Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Catching Up

Here's what you may have missed in the life of Jewish Girl:

*  Only a few days after getting back from Bonnaroo, I moved out to Las Vegas as part of a trial team.  Trial began in late June, but then settled a few days into jury selection.  I've mentioned a few times in the last several months being SUPER excited about a work assignment that I couldn't talk about in detail --- well, this was it!  It was pretty much my dream come true:  not only did I get to go to trial, but I got to go to trial in MY FAVORITE DOMESTIC VACATION DESTINATION EVER.  Of course, there's not much spare time on trial, but Vegas is a great place to spend three spare hours a week.

*  Despite being SUPER bummed that the case settled (not only do I love trial and did I want to see the whole thing through, but I was also looking forward to spending my whole summer in Vegas), I took a week of vacation in Vegas and treated myself to a pool/spa day and a shopping excursion.

At the Wynn pool, which is beautiful and feels like sitting in the Italian countryside.

Vegas Sale Haul
...It was my professional duty to go on with my life, you know?

*  After my two days of relaxation, I played in a $1,000 buy-in poker tournament at the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

A small glimpse of the room.

This was the biggest event I'd ever played (almost 2900 entrants with a three-day long structure) and it was the most I'd ever spent on a tournament entry by FAR, but playing in the WSOP was a bucket-list item and something I'd always wanted to do.  When my case settled, it was like the clouds parted and left nothing standing between me and this poker tournament.  Not only was I already in Vegas, but I didn't even have any other active cases at the time!  The timing was just too perfect, and I figured playing in the WSOP would be a cool enough experience that it would be worth my buy-in as long as I could last at least a few hours.

Me with my entry ticket, the day before the first day.

*  The tournament was SO fun.  I played with poker pros (many of whom I didn't recognize, but figured out were pros either because the poker news guys talked to them a lot, or because other players at my table seemed to care an inordinate amount about the random guy to my left or right) and minor celebrities (including the executive producer of Weeds, who was at my table briefly on Day 2, and the guy who played Marshall's dad in How I Met Your Mother (and who also voices Patrick the Starfish on Spongebob), who sat a few tables away from me on Day 1).

*  On the first day, I got my photo taken for this cool souvenir:

I asked the poker photographer to show up early because I had no idea how long I'd be able to survive, and she arrived at my table on the very first hand of the tournament!  It was a bit embarrassing to have my photo taken so soon but I love the result.

*  We made it into the money at the end of Day 1 at around 1:30 in the morning.  Right before we broke the money bubble (meaning that only one person remained to be eliminated before we would all make money), the tables all went "hand for hand," which means that the dealers only dealt one hand at a time before stopping and waiting for the other tables to finish.  Once the dealers were done with the hand, they had to stand up and wait for instructions from the tournament director.  It was crazy and chaotic in the best way; the mood was so amped up that you could feel it in the air.  I think I probably would have folded aces on the bubble just to make sure I made it into the money.

*  Eventually, the bubble broke (I think the bubble boy had pocket jacks, but I don't know what his opponent had --- I saw him walking away disorientedly and heard him tell someone, "I knew I should have folded those jacks") and everyone started cheering.  We'd all made our buy-in + 80% back, at least!  We played for another half an hour on day one and then came back for Day 2.  Despite accumulating a ton of chips on day one, I spent most of day two with very few chips relative to the blinds (or forced bets), so I mostly sat tight, waited for good hands, and then stuck with them as long as possible.

*  I sat directly in front of the poker news desk for all of Day 1 without being noticed, despite having a bigger chip stack at the time than several of the female pros who were being blogged about (note: the news updates focus entirely on pros and celebrities --- regardless of how big your chipstack is --- until you get down to the final few tables, when amateurs have lasted long enough to matter; the poker news services reported on tournament "chip leaders" who had fewer chips than less well-known players sitting at my very table, but the purported chip leaders were more visible pros).  Not that I was bitter --- I didn't mind flying under the radar and I figured, probably similarly to the reporters, that I could bust out at any moment.  However, I stayed in the game and very late in the day on Day 2, once we were down to four tables, the news guys asked for my name.  Shortly afterwards, I doubled up on a big hand and noticed this on the website:

Love the title!  (Also, now you know why I don't use my full name on the blog --- the spelling is unique enough that a first-name-only Google search will get you to me more often than not.  I like to maintain some anonymity here, to the extent possible...)

*  As more and more people got knocked out, I could hardly believe my eyes as we continued moving up in the payout structure.  After every few people, we all made a little more money.  It was so exciting!  Once we got down to three tables, we moved into a smaller, better-lit area to facilitate photography.

The new area had spectator seating!

*  Towards the end of Day 2, when we broke into the final two tables (20 people), the ESPN guys handed out this form for us to fill out, should we make it to the TV-table (final 9 people) on Day 3:

*  I was very short in chips at this point and felt the questionnaire would be a bit short-lived for me.  (Spoiler alert:  I did not make it into the final 9.)  But beyond my most reasonable expectations, I managed to make it into Day 3, and as Day 2 came to a close, I was greeted by this article:

"Two women, Dana Castaneda and [me], still remain and are both looking for a World Series of Poker bracelet to add to their collection of jewelry."

Hoping-to-Win-a-lot-of-Money-on-Day 3 OOTD?

*  I came into Day 3 with the shortest chip stack of the 14 remaining players and did not have supremely high hopes that I would last very long.  Luckily, I managed to double-up with a small pocket pair to stay in the game.

Great photo, no?  Also, you can see how small my chip stack is given that I am holding it in one hand.  Haha.

*  While my double-up was enough to take me into the next level of payouts (good for an additional $6,000!) I was unable to make the final table.  I busted out when my AQ ran into a pair of tens in the big blind.  My opponent's tens held up and the tournament went on without me.

Yes, this is the same guy who doubled me up when I had aces on Day 2!  Luckily, my chips did not ship in vain, as Jason went on to take second place in the whole tournament.

But $26,128!!  Not a bad payout for my first WSOP if I do say so myself!

I like to think that Hellmuth is holding up two ones for "11th Place."

And awesomely, the other woman in the tournament with me, Dana Castaneda, took first place!  It's very rare for a woman to win a WSOP bracelet in a "mixed" event (meaning both men and women), so this is an amazing achievement for her!

Overall, I had SUCH a fun time.  Winning money was obviously a huge plus, but just getting to play for longer than a couple of hours with such skilled opponents was fantastic.  I would love to do this again next year, work permitting.  I set aside some of my winnings already...

...and the rest went to student loans!

So, that's what I've been up to lately.  Now that trial is over, I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a more reasonable work schedule with more time for blog-posting.  I left the office in time to have dinner with a friend yesterday, and I realized I'd almost forgotten what it felt like not to eat take-out at my desk!

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