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Cannes

London, Cannes, San Remo pt. 3

London

I was excited to arrive in London town and back on the live tournament circuit. I had won a regular package and two ladies packages on PokerStars, and it was nice to see a lot of friends I had been out of touch with since WSOP. Despite only dabbling briefly in what the city has to offer I had a really good time. The weather was unusually nice for this time of year and it was evidenced by the fact that every free square foot of grass was being taken advantage of. There were lawn chairs set up on measly patches of grass in front of commercial buildings for grateful sunworshippers! I decided to join in and also spent an afternoon napping in the sun at Hyde Park in central London.St. James Park

I didn’t cash in the city but have no problems with of my play in the side events. Came close in the first mega-satty after building a solid stack then getting coolered AK to AA and losing a bunch of flips in a row with 10 left. Lost AA to KK and AQ in the turbo bounty for an enormous stack & perfect position to bust shorties in the £1k +£1k turbo bounty, and made day 2 of a £1k only to bust a few from the money QQ to AA with an average stack. The main event was probably one of the most unfruitful days of live poker I can remember. The table wasn’t particularly difficult, I was just unable to to show down a winning hand or catch a break all day in even the tiniest of pots.

The ladies event was fun but still unprofitable. I had the lovely Vicky Coren at my table again (we had played together most of day 1 in the WSOP ladies event), which was cool because I had just started her book, For Richer, For Poorer and was immediately able to relate to it. Zinzi, a qualifier from Toronto whom I had met the night before at the Pokerstars women mixer, was also at the table playing her first ever live tournament! She made me feel all fuzzy inside when she messaged me a few weeks later letting me know it was inspiring to see a girl from our part of the town get this far and stay humble. What a sweetheart.

We went out a few nights that week: once to celebrate Mel and Justin’s birthday at a high-end sushi joint, once to Joel Roubuchon’s L’Atelier, and finally to the PokerStars party at the impressive Kensington Rooftop Gardens. It started raining soon after I arrived so people on the patio double-fisted while huddling under the canopy together. There was a nice campy feel to it all, and the key themes for the night would be: Vampy wig, big fish little fish cardboard box, dim sum cab ride, throwing squishy balls.

Cathy, Dylan, and I also made time to do some touristy stuff in town. We started at Buckingham Palace, strolled through St. James Park, and appreciated the House of Parliamement and Westminster Abbey from the outside before getting hungry and finding an authentic fish n chips experience. Priorities.

Buckingham PalaceJoel Robuchon's L'AtelierLondon Eye

Cannes

If you had asked me a year ago if I could see myself strolling along the board walk in the French Riviera watching very rich people with tiny dogs window shop and get leathery tans I would tell you that was not on my bucket list. Today WSOPE Cannes is just another stop on my tournament circuit with the Mediterranean outside my balcony as if it existed solely to please me. I have yet to acquire a French flag on my Hendonmob, but I have no complaints basking in sunshine by day and wining and dining at night, acting as if this is what I have been made for.

I had two places to call home on this trip, one with Team Butter, whose lineup would make my short career look like a footnote on each of their resumes, and one at the Hotel Majestic Barriere, where housekeepers actually dress like French maids do in the movies. Team Butter (named after the street our boutique apartment was on, Buttura) would prepare these incredible healthy family meals together that made me feel incredibly lucky to be a part of. The apartment’s decor was all eccentric and fun, but my favourite piece would have to be the shrink bed in the common room where I spent time basking in the sun. Miranda made the place so homely by picking up after her kids, and even finishes our laundry when she notices we’re out of clean clothes.

Sunset in CannesHotel Majestic BarriereBoutique Apartment in Cannes
Cannes by dayBeach in CannesApartment in Cannes

Apartment in CannesApartment in CannesApartment in Cannes

Poker wise, I busted the 6max KK<66 against Devilfish, busted the 1k after playing a solid day and busting in the last level, and bubbled two mega-satties after a series of unfortunate events. The good thing about playing these was that I had the pleasure of finally meeting Hikaru Nakamura briefly at my table. We had chatted online after meeting him through mutual friends. I used to love chess when I was young and even have a medal from middle school city championships. Reading his blog and trying to keep up with the technical posts was amusing. Although there is significantly less money in chess, being at the top of his field allows him to compete worldwide, often with a sponsorship. The cultural difference is that chess is a lot more acceptable in the eyes of academics and the general public, so it was pretty fascinating reading about his search for validation with his parents.

There were also some sweet final table sweats. Arnaud unfortunately got sucked out pretty badly to final table bubble the main, but Max made a sick run. Maddog’s rail for the shootout finals was pretty awesome, we took turns buying bottles of fine wine to drink out of dentist cups in the front row. Dan was probably the most “spirited”. He kept demanding the announcer call Mike, ‘Maddog’ and eventually had a drinking accident from toasting too hard and cut his hands from the wine glass. Should’ve stuck to the dentist cups. He didn’t want to draw attention to it for fear that the security guard who had already given us several warnings, so he just sat there bloody hands on his lap. Amazing.

La Palme d'Or La Palme d'Or La Palme d'Or

WSOPE Cannes 2011

The food in Cannes outside the hotel and casino was incredible. For Dom’s 21st birthday we went to the 2 Michelin Star rated La Palme d’Or. The food and service was fine and fancy, but it failed to blow my mind. For much better value, Pizza Xavier was the absolute nuts. I also loved the duck, escargot, and octopus salad at le Petit Paris. I pigged out pretty hard in Cannes, but it probably doesn’t even come close to the amount of delicious carbs I had in San Remo.

Poker Players in Cannes for WSOPE

Didn’t really go out too much at this stop as most nights were spent hanging out at the apartment or somewhere easy. Although I was unable to attend the official WSOPE party I’m pretty sure the night we had at the American Irish bar was way better. It was a paradise island of a place, you wouldn’t have realized you were in posh France from the atmosphere. There was live music and good vibes. Half the poker community made it out by the end of the night. Definitely the best night of the trip.

The next morning the stunning Tatjana and Calvin Ayre team set me up for an interview. Needless to say I wasn’t the most coherent with my thoughts, but they’re pros at making people look good on camera so I was impressed with the results. For logistical reasons we decided not to stay for the final table and drove down the windy roads of the Cote d’Azur to Italy.

San Remo

Money-wise the trip up to this point had not been fruitful, so the approach to San Remo was much anticipated. I was back in my beloved villa with most of Team Eames, although no celebratory bbq was to be had this time. My table for Day 1 of the main was somewhat of a joke against the field. By joke I meant you wouldn’t have known you were at EPT San Remo looking at this table because everyone was above competent. This meant I couldn’t expect free chips left and right like the year before. My dear Spinks was to my left which made for some interesting hands and good times. I finished the day above average with some ballsy play then doubling up in a race vs. Alessio Issaia near the end. He was severely crippled after this but managed to impressively claw his way to 12th place! The dream for me ended on day 2. It was a fine table with two fellow Canadians to my left, one of which was 888 pro and bracelet winner Tyler Bonkowski from Regina. I had never met anyone from Regina before. However, it was the Kevin MacPhee show for most of the day. After the table change I chipped up easily just to lose a race for an anti-climactic finish.

It was off to the bar for a rather silly night. Some may call me an enabler, but let’s just say Maria and Jake have perfected the craft. I remember Jen Harman joining us halfway through the night. She’s the female player I respect the most after reading her inspirational stories in Deal Me In, a collection of stories about how poker players turned pro and from The Professor the Banker and the Suicide King. I didn’t get a chance to tell her this because I wasn’t my classiest that night.

I missed the ladies event in San Remo to take a day trip to breathtaking Eze, France. It’s a small, charming, castle-town by the sea, with statues of fable creatures and a giant chess set in the garden overlooking the epic view. I’m well aware of how lucky I am, but being right there at that time with very special company summed it up pretty neatly.

We had Mare Blu or the Argentinian restaurant everyday in San Remo. The ravioli and lobster pasta were unparalleled so I gave in to a new gym membership back home. I prefer the sense of community in smaller tournament stops where there are only a couple of spots in town so everyone can gather together as opposed to the cliquey nature of bigger cities.

Something good poker-wise eventually happened this trip. After a day of drinking since early afternoon and playing 19 (a new variation of Chinese Poker), we decided playing and drinking at the “Win the Button” €330 event would be the natural progression to the day. I had the best position in the event, directly to Scott’s left to snap him off when his scotch kicked into high gear. I had a sweet stack early on thanks to him and finished 4th, continuing my streak of final tables in San Remo 🙂 The rail was awesome and rowdy, I felt like I was playing for a million rather than €16,000. Amongst it was Busto_Soon, who I met after I made an error shoving against during the main of EPT Copenhagen. I mention this because he reminds me of Rorschach, my favourite character from The Watchmen. Dylan was also there after ending the night as chipleader at his €2k final table. He finished third the next day after getting unlucky against a player who justified a call by saying it was his favourite hand.

Lobster PastaSan Remo Villa

The trip ended with another epic Stars party. Copious amounts of champagne was had which made last-minute packing and our 7am taxi even worse than it sounds. I missed my flight from London to Toronto after being stuck in a customs line despite being at the airport an hour and a half before departure time. Life leaks! It was better value to rebook a roundtrip flight so now I have a seat on a plane to London in September 2012.

I was relieved to be back home. I really do love my new apartment with the amazing view across from the CN Tower that gives me a light show every night. I get to hang out with friends who keep me grounded, eat relatively healthy food (minus local pub runs a few nights a week), work out regularly, and make money online with infinitely fewer expenses to worry about. This isn’t to say I don’t always have an electrifying time on poker trips. I hang out with brilliant people. I explore foreign cultures. I eat great food. I discover more about myself.

Kian and I Halloween 2011Poker with a view of CN Tower

It depressed me for little while coming to the realization that I will probably never have anything unique or groundbreaking to contribute to the field. I still have so much work to do if I want to be consistently competitive at world-class standards. I’ll just have to keep being harder on myself than any critic, keep putting in hours, and turn every mistake into credit for a pot of gold later on.
Blonde Streaks

I’ve had good results online since I’ve been back after a long and disappointing WCOOP that evaporated most of my profits from post-WSOP. Next week I’m going on a real vacation for the first time in years to Maui with some of my favourite people. After that there’s a small chance of WPT Bellagio, then some combination of PCA, Aussie Millions and Fallsview Poker Classic in the new year.

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Summer’s end in Toronto

A bit more than halfway through my first WCOOP. Disappointed with my results thus far but still optimistic with eight days of action left. My schedule has been pretty packed and I feel I throw in just the right amount of fun and entertainment to keep me sane for the duration. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to fit in more than two of these on any given day: grind, gym, go out, adequate sleep. I have a yoga ball and an elastic band I use to roll around and stretch during breaks, but I was in a pretty good groove right before WCOOP so I still feel like I’m slacking.

I’ve also just about perfected a system of food preparation for grind days. The night before I would do the necessary meal planning, marinating, putting sammiches together etc. Then during the ~5 minutes of freedom I would turn on the heat and complete an entire meal AND use the washroom before my tables started up again. Sometimes it would take a little longer and I would have to randomly run back to the kitchen and thus time out in arbitrary spots which must confuse people, but overall it’s very efficient. Today I had an egg wrap with honeydew smoothie for breakfast, a grilled pesto turkey sandwich for lunch, and spicy soy-ginger salmon with brussel sprouts for dinner. Not too bad for spending 13 hours in front of the computer!

Toronto is getting colder and I’m looking forward to going back to Europe for EPT London, WSOPE Cannes, and EPT San Remo. Even though I haven’t spent that much time across the pond this year, I feel my experiences there were so dramatic that trips to Europe will always be an integral part of my life. I will miss my apartment and its fabulous view, no-nonsense workspace, and the impression of accomplishment it gives me, but friends and adventures await! Hopefully there will be a happy WCOOP wrap-up post to come, and I promise I will pull my own teeth and write about WSOP. I really did have an amazing time and would hate to let the memories fade.

Fluctuat Nec Mergitur

This is my third reverse-chronological entry on my Deauville-Paris-Venice-Paris-Malta-Copenhagen trip. Again, it’s very tl;dr because I suck at making concise and regular updates. Enjoy!

“It is tossed by the waves, does not sink” is the translation for the Latin Parisien motto, and pretty accurately describes my adventures in the city of light and effortless elegance. I have to begin by saying I am not proud I did not get to do all the touristy stuff I had on my check list. The closest I got to the Louvre was to the club across the street, and I kept the Musée d’Orsay hanging more than a few days in a row until we hastily left for Malta. What’s more upsetting, however, is that I was still unable to take advantage of the weak fields at the FPS events. I often use this analogy when referring to these situations, but seriously, there were times when I felt like I was getting beat up by toddlers.

I was actually in Paris twice. The first time was with Noctus, Dylan, and Cal after a Deauville Sunday all-nighter grind. We took a train to Paris and I bragged about paying a lower fare than the rest with my skill to navigate the confusing French rail site until I went on an ugly run in Chinese. We stayed in a roomy 4 bed hotel in the centre of the city by Opera. Since they were all leaving the next morning, we decided to make the most of our time and visit the Eiffel Tower.

I usually have this Dallas Green mentality when travelling (“…but I’ll never take any pictures/Cuz I know I’ll just be right back” from the song Coming Home), but I really wished I had a real camera with me this time. Yes, it’s still just a metal structure, but all that it stands for is pretty alluring. We had some mediocre French tourist food after and pretty much all snap-passed out once we got back to the hotel. Strangely we also all woke up simultaneously around midnight & hunger pangs led us to “Au Pied de Cochon”, a 24-hour joint that specialized in pig’s feet. I was very familiar with the part since the delicacy is actually renowned for its skin-rejuvenating properties in Asian culture. My mother makes plenty of this stuff at home, but the others opted for safer fare. We actually ended up staying there for awhile as Noctus and Cal went tete a tete in a classic science vs. religion debate. That eventually led us to some more fun topics like free will and the existence of the soul. It must’ve been the Parisian air!


It was sad to see these guys leave, but I certainly didn’t mind staying longer in Europe. I was also due for Venice in a few days for the WPT, but more on this mystical city in my next entry. My second time in Paris I was lucky enough to be there at the same time as my friend Cathy, who is certainly the classiest girl I know. I met her at my table itm on the second day of the WSOP Ladies Event where I made a failed attempt to squeeze her open with her 4b shove in my face. She has a fearless table presence and is a force to be reckoned with. She is also effortlessly elegant even though she is not even French and actually is quite diverse in her opinions of Paris. She complains that Parisians complain about everything when they have the best luxuries in the world, and she never makes excuses for herself or anyone around her. I wish I could be more like that!

It was a privilege to have her and Arnaud as my personal guides around the city. Although my French skills are workable with Canadian core French education, the city is much friendlier if the locals don’t see you as an outsider. Cathy, like me, was always up for easy Asian food and it’s nice to do girly things once in awhile. She took me to the finest malls where she knew the Chanel salespeople by name. We tried on clothes, shared decadent desserts, and talked about boys and poker. Joie de vivre! Arnaud did his part and entertained my historical curiosities by taking me to L’Arc de Triomphe, and showing me multi-faceted sides of the city through his familiarity with interesting neighbourhoods and trendy bars. One afternoon he took me out for some delicious Italian food (the day before we left for Venice, obv) in a tres chic neighbourhood. It was renowned for its boutiques, cobblestone paths, and great spots for people-watching, but we were warned immediately after sitting on the heated patio that there is also aninfestation of pick-pockets and small-time scammers, and that I should guard my purse carefully and put my Blackberry away. Sure enough, halfway into our meal the exact scam we were being warned about (a group of mafia-directed adolescents holding maps intending on asking suckers for directions while sneaking away valuables from underneath) came to our restaurant and was hastily shoo’d away by an employee. I had initially thought the petty crime frequency was just an exaggeration, but after the incident I applauded our attentiveness and felt quite good about our fortune for having so narrowly escaped what could have been a disastrous stall to my Euro trip. 

Now for the good part. As we stroll off about 200 metres away talking about not running so hot in poker and preparing to hail a cab, I realize I had forgotten my purse at the restaurant’s patio. I wish I could measure the loss of colour in my face. You see, I try to be prepared to play cash games most days and depending on the hotel I’m staying at I may keep a bundle of cash on me. My passport and five figures of Euros were in that purse, and the irony in this case is understated. Luckily for me I run pretty good at life and Arnaud sprinted down the street to find it right where I left it.

My first encounter with Arnaud was at a 2ke side event at EPT Prague. I’m generally a pretty good shit disturber in a weak field, and when he came to the table it didn’t take long for him to figure this out. He’d been relatively quiet and I 3b his EP open which he called. Board came KQTr and we both checked. Turn is a 9, he puts in a healthy bet and I jam just over pot to find the fold Later on I would learn that he had 54s, which is a hand that will again play a key role at FPS. I would go on later to analyze some hhs with him at a strip-club with midgets. He would also be one of the first guys to convincingly argue that it’s ok and can be respectable to use feminine wiles for metagame at the table. I’m still trying to incorporate that into my game in a meaningful way since it’s nice to have a selection of weapons to choose from.

Ok, onto FPS review. The tournament at Cercle Haussman was a huge success considering the starting days overlapped the WPT Paris event at the Aviation Club. I had originally planned to play the latter, but I was given top secret info regarding the softness of the FPS fields and it seemed like a no-brainer to go for better value. Although it was a smaller buy-in of 2ke instead of WPT’s 5k the prize pool was significantly greater. Like all gambling joints in Paris, the casino was actually a private club that required an annual membership fee. I have no complaints about the venue or the people. They were not necessarily friendly, but concerns were resolved with due diligence and they were conveniently located in a busy downtown area of the city.

Since it happened about two months ago I had to consult my tweets for frames of reference when blogging, and all I got was “50k @ 1st break no showdown yet :)” and “Out KK[less than]AQo last level of the day. Sigh. Rly. Gl @arnaudmattern wreck that table.” Although I can’t recover much concrete details, I do remember that most of the bigger pots were either awesome due to thin value/sick reads, or vs. absurd hands/lines/opponents.

Two absurd hands happened where I wasn’t involved. On the very first hand of the day, Arnaud’s friend was heads-up vs. a villain he had history with no other players seated yet at their table. Starting stacks are 25k at 50/100 and he accidentally raised to 2050 instead of 250 due to a live color misclick. His opponent realized this and 3bets to 6k. Player 1 shoves for a full stack with QTs and player 2 snaps with K3 and wins. This set the tone for the tournament.

It was a field where it was exploitable to play unexploitably, and even as I knew this I managed to get into a bunch of flippy situations expecting them to be flips at worst, and not come out ahead. Despite not having made it past the first day, I had a lot of fun. The players who spoke any amount of English were friendly and engaging. My friend would also direct my attention to some flattering/hilarious posts about me on a French poker forum. I was really sad to go in the last level of the day since I had just transferred to Arnaud’s left from a broken table. Admittedly I got some inside scoop on the table as I sat down: guy to my direct left was a spazzy but competent well-known French player with unlimited bankroll. Guy two seats to his left was a crushing solid high-stakes reg who ended up coming 2nd to Marvin. The rest were at various degrees on the ichthyoid scale. Excluding Arnaud, they were all pretty much pylons.

Here’s where the second hand comes in. With above dynamics, Arnaud from lowjack opens for 1400 at 300/600/50 with a ~45k stack. I fold, guy with unlimited br 3bs to 3750 with ~25k. Basile Yaïche (high-stakes cash guy) with monster stack 4bs to 7800 from sb. Arnaud 5bs to 16200 and gets two folds. He then asks me to pick a card and I reveal the 4c. Awesome! He then animatedly jokes that it was to impress the lady and I oblige, admitting I am impressed. That made a really good PokerStars blog entry.

So I came to the table with about 10bbs, doubled, lost min with 88 vs. QQ that somehow got to showdown, then lost 15bb in sb with KK in a standard spot vs. bb’s AQ reshove against Arnaud’s button open. I did wonder, however, what bb’s lightest jam would be in this spot. If I remember correctly he was playing 25ish bigs eff since Arnaud had us both covered, and due to the obvious familiarity between Arnaud and I, villain must have assumed Arnaud is folding a shitload vs. me and I would/should shove pretty wide.

I wasn’t too upset, however, because I was still in Paris and I thought there were a ton of juicy cash games to be played as well as a potential FPS high roller to look forward to pending my satellite win. The satellite plan was unsuccessful after losing with T7s on 47475 board in a pot where villain min. 3b from sb into 3 players. He barreled thrice and had 75. I looked stupid because I didn’t even immediately realize he had won and was expecting my half of the pot.

There is definitely more to be said about French poker antics but I’ll try to wrap this up and get to the juicier stuff. When Dom flew back to Europe from Aussie Millions we roomed together at a hotel right off Champs Elysses, “the most expensive street in the world”. Our hotel internet connection was very temperamental and both Dom and I lost probably over 2k each in buy-ins throughout the trip due to unstable connections. Well, Dom was actually able to ship a nice win in a turbo despite being dc’d for a few min so he ran a lot better than I did in terms of when the internet decided to cut off. On our last Sunday there Dom was smart enough to prepare to grind at his German friend Alex Debus’ hotel. I was stubborn and decided that since the Internet was fine all day there shouldn’t be any problems with it in the evening. I was wrong and halfway through some big tourneys I was forced to take a cab to meet up with them. The day was redeemed by some meh cashes but I was tortured by the Euro tournament schedule. I was power-napping during breaks and expected to take down the weekly HORSE until my stamina failed me and I fell asleep at the final table! The next day we would hear that Alex played until the next afternoon and ended up shipping the 300 freezeout FTOPS for $300k+. That same night Marvin would win the FPS for something like 250ke and serenade the audience. The Germans were invading Paris again! It was great for me because we feasted on Chinese food after.

On one of our last night’s in town we went to a swanky club called VIP across from the Louvre, where DJ Cut Killer was spinning. He was a friend of Elky’s and we had a pretty nice booth with his entourage in front of the stage. I’d was pretty stressed from the previous week so I really let loose and had a blast with Cathy. This place had no shortage of eye candy between its go-go dancers and young model-types having a good time. The place is so over-the-top in cooler-than-thou factor that the ladies’ room attendant is a black male monk! Yes, that dude is handing you towels, listening to you pee, and asking you if you need perfume. Not sure if that’s the most zen place he could be.

Venice is next!