Burning down the house
[A party needs a soundtrack. This will do.]
I turned to PokerStars broadcasting legend James Hartigan and said, "If your party doesn't need a fire extinguisher, it's not really a party, is it?" But there she was: tall, shaved head, covered in tattoos, wearing leather, and standing next to the stage with the fire extinguisher in case something went wrong with the dancer who was running flaming torches over her arms. The extinguisher lady also gave a no-nonsense "No" headshake to a guy who thought it would be fun to get his cigarette lit. I mean, it was indisputable fact that the dancer's bustier was on fire, but smoking indoors is right out.
Welcome to PokerStars VIP Club Live 2013, London.
We had taken over a club called Cirque le Soir, half a block from legendary Carnaby Street to once again thank PokerStars players for, well, being PokerStars players. There was no advertising, no marketing videos. Just tubs full of cold beer, a great DJ, yummy nibbles, and slot car racing.
And you know what I particularly dug? Talking to other people. The music was good and plenty loud, but not so loud that you couldn't carry on an intelligent and nuanced conversation. Now look, I have nothing against ridiculously loud music - I've got full rock and roll credentials, but one of the highlights of these events is the opportunity to visit with each other; if the music is ear-bleeding loud, you can't talk.
Instead, I was able to sit down with a group of guys and they told me we need more triple-draw and badugi. We then got to talking about limit hold'em and how, unlike its no-limit cousin, it has a groove. No long tanking about massive over-bets, no head games of two black, three red, and four white chip bets. No sir, it's three chips, six chips. Six chips, twelve chips. Three stacks of four, "I raise". "Rhythm hold'em" said one of our group. Exactly. That whole discussion of limit poker also gave us the opportunity to bring up the best post ever on 2+2, which turns 13 years old this week. It's called the Fur-coat dilemma, and if you don't immediately recognize it, you should read it.
But I digress. While we were talking limit poker, people were getting their pictures taken with the hostesses, Liv Boeree, Jake Cody, and the aforementioned James Hartigan. And yes, we missed Joe Stapleton - I was not the only person to say out loud, "Stapes woulda loved this."
9:30pm - two and half hours after the party started, two relatively young guys walk in - I'm pretty sure it was their first VIP Club Live party, because even at a distance where I couldn't hear them, I could read their eyes (very wide) and their lips ("Holy sh*t").
The punching bag and FIFA games had giant crowds around them, the popcorn lady was doing a brisk business, and the tubs of cold beer kept getting refilled. On the stage, the contortionist was doing things that made my back hurt (but at least the fire extinguisher operator could move onto other duties).
It was, to quote one of the party-goers, "epic".
Then around 10:00p, we made the announcement that the party had to move to the after-party venue ("It's near Yo Sushi, near Piccadilly Circus...") and we hustled out into the streets of Soho so Cirque le Soir could welcome their regular late-night Saturday crowd.
Me, I passed on the after-party. I'm not 22 anymore, and they weren't really my thing even when I was. And honestly, I didn't see how it could get any better than eating chicken nuggets and coleslaw, and taking selfies with PokerStars players.
And at the next VIP Club Live party, ask me about the Mahavishnu Orchestra concert in 1974 that made my ears ring for two days, when Carlos Santana sat in with the opening act.
Lee Jones is the head of Poker Communications at PokerStars and has been part of the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones.