There's No Place (Quite) Like Home

It's 92 degrees and humid in New York today, but it feels like a fucking picnic. They call the desert a dry heat, but I'll take this weather over 110 degrees in Vegas any day. That kind of weather makes me feel like my skin is cracking. Like I'll turn to ash like a vampire in the sun. Here, the summer breeze is actually cool.

Aside from the weather, I feel at home in Sin City. The Strip feels like one giant Times Square. It's big, loud, and not the most polite place in the world. And it smells bad, too. Like New York, the city comes to life at night. The familiar energy of people scuttling to and fro, going somewhere they just need to be. But where it has glitz and glamor, it lacks substance. It feels like nothing of consequence happens out there. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but does anyone really care? I don't.

Back to real life. Back to my city.

I've got a laundry list of things to do today (and a lot of laundry, too!):
[ ] Redistribute part of my $21k to my WSOP backers
[ ] Catch up on email and PMs
[ ] Practice guitar in my new rehearsal space
[ ] Record DTB video
[ ] Get back to the grind
[ ] Eat a falafel
[x] Write blog

Vegas Vagabond

I'm sick of Vegas. It's time to go home. Unfortunately, I'm checking out at 11 AM this morning, but my flight's not until 6 AM. So I'll be wandering around Vegas for the better part of 18 hours, sweating and sniffling. (I've managed to get genuinely sick for the first time this year.)

I'll be home late on Sunday, and should be fully functional on Monday. I'll be busy right off the bat - grinding, coaching, making videos, posting in the forums, shipping profits to my WSOP investors, and responding to emails and PMs. So if you're waiting on something from me, it'll happen Monday.

Right now I'm going to get the best night of sleep I can to prepare myself for one last long day in the desert.

Superstition, Synchronicity and Serendipity

Yesterday was July 13th, 2010. That's the day I busted out of the World Series of Poker main event. It's also the day I cashed in my very first main event, good for $21,327. Not bad for a guy who hated tournaments and hasn't played No Limit for a living since 2007.

The turning point of my WSOP came midway through Day 4. I had almost 190k chips when a dude dressed in a white cowboy suit covered with green shamrocks came to the rail.

"Rub the clover for luck!" his wife suggested.

"They ain't clovers, they shamrocks," he retorted.

"No thanks, I've got my Buddha right here," I said as I lifted my little Buddha card protector. "Today's backwards St. Patty's Day, anyway." I muttered something about the luck of the Irish, world history, and irony before I looked down to see two black aces. I raised and got one caller, yielding a stack-to-pot ratio of about thirteen.

Thirteen. The number holds special meaning to a lot of people. Triskaidekaphobia in this country is so strong that I haven't seen a Vegas hotel with a thirteenth floor. When we're talking about stack-to-pot ratios in No Limit Holdem, aces can be said to have triskaidekaphobia. I lost about 71k chips on the hand and wound up playing defense for the rest of the tournament. Luck of the Irish.

July 13th was also my aunt's birthday. I say "was" because she died of throat cancer on my friend's 21st birthday in 1999. She may win the award for nicest person I've known in my entire life. Unfortunately, she's not the only family I've lost to cancer, including my father, my uncle, and a bunch of cats.

This year the WSOP has an official charity,, and suggests donating 1% of our winnings to the fight against cancer. I was sporting the green 1% patch all tournament and gave 1% of my winnings, which only amounts to a couple hundred dollars. But if everyone donates 1%, that will amount to over $680k from the main event alone.

Coincidence and synchronicity often exist where you look for them, but yesterday, it felt like they were looking for me.

Why People Hate Live Poker

I've survived Day 3 of the WSOP main event with 108,400 chips. I reached precisely zero showdowns, so you could say that my cards didn't matter at all. I ran sort of well. In eight hours of poker, I had aces, kings and queens at least twice each. I flopped kings full, an ace high flush, and a set of deuces. Unfortunately, I got no action on any of those hands. But I didn't get called the times I was squeezing with air, either.

Several times I saw my opponents reach for their chips as they contemplated playing back at my 3-bets, but each time they folded. I'm beginning to think I have an intimidating table image, even without a huge stack. My confidence has increased each day. I think a year from now I could be pretty good at this live tournament business. Maybe I'll play all of the $10k events next year - Limit Holdem, No Limit, Pot Limit Omaha, Deuce to Seven, HORSE, etc. We'll see.

Anyway, today started off in unpleasant fashion. The first guy to my left was a real nice guy with a real short stack. He played tight until he accidentally got it in with KQ after losing track of the action. Bummer. He was replaced by my least pleasant opponent of the tournament. Double bummer.

Despite the fact that we're all fighting for a piece of a rather large pie of money ($68 million), everyone else has been polite, sportsmanlike, and of generally good cheer. Not this guy. From the moment he sat down to the moment he left the table, I could tell he was "one of those guys."

Our table was full and I was correctly positioned at the table, but he asked me to move over to give him some space. He was in the 9-seat next to the dealer, which is an uncomfortable spot. I was in the 8-seat on his right. He had a bag of foul smelling food, so I tried to oblige, but there really wasn't that much room.

With antes of two black chips (200), he kept asking me for change, despite the fact that he had two stacks of them. This is inconsiderate and slows the game down. The chips, the smell, and the cantankerousness were on the slightly irritating side, but it comes with the territory. I just tried to ignore him and engage some of the other players in more pleasant conversation. Then it happened.

I folded my hand under the gun, and our friend folded his hand next. Two players later, a colorblind offensive lineman tried to open limp the cutoff. We want to encourage this behavior. The blinds were 600 and 1200, and he put a 1000 and two 500 chips in the pot. "Oops," he said as he reached for one of the 500 chips. The dealer pushed it back to him, making this a call.

The button folded, then the small blind asked, "Is that a call?" That's when our buddy to my left chimed in.

"It's a raise! It's more than half the bet. It has to be a raise!"

First of all, it's none of this guy's business whether the cutoff limps or raises. He's already folded. Second of all, it was clearly a mistake. The button didn't care. The small blind didn't care. The big blind didn't care. They're the only guys who should get an opinion. But this guy had the dealer call the floor, who declared the play a min-raise.

As we returned from the second break (but before he returned), I asked "Would somebody bust this guy?" This is pretty out of character for me, but I don't have a lot of tolerance for a single person ruining the vibe of a whole table. He busted soon after and was replaced by a pleasant Aussie (who unfortunately played better than the curmudgeon).

There were two other incidents that I was going to mention, but I'm pretty tired, so I'll save them for another time, but they involve a couple of live poker faux pas. One is an "I want to see that hand" abuse, and the other is a "You're good" at showdown miscall.

Enough of that. I'm excited to make it to Day 4. I certainly didn't expect to get this deep. In fact, I'm supposed to be on a plane at 2 PM, so I have to go rebook that now. Best of luck to Jeremy and David. I met both of them at the DragTheBar gathering, and I hope to meet them again down the line in this tournament. Not too soon, though, as they're both tourney pros and I'm just a humble Limit Holdem coach.

New Friends

I had lunch today with acclaimed poker author and vegas vegan, Ed Miller. He was kind enough to bring me a box of Ronald's (vegan) Donuts and give me a ride to Whole Foods, where I restocked on coconut water and bananas (among a bevy of other items). It's always nice meeting someone that you have a lot in common with, and as a new author, it was great to pick the brain of one of the best poker authors out there. It doesn't hurt that Ed's a super nice guy, either.

After a late afternoon nap, I hailed a cab over to the Palms for the PokerStars party. I'm sure an open bar, Go-Go dancers, and Snoop Dogg appeal to a lot of people, but to be honest, I was pretty bored for the first hour after I entered the club. I had more fun waiting on line chatting with a couple strangers. Both are still in the main event, and one of them turned out to be friends with the next DragTheBar coach. (I can't tell you who it will be, but he sounds like an awesome addition.)

Things picked up once I met up with two of my Limit Holdem buddies, Jesse "Thor" Haabak and Jake Abdalla. Last year they finished 26th and 72nd, respectively, so they gave me a little WSOP pep talk. They're both cool and pretty laid back, and probably had a lot more fun tonight than I did. I wish I could have hung out longer, but I've got a lot of poker to play tomorrow. It's great to have an insider's view into how the main event plays as the bubble approaches, but first I have to make it through Day 3. Today wasn't all that restful, but it was fun and social, and if tomorrow turns out to be the same, it will be a good day.

Ready To Rumble

Day 2 of the WSOP began with a colorful introduction from Bruce Buffer, voice of the UFC. I had 42,700 chips when he said "Shuffle up and deal!" I ended the day with 96,100. That's a good day, and leaves me with an average (mean) stack size. I should be well above the median.

My table was very pleasant. There were no absolutely terrible players, but my opponents were straightforward. Many of them were short stacked, so I was able to push them around a bit. I also had the pleasure of flopping a few hands. I had a good feel for the table and played with more confidence than I did on Day 1. The overall mood was very good, too. People were friendly and we had fun. In 8 hours of poker, we only saw two eliminations.

I was well prepared with 4 bottles of water, 2 bottles of coconut water, goji berry trail mix, candied pecans, 3 types of Clif bars, and a banana. Nonetheless, I felt tired and hungry at the dinner break. These days are long.

I spent some time wandering around the Rio, walking into Gaylord's Indian Restaurant, but decided against waiting on line. I came back later when there was no line, and a few folks strolled in behind me.

"Are you Bruce Buffer? I loved your interview," one guy said to another.

"Thanks, bro. I just tell it like it is."

Long story short, I end up having dinner with Bruce Buffer. Very nice guy. We talked about martial arts and poker, and it turns out he's written some articles on the connection between the two. I gave him a copy of Way of the Poker Warrior, which he said he'll mention on his radio show. It turns out he's got his own poker room at Luxor, which I'll have to check out.

I ran good today, and I'm excited to head back to the Rio on Monday for Day 3. If I survive that day, I'll either be in the money or very close to it.

Dreams Come True

I am proud to announce that my first book, Way of the Poker Warrior, is officially published as of today. You can order it on my brand new website, E-books ship immediately, and hard copies will be on the way in a week or two.

This book draws from two of my favorite pastimes (and careers), poker and martial arts, with the occasional nod to a third, music. You can read the reviews on my website, or this one on Poker News.

In this first of hopefully many books, I strive to extract the most valuable lessons from the martial arts, and show you how to apply them directly to your poker game. While the lessons can be applied to all aspects of life, I analyze 29 individual hands to help you get immediate value from the ideas. With forewords from Grandmaster Suk Jun Kim and DragTheBar coaches Dusty Schmidt and Hunter Bick, I'm joined by some prestigious company.

Being published is a dream come true. I love being a professional poker player and coach, but I didn't cook up that idea until I was 20. I've known I would be a writer someday since I was 13. I had always put it off because writing holds no age barriers. It's something I could always get to later. But I'm done waiting. Now I'm a published author. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Leaving Las Vegas

"Drive Safe. Come Back Soon," the sign read. As we passed it, I glanced over my shoulder and read "Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas." The strip doesn't look that impressive under the scorching sun, but the view on the way in looks a lot better than the view on the way out.

Here's the thing: I'm from New York. I don't drive. Where I come from, we walk everywhere. Even when it's 104 degrees under the desert sky. Las Vegas wasn't built for walking, but I still trudged several miles northwest from the strip to Chinatown, and then so far south that I literally walked right out of the city.

Here's the other thing: I'm vegan. I don't eat meat. Or fish. Or eggs. Or dairy. I often get asked what I actually [I]do[/I] eat. Trust me, there's a wide range of foods that I love to overindulge in, all of them completely devoid of animal products. But Vegas wasn't built for vegans, so I had to leave.

Now, I didn't go far. I just moseyed on over to Whole Foods, located in the Town Square themed strip mall. It's only about 3 miles from my hotel. A city boy can walk that in under 45 minutes, but with all of the twists and turns of the strip, it took two hours. I got cereal, soysages, and fauxgurt for breakfast; pasta, burritos and spring rolls for dinner; coconut water, bananas, and two kinds of trail mix for Day 2 on Saturday. Some fresh fruits and veggies now round out my well-stocked kitchen.

The toughest part of main event Day 1 was the dirth of viable food options. I was delighted to see a fresh salad stand in the Poker Kitchen. I was appalled to see the preparer dig her hands into the lettuce, carrots and bacon, then mush them all around with the same hands. As a result, I was relegated to bananas, dried mango and the Clif bars I'd brought with me.

Hopefully I'll survive the full 9 hours of Day 2. If I don't, at least it won't be from starving.

My Callback Is On Saturday

I don't think I got on television yet, but my first audition for the final table of the main event went well enough. I finished the day with 42,700 chips, which is about average at this stage of the game. More importantly, I'm still alive, and I'll be back on Saturday to play Day 2B.

Day 1 spread a few minutes of excitement throughout twelve hours of boredom. There were colorful characters: some dude dressed up as Batman was sitting next to Dan Harrington across from my table. A Full Tilt Pro was wearing a puffy Unlce Sam hat and an all white jump suit as part of their 1% pledge to [URL=""][/URL]. I was the first to take a patch from Phil Gordon (happy 40th, Phil). I can confirm the reports - he is very, very tall.

I only saw two guys bust at my table in 9 hours of play. I was fortunate enough to bust both of them.

The first was Dan Shak, winner of the $100k buy-in event at the Aussie Millions. I had been trying to figure out where I knew him from until the other players informed me of his exploits. I don't watch much poker on TV, though, so I'm pretty sure I've actually played with him before. He's a hedge fund manager from NYC, so the latter explanation seems likely.

The hand was pretty straightforward. He opened in early position and it folded to my big blind. I held AKs. I just called, and crushed the flop of AK6. I figured I could get a c-bet out of him, so I went for a check/raise. He checked back. A third spade fell on the turn and I led into the 1,300 pot for 1,000. He made it 3,000. I expected him to semi-bluff spades on that flop and there are only 8 combos of sets on that board, so I shoved. He called and flipped up middle pair with the nut flush draw. A red seven on the river maintained the status quo and shrunk our table to 9.

The second guy was an unknown (to me) wearing Stars gear. He had been opening a ton of pots and I had re-raised a couple times already (earning folds from him). With a 12k stack, he opened the cutoff for 875 and I looked down at black tens. I made it 2,500. He did a fair amount of hemming and hawing before shoving. I paused to consider whether this was sincere or an act. It felt genuine enough to me, so I called. He flipped AT and I had him dominated. The flop of KQ9 bought him an extra 4 hours, but the turn and river bricked off and I was back up to 43k chips. There were a couple other interesting hands, but that's it for this blog.

Live Tournament No Limit Holdem has to be the slowest poker game on earth. (Well, Omaha is probably worse.) The majority of my nine hours of poker were spent waiting and watching. I can say that on two occasions my heart was racing, and that's something that cash games have completely ceased to cause. I'll take the good with the bad, and hopefully avoid the ugly.

I May Never Go Home

I arrived in Vegas about six hours ago. During my irritating trip through airport security, then my first flight and layover, I was planning to write a Seinfeld-esque blog about air travel. "What's up with those 3 oz. containers? I mean, you can't take a pair of scissors on board, but pen's are okay? I guess they never saw Grosse Pointe Blank or The Bourne Identity." But we all know about airport security. It sucks. It's a pain in the ass, and if someone was really motivated to hijack a plane, I'm sure they could still do it. Moving on.

On my second flight, I witnessed an amusing game of musical chairs between a middle-aged woman, her redheaded daughter, and some dude.

MOM: What seat are you in?
DUDE: The middle one there.
MOM: Would you mind switching with my daughter? She's the redhead over there.
DUDE: Sure. What's Her Name?
MOM: Kristin.

DUDE goes over to REDHEAD, sitting across the aisle.
DUDE: Kristin? Your mom asked me to switch with you.
REDHEAD: Oh. Thanks.

REDHEAD gets up and smiles at DUDE, who takes her seat.
DUDE: Sorry guys, I know I'm not as good looking.

REDHEAD blushes and sits next to her mom.
MOM: Would you take the middle seat? Sacrifice for your mom?
MOM: Or would you like me to switch seats with him?
REDHEAD: Actually, yeah. Danny already gave me permission. He said he wouldn't mind. I told him he would.
MOM: Guys always mind.

Anyway...the reason I may never come home is that I've luckboxed myself into a thoroughly ridiculous hotel suite at Vdara. They ran out of the room size I had reserved, so they gave me a massive free upgrade. This thing has a full kitchen complete with dishwasher. The master bathroom has separate shower and bath, along with two sinks. There's a second bathroom in the living room, right next to the washer and dryer. The living room itself has a desk with free wi-fi, a huge couch in front of a 52" TV, and another table with four chairs. And the bedroom has a comfortable king size bed and its own TV, of course.

The hotel itself is between Bellagio and Aria, both of which have cash games I'll be playing in, but are far back enough from the strip to feel like a relaxing escape. I'll be here for 11 days, so this was the right time to pick the right hotel. I was in a good mood on the way out here, and things are beginning to look even better.

Rollin' Up A Stake And Goin' To Vegas

I watched Rounders again a few days ago. The poker isn't quite state of the art, but it's still the best movie ever made on the subject. It goes to show how much you can do with a good script and a great cast.

I find myself in much the same spot as Mike McD - a pocket crammed with cash and a plane ticket from New York to Vegas. This will be the first main event I've played at the World Series of Poker. I'm looking forward to the madness, but I'm much more excited about my first book, Way of the Poker Warrior, and my new website. Details to come.

In fact, there's a possibility that I'll play my first hand at the Main Event on the same day that my book is released, and one day after meeting Hunter, Dusty, perhaps our bracelet winning coach Ian, and who knows how many other awesome coaches and players. Considering that two years ago I was grinding it out at $3/6, it feels like the big time.

I'll be making regular updates on Facebook and Twitter (GiantBuddhaPoke - yeah, funny, huh?). If anyone's in Vegas, shoot me a PM, or stop by and say hi if you see me. When I'm not at the WSOP, I'll be at the 2p2 parties, playing some crazy mixed games, and at the Bellagio, camping out at the mid-high Limit Holdem tables.