Seeing as it looks like FX isn’t going to show Poker Dome again for another month, and I have no idea when my heat is going to be on TV, I’m just going to go ahead and do this from memory. Without the aid of any screencaps of me sweating lots and looking like a nervous buffoon.
*** Spoiler alert *** If for some reason you do actually want to watch the show with some degree of suspense, do not read on.
*** Length alert *** Sorry, longest blog post ever. Promise it won’t happen again. For busy people: I was 4th.
For what is probably the most high-tech show on TV, the seat draw was decidedly low-tech. At the Friday night players’ dinner at The Palm, after enjoying a delicious Filet Mignon (I couldn’t help checking the menu: it’s a $38 steak, and we had a private room and three other courses) I got to pick first from six books of matches, each with a number one to six written under the flap.
(I don’t know whether to be pleased with my Google skillz that I managed to find the obscure link to Tom, or upset that I couldn’t find anything at all for Chad).
The limo bus dropped us downtown at just about the only unit still in use at Neonopolis at just before 1pm. The show started at 6pm but in the meantime we had to go through "poker school", where we were taught how to play speed poker. It’s not just a little bit faster - you also have to announce every move you make, always stack your chips neatly (splashing is strictly forbidden), and learn to never, ever block the little camera.
Then we had a bit of a rehearsal where I managed to stack Steve after calling a raise with 24o and flopping 2 pair. For what it’s worth. He was playing his hand blind and got his chips back anyway. We all got to press the time extension button and make the lights go mental for thirty seconds. I’m still a bit disappointed that I never did this during the show itself, but there was never a decision that I really needed that long to make, or a situation where I had to convince someone my decision was harder than it actually was. The latter is how I’d hoped I’d be using it.
The set really is very cool, and the music is not as annoying as you’d think really. With all the commercial breaks there’s plenty of silence to break it up. The droning music helps hide for the fact the dome is not perfectly soundproof; you can’t hear much without it but you can’t hear anything when it’s going. I did expect the audience to be completely blocked from view when the lights were down – in fact you can see the outline of the first few rows. It would actually be possible to signal to a player if you really wanted to, but it would be very obvious, and probably followed by a swift ejection for all concerned.
We filmed some headshots in the dome (this will be what they use to project my face onto a casino in the opening sequence) and some extremely tacky thumbs-up shots. The film you see of the players getting fitted with heart monitors and being scanned for cellphones is bullshit though. Sorry, I mean that’s the magic of television. It’s recorded separately; I got scanned by a wand that wasn’t turned on on camera, but we did actually all get searched properly before going onto the set, and dark glasses were given particular scrutiny.
I did take some shades, but you won’t see them. Probably nobody will ever see them. They were even worse than the tie I wore, which people kept telling me they liked. I always replied that I didn’t believe them. Why would they like it? It’s awful. Simply the fact that it had glitter on should have been a big enough clue that I wasn’t serious, surely?
Walking back from the fake security check we meet Michael Konik, who has amazingly managed to write two Vegas books that I don’t have. They actually might be the only two. Of course I didn’t mention this.
The button is in seat 1, making me first to act on the first hand. Matt Savage tells me that I have a very special role to play, giving the commentators enough time to explain how the timer works. I must not, under any circumstances, do anything in the first ten seconds. I have some kind of garbage, probably four-something as it felt like every hand I had for the first hour had a four in it, and I wait an age before making an easy fold. Has to be said, because I’ll look like a moron who’s just going for the screen time.
Matt Savage is very modest, by the way. He reminded us not to forget to go see Lucky You when it’s released in March. I already know the answer, but I asked anyway. "Are you in it?". "Yeah", he replied, "it stars Drew Barrymore, Matt Savage, Eric Bana and Robert Duvall". Second on the bill, apparently. See his illustrious movie career unfold here.
So anyway, onto the hands I did play. I can remember eight of note:
1. My first button. I have 22 and it’s folded to me. I raise the pot and Trey or Tom calls from one of the blinds. I don’t remember who, or what the flop was, but there was a bet and I had to let the hand go. I do remember the sudden tightening of the heart rate monitor as soon as he made the call, and the realisation that… bloody hell we only have 50 chips, I can only do that a couple more times.
2. I have pocket 8s and am first to act. I raise the pot. Only Chad calls from the big blind, and he donk-bets a KK9 flop. With deeper stacks (and less sweaty hands) I’m popping him back, but I don’t have enough chips to test him, nor the balls to make a big move with an underpair here this early in the game. There’s plenty of hands that he’s already beating me with here, and I’m only just better than 60% to make it to showdown if he only has overcards. Good bet, I fold.
3. I fold my third pocket pair, this time jacks and this time pre-flop. Trey raises and Tom immiediately re-raises. It’s folded to me in the big blind, and I can (a) commit my stack right now, (b) call and play a mediocre hand out of position (assuming Trey doesn’t re-raise) or (c) get out of the way. Plan C looks like the best option by a mile, but I can’t help wondering whether I just have to bite the bullet and go for it there. We’ve been going maybe twenty minutes now, so there’s not much time left. I made it known that I’d folded JJ and asked Tom if he had me beat. He wasn’t able to play it cool convincingly, so I was a little happier.
4. I have ace-something suited on the big blind. Blinds are 1k/2k and Steve raises to 7k from the cut-off. It was either ATs or A8s, I don’t remember for sure, because in my head it was much stronger than that. I reraise another 10k and Steve shows he has been paying attention by giving it up. This was just about the last chance I would have had to pull a re-steal without moving all-in, it seemed like a good spot and so I took it. I still don’t know what he had – I was probably ahead anyway, but if I did make him fold a better hand then I’ll be having a screencap for my windows wallpaper!
5. Tom is a min-raising scumbag on my big blind, and it’s not the first time he’s made that bet. I make an almost compulsory (read: spite) call for 4k more with 64s. I figure he doesn’t have any of my outs, at least. All kinds of uneventful things can happen, but the board brings a massive scare: AKJ. It’s my turn to lead the flop, and then beat myself up when he re-raises – the minimum again just to add insult to injury. I’m still not sure if this was a move I had to try, or whether I was just throwing good chips after bad. I can get him to fold TT or lower here and probably QQ, and QQ or TT alone is more likely than a set with that board, but what’s his range for the good old minimum raise? I don’t know yet.
6. Desparation sets in. Chad has been eliminated. Everyone folds to Carl on the button, who decides to let me fight it out with Trey. My Jd4d is irrelevant with 6k up for grabs and less than 20k left. I ignore the warnings in poker school about not moving all in when you have more than the pot and let the guys backstage figure out just how much I’m allowed to raise. I get 4k back, Trey calls, and my future looks somewhat gloomy. The flop brings a queen and two diamonds, and I then proceed to suck out on Trey’s Q9.
7. Trey is the desparate one now and moves all in (or close to it) first to act. I have QQ, he has AQ, my hand holds up and and for a brief moment I’m alive again whilst Trey gets escored from the stage on the arm of one of the "chip girls".
8. Of course, I bust myself even before Trey has left the set. We share an exit interview with Leeann Tweeden, who I later learn is actually a respected sports analyst and not just a pair of jugs to host the show. I have AQs on the small blind, Carl raises from the button and I get it all in against, of course, AK.
Carl goes on to win, showing almost no emotion in the process. He probably agrees with the 2+2 sycophants that there was never any contest.