Chips (and tales) from around the world
When I started playing live poker (at the first ever poker club in Yekaterinburg), I decided to also start collecting chips from different clubs. I wanted to raid a lot of casinos during my planned Vegas trip and to have at least one chip from each one.
Recently, when I was showing my collection to my friends, it flashed into my mind that every chip has some sort of emotion or a story connected to it. I've decided to share them with you.
The first chips in my collection were obtained from Yekaterinburg clubs. In the picture above, the left green chip belonged to the first ever poker club that was opened in our city, which was called Nevada. I remember my wife and I going over there for the opening ceremony. The club only had three tables to play on and the welcome shootout freeroll with around $3,300 guaranteed gathered more than 100 participants. Turned out I had to wait three hours to get my chance to play a Sit & Go with a chance to enter the final table.
The only disappointing moment that I have when reminiscing about those times is that I had talked everyone's ear off about how profitable opening a poker club would be half-a-year prior to Nevada opening its doors. The sad thing was I only played NL50 at the time and didn't have the bankroll to start a club on my own. The ones that had more funds caught a wave and still do live off of that pretty well.
My first poker tourney series and also my first trip abroad without my wife (girlfriend at the time). Even though I apparently had a doomswitch activated against me throughout the whole series, it didn't prevent me from immersing into the exciting atmosphere of tournament poker. So I decided not to quit it after the first try.
I recall a moment from the Red Sea Poker Cup when my friend and I, along with 30 other people, were rooting for the Russian businessman who was called 'Uncle Misha'. You could smell he was a fish from a kilometer away, yet he managed to take down the €300 turbo, winning €8,000 for 1st place. I felt as full with ardour and excitement as when I was rooting for Russia against Netherlands in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008. The famous line from a WSOP commercial, 'This is beyond fairytale, it's inconceivable' (referring to Moneymaker in the 2003 Main Event), would have gained some new meaning for you if you had seen this final table. 'Uncle Misha' literally steamrolled his opponents, winning ridiculous ALLYMs, as Misha pronounced it, with almost every hand (like 95s, for instance).
That night made me understand that poker IS a magical game and everyone can win on their day.
Actually, it turned out that rooting for someone else playing poker is a lot of fun, even if you don't have a piece! During the same series, PokerStars Pro Max 'decay' Lykov took down the HighRoller event after playing heads-up versus some cocky guy who refused Max's offer of a deal only because the deal included playing for the actual trophy after the split and not automatically giving that trophy to the guy (who had more chips at the time). All in all, it ended up being a swarm of Russians, including me, who cheerfully witnessed Max slowly taking down the villain and, subsequently, a trophy. Oh, and a small bonus of the €50,000 prize, of course.
Even my hometown, with 150,000 citizens, had its own poker club! It was located in a bowling centre, so I've visited it a couple of times. Can't really say that the overall 'score' was positive for me there. I blame it on my luck in that specific place. One time I had to desperately go to the other side of the city to get some more cash from an ATM after I was outdrawn by a 20% hand. The table was too much of an aquarium to leave early. I ended up insta-losing half of my buy-in though.
It was also my first time, and the only time so far, when I got slowrolled at showdown. At the time I had no idea that it was frowned upon, so I didn't even tell the guy off. He smirked and turned over one card for a pair with a board card - 'will that do?' - waited for me to turn over my aces, and then proceeded to turn the other card over to reveal a set.
All in all, I don't have the best impressions of that place.
I visited Prague when it held the EMOP series - I skipped the tourneys and focused on playing cash. The only memorable thing was the procedure of gaining access to the casino. My wife and I had our driver's licenses photocopies, and our cameras taken away. They then took our photo's before allowing us to proceed to the tables.
Very pleasant memories arise when I think of Monte Carlo. It was my first tourney where I made a solid amount of cash and I didn't share the buy-in with (almost) anyone. It was my first experience of playing the pre-final stages of a big tourney where you're only a few hands away from that pile of cash for the top places and, simultaneously, still such a long way away.
It also was my first time busting out Greg Raymer and getting a fossil from him. A short time later, in Las Vegas, I added another one to my collection. I was also given a PokerStars card protector in Monte Carlo, which I used during the WSOP.
I got this chip from a party but don't remember much about it due to a little bit too much drinking. I do remember an awesome anti-hangover recipe though: two Aspirin pills before sleep. In spite of having a little too much booze that evening, I rose and shone the next morning no problem. So take this free advice from me!
This is the source of the most chips in my collection. I tried to visit all the casinos I saw, I even travelled out of my way to visit some.
This next one isn't a chip, but is a reminder of when I took part in an adult Cirque Du Soleil show called Zumanity. It's quite the experience being a clown in an erotic show, yet it was a lot of fun.
We spent most of our time there, gaining experience in live games. Won some money and generally had a good time.
The Stratosphere is a 350m high tower with a lot of attractions on top of it. We rode most of them, excluding the sickest one that involved bungee-jumping off the tower. They installed cams on these rides to photograph those brave enough to try them - here's me (on the left) being launched into the air above Vegas.
The Palms was gambling heaven for us. We played fortune wheel, roulette, slots - everything. The most memorable thing was when I, being energized after the PokerStars party featuring Snoop Dogg, made a big bet on red and won! Leaving Vegas with profit in gambling: check!
These are chips from Freemont Street, which is a short walk away from the Strip. It has a huge 100m long LED display that has a music show every hour. This picture from the street gets me reminiscing:
It was the last day of our trip, so we decided to go visit Fremont Street to watch the show after a farewell dinner at the Naked Fish. We showed up too late as the screen was already turned off. So we made this picture as good friends - we were just forum buddies pre-trip -- with an empty street and a turned-off screen as the background. Five hours later, we were on our planes heading home (although we'd be back in a year).That Vegas trip is the best one in my poker career so far.
Mikhail 'innerpsy' Shalamov is a member of Team pokerStars Online.