Friday, October 6, 2017

Intense and emotional in Vegas

After my close shave with US border security in Dublin airport, I was pretty relieved to touch down on US soil in Atlanta. I was hoping to hook up with local resident Breyer who I house shared with at the WSOP this summer. He had very kindly offered to pick me up at the airport and give me a whistlestop tour, but as it happened we arrived late and I had barely enough time to get between planes, as I bobbed and weaved my way through the airport, a runner in a race of moseyers.

I was the last to board, and as my eyes scanned the plane to locate my window seat the plane seemed full already. Then I realised my seat was obscured from view by two substantial ladies: I never learned their names so let's call them Waynetta and Waynetta's Mom (copyright the lovely Saron). They were mother and daughter (though I never figured out which was which). They were at least as disappointed to see me as I was to see them. Once we'd all gotten over our collective disappointment it took a few minutes for them to unwedge and hoist themselves out of their seats, and shimmy out into the aisle so I could gain access. Once I had I realised I was going to have to content myself with a lot less room than normal as the teo ladies overflowed from their seats.

So first world problems, which soon got worse. Waynetta and her Mom seemed to have a less than idyllic Mom daughter relationship, sniping at each other verbally almost non stop, until a full scale elbow battle broke out between them that had me assuming the crash position.

While I've been coming to Vegas for a decade, this was my first time there in a month without a J in its name. Noticeably cooler and less crowded, I checked in at the Encore, and met the rest of the Unibet team for some foods and drinks.

The poker followed pretty much the same script I've been working off live this year. Slow steady start, build a bit of a stack, then lose a couple of big pots to be in shove or fold mode, lose the first shove. I managed to stick pretty religiously to this script not once but twice (day 1a and 1b). Most of the pots and spots were very standard, and the few that were in any way interesting will be covered in the strategy segments of The Chip Race and my free strategy newsletter so I won't bore you with repetition. I will admit that by the end of both days I was as tired as I ever have been at a poker table, with the jetlag really biting hard. My podcast compadre David Lappin got here earlier but was in a similar boat as Rauno discovered when he went to join him in the commentary booth.

On Sunday David and I interviewed Andrew Neeme and my WSOP buddy Alan Widmann. I love Alan to bits, he's one of the nicest people I've met, and it will be very interesting to follow his transition into poker. After the interviews concluded, everyone left while I started my online Sunday grind, but Alan hung around a while to hang and rail. By now it was near the bubble of the main event, so I was getting texts from David while Alan was railing MethodSco. Sco was very short so Alan was relaying just how tight he needed to be on the bubble. Both got into the money.

After my Sunday grind was complete I went for food with David, Saron and Rauno, and then headed to the commentary booth with David. This weekend in Vegas will not be remembered for anything that happened in the Wynn or at the poker table but for something that happened at the other end of the strip. While we were starting our commentary stint, the horrific Mandalay Bay mass shooting was taking place. As news filtered through to us, we were unsure how much we could say but did our best (we come in at 7 hours 53 minutes): 

The upside of this heavily social media dominated world we live in is that information on events like this travels much faster than it used to. The downside is that it's not always reliable information and we see feedback loops fuelled by paranoia and embellishment spread like viruses on the social media. As reports of multiple shooters and locations spread, panic gripped the entire strip and all the major resorts including the Wynn were put on lockdown. Play in the tournament was suspended and the collective opinion was the optimal lime was for everyone to go back to their room.

Simon from Unibet trolled us back down to the lobby with reports of free drink being dispensed by the Wynn, a Sasanach ploy guaranteed to work with the Irish. It would have been a nice gesture by the Wynn but they were still charging $18 a Corona. We somehow ended up in a cash game with Alan, Sco and Djarii, which I believe was my first live cash session in several years (on an aside I played three short cash sessions this trip, three more than I have in most recent yeas, and achieved a decent hourly). I booked a decent win before heading back to the room to watch further coverage of the carnage. Even though it was happening about a mile away I might as well have been back home in the sense that my entire experience of the event was watching CNN and checking the social media. In the world we live in, it's not real until we see it on a screen and tweet about it, even if you know you could see the scene you're watching on your screen if you looked out your window.

My last full day in Vegas was mostly about the Chip Race. We recorded an amazing interview with Jennifer Tilly's lesser half Phil Laak, we also interviewed Sco and Djarii, and some strategy segments with Daiva who bossed a feature table that included Chris Moorman and Henrik Larsen with some interesting hands. Look for those in future episodes.

Daiva showed up for the session with what looked like cranberry juice and Perrier but was actually cranberry juice and vodka. The evening progressed with the lovely Saron and John  through Endless Pours at the buffet to cocktails at a cash table where I got to see Daiva's ditsy blonde impersonation (at one point she shamelessly asked the totally buying it guy to her left if an ace was a better card than a queen) and a hair raising check raise all in river bluff. She turned middle pair with two blockers to the nut straight into a bluff which unfortunately didn't work for her on this occasion (despite her blockers the guy had the nut straight anyway) but her ability to recognise the spot and her willingness to go for it indicates why she's a formidable force at any table these days. It was reminiscent of Fedor Holz turning tens into a bluff three handed in the finale of the Poker Masters against his German compatriots (which also didn't work in this sample).

A couple of hours sleep later I was very hungover and packing for my Uber to the airport. Unable to face breakfast I gave my poker son Rauno my breakfast voucher. 30 minutes later I'm waiting for him to turn up to share the Uber. It got there before he did so I went outside to stall. As I came back in to look for him, my bags were searched, a sad reminder of how the atmosphere in Vegas had changed over the weekend. An even sadder eerier one presented itself as I rode past the now ghostly empty Mandalay Bay, still officially a crime scene.

My thoughts and best wishes are with the loved ones of the victims, who will never leave our minds when we look back on this intense and emotional week in Vegas.


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