June 23, 2004

A Little Omaha

A Little Omaha

City of Commerce

While many of the pros were off in Barcelona playing in the heads-up championship I decided to sneak down to Commerce, Calif., and play in the tournaments there. I booked a flight on Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Long Beach, a more relaxed airport than LAX and even a bit closer to Commerce. I settled into seat 2D and heard the dreaded announcement that they were changing a part. Fortunately it was only a 20-minute part and we landed almost on time. Hertz had lost all the cars with Neverlost but eventually they found one and I was on my way east in a charcoal Mitsubishi Galant.


Check-in at the Wyndham was a breeze so I settled into a regular room overlooking the courtyard, which really makes it sound a lot nicer than it was, and fired up the Wayport WiFi access to play a few hands before dinner. No trip to central LA was complete without dinner at Dal Rae steakhouse in beautiful Pico Rivera. Avi "Two Cokes" Freedman joined me and four non-poker-playing friends for a fabulous feast washed down by the 2000 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon. We had one of the new waitresses, who had only been there six years, but she did a fine job and we left a generous tip.

Final table, such as it was

I had come down early to play in the $1500 rebuy Pot-Limit Omaha tournament but it had been replaced, because of lack of interest, by a $500 No-Limit Hold 'Em tourney. A few diehards asked to play Omaha anyway and we ended up having an 11-person tournament. I made the final table by starting at it and finished seventh when Charlie "Scotty Warbucks" Shoten cracked my Aces with rags that ended up making a wheel. It came down to Avi Two-Cokes and WPT Championship finalist Hassan Habib and they chopped it with Hassan having a two-to-one chip lead and getting the win.

Set back

The next day was a $2500 No-Limit Hold 'Em tournament  I drew table 13, seat four, with Ted "Teddy Bear" Forrest in seat six and Billy Dougherty in seat eight. I managed to shield my chips from those two top pros but when I called a small early-position raise from the latecomer to my right with pocket Nines the Flop came Ace-King-Nine. He checked and I made a small bet, which he called. The Turn was a Ten. I couldn't put him on Queen-Jack so I bet 600, a third of his stack, hoping he would come over the top with Ace-King or even Ace-Queen. He did move in and I called immediately but he turned over the rockets: two Aces, American Airlines, Alcoholics Anonymous. He had me in the very rare set-over-set situation and I was down to one out. The last Nine didn't come so I was down to 175 chips from my starting stack of 3000. I gambled with pocket Sevens, lost the coin flip, and I was out of the contest in the bottom half of the field. Anchors Aweigh.

Reached my limit

I entered the $540 Limit Hold 'Em tournament the next day and ended up at a table with champion Thor Hansen and one of my nemeses from the Reno WPT event, Alan Myerson. Everything was going fine until a guy limped with Jack-Seven and caught a Jack on the river to bust my top Pair. I was out early again.

Cut and run

The highlight of the trip was the eating. Avi Two-Cokes and I hit Dal Rae again and we had lunch several times at Sushi Sasabune, the world's best sushi restaurant located in an old Mexican restaurant next to the freeway. We both decided to cut and run from the main event, which ended up having only 90 entrants, most of whom were the caliber of Erik "Rounders" Seidel, Daniel "Nanu Nanu" Negreanu, and Barry "Spock" Greenstein, and as the absent Andy "The Rock" Bloch pointed out, it wasn't televised. If I had known Ben Affleck was going to win it I would have stayed and beaten him.


I changed my Alaska flight and played a few hands before setting the Neverlost back to Long Beach. Neverlost lost the 710 freeway and tried to take me the long way, I-5 to I-605 to S.R. 91, all of which were moving along at the pace of a parking lot. I cut and run again and took Lakewood the 10 miles to the airport. LGB had free WiFi so I played a few hands before boarding the air stair to the flight back to Rain City. Flight attendant Keith was one of those legendary ones that gave the whole profession a good name: friendly, attentive, and above and beyond. Next stop was my first stop: the Bellagio "Festa Al Lago" series. Commerce was the kind of place that made you long for Las Vegas.


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