World Poker Blogger Tour Winter Classic 2 – Part 4

I woke at 9:30 and the calls were already coming from folks who had gone down to register early for the tournament.

I rolled in and Otis had already done what would become natural for him all day which was step in when I was unavailable. If I had to be on one side of the room he instinctively just took control of the other side. I really have to take my hat off to him (my PokerStars hat, not my FullTilt hat, of course) for stepping up like that.

Linda quickly introduced me to Michael Craig and then to Barry Greenstein and his son Joe Sebok. Barry was on a tight schedule so I was trying to get everyone registered and seated as quickly as possible. Charlie Shoten was there and I spoke to him briefly while flying around the room like a chicken with its head chopped off.

I made the intros and brought Barry up to speak. I couldn’t possible imagine a more sincere and appropriate speech. Barry just went up 10 notches in my book and he was already starting off at the top.

Barry Greenstein

“Poker bloggers are the heart of poker.” — Barry Greenstein

While getting ready to introduce Charlie Shoten, Facty interrupted me and took over the mike to thank me for organizing the event and to give me a gift certificate to Reef Seekers dive shop as a show of appreciation. Everybody had chipped in on it and I was so touched I really didn’t even know how to respond. She would later share with me that not only had almost everyone ponied up the amount she had asked everyone to put up but many sent much more. Actually I’m still very touched by that and have yet to figure out how to respond other than to say thank you to everyone.

Charlie Shoten

Charlie spoke about our greatest enemy at the poker table; ourselves. As always, one of those discussions that makes you think for a long time afterward.

Next Amy Calistri introduced Michael Craig, author of The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King, who told some interesting and funny stories about his experiences putting together the book.

Bill Rini

Next Mike Fay, poker room manager extraordinaire, got things started. I tipped the dealer a $25 tournament chip to deal me pocket aces and sure enough, the very first hand I received was pocket aces. I raised to 3x the big blind and I took the first hand of the tournament.

Table 1

I stuck around until after the second break but I couldn’t catch cards to save my life and I was soon blinded down so low I was forced in on the button and busted out. Drizz does the dirty working of knocking me out and I award him the prize that every player in the tournament was vying for; The Phil Hellmuth 2006 Poker Tips Calendar. In some regards, I feel like I’m giving Drizz a license to print money because anyone who follows the Phil’s tips is sure to become one of the best poker players in the world. I mean, just look at these nuggets:

February 2, 2006: Cell phone poker like Phil Hellmuth Texas Hold’em is the future of poker!

March 15, 2006: I have a weekly strategy column (Hellmuth’s Hold’em) in over 100 newspapers.

May 20, 2006: One nickname for K-K (kings) is Cowboys.

I bet you feel yourself getting better with just these three pieces of wisdom from the grand master of Hold’em. Just imagine how much your game would improve with 362 more of these.

Now that I’m busted, I finally I get to take a break. Well, I took about a five minute break and then I launched into host mode. Scramble, scramble, scramble, scramble.

I take a moment to chat with Facty and she asks about my infamous black jack run the first night. After regaling her with the tale she says “Well, you know what they say. God loves retards and drunks.” Somehow I took that as a compliment.

When it got down to two tables, the Murder’s Row pack was representing big time. We had Franklin still in it and about second in chips. Phil was still doing pretty well. Rick is about mid-pack. At this point, I’m willing to put money on Franklin. He’s a tough player. On the other hand, Rick is a SnG specialist and 18 players left looks a lot like a big SnG.

Down to 12 players.

Suddenly I see everyone rush to gather around the far table and I get there in time to see Franklin go all-in against Phil. Franklin’s got kings! Phil flips up ace-junk. I knew it. Franklin is going to take this thing. If he wins this pot, he’s such a huge, huge favorite nobody can stop him. Flop comes %&#!@ ace high! WTF?

Franklin and the Prof

Franklin lets out a guttural roar or three that stop the entire card room. He goes outside to smoke (he doesn’t smoke) and announces that he’s never been as drunk as he’s going to be in about 5 minutes.

Soon the tables bust, Rick busts, and we’re down to the last few players. It’s somewhat of a blur but we end up heads-up with Gracie and Phil. A few hands later, Phil is the new World Poker Blogger Tour Winter Classic 2 champion! That’s 2 of 3 for the Murder’s Row bunch.


I know that when Hanel first used the Murder’s Row phrase in relation to our little home game many thought it was a bit tongue in cheek but with three of the home game crew making the final eighteen, and two of the last 3 tournaments won by Murder’s Row regulars, you gotta admit that the Friday night game is a fairly brutal collection of poker players. Stop on by if you ever make it to LA.

One more duty and I’m officially done!

We spread the Six Gun Shootout. Everybody cuts a deal and they play for the remainder.

Shoot Out

Is this it? Is it over? Has the last six months of planning suddenly ended leaving me a free man to run wild through the streets of Vegas?

I meet everyone in the sports bar at the IP and I down a few quick ones to take the edge off. Suddenly it looks like a scene out of a movie as everyone’s phones start going off with word that the troops have headed down the strip to storm the castle.

I’ll have to catch up. Energy is fading fast and I haven’t even showered yet. Back at the room I jump in the shower and try to wake up a bit. On the tram ride to the MGM I already know that I’m going to need a strong second wind to keep going. I’m so tired I don’t even know if I’m going to make it from the tram to the strip. As I exit the tram I’m having flashbacks to my Army days. I could literally drop to the floor right where I stand but I have to keep pushing. No need to think about how far the tram is from the lobby doors leading out to the strip. That’s far too lofty of a goal in my condition. For me, it’s one step at a time. Just bring that right leg forward one more time. Now the left leg. Ok, now let’s bring that right leg forward again. I knew I should have taken a damn cab.

As I’m waiting for that second wind to whisk me into an evening of poker blogger debauchery, I sit down at a NL table that’s about half the Murder’s Row game with Chad and some random tourists thrown in. I make a quick $60 off of Sophia when I donk into a pot with 8Ts and get Sophia to call my all-in when I catch my second eight on the turn.

Ryan is semi-sweating us from the rail and he motions me over. He points back towards the table and says “I’m watching this game and I can’t help but think of that scene in Rounders where everyone is in Atlantic City and the two tourists sit down at the table with the pros. That cowboy in the 1 seat has no clue what’s about to hit him.”

I sit back down for a few orbits but I can’t play any more. The cards are blurring and I actually have to think about hands that should be second nature to play. Where is that damn second wind?

Maybe if I get something to eat, I’ll get some energy.

I take a seat at the Sherwood Forrest Café and wait nearly 25 minutes before someone comes over to take my drink order. When the girl finally arrives I ask politely and evenly, why it took so long to come over and take my drink order. I explain that I’ve watched her not only take the drink orders of people who came in after me but they’ve already gotten their food to boot. In a huff she tells me that I’m not her table and repeats the request for my drink order.

Now I could just give her the drink order but I’m the one who should be huffy here so I tell her “Listen, I’m not blaming you but why don’t you tell me who’s supposed to be serving me so I can bitch them out instead of giving me your attitude? I mean, I’m the one who’s been sitting here for 25 minutes waiting for a simple glass of water. I have a reason to be pissed off, you don’t.”

She tells me that she’ll get my waiter if I give her my drink order and she takes back off towards the kitchen. Seconds later the waiter comes over to take my order and she returns with my diet coke which I’m fairly positive she spit in.

I try to enjoy my marginal meal and then I return to the poker room awaiting my second wind. I sit down at a table with Katkin and F-Train and watch them play a short-handed table. About an hour in, F-Train just looks at me and says that I’ve hit the wall.

I take the clue and go back to the IP and go to bed.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.