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FCP Weekend at Caesars Palace

07 Feb 2006

Let’s start from the beginning:

February 3rd: My agent Brian Balsbaugh and his wife Nikki invited all of the people that he works with at Poker Royalty as well as the whole FCP crew over to his place for dinner.

We got there right on time, 6:30pm, cause that’s just how I roll. I just hate being late and I really get antsy when I am.

We were one of the first groups there and had first crack at the Margarita machine that Brian rented for the night. Within about 15 minutes everybody started rolling in and it was a good overall vibe. I brought the whole family with me, my wife Lori, my brother Mike, and my mother “Mommy.”

Everybody floated around mingling for the most part, but once everyone was done eating I brought out a Christmas gift I got from Lori’s dad Roger: ESPN Trivia. Seeing as we had a large group of cocky males who think they know everything ESPN related, it became quite the heated battle.

I had Brian “Tee Time” Balsbaugh on my team, so when the golf category Tee Time was introduced we figured that we were shoo ins. After all, Brian spent several years as a player agent on the PGA and LPGA tour.

Brian was “ok” at the Tee Time section, but frankly, had he just answered Arnold Palmer every time we would have been much better off! That was the answer to like, five straight questions.

So anyway, we kicked up the bets after losing three straight games and my team looked like we were on our way to our first win of the night. The winning question: “In 2004, where were the Asian X games held?”

Was it:

A) Japan
B) China
C) Malaysia
D) Australia

Immediately I felt like Malaysia was the right choice. What was my expert analysis as to why? Well, “Malaysia is a free flowing country.” What does that even mean?

Well Bob and Brian both said it couldn’t possibly be Malaysia, although I felt pretty strongly that it was right. Finally, Brian came up with his own bit of genius analysis for why we should go with Australia saying, “It could be Australia because that would make big news.”

Hello? If it made big news wouldn’t we all have heard about it? We went with Australia, and Jeff Goldenberg, another member of the FCP crew couldn’t stop laughing, “It said Australia and I think you guys must have it confused with Australasia.” OK, that was a good one.

That missed question cost us the game. I was pretty stuck at that point and decided to try to get even against Jim Hess playing heads up, one question a piece. He chose the category nicknames and I chose Media & Movies since he wouldn’t let me go with hockey.

Well, wouldn’t you know, it all came down to hockey questions anyway! He got this one: “What was NHL defensemen Larry Robinson’s nickname?”

A) Hoss
B) Big Bird
C) I don’t remember
D) I don’t remember

Hess guessed Hoss, and the correct answer was Big Bird because of his rather large beak.

Then, to win it all he gave me this one, “In the movie Miracle, where the U.S. won in the Olympics in Lake Placid, what was the final score?”

A) 2-1
B) 3-2
C) 4-3
D) 3-1

I wasn’t actually 100% sure so I thought back to the movie and remembered a lot of drama and a lot of goals. I went with 4-3 and beat Hess out of $300. Woo hoo!

We played trivia for a while longer and then everyone got prepped for the big FCP Weekend at Caesars


February 4th:Poker and partying- At 2:30pm I met all of the winners down at the poker room at Caesars and the plan was to play a 20 man free roll tournament where www.fullcontactpoker.com would put up a free $1000 and pay the top three spots.

It was the first time I’d ever been to the poker room at Caesars, but it wasn’t hard to find. It was conveniently located next to the sports book. There was a big neon sign that read, “POKER” right outside of a small entry way.

It had an exclusive feel to it, almost like you were walking into a private club or something like that. You walk down a short hallway and then BAM!!! It hits you in the face. A sea of tables, plasmas on the wall, as well as a tournament room adjacent to the live poker room.

Frankly, I was a little blown away. The room looked pretty awesome. The top section, where we’d be playing was beyond roomy.

I also noticed that they had some high limit action as there was a $400-$800 game going on right next to us.

I met the poker room manager and the rest of the floor staff and they all seemed like pretty cool, down to earth guys. On top of that, they really did go out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed. Thanks guys! Here are a few particulars about the room in case you are interested in checking it out:

- 7000 square foot poker room with 30 tables

-Table side dining from Augustus Café. The dishes are served on China and there is a wide variety of choices (try the grilled Portobello mushroom sandwich, yum, yum!)

-8000 square foot tournament room with 33 tables. Apparently, Caesars is the only room in Las Vegas with a tournament room adjacent to the poker room. (That allows them to offer tournaments with good structures since they don’t need to clear the tables for cash games).

-Solid tournament structure with 40 minute rounds no matter what the size of the buy in.

A couple other things I noticed while there was the fact that the room was set up very well. Also, the plasmas on the wall were plentiful and you could see several of them no matter where you were seated.

OK, enough shameless pimin’ of their poker room! For the record, they didn’t pay me to say that and they in no way influenced me to say good things about the room. If you check it out for yourself, you’ll see what I’m talking about.


To the tournament. I sat right down with a group of the winners and immediately I looked over at Jakey and said, “Dude, I have a feeling that you are going to be the first guy that I bust at the table.”

He laughed and I think he was curious why I singled him out so I told him, “You just look like you are ready to gamble, and since you are drinking beer for breakfast I figured you might not be so patient!”

Everyone, including Jakey, laughed and rather quickly the group began to bond rather well. I started out terribly, not winning a hand for the first 45 minutes or so. FCP Info, otherwise known as Bob Masternak was seated to my left and had lost half his stack when “Birdman,” finally arrived. Birdman, or Scott, arrived late with his wife Stacey and unfortunately since all of the other seats were taken, we pulled Bob up and started Birdman on a short stack. He was cool about it, and actually ran it up pretty good.

After the second level I got moved to the other table so that I could get a chance to meet and play with all of the winners. THAT table was good to me! I set a few traps and found myself a contender after doubling up a few times.

By the time we hit the final four I was in the driver seat. Since I wasn’t eligible for the prize money and neither were FCP crew members Jeff Goldenberg and Matt Carpenter, we ended up having a last longer battle between T-DAWG and Dave for first place money.

Finishing on the money bubble was ‘Ozium Rules” from the FCP forums. He wasn’t actually invited to the event, but we had a seat open and I invited him to join us anyway. He’s clearly a legit FCPer. How ironic that he finished on the bubble, lol. Can’t say that I feel sorry for him, he’ll live.

After T-DAWG went broke, it was a heads up battle between me and Jeff Goldenberg who not only helped put this weekend together for me, but also did an awesome job with the FCP launch party.

He’s cool, and not afraid of a little trash talkin,’ so I felt more than comfortable, “Sticking it in him,” as K.G.B. would say. He never shut up about how badly he crushed us at ESPN trivia the night before. I ended up busting Jeff and winning the FCP free roll… BOO YA!


We actually had a “losers” free roll also for those that got knocked out of the first one, and they both finished at about 6:30pm which game everyone a chance to freshen up before dinner at the Mesa Grill.

Dinner was an excellent time to really get to know some of the guys. Adam and Andrew grilled me with questions and I was more than happy to turn dinner into a semi-poker lesson of sorts. A lot of these guys were young and there were some specific things that I wanted them to know before giving up law school to join the tour.

I think they appreciated my honesty, and we ended up having an awesome dinner talking about a wide range of topics.


After dinner, the plan was to party the night away at Pure. Jeff made sure to reserve a booth for us all- a total of 22 people, mostly guys! Not sure any of you fully understand how difficult that is to pull off, especially on Super Bowl weekend.

We got there right when the doors open, and cut the hour long line and each of us was escorted inside to our table. All of the bouncers and hosts inside were super nice to me and took really good care of the whole party.

We ended up with an awesome table outdoors on the patio looking over the strip. It was the nuts. We were in the VIP section and that’s important to note, because Pure is maybe the most successful night spot in Las Vegas and if you aren’t in the VIP section, you are going to be in a tight squeeze. As for the FCP crew, we had plenty of room.

We ordered a few bottles of Belvedere and a few gallons of whiskey for my brother. I know, I know, everyone knows somebody that can really hold their liquor. If y’all would like to put your money where your mouth is, I got my brother to down more whiskey in one sitting than even the great “Mike Laing.”
My brother isn’t the biggest guy in the world, at 6’ 3” and about 205 lbs., but he is built like a brick wall. His stomach acts as a garbage disposal.

This might gross you out, but he literally eats the following for lunch in one sitting: 4 Big Macs, 2 McChickens, 2 Large fries, and washes that down with a gallon of soda. How he isn’t 345 lbs. is a mystery to me.

My brother was taking good care of the guys, helping them meet chicks in the club. As for me, I had a really good time floating around, mingling with everyone. I wanted to make sure that I spent time with all of the winners and not get stuck in one place for too long.

Birdman, now HE surprised me! Picture a laid back, quiet guy, who after a few drinks was bouncing off the walls! It was really awesome to see him feel comfortable enough with everybody to just let loose.

I have a friend named Tyson Lee and had never met another Tyson before, but one of the winners names was Tyson, and that was one name I just wouldn’t forget. Normally, I’m terrible with names but that one was easy.

Tyson is going to be a successful dude, he seems to have a really good head on his shoulders. As for Brett, I don’t know about that guy! Kidding. Although, Brett did bring over some drunk dude named Alejandro to hang with us for a while. This dude was wacky. He kept licking his fingers, then wiping his eyebrows while giving me a Blue Steel stare. It was funny the first time, but after the 42nd time I was like, “Dude, this guy is creepy!”

He actually started getting belligerent too, so the bouncers took over and made sure to keep him in check.

I didn’t want to stay too late since the guys were coming over to the house in the morning. Lori was hanging out at the hotel with her best friend Amy, so she drove me home as I was pretty exhausted and left my car at Caesars.


February 5th: Super Bowl day. A stretch Hummer limo picked up all of the guys in the lobby at about 10:30am and the plan was to come over to the house and play a little Golden Tee, have breakfast, and just hang out before heading back to Caesars to watch the game.

My mother, Patty, and Lori all helped get everything set up and we had all kinds of food and drinks. I specifically told my mother that she didn’t need to make anything, but telling my mother not to make food and having her listen is utterly impossible. She is a stubborn mule, but in a good way!

My mother made her famous “Venete,” which is a eggplant salad and Mike, who looks EXACTLY like Peyton Manning was scarfing it down like there was no tomorrow. As always, Mommy’s venete is the hit of any party.

I put on the High Stakes Poker show for those that hadn’t seen it and it was a good chance for the guys to get an even deeper glimpse into what I was thinking at the time.

I also decided to set up a really quick Golden Tee tournament. 4 groups of 4 players, and if you won your heat you’d advance to the finals. We started out playing six hole matches, but when we got short on time we had to switch to a one hole playoff format.

I advanced to the finals with Brett, Jakey, and Matt. Jakey and Matt pretty much sucked, but Brett had clearly played before. It came down to I think the fifth playoff hole where I choked big time. I forgot to put backspin on an easy approach shot and ended up in the water!

Brett won himself $500 and by that time it was time for all of us to hop back in the limo and head back to the Caesars poker room.


When we got to the poker room we had a little time before the game started so we organized another $1000 free roll for the guys. Now Jakey not only got knocked out of the first tournament, but he was also the first loser in the losers tournament! Looking to save him the embarrassment of the tri-fecta, I was the first to go this time. Hey, you know my motto, first to go or last to stay!

Once I got knocked out I filled out the FCP prop bet sheets. The winner would get one of the new FCP Hockey jerseys and man I wanted one! J We also gave everybody four squares and each quarter there was a $100 winner as well as a Super Bowl hat (everybody already got an FCP hat and T-Shirt.) I actually hit the square at half time and won $100!

Unfortunately, since Seattle seemed to score five touchdowns with none of them counting, the game ended up costing me some money. It was the only sports bet I’d made all year and I took Seattle +4 with action points for $5000, with a 10 point cap.

For those unfamiliar with action points, basically what it means is that not only do you get paid when you win, but you win an additional bet for every point you beat the spread by. The 10 point cap meant that the most I could win or lose on the game was $50,000.

I bet it with another high limit player so there was no juice. Since Pittsburgh won by 7, though, that cost me $35,000. No wonder I don’t bet sports! Arrgh!

During the game the guys pigged out pretty good. The menu was awesome and all of their food was taken care of with no exceptions. I think even Nutsbuster got a free meal! Along with Ozium Rules, Nutbuster also dropped by and I asked him to join us to watch the game.

After the game was over, the guys started their own private $1-$2 no limit hold’em game in the top section. I looked over and noticed that Glenn, a guy I’ve played poker with 10 years ago in Toronto was cleaning everybody out! The goal: bust Glen!

I sat down in the game and played “no lookey” poker for a while and was doing pretty well. I wasn’t able to bust Glen, but I made a really goofy play against Mike… er Peyton Manning with a K-9. I moved him all in and he called me with 8-8. I flopped a King and beat him out of about $500.

The whole Peyton story is pretty amazing. He came out on this trip with his buddy Dave from Virginia… and isn’t going home! Seriously, the dude packed up his things and is making a go of it in Las Vegas. Hey Peyton, remember what I told you, go read a Card Player column I wrote called, “Play Hours Not Results,” or you are doomed ok?

As it was getting closer to quitting time for me I decided to give back my win by putting in a dead $100 in the middle of each pot. Unfortunately, Glen was stealing every one! At one point, I saw that Glen made it 100 to go, so I reached over and grabbed his cards to take a peek. He had the 2h 3h.

I looked at Tyson’s hand and he had limped with 2-5 off suit. I begged him to call! I said, “I promise, you have him beat!” I tried to convince everyone to call Glen, but nobody listened to me, Oi vey.

Paul and Jason were both in the game with a little extra money in their pockets. Jason beat be out of $50 by betting Pittsburgh against me, and I convinced Paul to bet action points with me for $10 a pop so he beat me out of $70. Lucky punks! Did y’all pay the refs or something? That officiating was disgusting and almost had me barfing up my Portobello sandwich.

Generally, I’m really bad with names, but I made a conscious effort to try and connect with everybody in such a way that would make it more likely that I’d be able to remember their names. I think I did pretty good, but let’s see:

Andrew: tall, lanky, curly haired dude who won‘t sleep for a year after letting Peyton bluff him off a pair of JJ with a 10-5

Adam: One of the A-Twins, he came with Andrew and was the Devito to Andrew’s Swartzenneger. The A-Twins both seemed to be excellent students of the game and seem dedicated to learning how to play it right.

Tamor: Otherwise known as T-Dawg. T-DAWG was a joke, he won like every random prize in sight! T-DAWG was the token “beige” dude. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that‘s not the politically correct term, but you know how I feel about political correctness. T-DAWG wasn‘t black, but he wasn‘t white either! I was obviously just kidding around anyway.

Jason: The really white dude that beat me out of $50, lol. I can‘t remember how old he was but he came off as real mature. Not in an boring “old guy“ kind of way, but more like he just “gets life.”

Mike: Peyton Manning clone who needs to learn to quit loser! I‘m rooting hard for Mike to make it out here in Vegas. He is shacking up with some random roommates in a bad part of town, but you have to start somewhere. He seems to want it bad enough, and I hope he makes it.

Scott: The lawyer dude that shares mutual friends with me. He actually goes back to Evelyn’s days of
hustling pool back at Studio Billiards. He might be one of the first “lawyer type” guys that I actually trusted!

Brett: another Studio Billiards guy from back in the day. A genuinely good guy who looks a little bit like
Erick Lindgren according to most, but I don’t see it. As for his Golden Tee performance, next time I see him I‘m going to simply smoke him. Smoke him till it hurts!

Tyson: Goatee, glasses, smart dude who is probably going to cure cancer, AIDS, or something cool like that. As much as I kept trying to convince him to quit that whole “school thing,“ he seemed pretty dedicated.

Scott: Another Scott, but I don’t think I ever called him that! He’s Birdman all the way. Birdman was the guy who actually came in first place to get to Vegas and although he has only been playing for a few months he already has something the other guys don‘t: a Phil Ivey like focus at the table. That‘ll take him places.

Stacey: Scott’s wife. Not much of a poker player yet, but Birdman will get her playing a lot, just call it a premonition.

Paul: Initially kept getting him confused with Mike, but after he beat me out of $70 I was no longer confused!

Dave: Let your Dad know that I promise I won’t let you get all crazy and corrupted by the “Vegas Life.” I know that Mike isn’t coming home, but don’t worry, Dave will be alright, ok pops?.

Jakey Congrats on not being the last one out of the last sit n’ go, quite an accomplishment buddy! I have to add one thing, Jakey smiles more than any human being I‘ve ever met. The grin is plastered to his face!

Glen: Dude, next time you come out can you try to not bust like, every one of my guests! Fold a hand once and a while, my goodness. Glen and I go way back, we played together back when I first started as a pro… and he still sucks at poker! J

Nutsbuster: Next time you come up with a screen name, think about ALL the possible meanings, ok? It was a pleasure meeting Nutsbuster, and there was a genuine feeling of “not wanting to impose“ that I found refreshing. Especially when compared to….

Ozium Rules: Free loader! Just kidding, I’m glad you made it out. Also really like the photo shop job you did with all of those pics you posted in the forum J

I just know I’m forgetting somebody. I’m in an airplane right now while writing this and am a little lost. If I forget to mention you, it must mean that I didn’t like you or something…lol, just kidding.

Anyway, thanks to all of you guys for coming out, I had a really great time and I hope you all did too. I also want to thank everyone who helped out make the weekend happen:

Jeff Goldenberg & Brandon Rosen (Event Organizers)
Patty Landis (My personal assistant)
Brian Balsbaugh (My agent)
Slash (All Around Work horse)
Bob Masternak (FCP Poker room manager and all around online poker know-it-all)
Matt Carpenter (Survivor Hockey co-coordinator and all around jack of all trades)
Mike Negreanu (Resident FCP Partier and also my brother)
“Mommy” (Come on now, you gotta thank the moms! A special thank you for being as lovingly stubborn as you are)
And last bit not least… my wife Lori (the hostess with the mostess)


I’m currently en route to Toronto for the next few days. On February 8th I’ll be in Hamilton making an appearance at a Red Hot Poker Tour Event. On February 9th I’ll be a celebrity guest at the Conn Smythe. On February 11th, I’ll be at the Leafs/Rangers game. On the 12th, I fly back to my other home, Las Vegas.


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