Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hong Kong & Macau

So I've been sitting here in room 2876 of the Grand Lisboa hotel in Macau and have been pretty bored actually, so I thought what better way to kill time than to blog again? After getting back from Australia, I spent a whole month (!) at home in Fairfax where I just enjoyed the home life. However chill it is, that is ultimately the problem with it – home is hella boring. That should be no surprise to me I guess, since I am so used to being on the go and spending time elsewhere. That said, my strongest desire these days is to move out and live on my own, permanently. I really wanted to move out to San Francisco but plans for that fell through, so I considered NYC, Sydney (wonderful place I'm definitely going back to sometime), and the greater Northern Virginia area – Arlington. The last place on that list is home for most of my good friends so it'd be a great place for me to hang out. That and being close to my family are two things going for me. It's close to Washington DC so if it ever gets too boring, I'll METRO on over to the national mall. Additionally, it really is tough moving to a completely new place and starting my life and social network all over. Even though I've got some roots in Sydney from my previous stay there, it's nothing like Arlington. Besides I can always move to Sydney a year down the road. I just hope they haven't banned me from the country; I got 5-6 speeding tickets from the rental car (caught on camera) during last trip there, and I don't even know how they expect to collect from me in the states... I suppose Arlington just makes the most sense for me for the next six months to one year.

Anyways, after a month living at home, I won a package to participate in a tournament in Macau, which is a small island 30 miles west of Hong Kong. I flew to HK about 2 weeks ago and I spent about 4 days there with my family before meeting up with some previous friends I made here, and of course my friend Brandon (we did the whole NZ thing together and met up again in Sydney/Vegas). We went exploring for a little bit before we hopped on a boat over to Macau. After checking into a grand hotel shrouded in opulence known as the Best Western, we walked the streets everyday and almost died in the heat and humidity. We played and finished the first of two tournaments there before heading over to the Grand Lisboa hotel which I'm at now. This hotel is actually deserving of the previous said title; it has yummy restaurants, a sweet gym+pool, and the rooms are dank. I actually haven't left the building in 2 days, which is a depressing, so I'm going on a night run of Macau as soon as I'm done writing this. This hotel has the strangest structure in Macau, and maybe the world; it is supposed to look like a lotus leaf, so its sides are very unique. Our room is at one of the edges of the “leaf,” and there's a pretty nifty angled window where you can (but probably aren't supposed to) lean on and experience the feeling of flying; pretty scary/invigorating.

I recently lost the 2nd of the tournaments that was held here, so I am finished with all the tourneys that I planned to play live this trip. There's not really much to do in Macau besides exploring the many hotels/casinos and partaking in sketchy activities (aka, Las Vegas). Therefore this place doesn't really hold interest for me, and Brandon and I will be returning to Hong Kong as soon as the hotel is up. We still haven't seen Disctrict 9 or Inglorious Basterds!!!! #1 priority for both of us obv.

My next post will be at home in the states, hopefully when I'm all settled down... in A-Town!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Australian Outback & Las Vegas

So another quick 2 months since my last entry has gone by, I really need to get around to updating this thing more. Since my last entry about Monte Carlo, I flew back to Sydney after stopping in Hong Kong for a few days again to visit family and dine in exquisite(ly tasty) places. The morning I got to Sydney, I met my friend who had flown in from New Jersey as expected, and we hung out at my apartment for the next couple weeks. Since we are both poker players, we would be play online in the mornings and then go out to the parks and city to explore during the afternoons and evenings. We even purchased a frisbee to throw around and thought about joining some ultimate frisbee leagues, but we didn't have time and they didn't seem to have openings. We also went to the Star City Casino and sat at the same poker table to own some old Aussies.

Not long after I got back to Syd, his friend from NYC who had been backpacking New Zealand and the northern coasts of Australia (Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast) came down to meet us (call her Jennifer). We all hung out for a weekend in town, even watching a performance at the Opera House for the first time; it was a orchestral/theatrical rendition of Amadeus about Mozart and his madness. It had a sweet opera singer lady dressed in red; that had to be the highlight :) After Sydney, Jennifer's plan was to take a bus to hit up Melbourne, Adelaide, and then eventually the Australian Outback. My original plan also involved going to Melbourne but staying there for a poker tournament and then going back to Sydney for my last 2 weeks, but then I decided to F that. I was not going to go to Australia 4 times and not check out the outback, so we all decided to leave that weekend on a roadtrip. And what a roadtrip of a lifetime it was...

We started out driving our Toyota Corolla rental car down the eastern coast of Australia from Sydney to a place called Woolongong to go skydiving. Unfortunately, the plane had "mechanical errors" and we couldn't do it that day; it was probably for the better. We continued driving down the coast towards Melbourne, arriving in the city by nighttime. During the drive, I got a prelude into our future... a kangaroo bolted across the road in the pitch darkness, and we were rattled for the next hour. Thanks to my smooth driving, I was able to avert disaster! In Melbourne, we spent a couple days there sightseeing like the American tourists we are. We visited a pleasant beach town called St. Kilda with a gorgeous sunset. The next part of the trip was a 1,500 km windy drive along the "Great Ocean Road," which is analogous to California's "Pacific Coast Highway" except longer. Even the body of water is the same! We stopped by the Twelve Apostles rock formation by sunset, pretty neato. After we reached the end of the road in a city called Adelaide, we ferried our car across a channel to Kangaroo Island, an inhabited island home to many wild animals, including...kangaroos. While there, we all got to feed and pet (and hop around with [or was that just me?]) kangaroos which was a unique experience. Following kanga island, my guy friend left for Melbourne/home and Jennifer et moi drove straight up north into the desert (think from San Antonio, Texas all the way up the midwest USA). During the way, nothing much happened- we (not me) hit a kangaroo, spun out on the road after swerving to avoid another kangaroo 30 mins later and ended up on the opposite side of the road in the wrong direction, blew a tire 30 mins after that, changed it in the middle of nowhere under a cloudless starlit sky, took a day-long expedition on the Oodnadatta Track- an 600 km legendary dirt road in the outback, visited Ayer's Rock and Kings Canyon, and finally got owned by Hertz Rental in regards to the damage to the car. These are the sort of memories I yearn for and why I do what I do. From there, we flew back to Sydney where we spent another couple days before saying bye to Australia. Packing up and moving out of my apartment was particularly sad since that was where I had so much fun and freedom for the past 3 months of my life. I might be coming back.

Once back in the states, I was home for less than a week when it came time to pack up again and head out to Las Vegas. I met my friends there and moved into a house outside of the strip (S Grand Canyon and Tropicana holla). Since most of them played poker, we all had a legit setup with monitors and everything. There would never be a set routine for me, as sometimes I'd play online for few hours, or I'd take the day off, or maybe 2-3 days off and chill with friends. Sometimes we'd go to the Rio Hotel & Casino (where the World Series of Poker events were being held) and play a WSOP event or some cash games. Other times we'd go to the Venetian and play some tournaments there. I busted the first 3 WSOP events I played as well as various Venetian tournies in stupid fashion as most live tournaments are just that. My decent run finally came in the WSOP Main Event where I lasted till Day 5 and got 270th place out of 6,494. I played with Joe Hachem for an hour, reraising him one time and afterwards getting a speech from him (lol), but that's about it for my poker celebrity encounters.

I just got home after catching some stupid sickness, it had to be at the Rio, and it's taken a week to get rid of that. I have no idea where I'm going to end up, and that's the biggest thing on my mind these days. I have such a strong desire to move out but picking a place seems to be so tricky because it requires such commitment. My top choices at this point include Northern Virginia (so many friends here), San Francisco, New York City, and going back to Sydneyyy. The latter three places are all supremely awesome compared to Virginia, and would force me to resume looking to meet new people, which could be really fun and good for me. Virginia would certainly be the “easiest” and safest choice for me, but I really don't plan on picking it because of that. For my immediate short-term plans, I'm thinking of flying back to Hong Kong for the pair of Macau tournaments that are starting in late August. Really thinking I'm going to do that...maybe I'll decide where to live after that ;)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Monte Carlo

So I'm sitting here on the balcony of my room at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel, room 315. I just came back from a 5 hour trek up the hills behind Monaco into France into some region/town called Beausoleil (beautiful sun literally, as per my exquisite french skillz). This is my thing- to just randomly walk/explore my way in an unknown place with little to no planning, besides looking at a map and picking a place to direct my feet towards. Views of the city and the water were fantastic and I'll post my pictures when I get back to Australia.

Hmm, it doesn't quite make sense starting this entry with the last thing I did, so lemme restart. The trip started with my 9 hour flight from Sydney to Hong Kong where I stayed the weekend with my grandma. Had the great food that I love (getting hungry now damn) and just chilled with family for the most part. The flight from HK to Paris was 12.5 hours, getting to be an annoyingly long distance to fly but I still don't mind it at all. There was really bumpy turbulence right as we neared the Himalayas, which was really sweet, but only lasted like half an hour. On the flight from Paris to Nice, France, I sat right across from poker players I know from online and we all took a taxi to Monte Carlo. The lady drove 80 mph in pouring rain on a windy highway at night which was fun haha. Good ol' $125 taxi 30 minute taxi ride. Welcome to Monte Carlo.

I was fortunate enough while here to meet a lot of my poker playing peers who I see all the time online. It's neat matching the name I see online to the actual face of these guys. They were all great guys to hang out with during breakfast every morning and chilling at night. Stuff was mad expensive though, every meal was at least 15-20 euros, coke was 5 euro, etc, so that sorta sucked.

The poker part of the trip was pretty standard; I wasn't really able to get anything going in the tournaments. I played some single table tournies tho, and was able to meet Nelly (the rapper) and playing with him. We were next to each other in one of them and I introduced myself and chatted with him for a bit. Apparently he's been sooo unlucky the past tournies he's played, losing everything. He then showed me his lucky hand.. 7-4 suited, folded when 2 guys went all in, and whispered to me, "man i was gonna call that 1 guy's all in... my lucky hand." Somehow, I don't think luck has anything to do with your losing Nelly haha. And also, that 100k+ watch you're wearing that has diamonds everywhere a diamond can be on a watch doesn't make me feel tooooo bad. We sorta ended on bad terms tho, I think, when I called and busted him a little later. Good game Nelly.

Flew back to Hong Kong afterwards, spent a couple days there chilling with my grandma again, before heading back to Sydney where I am now. Spending 1 more month here until I head back to the states finally in June. I met a good friend of mine in Sydney as we both planned to arrive here at the same time, and he'll be staying with me for 3 weeks, which should be awesome. We plan to sightsee Sydney, relax in general, and eventually make a roadtrip out to Melbourne which should be sweet.

P.S. Miles flown on Sydney-Monte Carlo trip: 21,964.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

*Sydney Update*

I am truly living the life right now. I've now been in Sydney, Australia for exactly 1 month, with another 2 months here before I return back to the states. 2 days after I arrived in Sydney, I found and settled into the apartment of my dreams in a nice busy suburb of Sydney called Milsons Point. It is very close to the city, just across the harbor. In fact, I go running across the bridge every now and then to enjoy the gorgeous view of the water and the Opera House, as well as downtown. Milsons has the most spectacular views of the harbor and the Harbour Bridge and is close to all nice fooding places. My apartment is a 1 bed loft-style with an elevated "room" for the bed, and comes fully furnished; everything is included.

Being here and living on my own has really made me independent, with finding my own apartment, setting up all the associated stuff with it (including a 2 week wait for crucial internet haha), getting food. It feels like I really am an inhabitant of Sydney haha, since I've memorized most of the important train stops, different suburbs, city layout, etc. It's pretty cool learning a new city. I've made a bunch of friends here, mostly through my cousins, and so I don't get too bored. However, it is funny for me to walk around during the day in Milsons Point, since most of the people who are here (or who live here) are businessmen/women all dressed up in professional attire, while I walk around in jeans/t-shirt most of the time.

My daily routine, and I really mean routine, is getting up bright and early at 7am, playing online for 6-7 hours until lunch time at 2pm or so, then getting something to eat or making it myself. Then it's just relaxing the afternoon away, sometimes with a nice run into the city or northwards towards the northern suburbs where my family lives. I don't know how much longer it will be before this lifestyle becomes boring for me, but for now, I am truly loving every second of it. The independence and freedom to do whatever I want is simply awesome.

I am flying to Hong Kong in late April, stopping over for 3 days to visit my grandma and some friends there (and eat sweet HK fooood) before flying onwards to Nice, France via Paris. From there, a taxi ride to Monaco, Monte Carlo for the EPT Monte Carlo tournament. I hope for the best but have realisitic expectations for that tournament (i.e., busting the first day). Perhaps I will play some of the side events as well. One of my good friends from high school/college is actually going to meet up with me there and stay for a bit in the hotel, so that will be pretty exciting. After the week or so there, I'll be flying back to HK for another stopover of 3 days before heading back to Sydney. From there, 3 more weeks till the beginning of June when I return to the States and head to Vegas for a month and the WSOP!

For now though, I'm just enjoying every minute of my life as much as I can. I appreciate it so much. Poker has really given me such an opportunity and I'm trying to take full advantage of my position as much as possible. I feel so lucky and blessed to be where I am. Speaking of poker, that is going as well as ever as well :) The first 3 months of this year have been awesomely good to me and I can only hope for continued fortune...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Life Update Yay!

So I guess it has been a while since my initial blog on this thing, and I can't say I didn't expect this hahaha. It was just pointed out to me by a couple friends, the lame-sauce of this blog and it's updates or lack thereof.

Since my last blog, November 18, I've been to a few more places, only to return to where I am now, at home on my bed. Firstly, we flew out to San Francisco via a Virgin America night flight. Sweet airline with live TV feed in each seat. We went out there to hang out with his old friend from Roanoke and whom I also know a bit. We basically crashed at his apartment on Jackson St, riiight up the hill from Chinatown (Powell and Jackson intersection), did some sightseeing stuff while he ditched us to go to a poker tournament in Vancouver. We rented a couple bikes and rode all around the city for 2 days but actually didn't ride across the Golden Gate grr. We did however ride up (and of course down) Lombard St which was awesome. Played some online pokers, but nothing too serious.

After our stay in San Fran for a bit, me and Paresh took a train to Sacramento! We were there to meet up with a couple friends from highschool/UVA. We spent a night in that hip-hoppin' city, met some of my friends' friends, then got up early to drive to... San Jose for a Washington Capitals hockey game!, but not before stopping back off in SF to eat some Chinese dim sum. Wasn't all that great. We stopped off in Stanford, California to visit the gorgeous university as well as visit yet another friend out there. Unfortunately he wasn't there, but we still had a fun time monkeying around on the campus. Finally made it to SJ at night, saw the caps get destroyed by the sharks which was lame. Night drive back to San Fran.

I didn't actually buy my ticket to leave SF back home until 2 days beforehand, just cause I didn't know if I'd stay a bit longer with my friend in SF. Decided to leave the same day as Paresh, but I couldn't get on his flight, so took my own back. United Airlines.......haha.

After chilling at home for a couple weeks, it was off to Sydney, Australia (again!) in late November. I went to visit my family again, as well as a couple friends I had met from my trip before. Also, the APPT (Asia-Pacific Poker Tournament) Sydney was going on, so I thought I'd hit that up. I was also meeting my friend Brandon, fellow poker player and international traveler, who I had that amazing trip in New Zealand a few months before. We both busted from the tournament in short order, with my KK running into AA once again (preceded by my TT into JJ, and proceded by my QQ into KK). Sort of unlucky!!!!!111

We explored the city of Sydney together, and then decided to take a trip up to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef. It was a short 3-day trip, and we got to go ~1 hour out into the ocean to snorkel. The water temp was amazing, and the reefs were equally as spectacular. The colors were ultra vibrant and any evidence of the reefs getting eroded/destroyed was nowhere to be noticed. We also rented a car and drove a couple hours up and down the northern coastline of Australia, eventually getting a place called Port Douglas, where apparently there were "stingers" in the water, so swimming was confined to a cordoned off area.

After Brandon left Syd, I hung around Sydney for an extra week before getting back home. No less than 2 weeks, I was off to the Bahamas for the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure tournament. Everything about the Atlantis Resort just rings riches. Just unbridled, pure, opulence. I met up with 6 other friends from UVA, including Paresh... so the entire experience was unreal awesome! 7 nights in paradise. I ended up playing and running pretty well in the tournament, getting to Day 3 with a nice stack, but once again, running into AA. I had run my QQ into AA on day 1 (story of my life, I thought to myself, before I spiked a Q on the flop). No miracles on Day 3 though. No matter, I finished in 56th place out of 1,250ish, and put myself in a position to get really really deep. Awesome trip.

After getting back from the Bahamas, I started grinding online pretty much for all of Jan, and now February. I had the sickest heater of my career in January, and extending in to February, so that's really really nice. And I'm putting in the heaviest volume that I've ever done, looking forward to every session and accruing all the various points that come along the way. By playing/grinding this hard, I feel like I'm not wasting my time at all, and the $ is good as well. 5 hour days/6 days a week, just perfect.