Tournament Travel(s) - Bay 101
Alcohol, bowling and a group of poker players can be dangerous to one's bankroll. This is especially true if you have never bowled with the particular poker players you find yourself with in this situation...
They call me Red. A few weeks back you may have come across an interview I gave for this site. For the readers who missed the interview I will give a little info on me and the reason why you are reading this. I recently started a travel service for tournament professionals who are playing the majority of events on the circuit. Providing this service has put me in direct contact with the top players in the game, as well as given me an inside view of life on the tournament circuit. With this perspective it is my intention to bring you a different look at the poker world, a view from inside the rail that is not focused on poker strategy or bad beat stories. What I will focus on is what happens when the cards are not in the air. I will paint a picture of the overall tournament experience, including late nights out on the town. I will share personal experiences I have with players. I will discuss my feelings on the state of poker, both good and bad, as it makes its way into the mainstream. I will report on the grind that the circuit has become, and the effects it has both mentally and physically (There is an average of more than one major tournament a month!). I will not, however, turn this column into a place of gossip or controversy. I will not be revealing player A's true feelings about player B. The success of my business requires a level of trust that I have no intention of breaking. I full heartedly respect the privacy of others and will not bring to public anything that I have not first run by all involved. If you, the reader, have a burning question you would like answers to regarding circuit life please send them to me via email.
Now that we have that out of the way let's begin our journey...
Bay 101's (San Jose, Ca.) WPT Shooting Stars event was my first official stop as travel assistant to many of the players. Up until this event I had been helping out a select few to make sure all the kinks of my service were worked out. There is a saying that has something to do with being thrown out to the wolves... that pretty much sums up my experience in San Jose. Unlike most stops on the circuit Bay 101 is strictly a card room as opposed to a hotel / casino. For players too busy to know what city they are traveling to next this can turn out to be a big problem. Via the reference of tournament director extraordinaire, Matt Savage, I handled over twenty calls from players who were stuck on the eve of the tournament without a bed to sleep in. This wouldn't have been a problem had there been twenty rooms available in the area. This being my first experience with many of these players, I had to come through with finding them all accommodations for at least the first night at all cost, even if it meant giving up my own room. I knew that once day one of the tournament was complete there would be many players going home which would open up rooms. Many phone calls, a few hours and even a couple trips to nearby hotels later, everyone was settled. Some had to deal with rooms they would normally not choose to stay in but it beat sleeping under an empty table back at Bay 101.
I spent the next couple days shuttling clients back and forth to hotels and the airport as they found themselves out of the tournament. I bet I could write a book on the many different ways players handle being knocked out of a tournament. I'm not talking about the initial reaction everyone sees on television as the cards are being turned over. I'm talking about their demeanor once they have had time to rationalize what has happened. Once they are away from the "crime scene". Some are not bothered in the slightest, a few curse themselves and others, of course, curse everyone else involved. Regardless of their reaction they are all eager to talk about it with someone who will listen. Often times I'm that ear. In my downtime I have made it a point to get to know the other people working behind the scenes. Live update reporters, WPT staff and crew, photographers, friends and family of players have all been great people to spend time with both during and away from the tournament action.
As a husband and father of three young children I don't get much nightlife action while at home. Because of this, the last thing I want to do is spend the night in my hotel room while on the road. Unfortunately, San Jose is not your typical nightlife town. My first attempt at fun I was accompanied by Andy Bloch www.andybloch.com and Jen (live update reporter). Jen and I had our mindset on going to the movies, but we had no luck in finding a theater showing anything from 10:00 pm on. She called Andy up to see if he had any ideas. He happened to have a copy of "The Big Blind" starring Jennifer Harman and Scotty Nguyen, so we headed over to their room. When we arrived Andy was in the middle of a session on Full Tilt and didn't seem eager to end it. Problem was we needed his laptop to watch the movie. We were in no big rush, so Jen and I decided to give him some more time by heading out to raid the hotel's vending machine. You know those "had to be there moments"? Jen and I had a pretty good one at the vending machine as she made some alien candy selection by mistake. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the candy she ended up with but it was something neither one of us had ever heard of before, anyway as I said it was hysterical if you were there and I know she is laughing right now as she is reading this. I will keep my feelings on the movie private, save to say Scotty playing Scotty was the most entertaining aspect of the film in my eyes. It is a film I suggest you look for if you are interested in poker if for no other reason than to support the industry and those trying to keep it in the public eye. I just met Andy and Jen a few weeks prior at Commerce during the LA Poker Classic. I know, however, that I will be hard pressed to find a nicer couple and more down to earth pro than Andy. I look forward to spending more nights out with them while on the road.
The play on the day before the final table ended rather early. We had Matt Savage to thank for that gift. He set the structure up to include short-handed play. Instead of the typical nine or ten handed tables he designed this day for six handed play, which whittled the field down to the final six in short time. I managed to gather a group together to go out and try to find some fun. The group included Andy, Jen, John (Poker News), Harold (PPlayer.com), Justin (Card Player) and Gus Hansen who had made the final table, which was set for the next day. Although I had just met Gus on this trip we had spent quite a bit of time together over the week as I helped him out on a few issues. I've been a poker player my whole life and have spent time with great poker minds. Despite it all I'm sure I could learn more from Gus in a five-minute conversation then everything I have accumulated up to this point. Harold was proud to be from the area so he took over as tour guide. We began at a little Irish Pub downtown. The place was empty other than the table of college guys playing a POKER! I don't even know if Andy or Gus noticed the game going on but imagine sitting in your local pub, playing a little cards, and in walks two of the best players in the game. It was like a scene out of a movie. I could tell the guys recognized Andy and Gus but they never came over to invite us into the game. Too bad, it could have been fun. We were bored before the first round of drinks were finished and ready for something new. Bowling was agreed on, and Harold was given the mission of finding a bowling alley.
Now as I said, alcohol mixed with bowling and gamblers of any kind can be a dangerous combination. To be honest I was a bit nervous as to how the night would fare. Fortunately before anyone got too serious on the lanes a few of us were distracted by pinball in the arcade. If you think Gus can play poker you should see him on a pinball machine. He suggested we play for a dollar a point. If I would have taken that bet I would have been down about $40,000,000.00! I held my own on the lanes though and won the only bet that was made to my knowledge. It was only for $20.00 but bragging rights are priceless. So as not to embarrass those involved I will keep the bowling scores private. I would hate to expose the truths as I'm sure some exaggerated stories have already been told. Bowling is a great night out. It is one of those activities that break down all inhibitions and walls. Everyone looks silly doing it no matter how good they are, and it is impossible to not break out your best King Pin impersonation, or at least slap out a few high fives. Mix it with alcohol and a few poker players and as I have said you have a dangerous, but fun, combination.
The night ended with late night Mexican food. I got Gus back to his room safely with plenty of time to rest for his final table which was, at that point, later that day. Reno is my next stop. They call it "The littlest big city in the world". I'm sure I will have a few stories to tell...
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