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January 06, 2005

For a Taste of Your Whiskey, I'll Give You Some Advice

by Ron Hogan

I've become reasonably adept at poker in the last year, having lucked my way into a very fun, relaxed monthly game at a friend's apartment, where I can spend a couple hours playing hold 'em, Omaha, and seven-card stud and double my money, or spend a couple hours more and go home broke but happy. So when I heard that Harrah's would be celebrating their recent assumption of the management of the World Series of Poker with a media-only charity tournament at ESPN Sports Zone yesterday, I figured playing no-limit hold 'em with imaginary money would be a good way for me to learn how to improve my game and maybe, just maybe, earn some money for Oxfam.

I met up with Toby Leah Bochan before the official start time, so we could swap stories about writing books under tight production schedules: turns out she had just about as much time to write The Bad Ass Girl's Guide to Poker, which comes out this spring, as I did to write Stewardess. Because we arrived at roughly the same time, we ended up sitting next to each other at one of the tourney tables. I should have taken notes, because I don't recall much about how the individual hands went, other than having to go all in with my last two chips on the big blind and managing to come up with a king-high straight, which bought me enough time to hand over my stacks over the next four hands, just after Toby had left the table.

(While folks were milling around before play started, I saw a guy with a tag that said, "Tad/New Yorker," so as we were sitting down, I told her, "Hey, Mr. Latte's here!" At which point a guy at the next table tapped me on the shoulder, and introduced us...Other celebs included Chris Meloni and poker stars Doyle Brunson, Howard Lederer, and Phil Gordon.)

Once I'd folded, I stuck around for the buffet table and kept an eye out for Alice Kim, the InStyle editor who'd been written up in p6 over the weekend because of her recently completed novel, The Poker Fashionista. The buzz got her a couple calls from interested publishers over the last few days, she told me during a lull in play, and they'll probably be even more interested now that her skills at the table have been confirmed. As the only woman to make it to the final table of nine players, she then proceeded to knock out four of her opponents--eliminating two in one hand by forcing them to go all-in while she held pocket kings--and ultimately came in third overall, which meant that her designated charity, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, received $1,000 from Harrah's...and then another $1,000 from the folks who make Degree antiperspirant. Now I just have to introduce her to Toby...and make sure I'm never sitting at a table opposite them when real money's on the line!

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