PokerStars Passport winner hits Mediterranean

PokerStars Passport winner Dustin Mele is back from another trip to Europe. Not only has he suffered the ugly side of variance, he's done so with a smile. As he also is responsible for waking me up from an airport nap just in time for me to get on the plane out of Monte Carlo, he is owed double thanks for his report from San Remo and the PokerStars EPT Grand Final. --BW

by Dustin Mele

My EPT San Remo and EPT Monte Carlo experience was great. I had a great time the whole way through, unfortunately I had bad luck during the tournaments.

It started on Monday, March 31st, the first day we arrived in San Remo, Italy. It was an amazing city. The city, the houses, the Royal Hotel, and the casino were all beautiful. On the first night, PokerStars hosted a welcome party at a very nice club aside the Mediterranean Sea. There were circus performers, food, and open bar all night. It was a lot of fun.The next day was Tuesday, April 1st, Day 1A of the tournament and my start day. It was a quite a coincidence to see that poker pro and Team PokerStars Pro player Tom McEvoy was sitting at my table. We met at JFK airport on the way there and then he let me ride from the airport in Nice, France to the Hotel with him in his van he had waiting for him. He is a very good poker player and a very nice guy.

On day 1, I had very good start to the tournament. I won almost every pot that I played and was almost to 20,000 from the 10,000 starting stack before the second blind level. When the blinds went up, the table got even faster and the play started loosening up. It seemed as some of the players felt like they had to make something happen and the blinds had only gone up to 50-100. I adjusted my play and was picking my spots.I picked up pocket queens to a raise from a player that was playing every hand and seemed to love to fire at the pot. I just called, because he raised four times the blinds and I knew with a good flop I could outplay him and make some chips. Next, the big blind re-raised pretty large. The original raiser folded. I know the BB problably figures the first raiser as weak because he raised every hand and me as weak because I just called. So, I decided he is problably making a move. I called him.

The flop came T-8-2 rainbow, a great flop for my hand. I had the other player out-chipped and I knew if I checked he would bet. I checked, he bet, and I raised all-in. At this point he had about 8,000 left and he called. He flips over 9d7d for the open-ended straight draw. The turn came as the Kd. If I could dodge one more card, I would have about 40,000 chips very early in the tournament. If not, I would be crippled. The river came a jack giving him the straight. I was down to about 3,000 in chips. I managed to get up to 25,000 from the 3,000, then took a hit at the end of Day 1, leaving me with 17,800 at the end of the day.

Dustin Mele in San Remo

On my day off my girlfriend Tracy and I were asked to do a video blog with our good friend Kara Scott. Tracy and I both love Kara Scott. She is a great person and a ton of fun to be around. So we said definitely. We went out into San Remo and saw the beautiful city and sat down for a cappucino. We also were hanging out with Jamie. He is a cameraman that works for PokerStars. He is also very nice and fun to be around. Once we finished the video, we headed out to eat and then headed to the hotel room early so I would be ready for Day 2.

On Day 2, I started off at a table with all large stacks. I didn't mind, but it didn't help that I was completely card dead. I stole some blinds and stayed even for a while. The blinds kept going up and I still was card dead. I am not the type of player to just wait for aces or kings, but my hands were just unplayable. Not even suited connectors. All the players at my table were calling with a wide range of hands as well, so I had to be careful and find the right time to double up. I picked up pocket jacks to a raise and went all-in, getting called by A7. My jacks held up and my patience payed off. I was surprised to get called by A7. He wasn't even pot committed and I was playing tight for a while. I could see that power poker was the only way to play against these players. I was only playing hands that I was willing to go all-in with. I got 88 on the button when the blinds were very large. I had the small blind outchipped and the big blind was very tight. He had about 6,000 more than me.

With so many chips already in the pot, and the fact that three times the big blind was 35% of my chips, all-in was the only move. I pushed all-In and the small blind auto-called me. He flipped over KJ offsuit. I was amazed he was willing to risk his entire stack by calling all of his chips with such a weak hand and right before the money, as well. He ended up hitting a straight leaving me with 300 chips. After putting my ante in, I was pot committed to go in with any two cards the next hand and was eliminated about 120th out of the 701 that started.

After San Remo we decided to stay in Europe. EPT Monte Carlo was only six days after EPT San Remo, plus Europe is great. While in San Remo we bacame good friends with Team PokerStars Pro Ray Rahme and his wife Teresa. They told us they were going on a voyage to see some beautiful places in Italy and invited us to join them. We gratefully accepted the invitation. We went to Santa Margherita, Italy, for a couple of days. Then we went to Nice, France and also Cannes, France where the film festival is held. They are all beautiful places and we had a great time thanks to Ray and Teresa. They are such a fun couple and they are nice to everyone they talk to. Ray and Teresa will be lifelong friends to both of us.

On April 10th, we arrived in Monte Carlo at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Casino. It was amazing. While checking in we were told we would be staying in a suite. When we walked into the room we saw there were stairs. It was huge. Everything about the room and the Bay hotel was great. It is by far the nicest place I've ever stayed.

On April 11th, PokerStars threw another welcome party. It was a lot of fun. During my few trips to the EPT in Europe I have met a lot great people that have now become good friends to me. A lot of them are the PokerStars staff. PokerStars has the greatest group of people working for them. Just to name a few there is Noelia, Hilda, Lina, Kara, Brad, Louise, Lee, Bob, Mad, Jeanne, Stephen, and Trisha. They are all a lot of fun the whole way through even when they have a ton of stuff that they are responsible for, and they are all down to earth and genuinely great people. They make every trip more enjoyable.

My start day for the tournament was April 13th, Day 1b. I arrived to the casino a little bit early and went to check out the players lounge. There was a Nintendo Wii, a Playstation 3, heads up Battleship, a fooseball table, and EPT Live on the last two days of play.There was also free food and drinks for the players. It was hosted by two lovely ladies, Pip and Beatrice. They did an amazing job. I was autamatically drawn to the fooseball table. I always loved fooseball as a kid. During my first game, World Series of Poker Champion Chris Moneymaker walked over and introduced himself and asked if he could play the winner. We said sure and after I won I was ready to take on the world champ. Or so I thought. Apparently he played a lot in college and he whooped me in the end.

Then to the tables it was. After the intro to the tournament, they introduced a bunch of Team PokerStars Pros and then sent them to the tables. One pro came right to my table and sat to my right. It was Chris Moneymaker again. "Long time no see," I said to Chris. He laughed then said "hello again" and then play began. Chris is a great player, but he had an off day and was running bad. He was eliminated very early in Day 1. I wasn't running too much better. I was up and down all day. I was running into some plays you would expect to see in a $20 buy-in. A player was calling large bets pre-flop, then on the flop,with no hand no draw, then he would hit a runner runner straight.

With about 8,500 chips and about 20 minutes left untill the end of Day 1, I picked up pocket kings in the big blind. The player in the cutoff raised three times the BB. Everyone else folded to me. He had about 24,000 in chips, so I had about a third of his chip stack. I couldn't afford to let him draw out on the flop, so I raised all-in. He thought and then called me with AJ offsuit. It was for a third of his stack and he was not pot committed at all. But I didn't mind the bad call, because he only had three outs in the deck or I would double up. The first card on the flop was an ace. No king came and I was eliminated from the tournament. I was very disappointed.

I am only getting more determined with every bad beat I take. I am also getting more experience, which is very valuable as a poker player. I know that if I can avoid getting unlucky I can take down my first title.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news