To Vienna, To sbo Monte Carlo, and back again


The ceiling of the Irish pub was low. If I wanted to, I could hop up and touch it. But the floor was sticky enough to slow my shoes, so I guessed the ceiling wasn’t much more clean. A four-piece band was too loud for the small space. Somebody forgot to tell them sbo INXS didn’t matter that much anymore. In the line for the bathroom, a man spoke to me quickly in French. I had no idea what he was saying, but held up two fingers, hoping he would understand the men’s room only had two toilets and they were full. He rolled his eyes and patted me on the back. He understood, but followed me in anyway. I thought he was going to piss in the sink. He didn’t.

At the bar, they served the Guinness cold with shots of Jameson’s on the side. Eventually, the band would take a break and Jim Morrison’s voice would blare over the crowd. I thought for a second how seven years before I’d stood at Morrison’s grave and wondered why I was there. Then I wondered why he was there. While I was thinking, some young citizen of the Principality of Monaco headbanged past me, singing in broken English, “Let it roll, baby, roll.”

I’d been on the road for two weeks at this point and thought I should just go to bed. But the Guinness tasted good and, frankly, I was lonely. Even when you spend your days surrounded by hundreds of people, there are times you’d give anything just to be sitting on a back porch deck drinking beer and playing guitar wih your buddies.

As I walked out to the bar patio, a television producer walked up and said, “Poker at the Grand. You in?” As my mind worked through the hundreds of valid excuses for declining, my mouth said, “Yep.” Minutes later, I was walking through Monte Carlo’s hilly streets on my way to a hotel room game.

Those games were going on everywhere for stakes from ten to two hundred thousand euros. In fact, that two hundred thousand euro game was the talk of the bar patio. Reportedly, a well-known player (yes, you have heard of him) was stuck 150,000 from an online massacre the night before and was trying to make it back up. Don’t ask who it is. I have mental filter.

Poker in Vienna

Frankly, I was just about done with poker. I’d watched and played more than my share in the past two weeks. In the after hours, I’d play online in my room and lose. In the off hours in the cardrooms I’d play and win. And then I would play and lose. The peak of excitement came during a 3/6 limit game (essentially American 4/8) with BadBlood. We occupied the one and two seats of a table for much longer than we should’ve. I dropped the hammer on top pair by flopping and rivering a seven. It was a very winnable game, which BadBlood proved and I mocked by losing my buy-in and going to breakfast.

After BadBlood left, I continued to work. After the tournament was over, I had a few hours to kill and decided to play a little more. I was up about 100 at the softest table I’d seen in a while. I didn’t understand the old, smoke-soaked men who played this game. They didn’t understand check-raising. They didn’t understand betting for value. And when they made the nuts, they flat-called. And, as you might expect, I was bored. I wanted to play bigger, but the next highest game was the equivalent of a 15/30 game and I only had enough cash on me for one buy-in. I didn’t want to go in behind.

I noticed the other running game was full of action. A drunk Swede in the four seat had the entire table on tilt. When he bet, he did so by knocking his stack over onto the table. When it was his turn to act, he’s always ask how much. And he never shut the hell up.

So, I don’t know why I moved over there. I guess I was looking for something other than old men who didn’t speak English.