I probably don’t mention it here much, but I am what you may consider a Howard Stern Super Fan. I’ve listened to his radio show since I was twelve, I now listen to every one of his shows from front to back, and I generally refer to him as my Third Parent (the term “Third” is rather generous to my actual parents).
So, when my good pal Dave Roose was giving me crap about never going to AC with him anymore, I was delighted to find that the Ronnie Mund Block Party was playing at the Harrah’s last weekend, with a special associated poker tournament. Mund, of course, is better known as Ronnie the Limo Driver, and he is known from the Stern Show as being old with a young girlfriend, crass, and a bit of a joke. In fact, part of the appeal of the show is seeing him and staffer J.D. Harmeyer make an arse of themselves, since they actually have no real material or stage talent. Besides the two co-hosts, the show includes comedians, including headliner, event organizer and Howard 100 News Reporter Shuli Egar.
I called Roose with the news, only to learn that he had plans that day. I then went to my backup Stern fan, Mori, wifey Kim’s friend’s fiance. Mori and I get along extremely well, so when he agreed, I knew we were set. About 45 minutes later, Roose called to say that he would break his other plans. And, as usual for Roose, two days before our trip, he told me that he had also invited Robbie Hole. I love hanging with Hole, so its all good, but Roose sure does love inviting more people.
When it was all said and done, there were five of us, since Mori invited his friend Butler, with three going to the show (me, Roose and Mori) and all of us playing the tournament.
As tournaments go, the structure was pretty horrible, but I knew about that well in advance. The buy-in was $200+50, the blinds were 20 minutes, and many of the levels literally doubled. I think it was 25/50, 50/100, 100/200, 200/400, 400/800, 600/1200, 1000/2000, etc. I mean REALLY REALLY horrible. However, it made sense. The tournament started at 1pm and the show started at 9pm. Plus, this was not some professional tournament. This was a glorified meet and greet, with tons of Stern staffers in the mix.
Fortunately, I am used to super turbos. In fact, Roose’s home game is like an inebriated super turbo, exactly like the RMBP tournament. So, despite the tournaments’ obvious shortcomings, I was more than willing to play.
When action started, I had one of the few tables without any Stern staffers. That was fine by me, so I could concentrate on the game. The excitement in the room was palatable. Not only was I playing with a slew of inexperienced players (137 total), but they were also largely all super fans of the Howard Stern Show, and Stern Show celebrities were everywhere. In short, I saw High Pitch Eric, High Pitch Mike Morales (no relation), Sal the Stockbroker, Richard, Rachel Fein, John Hein, Will, Jason, Doug Goodstein, Sour Shoes (he was hysterical), Brian Fallon, Shuli, and Jim Florentine, to name more than a few. I tried to keep my shit together, since I had bad experiences with celebrities in the past, happy to simply observe from afar.
The great thing about live poker, in fact, the #1 thing to me, is that it is a social game. I would never ever go up to Sal and introduce myself. What they hell am I going to say? It’s enough to sorta be there. But when he sat down next to me after a table change, it was perfectly natural to turn to him and introduce myself. We shook hands, chatted a bit, and then I manned up (or whatever) and asked to take a photo. He couldn’t have been cooler about it.
About two seconds after the photo (and after only playing one hand with Sal), the floor came over and told me that I had to move tables. I gathered my chips to leave and started to say goodbye to Sal, who was already in another conversation with a fan. He turned to me and said, “You busted already?” I replied dead-faced, “No, man. I was told no photos and they are kicking me out.”
“What?! That’s terrible!,” he looked like he felt really bad. So, I quickly told him the truth and we laughed about it. I know its gay, but damn, making Sal laugh was great.
My next table was interesting, but there were no Stern staffers. Earlier, a player at the table busted a staffer and won a bunch of old promotional materials from the Stern Show. There were tons of doubles, so he was kindly offering it to the table. I said I would love something and at first, he gave me shit, “Sorry, newbie. Only people who were here during the bustout.” But two seconds later, he handed me an expired ticket to Howard Stern’s 2006 Film Festival, a program from the same event, and a flier for one of Stern’s book releases.
This is how the day went. At each table, I would strike up easy conversation with my comrades. We all shared an interest in Stern, and it was more like a convention than a tournament. Actually, it was like a WPBT tournament, except no one cares about the poker.
In this environment, I decided to simply have fun. The drinks were coming faster than ever. I guess the cocktail staff knew this was a heavy tipping, heavy drinking crowd, since normally, its hard to get decent beverage service at Harrah’s. Not that day though. Rum and cokes all day long. It was getting to be re-goddamn-diculous.
Meanwhile, my buddies started to bust. Hole was first, followed by Roose and Mori. I was moved again to join Butler at a table where Brian Fallon had the best bounty of the night, a free trip to see the Ronnie Mund Block Party in Jamaica. I couldn’t attend, so I didn’t actually want to win it, but I acted like I did, immediately calling out Fallon in an over the top way.
I also made my best play of the night at this table. I had J7o and decided to raise in late position, since the table seemed pretty weak. I got one caller in the blinds, a guy who looked like he knew a little about the game. I noticed this player pool in general had a lot of looser players, but not loose-skilled players, just loose.
The flop was AJ4. My opponent checked and I considered a c-bet before checking. The turn was another low card and my opponent suddenly pushed all-in for 5,500. I don’t recall the size of the pot, but if I were to call and lose, I would have less than 6,000 myself, which was dangerous. But I thought about the play and it seemed obvious to me. If he had a good hand, he wouldn’t have open-pushed. He was trying to act strong. I thought for a moment more and called. He had 66, and my J7 was good. Sometimes, you have to follow your reads.
I knocked out another player to build my stack up a bit more, but I was hardly a big stack. I missed my chance at Fallon, though, when a guy who had already busted Ronnie (to win a signed VCR tape rewinder…remember those?) busted Fallon for the prize. He was a loudmouth white guy who acted like he was a hip hop thug, so naturally, we got along really well. By the end of the tournament, he had won another bounty for an awesome Gary Dell’Abate jersey (note: not from Gary, as he was not at the tournament). Lucky guy.
Eventually, I was moved again. The blinds were high and this was a new table, so I remained tight. Jim Florentine, a stand-up comic, was at the table, but we didn’t converse much at first, since he was talking with a cute blonde. Instead, I made small talk with my fellow fans and folded. I stole a couple of times, but finally made a play when I was fairly low on chips, with less than 10 blinds. I was the BB and we saw a flop with two diamonds. I had 5d8d, so I open pushed. When the only other player in the hand folded, I was ecstatic…until I realized that Florentine was also in the hand. He called and showed TPTK. Fortunately, the river made my flush, and I was back in business. I ended up busting Florentine, but sadly, he had no bounty.
I was eventually moved again, when we were down to three tables. I was on real welfare at this point, hovering at around 10 BB, but I was not alone. The structure was fast. I did my best to remain tight and take down pots when I could. I was mostly able to do so, to the point that when it was down to two tables, I was still holding my own, with a middle-to-short stack.
I played min-cash poker, trying to get into the money. It wasn’t my actual goal, but I was getting no cards. Eventually, the bubble burst, rather quickly actually. I had by then pushed all-in and was called once, but that time, I had AA and it held up against AQ. Meanwhile, Butler, who busted when we were down to four tables, kept stopping by and, unbeknownst to me, alerting the crew via text of my progress.
When the final table bubble burst, I was amazed to still be in it. I was playing well, but, frankly, it was all mostly effortless. Perhaps I was not trying too hard, and that helped. I was just enjoying being there and I was less focused than usual on the payouts, etc.
The final table was really cool. It was a TV final table setup, with bleachers around. Howard TV was filming for Howard TV on Demand. I can’t get it on my cable system, but if any of you do and would be so kind as to let me know, I would love to know if I got any decent TV time. There were no hole cams, of course, but it was more about filming the party aspect, rather than a serious poker broadcast.
I was the shortstack and as I waited for action to start, I turned to the guy two seats to my right and asked him a question. “Do you play in AC a lot? You look familiar.” He turned to me and answered, “Nat Geo, Underground Poker.” Then I heard his buddy (the same guy who busted Brian Fallon) yell over, “Go get them, Breezy!” How random. Breezy was featured on a special about NYC underground poker as the card shark of the group. “It was all faked,” he explained. I figured as much. Underground poker looks nothing like the Nat Geo special. “Are you a fan of Stern or just here for the soft money?” I asked. He sheepishly smiled and said, “I like Stern” but he was clearly just being kind. He knew a dead money pool when he saw one.
I ended up pushing all-in with KJo, with barely 2x the BB. I was called by a player in the blinds (I think) with AA. I hammed it up, and joked, “You can only hit one pair, but I can hit two.” It was utter nonsense…until the flop had a King and the turn had a Jack. BOOM!
10th place busted, as did 9th. The action folded to me in the SB and I was again down to around 2.5 BB. I raised all-in with JTc, hoping that the BB had rags and would muck. Nope. He had AA. And I went home. Notably, Richard Chrystie took 7th. I could’ve waited him out, but I was playing for first.
After losing, I said goodbye to the table and nabbed a quick photo with Richard. He held up the same devil horns as Sal, coincidentally.
I had cashed for $807, but it was worth a whole lot more than that. It was so effortless, that it reminded me that poker can be easy. It was also a rare opportunity to mix with people who entertain me on a near-daily basis.
The show that night was great. Ronnie and JD were horrible as expected. Eli Braden, known for his song parodies about Robin Quiver’s jugs, was the best act. Dan Mendelson, an opera singer who sings the “Ronnie Mund scored a Zero on the Ugly Meter App” song, also gave a great, brief performance. Sal and Richard came out in their underwear, but like JD/Ronnie, had no real act. The comedians were impressive. The first guy, Mad Dog something, did all crowd work, but he was pretty damn good at it. Florentine was only okay, but he was probably still reeling from that rivered diamond. Shuli was surprisingly great, surprising since he gets a lot of crap on the show from callers saying he is not funny.
I can say with confidence that this was the best weekend I can remember. It had everything. A show, poker, friends. I’ve never felt so lucky.
Until next time, make mine – BABABOOEY! HOWARD STERN’S PENIS! – poker!