Back In The Saddle

I wake up with a start. I dreamt I was cast in four plays at once. I was pretty sure I could handle it. None of the parts were very big. I would say my lines in one rehearsal, and then run to the next just in time for my entrance. I knew I could do it. All it required was extreme focus. Multi-tabling theatre.

It is seven in the morning. I don’t know where Phil is. I have a tremendous migraine. I open the door of the bedroom to get some apple juice to find him sitting on the sofa playing Call of Duty with the sound off.

“Honey!” I say surprised. “What are you doing here? You need to come to bed.”

“I can’t sleep,” says Phil, his eyes glued to the screen. As he talks, tanks are exploding and soldiers are dying in a dreamlike symphony of silence. “I’m so wired to be back in Vegas, and I have to wake up in two hours anyway for my conference call about Unabomber poker…”

I used to always lecture Phil about the value of sleep before a big tournament, but eventually I gave up. Phil, it appears is the opposite of the norm. He seems to operate best in a fugue-like state.

Today is the first day of the Five Diamond tournament. Last night we went to our boxes at the Wynn and the Bellagio, to collect our money and buy our tickets. Fifteen Gs. I watch as the teller counts and recounts stacks of thousands. That’s a lot of money. Then the supervisor comes out from the back with a paper for me to sign from England. A wire transfer for 25K that I won for making the final table at the Party Poker world open.

I put the money in my Bellagio box, and am pleased to see it is filling up again.

I am back from a one year hiatus from playing poker. I played the odd game here and there. In New York Phil could get into certain home games if he brought me. In London, (where I was doing a play on the West End) I would duck into the Vic after the show and play with Neil Channing, Roland de Wolfe, Thomas, and Bambas. Sometimes John Duthie, and Sammy Any Two would join us. It was a fun relaxed game without rancor.

Even when I would accidentally whack someone for their entire stack, they would never get up and knock over the table, or throw their cards at the dealer. “Nice hand,” they’d say, sanguine in the knowledge that if I continued to play like that they’d get their money back eventually. Somehow, they never did. At the end of my run I was up a hundred grand.

I felt the kind of satisfaction, that I used to get when I won a jackpot, or hit my number in roulette. The feeling that I had a supernatural power to see the future, or influence the fall of the cards. The satisfaction of The Fish. People were starting to beg me to come to the big games, which I knew from Phil was not a compliment.

This summer, Phil, Antonio, Brian Rast, and few others chartered a yacht in the South of France. The yacht meandered up and down the French Riviera, stopping at exotic locales known to anyone who watched “The Talented Mr. Ripley” In vain the girlfriends would beg us to get off the boat to no avail. We were involved in a manic around the clock game of poker. Cap Ferat and Monte Carlo were only twinkling lights in the distance. The girls would eventually leave, and come back, tan and manicured, decked out in ankle bracelets, laden down with bags. They would tell us about their adventures, but we wouldn’t even hear them. It was like they’d never left.

The first four days, I astounded everybody with my ability to never lose. The last four days I astounded them equally with my ability to never win. I won and lost a fortune in a week. I consider myself lucky that I managed to step off the boat marginally ahead.

After the boat (culminating in the Partouche Poker tournament in Cannes) we headed to England where Phil and I both made the final table at the Party Poker World Open, and Phil won.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” said Phil wistfully, “if this were the beginning of a rush, and we both go deep in the Five Diamond…”

Phil normally does whatever he wants. He doesn’t chase the tournament trail as much as others because his mantra is “Fun, Freedom and Fufillment.” There is nothing fun and freedom filled about a grind. But now he is trying to promote his new website, “Unabomber Poker,” so he feels he should play in as many tournaments and televised events as possible.

Neither of us cash in the Five Diamond. Trying to get my 15K back I play a game that is too big for me, and lose my whole stack to Viffer. He has this uncanny ability to only have a hand when you finally decide to shove on him. I feel a little sad looking at the empty spot in front of me where my chips used to be. Slowly I get up. The key to cash games apparently, is knowing when to quit. Lately, it seems, I only leave the table after someone has made me their bitch.

Nevertheless, I like being back in Las Vegas. I love our little apartment, glowing with salt lamps, and sparkling with large crystals to suck up toxic energy. In my office I have a picture of Stuey Ungar, and a collage of me surrounded by money and bracelets, with the words “win!” and “champion!” pasted above my head, as inspiration.

City Center is finally up and running. The view from our window has improved immensely. It has gone from being a pile of rubble crawling with bulldozers to a massive glittering oasis. Phil and I go over to Aria to check out the poker room which is very elegant. We both open boxes. Mine is so big I decide to keep my jewelry in it “a la Sharon Stone in Casino”

NEW YEAR’S EVE. Antonio is having one of his crazy blowout parties, with music, confetti and scantily clad girls spilling down the halls. “Lock the door!” I say to Phil as we leave our unit. Phil has a new leather jacket he is very proud of. A little stoned he puts it in the safe. You can never be too careful.

The party is in full swing. Antonio has outdone himself. There are two girls to every guy. Poker players, strippers, hustlers, half of Las Vegas is here. The ceiling is full of balloons. The revelers are full of alcohol. People are rolling around on the floor and dancing on tabletops.

Ten minutes to midnight I whisper to Phil that maybe we should watch the fireworks from our place. There is so much humanity crammed onto Antonio’s balcony that I am worried it will just snap off the side of the building.

Phil decides to invite a few key people to join us. As luck would have it one of them is Mike the Mouth.

“Hey Everybody!! We’re going to watch the fireworks at Phil Laak’s place!” yells Mike. “It’s just down the hall!!” What was meant to be a quiet gathering becomes a burgeoning convoy of partygoers desperate for pyrotechnics. Robles grabs a bottle of Dom from the fridge, and everybody stampedes down the hall trailing confetti in their wake. “Take off your shoes…take off your shoes!” yells Phil in alarm. He is too late. The crowd troops swarms past him, clop-clopping on our hardwood floor. Every party girl worth her salt knows removing your heels adds at least ten pounds to your frame.

The fireworks are fantastic. Our apartment is facing the Aria so we have a prime view. We yell and shriek and drink champagne, and then as soon as it is over everyone rushes back to Antonio’s where all the action is.

Around one thirty I call it a night. Phil walks me back to our unit and then returns to Antonio’s. That’s the great thing about living here. Phil has a lot more party in him than I do, and when I’m done, I just can just go home.

Inspired by Daniel Negreanu’s blog I decide to write my own poker resolutions. It really helps me in my goals to put them down on paper. It crystallizes in my mind what I want in life. I also liked how Daniel broke down his goals into large and small. Anybody can say “I’m going to win a major tournament!” or “I want to win a bracelet!” but let’s face it. There is some luck involved in these things.

Saying “I’m going to win a tournament” is like saying “I’m going to win an Oscar.” That is a worthy goal and very grandiose, but on the way to that goal there are many smaller goals that are more attainable, like getting new headshots, finding an agent, going to acting class…

So my goals, (although I did put down winning a tournament), are for the most part, more realistic. I want to move up a few notches on the All Time Women’s Money list at the Hendon Mob. I will keep track of my wins and losses by writing them down. I am going to devote a certain number of hours a week to playing online, watching poker videos and reading poker literature. I will try to work out and eat right (strong body strong mind). I am going to start writing my article again. And most importantly I will stop putting myself down.

I read a quote the other day that resonated with me: “When does a Lie become an Accepted Truth? When the Lie is repeated often enough.” I realized I am my own worst enemy. I think it’s amusing to be self deprecating. Most of my bad press originates with me.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments. As for mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. It is important to acknowledge them, learn from them and move on. An old Japanese proverb says a successful person is one who falls down seven times and gets up eight.

I think 2010 is going to be a great year.

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February 2010