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Poker Blog established in 2003 as the first stop for poker news, poker stories, and bad poker advice.

October 9, 2005

Diary of a Rubber-less Traveler (Continued)

by Otis

AKA-- How to go broke without ever playing a hand

Continued from here.

I don't carry rubbers when I travel. I pack with slightly more clothes than the Accidental Tourist would recommend. I carry a suitcase, a garment bag, a backpack, and whatever I shove in my pockets. Nowhere in any of the bags or pockets will you find a condom. The reason is pretty simple. As Daddy always said, "Don't point a gun unless you plan to shoot it."

My random target shooting days ended about ten years ago.

I own condoms, though. Back when Mrs. Otis went off the pill in prepartion for L'il Otis, I bought condoms in bulk. Over the internet no less. I ordered like 100 of them. The arrived in the mail one day and I played with them like they were pennies fallen from heaven. I picked them up in great handfuls and let them fall through my fingers onto the bed. If I'd been alone, I might have yelled "Condoms! Condoms!" in my most maniacal voice.

But I wasn't alone. Mrs. Otis was sitting there. I could see her making mental note of the count. She looked at me sideways, as if to say, "You're certainly very confident of yourself."

Needless to say, by the time the condoms were unncessary, I still had about eighty left. They're mashed in a bathroom drawer, growing old toward their expiration date, and mocking me each time I go looking for the nail clippers. I can almost hear the ones in the back scoffing about my eyes being bigger than my virility.

The thing is, I always got a kick out of rubbers. Early in high school, I carried one around in my wallet. Later in high school, the 21 year old girl that I made time with kept them in a basket by her bed. Once I got to college, I'd run up to the Student Health Center, grab a handful, and run back to the dorms screaming, "Condoms! Condoms!" Later in college, I'd keep a supply in my sock drawer for the right occasion.

In recent years, I haven't had much need for them. Of course, like any man, I don't like wearing them. But I really like having them around, if only as a reminder that when I first bedded my wife, I had to convince her that I really kept condoms around and didn't go bumming them at the last minute. Come on, honey. I stopped that after my freshman year (thanks, Rich).

So, I still own them. They're mine and nobody can take them away from me. I suspect Mrs. Otis inventories them from time to time to make sure I'm not taking them out and on trips with me. That's fine. As, I said, I don't pack rubbers when I travel. They are little more than a latex invitation to be an idiot, and frankly, I have come up with much better ways of being an idiot than cheating on my wife.


London, in all its glory, had been unremarkable on the poker front. The folks at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino (aka The Vic) seemed almost bothered to have a world class poker tournament in their venue. From all indications the cash games were cheap and soft. I heard very believable tales of people cashing in for 50 pounds, and cashing out for 800 after a few hours. I, in all of my glory, did not have a chance to play. The Vic was historic, if only in that it still maintined a fairly 1980s view of technology. Wireless internet was no where to be found. The poker tournament was tight and hot, and not in a good way. The only moments of even vague fun were conversations with Isabelle and Luca, two of my favorite people on the tour.

Every night at dinner, I'd run from the casino screaming "Condoms!" (okay, not really) and onto Edgware Road, where Middle Eastern men smoked from giant hookahs and Middle Eastern women hid behind black veils and made sure their children didn't get run over by double decker buses. Huge chunks of meat spun on giant spits, dripping grease into pans below and wafting smoke out onto the road. One night I got taken for about 10 pounds by a gypsy cab driver who took advantage of my obvious desire to be anywhere but near the casino.

So, it was with great joy that I escape London in the back of a slow moving cab. The cab driver listened to French lauguage instructional tapes for the entire ride. By the end of the cab trip, I felt like I'd caught up on all the french I'd learned in high school and college. What a freakin' waste.


It was only a two-hour flight, but the casino in Baden, Austria was a different world. The ceilings were high and adorned with glass ornaments. The chips were clean. The tournament was amazing. There was no need for a dinner break, because the waitresses would deliver filet and prawns to players at the table. Desserts of every kind lined the walls.

By day two of the tournament, the media had found themselves in such a state of bliss, they were unsure what to do with a night off. During a meal of fine food and drink, one member of the press suggested a friendly sit and go in the back of the casino. We figured we could wrangle some chips and a dealer to accomodate us.

After the meal, the same guy sidled up to me conspiratorially.

"For a variety of reasons," he said in his thick British accent, "we can't have our game here."

He looked around to see who was listening.

"But it seems we have acquired enough casino chips to have a game in one of the local hotels."

Twenty minutes later, eight of us were in two cabs, riding through Baden's back streets, a bucket of Casino Baden chips in tow.

We arrived at the hotel and walked through the front doors. Directly in front of me was a giant poster of Pope Benedict.

I thought little of it. I couldn't read the German writing on all the posters. I took to helping the assembled players find a suitable table and chairs for the game. By the time we'd found a large and beautiful table in the back of the room and covered it with a table cloth, I'd settled into the quiet smile of a man about to play cards.

That's when I noticed all the collars. Suddenly, the room was full of priests. Somehow our game had ended up in the midddle of some sort of Catholic convention.

We'd not secured enough chips from the casino, so the lone female of the group, who was serving as tournament director, came over with an armful of match boxes. The front of the boxes all were printed with Christian crosses, presumbly to light the priests' cigarettes or holy candles.

The game, a friendly 50 euro buy-in freeze out began, and I settled into a rockish image. The table had four pros and four regular joes like me. Iwan, a Welshman with an endless supply of sheep-screwing jokes, sat to my left. Jen, an American-Englishwoman was next. Julian sat next to her, with Tony on his left. Rolf, Conrad, and Stratford Steve rounded out the table.

Three levels into the first game, I loosened up a bit. I called a small raise with QJo in the cutoff. The flop came down QT9 rainbow. Stratford Steve bet out and I raised the pot. I figured top-pair open-ended wasn't that bad. Iwan thought for just a moment before pushing all in. Steve folded and I fell into the tank.

Tony, king of dry-humor and a wiley player, offered, "I dunno, Otis. It smells a bit move-ish to me."

And it did smell a bit move-ish, but I didn't think long enough. I didn't quite have the odds to call. The only thing I could think I was beating there was JT, which was a reasonable holding for him. However, there were a lot of other hands he could've had that beat me. In retrospect, I should've laid it down. Rock Otis would've. But, I had loosened up.

I called to see his 9T. His two-pair held up and I was out in seventh place. I looked to my left and a priest was looking at me. His mouth formed a giant "O" and he clapped his hand over his lips. Then--and I could never make this up--he did a little dance and headed for the elevator.

I ordered a beer from the waitress and sat with a flushed face until the second game began.

The second game was a 100 euro buy-in and I figured to make my money back. We had agreed to pay everything to first place but leave everything open for deals.

During the game, in which the phrase, "It smells a bit move-ish" became a staple, Tony told a story of a friend who had won a sizable sum in a tournament. When he returned home, he didn't want to tell his wife how much he had earned, so he put a chunk of the cash (10,000 euros) in a video cassette box behind a wardrobe in his daughter's room. One day the man returned home to see the wardrbe had been moved. The cassette box was gone. He never saw the money again.

As I sat thinking about how I would never do something so foolhardy, I went on to get three-handed with Rolf and Julian. A blind steal eventually got picked off and I was out in third.

After a night where I never saw a hand better than QQ (and that was only once), I walked away happy to have only lost 150 euros. Playing with proper players is refeshing and I thought it would help me out with my game. After all, my online bankroll was at an all-time high. And I would never be so stupid as to put all my money in one box.


It took me 22 hours to get from my hotel in Austria to my home in South Carolina. During that time, I nearly missed two flights and lost two pieces of luggage.

I got home and slept for a long time. When I woke up today, there poker forums were abuzz with word that Party Poker had cut off all its skins. I was briefly miffed. For the past six months, I've been playing all my cash games on a Party skin. I'd been offered a rakeback deal which had proven to be a nice source of walking-around money.

During a conversation with someone I know in the business, I heard the phrase, "Run on the bank."

My stomach did two flips and landed on the floor.

Holy fucking shit.


A few years ago, a local finance company that held $280 million worth of unsecured investments closed its doors. It had been funneling money to its parent company and supporting a failing business for too many months. To do this, it had been using the unsecured investments of thousands of regular working folk who had put their money in the 40 year-old company for a nice 8% interest deal. One morning, everybody woke up and realized their life savings were gone. What's more, there wasn't much of any chance of that money ever coming back.

During my years in the TV business, failed investment company became the focus of my life. I spent countless hours investigating how it happened. I spent countles hours listening to the people who had lost everything. I watched old men cry. I read coroner's reports about somebody who committed suicide. I watched people go to jail. It was hell.

All along, though, I promised myself that I would never be so short-sighted as to put all my eggs in one basket. Never depend on one company to protect everything you have worked for.


But, of course, I didn't listen to myself. For a variety of reasons, I have kept 75% of my poker bankroll in this Party skin. The remaining 25% is on Party itself. I play tournaments on Party and cash games on the skin.

I spent a good part of the morning doing everything I could to collect my bankroll on this skin. The maximum withdrawl from the site accounts for about a third of my account. That means, given the withdrawls actually go through, it will take me three days to withdraw everything.

The site has returned an e-mail and promises the withdrawls will go through. Still, I have felt sick all day. The amount of money involved bascially accounts for about a year's worth of succesful poker play and, if I should lose it, it will essentially cripple me. I will have to start over. That is not something I am prepared to deal with right now.

I'm not ready to jump off a poker bridge yet, but I have still yet to recover my stomach from the floor. I can't see straight.

As those who know me already know, the only reason I play on this site is because I can't play for the site for which I work. It just so happens, the site for which I work would never have this problem because it keeps all player account money in a segregated account and never uses player funds for operating expenses.

I have a lot to talk about on this subject, but right now, I'm not myself. Plus, I may be more freaked out than is necessary. Hopefully by week's end, this will all be worked out.

In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and start trying to figure out how many eggs belong in each basket.

| Otis' Thoughts