So Janeen and I arrived in Aruba on Saturday to enjoy some fun, sun and poker. She left earlier today, leaving me all by my lonesome but providing me with time to write a blog entry.
This trip started off well when I made an unexpected and thrilling discovery: Mexican Jumping Beans are for sale in the Jet Blue Terminal at JFK Airport! On a family vacation during my childhood I was given my first batch of Mexican Jumping Beans, whom I treated like valued pets during that trip (until they sadly perished before our flight home). For those unfamiliar, MJB’s are little brown nut-like objects harvested in Mexico that bounce around because larvae of some sort live inside them. Awesome! When I saw MJB’s on sale at JFK on Saturday, I couldn’t help but flash back to my OCD-level dedication to my very first set of beans and could not resist adopting them. Janeen was puzzled by all of this until she witnessed these little guys in action! I’m happy to say that Hopper, Skipper, Jumpy, Bounder and Phil have been clattering way on the nightstand in our hotel room each night and are gleefully leaping about on the table beside me as I type this. Hooray for my Mexican Jumping Beans!
Aruba is the most developed Caribbean island in the world. Has to be. This place is so developed that it shouldn’t be able to call itself Caribbean. Caribbean connotes nice beaches and near-perfect weather that is heavily subsidized by the tourist, who is subjected to impotable water, shitty food, bush league entertainment options and slow-ass service from grumpy locals. Aruba (“one happy island!”) has none of those things. Aruba has everything you get in the continental United States, including lots of white residents. You don’t even need to exchange currency here, they’re happy to take your dollars. This place is essentially a more tropical Miami.
Among the amenities is a real-deal sports bar called Buster’s Garage, the equal of any place found in New York City. To Janeen’s delight (love you hon!), I was thrilled to discover that I would be able to watch every NFL game this past Sunday, all on giant HD screens. Buster’s is owned by an ex-pat New Yorker to boot. Big up to Al Riccobono for the recommendation and for picking up the tab!
This Sunday brought an extra special treat: I watched Sunday’s Jets-Saints game in the company of a legendary person—quite possibly the coolest semi-celebrity you could potentially watch a New York Jets game on television with.
As the game was kicking off, I noticed that a couple at the next table were decked in green Jets gear from head to toe. The man was broad-shouldered, square-jawed and bald, staring intensely at the flat screen TV on the wall in front of him. He looked a lot like superfan Fireman Ed Anzalone, the guy who leads the “J-E-T-S” chant at the Meadowlands. Upon closer inspection it was definitely the man himself, down here in Aruba, apparently vacationing with Mrs. Ed.
I had consumed quite a few Balashis by this time, so I quickly ingratiated myself with the Anzalones by commending his recent radio appearance (on Joe Benigno’s radio show, obviously) and flashing my credentials: season tickets since 1981 (long enough to have witnessed the full evolution of the J-E-T-S chant), a wealth of Jets knowledge and die-hardedness to match his own. Realizing we were kindred spirits, Ed & wife allowed me to watch the game in their company, and I shot the shit with them for a couple of hours. Although I have been on record in the past few years as being tired of Fireman Ed, I have now changed my mind. He’s a nice guy. The answers to a few of my questions are: 1) no, he is not on the Jets payroll and never has been; 2) no, he has never taken credit for inventing the chant; 3) no, he cannot afford the PSL’s for his two seats, he’s moving upstairs; and 4) the game ball he received on behalf of the fans sits in the team’s training facility, not in his house.
Unfortunately, the Jets were down big in this game from the outset, and there was never occasion for me to hoist Ed onto my shoulders for a Arubian rendition. Ah well.
Anyway, this has been a nice vacation for Janeen and I. We’ve walked along pristine beaches, tanned beside a picturesque pool, chatted with tropical birds and iguanas and eaten at gourmet restaurants. Oh, and there was a poker tournament.
I avoided the poker room until Monday night, when I promptly and rather easily won a supersatellite into the main event by pushbotting into the money without ever having to show down a hand. The $5,500 buy in for the Main Event was going to be my largest ever unbacked personal outlay for a single tournament, so I was relieved to win a seat in my first and only try.
The supersatellite also allayed my concerns regarding the fields here. Coming in, I was convinced that everyone here would have either won a seat online or felt comfortable enough to buy directly in to a $5,500 tournament, i.e., they’d all be internet pros or top notch live pros. Bad read on my part. The players here fall into one of four categories:
1) internet pros;
2) live pros;
3) non-professional internet qualifier; and
Categories 1 and 2 are capable players and difficult to deal with, but the others, particularly category 4, are not. Cateogory 4 is made up of mostly Venezuelan guys who are pretty terrible at poker, and they are here in droves. These category 4 players create a significant edge for guys like me. Edges are good.
Day 1 of my Main Event was a lot of fun. I drew a bad table with no category 3 and 4 players. Instead I found Shawn Rice, Robert Mizrachi (to my direct right) and Gavin Smith (to my direct left). I’m past the point of being intimidated by anyone, however, and I did a nice job. By the end of the day my starting stack of 15,000 was sitting at over 32,000. Proof that I’ve come a long way in the past few years: In May of 2006 I was terrified of Gavin Smith; on Tuesday I found myself wondering what he was thinking quite often and I outplayed him in a couple of spots.
Day 2 started out even better. After I picked up about 6,000 additional chips I was moved to a very soft table, there were no fewer than three 4’s and two 3’s seated there. It didn’t take me long to tangle with the Venezuelan guy to my left. With about 38,000 in my stack and the blinds at 200-400 with a 50 ante, I picked up two red eights under the gun and made it 1050. The Category 4 player to my left (32,000) called and so did the player in the cutoff. The flop rolled out 9-8-5 rainbow (set alert!) and I bet 1700. Mr. 4 raised to around 5,500 and the cutoff folded. I smooth called, knowing I would likely stack the guy if the turn was a safe card. The turn was indeed a safe card: a deuce. I checked. Mr. 4 bet 12,300 and I quickly moved all in. I got instacalled by… the old 9-7 of diamonds.
I was licking my chops at the thought of having over 70,000 chips at my disposal at this spectacularly bad table. All I had to do was fade a six on the river. The dealer had other ideas, however, and she stuck a six out there. I got four-outed by a #4.
Adding insult to injury, Mr. 4 was thought he was drawing dead on the river and was sitting there moping even after I tapped the table and said “nice hand.” It wasn’t until the dealer actually pushed the massive pot to him that he realized that he was not eliminated from the tournament and had sucked out on me. Must be nice?
The same guy would bust me about a half hour later when I pushed my remaining chips in with A-10 vs. his A-Q.
I’m gonna get a nice tan and dabble in a little more poker before I get out of here on Saturday.