Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Echoes of Africa

A thousand untidy steps to the bus stop, none of them flat.

Coming to amongst the eucalyptuses of Entoto, wandering into the consciousness of existence halfway across the world.

The white smile lighting the little girl’s face accompanying the appearance of the lightbulb over her head.

Everpresent death. Overflowing life.

The feel of a thousand eyes on You, The Apparition.

Pools of fire in her eyes, burning, yearning, burning like life, burning like the Ethiopian sun. A million unspoken words in her fiery eyes.

The purity of tears.

Alone in a tent on the edge of the Masai Mara, on the edge of the world. More alone than one could ever be amongst strangers. Dawn looming. So terrifyingly, blissfully alone.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Two Weeks at the World Series of Poker

Cresting that hill twenty miles north of town after an all-day drive. Suddenly gaping into the valley of the City of Sin. The Stratosphere is a beacon in a sea of light. I always feel like the Trashcan Man at the end of his journey to Cibola. Exhilaration.

The house is nicer than expected. We go to the grocery store. At Albertson’s they have this make-your-own-six-pack gimmick for $8.99. I get an Anchor Steam, a Fat Tire, a Guinness, a Lagunitas Maximus, a Rogue Dead Guy, and a Firestone Walker Double Barrel. I don’t know if you can get six-packs of the latter two for less than $8.99 anywhere. Valuetown.

We make salad and spaghetti, watch the game. In the room auction, SamENole & Wes make it obvious they won’t be bidding on the Master bedroom. I semi-bluff PiMaster up a bit, but I’ve got eyes on an innocuous room upstairs that suits my proclivities. Pi gets a bargain. I get the one I wanted, but not as parsimoniously as I’d envisioned.

Oh yeah – I played in the World Series of Poker too. I didn’t last long.

Heads-up is my game. This is a new event for the WSOP, a $3k half no-limit hold em, half pot-limit Omaha. I’m not an experienced Omaha player, but I can play heads-up cause Matt Viox and I used to wage war playing $1 sit-n-goes of this format before Full & Tilt were four-letter words.

I catch my first bad beat of the Series. I have to play in the opening round rather than get a bye like most of the field. It’s like a play-in game for the NCAAs. I’m on the lucky end of two laughable coolers, so I quickly advance. Then I play a guy I know. He actually backed me in last summer’s $10k deuce to seven lowball tournament, one of two tournaments in my career I’ve played with significant backing. He’s good, but again, my cards are better.

The winner of the next match advances to the final 64 and cashes. Again I play a talented young expert, but this time I don’t catch the cards and lose.

I have to admit, I’d much rather play Agricola than poker right now. Not a good sign.

Again I skip poker. A borderline decision, because the final sixteen play heads-up. But the first day is 9-handed. I don’t know if I’m above average in a 9-handed $5k anymore.

Lately I’ve picked up an interest in nutrition. In Ethiopia I suddenly realized how much control I had over my body and the things I put into it. I can eat whatever I want and however much of it I want. Since I’ve been home I’ve been walking this tightrope between health and gluttony. In Vegas I’ve been screwing around throwing a bunch of produce into a blender along with an egg and calling it breakfast.

Aghast, Big Eric Schwartz asks “Did you just skip “We’ve Got Tonight?” on iTunes while four men play an agriculturally-themed German board game at 11 on a Friday night in Vegas. That happened.

Often you bust your ass all day and walk out at night with nothing to show for your efforts.

We should all be so lucky. Playing cards for a living is a blessing. I’m not sure that’s what I do anymore, but if that’s the worst-case scenario, I couldn’t be any luckier.

Andy Frankenberger is at the table. Andy Frankenberger plays really franking good. Andy Frankbenberger flops a set but runs into a backdoor flush. Thomas Fuller flops a few sets and accumulates one of the biggest stacks in this massive tournament.

If the $1500/$1000 No-limit hold‘em is the plankton of the WSOP ocean, I am its blue shark: ubiquitous, inconspicuous, known to eat every creature, but rarely a danger to the big game. Nobody in the world has cashed more of these events at the WSOP than I have over the last seven years. Yet I have only broken even cause I’ve never managed to sink my fangs into a real piece of meat.

My good fortune from day one carries into day two, and my stack remains amongst the largest in the room for several hours. But in the evening I drop a few pots and make the all-too familiar, more bitter than sweet trudge to the cashier’s cage.

Paul survives. He’s been fighting to keep his head above water this whole tournament. I ended day one with eight times the chips he did. I played and won multiple pots for more chips than he’s had at any point in the tournament. But now I’m on the rail and Paul claws onward. My jealousy is not what it once was, but it's not nonexistent.

I hit the gym hard during the WSOP. It’s a control thing. Every tournament I’ve ever played at the WSOP, I’ve lost. At the gym I always win.

I’ve won my starting table three of the seven times I’ve played the $1500 shootout. I’m twenty minutes late due to a mess on the 215, but my timing is perfect: I flop two huge hands immediately upon sitting, eliminate the only other player I recognize, and assume the chip lead and control of the table. I give maximum effort throughout the afternoon and cruise to a seemingly effortless victory. We go to Chili’s to watch the basketball game. I get a salad and a tall Sierra Nevada. It would be a perfect day, but the mini-golf place is shut down and I lose to PiMaster in Agricola.

The cream rises to the top of the shootouts. Winning this second table will be a challenge, no matter the cards. It’s a long grind down to heads up play, which I enter at a 6:1 disadvantage. But after back-to-back doubles, I’m suddenly in the lead.

I can’t finish the job. It’s a bitterly disappointing loss, though I feel I played well. The scorecard will show a 13th place finish, added to 17th, 12th, and 11th place finishes at the World Series of Poker.

I decided riding moto-motos in Uganda was the most dangerous thing I’d ever done, but driving to and from the Rio every day in Vegas probably tops it. If they’re not backlogged by traffic, construction, and/or fiery accidents, the 215 and I-15 will be soon. Vegas visitors drive like they gamble – fast, loose, and drunk. I thank God every time I complete the circuit.

With cold, mechanical precision I execute a comeback from desperation to contention in another $1500 event. After fourteen hours at the casino, I bag and tag my chips, say a couple farewells to friends playing at the Rio and drive home. My head hits the pillow a little after three, and I’m instantly into dreamless sleep.

In a few minutes, I will drive to the Rio for my fourteenth crack at day two of a $1k or $1500 no limit hold’em tournament at the WSOP. Perhaps I will win this one.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


Congratulations to an old friend, Adam Friedman, on winning his first World Series of Poker bracelet. Adam emerged victorious from an epic heads-up battle with Todd Brunson to win the $5k Stud Hi-Low event for $269,037! Anyone who knows Adam knew a win at the WSOP was just a matter of time, and it won't be long before he wins his second.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Brief Summary of My Poker Career

Yet it was the release of this song that triggered James Murphy's elusive professional breakthrough. You never know what's around the corner. And that is why I love the WSOP so much.

Friday, June 01, 2012

May Top 15

15. Outkast - ATLiens
14. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Desecration Smile
13. The Shins - Simple Song
12. Love - Alone Again Or
11. Beastie Boys - Fight For Your Right

10. Death Cab For Cutie - Little Bribes
9. Alkaline Trio - Private Eye
8. Mandy Moore - I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week
7. Cass McCombs - County Line
6. Of Monsters And Men - Dirty Paws

5. Of Monsters And Men - King And Lionheart
4. The Verve - Love Is Noise
3. The Alternate Routes - All That I See
2. Of Monsters And Men - Little Talks

Song of the Month: Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know