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.
Perth is definitely one of the world’s most liveable cities. It’s so clean, serene, and beautiful.
In the following video I give a tour of some of my favourite spots around town, including King’s Park with it’s stunning views and pristine gardens, beautiful City Beach, along with it’s must-visit place for a beachside feast, Clancy’s Fish Pub. We also drop into Cottesloe Beach where I enjoyed an incredible lunch at Indiana (although I wasn’t able to film inside – let me tell you, it is awesome).
The tour ends at Crown Perth, where we're located all this week for the Australia and New Zealand Poker Tour, filming for PokerNews.com and PokerStars.tv.
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:
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.
I've been trying to hold back on instagram-ing (follow me @lynngilmartin) too many pics of Sydney so that I don't drive everyone crazy - but I just love this place it's so hard not to! Sydney is definitely one of the world's most stunning cities - even when you fly in you can see exactly how gorgeous it is with a birds-eye view of the water canals lacing throughout the big city. If you've never been here, (or even if you have) then check out my quick tour around the main spots of town to see just some of the reasons why I love it so much!
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.
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!
Cyprus is the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, sitting at the crossroads of three continents, attracting somewhere around 2.4 million vacationers per year. Hundreds of poker pros will be gracing the Mediterranean shores of Cyprus this month for the 2010 Merit Cyprus Classic. I was lucky enough to join them last year on a trip I’ve ranked as one of my favorite on my busy PokerNews schedule, so I’m here to fill you in on my tips and adventures before you head over for the return of the event next week.
The Important Stuff
- Language: English is widely spoken across the island, but Turkish is the main language in the northern Turkish-Cypriot community where the tournament is held.
- Currency: Turkish Lira is used in the north of the island. We were able to exchange our dollars hassle-free at the venue’s casino cage.
- Tipping: While tipping is always appreciated worldwide, a 10 percent service charge is applied in all hotels and restaurants, so you won’t be chased out the door if you don’t tip.
- Weather: Cyprus is in its heart of summer right now so prepare for dry Mediterranean heat. What more motivation do you need to wake up early everyday and jump in the ocean? The average sea temperature climbs up to around 27° C, so it may take some serious self-control to drag yourself out of the water and into the casino every day.
- Electricity: The power voltage across the entire island is 230 volts, so all you North Americans should save the appliance disaster and space in your luggage by leaving your blow dryer at home.
- Legal Age: You must be 18 to gamble in Cyprus, but if you’re 17 you’re free to slip in a few alcoholic drinks while watching your friends on the rail.
Without delving into a touchy subject, there is a strong division between the Greeks and Turks on the island of Cyprus. The international airport is located in the south of the island, occupied by the Greeks. To get to the venue in the north part of the island, you must cross the border into the Turkish occupied area. If the change of language on the road signs isn’t enough of a distinction from one side to the other, then perhaps the gigantic army barracks and heavily armed guards surrounding each side of the border is enough of an indication.
Foreigners can freely cross the border. If you have a taxi driving you through, the driver will assist you with passport control. If you’re considering hiring a car, however, be sure to rent the car from the south (at the airport), enabling you to drive it to the north. If you hire from the north, your insurance coverage will not allow you to drive it to the south.
The luxurious five-star Merit Crystal Cove Hotel & Casino sits on its own private beach in the north of the island, offering everything a poker player needs for their dream getaway, from all-inclusive buffet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, traditional entertainment at night, crystal clear beaches, and of course, the Grand Casino Club. So if you happen to find yourself eliminated early, look at the bright side: you get to spend more time on the hotel's private beach with free (strong!) cocktails and a buffet feast by the water.
Check out last year's tour of the venue.
See the Sights
Although the resort has everything you need, if you can spare a day to drag yourself away from the beach, or the felt, you should take a 20-minute drive into the town of Kyrenia, surrounded by the calm Mediterranean Sea to the north and greenery of the Besparmak Mountain Range to the south, offering some of the best scenery on the island.
Within the town is a small harbor framed by the Kyrenia Castle, home to many historical artifacts and is the current resting place of the world’s oldest shipwreck. You can visit the harbor to relax and soak up the 6,000 years of history, have a bite to eat alongside all the yachts, or spend an afternoon shopping.
Into the Night
I’ve had quite a lot of Chinese meals in my day with 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 The Dragon, located at the Rocks Hotel & Casino in central Kyrenia. If you don’t believe me, ask Gus Hansen and Huck Seed, who also dined there at the same time.
For some traditional food, hit up Niazi’s, one of the most popular restaurants in Kyrenia. It’s situated by the water and offers all sorts of food, but you’d be crazy not to order their trademark “Full Kebab,” with charcoal-grilled kebabs and accompanying Meze, a traditional Middle Eastern cuisine full of dipping sauces and breads. I walked out feeling six months pregnant.
For an after-dinner-digest, walk along the Kyrenia harbor through the night markets. It was here that I purchased some of my favorite jewelry, hung out with some stray dogs, and then stopped by one of the harborside bars for a nightcap and Hookahs.
Coverage of the 2010 Merit Cyprus Classic starts next week and the PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be bringing you all the action from the felt and as always follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.
I've been in the wonderful land of Brazil for more than three days now for the PokerStars.net LAPT Florianopolis. Writing the PokerNews Jet Set guide got me pretty pumped to get here, and all expectations have certainly been met so far, except for the weather!
Jesus Loves Me, I Hope
We got off to a rough start with some delayed flights that left us stranded in Rio de Janeiro for a day. It certainly wasn’t the worst that could happen, as it allowed me to tick off another city on my map of "been-there-done-that!" Our goal was to check out Jesus. We didn’t quite know where to go and with all five of us not speaking a lick of Portuguese, we simply pointed to “centro” on our trusty map and off we went. We were successfully dropped in town, not-so-coincidentally directly in front of a restaurant with “American Bar” plastered across the wall.
Jesus was hiding his face behind a giant cloud curtain, so after a typical pay-per-kilo feast and a mosey around the city, we decided to get closer to catch a glimpse of the iconic Christ statue. Still no love. We jumped in another taxi to the airport feeling a little rejected.
After more than 24 hours in transit, we finally made it to Florianopolis, known as Floripa by the locals. I had anticipated winter weather, but who thinks to bring boots and coats to South America? Not a naïve Australian. With one pair of jeans and seven summer dresses, I’m in big trouble this week with 10 degrees Celsius weather and pouring rain.
Our first project at any stop is to film all the city sights for our opening video. Getting motivated to brave the cold was tough, but it ended up a really enjoyable day. We’re staying at Costão do Santinho, one of the best beachside resorts in Floripa, which sits within a giant forest. On every corner you turn is another pool overlooking the beach, and all accommodation is set within individual villas. We took a hike through the mountain on Santinho beach, finding a small lagoon and sand dunes peeking through the mass of bamboo. Next up was Lagoa da Conceição where the team enjoyed a beer by the water. Check out the finished product:
How Do You Say…?
You can always rely on the language barrier to add a little entertainment to travel adventures. I like to use Google’s translator tool to allow me to tweet to my Portuguese friends. I decided to tweet my frustrations at how much I suck at speaking the language. Little did I know that the term suck may translate directly, but the use is reserved only for describing a certain related sexual activity. Much to the entertainment of Andre Akkari, Felipe Ramos, Maridu Mayrink and hundreds of other Brazilians, I just tweeted what seemed to be a fulfillment of some wildest dreams. An influx of @mentions and new Brazilian followers came through, along with tears of laughter at dinner that night as Akkari proceeded to show every Portuguese-speaker in the restaurant.
PokerNews vs PokerStars
A spontaneous after-dinner-soccer match is standard in this region of the world. Armed with the video cameras, the PokerNews team and Team PokerStars Pros Joe Cada, Andre Akkari and Gualter Salles went on a mission to find the football field. Brazil defeated USA ― no surprise there. The video will go up in the next couple of days so check it out on PokerNews.com. The next challenge will be Sarah Grant and me in a Latina dance-off against Team PokerStars Pros Maridu Mayrinck and Veronica Dabul. Again, no surprises there who will come out on top! Stay tuned.
Oh Yeah, Poker!
Of course, the reason we’re all here is for the fourth stop on the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour’s third season. All of the Latin American PokerStars Team Pros are in town, along with Joe Cada and Victor Ramdin to mix it up, PartyPoker’s Felipe Ramos, and hundreds of lucky online qualifiers who make the field nice and juicy. All eyes will be on Argentinean Team PokerStars Pro Nacho Barbero – not only did he set LAPT history by being the first Team PokerStars Pro to win an LAPT Main Event in Punta del Este, but he then smashed that record by backing it up with a second LAPT Main Event title immediately after, in Lima. Can he do it a third time? Anything’s possible!