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PartyPoker Million IV Cruise – A Review

Saturday, March 19, 2005: We assemble at the cruise dock in San Diego to board the Holland American “Oosterdam”. The cruise is to be the setting for the Party Poker Million Tournament which is the main yearly event sponsored by PartyPoker.com. After the usual check in procedures we are allowed to board this magnificent ship. As is common procedure, we are invited to go to the Lido deck for a late lunch while our cabins are being prepared. Following the mandatory lifeboat drill, I return to my cabin to meet my new roommate, Ed Thompson. Right away, I know we are going to be fast friends as he is a very personable and considerate person. At 5:00 I go to the Welcome Aboard party given by Linda Johnson and Card Player Cruises. Linda, as always, is very informative and entertaining. She advises us that as the shower stalls are so small, the best way to get clean is to soap the walls and turn around. The ship sails and we are on our way to a week of fun and adventure.

Sunday: After breakfast, I head to the card room which is the top floor of the Vista dining room that has been converted to a poker player’s heaven. There are limit games from $2 to $4 thru $100 to $200 as well as no limit and pot limit. With 60 tables to choose from, there is a game for every taste. Mike Sexton hosted a very entertaining talk about the origin of PartyPoker, his part in the development of its software, and the choice of the name itself. After the talk, he graciously posed for pictures of himself with passengers who had the option of holding the large facsimile $1,500,000 check the winner will receive for first place prize money. The rest of the day, I spent in the card room in a $50/$100 Omaha 8/Stud 8 game where unfortunately I took a rather bad beating. Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Monday: Another full day at sea, enjoying the good food and company of my fellow passengers. I broke up the day’s poker play with a visit to the pool on the Lido deck, where I relaxed and read the first five chapter’s of Mike Sexton’s new book, “Shuffle Up and Deal” It is an invaluable guide to no-limit holdem tournament players and is based on his long years as a successful tournament player. The best tip that I gathered out of the reading was that tight players do not win tournaments. The top players are more then willing to gamble and try to accumulate lots of chips which are their weapons to succeed when they do reach the final table.

Tuesday: We docked in Mazatlan in the early morning. A group of us board vans and are shuttled to a magnificent resort on the beach called “El Cid”. A buffet lunch is waiting and I was able to dine with Mike Sexton, his brother Tom, and a delightful lady, Karin. I was determined to try parasailing for the first time in my life. My new found friend and I decided to try the sport out. Karin had never parasailed either and looked more than a little nervous as the harness was fastened to her. She was smiling very widely, though, as she was launched high in the air over the Pacific Ocean. I have never felt the combination of fear and exhilaration that I experienced when I was floating several hundred feet over the bay. I was looking down on even the highest skyscraper that lined the beach. If only I can stack my chips this high at the poker table tonight when the card room re-opens. Alas, that was not to be, as I finished the day’s play still well behind. Dinner was very enjoyable as I ate in the Vista dining room with Lisa and Mark Tenner and my parasailing comrade, Karin. Mark is a partner in Card Player Cruises and like Linda and Jan, works hard to ensure that all passengers have a great time. Mark and Lou Krieger have written a book on Omaha poker which is full of very valuable tips and has really helped me improve my game. At midnight. I went to the Lido Restaurant to experience the dessert buffet and have a close encounter with chocolate mousse and a pistachio-encrusted petites-four.

Wednesday: The ship arrived at Puerto Vallarta today. I met Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher and Jan’s father, Dr. Peter Fisher with a large group of passengers who were to experience lunch at a very scenic restaurant, “Chico's Paradise” The river on the property had formed several pools which were wonderful for wading and playing in. This was the very same spot that “Night of the Iguana” and “Predator” was filmed at. My company proved to be much better then the lobster that I ordered as it was dry and tough. The others, however, were very satisfied with their lunches and the company and conversation more then made up for any disappointment I felt. Linda and Jan always find the best spots to bring their guests and as hostesses are without peer for the care that they take of Card Player Cruise’s passengers. I went back to the ship in the early afternoon for a nap to prepare for the night’s poker. Luck finally favors me and I finish the evening winning almost $5000, which is the bulk of my accumulated losses. I decide to enter the $300 + $35 no limit holdem tournament that will take place Friday afternoon. There is so much interest in the tournaments that the line to enter the two scheduled extends half way around the ship. To accommodate all the players who desire to compete in them two more tournaments were added on the spot.

Thursday: I arise early and feel very well rested. After my six laps around the deck, I shower and have breakfast at the buffet. After a fine breakfast of smoked salmon, fruit and a muffin, I enter the cardroom and take a seat at a 20/40 holdem game where I win the first two hands and $500 before being called to the 50/100 mixed game that I have come to consider my home. I play until 5:00 and go to my cabin to change into my suit as it is formal night for dining. I then met Jill Maverick and Paul Thornton and some other very interesting people at the Pinnacle Grill, which is the Oosterdam’s finest dining experience. Before dessert, I choke on a swallow of wine, and have to excuse myself to go to my room to recover. Back in the cardroom at 9:00, I wait for a seat in the 50/100 game and play until midnight ending up recovering from all of my previous losses. I decided to go to the taping of the World Poker Tour tournament which is down to the final three players. After watching the third place player lose all of his chips with Ace Queen suited to the chip leader’s 9 8 offsuit who caught a nine on the river (last card), I went up to my cabin to retire for the night. Third place paid $700,000 so I am glad to say he was well rewarded for his efforts in the tournament.

Friday: After exercise and breakfast, I head to the poker room. A seat opens up in a no-limit holdem game with blinds of 2 and 5 dollars. It doesn’t take long to see that most of the action is coming from one very loose and aggressive player, who shows down a large variety of hands from 10 8 offsuit to a pair of queens. Try as I can, I have a very hard time getting a read on him and lose both times we are in the same pot. I leave to take a seat in a game I am more comfortable with, 20/40 holdem. After about a half hour, the 50/100 mixed game has an open seat so I change to take it. I play for three hours and take a medium size loss and cash out to take a seat in the $300 + $35 no limit holdem tournament. After slowly and steadily building my stack for three hours, I enter an unopened pot for a $500 raise with a pair of 10s from the small blind. The big blind pushes all-in and I call. He turns over his hand, pocket jacks and five cards later, I am knocked out in 62nd place. I feel good about the tournament as I played very well and have a little more experience under my belt. After a dinner break and a rest period, I rejoin the card room and play until 11:45. As this is the last day of the cruise, the room closes at midnight.

Saturday: We dock in San Diego in the early morning. While waiting to disembark, I count my money and found that I have lost $2700. This was the first cruise that has cost me money and I humbly submit to the ups and downs of the game. The trip was so enjoyable, the cardroom staff so obliging and helpful, and the ports we visited so interesting that I hand Mark Tenner a check for a deposit for the Card Player Cruise’s European cruise next June. I say goodbye to my roommate, Ed, and head to the lounge to await my chance to leave the ship.

Enjoy the sun

enjoy the beach


Enjoy poker!
   
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