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Daniel - Poker Journal

The Best Trip of My Life (Very Long)

22 Dec 2010

I'd been looking forward to this Sydney trip for quite some time, and I must confess, it had little to do with the fact that the APPT Grand Final was being played there. My original plan, thanks to scheduling working out this year, was to get to Sydney early, have some fun, play the tournament, then head back to Vegas to play the Bellagio event right after that.
Well, it didn't work out that way because somehow the Bellagio changed their dates which meant is conflicted with my Sydney trip that I wasn't going to move for sure. It's a shame too, because historically I've always had good Decembers and in that tournament specifically I've got a win, a 3rd, and I was chip leader another time with two tables left before running KK into AA and missing the final table in 12th.

I was most excited about this trip because I was genuinely committed to making a REAL vacation out of it. Normally when I travel, alone, I fly to these exotic places only to end up in a casino, my hotel room, and then fly back home without really experiencing what the city has to offer. Again, being totally honest, the tournament was secondary to me and I'd already decided that I wasn't going to stick to my strict rules for tournament preparation.

Originally the plan was for six of us to travel together, but at the last minute we had two stragglers join us! Melissa Castello and Eddy Sabat were planning on going to Panama, but with Amanda convincing Melissa, and me reminding Eddy that he is "Mr.APPT" they decided to change their plans and join us. Eddy won APPT Macau and on top of that he won the heads up event at APPT Sydney. Seemed like a no-brainer since I do believe that people do better at places they've had success at before. I don't know what you call that exactly, but subconsciously, I think going to a place where you've had success before gives you a bit more confidence that can make the difference, or vice versa, if there is a place you always seem to lose, that can affect you negatively. That's why I've asked the producers of High Stakes Poker if they are ok with me burning the set :-)

We all left from LA on December 2nd and arrived in Sydney on a direct flight on December 4th. I wasn't scheduled to play my day 1 until December 8th so that gave me ample time to have some fun. The group included myself, Amanda, Eddy, Melissa, Parker, Amanda's friend Jessica from North Carolina, her brother Chris, and his baby mama Kendra.

When I was booking the rooms I thought the Shangri-La seemed nice. I swear, not until we pulled up to the hotel did I have a eureka moment, "I stayed here before!" Not only that, I stayed there for almost two weeks when I filmed that two second cameo in Wolverine. That trip would prove to be very different from this one. On that trip, I'd never been more alone and wrote these uber introspective blogs about "life" and all that. Kind of funny looking back now. I have them archived they start with this one: FCP Blog

We were all hungry and a bit tired, but decided to walk around and find a little place to eat. We walked along George St. and it seemed the only thing that was open was Mackers and Hungry Jacks. Truth is, it was my fault. We walked the wrong way and it was a Saturday, so the only cool places we found weren't open at noon. Eventually we found a place after a long walk that I don't think Parker enjoyed.

Parker looks like an athlete. Tall, slim, and fit looking, but MAN is that girl out of shape! We had to walk uphill a few times and she looked like a rag doll about to keel over as she mumbled, "Ugggggh." It was kind of funny actually.

That night we went to a really cool place called the Ivy. Super neat bar and we were lucky enough to find a table in a good spot and had drinks. I decided to "let loose" and do something I haven't done in almost six years: Vodka Redbull. Truth is, I haven't had ANY caffeine in that time, not even a cup of tea... unless it was decaf. I was a bit nervous about what it might do to me so I took it easy and only had one before my heart started racing and I switched to just beers.

December 5th: We walked around the city a little bit and then ended up checking out a rooftop bar that looked really cool. We hung out there for a while, headed back to the hotel to change and then head out. It was a Sunday so we weren't sure what we'd find, but we were told that King's Cross would be the best place to go if we wanted to stay out late. We ended up at a place called Goldfish that was actually pretty nice.

December 6th: PokerStars always throws an awesome welcome party, so we decided we were going to head over to Star City to check it out. Um wow... that night ended up being crazy! I decided to go with the Vodka Redbull mix again, but man, this time I went a bit nuts to say the least and had more than I can count. We had a blast though, taking pics and being silly.
At one point, me and Amanda basically got kicked out of Star City. Earlier in the day we all went to get spray tans, I'd never done it but they convinced me to try it so I figured "why not." Well someone asked to see the tan line, so I showed them. All you wear is a tiny g-string so I had to kind of pull down my pants to show it, but I only showed the side, totally PG. Well, the security guard didn't agree! He called Amanda and I over to let us know this isn't America and we'd crossed the line.
I called over Danny McDonough who I figured would have some juice to save us from being booted. In the meantime Amanda and I apologized profusely, and said, "Thank you so much for the warning sir, we really didn't realize, but we understand now and we'll be on our best behavior." He let us know this was no warning, we had to leave.

Danny comes over, hears whats up and basically says, "Yeah man, you're basically screwed." HAHA thanks Danny! Luckily some other security guards saw what was going on, told the Nazi guard they'd handle it, and they let us go back to the sports casino bar where everyone was hanging out.

December 7th: This was the night of our first concert on the trip, the Eagles. Amanda has been to a million concerts, but I'd been to maybe 3 tops in my whole life so I didn't know what to expect. Apparently neither did Amanda!

We didn't have 8 seats together, so Chris and Kendra took two floor seats, the four girls sat on the floor together, and me and Eddy sat together in the stands. It didn't take us long to spot the girls on the floor, they were the only ones moving and actually acting like it was a concert. So bizarre, but they were actually warned that they could not stand up or dance in the aisles which were wide open.

Seemed more like Opera rules than concert rules to me. The lady in front of Amanda at one point, turned around and said "Shut Up." Now, Amanda may be tiny, but she is really feisty and willing to "thrown down" if need be. This woman was close to three times Amanda's size, but when I saw Amanda on the first intermission she let me know that she was about to throw down, but not to worry, the girls had her back. Jessica can kick some butt for sure, and we all saw Melissa fight Liv Boeree for charity- she has no quit in her. Parker? Not so much, but I'm sure she'd have Amanda's back nonetheless.

Near the end of the concert people were allowed to act like it was a concert, and it was just amazing. They are old, as was the majority of the crowd, but man were they good! So good.

On the way back, someone had the bright idea to take public transit back because it would be fun. I'll admit, I was down because I thought it might be faster... oops. We didn't get home until after 2am and I needed to be up at 6am to do an interview for a local breakfast show called Sunrise.

December 8th: A car arrived to pick me up bright and early and I made my way over to the studio. The interview went well, and I was back in bed to get some sleep before the 12:00pm start time.

Eddy and I hopped in a cab and were ready to play. I have a great recollection for all the events on the trip, but for some reason I don't remember too many of the poker hands. Obviously it wasn't my focus, but I ended up playing pretty well on day 1 and doubled up. Eddy also had a strong day 1 which made dinner at Teppanyaki all that much sweeter.

Everyone joined us for dinner and it ended up being a blast. We had some sake, some laughs, and some really good food. I think most of us agreed that is was the best meal of the trip.

We planned on going to the Zoo early in the morning, but everyone was feeling a bit lazy so we didn't make it there till the afternoon. A ferry will take you almost anywhere you want to go in Sydney and it was a nice ride over. We took lots of pictures and had a good time. One funny story from the Zoo, picking on Parker again:

Parker is afraid of birds. On the way out of the Zoo she was considering peeing in the bushes (she wasn't really going to), and she walked close to this one bush and all of a sudden this bird, about 4.5 feet tall just popped it's neck out in Parker's face! This thing looked like a cross between a turkey and an alien with bright blue and red colors on its neck and head. I am fine with birds, but even I was a bit creeped out and it wasn't 6 inches from my face. Parker runs so bad! haha.

We had to rush back to the hotel and change so we could make it to the Muse concert in time. It was at the same place as the Eagles concert, but we had some drama. Patty got us 8 tickets through a site called viagogo.com. When the tickets finally arrived, at the very last minute, I looked in the package and their were only 6. Worse yet, two of the tickets were taped up, looked totally fake, and to boot, they were for the wrong night! I was so frustrated, but also determined to make this work somehow.

Chris and Kendra decided to stay in, so the 6 of us drove out there with 4 tickets hoping to score two more from a scalper. I didn't see many scalpers, but I did find one who just so happened to have two standing room seats on the floor which are the best seats you can get. The guy was a fan, and he gave me a pretty good deal and we exchanged numbers which is relevant later.

When we walked through, they gave the two people that had floor seats special wristbands, but we didn't think about it and we put them on the wrong people. We went to have a drink and figure it all out, then I decided to walk back out and explain that we needed to switch the wristbands. Luckily, this security guard was a really big fan and he said, "No worries man, I'll just give you another one." Then a light bulb went off in my head so I asked, "Do you happen to have 3 more?" He shrugged, and ultimately gave me wristbands for everyone! Me and Jessica walked together and we were so excited to go back in there to tell everyone the good news.

There was still a problem. You need a wristband to get on the floor, but you also need a ticket- and we only had two tickets. No worries, we devised an evil plan to get us all down there muah, hah, hah, hah.

I went down with Parker. She gave me her ticket, and I walked back up and got Amanda, gave her a ticket, and we walked back down together. This time I gave Amanda my ticket, and she grabbed Jessica, and so on and so on. We are such rebels! :-)

The concert was just amazing. Muse live is something to see. I didn't know much about them before the concert, but I did download an album to listen to and thought it was good. It was infinitely better live. Everyone had a blast, Amanda danced the entire night and was smiling ear to ear the whole time.

December 10th: Day two of the APPT Sydney. I have no idea what happened, other than losing a huge pot with QQ to KK. I flopped a Q and the river was a K. If you want to read about hands, sorry, I don't remember many, but the good news is that PokerNews.com was there so you can always go to their archives if you are curious. Both Eddy and I once again made it through the day which also meant we were both in the money with a shot to win this thing.
We had dinner with Roland de Wolfe that night, and we were discussing our chances to make the final table. He had a ton of chips, and thought it was about even money that me or Eddy would make the final table.
I had a weird thing happen at dinner that night. It was a Chinese restaurant, and I ordered from the Vegetable section. I ordered Tofu with Mushrooms and Chinese Broccoli. It listed what was in it, all seemed kosher to me, so I ordered it.
When it showed up, it had minced pork in it. I told the waiter I didn't want it with pork and he says, "You didn't tell me that." Huh? I found that to be such a bizarre response. Nowhere on the menu did it say it just so happens to come with minced pork, so why would I randomly say, "Oh, and no pork in it please." That's as random as ordering a pizza and saying, "Oh, and please no ice cubes, ketchup, or caviar on it thanks."

December 11th: Once again it was a poker day as we were scheduled to play down to the final table. While me and Eddy were working, the girls were out on the beach, chilling, enjoying the city, and while I was jealous, I was happy to be in contention and knew they were rooting us on. Near the final table bubble, the girls came out to the casino to cheer me and Eddy on. It seemed like it took forever to bust the last player as the short stack kept doubling up, but miraculously both me AND Eddy made the final table! Oh, and so did Roland! Pretty crazy trifecta there, not sure what the odds of that were.

December 12th: I was the short stack coming in but felt like I had a fighting chance if I could double up. The very first hand I moved all in from the small blind with Qh 6h and the big blind folded. I didn't play another hand that round, and in my next small blind, Roland decided to limp in for 20,000. Everyone else folded and I called from the small blind with Q-10. This was actually a mistake. My stack was about 267,000 and I should have absolutely moved all in and tried to pick up the blinds, antes, and Roland's limp. Based on flow, I was quite certain Roland didn't limp with a strong hand so I should have picked it up right there. Not a huge mistake, but still a mistake.

The flop came 10-6-3 with two hearts. A great flop for my hand. I thought about the best approach and I knew I couldn't bet/fold this flop with a few potential draws out there, so I decided to stick it in. Roland insta called with 33 so I was pretty dead. The turn was a 10 though which gave me life. A 7 on the river sealed my fate and I now became a cheerleader myself, rooting Eddy on with the girls.

Roland was the next one out surprisingly, and then Eddy couldn't win his race with AK vs 99 and he finished in 6th place. Oh well, still an amazing story with Eddy not even planning on coming, then both of us making the final table. Pretty crazy.

We went to the harbor to have lunch at a middle eastern restaurant that had hookah. I'd never done it before, but thought, "why not." Pretty interesting, but definitely not something I'm used to. That night we had a lazy night with everyone being a bit tired. Ended up watching Shutter Island and I didn't think it was all that good. I totally figured out what was going on about 15 minutes in. I saw right through the plot.

December 13th: I didn't really get a chance to do the beach thing yet so I wanted to go. We headed over to Manly beach by water taxi which seemed WAY faster. On the way back I hired the water taxi to take us to the Jay Z/U2 concert.

Yup, I called that scalper guy who said he could get me 6 tickets (Chris and Kendra left that day). He said he could, then Roland called me asking for 4 more. Scalper said no problem, come to the venue and I got you covered.
We got there on time, but the scalper told me his "guy" hadn't shown up yet but was on the way. He said we should have a drink and he'll be right there. This guy finally shows up, takes me into a bathroom all secretive, and hands me these wristbands. Something definitely didn't smell right. They were blue wristbands that said "Worker" on them.

So we put the bracelets on everyone and walked to the venue. There are like 3 scalper guys working together on this and they split us up into two groups of 5. I ask my guy, "Is this all legit?" He's like, "Yeah, yeah, no worries mate, these guys will take care of you." By this point Jay Z was already wrapping up which was a real bummer cause I wanted to see him, but we did get in.

Once in, our guy gave us new wristbands that looked legit. When we caught up with the others, we noticed they didn't get those bracelets. We had a problem for sure. These guys had no tickets, they were total scammers who must have stole these wristbands and charged us $500 a ticket. Nice score for them, $5000, and it seemed like it would work flawlessly except half my group didn't have the right wristband to get to the stage. We paid for tickets up close.

To make a long story short, we managed to make it all work but it did not look good for a while. We ended up seeing the whole U2 concert along with 80,000 other people with the roof open. U2 is awesome, that goes without saying, and once again we all had a blast.

December 14th: This was a relaxing day on the beach. We ate a great lunch at one of the restaurants there, then me, Amanda, Jessica, and Parker just laid on the beach most of the day. It was really nice to do nothing.
Our last night in Sydney, we decided to do a late dinner... unfortunately Sydney is not like Las Vegas. It was 10:00pm and virtually nothing was open. After a lot of work we found a place that would feed us and it ended up being pretty good.

After that, the girls were dead set on getting tattoos so we headed back over to King's Cross. The area seemed pretty shady, but the tattoo place looked clean enough. The girls struggled through the pain while I winced. I wasn't even getting one, but man, the look on their faces scared me straight! I hate pain.

December 15: Travel day. I told everyone we had to leave at 9:00am, knowing full well we didn't really have to leave until 9:30am. As expected, we got everyone together at 9:37am and we were on the road. Since we had to change our flights due to the final table, Patty had me and Amanda on a connecting flight through Fiji, while the others flew direct to LA.

We had a 4 hour layover in Fiji, just me and Amanda, and we decided to hang out at the bar, grab a snack and have a few drinks. It was actually the perfect ending to the vacation. We were always in large groups, it was a nice change of pace to just chill and have a few laughs alone.

Obviously lots of other fun stuff happened in Sydney, but I'm not trying to write a novel here, and besides, what happens in Sydney stays in Sydney :-)


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We landed in LA, and I needed to get back to Vegas right away to be on set for a commercial shoot. I got to Vegas late in the afternoon and I talked to the guys producing the commercial and explained to them that I can knock this out in a day. We don't need two days for it, besides I'd need to shower and change which would take a while since I live across town and it was rush hour.

They agreed, but asked me to come in at 7am and said I'd be done by about 10pm-11pm.

The next day I showed up at 7:45am ready to work. After looking at the shot list, I was confident I'd be home for dinner. In fact, the Canadian marketing guy bet the director $20 that I'd be able to finish by 5:00pm... with a one hour lunch squeezed in, we were out of there before 4:00pm. I have always found working with a teleprompter pretty easy. When you have to memorize everything, that takes effort, but when you have a prompter it's essentially about just being able to read and deliver the lines properly. Piece of cake.

High Stakes Poker: I was schedule to play on HSP the 15th, 16th, and 17th. I didn't get home until the 15th, and HAD to shoot the commercial on the 16th. Originally the plan was to shoot the commercial on the 13-14, HSP 15-17, then film some stuff in Vegas for a UK based show the 18-20. Of course, me making the final table screwed that up. I can only be in one place at one time.

I was asked to play HSP on the 17th, but I truly didn't think I'd be able to. Jet lag coupled with the commercial shoot and the trip, just had me spent. I told them I wasn't going to play tired.

My phone was ringing off the hook at noon while I was asleep but I turn it off at night. Patty has access to the bat line, though, and she called me to let me know it was urgent. I guess they really wanted me to play, so I agreed to play the last session.
By the time I got to the set I felt a bit better, but was still a bit groggy.


The three day shoot from the 18th-20th went really well. I guess I can't really talk about what we shot, but it should be a pretty interesting show if it's put together right. We'll see.

So now it's 4:00am and I'm wide awake. I woke up at 4:00pm and don't expect to sleep at all tonight'. I've had a messed up sleep schedule before and I'm used to it, so no worries there, I'll fix it.

This may feel a bit odd, but I'll be having Christmas dinner at the house my mother used to live in here in Vegas. After she passed, I had some friends move in and they invited me over. Not sure how I feel about that just yet. We used to do Christmas dinner there with my mother who used to cook up a feast. It won't feel the same with her not there.

Christmas day I'm going to head over to Jenn and Marco's to spend the day with them and the twins.

I'm really looking forward to New Years Eve. Normally I avoid the strip like the plague on New Years, but this year we are going all out! Not quite on the strip, but the Palms. I made all the reservations, reserved the table, etc. (by I, I mean Patty). We have 15 confirmed but it's likely going to end up being 19-22 people with us. Some of the Sydney crew along with some other stragglers.

After that, Bahamas baby! I'm really looking forward to the PCA this year. It starts off with a bang, the 100k buy in event and 441 Productions will be covering it. That's the same crew that covers the WSOP every year and they are the best in the business. I think they do a really good job of connecting with the casual viewer as well as the die hards, which is a constant struggle for any poker show.

They will be airing the final table on ESPN3 on a one hour delay WITH hole cards. This is groundbreaking, seriously. The cut version will later air on ESPN.

There is also the main event, a $25k buy in event, as well as a $5000 Bounty Shootout event. Those are the ones I'm looking at playing, but there are plenty of side events for more modest bankrolls as well. You can check out the full schedule here: PCA Schedule

Outside of the WSOP no poker festival rivals the PCA in terms of diversity of events, value, and prize pools.

Ok, this blog really has become a book. Let me close by saying I'm very excited about 2011. 2010 wasn't my best year by any stretch, but I've got plenty of confidence and plan on playing a decent number of events in the hopes of regaining the #1 spot from Phil Ivey atop the all-time money list.


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