert was sprawled in all his red-shirted glory, on the red velvet couch just mere feet from us. Not one to pass up an opportunity, we shyly engaged him in conversation, perhaps hoping to find out where Mushmouth was or to solicit that legendary "Hey, Hey, Hey".  In his old age, Fat Albert has become quite a sinister sort.  Apparently, he details cars by day and sells blow by night.  He slid over on the velvet sofa, like a rotund anaconda stalking fresh prey, and offered Kai a bit of 'dro with a side dish of cocaine. Kai declined but in appreciation for the offered generosity, he offered to sell me to Mr. Albert for the bargain price of $5. In somewhat stunned silence, I looked at Kai curiously, to which he whispered "I'm not REALLY going to sell you to him. Relax."  Well, that much was comforting. Ass. Always a man of discriminate taste, Fat Albert responds.. "I'm not paying $5 for her! That woman is a Queen! She's worth $5,000."  Until now, the joke was rather entertaining.  Then I got the look from Kai that suggested this wasn't an altogether bad offer. This was also the abrupt end of our negotiations.  Hooker boots does not equal hooker. Sorry, boys.

Kai felt this would be a great time to retire to the bathroom. (Excellent call, buddy!).  Albert eyeballs me casually and says "Yousa Queen, lady. A real queen. A beautiful queen. I alwayz thoughts I deserved me some white woman. I've been thinkin' bout settlin' down with a white woman next. I make good money detailin' cars you know. $200 a day. Sometimes $300."

Rarely caught in a moment of stunned silence, I sat there in mild shock and awe, plotting my escape route. At this point, I'm pretty intoxicated, but I'm not above abandoning my friend to deal with Fat Albert.

Fortunately, Kai returned and we made our exit back to Goldstrike.

Poker Roommates are a standard in this different-city-different-event lifestyle, so I'd invited Kai to take the other bed in my room, originally intended for Scott.  Scott had returned to Millington with a cold, so it was vacant during an event when rooms were hard to come by. We had another round of cocktails at the Goldstrike bar where we befriended several passerbys.  Whether they wanted us to or not. Around 3 am when we ambled to the room, Kai decided he had to have something to eat. RIGHT THAT SECOND.  Room service apparently took the night off, so we were stuck visiting the snack bar.  It was there that we witnessed proof that evolution is a lie.

Under the romantic glow of the Burger City halogens, I beckoned Kai to come closer so he could witness a living effigy to the Geico Caveman and his fashionably daring bride/sister/same difference. (I wish I had pictures of these two! But by this point I either couldn't find my phone, or couldn't operate it for the laughter/alcohol intoxication.. Fortunately, Kai went all Steve Irwin on the event and snapped several dozen photos).

The male had a unibrow of unmatched glory and a protruding forehead that let us know he meant business.  The female was wearing two pigtails in varying lengths, a tea length skirt and knee socks.  Think "Catholic School Girl Uniform circa 214 B.C.".  We stalked this poor couple the entire length of Goldstrike.  Kai was alerting passerbys to the glory they were missing, dealers and gamblers alike. He circled them like a consummate pro deep in the Serengeti. He dubbed them our own personal Paleolithic Pentecostals. He nearly followed them outside exclaiming that we must "photograph them in the wild", but I was pretty sure at this point that we were being stalked ourselves. By security.

With this, the end of perhaps the most legendary Valentine's Day ever, it was our fate that we'd retire to the room, where Kai would feast on a two pound greasy hamburger in celebration of his photographic treasures and we'd both pass out until the early noon hour. As the sun streamed through the room the next day, without moving, Kai muttered a string of syllables that conveyed both physical pain and disbelief. As he roused from his sleep, he noticed on his shoes a gooey mess of unknown origin, and deemed his rather nice looking loafers un-wearable in fear that whatever was on his shoes might in fact be contagious. He skeptically carted them along with us as we made our way to Harrah's to railbird the final table.

Once we reached Harrah's in all our hung-over glory, he couldn't take it anymore and abandoned them. Curbside. Thinking better of it, we deposited the shoes in the bed of a nearby pickup truck with tags indicating it was headed for Texas.

Bear in mind that this is a man who, despite having career cashes nearing half a million, drives a car with no headliner and a ripe crop of bananas in the floorboard. Endearing? Sure. Thrifty? Responsible? Absolutely. But one hint of potential Troglodyte Saliva on his shoes and they get tossed out the window. Literally.

What began in 9 degree weather in a half foot of snow, ended on a 70 degree beautiful sunny afternoon. It was there, on that curb, that I left Kai Landry to return to the Gulf and I made my way back into the cotton fields.  The journey was epic, the photographic trophies are eternal and the memories (thanks to more than a few Red Snappers) are fleeting. Thank Goodness Tunica only hits the circuit once a year.  Otherwise, I might not survive.

To read the parallel story, complete with pictures of the Cavemen and Fat Albert, look for the not-yet-penned version on Kai's Blog.  ETA: Whenever he gets around to it.  It'll be worth reading.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tunica WSOPCE - A preview of sensory overload that will leave you unsatisfied.

I'm going to break down my coverage of the Tunica event into a few parts.  Mostly because a number of delightful tales from this event deserve their own spotlight.  I'd like to start out commending myself on my picks.  A little more than a week ago I made a post citing who I believed would run deep in this event. First on my list were Kai Landry and Bob Talbot.  Both Kai and Bob managed to cash in this field of 480.  Which gives me braggin' rights.  40% of my selections beat astronomical odds. I will now be opening up shop as a psychic. Consult me about your financial and romantic woes.  I have the goods.

Whenever an event begins, in typical girl-fashion, I am entranced with the romance of so many familiar souls converging into one center in search of riches and fame.  I love the energy, the heartbreak and the laughter that entwine on those first few days when thousands of would-be champions crowd around hundred of tables.  I have a quirky habit of snapping pictures that would appear meaningless to most, but encapsulate a feeling I want to store away. This includes a snap shot of every event I attend at the beginning, and then once again after everyone shuffles home and the remnants have the feel of a post-war ghost town. I have never left an event without feeling a strong pang of sadness to see it all dissolve, as if it'd never occurred to begin with. The sort of emotion that leaves you wondering if it all really occurred, or was just an alcohol induced haze of psychedelic mish-mash.

There is much to write, and I have nothing but time until the sun comes up (Thanks to a spontaneous 6 hour nap that happened shortly after I sat down to tie my shoe).  My body and mind are wrecked after the last two weeks, so I need a moment to package everything appropriately for you all.  I will however, hint at a few of the highlights to come.

  • Al Theriac, his lovely wife and Mike Shafer - A smokin' hot trio of charm and delight
  • Christina Sharkady - A dealer after my own heart
  • Red Snappers - Not as delicious as Monk would make them sound
  • Four piece band, Shrimp Cocktail and a Man on Man marriage proposal
  • Fat Albert - He is alive and well and sellin' cocaine to the heartbroken in Tunica
  • Kai Landry - Pale horse of the Apocalypse, and the portal to Hell
  • Valentine's Day - Two men and Paula Deen. No this isn't a D-List porn scenario.
  • Unibrow - It's making a comeback
  • Loafers and prehistoric DNA
  • A Farewell to Arms

You will more than likely feel violated after the Tunica series is completed.  And not in the sort of way the Tunica Board of Tourism might hope. I personally feel like I could benefit from a week of counseling and a cruise to Cancun.  Alas, it is not to be.  Instead, we shall rejoice in communal blog-therapy before trouncing off to the next road-side carnival.

In a unique spin on a portion of these events, I Invite you to read the forthcoming updates from one Kai Landry.  Though the last few days were a joint effort, I am certain his perspective will lend a unique perspective.  Read Supplemental Income here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fresh Meat to Poker Super Star - The Life Cycle

I love the fresh meat who wander into the card room every night.  The glowing, bright eyed kids who have finally watched enough WSOP re-runs on ESPN that they're certain they are the next Chris Moneymaker. They're ready.  They've got a couple crisp $100 bills, and as soon as we explain exactly what $1/$3 No-Limit means.. they're going to make their first million.

Sometimes, when I've had a long night, I find these kids annoying.  But I shouldn't.  Because they're the next familiar face.  The ones that stick around will be the next wave of players we'll all come to despise, adore, share cocktails with, chop prize pools with and share hotel rooms with.  We'll see them time and time again until we forget they're fresh meat.

"Fame" in poker is relative.  Scott and I were talking about this briefly, in some elevator or another going into some hotel or another for some event in some city.  For us, the "big" names are Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar and Daniel Negreanu. Because those are the ones WE watched on TV and read about when we were getting our sea legs.  The pros we saw make millions while we were figuring out exactly which card was the river and which was the turn.

The guys you play alongside are never going to be those untouchable pros. Even when they reach that level.  We talked about how Dolan and Racener, Mizrachi and Cheong have played these same events we're playing. the same time.  How its entirely possible that Monkey or Kai, Al or Mike, Bob or Jeff.. anyone could be the next big bracelet winner.  The multi-million dollar champ.  But they won't be some untouchable Phil Ivey, even when they reach that level.. because they're our buddies. Even though it would be exactly the same in theory.. the deeper you commit to being part of the grind, the more you realize that it could be any one of us if we run right at the right time and keep coming back for more. The people who sit to your right and left, day in and day out.. the ones you take pictures with, not because they're celebrities but because they're your friend, could very well be the next person sponsored to the hilt with all the endorsement gigs.

I think THIS is what subconsciously keeps the poker community thriving.  Not so much the "Chris Moneymaker" one-in-a-million-shot fantasy.  Sure, that lures in the fresh meat. But what keeps them playing once they get a taste is the underlying reminder that this is very attainable. You play enough cards and see enough flops.. hit or miss.. and suddenly the pros stop being pros; but people you either like or dislike on a personal level.  And then one day, you're standing in a card room thumbing through whatever poker magazine is littering the table you're perched at and instead of seeing an all-star cast of success stories.. you're looking at pictures of your friends, or people you busted at the last event. Our tabloids become our high school yearbook.

And THIS, this is so much better than the bright eyed- bushy tailed perspective of walking into a convention center jam packed with poker players, ten million chips clanking in unison and seeing it all for the first time.  Walking into one of these events and it taking 15 minutes to cross a forty foot span to register because you're halted at every table to say "Hi" to a familiar face, or shake the hand of another player to congratulate them on recent success.

Poker.  It's like crack.  You give a prospective client a sample and hook em' for life.

I don't anticipate for a second that I'll ever win a WSOP bracelet. Or cash six figures. It isn't my role. I'm a writer, a supporter, a behind the scenes kinda gal.  I pick events I believe I can win and have a remarkable record for cashing.. but only because I know exactly what fields I can monopolize.  Unfortunately, these fields are limited to smaller scale, lower expectation groups of 200 or less. I'm the queen of the 7 pm nightlies. I'm okay with this. But on that same note, I see among some of my very dear friends.. exactly what it takes to go all the way.

And when they do, I will be so much happier about the success being their friend.. than I will have ever been if they were just another nameless icon on the cover of a magazine. And just like today's fresh meat will be tomorrow's familiar face, someday, you guys will be the legendary icons and untouchable pros for the newest clutch of incoming hatchlings.

Just know.. the very first time someone asks ANY of you for an autograph, I'm going to fall over laughing. And probably verbally abuse you for it.  For a long time. Oh, how this will delight me. <3

See you all soon,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cannibalism: Better than Online Poker & How to Play Pocket Jacks

This is not the first post I've written about my hatred for online poker.  It is not the last. Online poker makes my eyes bleed.  If I had to choose between donating my still-living body parts to starving cannibals in Uganda and playing another online tournament, even if the tournament buy in was free and the prize pool was one billion dollars, I might actually opt for the carnage in Africa.. simply because it would at least be interesting.  Online poker is not.

Tonight I found myself at a table with a bunch of people I've never seen before on Absolute. Because my user picture is my own, and clearly female, it didn't take long for someone to pipe in with the obligatory "if that really iz yur photoz, yur hawt!". If I had a dollar for every time I heard this in an online tournament, for once my online account would actually be growing in a positive direction.

It isn't even really that I'm hot.  Tolerable on a good day, I like to say.  Its that the men of the online poker world have sat fixated for so long, eyes bleeding, locked to their monitors watching miraculous river card after river card to constantly defy the odds, that their perception of reality is skewed.  I imagine my blonde hair and charming wit are like an oasis in the desert.  Only the desert is the digital felt of virtual hell.  I did coerce almost the entire group at one of my tables to add me on Facebook simply so that we could talk shit collectively about the joys of online poker.  Misery does love company you know.

Tonight, as if to demonstrate what a masochist I am, I entered a half dozen tournaments ranging in buy in from $6 to $60.  I ran just deep enough in most of them, and cashed in slightly fewer, that by the end of the night I actually averaged just above what a teenage girl in a Taiwanese Sweat Shop would make in the same amount of time. And without the perks and self satisfaction that must come from crafting fine footwear for over privileged Americans to wear. 

Before I wander off to find something more entertaining to do. (Sticking my arm in a vat of hot candle wax sounds like a good plan). I want to leave you with an inspirational video on a topic near and dear to all of our bleeding hearts.  How to play Pocket Jacks.  There are many theories surrounding how to play Pocket Jacks.  The most common of which seems to be an "All or Nothing" approach.  I don't love this philosophy, as they seem to rarely hold up.  Unless of course, someone has them all in against my Aces or Kings online.  Then they're the golden ticket!  I won't ruin this video by prefacing it with too much information.  But its pretty funny stuff.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

I'm going to take my laptop into the bathroom, so I can both play online and drown myself simultaneously.  I like to mix things up from time to time.  Catch y'all later!

(I had to actually write this blog post twice.. the first time, I dropped my wireless mouse during the spell check and managed to kill the entire post.  Living through these emotions twice has done me in.  I'm pretty sure I suffer from PTSD now.  Please send me your Xanax. Thanks. )

Monday, February 7, 2011

Upcoming Main Event - Tunica - My Picks & Wild Cards

The main event for Harrah's Tunica WSOPCE begins exactly one week from today. I will be there, all three days.  Wearing my cool Bustout Gear, doing press coverage for Ante Up.  So come by and tell me anything but your horrific bad beat story and I'll see if I can't work it into my column.

There are a ton of great players coming in for this event, and I'm going to mention a few.. so when one of them takes it down I can say "Hey! Look! I predicted this! I am so awesome!".

Obviously, I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know everyone who is coming to town. I do know, amongst my friends, who definitely has the ability to run deep.  So we'll call this "Jen's List of Anticipated Cashes in the Main Event-Tunica".

We'll start with Kai Landry.  This kid is hot. And I'm not just talkin' about his Hollywood smile or his enticing frontal lobe. If you're playing against him, don't mistake his pensive expression for deep poker related thoughts.. he's more than likely thinking about how he's going to appropriately shit talk you in his next blog.  He'll be so funny about it though, that you won't mind. He's the master of backhanded compliments. He's a delight to watch at the table and he has made no secret about his plans to "Grover Cleveland" this event. Which I can only assume is a reference to his desire to take this sucker down in both 2009 and 2011 (As Cleveland did with his two non-sequential presidential elections), and not in fact a reference to some weird fetish that involves dying of mouth cancer. Check out Kai's blog for delightful posts after the fact.  (On a side note, Kai took home a flashy $183K with his first place win of this same event in 2009.  He only spent half of it on hookers.)

Next is Bob Talbot.  He had a rough run in Durant, but he's hell on wheels (literally) at the poker table.  He tore it up at the IP in Biloxi, and I have every confidence he'll find success this time around in Tunica. I don't think there are many people playing in this part of the country who don't know Bob, or haven't gone up against him yet at the table. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Al Theriac.  He's one of my favorites of my favorites.  He's on fire.  I interviewed Al for Ante Up Magazine last month after his win at the Magnolia Classic Main Event.  He told me then he's "Doing this for the old folks".  He's 72, he's a fantastic poker player, and I adore his wife. What started out as a story has now turned into a friendship and I have every confidence that he'll take home something for his efforts in Tunica.

Mike Shafer.  Another really solid player who I have come to adore.  I met Mike the first time at Scotty's final table at the IP in Biloxi, and not only is this guy about 40% nuts.. you'd never peg him to be a serious card player. He's chatty, he's wired, he's all over the place.. and he's slowly takin' your chips while he's doing it. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised at another final table from this guy.  For the sake of odd trivia, he's also Uncle Kracker's brother. Seriously. And he calls Scotty "Creepy" or "The Creeper". Which cracks me up.

Scott Williams.  Oh shut up.  Like any of you didn't see THIS coming.  Of course, I saved my personal favorite.. and the best, for last. He's due for his big breakout cash.  He's one hell of a card player, the funniest person alive, and one of my best friends. I heart this guy. I have 100% faith in his ability to do great things and considering he only started playing the circuit events in August of '10 (Do you have any idea how much I had to BEG him to get him to come play?), he's off to a good start. If he manages a final table, I will be the absolutely spastic crazy girl with the camera on the rail. I may even make a glittery T-Shirt. As most of our mutual friends know, the day he takes down a WSOP ring.. I get partial custody of it. I NEED a shiny piece of jewelry.  

So these are my picks. I have a few wild card's I'd like to mention.  They aren't going to make the upper tier of my picks because I haven't spent enough time around any of them to really vouch first hand for their ability.. but something about them makes them worth mentioning.  Ross Bybee:  I met him at the IP in Biloxi, he's a genuinely nice guy and I expect him to run deep.  Aaron Johnson:  I've played against him a few times at Horseshoe.  He's become a friend, he's hysterically entertaining and if he lays off the captain and coke, he's a very very solid card player. And finally.. some odd little critter who looks to be about 21 years old and is nicknamed "Choctaw".  I'll be keeping an eye on him.

I know there are a lot of you I didn't mention. Some of you, I may not even know you plan on playing.  I hope I know all 9 of the last 9 standing and that the above mentioned are among them. If any of you manage to win it, I expect you to take me to dinner. I will attribute my positive luck vibes to your success.  If all of you manage to bust out in the first level, I will delete this blog post faster than you can say Jinx. ;)

Good luck!


Friday, February 4, 2011

'37- Bustout - Nirvana - GCP - Beth Gains

Last Tuesday I invited a handful of friends out to Harrah's '37 for dinner.  Unfortunately, this coincided with SNOWPACALYPSE or at least, the threat of an apocalyptic snowstorm.. that though it never occurred, definitely caused a 50 degree temperature drop in 24 hours and scared the daylights out of everyone.  We still had a great turnout though, all things considered. Our group included the Rice's family, several of my Horseshoe friends/coworkers, Ross Bysbee, Bob Talbot, Jeff Griffith of Bustout Poker, Jason Brady and of course.. Scotty and I.

The only one I hadn't met in person yet was Jeff Griffith, and I include here for your delight and amusement the one picture I was able to take (It was really dark), of Jeff participating in the consumption of not one, but six cheesecakes. I'm sure he'll find this photo as flattering as I do. I really wish I'd been able to get more photos from the occasion, but really, I've been in caves that had better natural lighting than this restaurant.  The food, however, was great and the company was even better. A+++ to the service at '37.  Next time I've got 20 friends and need to feed them, you're top on my list.

Business was discussed, but certainly wasn' the topic of conversation.  We also delighted in Jason Brady's sweater.  Argyle. It's making a comeback. On the topic of business, the recent success of Bustout poker came up. Because this particular partnership is exciting to me (A merging of the greatest poker publication on the shelf, and my favorite poker apparel company), I will plug it here.  Everyone should check out the Ante Up Bustout Store. I'm generally not one to plug other people's products, but this is one I can get behind.  Not only is Team Bustout featuring some of my personal friends and people I genuinely look up to, but the owners.. Jeff and Nikki are two pretty fantastic people and their contribution to the poker industry is significant. Significant enough that I invite you to approach me the next time you see me at an event, and if you're wearing your bustout gear, I want a picture with you so I can sing your praises on my facebook/blog/at random card tables.

The night was concluded with more business talk in a fairly deserted bar at The Goldstrike.  During this conversation, Jeff shared that he despises Nirvana. Though I didn't really get into it, I too share these sentiments.  He went on to elaborate that he despises them SO much that he'll change the station if they come on. Proving, once again, that God has a special place in his heart for poker players.. like magic, Goldstrike becomes infiltrated with the nerve grating riffs of "Come as you Are".  I once ended a fairly successful relationship with someone who is still on my facebook (Love you doll!) because I couldn't get past the Kurt Cobain poster over his bed. Really. It was a comical ending to a successful evening.

EDIT: (Because it took less than twenty minutes for my Nirvana lovin' Ex to contact me about this blog post, I should add that he's an amazing man and this was written to be funny. It was the distance, not necessarily Kurt. Though.. I'm still not a fan of Kurt. ;) ).

I will be adding a new link to this blog. One that most of you will be pretty familiar with, and if you aren't familiar with it.. you need to GET familiar with it.  I am joining the Gulf Coast Poker family of bloggers and I couldn't be happier about having my literary travesties hung out beside the likes of Poker Monkey and Kai Landry. These two fellows could write a grocery list and it would fully entertain me.

I will also be blogging on Beth Gain's new site, which has plans to launch sometime next week. (??).  Beth "Betyamama" Gains of "Eat Play Love" Poker Fame is not only talented (And hot!), but I like what she's doing with women and poker and I'm happy to be involved in her newest project. I will be including more details and appropriate links when that's live as well.

The new job at Horseshoe is going swimmingly.  I love the people I work with, I love the regulars, and right now I'm so completely overwhelmed with the amount of information I'm having to digest that I can't even possibly write more about it.. except to say, come see me at Horseshoe! I love when I hear from you guys, and nothing makes a night at work more enjoyable that seeing familiar faces. <3

See you all in Tunica!