A Busy Year – SXSW & WSOP

Posted by in WPBT

Once again, a new year, full of promise. Like everyone, I have a slew of goals for myself this year, most of them personal/professional, with a few random poker goals in the mix. I have no idea what the coming year will bring, but I do know that this will be a very bittersweet year.

Assuming the cooperation of the UT summer schedule, this will be my last year in Texas. Growing up, I never thought I would leave Houston, much less Texas. Having been raised a good East Texas girl, the romantic notion of what it meant to be a Texan was firmly implanted in me. I was living in the best place on earth – everything I could ever want was no more than a day’s drive away. Beaches to the south of me, mountains to the west, rolling hills to the north – why would I ever need to leave?

Once college called though, I debated between several schools, all of them in Texas but not a one in Houston. While I loved my hometown and everything it offered, I wanted a change. I turned down a scholarship from a school in Dallas and packed my bags for UT. I left home just as soon as was possible, without it appearing as if I simply couldn’t wait to get the hell out of home.

I hated Austin at first. Such a slow, laid back town. It was a bit of culture shock, coming from Houston, where leaving the house at 6 to make it to a show by 7:30 was the norm, to Austin, where a typical response to a request for a ride somewhere was a whine of “Dude, that’s 15 minutes away!!”. In addition, there was the comical aspect of the nightly news. Headlines of the murders and other various crimes of the day were replaced with human interest stories about the first day of classes at UT (a week long news-event) and the politics surrounding salamanders and bike lanes.

It wasn’t long though before I, like so many before me, fell to the charms of this great town. A booming tech-central city offering jobs that attract people from all over the world, all while retaining its college-town, hippy vibe. I quit watching the news because there was nothing of interest on. My 10 minute drive to work became the longest journey I would take. Instead of raising an eyebrow when I spotted a homeless man in a pink tutu on a downtown corner, I voted for him for mayor. And while I missed the museums, familar clubs, plays, concerts, and sports offerings of my home town, I fell into place, embracing the Live Music Capital of the World status and taking advantage of all it had to offer.

I had never heard of SXSW before I moved to Austin. Once I did though, it seemed like a dream come true. Thousands of bands from all over the world, descending upon my city for a week, and all I had to do was buy a $65 wristband and I could see them ALL? I invited my best friend Jana and our friend Mike to come into town for the week. Jana and I, having always been prone to the more obscure and lesser-known bands, poured over the festival listings and made our plans for what shows to hit. We had a great time, just hanging out in smoke-filled bars and lounges, listening to good music.

That was 10 years ago. I’ve never bought a wristband since.

The reason for that can best be summed up via the graffiti I spotted on a bathroom door during a trip to a popular downtown club to see The Decemberists. SXSW had recently come and gone, and things downtown were slowly returning to normal, it taking a bit longer last year due to the presence of the Real World kids as well. Upon entering the stall, I laughed outloud at the big black letters on the door which proclaimed “Welcome to Austin. Now go the fuck home.” Suffice to say, some of us handle the tourist invasion better than others.

The problem is, they’re not just normal tourists. They’re record industry execs, film producers, big name web-types, ego-inflated muscians and their entourages, and starry-eyed wannabees. They manage, as I told Ryan over lunch at Caesar’s, to turn this town into a mini-LA. Normally I would follow up with a “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” but in this case, there is. Austin is supposed to be the anti-LA, a place where movies get made but no one gives a damn, a place where a group of guys can go from practicing in their garage to sharing the stage with big-name musicians, because the big-names play in the same little dives that are open to the little guys. For a couple of weeks every March, that spirit diminishes just a little – you’re more likely to run into a yuppie hipster passing out business cards than you are the aformentioned mayoral candidate. It’s hard for someone who lives here to take, as all the places that make Austin cool and unique suddenly become the center of the mainstream world. That said, it’s still a great experience and an awesome time, one where you can see big-names and get a look at those who are just beginning their path to stardom. And did I mention the cold beer?

It’s because of this love-hate relationship with SXSW that my first reaction to Scott’s suggestion of a blogger tourney held at the same time was something along the lines of “Hell no”. But then, during a drive home where I reflected on the future, it hit me – this would be my last year in Austin. No more Magnolia. No more Shady Grove. No more 6th Street. No more South Congress. While I know I’m not leaving forever; I’ll be back to visit friends; I know I won’t be coming back to the same place – it changes far too fast. While I’m excited at the prospect of moving on and doing different things, the fact remains that I chose to make Austin my home and it’s not going to be easy to leave. Hence the decision that I can’t think of a better time than a week of cold beer, good music, and good friends. Hot Texas women should be an enticement to many of you as well.

The very loose plan at the moment is to a have a tourney on Saturday, March 18th, and in general treat the weekend as one big party. Scott is checking with his connections to see if we can take over a downtown bar for the day, but baring that, Adam has the facilities and has (as always) graciously offered to host. Details are just starting to come out on the SXSW website, but in general, every club in town will have a full lineup every night, and while there is certainly no harm in getting a wristband or other registration for the conference, it’s not a requirement. However, between the film, music, and interactive/web portions of the conference, I imagine some of you could make a case for writing the trip off as a business expense. I mention this little party so early in advance because hotel rooms in the city go fast this time of year. I can certainly offer shelter to a few, and perhaps some of my blogging brethren can as well. Just let us know if housing is an issue. Otherwise I’m seriously considering playing host family to a hott young band from some far-off locale.

If you’ve never been to Austin, here’s your chance to visit one of the coolest cities in the world during one of the best times possible. The weather is amazing in March, there’s tons to do, and you can take it all in along with your fellow bloggers. And with three blocks of bars on 6th Street alone, we’ll never run out of SoCo.

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Planning this little weekend should serve as a nice warm-up for the other big item on my plate – planning the next WPBT trip. Because I want this to be the post with the most comments ever, I’m opening up the floor for discussion on that all important issue of when. Where is also a consideration, but given that the (albeit limited) tradition is to hit Vegas during the WSOP, I’m operating under the assumption that the general consensus is to do that. Alternative suggestions are certaintly open. As we get bigger as a group, we start to create our own little gatherings, like our Austin tournies, Bradoween, and the LA Classic. It’s only natural for that to happen – it just takes one person announcing they’re having a party and inviting everyone to it. Given that only the most jet-setting amongst us can possibly make every little event, I personally think that it’s great that we all manage to find our way to Vegas at least once a year. There are other gambling locales though, and we can certainly give them a try. Bill did a great job running down the possibilites, rather than re-inventing the wheel, I’ll just point you there.

But again, if we’re talking about a summer trip, it seems only natural that a bunch of poker-obsessed degenerates would end up at the WSOP. If we do go that route, the question becomes when to go. Take a look at the schedule. Do we go at the start, like we did last year, and hit the $1,500 NL event? Or do we go at the end, during the Main Event, and try to get a blogger in there? There are $1,000 NL events during that time too, but remember most of the pros and other big names will be otherwise occupied.

Some things that have crossed my mind in thinking about this –

  • If we go for the Main Event, in August, how will that affect the Winter Classic? Assuming that trip remains in December, you’re talking about taking off again (possibly for Vegas) within another 4 months. I of course would head to Vegas every month if I could, and I know some of you who do, but everyone’s situations are different. How would having two events so close to each other affect turnout? Do you push the Winter Classic back? Or head out as early as possible in the summer?
  • What do we want to focus on – getting as many bloggers as we can into the WSOP (in the low buy-in events) or getting one, maybe two into the Main Event? [Details on how we might do this can be found here and here.]
  • If we put someone in the Main Event, there’s no way we can all be there for the duration of the event. So do we go for the start or the final table?
  • Online sats to the Main Event are a dime a dozen. To the smaller events, not so much. Both events are equally star-studded.
  • Also, consider the weekend of July 14th. You’ve got two NL events, a LHE event, and two Omaha events running then. Do we want to consider branching out to other events? How about we go on the weekend of July 22nd and storm the Razz event?? Come on, who’s with me??…….Wimps. 😉

These are just the things that happened to pop in my mind at first glance. If anything else jumps out at you, by all means speak up. We are, at the core, a bunch of random people who happened to meet via our shared love of poker and writing, and who have thus far been able to acheive great things without having any sort of formal organization. If you have an idea, let’s hear it. My e-mail, comments, and IM are always open. I do ask that you please keep in mind that in planning an event such as this, there is no way to make everyone happy. The dates won’t work for some, some people would rather play in a $1,500 event vs. the Main Event, and vice versa, etc. etc. We can’t debate everything to death, but everyone can speak up on their preference.

So get to it…

UPDATE (1/2, 8:51pm)

Gracie brings up a good point about the weekend of the 9th. Also, in talking with Iggy, we think it would be great to get some people in a limit event as well. There are really only three weekends that offer both a limit and NL event. (For the purpose of weekend, I’m counting Thursday-Monday). Below is a chart that breaks those weekends down.