Tuesday, February 05, 2008

CLEARING HURDLES...the journey to Oz continues
[part 1]

So how does a guy who has spent 3 nights a week for 8 weeks, successfully navigating a minefield of bloggers in quest of a once in a lifetime international adventure find himself at the end of this journey without a passport? Simple, really. It never crossed my mind. In fact, for me it was never so much about the destination--but the journey. Winning for its own sake has always been its own reward. Why else have I found myself awake at 2 am playing the dookie? The BBT's have always been a chance for the blogger community as a whole to get together and play for something a little bigger than the usual--what ever that bigger may be. (And FWIW, I played BBT1 for the express purpose of winning the Wii--true story, ask this guy).

After winning the TOC, only then did I actually check out the details of my impending trip--IMAGINE MY DELIGHT! Poker, golf, freeroll tourney, rubbin' elbows with the big guns. Clearly, this needed to happen.

So, having decided to put my entire life on hold for a couple weeks while I skip down under for a little poker, my wife--also sans passport btw--and I spent the next couple days basking in the glow of what had now become our mutual victory. L had always wanted to go to Australia, of course her dream trip was more of an outback adventure than a casino royale--but hell, it was free and it was now ours, so why quibble over the details. Our busy professional lives and our parenting responsibilities had put considerable strain on both of us, and a two week getaway seemed like, if you'll pardon the pun, just what the doctor ordered. Thankfully, my mother-in-law had agreed to come stay with the kids in our absence so we set about the business of travel preparations. The trip was just starting to take shape when a nasty fall left my mother-in-law with a broken arm and L and I with no babysitter.

Enter CJC, brother number 3 of 4 (not my poker padawan SRC1013_JD), who just so happened to have a passport--and further, had called the morning after my TOC win FROM his boss's office to (1) congratulate me (2) declare his passport status, and (3) assure me that he was available should he be needed. To her credit, L took her bad beat like a trooper with the following:

"I guess this means you'll just have to win so you can take ME next time"

Her Christmas gift to me seemed to drive this last point home, when in an as-yet-unrivaled display of confidence L gave me a watch because "I was going to need a fine timepiece to wear at the final table." Bless her naive little heart...

At the time, not having a passport didn't seem to be such a big deal--just needed to pop over the post office, smile for the camera, and BINGO--1 passport comin' right up, sir. Of course, the last time I had needed a passport was in high school when I traveled to the Soviet Union as part of a highly trained team of supergeeks (details remain classified). It seems that obtaining a passport in the post-9/11 world has become considerably more of a headache and requires several weeks of advance planning.

So 2 days after Christmas, on the recommendation of our good buddy Drraz, I sought the help of a passport expediting service. For those who don't know (as I didn't before this) expedited passports are only dispensed in select portions of the country, NONE of which were anywhere near Southwestern PA. Fortunately, there are services which can present your information to the state department in your stead, provided they have the appropriate documentation in a timely fashion. One of these is "verification of travel" which can take the form of a computer generated travel itinerary. It was about this time that I realized that the only confirmation I had regarding my trip was Al's congratulatory e-mail. Hell, I didn't even know my expected dates of travel.

Thus began a frantic stream of emails to Full Tilt explaining my situation and the time-crunch I had put myself in. During all this, I discovered that despite the tournament not starting until January 14, the plane for Melbourne actually left on January 7. So follow me on this--it's

  • December 27 (a Thursday) I need to receive confirmation of a trip itinerary by

  • Friday, FedEx my documents to Washington D.C. by

  • Monday (New Years' Eve) for presentation to the state department on

  • Wednesday (January 2) and returned to me in PA no later than

  • Saturday January 5 for my departure to LA on

  • Sunday where I will catch a flight to Australia on

  • Monday.


Miraculously, email confirmation arrived at around 1AM EST on Friday and I was able to get everything in the mail that day. SIDE NOTE: Special thanks to "Chuck" at the post office who asked that I mention him should I be on TV for the tournament. (Sorry Chuck, this is the best I can do--but THANKS!)

Needless to say, I was a tad nervous about the timing of the process and the fact that I was pretty much cutting it as thin as I could on this one. But the plan was in place and seemed to be moving in the right direction. That's when I woke Friday night/Saturday AM with a fever and muscle aches the likes of which I have not experienced in some time. I'm not one who gets sick often, but when I do, I certainly do it right. As I lay shivering in my bed, I was persistently haunted by visions of countless Euro-LAGs playing trash against me and eliminating me from the tournament.

By Sunday, I was convinced that going to Melbourne was a horrific mistake and declared to my wife that I wasn't going. The timing couldn't be any worse. I was completely unprepared and miserable and really, what was the point? I was just going to lose anyway! Thankfully, by Monday I was able to get out of bed AND remain vertical for longer than 3 minutes at a time. My health and confidence restored, I resumed my preparations for the trip which was now less than a week away.

Things went relatively smoothly from that point forward. New Year's Eve was spent with my family, as T, A and J enjoyed their first Champagne Toast (Cider, actually) at midnight and 2008 was upon us. Just a couple days of work between me and the weekend, and the "Poker Trip of a Lifetime" would begin. That's when I received the following phone call:

THURSDAY January 3, 2008....approximately 5:10pm

"Mr. C?


"Mr. C...I'm sorry to be calling, but it seems there's a problem with your passport application. We won't be able to have it to you by Saturday unless you can get a replacement copy of your birth certificate to us by 9am TOMORROW."


The wheels had finally flown off. Apparently the birth certificate I had once carried in my wallet but had since retired to the bottom of a desk drawer was damaged and unacceptable to the State Department. And of course, my hometown in CT (not PA remember) didn't provide for any electronic means of obtaining the birth certificate.

It was at this moment that I almost completely lost it.

The dream was dying. The trip I had never really wanted but now wanted more than anything was slipping away. In a panic, I began dialing the city clerk's office in my hometown...and got the dog catcher's voicemail. Then I got the park and rec department's machine. It was at this point that I called in the cavalry--my grandfather.


Patriarch of my family AND, luckily for me, former mayor of my hometown who just so happened to have the home number of the only guy that could help me . And, as I soon found out from his wife, he was still at the office.

Within the hour he had me a new birth certificate and had run all over town looking for a means to get it to D.C. by 9am the next day. Having missed the Fed Ex pickup by 10 minutes, we decided to find out what brown could do for us...and were not disappointed (despite their best efforts to close up shop early). I would of course be remiss if I didn't mention my parents' own efforts during the course of this. So to Mom, Dad, Papa..and of course Joe Q...THANK YOU!

Somehow I had managed to pull off the miracle, and with this coup came a feeling that no matter what happened--great things were on the horizon. Sadly, this theory would be tested not 36 hours later when my dog was struck and killed by a passing car 2 blocks from my house. In her honor, I took her little name tag with me and set it behind my chips at the table.

Finally, the day had arrived for our departure. As I boarded the plane, I thought about all that I had been through just to get to this point. I had been riding a roller coaster of incredible highs and insufferable lows...and I hadn't even left the country yet. Despite my own admittedly poor planning, a big steaming pile of bureacratic BS, and a vaccine-resistant strain of the flu, it seemed that nothing would stand in my way--not even the untimely demise of little Mickey. Mine was a truly charmed existence.

Melbourne was calling.....the time had come for me to answer.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


With FTOPS VII rapidly approaching, I compiled for myself a little wish-list of tourneys I hoped to play in. Friday night, I took care of number 1 on the list....

I have been anxiously awaiting the return of FTOPS, and in particular the HORSE event. Last time around, I made a pretty decent showing but came up just short of the money when I got a little too aggressive with hidden kings versus a guy with rolled up tens. Ironically, I had seen him get overly aggressive with a medium split pair and actually thought i was ahead DESPITE the multi-street capping. Live and learn I suppose.

After a near-miss satelliting into Sunday's Avatar Race (finished 3rd with top 2 getting seats), I was unable to play in any of the other qualifiers due to Super Bowl company. But I'm glad I decided to jump on late-night, because I punched ticket number 2 around midnight

Not a bad usage of my frenzy tokens I'd say. And even though my performance in general population MTTs has been less than spectacular as of late, I still get the feeling that business is about to pick up...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

ODYSSEY TO OZ...A Preamble

As I've struggled to put into words the last month-or-so of my existence in the poker world--and in particular, my Aussie Millions Getaway--several things have been glaringly apparent. First off, I am more of a storyTELLER than a storyWRITER, and unfortunately that makes the whole writing process more cumbersome for me. Particularly when I start to ramble, drifting aimlessly away from my point...kinda like right there. Second, and perhaps more important--I loathe trip reports. To me, trip reports (or at least this one) had become synonymous with book reports. As a kid, I loved to read--still do as a matter of fact. I'd read 20-3o books a year for pure enjoyment. But ask me to tell you about that book in a manner that would make you care? Forget it. Books were a personal experience, and reports were like the receipt that proved you actually read them. Totally boring and lame.

This trip deserved better. So I asked myself, "how can I share this amazing story with people without cheapening it?" I soon realized that the story didn't just begin in Australia, it began some weeks before. But to truly appreciate it, you're going to have to know a little more about me and the kind of guy I am.

So here goes...

I am a family practice physician practicing in a very, very small town in southwestern Pennsylvania that my wife and I moved to about 3 years ago. We have one of most of the necessities in town--grocery, school, post office, library--and exactly 4 traffic lights (although technically 2 of them aren't actually IN the town). Most of the local townsfolk are or are descendants of mineworkers who have outlived the coal mines that brought them here in the first place. We don't have a lot of luxury, but most of us have electricity and indoor plumbing, and wife and kids and I are fortunate to live in a particularly nice neighborhood in town. On the whole, despite the inconvenience of having to travel 90 minutes round trip for hospital rounds or most shopping beyond milk and butter, its a very pleasant existence. The big bonuses are that I am almost never more than 1 mile from my kids at any time in the day AND I actually get to practice medicine in a manner that makes me feel as though I'm having a significant impact on peoples' lives.

My wife, L, is also a family doc but her office is about 20 minutes up the road in neighboring town. We have three wonderful and beautiful children--T (age 7), A (age 4) and J (age 2). Between our work schedules, cub scouts, dance class and any other obligations we may have--time is precious. Unfortunately, its a delicate balance that my wife and I have yet to master; so many days and nights are spent in "flying-by-the-seat-of-our pants" fashion as we strive to meet the demands of day-to-day life and still get the kids fed, bathed and in bed at a reasonable hour. As you probably can surmise, the slightest variation in the daily "routine"can really throw a wrench in the whole works.

So imagine, if you will, that you are me. Now imagine you have just won a trip to Australia that leaves sometime in the next 2 weeks. And oh yeah, you don't have a passport. And the Christmas you are not done shopping for is only about 5 days away. Feelin' that tension in the back of your neck yet?

This is exactly the boat I found myself on the morning of December 20, 2007. How the hell was I going to pick up and leave the country for 2 weeks with such little preparation? What about the kids? What about my patients?

And oh yeah, I still didn't have a passport.

Friday, January 11, 2008


To anyone who has been anxiously awaiting some semblance of a post since my TOC win, my apologies...the three weeks getting ready for this trip had been total chaos (its an insane story to say the least, but one that I simply haven't had time to put into words). Since arriving in Melbourne about a week ago, its been virtually non-stop activities courtesy of Full Tilt's overwhelming hospitality. Booze, poker celebrities, kangaroos--the whole nine.

Fortunately, Pauly and the folks at pokernews have been gracious enough to keep you all up-to-date on my performance thus far in the Main Event. Hopefully, there will be more fun to report in the future.

I've always been pretty bad at the whole blogging thing, thankfully--the main event doesn't have a written exam portion. For now, just know that I am thankful to be enjoying this incredible experience, and I hope to one day have the time to sit and share it all with you.

Cheers (oh yeah, they don't say "g'day" much).

Monday, December 24, 2007


To all who happen across this, hope this holiday season finds you happy and well.

And a special thanks to Mookie for crafting my new ornament:)

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Words fail...

Some time around 2am EST amidst the excitement of planting the biggest, juiciest cherry I could ever imagine atop my very own BBT2 sundae, a funny thing happened...I was reminded that despite any progress I had made as a poker player, my blogging skills are laughably unrefined. I wanted to throw up a picture of the final leaderboard--much like the one above and complete with obligatory BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! header--but damned if i couldn't manage to get into my own blog without my computer freezing up. Then when I did, the best I could do was attach a file list screenshot (not very exciting). Finally I quit, after several unsuccessful attempts to preserve this, my single greatest achievement in poker-to-date, for all of posterity.
This morning, a miraculous thing happened....my friends did it for me.
As I sit and write this, I am still humbled by the compliments and respect that have been paid to me through the various blogs and comments across our not-so-little-anymore blogging community. Elated to say the least, but humbled.
My sincerest thanks go out to Al, Mookie, Don and of course, my boy Hoy. You guys have put together something pretty spectacular here. And to all who have offered their congratulatory praise, thank you for helping to remind me that poker is a game of people played with cards...and that this particular group of people is better than most.
It will be an honor and privilege to represent you all in Australia.
Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


OK...before I get ahead of myself. Yes--I know--its the dookie. And turbo HORSE is only slightly below turbo razz and HOY's turbo 6max on the bell curve of supreme donkishness.

That having been said, I managed to talk my little brother into signin' up tonight, despite the fact that he has limited experience in each of the individual games and NEVER played in HORSE format prior. Care to guess what happened?

Wait for it....

Waaaaaaaaiiiiiitttt forrrr itttttttt........

So, little brother, this one's for you. Great job!