Charm Looking for a Bracelet – Tournament of Champions 21
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October 31, 2011 – 12:19 PM | No Comment

By Mike Nelson
For the twenty first time players made their entrance to the grounds of the Tournament of Champions, as a field of 140 Red Hot Poker Tour elite entered the tournament …

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In Like A Lion, Out Like A Donkey: John Lawson at the 2009 WSOP

Submitted by on July 23, 2009 – 11:03 AM3 Comments

lawson2[Editor's Note:  Of the 20 or so Red Hot Poker Tour players who competed in event #54 of the 2009 WSOP, John Lawson went the furthest, finishing in 135th place, and earning a cash prize of $3615.  The following is John's trip report, in his own words... and that includes the title!]

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The 2009 Red Hot Poker Tour Las Vegas Invasion ran from June 27 to July 2. As winner of Tournament of Champions 12 last December, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Invasion for the first time. I had never been west of Chicago, or south of a McDonalds off the I-94 in Indiana, so old boundaries were about to be surpassed.

I didn’t do much preparation. I meant to brush up from some of my poker books, but never did. I bought an ugly copper-coloured keychain in the shape of a bottle opener for the purpose of capping my cards, but never used it. I brought along my sunglasses but only wore them once, and not at the table. All the shirts I had with me said “Red Hot Poker Tour” and “PartyPoker” on them – I interpreted a Terms and Conditions requirement to mean this, and I wasn’t about to foul up. No regrets.

Also, I didn’t win a pot at the last two Red Hot tournaments I played prior to departure, the first time that had ever happened back-to-back (and I only won one pot in my first two after returning). The omens were not good.

I’m a little apprehensive about flying. I don’t get histrionic, but too much turbulence can make me turn as green as American money. When the flight attendants ask me if they can do anything to make my trip more pleasant, I answer, “land”. But both Dean and Nick and a number of other Red Hot players were on the same flight. So, like Phil Spector flying with the Beatles, I figured I’d be alright.

Flying over Iowa was quite an experience: to the right of the plane was a glorious sunset of many deep colours within a short span above the horizon, while on the left, in the distance, was a long line of thunderstorms with constant lightning. Thank you, Westjet pilots, for avoiding those.

Descending into Las Vegas we could see the bright lights of the strip from the plane. McCarran Terminal 1 is huge, so big that I thought that by the time we found the taxi stand, we’d be in Seattle. Dean, Nick, Brian and I took a cab to Harrah’s. While waiting in the rather long check-in line there, some passers-by yelled out, “We’re in Las Vegas baby!” I asked Nick, “Do you hear a lot of that”? Yeah, he replied, and soon you’ll be doing it too. I responded that were I so inclined, I would have already done it at the airport. I resisted the temptation to think, “n00bs”.

The hotel lobby was a sight to behold. It appeared to have been designed by Borat rather than Bruno (or maybe it was a joint effort): red and purple ceiling layers, an undulating object on the wall that looked like it was made out of gold tinfoil, and a large mural done by Caravaggio’s little brother’s kindergarten finger-painting class. The casino was essentially the first floor of the building, right out to the street, rather than in an enclosed room as I had envisioned (the poker room was enclosed however). Actually Harrah’s is a nice hotel, the rooms are not hard to find (although I have a good sense of direction anyway), and they’re clean and certainly devoid of creepy-crawlies. Plus there are no bellpersons and the Starbucks is right off the elevator lobby. One of them is, anyway.

Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well the entire week: approximately 4, 4, 4, 5, and 6 hours respectively, and this might have been a factor in my tournament demise. The bed could have been firmer, the pillows flatter, and the room non-smoking. At check-in I was offered a chance to change rooms the next day or to have it “sprayed”, presumably with something like Febreze, which is like monosodium glutamate for your nose. I didn’t take the clerk up on it, but probably should have. However, I admit I have nodded off during a thunderstorm at least once, and I was feeling a bit off, and I usually sleep well in hotels, so it was probably just me.

Sunday morning I didn’t have breakfast until nearly noon. By “breakfast” I mean a raisin bran muffin (which secretly has cinnamon and walnuts), a banana and coffee from Starbucks, except on Sunday where apple juice was substituted for coffee. By the way, does anyone ever refer to apple juice as “AJ”?

That afternoon, we waited outside 20 minutes for the Rio Shuttle in order to go register for Event 54. It was hotter than a ticket to the Michael Jackson memorial (oh wait – is it too early?), and I was sweating. The Rio is also enormous; there must be a requirement in the Nevada building code (Harrah’s, by contrast, is merely “quite big”). It was a long walk through the Rio to the WSOP, and we passed a number of promotional stands featuring young women scantily clad enough to have even The Most Interesting Man In The World sputtering, “The more Dos Equis I drink, the prettier you get. Hubba hubba!”

A number of professional poker players were spotted, including Gavin Smith who was doing an interview for Poker Road. One of poker’s great unanswered questions is: Gavin Smith – great player or terrible? From what I’ve seen, where he’s made numerous excellent laydowns on Poker After Dark and gone on to win, I vote for the former.

I got my assigned table and seat for the next day: Brasilia Room, table 245, seat 7. Later we had supper at BLT Burger in the Mirage, and it was very tasty. I would have tried the s’mores but I hate to be the only one ordering dessert.

Monday, we’re off to actually play poker! You can see me pacing back and forth at the end of the video done at Harrah’s main entrance before our ride arrived (by the way, does everyone else love YouTube as much as I do?)

I wasn’t really nervous, just anxious to get going. I was a longshot to win the tournament, especially since my opponents have a history of being exceedingly lucky. But hey, Len Barker pitched a perfect game, so anything’s possible, right? I had daydreams about getting heads-up with a mysterious cloaked stranger that turned out to be President Barack Obama, who I understand plays a good game of poker (speaking of which, Mr. President, how about doing something about the UIGEA?) I also fantasize about playing flopped quads trickily and busting a couple of Phils on one hand (not Laak, of course, because he’s my favourite player).

We had a stretch limo ride over to the tournament, which was an extremely nice touch. It featured a mini-bar that contained champagne on ice, although there was no Jacuzzi. I trust the Vegas poker community was suitably impressed; I certainly was. This is the “in like a lion” part.

We took our seats at noon, and the tournament began. Several times through the day I thought I recognized a face at the table – not necessarily a pro but someone who I suspected had been on TV. They all denied it of course, but I’ll wager some of them were bluffing. At the first table, it was a guy with a brush cut who looked vaguely familiar, and I was thinking the Mansion Poker triple shootout speed tournament in ’06, of which only half was shown up here for some reason. But there was another guy, from Vancouver, who had done some announcing on Canadian Poker Tour events recently, so I probably really had seen him on TV. I regret that I forget his name, but I think it was Mike or Bill.

The hands move fairly quickly, one circuit of the table before 20 minutes are up, so probably 35 hands an hour. I don’t get much to play, until I raise from the SB with KK, and a couple of limpers call. The flop is 10 of diamonds, 4 3 of clubs. I bet 600, a late position player with a Spanish name who’s wearing a bright red shirt made from a bullfighting cape raises to 1,200, and I call. The turn comes 2 of clubs. I check, he bets 600. Well, the straight and flush have both arrived, he showed strength on the flop, and I’m already down one-third of my stack, so buh-bye kings (including the K of clubs), as I mutter, “I hope you have something”. Ace 10 of clubs maybe? I’ve made a similar play with that hand, and cracked aces. Or 6 5 of clubs turning a straight flush? Or just a small set? This is not a good start with my first big pair losing.

Another hand, I fold 98 in late position where the flop comes 7 6 5 rainbow. That’s as close as I get to a straight the entire tournament.

At the first break I’m down to 2,325 in chips, barely half the starting stack of 4,500. At some point the table breaks up and I move to table 234, seat 1 or 2. This is a much better table! Here there’s a player, I think French, who’s wearing a colourful light jacket with prints and lettering on it. He looks like a mini-Elky. I thought I had seen him on some EPT coverage, but he assures me that I am mistaken.

In one hand, he raises to 300, and I make it 1,000 to go on the button with my first AA. I was twitching a little and I know he’ll fold, but I show the AA anyway. Not long afterwards, a player in early position raises, the French player calls, and here I have AA again in the big blind. I re-raise to 900, the first guy makes it 2,100, and I announce “all in” out of turn. But the French player folds, and I double up against JJ. Meanwhile the French gentleman is surely thinking, “Note to self: Must get into a cash game against this Red Hot player. He’s giving off more tells than plutonium gives off radiation!”

I also win a hand with KK against JJ at this table. My chip stack at the second break is 4,250. The third table I’m at is no. 187. I don’t remember too much about it, although I can see Scott McFadyen one table over. Yoo hoo!


Later I go to table 305 in the Miranda Room. There I eventually bust my only victim of the tournament, a young man from the UK I believe. I limp with 44 on the button for 200, he’s short stack in SB and makes it 600, BB folds, I call. The flop comes A 9 4, check check. He bets 250 on the turn but only has 1,000 left, so I put in the full 1,250 and he calls; he has AK and can’t win the hand. Good game, sir. If he puts his entire 1,850 in pre-flop, I have a decision to make, because my stack isn’t huge and it might be a definite fold in some circumstances (although in many of those I probably should push beforehand anyway). Of course, if I raise pre-flop and he moves all in, it’s only 1,250 to call and I probably do, getting 2-to-1.

There’s a player at the table who likes to bluff. He limps into several pots, one where I have 95 in the big blind. The flop is J 10 9, and four players check, ditto the turn. The river is 5, so I bet 800 with two pair. The aforementioned player makes it 1,600. I call, he turns over A5, and I win the hand. Then I am dealt 95 four more times within about six hands.

Soon after, I raise with 99 and the same player calls from the small blind. The flop is 7 6 2 with two diamonds, so I put in a bet and he calls. The turn is K of clubs, check check. River is a low card, he bets 2,000, and I think about it and call. “I have nothing”, he says, exposing QJ of diamonds, a busted flush, and I win this one too.

When the table breaks up, he comes over and shakes my hand, saying he’ll never try to bluff me again! Unfortunately that was the last I saw of him.

My chip stack at the dinner break is 8,800. I go to Sao Paulo’s with Steve Sabourin, who is currently doing very well; chicken quesadillas for me, steak for him.

My last table for the day is in the Amazon Room; I forget the number. The Amazon Room is also (guess what?) huge, like 25 high school gymnasiums arranged in a square with the walls torn down. Things may be bigger in Texas, but they’re humongouser in Las Vegas. Baby.

My chip stack is up to 11,200 at the last break. Going in the right direction, for sure, but I’m still short and between two massive stacks, Alan from the UK with 60-70k on my right and Michael from LA with 40-50k on my left, both nice guys and good players. Ironically I would outlast both of them. Again a player looks familiar, this time a gentleman of Asian descent opposite me wearing a Dallas Cowboys shirt. I chatted with him the next day (he was still alive) and he said he had never been on TV. I’m 0-for-3!

At one point I’m all in with Q9 offsuit in the cutoff, and nobody calls. Later, I’m in the SB, Alan raises to 4,000 on the button, I go all in for 9,200 with 33, not really expecting him to fold unless he is stealing with total junk but gambling to win a race, and he calls with KQ. I stand up. The flop comes Q 3 J and I double up off a big stack.

Near the end, the announcer says play four more hands. The second to last hand, I push UTG with AJ, and Alan calls again with KQ. The flop comes Q J rag, I again stand up to prepare to exit. But the turn is an ace, river a blank, and I sit down again. Standing up to draw your out is a tactic that works in Red Hot tournaments too. Next hand, last hand, I’m in the BB, Michael (who has been quite active) raises UTG. Everyone else folds. I look at one card, and it’s a jack, and I’m thinking, I hope the other isn’t a jack so I can just fold and get out of here. But it is a jack. So I go all in. “On the last hand?” Michael asks, somewhat incredulously. “Yeah”, I say. He eventually mucks AQo face up, and I show the jacks.

At the end of day 1 I somehow have 35,000 chips, a little above the average of 4,500 x 2,818 / 385, whatever that is.

I go to the shuttle stand but it’s after 1 a.m. and they’re finished for the day. I turn left and consider walking back to Harrah’s, but I immediately come across the taxi stand around the corner and think better of it. I climb into a cab.

An aside: the day after the Tournament of Champions in December, I had a headache and couldn’t function properly, despite obviously being pleased with the result. I didn’t get out of bed until 1 p.m, I didn’t even buy my Pro Pools NFL tickets, it was THAT bad. I rarely get headaches (although I can get one from trying to decipher my own handwriting). I deduced that I was dehydrated, and I knew that in Vegas I couldn’t let that happen. So I bought a Gatorade G2 every two rounds, and that did the trick. Excepting the last two levels when the concessions were closed, but that wasn’t a factor. Same on day two, while I lasted.

Once on day two I went to the washroom during the play and I left my G2 bottle balanced on the leather edge of the table. It was still there when I came back; no one had slammed the rail attempting to knock it off. That’s a sure sign of respect from my opponents.

Also, at no time did I ever feel like I needed a massage, despite an army of therapists running amok. Maybe because I’m naturally fidgety?

Tuesday, about 75% of the remaining field will get paid. Now we’re getting down to business! I have visions of making the TV table and delightfully belting out an appropriate pop classic like “My Ship Is Coming In” by the Walker Brothers or “Big Man In Town” by the Four Seasons. I would be good on TV because I’m even better looking than Gabe Kaplan. Sadly this scenario was not to be! But fortunately for the viewers.

Brasilia Room, table 192, seat 5, working on 4 hours sleep for the third straight day. I’m sitting directly opposite the dealer (we’re nine-handed now), meaning I can fold by flicking the cards forward with my fingernail instead of having to make the effort to pick them up and toss them. Dealer Jennifer accused one player of making a “string ante”, and I told her that must be a professional joke, right?

We start cautiously, mostly raise and take it. A few hands in, I raise UTG with AQs. The player two seats behind goes all in and I have to fold; he flashes AK and everybody figures out my hand.

lawson3The number of players ticks slowly down to 297 (who get paid), but I’m all in twice even before we get there. A player on my right raises in early position and I ship it with AK; he folds. He’s had AA practically every other time he’s raised, but not here. Later, battle of the blinds, I figure my right hand opponent (RHO) is going to raise, just because. He does so, and I go all in with K3 of diamonds of all things. “That’s a good bet”, he says while folding, saying he had QJ. “I had you beat sir”, I reply, which is technically true.

After we reach the money, I’m in the BB and two new players arrive immediately to my left. The first one folds, second raises, and I go all in with 10 10. He calls with QQ, but I flop a 10 and win the hand. I saw that player still alive on day three; his name is Felix Lambertz, from Germany. He recovered well enough to finish 13th and cash for over $40,000, so congratulations to you sir! Later, Michael from LA (who was on my left the previous night) sits down on my left once again. He would ultimately finish at no. 192, after losing a lot of chips in a race.

After four hours (we started at 2 p.m.), I have dinner again at Sao Paulo. This time I have the grilled salmon, which I haven’t eaten since the Eisenhower administration. It comes with green beans and carrots in butter, neither of which I really like but I ate some of them anyway, strictly for veggie purposes, and they weren’t half bad.

An aside: When I was in high school, one novel I (possibly pretended to) read was “Most Secret” by Nevil Shute. It was about the Allies scoping out Nazi submarine hangars on the continent during WW2, but for no particular reason I always recalled a line saying the spy “did not eat, because food dulls the brain”. On the other hand, I have heard that fish is supposed to be brain food. Not for me apparently.

Same table, immediately after supper. I have about 39,000 with a 3,000 BB on my right and the total pre-flop pot is 8,100, so I just push with AA. Ut Nguyen, brother of Men “the Master”, goes all in too and is disappointed to find his AK in big trouble. A flop of 6 4 2 gives him only a backdoor diamond flush or a straight chop, the turn is a brick and I double up, back to about 90% of an average stack. He soon goes out in 142nd place. Obviously I wasn’t giving off an AA tell now, probably only because I’m too tired to. My right hand opponent says, “now you’re back in it”, and for a few minutes, I was. I’m not sure what this player’s name was, I didn’t notice him on Day 3, but he did bear quite a resemblance to third-place finisher Joseph Chaplin. Assuming this was him, the First Law of Chaos Theory states that had I asked him his name, he would have gone out 347th on a bad beat.

Not one round later, I finally blow up. RHO raises in fairly early position to 8,200, I come over the top to 24,000 with black 99 (Hellmuth’s winning hand). He thinks, then goes all in. I ultimately make a what-the-hell call, hoping it’s a race; he’s shown down a similar hand where he had raised with A9s earlier, but here he has JJ, and this time I hit no set so I’m out 135th. There’s really no excuse for the call. But I think my brain was telling me it didn’t want to play any further. And I’m in uncharted territory, these players are all really good, in fact they’re special, they’re so freaking special, and I am just a donk, to paraphrase Thom Yorke.

While on the shuttle back to Harrah’s, I realized I had gone on tilt, and I got to thinking about the subject. There are different forms of tilt. There is Adversity Tilt, when you take a bad beat. There is Frustration Tilt, meaning you can’t find a playable hand. These common situations I think I’ve mastered by now. There is Prosperity Tilt, when you suddenly win some chips, the short-stack inhibitions come off and you play carelessly (bingo!). Phil Laak might call this one TMC – too many chips. There is also Commotion Tilt, Insult Tilt, Discomfort Tilt, Sleepy Tilt, Illness Tilt and of course Intoxication Tilt. These are pretty much self-explanatory. They can stand alone or can be contributing factors to the first three (I was certainly more tired than I realized, and the AA double-up brought me four stacked-up racks of 100s, which made it more awkward to look at my hole cards). This list is not necessarily exhaustive. I’ve seen pros occasionally make calls like this, presumably on misreads while “playing the player”. Daniel Negreanu’s account of his exit from this year’s Main Event (while unwell) is not entirely dissimilar.

Overall my tournament was like the month of March: in like a lion, out like a donkey. I just hope my opponents (especially at the last table) would be willing to say, “he played well up until the last hand”. But I do feel sheepish going out that way, considering that the other Red Hot players all went out on bad beats and none made the money. And of course I feel bad for Shane, who finished 300th, going out with by far the best hand, and missing the money by three places. I feel bad for Ut Nguyen too, under the circumstances, but at least he’s up a couple of grand for his troubles.

In my experience, Event 54 was brutal Neanderthal poker, big hand versus big hand, right from the start, as I never had a viable straight or flush draw, and I don’t recall too many suited connectors or other decent BB hands apart from the AA once. I didn’t think there would be much limping and I was prepared not to do much of it. I think I play fairly tight normally – “it’ll work for you, it worked for me”, sort of like Brain Salad Surgery – and I reasoned I would have to do so in Vegas. The cards I was dealt made this a certainty.

So I was the first person gone at the $3,615 level, meaning I could have lasted probably another 90 minutes and busted out to the same cash. I calculate that I made about $250 an hour, which is not bad, although I note that a 12-year-old who won a spelling bee picked up $5,000. I could do that!

I’m totally chuffed to be listed in the Hendon Mob Database now. Thanks Ram, Barny, Ross and Joe!

Finally, I should add a congratulatory note for winner Tony Veckey and runner-up Jason Wheeler, who between them earned over a million dollars. Good work, gentlemen.

Later I bounce around the hotel, find Ghirardelli’s and listen to the Crashers, a cover band. The first song chorus goes “hold on, hold on” with the “on” being about three or four tones higher than the “hold”, and the chords being tonic followed by dominant. The arrangement and the sound are both spectacular. Anybody know it? They follow that with “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon. Every other good new tune I hear these days is by Kings of Leon, unless it’s by MGMT or Waking Eyes.

Wednesday, I go back to the Rio, looking for players, especially Phil Laak. Event 54 has 21 players left, including the aforementioned Herr Lambertz. I see John Juanda and others playing 7-2 lowball triple draw, and during a break in the action I mention to him that his comment “you have to play differently against idiots” is one of the classic lines from Poker After Dark, and he smiles. I wonder how many of my opponents realized they had to play differently against me? One player in the event looks like Mike Sexton but isn’t, and after ten minutes the name comes to me: Blair Rodman.

Meanwhile the $5,000 six-handed hold ‘em is going on. I find Phil Laak sitting at the corner table, so I observe it. During a pause he looks right at me, so I nod in his direction, he nods back, and I give him the thumbs up. His table breaks, and I find a couple of Red Hot players watching Phil Hellmuth to their left and Juha Helppi to the right. I recognize Burt Boutin, but can’t think of his last name until I look it up at home. Laak is on the next table beyond Hellmuth’s, and he goes over to talk to Neil Channing at one point.

After a half hour Laak busts out so I go over to try to commiserate a little. He’s understandably unhappy but nevertheless gracious. I tell him I’m bummed too because he’s my favourite player, hilarious on the tube with Antonio Esfandiari, Jennifer Tilly, or anybody else for that matter. “Thanks man” he says as he walks away to prepare for the Main Event.

Later I run into former Red Hot dealer Marcus, who is hosting at the Joe Hachem lounge for the week. Nice work if you can get it!

All in all I had a great time at the WSOP, especially considering my uneasiness at the beginning (I’m always like this when I travel). It’s fascinating to see so many well-known names in person after watching them do their thing on TV. Of course, they all had better get their bracelets in quick now, because everything changes next year when Annette Obrestad comes to town.

Over the course of the week I spoke (however briefly) to Tom McEvoy, Gus Hansen, Men the Master, Mel Judah, Mike Caro, John Juanda and my main man Phil Laak. I saw Gavin Smith, Chau Giang, Marcel Luske, Eskimo Clark, Patrick Bruel (who wore a jacket with his name on the back, in case North Americans didn’t recognize him), Pascal Perrault, Mimi Tran, Raymond Rahme, Mickey Appelman, Barry Greenstein, Peter Eastgate, Brandon Adams, Hevad Khan, Allen Kessler, Michael Carroll, Juha Helppi, Nam Le, Blair Rodman, Burt Boutin, Neil Channing, Phil Hellmuth, and JJ Liu. I thought saw Charles Chua, a self-deprecatingly funny player from Asia who had excellent results on the APPT (if he was in Vegas wearing a grey shirt, it was probably him). And was that my favourite TV poker announcer Norman Chad playing in Event 54? I’m not sure.

A partial list of whom I missed: Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, Mike Matusow, Evelyn Ng, Vanessa Rousso, Isabel Mercier, Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Carlos Mortensen (who busted out a few places higher than I did in event 54), Mike Sexton. And Jean-Robert Bellande and Courtney Yates.

I leave the Rio for the last time, head to Ghirardelli’s and tell the clerk not to let me exit the store without buying anything. I grab some bars (two of ten left as of this writing), and help shoo out a chocolate-loving pigeon.

We all go as a group to Maggiano’s for supper. The appetizers (stuffed mushrooms, calamari) were great, and the tiramisu incredibly amazing, one notch up from merely amazing (I tend to find all tiramisu amazing). I order a bowl of shrimp linguini the size of the Amazon Room, which I can’t finish. I was warned it would feed “a family of four”. I am sometimes up to the challenge, but not today.

I ultimately didn’t do much in Las Vegas except hang around the poker tournament. I didn’t ride the monorail, I didn’t check out downtown, and didn’t go to shows (I don’t care for them anyway). I didn’t even put $10 or $20 in a slot machine, as I had planned – it was too complicated! But I liked the place, and I’m looking forward to going back some time.

Thursday comes, and I’m scheduled for the noon Air Canada plane. I skip breakfast. The check-out at Harrah’s is much quicker than the check-in; I draw no conclusions from this. I ask the clerk how she knew I had taken the toothbrush and toothpaste from the mini-bar. She says, “We just know”, and then I remember that the United States is home to the CIA. I like Harrah’s despite my jokes, and would definitely stay there again, although a non-smoking room would be advisable. I finally remove the Do Not Disturb sign from the door so the room can be cleaned. The maid must wonder what chamber of horrors awaits after five days, but I think I left it in good shape.

I grab a couple of boxes of Annabelle’s Marshmallow Thingies, my last purchase with boring all-green American money before heading to the airport. Fortunately the designs of the denominations are slightly different so you can tell them apart, if there’s enough light. The weather is slightly unsettled with a sprinkle of rain, and features the biggest baddest grayest cloud I saw through the whole week. I go to the Air Canada booth at the airport, they don’t even look at my ticket, only my passport, and they tell me boarding is at 11:20.

Now the most annoying thing of the week happens – I almost missed my plane! I’m sitting in the waiting room, and with the clock showing 11:04, I chance to hear a “last call for boarding” for my flight, above the chatter. I dash to the can, go through the metal detector six times because I forget I have a WSOP magnet in my pocket that I bought as a memento, then finally board a nearly-full plane. The lady in front of my seat had been playing poker too, so I invited her out to play in the Red Hot Poker Tour. I didn’t ask around for the exact time, but the clock in Terminal 2 must be at least 20 minutes slow. Get the frigging thing fixed, willya?

The plane takes off and we’re incredibly high in mere seconds. The west-east flight is faster than the opposite way; by the time I was hoping we were past Nebraska the pilot announced that we were flying over Detroit, which is the best thing to do if you’re around Detroit. The Air Canada plane is bigger and I suspect the seats are a little wider, which is never a bad thing. However I would say the Westjet staff keeps their plane closer to spotless, and their seat backs have little TVs that include updates on flight position, which is really cool. Neither landing was entirely bump-free, but I think the AC landing was slightly smoother, and the plane seemed to swerve a little at the point of impact, which I presume indicates the pilot was dealing with a crosswind. But I disembark in one piece, and that’s 99% of the battle right there. Then I notice the plane has dragged the showery weather all the way back to Toronto. How do they do that?

In conclusion, a big Thank You to the Red Hot Poker Tour for enabling people like myself to come out and learn how to play poker, and for giving me the opportunity to play at the WSOP and actually cash in it! When I first joined the Tour, I hadn’t played poker in 20 years. My most recent card game experience was with Serra Angels, Counterspells, Nantuko Shades, Goblin Warchiefs and Llanowar Elves. Plus a little bridge.

And of course a Nevada-building-code-sized enormous Thank You to the sponsor, top Internet gaming site Party Poker, for putting up the buy-in for me and for a number of others so that we could play in the greatest poker tournament in the world!


  • Bernice says:

    Congratulations, John! BTW, I poured myself an AJ about half way through and it tasted way cooler than the apple juice I had yesterday.

  • Paymaster888 says:

    John you’re a great writer… you made a really great experience very visual for me!

    Hats off to you and your results!

  • frasermanx says:

    Great story. thanks for sharing the experience. Lots of players get loose at the end or tired and make bad calls. Why call an ALL-in if you can’t stay alive

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