Around the World with LG

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Auckland to Argentina

September 30, 2010

Tags: Auckland, New zealand, Travel, Guide, Tourism, Blog, Argentina, Rosario, APPT, LAPT, Cordoba, Kristy arnett, Calling the clock, City center casino.

Filling out my customs arrival card when landing back in Australia two days ago was so bizarre. I said that I boarded that plane in Argentina, yet spent most of my time in New Zealand. What a strange route. Welcome to the strange life that I love! I’ve been from what feels like opposite sides of the world, from New Zealand to Argentina in just two weeks, and what a whirlwind it was.

Auckland, New Zealand

Despite feeling like I’m just next door to my home town in Melbourne, Australia, I find that Auckland has an extremely relaxed, peaceful atmosphere that’s so refreshing compared to the busy city lifestyle in Melbourne. I mentioned in my recent guide to Auckland that this is home to some of the friendliest people on earth, and it’s no lie. Despite the Maori looking like some of the scariest people (see The Haka, and even the champion Brotha D in the Wrap Up video), as soon as they open their mouths, you almost just want to give them a giant hug! Here is a video we made when we first arrived. I must say, it was hard work putting it together with every line taken from a different place across the city, so I’m pretty proud of it.

The APPT Main Event was short and sweet, with only one Day 1, which means we had a champion in just four days. It was a pretty entertaining four days, with Team PokerStars Pro Tony Hachem attempting the Haka and Daniel Neilson and Andrew Hinrichsen jumping off the Sky Tower. To top off a fantastic week, we saw the Main Event dwindle down to heads-up play between two extremely deserving people. Everyone was torn between Brotha D, the lovable and well-known Godfather of New Zealand Hip Hop, and Australian poker-scene regular Tom Grigg. It was quite the epic heads-up battle lasting more than four hours, and it was Brotha D who eventually triumphed, with Grigg being gracious about it. You can see all of this and more crammed into the following four minutes.

Rosario, Argentina

It was quite the ride getting to the LAPT Grand Final. After the long-haul flight from Down Under, throw in an expected three-hour drive from Buenos Aires that took twice as long because of a strike with a driver that couldn’t speak a word of English, and boy was I happy to finally arrive in Rosario and go straight to bed! Of course, it was all totally worth it. What a fantastic place Rosario is. We had a couple of days to wander the streets, and our hotel was just walking distance from the main strip, Cordoba, so there was plenty of sightseeing and shopping to be done. It was unbelievable how cheap everything is. From $60 shoes to $4 bottles of amazing local wine over dinner – we were loving life over there.

That video was made with ease thanks to our luck in finding a cab driver who just happened to live between Rosario and Las Vegas. Jackpot! An English-speaking cab driver is a rare find, so we kept him with us for about an hour to give us our own little guided-tour to catch all the sights.

I resurrected Calling the Clock after it sat off the shelf for quite some time. The first victim was Tennis Pro Gaston Gaudio, but then my highlight was on our very own PokerNews hostess Kristy Arnett with thanks to the help of the entire PokerNews team.

Throughout the LAPT Main Event, we had so much fun, as always. The Welcome Party that PokerStars threw at the City Center Casino was fantastic, with the band making use of the most bizarre things, such as plastic bags, as instruments, and cannons firing out PokerStars-themed confetti to send off Season 3 with a literal bang. We saw some of the most amazing looking women wandering around the poker room, and I met some of the most generous and lovely people. A third of the final table were local, and amazingly, in the back-to-back fashion that has existed on the LAPT, with Team PokerStars Pro Nacho Barbero winning two Main Event titles, and Team PokerStars Pro Christian De Leon winning back-to-back Second Chance side events, the LAPT Florianopolis Champion Matthias Habernig made his way to this Main Event final table. He didn’t take it down, but what an amazing achievement for him after starting off in Brazil as an unknown Austrian qualifier. The title eventually went to Peruvian Martin Sansour whom you can meet in the following wrap-up video, once again rolling our days of nonstop laughs and poker into just three minutes.

Another highlight while in Rosario, was when Kristy took the PokerNews cameras to the hotel to film a Sunday Grind with player manager Dan Frank and Team PokerStars Pros Victor Ramdin and Gualter Salles. I guess you could say Salles suffered a bad beat only seconds before our arrival, as his laptop screen was shattered when we got there. You’ll have to wait for that video to come out soon!

North vs South

September 23, 2010

Tags: LAPT, Excessive celebration, WSOP.

At the 2008 World Series of Poker, Hevad Khan’s antics were hard to miss. The next year, we saw an addition to the WSOP Rulebook prohibiting “excessive celebration through extended theatrics,” meaning that if you dance around, you get a penalty. So, strolling among the tables of the Rio offers not much more than the sound of well-behaved players shuffling their chips. If you walked into the tournament area of the City Center Rosario during today’s Latin American Poker Tour, however, you might find the sound of the chips regularly interrupted with emotional outbursts throughout the room.

If you’ve experienced any kind of competition south of the U.S. border, then you’ve been faced with the intense passion and emotion that Latino’s invest in their sport. To a newcomer, finding this kind of behavior in a poker room can be jolting. Some consider it rude, but is it?

I asked LAPT Tournament Director Greg Pappas why he allows this to happen despite it being frowned upon by official standards, and he responded, "In South America the people are so passionate. They love to really get behind their countries. So even though it’s not allowed in North America, here it’s a part of the game.”

Of course, there are a lot of lifestyle differences between North and South America. Latin Americans adopt a more laid-back approach to life, evident with the common term Hora Latina – meaning Latin Time. Flights commonly depart late, stores don’t always open exactly on the hour, and I can guarantee you that each day of your poker tournament will not start exactly at noon, and dinner break will go at least 10-20 minutes overtime. Every day you will be greeted with kisses so don’t even think about shaking hands – it’s actually considered rude. And let’s face it, things don’t always work. The sewage systems clog easily so you’re forced to pee next to a bin full of dirty toilet paper, and having 300 poker players in one resort will no-doubt crash the WIFI network. But hey, Viva Hora Latina – you’re on vacation!

So yes, a vast difference in behavior exists, but is passion not part of your game like it is with the South American players? Think of your average guy in the U.S. as he roots for his NFL team. He’s most likely screaming at the television, launching out of his seat and jumping around the lounge room when his team scores a touchdown. What about when you river that two-outer when hidden behind your monitor while your buddy is there with you? Don’t lie, you’ve given him a high-five with a giant grin at the very least, if not run around the desk with your arms flung out like a clothesline screaming “bulllldooooozzzzer.” Or is that just me?

These gestures of “excessive celebration” are all within us. It’s human nature. Are we being too emotionally reserved in the live setting by forcing everyone to be “polite” and remain emotionless? We’re all playing the game for the same reason; there’s no team in our game. Yeah, you’re going to have situations where you think someone played a hand against you horribly, so watching him cheer wildly when he sweeps up your chips makes you just want to launch over that table and rip his hair out. It’s all subjective. But if you ever have or ever will be lucky enough to play in an LAPT event or the like, be prepared for banging tables wildly, jumping around screaming Spanish expletives, and your opponents pointing and yelling at you in either celebration or frustration. Don’t take offense, embrace it. You know that the kid inside you does it too sometimes.

Rosario, Argentina

September 16, 2010

Tags: LAPT, Latin American Poker Tour, Rosario, Argentina, Travel, Tourism.

In just a few days, I will be airborne for Rosario, Argentina for the grand finale of the Latin American Poker Tour's third season. Am I excited? Hell yes! I’ve done a little reading on what to expect, and I’m here to share what I found with you.

Rosario is a cultural city full of museums, theatres, and structures all rich in history. This is no small town – it has 1.2 million residents – but it still manages to escape the busy “international flavor” of Argentina’s capital city – Buenos Aires.

Getting There and Around

Rosario is 300km (187 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires. Taking a 50-minute flight with Aerolineas Argentinas is the easiest option, but it only leaves once a day at 9:15 p.m. Travel by road takes around three hours. Unless you want to hire a car, taking a bus would be the next best option. The last resort is a six-hour train ride, but I’ve been warned against it as they’re in pretty bad shape and not much cheaper than the bus, so don’t try it.

Busto?

Let’s face it, if you’re joining us for the Latin American Poker Tour Main Event, all but 24 of you will have at least a couple of unplanned days up your sleeves. Here are a few suggestions on exploring the gorgeous city.

The weather is starting to warm up, so it’s time for water sports. Taking a kayak on the Paraná River is the perfect escape from any bustling city. The beach lining the river’s edge, known as La Florida, is the perfect place to find a bar or restaurant and enjoy the day or night with a view of the island across the river.

Hire a bike and give yourself a personal tour of the iconic buildings, monuments and historic neighborhoods on your two wheels. There is so much to see in Rosario, including the National Flag Memorial, a structure that looks like a ship sailing to the future, representing the exact area where the Argentine flag was raised for the first time.

Can you shake it? Move it? Use it? Groove it?

This place is perfectly suited for the party-loving poker player. It sucks when you finally wind down after your long grind only to discover that the city is asleep. Rosario, however, is known for its nightlife. The clubs don’t heat up until 2 a.m., and they continue into the sunlit hours of the morning. Rosario is also known as the “Salsa Capital of Argentina,” so it's time to learn a thing or two.

The best news of this entire article? The women of Rosario are not only considered the most beautiful in Argentina, but there is a significantly disproportionate ratio of women to men. Meaning there are so many more women around. A little different to the usual scenery within any given poker room. Take it easy fellas.

Latin American Poker Tour

The Latin American Poker Tour Grand Final will be held at City Center Rosario, the biggest casino in all of South America with over 2,000 slot machines and 80 table games. The $4,700 + $300 buy-in Main Event commences on September 23rd 2010. With guaranteed fierce emotions at the table, five-star accommodation at Pullman, shopping, and a bowling alley, what more would you need?

See you in a few days at the beautiful Rosario, Argentina!

London

September 09, 2010

Tags: EPT, London, Travel, Tourism.

This month, hundreds of poker-playing peeps will be gathering in The Big Smoke for many reasons: the World Poker Tour which just wrapped up, Poker in the Park last weekend, World Series of Poker Europe coming up next week and PokerStars.com European Poker Tour London later in the month. Basically, a whole lot of poker.

It’s hard not to love London, one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve been there a few times, and got so excited when I was a kid seeing all the streets I knew so well from my days playing Monopoly. We’ve all seen pictures of the world-famous landmarks and read about the Royal Family, but if you haven’t yet had the chance to actually visit London, and you're going to find yourself walking around Leicester Square shortly, then read on!

The Necessities

  • Weather: average 68°F (20°C)
  • International Dialing Code: +44
  • Currency: The ever-so-expensive Pound; USD$1 = GBP£0.64

Getting There and Around

If you’ve done any European travel in your time, then you’ve most definitely experienced the nightmare that is Heathrow. That airport is so insanely huge that you’ll just want to get out of there as quick as possible. There’s a convenient train that takes you from the airport straight into town. Perfect for a budget, or if you’re in a big group trying to stick together. Otherwise a taxi should only take about 20-30 minutes.

The Tube, an underground train system, will be your best friend when getting around London. No matter where you are, there will be a station nearby with a train arriving within just a few minutes.

If you’re feeling outdoorsy, then pick up one of the 6,000 hire bikes that have been recently installed across the city, with over 400 docking stations within central London. This is the newest, easiest, cheapest and greenest way to get around town. Besides walking, obviously.

The Casino at the Empire

Located smack bang in the middle of London, The Casino at the Empire is a dark, intimate casino that is once again hosting this year’s World Series of Poker Europe. It's open 24-hours a day and the bars don’t close until 6 a.m. so there’s plenty of post-play drinks to be had.

The casino is situated in Leicester Square, in London’s West End – surrounded with restaurants, bars and comedy clubs so you don’t have to go far for some entertainment. Just ensure you pick wisely if you see a comedy show – unfortunately I ended up walking out of one in Leicester Square last year, if only I could remember what the place was called! Within West End you’ll find some awesome bars around Soho, and Oxford Street has more shopping than you could imagine, and plenty of tattoo and body piercing shops if you get spontaneous like I did and decide to stick a metal rod through your nose as your London souvenir.

Hilton London Metropole Hotel

If you’re kicking on later in the month for the European Poker Tour, then you’ll find yourself at the Hilton London Metropole each day, in the Paddington area directly across from the Edgeware Road underground station. You may find yourself using that station quite a bit to head out, unless you’re a lover of Middle Eastern food as there’s plenty surrounding the hotel such as Tarboush 2 on Edgeware Road which has been highly recommended for some authentic Lebanese food. The Hilton also has its own Asian Restaurant, Nippon Tuk, on the 24th floor for a nice view.

A walk through Hyde Park will take you to Knightsbridge, home to Harrods – the most extravagant department store I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the mood of a chilled afternoon and the weather is nice then grab some snacks and bottles of Magners and sit by the lake in Hyde Park. There’s a free date idea if you happen to meet a pretty Brit.

So Much to Explore!

There are plenty of tour operators to show you all that London Town has to offer, but I did most of it on my own two feet. It is a huge city, but the main attractions are a lot closer to each other than you think, and if not, there will be a Tube station nearby, or you can pick up one of the hire bikes I mentioned earlier. If you do love a bit of history then having a tour guide paint all the barbaric details of each spot is pretty intense, so I’d recommend you jump on a Big Bus Tour. Otherwise, get yourself a map and some good walking shoes. If you start from Leicester Square, head through Piccadilly Circus toward Buckingham Palace. Once you’ve had your eye-opening dose of the gigantic royal residence, head through St James’s Park toward the water for even more mammoth-ness along the River Thames like Big Ben, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge a little further down.

Me and my girls in London
Me and my girls in London

From September11 through 12, the Thames Festival will decorate the waterfront from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge with a carnival and exhibitions all weekend long, finished off on Sunday night with fireworks and performers on floats along the river, so heading that direction is a must if you’re there this weekend.

If you love a good market then you must head to Portobello Road in Notting Hill – it’s my absolute favorite. Or for something more alternative Camden Market is a great spot to pick up some black and metal.

Another favorite spot I stumbled across last year, was Carnaby London. It's a dainty little shopping and nightlife district just around the corner from Leicester Square with more than 150 shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs. This may not sound like your thing, but once again, a little cosmopolitan cafe on Carnaby Street is another brilliant date idea for whoever that lucky lady may be. Do yourself a favor, look it up.

Wine and Dine

Every time I’ve been to London I’ve just wandered the streets to find places to go, that’s the beauty of such a bustling city, there’s something around every corner. The only time I didn’t do this, was when I splurged on the most amazing Thai food at Nahm in Knightsbridge, the first Michelin-starred Thai Restaurant in Europe. With an Aussie chef cooking my favorite cuisine, I just couldn’t resist! If you love Thai and don’t want spend that much, then try Busaba, there are a few around town, with one right by Leicester Square, where you’ll get some great dishes for less than £10.

If you like Italian, then head to Spaghetti House just around the corner from The Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square. Or how about sitting in the shadow of Tower Bridge while eating lunch? Or for an amazing view at night like my friends and I had in the picture above, catch the Tube to Tower Hill station, walk toward the river and pick any bar or restaurant along Shad Thames (yes, that’s the street name). I had some great Italian food at Cantina del Ponte in a perfect spot outside by the water. Don’t forget to head that way this weekend for the Thames Festival I mentioned earlier.

Lastly, Good Luck!

I won't be joining you in London for the next crazy month of poker as I will be covering the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland and PokerStars.net LAPT Grand Final in Argentina, so I wish you all the very best of luck and thanks for reading!

Auckland

September 02, 2010

Tags: APPT, Auckland, New Zealand, Travel, Tourism.

Auckland, known as the “youngest city in the world,” is the largest city in New Zealand, with 1.3 million people calling it home. It is one of only a few cities that sits on the shores of two major oceans and is dotted with extinct volcanoes. New Zealand, despite being comparable in size to Great Britain or Japan, has a population of only four million – one of the world’s least-crowded countries – making it a sanctuary for those seeking peace and relaxation, or, on the flip side, a playground for a thrill-seeking adventure. Throw in some of the friendliest people on earth, and one of the most elite poker tournaments in the Southern Hemisphere, and you have yourself one hell of a vacation destination.

The Basics:

  • Language: English, but Maori is the native lingo
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar
  • International Dialing Code: +64
  • Weather: Cold!

Getting There and Around

If you’re coming from the US, you’ve got at least 12 hours of flying to do. Air New Zealand is your best, and by far the cheapest option. Don’t be fooled by the cheap fares – I’ve spent a lot of hours in the sky over the years, and they’re definitely up there as one of my preferred international airlines.

The airport is about a 30-minute drive from SKYCITY Auckland, the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour Auckland host casino, costing roughly NZ$70 for a taxi. The venue is so well located, only minutes away from the harbor, that most places to see are within walking distance. If you’re not interested in braving the cold, then a short taxi ride won’t cost much.

Auckland has also been labeled the “City of Sails,” with more boats per capita than any other city in the world. Eat your heart out Monaco. So with the mass of small islands and volcanic fields surrounding the city, why not jump on a yacht to get around for the day?

Here's a tour of the city we did last year straight from the airport.

The Accent

I can’t say I enjoy having my accent mistaken for that of a New Zealander. I’m not denying that Aussies sound a little strange at times, but the New Zealand accent has a particular twang that just makes everyone laugh, that is, if it’s not attached to a Māori, as they’re the only people it suits. Aussies love to make fun of the Kiwi accent, so much in fact that a YouTube video known as “Beached As” went crazily viral, and I just had to put together a little remake last year.

Adventures

You don’t need to travel far when seeking adventure in Auckland. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the SKYCITY building since directly above it is the Sky Tower, offering a 200 meter jump for a creative way to de-tilt on dinner break.

If you have time for a day trip, take a short ferry ride across to the stunning island of Waiheke, that is home to 92 kilometers of stunning beaches, vineyards, and seaside villages. Taking a few happy-snaps is the most you’ll get out of the beaches at this chilly time of year, but with over 30 vineyards to visit, you could make quite a boozy afternoon out of the trip. My favorite wines are produced in New Zealand, so I can’t leave without trying some direct from the vineyard. If you just want the fun and none of the responsibility of finding your way around, then taking a tour such as Wine on Waiheke is just what you need.

New Zealand is most famous for its extreme sports and fantastic ski seasons, so during these winter months the mountains are full of tourists seeking their share of fun in the snow. If you do have more than a day free to venture out to the slopes, then Queenstown on the South Island is the best place to go. If you don’t want to travel too far, head somewhere such as Mt. Ruapehu, the North Island’s premier skiing destination. It’s an active volcano (yep…) situated halfway between Auckland and Wellington, about a four-hour drive from Auckland city.

The Haka

If you’ve ever seen the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, then you’ve witnessed the extremely intimidating Haka and will 100 percent click on the below video to amuse yourself again. If you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favor. It’s a traditional Māori dance to acknowledge achievements or to give a warm welcome, but I wouldn’t want to be faced with this kind of hello in a dark alley.

I can't wait to head to Auckland once again for the PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour's fourth season. If you're not lucky enough to join us yourself, then you can catch all the live updates and videos right here on PokerNews.

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