25/04/2007

Monte Carlo Madness

Ashley Alterman 'The Poker Cynic'

The millionaire’s playground of Monte Carlo seemed a suitable venue for the EPT final. My only surprise was finding so many other impoverished souls like myself, who had managed to sneak in below the radar to hobnob with the poker elite of Europe, along with some of the Worlds best players.

Online Satellites are the true leveller in the Poker World, allowing mere mortals to compete at the highest levels. So, with my hotel paid for along with my tournament entry and some spending/travel money, I packed my bag and set off in search of fame or fortune. Wosrt case scenario, I would have a week on holiday and some additional experience in deep stack top level tournaments.

The announcement came to fasten seatbelts and prepare for landing, and my nervous anxiety eased, knowing the end of my airborne ordeal was imminent. Half an hour later, we were still circling high above Nice airport, when I asked a stewardess what was causing the delay. She told me there were some Scandinavian poker players in the middle of a game of Chinese poker, and they had convinced the Captain to circle for a while so they could finish their game. I guess it's hard for ordinary mortals to turn down a $10,000 bribe, and to the Chinese poker playing community, $10,000 seems like loose change.

There were stories circulating when we finally arrived, about Bill Bigmouth losing $500,000 in one session to Bill Lively ( the names have been changed to protect the innocent), so it's good to know that America still leads the world in the sick gambler stakes, although Europe is doing it's best to catch up.

Having lasted nearly a whole day in the main event, I returned to my room to nurse my wounded pride. I was going to order a meal from room service, but found I was unable to talk to another human being so soon after my early exit. Fortunately I have been working on my fragility, and a mere 18 hours after getting knocked out I was able to return to the Poker room and face the world in general, and my peers in particular.. The grim satisfaction of seeing other players sharing my fate helped bring me back to an even keel.

I waited impatiently until the evening, when some tables finally became available, feeling the best cure for my condition was to start playing as soon as possible. They were making lists for sit and go's, cash games being illegal, but as expected they concentrated on the higher limits first. $2,000 was the largest table they could manage. Ridiculous! Where were all the serious players? On the first attempt to make a $10,000 sng, they failed miserably, but eventually, the Nemo Invitational $20,000 sng was too much of an attraction for the relentless scandies, along with a mix of Europes finest. On the third night, a five handed $40,000 sng was convened, so at least if you got knocked out of the main event, you could still win $160,000 in the space of a couple of hours.

Conventional wisdom has it that only 5% of online players are winners, and judging from what I've seen, this seems realistic. The only surprise for me, was the fact that these high earners have the patience to play a tournament that lasts 5 or 6 days. If they don't finish on the final table, their hourly rates are decimated. Ram finished a creditable 8th earning just over $200,000, but this is only just over three pull-ups in his current game of choice. I assume that having already got the money, they are chasing the glory and the titles. As they are good enough to win in the cash games, for most of them it is only a matter of time before they achieve a similar success on the Tournament trail.

Other highlights of my week long stay included the promotional party for a new UK cardroom and online poker site. The organisers were fortunate in being able to hire a large shoebox to accommodate the couple of hundred players who turned up for the privilege of queuing at the bar for twenty minutes to buy a drink. On the plus side, the music was loud enough to drown out any bad beat stories along with other conversation. I guess you know you are getting old when the appearance of half a dozen anorexic models is more a source of amusement than excitement. To be fair it was probably their first attempt at pole dancing, but they may have more of a future with the Fire department than on the club circuit.

You just can't please some people, can you?