Friday, October 22, 2004

Day Three: $1000 LHE...Things Fall Apart

The Limit Hold'em tournament is when things really started falling apart for the WPPA. As if day one and two weren't bad enough, day three was worse.

Fortunately, day three was also when I met some of the most friendly and outstanding people during this festival. Max Pescatori comes to mind, as does Gregg Fund and Dan Heimiller.

Things started off shaky with only 16 players. Feeling that limit Hold’em is one of my worst games, and not having won any satellites the day before, I didn't buy-in. Instead, I chose to be a reporter.

I was shocked that the play was so good and explosive. I had expected to be nodding off, but instead was riveted to the final table.

When players were contemplating buying in, I stood by the desk, trying my best to offset Brian's negative attitude and constant complaints about the tournament. Brian's attitude of life is 'he who yells loudest wins,' but I figured if I could just intercept the players first, I might be able to present a better face for the tourney.

Max Pescatori and Charlie Shoten were at the desk, buying in. I was trying to tell Max that the WPPA was going to add some NLHE events every day, in addition to the "main" event scheduled.

The day before, in the Stud tourney, I'd told Louis that the Four Queens had made sure to run a NLHE tourney each day, in addition to the "main" event. I said it might be an idea worth considering, if it boosted attendance. We could have a NLHE event at noon, followed by the day's "main event" at 2pm. He thought it was a great idea, and we started the wheels in motion.

Far from liking the idea of attendance actually improving, Brian went ballistic. I, however, did not know that he'd gone ballistic at the idea until the next day, when I was trying to explain it to Max. Suddenly, in the middle of my sentence, Brian went nuts, screaming at Max and me about the situation.

Just a few minutes later is when Brian once again went off on Max about the idea of Charlie leaving his luggage in his room, as reported in another post. Ugh.

Although Brian would rather commit suicide than actually see the WPPA succeed, we did get a tournament that day. Only sixteen, but something.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, in walks David Levi. He went to the regular tournament area and approached Marlin. Marlin, David, Dennis Horton and I were gathered around him to hear the story.

David asked, "What the heck happened?" Marlin asked what he meant. David asked, "What happened to the WPPA tournament?" Marlin assumed he meant why weren't the regular tourney tables filled. Marlin explained, "Oh, it's over there," and pointed in the direction of our hidden area.

David looked puzzled, then questioned, "No, I mean what happened to the WPPA? I heard it was canceled."

We all looked at him in shock. "Canceled? It's not canceled, it's going on right over there!" Marlin pointed again. David said, "That's weird, everyone in Aruba was saying it was canceled." Marlin asked him who 'everyone' was. David told us that it was all over the island, he even heard it from the people running the WPT.

Great, as if the Orleans hadn't done all they could to sabotage the event, here comes the WPT to give it another kick into the trashcan.

We just stood there agape. David called some people who were still in the Aruba final event. We all stood there while he called player after player, telling them they'd been lied to. Marlin was so stunned at the lying going on in Aruba that he even got on the phone with some of the players. I think David Chui was one of them. They confirmed that it was all over Aruba that the WPPA had been canceled.

David was outraged and swore he was going to call everyone he knew, as well as going to the Bellagio and spreading it around there. It was too late for David to enter the LHE event, but he said that this was atrocious, that they would attempt to sabotage the WPPA this way. A little healthy competition never hurt anyone.

The rest of the day went off okay. I was in awe about the final table play, but I've already talked about that, both in this post, and in my write-up of that event.

At the end of the day it's the game, it's poker. It's all about poker, right? Not about this political stuff. I loved watching the final three play this sucker out. It was truly world-class play, and played so well.

Dan Heimiller is sort of the Ted Forrest of unknowns. No one knows him, until they look up his record, and then they are just sitting there in awe. Dan is tough to talk to, no doubt about it. But isn't that why poker is the great equalizer? Because we don't have to have great speaking skills, great social skills. Our playing sizes us up, not our speaking or social abilities. Dan's mind is so full of poker that he can be a tough nut to crack. Not a problem with Super-Felicia, I just kept at him, until I realized that I liked Dan quite a bit, on top of thinking he was an excellent player.

I also liked his parting comment on tourneys. He said his favorite tourney game was the game that he just won! Cute, like Dan, and always surprising.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Day Two: $1000 Stud and Jean Gaspard

Day two of the WPPA festival was the $1000 buy-in Stud event. In some ways, this was one of the neatest days I experienced. In other ways, it was one of the worst.

When we came into the special tournament area in the morning, Brian was already there, looking mean and sullen. He started in on Louis right away. Things like, "This is dying, no one is coming! You're living in a dream world, this isn't working, we need to stop it right now!"

Whenever anyone came up to the desk to register or ask a question, Brian would loudly express his own opinion over Tracy, who was the person assigned to sell the seats. He would discourage them from buying in, voicing pessimism like, "We won't even have a Stud tournament today, just forget it!"

During the last hour, Louis and I banded together to bring people over. We hyped it up in the regular tourney room. We got some satellites going. We begged people who were standing around, unsure of the situation. We both promised everyone that we would play, no matter what. If it was a three-person tournament, we'd still play. Brian had made the situation so horrible, that he had forced us to fight against his negativity.

In the end, we got nine players. I'm still pretty surprised we got that many.

Towards the end, right before the tournament began, Brian was yelling out things like, "This is so stupid! This is a failure! No one is playing! I'm not running a one table tournament!"

We swore we'd play, no matter what Brian's attitude may have been.

After the tournament, I told Louis that Brian should not be taking buy-ins, he was discouraging the players and behaving completely out of line. Garrett, Brian and Louis had a little "shape up or ship out" meeting, and Brian came back with a slightly better attitude for a few days. Too bad it didn't last.

We did play, and I've talked about it elsewhere. I was so thrilled because I almost won. If it weren't for a very fierce competitor, Jean Gaspard, I think I could have pulled it off.

Jean is another wonderful player I have wanted to profile since I got home. Jean is a French-American black man who is 32 years old. The reason I point out that he is French, is because he is always speaking both languages, and makes sure to fit in with everyone. The reason I mention he is black, is because he uses that as part of his act, and gets the play that he wants.

Jean is hilarious. He is a never-ending joking and talking machine. He uses all kinds of humor, from self-depreciating, to self-congratulating, to racial humor, sexual humor and anything else you could possibly imagine. Just as soon as you think you have a hold on Jean, he switches it all up.

Jean says his best game is Stud. I believe him. He says he has been playing tournament Stud since '96. He loves the game, it is clear. He can use his best shtick in Stud.

Jean is a firm believer in memorizing every board card, and remembering the number of suits out, and dead cards. He has clearly come up with a pattern over the years, because he doesn't miss a thing. I have rarely see someone openly express the cards that are dead and the cards that are live with such accuracy, on the river, when the betting is over. People think that Jean is just lucky, because he plays a lot of pots, and he seems to win more than his fair share. They are fooled. Jean knows what he is doing. He knows what YOU have, and he knows what he needs to catch to beat you. He uses your transparency, your solid play against you.

At one point, Jean was almost out of chips. He got crippled due to another players bad play. Instead of retaliating verbally, he decided to take a break, take a little walk and breathe. He met up with some girl and started flirting with her. I think he got a name and a number, as well as a hug, and came back smiling. He talked about the girl and somehow I twisted the encounter into another situation.

He said something along the lines of her needing to go to work. I said I imagined she was already at work, she was a working girl, describing the girl as "working," and she did fit the description, wearing next to nothing at 2pm on a Tuesday, lol. We kept bouncing off of each other, telling jokes and laughing. The table was laughing as well. He handled losing a big pot very well.

Pretty soon, he took his 300 remaining chips, and built them into a decent stack once again.

Jean and I played off of each other verbally, but mostly we stayed out of each other's way. Since I am super tight, he knew he would have to outdraw me. He waited patiently, stealing my antes and bring-ins when he got the chance, but avoiding me in big, raised pots.

Just when I thought I might win the thing, he took away my chip lead. I started with aces in the hole, and caught two pair on fifth. Unfortunately, he caught his diamond on sixth, which might also have been a straight, due to his board and the way the pot had been played.

It was a huge pot, although I had the wherewithal to check/call both sixth and seventh. I never regained the lead after that.

Within an hour, Jean had almost all of the chips on the table, but we were all still smiling and happy, not upset to lose to such a great guy.

During the next two weeks, Jean gave me a lot of advice. Advice and compliments, I might add. He knew I was green compared to him, and gave me some tips to improve my Stud tourney game. I already knew most of them, but being new it's harder to actually execute what you know!

Some of the things he quoted were pure Sklansky, although he claimed not to be a Sklansky reader.

He said my reads and instincts were outstanding, that I knew when to back off, knew when to push it. He told me that I had something and that people like he and I would always be big winners. He, because people didn't think black men knew how to play poker. Me, because people didn't think women knew how to play poker. He said he had exploited this stereotype over the years, and figured I had, too. I agreed. He said other than my tight play, I was impossible to read and put on a hand. I told him that it was likewise hard to put him on a hand, because he played so many pots, and he played his hands so well. We talked about how important memorizing cards is in Stud. Dead cards, live cards, suits, ranks, doorcards. It is impossible to win high buy-in tourneys without doing these things.

Jean was very supportive of the ideal of the WPPA. He hated the way people were being treated, but he came back to play in the events that he could. He knew he was losing money, so he interspersed his Orleans play with play at the Bellagio.

Jean treated me like a million bucks. His ever-present advice was worth its weight in gold, and I half-chidingly begged him to take me on the road with him. I'll bet he makes a mint with that act!

Other players at the table were likewise troopers. Charlie Shoten and Brian Goddard played in both Stud events. Both came in from California especially for this. Brian flew in twice, just to play in the Stud events. Mike Rabinowitz gave me the best off-handed compliment I'd ever gotten in Stud. After he outdrew my aces, he asked what I had. I showed aces, saying, "Like there was any question about what I started with." His eyes widened and he said, "I just don't ever know with you! You are impossible to read. I can't get any kind of handle on you at all!"

He made my day! Mike and I had played together in a few Stud events at the Four Queens.

So we made the tourney a go. We overcome huge obstacles to make sure it was played, regardless of the pessimism we got from the Orleans staff.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Charlie Shoten

(Picture "stolen" with permission from

Charlie Shoten is a player I met at the WPPA. Charlie was disillusioned with the WPT and wanted tournaments put back into the hands of the players.

I first met Charlie during a Stud satellite. He was mostly quiet, but said some strange things when he did speak. He was talking about mystical things, and I thought he was just teasing a player who kept insisting that flushes come more often than straights when there is a full moon.

Later I learned that there are certain things that Charlie really believes (no, I don't think he believed the flush versus straight theory).

I noticed right away that Charlie is soft-spoken and quiet. He doesn't reveal himself unless he feels that he can trust a person and/or that he is being listened to. He is definitely a no-nonsense guy, but often sits and watches other people, instead of putting himself in front.

Charlie and I played in the first WPPA Seven Card Stud tournament. We only got nine players, but all of them were sincere in wanting the best for the WPPA. This was only the second event, and we had no idea that disaster was waiting for us, although we were already experiencing glimmers of the future.

Like tiny warriors, we played Stud anyway. We played for over six hours, and had a fantastic time. There is something about Stud that turns the most hardened, grumpy poker players into more calm human beings. The rhythm of Stud is relaxing; the memorization of the doorcards erases the mind of bad beats, one outers and other events that tend to put people in a bad mood.

This tournament was no exception. We may have each chucked $1000 into the prize pool, but we treated each other like decent people, not hurting our opponents by screaming when we sucked out on them, at the river. Stud is a different game, etiquette is generally much better.

Charlie and I got to talk quite a bit during this tournament. I found that I liked him. Regardless of his belief in some things that I didn't believe in, I found that we had much in common. Our feelings about ethics and morality were almost exactly the same. Charlie, like me, pulls no punches. He is not PC and nicey-nice, but he is genuine.

Charlie went on quite a run during the WPPA. Sometimes watching him from the sidelines was amazing. He made some awesome plays, like any other WCP. He switched up his play quite a bit, too, never letting anyone put him on a hand or a thought. He was so hard to read.

In the first Omaha 8 event, when Gioi wanted to play it out for the title, Charlie obliged him, like a little kid in a school yard, giggling along with Gioi and having fun with it. Charlie could have declined and went to bed. He was having some long days!

The next day, which was the first shootout, Charlie seemed so tired, so fatigued. But he got an hour break, went to his room to nap, and came back like a tiger, taking down his opponents in only 30 minutes! Rather than apologizing and escaping back to his room, Charlie sat and talked to me for an hour, giving me lots of information about not only his style of play, but also his life, his train of thought, and surviving in the pro circuit.

Just when I thought Charlie couldn't be more kind or sincere, he looked me in the eye and pressed some money into my hand, forcing me to take it, regardless of his "losses" by playing in such short fields.

In the main event, Charlie got deep into the field. When he busted out I was there to give him a pat on the back. Charlie still smiled, like always, accepting his loss better than almost anyone I've seen. Although suffering from lack of sleep and long days, Charlie went around shaking hands and patting backs. He congratulated other players, was very nice to the staff and behaved in a professional manner at all times.

I think one of the things I admire about Charlie the most is how he behaved one time when I saw him make a mistake. He made an error after a long day when talking to the floorman about his payout. When he realized his mistake, he apologized profusely and stuck out his hand to the floorman asking to be forgiven.

Charlie Shoten is not only a world-class player, but a true gentleman.


I had to cut a comment from this site. I don't usually cut comments, I let people flame me if they want, even though it's ridiculous.

The reason I might cut a comment here or there is because I feel that particular comment will spark a lot of comments, perhaps even a flame war. This isn't a poker discussion group, it's my own journal. So if you want to flame me, pick me apart, please start your war on a forum. There are tons to choose from, be my guest.

I said at the beginning of my group of tales that some people would accuse me of exaggerating. That is already starting. I'm used to the "bury your head in the sand" people. They are all over the place. As far as lying goes, why would I? It would be easy to prove if I were lying. There are lots of people who were there, a ton of witnesses. I wouldn't publish something I knew to be a lie, if it were so easy to follow up on.

Making up e-mails is just hilariously absurd. The reason I kept "Joe-Pro" private is not because he asked me to, but because I knew that it was the content of his e-mails that was important, not his name. I don't want to be known as a person who goes around dropping names. In addition, if I were going to make up a "character," I would definitely have said that he's won several WSOP bracelets, and has won millions this year in tourneys. I would try to give my LIE more credibility, lol.

As many of you have probably noticed, the "big scoop" is not just one post, it is many, and has been going on and on since my first post on the issue. Not only is it interspersed in all of my posts, but each post also has it's own story to tell. If you think I haven't begun yet, you aren't really reading my journal.

Although I welcome and value constructive comments, some people would rather just hide, anonymously in the web of the net and flame away. I truly feel sorry for these people. Far from hating them, I think they need help and I shudder to think of the state of their lives. The Internet can be used for both good and bad. I have chosen to use it for a good purpose. Too bad not everyone is in that state of mind.

Sage Advice from "Joe-Pro"

I think I've had a fever during the past two days. As crazy as my mind works at normal times, the fever has made it work in ways even more mysterious and scary, lol. I have had deep thoughts that usually don't enter my mind, thoughts in color, instead of pure black and white.

Usually, my mind works in black and white. I see something, I research it, I learn as much as I can, and then I make up my mind. Black and white, no color. I am not wishy-washy. Anyone who described me as a flake would be a horrible judge of character. I'm wrong sometimes, and when I'm wrong it's usually a big deal, because I have been so vehement about my position.

Thinking in color presents a whole new set of difficulties for me. I have to reevaluate my position, and doing so is like a fish riding a bicycle, sooooo unnatural! So I hope that soon I'll be able to shake this fever and go back to being the witch I'm meant to be, wahaha. No, it's true, I really am born on Halloween, and I'll be 36 this year :)

I have been communicating with one of today's top players. I am so fortunate that I met some truly caring people through the WPPA, that is one thing I wouldn't take back, even with all of the pain that this festival caused me.

This guy is well known and respected in the top echelon of poker. His unbelievable kindness and generosity in the poker community astounds me, as I have only heard well of him. He claims he is having an off year, yet has won over 150k in the bigger buy-in tourneys so far and almost won a WSOP bracelet. I wish I were having that kind of off year, lol.

Anyway, we have been communicating quite a bit, having met at the WPPA, although I recognized him from frequent published pictures and TV appearances. He is extremely literate, and a clear, passionate correspondent. Having witnessed some of the atrocities that happened at the Orleans, he was able to communicate with me and felt some empathy for the situation.

For whatever reason, Joe-pro thought I was interested in a writing career. Hahahahaaaaa, like anyone is going to hire a renegade like me. Not only that, but I'm a great poker player, not a great writer (lol). I'm known throughout the world...well, mostly Laughlin, for my superb poker playing ability. Jeez, I have trophies to prove it! Wait, come back, you guys still don't believe me???

Hardy har. Well, anyway, he was under the mistaken assumption that writing meant something to me. Writing is cathartic; it is a form of some kind of crazy therapy, which just happens not to cost me any money. I do not look forward to any kind of career in writing. I was simply trying to be nice to the WPPA when I volunteered to do the tournament reporting.

So getting back to Joe-pro. He and I wrote back and forth many times. He, assuming that I wanted a career in writing and not in poker, gave me some great advice about not continuing with exposing the WPPA debacle. His advice wasn't based on the fact that I might be burning bridges, but more based on a deduction he had come to and used in his own life. He said:

"Consider that perhaps going out of your way to tell the truth, in this instance, may not be worth it in the short or long run. In the grand scheme of all things poker, the WPPA and the GSN will likely be a forgotten blip in their attempts to capture a piece of this monumental momentum currently in poker. You, on the other hand, have much greater potential, so why risk squandering that potential on something that will likely never be considered worth fighting for or against? I am not so much worried about you in regards to what the WPPA or the GSN would do, I am worried about "who you really are" being taken out of context by those that would otherwise take you in. The WPPA and the GSN will self-destruct on its own and the impact in the poker world that they have made is negligible (at least so far). So, maybe letting go of this one, in that you end any more public comments on the subject, would be good lay down for you. You are of obvious strong character and integrity, but consider that sometimes those traits can be applied literally to a fault."

Wow! This truly shook me to my core. Not because I was afraid of burning bridges or making enemies, but that what he was saying was true...would exposing this accomplish anything? Even ONE benefit? Sure, writing is a type of therapy for me, but just because I write something doesn't mean I have to publish it. So what real benefit is it to me to publish anything further? WPPA has already committed suicide, I don't need to rub salt into the wounds of an already dead body.

Just when I had mulled over this e-mail, deciding that perhaps some of the wonderful, kind players I'd met might shut me out of their world for my writing, I got another e-mail from my new friend. This time he'd changed his mind. He hadn't changed his initial thoughts of it being a type of lose-lose situation for me, but he had changed his mind about what the public needs to know. Some of his wisdom included:

"Hands down I don't think there is any risk that the poker community nor the casinos would alienate you. The players would agree with you and celebrate your courage for your candor, and the casinos that matter would not be threatened because they know better than to run a poker tournament and treat their patrons the way the Orleans did. In other words, you are doing both the casinos and the players a service by telling it like it is. What happened is not a polarizing issue within the poker community, everyone I know agrees it sucked wind."

"Your final table reports are compelling and interesting as is everything else I've read of yours. I took notice that your reports have a style that is unlike what I have read from others. Actually, it was those very reports combined with a little push from Charlie Shoten that changed my mind about putting the Orleans back on my schedule.

So I now say never mind my words of caution, follow your gut."

Okay, so here I am at a crossroads. Yes, I know that writing all of this may not change anything. The damage is already done. Everyone who is anyone in the poker world already knows that the Orleans has built their own horrific reputation in their treatment of poker players, not to mention the tons of money they have stolen from prize pools over the years (for those stories, I'm going to have to refer you to RGP, but they are well known, this is nothing that isn't discussed in the industry every day).

Likewise, the WPPA dug their own grave early on. Louis is not a spokesperson type. He didn't want to run the WPPA in any capacity other than getting a TV contract. While that is honest of him, to realize his shortcomings and refuse to make a fool out of himself by speaking in public, the fact is, he didn't hire anyone else to take that role, and it hurt the WPPA, putting them in a horrible light during the entire festival. His complete sell-out on the final day of the main event only sealed their fate.

The Game Show Network, as well, is headed towards disaster. No matter how good this show looks on TV, they will bomb. They treated the players and the spectators abominably. At the very last minute, during the final two days of the tournament, some bright boy had an idea that he would clear the set and forbid any family, friends, spouses or press. Instead of handling this with kid gloves, he decided to be a big bully, ordering people around, threatening lawsuits and police.

One spouse was led out of the Arena by armed guards, in tears, after being treated so roughly that she literally feared for her safety. She had planned to watch her husband play, and hadn't made any back-up plans. She didn't know where to meet him, didn't know how to get in touch with him. Instead of being met with sympathy and understanding, she was threatened and "roughed up" by both the GSN and security guards at the Arena.

I was treated brutally, as well, but that, I will save for another story :)

So who will it help if I tell all? The poker players in the know already have knowledge of this disaster. It has been spread all around Las Vegas and beyond. No one is ignorant of what happened.

In the end, it will accomplish two things. First off, the players who are not "in the know" about these things will be enlightened. Sure, they may never be entering events this big, but they will be put on their toes for things like this happening at every level. They will be prepared.

Second, I want to talk about some of the wonderful people I met, like Joe-pro above, who have shown me such unbelievable human kindness in the face of this disaster. I have already written about Max Pescatori, and obviously "Joe." I would like the opportunity to talk about others.

So that is where I stand right now. Fever or no fever, I know I'm doing the right thing. Please come along with me on this journey.


I have a small head cold right now, so I don't really feel like writing much, or posting. I've sort of just been surfing around the web in the last couple of days.

One thing that keeps cropping up is the question about why I wrote such glowing reports of the WPPA tournaments, if the whole thing was a disaster. Well, that one is easy to answer.

The answer, of course, is that I wrote about the wonderful things I saw. Jeez, there was some true world-class play at these events. The fields were small, but absolutely top notch (excluding me, lol).

Most of the dealers were fabulous. There were a few rotten apples, but I was completely shocked at the quality dealers we had, unlike the Orleans daily events or the Orleans Open.

Also, since the fields were small and they had extra floormen, the directing was generally very good, competent and handled well.

If you notice, in my reports to Poker Pages, I made sure to keep focusing on the positive things which were happening. I didn't bother to mention the way we were treated by most of the Orleans employees, because that is not really reporting the results of a tourney.

I also never talked about the TV station (Game Show Network), because they didn't show up until the final event, which, naturally, I didn't report.

So there ya go. Please stay tuned and send some aspirin for my aching head!