Rocky road to the Rocky Mountains

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Been making some lifestyle changes that have moved blogging and social media down the priority list a few spots. Very happy with the results for my overall quality of life, so writing is likely to stay on the back burner for now. I will come out of literary hibernation from time to time to tell a story I find worthwhile, but I won’t be putting in the hours I did the last couple years.

Rocky road to the Rocky Mountains.

La recently decided she wanted to add the Colorado Black Hawk circuit stop to the schedule. I wasn’t convinced. I was enjoying the beautiful Dallas weather, sleeping in our bed, and getting some much needed exercise. I eventually told her she should go by herself if she wanted to grind, but I didn’t feel like it and I didn’t think there would be much Omaha action for me anyway. She wasn’t very happy about the idea of traveling without me and decided to make a few last minute compromises that would allow me to enjoy the Colorado state of mind while she got on the mtt grind. Once I agreed we got all the travel arrangements sorted quickly and packed for an early morning flight.

As is often the case with our schedule, its easier for us to stay up a few extra hours to catch an early morning flight than it is to get up after a short night’s sleep. While we were waiting for the flight I spent the time enjoying our compromise. I was deep into a Colorado state of mind by the time we left for the airport and that would make for an more interesting morning than I had anticipated.

We got the car to the long term parking and got on the shuttle to the airport. As we were about to exit the lot I did my usual pocket pat down and noticed there was no bulge where my phone should be. I blurted out an expletive and quickly told the driver I needed to go back to the car. He told me there were a couple other passengers in the shuttle and if they needed to get to a gate we would have to wait and come back. If we had to wait we would miss our flight. Luckily both the other passengers were understanding and not late, so we were able to turn around and grab my phone. Crisis averted.

We arrived at the terminal and went through the bag check process. La was annoyed by my forgetfulness and she tilt registered for the flight without checking all our bags. The leftover was a light duffel bag we often carry with us, its bulky and annoying to lug through the airport, especially when we can check it for free. I wanted to run through the menu again and check the bag, but she just wanted to carry it. We disagreed, she walked off, and I tried to stumble through the registration process without her. I massively failed at trying to re-register and check a bag and I ended up with a second boarding pass and a duffel bag.

I was steamed a little from our argument and my struggles with the front desk people and their automated systems. I made my way to security, quickly jammed everything into the bins and went through the scan. I then emptied the bins completely and caught up with La at the gate. I calmed down, caught my breath, sat down and did the pocket pat down. This time my travel roll was missing, and my heart dropped…

When I started traveling some of the old school road gamblers I traveled with taught me to never keep all my roll in one spot. Keep a little money handy, but don’t let the world know how much money you are traveling with and make yourself a target. I’ve lived by that wisdom ever since and never had more than a dime or two w my ID. So my concern wasn’t so much for the money, it was just a couple buy-ins. In true poker player fashion I was more worried for my credit cards, ID, health insurance card, etc. and the hell of automated menus, lines, and forms it would take to get them back.

I double checked my pockets and bag and ran back to security. My mind started racing and thinking about the shady TSA agents who stole electronics out of people’s bags and sold them on eBay. If they would steal an iPad out of a suitcase they could certainly grab a loose roll some sloppy tourist left out in a bin right? By the time I got back to the checkpoint I had almost convinced myself one of the TSA agents had snatched it out of my hat, where I tossed it when I was hurrying through the first time.

I ran back into security and started talking to a TSA agent. He asked me all the standard have you checked everywhere questions and I affirmed that I had. Then he asked me which line I went through and I pointed to the line. He went over and started talking to his agents. They stopped the belt and did a quick inspection. While I was giving them suspicious looks they were looking everywhere they could think to and they didn’t find anything. There were about ten people waiting in the line that were also watching with annoyed looks waiting to get on with their travel day.

So at this point I had five TSA agents and a couple lines of travelers looking at me and the TSA agent came back over and asked me again if I was sure I checked everywhere. I assured him I had and I hadn’t seen it since I put it in my hat. To emphasize the point I lifted my hat off my head… and that’s when my roll fell out and landed on the metal table with a “thump”.

It was a strange wave of emotions that followed. I was relieved, embarrassed, amused, and ready to get the hell out of there. So I did all I could do really, I laughed, grabbed my roll off table, mumbled some half-ass apology about not sleeping, and bounced. After a rather rocky start, the CO trip actually went very well. It was a great stop and we had an amazing time on and off the felt. If I find some more time and motivation I might follow this entry with a short trip report of the rest of our mile high adventures.

Thanksgiving in Vegas

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After our poker trip to Tahoe we were planning to travel to Dallas for Thanksgiving.  About halfway through the trip we got word that La’s mother wasn’t doing well and we decided to reroute and spend some time with her and the Cali family.  We had purchased our original round trip tickets with points, but Southwest airlines is our favorite carrier for a reason.

We fly Southwest for their cheap prices and flexibility and they didn’t disappoint, but they don’t fly to Fresno.  Southwest refunded our return tickets to Dallas and allowed us to use the points to buy one way tickets to Vegas, where we could catch a flight to Fresno on a regional carrier.  We had a two day layover in Vegas before we could catch our flight to Fresno, not a bad thing, but it meant we would be spending Thanksgiving day in Vegas.

Vegas isn’t a bad place for a short layover.

With family all over the country we are used to having to reschedule Thanksgiving meals before and after the actual day to celebrate with everyone.  As long as we all get together the date on the calendar isn’t important.  This would be the first year we were going to spend Thanksgiving day without either side of our family though, and spending Thanksgiving day at a casino buffet didn’t sound appealing at all.

One of our favorite spots on the strip, Mon Ami Gabi
Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner at “Mon Ami Gabi” with my baby.

Luckily for us, Vegas is home base for much of our traveling poker family from the WSOP circuit.  Before we even took off from Tahoe we had our short trip booked up with friends to see and a couple Thanksgiving dinners to attend.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to catch up with all our friends in such a short stay, but we will be back soon to catch up with those we missed.

First stop was our good friend Alan Fowler’s house for a pre-Thanksgiving get together.  We used to see Alan on the circuit regularly when he was one of the traveling WSOP media guys, however the birth of his baby girl took him off the road. So this celebration was both a reunion with an old friend and a chance to meet his better half Mia and new baby girl Maliah.  We had a wonderful evening with the Fowler family, it was great to catch up with Alan and meet both the beautiful ladies in his life.

Great to finally meet Mia and baby Maliah (picture by a proud daddy, Alan Fowler)

Thanksgiving day rolled around, and like most things in Vegas, the day started a little later than it would anywhere else. We had two dinners to attend and we didn’t have to be anywhere until 5pm.  This gave me time to hop a cab over to the Riviera and redeem a 500 dollar free play coupon from a summer promotion.  They had changed the machines since the last trip and it took me a minute to track down one with solid payouts, but I found a bonus poker machine that fit the bill. I definitely caught some Thanksgiving run good as I was able to clear the free play and bink another 500 cheese plus cab fare.

After the VP session  I headed back to the hotel and woke La up so she could get ready for the festivities.  We were spending the day with two of our favorite people from the circuit: Adrian Lopez (@akrisl55) and Miranda Schmidt (@mirandaschmidt2). We weren’t the only additions to the festivities though, there were a couple other circuit dealers passing through Vegas that joined in as well.  It was a very WSOP Thanksgiving.

Binksgiving.

Thanksgiving day felt like any other year, which is to say we spent it surrounded by friends and family.  We are grateful for the hospitality of our poker family on such short notice and feel blessed to know so many amazing people across the country. After an excellent Thanksgiving day in Vegas we caught a plane to Fresno to be with mom and the Cali family.

On such short notice we were only able to get together a little of the Cali family.

After an enjoyable layover we finally made it home to mom.  Our stomachs were thankful for a few hours of rest between meals and we were happy to be home.  Its always great to be back in Cali, and as you can see from the picture, we have plenty of family to catch up with here.

Big things in the Big Easy

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The 2011 New Orleans poker trip report was an unfortunate casualty of our hectic end of season points chase and my side projects. New Orleans is one of our favorite stops on the WSOP circuit, so much to see… and do… and drink… and eat… especially eat. There was no shortage of action on the felt either. Many heros made deep runs, and on my birthday I got a rare triple final table sweat with three friends in three different ring events on the stage at the same time. I really had no intention of spending my birthday in a poker room, but I’m always happy to support my friends no matter the day. I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me either, I stretched my birthday celebration out across the whole two week trip to compensate- a lil trick I learned from Lala.

Out on Bourbon street. Thanks to Jordan Cutter (@VegasJdub) for being our tour/drink guide.

We always eat well in New Orleans. We don’t rent a car when we go, so most of our favorite spots are within walking distance of the casino. This is a good thing because we can walk off some of the thousands of calories we consume during our stay. We made regular trips to Mother’s for the crawfish etouffee and Po’boys. We made two or three trips to Crazy Lobster, a touristy Riverwalk restaurant that serves stout hurricanes and one of our favorites: the Seafood Bucket deluxe. The Seafood Bucket deluxe consists of two lobsters, stone crab, crawfish, shrimp and a little bit of filler. It wasn’t quite as fresh as it was the year before, but it is still a great way to get your seafood fix.

Buckets with the boys.

Another of our regular stops was Felix’s off bourbon street. I recommend eating at the bar where they shuck the oysters as fast as you can put them down. An Abita strawberry or three to wash it down and a dozen char broiled oysters and you have a very satisfying meal.

Hand Grenades and oysters, the breakfast of champions.

Between meals there was a little poker going on. I didn’t play many events on the stop because I wanted to rest up for the summer and enjoy my birthday. I got a nice birthday present in the form of a triple final table sweat. Josh Evans (@JoshEvansLV) FT’d event 1 and finished 2nd, Cliff fisher (@BRDPoker) FT’d event 2 and finished 5th, and John Harris (@85nutz) FT’d event 3 and shipped his second ring!

Congrats to John Harris on number 2!

LaLa (@CanULala) also got in on the action FT’ing event 7 and finishing 6th.

My baby grinding away, showing them how to Lala.

A couple more good guys grabbed rings in NOLA side events: Michael (Car Wash) Schneider shipped his first ring in event 10 and Justin Gardenhire (@Gardyone) snagged his 3rd ring in event 11.

Congrats Car Wash on a well deserved first! (picture by Image Masters)

Justin Gardenhire with the 3 peat! (picture by Image Masters)

You would think that all those final tables would have been enough for one stop, it turns out they were just warm up for the main event.

They were double barreling at the table and we were double barreling on the rail.

In a stop full of great final table sweats the main event did not disappoint. Two members of our traveling family made final table appearances in the main: Dan “Du ma” Lowery (@danmflowery) and Andrew Nguyen (@winnersnguyen).

Andrew Nguyen and Dan “MF” Lowery on the main event grind.

Dan “Du Ma” Lowery with racks on racks on racks.

Dan Lowery was one of the most successful grinders on the circuit last year. Juggling family obligations and a couple businesses, Dan’s circuit schedule was limited, but he was still able to to finish top 4 or better in three different circuit main events (2nd in Durant , 2nd in Lake Tahoe, and 4th in New Orleans). Dan had the ring slip through his fingers a couple times, but his consistent deep runs in the biggest events left no doubt that he is the real deal. He and his wife Krista are an invaluable part of our traveling family and I’m sure there are many more big scores in his future.

Andrew “No balls, no babies” Nguyen

Andrew Nguyen has been grinding the circuit with La and I since our first stop. He is our original circuit road dog and has grinded and hustled his way across the country with us. He is a founding member of #TeamPBJ, even though he isn’t a big fan of white boy food. I’m proud to call Andrew my brother and couldn’t be happier to see him taking his place on the big stage. Drew has a style all his own, great taste in food, and a gift of gab that has gotten us all sorts of places we shouldn’t have been. While he wasn’t able to grab the belt, he was able to cut out a nice slice of the prize pool. Congratulations my brother on an excellent score, I’m sorry it took me so long to get the blog out.

Drew demonstrating the “great wall” style of stacking chips.

Drew playing HU with Justin (@theycallmetrues) Truesdell, the eventual champion and a good kid.

I had a blast partying and railing all my friends and family this year in New Orleans. I hope to have more of the same opportunities next year, with a little less partying and a few more runs of my own. The National Championship tacked on to the end of this series should also provide some additional drama as the circuit regs battle it out for the last few at large spots. Hope to see everyone there next year for another round of big things in the Big Easy.

Downtime

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One of the beautiful things about being self employed is the freedom to schedule downtime when you need it. After a grueling year on the WSOP trail, La and I spent the last couple months relaxing at home, catching up with friends and family in Dallas and Cali, and limiting our poker expeditions to long weekend poker outings. It was a time for unwinding, reflecting on the season past, and contemplating what the future holds.

My blog downtime was also influenced by a frustrating series of mishaps in my social media marketing and writing endeavors. Most wounds were self inflicted: not getting a contract before putting in significant work on a project, underselling myself to a point where I couldn’t continue on another project I was enthusiastic about, and linking my content without consideration for a formatting that would protect my site’s traffic. The time away has let the sting of these mistakes fade and the lessons sink in. My biggest mistake was prioritizing these new ventures over established income streams and missing some great opportunities on the felt for these unproven side projects.

On the poker front, our long term direction in poker is about as clear as the legislative swamp that US online poker is sunk in. We are definitely pruning down the travel schedule for WSOPC stops and exploring other options. The ever expanding number of WSOP circuit stops continues to dilute value and increase the cost of chasing points, making it a less attractive proposition. We are considering a move to a poker friendly city, or a trip across the border for a few months of online grinding. Whatever we do, many of the smaller “point chasing” stops will no longer be on the schedule.

My attempts at sidework have also left me with a decent backlog of trip blogs. I won’t fill in all the gaps, but I will be revisiting a few spots to hit the high points in the coming weeks. I will also be experimenting with some different formats like photoblogs moving forward, so please leave comments and let me know what you think.

New ideas in poker reporting via Twitter

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Twitter is an ideal communication tool for poker players. The sleek interface makes it perfect for mobile devices at the table and the 140 character limit works well for tournament updates. When major poker events like the WSOP come around though, many casual followers get frustrated by the constant tournament updates cluttering their timeline.

Daniel Negreanu came up with a clever solution to this problem by using the @mention function as a filter. If you wanted to see his updates, in addition to his main @realkidpoker account, you also had to follow @dnchips. Whenever he sent out a tournament tweet he would start it with “@dnchips” and these tweets would only be seen by followers of both accounts.

This was a solid innovation and one that has allowed twitter users with non-poker followers to effectively compartmentalize their tournament reports. The idea has gained traction over the last year with many poker players adding a second account to separate their updates. This solution works well if you only want to follow a few players, but if you want to follow a large group of players things become more complicated.

With so many players making these new accounts it’s getting harder to keep up with them. When I want to follow a new player at an event, not only do I have to dig up their twitter account, then I have to find their chip account as well. This isn’t terrible for one player, but doing it ten times is annoying.

Another issue comes when I want to stop following chip accounts after an event. Going through and unfollowing each account is a pain. Obviously lists are an option for organizing my twitter feed and avoiding the whole follow/unfollow issue, but overall the current system is getting bloated as more players start to use it and managing lists can still be a chore.

I recently participated in a test run of a new Twitter poker update system at the New Orleans WSOP circuit that may hold the answer to the problem of poker account sprawl. Paul Oresteen (@PaulOresteen) of Pokernews added a new twist to the Twitter update equation by having players run updates through one central reporting account.

Paul’s main focus was getting players to mention his “@pncounts” account when tweeting updates. This allowed him to have all the relevant players updates in one central feed for faster, more accurate reporting. As post Black Friday reporting budgets have tightened, Paul found an intelligent way to bridge the gap between reduced staff and large field size. The potential of the idea isn’t limited to chip counts though, it could also be a used to reduce the amount of accounts necessary for updates considerably or even create a new reporting stream.

This central account idea could be expanded for events like the WSOP and WPTs, so they could set up their own reporting account for players to update through. That way, when I want to send an update from an event, I could use @wsopchips as my filter. This would give the events a more focused Twitter presence by turning every player into a reporter that fans could follow through their central account.

The central accounts also eliminate the need for secondary accounts almost completely. To follow a series all I have to do is find the reporting account and follow it to keep track of all players I already follow. When a series is over, or I am done sweating an event, I unfollow @wsopchips and all the mtt spam is gone in one click.

If you have a timeline full of poker players and only want to follow updates from a few of them this solution may not be ideal. There is certainly room for smaller group accounts to be created. If you are only interested in your poker crew’s updates you could create an account like @teampokerati. An account like this would allow you to follow a smaller more specific group of players at an event, but still reduce the amount of accounts you had to deal with.

I currently use a secondary twitter account to update my followers interested in my poker action. I would be happy to scrap it and all the other secondary accounts I follow for this new system. I know it will take time to adapt, but I was excited enough about Mr. Oresteen’s idea that I felt the need to blog about it and share my thoughts about the potential it has to reshape the poker twitterverse.

St Louis Circuit Props

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The last few months have been a blur of poker and travel. I had a handful of days between wsop circuit stops to unwind and no spare time to write. I should say no spare time to write my blog. I have been working on a side project that has been eating up most of my creative writing efforts and cutting into my poker sessions. Hopefully the work pays off this summer and opens up some new business opportunities. Until things settle down I guess I will have to forgo sleep to fit in my blogging sessions.

St Louis Circuit Props:

Welcome to the St Louis WSOP please “smoke freely”

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Picture by David Clark

Last year I had some trouble getting into the Harrahs St. Louis and almost missed the stop entirely after an issue with my temporary drivers license. I won’t get into how I got around that issue for fear of legal ramifications, but trust me it was a pain in the ass. St Louis was arguably the most annoying stop on the circuit with heaps of overzealous rules and regulations. I was going to spend some time getting into these problems here, but with the recent sale of Harrahs St. Louis to a rival corporation they are most likely moot points.

I wouldn’t shed any tears over the loss of Harrahs St Louis. The poker action was good, but with high smoke and noise levels on the floor plus strict gaming regulations and state taxes it’s an event I will be happy to scratch off the schedule. The last round of the event did produce some major fireworks though, with multiple circuit stars putting on a show and the roommates of room 143 stealing the spot light almost* entirely.

I should have known I was in for trouble when I came down from the room one night to sweat La and ended up at the bar with some circuit regulars. I just wanted to relax, have a beer, and sweat. These kid’s idea of a relaxing night at the bar is a shot, and then another, and another… As is often the case on the circuit, consumption of copious amounts of alcohol leads to trash talking, which in turn leads to prop betting.

I was in the company of most of room 143: Tripp “captain” Kirk (@tkirk1212), Matt “Bum” Hankins (@pokerskibum), Kyle Cartwright (@da_kyky), along with their friend @chronictown, with later appearances by my roomies La “CanULala” Sengphet (@lasengphet) and Andrew “Andy” Nguyen (@winnersnguyen). We decided to pick 2 player teams and bet on a series of props. We had a must-cash prop for the next event plus a last longer, and a series-long team total cashes prop (by this point Tripp had already finished 3rd in the re-entry so that result was excluded).

La struck early winning the must-cash prop and last longer for her and Andy. My teammate Kyle put a strong finish on the board next by shipping the 1k for his 4th ring and a 53k cash. He won his HU match against the other roommate of 143, Alex “Ap” Phahurat (@legitap47). Going into main event we had a 53k lead, meaning someone would have to get 4th or better to steal our lead and ship the props.

Number 4 for Kyle:

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Picture by Eric Harkins of Image Masters

In typical Tripp Kirk fashion, he flashed his trademark smirk and then took a dump all over his roommate Kyle’s 53k score. He called the 53k and raised another 137k and a main event ring with a lil prop cheese on top. It’s Tripp’s second ring and his biggest score to date. Not a bad days work for a guy with a limited poker schedule and a day job that often ships him out of the country. I did get the last laugh on Tripp though. We left St Louis early and I was able to fade the pain of paying him and his smirk directly by giving the money to his partner Bum at the next stop.

Tripp Kirk and his smirk with his 2nd ring:

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Picture by Eric Harkins of Image Masters

Tripp’s win would be the second St Louis main title for the roommates, Kyle took it down the year before. Overall the occupants of room 143 had 4 top 3 finishes in the 3 biggest prize-pools of the series. Tripp took 3rd in the re-entry and won the main, Kyle and AP took 1st and 2nd in the 1k, AP also had two near misses finishing 10th and 11th in two other prelims. Not a bad series boys, but next time you score big I would probably avoid tweeting your room number until after you left town #RookieMistake.

*Usually that would be the end of the story, but the last-chance ring event also had another usual suspect doing some work. Kurt Jewell (@kurtjewell), a two time wsop circuit main event winner with an O/8 ring from St Louis last year, added a forth ring to his twitter pic. Kurt delivered a drunken-master-like performance taking it down with a beer in one hand and cards in the other. Congrats on number 4 Kurt #YeahBuddy.

Kurt Jewell ships his 4th:

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Picture by Eric Harkins of Image Masters

Black Friday Blog: Life After Online Poker

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After Black Friday our war room got turned into an arcade.

I was never an online poker rock star. At the height of my online career I was mid-stakes PLO grinder on Pokerstars and FTP. The low expenses and generous player incentives made this a comfortable lifestyle for La and I, who also made her living grinding online mtts. Decent bankroll management and a few well timed live scores prior to April 15th 2011 left us in better shape than most when our virtual bankroll was frozen, but our lives were still drastically altered after our freedom to play online poker was taken away.

Our average pre Black Friday day consisted of waking up whenever, having “breakfast”, and grinding out sessions in the upstairs war room. We lived a good life in a nice house close to our friends and family in DFW. A few times a year we would travel to a deep stack tournament series for a change of pace, but the majority of our working hours were spent at home in our boxers and bathrobes. When we went on the road we would take our laptops with us. If there was no action after we busted a live event we could supplement our income with online sessions.

Dressed up for a day at the office

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I used to tease my 9 to 5 friends about my “commute” from the bed to the office upstairs, “traffic was good today” I’d say and laugh. Well, karma is a son-of-a-bitch. After Black Friday we started spending more than half our year on the road. Our “commute” involves lugging 90+ pounds of luggage to an airport, catching a flight with multiple plane changes and layovers, and often ends with extra hours in a shuttle or rental car to reach our remote destinations. We then spend the next two weeks grinding out 14 hour days. Our expenses have tripled and our average “commute” takes the better part of a day each way. I’m a lil jealous of my 9 to 5 friends half hour drive to work now.

The extra expenses and extended travel schedule made keeping a 2600 sq foot house in Texas an untenable burden. It didn’t make sense to spend 2k+ a month on a house when we only spent a week or two of the average month staying there. We moved half our furniture into storage at the end of 2011 and moved into a 1300 sq foot house our friends had available. This location is much less central than our old spot, but it is closer to both the airports and much more affordable for the time we are home.

Our poker room in the old house was a casualty of Black Friday

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The decision to stay in a non-poker friendly state like Texas was a tough one, but being close to our friends and family is important to us. Being able to recharge and reconnect, even a few days out of the month, has been invaluable to our motivation and sanity while following this hectic schedule. Being home also allows us to be there for loved ones. My grandfather recently passed away and our decision to stay based in Texas allowed us to be with him and my grandmother in his last days. I’m so glad we didn’t let the DOJ take away these last days together.

My Grandfather and Grandmother’s 70th anniversary

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Life on the road has been tough, but there have been positives on our new journey too. Online poker can be very isolating, it’s not so bad for an introvert like me, but La is a social butterfly and needs the interaction. Through her we have met so many wonderful characters and made lots of great friends that are now part of our traveling family. From the PTC crew, the media, players, photographers, writers, and local casino staff we have been lucky to find so many special people to share our time with. We might have met only a handful of these friends if Black Friday hadn’t pushed us out the door.

Just a few of the many friends we share our time on the road with:

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In addition to pushing us out the door, Black Friday made me rethink my life. Being forcefully unplugged gave me time to try new things like blogging, investing, and starting a small business. Clearly I have a long way to go with all these endeavors, but the invigorating new directions have brought more depth to a life that used to be dominated by a fairly monotonous routine.

Life on the road can be repetitive too, after awhile all the casinos start to blend together. Ultimately these trips have taught me its not where you are, but how you approach life that determines what you get out of it. Our time on the road has shown me that there is potential everywhere, and when one spot goes away there are always more to replace it for those willing to look. I hope that online poker comes back to the US in a big way, if it doesn’t though, this last year has taught me there are plenty of new games to play.

The Road to Rincon: Travel Report

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The first thing you need to understand when planning a trip to Rincon is that it’s not San Diego. Our friend Billy made the mistake of bringing his family thinking he could play poker while his family enjoyed the city. Rincon is an hour outside the city up a nice windy mountain road and should in no way be categorized as “close to the beach”. Billy’s family left him the day after arrival, exchanging their mountain view for something oceanside.

Market:

Even though Rincon is close to a major metropolitan area the presence of more accessible casinos with larger poker rooms limits the amount of local traffic for the wsop. The Rincon poker room is a tiny 9 table space on the second floor of the hotel with one sign in the lobby acknowledging it’s existence. The hidden poker room helped walk up traffic to the WSOP’s events next to the casino floor, but meant cash games were a poor alternative for post bust-out grinding.

The room even had a promotion going during the series which paid 20 dollars in cash and 50 dollars in casino free play chips for an hour of cash play with a wsop mtt slip. The offer was valid for 48 hours and could be used concurrently with multiple entry slips. This generous rakeback yielded an average of 2 1/3 NL games and 1 3/6 FL game per evening, an extremely disappointing turnout. There was better cash game grinding available for those willing to make a half hour drive to a neighboring room, but La and I chose to focus on sngs in our off time.

Fields:

The field sizes were up this year, but the inconvenient location keeps them smaller than the majority of stops. The turnouts and short commute from Vegas have made this stop a favorite of LV grinders trying to pick up points for the wsop freeroll. The collection of high level talent in town for the last weekend’s events has to make it one of the most stacked WSOPC main event fields outside sin city.

Harrah’s outrageous weekend rates and small prize pools limit the value of this event to many circuit grinders. So while the fields have more LV pros, there are less circuit regulars which somewhat balances out the later events and certainly makes the prelims softer. There are a couple places to stay close to the property, but if you don’t book early, affordable accommodations mean a half hour commute up and down the mountain.

Food:

Dinning options were decent as far as circuit stop casino eating goes. There was a 24 hour cafe with a typical american menu. Fortunes asian cuisine had solid (for casino) pho and noodle dishes. The steak house was disappointing, with overpriced food and mediocre service. The diamond lounge had a selection of fruit available throughout the day with tiny finger foods served by the wait staff around 5pm. The buffet was probably one of the better dinning options for our stay. Harrah’s had a good comp available for buffet dinning: An hour of table game play or an hour and a half of cash poker (also stackable w the wsop promotion) would get you a meal ticket.

If we didn’t feel like eating out, peanut butter jelly time was always an option.

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Our trip:

With some great travel agent work by La, we were able to keep this trip’s costs manageable. It wasn’t a huge stop for us, but we left with more money than we came with, so it still goes in the W column. A couple of our friends did well, if you haven’t read my previous blog entry you can find it here:

http://whoisdavidclark.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/texans-continue-california-gold-ring-rush/

Overall we enjoyed our visit to the casino in the mountains, the hotel was nice and the staff had excellent customer service. The PTC did a great job as usual and the growth in WSOPC attendance was encouraging for future visits.

A quick pic from a lookout on the way up.

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Thanks for the read. If you have any thoughts on, or suggestions for the blog please leave a comment below. I am also available on twitter @whoisdavidclark if you would rather communicate in 140 characters or less.

Texans continue California gold (ring) rush

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Coming up in Texas poker is tough. In addition to fading the normal variance of the game, players have to fight exorbitant rakes and dodge robberies and raids. Spots come and go often, with no regulation cheats can operate with impunity for years before their reputations get tarnished. No poker tours come to our home towns, no special promotions for pit players trickle down into our economy, and no advertising means we have smaller player pools to fish in. When people express shock that grinders from Texas are going on a rush in a regulated market like Cali I just laugh- compared to our home games this is a walk in the park.

2011 Rincon recap:

There was no event at the bicycle casino last year, but the Texas crew cleaned up at Rincon in 2011. Seneca Easley (@6ovspades), Mstr Lynch, and Justin “Choctaw” Kruger (@ChoctawKruger) grabbed four rings from the circuit stop, including a main event win by Mr. Easley.

2011 Texas Rincon winners:

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Mstr Lynch, Seneca Easley, Justin Kruger

Starting strong in 2012:

La Sengphet (@lasengphet) continued the Texas west coast ring run in 2012 winning an open event at the Bike’s first wsop circuit in January. She made history with that win becoming the first woman to win 3 open wsopc events. Read more about that trip here: http://whoisdavidclark.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/lala-land/

LaLa Land:

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Picture by Eric Butler of Image Masters

Different paths to the prize:

The two new ring winners both got their start in Dallas poker, but they took very different routes to their Rincon victories. Josh Evans continued his poker progression by moving into online mtts. According to pocketfives.com Josh “pairDboard21″ Evans amassed 1.6 million in online cashes across the sites before the DOJ shuttered them. After black Friday Josh was forced to relocate to Vegas to continue his career as a live grinder.

John Harris transitioned from Dallas poker to a dealing job on the wsop circuit. He also dealt at the Venetian and would eventually take a floor position there. After his time in Vegas John moved to Bakersfield California to help open the Aviator casino. Recently he decided to hang up his suit and join the ranks of circuit grinders following the wsopc, a decision that has certainly started off on the right foot.

Josh Evans turns his last two antes into a ring:

Josh, like many pros, showed up to Rincon hunting points more than rings. He had a few deep runs in his limited circuit schedule, including a 2nd in the re-entry at the Bicycle Casino, and made the trip to take advantage of the short fields to try and lock up 10k in free roll equity. Of course the best way to get points is to win a tournament, and Josh showed his mental toughness recovering from a crippling loss AK vs. AK aipf to do just that.

After getting flushed out on, Josh was left with 2 500 ante chips late in day one. With some run good, solid game theory, and a never quit attitude he was able to parlay his last 1k into 120k by the end of the day. After turning 1k into 120k, turning 120k into 1.9 million chips didn’t seem so unreasonable. He came to the final table of the 6-max event with around 250k and never looked back.

Another day at the office for Josh Evans:

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Josh has made multiple TV appearances, including the final table of the Million dollar free roll in 2011 where he and La spent some quality time together. His low key style and a string of 2nds and 3rds have kept him under the radar, but that trend is unlikely to continue. Titles and bravado get you publicity, but skill and consistency gets you respect in the community and Josh has earned his stripes with solid results year after year.

John Harris (@85nutz) gets off to a great start:

A few months back our good friend John Harris called me and told me he was thinking about quitting his current job and taking a shot at grinding the circuit. He asked me about the ins and outs of the circuit life and I was happy to share my thoughts. Hopefully our conversation was some of his inspiration for taking an extended leave from the floor gig and dipping his toes in the West Palm Beach circuit waters.

John’s first circuit outing was a success. He booked a 3rd place finish in a 555 prelim and cashed in the large Florida main event field making a solid profit for the trip. His opening expedition gave him enough confidence to make his extended leave a permanent one. With a backing arrangement in place with his Dad, he packed up his apartment and made plans to bunk with La and I at Rincon for his second outing.

John is a great guy. Even though he had an event to play at noon the next day, he stayed up and railed my final table at Rincon until the HU match was over at 6am. I couldn’t be happier that I quickly got a chance to return the favor and rail his final table and first ring! The story of how it happened has already been told, but I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate him again on an excellent start to his new career.

Harris ships his first ring:

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Tunica wrap up

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Our trip to Tunica is in the rear view, so it’s time to get back on the blogging grind. After focusing on the casino in the last blog, this report will turn its attention to the poker side of things. While it wasn’t raining rings for our friends like it did at the last stop, there was still some interesting happenings on the felt this time around.

Our results

With a freeroll seat locked up I scaled back my tournament schedule for the Tunica event skipping to play PLO. I love being able to sleep in and play sessions of whatever length I desire, this is the freedom that makes poker such a great job. It felt good to get back on the old degen schedule, if only for a few days.

Even with the reduced mtt schedule I did manage to make a run at a ring this trip, finishing 4th in one of the 345s. I felt I played well on the way to the final table, but a sick run of flips and gifts definitely padded my stack. I lost maybe one of ten or eleven flips on the way to the final table, and it was against a shorty.

Unfortunately all good heaters must come to an end and mine stopped just short of a ring. Five handed I lost KK v 66 aipf to the eventual winner when he binked the 6s on the river of a dry board. I still had plenty of chips after the pot, but I lost my mental edge. My confidence in reads deteriorated somewhat and I missed a couple important bets in significant pots.

I had an hour long dinner break right after the KK hand to recover, so I don’t feel tilt was a factor. I think the hand was more of a psychological boost to my opponents, who had been unwilling to enter a pot with me prior to the hand. Probably most importantly it allowed the eventual winner, on my immediate left, to enter almost every pot I played after the break and make my life much more difficult. I wasn’t connecting and my frustration eventually got the best of me and I made a poorly timed shove to end my day. It was a mental lapse at a key moment and something for me to work on moving forward.

As is our custom, after I make a deep run La usually makes a deeper run. She was on course to continue the trend making day two of a following 345, but with 11 left she miscalculated her opponent’s stack bvb and made a shove against what she thought was a much shorter stack. The mistake crippled her and she wasn’t able to recover, finishing just shy of the final table. These are mistakes we all make and I’m sure she will be back at the final table in no time.

LaLa grinding (@lasengphet)

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Picture from Pokernews Tunica main event coverage

Players to watch

With so many rings to write about at the last stop I didn’t have much time to acknowledge some of the other players on the circuit that have been doing work. These are a couple guys that are turning into familiar faces at WSOPC final tables:

AP Phahurat (@legitap47)

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Picture from Facebook, source unknown

AP has been mashing the re-entry events, making deep runs in the enormous opening event fields. He has had 6 cashes at the last two circuits including a 5th in the Tunica re-entry and a 4th in the HU event. Huy and AP offered us some team props on the Choctaw series, we politely declined.

Michael “Great Mj” Cooper

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Picture from Pokernews Tunica main event coverage

MJ has also been making waves on the circuit. He cashed 5 times in the last two stops with 2 4ths at Choctaw and a 7th place finish in the Tunica main. One thing is for sure, he has his buddy Larry in a bad spot on their WSOPC props.

Angle shooter empties the clip

My PLO sessions yielded one of the most pathetic angle shoots I have seen since my underground poker days. I was playing a long PLO session and a tatted up, blinged out thug had been gambling with us for three or four hours. He seemed cool enough, joking around and having a good time with the table. He did complain about how much he was stuck, but it wasn’t a surprise as he was a hyper aggressive player.

He got felted and left the table for an hour or two, then returned for another go. He and I ended up getting in a pot where we got all the money in pre. He had AKQ7 and I had AA92, we decided to run two full boards. The first board ran out 448xx and he didn’t connect at all, which he was well aware of. The second board ran out 9T2J… We started laughing after he made the straight on the turn and pulled back the stacks in front of us. I didn’t even notice the river 2 roll off. My buddy Huy sitting next to me did though, and he told me I had a full house on the bottom.

I did a double take and saw the full house on bottom, the dealer saw it too and mucked my opponent’s hand. Then shit started to get messy. First he objected to someone else reading my hand, I explained to him that a tabled hand speaks. Then he tried to claim the dealer had told us to take the money back, which she hadn’t. He offered to give me the middle pot and let him keep the side, I declined. Next he claimed he couldn’t remember his hand and was not going to give up the chips he had pulled back.

The floor was called and the whole table agreed he had lost both pots, but he still refused to give up his remaining chips. He wasn’t angry or upset, but he would not give up. The floor said he would have to call security and have them roll back the tape. I calmly asked him to be reasonable, but he declined. Clearly he was hoping security couldn’t make out the cards and he would get to keep his chips. It was a pathetic attempt to keep a few hundred dollars, but he had made up his mind and he was going to ride it out.

I turned back to my right to see what Huy thought about all this, but he and his chips had quietly disappeared. I don’t blame him, this guy wasn’t the sort of person you would want to meet in the dark part of a parking lot. As it became clear that this was going to take awhile a couple other players racked up and left. Around ten minutes later the floor came back and told the guy he had confirmed his hand with security. The guy then calmly passed me the chips and walked off.

As much of a pain in the ass as the whole situation was, I should actually be thanking the guy. I did eventually get the money and two of the more aggressive players at the table racked up and left. This made the game short handed with a reduced time charge. Short handed PLO is my favorite game and the table stayed that way for the rest of the night. I was able to dig my way out of the trap and had some cheese at the end of my 12 hour session.

DQ’d in the main

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Picture from Pokernews.com

Most of you are probably already familiar with the story of Tunica ring winner Drew Mcilvain getting DQ’d from the main event for collusion. If you aren’t, Scott Clark published an excellent summary of the various coverage on his blog:

http://scottyclark65.blogspot.com/2012/02/thoughts-on-macilvain-case.html

I was playing PLO when all this went down, so I have no first hand knowledge of the actual event. I never played with the kid to my knowledge, and if I did he didn’t leave an impression on me one way or the other. I have a lot of friends on the circuit though, and the word I got is that this kid was abusive to players and staff on multiple occasions. Just reading his unedited comments about the situation at the end of Scott’s blog leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

It seems like a harsh punishment to get a lifetime ban from Harrahs for this situation, but I trust the staff to make professional decisions based on the rules. I can see how abusing the staff over the course of the week would hurt his credibility in this spot though. Why would people you have been treating poorly give you the benefit of the doubt? It sounds like his abusive behavior brought more attention on him than the average player, from the staff and other players, and when he found himself in a tough spot he reaped the consequences of his previous actions.

The lesson to take out of this whole situation is a simple one, if you treat people well, they will do the same for you. If you treat people poorly, when you find yourself in a tough spot you should expect no sympathy. These are the people that run the events we make our livelihood from, I’m not saying they are infallible and past reproach, but I think a little common courtesy could have saved this young man a lot of heartache.

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