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.

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