Sunday, October 12, 2008


These are mini-updates because I have both short-term and long-term memory loss.

Update for Macau: I was totally UP on the whole trip. Thanks to a magnificent few spins of the roulette wheel (run by the lovely Karen), I actually left Macau 80 euros richer than when I arrived. I know this because when I thrust all my Kong Kong dollars BACK at Travelex to take advantage of their Super-Duper Loyal Customer Rate they acted like I was trying to rip them off.
The only downside to Macau involved the never-to-be-discussed-but-nevertheless-fiercely-contested-language-learning contest that I have running with Hass. In this contest, we try to quickly outdo each other in grasp of native language in current destination. To this end, within minutes of arriving in Macau, I learned how to order a wide range of drinks from the bar in both Cantonese and Mandarin, and say thank you. Come Day 1b I was practically fluent and, as Hass had been terribly busy, thought I pretty much had this one in the bag. Hass outdid me yet again. While I was learning Cantonese and Mandarin, he had been SECRETLY LEARNING NEPALESE from the security guards who were all ex-Gurkhas and frightfully impressed that Hass very nearly went to Sandhurst. Damm.

More Macau:
obviously going to Macau means I can tick China on the "Where I've Been" application on facebook. if you tick Macau, almost half the globe turns green. Very impressive. Bang. Tick. But actually, I saw absolutely nothing of China or Macau. I arrived in the dark, left in the dark and the view out of my hotel bedroom window was - naturellement - a cooling tower, and the rest of the time I spent at the Grand Waldo Casino which isn't really a country but, if it was a period in history, would have to be described as "Early Marriot". I had one tiny, brief outing when Marty and I went all the way out of one casino and into another: The Venetian. This hardly counts as "seeing China" but it was interesting. For a start, I was at a REPLICA of the real Venetian in Las Vegas which I had been in only a few months earlier. And the real Venetian is a replica of the REAL VENICE which I also was in in May. So in less than five months I got to go to the real place, the replica, and the replica of the replica. This is quite odd and I'd be hard-pushed to say which I liked best. Our trip to the Macau Venetian was a huge success however because as we walked into the bar, the lead singer of the band announced he was a huge Stevie Wonder fan. "I love Stevie Wonder" said Marty. And thus a heavenly night was born.

Update for Barcelona: this started off brilliantly with the EPT Awards. Thrillingly Julian Thew had won two awards and even more thrillingly was arriving too late to pick them up. The powers that be (Hilda) decided that absolutely the best person to go up and collect them on Julian's behalf would be me. I totally agreed and so got to do the thing I most like doing in life which is going up on stage and collecting awards. I was so totally convincing that lots of people thought I really was Best Performance of the Year and Poker Writers' Choice and came up to congratulate me. Unfortunately someone tipped Julian off so the next day he came and got the awards back. Well, one of them at any rate; wasn't totally sure where the second one got to.

Update for Sitges: while I was away in Barcelona working, we moved house. Well, some things moved. The internet moved. Then my bed moved. But the TV, Sky digibox and sofa (the heart of a home in my opinion) lagged behind, as did the cat and my flatmate. The cat got moved last and this slightly freaked him out. He has abandonment issues anyway and everyone moving WITHOUT HIM didn't help. He's making damm sure this doesn't happen again by living out of my suitcase. I am renaming him Isabelle.

More Barcelona: the tournament started bleakly with the announcement to all staff that the glorious days of the Master Account were now over and we would all have to survive on a tiny tiny per diem of 60 euros a day. This became Item 1 on the agenda at our first morning meeting as we explained to Alex that this was impossible, we would all starve to death, never ever be able to connect to the internet again and basically be doomed in every possible way. Ha ha. As it turns out, it was virtually impossible to spend 60 euros a day despite many valiant attempts by my assistant and others to max out. Monte Carlo aside (two bananas: €7.50) it seems likely that the per diem will be more than adequate.

Update from London: London began brilliantly with my computer exploding two days before the tourney began. I say exploding because I used to be a journalist but actually it died quietly, in its sleep (or hibernate), and without any pain. Lina and I watched it flatline for a while before signing the official death certificate. Lina then told me to go and get a Mac. Luckily I was due in the office that day and the genius IT guy managed to salvage most of my files and lend me a PC for the tournament. All was well. I went to the Apple store, bumped into three players and two qualifiers, and bought a Mac. I feel I have changed citizenship, like Italians landing at Ellis Island in the 1900s, it's a whole new world, scarey but full of promise. Big Apple.

London highlights: as this is a tournament we traditionally dread, anything other than horrendous is a plus. But the Vic was spectacular this year... Ollie Bartley, Jeff Leigh, John from Cardroom Magic and all the others have worked unbelievably hard to make this a great event. I'd dropped into the WSOP-E to check it out a few days earlier and it made me realise that we do this well!!! The media room at the WSOP-E looked like a refugee camp. The tournament area was a war zone - you practically had to step on dead bodies to get to the bar and, every time you thought you might get through, an armoured tank (aka ESPN crew) would blast you out the way with some hand grenades. Our tourney was like Switzerland in comparison so thank you, Grosvenor Victoria Casino!

London was also spectacular because everything we wanted to happen happened. Dream final for the main event, dream final for the high roller event. And then the dream results. This never happens... Conrad and I have long realised that as soon as you decide you would like a particular player to win, you are giving them the kiss of death. You don't have to stand right next to them to cool them. You can do it from the media room. Or from home. And now we have EPTLive, you can cool from all over the world. So wanting Michael Martin to win the main event and Jason Mercier to win the high roller was obviously NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. (As an aside, I singlehandedly cooled Queens Park Rangers out of the Premier League in 1996 simply by attending one match and buying a programme).

So main event final table: PokerStars Pro, PokerStars qualifier, sponsored player, lovely French guy (Antony Lellouche), Michael Martin. On the rail, flown in specially - Michael's mum, Brandon Schaefer and Michael's girlfriend. It's all peachy but Michael is card dead and eventually is down to two big blinds. It's like the burning of Atlanta. In the media room, me and Lina watching his ghastly, sickening decline from behind a mound of prawn cocktail sandwiches. Nothing can save him. He is cooled beyond recognition. But then the miracle happens - he goes all in, triples up, all in again, doubles up, all in again, doubles up again. Ha ha. Lots of chips. Less than ten minutes. An extraordinary and totally unbelievable comeback. He swipes his way through the rest of the field and wins. Hurrah. We head for bar and help spend the million except Michael is like royalty (never has any cash on him) so Nancy "I taught him all he knows" Martin gets the drinks in.

One down, one to go. It's another dream final table - Scotty Nguyen, John Juanda, David Benyamine, Isabelle Mercier - and Jason Mercier (no relation, not from Canada, not a former maths teacher) plus a clutch of excellent online pros. I am secretly hoping Jason won't win the high roller event as can't cope with another night of celebrating. But Jason is a phenomenon. He saunters his way to yet another stunning victory. He makes it look easy. Really really easy. In fact, no one could look more relaxed at the table unless they were asleep. And actually not even then because in Macau I did see someone slumped over the table asleep and although comatose they didn't look as chilled as Jason. Jason wins half a million but accidentally puts it in an Icelandic bank overnight so now it's worth £3.50.

So that's the updates. I like my Mac. Roll on Budapest.