At any major poker tournament, there's likely a player party the night before the main event. I've been attending such parties for over a decade, and have learned that they're rarely worth looking forward to; sure it's good to see everyone, but when I hear "party" I think late nights and wild times... yet most player parties are tame affairs with a gender ratio that makes the military look like a sorority.
So I didn’t get my hopes up approaching the player party here in Sanya, despite the picturesque MGM Grand providing an ideal setting. My superiors at the World Poker Tour assured me that they — and our new Chinese owners Ourgame — were planning an insane event that would attract beautiful women, and that the festivities would shatter my tepid expectations. I knew I'd be drinking regardless, so I planned my day accordingly by loading up on caffeine and having a light dinner before the party.
The event was held around an outdoor pool that usually hosts Wet Republic (the pool party that popularized the concept in Vegas) and started at 7 p.m. For the first half-hour, I lurked behind a stage with Lynn Gilmartin, Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and the Royal Flush Girls, while a group named "Cocktail Theatre" entertained the crowd on a walkway that protruded over the pool.
On our cue, the group proceeded around the edge of the pool, and settled near the edge of the water. A hostess on the stage introduced the WPT family to the audience, then Mike welcomed the players to Sanya with his iconic voice. When he finished, Mike handed the microphone to Adam Pliska and Frank Ng — the respective heads of WPT and Ourgame. The two of them made brief, polite remarks on the new partnership until they were surrounded by the Royal Flush Girls, who tossed them into the water.
From then on, my responsibilities were over, and I proceeded with my plans to loosen up and get lucky. Models in lingerie mingled with players, while bartenders prepared a truly excessive amount of cocktails and champagne. I gorged myself on both, then lost my shirt and shoes and dove into the pool — which was teeming with water guns, beach balls, and inflated animals. Adam was in the water riding a dolphin, so I straddled a Shamu and screamed "DOLPHIN FIGHT!" We pummeled each other into exhaustion, then seized a pair of water guns and started spraying guests and coworkers.
Our fun was clearly infectious, and the party gradually poured into the water... until there were dozens of people in the pool dancing, hurling balls, and playing model-mounted games of chicken.
"You know what I can’t believe about this?” Adam asked, while the model on his shoulders shoved the model on mine.
"That this is our f***ing job!?” I answered.
Anyone reluctant to join was ambushed and thrown in — hopefully without their phones, though I doubt they were asked. I carried a girl in wearing a dress, who thrashed around and tossed water in my face.
"I need to get my bikini from my room," she said.
"Need someone to supervise?" I asked.
*Photos courtesy of Joe Giron and World Poker Tour