Monday, July 10, 2006

Bloggers in Vegas

Oy. What a weekend. Even though this was my first weekend away from the kids since the oldest Hammer Girl was born late in 2003, I still barely slept. And I had an absolute blast. As fun as it is heading out to a place like Vegas with your old buddies from growing up, even if you haven't seen them for a while, it really doesn't compare to getting to meet some of your favorite people in person for the first time after getting to know them over several months of playing together and chatting online. I figure a lot of the bloggers who are much better writers than myself will be putting up great recap posts that will probably be a blast to read for anyone who was there or wasn't there this weekend, so rather than do my own recap of the weekend's events, I just thought I would hit on some of the highlights for me, but first this:

Again special thanks to Trip for making this kickass banner for the MATH tournament. This is a guy who I never asked for the banner, and who just took the time out from his busy schedule, unsolicited, to do this for my weekly tournament on Monday nights on pokerstars. Thanks so much, Trip, and I only wish I could have met you in person this weekend in Las Vegas.

This will be the first organized blogger tournament since the Vegas trip, and although I imagine some number of the bloggers who came out will not be able to play because they will either still be traveling home or may have other things to catch up on after a week away in poker heaven, I will say that I am really looking forward to getting together and figuring out what we have to do to make sure that drraz does not cash in this event, after winning last Monday's tournament in my absence and now putting together an impressive string of four consecutive cashes, in an event that has only paid between three and five people each week. In that vein, I am officially putting a bounty on drraz's head for this evening's event: a big $5 transfer on pokerstars to whoever manages to knock this clown out tonight. Just remind me when you do it and I will make sure to transfer the $5 to you tonight. How I'm going to transfer myself $5 I haven't quite figured out yet, but I'll deal with that later I guess.

Anyways, on to the highlights from this weekend in Vegas (in no particular order):

1. Playing in the World Series of Poker. As I detailed over the weekend on the blog, I did end up playing in Event #13, the $2500 buyin event at the WSOP on Friday at noon, and I did get sucked out on twice at the river, including by reigning WSOP champion Joe Hachem when his runner-runner 4-high flush knocked out my pair of 6s that had been ahead when I called Hachem's allin on the flop with his pocket 4s. Although being eliminated in that way from the WSOP was really annoying, with a couple of days of time passed now, I have to say what an incredible experience the whole thing really was. I talked briefly with Phil Gordon about poker blogging in the full tilt hospitality suite, in addition to shaking hands with Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and seeing David Pham in there as well. I told Erick Lindgren how much I enjoyed his new WPT book "Making the Final Table" that I recently finished. I snapped a picture on my phone of Steve Dannenman getting a massage just a few minutes before Event #13 began. I followed a very dirty- and unkempt-looking Sean Sheikan for a good five minutes as he begged Eli Elezra to stake Sheiky the money to play in the $2500 WSOP tournament. I saw Doyle entering the Doyle's Room hospitality suite. And of course I played for about 90 minutes sitting right next to Joe Hachem. The whole thing was surreal, and I cannot really express what an amazing experience it all was for me, a guy who watches as much poker on tv as I possibly can and who has wanted to play in the WSOP for quite some time. I wish I had lasted a whole lot longer than I did, but I mean what can I say when I got sucked out on at the river twice (once to an inside straight when a guy had called my bet on the turn at terrible odds with just one card left to fall, and one with Hachem's runner-runner flush to eliminate me from the event) for about 2000 of my 2500 chips, and never saw a pocket pair, AK or AQ through the entire hour and 50 minutes I played. Either bad cards or a few bad suckouts I might have been able to withstand, but when you're getting no good cards, and the few decent shots you have you get river beat on, well that's all pretty hard to overcome. Nonetheless, playing in the World Series and really just being there at the Rio was an experience I will never forget, and one that I really can't put into words if you're someone who is as in to bigtime tournament poker as myself.

2. The blogger tournament. Saturday at Caesar's was without a doubt the most fun I've had playing poker of any kind for at least a couple of months. As most of you know, I have been running quite bad for the past few weeks, and aside from a couple of blogger final tables, I haven't had a deep run in an mtt since sometime in the middle of June. Well, in the blogger tournament, I played really, really well. I started off sitting next to F-Train, a fellow New York blogger who I had never met before, and we had a great time shooting the shit and predicting the players' cards from the other side of the table. Although I have to mention F-Train's tremendous suckout around the middle of the tournament with pocket 9s against Cracknaces' pocket Queens when F-Train spiked a 9 on the turn to take down what was probably the largest pot of the tournament to that point, otherwise, F-Train made some great reads, reraised me out of a pot from early position preflop with what turned out to be the Hammer when I held suited Big Slick, and he managed to take the entire event down in the end after about five hours of playing what was a very favorable tournament strucutre from the poker guys at Caesar's. Otherwise, at my starting table was also Jen Leo, Hoff, Blinders, Human Head, Mr. Subliminal and Chad, and it was great to meet all of these guys for the first time, and to play for the first time with most of them as well. I remember I busted Hoff when my QTs hit a 10 on the flop to beat Hoff's allin with pocket 9s preflop on a short stack. I also recall eliminating Mrs. Head around the middle of the tournament when my 55 bested her AQ after I made trips on the flop. I also knocked out Grubbette a few hours into the tournament, in addition to another blogger's wife who for the life of me I cannot recall, and I managed to suck out my pocket Jacks against renowned poker author Michael Craig's pocket Aces for a huge pot that vaulted me into the tournament chip lead with about 40 players remaining, which also happened to be the second consecutive WPBT live tournament where Mr. Craig was beaten out with his Aces getting cracked. But the better part about that suckout with the Jacks was who I eliminated along with the suckout at the same time -- StB himself. Yes, I took out the WPBT leader in the live WPBT event, a real thrill for me, and frankly an honor to even play at the same table as the guy who has consistently beat down the bloggers throughout most of 2006 (and thanks for the shirt for the bounty, btw). Unfortunately, with about 30 players left and already into the money thanks to Interpoker, I took a massive hit when my TT lost when a woman whom I did not recognize called my large preflop allin raise with just AQ (not sure what she thought I had that she was ahead of, but what do I know...) when not one but two Queens hit the board, and my chip lead was gone. Nonetheless, I persevered, stole some more pots and actually got some cards and hit some flops for the first time all weekend, and I made it down to the final two tables as a fairly short stack. Eventually, I raised it up from middle position with pocket 2s with noone else in the hand yet, and got smooth called Pii who was immediately to my left, and just we two saw a flop. I figured him for two high cards with his smooth call (he had a large stack compared to mine), so I had already decided that if the flop came raggy, I had to push in the rest of my stack which was at that time probably only about 75% of what was already in the pot as it was. Well, the flop came all three cards under a 10, so I led out with all my chips, and he quick-called, flipping up pocket Jacks, and IGH in 18th place overall out of I believe 120 or so players. And I am proud and pleased to say that I did not get bad beat out, but rather I got outplayed out because I was sure Pii had just two high cards when he called instead of raised me preflop with his large stack (he was chip leader at the time) and my short stack. And in the end, F-Train took it all down, a very nice guy who I really enjoyed playing next to for the first few hours straight of the WPBT tournament, and whose aggressive game I am a big fan of. And it's always great to meet another New York poker blogger. I have long been surprised at how non-prominent the New York poker blogger community seems to be (in contrast to, say, the LA poker bloggers, Austin poker bloggers, G-Vegas guys, etc.), given how much better the NY guys as a group are than all these other regional clownhouses.

3. Which brings me to the last great part about this weekend, and I'm sure the best thing of all about my time out in Sin City -- the Bloggers. As I mentioned earlier there really is no explaining how cool it is to meet people in person for the first time after reading their inner thoughts every day for months and months on end, and meet people I did. I'm sure I'm going to forget tons of people I got to meet and spend time with, but I'm going to mention some of the highlights that stick in my mind here:

I spent much of Saturday during and after the blogger tournament hanging out with Miami Don Miami Don. What a great guy. He and the beautiful Carmen (who if I may say so myself is even better looking in reality than in pictures btw) are really nice, down-to-earth and cool people. Don really knows his shizz about the Vegas poker scene, was nice enough to show us all around the MGM poker room, and we even got a ride in the infamous white minivan, which I can confirm is in fact a real vehicle and Don really drives it. Don and I also hung out for several hours on Saturday with Iakaris, another great guy who was a real thrill to meet. Ike is also super down to earth, nice and a great guy to just shoot the shit with, and I look forward to hopefully meeting up with him again sometime soon. A bunch of us discussed doing an AC or Foxwoods run at some point in the not too distant future, something which I will be sure to make myself available for. I also spent a good deal of time hanging with Weak Player and his wife TransFish, two more great people with whom we had a fun dinner at the MGM the night of the live blogger tournament. Weak also knows a lot about the various poker locales around the country, and speaks very knowledgeably about cash game no-limit play, so was great to talk with as well during our stay. The last couple with us at dinner on Saturday were Smokkee and his girlfriend Tina (aka the Love Elf). It was a real thrill getting to meet Smokkee in person -- I will say he was basically just like I imagined, except one or two key qualities -- because I've played so much poker with him over the past couple of months and really feel like I've gotten to know him. But Smokkee, where did you go after dinner on Saturday night? When we left the restaurant he and Tina were right behind us, and yet when I turned around maybe 30 seconds later, they had disappeared and I never saw them again, not at the MGM or the Excalibur later that night. Anyways, I loved meeting the guy and look forward to many more token sngs and such together, as Smokkee is a guy who seems to have a very similar attitude to me about his poker play.

Who else....

It was great to meet Change100 for the first time after reading her blog almost every day, and playing in countless bracelet races, deep stacks and other mtt's with her on full tilt. I got to meet Grubby, inventor of the whole "Hammer" phenomenon that the bloggers love so much, as well as his sister Grubbette, who played for a bit with me at my table of the blogger tournament. I also had a very nice conversation with Jason Spaceman, the guy who sucked out on me about 6 different times during one of the two WPBT Gemini tournaments when I took down that event a few months ago, and Jason was very humble about that whole experience, which even led me to admit that I know I sucked out on him first in that event, so I technically shouldn't even have been around to get bad beat recockulously by him as heads-up play wore on. I finally got to meet Kat and Jules after playing probably about a thousand blogger events with them and talking for hours on end on the girly chat thing, as well as Garth, who I got to congratulate in person for knocking Aquaverse out of the Mookie last week when his Hammer ending up making a straight flush to best Aqua's nut flush. I also had a nice convo with Al, the first time I've ever met him, and discovered that he is from Philly just like me, and is a fellow raging Eagles fan. I also have to say, I can confirm for those of you out there who don't already know everything that is said about Al's drinking prowess. Let me just put it this way...when I got in to Vegas at around 2am local time on Thursday night, Al was at the bar drinking with a few other bloggers. I was too tired to start drinking at that point, so I headed up to bed to sleep in preparation of my World Series performance on Friday. When I got up, cleaned up and got dressed and came down to the casino on my way over to the Rio at around 8:30am the next morning, guess who will still at the same bar, in the same seat, no doubt drinking SoCo. So it's all true what they say, the man is the real deal.

I played 2-6 spread holdem at the Excalibur for probably three or four hours at a table on Friday afternoon with Pauly, Derek, Maudie, Joe Speaker and Zeem and really enjoyed meeting all of these guys for the first time. Of course, meeting Waffles was a lot of fun, but I have to say, the man flat out disappeared after busting early from the blogger tournament early on Saturday afternoon, and to my knowledge nobody ever saw or heard from the guy again, so that is interesting. My personal theory is that the guy got stacked repeatedly playing cash nlh for only the second time in his life in a real live casino, and couldn't face reality for the rest of his trip, but I'm sure the man himself will have a different story. I had fun talking about playing 20/40 and 40/80 limit stud with the Rooster, another esteemed New York blogger, who I am really glad decided to come to Vegas after all despite a last-minute almost-decision to beg out of the trip for personal reasons. I had a couple of really nice conversations with Factgirl, who seems like a geniuinely great person and whom I wish the best of luck with her upcoming move (and a happy birthday since I was unable to make her birthday dinner at midnight on Saturday night / Sunday morning). And congrats to Facty's husband Franklin for bad beating his own wife out of the blogger event on Saturday, always a good move for relations at home. I really enjoyed playing for a couple of hours with Blinders at my starting table, and on at least one occasion I restole a pot preflop from him on an obvious steal attempt, and Blinders knew I was restealing with nothing (a favorite move of mine as detailed on my blog, as Blinders was quick to point out when I did it to him) but I just knew Blinders didn't have the cobbles to resteal from me with a big reraise (I would have had to fold since I held T6o on the particular occasion in mind). F-Train and I also enjoyed immediately publicly putting Blinders on pocket Aces when at one point, after at least 90 minutes of only entering pots with raises, Blinders suddenly decided to just limp in from first or second position preflop. After our very loud (and probably inappropriate, sorry Blinders) commentary to that effect, everyone quickly folded to Blinders' preflop limp, and he was kind enough to in fact flash us all the Aces before mucking his hand to steal just the small and big blind.

I also went out of my way to introduce myself to Gracie, whose patient yet strategic play I have long admired in various blogger tournaments. I loved meeting with Scott (DoubleAs), author of the new poker book "Pressure Poker" which I know has been a long time coming, and enjoyed cheering Scott on to the final table and I believe a 5th place finish in the live WPBT event, using his particular brand of pressure poker that we all have come to know (and fear) all too well. I even sat at the MGM poker room on Friday night and played limit HORSE for a good 2 or 3 hours with Felicia and her husband Glenn, with Felicia managing to even produce a tight smile when introduced to me. To be honest, I was kinda hoping to make some headway with Felicia as far as her perception of me, but after that evening at MGM I'm not sure that she will ever be able to get over the fact that I have the word "hammer" in my blog name, the fact that I profitably play the Hammer like it's my job, or the fact that I took offense to the "no bad beats just bad play" statement from her blog some time ago. Oh and I also had a great time getting to know Byron a little bit for the first time this weekend as well. We had several nice conversations, and frankly it was just cool for me to put a face with that name, especially given how much I love what Byron has done with the WPBT tournaments he's been running every couple of weeks on Sunday evenings. As I know I've written about here several times before, I'm a huge fan of the WPBT events, I love the competition of it all and I love the way Byron has set up the leaderboard to keep track of everyone's overall performance. I also was lucky to meet heads-up specialist Veneno and got to spend some quality time with her as well, both in the HORSE cash game at the MGM on Friday as well as watching her win our charity Roshambo event on Saturday and then during the blogger event and later that evening back at the Excalibur as well. After hearing her voice so many times on the girly chat, it is especially great to finally have a face to attach to that voice.

And of course, how could I forget about Iggy, who it was a real thrill to meet in person, in the flesh, after so many hours spent reading all the archives and longing for the next live post every day, every week for the past year or more. Although I may not agree with every one of Iggy's opinions on things, I loved chatting with the man who started it all, and I have to say, you would not think a dwarf could drink anywhere near as much as he can. I can tell you that Iggy has really done all of the "little people" of the world proud.

And last but not least, not that this hasn't already been said a lot of times before, but I really want to make a specific shoutout to April for how much work she did to set this whole thing up. We had Howard Lederer and Phil Gordon and Michael Craig and Jay Greenspan each take their valuable time to speak with us as a group at Caesar's before the blogger tournament. April had separate tables set up for us at the MGM as well as Caesar's in advance of our admittedly large group showing up to play. There were bowling events, late-night dinners and a number of other aspects of the weekend which April obviously spent a great deal of time and effort setting up, and we could not really thank her enough for all of that hard work. At least I can say without hesitation that it was all well worth the effort that went into it, as this was easily the most fun I've had playing live poker in many, many years, and probably in my lifetime as most of my play of late has focused online and less in live settings. In all it truly was a weekend for the ages, and again I can't say how awesome it was to be able finally to attach faces to names, and images to the poker personalities that I have in many cases come to know so well over the past year or so since I've become involved in the whole poker blogger community.

OK time to post this since it's already pretty late in the day for a Monday. See you all tonight at Mondays at the Hoy!


Blogger biggestron said...

Hey Hoy!

It was great meeting you too. Sorry about the champ's suckout on you in your WSOP event.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had a great time Hoya-Zo, I even enjoyed the two orbits or so that we played together when we got down to the final three tables.

BTW, where the fuck is Waffles?

6:17 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...


Tina had to hit the restroom after dinner and we lost you guys. We played some cash games at MGM with Weak then, were at Excalibur playing the NL cash game there with DoubleAs, Poison, Shane, Biggestron, Joe Speaker, Iggy and a few others. We figured you guys crashed.

i was surprised not to see you and Don in the MGM or Excalibur poker rooms Saturday night.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...


Just an awesome time in Vegas. I'll get my stuff up soon, but just wanted you to know that the highlight for me was getting to hang with you, D, Waffles, Smokkee and the girls. Too good, too good. Definitely going to work on a reunion soon. May have to miss MATH
to put some family time in, but I will talk to you soon, brotha.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

T'is my pleasure meeting you for the first time.

We have to hang out in the city when I get back.

Glad you had fun. See you at the next one.

8:24 AM  
Blogger iamhoff said...

Hoy, definitely had a great time meeting you. Finally getting to put a face to the dementia behind the Hoy was worth the marathon blast out to Vegas. Great times Saturday night, wish it all could've lasted longer. Looking forward to the next one.

10:32 PM  
Blogger TripJax said...

Glad to help with the banner, and hate I missed the action in Vegas. I'll make up for it later.

Once I get back in the groove at Stars, I'll play the Monday Hoy often. Right now the money is going towards vacation...damn I wish Stars gave away free money like Party...

3:29 AM  
Blogger Joaquin "The Rooster" Ochoa said...

It was cool meeting you also, Hoy! Later Smokie!

2:51 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

You let me know if something is planned for AC or Foxwoods, aight?

10:55 PM  

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