Around the World with LG

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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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From One Bar to Another

October 07, 2010

Tags: Aussie Millions, APPT, LAPT, WSOP, Gloria Balding, Kristy Arnett, Matthew Parvis, Snoop Dogg, Melbourne, Las Vegas, Cebu, Florianopolis.

My job here at PokerNews is really hard. It’s so tough that I have to endure party after party after party when attending all of these poker tournaments across the globe. Throughout all the sweat and vodka cocktails, I can promise you, with so much dedication to my job, I will never fail to attend each and every one of these parties, just so I can show you what you could have been going through. In self-recognition for such hardship, I decided to compile my most standout parties to date and tell you why I loved them so much, of course!

PokerStars.net LAPT Florianopolis

I’ve always spoken openly about the giant soft spot in my heart for the Latin American Poker Tour, as it never fails to provide such a good time with such amazing people. The party in Florianopolis, Brazil, would definitely be my favorite of Season 3. I’m not sure if that’s because I spontaneously tore up the dance floor with Team PokerStars Pros Joe Cada and Veronica Dabul until the wee hours of the morning, had my first taste of a Caipirinha, or because I was lucky enough to receive dance lessons from the best of the best – as Kristy Arnett puts it, Brazilian women win at life – and wow, can they move their hips like no other! Enjoy the second half of this one fellas.

PokerStars.net APPT Cebu

It excites me so much knowing this tournament is just around the corner. The PokerStars.net Asia Pacific Poker Tour is returning to Cebu, Philippines, to fill up the stunning Shangri-La Mactan Resort once again for a trip of absolute luxury. I’ll be writing more about this amazing location in coming weeks, but for the party – think crashing waves, palm trees, sand, balmy nights, fireworks, incredible food, and flowing drinks served by sexy Filipina. What more could you want?

Aussie Millions

My favorite time of year at home in Melbourne is Australia Day – the entire country goes wild. The day always falls during Aussie Millions, which is just another reason to add to the long list of reasons why you should head to Melbourne for one of the best tournament series in the world. I snuck out to St. Kilda Beach during the 2010 Aussie Millions to show off just how crazy the national holiday party is.

World Series of Poker

Surely it's no surprise that there is more than one party on my list for this category. The first: combine Snoop Dogg with Las Vegas and there is some serious fun to be had. All I am going to say is, thank you PokerStars!

Next was the PokerNews Kick off Party at Lagasse’s Stadium on the eve of the 2010 World Series of Poker. The team got together for the first time for the year, and we were all bursting at the seams with anticipation to get started. It’s always a treat when Gloria Balding, Kristy Arnett and I get to actually work together in the same video, and on top of that including the rest of our PokerNews friends that usually hide behind the screens of their laptop for the Live Reporting Blog. Meet some of our team and their not-so-accurate predictions pre-WSOP. Note: don’t miss Editor in Chief Matthew Parvis' red-wine mouth.

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♥♥♥ RT @AngelGuillen25: Amazing views at 12 apostles http://t.co/3Pn3gLds
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Champagne is evil
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