LG... Life's Good
After a heavy year of non-stop travel, Angel and I finally have some time to ourselves for a well needed break. Our destination of choice? Mexico's incredible Playa del Carmen, located just under an hour south of Cancun.
I've been instagramming like crazy over the past week because this place is just so beautiful! If you're looking for a vacation destination, or even a temporary home to get back online, then why not join over 60 other American poker players who moved here since Black Friday? Imagine having all of this in your backyard!
We spent a month here last year also, so I'm starting to feel like a local. If you are contemplating a move, hit me up in the comments below and I'd be more than happy help you out.
That's it for this week, thanks for stopping by. I'm sure I'll have plenty more next week!
Last week was the inaugural Asia Championship of Poker in the casino-haven of Macau. The event was a great success, with heaps of well-known pros flying in to play in the HKD$100,000 Main Event – the largest buy-in Main Event that Asia has ever seen. I’ve been to Macau every year for four years, and this trip was by far my favourite.
The original destination of the APPT was Grand Waldo Casino, located on Taipai Island – which is more of the Las Vegas mirror image than the main island of Macau. They then moved to Grand Lisboa for a few seasons. This year, PokerStars Macau returned to their original home for the launch of ACOP. The huge difference this time around, in comparison to the earlier years, is that an extraordinary complex, known as Galaxy Macau, now towers over Grand Waldo with three luxurious hotels and a plentiful selection of dining, shopping and entertainment. No longer is Grand Waldo a dark and lonely hotel and casino on the outskirts of the Cotai Strip.
I would describe Galaxy as a combination of Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay – thanks to my favourite feature, the manmade beach and wave pool. Angel Guillen and I were lucky enough to stay at Galaxy Hotel, and even had a couple of nights at the incredible Okura Hotel, both thanks to some last minute generous help from one of the kindest people in the world, Bryan Huang. Both hotels are within the Galaxy Macau complex, along with a Banyan Tree – the epitome of luxury. One morning before work began (many thanks to the late starts each day), Angel and I had one of the most incredible experiences at the Banyan Tree Spa. Every second of our time in there was blissful. The staff were so warm and welcoming, the facilities were immaculate and impressively designed, and my facial was beyond amazing. Our treatment began with a foot soak and massage while we sipped on ginger tea and ate fresh fruit in our bamboo-lined room. It was heaven! Too bad I had to go to work immediately afterwards…
So, back to work I went, and I must say we were spoiled with smoke-free space at Grand Waldo, which was a nice change. Here is a quick video tour of the ACOP tournament area:
Within the ginormous space we had, there was a PokerStars Mobile Lounge, where two daily, free-to-enter, iPad SnG’s were being held, and the winner of each nine-handed tournament won an iPad! On top of that, there was also the Zoom Challenge where players had 20,000 in play-money chips to begin, and whoever ran it up the highest within 12 minutes, over the course of the tournament, would win an iPad. That same event will be held at PCA, although that will be more of a high-stakes challenge, as it boasts a $1,000 buy-in!
Donnie Peters challenged me to the iPad SnG, so I simply had to document my feat on video. Whether it turned out a feat for me or not, you’ll have to watch to find out. Hint: I’m not writing this on an iPad!
APPT President, Danny McDonagh, is one of my favourite Tournament Directors in the world. He is always bantering with players, staff, media or anyone in his path. He loves to have a great time and takes the effort to ensure players enjoy their experience to the fullest, both on and off the felt. He’s obviously a brilliant Tournament Director and has the deserving respect of all players in this region. He also doesn’t hold back when it comes to enjoying a party. In fact, none of the PokerStars APPT team do! Robin Lim, the Events Manager, is a magician. I don’t mean in the sense that he puts together unbelievable events (which he can); he’s literally the guy on stage performing magic tricks. So naturally, the party in Macau each year is always one of the best, and this year, the ACOP schedule was specifically worked around it. We finished play on Day 1, the night of the party, at 10pm, and we didn’t begin Day 2 until 5pm! The party was absolutely nuts - it was held at D2 Nighclub and it was Ladies Night. One "feature" about D2 (or perhaps Macau) is that there are countless beautiful women, on display, if you will. They literally wear numbers and you can order your favourite at the bar... It's definitely an eye-opener. Not as bad the "racetrack" that I witnessed last year! Anyway, here's the video of the party, it was pretty awesome.
Team PokerStars Pros Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and Eugene Katchalov were in town for the event, and it’s no secret that they’ve been pretty serious with their fitness regimes. So much so, that they have their trainer, Lincon Rodriguez travel the world with them. Lincon is such a daredevil, the complete definition of fearless. So he managed to successfully convince ElkY to bungy jump off the top of Macau Tower - the highest bungy jump in the world.
I have no idea how ElkY managed to work up the courage to take that jump, but I must say his “chicken dance” as he was jumping was absolutely hilarious. I’m much happier keeping my feet on the ground, though!
That’s it from me for now; next stop is Auckland, New Zealand this week for the ANZPT!
This weekend PokerStars.net is hosting an ANZPT Main Event and, as always, we're in tow with all the live updates.
Each time I return to Crown, which is at least a few times per year, there is always something new to see or try - restaurants, bars, casino games, shops. The works. The entire west end of the complex went through a major renovation this year, which is located just above the Crown Poker Room. There are a few cool bars in The West End, so we took the cameras through, and it's just all part of the job to enjoy a few drinks along the way!!
I'm writing this blog as I sit in my hotel lobby in Sanremo, Italy, waiting for my taxi to Nice, where I will begin my long journey back to Australia. For the past 10 days I've been in Sanremo for the PokerStars.it European Poker Tour. When flying all the way to Italy from Australia, it would have been crazy of me to not extend my stay a few days to be able to take the time and explore, so Angel and I did just that. The original plan for our days off was to spend an afternoon or two in nearby towns, but we loved Sanremo so much that we stayed here the entire time.
Sanremo is a pretty small town, so it's easy to explore on foot. La Pigna (The Pine Cone) is the oldest part of town, and the center of almost everything you need to see. Getting lost throughout these streets narrow streets was simply awesome, as you climb the steep hills and find yourself up atop of the entire city. Check out the following to see exactly what a mean:
We stayed at Hotel Miramare Continental Palace for 10 nights. The hotel is an old castle from the 1800's, overlooking the beach, and just a short walk from the casino. Our room had the most beautiful double doors that opened out to a balcony with a view of the beach - I loved it! While I haven't stayed anywhere else in Sanremo, I still could not recommend this hotel enough - provided that you receive a room with a balcony. It's well priced, a basic continental breakfast is included and lovely hotel staff. Just make sure you get a spacious room - as every room is completely different. A couple of my teammates at PokerNews were not as lucky and were squashed into what felt like a closet.
While I've been here, the amount that everyone has been raving about Ristaurante Mare Blu has been beyond belief. The key to its popularity, on top of the fantastic menu, is that in recent years, the clever owner recognised that catering for the hundreds of poker players in town for these two weeks each year was a huge business. They adjusted their schedule and menu to suit poker players on a limited dinner break, with a featured ravioli dish that is guaranteed to be served up in speedy time. Sarah Grant and I paid the restaurant a visit to see what all the fuss was about:
Casino San Remo is situated right in the centre of La Pigna, and was conveniently our office for the EPT, which drew in 797 players who each paid €5,000 to take part in the Main Event. It was an absolute festival of poker last week with excellent side events drawing in huge fields and awarding millions and millions of euros. The main spotlight was on the Main Event though, and the ever-so-deserving Frenchman, Ludovic Lacay was the one to take that title. Here is my interview with him straight after his win.
Thanks for reading my blog, now it's time for me to head home and get ready for ANZPT Melbourne at Crown Casino!
Wow, Barcelona is AWESOME. I've been here once before and loved it, but it was a whirlwind trip. This time, I was lucky enough to have a couple of days to chill out before the PokerStars.com EPT Barcelona kicked off. I managed to wander the streets aimlessly, eating amazing paella & tapas, while drinking the best sangria I've ever tasted. The vibe in this city is awesome with a quirky, kicked-back coolness, reminding me of a giant version of St Kilda - one of my favourite areas of my hometown, Melbourne. Here's a tour around town we filmed for PokerStars.tv, showing off some of my favourite spots:
What a week we've had here in Northern Cyprus for the World Poker Tour! The event was held at the five-star luxury Merit Crystal Cove Hotel & Casino, just a short drive from the popular harbor town of Kyrenia. With plenty of notables playing, and two Royal Flush Girls in tow, we were able to have a lot of fun off the felt in this Mediterranean playground. There were so many videos that earned themselves a top spot in my list of favourites, which you can catch in this edition of Video Vault but here's a quick video recap of all the fun, rolled into one:
Right now, I'm in the south of the island, in the awesome town of Larnaca, chilling out for the weekend until I head over to Barcelona for the EPT. It's a tough life on the road!! #lifesgood
Cyprus sits at the crossroads of three continents, attracting over two million vacationers a year. A tender division exists between the Greeks and Turkish populations, making for an intriguing drive across the border where you notice the distinct division from the Turkish north and Greek south. The international airport is in Larnaka in the south, and the drive from there to the north takes just over an hour through the mostly baron inland, but once you reach the coast, the sights are incredible.
The long-standing host of the World Poker Tour is the spectacular Merit Crystal Cove, an all-inclusive, beachside resort (see images below). A day at Merit Crystal Cove consists of a buffet breakfast by the pool, snorkel session in the ocean, followed by sunbathing on the beach with free cocktails, buffet lunch by the beach, more swimming and sunbathing, buffet dinner with more free drinks, a stop by the casino with even more complimentary buffets and beverages, sleep, and repeat. Tough, huh? Throw in a world-class poker tournament, and you’ve created a poker player’s haven.
The food at Merit Crystal Cove is fantastic, The resort is in the Turkish region so expect to sample many traditional breads and deserts. The buffet includes everything you could want: fish, chicken, kebabs and pasta. Live music accompanies dinner every night, and you might even have an appearance by a belly dancer or a stray cat.
- Language: English is widely spoken across the island, but Turkish is the main language in the northern Turkish-Cypriot community where the WPT is held.
- Currency: Turkish Lira is used in the north of the island.
- Tipping: While tipping is always appreciated, a 10 percent service charge is automatically applied in all hotels and restaurants on Cyprus, so you won’t be chased out the door if you forget to tip.
- Weather: Cyprus is in its heart of summer right now, so prepare for dry Mediterranean heat. The average sea temperature climbs to around 27° C -- bliss.
- Electricity: The power across the entire island is 230 volts, so beware North Americans, save the appliance disaster by leaving your hair dryer at home.
The town of Kyrenia, a 20-minute drive from the Merit Crystal Cove resort, is surrounded by the calm Mediterranean Sea to the north and green Besparmak Mountain Range to the south, offering some of the best scenery on the island.
In town, you'll find a small harbor framed by the Kyrenia Castle, a museum holding 6,000 years of history, fantastic waterside restaurants and plenty of souvenir shops. At night, a market along the harbor sells locally arts and crafts -- perfect gift to take home.
I’ve had quite a lot of Chinese meals in my day, having such a strong Asian influence in Australia, but I can still easily claim that one of the best Chinese feasts I’ve ever had was in Cyprus at Dragon at the Rocks Hotel & Casino in central Kyrenia.
For some traditional food, try Niazi’s, one of the most popular restaurants in Kyrenia. It’s situated right by the water and offers all sorts of food, but you’d be missing out if you don't order its trademark “Full Kebab” with charcoal-grilled kebabs and Meze, a traditional Middle Eastern cuisine full of dipping sauces and breads.
To aid after-dinner digestion, walk along the Kyrenia harbor through the stunning night markets I mentioned. I purchased some of my favorite jewelry there and then stopped by one of the harborside bars for a nightcap and Hookahs.
Season XI of the World Poker Tour kicks off with the Merit Cyprus Classic from August 4 through 9 and PokerNews will be there bringing you all of the action from the felt.
There is a wide range of travel companion applications out there, and while I haven't tried them all, TripIt has stumped me with its brilliance so much, that I've lost any desire to use any other. For the first time in my life, I have felt the ease of what it must be like to have a personal assistant.
Gone are the days of sifting through emails in search for confirmation numbers on your way to the airport, or for your frequent flyer program details when midway through a purchase. TripIt keeps all of your travel information in one, incredibly easy-to-use location.
Simply forward your travel-related confirmation emails (flights, hotel bookings, car rentals) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and it will instantly (and I mean, instantly) load your day-by-day itinerary to your account, recognised by the email address you forwarded the itinerary from. Not only will TripIt record your flight times and destinations, it will even supply gates, flight duration, aircraft, destination weather conditions, and even driving directions from the airport to your hotel. Everything you provide for your trip, will be saved in one folder, which will then be closed by the recognisation of your return flight. A new folder will then be automatically created for the dates of your next trip. This feature is king for those needing to keep track of trip histories.
If George Clooney had you constantly saying "yes, that's me!" while watching Up in the Air, then this app is 100% for you. Almost all frequent flyer and hotel rewards programs allow TripIt to store your account number, status, balance, expiry date, and even recent activity on one single page... All of them, on one page. You can then click on any account to see the full activity log. Amazing!
The most important tool is the iPhone/iPad app which stores all of this information for you to refer to on the go in the simplest form. Need your gate number? Got it. How long can you spend in Duty Free during your layover? Got it. Flight delay? It'll tell you before the airline does. Need an alternate flight? It will tell you what's available for that too. It will even connect with your flight's exact aircraft on SeatExpert to show you seat reviews for when making that crucial selection.
It's literally like having a personal travel assistant in your hand. If only it could carry your luggage for you too. One day, I'm sure.
FYI - I am in no way associated with this company, nor am I receiving any kickbacks for writing this blog. I simply love sharing things that I love, and this is most definitely one of them!
My favourite video that comes out of any event, is always the bloopers & highlights. I love looking back on all the good, and embarrassing times! Here's a compilation of myself, Kristy Arnett and Sarah Grant's finest moments.
For now, it's adios Las Vegas. Thanks for another AWESOME World Series of Poker. Next up, it's some well-needed Mexican beach time! to chillax!
One million dollars... I cannot comprehend having so much money that a lazy million is easily dropped on a seat in a poker tournament!
The Big One for One Drop is the biggest buy-in poker tournament in all of poker's history. Forty-eight players EACH paid $1,000,000 to play in the tournament, forming the biggest first place prize we've ever seen - $18,346,673!
Most importantly, the purpose of the entire event is that 11.1% of each buy-in goes to One Drop, a charitable organisation created by the founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, who is also the genius behind this entire event. Guy's incredible contacts in the ballin' business world is what lured so many of the amateur players, and in turn, lured so many poker pros.
Here's a video we made for the launch of the event, where the 43rd Annual World Series of Poker literally turned into a circus...