Saturday, November 8, 2008

2008 WSOP Final Table Profiles: The November Nine

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

2008 WSOP Final Table Nine
2008 WSOP November Nine
Photo courtesy of Flipchip

Just in case you have no idea who made the final table, here's a quick refresher...
The 2008 WSOP Final Table - Seating Assignments and Chip Counts
Seat 1: Dennis Phillips - 26,295,000
Seat 2: Craig Marquis - 10,210,000
Seat 3: Ylon Schwartz - 12,525,000
Seat 4: Scott Montgomery - 19,690,000
Seat 5: Darus Suharto - 12,520,000
Seat 6: Chino Rheem - 10,230,000
Seat 7: Ivan Demidov - 24,400,000
Seat 8: Kelly Kim - 2,620,000
Seat 9: Peter Eastgate - 18,375,000
And now, let's meet the players...

Seat 1: Dennis Phillips - 26,295,000

"When you've seen the world a few times, it's easier to keep emotions in check and not let things bother you. These guys are going to have a real, real hard time putting me on tilt out there. They haven't had the experience or the relationships those of us with a little gray on top have had." - Dennis Phillips

Dennis Phillips is from St. Louis, MO if you couldn't tell from his red Cardinals hat. Phillips has gotten the most attention for a) being the chiplead and b) being the oldest player at the table clocking in at 53 years young. Phillips is easily a huge favorite among 50+ year old poker players and Cardinals fans. Phillips works for a trucking firm and seems like one of your father's friends... just a casual ordinary guy that enjoys baseball and poker. He won his Main Event seat through a satellite from a local Harrah's property.

The big question on everyone's mind... when will Phillips cough up the chiplead or can he go wire-to-wire and win it all?

Because Phillips left Las Vegas in July as the chipleader, he bore the brunt of the media attention. He seemed to handle the spotlight without any problems. He definitely has a tough task ahead of him since everyone at the final table will be eying his big stack.

Phillips has already stated that he's donating a percentage of his winnings to charity including Multiple Sclerosis Society (a terrible disease that his brother endures) and Put a Bad Beat on Cancer. Phillips will also donate money to Boys and Girls Hope.

Last time I checked, Phillips was a 4/1 favorite to win. I like his chances because of his deep stack and his abundance of good karma from pledging to donate a percentage of his winnings. What he might lack in overall skill (compared to the level of play from Chino or Deminov), Phillips definitely makes up for it in age and wisdom.

Seat 2: Craig Marquis - 10,210,000

"I'm saving up all my luck and run-good for the Main Event." - Craig Marquis

Craig Marquis from Arlington, TX became curious with poker when he went to David "Raptor" Benefield's New Years Party and saw a ton of baller shit. The allure of money is what initially got Marquis into the game, just like so many of us, who all thought that we can buy a lot of cool things from our poker winnings. But Marquis has distinguished himself from the rest of the pack of poker enthusiasts because in a very short time, he put himself in position to go from being a dreamer to an actual champion with a shot at winning $9 million. Marquis has a tough road ahead of him since he's one of the shortstacks. But everyone knows that a timely double up at a final table can mean a huge difference between 9th and 5th place.

I'm rooting for Marquis because he's and underdog (and listed at a 13/2 shot) and he's a reader of the Tao of Poker. Plus, if he does win, the 23 year old will instantly become the youngest player to ever win the Main Event thereby smashing Phil Hellmuth's record in the process.

Seat 3: Ylon Schwartz - 12,525,000

"Empathy is the most important thing in poker. You have to really be aware of what your opponents think. The best thing about poker is that it exposes all your weaknesses." - Ylon Schwartz

Ylon Schwartz is 38 year old native New Yorker who currently lives in Brooklyn. He was the first and only member of the November Nine to have their photo appear on the Tao of Poker prior to the 2008 WSOP. I came across him while covering an event at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in January of 2006. He looked way too funky and too cool to be an actual poker player. My buddy Frank took a photo and I posted it on the Tao. Little did I know that 2+ years later, he'd make the final table of the WSOP.

Ylon started out as a pool hustler and chess player. He frequently played chess in Washington Square Park. He probably played at the same time as I was a jonesin' teenaged pothead looking to score weed from the rastas in Washington Square Park. Sometimes you get lucky and get the good shit. Some days you catch a bad beat and purchase a dime bag of oregano. That's just par for the course in the NYC weed scene circa 1990.

Despite all the crack slinging and spliff smoking around him, Ylon managed to squeak out a decent existence playing chess for cash in the park until a cat named Fat Nick taught him how to play poker. He's been a pro ever since despite the fact he's gone busto a few times. He has almost 250K in career earning including an impressive 12 cashes in WSOP and circuit events.

Ylon wrote the funniest stuff down on his bio sheet. The guy has a tremendous sense of humor and since he's the only New Yorker in the mix, he's on my list of guys to root for. I also think he has a decent shot to win it all despite the fact that he's listed at 15/2 odds. I already have a bet down that Ylon will win it all.

Seat 4: Scott Montgomery - 19,690,000

"Two days ago I was nobody and today I'm famous!" - Scott Montgomery

Scott Montgomery is one of the two Canadians at the final table. He hails from Perth in Ontario. The eccentric 26-year old has been a pro for four years and has earned almost $500K in career earnings prior to the November Nine.

Sometimes when he spoke on ESPN's broadcast I thought he sounded more like Rain Man than Don Cherry. Montgomery was involved in the now controversial hand with Paul Snead where Tiffany Michelle called on a clock on Snead. Montgomery was trying to pull off a huge bluff and Snead called at the last possible second. Although Snead was ahead at the time, Montgomery made his hand on the river to win the pot. He would not be at the final table if he did not win that decisive hand.

Montgomery was one of the players at the final table who could play any two cards no matter what his position was at the time. That's the type of opponent that can drive you crazy... but it's also the type of opponent that you can pick off if the timing is right. If Montgomery busts out early it will because he got his hand caught in the cookie jar and he bluffed off most of his stack. The bookies like Montgomery at 4/1.

Seat 5: Darus Suharto - 12,520,000

"I began playing on PokerStars. I just wanted to be able to pay off my mortgage. That was my main objective!" - Darus Suharto

Darus Suharto is the guy who no one thinks will win but ends up winning it all. It's sort of like when Joe Hachem won in 2005. The accountant from Toronto flew under the radar during the final three tables sort of like Hachem did three years ago. The players, media, and spectators were focused on the other players at Hachem's final table including Andy Black and Mike Matusow. With everyone's eyes watching the other November Nine players, don't be surprised to see Suharto make a run. The bookies list him at 13/2 and I think there's some decent value in betting on him to win.

Suharto won his seat online at PokerStars. He has only been playing poker for a few years. Like Chris Moneymaker, Suharto worked for one of the big time accounting firms in Deloitte and Touche.

The Canucks have two shots at a 2008 WSOP champion... Scott Montgomery and Darus Suharto. One plays like a maniac and the other cool and steady. Suharto is originally from Indonesia and currently lives in Canada. He went to school in Indiana. Wait, that means he's a hooiser hoser, eh?

Seat 6: Chino Rheem - 10,230,000

"I'm Asian and gambling is in most Asian people's blood." - Chino Rheem

Chino has an uncanny ability to know his opponents' holdings. That's a trait that separates superstars from ordinary pros, especially in NL where you are playing the players and not the cards.

The 28 year old was the first and only member of the November Nine to get any sort of negative publicity. Early on it was discovered that he fought the law and the law won in Florida many moons ago. Seems that at least one of the November Nine is 4:20 friendly and has a penchant for the bitter herbs. Cannabis. The wacky tabacky. The dank. Mary Jane. Grass. Buddha. Homegrown. Ganja. Alice B. Toklas.

Alas, Chino's minor scrape with the law was just that. And since then, his legal problems have been swept under the rug or smoked like a cheap bag of ditchweed. Yeah, it goes without saying that Chino is the one guy at the final table that I'd most likely smoke a blunt with.

I stood on the rail and caught that crazy hand when Chino was all in preflop with 2-2 against Joe Bishop's A-3. Bishop flopped two pair, but Chino rivered a Wheel against two pair to bust Bishop in 11th place. His entourage/posse/friends/backers went berserk. That crew included Greg 'FBT' Mueller and two of the Mizrachi brothers. Chino met them a decade ago when he was cutting his teeth at the low limit tables at the Hard Rock Casino in Seminole, Florida. Man, I played in that Godforsaken 1-2 Limit game and you were better off shooting craps.

I don't know exactly how much Chino has of himself. Word on the street says he has as little as 14% and as high as 50%. The rumored list of people who own a piece of Chino is too long to list. I guess the real question is... who doesn't have a piece of Chino?

The experts suggest that Chino is the best player at the final table with Deminov being the hottest. Chino has over $700K in career earnings. He begins the final table with around 10 million in chips and is listed as a 5/1 favorite. If anyone picks off a massive bluff early on at the final table it will be Chino. I'm predicting a big hand where Montgomery tries to steal a pot away from Chino and Chino calls him down with Ace high to win the monsterpotten.

Seat 7: Ivan Demidov - 24,400,000

"You can't win with just math. You really have to learn to play the players you're up against." - Ivan Demidov

For the second year in a row, a Russian has made the final table. I have been talking about the prowess of the Scandis over the last few years, but here come the Russians! The 27 year old Moscow native is a former math whiz turned professional poker player. His idol is Alex KGB Kravchenko and Demidov is backed by a mysterious Russian gajillionaire who also backs several other young guns.

Demidov's screen name on PokerStars is "Soul" and the kid has tons of it. Demidov has had the most impressive results since the final table went on hiatus. Demidov went deep in London at the WSOP-Europe main event and advanced to the final table. He finished in third place while his fellow Russian Stanislav Alekhin was the runner-up to the eventual champion John Juanda.

Several of the top pros picked Demidov to win it all based on his gutsy performance in London. The bookies have him as one of the co-favroites at 4/1. Demidov is second in chips and seems like a lock to make the final three.

Seat 8: Kelly Kim - 2,620,000

"In America we root for the underdog and I'm the underdog." - Kelly Kim

I guess you can say that Kelly Kim is freerolling at the final table. He's listed as the longshot on the board at 15/1 and begins the final table as the shortstack. He also seems to be having the most fun since he's simply happy to be one of the November Nine.

Kim is a 31 year old from Whittier, California. He has a degree in economics and has around $350K in career earnings. If he can go from the short stack to champion, that will be one helluva story.

Seat 9: Peter Eastgate - 18,375,000

"I really don't care about (breaking) Hellmuth's record. I want to win the entire tournament." - Peter Eastgate

What is a WSOP final table without a Scandi in a hoodie? The thing about 20-something Scandis is that they could have been pros for almost a decade. The young gun from Odense, Denmark is no different.

The bookies must have a man-crush on Scandis. They list Eastgate as a 5/1 favorite to win it all. The kid has a big stack. He's impossible to read. And that's why a lot of pros have picked him to win it all. Unless he donks off his chips early on like Philip Hilm promptly did last year, there's a good possibility that we could see a Demidov and Eastgate showdown.

Eastgate is also the youngest player at the final table. Along with Craig Marquis, they both have a shot at knocking off Phil Hellmuth's record for being the youngest ever world champion. I know that Hellmuth will be sincerely rooting against the Scandi.

* * * * *

Thanks to Flipchip from for all the photos of the November Nine players.

Final table starts at 10am PT on Sunday. Check back in with Tao of Poker for live coverage and to get the straight dope on the WSOP final table.

And for all you hardcore poker junkies, you can get Twitter updates if you prefer that method. Sign up today. Click here to follow me on Twitter.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Prelude to the November Nine

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Over the last few months, Change100 admitted that instead of counting sheep to fall asleep, she tries to recall the names of everyone from the November Nine. I can always get eight but I always seem to miss the elusive ninth. Try it sometime. It will either drive you mental or put you into a deep slumber.

Dennis Phillips, Craig Marquis, Ylon Schwartz, Scott Montgomery, Darus Suharto, David 'Chino' Rheem, Ivan Demidov, Kelly Kim, and Peter Eastgate.

One of those nine players will join the ranks of poker's elite as the newest member of the small fraternity of poker players who are former WSOP Main Event Champions. One of the November Nine will get to rub elbows with the likes of Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen, Jesus, Phil Hellmuth, Fossilman, and Chris Moneymaker. But which one will it be?

Say all the shit you want about Jerry Yang or Jamie Gold or Robert Yarknonyi or even that cheating asswizard Russ Hamilton. They each earned something that you will never achieve.... a victory at the WSOP Main Event.

Super side note... Flipchip told me that for years Russ was considered a cheat at the tables. We saw what he did at UB, I wonder if he cheated his way to victory in the Main Event? And I wonder if any of the November Nine were approached by other members or by external forces to manipulate the outcome? This is not an accusation by me whatsoever, I'm just super curious to see if anyone decided to work out a deal...straight up or on the sly.

I know, I know... Pauly, you're not supposed to talk about or write about deals, especially in a televised poker tournament that includes the letters WPT or WSOP. But what can I do? Chopping and deals are a part of the game that a lot of poker fans don't know about because they only get their poker knowledge from the TV or mainstream poker publications that will not report dealmaking. And since TV people ignore or try to hide the fact that deals are made all the time sort of distorts the reality of the situation.

Last weekend at the EPT Budapest, there were three players remaining at the final table. They went on a break that last much longer than originally scheduled. I knew what was up. So did everyone in the media room. A deal was being discussed. The final table had already been going at a fast pace and the deal ensured that we'd all have a proper dinner and be able to enjoy our a Saturday evening in Budapest. That deal took 35 minutes to hash out. Makes me wonder if anyone had been working out a deal over the last couple of weeks?

I have to admit that going into the final table, I was vaguely familiar with only two players... Ylon Schwartz and Chino Reem. I knew Ylon from playing at the Borgata in Atlantic City and I followed Chino on the tournament circuit many times before. The other seven were a mystery to me. I guess that's what the four month layoff was for... to get to know everyone.

Maybe I'm lazy or just jaded or was simply too busy with other projects, but I blew off every single opportunity to interview members of the November Nine. I'm friends with the PR people at PokerStars and they gave me more than enough chances to talk with their represented players. Lara Miller does PR for Dennis Phillips and said I had an open invite to talk. Even the agents like the crew at Poker Royalty gave me a shot to talk to their players. I respectfully declined all offers. Yes, only I can be lazy and busy in the same breath.

While the Main Event was paused, my life continued. I made a promise to fit poker into my life instead of vice versa. I went on a couple of trips. I saw two kick ass music festivals in Denver and San Fransisco and I saw concerts in New York City, San Diego, and Providence. I visited friends all over the country and went back home to New York City. I also covered a handful of other tournaments in Atlantic City, London, and Budapest which included stops on the WPT, EPT, and WSOPE.

In short, the last four months have been hectic and busy but I generally don't like interviewing players. They are sort of a waste of time because you really can't ask the questions you want to ask and if you do, you'll rarely get an answer that you're looking for. And if you piss off the wrong people, the publication that you write for will no longer get access to that player or pool of pros from a particular site. Ah, there in lies the rub of the media. I'm here to fluff it up instead of to dig deep. So rather than be conflicted and piss off my clients, I just don't bother with interviews. Sure, I can do them on Tao of Poker, but very few pros will be that candid with me... on the record. They'll tell me stuff but won't let me use it on Tao of Poker. I have to save it for the book.

However, there was one interview by Shamus that I enjoyed. Check out his interview with Dennis Phillips.

Instead of a traditional interview, I'd rather spend a week with someone and really get to know them better and make my observations from that experience. Sadly, that wouldn't be possible for each of the November Nine. Neither of had the time. And at this point to sit down with any one of the November Nine is pointless. Everyone has gotten a crash course in media relations and some were coached to say the right things.

Plus, everyone has already made judgments about the November Nine. ESPN aired all of the episodes and everyone has their favorite heroes and villains. No matter what got captured on film, if you love the player you'll find a way to justify their actions and vice versa, if you loathe them, you'll find a way to vilify their every move.

I hung out with Craig Marquis in London and watched some football with him. I could have slithered my way into an opportunity to interview him and sell that conversation to the highest bidder (magazine/website) as fodder for their WSOP coverage. We were enjoying the moment so I didn't want to alter the flow of events. I'm not one of those media vultures who tries to befriend the pros to use them at a later date.

I saw several other members of the November Nine on the tournament trail including Ylon Scwartz, Chino and Dennis Phillips at the Borgata and Ivan Demidov, Darus Suharto, and Peter Eastgate in London. I simply let them be instead of pestering them like the other vultures. Or as Benjo would say, "like vampires sucking the blood out of them."

The time to interview the November Nine would have been moments after the WSOP ended. Alas, I was mentally drained, physically exhausted, and still reeling in waves of pain after a car accident. And as the last day of the WSOP began when they were down to the final three tables, the Tiffany Michelle/Tony G saga was a raging inferno. That was the story at the time and I focused all my efforts on getting to the bottom of that story instead since it involved everything that's both good and bad about poker.

But now, the big story in poker is about the lack of stories about the November Nine. Yeah, the TV ratings are positive and the best in years. But aside from one excellent NY Times article on Ylon Schwartz and Dennis Phillips getting to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals game, there hasn't been much hype on the November Nine. Heck, the Ruskie kid almost won the WSOPE in London and that barely made any ripples in the vast poker ocean.

Does mainstream America really care about poker?

Does mainstream America really care about tournament poker?

Does mainstream America really care about a made-for-TV event?

Does mainstream America really care about poker during an Olympic year and in the middle of an election year?

The short answers are... no, no, no, and no. I have to call out the November Nine decision makers for a poor choice. The concept was unique however, the timing was ill advised. They should have waited until 2009 to do this and not in 2008 when there was too much to distract the masses. The November Nine lost the focus of the sporting press when everyone headed to Beijing to cover the first ever Olympics in China. And the rest of the press sort of got lost in the shuffle during an election year and Obamamania.

And to broadcast the November Nine one week after the election was another bad move. Maybe the mainstream media doesn't give a rat's ass about poker. However, on a slow news day, the media vultures will latch onto any story whether it's Lindsay Lohan's lesbian girlfriend, a baby falling down a well, or another suicide bomber blowing out the brains of US troops on patrol in Iraq. On a busy news day (or rather news cycle) stuff like winning poker tournaments is an afterthought.

Lou Krieger had some interesting things to say on the November Nine in a post titled... The WSOP's November Nine: Seduced, Abandoned, and Forgotten.

Here's a bit from Lou...
Even the poker media—and as editor of Poker Player Newspaper, that includes me—hasn't gotten much publicity material about the Novembrists. All I receive is a weekly email from a PR firm containing about two to three paragraphs about another one of the nine finalists, and that's not nearly enough to tell compelling stories about these players. It's certainly insufficient to build the kind of rooting interest needed to grab curious, casual poker fans and viewers by the throat and make sure they're in front of their TV sets and not moving during the "almost live" telecast. And it won’t provide the kind of publicity needed to generate endorsement deals.
I have tons of respect for Lou and have to agree with his post. Perhaps if there was a more assertive effort done by all parties involved, the November Nine would be bigger than they are today. Maybe that's something that will be improved upon next year if they decide to repeat the November Nine.

Next year's November Nine will be much bigger than this year's installment. The timing will be better in 2009 since there's less to distract the masses. Perhaps the economy will perk up and the murkiness of the online poker legislation will improve and people who see the Full Tilt and PokerStars logos will sign up and fund their accounts and donk off millions of dollars to help pump the poker industry back up to pre-UIGEA numbers.

And in Harrah's defense, although they have been slow to make changes and address serious problems with the WSOP over the last four years... they eventually fixed some things. It might take longer than we'd like, but I have a feeling that the next WSOP will be better than this year's... including the November Nine if they decide to do it again.

That's the good news. Next year's product should be better. However, we still have to finish this year's November Nine. It was hyped as the greatest event in poker history. We'll find out in 48 hours if that is true.

I'll be in Las Vegas providing live coverage on Tao of Poker. Check back in starting at 10am PT on Sunday for the final table of the 2008 WSOP main event. I will also record a couple of episodes of Tao of Pokerati with Michalski.

In the meantime, feel free to re-read my 2008 WSOP archives.

And of course, for all you hardcore poker junkies, you can get Twitter updates if you prefer that method. Sign up today. Click here to follow me on Twitter.

See you fuckers in Vegas.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tao of Benjorati

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

We unofficially fired Dan Michalski and outsourcing our podcast with a cheaper European equivalent... Benjo. Ah, just kidding! The Tao of Pokerati is back. I taped four episodes with Benjo while we were in Budapest last weekend. Michalski posted threeall of them. Episode 3.1 might be one of my favorite all-time episodes.
Tao of Pokerati Book 3: Budapest (w/ Benjo)

Episode 3.1: EPT Afterparty (3:39)

Description by Michalski: Pauly heads to Hungary for EPT Budapest with Benjo, and unexpectedly hosts Johnny Lodden, winner Will Fry, and other final tableists in his flat for some celebratory 420 and beer — giving insight into the much heralded EPT circuit experience, the value of Hungarian forints, and "dodgy" Euro strip clubs.

Episode 3.2: Hungarian Hooker Halloween (4:14)

Description by Michalski: The post-EPT-Budapest shenanigans continue as Benjo and Pauly discuss whorehouses and the Tarantino-esque experiences of French and Scandi bustouts with Hungarian women-for-hire. A tad of religious guilt kicks in as the poker media duo contemplates the Day of the Dead on the Danube.

Episode 3.3: Competitive Apple Eating (4:08)

Description by Michalski: Prop bets among the international press break out at the EPT afterparty, and, of course, Benjo and Pauly are there to moderate/get in on the action. The big bet comes when Matt Showell challenges his PokerListings colleague Rod Stirzaker's claim that he can eat 50 apples in 90 minutes. Legal concerns emerge (what's the rule on a prop bet that leads to death?) before it turns into a scavenger hunt to find 50 edible Granny Smiths at 3:30am in Budapest.

Episode 3.4: Euro Core-tossing (3:17)

Description by Michalski: 5 am: The prop-betting evolves... as Pauly discovers (much to Benjo's dismay) the Hungarian offshoot of lime tossing: trying to hit bums with apple cores. The ethically questionable game of skill comes up as Pauly is on prop-bet tilt after losing a scaled down apple bet. From there, the good doctor and his Euro-conscience debate what games of bum abuse may or may not be acceptable.
Stay tuned for the last episode which should be posted shortly.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Budapest Part II: No One Can Eat Fifty Apples

By Pauly
New York City

Somewhere late on Day 1A of the EPT Hungarian Open at the Las Vegas Casino in Budapest, Annette15 surged to the chiplead. While the Norwegian wunderkind was out in the tournament area schooling online qualifiers and other Eurodonks, an interesting prop bet germinated in the media room.

"I can eat fifty apples in ninety minutes," blurted out Rod in his very distinct English accent.

Like most Brits, Rod is a reserved guy. He's a veteran journalist with several years of experience at Blonde Poker and PokerListings. I saw him everyday at the 2008 WSOP in Las Vegas but it wasn't until the Main Event when I discovered that he was British and not Canadian. I just assumed he was Canadian since he worked for PokerListings. It's just that Rod is not a man of many words. He doesn't say much so everyone dropped what they were doing to listen after he uttered, "I can eat fifty apples in ninety minutes."

Over the next few days, the terms of the fifty apples prop bet were eventually worked out between Matt and Rodd. Matt didn't think he could do it. Neither could I. Rod was determined and over the course of a week, a philosophical discussion broke out about competitive eating. It was always on the back burner because we all had a tournament to cover.

The Hungarian team from PokerNews helped me figure out which local players to cover on Day 1A and Day 1B. Peter and I walked around the room and gave me a crash course on the locals. Europeans don't like to physically point at someone so he would whisper seat numbers to me. At one table, a gentleman who could have been an Elvis Costello impersonator quietly sat behind a stack of red chips. His name was Attila Foris and one of the best cash game players in Eastern Europe. Peter told me about Richard Toth sat. Among his peers, Toth was considered the best tournament player in all of Hungary. He's third on the all time Hungarian money list and almost won a bracelet in 2006, but finished in second place in a $1,500 donkament. Peter also showed me where Kwaysser Valdemar Akos was sitting. Otherwise known as Luigi at the virtual tables, Kwaysser won the first ever Latin American Poker Tour in Costa Rica last May.

I only recognized one Hungarian pro... Denes Kalo who took second place at the EPT Grand Finale in Monte Carlo earlier in the year, a similar feat that Brandon Schaefer did back in 2005. Kalo was the number one money winner in the history of Hungarian poker with almost $2.5 million in career earnings.

There was also one guy that everyone seemed to know. However, I had never seen him before because he was a Hungarian reality TV star. Peter 'Majka' Majoros was one of the most lively players in the room. Known around town as Majka, he was considered a huge celebrity in Hungary because of his appearance on the reality show called Való Világ. Majka came in second place but won the hearts and minds of all Hungarians. He parlayed his celebrity status into a music career and became an even more famous Hungarian rapper. I wish I was making this stuff up. Majka caught the poker bug and he was considered one of the noteworthy celebrities playing in the EPT Budapest.

One extremely loud Hungarian that stood out that Peter never mentioned to me. His name was Joseph Rutkai and he wore clothing that was as loud as his booming voice. One media rep described him as "looking like a total tool." He could be considered the Hungarian Mike Matusow but that's an insult to Matusow since Rutkai is no where near the level of skill as the real Mouth.

Dana and Matt witnessed one hand before the first break on Day 1A. It was a battle of the blinds between Rutkai and a young Scandi. Rutki's A-J beat out his opponents A-K. Rutkai four-flushed his opponent and busted the Scandi but not without a display of poor sportsmanship. Dana wrote...
"Not content with the outdraw, Rutkai went for the rubdown too -- he shouted something that sounded rather like, 'Hasta la vista, baby,' before getting out his car keys and offering them to his hapless and now busted opponent, saying, 'Here, take the keys to my Hummer, go see Budapest.' Extraordinary."
Dana is from the UK and I love how the Brits drench their posts in utter sarcasm. I was told the poor Scandi kid was devastated at the bad beat and then stormed away after being humiliated by Rutkai.

"What a dick," described one member of the media.

From that point on we described him as Joseph "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai. He even parked his Hummer out front in an illegal spot. I told one of the Swedish reporters that the kid should get revenge on Rutkai and key his beloved Hummer.

Rutkai showed up on Day 2 wearing all yellow. Bright canary yellow pants and a matching shirt. I needed sunglasses to protect me from the glare. Change100 would have taken this guy behind the shed in one of her infamous fashion update posts. Garish clothing on a foul-mouthed man. Just another day on the tournament trail.

Here's a hand Joseph "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai had on Day 2 with Johnny Lodden...

The guy has tons of class as you could see in the above video. When he won the hand, he screamed, "I beat the pro!"

Overall, there were 71 Hungarians in the field. That was the second highest number of players from a single country according to PokerStars. The Huns were outnumbered by the Italians. There were 86 of them in total. EPT Player of the Year Luca Pagano bought into the event along with his dad. Two Italian bracelet winners were in the field including Max Pescatori and Dario Minieri. I didn't know Dario was playing until I saw him show up very late.

"I think Dario has officially lost his virginity," mentioned on member of the international press. "Look at that shirt he's wearing. Influenced by Isabelle of course."

It wasn't so much as Dario's shirt as it was the fact that he didn't have it buttoned all the way to the top. Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius can get away by showing off their chests. Dario? Not so much. An expensive and rather large silver crucifix dangled around his neck as he exposed his bare chest. It looked smooth, like a seal. I couldn't stop from giggling every time I walked past his table.

There are no racks in Hungary. At least, I did not see any. When a table broke, players were given a bucket. Similar to the one your grandma used to use at the slot machines to haul around quarters rotating from slot machine to slot machine. Yeah, you would frequently see players carting away their chips in massive cups and dumping them onto the table. It slowed down the game because players had to restack every time they got moved instead of sliding their chips out of racks.

This was an unconfirmed rumor.... but supposedly there was a local player who won a satellite to the EPT Hungarian Open from a different casino or maybe it was online. Anyway, the tournament was hosted at the Las Vegas Casino in Budapest which is a part of the Sofitel complex. Well according to the rumor, the idiot flew to Las Vegas, Nevada because he thought the tournament was there. Even if it's not true... it's still a funny story.

On Day 1B, the Hungarian press was buzzing because Andy Vajna was in the building. Vajna was the owner of the Las Vegas Casino in Budapest and also a major player in Hollywood. He produced several mega-hits and was a integral part of the "Rambo" and "Terminator" series. His current project is The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a popular TV program which is pulling in tons of dough. Vajna also produced art house films such an influential Hungarian film called Children of Glory, which detailed the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution and push for independence that was squashed by the Soviets in 1956.

Vajna's filmography as a producer is massive and includes such films as Basic Instinct 2 (2006), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), The 13th Warrior (1999), Evita (1996), Nixon (1995), The Scarlet Letter (1995), Judge Dredd (1995), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Color of Night (1994), Renaissance Man (1994), Tombstone (1993), Jacob's Ladder (1990), Air America (1990), Total Recall (1990), Red Heat (1988), Rambo III (1988), Angel Heart (1987), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), First Blood (1982), and Victory (1981).

I told him that Victory was one of my favorite Stallone flicks of all time. I wussed out and didn't tell him that I dropped acid the first time I saw Jacob's Ladder and it made perfect sense. I think it was a good idea that I held back that bit of personal information. The last thing he needs is a known acid freak running around his casino.

Change100 used to work in Hollyweird and mentioned that Vajna is an elite category. He's richer than rich. Vajna has what Hollyweird insiders call, "Fuck you money." When you have that much money, you can tell anyone to fuck off.

I briefly met Vajna and he was a polite and warm guy, nothing like the slithery snakes you'd find holed up in the hills of Hollywood. Vajna looked a bit like old Ernest Hemingway. The crew at Hungarian PokerNews conducted a brief interview with the legend, which they helped translate into English. Vajna was happy with the turnout since he heard it was not going to be a sell out. The EPT Budapest was actually oversold. He also said that he'd like to play but his skill level is nowhere near the superior levels of the European pros.

The EPT Budapest had plenty of members from Team PokerStars, but the event did not attract as many big names as other EPT events. The main reason was that although the EPT expanded into Hungary for the first time, they made a decision to not televise the event. It wouldn't be a part of the TV package. That kept a few named pros away.

Johnny Lodden from Norway used to play under Betsson, but he got sponsored by PokerStars for Budapest and Prague. Like his fellow Norwegian, Annette15, Lodden is a master at amassing a massive stack early on in a tournament. His hyper-aggressive style is tough to keep up with. Lodden's problem has always been his inability to switch gears and slow down. Selective aggression is the key to a winning formula. Guys like Lodden can only play one speed.... fast.

Perhaps he wants a full time sponsorship with PokerStars, or maybe he's evolving his game. Whatever the reason, Lodden played a lot different that normal. He picked his spots more carefully instead of trying to steamroll the table on every single hand.

As the field thinned on Day 2 and eased into Day 3, Lodden was still hanging around. He always had a ton of media around and as the action approached the bubble, more and more reps circled his table. He was one of the biggest names remaining along with Kara Scott. She's the EPT hostess and was able to play since they were not taping the Budapest event. She's been a fixture on the EPT and finally had a breakthrough in the US during this summer at the WSOP. Kara went deep in the Main Event and cashed. Norm Chad couldn't stop drooling over he and kept referring to her to "Kara Scott Chad." It was funny the first time, but got old after a while.

Kara Scott
(Photo courtesy of Adam Steiner)

Anyway, Kara never had much to work with stackwise for most of the tournament but she's a true grinder. She was one of the notable who made the money which also included Sorel Mizzi, Ludovic Lacay, and bracelets winners Alex KGB Kravchenko and Ivo Donev.

Ludovic Lacay was involved in a wacky pro bet with one of his fellow Frenchman. Lacay lost the bet so he had to hold a toothbrush in his mouth for the entire duration of Day 3. Lacay busted out late in the night and finally removed the toothbrush.

Ivo Donev is a Hungarian who lives in Austria. He's known as the "Chess Master" and bubbled off the final table in ninth place. He loved to complain about the play of Zoltan Toth, the longest lasting Hungarian who made the final table as the chipleader. Donev repeatedly chastised Zoltan for being a calling station.

"He thinks he's playing bingo!" bitched Donev who got beat out in a few pots with Zoltan.

Alas, that's poker. The best player usually doesn't win. Zoltan advanced to the final table with the chiplead and properly imploded. He finished in 7th place.

Johnny Lodden was probably the best player at the final table. He was definitely the most popular. The 24-year old played in 15 EPT events and cashed in 7 of them. We were seeing the new and improved Johnny Lodden. Although he was in the middle of the pack in chips, almost everyone picked him to win it all. Sadly, Lodden was the first player to bust from the final table. It was a nasty beat too.

Here's what I wrote for PokerNews...
Hand #16. Johnny Lodden raised 55,000 from under the gun. Zoltan Toth called. Ciprian Hrisca made a few jokes with Johnny Lodden and folded. Martin Jacobson called.

The flop was Jd-8s-2d. Lodden bet 125,000. Zoltan called. Jacobson moved all in. Lodden called. Zoltan called and had everyone covered.

Lodden: Kd-Kh
Jacobson: 10d-7d
Zoltan: Ad-Kd

Massive pot. Lodden was ahead with pocket Kings against Zoltan's nut flush draw and Jacobson's gutshot and smaller flush draw.

The turn was the 7h. And the river was the 9c. Jacobson won the pot with a straight. He doubled through Zoltan. Lodden was eliminated in 8th place. Jacobson took over the chiplead and has almost 2 million in chips. Zoltan was crippled and left with around 40,000.
Lodden was a slight favorite after the flop. We expected he might get flushed out. No one saw the gutshot coming. Alas, Lodden was out and he quickly headed to the bar. Because when I saw him several hours later, he was three sheets to the wind or what the Norwegians say "beruset som skunk" or drunk as a skunk.

The EPT Budapest final table went faster than usual final tables. 76 hands. 4.5 hours. As a tournament reporter, you couldn't ask for a better final table. Once action was three-handed, the remaining players took a break and cut a deal. They took almost 35 minutes to hash out the details. So out of a 4.5 hour tournament over 1/9th of that time included the deal discussion. Once the players agreed to a fair deal, the tournament was over shortly after.

Will Fry from Nottingham, UK won the EPT Budapest and a seat into the EPT Grand Finale next spring in Monte Carlo. Fry was involved in a controversial hand early on Day 2 with "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai. The floor made a sketchy decision against Fry. He was furious but he managed to stay calm and cruise to victory, while "Take the keys to my Hummer" Rutkai busted out soon after.

Fry is one of the good guys in poker and a modern day Robin Hood. He said he was going to donate a percentage of his winnings to charity. He wants to help raise awareness to third world hunger. He's going to be researching various groups over the next few weeks to figure out which one he'll support.

Since the event ended early, my friends in the media had time to finish up their assignments and eat a proper dinner. Dana and I feasted at a local Hungarian restaurant before we joined the party. A group of 30+ took over a bar around the corner from the casino. Lucky for us poor journalists, a couple of the players who cashed showed up and help picked up all of the tab. Johnny Lodden, Kara Scott, and Will Fry all made cameos. A drunken Johnny Lodden sat next to me and chatted up a storm. Most Scandis are very reserved, but they finally loosen up when you get a few drinks in them. Lodden was telling me about playing a couple of hands blind and or raising a couple of times with the Hammer when he knew his opponents were weak.

The bar closed early since it was a public holiday. All Saints Day. Most of the locals went to cemeteries to pay honor to their loved ones who passed away. We still wanted to party, but options were limited. I offered up my apartment to host the afterparty. 20+ people showed up and we partied until sunrise including Will Fry and his entourage. They brought tons of beer.

At some point, the discussion came back around to Rod's 50 apples bet. Benjo and I wondered if we could get him to do it that night. The difficult part was finding 50 Granny Smith apples since that was the specific ones Rod said he'd eat. I snuck out and headed to the 24 hour store on the corner. Luckily they had apples, although most of them were bruised and shitty looking. I picked out five of the best they had and ran back to the party.

I offered Rod €50 to eat all five in 15 minutes, but he backed down. He had never eaten more than three apples in one sitting and needed tons of practice. He tried to eat one as fast as he could, but decided against taking the bet. I offered Matt Showell €50 to eat three apples in ten minutes. He quickly said yes. I got smoked. He ate three of them in roughly 8.5 minutes. He admitted that it was not an easy task and that Rod would have a tough time eating 25, let alone 50.

Rod is confident that he can train over the next few months and achieve his feat. I set the over under at 36.5 apples in 90 minutes. Despite pleas from various media reps to have the prop bet settled in Monte Carlo after the EPT Grand Finale ends, Matt wants a showdown at the 2009 WSOP in Las Vegas.

As the line in Cool Hand Luke goes, "No one can eat fifty eggs."

Yeah, no way Rod can eat fifty apples. No one can eat fifty apples.

* * * * *

I uploaded pics from my trip to Budapest. Check out the Budapest gallery.

I also have dozens of other galleries from various other trips and music festivals and different collections of food galleries and Pauly paintings. Click here to view all of my photo galleries.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sundays with Dr. Pauly and Fantasy Football Updates

By Pauly
New York City

Over in the Tao of Poker football pool, there's a three-way tie for first place with jaguar9499, Scotty's Mich Ultr, and Rummy's TaoPicks leading the way.

Week 8 Winner: Any Given Sunday - 13 Wins
Week 9 Winners: Rapidrowe, Zappa, Hitwise14, BigHeeb's Creepy Avatar, VinNay, and wndywitch - 11 Wins
Tao of Poker Football Pool - Top 5 Thru Week 9
1 jaguar9499 (r. zacharki)89
1 Scotty's Mich Ultra (P. Grotjohn) 89
1 Rummy's TaoPicks (E. Rummel) 89
4 PokerFool's Purple Power (P. Fool) 87
4 PatsRevenge2008 (E. Kalis) 87
Click here for complete standings.

* * * * *

I'm having an awful year at Fantasy Sports Live. Yikes.

Fantasy Sports Live blog has full updates for Sundays with Dr. Pauly. Head over there for more information including who qualified for the TOC.

Congrats to jrf361 for winning Week 8 and belly2bar for winning Week 9. One more week left in Series 2.
Series 2 Update - Top 10 Thru Week 9:
belly2bar 467.8
jrf361 451.8
ebk03001 448.5
Resino 446.3
Expensive Wino 445.6
Buffalo66 435.5
Chuckdnb 431.7
spitball 431.7
repete oiffenders 412
Series 3 starts next week. Click here for more details how you can participate for Weeks 11-15.

And if you don't have a Fantasy SportsLive account, you can sign up for one today! It's legal in the US and you can fund your account with a credit card.

And by the way, the NBA season is off and running. Head over to Fantasy Sports Live for daily NBA contests.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.
2008 WSOP Main Event Coverage on the Tao of Poker

By Pauly
New York City

Ah, the final table of the 2008 WSOP is only a few days away. I spent all morning re-reading my coverage in order to get reacquainted with the nine chaps who were dubbed the November Nine. I will be in Las Vegas this weekend live blogging the final table on Sunday and the heads up match on Monday.

Anyway, just in case your memory is a little rusty, take a peek at what I wrote during the 2008 WSOP Main Event....
Day 35: Main Event Day 1A - Cokeheads, Crybabies, and the Green Box Conspiracy... One incident happened in the men's room across from the Brasilia Room which I mentioned in the live blog. I overheard one guy sitting in one of the stalls and making odd sounds. I assumed that he was taking a rough dump because I thought I heard squealing in agony. Actually, he was sobbing and telling a loved one his bad beat story of how he busted out of the WSOP. Wow, that blew me away. A grown man brought to tears over one little poker tournament. There's no crying in poker! Alas, he was yet another helpless soul violently crushed in the existentialist meat grinder of the WSOP. If you want a happy hobby, try a ceramics class. If you want to have your balls shaved by a cheese grater every couple of hours, then poker is for you.

Day 36: Main Event Day 1B - Yawn... Varkonyi busted Phil Hellmuth at the 2002 WSOP main event. Hellmuth ranted and raved and said Varonkyi was an awful player. Yeah, some things never change. Hellmuth then made a ridiculous bet that if Varkonyi won it all, then he would shave his head. Well, Varkonyi won and everyone held Hellmuth to his word. At the end of that telecast of the final table, Hellmuth sat down and Becky Binion took an electric razor and shaved it all off as Gabe Kaplan tooled on him and Matt Savage milled around in the background and Devilfish was mugging for camera time.

Day 37: Main Event Day 1C and the Tao of Five with Flipchip... It felt like Ground Hog's Day. The third Day 1. 38th day in a row. My brain is/was/is/was fried. Anyway, the biggest field showed up so far at the WSOP world championship and when action ended on Day 1c, Harrahs dodged a bullet and got more entrants signed up than last year with one more flight to go.

Day 38: The Kitten Fields... The majority of their brethren never made it out alive and perished in the existentialist meatgrinder of the world series of sadism. That's why every PokerStars 'premium' schwag bag can be converted into a makeshift body bag. Poor Otis and Howard and Bartley scrambled across the killing floor every hour to retrieve the leftover carcasses from the plethora of online qualifiers. The bottom of the PokerStars shuttle bus was a makeshift morgue which Otis and his crew constantly filled up every inch with the leftovers. You could see the malnourishment in Otis' eyes. The sorrow. The misery. The agony. And you wonder why Otis writes such sad posts. He can't shake the post-traumatic stress syndrome of being the first on the scene after the initial slaughter. If you have to slosh around knee deep in the fish guts and animal intestines for 15 hours a day, you'd be in a somber mood as well.

Day 39 - Off

Day 40: Main Event Day 2A - Isadario... We are what we are... a gaggle of sex-crazed degenerate gamblers. But that's what I love about America... is that or founder fathers laid out the groundwork so that we can become what we choose to be without the government interfering in our lives. Fly to Vegas. Play in the WSOP. Get sucked out by a donkeyfish. Get wasted. Gamble until sunrise. Fuck a hooker. Eat a buffet. Piss next to Johnny Chan. Buy an ashtray. Buy a tube of cream for that rash you picked up. Good bye Vegas. See you next time.

Day 41: Main Event Day 2B - Formula of Donkey Liquification... You can drink beer while playing poker so it's not a sport. Scotty Nguyen. Men the Master. Minneapolis Jom Meehan. They all like a good cocktail at the tables. Sure, old school professional athletes drank during games like Night Tran Lane and Babe Ruth probably knocked back a cold one in between innings while he stuffed his face with hotdogs. Joe D used to smoke in the dugout and the bat boys used to make sure he had a lit ciggie waiting for him when he came off the field and into the dugout. But today? You couldn't see Pedro Martinez walk to the back of the mound, bend over, and take a huge pull off of a tallboy. I'd love to see Mikael Samuelsson do a shot of tequila on the bench before a line change. But that's just not gonna happen.

Day 42: Main Event Day 3 - Bubbles... An assortment of 1,307 people from all different areas of life... online pros, Vegas pros, amateurs, semi-pros, guys who are muppets who think they are pros, and straight up dream chasers... each walked into the Amazon Room with one thing on their minds... survive Day 3 and advance to Day 4. The simple goal? Be among the 666 players who cashed in the 2008 WSOP Main Event. Once you sign your slip at the end of Day 2 and bag up your chips, all you can think about is making it to the end of Day 3 to almost guarantee a $21K cash. And for online qualifiers or satellite winners, the rest of the WSOP is a freeroll. Almost all of their earnings are pure profit.

Day 43: Main Event Day 4 - Early to Bed and Iggy's Run... Once the cameras are in position, the producer tells the dealer to proceed. Not a floor person or Harrah's staff... but someone from ESPN. The big crowd attracts more people. Staff, players from adjacent tables, media reps. Even the occasional rule breaker who sneaks inside the ropes to check out the action. A massive circle engulfs the table. When the hand is over,one player is usually sent to his death, while all of the vultures disappear and flock to another table where a familiar situation is arising. It's almost like watching pigeons in the park peck and fight over a couple of crumbs. Throw the bread in one direction (all in and a call) and hundreds of pigeons (hungry media) will go apeshit and peck each others' eyeballs out just to grab a crumb. A morsel. Anything they can get their beaks on. As that song goes, birds of a feather are flocking outside.

Day 44: Main Event Day 5 - The Wretched Squall of Hellmuth and Matusow... I waited 44 days for the sure thing. The defining moment of the summer. The one incident that would set the 2008 WSOP apart from the previous four years that have blended into one long blurry flashback of bracelet winners, bad beat stories, excursions to strip clubs, binge drinking at the hooker bar, pot-bellied mulleted children running amuck at the Redneck Riviera, and lime tossing out back with a sad, tilty, and often suicidal Otis. I stumbled upon a story that could have wrote itself before I even got out of bed in the morning. Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow. At the same table. Right next to each other. With Hellmuth having position on Matusow. At the featured TV table in front of hundreds of drooling, blood-thirsty fans. They were starving lunatics. Broke dick swine. Some drunk on cheap swill. Others mentally imbalanced. And those were my friends. It was almost like the Romans waiting for the Christians to get tossed to the lions. The featured TV table was standing room only. The spectators were spilling out of the Beast Lounge with limbs dangling over metal rails waiting... waiting... for a meltdown. For a blowup. For the bloodshed.

Day 45: Main Event Day 6 - The Battle for Tiffany Michelle's Breasts... I would not want to be Tiffany Michelle right now. The entire fate of poker and all of Western Civilization has been thrust upon her supple shoulders. Should a 24-year old have that much pressure on her? Tiffany Michelle is poker's most marketable asset right now. Michalksi said that out of the last 27 players, she has the potential for the biggest "Moneymaker Effect." In three years, will I be writing about another poker renaissance in America and citing the "Tiffany Michelle Effect?" Come to think of it, that wouldn't be a bad thing. The poker world could use an influx of young women.

Day 46: Main Event Day 7 - Nonagon... I have seen what money does to people. It destroys lives. It tears friends apart. Too much money and it poisons your soul. Too little money and it makes you do desperate an unthinkable things. And during the pursuit of huge sums of money in the seven and eight figure ranges... your once astute judgment becomes clouded in the fog of war. Poker is a simple game. Played among friends, it can be one of the most entertaining experiences in life. But when poker is played in a tournament for millions of dollars in a forum where dozens and dozens of corporations can profit from it... things can get ugly. There is no longer white and black, just shades of grey. Working for four plus years in the poker industry taught me that the more money that is involved... the more complicated things can get.
* * * * *

If you would like to read the rest of my coverage from the 2008 WSOP, check out The 2008 WSOP: Tao of Poker Review which lists links and excerpts to every single post I wrote this summer.

And don't forget to check out the Tao of Pokerati archives to listen to all of your favorite episodes that we taped this summer.

Here are a couple of WSOP Main Event podcasts that we did...
Episode 26: Agents, Frenchies, and Polacks featuring Benjo (3:48)

Description by Pauly: This episodes starts out slow but ends with a hysterical bang. I consider this one of my all time favorite episodes of Tao of Pokerati which includes a cameo from Benjo. We riff a bit on sleazy agents and how the French and Polish players fared at the WSOP. Benjo also suggests that we fire Michalski and do the podcast on our own.

Episode 28: Exit, Stage Tiffany

Description by Michalski: We're not done yet... still have a few more episodes to share with you, and Brian Balsbaugh and Oliver Tse our agents are in negotiations with French authorities over possible continuation of the show.

It's a 6-minute double-episode — that seems particularly timely with the benefit of hindsight was recorded from the dead-center of an emptied out Amazon room, shortly after Tiffany Michelle busted out in 17th place. Here Dr. Pauly and I survey the atmospheric damage as "the last hope" of the main event exits the building... and I argue that she was the only one of the final 27 players with true Chris Moneymaker potential — meaning her performance wasn't so much about her own abilities to win big cash as it was about the future of poker. Comparisons to Scotty Nguyen and college basketball as well, before one of your not-so-gracious hosts goes through severe WSOP separation anxiety.

Episode 28.5: Fashion Report (featuring Change100)

Description by Michalski: Dr. Pauly chats with Change100 (his personal fashion yogini) about Tiffany Michelle's attire before her Ultimate Bet patchwork became such a major wardrobe malfunction. It's sickeningly cute as this pokerblogging duo draws the fine line between rocker-chick chic and Tijuana hooker — and further fashion analysis tries to differentiate between the new-money stylings of Alexander Kostritsin, typical "online douchebag" and Mean Gene, and the poker-prep ways of Shronk and Brandon Adams.
That's it for now. If you want to avoid all the election coverage, check out ESPN tonight at 10pm for the 2008 WSOP special. I know that what I'll be doing!

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Budapest Part I: Danube Waltz

By Pauly
Budapest, Hungary

I party frequently. I'm a multi-bracelet winner when it comes to throwing down and having a good time. However, there are a couple of times a year that I think I'm 18 years old again and can drink anyone under the table. I've come a long way the mid-1990s when I had Jim Beam pumping through my veins and I ran through the streets of Atlanta like a lunatic. Boys will be boys and former frat boys are a dangerous pestilence upon this land. I know because I am one.

Alas, my thirtysomething body takes a pounding whenever I found myself caught up in a whirlwind bender. I've been wiser and more self-aware about those epic moments of celebration and do my best to avoid a hellacious hangover of the Category 5 variety. Pace myself and drink lots of water. Don't mix and all will be well. Ah, of course I forgot all of those basic rules to drinking. I have those mental lapses about twice a year. It's the my former teenaged soul trying to escape from my body. Everyone once in a while, he takes over the bus and I just go along for the savage ride as I embark on a bender of all benders. A bender of Barbaric proportions.

The last mishap was in Melbourne during the Aussie Millions. I has a momentary black out and made a run to McDonalds in the Crown Casino and totally forgot about the 4am munchies until I woke up the next morning and discovered a grease-stained McDs bag on the floor next to the bed.

Hmmm, what else did I do last night that I don't remember? That's one of the most humiliating conversations to have with yourself, usually done in the middle of a wave of dry heaves as you clutch the porcelain god. Check your pockets for clues. Inspect your bodies for UDIs or unidentified drunken injuries. Look at your cell phone for traces of drunken texts or phone calls and get those apologies ready for the next day.

The culprits were Palinka, Unicum, and two salacious Hungarian women that I was convinced would make out on camera for me if I got them shitfaced enough. The locals drink the local liquors such as fruit-flavored Palinka with ease. Me? Well, I foolishly attempted to run a marathon in flip flops. And my innards were spewed across the tiles of my bathroom floor. There's a reason why it's called Black Death. And my Hungarian landlady is gonna be wicked pissed when she has to clean last week's goulash off of her walls.

Dana saw the shoddy condition of my soused self during my first night in Budapest. 'Peaks Too Early' should be my Native American name. It was not flattering. I fell down. Hard. I couldn't get up as a seizure of laughter fell over my entire body. I fell down again. Otis would have shook his head. I was more than Bad Iggy drunk, hell, I flew past that truck stop on the edge of the Nevada desert miles down the road. I found myself at a destination where no one ever intends to wind up.

I couldn't believe that I puked on that naked chick and got tossed from a strip club. In the same night. Bad bad, Pauly.

There's always a price to pay for your actions. I didn't have to wait until karma swung its sledgehammer down upon my cranium. Splintered into thousands of shards piercing my brain. I woke up on the first day of an assignment on the verge of death. No,wait... death would have been a plausible alternative to the living hell I had to endure over the next horrid day. The longest day of the year is always the day after you get flagged for multiple excessive celebration penalties. Alas, I chose a path and had to endure the pain. The throbbing. The waves of nausea. Ghastly pains from the spots where I fell. And not to mention the utter torture of being locked inside the sweltering basement of a casino for 12 hours to watch the opening flight of a poker tournament where I only knew a dozen or so players. Pure fuckin' joy.

I rented a flat with my work colleague Dana from London. She is also known as Snoopy's girlfriend and best friends with Jen from Blonde Boker. She's an amazing musician by trade and does a few freelance writing assignments on the side to pay the bills. We were teamed up together by PokerNews for the EPT Budapest. We decided to stay off the casino property at an apartment. It was cheaper than staying in a hotel near the Las Vegas Casino adjacent to the Sofitel. And the Sofitel is fuckin' pricey. A baller, I am not. I'd rather save my money on less wasteful things. I didn't want to have to take taxis everyday so staying in a fleabag on the other side of town was not an option either. Schecky suggested an available apartment to rent near by. I contacted the owner. He was German and owned a two bedroom flat which he would rent to me for next to nothing.

The swanky place was a block from the Danube and about a twenty minute walk to the casino. It ended up a clutch move. The best in a very long time. Staying in hotels has worn thin on me and I've been opting for short-term apartment rentals like Change100 and I did in Barcelona, Amsterdam, and London over the last year or so. The alternative to a hotel is cheaper and puts me in a better mindset. Makes me feel normal while I'm on the road following the circus. Yes, the circus came to town. This stop was Budapest and I was about to begin the show with a sadistic hangover. Clown music drives me me to thr brink of utter insanity.

Dana and I slowly walked from our rented flat in Budapest to the Las Vegas Casino through the winding shopping streets that catered to tourists such as plenty of crappy Hungarian folk art souvenir shops with overpriced scarves and chess sets. Those were too many to count and were sprinkled in between the collection of old buildings, department stores, tourist trap restaurants, and dozens and dozens of money exchange booths that offered up shitty rates to convert Greenbacks to Forints.

Dana and I stopped at Subway for a meal to go. I did not want to eat it in the media room for fear of embarrassing myself and yakking it up on my new British laptop while chatting with Bartley or Howard from PokerStars. I struggled to eat a bland and rubbery my six inch Subway as I sat outside and groggily gazed at the Danube. The last time I ate Subway in Europe, I watched in amazement as a lewd sex act was performed in front of me.

Hungover in Hungary. A stranger in a strange land trying to drink strange drinks with strange women. I knew if I could keep down the sandwich then I could make it. I had to rally for work. I get paid a lot of money to travel the world and cover poker tournaments. The G doesn't care what I do in my spare time but when cards go in the air, I'm on his dime. I glanced back at the grey waters of the river that split the sections of Buda and Pest. I didn't want to become a floater in the Danube. Time to suck it up and rise to the challenge.

I struggled on Day 1A of the EPT Hungarian Open. I had a new photographer to break in for a second event in a row. He was a local who spoke great English and played some poker which helped immensely. I also had to quickly get to know the Hungarian crew of PokerNews. Peter and Monika gave me the rundown on the local players that I should keep an eye out. 71 Hungarians played in the first ever EPT stop in Hungary and represented 1/8 of the field. I only knew about one or two Hungarian players and got an intense crash course in the history of Hungarian poker.

The free drinks in the media room saved me especially the Hungarian version of ginger ale. For the first time at the EPT, the media room had assigned seating I was in the first row out of five. I noticed that they also grouped us by languages, or maybe it was just a coincidence? The front row had all English speaking media which included folks from Canada (Matt), UK (Dana & Rod), Ireland (Brenden & Rebbecca), Scotland (The SikTilt gang), and of course myself... the lone American in the room full of Europeans. The members of the Italian and Hungarian press were behind me along with Caco from Portugal. The Germans were huddled together, while Benjo sat in the back with his fellow Frenchman nearby along with the Scandis and reps from Poland and Serbia. The air was cluttered with a mixture of poker slang and foreign words. I enjoyed covering tournaments in Europe. It's a totally different vibe than the hackneyed scene overrun by nimrods in America.

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