Thursday, March 10, 2005

The EPT Vienna E-WSOP -- Pregame

I'll admit from the outset, when offered the glass of wine, I took it. Normally, I don't drink on planes. That is, I try not to drink anything, alcohol or otherwise. Climbing over other passengers to go to the bathroom is tough enough without adding the stumbling possibilities of wine.

But on this particular Lufthansa flight, I said "Yes," because the steward's eyes told me to answer in the affirmative. I'd seen the look only once before in my life. I was in a Davenport, Iowa diner where the waitresses looked normal but were certainly from another planet. I'd seen in those servers eyes a gaze that I was nowing seeing from Helmut the Steward's retinas. It's a look that bores into your spleen. It's a look that says I would rather eat your face than talk to you. And it's a look that's often delivered with a smile.

I only bring it up, because it was around this time I started laying odds against my luggage arriving in Vienna. Something about Helmut's wine offer made me believe Lufthanasa was trying to liquor me up in advance of losing my bags. I put the odds at 3-1 against and found myself almost pleased when the baggage carousel stopped and my bags weren't on it.

Inside the "Lost and Found" office, I told the nice German lady that my bags were missing.

"Your baggage claim tickets, please." Funny. She had that same look.

"Funny thing, ma'am," I said. "I threw them away in Frankfurt." I had, indeed, tossed the claim tickets in the trash about and hour and half earlier in what I thought was a great exercise in backpack cleaning.

"That's a good job," she said, although it sound like "Dats a goot jop."

Note: Sarcasm sounds the same with a German accent.

I almost went into a long speech about how I considered getting "Stupid American" tattooed on my behind but decided against it after considering the concept of self-fulfilling prophesies and such. Instead, I let the nice lady fix my problem, left the Vienna airport and loaded myself into one of many taxi cabs I would see in the coming days.

It was snowing.

There's something quite liberating about riding 80mph hour in a driving snow. It's something akin to ice-skating on frozen meat. Maybe a porterhouse.


By late afternoon, the snow had tapered off and I set myself into the hustle and bustle that was the city center of Vienna. It was one of those cold European days where people don't stop to smell the roses, because the only thing in bloom are the roadside icemounds.

Still, there is beauty in the winter. It comes in the form of a quickly-passing train, deadly in its size, but graceful on its rails. There are the buildings, aging artforms that make even drab colors seem stark.

It was almost shame it had to get dark. Of course, with darkness comes poker. And that's what I'm here for, after all.

At the urging of a friend, heretofore known as Madame Kaput, I sat down at a low-limit hold'em game last night and played much too late. This cardroom, unlike others on the EPT, stays open 24 hours a day. I saw too many of those hours, but walked out a winner.

Note: European money feels heavier in your pocket than American dollars.

Now, we enter Day One of the European Poker Tour's E-WSOP Tournament. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 players are just sitting down for three days of action. Where this is a smoking room, the tournament director just announced this would be a non-smoking tournament, which means we should be able to see the tables well enough to take some good pictures throughout the day.

The good stories are already starting to flow toward my little impromptu work station. Looks like we have some good stuff ahead of us in the coming days.

Saddle up, folks. It's once again time to ride.