Archive for December, 2010

Back in the US for the Holiday Season

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

When I last updated, I was still in Marrakech and looking forward to leaving, though there was a bit of business to attend to first. The World Poker Tour Main Event was still in the works, and I stayed in town so I could watch the action at the final table, which was sponsored by Chilipoker. It was an amazing day, as Sebastian Homann, who had been the chipleader since Day 1, took that lead into the final table and went on to win the tournament. To top that, he was a Chilipoker qualifier! It is what players dream of when they win a satellite into a big live tournament, and Sebastian did it and played so well. The young man from Germany did a great job, so Congratulations to him!

(photo courtesy of Hugues ‘Def’ Fournaise)
(photo courtesy of carrondesign.com)

By the time it was all over, I was ready to get back to London on my way home to the U.S., but it wasn’t going to be easy. Because of terrible winter weather in London, Gatwick airport was closed, which meant that my flight was cancelled. I was in the airport wondering what to do, waiting for about 4 or 5 hours for some answers, so finally decided to head back to the Palace where I had been staying. Then a few hours later, I received an email from Virgin Atlantic informing their upper class passengers that they’ve cancelled all flights to and from Gatwick Airport for the next two days, but with determination and hours of internet searches, I finally found a flight to Heathrow instead.

Once I arrived in London, I tried to book a hotel room for the night because my flight to Los Angeles wasn’t until the next day, but everything near Heathrow was sold out! After about three hours, I was able to find a hotel online that said it was 5.5 miles away. I jumped in a cab to head over there and get a little sleep, but it turned out to be 13 miles away. I did it anyway, was able to get a few hours of chill time, then headed back to the airport early in the morning and caught my 11-hour flight to L.A. When I got there, I booked a Southwest flight to Las Vegas and finally arrived home. What a journey that was!

I was so happy to be home! Jace was so patient and loved that I was finally home. So when I made the decision a week later to head to Seattle to visit some good friends there, I decided to take him with me. It was his first flight! But he did so well, trusting me the entire way but being the very good boy that he is. I’ve even been going Christmas shopping for actual gifts, instead of just giving people money when I’m too busy to shop in past years! Hee hee. But this year, I’m shopping and loving it. I guess I really found the Christmas spirit this year!

One of my friends told me about this great cat shelter called the Meow Cat Shelter, so of course I had to visit! I saw three cats that were attractive and melted my heart, but two were just not suitable for a home with another cat, especially the sweet one that I met with his ears cropped. He was so traumatized by the process and the “home” he was in before that he was fearful of everything, and I feared that I couldn’t give him the right home. But I did meet a sweet brown female kitty who was just amazing! She was super friendly, loving, energetic, and her energy was very positive. She even a polydactyl (an extra toe) kitty, which is odd but very cute! And she has the same kind of tail marking as Jace. So, I adopted the little girl as a companion for Jace, and they’re loving each other so far. I decided to name her Tesni, which means “warmth from the sun” in Welsh.

As for poker, I’m excited that the latest issue of the French magazine That’s Poker has finally come out! The cover photo turned out really well, so I’m looking forward to getting my copy of the magazine to read it – in French?! – and enjoy the article as well. There’s nothing else going on in poker for the rest of the year for me because due to my travel delays, I couldn’t make it back to Vegas in time for the WPT event at Bellagio and won’t play any other live events until January. I need the break, as all players do sometimes, to simply enjoy friends and family and relax for awhile.

(photo courtesy of thats-poker.fr)

I should mention, though, that Chilipoker is running an exciting promotion right now! It’s called “Santa Liz is coming to town” – haha! The pictures are kinda fun, and the promotion is great! Part of it is for cash game players, who can compete in the raked hand race and compete for their share of $13,000 and prizes like an iPhone, Android, camcorder, camera, and Xbox. There are also thousands of dollars for MTT players and SNG players, and the promo runs through December 31st. Who couldn’t use some extra money for the holidays, right? 🙂

As for me, I’ll be back to posting again when I take a break from the holidays, and I’ll be back on the poker scene in January. I’m planning a trip to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), where I’ll play the Main Event that starts on January 8, though I’ll probably play Day 1B on January 9. It should be an amazing time, and I know that thousands of players go there every year. And on my off days, I’ll just take advantage of the amazing Bahamas beaches. Win-win!

I’m also trying to decide on some dates for a return trip to Vietnam. As the new year gets underway, it will be the perfect time to do some charity work, as there are people in my country struggling, and some food and other help could be very useful in starting their years with some hope and love. It’s been too long since I’ve been there, and I’m anxious to get back, so I’m considering the trip around late January or early February.

For now, I want to wish all of my friends an amazing holiday season! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays! And if we don’t talk before the year ends, Happy New Year! May the holidays and the new year bring all of the health and happiness that you can handle!

Cheers!

Thanksgiving in Marrakech, Home for December!

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. Sorry for the break! Everything from Halloween forward seems like a fog now. So much happened, I had quite a bit of business and personal life to attend to, and flying to Marrakech for some poker tournaments was the first chance I’ve had to get back in touch with my blog readers. Thanks for being patient with me. 😉

(photo courtesy of Francois-Philipe Fpc Croue)

After being able to spend some time at home in Las Vegas and with friends in Los Angeles and Seattle over the past month, it wasn’t so bad to get out and travel again. Flights to Marrakech are not easy, though! But I made it in one piece, I wasn’t groped by any TSA officials at the airport, and I’ve been set up in a very luxurious hotel here.

When I arrived in Marrakech, I immediately got into the poker spirit with a charity event on my first night. It started at 10:30pm, and the Tournoi des Sultanes was a fun set-up, The nine Sultans were Estelle Denis, Karima Charni, Tatiana Golovin, Laurie Cholewa, Pascale Clark, Caroline Diament, Valerie Benaim, Charlotte Pay, and myself. The winner of the tournament was going to receive 10,000€ Euros to donate to the charity organization of her choice, and when it all came down to it after four hours of play, I got heads-up with Pascale Clark, and the tournament ended with Pascale claiming the victory. But things were light at the end, and we all agreed that the top three players would split the prize money, with first place getting the most of course, to donate to our charities. We were all so passionate about raising money for causes that meant something to us that none of us wanted to give it up! It was funny and fun, all in good spirit, and the money raised for charities was a great outcome.


Tournoi des Sultanes – Chilipoker Marrakech Festival 2010

I should mention something about my lack of Twitter and Facebook updates from Marrakech. I started having internet problems as soon as I arrived, and it’s been sketchy for majority of the time during my stay. It was strange not to be connected at all times! I also recently switched to an iPhone from a Blackberry, and I’m still getting used to it. It’s very different from my BB, and I’m not entirely happy with my decision so far, but I’m trying to love the iPhone!

Anyway, after the Tournoi des Sultanes, I was ready for the Chilipoker Deep Stack Open event, and so was everyone else because it was a complete sellout! It was incredible to see so many players turn out for it, and the casino was pretty happy to have a full house.

(photo courtesy of River Tells/Chilipoker.fr)

I arrived about two hours late, which was normal for me, and I was off to a rocky start at the tables, but I won my first hand with AK and felt okay for a bit. But I couldn’t get much momentum going. It was into the fifth level that I tangled in a huge pot . I had about 45K in chips and looked down at pocket nines. Blinds were 150/300 with a 25 ante. I raised to 750 from middle position, and the guy to my left reraised the minimum, and two other players called and I did too. The flop came 9-T-3, and I checked. The guy to the left of me checked, too, and the last player to act on the button bet 5,500. I raised to 16K, and he moved all-in. I called his all-in with my set of nines, and he showed Q-J offsuit! I had to look at that hand twice! Anyway, the 8 came on the turn to fill his straight, the river blanked, and I was out of the tournament.

The next couple days were filled with interviews, the most interesting was done by That’s Poker, a French magazine. I’d arranged to meet up with Hugues Fournaise and Emmanuel Vanglabeke at 3:30pm down by the pool at my hotel to do the interview which lasted 3 ½ hours! I decided to open up and shared a lot more personal details than I normally do for this one, answering a lot of questions about my personal life, charities, my career, visions about the poker industry, and my family. I’ll be on the cover of That’s Poker magazine for the issue that comes out in December, I’m looking forward to seeing it!

(photo courtesy of Hugues ‘Def’ Fournaise)

I spent some time watching the rest of the Chilipoker DSO tournament play out. And I took a trip to the local souk, which is a monstrous market in a walled part of the city, filled with vendors,food, and interesting people. I had a great time hanging out with my Chilipoker team member Ophelie Laffuge, Hugues ‘Def’ Fournaise, Kevin Noblat, Steven Bensimon, Julien Bochereau, Julien Gaignard,and Stephane Lecocq who were all in town for the Chilipoker DSO event the WPT Marrakech tournament. I was looking to buy several rugs to bring home as gifts – they call it a carpet here – incense holders, moroccan oil, and candles, but I didn’t find what I was looking for. I did find a nice chess set. The price was jacked up, but I was able to bargain with the guy. He wanted 500, but I told him all I had was 300. He kept trying to get me to make a deal, but I stuck to 300 and he finally took it. So, now I have a chess set. Who wants a chess set?! Hehe 😉

(photo courtesy of Hugues ‘Def’ Fournaise)

I waited until Day 1B of the World Poker Tour event to play; I always like to play the second starting day. Numbers were down for the tournament in general, maybe partly because it was on Thanksgiving weekend and many Americans didn’t make the trip. Even so, it was a good tournament, especially with Matt Savage running it.

My table was full of action players , including two local cash game players, and all of the guys were majorly gambling it up. They were playing some crazy poker, and it was tough to even put them on hands. For example, in one hand, I had two pair on the A-J-9 flop holding A-9. I check-raised my opponent, and he called. The turn was a king, and he makes a slight over bet of 6,800 that time, and I called. The river was a 5, he bet 10K, and I check-called again. He showed pocket kings. It was that kind of tournament. I did slowly build my stack throughout the day but had to keep doing it because I lost every big pot I played. Another example, I had two black kings. The flop was 7-6-2 with two diamonds, I bet out 3,500 and got two callers. The 10 of diamonds came on the turn, player behind me bet 6,500, and I called. The river was the 8 of diamonds, he bet out 12K. After I decided to muck my kings, he turns over J-5 of spades! Gotta love it!

(photo courtesy of carrondesign)
(photo courtesy of Hugues ‘Def’ Fournaise)

That was how my tournament went. I lasted until about 1:30am on Day 1B. With only 37K left and 8-6 of clubs in the big blind, I called the min-raise from the UTG player. The flop came K-Q-9 with two clubs, he bet 2,500, and I check-called. The turn was the 7, which gave me the open-ended straight draw to go with my flush draw, so when he bet 6,500, I check-raised all-in for about 29K. He insta-called with Q-10 offsuit! The river didn’t give me what I needed, and his queens were good. I was out of the WPT event.

I’m done with poker in Marrakech and just wrapping up some business before heading back to Las Vegas. I’ll be there through Christmas, which means I’ll probably play the WPT Bellagio in the next few days if I make it back in time. I’m considering another trip to Vietnam before the end of the year but that might wait until January. For now, I’m just looking forward to getting home for a little while, relaxing, and trying to refocus back on poker.

I hope my American friends had a great Thanksgiving! We all have so many things to be thankful for!

Cheers!