LG... Life's Good
Many people in the Philippines are exceptionally poor — living in shacks, consuming not much more than boiled rice.
Yet they are quite possibly THE happiest people on the planet.
Their connectedness is inspirational. They don’t have doors on their homes – the mothers of all the villages are outside together, helping, talking, loving. Their gratitude for the simplest things is amazing. Their perspective is grounded and they absolutely love life. They’re not stuck in their story of self-pity.
They have FUN. The kids run around the streets fearlessly, with smiles from ear to ear. Not one tantrum in sight. Every corner you turn there is someone greeting you with so much genuine joy. They’re honest. They’re real. And they are rich with unconditional love.
While we can do a lot to help Filipinos monetarily, we can also learn a heck of a few important lessons from the beautiful people in this place.
I haven’t been to any other islands other than Cebu and Mactan, but I can tell you that I absolutely LOVE it here!
In the following video, we take a REAL tour of Cebu, diving deep into the Filipino street-culture. This was one of the funnest videos I’ve made to date. An amazing experience.
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.
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!
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 $35 will buy a hamper to feed a Filipino family this Christmas. And yes, that is a PokerStars bag I gave him.
I'm in Miami B#$*%
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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!
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
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?
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.