Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Racing to Monaco (and Back)

Sorry for the lack of updates of late. The last two weeks have been taken up with travel and tournament reporting, another trip to Monaco for the PokerStars Championship Monte-Carlo having carried me away from the farm.

This was my third trip to Monte-Carlo, site of the annual Monaco Grand Prix happening later this month. Not at all a bad place to spend time either working or vacationing. The temps were a little cooler than usual and there was some rain off and on, though for the most part the weather was nice and I had one of those fantastic fifth-floor views looking out on the Mediterranean and the cruise ships passing to and fro.

The poker was fun, kicked off by a €100,000 Super High Roller that drew a decent-sized field of 61 entries (counting re-entries). Comedian and actor Kevin Hart was there, as he was in the Bahamas back in January, and he added some entertainment during the first day especially, and into Day 2 until he busted well shy of the cash.

On several occasions Hart got the attentions of those of us reporting on the event, delivering us quotes with explicit instructions that the lines be shared as though representing our own thoughts and commentary, not his.

“Reporter, reporter!” he’d say (for example). “I have a quote for you, but it has to come from you. Say... ‘Kevin Hart is making poker cool for the first time ever. He is taking poker in a sexy direction.’”

And so on. Late on Day 1 he managed to pick up aces and knock out two short-stacked players in a three-way preflop all-in, after which his quote -- or rather our comment about him (as dictated by Hart) -- was “Kevin Hart says that poker... is a science. And in this science experiment, he’s f**king the pros!”

I happened to catch Hart’s knockout on Day 2. All in with pocket sevens versus Byron Kaverman’s ace-four, two aces flopped, a seven came on the turn, then a four on the river. Hart took it well, though, then the next day came a press conference in which a new partnership was announced between Hart and PokerStars. Not sure what all it will entail, other than his being involved with promoting the game and site going forward.

There was no media event per se this time, although we did get to play in a charity event which added up to a couple of hours of entertainment for your humble scribbler.

Didn’t get over to it until well after it had begun, which meant mostly nursing a short stack and never quite being able to get anything going chip-wise. (That's me with position on fellow media event expert Frank Op de Woerd of PokerNews.) But there were a lot of laughs at my table where Team PokerStars Pros Vanessa Selbst, Fatima Moreira de Melo, and Felipe Ramos were seated to start, thanks largely to Felipe’s jokes and the subsequent (even funnier) analysis of his joke-telling style.

Both the Main Event and High Roller were interesting as well, with one highlight coming near the end when I had a chance to talk with Daniel Dvoress who had a red-hot series, making three high roller final tables (including the Super High Roller), cashing in a fourth high roller, and cashing in the Main as well. Friendly, smart guy who incredibly has accumulated about $5 million in cashes over the last few years without (1) playing at the WSOP or (2) winning a tournament. (Here’s the PokerStars blog post with our conversation.)

The trip home had one out-of-the-ordinary incident to report. Took a morning flight from Nice to London, landing at Heathrow Airport about two-and-a-half hours before my scheduled flight back to the U.S. Was going on less than two hours’ sleep, actually, after having had to take care of a lot of extra work stuff before crashing in the hotel one last time.

Disembarked and wound my way through the terminal to a bus ready to take us over to Terminal 3 and my gate. After a short wait we filled the bus and sat for a while, then were told to get back off the bus and reenter the terminal. Eventually there came an announcement -- a “slight incident” at Terminal 3 had occurred, and no one was allowed to go there at all.

I wasn’t too concerned until I checked Twitter, where a couple of different stories were being breathlessly passed around to explain the delay. One was a terror suspect had been arrested at Terminal 3 after arriving. Another had to do with a suspicious package. Lots of references to all of Heathrow being on “lock down” and no flights coming or going.

I was convinced I wasn’t going anywhere soon.

Much to my surprise, though, about 40 minutes later we were back on the bus, and while I ended up having to hurry a bit I made it onto my on-time flight without much problem. Later learned the arrest had happened the day before. Meanwhile there wasn’t any suspicious package that caused the delay, but rather a dude running through security with his bag without waiting for it to go through an extra check. In other words, it really was a “slight incident.”

Got me thinking of how misleading Twitter can be with these things, quickly spreading inaccurate or outright false information that can be nonetheless convincing.

Glad to be back on the farm, where I’ll be staying put for the next couple of months -- and posting a bit more.

Photos: courtesy Neil Stoddart, Manuel Kovsca / PokerStars blog.

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