Thursday, 21 March 2013

A Month In Burkina

Yeah I know I know lazy no updates self-deprecation blahblahblah HERE IS A BLOG POST READ IT IF YOU LIKE

So after Dan 'Massive Flake' Morgan invited me on a trip to Burkina Faso to visit friends and then flaked, I decide a large holiday-shaped hole in my diary was no good, and went anyway.

Arriving at the airport I immediately get a small dose of the casual friendliness that's common here. The taxi drivers, after establishing that I really don't need a taxi, ('Your friend's gone home. He's not coming. You should definitely take a taxi') are amused by my accent and slow comprehension in a curious way and gather for a chat. Excellent hosts and generally ace people Geoff and Patricia arrive shortly, saving me from my rapidly floundering french conversation skills, and I spend the next week or so recovering from the journey and seeing some of the capital Ouagadougou (yes, really). It's a busy, dusty city with hundreds of ramshackle shops lining the streets. Their house is great, tucked away from the bustle and is quiet, cool and has a hammock! Awesome Canadian Liz moves in as a lodger a few days after I arrive and there are plenty of nice evenings spent in restaurants, bars or watching gigs and films.

Pingu in an altered state of consciousness...
Despite there being very few tourists in Burkina I don't draw the levels of attention I remember getting in India, and much less hassle. Of course walking around doesn't go unnoticed by any means but a wave and a bonsoir (at any time of day) usually disarms even the most piercing stare, which breaks into a warm smile. The lack of hassle seems to reflect the wider atmosphere of a very relaxed pace of life, which I like a lot. A common sight on motos all over town is a sticker saying 'Relax, God's in charge'. He doesn't seem to intervene too much in the enormous number of road accidents in Burkina... but I like the sentiment.

The marks in the baobab trunk on the right side are from a King's horse that ran up
the tree hundreds of years ago, depositing the fleeing monarch safely in the branches.
It's funny talking to Geoff and Patricia about managing a restaurant and bar though. Il n'y a pas de probleme  is very much the motto here and is all well and good as a general philosophy, but when you have 20 pizzas to cook for hungry French military (for whom '10 minutes' doesn't mean 'sometime today') who've already been waiting an hour Il y a certainly une probleme. Watching your chef potter about the kitchen whistling and casually sprinkling onions on pizza number 6 can be quite exasperating I imagine!

Also interesting is the role of the employer in the community - they are first port of call when in need. The concept of saving money is totally alien here, so when someone gets sick, or there's a wedding, or funeral, or birth, or simply some relatives coming to visit, (and with each Burkinabé woman giving birth to more than 6 children on average, all of these things happen pretty frequently) well, money is needed for medicine or food or gifts, and so straight to the boss for a loan. Again, in theory I quite like the idea that the more successful members of society help out when its needed; a sort of informal social welfare. In practice though, for Geoff and Patricia, distinguishing between what is expected and appropriate and what is simply getting taken advantage of must be difficult to gauge. Nothing is thought of spending your day's wages on beer one day and asking for money for medicine the next. They were asked in by Geoff's dad to run the place (and of course to try to turn a profit), and balancing cultural considerations with managing a business, whilst seeing huge sums flowing out in what I suspect are very long-term 'loans', seems an awful lot to juggle. They seemed to be doing a great job from what I saw though!

Tasty dolo
After a while I head to Fada N'Gourma, a sleepy little town 220km from Ouaga, without many plans but as luck would have it I stumble onto Fesdig, a festival celebrating Gourmanche culture - those in the region of eastern Burkina, northern Ghana and Togo, and little in Nigeria. Here there's music and food aplenty, plus some terrifying masked monsters and some impossibly cute children. Headachey mornings due to dolo; a local beer similar to scrumpy cider served in a calabash - take a gulp, pass it on to a dolo-less person next to you and immediately get handed another. That and Bissap wine; fermented hibiscus and mint juice, tasty, strong and liberally poured - at the end of each bottle everyone chants 'PRESSEZ PRESSEZ PRESSEZ' and hits the bottle as if to knock the last few drops out, inevitably getting more and more rowdy as the night progresses and splashing wine all over the place - very funny!

Heart-warming family photograph
Plenty of other plans are made but in the end I spend the rest of the time in Ouaga. Fespaco is on; a biannual film festival that's the biggest in Africa, and by this time its too hot to comfortably do much more than lie in the hammock for the day before venturing out for fun stuff in the evening - films of course and more restaurants, bars, and bowling. I feel a little silly having explored so little but I've had a great time in good company and am very glad I came. A relaxing break was what I needed.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

March madness and The Irish Open

Was a great month poker-wise, due to a pretty big heater in the middle of the month during which I (briefly) got out of makeup for the first time in aaaages, which felt awesome. Back in 5-figures of makeup now, but still, feeling good about poker and playing ok. Also broke into the top 100 on pocketfives, got to 77th (although dropped a little now), and am about to get my $1mil in cashes badge (sadly this is not profit for those of you who aren't pokerers...) - both of which are pretty arbitrary and don't mean much at all but are pleasing all the same! Played more in March than I have in any other month and haven't found it too hard or stressful, I've enjoyed it. Sounds stupid but I think I've FINALLY come to terms with the fact that, at least for now, I'm a full time poker player and should bloody well put in the hours.

Having said this I was happily anticipating the Irish Open as a bit of time off and a chance to get the 'zero cashes in a live major' monkey off my back. Started off well binking a seat in the satellite the night before. In the main I did my usual spew for the first hour then settled down, and made day two with a little less than average. Day two was short though, sadly running AK into AA and then getting the last in with AKdd vs AQhh, probably flop Qxhxh, why not... Also bricked the 560 6max, and dropped a chunk at cash, so a frustrating day!

Rallied for the 1k the next day, and really enjoyed it. Everyone was going ballistic! One in particular stood out; Albert who is apparently infamous in london for doing it in on a very regular basis. He also took part in my favourite 10 minutes of live poker ever. Albert opens to 5x blind utg (and why not), an old guy next to act makes a small 3bet and folds to me in the sb with ATs and I groan/fold. At this point me and Neil Channing are cracking up; 'so when you post this on 2+2 - pretty standard really, guy 5xes blind utg, 83yr old clicks it next to act...' UTG c/cs a 1/15th flop bet on KQT, and then jams for like 2x pot on the turn and gets snapped by TT. K5o no good... The two other hands that made up the 10 minutes were both a different guy, first he 3bet jams 40x over an open with A8o and loses to KK, then he gets another 40x in on 256 with A8o again vs a guy who you'd feel very uncomfortable getting 55 in against. Very entertaining day all round :) Sadly I got dealt bottom 20% for most of the day and just had to fold fold fold given the dynamics, and then bust 2nd hand of day 2 losing a flip.

Never mind, looking forward to a little more online grinding and then the huge £1mil gauranteed in Nottingham for the UKIPT, and then SCOOOOOOP.

Outside poker has been pretty gruesome still, with another death in the family and all that that involves. Been a tough start to the year but hoping the worst is behind for now and things will settle down. Here is a picture that I shamelessly stole; hopefully the spring, along with the sun, will bring cute animals and lying in the grass.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Poker's Problems: Strip clubs and Prostitutes.

Poker is, by nature, a selfish game. You accumulate as much as possible by taking from other people; you benefit from their loss. And whilst I don't think poker players live their lives actively wishing harm or misfortune on other people, they can often take that extreme and blind self-interest with them away from the tables, and it is that I wish to address.

I think the proportion of poker players I've met who have been to a strip club is probably close to 100%. Many have hired prostitutes, although certainly not as many. These days strip clubs (and by extension prostitution) are, it seems, becoming more socially acceptable. They might still be slightly fringe, but a lot of people wouldn't consider getting a dance to be a big deal - and in the poker world of course, a strip club is a staple during a big night out. And hey, if literally every single person you know or 'work' with goes and they don't think twice about it, why should you?

Many, many reasons. So many in fact I'm not sure where to start. Lets first look at some myths.

Strip clubs have mostly shed their seedy image, now being seen as sophisticated gentleman's clubs or fashionable bars. The common perception is that women who work there are confident, 'sexually liberated', enjoy the challenge or the glamour or feel empowered by the work. Even if this isn't the case, at worst they put up with something they don't particularly enjoy for the money. 'Stripping your way through college' is a phrase often used. Means to an end, just another job.

In reality it is rarely, if ever, this benign. Women working in prostitution or strip clubs may well seem comfortable or even happy with their work; this is because they must. They are paying large premiums for the 'privilege' of working and to reveal what they are going through is to discourage the tips (ie wages) they need. Low pay is often a factor in the transition to prostitution, which is commonly encouraged by management. Others are coerced into sexual acts in order to get or retain a job, or for drugs. Studies routinely show that almost all women working in strip clubs have been both physically and sexually assaulted. One disturbingly common theme is early abuse - in one study of women who work in strip clubs, nearly half had been molested or raped in childhood or adolescence. These are figures which do not support the idea of a sexually liberated, empowered woman. The extensive physical and psychological damage they receive does not equal 'just another job' or a harmless way to fund a degree.

Amongst women working in prostitution the rates of childhood abuse is even higher, with studies finding over 80% being victims. One government survey found 70% of prostituted women had been in care at some point in their lives.

Unsurprisingly, surveys consistently find that 90%+ of prostituted women want to exit prostitution, but it isn't possible for them to due to a lack of basic resources. Poverty is very common, as is the use of alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. One study of 62 women found 8 of them went into prostitution solely because of alcohol or drug dependency, but once entering prostitution all but 3 had developed a serious addiction. Without exception across all studies I looked at, all prostituted women had been physically and sexually assaulted in some way. Rape and heavy violence is very common.

In one study of prostituted women, two-thirds suffered from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which is comparable to the rates in rape victims and survivors of state-sponsored torture. Again: Prostitution can lead to rates of PTSD similar to rape and torture victims.

I'll reiterate: this isn't some glamourous vocation, or even an uncomfortable means to an end, but a devastating hell they must endure because of addiction, coercion, violence or poverty. You may not be spitting at these women, raping them, beating them or feeding them drugs personally, but by being involved you are supporting establishments and the cultural acceptance of situations where this is happening.

Slavery is another important issue. Whilst accurate trafficking statistics are hard to come by, it is a very real problem, with western Europe and the US high on the list of major trafficking destinations. Many of the women in massage parlours, strip clubs or escort agencies have been trafficked, and are held and forced to work against their will. As such, paying for sex with these women is legally defined as rape, whether you know of their situation or not.

Another aspect I want to mention is objectification. The commodification of sexuality and women's bodies leads to expectations; about how women should look, how they should act, how their sexuality should be focused on satisfying men. The sense of entitlement this creates in men is part of the foundation that leads to verbal, physical or sexual assault towards women; that leads to 5% of women in the UK being raped in their lifetime and nearly one in four experiencing sexual assault. Sexual transaction, such as that in strip clubs or within prostitution, perpetuates these ideas. One obvious manifestation of this is the increase in crime - particularly sexual abuse - in the surrounding areas when strip clubs are opened.

To sum up, a paragraph from writer Kat Banyard: 'Arguments that prostitution, pornography, and stripping are harmless - or even empowering - simply because a woman engaging in these acts usually does so without a gun being held to her head spectacularly fail to take into account the context within which that 'choice' was made, the motivations driving it, the consequences of it, and the role of others involved.'

So. The next time you're on a night out, don't just follow everyone else; think for yourself. Think about the women working in these places, what they're going through - what YOU are putting them through. Sure, leaving early or trying to promote a different destination might seem 'boring' and you'll get the occasional odd look or stupid remark made to you (as I do) but, if you care about the well-being of other people, you'll feel better for it.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

2012 Begins

Sooooo pokerwise the year has started off pretty well. I've been putting in a lot of volume (for me - already played nearly half of what I did last year) which I'm pleased about and results have been ok. The main bink of the year so far was a 2nd in the supersonic for $25k, made sweeter by the fact at the time hyperturbos weren't on the stake :D So that's taken some pressure off and I can just concentrate on clearing makeup, which stands at about $35k, mainly thanks to some poor game selection late last year. Being good this year though and basically being a midstakes grinder during the week, and with my new setup (swishy new computer, big new screen, fancy ergonomic herman miller office chair) I can play a lot more, and a lot more comfortably.

Played a few live events too - accidentally won a seat for EPT Deauville (was meant to be just grinding the subsats...) which turned out to be a complete disaster. Headed down to bristol for a few days before the journey, my dad offers to give me a lift to the station. I do one last check: money, clothes, keys, phone...passport. Passport. Passport? Oh goooood, I've left it in leeds. Queue cheesies dashing around like a madman checking train times to leeds and back down to london and booking new eurostar tickets whilst my dad is tapping his foot waiting to take me to the station. Manage to get it all booked (not before spending a ton of money on new tickets sigh) and drop the bombshell to my dad in the car - we have a good laugh at another travel cockup, which is sadly a fairly frequent habit of mine. Arrived in Paris at midnight, had to fork out for the 2-hour taxi to Deauville so I could be there in time for the 12pm start the next day. Deauville itself... limped along halfway into day 2 of the main, got food poisoning, went home. woo.

Dan, Luke, Dave and I also went to UKIPT Galway which was great fun - the UK poker scene out in force, hazy memories of singing 'I'd rather be a scandi than a nit' and lots of silly card games with many of my poker heroes. UKIPT Nottingham and the Irish open are on the cards for April, but other than that it's a pretty clear diary until the series in June.

Outside of poker its been tough with a death in the family and another relative very ill, so lots of grief and stress. Still trying to get a healthy routine established here in Leeds, not particularly successfully. The winter hasn't hit me too hard this year which is positive, although definitely a zombie a good deal of the time - super thankful I have a way of earning that is as flexible as its possible to be, and can work it around how I'm feeling. Because that's just the way isn't it? You're driving along sunny street, oblivious and cheery, and then - suddenly -

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 roundup, 2012 plans!

Soooo the end of the year. A time to look back, reflect, ruminate, and to look ahead, plan, imagine.


Or to change the background colour of your blog, either's good. Anyway, first lets look at the pokers.

-> Online results:

So no complaints at all there, other than at myself for being such a lazy bastard. I obviously don't get to see anywhere near all of that given that I was backed for most of the year and had to clear Vegas live makeup, but pretty pleased I can pretend I won 6-figures! Some pretty silly swings in there, but the upswing is the most noticeable which is the way it should be :) Other notables include two triple crowns, (one of which I won in a single session!) and cold 4bet/calling off with K9o in a $5k. Wups.

-> 2011 was definitely the year I started playing live tho so a quick breakdown:

- Bricked 20-25 $1k+ events in a row including vegas and about 8 ept/wpt tours
- Online cleared vegas MU and then won a €1k side event in Prague which cleared the euro makeup
- Won money in vegas cash games
- Got backed for live cash, lost money in euro cash games

So fairly meh, lost money overall but some deep runs towards the end of the year which is a much needed confidence boost. Definitely looking forward to more live next year, when you're playing well it's just so immediate and fun. Nothing like stacking piles of chips to make you smile!

All in all, I think poker can be counted as a moderate, lazy success.

Outside of poker things get a bit more murky.
-> Didn't get to any festivals this year which I'm very disappointed about, been very lax with music and writing. Did a little travelling around Europe and America which was great. Creative and cultural stuff a mild fail.

-> Diet, exercise and sleep have all been very varied, 'lived' in about 6 different friends' or parents' houses for a few weeks/months at a time, and haven't even slightly settled or made clear ties anywhere. Attempts to have some sort of routine or stability also a fail.

-> I was actually debating whether to include this due to the typical reception of the subject but I firmly believe mental health should be regarded in the same way as physical health in terms of how it's discussed and perceived, and if I'd been in a car crash I'd write about it so fuck it. If I'm judged or avoided or whatever because of it at least then I'll have a legitimate reason to label someone a twat rather than just vaguely assume they are like I usually do. So:

Worst has been the continuing deterioration of my mental health despite concerted efforts to improve. It's heading towards being unmanageable at this point and am pretty apprehensive about this for next year, especially since I've decided to spend the whole winter (which is always when I'm at my worst) in the UK, something I've not done in a few years. Spent half the winter here early this year and it was staggeringly unpleasant, so might not be the best idea... Having said this I'm a lot more aware of what's going on now, and have the next 6 months fairly well planned which should be good for general stability. Looking into various options regarding treatment, none of which are particularly encouraging, but going to try anything I can obviously - don't really have much choice.

The year to come:

-> Moving into a flat in Leeds for the first six months of next year with Monsieurs Dan Morgan and Luke Fields. Really looking forward to this, going to put in a lot more volume hopefully, since both Dan and Luke are very well-behaved grinders and encouragement and shame are a powerful combination! Also going to sort out some kind of part time job or volunteering position, something completely separate from poker that will help me unwind. Dan and I are pretty evenly matched at badminton so I foresee/will enforce lots of playing (also saw in lildave's blog him and Perrins plan to play - badminton league?!) and have friends in Leeds and Sheffield, so generally feeling very positive about it all.

Pretty funny sweat as to whether Luke would have the money to pay for the rent, was looking like we might need to find a new third person - always knew the sweat would end in some ridiculous way and sure enough he just gets third in the Sunday Million for $110k on the first sunday in months he had 100% of his action about a week before he has to send the rent money. Standard LF. You'd better be buying the milkybars Mr Magic!

-> Heading to Vegas after Leeds and cashing in a WSOP event is definitely a goal. Plan to do a bit more rambling around America too, but nothing nailed down.

-> My bank balance violently disagrees with the graph at the top, and whilst I've enjoyed living my life in an extremely unsustainable way I've decided I need to be less of an idiot. With that in mind I'm aiming to spend slightly less in general life expenses, and certainly going to spend a lot less in Vegas (despite being there longer).

That's about it, nothing else planned. 2012's going to be an interesting one... let's see what happens. Typed 'lets see' into google images to finish with some stupid picture about THE FUTURE but the first that came up is a stupid picture about PANDAS and is much better:

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hilariously delayed Californian rambles

No, not dead. Just lazy. However I've finally found the energy to move my fingers a little bit and click things, so here goes!

Towards the end of my stay in Vegas I get an email from Tyler, who some of you may remember from some of my India blogs, for example when I thought he'd been eaten by bears. It was a long, ranty, persuasive email full lists of amazing things to do and see, and waving off my excuses by saying things like 'I see here a bad case of the "next time i travel across the world to the place that im already at" mentality'. I decide he's totally right and not at least seeing a bit of the actual USA whilst I'm there is pretty stupid. So, I cancel my flight and Tyler makes the casual 2,000km drive from Michigan to Vegas to meet me at The Bellagio. It's bizarre seeing someone again that you link in your mind to one particular time and place but in a totally different setting - India and Vegas are pretty much polar opposites - but also really nice. Tyler's very easy to get along with (even if I'm not!) so we're off straight away, talking crap and playing cards. We plan to spend a little time in Vegas to build up a roadtrip roll, which doesn't entirely go to plan, but we need to head to San Francisco to meet his friend Caspian (best name ever) and his cousin Garrett. As the valet brings round his dilapidated but completely indestructible Volvo estate to the front of the Vdara, stuffed to overflowing with seemingly everything he owns, I get that tingle - you just know what's going to happen is totally unpredictable and new; that sense of adventure is undeniable!

Tyler points to one of the many dents and yells to the valet 'What the hell did you do to my car!?' and then cracks up. It's going to be a gooood ride - time to hit the road.

Since I can't drive (much to his amusement) Tyler is on driving duties for the whole trip - which is an impressive feat since we end up travelling for thousands of miles more - and is a great driver, although being in his car can be... exciting! Shall we say. He has a habit of ignoring traffic laws he disagrees with ('look at all these stupid-ass people waiting for an opening! pfft'), is usually seen rolling a joint on the map that he's also using to navigate whilst choosing the music on his ipod and cruising at 75, and occasionally drifts onto the hard-shoulder if he needs to complete a particularly awesome air-mandolin solo.

Multiple complaints about the mixture of my feet, sandals and infrequent washing - out they go!

On one memorable occasion, we're driving along, and we see smoke. Lots of forest fires in these parts, so we look around for it. Gets steadily worse to the point that my eyes are watering and we can't see very well, so we wind up the windows. That makes it worse. It starts to dawn on us...
'Dude, I think my car's on fire.'
'You need to pull over. Right now.'
We swerve to the hard shoulder and jump out, realising how bad the smoke is - both of us half-expecting the car to explode. After a few minutes of smouldering, Tyler approaches is cautiously and then starts laughing - a butt has landed on some paper and caught fire, no engine explosions for us.

So, we manage to get to San Francisco in one piece! Caspian is the perfect host - kind and generous and shows us great places in San Francisco, introduces us to lovely people, and gets us free booze. What more could you wish for?

She's also the daughter of the owners of California's biggest family-run winery up in Sonoma - the quintessential small and beautiful American town, exactly how I'd imagined it. The farmer's market, where I try my first corn dog:

(seriously what the hell america?! weirdest food ever)

We meet up with Garrett who's flown in from Indiana. He's 19, smart and eager to see all he can - he'd been to one big city before San Francisco. His sense of wonderment is infectious! We see a bit more of the city before we go, including The Castro (the gay district - go watch 'Milk') and Haight-Ashbury (birth of the 60's!) where we talk bollocks with people at the International cafe, I'm sold a Ben and Jerry's by a red-eyed, sleepy pair of ice cream experts, and see this lady:

Haight-Ashbury is actually a little depressing and corporate, lots of trinket shops selling tie-dye headbands and t-shirts with pot leaves on them. Still, was obviously still a fun place to hang around!

With some reluctance we decide we should hit the road, Garrett's time is limited and he wants to see some trees! Well we all do. We set off up the coast towards the Redwood National Park, stopping off in Sonoma to watch The Big Lebowski on a big screen at the winery. Perfect.

One more stop along the way is a hot-springs retreat, with pools, yoga and meditation classes, music shows, etc. The pools are clothing-optional(!), so I do the whole take-your-clothes-off-and-bathe-with-a-bunch-of-strangers thing, which is ok I guess. Seems to be more about the nudity than the hot springs... also the creepy 50yr old men that stretch and sigh and whisper sweet nothings as they float past really aren't conducive to the relaxing the pools are supposed to be good for, so not sold on the whole deal personally! Still, the place itself is beautiful; I'm camped in a totally secluded spot next to a stream, tons of wildlife and peace.

My memory of exactly where we went and which forest was which is a little hazy by now, so it'll just be general impressions and pictures. Our daily routine when going from place to place would usually be: get woken up by a campsite owner (or police officer) at 6am telling us to move, pile our stuff into the car and drive with frequent stops and detours for exploring and mini-hikes during the day.

Mild confusion and increasing frustration follows as we realise we don't know where we're going or will sleep, we drive for hours into the night trying to find a campsite with a space until Tyler snaps and parks off the edge of a dual carriageway next to a blind corner and we set up camp - and repeat. It's all good fun and I do enjoy it, but it does result in very little sleep and as anyone who knows me is aware: I need lots. I think Tyler gets a little frustrated at my apparent lack of enthousiasm, but it really is just a lack of energy - I can't keep up with his endless reserves! Looking back I definitely regret not making the most of it, but when I get into one of my exhausted states there really isn't much I can do, I become zombified. My brain is replaced by cotton wool and I just float with the clouds - usually when I get like this I just cancel everything and hole myself up in my room for a week/month but obviously this isn't really an option here. As I say, I do have a great time, I just hope Tyler doesn't think me ungrateful!

We do find some nice campsites along the way too where I can recuperate:

Our own stream:

We end up in Yosemite National Park, Caspian joins us and we do our first proper walk. This was just before Tyler nearly stepped on a lethal snake:

Tons of stuff happened on the way, met enumerable interesting people and saw dozens of amazing places, but far too many to recount, so I think I'll just leave you with some pictures of the trees. There is a true sense of awe walking around the forests here, such stillness and a deep silence with these natural towers all around. Most striking to me were the fallen trees; you could see where they had snapped and broken, see how they'd fallen - it was like each one told a little story. Anyway, enough rambles - they speak for themselves.

I shall be coming back.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I did not win the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Well it wouldn't be the Series without the obligatory post-Vegas roundup.

The place:

Head asplode. Seriously what the hell is this place and who dreamt it up? Maybe nightmared it up. It's a huge, sinister, adult Disneyland with more neon, degeneracy and strippers than you can imagine. It's vile. Occasionally it was so weirdly, wildly surreal that it appealed to my sense of humour (enormous singing frog at the Wynn, canal complete with gondolas and men in stripey tops on the 2nd floor of the Venetian, etc).

From the drunken frat boys to the dozen mexicans per block soliciting prostitutes, though, it really wasn't me at all. It's a place that really brings out the worst in people, and for someone who pretty much only sees the worst in people anyway, it's not ideal.

Right! After that somber start here's the good stuff:

The poker:

Went 0 for 9 in tournaments, and lasted a disappointing 5 hours in the Main Event. Bleh. Every event I played was soft though with the exception of the $5k 6max, and I felt like I held my own, and the other events just blew my mind. Think $5 mtt on ipoker. This was definitely the most live poker I've played and I was fairly happy, but I do need to watch the occasional blowup hand. Basically I need to remember that everyone always has it.

Cash went great, winning about $19k mostly at 5/10. During the series there's loads of games going and very few of them were tough - I think I only requested two table changes the whole time. I ran well for sure, and was experimenting with an extremely laggy style which was a lot of fun, but it really felt like printing money. You can definitely play a hilarious number of hands in most live games, although perhaps a few less than I did, I indulged in a little spewing...

Everything else:

The quality of life I had here was incredible. Swishy hotels, lounging by various pools, icy cocktails.

Margaritas and blackjack in the pool!

Inside the hotels and casinos were pretty amazing too, lots of extravagance and luxury. Or ridiculousness.

And the food! Ah, the food. Best meals were Alize's at the top of the palms (amazing view, michelin star food), the Stratosphere (revolving restaurant approximately 27 miles in the sky) and Prime at Bellagio, excellent food with a view of the Bellagio fountains. Of course it all cost an absolute fortune, and with the trip afterwards (blog to come) I probably ended up breaking about even on the trip, but the things I spent money on were all things I like. I think I only ended up paying for about 4 meals in the end - sounds like I was lucky at credit card roulette given that we ate out at least once a night, but one of the meals I paid for was $2.2k (!) so I think I paid my share in the end... thanks to Dan for paying for most of my others though :)

Helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon was amazing, first time in a helicopter - definitely a fun way to travel!

Despite my moan at the beginning it was a really fun trip. If it weren't for the poker I doubt I'd go there again, but as it is I'll almost certainly be back next year. And to be honest, whilst there are definitely a lot of things I'm not looking forward to, a month of decadence and easy poker actually sounds pretty good.