Tuesday, July 31, 2007

West LA Insomnia

4:10am. Unable to sleep. About four hours earlier, I nodded off in the movie theatre at The Grove for about thirty seconds during The Simpsons Movie. I came back home and even attempted to sleep. No such luck. I got up to write. After an hour, I was still awake. I sat on Nicky's couch as her and Showcase were fast asleep and flipped through the cable. Superman was on. I played online poker for ninety minutes and lost $200. Costly insomnia.

I bought a used book online. It cost more to ship it than the book was worth. I started reading a couple of online newspapers and blogs. That was an hour ago. Thought I should finally blog about how I can't sleep.

Hemingway and Michalski have no shame in writing about the weather. It's been pleasant in the LA area compared to the brutal 110+ temps in Las Vegas. This is great beach weather.

I had a lazy weekend which started with a lazy Friday where I accomplished a lot. Woke up and wrote, ate breakfast a one of my favorite places, drove up to the beach, read a couple hundred pages of a book, cooked dinner, and then watched a flick. That would be the beginning of a routine I'd try to replicate over the next few days avoiding the cell phone and spending too much time online.

On Friday night, Nicky made me a delicious pasta dinner. The night before we completed a Midnight stoner's run to Ralph's on Pico and wandered around with only a handful of other customers in the vast store. We agreed to make a quick stop and get the items we wanted, instead of meandering through a ninety-minute half-baked shopping spree. One of the things we got was ravioli. She made that with arribiata sauce. Pretty tasty. That was the first home-cooked meal I had in over two months.

We rented Zodiac. It was about thirty minutes too long. I liked the thriller, despite the length. It reminded me of growing up in NYC during the Son of Sam murders. After the flick, I popped a half of a muscle relaxer. I need those to stay asleep. I have no problems falling asleep. The majority of my insomnia happens when I wake up from a couple hours of slumber and cannot fall back asleep. So whatever I get in that stint... is usually my allotment of sleep for that night. Sometimes I get two hours of sleep. Some nights I get lucky and I managed to get five. With the muscle relaxers I can get about seven or eight.

I squeezed out nine hours. I crashed just after Midnight and woke up at 3:33am, 6:30, and finally got out of bed around 9:30 or so. The drugs made me groggy so when I woke up in the middle of the night, I quickly fell back asleep instead of being bombarded with ideas, thoughts, or reminders that I have a lot of work to do.

Those things are addictive and I try to avoid taking them more than once a week. Otherwise, I'd be popping them all the time to sleep.

On Saturday, Nicky made me breakfast for my second home-cooked meal in a row. I spent most of the afternoon uploading photos onto Nicky's laptop and writing. I had almost a thousand unread emails to get through and I only allowed myself sixty minutes a day towards that task. Even then, the majority of emails I read or sent were work related.

Trying to reinsert yourself into friends' lives is tough after a long hiatus. Especially since I'm back on the road once contact has been reestablished. Such has been the life on the road. I do what I can with the time that I have. Emails are kinda impersonal and phone calls are always better, but I hate talking on the phone, so I ended up writing short emails because I could ramble on and on for hours if I didn't limit myself to an hour per day checking email. I need structure and discipline which is tough to live with when you're constantly on the move.

Anyway, dinner on Saturday was Zankou Chicken. The chicken-joint has one of the best values on the planet... $9.99 for a whole chicken. Feeds two. I was craving their garlic spread and pitas and chicken ever since I moved to Las Vegas over two months ago. Zankou is always on the list of places I have to eat in when I'm visiting LA.

We watched Hollywoodland on Saturday night. It's about a PI (Adrien Brody) who is trying to figure out if the death of George Reeves (Ben Affleck) who happens to be TV's Superman was a murder, accident, or suicide. LA police claimed it was a suicide and the case was closed. Aside from films about New York City, I'm tend to dig period pieces about LA and Hollyweird such as Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, and Hollywoodland. You can even add Boogie Nights, Short Cuts, and The Player to that list.

I had a near perfect Sunday. I woke up early and wrote for a couple of hours before Nicky finally got up. We headed to Nick's coffeeshop down the street for breakfast. That's another favorite eatery of mine. I usually order the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on wheat toast with hashbrowns and an iced tea. Nicky asks for chocolate chip pancakes that I usually get to eat one of. After breakfast, we drove out to Zuma beach in Malibu. We thought found a great spot. I finished Under the Banner of Heaven as we enjoyed a peaceful two hours. Then a family of four sat down next to us which tilted Nicky. Because a second family of four who was also friends with them set up along with them. Eight loud beachgoers. before they arrived the area was mellow. A lot of people taking naps under umbrellas or reading.

They didn't bother me as much as they infuriated Nicky. I'm sure she'll write about what went down. I eventually read about fifty or so pages of Augusten Burroughs memoir Dry before I put it aside. I prefer not to read books about writers in rehab. Nicky tried to get me to admit that I put it down because of all the gay sex.

After the beach, I wrote for a little before we went to dinner. There's an Italian joint in Westwood called Hoboken which used to be owned by mobbed up guys from Jersey. It's inexpensive Italian food with great garlic bread. After dinner, we wandered around a book store for a while then went home. I wrote some more and around Midnight I realized that I was going to get back a large sum of money that the government had seized from my Neteller account. In the history of Sundays... and I must have had at least 1,800 of them. This Sunday might have been in the top 25. Maybe even in the Top 10... but I'm not 100% sure. It definitely falls in between 10-25 on my all time list.

On Monday morning, we followed the routine. I wrote after a wake and bake. When Nicky got up we headed for breakfast then straight to the beach. Junior's has a franchise in Westwood. The famous Brooklyn eatery known for its cheesecake had a west coast version. For some reason, we never went and always opted for Nick's, Doughboys, or O'Groats for breakfast. I wanted to try it... and I left pleased. The bacon was tasty for a thin cut. Wished I had more. The omelet was pretty good and tasted better when I put it on a buttered garlic bagel with salt, pepper, and a dash of ketchup.

We were at Malibu before 11am. The night before, I bought Nicky a book called Into the Wild. Written by John Krakauer (who penned Under the Banner of Heaven), he writes about a young man Chris McCandless who ends up dying in Alaska. He happened to go to the same college as me and graduated a few months before I arrived. I recalled reading stories about him in the school paper, The Emory Wheel that my freshman roommate Dave Simanoff wrote for and eventually became their Editor and Chief. I read the book when I lived in Seattle shortly after it was published. I wanted to re-read it again before Nicky read it. I got through almost 120 pages before we decided that we had enough sun. While I read another Krakauer book, Nicky thumbed through two travel guides. One was London and the other was Barcelona.

When I got back home from the beach, I accepted four international work assignments for PokerNews.com. Over the next six months I'll cover events in London and Barcelona and make two trips to Melbourne. The bad news is that I have to skip the Vegoose music festival this year. I'll be in Australia at that time. I finally know my schedule for the next six months. I can now pick out a couple of weeks to do some personal travel. Nicky gets to come to Europe with me and along with one of my trips to Australia. At the beach on Monday, she eagerly read the guidebooks we picked up.

I have a couple of days left in Hollyweird before I return to NYC. I unload my stuff from a two month stint in Las Vegas. Then I have a couple of days before I have to repack for a six weeks adventure in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and London. One journey comes to an end as another begins.

Monday, July 30, 2007

NYC Photo Dump

These pics took place last weekend in NYC.

Sunflowers at an UWS bodega

Anti-Bush sign in front of The Met

A peek through the bridge over the lake in Central Park


A bathroom door somewhere...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vote for Michalski!

This YouTube video is five years old. My buddy Dan Michalski from Pokerati ran for US Congress in 2002 as the Libertarian candidate. Check out his campaign video below...

Click here to view Michalski's campaign video via RSS or Bloglines

After watching the video with Nicky and Showcase a couple of times, I have come to the conclusion that...
1. Michalski had more hair in 2002.
2. Michalski is actually funny.
3. Michalski's campaign video is one of the best I had ever seen since the "Willie Horton" ads of my youth.
Good stuff. How about another run in 2008?

Saturday, July 28, 2007


It took a dozen trips outside in the 100+ degree temperatures to move out of the apartment in the Del Bocca Vista. I spread out a dozen combined trips to the car and to the dumpster over a two hour span. Once everything was packed into Nicky's Mazda underneath the carport and we cleaned up the entire apartment.

We waited for the rental dude to come over and inspect the joint. He showed up ten minutes late before he signed off on the place as he joked, "Good to see no holes in the walls."

I forgot to tell him about the broken mirror which happened ten minutes after we moved in two months earlier. He'll find out soon enough. Nicky never drove faster out of the complex. The dozens of speed bumps were killing the suspension on her car, yet she quickly sped over them.

The move out process was fairly simple compared to last summer. I helped Grubby move out of his place in Henderson and loaded up 200 boxes of books, old VCR tapes, and clothes onto a storage truck at 4am. After a fire sale of items via Craigslist, he gave away the remaining items in the apartment to his neighbors. The Mexican family living down stairs benefited the most as they added a new couch and other living room furnishing courtesy of Grubby and the Station Casinos gift department. They also got my $500 mattress for... free.

Around that time, I noticed I was out of shape. After a few trips up and down a flight of stairs, I was winded. After a couple of hours o moving Grubby's stuff, my body ached all over. A few weeks after helping Grubby, I had lunch with Senor and his family in the Village. Senor's wife told me that I was fat. She was kinda joking but not really. That's when I began a crazy workout routine as I shed 20 pounds inside a few weeks. I will be doing the same once I get back to NYC in early August. Meanwhile, I'm going to start to slowly ween myself off of drinking booze everyday while I go batshit about eating at some of my favorite LA eateries.

The drive from Las Vegas to LA should take four hours without any traffic. Nicky picked a window where she hoped that the congested LA freeways would not be too busy and cluttered by metal coffins filled by maniac drivers. The plan was to roll into town around 9pm skipping the rush hour standstill. We made good time through the desert and bat country courtesy of my speeding skills. At one point I was going 110 for a few minutes before I realized what was up. And there was a solid twenty minute stretch where I sped through Death Valley at 90mph.

We stopped off in Baker, CA (aka the midway point between Vegas & LA) for In & Out Burger. We avoided eating fast food as much as possible and I didn't ingest In & Out as much as I did in the previous summers. Two years ago, I lived next to a Wendy's and across from the In & Out on Tropicana. That's when I burnt out on both of those franchises. However, the double-double I devoured in Baker hit the spot. Nicky took over driving after Baker. She guided us into the LA suburbs and eventually into the side streets of the slums of Beverly Hills.

After two months, we finally got to see Showcase. He had booked a commercial over the summer and his dog walking business was flourishing. He me cast member of The OC in the dog park. Actually their dogs were playing with each other and they stood along the side and chatted... about dogs.

During my first 24 hours in Hollyweird, I sat on Nicky's couch ripping bingers and catching up TiVo including the last episodes of Studio 60. That show is toast and Sorkin couldn't pull off another West Wing. He'll be back. Maybe he should do more mushrooms to come up with a better idea for an hour long drama? I don't watch too much TV, but I really enjoyed Studio 60. Since I never watched one episode of the West Wing, I had no clue about Sorkin's writing chops.

On Friday morning, I woke up early and wrote before I decided to pester Nicky to drive me to O'Groats for their French Toast. I had been craving that meal for over two months. And their bacon is some of the best in LA even thought it's microwaved bacon. During breakfast, we were caught in the middle of a couple of tables with industry types. They rarely took a moment to catch their breath and barely touched their food as they talked back and forth and used Hollyweird buzzwords and spewed bullshit for the entire time it took me to eat my French Toast and bacon. We slipped out of O'Groats quickly and drove up to Zuma Beach in Malibu. Nicky had been craving sun all summer during our time in Las Vegas. We had a pool at our apartment at Del Bocca Vista but did not use it once.

We found a spot on the north end of Zuma and set up camp. I lugged out two of the chairs that I bought for the Las Vegas apartment. I read Under the Banner of Heaven. I started reading Jon Krakauer's book about the Mormon religion a couple of years ago and never finished. It was in my four-foot high pile of "unfinished books" that I have scattered about somewhere in NYC.

I read for a couple of hours and relaxed in the sun as I slowly left thoughts about Las Vegas behind me. Not too many people understand the decompression process that you experience after living in Las Vegas for two months. The amount of time varies and is never the same. In the last two years, I escaped to Colorado to help me slowly adjust to a non-gambling culture. This year, I hoped that NYC and LA can convince me to stop walking around with $3,000 in my pocket and to stop trying to figure out if a single female sitting by herself at a bar was a hooker.

I looked out at the Pacific Ocean and was happy to be away from the desert. I don't know when I'll be in Las Vegas next. Perhaps in December for a week or so. For now, it's no longer on my radar.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Food Pic Dump

Here are some random pictures of food that I took over the last couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Cheddar cheese omelet from the (New) Amity Diner in NYC

Fruit stand on E. 86th Street

Pickle drowning in cole slaw at the Riverdale Diner

Late night pizza from the East Village

Chocolate chip pancakes from O.H.O.P.
at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, NV

German hash browns from O.H.O.P.

Otis hits the buffet at the Rio

Midnight stoner food... bunt cake from Ralph's in Hollyweird

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Smugglers and Comps

"Check out this fuckin' guy," I said to Nicky as she pulled into the parking space in front of our apartment.

A thin, shirtless, Asian man wearing pajama pants walked in front of us. He smoked a cigarette and I noticed that one of his pants legs was rolled up. The shirtless Asian man lived upstairs. I'm convinced that he's part of a human smuggling ring importing kids to make sneakers and young women to work the many massage parlors in Chinatown a few blocks away.

"We have to get out of here," said Nicky.

"Ah, this is nothing compared to the Redneck Riviera."

Two summers ago, I lived in Sketchytown where inbred pot-bellied redneck kids ran rampant outside my door during the day and where tweakers and hookers trolled around at night. At the Del Bocca Vista, we rarely saw our neighbors. There was a stripper living across the hall that I had not seen in weeks. I have not seen her Honda convertible in a while. Who knows if she's still living here?

In an adjacent building, a couple of long hairs blast music at odd hours. They have been known to play Colorado bluegrass bands that play random Grateful Dead cover songs. Aside from those guys, I have not seen too many people milling around. Then again, I barely spent time in the apartment complex and was at work during the majority of my waking hours. And when I was up, it was between 4 and 6am and aside from a random drunk stumbling home, the complex was tame.

I bought two lawn chairs for our porch and we sat in them a combined two or three times max. I was going to toss them out, but Nicky suggested that we take them back to LA and use them on the beach. Aside from a few magazines and random poker schwag like a PokerNews hoodie or t-shirt, I'm not leaving Las Vegas with too much shit. The last two years I accumulated too much and had to ship several boxes home. This year, I only accumulated two beach chairs and a small bag.

And the pool? Never went. The tennis courts? Didn't play once. I never had the chance to go to the gym. We had all these perks in our gated complex and did not take full advantage of all the frills.

On Wednesday, we drove out to Red Rock for lunch. Nicky had accumulated enough points on her players card to get us a free meal. After lunch, we headed over to the movie theatre inside the casino. These days, the locals casinos have restaurants, bowling alleys, shopping, and movie theatres to attract people into wandering around the casino. I wanted to see Knocked Up and I had enough points on my players card to get two free movie tickets. All that poker playing paid off. We accumulated enough points all summer to get a free meal and movie. About time we got a comp!

Knocked Up made me laugh out loud a lot. Plenty of hysterical moments and Jake Apatow hit another home run. The last two flicks I saw in Las Vegas were a documentary and an action flick. Sicko and the latest Die Hard installment were good but Knocked Up is one of those flicks I'd see several times and randomly quote from time to time.

For dinner last night, we met up with Flipchip and the Poker Prof at Ferraro's. It's a local joint away from the Strip that's been around for almost three decades. My favorite Italian place used to be Ferrara's which was tucked away on the top level of the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace. Since it was somewhat off the beaten path, it was never crowded and we never needed a reservation. Their desserts were kick ass and the gelato was top notch. I guess the lack of customers was the reason it went out of business. Since then, I've been trying to find a decent Italian joint. Well, we found one in Ferraro's.

They make the gnocchi from scratch which is rare these days. I decided to try their gnocchi which melts in your mouth. Amazing. The mushroom raviolis were kick ass too, not to mention the canolis. Nicky ordered the lobster risotto and the Prof went for the lamb chops. I think Flipchip got the Chilean sea bass. All in all, it was a fantastic meal and it would end up being our last big supper in Las Vegas.

I went home and finished packing. Nicky has been dying to get back to California. I could stay for a few more days, but I understand her desire to get the hell out of Las Vegas. A tough town like this gets to you after a couple of weeks. Once you're here for two months, you start to slide into the depths of insanity.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shane Nickerson's 30 Ways to a Happier Life

My buddy Shane posted something a few weeks ago. I'm finally getting around to pointing out 30 random ways to a happier life. Take a peek. Some of those are truly gems.

The ones about drinking warm beer or treating yourself to nice underwear make me laugh. And there are serious ones such as...
11. Cut out people that bum you out.
And then this one helped get me off laptop tilt...
18. Don't get too attached to any one material thing. It's just stuff.
Thanks to Nickerson for reminding me that people are more important than things and that it is OK to let go of negative people in your life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lost in the Shuffle

My laptop died on Thursday afternoon less than 24 hours before I was scheduled to fly to NYC for a long weekend. I was pissed off and got sick to my stomach. I had lost a ton of writing shit (lost forever) and all of my precious bookmarks. I managed to recover the majority of my files, but I'm unable to connect via my air card and I'm forced to use Nicky's laptop in the meantime. The laptop is virtually worthless. I was waiting before I got back to NYC in early August to buy a new one, but I wanted to depart ways on my terms.

My laptop had been the biggest constant in my life over the past three years. I won enough money playing online poker in early 2005 to buy it and I never looked back. It's been all over the world with me while I waited out delayed flights in random airports to lonely hotel rooms in godknowswhere to using it while I sat on Derek's couch. It's a goner and I realized I had a stronger emotional that originally anticipated. Like I said, I don't have a place to live and have been on the road for most of the last three years. It's been my life and an extension of me over the last couple of years. I guess this is how most people feel about cars or pets.

I bought a laptop over the weekend but it doesn't arrive until after August 2nd. It wasn't anything I wanted, because everything I liked was way over $2,000 or anything moderately priced would not get shipped until after August 12th. I'm supposed to be in Europe around that time.

So I flew into NYC carrying Nicky's cumbersome laptop. The fucker is huge and I realized how cool mine used to be... slim, sleek, and it weighed next to nothing. Nicky got hers originally to play online poker. The screen is immense and you can play up to four tables on it (more if you reduce table sizes to next to nothing). Anyway, we watched plenty of HBO shows on it over the last two months such as the final run of The Sopranos and the new season of Entourage.

Anyway, Nicky and I left Las Vegas quietly for a three-day weekend in NYC. Widespread Panic was playing Radio City Music Hall on Friday and Saturday. I couldn't get a flight home early enough on Friday so I knew I was going to miss one show. Bruce Cohen went to both shows and said we got the better of the two.

Nicky had not been back to NYC for a few years and I think that was for some movie premiere. We got a hotel on the Upper West Side. I had a coupon on Expedia that was set to expire and I also had another one after I complained about getting fucked over by them when I had to reschedule something during my Monte Carlo trip. Anyway, I ended up getting a swanky hotel room for three nights for basically the price of 1.5 nights.

We got in Friday night and met up with Derek and The Rooster. Nicky got to experience what it was like bar hopping with the three of us.

On Saturday, Nicky and I took a walk through Central Park and ended up at The Met. We bumped into an old friend and painter Charles Andresen. We met up with Bruce and headed to Radio City. We had caught Panic in Las Vegas on July 3rd, but it was not the best of shows and I was super tired because of work. Since I was well rested and at a much more historic venue, I knew the show would be better.

I should write up a review... and will eventually. All in all, despite one of the band members not in the lineup due to a death in the family, the show was great.

On SUnday, Nicky went shopping in Soho while I played online poker in the hotel room and bought a new laptop online. When she got back, we took the subway up to Derek''s to eat at the diner and then watch Entourage. Afterwards, we met up with the Rooster.

I drank a lot in NYC. More than I had been in Las Vegas and a ton more than when I'm in Hollyweird. I guess that since I don't have to drive in NYC, both Nicky and I can get hammered without any worries. I suspect she loved that the most.

At Midnight, we met up with the Rooster and headed downtown to the outskirts of Chinatown to Milk and Honey. I'm a well-known poker writer in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, but I'm still a nobody in NYC. However, I'm friends with The Rooster, who happens to be somebody. And because he knows the owner of Milk and Honey, we got to have a cocktail in one of the toughest places in NYC to get into.

The door is unmarked and you have to be buzzed in my security camera. It reminded me of one of the underground poker rooms I used to play in. The place is dark with only a handful of booths. There are weird rules that The Rooster told us about.

The Rooster asked the bartender to whip up any three drinks. A few minutes later, Dark & Stormy for Nicky, an Aviator for The Rooster, and a Chilean Mojito for myself. We hit up a few more bars before it was almost daybreak.

On Monday, we woke up a downpour. After a quick bite, we headed to MoMa with every other tourist in the city. I snagged about twenty amazing photos but since I can't upload photos (for now) that will have to wait.

Our flight was delayed for an hour, but we managed to get back into Vegas about the same time due to a rare East-West tailwind. Of course within hours of my return to Las Vegas, I was sitting in a casino playing Pai Gow with members of the international press. But that's a story for another time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Truckin - July 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 7

Sine I was stuck in Las Vegas with very little free time, the July issue Truckin' is two weeks late. This issue features a couple of veteran Truckin' authors such as Change100 and Clay Champlin. Dingo returns with another sordid Las Vegas take and I'm happy to introduce Johnny Hughes to the mix.

1. Snapshot by Paul McGuire
Some people find the truth in photographs. It's a person's soul captured at one moment in time and space. The picture cannot lie like a human can. A couple of months ago, I sorted through an old box and I came across an envelope with several photos of a trip that I had taken to New Orleans... More

2. Hard Luck Harry and the Owl by Johnny Hughes
Harry believed in luck more than any gambler you have ever met. If the Cowboys lost in the final seconds of a football game, Harry thought it was because he'd spilled the salt shaker at the Truck Stop... More

3. Decades by Change100
I turned 10 in Belmar, New Jersey. My grandfather had fallen ill and my mother decided to move my sister and I out there with her for most of the summer of 1987 so she could take care of him. The three of us squeezed into the pullout couch at night in the living room of my grandparents' doublewide trailer on Route 71... More

4. Bingo by Clay Champlin
I developed a hatred for bingo at an early age. In third grade we played every Friday. Sister Mary Grace would give each kid a bingo card, and a handful of dry navy beans that she kept in a Folgers can, to mark the cards... More

5. Randi the Schizo Hustler by Dingo
Randi had a thick eastern European accent, straight blonde hair and a mischievous smile. Tatyana wore her hair in waves/curls and was very serious and often depressed. She would cry about nothing in particular and from the whopper stories she told and her sniffling I concluded Twin 2 was a heavy coke head... More
I am currently seeking submissions for September and October. Shoot me an email if you are interested in writing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Happy Hunter Day

Today would have been Hunter S. Thompson's 70th birthday.

Happy Hunter Day.
8.25 Million

In case you were wondering, this is what $8.25 million looks like.

Jerry Yang - 2007 World Series of Poker Champion

After a grueling seven week assignment, I am done with work. I am going to sleep for the first time in seven weeks knowing that I don't have to go work inside a casino for at least 50 or so days.

I promise you that Truckin' will be out by the end of the week, if not sooner.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

I was supposed to go beer bowling at 2pm. Except that I was up until 7am writing and didn't fall asleep until 8am and Nicky was fast asleep at 2pm. I felt like crapola and I skipped it. I found enough energy to run errands instead. I went to the bank and bought cold medicine from the drug store up the road. When I got back, Nicky was still sleeping. I wrote for a few hours and worked on the 2007 WSOP final table bios.

When Nicky finally woke up, I was super straving. We decided to drive down to the Strip and eat at Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. They are usually crowded but since it was 5pm on a Monday, it was the perfect Bime to go just before the dinner rush. I ordered a Kobe beef burger on ciabatta bread with bleu cheese and bacon. Yummy. Great meal, except that I felt like shit the second half of dinner.

Nicky wanted to gamble so we drove over to Treasure Ilsand to meet Benjo, a friend of mine who's a French journalist in town covering the WSOP for various outlets. We decided to play a tournament. I didn't do so well (none of us did). Last time I played poker, I cashed in the WSOP and won $4,740. Anyway, after the tournament we played Pai Gow and I won a few bucks back.

We had a drink or three and hammered out some plans at the end of the summer. I'm going to visit Benjo's hometown of Lille in France for a two-day festival in the beginning of September. That will be after I spend a almost three weeks in Amsterdam and just before I go to London for a twelve day work assignment.

When I got home, I wrote a little more and watched the last two episodes of Entourage. The moment when Johnny Drama wigs out after smoking the high end medicinal marijuana was priceles.

I've been in Las Vegas for about forty days too long. I can believe I actually crave Hollyweird after viewing two episodes of Entourage.

One more day of work to go. I keep reminind myself that. Then I get 50 days off in a row.

In case you were interested in who wins the 2007 WSOP, stop by PokerNews.com for live updates starting at Noon Las Vegas time. I'll be providing the color commentary. SHould be fun....

Monday, July 16, 2007


Had another one of those 18 hour work days and my day is not over yet. Still have an hour or so to write before I can crash. Nicky is fast asleep and the sprinklers just shut off outside my porch. When I drove home, the sun was out and most normal people were still sleeping on the West Coast, while everyone on the East Coast was arriving at their offices.

Beyond tired. Still sick. Run down. Beat up. But I have one more day left. I actually have Monday... er today... off. And then Tuesday is my last day of work for a very long time. I expect another late late night. But since it's my last one, I don't care. I just want to get this over with, so I can finally sleep and tune out for a few days. I think my next assignment is not for another 50 days. I am free. Finally.

As the lyrics to one of my favorite song goes... I'm waiting for the time when I can finally say that this has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sick Boy

I got sick at the worst possible time... during two of the last three days of the WSOP. I can't do anything about it today except suck it up, get jacked up on DayQuil, and hope that the day goes fast.

There are 36 players left and I don't get to go home until 9 remain.

I'm starving. I'm craving for real food and nothing like Subway or casino cafe food that I've been feasting on the last month or more.

I got fucked over by one of the print outlets I write for. I cleared my schedule and promised them an article for a much lower price than other organziations offered me. But since I'm loyal, I stuck with them. Of course I found out two days ago that they got someone else. Pissed off? You betcha. I guess loyalty is a one way street in the business.

I talked to some of the big wigs at PokerNews and it looks like there will be more travel for me over the next few months. Nothing is official, but it looks like London and Australia will be two events that I'll cover in the upcoming months.

I'm going to take a couple of weeks off at the end of August and live in Amsterdam for two weeks so I can relax and write and jump off the grid for two weeks. There's a possible side trip planned to France for a weekend before I fly to London for two weeks of work. If Nickygets hired for London, then she'll come out to France with me before she's supposed to show up in London. If not, I guess I'll have to fly her out.

I have a spcial trip planned at the end of September and then it's off to Australia in mid-October. I think I'm supposed to go back to Oz again in January for a month.

There's other stuff planned for next year, but that's so far away that I don't want to think about it. Anything could change at any moment. And the stuff I already wrote about is not official until I get word that it's a go.

I'm not thrilled to still be stuck in poker for another year. At least I'm getting to go to different places and I'm not stuck in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Lime Fingers

2:07am... Las Vegas. My sticky fingers smell like limes. I had been squeezing limes in order to get enough juice out of them before I'd toss one down a flight of stairs and try to get it in a trash can. I won $20 from Otis on consecutive nights on Throwing Things prop bets. I'm stuck over $200 for the entire WSOP, but I'm slowly chopping away at my debt. We had a group of media watching such as members of the international French and British press who were fascinated with our degeneracy. Even the Pokerati crew of Michalski and the Fresh Princess were curious about our post-Midnight drinking and gambling activities.

2:07am... 24 hours earlier, I sat in the Gold Coast casino at a Pai Gow table with Nicky and Otis. We unpatiently waited for a waitress to bring us cocktails. She was one of the slowest that I had ever experienced in Las Vegas. Otis was visibly rattled after he won a $250 bonus with a straight flush. All the cracker wanted was a Greyhound. Grapefruit juice and 1/2 a shot of well vodka. Could you blame him? He worked hard all day and was finally able to kick back with friends. He made a rare hand at the Pai Gow tables and nailed a bonus. He wanted to celebrate with a cocktail. But the slow-ass, trailer park, mullet-breeder never stopped by our table. The only solution was to run over to the bar and pay for drinks. It only cost $11 for a beer, a Greyhound, and a White Russian for Nicky. In NYC or in Hollywierd, $11 is the norm for one drink.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday, Already?

I forgot to pay my school loan last month. It was a few days late. My payment for July is due in two days. What are the odds that I miss this one?

I had a deadline this morning. I thought it was tomorrow. Oooooops. Glad that I worked on it during one of my breaks yesterday. Almost forgot to hand in that article.

I played $10 Pai Gow with Otis and Nicky last night at Gold Coast after my shift ended. I was up for most of the session untl I lost $200 on consecutive hands. Talk about bad beats.

I won $20 from Otis in throwing things prop bets. We were doing lime tosses down a flight of stairs into a small garbage can. I hit the can which got me $20.

I have been living off of Mint Milano's and Perrier at the apartment in the Del Bocca Vista. That's the only food stuff was have there. Our fridge is a bit gaunt.

I totally forgot about the MLB All Star game. And plenty of other life's mysteries while I'm stuck in a casino for 18 hours a day.

I did see the latest Die Hard movie last week. Not as many funny one liners, but I guess it was OK. Held my attention for a bit. Nicky told me the story behind the story... how it was originally pitched as a seprate flick and the suits in Hollyweird decided to attached the John McClane character and make it the fourth Die Hard flick.

I've been operating without having my cell phone's ringer on. Makes my life much easier and I can concentarte on the tasks at hand instead of being a slave to my phone. I've also cut down email reading to less than 30 minutes a day. I want to keep these methods up after the WSOP ends.

I keep wondering about my next assignment. I know that I'm supposed to go to London for two weeks. But I have no idea if Barcelona is attached or if I'm going to Oz or Asia sometime in the next few months. I'm waiting to find out so I can schedule some time off in Amsterdam. I keep thinking about renting an apartment there for a few months, but I can't commit to anything until I get my schedule.

Derek wrote a hilarious post called I'm a Bootlegger.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Celebs at the WSOP

The World Series of Poker main event always attracts random celebrities. They can afford to pay the $10,000 entry fee. Over the first four days of the Main Event championship, I spotted a bunch of random actors and sports figures.

Janet Jones (wife of NHL great Wayne Gretzky) played Day 1a along with actors Ray Romano and Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond. NHL hockey player Max Talbot, Tobey "Spiderman" Maguire, Kirk Acevedo (actor from Band of Brothers), Guy Laliberte (Cirque de Soliel founder), and Jim Feist (sports handicapper) and WPT announcers Vince Van Patten and Mike Sexton were also playing.

Other notables included... SNL Weekend Update anchor Norm MacDonald, talk show host Montel Williams, Sam Simon (producer of The Simpsons), Hank Azaria from The Simpsons, Backstreet Boys singer A.J. McLean, former NBA player Ken Norman from the Clippers, Jen Tilly, Seinfeld's Jason Alexander, Shannon Elizabeth, Nelly, Rene Angelil, and Swedish pop star Dilba Demirbag, former NHL player and coach Rick Tocchet, boxer Antonio Tarver, and former baseball pro Jose Canseco.

So far Spiderman has done the best. He's advanced to Day 3. He hates having people take photos of him and requested that we don't cover him at PokerNews.com. Luckily, Flipchip got a photo of him when he wasn't looking.

(Photo courtesy of Flipchip)

Todd Phillips, the driector of Old School, Bittersweet Motel (Phish Documentary), and Starsky and Hutch also advanced to Day 3.

By the way, in case you were wondering, first place pays $8.25M.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Five Hilarious Google Referrals in the Last 24 Hours...
1. Maudie's retired race horse
2. Crackel Barrel hashbrowns
3. Hooker smurf
4. Location for street whores in Tuscaloosa
5. How to treat a sick chicken or rooster at home

Monday, July 09, 2007

Forlorn Photos

Some people find the truth in photographs. It's a person's soul captured at one moment in time and space. The picture cannot lie like a human can. A couple of months ago, I sorted through an old box and I came across an envelope with several photos of a trip that I took to New Orleans with an ex-girlfriend. That was pre-9.11 and over five years pre-Katrina.

The one thing that struck me the hardest was her expression in most of the photos. She looked sad, confused, somber, and at times morose. Out of forty or fifty photos, there were five or six that stuck out. For the most part, she was smiling in almost all of them. But it was the few that she didn't which spoke volumes to me because I snapped those photos when she wasn't looking.

Our relationship at the time was undefined. Yes, we were sleeping together at the time but neither of us would dare to say we were boyfriend and girlfriend. If you were to saying "seeing each other" that would be a stretch. We both liked each other. A lot. But she was in flux and just got out of a hectic relationship and I was in one of those stages were I had several meaningless relationships in a row. It didn't bother me that I was the rebound guy but I think it bothered her to think that she was the fuck du jour.

Alas, we were on the road visiting a few places on a road trip and we stopped off in New Orleans. Senor's brother lived there at the time and we crashed at his flat near Tulane. We spent the days wandering around the city and exploring jazz clubs and cemeteries. She had never been before, while I was a veteran. I had been too many times for Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. For a city that I never spent more than a few days in, I knew the Crescent City like the back of my hand.

I showed her all the touristy spots and at night we'd hang out near Uptown or at various bars near Tulane. There were moments when I knew she was in another space. We'd be walking around the Flower District and although she was walking only a few inches right next to me, she carried herself with a disturbing distant and uncommunicative vibe. At the time I simply thought she was overwhelmed by the magic of New Orleans. She was really a small town girl, or first timers, the allure of New Orleans could be overbearing. I knew it was for me when I first set foot in that town when I was a drunken 18 year-old frat boy, and I was coming from New York City

In 2007, I examined those photos of our trip to New Orleans and I finally understood the dynamic of our relationship with much more clarity. I'm a little older and wiser. I've had more experiences with women and endured mature relationships. At the time she was horribly depressed and I was not helping things with my erratic and nomadic behavior. If anything, I might have made things worse dragging her on the road with me. At the time, I had no clue. It was the late 1990s and I wandered around in a murky haze of inebriation.

Her long gaps of silence were not filled with moments of pensive thought as I originally thought. She was spiraling down into a dark place. Even if I knew that was happening at the time, I really wouldn't know what to do.

One photo was snapped right near Jackson Square. When I first saw the photo, I quickly dismissed it. That was back in the day of disposable cameras and out of 36 pictures, it was not uncommon to get a dozen or so crappy photos. Usually I tossed those shitty ones out. For some reason I kept all of them and instead of all the good ones, I focused on all the sad ones. The camera didn't lie.

I suspected that she was conflicted. She loved being away from home and seeing new places for the first time, especially cities that she had never been to before. But I also suspected that she missed the comforts of her own home. Her own bed. Her cats. Her own chair that she loved to sit, sip coffee, and chain smoke in.

The most likely scenario was that she wished she was in New Orleans with someone else. Another guy. Another crush. Anyone but me. She had grown tired of my antics and all of the partying. what at first seemed cute and different had grown tiresome and trite. I was a hardcore druggie and she probably resented that fact.

Maybe she was sad that she knew she had to leave and go back to her home and the same old boring routines. Maybe I'll never know why she was sad, but when I glanced at those photos, I could not feel her sadness sitting heavy on my shoulders.

I wanted to call her up and see how she was doing. I wanted to let her know that I was sorry that she was depressed and to apologize if I made things worse for her. Alas, we had not talked in a very long time and I was reluctant to open up old wounds. I tired to think about happier times that we shared and the fun times we had on the open road, driving state to state.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dispatches from the WSOP Main Event

Some of the following was originally posted on Tao of Poker...

One herb friendly member of the media told me a funny story about how he went outside on a break and there was a WSOP player smoking a joint. He took a few hits and they started talking about The Grateful Dead. The next thing he knew, the guy handed him a second joint. Yeah, I was jealous. Hitting doobies behind the Poker Sauna. Only in Las Vegas.

I heard from one of our guys that Tobey "Spiderman" Maguire playedon Day 1a and snuck into the ladies room to piss on one of the breaks since the line to the men's room was too long.

I bumped into Michalski outside by the Poker Sauna. He told me that Hemingway said, "You can never write enough about the weather." My next post on Poker News was about the weather. By the way, it was so hot outside that when I went to Change100's car for a smoke break, I took a leak and by the time my piss hit the pavement, it evaporated. Talk about one hot fucking day.

I ran into the Geek and he helped me out later in the night with some hands. Grubby magically appeared and told me about the slot machine he was going to be on. The Poker Grub is officially big time. I never saw my brother but he hung out with Michalski at the Hooker Bar for a bit. I wish I wasn't so busy. I'd have more time to hang out with friends.

By 3:30am, the hookers started trickling into the Amazon Room. I forgot it was a Friday in Las Vegas.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Back to the Grind

Photo courtesy of Flipchip

My mother decided to visit Las Vegas on July 4th weekend in the middle of the WSOP. Talk about the worst possible time to come especially since it will get into the 120s over the next few days.

I spent three meals with her which was three meals too many. Nicky got to meet her for the first time, and I'm sure she'll have some interesting things to say about the encounter.

Over the last two weeks, I turned off my cellphone, IMs, and only read my main email once a day. I stopped reading everything else and for the first time in a very long time, I felt as though my life as uncluttered. Hard to explain aside from it felt good to not have to be attached to things. The only time I used the cell was to make calls. Perfect. And if people really needed something important, they knew where to find me on the floor of the Amazon Ballroom in the Rio Casino.

I had to leave my phone while my mother and brother were in town, but now that the WSOP main event has begun, I'm back to tuning out and focusing on work.

So... leave a message and I'll get back to you in two weeks. Maybe.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lost Cat

Nicky noticed the cat after we got home from the Widespread Panic concert. Since we live on the first floor of a condo, the black and white cat with a fluffy tail must have squeezed through the metal bars. He hung out underneath a $10.99 green beach chair that I bought at Smith's. We let him be. I told Nicky that he was the perfect pest control and feast on all the big ass bugs and critters that invaded the porch after Midnight. He wasn't a stray. You don't see too many feral animals in Las Vegas. It's too fuckin' hot and they'd be burnt to a crisp. The lost cat had to be owned by someone in a nearby condo and or they let the cat out at night.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, the cat was in the same spot and looked like it had not moved for eight hours. The cat incessantly meowed and Nicky said it wasn't a good sign. I gave him some water but I couldn't take the cat inside the apartment. It was at least 110 degrees and I was caught up in one of those "you know it's not really any of my business" dilemmas. I left a bowl of water for the cat and drove Nicky to work. When I got back twenty minutes later, the cat was still there as it pressed against the glass of the porch sliding door.

The night before there was some sort of domestic dispute. A trail of clothes led from the parking lot to an adjacent condo with a broken dvd player or something electronic. There were a few piles of clothes all over the walkway and in a nearby bush. It looked like a guy (based on the clothes) was kicked out of his apartment by his wife/girlfriend. His scorned partner tossed a bunch of clothes out the window or off the second story balcony. I thought that the cat could have been owned by one of those people and was either tossed out as well or escaped during their dispute.

I was going to call faux-security (two fat rent-a-guards wearing fluorescent green T-shirts that rode on bicycles) and tell them about the possibly lost cat. Las Vegas was in a holiday heat wave with temperatures hitting the 120 mark. I was worried for the cat's health, especially since it had been outside for at least twelve hours. I walked in front to see if it could climb through the metal bars and as soon as he saw me, he made a beeline towards me. First problem solved... I got the frickin' cat off my porch. The cat followed me back into the apartment. We both ran towards the open front door. I won the race and shut the door. The cat wandered around the corner and laid down underneath a pickup truck in the parking lot next to Nicky's car.

I never felt more guilty in Las Vegas. I wasn't supposed to have pets in the apartment but as willing to break that rule just to get the cat some AC. However, I was worried that if I brought the cat in, then it wouldn't want to leave and could tear the place apart when I had to meet my brother for lunch. I really wanted to punch the shit out of the owner for how they treated the cat... that is if I ever find the owner.

I have not seen the cat since.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Widespread Panic at Planet Ho

I had a rare day off and went to go see Widespread Panic with Nicky, Spaceman, and Friedman. Panic played Colorado (including Red Rocks) two weekends ago and they were just coming off a series of shows in Southern California. It's always better to catch a band in the middle of a tour than at the start like we did at Langerado in March.

The Vegas show was solid. It was one of two I'll get to see on the summer tour. The other one is at Radio City Music Hall in a couple of weeks. Here's the setlist...
7.3.07, Planet Ho Theatre, Las Vegas, NV
Set 1: Lil Kin > Machine > Barstools, Big Wooly Mammoth > Cream Puff War, Smoking Factory, C Brown, Trouble > Space Wrangler

Set 2: Better Off, You Should Be Glad, Diner > Stop Breaking Down, Surprise Valley > Low Spark > Drums (with Carrot Top) > Surprise Valley > Jack, North

Encore: Nobody's Loss, Wonderin'
Highlights in a super short Set 1 included Big Whooly > Cream Puff War. They boys went old school with C Brown. Set 2's pace picked up and Surprise Valley > Low Spark was an intense 15 minute period. Jimmy Herring was the MVP of the night. And I gotta say that I love it when Panic covers Traffic songs. I don't get to see them play North too much these days, so I was happy.

I'm excited to see them in NYC in a few weeks...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Las Vegas Pic Dump

Here are random pics that I took over the last couple of weeks:

Nice socks, Snoopy

Monday, July 02, 2007

Lobsters and Sandy Bates

Over the last month I've been having several Sandy Bates moments. For the six of you who picked up on that reference, you can understand the existentialist and artistic dilemma that I have been experiencing over the last couple of weeks. For those of you who haven't, go rent Stardust Memories on Netflix.
Random Guy: Can I have your autograph?
Sandy Bates: Oh, jeez.
Random Guy: Could you just write: "To Phyllis Weinstein, you unfaithful, lying bitch."
During one of the breaks of the HORSE event, I went outside for a few minutes for a smoke break. It was around 3am and Benjo told me a weird story regarding John-Paul Sartre. I actually started the conversation by asking him something about Sartre. I think it was about him banging Simone de Beauvoir. Anyway, Benjo told me how Simone de Beauvoir made him take a holiday in Southern France because he was too burnt out after experiencing hallucinations, specifically one about a lobster following him around. He had been doing too much mescaline and was feeling the residual effects of that drug. For years the lobster would follow him around and he made the decision that he was not going to see the lobster any more... and the lobster vanished and ceased to exist anymore.

I had a moment of clarity and finally figured it out. Everything. Especially what Sartre was trying to teach us... that we have to make a choice in life. And not just about what we do, but what we believe, and the values we hold. Those choices are not going to be made for us or nor should they be dictated by those around us. He decided to stop seeing the lobsters and they were gone.

Editor's Note: This excerpt originally appeared on Tao of Poker.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Insane Golf Prop Bet

I was sweating all day. I had $2,700 riding on Erick Lindgren. That was the most I had wagered on a single event since March Madness and I couldn't get enough updates. Every few minutes I'd ask Schecky or check Wicked Chops Poker on his progress.

Lindgren was not playing in a poker tournament. Rather, he was on the golf course. Even though the second to last day of the $50K HORSE was running, most of the attention in the Rio Ballroom fell upon the shoulders of a guy who wasn't even in the casino. One of the things I do love about Las Vegas are when degenerate gamblers bet outrageous amounts on trivial things.

I felt I had an edge. I didn't have a lock or feel that the fix was in. But I felt as though I was on the better side of that seemingly impossible bet. Something that Brandon Schaefer told me in Australia resonated while I was making a slew of side bets with friends. Schaefer told me that he gambles for a living and assesses risk. If he was going to set a prop bet, against anyone, they would be the underdog. So when Lindgren made that bet with Gavin Smith and Phil Ivey, I felt strongly about Schaefer's words. Erick Lindgren is a professional gambler and he was a former athlete. Add those two facts together, and the obvious choice was to bet on Lindgren. I found a handful of suckers who pooled together $2,700 and I scored. Big.

Erick Lindgren had to shoot four consecutive rounds of golf at Bear's Best, all under a score of 100, without a cart, and in one single session. He had to carry his own bag but had a caddy to help with distances, replacing divots, and green reads. Gavin Smith, Nordberg, Chris Bell, and Phil Ivey all wagered against Lindgren for a combined amount of $340,000.

"I got a lot of action," said Lindgren.

Guess what? Not only did Lindgren do it... he did it after getting shitfaced drunk the night before and on 90 minutes of sleep while surviving 115 degree temperatures under the sizzling Nevada sun. That's the stuff legends are made of.

His prop bet was a variation of a Huck Seed bet that was done several years ago. It was also similar to the one in the film Lucky You, but since like seven people saw that film, no one would know that the same golf course they shot that scene happened to be the same course Lindgren played four consecutive rounds on.

The first two rounds were a breeze. He struggled with the third round. At the start of the fourth round, a big problem arose. What happened if he shot 100 exactly? Ivey and Lindgren decided to flip a coin to decide the outcome... should they have that issue. Unreal, I thought. My entire wager night be decided on a fuckin' coin flip.

Anyway, Schecky gave me the low down on the final round. Lindgren shot the front 9 at 49. The back 9 is much tougher, but the Las Vegas winds had died down as did the temps. Lindgren had struggled on the back 9 all day in the previous three rounds, yet he prevailed. By the 13th hole, Chris Bell and Gavin Smith took a buy out, but Ivey did not.

Chops sent a RawVegasTV camera man to interview me since I was one of the few people who bet on Lindgren. Fernando was the one who found out the official outcome for me. I indeed won and and if you add up my cash in the WSOP on Sunday, I picked up close to 7.5K in less than five days.

Here's the clip. I'm in it at the end for like five seconds.

Click here to view the video via RSS and Bloglines.

Of course, my bar tab at the Tilted Kilt has reached four figures and if you add up all the money I lost in "throwing things" prop bets over the last four weeks, I'm hovering around almost breaking even. On Day 27, I dropped $80 on a water toss and another $5 on trying to hit one of our interns in the head with a wadded up piece of paper.

Thank God for Lindgren. Now I have enough money to pay my bar tab.

Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Tao of Poker a few days ago.