December 31, 2006

Hookers to the left of me, lawyers to the right of me

Despite, or perhaps because of, its status as the world’s top vacation destination, Las Vegas is one of the best places in the world to have a great meal by yourself. Many of the best restaurants in Las Vegas have full-service bars where you can dine solo, and with the smoking ban about to take effect, eating in the bar becomes an even better option.

I spent Christmas evening at the bar at N9ne steakhouse, where they were still allowing smoking until Jan. 2. The bartenders were worried about business but I told them not to – this has happened before in many other cities and the bars do just fine. There are more drinkers who will forego indoor smoking than non-smokers who will put up with smoke just to have a drink.

Two attractive girls sitting to my left chatted me up over a dozen Kumamoto oysters. After a few minutes I ascertained that they were professionals, in the sense of the oldest profession. I asked the one next to me if she had a web site or myspace but apparently she hadn't gone high-tech yet. Soon they tired of my deviation from their sales script and migrated to a table full of twenty-something boys.

On my right were three more attractive women. The lithe brunette next to me referred to the other two as her "crew" and tried to sell me on the blonde farthest from me, an attorney who was 35 and never been married. Hookers to the left of me; lawyers to the right of me. I wondered which occupation was considered more reprehensible.

Meanwhile, I ordered and enjoyed the lemon chicken special. They were serving the 2003 Palm Terrace Cabernet by the glass. I have been justifiably avoiding the vintage but this was an exception, lush and full of berries. I finished dinner and went up to the party suite, where apparently the people above had overflowed the tub because there was a nice-sized waterfall coming down from the light fixture over the wet bar. I called maintenance and they put a barrel under it then went off to investigate.

Next I tried the bar at Okada, one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas and not just because of Sabrina the teenage sommelier. Now that I’m a workout hound I’m craving more fish than steak and Okada fills the bill admirably. I ordered a couple of chef Masa’s specials, now available a la carte instead of as a tasting menu. I started with a tai snapper consommé. Thin soups like this are an opportunity to serve up flavor with almost no calories and this one did that to perfection. Other than a few julienned vegetables floating around, it was pure flavor. Sabrina came around and let me try some 1986 Ch. Margaux that had been opened the day before. Without vacuum sealing, the wine reminded me of seeing an elderly Lauren Bacall do those TV commercials. When she was 19 and filming To Have and Have Not she may have been the most desirable woman in the world. Drinking the day-old wine, I could tell it was once beautiful. Most of the structure was gone but like listening to jazz, even when they aren’t playing the melody I can still hear it. I ordered the next special, a tasty roast duck breast, to go with the red, then finished the meal by sipping some Divine Droplets sake.

Happy new year to my loyal readers!

Labels: , , , ,

December 29, 2006

Pokerroom cheats customers

The online poker site Pokerroom has reneged on an advertised prize guarantee of $19,000 plus a $2000 television, withdrawing money from winners’ accounts and blaming a technical error, according to this thread on PocketFives. Several posters reported emailing Pokerroom support after money was removed from their Pokerroom accounts without notice. They said support confirmed that Pokerroom would not be honoring the advertised prize pool guarantee.

Pokerroom had previously shut their doors to American players based on the recently passed legislation banning financial transactions with illegal gaming sites. A few US States explicitly ban online poker but the Federal Justice Department considers it illegal regardless of the fact that there is no Federal law banning Internet gambling and only 11 States ban any form of online gambling.

The obvious point is that outlawing something a lot of people like to do is not a way to build a stable, safe nation. People will always gamble. Poker is one of the most entertaining forms of gambling, combining skill and luck in an exciting and sometimes frustrating game. When government nannies make it illegal for adults to play, adults will simply play illegally. But so will children, since without regulation there are no controls on who a site can allow. And, as we have just seen, there is no recourse when a dishonest site decides to cheat its customers.

I cashed out of Pokerroom long ago after an extended debate with customer service in which they refused to admit a technical problem in the software that cost me a few dollars. The only site I completely trust is Full Tilt, because I know the people who run it and their integrity is beyond question. I suspect PokerStars is also OK but I don’t know them as well.

Until we succeed in turning around the nanny battleship in Washington: caveat emptor.

Labels: ,

December 27, 2006

Lac d’Argent

Most people don’t realize the big payoff of going to a wine-tasting event. There are many small payoffs, actually, which is why you’ll find small and large groups tasting wines most everywhere. In my case, a local uberbabe invited me to a monthly gathering of the Seattle Wine Society. It used to be called the Seattle Enological society until there was a violent dispute about the spelling of “Oenological” and they changed it to “Wine.”

While most wine tastings are intimate affairs, and some attempt to combine trendy spirituality with veiled alcoholism, the Seattle Wine Society gathering is more like a high-school bake sale. $45 a couple gets you 10 tickets apiece, each good for a small pour of one of the dozens of wines set out. They have food stations with hors d’oeuvres, which each require their own special ticket, and desserts, which are there for the taking but which as a rule I don’t eat.

Two kinds of people attend affairs like this. The first is the wine taster. The taster brings his own wine glasses, wears tweed and perhaps an ascot, and takes a mere sip of each offering before dumping the rest into the provided receptacles. He rinses his glass with water between tastes and perhaps finds some bread to cleanse the palate as well. He nods, wrinkles his nose, raises his eyebrows, and takes notes.

The second is the wine drinker. To the drinker, the point of the affair is to drink a healthy amount of the best wine possible. Uber and I were drinkers. On a tip we were directed to a table with wines from a vintner that makes custom-label wines for restaurants and corporate parties. These wines did not require tickets. Unfortunately they were pouring sparkling wine this month in recognition of the holiday season and we both prefer reds so we didn’t guzzle the free stuff.

Of course local Northwest wines dominated the tasting and I discovered some new blood. The 2003 Silver Lake Winery Cabernet, rated Best Buy-outstanding by Wine Press Northwest, was just that. By the end of the evening, having used four or five tickets on the Silver Lake, we were on a first name basis with the volunteer pouring it and began ordering in French: “Lac d’Argent, s.v.p.” Alas, there were more than a few genuine oenophiles present and competition for the Silver Lake became fierce. As we set up a human wall around the Cab table, we joined forces with two uberhot winebabes who turned out to be sisters. When the last bottle of Lac d’Argent was gone, the diaspora began in earnest and soon we were on our way. We had learned about one nice inexpensive wine, but that was not the big payoff of the event.

No, like Thomas Edison, quoted for saying he had invented 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb, we had learned a dozen or so wines not to order. And that was the big payoff.

Labels: ,

December 23, 2006

Moneygram scam

It is said that every one of us possesses a single talent, however insignificant, in which we surpass all others. Someone is the best chess player, the best no-limit Hold ‘Em player, the best parallel parker in the world. David Rosdeitcher is the best in the world at one thing. He called me today asking my advice.

“Richard, I need you to tell me whether you think this is a scam.”

“OK,” I said. “First, yes it’s a scam. Second, what is it?”

David told me he received a letter from the Global Processing Group informing him that he had won $50,000. There was something wrong with the letter, David said, something few people besides David would notice, but enclosed was a check for $2962.30. The instructions were to cash the check, then take the cash to Wal-Mart and buy a Moneygram to send to Canada to cover the processing fees. He successfully cashed the check but when he went to Wal-Mart the clerk told him it sounded like a scam, so he called me.

“Did you cash the check at the bank it was drawn on?” I asked. No, he said, he took it to his bank. “Then you didn’t cash the check,” I said. You deposited the check and withdrew your own money. Sure as snow in Colorado that check would soon bounce, leaving him stuck. Oh, he said. I Googled the salient points and came up with a long thread about this scam but if David had sent the Moneygram it would have been too late. Good thing the Wal-Mart clerk was on the ball. And good thing David noticed that the postal code given for the address in Calgary, Canada, was actually a code for Montreal. You see, David is a juggler, but that's not his world-class talent. David Rosdeitcher is better known as the Zip Code Man. He has memorized every zip code in the world and holds the Guinness record for most random zip codes correctly identified.

David thanked me, then asked my advice on another matter. He was thinking of taking up a new career.

“Tell me the truth,” said the Zip Code Man. “Do you think I should get into poker?”

Labels: , ,

December 22, 2006

Kyle and Tyler’s Excellent Adventure

Every young man, on his first trip to Vegas as an adult, has one great misconception about the town. It’s not about gambling. No, people don’t really expect to win. It’s not about getting a bargain. No, people really expect to be ripped off. No, there’s a greater misconception and it's universal among men. What is it? Read on.

My online poker buddy Kyle and his best friend Tyler had been looking forward to their first post-21 trip to Vegas, planned for right after finals, and I made sure I was in town to properly show them the sin in Sin City. Naturally the first stop was the Caesars Palace Seven Stars Lounge and uberbabe Elisabeth. We got there just before closing but she made a mean martini and launched us to the poker room, where we tried in vain to start up a game of HORSE. We played some 3/6 Hold ‘Em into the wee hours.

The boys had booked an economical package including a room at Harrah’s that was virtually free. I decided to pull a few strings and get a penthouse suite at the Palms, which I handed them the keys to. You shouldn’t have to stay at Harrah’s your first night in Vegas. Kyle liked the steam room but Tyler was all over the five-head shower with light show.

As loyal readers know, my favorite Vegas sin is gluttony. I exposed the boys to some fine victuals – Little Buddha and Nove at the Palms, with a brief stop at the Playboy Club, and Vic and Anthony’s and Grotto at the Golden Nugget. At Vic and Anthony’s, one of the best old-school steakhouses in town, we uncorked some fine vino: 1999 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rosé to start, followed by the 2002 Stag’s Leap Fay Cabernet. I remembered to ask them to leave the butter off the steak and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Grotto was unimpressive but they had a nice inexpensive Italian wine list and we were accompanied by an uberhot pokerbabe geek girl we ran into at Caesars who I had previously met at Binion’s.

The next two nights we got a great 4/8 HORSE game going at Caesars. The boys kept asking about going to a strip club but we ended up playing low-stakes poker every night instead. You see, that’s the great misconception about Las Vegas, that it has phenomenal, earth-shattering strip clubs. In reality, the sex industry in Vegas is overpriced and underdelivers. Like many facets of this money-machine town, it’s a sucker game.

But I told the boys to take a detour next time they’re near Tampa.

Labels: , , , ,

December 20, 2006

December in Vegas

Recent racy posts in my seamy underblog are drawing concerned mail from the erudite Oxford researchers who read me patiently, hoping one day I will say something about memes, so today I’ll slip back into the usual chronicling of my effete lifestyle rather than focus on cautionary tales involving bankrolls and body parts.

Two local uberbabes who had been wanting to treat me to dinner took me to SW Steakhouse at the Wynn. They were a little miffed because, although they were good customers of the casino and had reservations, management had treated them to a healthy serving of the new cruelty until I showed up, at which point the staff jumped to attention, rearranged the seating chart, put us in the best table in the house, and asked if there was anything else I needed Mr. Gladstone. I tried to get the ubers to sit facing the Lake of Dreams show but they preferred to let me have the view so they could people-watch. The frog was broken anyway. We went with cocktails as the ubers were not big drinkers and I was fighting off a cold and didn’t need the histamines.

I still had some hated shopping to do at the Wynn so I just went into the company store and bought the same kind of mattress and bedding they had in the rooms to replace the bed in my guest room that my ex-wife took when she moved out. Later I thought it might be a mistake to have the guest bed be that comfortable. It could encourage long stays by relatives.

Harrah’s, known by some as the “evil empire” because of the mathematical precision with which they extract the maximum value from gamblers while returning the minimum in comps, agreed to be bought out yesterday. The deal should take a year to consummate. Gamblers are hoping the acquiring firms will split up Harrah’s to increase competition among casinos and, like the French response to the post-WWII plan to divide Germany in two, hope they will consider the idea of many smaller pieces. Whatever they do, I hope I still get to use the new Qua baths and spa at Caesars Palace. I’m becoming addicted to the tea sommelier.

Labels: , ,

December 19, 2006

The Adventures of Captain Penis

Ah, Las Vegas. There were still 400,000 homes without power in greater Seattle but Las Vegas Boulevard had all the neon lights anyone could wish for. I checked into Caesars Palace, spelled with no apostrophe despite the typo on the new street sign on Flamingo, and caught up on world affairs. Iggy posted a link to the longest thread in the history of the Two-Plus-Two poker discussion board, posted by ex-stripper Brandi Hawbaker, a recent debutante on the tournament circuit. Brandi accuses “Captain” Tom Franklin of offering to mentor her in poker, conning her out of $12,000 and:

The next night, he crawled into bed with me naked. His penis on my back, frighten me, and woke me in the middle of the night. I freaked out and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom. I crawled to sleep on the floor and used the towels as blankets. I was traumatized…Every day he started having talks with me at breakfast/lunch.. how he was doing so much for me and that I needed to do something for him. He said at that time that I could not have my money back and that I had to "huggle" with him…When I got to Foxwoods, everything had changed. He had a young 22 year old girl with him, named Amanda. We were all supposed to meet at the airport but his flight was delayed, so we shared a cab. My friend was still with me at the time, and she confronted Amanda. Amanda came out and said that she met him two years ago when she was with her mom and that for two years Tom has promised her a job in his company ~ which was still yet to happen, as Tom does not have a company. She talked about how he makes her skin crawl and that she has turned into an alcoholic and that she dropped out of school and is now taking care of her mom and dad with the little money that Tom is giving her to have sex with him.
You can’t make this stuff up. I hope everyone now sees why I always ask girls if they are strippers first, before it escalates to the huggle.

I played in the Ultimate Poker Challenge $340 event on Sunday, going busto 25th of 95 starters when my Jacks couldn’t hold up against Ace-Jack. Before I busted I witnessed one of the worst plays I’d ever seen. With several limpers, a good player raised in the big blind and got two callers. The flop came King-Nine-Eight rainbow. The good player, with about 10,000 left, bet 2300, about the size of the pot and 25 less than the third player to act had in front of him. The second player, who had about 15,000, called, as did the short stack. The turn was a blank. It checked to the short stack, who put in his last quarter and both called. The river was a Queen. The good player thought a bit and then checked. The second player moved in and the first player folded. The second player showed Seven-Six. The all-in player showed Ten-Seven and won the pot with Ten high. If you’re not sure why that was the worst play ever, you should probably give up poker and try gardening.

A prior UPC event was the last time I chose to engage Captain Tom in conversation. He had tried to skip his big blind by claiming the button hadn’t been moved before the break and, when caught, accused me of being a cheater. So Brandi’s story is far from the first attack on the character of Captain Tom.

Now let us turn to Brandi. An innocent babe taken in by wolves? Probably not. Online pro Mark “Newhizzle” Newhouse posted a long story of his own involving Brandi and how she blew about $30k in one of his online accounts:

the next day when i got up, i tried to get onto stars, and my password was changed, i asked her wtf is going on, and she said she wanted it to be a surprise how much she was up, i was basically like, [censored] that, get me on my account, and she told me she busted it, i obviously got pissed, but she has a way of making me feel so bad for her that i couldnt stay mad for that long(yes, im a [censored] idiot) she called a few people to try to get money back for me, but she couldnt get anything, she told me straight up to keep quiet while she was on the phone with them because the only way that she could get money from guys is if they think that she wants to [censored] them, that pretty much changed my perspective of her, now i realzed that she was a scandalous bitch anyway, she got all depressed and locked herself in the bathroom that nigth, and i heard a glass break while she was in there(she has cuts on her arms from cutting herself, she gets extreamly depressed) i got really worried about her and knocked on the door and asked if everything was ok and if i could come in, she said she was taking a bath and to leave her alone, i shouldnt be listening outside the door, i was in a complete frenzy hoping that she wasnt going to kill herself and my friend called me and told me that mr. foo(90% VPIP full ring and quite possibly the best poker player ever, he was up easily 200k in like 3 days of destroying all the pros) was downstairs, so i went to go play poker and get the [censored] away from the room when i got back up, she was passed out in the bath, using towels as blankets and on the bathroom wall, written in blood, it said, "i will fly one day" so now im freaking out and i wake her up, she had made a pretty deep cut in her leg
But wait! Here’s the best part:

in the car ride back to vegas, brandi told me that she got her ex to put her in a satellite on the condition that she let him [censored] her in the ass, then she said, id rather let you do it, you want to? i pretty much lost all respect for her after she told me that i ended up putting her in a satellite because i felt so bad for her
No, you can’t make this stuff up. Just more role modeling from the only sport you can play while drinking beer.

Labels: ,

December 17, 2006

No, I’m not dating Martha Stewart

Apparently Martha Stewart was on the Howard Stern show and revealed she was dating an ex-Microsoft executive who invented Word and Excel. That would be my former boss and mentor, Charles Simonyi. I have no problem calling Charles the inventor of Microsoft Word – all I did was write the code. Charles had the brilliance to hire me.

I have never met Martha.

Labels: ,

December 16, 2006

Yours is a very bad DSL company

The next morning I went down to the gym at Wynn to work out and found the perfect blonde from Toronto dutifully toning every muscle in her youthful body with ostensible husband David standing nearby in workout gear. “Nice supervising,” I told him. I guess you don’t let that one out of your sight for a minute.

This time of year plans never work. With airports and highways filled with amateur travelers, vacationing employees replaced by inexperienced substitutes, and hostile weather over most of the northern hemisphere, it’s no surprise when even the most ossified traveler cracks. I finished up the shopping the next morning and then headed to the airport. Headwinds made the flight a half-hour late and my seat opponent was a large infrequent traveler who wanted to chat me up to mitigate his fear of flying.

On the parking shuttle in Seattle, a doddering old man took my bag when he got off. When I discovered the only remaining bags weren’t mine, the driver radioed the gate to ask everyone to double-check their luggage. I drove up in the rain behind a line of three cars being held up. The doddering old guy got out, opened his trunk, looked at a corner of my bag, said, “Yup, it’s mine,” and closed his trunk. I stood in the rain and, gritting my teeth and smiling, restraining my strangling hands a la Dr. Strangelove, asked him to check again. He reopened the trunk, looked at the same corner of my bag, and said, “That’s mine.” I reached in and lifted my luggage tag into view, then wordlessly removed the bag from his trunk, walked back through the rain to my trunk, and loaded the bag.

When I got home, Verizon had turned off my Internet, leaving only a browser screen saying to call them. I called them but they were closed from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. so I watched a couple episodes of West Wing season seven and finally got to sleep. When I woke I saw it was just after eight. I immediately called Verizon and spoke to six different individuals, none of whom could explain why my service was cut off, but all of whom were very clear it would take up to 48 hours to restore. I asked to speak to the vice president of customer service, but apparently they don’t have one, so I settled for a one-month credit, although I had no confidence this same screw-up wouldn’t happen again next month.

The service actually resumed in only a little over an hour. I got a little work done and then the lights flickered in the strong winds. Now my Internet was down again. Steve was on his way over to meet me for dinner but I called Verizon tech support and got someone in India who, after making me do a list of ridiculous things, decided my modem was fried. She said I would have to call Verizon sales to get another one. “And let me guess…they’re not open?” “Oh my goodness no. It is well after 6:30!”

Fortunately I realized I could just drive to the CompUSA a mile a way and pick up a new DSL modem, so Steve and I drove over there, got one, left it in the house, and headed to Yarrow Bay Grill for a nice meal. Just as we were leaving the parking garage after dinner, the lights flickered and went out. “Ha! We sure timed that one right!” I said, not realizing that the flicker was the result of Puget Sound Energy throwing the switch on 700,000 homes, including both of ours, due to widespread wind damage

I spent the night in the dark but by morning the thermometer had dropped to near freezing and the power showed no signs of going back on. I booked a room in downtown Seattle and called a local uberbabe to join me downtown for dinner. In the hotel room I fired up OpenTable and saw a name I hadn’t seen before, Qube. It was close to the hotel so I booked a table. It turned out to be the first night they were open! We shared two of the four tasting menus, the surf and the turf. The surf was absolutely fabulous, beginning with salmon prepared three ways and moving on to prawns three ways (hence the “qube”). The turf was good as well, especially the game duck. They had my favorite sake, Divine Droplets, making the meal a complete score. When you lose power – make PowerAde!

It looked like power might be out for days. Fortunately, tomorrow I was flying to Vegas.

Labels: , , ,

December 14, 2006

Fish from soup to nuts

With most of my friends leaving Las Vegas by Monday night I still had one more day of shopping to take care of, the nadir of which was a ballroom hallway filled with smokers at Caesars Palace getting their two-week reprieve from being forced to be considerate. I spoke to a lady who said she had asked a security guard what they were doing about the smoking ban. “Nothing,” the guard said, “because we don’t have to.”

The apex of the day was dinner at Okada with gambling buddy Alan. Sabrina the teenage sommelier picked out a fabulous 1990 Chassagne-Montrachet Maison Leroy. I rarely drink older Pinot Noirs because I don’t know how to avoid the ones that have become weak and watery but this one was in top form, lush and winy. Sabrina rarely lets me down. As usual we invited her to hang out with us after work and as always she politely declined. Because she is as beautiful as she is talented Sabrina has developed an elaborate fable about being engaged to a guy in another State to fend off all but the most persistent admirers. My usual opening lines (“Hello, I’m incredibly wealthy” and “Are you a stripper?”) seemed inadequate to the task.

Alan and I ate very healthy, mostly sashimi, though I added a delicious miso-glazed black cod. While the meal was fish from soup to nuts, the table talk was an olla podrida of topics. To call Alan an excellent conversationalist is an unfair underselling of his talents. I frequently tell him he could be one of the top talk-show hosts in the world. He not only has a wealth of knowledge and strong opinions on practically everything, but he also can rattle off a ten-minute extemporaneous monologue replete with dramatic structure, suspense, and a punch line before opening the floor to questions. Tonight he explained to me why the movie Running on Empty, with Judd Hirsch, was perhaps the most perfect movie ever made and he couldn’t understand why Hirsch wasn’t acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest actors. He also chided me for misstating in a prior blog entry that he showed me pictures of cats on his cell phone. It was actually on his iPod Nano.

After dinner we made a smooth segue to the heated terrace over the Lake of Dreams to smoke a pair of Cohibas and sip some Johnnie Walker Green Label. In walked a young Jewish-looking guy, who turned out to be named David, with three beautiful women, who all turned out to be from Toronto. The question, of course, was how does one guy end up with three girls? What’s their relationship? I hoped to gather material for what is becoming my seamy underblog. I sent Alan over to chat them up and ask them if they were strippers. David claimed to be married to the most attractive of the group, a perfect young blonde barely out of her teens. The two brunettes made up some cockamamie story about accidentally meeting up in Vegas on separate vacations. We pressed further but they sensed we were getting close to the truth and beat a hasty retreat while Alan gave a monologue about what happens with women once you are comfortably in a relationship with them. I don’t remember the whole thing, but it ended, “Women have a plan for the relationship and want you to follow it. They always have a plan. It just never works.”

Labels: , , , , ,

December 13, 2006


As the last page on the calendar hangs on by a thread of spirit gum, the shops in Las Vegas flood with customers and casinos shower their favorite gamblers with holiday shopping sprees (by the way, email me if you want a great deal on a new high-end watch). As a fish preferred customer, I always get invited to these shopping sprees, which tend to stress me out since I don’t love shopping. It’s like the old Wheel of Fortune where you had to spend the money you won on fabulous prizes you didn’t want. “I’ll just take the cash, Pat.” Bzzt.

There is one time I love shopping: when I go with Jeffrey. Not only does he get perverse pleasure out of torturing the salespeople with his world-class genius in sales and customer service, but his origins in the schmata biz combined with his good taste also make him a prized personal shopper. Years ago he turned me onto Jhane Barnes; today his sartorial approbation goes to James Perse.

Because of all the casino shopping sprees I only had about 15 minutes to go shopping with Jeffrey and Victoria before I drove her to the airport (thanks to the helpful advice of a certain blogging inkhorn I decided not to ask her if she was an ecdysiast). Fortunately I got to have dinner with Jeffrey at SW, where we shared a very nice bottle of a Gangloff Côte Rôtie, made primarily from Syrah, and singing with notes of tobacco, coffee, and eucalyptus. Jeffrey’s girlfriend and his youngest daughter, both about the same age, were supposed to join us and drag us to Pure afterwards but enervated from the weekend seminar they crashed in their rooms.

Labels: , ,

December 10, 2006

Heads up

One of my favorite foods growing up was Peking Duck. Last night I took a couple gambling buddies, Benjie and Simon, and my old friend Kevin Hogan to Wynn’s Wing Lei restaurant for the fabulous five-course Peking Duck dinner, washed down with a couple bottles of 2002 Dalla Valle Cabernet. Kevin had to take a redeye home after dinner but Simon and I went over to the Imperial Palace to check out the new heads-up PokerTek table at the release party all the bloggers had been invited to. By the time I got there the room was littered with empty cans and Chardonnay bottles but a few conscious bloggers were playing play-money poker. I grabbed an empty seat at the 10-handed table and played a sit-and-go, which I won using optimal game theory, although Joanne inexplicably beat me in a heads-up match.

The party descended to the Geisha bar where the sober, Argus-eyed Michael Craig wove through the interstices of the swaying assembly and took furious notes for future blackmail use against the besotted bloggers. Iggy held court as usual, the pokerbabes crowding around to be in the presence of his movie-star looks. Mike whipped out a couple of expensive cigars and we enjoyed the last night in the company of the few fellows bitten by not only the poker bug but also the writing one.

Labels: , , ,

December 9, 2006

Descent of bloggers

The bloggers have descended on Las Vegas and despite my busy schedule this weekend I dropped by to lunch with 20 or so of my colleagues at the fabulous Wynn buffet. I snagged a seat next to uberbabe Amy Calistri and soaked in the atmosphere of pure brainpower mixed with alcohol fumes so characteristic of a blogger gathering. Michael Craig and I had dinner with Joanne Lutynec at Okada so she could win her bet, then with Carmen at Country Club the next night so that – well, basically just because she’s hot.

Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of the smoking ban in Nevada and although a judge delayed enforcement by a couple weeks most of the restaurants have already complied. Dinner in the front room at Country Club was a delight now that there was no smoke drifting over from the bar. Surprisingly, hallways in the convention centers both at Wynn and Rio still had ashtrays all over but I’m sure that will change.

Today I went over to the Rio and spoke at Jeffrey Gitomer’s success weekend. Jeffrey knows some of the best people, including my old friend Kevin Hogan, who I actually introduced to Jeffrey. Jeffrey is my hero because he always surrounds himself with uberbabes who are not only beautiful but also smart and competent. One of the guest speakers he had lined up was Victoria Labalme, a quick-witted speaker with the looks of a model who uses theatrical performance to make her points. I found her very interesting.

All the bloggers are whoring themselves out for paid reviews now so I’m keeping one step ahead of them with this:

[Advertisement] Two of the hottest topics in online poker these days are which sites have Macintosh software and which sites are still open to US players. The folks at Compatible Poker have organized the answers to both those questions in a way they hope will make them a ton of money in affiliate revenues, and frankly I think they will succeed if they are smart enough to realize, like most smart advertisers, that Lion Tales readers are the pathway to success for them. Anyway, the Mac Poker page on Compatible Poker has a nice list of sites people can play on if they use a Macintosh, and the US accepted poker site page tracks which sites remain open to US players so that if your favorite site shut its doors you’ll have somewhere to shuffle up and deal. Another option would be to move to Canada, although it looks as if they may be moving toward poker prohibition themselves. And Mac users will definitely want to check out the list of compatible sites. In fact, even if you have a PC you should check out the list of Mac sites; remember, your opponents there will be people who have not figured out in 22 years that Microsoft technology is superior in every way.

I’ll leave you with proof that I am in fact the world’s leading authority on dining in Las Vegas. Bon appétit!

Labels: , , ,

December 8, 2006


I flew down to Vegas for the annual poker blogger’s convention. My seat opponent, an engineer, noticed me tapping away on my Toshiba, glanced at the full overhead bin, and said, “Looks like we have dueling laptop scenarios.” He asked me if they were going to let me keep my laptop on top of my lap during takeoff and I said I didn’t think so. Apparently he was concerned about the distance he would have to travel once they announced device turn-off to safely pack away his computer in his luggage and decided to read a book instead. Meanwhile, the captain got on the PA and implored us to set aside reading materials and listed to the safety briefing which, in his words, “is primarily for your safety.

I tried to think about what the secondary purpose of the briefing might be but was distracted by the presence of two of the most uberhot flight attendants I had seen in a long time, Kara and Michelle, both short blondes. When Kara came to take drink orders I exclaimed, “You’re named after Supergirl!” Now I usually refrain from making jopkes about people’s names because they’ve heard them all before but she was completely oblivious to the fact that the one girl lucky enough to be rescued from the impending doom of the domed city of Argo, itself cast away whole when the planet Krypton exploded, was named Kara. She did say, “But I am Supergirl,” and smiled until the corners of her cute little mouth threatened to puncture the fuselage.

Meanwhile I heard a voice behind me say, “He flopped a flush.” I kneeled on my seat, peered over the back, and saw a nice Jewish guy around 30 with a stunning brunette with a dress that let you see all the way to Cleveland. I chatted him up about poker and when he said he was just starting out I invited him to come play mixed games with the bloggers at the MGM Friday night. On the way out I wished good luck in Vegas to him and his daughter. I make that lame jopke a lot but this time I got a really good reaction out of her. I think they must have been from some place like Pocatello, Idaho, and never run into a smartass before.

I signed up for this web site that pays me to write reviews of other web sites. It’s a marketplace, actually, and they simply list my blog along with its readership ratings and cost to the advertiser. The advertiser purchases the prospective review, I write 200 words and post it, and oh, baby, the money flows in. So here’s my first paid review:

[Advertisement] With the poker boom in full swing, some people want to turn that spare room into a den of poker iniquity. Although to most folks such a home improvement would be risible, we’re not like everyone else – we’re poker players! We need poker fast, we need it now, and we need it in our homes. Well, good news! The people at Cardroom Supply have an enormous selection of poker furniture in stock for immediate shipment. My favorite is the 54” Cherry Leather Round Poker Table with Four Chairs for a low, low price of $2799. This is less than one big blind in the big game at Bellagio, so do yourself a favor and surf on over there right now and buy everything they have. Want to hold poker tournaments in your own home, where the cops aren’t likely to bust you? Check out their full supply of chips, buttons, and timers. And why not expand into a full underground casino with their craps, roulette and blackjack tables? They even carry drop boxes so your cash can be carried right to the skim room without employee pilfering. So what are you waiting for? Imagine yourself in sartorial splendor, running your own burn joint. Listen to my dictum: surf on over to Cardroom Supply today.

I’ll leave you with a link to the famous radio interview with Jamie Gold after he won the main event. I finally got around to listening to it. Apparently he’s a natural-born tournament player, possibly the best of all time. Yum yum.

Labels: , ,

December 6, 2006

Anything Goes

An uberbabe invited me to a local production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes the other night. The conversation went something like this:

Uberbabe: “I’m sure you’re busy but I have two tickets to a Cole Porter play and I remember you either love or hate musicals.”
QL: “Google informs me that you are referring to his most popular show, Anything Goes, which is in fact closing tonight at the Second Story theater in Redmond. Shall I meet you there or do you want to eat first?”

I do love musical theater (which puts me in good company with my and Jerry Seinfeld’s hero, Superman – watch till the very end) and Cole Porter is my favorite. The tiny theater had seats on three sides and we strolled right in and grabbed front-row seats. It was delovely.

The days of Anything Goes in Las Vegas are long gone, and to the amazement of many, this Friday smoking will finally banned in most public places in Nevada. While there are still exemptions for brothels, bars that don't serve food, and gambling areas, this will be a tangible improvement to health and quality of life for millions. Some businesses are mounting an unlikely last-ditch challenge to the law, worth mentioning only so I can quote the aptly named American Cancer Society director from the Las Vegas Review-Journal story:

Buffy Martin-Tarbox, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society and the spokeswoman for Nevadans for Tobacco Free Kids, which advocated for Question 5 but was not mentioned in the suit, said it's disappointing some business owners are doing their best to "skirt" the will of voters.

Buffy Martin-Tarbox is my new favorite name.

Atlantic City is keeping a step ahead and proposing to remove the casino exemption for New Jersey’s smoking ban. If they do, look for Vegas to watch closely how it affects business. Given the boom in poker rooms since they all went voluntarily non-smoking, I doubt the effect will be negative.

Meanwhile, New York City is making a bold step in public health, voting to ban the use of trans-fats in restaurants. No more tobacco, no more partially hydrogenated vegetable oil…long gone is the day when anything goes.

Labels: , ,

December 5, 2006

Beat the Players

I just finished reading Bob Nersesian’s new book Beat the Players. He is a lawyer who represents gamblers – particularly card counters and other guys who try to beat the house at their own game -- in disputes with casinos. He recently won a huge judgment for two players who were caught peeking at a sloppy dealer’s hole card (completely legal), manhandled, arrested, and jailed. The book is mostly a summary of Nevada gaming law with a few excerpts from cases thrown in. I like to know my rights under the law so I read it with interest.

One thing that jumped out at me was that Nevada, like most places, still does not enforce gambling debts. There is a law requiring the payment of a winning bet, but the common-law doctrine that gambling debts are unenforceable is still in force in Nevada.

I suspect this means that, regardless of the merits of his claim, Crispin Leyser is out of luck trying to collect half of Jamie Gold’s $12 million first prize in the 2006 World Series of Poker.
By the way, what ever happened with that investigation Harrah's was doing into the extra chips I discovered added to the main event?

Labels: , ,

December 4, 2006

Charles in Space

Although his name is not a household one like Bill Gates, my former boss at Microsoft Charles Simonyi is one of the legends of Microsoft culture. I worked under him at Xerox in the late ‘70s until they completely fumbled the ball on office productivity software: by 1980 we had the world’s first personal computer—the Alto—with Ethernet, GUI word-processing (Bravo) and email (Laurel) software, laser printers, and bitmap displays. OK, the laser printers took up a room and cost $100k, but still… Xerox had the mindset that what we had accomplished was simply prototyping. They hired 200 new people and designed new hardware and software from the ground up to attempt to productize what we had done. The result was the ill-fated Star. It took five minutes to boot and couldn’t output a document longer than a few pages.

We bought one at Microsoft and kept it in the office next to Bill’s, just as a reminder.

Charles, who has always loved aviation and is licensed to fly jets and helicopters, is currently in training to be the next space tourist. He’s bivouacked in the formerly super-secret Star City, built in the woods outside of Moscow in the ‘60s to train Cosmonauts, and if all goes well will blast off in April on Soyuz TMA-10 to the International Space Station.

It’s hard to overstate the leadership Charles gave to the newly formed applications division at Microsoft in the early ’80. If you looked up “hard core” in the dictionary, you wouldn’t be surprised to find Charles’s picture. One time Charles yelled at the manager of the McDonalds across the street from the newly developed Bellevue Square, one of the nation’s ritziest shopping malls, for his unusual decision to cook all burgers to order rather than leaving them in a heating rack for up to 10 minutes: “Come on! We have to get back to work! If I want to wait for my food, I go to Benjamin’s!” Benjamin’s was the fanciest restaurant in Bellevue, where every Sunday Charles sat at the chef’s counter and ate the brunch buffet before heading in to work.

Charles became an American citizen during our tenure at Microsoft, and was very proud of it. He was always working on his English pronunciation which, although good, bore noticeable traces of his Hungarian upbringing. One day he was walking around saying what sounded to me like “wuddum fuddum.” In response to my quizzical look, he explained it was an exercise in vowel sounds. He was saying “worm farm.” I said I supposed the exercise in consonant sounds was next. He liked to say “artificial” with the stress on “TIF.” I gently corrected him a few times, which he genuinely appreciated, but I’m not sure it took hold. The impish Doug Klunder, wizard behind Multiplan and Excel, once pulled a cruel prank on Charles. When Charles said he thought a certain decision was a bit “cavalier,” Doug stared him angrily in the face. “It’s pronounced 'ca-VAHL-yay,' Charles,” and Doug turned on his heel and slammed himself in his office, leaving Charles puzzling. “No. Really? Ca-VAHL-yay?”

I have no idea how much Charles is paying for the privilege of doing something only a few others have ever done, but I do know Space Adventures wants over $100k just for a sub-orbital flight (American Express is forever offering me charming bargains like this). These guys know how to charge. If you’d like to go to Russia and watch Charles make history, they offer a VIP four-night tour. You’re on your own getting to Moscow, but once you land there, they take care of your hotel and the round trip to the launch site in Kazakhstan for the nominal fee of $15,595. Coach.

Labels: ,

December 3, 2006

Gitomer speaks!

I'm putting in a surprise guest appearance at Jeffrey Gitomer's weekend seminar in Las Vegas next weekend at the Rio. If you are in sales and have not experienced Jeffrey, I highly recommend you come see him and his all-star cast of trainers (and me, talking about bluffing).
Jeffrey is considered by many to be the top sales trainer and author in the world. He is one of my favorite people. His dozen books on sales and customer service are already classics. I've seen him speak half a dozen times and still laugh and learn through his presentation.
If you can't make the full weekend, there's a shorter seminar on Thursday Dec. 7 on his new book The Little Black Book of Connections. (I won't be at that one.)

Labels: ,

December 1, 2006

Bunnies galore

Everybody’s been after me to write a review of the new Playboy Club at the Palms so I’ll do that a bit later in this uber-ish post. First I have to report that the ebonizzle angel who sat with me at the N9ne bar yesterday actually gave me a real Myspace page and a real email addy. She promised to accept me as a friend next time she logged in so those of you who see my life as some kind of irresistible train wreck can browse though my 200+ Myspace friends and try to figure out who she is.

I had been in Vegas two days longer than my original plans called for. The forecast in Seattle was rainy and warmer so I planned to return tomorrow per my revised itinerary. Meanwhile I took advantage of the extra days in Vegas to hang out with one of my favorite people in the poker world, Chad Layne. I wanted to treat him to one of the great restaurants at the Palms but he insisted on taking me to Hank’s at the Green Valley Ranch. Hank’s is a virtual clone of T Bone’s at Red Rock so I was hoping they still had my favorite side dish, pureed cauliflower and horseradish. They did, and Chad and I shared a chateaubriand plus the creamed corn and grilled tomatoes. Chad and I usually do Grey Goose rather than wine but I snuck a glass of the 2002 B.R. Cohn Cabernet with the steak.

Apparently my having written about eating for the last 10 or so years qualifies me as some kind of expert. Real writers are calling me for quotes on fine dining in Vegas. When I started coming here 25 years ago it was all about $1.99 prime rib and all-you-can-eat buffets. Every hotel had the steakhouse, the Italian restaurant, and the Chinese restaurant. The emphasis was on cheap, not gourmet. Today you can hardly find a celebrity chef who doesn't have a place in a Strip resort. In the middle of the desert, the freshest exotic seafood in the world is trucked and flown in daily. The tip for two at Guy Savoy is more than most families of four spend on dinner. It's a paradise for the gourmet and the expense-account owner, but the day of the bargain is gone.

After dinner I played a little online with some of the many uber-hot pokerbabes who comprise my fan club on Full Tilt. They all use the two hottest avatars, the one that looks like Shana Hiatt and the one that looks like David Grey’s wife Taylor. Railbirds, who used to ask who I was, have now seen me on TV more than they care to, so now they ask who are these people I’m playing with. “Uber-hot pokerbabes,” I answered. “What’s that mean?” one of the babes asked. “Uber,” I said. It’s blogger for “very.” A fellow player corrected me: “It’s actually German for ‘super.’” Yeah, if you want to get all technical and shiznit. Babe und Überbabe! While all this idle badinage was going on, uberbabe karenr was beating me out of every pot in a heads-up HORSE, sending me on uber-tilt. I might have blown my whole bankroll $20 at a time but thankfully I couldn’t do a rematch because Jim had arrived to take me up to the Playboy Club high atop the Palms’ new Fantasy Tower.

The Playboy Club, at first glance, is a casino. It is, in fact, the first casino with a cover charge in the history of Nevada. The floor is filled with blackjack tables with booths and bars around the outside, all framed by picture windows framing the spectacular view of Las Vegas. Jim was a member, meaning we could sit at a table without getting uber-expensive bottle service, so we did and ordered drinks as he whipped out a pair of cigars with labels I didn’t recognize. “Pre-Castro Cubans,” he said. Wow. I thought it was pretty cool of him to share these ubercigars with someone he had just met. “How much money are you planning to ask me to lend you?” I asked. Fortunately he got my sense of humor and we had a great time talking about all things Vegas, poker, and online. Service at the table was superb: our server came by frequently to check on our drinks and a hautboy policed the ashtrays and empties, even stopping to replace the box of matches I had taken from across the table.

The one thing you think of when you hear Playboy Club, of course, is the bunny, and oh, there were bunnies galore. Our server sported black ears and a little white cottontail (they are now sewn on rather than velcroed – apparently people were grabbing them and selling them on eBay) and in fact even the blackjack dealers were bunnies. They were all nice looking but frankly the Palms had already done a spectacular job of hiring beautiful girls to serve drinks and none of these bunnies had anything on the earless bartenders downstairs at the Mint, who all had an attractive air of professional competence in addition to their pulchritude. Still, bunnies are bunnies and the experience was more than pleasant even though I neither asked for nor received Myspace addresses.

I insisted on paying for the drinks, given the magnitude of his tobacco magnanimity, and left Jim there to hold court with his next wave of friends. On the way down the elevator there was a guy wearing some kind of caveman outfit with an enormous bejeweled watch and a silver pendant with a script “A.” A girl asked him if the watch was a Breitling. “Yes, it is,” He said casually. “You’re somebody, aren’t you?” she asked. “Who are you?” “Bob,” he said. “Bob? What’s the ‘A’ stand for then?” “Uh…Andy. Bob Andy.” Now Bob Andy could be the world’s biggest TV star and I wouldn’t know it but maybe one of you can recognize the star sighting from my description. And speaking of seeing stars, if there’s anyone left on the Internet who hasn’t seen the photos of Britney Spears getting out of a sports car with no panties: do yourself a favor and don’t look.

Labels: , , , , , , ,