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Latin American Poker Tour Season 4

December 23, 2010

Tags: Latin American Poker Tour, LAPT.

The PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour season-four schedule has been released, so, naturally, I’m excited. I’m about to show you why it’s almost impossible to not have fun at LAPT events with some highlight examples from 2010. Unless of course, some Argentine slaps his slow roll on the felt in front of you as he runs circles around the table screaming with joy over hitting his one-outer on the river to end your Main Event early. That would suck a little.

The bright side? Not only do you get to stare at stunning girls all day such as LAPT Hostess Luli Fernandez (in the photo with me above chilling on a beach in Brazil) linger around the poker room all day, but there are so many amazing places to explore just outside the poker room.

Sao Paulo, Brazil – February 16-20, 2011

Season three took us to the Brazilian island of Florianopolis. It was a slight tease being on the beach in the middle of winter, but we still had such a fantastic experience. This year, the LAPT is returning to one of Brazil’s proudest cities, Sao Paulo, and best of all, not only is it going to be in the peak of their summer, but you know what they (Kristy Arnett) say about Brazilian women -- they simply win at life. Feast your eyes on the below video from this year’s LAPT Welcome Party in Brazil, and you'll see why.

Viña del Mar, Chile – March 17-20, 2011

Chile was a new addition to the LAPT season-three schedule, however, after the devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Viña del Mar in late February, only a few weeks before the March event, the LAPT stop was cancelled. Twelve months later, the stop returns to the schedule, and we will head to Chile’s beach-resort town to pump our well-needed tourism dollars into the bounced-back stunner of a city.

Lima, Perú – April 12-17, 2011

I was lucky enough to escape the WSOP madness for one week this year, and head south to cover the LAPT in Lima, Peru, and this year we will return in April. It was here that headlines were created when Jose "Nacho" Barbero won his second LAPT title in back-to-back events. The event was held in the quaint town of Miraflores, offering us some brilliant nights out at the clubs in Larco Mar, and gorgeous surrounds, which you can see in the following video courtesy of PokerStars.tv.

Rosario, Argentina – June 1-5, 2011

Not many tour operators bother competing with the World Series of Poker. I like to think of those six weeks as the Bermuda Triangle of major poker-event scheduling, but PokerStars did it with success this year, and they’re certainly not stopping. Season four will take us to South America’s largest casino in Rosario, Argentina, the Grand Final destination of season three. Being the first week of June means the beginning of winter in South America – the perfect time to start hitting up the popular cities rather than the beach towns. I’ll let this video paint the picture of the fantastic week we had this year in Rosario.

Bogotá, Colombia – August 3-7, 2011

Returning to loved cities is one thing, but breaking new ground is what really gets me excited, and Columbia, the home of the most amazing coffee in the world, is just that. Bogotá is Columbia’s largest city, labeled the “Athens of South America.” If my crazy trip to Greece with five girlfriends a few years back is anything to go by, then I’m bursting at the seams with excitement to get there! It's said to be a roller-coaster of a city high in the Andes at an elevation of 8,646 feet. All cities have contrasts, but few have them like Bogotá, as described in this interesting passage by goway.com.

"Nestled high in the Andes at 8,646 feet, Santafé de Bogotá is a city of contrasts. It's a city of high-rises standing next to colonial churches; a city of universities, theaters and shantytowns. It is a mixture of influences, Spanish and English and Indian; a city of great wealth and material well being and abject poverty. It is a city of wild traffic and calm oases reflecting a bygone day. It is a modern city with futuristic architecture, graffiti and congestion; restaurants, bookstores and street vendors peddling emeralds, thieves, beggars, street people and drug dealers wrapped around the inner core of the old city."

The LAPT Grand Final destination is still to be confirmed, so in lieu of this unknown city, I'll leave you with a perfect taste of Latin America: a friendly game of football.

Follow me on Twitter! @LynnGilmartin

The Dong-ination of APPT Sydney

December 16, 2010

Tags: APPT, Sydney, Jonathan Karamalikis, XMONSTERxDONGx.

I’m finally home in Melbourne, Australia, after the busiest two months of my life, including one heck of a November to remember. Last week, the PokerNews Live Reporting Team was in Sydney for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final.

Despite numbers dropping from last year, this was one quality field, and the final table could not have proven that any more than it did last Sunday. Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu and his travel-buddy, 2007 APPT Manila Champion Eddy Sabat, both made it to the final nine, along with Aussie-loving Brit Roland de Wolfe and 2010 WPT Grand Prix de Paris runner-up Antoine Amourette. For the Aussies, though, the biggest highlight was Jonathan "xMONSTERxDONGx" Karamalikis who not only joined the star-studded final table, but also crushed his way to victory.

A Main Event can never happen without a party to lubricate everyone before the tough week ahead. Some arrived fresh off Bondi Beach, others arrived fresh out of a spray-tan booth (refer to Daniel Negreanu's tan-line below); and when prawns are firing up on the barbecue, what better place would there be than the APPT Welcome Party to showcase some of Australia’s finest vocabulary?

There is no doubt in saying that Karamalikis is a ridiculously good poker player both online and live, and he continues to prove it over and over again. He is also quite a veteran on the old joystick (there’s a flashback to 1995) when it comes to NBA Jam. One thing he and Daniel Neilson could take a few lessons on, though, is cleaning their rooms.

For a light break from the xMONSTERxDONGx show, please enjoy some gorgeous pictures of the stunning city that is Sydney. I literally fell in love with this place – I always say there is no other place in the world besides Melbourne that I want to live, but Sydney has now crept up on my extremely small “maybe list.” Oh, and look at that, an unavoidable Dong reference crept up in the photos too.

So now it’s back to the Monster Dongination. I wonder what it’s like to be Jonathan Karamalikis. Catching your two-outer when your kings run into aces. Claiming the prestigious APPT Grand Final title from one of the best final tables seen in 2010? Drinking "Dong-Perignon" straight from the bottle knowing you’re about to cash out of that casino for almost half a million Australian dollars. It must be nice. Although, there were other players in the Main Event – 289 of them in fact. So here is a quick snapshot of the fantastic week we had in Sydney. I hope you enjoyed our live coverage as always, and if you were crazy enough not to follow as we covered the event, then the following video will be the fastest and most enjoyable way to catch up!

Follow me on Twitter! @LynnGilmartin

A November to Remember

December 09, 2010

Tags: Kristy Arnett, Cebu, Philippines, Shangri-La Mactan Resort, APPT, Kadasig Aid and Development.

It's safe to say I just had the most fun-filled, action-packed, brilliant month of my life! From my birthday in Las Vegas, my first November Nine, meeting my sponsor child in the Philippines, cheering for the Dolphins and the Penguins in Miami and then the Magic in Orlando, my first Thanksgiving, hanging with Mickey Mouse in Disney World, to drinking pina coladas with Kristy Arnett on a Caribbean cruise. All I can say is, life’s great!

It's my Party

I turned 26 on November 3, and there’s no better place in the world to be than Sin City. I had some Aussie friends in town and of course my dear friends from PokerNews to help me drown my sorrows in officially passing the halfway mark to 50. The aftermath consisted of bruises that took almost a month to heal, meaning the night was a complete success.

My 26th birthday in Las Vegas
My 26th birthday in Las Vegas

November Nine

It feels a lot longer than just one month ago, but this year was my first November Nine experience. The hype, the entrance songs, the gum chewing, and the never-ending Jack Effel dad-jokes – I simply loved all of it. I had picked John Racener to win, so I wasn't too far off! Speaking of picks, I almost beat the PokerNews Team in the ESPN Poker Pick'em, but Chad Halloway got me in the tiebreaker!

Some of my Twitpics during November Nine
Some of my Twitpics during November Nine

PokerStars.net APPT Cebu

I could go on and on about how amazing the Shangri-La Mactan Resort in Cebu, Philippines, is and the amount of fun we had during the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour, but I will allow this video to do the talking while wrapping up the Main Event.

It wasn’t all glitz and glamour on this trip to the Philippines, though. I have a sponsor child in Cebu and I went to meet him and his family which was the most incredible life changing experience. For just $250 per year, my sponsor child can go to school and participate in wellness programs through Kadasig Aid and Development. Seeing the impact that my tiny contributions make on not only the child's life, but the family and community was amazing. If you would love to help make a difference, only $35 will buy a hamper to feed a Filipino family this Christmas. And yes, that is a PokerStars bag I gave him.

Breth, my sponsor child in Cebu, Philippines
Breth, my sponsor child in Cebu, Philippines

I'm in Miami B#$*%

Once the PokerStars.net APPT Cebu was over, it was back to the US for one crazy night in LA during the North American Poker Tour, and then, without any sleep and after a few too many drinks, it was on to a 6am flight to Florida for two weeks of vacation. For our first night in Miami, Team PokerStars Pro (and crazed Miami Dolphins fan) Jason Mercier joined us at a Dolphins game against the Bears. Growing up, I've always loved going to various live sporting events, and I have to say, the USA sure knows how to put on a show.

When I thought that was all, a couple of days later we ended up going to my first NHL game, which I think now is my favorite sport to watch live – so much brutal action! My boyfriend and I started our road trip from Miami to Naples, where we stopped, in the middle of nowhere, at Miccosukkee Casino at 1 a.m. for a little $1/$2 no-limit hold'em fix, and it didn’t last long. The felts were so dirty I couldn’t bring myself to shuffle my chips in case my nails scraped up the dirt on the felt, and that’s even if the dirt on the chips allowed them to freely separate to even successfully shuffle. When security guards require guns on their belts, you know you’re not in the best of locations.

After an hour, we left empty handed, which feels like the norm lately. An amazing three days past in Naples – a stunning town that for the first time in my life, made me excited about getting old and retiring – we were on the road again up to Orlando for a Disney World fix, my first Thanksgiving, and we figured, why not throw in another sport in, scoring last minute tickets to an NBA game with Miami Heat playing Orlando Magic. This, too, was another first. My first sighting of Dwight Howard. Oh yes.

Fun-filled Florida!
Fun-filled Florida!

Of course, the biggest "first" of the many I had this month, was my first Thanksgiving. Along with the rest of the American nation I was all turkeyed out that afternoon, although the next day I certainly paid for the ten-too-many Mimosa's I had in the solid 14-hour drinking session. Another first to add to that was my first attempt at Cornhole. I completely sucked, but I must say, my form was nothing short of professional.

Fine Cornhole Form
Fine Cornhole Form

If you Like Pina Coladas...

The fun ramped up even more when Kristy Arnett and her fiancé flew into Florida for a crazy night out in Miami followed by a five-day cruise through the Caribbean. What more could you want? Well, we wanted poker. We had assumed (and accepted) on day one that the casino did not have a poker table, until we heard an announcement that they were holding a no-limit hold'em tournament the following day. The reaction from all four of us when the announcement went over the PA system was like four meerkats sighting food for the first time in a week. We thought our prayers to top off the tropical paradise we were living in had been answered.

Until we saw this:

Norwegian Dawn - Poker Tournament Structure
Norwegian Dawn - Poker Tournament Structure

A structure like this would really draw out serious skill at the table, right? Ha! Obviously we did not play, but we did manage to get a $1/$2 cash game started on a couple of the nights. A cash game that took a 10% rake up to $25 with a minimum of $1 on every pot – including walks! Of course, we were on vacation, so the most important part was that we had a great time, and that we did. The cruise was phenomenal. I say that because it’s the truth, and I’m running out of descriptive words. In fact, I’m giving up on words altogether as the hundreds of photos we took would do a better job than any words ever could!

Our Caribbean Cruise!
Our Caribbean Cruise!

Home, Sweet, Home... Almost

I'm not quite home just yet, but close enough! I'm back in the land Down Under for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final in Sydney, Australia. It's become apparent over the past couple of years that we don't quite speak English down here, so I guess I could say it's so refreshing to be able to speak in my native language again! It's only my second time to visit this city, which is kind of incredible because I'm from just "next-door" in Melbourne. There's a rival between the two cities, so as a Melbournite, I'm breaking all sorts of rules in saying this, but I have fallen in love with Sydney!

Sydney

December 02, 2010

Tags: APPT, Sydney.

Sydney, Australia’s unofficial capital, is the oldest, largest and most extravagant city in my home country. I’ve been all around the world, yet up until last December, I had freakishly never been to Sydney. I finally had the opportunity for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final, and with the days flying by so fast, I cannot believe that time has come around once again.

Sydney is a city that draws you outside, whether it be for surfing at Bondi Beach, sailing under the Harbor Bridge, jogging (or even horse riding) through Centennial Park, shopping in Paddington, or simply having a drink while overlooking the Sydney Opera House. It would be a waste to spend too long indoors, except for going deep in the APPT Main Event!

I have to say that Melbourne definitely wins for the people and atmosphere of Australian cities (call me biased), but Sydney offers some serious eye-candy along the Harbor and at Bondi Beach, and I’m not just talking about the Aussie chicks. There’s a free ferry that takes you along the Sydney Harbor from the dock just outside the Star City Casino over to the Sydney Opera House. The views are stunning.

Unfortunately, in typical southeastern Australia summer fashion, my experience last year of Bondi was attacked by some unexpected torrential rain, so I am excited to revisit for another attempt at checking out one of Australia’s most popular beaches, and you definitely should, too.

The Essentials

  • Weather: averages at a perfect 25°C (77°F)
  • Currency: Australian Dollars are almost equal to USD right now
  • Language: I feel the need to include this because a couple of Americans had been surprised at how good my English was when they found out I was Australian -- I’m not kidding. We’re pretty much all English, folks.

The Star City Hotel & Casino

The Star City Hotel & Casino is once again the host venue of the PokerStars.net APPT Grand Final, tucked within the heart of Sydney with the Darling Harbor at its doorstep. This is the only place in the state where you’ll find gaming tables, but with over 200 of them woven through this complex of six restaurants, eight bars, a 2,000-seat theatre and 480 hotel rooms, you won’t be short of options.

One of my biggest peeves is when you have a 10-minute break and nowhere to go for a cheap, easy, on-the-go meal. You won’t have that problem here with the Trophies Foodcourt or even the Garden Buffet where you can load your plate with as many prawns as you can eat.

The AUD $6,300 APPT Sydney Main Event attracted almost 400 locals, well-known pros and international qualifiers, forming a juicy prize pool of AUD $2.37 million, and with the Australian dollar so strong at the moment, there are really too many reasons not to miss it this year. To add to that, I hear that Daniel Negreanu will be making a trip down under for this event.

A Taste of Australia?

One of the most common first questions I receive when I meet non-Australians is something about kangaroos. If you’re heading to Australia for the first time, let me tell you that you certainly will not see any hopping around the city streets. Unless you have the time to head out to the countryside to spot some wild roos, then I would suggest an afternoon at Wildlife World where you can see roos, wombats, and you can even pet a koala (please don’t ever attempt this if you see one in the wild. Although they look as friendly as your little sister’s teddy bears, they’re not). If you love this wildlife kind of activity, you can even back up Wildlife World with a visit underwater in the Sydney Aquarium right across the harbor from Star City Casino. And don't forget the zoo, which you can reach by ferry.

For a traditional Aussie lunch or dinner, head to Centennial Parklands and fire up one of the public barbeques. All it will cost you is the price of the snags (sausages) and the Esky (cooler) of beers you’ll sneakily drink while in the park.

A Video Tour

Had enough reading? Here’s a glimpse of the city that we crammed into one minute and thirty-eight seconds during last year’s APPT Grand Final

Barcelona

November 18, 2010

Tags: Travel, Tourism, EPT, Barcelona, Spain.

There are few cities in the world where you'll find yourself walking past a buck naked man in the middle of a busy street. Three years ago, I traveled through Europe with a group of girlfriends, and one of our favorite stops was the oh-so-eccentric Barcelona, Spain. Once again, the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour will return there for another season.

The Vitals

  • Language: Spanish, but English is widely spoken
  • Currency: Euro (1 euro = $1.55 USD)
  • Timezone: Central European Time
  • Weather: around 55-60 °F

Getting There and Around

Assuming that you would be flying into Barcelona, a 20-minute cab ride will get you to the city center from the El Prat International Airport, setting you back about €15-20. Or for €3.75 you can catch a bus that will add just another 10 minutes to your trip, or even cheaper again, a €2.40 train direct from the airport’s Terminal B will take you straight into town. However, we didn't have such a luxury of flying in, and instead endured the bus for 10 hours from France.

Taking a break on our road trip, somewhere between France and Spain.
Taking a break on our road trip, somewhere between France and Spain.

The Sights

Once you’re in the city, head straight for La Rambla. This is my favorite street because it is lined with shops, market stands, restaurants and street performers leading down to the ocean. It was here that we stumbled across La Boqueria, a market that blew us away with the bright colors of the fresh fruit and vegetables. This is the place to go to pick up a snack of the freshest fruit you've ever tasted, or some lunch on the run. For a sample of old tradition, take a seat at El Quim De La Boqueria, a world-famous tapas bar inside La Boqueria.

La Rambla
La Rambla

Of course, Barcelona is home to some of the world’s greatest artists and almost every corner you turn will prove this. The most outstanding attraction within the city is Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, a church that bursts through the city’s skyline. A church has been under construction for approximately 200 years, its most amazing feature is that there is not one single sharp edge to the detail. All carvings are rounded to give it the appearance of being made of wax.

Segrada Familia
Segrada Familia

If you need to go to the bathroom while you’re walking around the sights, find a McDonalds somewhere. I was warned against going anywhere else, but I still made the mistake of sneaking into a pub’s bathroom. When the owner realized we weren’t customers, she nearly lost her mind – I actually though she was going to slap me in the middle of the Spanish abuse she was hailing at me. But hey, at least the task at hand was complete. Lastly, please remember that Spain is home to many clever pickpockets, so be sure to keep your bags closed and close to your body at all times.

Nightlife

The Gran Casino de Barcelona, host of the PokerStars.net EPT, is situated on the waterfront opposite Port Olimpic, a long strip of bars and nightclubs. This area is a hot tourist spot, which means the bars love to rip you off, but at the same time they also bend over backward to get you inside their club with all the competition nearby, especially if you’re walking along the pier before midnight as the party only gets started when the clock ticks over to the a.m.

Each bar has promoters standing out the front trying to reel you inside with a “free shot.” Don’t be fooled, though, because the alcohol in this “free shot” might as well be water. We haggled with one persistent salesman about this scam and he insisted it was the real deal, so we joined him inside. When the waitress saw him enter with new customers, she went to do her routine pour of the shots, but he stopped her and told her to get the real bottle of vodka – and that it was. This may just be the power of five blonde Aussie girls in Europe, but there’s no harm in giving it a go yourself.

Port Olimpic
Port Olimpic

EPT Location and Accommodation

The PokerStars.net European Poker Tour will be held at the following venue:

Casino de Barcelona (annexe at The Arts Hotel)
Marina, 19-21 (Port Olímpic)
08005 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 352 1010

If you're heading to EPT Barcelona and are still yet to book your accommodation, PokerStars has a dedicated EPT Hotels website for bookings at special rates. However, if you qualified online, then you won't need to worry about accommodation because that will be part of your prize package. Any queries can be directed to ept@pokerstars.com.

The PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be covering all the action from EPT Barcelona so be sure to keep it locked on our Live Reporting page, and as always, follow us on Twitter.

Los Angeles

November 11, 2010

Tags: NAPT, Los Angeles.

The fourth stop of the inaugural PokerStars.net North American Poker Tour heads to the Bicycle Casino in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, beginning November 12 with a $5,000 Main Event, as well as an invitation-only, televised $5,000 Bounty Shootout that’s absolutely rippled with pros, guaranteeing you some great viewing from the rail. Whether you qualified online or you’re still deciding to make the trek West, read on for a quick guide.

Getting There and Around

If you live close enough, consider driving to Los Angeles so you have your car handy. If you’re flying in, I strongly suggest renting a car. It’s such a huge, spread out city, making it hard to get around without one. I’ve never attempted LA without a car.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about 25 minutes from downtown LA and the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens. LAX is one of the biggest airports in the world (the fifth busiest to be precise) and the cause of plenty of my headaches in the past, so be sure to leave yourself lots of transit time. You can find driving directions on the Bike’s website.

Accommodation

If you qualified for NAPT Los Angeles, then you’ll be staying at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles, home to the very first Oscars in downtown LA. Hundreds of movies and TV shows have been filmed in its halls, including Iron Man, Mission Impossible, Wedding Crashers, and Ghost Busters. Even the likes of Alfred Hitchcock have lurked in the stairwells. The hotel is a 15-minute drive to the Bicycle Casino, with PokerStars.net offering continuous shuttle busses to and from the hotel and casino.

If you didn’t qualify and are looking for a place to stay, then PokerStars.net has put together a dedicated team to help you book accommodations with special rates, so head on over to napthotels.com. If you're booking yourself, keep in mind that this is one of those exceptions where the closest hotel is most likely your worst option rather than the best. PokerStars.net's hotel of choice is at a distance from the host venue for a reason!

A Little Taste of Hollywood

You simply cannot visit LA without tasting all that it’s known for – the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. Strut down the Walk of Fame and compare your feet to Marilyn’s and stare in amazement at the tiny size of Frank Sinatra’s hands. Watch the limos scale Rodeo Drive as you enjoy a coffee (that’s all I could afford on that street), and if you really want to feel like the scum of the earth, pick up a star-spotting map and drive by the ridiculous mansions in Beverly Hills, snapping photos as you drive past the paparazzi vans camped out in front of Jennifer Aniston’s house. OK, scrap the map, but a drive around The Hills is a must.

Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California

So you're pushed for time and want to sample all the LA has to offer in the tiny window of time you have before play begins. Well, Sunset Boulevard will give you a good sample. Start downtown to sample the seediness mixed with cool; pass all the riches of Beverly Hills and the famous Sunset Strip, go all the way to the Pacific Ocean in Malibu or Santa Monica. By the time you get to Malibu, you’ll probably be hungry, so drop into Reel Inn for some seafood by the water without denting your wallet.

If you're busto and have all day free, take a trip to Universal Studios right in the heart of the city. I haven't been there in ten years, but I'm certain it is still a huge eye opener giving you a whole new level of appreciation for film and special effects while you scare the pants off yourself on the rides. If that’s not your thing, then perhaps renting a pair of roller blades to join all the booty shorts on Venice Beach is.

I love to visit comedy clubs all over the world. I’ve never been to one in LA, but I have been to the Improv in Lake Tahoe, and Hollywood also has an Improv.. If Lake Tahoe had me holding my stomach in agony from laughing so hard, then I have no doubt LA will too.

Unfortunately, I will not be in LA this time around, but I'll definitely be following the NAPT live coverage. Instead, I am in what feels like a tropical heaven with the other half of the PokerNews Live Reporting Team covering the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour in Cebu, Philippines! You can find the simultaneous coverage of both events right here on PokerNews.

Vegas Ballin'

November 04, 2010

Tags: Las Vegas, Andy Bloch, Kristy Arnett, Wet Republic.

All eyes in the poker world will be focused on Sin City this weekend whether in person, on ESPN, or right here at PokerNews! Millionaires will walk away from this final table, with the world’s biggest prize in poker being handed to a new champion, giving us another household name in poker.

So you didn’t make it to the November Nine. Heck, you may not have even made it to Las Vegas, yet. But a boy can dream, right? Imagine winning all those millions of dollars and then being in one of the world’s most tempting cities to blow it all. Well, here’s a taste of exactly what that would be like, with a sample of some of Las Vegas' most extravagant luxuries.

The first stop has to be fine dining with so many of the world’s best restaurants tucked into one strip of lights. Fancy a 16-course French meal? Or perhaps a “$5,000 burger?” I was lucky enough to sample both.

Of course an update of a man’s favorite boy-toy is one of the first must-dos when scoring large. Andy Bloch showed Kristy Arnett his sexy Tesla Motors sports car, staying environmentally conscious while still spinning around like a baller.

When spending so much time with your hands laying across the ledge of a poker table for all your opponents to look at for hours on end, your wrists have to look the part.

The Vegas heat may have made an exit for the year, but I just couldn’t skip this video. It’s the perfect taste of pool-party season in Las Vegas and here’s a taste of how to experience it like you belong in Hollywood.

While you’re all cashed up, what better way to continue your poker dream than to splurge on your favorite sports or hit up Bobby’s Room for some high-stakes action on a table resembling an episode of The Big Game?

Follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.

Cebu

October 28, 2010

Tags: APPT, Cebu, Shangri-La Mactan Resort.

In just two weeks, I will be Asia-bound for the unofficial icon-event on the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour. The islands of Cebu in the Philippines blew everyone’s minds when the city itself, famous for its amazing beaches and sweet mangoes, was introduced on the third season of the APPT.

I’ve learned that photos on any property’s website are usually deceiving, requiring you to lower the expectation those photos build by at least 40 percent to remain impressed when you arrive. The APPT’s location of choice in Cebu, the Shangri-La Mactan Resort, exceeded not only my “reduced” expectations, but the original by a mile, and after six nights of staying there, it still continued to pleasantly surprise me every day.

There are over 13 acres of land, like a huge playground of beach-side tropical gardens to explore. The attention to detail is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Throughout the grounds are huts with massage tables where, when you lay on your stomach, you see a bowl of colorful petals floating on water so you’re not staring at a slab of concrete. When you lay on the beach, there’s staff to serve you with refreshing pineapple and mango, and when you’re in the gym running on the treadmill, the trainer comes around every so often to give you an ice-cold towel soaked in subtle lavender. I even had a one-on-one yoga session by the beach just before my buffet breakfast in the sunshine -- all-included, of course. I felt like I was in heaven! As always, last year we created a video showing off the resort.

The resort is swarming, and I mean swarming, with such friendly staff at every corner you turn, all there ready and waiting to greet you with such genuine, delighted smiles on their faces. From the concierge, to the cleaner, to the gardeners, to the henna tattoo guy on the beach, to the girl who takes your room service order over the phone -- each oozes such an appreciation, enjoyment and love of the job that you can’t help but smile.

The PokerStars.net APPT Main Event was huge success, with the numbers going well over the original cap of 300. The champion, Dong-bin Han, won $148,000 for first place after three days of work in the middle of this paradise. After the amazing experience everyone had last year, I have no doubt numbers for this year will skyrocket. Space is your friend at this resort, and that was extended to the poker room.

If you want to venture out one night after a long day of play, which I actually didn’t do last year because there’s so much to do inside the resort, there are a couple of popular clubs to visit in Cebu City, about 30 minutes from the resort, including Sunflower Disco, the largest and most popular nightclub in the city, or Club Vudu which is smaller but gets hopping on the weekends. Just be weary if you’re single and not looking to pay for your date, it’s hard to tell the difference and you don’t want to waste all your best material wooing a girl to leave with, just to find out she wants you to open your wallet first. Or, maybe you do!

I could rave on and on forever about how amazing the resort was last year, but I did feel guilty for enjoying the luxury when at the very same time a friend was traveling throughout the Philippines on an aid-mission. The stories of her experiences had me in tears. Poverty is a serious problem in the Philippines and I had to do my bit to help by sponsoring a child through Kadasig Aid and Development. Breth, pictured left, is now put through school for the tiny price of $235 per year. I am so excited to have the opportunity to meet him when I return, so I will be sure to write about that experience in a few weeks.

The Essentials

If you haven't figured it out already, this event is definitely up there on my list of top poker destinations. If you're joining us in November, then here's some basic information you'll need to know. The Shangri-La Mactan Resort is located in Lapu-Lapu City, on Mactan Island; the same island where the airport is located. Cebu City is on a separate island connected by bridges. Taxis are the ideal way to get around, or if you're staying at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort, they also offer private cars and you can prearrange a transfer to/from the airport.

  • Language: English is widely spoken
  • Currency: PHP 1.00 = USD 0.02
  • Time zone: GMT +8
  • Voltage: 220/250 Volts
  • Weather: Averages around 31°C/88 °F

Around the World with Lynn Gilmartin: Vienna

October 21, 2010

The PokerStars.net European Poker Tour is making a well-overdue return to Vienna, Austria, after a six-year break. The city of Sachertorte, carriage rides and Mozart will host the five-day €5,300 Main Event in October, guaranteeing a €500,000 first-place prize.

If you love Italian Renaissance, then the Kursalon Palace, the EPT host venue in City Park that dates back to 1857 will absolutely blow you away. With the likes of Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, and Johann Strauss having called Vienna home, this city has been labeled the cultural capital of Europe.

The Important Stuff

  • Language: German
  • Currency: Euro
  • International Dialing Code: +43
  • Time zone: Central European Time (CET)
  • Weather: Cold!

Day 1a of the Main Event is a public holiday in Vienna, so all banks and stores will be closed and there will be limited public transport – this means plan ahead!

Getting There and Around

Vienna-Schwechat Airport has direct flights from just about every European capital, including budget flights with Easyjet, and some nonstop flights from the U.S. on United. I just love it when an airport has a train line connected to it, and Vienna has just that. The City Airport Train (CAT) leaves every 30 minutes, and for just €9 you can get to the city in just 16 minutes. If you'd rather go direct, then a taxi will take you to your hotel in approximately 25 minutes for about €30 to €40.

The sight of a well-dressed businessman peddling two wheels to work is not an out-of-ordinary sight in most European cities, and Vienna is no exception. The Citybike Wien is the most scenic option for travel in Vienna after doing it all on foot. If you’re going a little farther, then the buses, trams and metro all use the same, reasonably priced tickets and are all extremely reliable. Taxis are clean and easy to flag down on the street, but if you want to call one yourself, try 31330, 40100, or 60160.

You can reach the Kursalon Palace via public transport at the following stops:

Subway:

  • U4 Stadtpark
  • U3 Stubentor

Tram:

  • Tram lines 1 or 2, stop Weihburggasse
  • Tram lines 71 or D, stop Schwarzenbergplatz

Food and Drink

Vienna is known for the Wiener Schnitzel, which you will find in almost every restaurant that serves local cuisine. Basically it’s flat, bread-crumbed piece veal (although it’s more commonly found these days with pork or chicken) that’s fried in butter. Other Viennese specialties include Tafelspitz, which is a lean, boiled beef that’s traditionally served with fried mashed potatoes (Geröstete Erdäpfel), and Apfelkren, a mixture of horseradish, cream and apple.

You’ll find plenty of street stands selling traditional hot chestnuts and potato fritters for a quick snack, or cheese-injected käsekrainer sausage stuffed into a baguette-style bun. If pizzas and kebabs are more you’re thing for late-night-munchies, you’ll be glad to know they’re becoming the most popular snack food in Vienna. I stumbled across this handy blog suggesting five cheap eats in Vienna. On the other end of the scale, if you’re looking for a splurge while trying local cuisine, try Steirereck , which has been voted as one of the best restaurants in town, overlooking the Danube in Stadtpark, right by the tournament venue.

Vienna is one of the few remaining capital cities in the world with its own vineyards. If you want to try some of the local wine, you’ll find it in small Viennese pubs known as Heuriger. A “Beisl” is a typical small Austrian pub, and they’re scattered throughout Vienna where you can taste the local brew or imported beers.

It’s believed that we can thank the Viennese for inventing the process of filtering coffee, and with that you’ll stumble across cafes all over Vienna for the caffeine addicts. Try a mélange, a distinctive Viennese coffee drink served with a small glass of water.

The Sights

For the culture and history junky, Vienna is your haven with more than 100 art museums to explore. Wandering through the winding, cobbled lanes of Vienna on foot is a must to discover the ancient architecture, gardens, and intriguing people. There are plenty of free sights to see; simply taking in amazing views of outside the likes of Hofbug Palace will satisfy most, and the Hapsburg Palace grounds are big enough to get lost in, even rivaling Paris’ Versailles. You can take a tour of Schönbrunn Palace, centered in the picture below, for around €10, or if you really want to explore museums, head to “museum quarter” for plenty of nearby choices.

If you're lucky enough to be joining the PokerNews Live Reporting Team in this wonderful Austrian city, I wish you the best of luck, and I'm definitely jealous that I won't be going after doing all this research on such an amazing city! Gloria Balding will be bringing you the videos direct from the tournament floor, so as always, stay tuned to the PokerNews video page.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.

One for the Not-So-Frequent Flyers

October 14, 2010

Tags: Travel, Tourism.

Living in Australia means if I want to go anywhere I have quite a journey ahead of me. Add that to being part of the PokerNews family, and I’ve done my fair share of traveling, to say the least.

So let’s say you’ve just won a seat online to an international live event, but your passport still shines with its freshly pressed golden emblem of your native land without a crease in its pages. Or is the embassy still waiting for you to submit your passport application for your first venture outside the country? Then allow me to pass on some handy tips I’ve picked up while building the pride and joy of my international stamp collection.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

What kind of poker player are you if you don’t own a pair of these bad boys anyway? Whether you’re blocking the barks of overused poker terms at the felt, or the roar of the plane’s engine while watching reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm, spending a few hundred on a pair of Bose, or something similar, will be money well-spent.

Sleeping

You’ve definitely seen those half-circle neck pillows at your local mall. They are one of the greatest inventions known to the frequent flyer. No matter how many pillows you stuff under your head, it will never be as comfortable as this stable little gem. Not to mention that your neighbor will appreciate your head as far away from his or her shoulder as possible mid-slumber. Make sure you get one that has a strap or a button closure on the two ends – you can then clip it to your bag so you don’t have to hand-carry it around the airport.

Sleeping tablets are my best friend for really long flights. Watch a movie over dinner, sleep for eight hours, wake up for breakfast, and you’re done! If you’re a little uneasy about taking pills, then drink a couple of glass of red wine and they will help do the trick too – but don’t go overboard or you’ll dehydrate yourself and curse the headache you sport for the rest of the flight and six hours afterward.

Stay Loyal

If you’re going to travel in the future, then be smart with your reward points as you could score yourself a free flight. If you travel with various airlines to chase a bargain (as we all do), then having a few miles here and a few miles there won’t get you anywhere. Before you sign up for any loyalty program, take a look at the three major alliances (OneWorld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam) and choose one favorite airline from each. Every time you fly, even if it’s not with one of your three favorites, you can still use the loyalty program of your favorite from within that alliance to accrue your miles. For example, I’m a member of Qantas Frequent Flyer, which is a part of the OneWorld alliance. I fly a lot with American Airlines also but don't have an AA account because I claim all my points on Qantas. That way, all points from both flights are consolidated to the one program and I can buy more with them through Qantas. Rather than having enough miles on each for a free one-way ticket somewhere, I now have enough miles on Qantas for a free return ticket even further.

Security

No bottle of liquid more than 100ml is allowed in your hand luggage, and all liquids must be in one clear bag. In almost all countries, you need to remove your laptop and bag of liquids from your hand luggage, and in the U.S. you must remove your shoes. To do your bit for world peace and fast-moving security lines, wear easy slip-off shoes and get all of the searchables out of your bag just before you approach the scanner. Unless there’s no one behind you, don’t pack it all back when they come straight out of the X-ray machine while you block everyone’s path; move along tiger!

Consideration On Flight

Yes, you’re crammed into a tiny space feeling like a fetus in the womb again, but you’re not alone. During meal times we have to put our seat backs up straight while everyone’s tray tables are down. Once you’ve finished eating, don’t slam it back to get comfortable again. Take a look behind or do it slowly, otherwise the guy behind scores red wine all over his pants.

When you’re squeezing past your neighbors to get out of your seat from the window, don’t grab onto the seats in front of you with all your strength for support. If you do, you just shook that guy out of his dreams after trying to get there for three of the longest hours of his life.

When you’re up, what’s the rush? Got somewhere else to be? Take it easy walking down the aisles to save a few elbows or toes.

A Few Last Notes

All luggage starts to look the same when you're waiting at the baggage claim, so make yours stand out before you fly by tying something colorful to it or sticking on those PokerStars patches you accumulated at your last poker event.

The time in between meals can be a little longer than you’d prefer, so keep some easy snacks in your bag.

If you plan to sleep the entire time, book a window seat for no disturbances and a wall to lean on. If your bladder is the size of mine, book an aisle seat. If you enjoy agony, book a middle seat.

Take extra care in being polite to the check-in staff -- they have the power to upgrade you. Make sure you’re dressed nicely, though, because they’re not going to put you in first class with your ripped sleeve and circa-1995 tracksuit pants no matter how comfortable they may be.

These are just a few tips from a well seasoned (and perhaps slightly jilted) traveler. If you ever have any questions about travel, I would love to help, so feel free to send me a message on my.PokerNews!

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