Note: This is the fifth and final installment of a trip report I wrote (unpublished) from February and March of 2012.
XV: MONDAY: FINAL DAY OF WSOP CIRCUIT AT CAESARS ATLANTIC CITY
I rarely discuss working at the World Series of Poker in any public forum, other than comments related to my official role. I do not believe it is appropriate for me to comment here or anywhere on what goes on behind the scenes nor infuse my personal biases into what I do. So, those of you looking for that in this blog — you will be disappointed. I consider it a great honor to work for the WSOP as long as I have and I simply do not betray confidences entrusted in me.
But I’ll break protocol somewhat in this report, with some activities that take place on the thirteenth and final day of the WSOP Circuit at Caesars Atlantic City. Today will be a brutal workload, with THREE final tables to cover, which means three full written reports, the most important of which is the Main Event Championship.
I must admit some of these reports are like industrial writing. It’s like grinding out a new chapter in a giant tech manual each day. Occasionally, there’s a good story here and there. But how in the fuck do you make a 22-year-old college dropout winning $26,183 compelling reading?
There’s also data entry for all results to do, which is what I’ve been reduced to at age 50. A fucking data entry clerk. That’s what I am. Only, instead of typing in social security numbers and addresses, it’s poker players and chip counts. Now, I know why insurance salesmen are the heaviest drinkers. Monotonous mind-numbing repetition must be doused with some extinguishing excitation.
XII: SATURDAY EVENING: AT-LARGE BANQUET
Speaking to any audience in the poker community is a challenge. Think about it. Most poker groups are full of novice recreational players — unsophisticated star-struck newcomers who pretty much salt lick any speaker’s ass and chomp any poker tidbit like its a carrot dangling in front of a mule. But this group I’m with tonight has a considerably higher threshold of expectation, which is precisely why some of our past BARGE speakers were misfires (including yours truly). Bottom Line: It’s not easy to entertain as well as inform a group with some of the brightest and most experienced minds in the game.
In short — it’s hard to hit a triple crown with any speaker at a poker gathering, which in my view consists of: 1. A speaker who “gets us,” 2: A speaker who is informative, and 3. A speaker who is entertaining. If we hit on two of those cylinders, that’s a double. Three is a home run.
I was pleased when I initially heard that John Pappas would be this year’s speaker. For those who do not know him, John serves as the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). It’s an organization to which I give a mixed grade, which would probably be a “C” mixed with an “I” for INCOMPLETE. But I certainly respect the fine work John has done and I am eager to hear his latest from the political front.
I thought John hit a solid single on at the banquet with his speech. There was nothing earth-shattering nor newsworthy about it. But, he essentially covered all the bases with the latest with what’s happening in poker at the moment, especially with regards to online poker legalization. I do think John could have been a little more revealing about the work he does, and would very much have liked to hear some behind-the-scene stories about what he’s seen an experienced. I can only imagine the roadblocks of ignorance he’s up against with the clueless whores we elect as lawmakers. Some candid revelations about what happens in the trenches of lobbying could have been entertaining. But, you can’t fetch the winning hand from the muck and so this too shall pass.
Now, let’s move on to what you are waiting for — the ballbusting.
I hate Philadelphia. It’s Detroit — with one major difference. There are actually people LIVING in Philadelphia.
Which begs a serious question, why the fuck would anyone want to LIVE in Philadelphia?
The first part of this blog will be an attempt to fill in that elusive blank with some kind of explanation. Call it a Hail Mary of logic.
I always feel compelled to give some background to these rants. I lived in the Northeast for ten years. I visited Philadelphia at least 100 times, so I’m no stranger to the scene. Ninety or so of those visits were passing through on the way to Atlantic City, but many occasions turned into what I can only describe as an anti-vacation vacation.
So, let’s play a little game, shall we?
Question: If I say a word, what word immediately comes into your mind? What image immediately comes up when confronted with the word “Philadelphia?” For instance, when one thinks of Denver, the rocky mountains come to mind. When one thinks of St. Louis, maybe it’s the famous Gateway Arch. With New Orleans, it’s probably the French Quarter.
My mental flash drive of Philadelphia pretty much is an crash dump of rusted out ship hulls, decaying half-empty warehouses, lead smelters, oil refineries, welfare cheats, and dark, dirty, cold impersonal streets littered with filth.
I know. Stereotyping is wrong, except for when it just so happens to be dead on accurate.
And so, I arrive in this hellhole on a Tuesday night. It’s 35 degrees, drizzling and getting dark, which seems like the ideal metaphoric mood for this miserable place.
From the outside, the so-called PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT looks EXACTLY like the new Aria (Las Vegas) — only if it were laying on it’s side. The airport is a giant gray steel and glass structure — kind of a cross between some Orwellianesque stage set and what one imagines the headquarters to the Social Security Administration to look like.
I remind myself that this will be one of three times I will actually fly into Philadelphia within a six-month period — which is three times too many as far as I’m concerned. I was here for two weeks back in December (nothing spoils the holiday spirit more than spending the Christmas preamble in weary action-starved Atlantic City).
What’s most astonishing is that some people actually take PRIDE in being from Philadelphia — which is sort of like admitting you were birthed out of the ass of a pit bull. I know people can’t help WHERE they were born. But show some fucking humility. Listen. No one is fucking impressed that you grew up where they filmed “Rocky” — correction. Make that Rocky 1, Rocky 2, Rocky 3, Rocky 4, and Rocky 5 — or that you flunked out of Penn. I mean this is a place where everyone in the city looks like Burt Young — and I’m talking about the females here. You’ve got nothing to be fucking proud of.
When I meet someone from Philadelphia, here’s what I EXPECT to hear. Takes notes:
“Hi! My name is Sal. Even though I have lived most of my life in a filthy hellhole with scumbags, it hasn’t rubbed off on me (too much) and I’m actually a pretty decent guy….if you give me the chance.”
I’m reasonable. I don’t judge.
That’s an introduction I can accept. Someone who speaks truth, from the heart.
Gore Vidal died yesterday.
In obituaries which appeared over that last 24 hours, he’s been described as a writer and protagonist.
He ran for office (losing both times).
And, he provoked — and he certainly did that far better than most.
Like his more recent now deceased contemporaries Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and William F. Buckley and in the mold of great thinkers of yesteryear such as H.L. Mencken, Upton Sinclair, and even Mark Twain, he was a fixture on the intellectual circuit. He basked in the spotlight in a time when writers were afforded the same celebrity as rock stars. One colleague pined, “he was the man who knew everyone.”
Vidal was a wildly controversial figure, no doubt. Audiences — those who cared enough about society and culture to follow his ceaseless parade of provocation, now increasingly dissolved in what’s spawned into a grotesque 140-character Twitterized world — would describe his ideas as eccentric and hopelessly out of touch.
As if that’s a “bad thing.”
To the contrary. We need more eccentrics. We need more thinkers who are out of touch. And, we need more Gore Vidals. And sadly, we now have one less.
The intent of a great writer and meaningful prose should not be — to be right all the time. Writing, discussion, debate, inquiry, and ultimately provocation is not about prim and proper conformity to expectations and comfort zones. Indeed, great writers should shun such a horrifying prospect. You will forgive me for admitted bias, but whatever inside the box “is,” the thinker should be standing on the outside and perhaps as far away from the middle as possible. And few stood any further from the apex of old-fashioned traditions as Gore Vidal.
Indeed, great writer does not necessarily implant what one must think. But he (or she) should inspire one TO THINK.
There is a profound difference. And no one understood that different better than Vidal and his fellow lions of intellect.
Gore Vidal did plenty of thinking, urging others to contemplate their own existence, their own sense of right and wrong, during an 86-year adventure, ultimately a fruitful life filled with the handiwork of books, plays , articles, essays , debate appearances, speeches, and participation in all forums which encouraged the free exchange of ideas.
This has been a tough year for writers, no doubt. Eight months ago, we lost Christopher Hitchens, a thinker of extraordinary immensity. Now, we have lost another.
Although I never met Vidal, I think of myself as someone who knew him — through his words and ideas. Perhaps his greatest contribution and of those like him was to inspire others to carry on and push the envelope of ideas, to challenge conventionalism, and blaze new paths towards enlightenment.
In your memory, Mr. Vidal. Thank you.
Marieta and Nolan visit a favorite restaurant in South Florida — “Michelle Bernstein’s,” located in Palm Beach.
V: SINGER ISLAND — IN SEARCH OF BLACK TAIL
With Orlando mercifully in the rear-view mirror, it’s a two-hour drive south to West Palm Beach. The game plan is to relax on the sandy beaches of the coast for a few days and then begin a two-week work assignment, when the WSOP Circuit starts in mid-February.
During my previous visits to the West Palm Beach area, we always stayed on Singer Island, which is an exclusive coastal causeway of ritzy hotels and condos located just north of the city. It’s basically a giant retirement home for people with money. The sad fact is, however — every time I’ve gone onto Singer Island since, there are at least a half a dozen construction cranes destroying what was once an uncrowded pristine beach, turning into another Miami. Now, it’s pretty much wall to wall whitewashed high rises stacked along the ocean side, which makes me sad.
Unfortunately, the hotel prices have gotten so fucking ridiculous on Singer island that I can’t afford to stay there anymore. In the past, it’s always been around$150 a night, for a four-star hotel on the beach. Now, double that as the rack rate. And that’s the rate for a room facing the street on the second floor over the loading dock. It gets worse. Now, these fucking hotels charge you EXTRA for — an ocean view, a pool view, parking, and a refrigerator. Shameless thieves double the prices on the rooms and then try to double whack you with the extras.
During my preparations, I obsessed over a dozen websites looking for good hotel deals, to no avail. My previous favorite was the Hilton Singer Island, which I always thought was a good deal and location during my four previous stays there. This time, they wanted $279 a night plus tax, plus the extras. I figured five nights meant about $1,500, which is way over budget. So, I basically said SCREW THEM, and decided that Marieta and I would instead stay on Juno Beach, which is about four miles due north.
In short, Juno Island is NOW what Singer Island was ten years ago. Which means the greedy bloodsucking developers are eventually going to skull fuck it to death over the next decade until they milk every dollar out of the sand. Then, they’ll move on up to Jupiter, and so forth and so on. That’s how the game works. They call that “progress.”
This photo was taken in December 1989, just after the Romanian Revolution. I’m standing In front of Casa Republicii (House of the Republic) in Central Bucharest a short time after the fall of Nicolae Ceasescu. Casa Republicii, then under construction, was to be the new government center for the Romanian Communist Party. Ceausescu oversaw its construction personally, which essentially bankrupted the nation. It still stands as the world’s largest office building. But he never saw it completed. He was shot by a firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989.
Note to Readers: Thanks for coming and visiting my site. This week, I’m playing in several poker events here in Las Vegas (BARGE 2012). Accordingly, I’ll be posting an unpublished series of trip reports from earlier this year. Next week, I’ll begin a new series on the events that led up to the 1989 Romanian Revolution and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. This will be the first time I have shared my experiences of living in Romania during this period. I’ll also be posting many photographs, which have not been seen publicly. Over the next month, look for commentary on politics, religion, and just about any topic this happens to pop into my twisted mind that day.
I. ORLANDO, FLORIDA
I am not making this up.
Each and every time I must endure a trip to Florida, I’m reminded of the musings of writer Dave Barry.
Barry is (in)famous for his witty non-stop Florida-bashing. Since Barry actually resides in South Florida, he gets away with offending just about everyone in the Sunshine State. For two decades, Barry was a writer for The Miami Herald, penning a masterful column that was eventually nationally syndicated. Barry’s writings were routinely infused with humor at the expense of all the gator-skinned sun-baked Floridians — which he characterizes as doddering elderly, angry Cuban exiles, and crazed dope dealers all entwined in chaotic bliss. Okay, so actually that’s *my* characterization — not his.
I suspect that Barry got away with much of what he wrote largely because he’s one of “them.” It’s sort of like a family, or a fraternity, or a minority group. You can’t criticize and be funny at anyone’s expense without actually being a member of the crazy family.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today’s settlement agreement between PokerStars and the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), which includes an announcement that PokerStars will acquire the entirety of Full Tilt Poker’s global assets, is an encouraging development for all poker players, and particularly positive news for those owed monies via their immobilized account deposits.
In fact, today’s news is the first break in the black cloud that has hung over the poker industry for 15 months. Given PokerStars’ longstanding reputation for integrity and the commendable manner in which they handled their own player-deposit crisis during 2011, all poker players should be grateful to the ownership and management team of this company for assuming a leadership role in what have been troubled times for the poker industry.
However, today’s announcement does nothing, nor should in any way, abdicate any of the principals associated with Full Tilt Poker for their irresponsible actions, criminal or not. Neither does the announcement serve in any way to remedy the gross negligence that led up to the crisis, nor amend the utter indifference of Full Tilt Poker and its principals to the suffering of innumerable poker players who endured severe financial and emotional hardships since the events of April 2011.
Full Tilt Poker’s actions during both the pre- and post-Black Friday period, represented an unprecedented level of irresponsibility and a grotesque violation of trust. The damage these industry outcasts have done to players, public confidence, and the game overall lingers and will not be forgotten nor forgiven until the principals have provided explanation, apology, and restitution.
Conversely, the actions of PokerStars during this crisis have continued to win favor from the poker community at large. I am optimistic that all poker players – residing both inside and outside the United States — who are deemed “victims” in the precise language contained in the official press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York on this date will be reimbursed IN FULL (emphasis mine). Moreover, the USDOJ should do everything in its considerable powers to ensure that all monies are returned as quickly as possible to all victims.
Las Vegas, Nevada
July 31, 2012
Writer’s Note: The opinions expressed here are my own and do not in any way reflect the position of any company, publication, website, or entity with which I have been associated.
Passing through a crowded casino this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice hundreds of people – primarily men – crowded around several television screens at one of the bars.
So, what were they watching? It’s not football season yet, and no one gives a shit about baseball, at least until the playoffs begin.
Answer — the 2012 Olympic Games.
More specifically, the men were watching women’s beach volleyball.
Right. You’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking. I’m sure most of those guys with their eyeballs glued to the television screens really gave a flying rat’s ass that the United States was playing Australia in a preliminary medal round. Hell, it wasn’t even the finals. But for many of those men, no doubt, the match concluded with one hell of a climax.
Beach volleyball? Don’t call this charade a sport. It’s the world’s largest masturbation festival — plain and simple. It’s a cum-dumpster parade. Women in panties prancing around in the sand. They might as well be having a pillow fight or wrestling in jello.
Confirming my suspicion that most of the viewers had no real rooting interest in the Olympic match other than the tits and ass tally, sometime later when I passed through the same area after dinner and this time men’s volleyball was being shown, virtually no one was watching. MENS VOLLEYBALL. Poof! Everyone was gone! I don’t know — perhaps someone yelled “fire” inside the casino and I missed it.
The bottom line is, most of these gold medal events aren’t really “sports” at all. They are excuses for getting as many athletes from as many nations as possible into a televised viewing frame so that as many products as possible can be plunged down our throats in the form of a non-stop parade of commercials. That’s it basically. The Olympics are nothing more a delivery device for rampant consumerism — be it cell phones, sports cars, or soft drinks. It’s the globe’s biggest assembly line for product placement — on every wall, on every uniform, on every sign, on every conceivable frame of real estate that might possibly be viewed by someone, somewhere.
Which brings me to what should be the Olympic Games’ most expensive product platform — the ASSES of the volleyball girls. Hell, that real estate is more prime than a penthouse on Central Park West.
If you could go back and live your life all over again, would you?
I suppose most of us would answer – it depends.
Let’s say you could turn back the clock and relive your life with the benefit of all the knowledge you now possess. Given the inherent wonders of knowing what the future would bring, most of us would agree to a replay. Let’s say you could go back to 1969 and bet on the New York Jets or take full advantage of MicroSoft’s 1986 IPO, you’d be very wealthy indeed.
Then there is the “Dead Zone” prospect of going back and purposefully changing the future. For instance, who among us would not feel compelled to try and alter the terrible course of events which occurred on September 11, 2001?
But what about going back in time and facing utter uncertainty? Would you choose to live your life over again and then be willing to accept the consequences if things were to turn out very differently?