Low-rolling High Roller: Punk girl in Monaco
Nothing shouts "high roller" as much as Monte Carlo, and nothing shouts "low roller" as much as punk.
So, imagine me, a former punk girl having my £49.99 handbag placed on its own little chair by one of four waiters looking after me in a Monaco restaurant.
How did I get here?
Poker got me here!
People in my family still see poker as a despicable game played by criminals in smoky back rooms. They imagine cowboys in saloons shooting each other if they catch someone bluffing, cheating, or simply winning too often.
If you're reading this, you'll likely know poker has become something else. Some might call it a sport.
I never intended to become a professional player. Sure, it's still a dream, the thing I would do if I had the one big break or a lottery win that gave me complete financial freedom without worrying about downswings. I wanted to work in the industry, and that is what I've done for eight years now. At the same time, being the poker fan-girl that I am, I enjoy spending time with the poker players that live my dream. I enjoy being part of their world at least a little bit.
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Work has brought me to Monte Carlo a few times now. The first time was just on my way back to Nice from covering EPT San Remo 2008 as a blogger. We stopped for an afternoon to have a stroll through the town and a beverage at Cafe de Paris. This definitely wasn't my world. Nothing was real. The streets were far too clean, the people looked all miserably arrogant, and the prices for anything were unexplainably high.
Just a week later I returned to Monte Carlo again to work as a blogger for the PokerStarsBlog and IntelliPoker Blog at the EPT. The IntelliPoker team did not book a hotel room, but we got lucky. George Danzer forfeited his room at the Le Meridien to us because he wanted to share with his best buddy Jan Heitmann at the Monte Carlo Bay. The bellhop brought me my luggage with the words, "Welcome, Mrs Danzer!" I didn't protest.
The room had a great view of the famous yacht harbour, which was nice, but a quick inspection of the minibar proved all the horror stories true: Red Bull for €12, water €6, bag of crisps €7... madness!
This first visit to Monte Carlo turned out to be one of the most stressful experiences in my life. As a blogger I usually got to bed around 2-3am and had to be back at the venue at 10am. The lack of sleep got to me, and my nerves were extra thin. I was already overwhelmed by the impressive Salle des Etoilles tournament room. I had only been in the poker business for two months, and suddenly I stood in front of Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Antonio Estfandiari, and the like. Regardless, I wouldn't have missed the opportunity for the world.
I saw all these poker heroes and learned a lot, but I couldn't see anything of Monaco the entire week.
So, in 2015 when a friend and co-worker of mine offered to share a room in Monte Carlo, I jumped on it. The idea was to make it a holiday, actually go sightseeing, and play some poker myself. In order to share with my friend at the Le Meridien, I only had to pay €30 extra per night. For that, I also got the full amazing breakfast buffet. BINK!
I managed to find cheap EasyJet flights, so this ex-punk went for a five-day holiday to Monte Carlo. The difference between working there and being there on holiday is that you have to pay for your own food. There is no daily allowance to keep you fed and watered. Suddenly a €9 price tag on a small bottle of Heineken becomes very relevant.
There were a few tricks I applied during this trip:
1. Find someone to share a room with
2. Completely overeat at the breakfast buffet and sneak out the occasional banana, apple, or croissant
3. Find those bars that also provide you with a bowl of nuts when you order a drink. Have a plastic bag available to store some or all of the nibbles for later
4. Pass welcome desks more than once and either with a question or just a smile, bag a complimentary chocolate one at a time
5. Fill up your water bottles in the hotel gym or at the poker venue water dispensers (I have also learned that Monte Carlo tap water is, indeed, drinkable)
6. Learn to pick filling starters for main entrees in restaurants
7. Party with people that don't watch their pennies as much as you do
For those of you that ever want to make the trip to Monte Carlo, be aware that France is literally across the road. A lot of the hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets are a small walk away, and you can get everything close to half the price. So, make sure to do your business in France as much as possible.
My sightseeing trip was with one of those omnipresent Hop-On-Hop-Off busses for €22. It drove me around the mini-country for a while, and I finally felt I had seen the place properly. This satisfaction then allowed me to spend some more time in the poker venue at the poker tables. Unfortunately, I failed to capture my Monegasse flag, as I did not cash in either the Omaha8, the Ladies, or the Deuces Wild events.
Two weeks ago, I returned from Monte Carlo once again. I had been over for work in my new role as Innovation and Ideation Manager. My task this year was to collect ideas for new games, features, or improvements for any of our offerings in poker, casino, sports. It was interesting, and some cool stuff landed on my desk. It wasn't as stressful as my first work trip here, and I could even tick off the last missing sightseeing item that I had always wanted to do: Le Casino!
My family had been very concerned when as a nine-year old I screamed "CAAAASINOOOOOO!" every time we drove past one. As I love games and flashy lights, I have been a fan of casinos from a very early age. Vegas casinos are my big unexplainable passion, but the one in Monte Carlo is the crown jewel of all casinos, and I had always wanted to see it from the inside.
This year I was staying at the Fairmont Hotel right next to the casino. I found out that you could wander the rooms during daytime for a €10 fee, which I gladly paid. In awe, I shuffled through the impressive rooms with massive chandeliers, paintings and sculptures. I had this place almost to myself, and for a while just sat on an armchair taking in the artwork above and around the blackjack and roulette tables.
A staff member of the casino found me taking a selfie, and I explained what a big fan I was of casinos and architecture and that I was here for work with PokerStars. He offered me to show me some private areas of the casino that are usually not accessible for tourists. I happily accepted and saw high-limit private rooms and amazing outside gambling areas with stunning views.
There I was, the old punk girl, staring at roulette tables with minimum bets of €3000, touching marble and gold. I wasn't sure what I was feeling or thinking. But I think it was the same as I feel when I see amazingly shiny and expensive cars driving past me: I am glad to know and see that these things exist, but I am absolutely fine, not having them in my own life. It's not what I strive for.
I strive for exactly what happened here in Monte Carlo while working crazy hours as a blogger at the EPT and being a tourist, seeing things you don't see every day:
Collecting moments, not things!
Previously: The Life of an EPTourist
Christin Maschmann is the PokerStars Innovation Coordinator & Ideation Manager