Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Guest Weblog

I'm a little embarrassed to post this. But Easy Eddie asked me if I would share his trip report from yesterday with those who may be following his progress through my blog.

Photo above is Easy Eddie (left) and Chef Billy at the Seattle Amtrak station 11/19/06.

What A Wonderful Day!

Waking up at 5 AM is not something most people like to do. But today, Tuesday, November 28, 2006, I was up several times during the night in anticipation of the day ahead.

Frank (ChessSafari) flew me to Seattle last week and three days later boarded me on a train for Albany NY. He invited me to share Thanksgiving dinner with friends at a place called Easton Mountain Retreat in Greenwich NY. 3,380 miles of railroad (not including the extra 180 to go around a derailed freight train near Cleveland) and we arrived.

Frank has had one wonderful surprise after another for me since I arrived. Today was no exception. He had been trying for several days to find us a ride to the East Coast Poker Championships at Turning Stone Casino in Verona NY, about 135 miles from Easton Mountain. Finally he arranged for Kirk to give me a ride and agreed to sponsor me in the $400+$40 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event. Meanwhile, Frank stayed back in New Paltz NY to meet with Jami, his book editor, and successfully reclaim some dry cleaning that he dropped off last March.

So I was out of bed at 5. Frank got up as well to cook scrambled eggs and wish me luck. Kirk was about 45 minutes late but arrived in time to bring me off to see the “stars”. Frank mentioned that folks like Phil Ivey, Phil Gordon and Humberto Brenes had attended this event in the past. I started out a bit intimidated. We arrived 15 minutes before game time.

Once in the casino, I encountered staff members with “attitude” and, as a result, it took several attempts to locate the tourney sign-up table. I gave them my $440 buy-in and asked where to go. The tournament room was in a different building. The woman raised her arm and pointed to the sky while saying in a loud voice, “it’s over there!” I told her that I have never been here before and didn’t know where exactly was “over there”. Once again the arm went up and the mouth yelled “right past the exit sign over there”. At that point I almost asked for my money back and used the exit to depart. One would think that staff members of a big casino would be a bit more customer friendly, especially to newcomers who they would presumably like to have come back again one day.

But I didn’t leave. I finally found the Oneida Room somewhere beyond the exit sign, as promised. Frank had pumped me up on whom I may see in the tournament room. What I saw was a room full of rednecks right out of a Budweiser commercial. There were 128 entries on 13 tables. My receipt directed me to table 12, seat 7.

I sat in my seat and counted the 3,000 starting chips, then went for a quick cigarette. I returned from my smoke to find someone in my seat. I showed my receipt to the guy and he got up and moved to seat 5. It wasn’t the last time I would have to deal with him. Then came the call to “shuffle up and deal”.

I spent most of the first hour folding hand after hand, unable to get a face card. Then came the break, a cigarette, a coke and a quarter pound hot dog. After the break we went back to work.

Three hands in, I finally got to see a flop when I caught K-6 of diamonds in the big blind. The button (that guy in seat five who tried to swipe my seat) threw in a standard raise. I knew in my gut that he was now trying to swipe the blinds. So I called. The flop came K-6-9. I checked my two pair and he moved all in. I called. He showed K-9 off-suit. Another 9 came on the river to seal the deal and end my day.

I thanked those at the table for a wonderful experience and left with my jacket in tow. Yes, I busted out. But this was my first significant buy-in live tournament. I’ve played live before but never lasted this long. The experience made me feel more confident.

I wandered around the casino, played some blackjack, and stopped in the poker room looking for a ring game. Greg ‘Fossilman’ Raymer was doing promo sit-n-go’s for $125 a pop. I passed. I played some slots and finally made my way to the bingo hall. They made each person play a minimum of 18 cards simultaneously. Fortunately, an African American woman nearby helped me mark my cards.

Bingo was four hours long. One lady won $29,600. I didn’t win, but it made for a nice completion to a wonderful day. The lady who helped me loaned me her cell phone to call Kirk for a ride home. She was low on cash and wanted to play the evening games. She couldn’t afford it so I took my cue from Frank (I’m sure it is what he would have done) and handed her a twenty-dollar bill. Then my day at the Turning Stone Casino came to an end.

All-in-all, this has been a truly wonderful trip. I’m looking forward to getting back to Seattle next week, where I hope to find an apartment and a new job. I am sure that during the coming year, Frank and I will be seen at PSO Live Events around the country. I am looking forward to meeting many of my Poker School friends in person along the way.

When I read about what a generous person ChessSafari is, both in the PSO forums and in Delilah’s newsletter to her listeners, I thought nobody can really be that nice. But I decided to accept his generosity and let the chips fall where they may. I can honestly say that I have never met someone like Frank in my entire life. I thank God that I have been led through PSO to Frank. He is for real. He is a wonderful man and I am proud to call him my friend.

We haven’t played chess yet. Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful Safari!

ED (Woodstied on PSO)

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