When you live in Vegas for more than a couple weeks, you learn a few things about the city: how to avoid traffic on the strip, where to go for good "locals" food (Greg Raymer introduced me to a Thai restaurant that's just amazing) and lots of ways to avoid the tourists (which you used to be, until you figured out that you were, in fact, living here. Now you're a local, and you look forward to Wednesday because it's the one day each week when the goddamn tourists aren't swarming.)
What you won't expect to find, and in fact can't find if you're actually looking for them, are the wormholes. Allow me to quote Ryan:
Wheaton is of the opinion that the Tilted Kilt contains an entrance to a wormhole. Enter that much-frequented establishment, order a beer, and suddenly it’s 8 in the morning and you’re standing outside your hotel with a growing sense that you have neither slept nor done anything remotely beneficial to your well-being in the time that’s passed. For a guy who grew up on Star Trek his grasp of physics is either extremely tenuous or cunningly warped; still, anecdotal evidence provides quite a bit of support to this theory.
We were under the impression that the Kilt contained the wormhole, but it turns out that it is just a wormhole, one of many around the city. Some other wormhole entries and their exits:
- The food court at O'Shea's ends up at the Excalibur's poker room.
- The All-American Bar and Grill ends up at The Gold Coast.
- The Bowling Alley at the Gold Coast ends up in front of the Palms.
- The Hooker Bar in the Rio is sort of a Russian Roulette, ending variously:
- On Boulder Highway in Henderson.
- In the Bowling Alley at the Gold Coast (and points beyond.)
- The UMC quickcare.
- All of the above.
There are others, I'm sure, but I've only experienced the Tilted Kilt's wormhole first hand. Okay, and the bowling alley. But that's it. I've only heard about the others from my writing colleagues here, and quite frankly, I'm not particularly anxious to confirm their existence firsthand, though I can regrettably admit that I haven't walked out of the Gold Coast once since I got here and thought, "Well, that was a good idea."
Today is the first day that the entire field is playing together at once, which is kind of cool.
We all had the day off yesterday, while the players took time out between days two and three, and after I finished some Team PokerStars duties with the media, I ended up with many of my friends in the Caesar's poker room (which is really nice) playing a mixed game.
"Wait a minute," I said, after we'd been playing for about two hours, "I just realized that I could have been floating in my pool all day, and instead I'm inside, playing poker!"
"You could always cash out and get out of here," Otis said.
"No way. It's already six, and I'm pot-committed to hanging out with my friends."
I would like to take a moment away from this story to note that Jay Greenspan, who is a hell of a nice guy, was playing in this game with us. Jay is in town to write a blog for Full Tilt, and he has a new book out, called Hunting Fish.
"Jay," I said to him during the game, "Didn't you write a book about losers?"
"I wrote a memoir," he said.
"That's going on my blog, dude." I said.
I finished stuck about thirty bucks (which is sadly less than I ended up stuck after bowling the other night,) after I got quartered on a low in stud/8 on seventh street, but it was really fun. After we finished, Absinthe and I took Otis over to the gelato bar, because Otis has never had gelato, and we figured the odds of falling into a wormhole at the gelato bar were pretty small.
I bought Otis a pistachio, and got myself a passion fruit with a vanilla Italian soda.
"Is this together?" The girl said.
"Yes," I said, "I'm buying this handsome man a gelato, because he is my date."
It was a wasted line. The girl didn't flinch, and Otis, blissfully enjoying his first foray into gelatoland, didn't tilt. So when you hear the latest rumor that I'm gay, you know where it came from.
Otis was going to meet G-Vegas to play poker some more, and since Ryan was playing in the Main Event again today, he and I decided to leave Otis and the rest of the writers at Caesar's and go back to our hotels.
The cab line at Caesar's Palace ("Why did they build a palace for him, anyway?" I said earlier in the day, "It's not like he's ever going to use it.") was offensively long, so Ryan and I decided to walk over to Bellagio and catch a ride there. We also stopped at Tiffany, because Anne's birthday is on Tuesday (and she's AFK until then, so I can safely say this -- and if any of her friends are reading and blow it, I'll punch you in the back of the head, the next time I see you) and I wanted to get her one of the new Frank Gehry rings. It is awesome, and it is squiggly.
On our way out of Bellagio, we stopped by this giant chocolate fountain that I somehow didn't know existed until last night, and I marveled at this gorgeous model train display they have set up in the atrium area. "If I could do with stuff what I can sort of do with words," I said to Ryan, "this is what I'd like to do." I realized the audacity of this statement as soon as it passed my lips, but Ryan was too offended or polite to comment on it; a good friend, indeed.
- Ryan busted Chris Ferguson. Sadly for all of us, he's flying below Cardplayer's radar, which needs to commit the space to covering Phil Hellmuth's antics.
- Speaking of Hellmuth: What the hell is he even doing walking around the floor? The tournament people and ESPN are going out of their way to treat those of us who have a legitimate reason to be there like complete shit. Hellmuth is not in the tournament any more, he's not media, and everywhere he goes he makes a scene. He is, in fact, getting in the way of people who are trying to do their goddamn jobs. A player actually had him taken out of the tournament area (correctly,) yet Hellmuth is back in the room, really mugging for all the cameras. What a jopke.
- Speaking of the cameras: what a bunch of assholes the ESPN guys are. Seriously. I've been in the entertainment industry for a long time, and I don't think I've encountered a group of producers and cameramen who are bigger pricks. These guys shove people out of their way, apparently operate at the third grade level of basic manners and courtesy (I don't think I've heard a 'please' or 'thank you' or 'excuse me' from any of them the entire time I've been here) and seem to think that they're the only people here who have a job to do. I hear from other writers that it was just as bad last year, and we should expect it to get worse as we get closer to the final table. Yippee!
- All these media restrictions are being unevenly, inconsistently, and arbitrarily enforced. They should get their shit together, make a set of rules, and fucking stick to them. This "Hellmuth Exemption" is bullshit, even if it makes for good TV. Last time I checked, this was a poker tournament, not a reality TV show.
From the not-on-tilt department, we've been writing some great stuff at the official PokerStars blog. Here's a small sample:
Looking for the Big Story (by Wil Wheaton):
I walked up to table 142 (studiously avoiding the increasingly rude and inconsiderate ESPN camera crews) and looked for Humberto's trademark visor. It wasn't there, but evidence of Humberto's presence was: an absolutely epic stack of chips that is so large, the tournament staff may be thinking about racing off the pink chips sooner than planned. I looked down at them and started to count, just as Humberto appeared
back at his seat.
He looked up at me and smiled, and I said, "So, uh, it looks like you've been playing a little poker, sir."
"Just a little bit," he said with a grin and a shrug, as he sat into his seat during the deal. I pulled my notebook out of my pocket and wrote, "Brenes has a huge stack. Only one other stack is close, entire table looks glum."
Glum? Really? Did I really write "glum?" I'll be sure to drop in a "boss" and a "swell" later on.
Dmitri Nobles - Who is this guy? (by CJ Hoyt):
The second break is now over and players are back at the tables. It was quite a roller coaster for Dmitri in the first 3 hours of play. It seems like he's played about 80% of the hands, at least that's how the rest of the table feels.
"I've doubled up like 5 or 6 other players and I still have more than I started with," he told me on his way out of the room.
And he's right. He's sitting at $553,000, which still puts him more than $100,000 ahead of second place.
On one big hand, he rivered a flush and got a guy to call after calling the clock. On another, he bet the whole way to the river where he caught a Queen, winning another nice pot. Hands like those have kept him going. We're approaching the money bubble now and Dmitri says he doesn't plan on changing his strategy.
"When we get close to the money, I'm going to steal every blind."
Tom McEvoy: 1983 WSOP Champion, and 2006 Unsung Hero (by Dr. Pauly):
Tom McEvoy begins Day 3 as one of three WSOP Champions left in the field. 2005 Champion Joe Hachem and 2000 Champion Carlos Mortensen are both still in the hunt for their second championship along with Tom McEvoy, who won his championship in 1983. That was before Jason Strasser [currently second in chips] was even born.
McEvoy has won four WSOP bracelets. He won bracelets in NL Hold'em, Limit Omaha, Limit and Hold'em Razz. He also made 17 final tables at the WSOP. McEvoy also won an even on the PPT. When he won the WSOP Championship in 1983, he beat out Poker Hall of Famers Doyle Brunson and Crandall Addington. He also only won $540,000. At that time, it was the highest payout for any poker tournament. Compare that to this year's payout distribution. 18th place at the 2006 WSOP will be guaranteed more money than McEvoy won in 1983. Times have changed at the WSOP with a huge influx of satellite winners.
I also had a couple of cool stories in the last few days that I haven't had time to link:
Raymer Plays Like a Champion (by Wil Wheaton):
A floorman brought a new player over to Greg's table, and sat him under the gun to Greg's left. The floorman said, "Oh, here you are, sir. A nice and easy table for you."
This new guy had several racks of chips, and fired out a big raise before he could even get them all stacked up. It was folded around to Greg, who looked at his cards in
the small blind, thought for a second, and mucked. The big blind also folded, and the new guy flipped his pocket queens face up as the dealer shipped him the pot.
Pauly and I talked about Tom and Joe, both of whom are doing very well, and figured out how we're going to split up our duties today when I saw Greg glance our way.
I lifted my hand to wave, when I realized that he wasn't looking at us, but was looking at his wife, Cheryl, who was against the rail a little bit behind us. Greg smiled at her, and she smiled back. I was struck by how Greg can stay so cool under such pressure, and identified with Cheryl's concern (well, as much as I could, since I'm just Greg's friend, and not his, uh, wife.)
Greg went back to his cards, and open-raised from the button. The small blind folded, and the big blind (the new guy) called. Greg put on his holographic glasses, and rested his chin on his hand.
The ESPN crew stood up and started rolling. A few railbirds snapped pictures, and the rudest photographer I've ever seen in my life shoved his way between me and Pauly, then bumped the ESPN camera, then blocked someone who was already set up to take a photo. Good work, dude. On behalf of all the writers here, I'd like to applaud
your professionalism and courtesy.
The flop came out: 8d-8h-2d. The new guy checked, and Greg checked behind. The As fell on the turn, and the new guy checked again. Greg bet 2000 into a pot that looked to be around 3000, and the new guy folded.
"See?" Pauly said. "That's how he's been doing it all day. Just chipping away and picking up small pots."
Just like a champion.
Fossilman Does His Best (by Wil Wheaton):
The tournament director announced that this was the last hand before the break, just as action came to Greg, who was once again on the button.
Greg looked at his cards, raised, and struck that now-familiar pose. It was folded to the big blind in seat two, who thought for a moment, and called.
Phil Gordon was the first player to talk to me about the "artificial bubbles" in tournaments. These are moments that come up just before breaks, when players are anxious to get out of their seats and grab a snack, go to the bathroom, or eat some Keno crayons. Good players know that they can steal on these artificial bubbles, so they're likely to make moves from late position with a very wide range of cards. I know that Greg is a brilliant competitor, and I know that, even though his stack is relatively short, he'll make this move because it's usually the correct thing to do.
When the flop came out T-7-2 rainbow, the first thing I thought was, "Hammer!" The second thing I thought was, "Oh man, I hope Greg has a hand."
The big blind checked, and Greg thought for a moment. He counted out a bunch of pink chips, set them to the side of his stack, and looked at the other guy. Another moment passed, and Greg put a little over 7000 into the pot of almost 8000.
The other guy counted out a call, then picked up his hands and put them over his mouth. Everything about his body language said to me that he had some sort of hand, but he wasn't really crazy about it. He looked like he was trying to determine if Greg was putting a move on him, and my heart began to pound in my chest as if I was in the hand myself.
He stayed in the tank for close to two minutes, and eventually mucked his cards. Greg smiled and flipped up two red kings.
The ESPN bullshit is really getting on my nerves, but we're just three players off the money bubble at the moment, so hopefully they'll lighten up a little bit once this dramatic television moment has passed. (I heard that ESPN declared that the player who goes out on the bubble must stay in his or her seat until they can come over and film them. Can you fucking believe that? You go out on the bubble in the Main Event of the WSOP, and they expect you to sit there and wait for them to send over Captain Asshole and the Rudeboys to capture the moment? If I went out on the bubble, I'd tell ESPN I'd sit in my seat . . . for $14,597. Jerks.)
Oh well. If if things get really annoying, we can always jump into a wormhole. I'm looking for one that ends up in my backyard, underneath the Chinese Elm with my wife, my dogs, and a glass of lemonade.
 I have decided that ESPN stands for Extremely Something Pricks Needacockpunch