Another New Toy; or, Moving Day
I started this blog back on December 8th, 2003. Cranked out about 700 posts here, hundreds of thousands of words, some of them even arranged in coherent order. Thanks to these pages I've met dozens of fantastic people, scored some ridiculous writing gigs, and had a whole lotta fun.
And with this post, all that comes to an end.
Yes, this will be the last post here at Mean Gene.
Oh, no need to panic, I'm not going to stop blogging! Oh, you weren't panicking? Darn, I thought there'd at least be some wailing and gnashing of teeth. But I hope you'll forgive the dramatics and start reading my stuff at my new site, the utterly fabulous GeneBromberg.com
. Yes, I'm now a dot.com. Only 10 years too behind the curve.
I've been thinking about switching away from my current URL for a couple of years now. But now that I'm writing for a living I wanted to have a more professional-looking site I could show to the world. So I asked Cindy Closkey
at Big Big Design
to build me the site of my dreams and she and her brother Anthony got cracking. It's ready, other than the usual last-minute touches I'll take care of over the next week or so. It's time for me to take WordPress for a test drive and leave my beloved Blogger.com behind.
At the moment the tagline for the new site is "More Than a Poker Blog", and while I might change that I don't mean it as an insult the poker blogs out there. But I plan on writing about a lot more than just poker on the new site (which I did here as well) and I'm hoping people will have an easier time finding me and reading my work at my new digs. We'll see.
I hope you'll bookmark my new site and subscribe to the feeds and keep reading my stuff. If you look the site over and there's anything you don't like about it, or something you DO like about it, or if you have any opinions to share, I'd love to hear 'em. You can just leave a comment or email me at email@example.com. Like I said, I'll be tweaking it here and there (the picture of me and Ernie on the front page WILL be changed) so it's not quite the finished product.
But then, this blog never was never a finished product either. Until today. See yinz at the new site.
My New Toy
Because I've been a good boy I decided to treat myself. A lot of professional poker players (and professional poker writers) have these so-cool Bose noise-canceling headphones. I tried Garry's the other day and, oh my God. The blessed sound of silence. It's amazing. You can still hear people talking, but the exhausting background noise of everyday life is just...gone. It's beautiful.
Since I spend so much time writing I thought that a gizmo like this would be a wise investment. Plus...it's really cool! So I splurged and bought myself a pair yesterday. To say that I love them in no way adequately describes the depth of feeling I have for them. And look how cool they make me look!
Long, fun day off. More later. Sleep now.
I thought yesterday would be an easy day. I thought wrong. So far I've felt almost bulletproof but Wednesday was a left hook I didn't see coming. We're trying to process a vast amount of information in a brief period of time and it was one of those days where it felt like someone was standing on my throat. But I only worked 8 hours so it almost felt like a day off. I got a fairly good night's sleep and I should be ready to hit the Rio this afternoon and crank it out like a beast.
I've been trying to get up and walk around the Amazon Room a bit so I can get an idea of what the hell is actually going on. I've been pleased to see a good bit of Black and Gold and Blue and White about the place.
Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, the lighting in there is tricky and besides, I'm a lousy photographer. Something to work on for the future.
The Big Time
So yesterday I was assigned to cover my first WSOP Final Table, the $5,000 Limit Hold-Em World Championship. Big event. 5K. World Championship. I was looking forward to sitting in ESPN's Final Table arena with all the bright lights and cameras. Dressed up nice, just in case one of those cameras happened to linger over lil 'ol me.
Well, turns out that ESPN doesn't think much of Limit Hold-Em. Instead of playing in the fancy new poker stadium, the Worldwide Leader decided to shoot a commercial there yesterday. Meaning the nine players contesting the $333K first prize and the bracelet had to play in a table shoehorned between the massive arena and the forbidding black curtains of "The Box", the sequestered final table where the Ladies Championship was played.
The players didn't like it. They were told they'd be playing in the arena, and then they show up and they might as well be playing in a closet. The rail was, oh, 16 inches away from the table. Fortunately the spectators were a pleasant lot (and, for the most part, Norwegian, as Thor Hansen and William Thorsson made it to the final four). As for me, conditions were less than ideal. It was so cramped that I didn't have a table to write on--I had to rest my laptop on my lap. There were no electrical outlets where I was sitting, and when I tried sitting near The Box where there WERE outlets I was told by security that no electronic devices were permitted anywhere near it. Of course, six hours later there were two women from ESPN chatting on cell phones while leaning against the curtain, but whattya gonna do?
Of course yesterday was the one day I didn't bring the extra battery for my laptop. I figured there would be plenty of power in the arena. So as my laptop died I had to run through the Stud/8 event, which attracted lots of big-name players and therefore lots of gawkers, to plug in. And then run back to grab updates. It wasn't an ideal situation.
But we persevered, covered the event, and I got go home early. An eight-hour day almost seems like a day off, though it was pretty hectic. And now it's time to head back to the Rio. Only 34 more days to go!
We're Almost Engaged
I'm charging Liz Lieu's
iPod with my computer. Cool, huh? It'd probably be more cool if she'd actually been the one to bring it over, but she's probably a bit shy and all.
In other news of galactic self-delusion, I'm thinking more and more about maybe playing a World Series event. I know, Je suis argent mort
. But you try sitting here day after day, hearing the clatter of chips, and not daydream about playing. Playing, instead of writing. Doing, instead of watching. We'll see how strong this desire to sack up and sit down is over the next few days. My brain might just be a bit on the crispy side is all.
Massaging the Information
I think I should point out that I've been posting WSOP stuff over at the UltimateBetBlog
too. Including something I wrote today about the most important discovery I've made about poker so far at the World Series.
Very Random Stuff
I was actually pretty wired and hungry after I left the Amazon Room at 5AM on Friday so I grabbed a burger and a beer and played video poker for all of fifteen minutes when this happened:
I'm not quite in Richard Brodie
territory, but still.
I won't be able to attend the Blogger festivities this weekend, as I already had my day off for this...month. No, I'm sure I'll get some other downtime as well. I feel good both mentally and physically, though I'm sure I'll be tested by today's $1,500 NL H0ld-Em event. The first of these cheap NL events had 2,998 players, and while I can't imagine this field will be as big there's a line stretching back from the Registration area. Gonna be a zoo.
So, back to work. I've been slacking with my posting here but I'll pick it up. Lots of fun stuff to write about. But after writing about poker on my laptop for 14 hours about the last goddam thing I wanna do when I get home is write about poker on my laptop. I'm sure you understand.
I worked the 5PM tournament at the WSOP yesterday, $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo. Ugh. Split-pot games are a challenge. You watch a hand, a big pot builds...and then it's chopped up. And a chopped pot, with very few exceptions (there was one at the final table filmed yesterday) is not dramatic. By the end of the day the guys I worked with yesterday had glazed eyes and were mumbling, "You can't believe how many chopped pots I've watched."
But if the action at the tables lacked suspense early in the tournament, the insanity going on outside more than made up for it. The tournament was held in the "Poker Pavilion" that Harrah's built outside next to the Amazon Room. It's a big tent that holds around 60 tables, and we've had some problems with it before. Like, we can't connect to the 'Net out there. I picked up the signal all right, but like everyone else I couldn't get anything to load.
I found myself wondering if the wind had anything to do with it. Because the wind had been HOWLING all day through Vegas. When Dan and I left yesterday morning two palm trees outside the condo were bent nearly in half, and, to pointedly demonstrate the wind's power, somebody's Yellow Pages had blown off their stoop and was now sitting in the middle of the road.
And that wind was still blowing as I sat in the Pavilion trying to get a signal. The fabric walls were rippling, the light fixtures above the tables were swaying, and it was pretty noisy in there. This picture just gives you some idea of what the place looks like:
So I set up shop inside and the young guys we have to get the hands and chip counts and bring them to me say that the players inside the tent are FURIOUS about the conditions. The structure is creaking and moaning and the lights are dancing and every time someone opens the doors the wind rushes in and does unfortunate things like blow cards over. You could only get in through the front doors because the others had signs on them like this:
So I'm writing stuff up and one of our runners says, "You gotta come see this, it's total chaos>" I run out there, go inside, and, holy crap. The whole structure, including the metal supports and pillars and crossbeams, is shaking and swaying. As I wrote in an update for PokerNews, it was like being inside some kind of funhouse attraction, like if they're trying to simulate an earthquake.
The players did not like this, not one bit. "Let's go play down at Bellagio!" one player shouted, and from what the guys told me the level of displeasure had been far worse a bit earlier.
Harrah's finally made the only call they could--they sent everyone on dinner break and found room for the remaning players indoors. They'd been moving tables as fast as they could break them in the Amazon Room, but there were 2 huge tournaments going on along with cash games and satellites and empty tables didn't fill up fast enough. By the time we got back from dinner, they'd found room.
And not a second too soon, as a big section of the wall in the rear-left portion of the tent tore away, leaving a huge hole. I don't want to think about what would've happened had the players still been inside at the time.
After than insanity the day ran out quietly. We got down to about 180 players and hopefully there will be interesting action to report. Though not quite as interesting as yesterday, as Dan's friend Tom Schneider won the bracelet in $2,500 Omaha/Stud Hi-Lo. As you might expect they were out partying and I took a cab home from the Rio around 3:30AM and lucked into a chatty driver who made the ride fairly pleasant. I gave her the address and she said, "Wow, I don't think I've ever gone that far out on Blue Diamond before". The condo isn't THAT far out, but I guess it's a bit remote. Dan is probably sleeping in his car at the Rio as we speak so I might be calling her again to get a ride in. At least she knows where our place is.
The Comforts of Home
When I'm home, that's where I work--from home. The dining room is my office, the kitchen my cafeteria. There are times when I get a touch of cabin fever and I go to the library to write, but for the most part I like working from my apartment. It's a cozy little place that suits me.
One thing I enjoy most about working from home (aside from staggering around all day without taking a shower) is that I can take a break from work to catch up on whatever domestic chores need done. I can throw on a load of laundry, get back to the computer, and feel doubly productive. And after I work up a sweat writing posts and folding towels, I like to reward myself by making myself something special for breakfast.
Once a week or so I'll make myself a cheese omelet, one of the great comfort foods of my childhood. Actually, it still is--if I go to my parents' house to help with something or just for a visit my Mom will often say, "I'll make you a cheese omelet." So once I got set up in the flat I bought myself a non-stick pan and worked on my technique. I don't make 'em as good as she does, heavens knows, but they ain't too bad.
So here I am in Vegas, thousands of miles from home, working long hours under borderline-insane conditions. I'm actually enjoying the frantic pace (when it's not too
frantic) and so far I've been able to keep an even keel and not get too crispy around the edges. The fact the AC was blasting forth when we got home last night helped.
But I thought it might be a good idea to remind myself of the sedate domestic bliss I enjoy in Pittsburgh by re-creating them here in the condo. With Dan out running errands I sorted my laundry and decided to wash some clothes. Turns out that the washing machine is so huge that, if you removed the agitator, you could use it for a hot tub. Or if you're into, uh, stuff, you could just go ahead and leave the agitator in. Totally up to you.
So I was able to load it up and get that going while I made some breakfast. Craig bought 18 eggs during our first provision run and I thought today was the day to break them in (get it! break them in...Sweet Jesus.). First of all I had to find out if the kitchen had the equipment required to manufacture an omelet. What I found was, I hoped, adequate:
I didn't have my beloved non-stick pan, nor the silicone spatula that's never let me down in the past. So I got to cracking eggs and stirring them in the purple-glass bowls we have here (the beaten eggs didn't provide an appetizing color juxtaposition) and heated the pan. It looked kinda
non-stick...so I tossed in some butter to be sure and introduced the eggs.
I hadn't cooked on a gas stove for about a year and I don't think the pan was quite hot enough. And then the eggs started sticking. Not too bad, I was careful to sweep and stir and not let them cook too fast, but things didn't turn out too well. I added the cheese, did some folding and flipping, and what I ended up with wasn't so much a light, fluffy omelet but a thick egg loaf:
Tasted OK, though. And the laundry is a-tumbling away downstairs, so all is right with the world. Because I'm scheduled late tonight I'll be working into the wee hours, so this little bit or normalcy should help me stay grounded during what is shaping up as a brain-warping seven weeks. I got to work yesterday...and Pardon the Interruption
was showing on the plasma screens ringing the Amazon Room. I used to get home
from work just as PTI was coming on. I think I'll be trying out my omelet-making skills a few more times while I'm in Vegas.
The Glamor, The Glitz
I got home from the Rio around 2:30 in the morning, my ass dragging a bit. But not too bad, I've stocked up on sleep the last few days and I felt pretty good.
Until I walked through the front door.
It was hot.
Not warm. Hot.
The air conditioning in our condo crapped out. Yes, I tried fiddling with the buttons on the thermostat. I fiddled and diddled and fashizzled and nothing happened. It was 84 degrees in my bedroom at 3AM. It's 90 in the living room right now. What am I gonna do--open a window? Sure. I walked out on our balcony and it's like a kiln.
Allegedly someone is coming to work on it, but they've been here twice to fix our spotty Internet service and that hasn't panned out yet. I've been able to piggyback on some fleeting signal bouncing around the hills but you can't depend on it.
Of course I knew that coming out here wouldn't be all showgirls and Sinatra, but having no AC last night was a body blow. Dan's trying to grab a few extra winks at the moment, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. I'm just drinking lots of cold liquids (non-alcoholic, unfortunately) and hope that this gets fixed before I get home tonight/tomorrow.
Here's a quick pick of my work station at the Rio. It's a lot more comfortable (and practical) than it looks:
I got up and walked around a bit to see what the hell was actually going on in the tournament I'm covering and I saw Shannon Elizabeth (who'd just been eliminated) talking to Michael Craig
. He just had his first WSOP cash and I wanted to congratulate him and, besides, I'm a fan (even if he's the competition and I've sworn to crush him like a grape).
He was talking to Shannon and they were going to walk out of the tournament room together, and I thought it would be extremely
bad form to butt in at that precise moment. But a few starstruck guys stopped her on the way to get their pictures taken so I tapped him on the shoulder, introduced myself and offered a quick "well done". I might've been the only person in the room who, seeing Shannon Elizabeth and Michael Craig standing side-by-side thought, "Hey, I should go talk to him
." No offense meant.
And yes, Shannon Elizabeth is quite pretty.
At one point during the night a guy playing in the Omaha Hi-Lo/Stud-8 tournament (I get a headache just thinking of it) had three young ladies in slinky dresses stop by and chat with him. He got them chairs and had them sit near his table--and right behind me. I'm not sure what his relationship to them was (one thanked him for getting them their room) but the four of them took the time to chat at very high volume about their favorite TV show--"Extreme Makeover". One girl said that Ty Pennington had come into a place in Venice Beach where she used to bartend, and that he's only about five-ten.
After he went back to the table the talk continued to center around Ty:
"I thought he was gay."
"Isn't he gay?"
"I heard he was."
"I thought he was."
Etc, etc, etc. They sat directly behind me and I used my monk-like powers of concentration to focus on my tasks. The player came over later and chatted with them again, and while I didn't hear what he said to prompt this one of the girls said, "I don't think that's going to be in the cards...no pun intended!" This, they all seemed to agree, was one of the Funniest Things Ever Said. I was sad to see them go.
I have to be at the Rio by two, so I'll go throw a bucket of ice water on Michalski to rouse him from what must be an uneasy sleep and start to get ready. It's 91, now, and I went to the window to look outside and the floor is almost too hot to stand on in bare feet. Vegas, baby.
Sipping From the Fire Hose
The first day of the World Series was about as I expected--nuts. People, everywhere. Standing in line, standing in the aisles, standing around. I sat at a table just outside the poker area and furiously wrote hand updates and chip counts as our floor reporters brought them in. At times it was a bit crazy, but everything was totally under control. We put A LOT of info out there yesterday. This is what it looked like from my seat:
Of course you've heard about the huge controversy about the new style of cards Harrah's introduced this year--cards the players hated. HATED. To the point where there was yelling and swearing and demands for refunds. Harrah's started swapping out decks last night, I don't know if they replaced them all before things ended last night, but it wasn't a good start to the Series. The first hand wasn't completely before Hell broke loose. Not good.
Nor were the long, long, LONG lines outside the Amazon Room. We heard from people who had to wait for 4 hours to register for the casino employee's tournament. When I left last night around 9PM there was still a line that stretched around the corner and down a long hallway. Wanna play in a WSOP event? Either register early, or load up on patience. Because, brother, you are going to WAIT.
Fortunately I'm working with talented, hard-working people who don't take themselves or the game too seriously. It's fun. Yesterday the stress level was bracing--I don't know how that'll change today, what with the $5K Mixed Hold-Em event playing down to the final table and the super-mondo $1.5K NL event starting today. If yesterday was a zoo, today will be an asylum, as the fish and donkeys and home game heroes descend on the Rio to find out if it's their turn to become overnight (well, over three nights) sensations.
It's a bit odd walking around and hearing spectators and even some players exclaim "That's Chris Ferguson! That's Doyle Brunson!" when they see a famous pro. If you get that excited just SEEING someone you recognize from TV, how the heck can you PLAY against them? Truth be told, it would really affect me. I'd either be paying so much attention to the big-name pro that I couldn't concentrate, or I'd be trying so hard NOT to pay attention to them (because I'm so cool) that I couldn't concentrate.
For example, as I was walking around taking a few pictures Jennifer Harman was standing in the aisle and she turned and walked toward me. Let's not forget, this is her workplace. She makes a living doing this. And not only does she have to contend with the people at the table, but she has spectators watching her and media people snapping her picture and asking questions...I'm sure it gets old, fast. So she started walking toward me and I toward her and we exchanged one of those millisecond smiles two people share when they're stepping on the same elevator. She probably has to do that kinda crap a thousand times a day, wondering if THIS is the person who will ask for a photo or an autograph or just HAS to wish her good luck. I'm sure it's something you get used to, to a certain extent, but it has to wear over time.
I really never had any desire to become a professional player (nor, to be honest, the talent or dedication or heart...now I'm getting depressed) and yesterday proved to me that not wanting to be a pro is nothing to be ashamed of. They've got their gig--I've got mine. It's all about making the choices that are right for you, baby.
Looking forward to today, even if it'll probably be insane. I think we did a pretty kickass job yesterday...we just need 46 more kickass days in a row!
I need to take some better pictures, but here are two players who caught my eye, for obvious reasons. Don't know if they're still in the the tournament, or if they're from Pittsburgh at all. I should've asked but they'd started up again and I didn't want to bother them during the course of play.
So, yesterday we sipped from the fire hose. With today's certain-to-be HUGE field, we'll be taking a good, long drink. Gonna be a long day, and hopefully a good one. Will definitely eat a big breakfast. I think I'll need it.
Here We Go
Yes, the World Series of Poker starts today, and yes, I'm nervous. Keyed up. Want to get started, want to do the kick-ass job this event deserves. I'd like to think that I know what I'm about to get mixed up in...but in truth I probably have no idea. I'll just have to experience it for myself.
Checked out of the Imperial Palace yesterday and as I waited for Craig to get the keys to the condo and swing by to pick me up I played a little video poker to pass the time. After I dropped twenty bucks a pretty blonde woman asked if I was waiting to play $1-2 NL. It didn't sound like a pickup line and I said, no, I was just hanging out. The poker room was actually empty, but a bit later the woman and a guy wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses started playing heads-up, and the brush asked if I wanted to join the game. I passed. Short-handed NL is not a game I want to get involved in when my mind is elsewhere, even for those stakes.
So I played my video poker, missed a royal flush draw that had me licking my chops, and quickly dropped sixty bucks. I moved to a different bar to see if that might change my luck (plus the poker game had expanded to four players and I was getting twitchy) and this happened:
Yes, dem's quads, bitches. And to prove my self-control I cashed out right then and there, breaking even for the day. I went up to the sports book and watched the French Open until Craig arrived.
We drove to the Rio to check out the scene, and they were still fine-tuning the place. It's really a gorgeous room, all those tables, all that felt. And they have these HUGE posters of the former World Champions ringing the place, it's an impressive sight.
As is the final table area, which is tucked in a back corner that we couldn't get close to. It was good to at least see the place where I'll be spending so many hours over the next 47 (!) days. And especially good to get my press pass ahead of time. I think that's going to prove to be one of the best moves we'll make, because it took a good bit of time and today is going to be chaos.
The other smart move we made came last night, as we were driving from the condo to look for a place to eat. The place is further out than I expected, but it's a straight shot, the biggest impediment is the construction near a strip mall and lots of red lights. There's this lonely patch of road with nothing but scrub and abandoned trailers and I half expected to see a lone coyote howling at the moon.
We were going to head to a sports bar in one of this developments when Craig hit the brakes hard after just a few hundred yards. "Montana Meat Company" he read off a neon sign to our left. The sign said they offered steaks and gaming, a good combination, and a crowded parking lot gave me confidence. It turned out to be an important discovery--my Kobe burger was excellent, the steak fries sizzling, and the nachos we ordered were excellent too. And they have Bass Ale on tap. We could almost walk to the place, and I think we'll be visiting there many times during the next 2 months. Especially as they serve breakfast 24/7.
The condo is very nice, and as always other people's decor decisions can be puzzling. Fortunately I brought my silk leopard-print pajamas, so I fit in nicely with my bed:
But it's a nice place, quiet (other than the inevitable construction going on across the road). And nice scenery, surrounded as we are by mountains.
I tried to get a photo of the moon hanging low over the mountains, but they didn't turn out. And I'll try to post other interesting photos here over the next month-and-a-half. I'm sure I'll snap a few. But now, there's a grindstone out there calling for my nose. Time to get to work.